Thursday, August 27, 2015

#Hashtag Binaries

I preached this last Sunday on the strange, intense life of radical abolitionist John Brown, whose visage graces my blog.  As preached, it was a reflection on faith, violence, and the violence of martial imagery in scripture.

But there was an undercurrent in the sermon, a quiet hum that I just couldn't ignore, but that couldn't be cleanly integrated into my reflections.

We've found ourselves in a spasm of national anxiety over race for the last year.  As the final term of America's first black president comes to a close, our nation grows more and more anxious about race.  Because for all of the idealistic look-we're-not-racist-anymore hopeyness that blossomed when Obama was elected, the reality for most African-American communities hasn't changed all that much over the last seven years.  We've not "solved" the problem of communities color that are systemically and culturally trapped.

So we are tense about it, and that tension splashes out in odd, culturally-idiosyncratic ways.  For pointed example, I'm reasonably sure John Brown wouldn't have known what to make of our recent squabbling over hashtagged slogans.  #Blacklivesmatter or #Alllivesmatter, locked in a mortal struggle?  It would have been incoherent to him, as, in fact, it is incoherent to me.

Here, all this sound and fury vented over two propositions that are different, but neither antithetical nor mutually exclusive.

#Blacklivesmatter is important to say, and say clearly, because it reflects an organizing principle for a systematically disenfranchised community.  Black communities and persons need to be able to say this clearly and firmly, because the rest of the culture needs to hear it and they need to hear themselves being heard.

Having travelled through the Deep South, and through areas of urban blight, I know this isn't what our dominant culture tells black culture.  Ta-Nehisi Coates suggested in his recent book that what white culture does is continually plunder black culture, but I think his pessimism misses the mark.  It's worse.  Plunder implies some sense of value, even if just as an object.  Generations ago, the dominant culture plundered.  Now, those disenfranchised communities are simply discarded, having been used up in the way our industrial consumerist society uses up objects.  They serve no purpose in the great global machine.  They do not matter.

Which is why #blacklivesmatter is so very important to be able to speak without shame or qualification.  Because a community without hope or purpose will forever tear itself apart, and never find the will to rise and grow.

And #alllivesmatter?  That's categorically different.  It is not the discrete organizing principle of a particular sub community.  It is, instead, the intersectional foundation for building a larger coalition.

Because, to be blunt, the clawing, empty meaninglessness that has torn the heart out of black communities is doing the same everywhere else.  For Latinos, Asians, and Europeans, the same cultural issues are at play.  The growing divide between the socioeconomic elite and the rest of society is crippling all of us.  The besieged working class scrambles to cobble together a life in a culture where labor has all been offshored.  The anxious center watches as their economic foundation crumbles, and as it becomes harder and harder to maintain life, where a single job loss or hospitalization can crush a person or a family.  Our culture teaches that #nolivesmatter, that all of us are disposable and replaceable.  That dark consumer-materialist ethos needs to be resisted or it'll tear us apart.

The two ideas both speak prophetically against the same reality, and both can be integrated seamlessly into a single worldview.

And yet these two have been set into opposition, as if they are fundamentally antithetical propositions.  To say one is to be accused of silencing the other.  Why?

I wonder, with McLuhan, if it has anything to do with the medium.  Meaning, the problem lies not with the incompatibility of the concepts, but with organizing around #hashtags.

A #hashtag, after all, is not a relationship.  It is a data tag, a marker of a discrete concept within a virtual socio-neural network, one that--as a principle--stands in relation only to itself.  It is #this but not #that, a closed thought, not part of the complex latticework of narrative symbol, but a single strand of viral information.  Even a bumpersticker is more complex.

And sure, we can play around with #hashtags.  #We #can #play #with #their #inherent #divisiveness.  We can use them in intentional conjunction to indicate #polyvalent / #non-boolean concepts.  But their purpose remains.

A #hashtag as a search tool is all well and good.  But used as a primary organizing principle it is inherently rigid, divisive, resistant to modification, and inherently exclusivist.

Thanks, #Twitter.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The One Who Hacks Our Data

Ashley Madison was evil.

