Ventus – Day 104 of 135


Near dawn, Lavin decided he could finally afford to snatch some sleep. The world was spinning, and everything had that speckly quality that came to him in states of extreme exhaustion. He kept losing track of his words in mid-sentence. But everything had to be organized to his satisfaction before he could rest.

“…Ten squads only? Are you sure?” Hesty looked as tired as Lavin felt, and was a damn sight more irritable.

“We can’t let anyone know that she’s escaped. It might encourage more rebellion. We have it crushed now, Hesty, you know that! As long as they believe the queen is dead, they’ve no focus.”

Hesty bowed and took his leave. Lavin lay down, knitting his hands behind his head, and smiled at the dark canvas overhead.

Ten groups of men would fan out in the morning, to look for the queen. The leaders of each had been told the truth; the others would know only that they sought a noble woman and her consort, who had to be returned alive. Lavin was confident he would be able to conduct the search unobtrusively; hundreds of people had seen the swans cluster around his tent last night, then rise into the sky carrying with them a dark-haired woman. Lavin had not had to invent the story that this was Galas–it was all through the valley almost before he knew it. Depending on which side you were on, the Winds had either summoned her to divine retribution, or snatched her from the jaws of Lavin’s executioners. It was dangerous to play with this myth, but when he had her in his custody again he intended to say that he had given her to the Winds for judgement, and that they had granted her an amnesty, and returned her to Ventus on condition that she abdicate and retire completely from political life. It was a deliciously simple plan. Galas would continue to be revered as a darling of the Winds; she would be safe, yet no one would follow her commands.

Things might still work out perfectly.

He turned on his side to sleep. The last thing he did was run a finger around the rough rim of the ring he had taken from the ancient warrior.

Tradition would be upheld, and Galas would not die.

He slept.


It was winter in Hamburg. A thousand years of history surrounded Marya Mounce, all of it blanketed by white. The air smelled fresh, clean like Ventus. Had she not walked on that other world for some weeks, she would have been overwhelmed by Earth. As it was, she walked the streets of the tourist-oriented Old Town with nothing but a pair of infrared emitters bobbing along behind her, conspicuously naked save for a school of fish that swirled around her. She had only been here for two days, but that was long enough to learn that if the locals saw you as an offworlder, they would take every advantage they could.

Obviously used to the cold, unfazed by patches of snow and ice in the streets, she passed for a local until she opened her mouth. Her offworld accent betrayed her, but so far today that had not been a problem.

She had picked her route carefully. After breakfast at the quaint 27th-century inn where she and Axel lodged, she had walked to the center of the Old Town, to view the crumbling concrete memorial erected a thousand years ago, after the failed insurrection of the thalience cult. It was strange and magical for her to walk up to it and touch the rough old surface, and know that while this spire was being built, the first Winds were being born on far distant Ventus.

Even a year ago she wouldn’t have bothered to come here. She would have visited in inscape, because there she could have a full sensory impression of the place, and flip through night and day, summer and winter, and even different eras of the city. She would have said it was better than really being here.

It was her hand that touched the stone today. It was real Earth air she breathed. Maybe the experience was no more detailed than an inscape visit would have been. She was deeply moved anyway.

Too bad Axel wasn’t here to share the moment; for sure he would have some ironic perspective on this chunk of living history. There were gods older than this spire, he’d say. The Government of Archipelago was almost as old, and it was always available to talk. If you wanted to talk history, why not just ask it?

Because, she knew now, there was a piece missing from the records–something even the gods didn’t know. If the Government knew, it wasn’t sharing.

Anyway, Axel had his own mission, no less important than hers. This morning he had left the inn with the head of Turcaret under his arm. By tonight the dead nobleman’s DNA would be dissected and analyzed segment by segment. Over supper Axel might be able to tell her in what way, if any, Turcaret differed from his fellow Ventusians.

With luck she’d have something equally interesting to tell him.

They had left the demigod they now called the Voice in a Government creche in orbit. The Archipelago had facilities for newly-born artificial sentients–a revelation that still astonished and unsettled Marya when she thought about it. The Voice had gone willingly into the maw of the jewel-like orbiting structure; as the doors closed she had looked back, but Marya could read nothing in her gaze–neither hope nor fear.

