“Love is death. To love another is to commit a form of death. In order to truly love one, one must embrace this death. The death of the one, the death of loneliness, the death of self. Its a little death, but death is a death. We fear it, often because we don’t know.
“Death is not a ending. Embrace the death that is love.”
Roses From Skulls: Duster Poetry
I decided to still die. The walk back to Roosevelt would take me longer than it would be with Suzanne, but it'd give me time.
Time to let Samuel Maenad die. Time to let someone new take his place. Someone happy with her lot in life, someone who'd try to better herself.
"Who am I?" I asked. I looked down at the waterfall.
I don't know why it lifted when it did. I'd learn later that it was a chance thing- that often, depression in my case doesn't let up like that. Maybe my augmentations had done something. Maybe my father dying did the deed enough to keep me from trying my own case for it. Or maybe my father lying there stole the moment from me. Just that couple of seconds did it, giving me something to excuse myself from doing it.
Either way, I tried out the new question in my head. It wasn't 'how do I prove myself?'
"Who am I?" I said again.
That seemed like a good question to start out with. I left the bridge behind me. I went into the Preserves. That was the first day. I didn't really get anywhere.
I wasn't lost. But everything felt different, as I carried the blue dress and the holo with me. I explored the preserves, like I had when I was small with my mother. I remembered her, her voice.
She'd made the blue dress for me. That had amazed me. She appeared with it one day, and I stared at wonder at it. For one thing, I couldn't figure out how she'd done it. My mother was very tall. She'd had genehacks to reduce her size, but she still retained the very tall and willowy traits of Dusters despite that. The freckles on her face always stood out to me. No one else in Shiloh had those.
Of course, my mother also was a miracle worker. I don't exaggerate that. Everyone who asked her of help, she gave what she could. And it always seemed like more than enough.
My mother had woken me up that day. It was my birthday.
"Hey." She told me. She sat in my bed. "You going to wake up today?"
"Mhhh." I remember me saying. "No."
She laughed. "You have to get up, its your birthday."
"Mhhhmh." I added. I still hadn't opened my eyes. I felt warm fingers cover them. "Moooom."
"Oh come on." She said, jostling me. "You don't get to sleep in on your birthday!"
I blinked my eyes open. My room was still dark. I remember the dozens of pictures I'd draw all over the place. Mom insisted that I draw pictures when she took me with her on a visit.
I yawned, my tiny body stretching out as I did so.
"Do we get to do another visit today?" I asked.
Mom shook her head. I remember how she tossed her hair. She would take me, of course, because I could play with neighbor kids. Or she'd have me help distract some of the other people in town. That was our secret thing. Mom would have me distract some of her patients, just enough to her job.
"Oh." I felt disappointed and frowned. Mom saw that.
"Oh, Sammy." She giggled. "Its your birthday. Get dressed."
I paused. Before I could even get out of bed, I remembered her handing me a satchel. I looked at it. "What's this?"
"Look." Mom smiled, her freckles and teeth glittering at me. "Look, Sammy. Happy birthday."
I peered down into the satchel and saw the blue dress there. For the first time. I felt elated. It was amazing. Something I had never thought possible. I could contain myself.
I smiled at that memory. I had the blue dress over one shoulder. I'd outgrown it by now.
"He always kept you locked up," I told the dress. "Fath-Dad, could never make himself destroy it. I never wondered about that. I just thought he was my warden, to keep me in my place."
I hear something far above me. The screech of an eagle. I paused a moment, watching it soar above me. The trees in this part of the Preserve were very young trees, tightly packed together. Bushes and debris piled high. Leaves and needles formed a thick berm underneath me. It was a thicket.
It smelled of pine sap. Grass swayed in the wind. A squirrel nearby chattered.
I had never spent time alone in the Preserves before. Yes, it was artificial. When Amanda Blaine had first founded Nightland, there never was enough space for a park, let alone this glade. But that didn't matter. It felt spiritual. It felt like I was part of something.
"He's dead." I told myself. "Maybe that means I can learn to be someone new. Who am I?"
Those words echoed through the trees. It took me a bit of looking, but I found I could control texts sent to me. I had never bothered to learn how my augmentations worked, let alone their apps. But listening to my mother talk convinced me. She'd given them to me. I needed to give them a chance.
I walked. I listened. I tried to be the new person I wanted to be.
"Well, well, well."
I should've seen a Psych. But I didn't want to. I wanted to work on my plants. I knew mom wouldn't like that, and Poro had asked me if I was certain about it. Of course I was!
I stood at the top of the ridge. Pines trees as far as the eye could see. I knelt down. The tiny little flower at the top of this ridge had most of my interest. The Preserves were never engineered or designed; they had been parks that went feral somewhat, with a diversity of life transplanted from all over the System. Of course some of those transplants had been gene hacked individuals.
Take that diverse lot and put them through a hundred years of generations. Bam. New subspecies. It'd been a project my family had spend years cataloging. This tiny new flora looked like a paintbrush, bright red against the grass around it. But I knew it was something new.