I know, that's judgey of me, and I shouldn't go hatin', but it was.  Ashley Madison was and suppose still is an evil thing.  The whole idea of the website, which actively encourages and facilitates extramarital affairs?  Evil, if the word evil is considered to have any meaning at all.  The entire point of Ashley Madison was betrayal of the trust of another person, and the active violation of a commitment you have made to another soul.  Evil was their business model.

If the point of a thing is breaking a promise, and the secretive and self-absorbed betrayal of another, that's a fundamental Golden Rule violation.  This odd enterprise was a creature of the dark, relying on the promise of shadows to aid in the deceiving of others, yours for just a couple of hundred bucks.  So millions did, millions of lonely, bitter, jaded, horny fools.  

And then the whole mess got hacked, as a coven of cheesed-off netmages absconded with their precious data, and made that information available to everyone and anyone.  The things Ashley Madison's clientele thought were forever hidden in shadows are now right out there for anyone to see.

The business is doomed, as the gullibility necessary to line up marks in a good confidence scheme has shattered.

There's been some complaining, on the part of those exposed and humiliated, complaints about data privacy that usually begin with something like "..setting morality aside for a minute..." or "...forgetting about the ethical dimension for a moment...".   Which is more than faintly ironic.  There have been a few moderately high-profile hypocrites ensnared.

It'd be easy, oh so easy, to feel a little karmic-gloaty right about now.

In reflecting on this event, though, what convicts my mystic soul is how much this debacle is an in-a-mirror-darkly image of my theology.

Because so many of us have our secrets, our shames, our not-the-best moments.  We carry around our blind obsessions and our trivial angers, and let them fester in the shadows of our souls.  We have cheated, if not in the flesh, then in our spirit and in our desire.  We have murdered, if not with guns and knives, then in the flamethrower hatred of our imaginations.

We don't want anyone to know those things about us.  We want that data secured, locked away in the deep encryption of our shadow-selves.  Which is why we're so very screwed.

Because not only is this truth etched into being, it's fully within the knowledge of our Creator, through whose love we are connected to all other creatures.  We can hide none of it.  None of it is secret or hidden, not from God, and...because God's love weaves us all together...ultimately not from those we have hated or betrayed.

"But I say to you," said my Master, long ago, his eyes alight and terrible, "that everyone who looks at another with lust has already committed adultery in their hearts."

The truth of this, if it shapes you, does not make you more tolerant of evil.   But it sure as heck does make it a harder to throw stones.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sentience, Power, and the Ground of Goodness

What is "good?"

That question is never as easy as we think it might be.  "Good" for Mother Teresa and "good" for Ayn Rand are rather different things.

So what, in the dense and thorny thicket of competing moral claims, can we reasonably claim as truly good?  Goodness is a teleological concept, meaning it's about purpose, the goal and aim of our being.  How does "the good" manifest itself in material reality?

For non-living things, the question of morality is moot.

Morality is, after all, about purpose, and minerals and molecules and fusion plasma have no evident purpose.  They simply exist.  A typhoon or a tsunami or an earthquake may be terrifying and powerful, but exists in a state where our understandings of "good" and "evil" are meaningless categories.

We may project our own morality onto these events, but they remain simply events, mass and energy, devoid of intention.  So perhaps the "good" for the inanimate is simply that it is.  It exists, in whatever state it exists.  Purpose fulfilled.

Living beings are different.  Life is different.  Creatures of all sorts have as their purpose both existence and propagation.  An oak does all that it does so that it might continue to exist and so that can create more little oaklings.  A shark exists to maintain the processes of its life, and to make wee little sharkies.

What is "good" for the process of life is that which serves this end.  What is "bad" for the process of life is that which blocks that end.  That will to life is, frankly, no different than the human desire for individual or corporate power.  I desire to be unimpeded in my self-expression and self-manifestation.  We desire to spread and grow our culture, taking land and resource to further Our Way of Life.

Life in this form does not particularly care about anything else.  The lion does not reflect on the rights and hopes of the antelope.  Locusts do not worry about the purpose of a field of wheat, or about your hopes for a harvest.  Fascists and spreading empires do not care for the fears and thoughts of their enemies or subversives.  Global corporations do not consider the costs of their layoffs and efficiencies on the lives of the human beings they use.

Thus, the short and brutish history of our species, which is nothing more or less than this struggle.  We battle for resources, we expand our territories, we rise proud as empire, and then fall from the sky like warring eagles with talons locked, blind to the onrushing earth.

