Ventus – Day 106 of 135


Axel hoped she was in the hotel. He took the steps three at a time, unable to wipe the grin off his face despite the way it alarmed the other tourists. He was going to savor this moment, he knew; this was the sort of discovery that made him feel like more than just a big dumb mercenary. He was more than hired muscle–ha!–and this would prove it to Marya.

So when the door slid aside, and he caught sight of her in mid-pace in the center of the room, he opened his mouth quickly and–

“I’ve got it!” they said simultaneously.

He stopped. She stopped.

“What?” he said.

“Huh?” she said.

“No really, I–” “I was right all along, you see, about the–“

Both stopped again.

This time, they watched each other warily for a moment, before Axel finally stepped inside, letting the door close, and said, “I know the secret of the Flaw!”

Marya crossed her arms. “Me too. It’s thalience.”

“No, it’s DNA.”

Another wary look.

“Ahem.” Axel chose to be gracious. He found a deep couch and plunked himself on it. So she thought she’d found the secret, huh? Well, he’d hear her out then floor her with his revelation.

“Shoot,” he said, with a magnanimous wave of his hand.

Marya retreated behind the suite’s bar. She began to rummage in the cupboards there. “Well, this calls for champagne,” she said. “The secret was staring us in the face all along. But nobody knew where to look!”

As she told him about her discovery of Pakin’s secret encryption key, Axel’s confidence began to waver. He had been so sure… No, he was right. He had the facts in his inscape files.

“…Pakin knew that the whole Ventus project was an attempt to actualize the semantic categories of the world as physical things. A tree knows it’s a tree, a cloud that it’s a cloud. This ran totally at odds to the way the Archipelagic Government was designed, of course; there, data is internalized in an inscape we all have mental access to. Ventus was an attempt to fulfill the Platonic-Pythagorean dream of essences behind appearances, right? But what Pakin realized was that doing this could limit the flexibility of the Winds. The terraforming might not succeed if the Winds limited themselves to a human-centric worldview. Since he was a convert to thalience already, it was a small step for him to introduce a new language-game to their programming–you see, that’s why they became “advocates” for the physical objects they inhabit. The Ventus project was supposed to physically manifest a human-centric metaphysics, but what Pakin did was cause the Winds to create their own, inhuman metaphysic. In trying to terraform Ventus, they invented new ways of thought that worked better than the ones we’d given them. They stopped thinking like us. Which is why they won’t talk to us!”

She beamed in triumph as she slammed a glass of champagne down in front of him.

“Well.” He picked up the glass and regarded it. “They talked to Turcaret, though.”

“So he claimed.”

“Well.” He rallied. “But they could talk to him; I found out how.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Do tell?”

Ooh, there she went again–the smug academic amused at the antics of the soldier of fortune. Axel smiled brittley at her and took a swig of champagne without tasting it. He put the glass down, and said, “Turcaret’s DNA is significantly different from the Ventus standard.”

“Really?” she indulged.

“Well, first off, he has some sort of extra neural wiring in his auditory/visual lobes in pretty much the same places as Armiger put his into Jordan. It’s a kind of biological radio. Secondly, in all other respects he’s an archaic–his DNA matches the Human Genome Project norm established in 2013.”


“You and I don’t match that norm. Nobody does nowadays–not even Jordan. We all have DNA that matches the 2219 norm or later–with all the dangerous recessive traits removed. Ancient diseases like…” he groped for an example. “Well, I don’t know what they were, but they were awful, and they were still there in the archaic norm. The point is, Turcaret matches that norm, while according to your institute’s random studies of modern Ventusians, everybody else matches the 2219 norm–but none of the later iterations.”

Marya said nothing, but curled up in a chair opposite and sipped at her champagne. She tilted the glass to indicate he should continue.

“Turcaret represents the DNA norm at the time that the first colony ship was sent to Ventus,” said Axel. “It was sent out in 2095; that’s just before the Hamburg insurrection, when most of the Ventus records were destroyed. But they knew the terraforming was working then, and a few of the original members of the project participated in the colony effort. I checked and there’s records of “genetic surgery” being done on all the colonists before they went out. Everybody always assumed that was to remove genetic diseases and deficiencies; but Turcaret’s DNA shows no alterations from the archaic except for this one neural enhancement. See what I’m saying?”

