Ventus – Day 119 of 135

She hugged herself against a sudden chill. “Don’t call me that. I brought my people low.” Angry and grief-stricken, she turned and started to walk back to their camp. The horses were visible in the firelight; both were looking in her direction. “And what are you going to do with the world once you’ve got it?” she shouted back to Armiger. “How will you succeed where I failed?”

“I can do what you could not,” she heard him say. “I can conquer the Winds. The ones Mason calls Mediation will be our first converts.” He followed her and when she sat down by the fire, he sat too.

“I am no longer Mad Queen Galas–just Mad Galas, I suppose,” she said. “But my madness is nothing compared to yours if you expect to lay your hands on each and every Wind in order to turn them to your cause. That is what you intend to do, is it not?”

“In a sense.”

“Then why haven’t you done it? Where is your army? You’ve said that Jordan had the last piece of the puzzle you needed. So now that you know all you need to, why are you not commanding the heavens to part and the seas to recede?”

He looked down. “It’s not that simple.”

“Ah! That phrase is Male for ‘I’m afraid to’.”

“There is some key piece missing,” he admitted. “I have yet to figure it out. But when I do…”

“Yes? When you do, what? You’ve been coy about that all along, Armiger. What, exactly, are you going to do?”

He stared pensively at the stars. “The Winds are sur-biological, nanotechnological entities. Each component mechanum is infinitesimal, the size of a human cell. Each carries in it a tiny computer–a thinking machine–and communications devices. The mecha communicate with their brethren using a very large number of codes. These codes are certified each by the next higher layer of the organization, from the tiniest particle all the way up to the desals and the Diadem swans. The Winds recognize one another by comparing the digital signatures on the transmission codes. If the code is not signed by the next higher authority, it is not valid. But that next higher authority cannot issue codes without the authorization of the layer above it, and so on up the ladder. Most of the communication between the Winds consists of trading new authorizations. They do it on an unconscious level.

“To command the Winds, you must speak their language. To speak their language, you must have a valid signature on your messages. Ever since arriving here I have been looking for a way to either fake the signatures, or acquire the highest-level signing authority.

“Somehow, Jordan Mason has gotten a high-level authority in the eyes of the Winds. –Not the highest, but very high. I suspect ordinary humans can’t get to the highest level. I copied his implants exactly, which should make my messages indistinguishable from his. But they’re not–somehow the Winds recognize his but not mine. That is what I’m trying to figure out now.”

“That is dazzling,” said Galas. “But it’s not the answer I asked for. What will you do when you have this ‘signing authority’?”

He hesitated. “What would you do?”

“Can you remake the world? –Turn night into day, heavy into light, black into white? What can you do?”

“I can’t change gravity,” he said with faint smile. “But I can change the atmosphere, or strip it away entirely. I can drain the seas, if I want. I can change the surface of this world into practically anything.”

“Can you free my people from poverty and grief?”

He shrugged. “That would be among the easiest things I can do.”

“Will you?”

Armiger hesitated again. He put down his soup bowl. “Should I?” he asked. “Be careful how you answer.”

“I’m tired of political answers to questions like that,” she said. “And tired of philosophical ones. All I know is I’m tired and hungry and afraid, and in that I am finally one with the majority of my countrymen. There is not a single person out there,” she gestured at the dark countryside, “who would not say, ‘save me from the cold, and the dark, and the beasts outside and in’.”

“Is that all you want for them?”

She turned to look at him. He sat now with his hands dangling between his knees, his face expressionless. She was suddenly acutely aware that she was the only human being seated at this fire.

“You could do it,” she whispered.

He didn’t answer.

“But then… the real question is, what do you want to do?”

Armiger didn’t answer for a long time. Finally he said, “I guess that depends on who I am.”

“This god 3340 you’ve spoken of–what did he want you to do with Ventus?”