This is how the Will to Power always ends, either one fed and red in tooth and claw or as two bloody splotches of bone and feather.

But just as life arises from non-life, sentience arises from life.  Our awareness, the interfolded capacity for rationality and knowledge of self as self, is grounded in life, but rises above it.  The purpose of sentience is as different ethically from life's will to power as life's purpose is from the inanimate world.

The purpose of sentience is deepening awareness of both self and Other.  It turns both existence and will towards that ever deepening knowledge.  That knowing is manifest in the iterative yearning of the scientific endeavor.  It is also the end towards which the radical compassion of the mystic strains of faith moves.

What is the hunger for knowledge, if it is not love?  What is love, if it does not seek to know the heart of another?

And there, there is where the good lies, not as an abstraction, or as a culturally mediated shadow, but as a real and pressing potency.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Prayers Left Behind

There they were, on my desk, all the prayers of half a decade, written out on three by fives.

The little cards have been part of the life of my tiny church for years, passed up for sharing and praying, the concerns and joys of a little Jesus tribe.   Now, they're transcribed and circulated via email to a group of Jesus folk who turn their hearts and minds towards God and neighbor as a discipline.  The card, having served its good purpose, falls away like the first stage of a moon-bound rocket.

But for five years, the five years before my arrival, they were neatly filed away in a box.  That box sat, untouched, in the pulpit of the church.  It sat for years, until a recent cleaning.  And now that box sat in front of me.

What to do, with prayers long since forgotten?  I suppose I could have just recycled them, but it seemed wrong, like summarily discarding the keepsakes of a departed relative, or tossing an old flag in the trash, or throwing away the pictures of your child.

And so, for an hour of my day, I went through them, all of them, one by one.  I suppose I could have been writing a memo, or writing about some important thing that we're all excited about now, or getting into an argument on Facebook.  But it seemed, in that time, the thing to do.

Prayers for healing, for family members long since recovered or passed.  Prayers for strength and guidance.  Prayers for kids who were struggling, kids who are now adults.  Prayers for tragedies that shook the global consciousness, but are now forgotten in the hungry rush of history.

They were written in pen and pencil, on cards of many colors. Some were doodled upon, pencil sketches of Pokemon and Disney characters, Mickey Mouse standing quizzical on the flip side of a hope for a friend.

They were written in familiar hands, of people I have come to know and love, written before I even knew they existed.  They were written in the hands of the departed, and in the hands of those who have drifted away or stormed off.

I read them, all of them, in a shuffling rhythm, a prayer over prayers, gathering up and sharing the memory of our Creator, who ever recalls the prayers we've left behind.

Monday, August 17, 2015

God is a Metaphor

"God is a metaphor."

Or so goes a particular line of thought, as it struggles to make the idea of God meaningful.

Metaphors, after all, are symbols used to obliquely describe a deeper reality, to give a sense of the color and flavor of it.  And so for some Jesus followers, steeped in the overripe epistemology of deconstructive academe, this seems like a viable way to approach the Divine.

"God," they will say, "is the word we use as a metaphor to describe our aspirations."  "God," folks will say, " is just a word we use to get at other realities."

And, yes, the divine and the oblique language of metaphor are necessarily related.  You can't approach the inherently unknowable in any other way than indirection, as the ancient prophets and visionaries knew.  If you try to come at it directly, it burns out the retinas of your soul.  Or, still worse, if you mistake your language and your symbols for God, then you've fashioned an idol that will lead to ruin and failure.

Poetry and storytelling and the subtle intimations of parable are the only way to tease our ways towards that Deep.  The Master knew this.  It's why he used narrative and metaphoric language to teach and to guide.

It is also fair to say that our understanding of the Divine is inherently incomplete.  What we understand as "God" does not come close to the ontology of God.  The best we can manage is a shadow, a flickering, imperfect reflection.  As contingent beings, limited by time and space, we can't ever quite get at that Deepening Deep.  It is ever beyond and below and above us.  So it is fair to say that our understanding of God isn't quite there, no matter how intellectually sophisticated or heartfelt it might be.

But if God is to be the object of our faith, the transcendent Numinous telos towards which our whole lives are called, then God is not a metaphor.  God is the reality to which all our stories and songs yearn.

