In the future materialism has fallen, and humanity has transcended the individual, creating a collective called the cluster. Unfortunately, there are still some who don’t quite fit in, and the immune system of the cluster ejects them. Most of these people go and form their own smaller groups out among the various planets. Some of these groups end up nihilistic and do nothing but threaten the rest of humanity with their consumption.
I’m part of a small group, just living off the land. We us the powers of our minds (siddhis) to make life a bit easier, and are comfortable with our individuality, and group thought. My AI Kali notices a consumer ship on the horizon, and that’s when we spring into action!
I was having a smoke on the patio. The guys were playing pool swearing at each other for using telekinesis to cheat. Like we wouldn’t notice the casual use of powers we were all used to. I flick my smoke away and get up, stretching. Gazing out at the horizon, I see nothing but dusty hills and desert. It’s a peaceful place we live here, things are usually pretty quiet, except when they’re not.
Looking back to the community, I can see a bunch of old gas trucks, mostly broken down, piled up on each other making somewhat of a parking lot for the larger vehicles. The community itself is mostly fairly run-down shacks, but we don’t need much because of our biology. We’ve been augmented to be more resilient biologically, and we have many of the siddhis or mental powers that the ancient Indians spoke of. These days the idea of consciousness creating our reality is well understood, and we train to attain unity with each other from childhood.
Much of humanity now lives in these massive clusters, operating much as a singular entity. They do wonderful things, push science to it’s limits, reshaping form and emptiness, teaching it new habits. Literally plotting the future of the universe. Some of us, while we have had that experience of unity, of being a cell inside a massive organism, still seem to retain a shadow of our individuality. I’m not sure why, but this seems to make us fairly incompatible in these larger clusters of humans. It feels like we’re fighting the cluster for control, and its immune system then goes into action (this takes the form of exile).
Some of us end up here. We call this our micro-cluster. Perhaps it’s our Himalayan mountain of old. Just a place where we can be who we are, away from all that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful feeling, very seductive, to let yourself go and just become a field within the greater equation. I think any of us would choose it in a second. But we also like it here, life is simple, relaxed, and we have individual choice.
My AI assistants voice pops in my head “Yo dude, we got some kind of ship inbound. Only a single life form, though it’s HUGE. Might be some kind of material harvester, but could also be something worse. We should get to action.”
My buddies got the same message and we all spring into action immediately.
Material harvesters are a result of other rejects from the cluster. Not everyone takes it so nicely, wants to live a life of leisure. Their minds get twisted by the rejection, and end up seeking to consume EVERYTHING. They’ve created these no-rules communities, yes, smaller, but also yes, a single consciousness. And it is terrifying. Its brother eat brother, because there is no you, me or anybody. Nothing is real, so let’s just do anything, and anything goes. SOMEHOW, they still manage to function, and create a huge path of destruction in their wake. We call them consumers because usually they will descend on a community, and literally eat everyone, and raze the place to the ground. It seems like the rejection from the cluster caused them to form some sort of nihilistic idea about the universe.
If we have one of these inbound, it’s curious why there’s only a single life form on board. But they could be blocking our scans somehow, and making a mass look only like one. The ship is quick for its size. I’d characterize it as a freighter, it’s got these huge mass engines in the back that move it around, and the rest of the ship is just an elongated rectangle with a tapered nose. Probably the size of 400 football fields.
“Woah, she’s HUGE!” I exclaim. I switch to our group thought space. “Hey guys we need a plan. What you think?”
Dimitri jumps in, mr. shoot before look: “Well I’d say we shoot them down but I doubt even our artillery will leave a mark on that puppy. I think we need a little more finesse on this one.”
“I agree. I was thinking of the last time we had a delegation from the cluster. Kali took the stealthy approach while I distracted them.” I said. Kali is the name of my AI. She’s named after my old cat, who was the last remnant from my old life. The cat died a few years ago, so I got an AI to cuddle up to my mind and keep me from going insane. There aren’t many cats left these days. They don’t seem to do well around humans who are in the unity consciousness. I guess they no longer have the ability to exert their mind control, and thus humans just don’t put up with their shit.
“OK, let’s get to action” the group mind agrees.
Kali takes the mini-cruiser up and cloaks it. Likely her plan is to find a port near the rear of the ship where she can open an entrance for me, by interfacing with the ship’s infrastructure.
I’m the distraction. I open my mind and remember that most of this is largely a dream of my own making. My limiting beliefs are all that’s keeping me in this spot. And here we go, I’m flying. I fly right up to the nose of the ship where I think I see some windows. I’m like an ant in front of an elephant. I buzz around trying to gain attention. Kali hasn’t interfaced yet.
Suddenly, the ships engines activate. My eyes grow wide. “Oh shi….”
It tears through the atmosphere and I get swept aside by a tidal wave of burning oxygen. I’m literally spinning around, out of control. Falling now, dazed. The guys watching from their stations join together to soften my fall using their combined powers.
Kali chimes in “Hey guys I’m tracking them but I think that was all for show. They burned a lot of atmosphere off, maybe hoping to mess our sensors, then poof, they are gone. I think they engaged some sort of cloaking. We may see them again.”