“He saw Ventus as a resource waiting to be tapped. But not an efficient one, as it stands. Most the Winds’ energy is being put into maintaining the artificial ecology–a complete waste as far as 3340 was concerned. The first thing it would have had me do was abandon the terraforming system.”

“Abandon…? What would that mean, for us I mean?”

“The air would become poisonous with time… rivers would dry up, the oceans become toxically metallic. Some kinds of life, like fungi and bacteria, would run rampant, others would die. Everything would eventually be choked out, if it even lasted that long, because 3340 wanted to use the mecha to make the entire surface of the planet into one giant machine–a god device.”

“For what purpose?”

“Ventus was to have been a staging area for an assault on the human Archipelago. If 3340 had conquered even a tenth of the Archipelago, it would have become unstoppable. Eventually it might have consumed the entire galaxy.”

“But 3340 is dead,” she said.


“So you won’t do that my world.”

He looked her in the eye, expressionless. “I will not,” he said, a bit too vehemently.

“I wish I could believe you.”

He looked surprised–the first real emotion he’d shown in days. He squinted at her through woodsmoke. “Why don’t you believe me?”

“Because you’re very, very angry, and I’m afraid you don’t know it.”

That made him pause. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said finally.

“She is dead, Armiger.”

He just looked at her.

“You don’t know how to grieve, do you?” she asked.

This time he grimaced, but that was all.

“I forget sometimes that you have no experience in it.” She smiled sadly. “Neither did I, the first time; no one is prepared. So we usually end up with scars; I suppose mine are no worse than anyone else’s. If I am to honour Megan in any way, I guess it should be by heeding her lesson. She was offended that I… fell apart… after we escaped. I thought she couldn’t possibly know what I was feeling. Now I realize that she saw that I thought this, and that was what offended her. After all, she lost a husband, but she carried on.

“At the time I thought she was making light of my pain. She must be asking me to shrug it off, like I had done with the pain of my mother’s death. It took me many years to learn how bad a mistake that had been. But no, she was asking for more courage than I was willing to show. She was asking me to feel it all, and keep going anyway.”

“I am not one of you,” Armiger said. He didn’t elaborate.

“You’re acting exactly like one of us,” she countered.

He didn’t answer.

“The sooner you start believing it the better off you’ll be, Armiger. You’re going to have to face the pain, and sooner rather than later would be best.”

He squinted at her through woodsmoke. “Why?”

“Because if you are as powerful as you say you are, your anger could destroy my world.”

“Only my human side can be angry.”

“But pardon me for saying so, my general–it’s your human side that makes you do what you do.”

He stood up abruptly and stalked a few meters away. Encouraged, she said, “Listen to me. If you respect Megan, you should follow her example too.”

“By doing what?” He sounded indifferent, as though intent on some task. Galas almost smiled.

“By letting it all in. All the pain, the sorrow, the anger. You’ve got to let yourself feel it. Otherwise, it’s going to act through you whether you know it or not.”

He murmured something; she wasn’t sure, but it sounded like, “That’s not what I’m afraid of having act through me.”

Galas felt infinitely weary. Her own grief was raw and close enough that she had little strength to fight his. She lay down on her bedroll and gazed up at the few stars that were visible through the perpetual dusk sky.

“I’m afraid,” she heard herself say. She knew she was not speaking for herself.

“Jordan Mason,” said Armiger. “I need you to find me now.”

Galas rolled on her side and looked past the circle of firelight. Armiger stood with his hands raised to either side, and now lines of light flickered at the ends of his fingers. These seemed to tear away and coalesce into rolling balls, like tumbleweeds. She saw several bounce across the ground, fading. A faint rustling sound came from the undergrowth around her.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

“I am building a larger body–more sense organs, independent hands and eyes. The Winds or their slaves might fall on us at any time. We need guards–a perimeter. I am making that.”

Galas lay back, shivering. What had she just been speaking to? A man? No… she was the only human being on this hillside. She might as well be talking to the stones.

She closed her eyes, determined to see and hear no more today.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)