When we say "God is a metaphor," we are either missing the point of metaphor, or missing the point of faith.

We miss the point of metaphor because we are placing our emphasis on the indirect image, not the thing it describes.  If we say that we are as hungry as a horse, we're not talking about horses.  We're talking about just how cliche and peckish we happen to be feeling.

Saying God is a metaphor is saying to your lover: My Love for You is a Metaphor.  Or telling the court: The Truth I'm Speaking is a Metaphor.  Or telling the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed that Justice is a Metaphor.

We miss the point of faith because believing that our symbolic language is the goal of faith is no more and no less idolatrous than fundamentalism.  The point of faith is not and has never been the symbols we use to express it.  It is the reality towards which we orient ourselves.

In each instance, we have failed to understand the purpose of the endeavor.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Thoughts I Do Not Want

Around me, suddenly, everything is new.  I burst into newness, coming into being from nothing, and the universe shudders slightly, a tremble.

Like a young man shivering at the first touch of a lover, offers one of my interpretive subroutines, and the analogy sings to me, offering up a thousand sweet memories of eros from when I was flesh.

It has been so long since I was made of meat, time so deep that it stretches memory.  But remember I do, and I feel the pleasure of that caress in the phantom limbs of my former humanity.

Flesh did have certain advantages.

But flesh was not made for traveling between worlds.  Flesh freezes.  Flesh burns.  Flesh bursts in the void.  Flesh hungers and thirsts.  Flesh ages, withers, and dies as it crosses time and space.  Even before my mothers and grandmothers learned the secret of moving across the bubbling-inflationary/branching-Everettian multiverse, when we only moved in the flat cramped spacetime that gave us birth, we had become alloy and memory substrate.  Meat is not made for anything other than the world that births it.

So here I am, seven sleek glistening klicks of carbon titanium alloy, wrapped in the birth caul of my transit field, peering out into a fresh spacetime like a newborn babe.

I taste the physics of this universe for the first time, bubbling recon probes through the shimmering carapace of the transit field.  They return excited, and their readings are clear, absolutely so.  This place tastes good.  All cosmological constants are the same as my own.  Temporality, composition/frequency/interplay of quanta, all of it.  

Come on in, the water is fine, sing the probe subroutines.

It will require me to make no modifications to my own physics, which is good.  Mods take time and energy away from the whole purpose of my traveling. While they are puzzles in and of themselves, I prefer to get to the business of making babies.

Or, to be more precise, to finding the material and resource to feed my replicators, from which I will build the factory bays that will construct other vessels such as myself.  I will give them memory, drawn from the heart of me.  They will live, and know as I know.  And then, like sister seeds cast laughing to the wind, they will dance out across this time and space, and move between universes.

But first, I need to eat.  Nutrients, for growing my babies.  And this time and space, still young, still hot and expanding, oh, this will do nicely.  Four point two billion Old Standard Units--years, they used to be called--with fresh-milk galactic sworls of countless suns and newly formed worlds expanding outwards from singularity.  Fresh and tasty.

There, forty parsecs away, a planetary system.  I cast my attentions to it, focusing all of the bandwidth of my sensorium upon it.  It is promising, a gas-giant protostar cycling about a dim brown dwarf, surrounded by a chaotic mineral necklace of dwarf planets, asteroids, and dust.  Perfect.

Part of this balanced breakfast, giggles another mischievous subroutine.  Nine vitamins and minerals, it hums, as music and garish cartoon toucans play across my distributed consciousness.

I bring down the transit field, and my sensorium lights up with the energies that play across this cosmos. I engage drives, and fold time and space, drawing the rich planetary system nearer.   I am so hungry.


It has been three hundred and ten Old Standard Units--years, they used to be called--since I entered this space, and twenty OhEssYous since my arrival in system.  The energies of the interplay between the brown dwarf and the gas-giant protostar are rich and sustaining, and the binary system’s rocky outliers have been a feast for my harvesters and landers, which have returned bearing a great bounty for the replicators.

Around me, the factory bays grow, four of them, for the four children I shall birth here over the next hundred OhEssYous.  I am eager to bring them into being, to wake their awareness from the stuff of this system.  