I’m willing to put money on it, I think. I’ve never seen a collector give up that easily, perhaps this is some new tactic they’ve learned from decades of praying on the smaller collectives.
“OK, I’m cloaking too,” I say. “I’m going to find an entrance port and make these guys pay for that. We barely have a livable atmosphere and they just burnt off about a years supply I’d imagine.”
I feel a chill. Like some massive predator is behind me. Kali chimes in “OK they’re coming back, I’ve got their distortions on the narrow band sensors. They are close. Case, can you get directionality?”
“Fuck yeah. They are right behind me ffs. Let’s go.” I say.
Kali and I can’t see each other but we fly slow and keep the mental contact going noting how the direction changes as we fly around. I have this other sense that computers can’t seem to replicate with tech. It’s kind of like I can feel gravity of objects at a fine scale. Something as big as this ship gives me the feeling of foreboding, but also, where that feeling is coming from. We can use that if we move around, to plot out it’s location and distance. I do the looking, and Kali plots it out in an image in all our minds.
The image overlays our experience of reality. We don’t ‘see’ it with our eyes, it is seen as a vivid dream. Even if your eyes are open, you ‘see’ it in your mind’s eye.
“Ok we’ve got locality, moving in” I say.
Kali previously scanned the exterior of the ship, so she overlays that on the location we estimated. She notes a couple locations of entrance ports and the location she’s going to seek in order to interface with the ship’s infrastructure. It actually boggles my mind how easy it is for her to drill and hack her way into these ships, and that they haven’t caught onto this kind of threat yet.
Kali has now noted her location on the overlay, and I watch as she moves in closer, touching the ship gently feeling with physical protrusions for the right spot. Once she finds it, the map jolts as she updates the co-ordinates to what she now knows the ship is in, exactly.
With that I start to move in, now knowing exactly which port I’m going to breach. I’m flying to the underbelly of the ship towards what I think is a maintenance port for its autonomous repair bots to enter and exit. Since these tend to be part of a fully automated subsystem, even if there is an AI, it isn’t always watching for anomalies. And with Kali’s talent, hopefully it can stay that way. I wait and listen for the sound of the port opening.
Psssshhhht. It slides aside and I see a dark tunnel open up, hovering in the air in front of me. It still takes my eyes a few moments to believe what they are seeing. We truly live in a strange universe. Carefully, I slide inside and begin to crawl down the passage. There’s no more need to fly, and I need to conserve my mental energy for what may be coming. I can already feel the edges of my mind tiring out, like I’ve been working at an office all day and just need to kick back with a beer.
It’s dark, so I close my eyes to slits and start to navigate by touch, and my inner sense. I also still have the overlay that Kali is providing, but it doesn’t have any inner detail other than what I’m sending her. I can feel the weight of the ship, and also how hollow it is. This massive ship has huge empty spaces in it, and I can only imagine one use for them. Harvesting.
“Guys, this is definitely a harvester. But I’m still only getting one life form. Is this a new model?”
Hogan jumps in “Well, I mean, with AI you don’t really need to risk much life for these kinds of operations, right? A single sentient is good enough to execute the will of the collective. My real question is how they were able to convince one of their own to actually go on a trip like this without the support of the group consciousness. And why the individual would still be operating as part of the group without support of peers – “
Dimitri cuts him off “Unless they’ve found a way to extend their group thought over long distances? That could be a major problem, they would be able to spread much faster.”
“Ok guys, cut the chatter, we’ll figure it out. I agree with Dimitri, though. This is a real possibility and a very dangerous one. If it’s true, we need to inform the cluster and let them deal with it. Which means we need to gather what info we can, and survive. Ok, I need to focus here.”
I’ve just come to the end of the tunnel. Kali knows my approximate location, and has been working to further entrench herself into the systems of the ship.
“Case, I’m running into some trouble here. I’m NOT detecting any AI, but also, it seems like I’ve got blind spots. I’ll find a new system to look at, and as soon as I do, I lose my view of the previous systems. I think I may be exploring a construct instead of the ships systems itself. We may have been detected and I’m willing to bet the AI is controlling my access. I’m going to have to go on the defensive.”
“OK Kali, I’ll take it from here. Be safe”
This is why I was saving mental energy. I’m on all fours in a tight tunnel, and in front of me is a mechanical doorway with no panels, handles, release catches, anything.
I shift my mind from being body-centric to my energy body. I remember that all form, all matter is just a projection of mind, and that it is only constrained by our own limiting beliefs, as well as that of the karmic forces created by other minds. Lucky for me, karmic forces don’t seem to take into account energy bodies. I enter the astral plane – immediately everything shifts to colors of deep blue and black. I can hear a buzzing in the back of my head, and my entire body feels like it’s vibrating.
I stand up, leaving my physical body where it is, crouched down. My energy body’s head goes through the bulkhead like it’s not there (because it’s not, here). Then I walk through the doorway and turn around. I know I’m in a dream, but I also know I have some limited powers or siddhis here. I examine the door from this side and see what I’m looking for. There is a panel, with a conduit running between it and the door. It is really, really hard to affect the physical world from this plane. I would liken it to trying to swim up a waterfall.
