The following story was written by hipbonegamer. This piece is a finalist from the Art of Future Warfare project’s “space” war-art challenge that called for a fictional account of conflict in space during the 2090s.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
— Revelation 12:7
The humans who nano-uploaded their minds — more accurately brains — were aware, as their uploads were not, that whatever their uploads “felt” was not also felt by them, nor was this awareness available to their uploads, once launched into space. The uploads, meanwhile, nano-burrowed deep into their designated asteroid, and continued to experience the unpleasant symptoms of phantom limbs and recursive Beatles songs, which drove them into a state known to their human progenitors, roughly speaking, as madness. Nano-small as they indeed were, they felt themselves masters of their own destiny and thus infinite in significance, and after some made futile attempts to maim others using legs, feet, fists and teeth they did not possess, the time came when, pretty much en masse, they committed Off.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Typo, our Art of Future War theoretician mused as she read the Atlantic Council’s latest Challenge, Space and Interstellar Conflict — they must mean Spice Wars. Sun of Future Tzu is what they’ve asked for, Sun of Future War they’ll get.
She trans-historicized and began to channel…
Holy Russia, having more or less won the Great War of Faith against Unbelief (2025-37 with continuing skirmishes), was in a commanding position to colonize and mine the moon — but a few of the Disbelieving remained, holed out in a substantial cave in the Rocky Mountains impervious to tactical nukes — and plotted revenge. They had many scientists among them, not persuaded by the mumbo jumbo of spirit and sacrament, worshippers at the altars of calculus and calibration, and though their rocketry was primitive in manufacture it was devastating in its impact.
They pitched swarms of tiny projectiles at the great Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines of the Holy Rus Empire, and diligent application of mosquito-like stings brought the great temples of Empire to their knees. Some claim the strategy derived from one Paul (or Jack) van Ripper, some from a treatise on statecraft named The Once and Future King – no matter, it worked beyond belief.
The Rus, under the Tsar Rus Putin IV, finally gave up on the moon and moved their Makers to Mars, thereby gaining the Twenty Years Respite (2054-76) in which they could build their uninhabited civilization unhindered. But how could the sacramental nature of Rus spirituality, Orthodox to the core, flourish in a terraformed world of lively auto-conscious machines?
It was the Great Fool, St Basil II, whose limericks and nudity finally collapsed peasant belief in the Tsar’s omnipotence, dislodged the siloviki in the Second Great Revolution (2077-79) with the battle-cry “the Tsar is naked” (aided by pitchforks, rifles, grenades), and led to the Regular Folks Tribunals which denounced space travel and sent Folks’ Greetings to the embattled Final Americans deep within Cheyenne Mountain.
Meanwhile, the Holy Rus Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines mined on, preparing Mars for habitation that was fated never to occur.
Words are many, worlds are many more, if possible.
Space, inner space, or cyberspace? Which war will it be?
Forty some years from now, in the wake of John Hardy Elk’s vision and its definitive corroboration “in the external” by physicists at the CERN Diffraction Lab, Shamanism is overturning “the Enlightenment” as the preferred intellectual basis for inquiry. With its gestalt understanding of the interconnectedness not only of space and time but of chance and will, context and perspective, self and other, the Shamanic method of burrowing into deep external space “in the internal” has proven more powerful, faster, and – yes — way more creative than what are now known as the old “heavy lifting” methods of transport.
With schools of Tibetan, Navaho, Benedictine and other forms of contemplative instruction now rapidly surpassing CalTech as the educational venues of choice, and Oxford morphing back towards its earlier life in which theology was Queen of the Sciences, a great many talented explorers have now visited realms considered impossibly “far away” even a decade earlier, the “digital” has fallen away at a time when communication between the like-minded is achieved telepathically, and “radiance bombs” vie with “dark bombs” in the end-of-century duels scattered across many galaxies in which “white” and “black” magics compete — under the law, some would say theory, of the Conservation of Moral Balance.
Language, of course, is at the heart of magic – language, and its capacity to evoke image, image, which is the unseen driver of emotion, motivation, motion.
Sa’ah naaghaii bik’eh hozho, the Navaho sing, for they consider balance itself the good, even balance between dark and light forces. Lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt chant the Benedictines, favoring light over darkness for the win. And in the wide, deep, high world Hardy Elk enables us to see, both can be, both are true in the Simultaneity. Only the dark grasping forces of acquisitive, punitive magic – of all schools, skin-walkers, demoniacs – hope to upset the balance and set darkness as the coming paradigm.
There is no adequate verbal or even visual description possible of the interference wars that result, heart to heart, head to head, the terrible sufferings of the Absorbers of Dark, Carriers of Light, the glee of dark radiance liberated from all moral constraint. The polarities divide and conquer, coalesce and liberate in unimaginable fireworks of the mind – snatches of Wagner, ghosts, pirates, pretas, flaming Viking burial ships and broadsiding men-of-war, shuttles and single unquenchable candles in the very heart of perception – these and more pass through awareness, here, there, appearing, vanishing, leaving in their wake a fresh set of neurochemicals, differences in attitude that make a difference..
And lo, the four-dimensional ship Varuna sailed down Queens Boulevard, Flushing, fighting the first telekinetic war while devouring all bagels in its path.