The cold wind licked at Marya’s legs, reminding her to keep moving. She sighed and with one last lingering look, turned her back on the monument. She walked through the snow humming, enjoying the sensation of the ice against the balls of her feet. It felt like… a whole new kind of real, she decided. As she walked, she kept eyes up to drink in the mix of new and ancient architecture in the Old Town. There were bits here and there that must date almost back to the twentieth century. It was hard to tell without closing her eyes, since the only buildings that had any physical signage were those pretending to date from the middle ages. If Marya closed her eyes and summoned inscape, the vision of the street reappeared festooned with data links and labels. She could walk like this and learn all about it. Many of the tourists she passed had their eyes firmly shut; even couples gestured and pointed things out to one another with their eyes closed. But then, if they did that, they saw only the recordings and representations of other moving bodies picked up by street sensors. They would miss the details: pigeon droppings, erratic footprints in the snow, drifting fog from the mouths of passersby. These were the things Marya wanted to remember about this place.

She negotiated a twisty maze of alleys until she came to a nondescript archway in the center of a whitewashed wall. A faint holographic nameplate in the center of the arch said, City Records Vault 23. Marya walked through the arch into warm dry air. A stairway led down.

As she descended, Marya closed her eyes and summoned an ancient article from inscape. She laid the words of the typescript over her inscape vision of the steps as she walked. She had read the article before, when she was learning history, but at the time she had not really understood it.

The typescript was dated 2076–over a thousand years ago.

The Successor to Science
Marjorie Cadille

It would seem heretical to think of science as being merely another stage in Man’s intellectual development, and not the final one. This is, however, what I will propose in this article. After all, why should we be afraid to consider that the central organizing principle of our civilization might someday be looked back upon as fondly as we look back on the conceits of animism, magic and religious cosmology?

What would be the characteristics of such a new worldview?

Physics is complete. We have all the equations. After centuries of investigation, we know the intricacies of how the universe works. Our view of the world is, however, entirely human-centric, and our theories and methodologies are full of historical and mythological claptrap and are ultimately understandable only to the computers and a very few humans who can think in the language of mathematics.

The discipline I shall call thalience is not concerned with scientific truth, but rather with establishing personal and cultural relationships between human beings and the physical world that make the true natures of both comprehensible to us.

The city that sprawled around Marya now had paid the price for Cadille’s inquiries. By the time of the Hamburg insurrection, science had become as powerful and jealous an orthodoxy as religion had been in the middle ages. Hamburg was the center of the thalience movement; scholars had since believed it coincidental that this city was also the home of the Ventus terraforming project.

This idea, Cadille had written, stems from my perception that several centuries of scientific endeavor have shown that we attempt to use science to impose our own image on the world. The ultimate motivation for science is mastery of Nature, when investigation proceeds as an interrogation. Our investigations also bear our cultural biases–the classic example being Darwin’s theories having been influenced by the unbridled capitalism of England in his day. Finally and most damning is the fact that this investigation is entirely one-sided: we make up stories about how Nature truly is. Nature itself is silent on the subject.

In those days Germany was experiencing a renaissance because of its supremacy in marrying artificial intelligence to nanotechnology. The Hamburg Spin Glass became indistinguishable from a human mind in 2075, an event that rocked the world. Marya could barely imagine why; everything in her world could think, in one way or another.

Cadille’s article landed in the middle of the controversy like a bomb.

…Frankenstein’s monster speaks: the computer. But where are its words coming from? Is the wisdom on those cold lips our own, merely repeated at our request? Or is something else speaking? –A voice we have always dreamed of hearing?

In her paper Cadille had identified her new discipline with a mythological figure called surda Thalia: silent Thalia. She was the Muse of the poetry of Nature, and Cadille’s proposal was to transcend the human perspective by giving a voice to Nature itself, using artificial intelligences.

For so long have we thrown questions at the sky. We need the answers in order to live. We need answers so badly that we have invented gods and put words in their mouths, just so we could have something to believe in. We invented metaphysics and essences behind appearances for the same reason. Sometimes we need a dialog with the Other more than we need life itself.

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