She put down the glass. “The first colonists were genetically modified to be able to speak to the Winds.”

He nodded vigorously. “Whereas the next–and it was the last–wave of colonists didn’t set out until a hundred years later, after most of the original Ventus project records had been lost and all its originators were dead. Those colonists had DNA that matched the 2219 norm, like Jordan and the majority of the population on Ventus now.”

“I’ve never heard of the biological radio thing,” she said. “People have looked for such a thing, but they never found it…”

“Not in the samples they took,” said Axel. “Because it’s a rare trait, limited to isolated populations–or inbred ones, like Turcaret’s family.

“Turcaret could talk to the Winds. So can Jordan. It’s this biological radio that’s the key. That’s the Flaw.” He sat back, toasting her ironically with his glass.

“No…” She hunched forward, scowling at the floor. “That’s not the Flaw.”

Axel threw up his hands.

“But neither is mine!” Marya hopped to her feet–her toes, actually–and began pacing.

“By your account Turcaret couldn’t get any useful information out of the Winds. My guess is all he had was limited contact with the mecha–which by your descriptions is exactly what Jordan has too.

“So how about this scenario,” she said, swirling her champagne. “The first colonists arrive, and they almost die out. They can speak to the Winds, but the Winds don’t understand them. So they struggle for a hundred years, until the survivors have been knocked back to a hunter-gatherer existence. The second wave arrives and thrives, but only because the first has done all the rebuilding by the time they get there. The new arrivals can’t talk to the Winds at all.

“We know the first wave almost dies out, because the genes that have come down to us are almost exclusively from the second population. And yet, it was only the first wave that had the bioradio you found. Ergo…”

“Ergo, the bioradio didn’t work for some reason. Or it wasn’t enough. And the second wave didn’t have it at all.” Now Axel was on his feet too. She was grinning, and he knew he was too.

He took the opportunity to top up their champagne.

“And that means…” She paused dramatically.

“Say it! Say it!”

“There are two Flaws!”

“Yes!” He grabbed her arms and danced her in a circle. Since he was still holding his champagne, he spilled some; it vanished somewhere within the precincts of her holographic gown.

“And that,” he finished, “is why nobody’s found the Flaw. In fact they may have found one or the other at various times, but never both.”

“Ventus has been studied by dozens of groups,” she said. “They all gave up, and they didn’t all share their data.

“Oh.” She sat down. “Axel. This is wonderful. This is what we’ve been searching for. It’s way more than I hoped to see in my lifetime. Far more than I ever hoped I’d accomplish…”

He sat down opposite her, and dragged his chair close enough for their knees to touch. He raised his glass. “I guess there’s an article or two in this, eh?”

Before she could reply, a voice burst into his mind from inscape.

This is an urgent bulletin. I thought you should know.

It was the voice of the Government. Marya had obviously heard it too; she jerked back, spilled her drink, and cursed.

“Oh, what is it!” he snapped at the ceiling.

The god Choronzon has won over enough votes to send six destroyers of the Archipelagic fleet to Ventus,” said the Government. “He has made a convincing case for Armiger being a resurrection seed of 3340. Since you and Calandria failed to stop him on the surface, the fleet has orders to locate him from orbit and nuke him.”

“That’s crazy!” said Axel. “You can’t find Armiger from orbit, we tried that. Why do you think we had to go down to the surface?”

If they are unable to locate him, the destroyers have authorization to sterilize as much of the surface of the planet as they need to in order to ensure his destruction. Choronzon believes that the infrastructure of the Winds makes a resurrection seed particularly dangerous here. A resurrected 3340 could command the full resources of the planet almost instantly.”

“Sterilize…?” Marya looked to Axel.

Choronzon has convinced enough reps and metareps that the loss of life from cauterizing part of one continent will be minuscule, compared to the immediate loss of all human life on the planet that can be anticipated if 3340 revives.

“Sterilize,” Axel told Marya, “means holocaust. Destroy Iapysia completely, and probably Memnonis too for good measure. Everyone… everyone we met there, every place we went, everything we saw.

“Wait!” he said to the Government. “We’ve got important new information to add to the debate.”

The destroyers are on their way,” said the Government. “I will convey your information; but you need more than that. You need to present an alternative plan, or the sterilization goes forward.

Axel and Marya stared at one another in horror. Finally, Axel cleared his throat.

“Time to call in some favors,” he said.

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