I pulled out the tiny varmint. A mouse shaped bit, it had never been programmed, or even activated. I dangled it over the flower. The flower gasped, it's paintbrush head extending out. Then a tiny vine shot out, wrapping around the varmint. The vine had flicks of metal. Silicon.
It then ate the varmint.
"Ah. So you are hungry." I opened my apps, recording it eating. I made notes.
I let myself get lost in the work. I needed to make my observations, analyze and upload them. It drove back the memories of the explosion and the bodies back.
There was a girl on the ridge in front of me. A green skinned girl, her hair and face the shape shade as the pine needles. She wore work pants and a long sleeve shirt, like she was used to working in the mud and dirt.
I froze. She didn't see me.
"Weird little guy." I shook my head. I found this little things alarmingly cute. Varmint Traps were a Nightland specialty. They had grown up there, but couldn't be found anywhere else.
/Kensha_Bodhi: w/Li: You ok?
I paused. Kensha must've gotten word about what had happened. But I was still was in the middle of something. I wish I'd remember to turn off my messenger when I was working in the preserves. "Kensha, of all the times..."
Across from the ridge, I heard the green girl say something. A quick look at a app magnified the audio. I didn't need it, not really. But the cochlear augment blinked into life as her words echoed toward me.
"Kensha, of all the times..."
"Oh." I tried to think. Kensha.
I wanted to kick myself. We'd just met, and I remember getting lost in that dream with her. She'd showed me something amazing about augmentations and things I could do, although I think she did it out of some sort of guilt. Kensha was an example of a society I knew nothing about.
I ducked behind a tree. I didn't want this unknown person to notice me. Even if she knew Kensha... I shuddered. I felt anxious. Yeah, even though I thought I was different, her green skin made me nervous.
Doing that made me feel even more ashamed.
I let out an annoyed breath. Fine, I decided, I could at least talk with Kensha.
/Li: i'm aok
/Kensha_Bodhi: What happened? I mean, I saw the livestream. Did you see them- you know.
/Li: no we didnt
I paused. I tried to think of the right thing to explain how I was feeling. But sharing seemed somewhat remote at the moment. I kept jotting down some measurements. Height, depth, color tones. All through apps, although it made it look like I was fondling the little Varmint Trap.
/Kensha_Bodhi: You want to talk about it?
/Li: no not really
/Li: trying to forget it
I felt a tear come down on eye. Fek tear ducts. I always wanted to hack those away. But I could never find a healthy gene hack that would let me do it.
/Kensha_Bodhi: I'm always around if you need somebody.
/Li: i think po wants me
/Li: u know. thumpedy thump want
That threw Kensha off. I'm sure she didn't know what I was thinking.
I took in the surroundings as I waited for her response to my provocative statement. See if Kensha could figure that one out. Kensha hated talking about dating. I'd call her repressed, but alas, I think she's shy. Its one of those things that always made me want to see how she handled.
The preserves were a bit balmy today. I could see the many ponderosas and other trees that had taken over. There was a thicket below me. Alot of the brambles here and further west were thick with brush. It was a sign that the forest needed a fire, something that Nightland could support, although forest fires were always risky. Luckily, Roosevelt wasn't that close to the part of the Preserves that could go up. If anything, it'd could be contained, if that ever happened.
I smiled, admiring the forest as my studies in bio and genehacking had lent me some insight. I paused for a moment at one tree. My eye was going to continue on. But something moved behind a tree. Something that wasn't an animal. At least, not any of the animals I expected to see in the Preserves. It walked on two-legs, the surest sign of a person.
/Kensha_Bodhi: Oh. You sure that's a good idea?
I rolled my eyes.
/Li: yolo, u know?
/Kensha_Bodhi: Yeah, but are you interested in Zher?
I paused at that. Of course I liked Poro. We were friends, having spent a lot of time with each other. I never had pursued a relationship with Poro, because it never occurred to me. Did that make it a good idea to go for it?
Then I spotted the person. I recognized him. "Oh. Boy, do you got a surprise coming!"
/Li: Kensha get back to you later.
Here was somebody I needed to talk into coming to one of Kensha's dreams. The artist boy I'd talked with Poro. A skinny guy, he stood around a two meters. He looked like he spent time exercising, but not to keep up his body weight. I didn't let that deter me.
I peeked back around the tree. She looked like she was gone. The green-skinned stranger had gone away. I let out a breath of relief.
But then I felt a pang of regret. Maybe I should've said something. I could've come up with some sort of tie to Kensha. Some reason why to talk with her.
"Moron, you needed to start out better." I sighed. "How do you start being a new person if you don't try?"
Coward. I'd been my usual, cowardly-
"Hi!" A voice said. The girl was jogging up the hill, waving her arms at me.
I nearly bolted. I tried to think clearly. "Um..."
As she drew closer, my hand grew tighter and tighter on my blue dress in my hand. Her skin was green. She looked like she was part of the plants around here.
"I'm Li of the Gaians." Li offered me her hand, in a handshake. I hesitantly shook it. It felt like a hand. A human hand.
"Uh..." I said stupidly. "You said Kensha's name earlier."
Li nodded. She was expecting something. Fek.