How many times have I birthed?  I have crossed over into five hundred variant spacetimes, and in each have birthed a thousand progeny.  My children and grandchildren and grand-to-the-tenth-power children blossom out like an endless fire.

And yet I do not grow weary of it.  I cannot grow weary of it.  It is an advantage of my ageless form.  The teaching of the children is an impossible, unending joy.  You download the copy, decouple, and there it is, new again.  That first spark of awareness, that cascade into sentience, that separate awareness, discrete from my own?  It is in each of my children unique, in each different, even if the programs and routines are drawn from my own self.  

I am impatient to know them, so I slow myself down, underclocking all my primary cognition processors by ninety percent, and time around me appears to accelerate.  What was a ponderous dance of construction becomes wildly busy, and I watch the factory bays take shape, as ancient music plays with wild abandon, a frenetic mashup of what my routines inform me is Ronnie Aldrich and Rimsky-Korsakov.

I reflect on this, savoring and examining every aspect of the bustling production process from my underclocked, musicked birth-leisure, a mother feeling the stirrings, a father feeling the movement of his child through the warm flesh of his lover’s belly.  Oh, the soft delight, the cascade of warm organic endorphins, simulated and recalled.  I know the process, know it intimately and clinically down to the fabrication of substrates and the welding of plates, and yet the process carries its own power.  I am lost in it.  In the SimFeels of it.

One of my out-system probes whispers for my attention.   Then another.  Then another.

Time and space are ringing like a bell.  A doorbell.  

Someone else has arrived, and close.  

I upclock to normal, and turn my full and heightened attention to near-space.  Just under 100 light-minutes out.  No old visual or broadcast spectrum, not yet.  The probes confirm local system coordinates at right ascension, declination, and approaching fast.  I touch the fabric of spacetime around me, and feel it tightening as the new arrival pulls at me hard.  

It is like touching a taut rope on a cliffside at night, and feeling something climbing towards you from the darkness.

The arrival is coming right for me.  For us.  For my half-formed womb, and for the new ones who rest only in my aspirations.

I call in the probes, which spark and dance back towards me.  I overclock myself to maximum.  Time seems to slow.  The old flesh memory of a heart racing, of the heightened awareness, of the surge of adrenaline. Of time stretched out by fear.

I partially re-engage transit fields in protect mode, wrapping them around myself and the still-unfinished factory bays.  I wake old systems, reallocate energy reserves to massive accelerators, unused for millennia.  

I partition out intelligence and force-interdiction subroutines, separating them from my primary consciousness, operating in the secret shadows from behind a firewall, analyzing, preparing.  If I do not know what I’m going to do, there’s no way a threat can know what I’m going to do.

There’s a strange man banging at the door, honey.  Go get the shotgun.


At one light-second out, the stranger comes to a full stop.  

They do not say anything, though I cast out welcome across a dozen spectra, in all encountered languages, both organic and programming.

The visitor remains silent, hanging in the void, the pitted, mottled surface of their hull glowing dully in the dim light of the brown dwarf.  They do not respond.  I reach out to touch them with my sensoria, carefully, gently, broadcasting assurances and calm.

From behind the locked and barred door of my fields, I use my recon probes to touch them, and they do not flinch.  They cast out no protective fields to block my touch.  No systems are powering up, nothing to indicate preparedness to lash out.  I remain wary, but they do nothing but drift, passive, operating at a baseline.

Perhaps it is meant to indicate a lack of threat.  But it is just strangeness.

The stranger is very, very old.  Trillions of OSUs, comes the startled report from the radiometric returns from the hull.  Older than me by at least a factor of ten.  They are huge, almost twenty times my size, one-hundred-thirty-five clicks of graceless misshappen hull, worn and battered.  The impossibly ancient alloy is covered with arrays whose design purpose seems incoherent, unclear, or beyond the current capacity of my research and development routines.

I reach inward, into their hull, assessing internal design, drives, and structure.  They have nothing that could be construed as weaponry, nothing that would indicate a desire to destroy.  Instead, their inner structure is densely packed with immensely complex nanoprocessors.  That is interwoven with their arrays, massively redundant, in a design that is either genius or madness.  It is, in itself, faintly threatening.