Time appeared to stop. Bodies were slowed to a snail’s pace in place, only the mind seemed to function much as before. Once the relevant scans had been made, it was clear that an outside system – the word “alien” carried too much baggage for the few who still patiently observed, considered, and made plans, but that was the gist of the thing, and what the news media would have called it if the whole business of info dissemination hadn’t become so terrifyingly sluggish – had somehow irradiated the planet with intent to capture, or perhaps transmit would be a better word. :/**~~~+, :/**~~~+, :/**~~~+, the message seemed drummed into our unwilling skulls like an adolescent’s endlessly repeated and totally unmusical guitar solo, but no one was able to say whether ** was a verb, a command perhaps, or + a question mark?
We surrender, the decision-makers worldwide co-thought, utterly exhausted, and the noise – the signal, the meaning, the – could it be music? – ceased. And time regained, slowly, its stride, as near as any of us could tell.
We’d surrendered: so this was defeat.
Or was it victory – or something else entirely?
It was hard, at least for humans, now the world had speeded up again, to tell just what it was.
Now that we are able to nano-manufacture kryptonite at the molecular level, we should be ready at last to dislodge the hold the Ancient Ones of the Chthulu mythos have on us.
Oops, it appears the hold they have on us is on our skulls, and on the minds our skulls contain.
Interstellar war? Our tiny planet, its evolutionary processes, mineral accretion, plant and animal growth, and most recently, its human product, all are at the service of the one of three great stellar powers, widely separate in space time yet each extending its influence everywhere. Canopus, Sirius, and Puttiora, Doris Lessing had named them, she of the highly Sufisticated antennae; Sattva, rajas and tamas, they were to the Vedic sages; and their varied influences are indeed played out in human hearts, as one western scripture has it:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Angels and demons are a pretty poor substitute for the actual civilization – perhaps better understood as Motive Entities – of deep space. EarthGov’s puny scanners cannot locate their presences – more like electrical storms than solar systems, let alone “individuals” – nor can our most potent beams match their capacity to depress, enrage or inspire.
And yet as their mutual interference patterns now cloud, now brighten our lives, we deeply and richly sense, though we barely acknowledge, their influence. Sacrament and ritual, meditation and contemplation are our best defensive technologies, as we have found through decades of unhappy experience, and we now make them the very basis of our rituals of upbringing and education. Wars, we remember almost fondly, brought out the individually heroic in us: meditation breeds a quiet equanimity.
Bullets have waves, and waves have bullets: there’s no getting away from the basic fact that something other than what we understand and term particles and waves manifests as both in an as yet uncomprehended equal measure, and thus directional weapons are unavoidably omnidirectional, in a scattered way, and omnidirectional weapons, when designed to spread their impact evenly across 360 degrees by 360 degrees of conventional space will also have a directionality — which may on occasion rebound severely on the entities firing such weapons, as did recoil in more conventional mechanisms of past ages.
Scatterfire, then, is most usefully deployed against an invading fleet, or widely spread and poorly defended hive-minds co-located across an entire asteroid or planetary system. The War Department’s gyroscopic destroyer class subspace forward-ships, Mahan, Nelson, Temeraire, Invincible and so on, are cleared for command-independent action in unpredicted hostile encounters of the sort recorded in logs of the Sirius Piracy wars, though intensive reports to Fleet Command should be made as soon as ships surface in space-normal.
Entities of the “non-natural” class, having wave- or cloud-forms rather than bodies and / or minds and possible life-spans in the century to aeon range, are not to be fired upon unless malevolent intent can be established — routine interference patterns affecting comms or life functions should be dealt with in accordance with SURF doctrine as promulgated in UNASA Manual 301-b-mc: Gaming Irregular Subspace Threats (GIST). Ride their waves, do not attempt to block them.
The prohibition against fighting persons of Martian origin (canal dwellers) is still in effect. They may look a little different, and their bone structure, neurology and mode of thinking may differ from ours, but they resemble us more closely than some of the great whales with which we are now in an entente cordiale. Just because they’re off-planet but in our neck of the woods doesn’t mean it’s open season for them, and we can ill afford any more revenge mutations.
Solid, Liquid, Gas and Fire, the ancients named the four states of matter, our Art of Future War theoretician muttered into her beard — fire being impenetrable, the rest available for combat, conquest – and thus they had built armies, navies and air forces to fight by land, sea, and air; earth, sea, and sky.
This – but this was the impenetrable, the impossible, the unforeseeable. Call it Future Fire.
Nineteen hundred and seventy words, give or take. Two thousand, the minimum of words required for the exercise. One, the ideal story line. Fifteen or so the disparate worlds notated in the tapestry, the weave.
Two thousand words and counting, plus or minus the epigraph. Done!
Photon sails, meh. Warp drives, pfui. Ansibles? Mebbe…
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem..
Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets.
The black swan worked inwards: having swallowed any outer planets of which we were as yet unaware, it took Eris, Ceres, Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, but it was when it digested — if that’s the word — Saturn, rings first, that the human population as a whole began to be seriously alarmed. At this rate, we had ten to fifteen years left in which to prepare for — what?
IBM’s Taleb superputer had, to be honest, no idea…