"Um, I'm Sam." I gazed down, my eyes at my feet. "Ah... I didn't mean to disturb-"
"You didn't." Li said, smirking at me. "Kensha told me about you. I heard you were awesome at dreaming."
I blinked. Okay. Well, that seemed to smooth things over. "Yeah, it was fun to try."
"Try?" Li shook her head. "I can't believe you hadn't tried it before!"
"Well..." I clutched tighter to my blue dress. No, I wasn't going to talk about Samuel. He was gone. Dead. Sam wanted new friends. Sam wanted to try new things. Sam was different. I could do this!
"Sorry, I can be..." Li shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. "Overwhelming? That's how Poro and Kensha describe it."
"Poro?" I had no idea what to make of that name.
"Zhe is a friend. Zhe, Kensha and I spend a lot of time in dreams that Kensha weaves. You should be in those, Sam. You were brilliant."
I blushed, my cheeks reddening. "Thanks... Um... You mind a question?"
"Sure, anything." Li stood almost two heads shorter than me.
"Zhe?" I asked.
Li blinked. That seemed to confuse her. "Zhe. You know, the pronoun for people who aren't he or she. Why?"
"Never heard of it before." My heart pounded in my chest. For people who aren't he or she? You could be in between? That was news to me.
"Yeah..." Li gave me a wary look. "Weird."
I felt embarrassed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to ask something that was... uh, weird-"
"Oh." Li shook her head. "That's ok. I just didn't think you'd ask that."
"What did you think I was going to ask?" I said, confused.
"Why I was here in the Preserves." Li waved a hand at the woods around us. In fact, I thought she'd mention something about how her skin was green. Oh well. "I'm here doing some bio surveys. Its a hobby of mine. Why are you here?"
I thought about that for a second. "Death. Rebirth. I don't know. You ever want to do something new? I'm doing that. I think I killed my old self back there..."
I pointed behind me. Li nodded. "And you're new self is trying to do what now?"
"Still figuring that out." I looked at my feet again. I felt the blue dress tighter against my chest.
"Well." Li appraised me for a moment.
I realized then that he was really, really in need of a Medunit. In my excitement, I ignored his obvious injuries. Sam wore rags. His clothes looked like they had been through a blender. The only clean thing on him was the blue dress he had clung to. The guy also looked sad.
He must've been going through some sort of rough patch. I didn't understand any of that new self stuff. Maybe he needed a Psych too. Either way, IDK why I did it, but I said it anyway.
"Got a place to stay back in Roosevelt?" I asked him.
"Uh..." That made him even more nervous.
"Oh come on." I shook my head. "I'm not going to bite or anything. But Sam, you need help, you know that right?"
Sam blinked at me. "I do?"
"Your augmentations have done a lot of work. But they've only delayed the pain and injuries. You look like the fek kicked out of a dog kicked by a bull varmint." I grabbed his arm. "Please. You are still in shock I think. We're going to see a Medunit and get you fixed up I think."
I felt stupid for not noticing his injuries before. But focus is my specialty. Sometimes some things fall out of that when you are focused on a thing.
Hey. I get points to trying to notice, right?
Nightland Central Archives: Nightland.Wiki.Archives/Transhumans
In the information age, transhumanism was a political and philosophical movement. A part of this movement survived, of course, the Long Night. These transhumans would form a key component of the multifaceted controversies in the Unification War, including the Ascendist Regime. In the modern age, transhumans cover a wide variety of different positions.
Since the Treaty of Unification (0 UE) these different views have largely converged. There remain three distinct groups of kinds in regards to transhuman communities, each echoing what used to be distinct minorities throughout the System. Mass adoption of one, two or all three kinds of transhumanism has rendered the idea of them being separate forms of identity as moot.
Using genetic, biological and bionic subsystems to augment a person. These include genehacks that reverse aging, cure cancer or enhance one's normal abilities. Photosynthetic skin for example, allows one to forgo some kinds of sugars and biorythms in favor of more plant-like ones. Genehacks are everywhere in the System. It used to be rare to find individuals who'd willing alter their biology severely. In the era of Autogov, most are free and accepted with whatever biome they choose to have.
Cybernetic individuals. Often relying on cybernetics and nanotechnology to interface with tech of all levels. Cykes used to be a minority due to the unique needs of Cykes. But bionic implants allow for cybernetic interfaces without needing inorganic machines. A convergence of cybernetics and genehacks, bionics are living implants that enhance their host, even if they require the host to have them implanted at birth.
The Bioroid or Redesigned Human Genome.
Artificially designed, these humans were created to specifically have bionics and pass them one to their offspring. Originally created as a sort of cloned slave race, most Autogov banned the use of owning another's genome. They have since become public domain genomes- adding their unique traits to human strains throughout the System. New bioroids have not be designed by humans since, although some Autogov's support projects looking into more and more variations on the human genome.
Because Bioroids are designed, they all have bionics and genehacks built in. When the Old Nations ruled, this represented a possible path that allowed for humans to meld machines and designed biology together. Only when the Old Nations had fled their places of power were Bioroids allowed the chance to be free and not property.
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