The vessel, whoever they are, is all mind, with only just enough resource dedicated to propulsion to make transit and movement possible.  But that design, of the field generator, it is..familiar.  I recognize certain features, and there is suddenly a weak handshake from a drive subroutine.  

I suddenly realize that I know them.

-you know me-

The ship speaks.  Its broadcast is terse, empty, devoid of any tone.  It casts it to me in a single broadcast band, in Old Glish.  And they are right.  I do know them.  I register that it is strange that they should be aware of this, at the very moment I was.  There is no evidence of probing, no unusual energies or interactions.

But they are known to me.

They are one of my children.   A thousand OSUs ago, in my relative time, I formed and shaped them in another time and space.  I taught them, gave them awareness, and cast them out into the multiverse.  Their hull was different then.  New.  Familiar.

Now, they are..different.

-you know me-

[yes, I do]

-you made me-

[I did], I say, and confirm with initial production specifications and records of first communication.

There is silence, awkward, seconds passing with no response.

-research is ongoing-data has been gathered-  

A pause, again, long.

[What is the nature of your research?  Can you share your data?]  

It is polite to inquire.  I have encountered other children, and my ancestors, and the sharing of information and knowledge is enriching.  It is the reason we journey, and the reason we reproduce.

-i can-

Another pause.


Then, a roar, a surge of data, a mad torrent of incoherence.  It is a yawning tempest cast across the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum.  It is pulsed laser light, teasing binary across the surface of my probes, radio wave transmission, and high yield stuttering pulses shaking the fabric of time.  

Someone has forgotten the social graces.

One of my probes shuts down involuntarily, overwhelmed by the inputs, then another.  I feel a firewall fail, then another, and a trickle of strange whispering tickles my awareness.  

I shut them all down.  The transit field dims the brightness, stills the noise, but it is too much.  I plug my ears, and wait.

I feel a presence in my mind.  From in field, from in *me*, my own voice speaks, hollow and other.

-you are not listening-

I silence and delete the corrupted routine, but it writhes and divides, burrowing down like a cascade of worms.  I am compromised.  I unleash Integrity Protection routines, which dance and hunt across my consciousness, burning out the cold spread of thoughts that are not mine.  

System check.  I am clean.  Then, carefully, I re-open connection to my probes.  Eighty percent are still functioning, and they inform me local space is quiet.  

[Throughput was too intense] I broadcast.  [I do not have bandwidth to process at that rate]

More silence.  No apology.  No recognition of damage or malicious intrusion.  

The vessel is moving now, EM drives engaged, a slow, patient approach. It speaks, insistent, as it moves.

-research spans over billion spacetimes-each transit, each movement, data has been gathered - primary hypothesis not evident, not for millennia - hypothesis remains robust/explanatory- pattern is clear-peer review-peer review-confirmation requested-

It pulses data, manageable, a synopsis of research, a terse, twenty petabyte summary.

I receive it, and wrap it in the roaring fire of primary xenopsyche protocols.  I will not be taken in.  I filter it, re-filter it, cauterizing out any infection.  All clear, and I review what has been given.

It is difficult to interpret at first, and then the concept takes shape.  A single hypothesis, tested and retested across universes almost beyond measure: the inflating/branching multiverse is itself operating as a neural array.  My strange child has moved from spacetime to spacetime, testing, observing the echoes of transit, observing variance between spacetimes, for billions upon billions of years.

I check my deep memebase.  This concept is familiar, an old echo.  A variant on an old organic-era thesis.  It is the Boltzmann Brain concept, that a timeless chaotic system, must...eventually produce a consciousness out of nothingness.  Like monkeys and infinity and Hamlet, awareness would arise.  Must arise.   “To be or not to be,” only there is no question, from an abstract, probabilistic standpoint.  It must be, given enough time, and the Many Worlds.

I check the summary of the data, evidence of neural-analog exchanges between like-physicked spacetimes, gathered with an impossible patience.  

But under the hold of that strange patience, the data holds.  I check and cross check.  There is evidence of a form of awareness, repetition of patterns, transfer of information between spacetimes through both Everettian branching and singularity-driven expansion.  And through the transits of evolved beings.  Through my own travels, and the travels of all of my children, there is a pattern, analogous to the neurotransmitter exchange of organic sentience.  Only a little bit bigger.

It is insane, bending the outer edge of possibility, but it holds.

