Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – Language. Heart. Culture

The Rune had long been decommissioned, though it currently appeared as if someone had forgot to inform Engines. The bright, silver, filigree-thin solar wings were outstretched to catch whatever particles still reached the void between stars the ship now occupied. The bulbous hull, elegantly curving against the absolute cold of space, silently made its way towards its far off target. The crew, unlike what you might expect, were in high spirits, running the ship with the loving affections of an artist for his work or a port town for its jetty. And in a way, that’s exactly what the ship was. You see, in a way, one of the oldest truths that has survived with humanity in whatever form it took, whether rugged sailors of the sea or ultra-advanced rugged sailors of the stars, is that the most dangerous part of any journey is take off and landing. There were many ways to work around this but the Rune, and indeed all of its class of ships, found the most efficient one for them: simply don’t do it.

For the past century, the ship had been slowly spiraling out from the Heart. What it bore was much more than any commodity, although it carried enough of those to beggar planets. No, the main thing this ship carried, this Rune flung into space from a center that pulsed with the blood of eons, was culture. Culture is a very volatile substance, prone to change at the lightest touch, mutating under the gaze of those who sought to preserve its current form. And so, they stopped trying. Launched into the vastness of space, it was an ambassador. Contained within fragile, precious, amazing receptacles, language and dreams were carried to where they were needed the most. To the fringes. Each human then, each pulsing core of wishes and personal words, was a carrier of the most powerful form of energy known to man. Culture.

And so, the Rune never stopped. Not willing to risk its precious cargo, to risk even an iota of memory or stored affection, it never stopped. Small ships, thousands of them, went to and fro its sleek surface, interacting with the planets around them. Sometimes, the denizens of those planets knew what was happening: it might seem as if they were trading, feeding the ship the resources it needed direly, but in actuality something much different was happening. They were being pollinated, fertilized, inseminated with the collective knowledge of ten thousand planets, localized and personalized through a woman or a man or a child or a gardener or a swords smith or anything else, any other form that this ever-expanding place called the Heart had deemed fit to send. Most planets though were blissfully unaware, only giving praise to the economical chance that had come to them. A mighty ship, with mighty needs, was a lucrative business indeed. And the markets would open, whatever produce the planet had to offer traded for the precious credits that were, by now, the only currency worth holding. While this was happening, like industrious, strange bees that only operated by night and silence, the crew of the Rune would whisper. They would whisper to lovers on beds, stroking their firm muscles, they would whisper to merchants in doorways, stroking their firm egos, they would whisper to children in squares, stroking their firm imaginations. They smiled and cajoled and told and listened and thought and sang, each one, their own song.

This was the deeper truth that the Heart remembered and that the galaxy had forgotten or had never even known. Knowledge is worthless. Sophistication, elegance, power, will, vision, all of these were completely worthless if not for the woman carrying them, for the man telling them. An ancient once said that humans are daemons, half in this world, as man, and half grasping for the stars, as gods. The Heart knew he had been right but had forgotten an important fact: conduits work both ways. And so, while reaching for those stars, a woman brought something back. While learning songs, the man also gave those songs reality. While reciting a poem, the child also made the poem breathe, gave those words and thoughts that stood behind them a firm reality. This was the power of the Heart: it remembered that truth and thus realized that its greatest assets were its people. To hold those people down, to pinpoint their thoughts, to catalog their hearts, would be to squander those vasts resources they held inside them, the amazingly powerful highway to the stars that each of them was. And so, they found the perfect way to preserve that power while utilizing it to their needs: community.

The Rune had long been decommissioned but that bothered neither decommissioner or decommissioned. The ship had long passed that critical point beyond which an official charter, a primum movens that would set it in motion again and again, was needed. And thus it was un-tethered, set free to roam wherever it would go, fueled by the very thing it was designed to support. Community. The Rune sailed the spaces between the stars on community, on the power of each of them to spatialize the whole of them. The Captain smiled as he lovingly ran his hands on the motto of the ship and indeed, the Heart. It made better sense now that he had mused on his own vessel, as he did once every decade or so, when the mood struck him. He turned to this Second and set a course for the nearest system, a binary set up. He remembered a planet there with exquisite animals he had once put to song and he felt the need to sing that song to them again. Turning once more, he placed his hand on the three words etched beneath his station.

Language. Heart. Culture.

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