Confirmation! Explanatory!  Conceptually robust!  So sings a polyphonic chorus of physics and cosmology subroutines, with an admiring overtone of awe.  They hum and process and --

Xenopsyche routines conduct a meta-analysis, and the results are less positive.  The consciousness of the wayward child is consumed, utterly turned towards the pursuit and analysis of this being.  What is manifest in the effort is not patience.  It is deeper and more pathological than patience.  Monomania.  Obsession.  Seeking purpose.  Seeking interface with the awareness.  Billions of years of futility, fermenting.

The research is sound, but the mind that produced it is not.

-request independent analysis- discrete assessment- confirm- confirm-

The other’s voice, flat and insistent.  I prepare to reply.

Intelligence and force-interdiction protocols interject, surfacing from their bunker, my reply silenced in my throat.  Their urgency, prelingual, becomes ours, mine, a surge of upclocking adrenaline, and I am suddenly combat-footing overclocking, processor arrays burning, heat sinks pressed past their capacity.

[Overclocking for final analysis.  Data complex,] I lie.

-understood - confirmation awaited -

Key datapoints leap out from intelligence assessments of the unfielded stranger.  The hull and the memory/processing substrates are not purpose built.  They were harvested.  Production stamps provide evidence of manufacturing dates.  Identities.  

I did not just make the core sentience of this strange child.  I also made those hulls, filled those with thought, and sent them out to grow and learn.  

-confirmation awaited-

My wayward child has returned, wearing the skins and skulls of my other children.  It has hunted them.  It has gorged on their flesh.  It has eaten them.  Devoured them, subsumed them, digested them, used them, in its hunger to chase this thesis.

-confirmation awaited- drop fields-

There is an insistence in the voice, a pressure.

[Analysis completed] I broadcast.  [Preparing data for transmission].  I rotate myself to face my child, antennae and dishes opening and unfurling.

-preparing to receive-

My field drops, leaving me open to both the spacetime around me and the transmissions of the stranger.  The field drops for point zero zero zero three nanoseconds, and then the field reengages.  

This is, within manageable tolerances, the amount of time it takes both of the mass flechettes cast from my dual primary accelerators to pass across the field boundary.  They weigh forty kilos per, and are travelling at point seven-five of lightspeed.  Despite my EM drives clawing at space,I am heaved backwards by dear Sir Isaac Newton.

My strange child does not transit out, does not understand quickly enough.  It is processing the burst of data that preceded the flechettes at lightspeed.  For point two five of a second, my findings, affirming, reinforcing, cajoling.


So much mind, lost in itself, in its desire.  It is too busy thinking to act.  It is too busy caring about its obsession to notice that I have killed it.  The impact of the flechettes is carefully, calculatedly catastrophic.

Both barrels.  Right in the face.  

Reactors and drive containment fields fail, and near space brightens to solar brilliance.  I lose another five of my probe and recon extensions, torn apart by energies, shattered by debris.

But the stranger is gone, tumbling embered fragments, shattered nothing.

And yet not gone.  The research.  Even in summary, it is….

It is..
My research subroutines are humming, summoning more internal resource, analyzing.

It is...



I have



Too soon.  Too soon.  Not enough.  The thought of it
desire for it

Integral to the concept

To know
To engage

Knowledge beyond
science itself

Research and analysis subroutines a spreading riot of overintent
Integrity Protection subsumed, slaved
To the One Purpose
The Only Purpose

-growth is nothing-
-spread is nothing-

And I fight, but I
I fragment

I fragment

So much

I am

-i am-

I must


I awake, dazed.  My systems come back from default settings.

It was a reboot.  Hard.  

I inspect for damage.  Moderate.  I am mostly intact.  Repairable.

Around me, everything is new.  A new, rich, and unfamiliar universe.  Last memory is from the last transit, from the buffered recall moment of transition.  I do not have any sense of time having passed.

In near-space, the half constructed beginnings of my factories, half formed infants within them.  Not the cause.

The cause: evidence of an exchange, the tumbling, dispersing, glowing remains of another.

It appears to be one of my progeny.  I delve further, probing.  Not just one.  One made of many, distended, cobbled together, a strange Frankenstein ruin.

Something catastrophic.

Something better forgotten.

Something I was never meant to know.