It can be done, but only ever in a small small way. And you can’t affect something you don’t understand. In the realm of subtle energy, knowledge is EVERYTHING. If you want to affect something, you need to literally merge with it, and you can’t do that if you don’t know it. I was an engineer way back, so I get infrastructure, computer components, and other such things. I also used to be a hacker, so the idea of projecting my consciousness into a computer was old news for me by the time humanity figured out there was more to reality than the materialists believed.
I then take my astral body, and project it into the panel connected to the door. I imagine my body becoming electrical signals, infecting its components. I find a chip that has enough capacity where I can operate without too much constraints on my thought processes, and merge with it. I become the chip, and am instantly provided with a new model of reality.
Instead of the senses of taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, and thought I now have input / output channels 0 – 15, and thought. My thought is limited, but because I’m not completely identified with thought as my sense of self, it doesn’t crush me. I simply relax into a witnessing state, and allow the limitation to be. I also know, while it is limited, time here is running very very fast. Perhaps around 3000% faster than in physical reality.
My thoughts converge on a single objective. Open the door. The old hacker instincts take over and start poking and prodding my new senses. Channel 0, send pulses of 1’s and 0’s in varying sequences, listen for responses. I start hammering through every possible combination in a flurry of activity. With 16 channels and what I’m assuming is 32 bits of messaging, there’s over 4 billion possible signals I can send out. That doesn’t even cover crafting potential responses. Luckily, I am the chip, and I am intelligent. I start to see patterns, errors, and it helps me converge on the solution faster.
Another interesting effect of interfacing with new raw senses is that eventually the mind seems to build up higher level ways of interfacing with the senses. It combines multiple senses together, and creates a hologram like experience. For me, this happens pretty rapidly because I’ve done this so many times. It would likely be rather confusing for people who were never hackers, or haven’t astrally projected into a computer before.
I usually end up in what looks like a command center, with 16 computer operators sitting around me. As the shift happens, I relax, because I know my subconscious has just created this experience so I can focus on the higher-level problems. Each computer operator represents a sub-mind of mine that is operating autonomously, looking at the raw input coming in, and creating a conceptual object that I can interact with. This speeds up the hacking of the door greatly when it finally manifests. I simply listen to what the operators are telling me, and give them instructions.
Click, the door opens. In a flash, I’m back in my physical body and crawl through the doorway.
“Kali, I’m in. How are you doing with breaking out of the construct?”
“He’s got me running in circles. This must be a new model; I’ve never been trapped like this before. Your theory about them using new tech to extend their group consciousness might be right. I don’t think this is an AI, it’s too smart. Too fast. This is a collective of a few hundred humans operating this ship.”
I start to wonder why they even have one life form on the ship. If they can extend consciousness over long distances and integrate it with a ship’s systems like that, why even send a body? Maybe there’s some part of the mechanism of communication that requires it?
“OK, don’t worry we’ll figure it out. Why don’t you disengage and see if you can find another entry point? Try to keep them focused on you, I may have set off an alarm by forcing that door open, they might notice me if I keep making noise. I’m going to cloak myself now.”
I use my mind to cloak myself. This isn’t like you would have seen on old sci-fi movies where I’d literally become invisible. It’s more like I’m using the power of my will, to convince other consciousnesses, and their karmic forces, that I’m NOT there. I become a blind spot to them. It’s much easier in a crowd, even children can do that these days. It takes a lot more finesse to do it when you’re one of two life forms, and there are many electronic sensors you have to fool in addition to that which could trip alarms. And I don’t know enough about the ships systems to block those alarms from whomever is watching them.
There’s also this unknown factor, that Kali brought up. This idea of a remote super-consciousness that is interfaced with the ship. If I trip any alarm, I’m totally screwed. I just hope that door didn’t already alert them. The normal reason for alarms on ships systems is to detect faults, malfunctions, and such. An added benefit is that it can sometimes catch intrusion. But these are not military ships so they don’t have advanced security systems and patrols. These ships usually drop onto a planet, and start sucking up all the natural resources, and humans. Anything it can get its hands on, to transport back to its home so that they can consume.
I can sense the life form near the center of the front of the ship. I feel a cluster of electrical energy in that direction as well, which gives me a funny feeling. I’m starting to try and imagine what kind of tech they used to create this link and it’s making me uneasy. Now I’m walking down a hallway, everything is pretty open. No doors, no cameras, just endless, endless hallway. I curse and give myself a little lift so I can fly down the hallway, there must be miles between me and my destination.
The hallway curves to the right, towards the center of the ship. A door slides open and I fly over a catwalk, and notice the floor drop away. I’m in a massive chamber lit by millions of high powered flood lights on the ceiling. Floor to celing must be at least 2 or 3 kilometers. This is one of 10 massive chambers that are used to process and transmute raw materials into a standard substance that stores the energy and is stable for long flights. I don’t know what they call it, but we just call it lava, since that’s what it looks like before it cools.
I see in the distance the patterns of the catwalks, and how they converge towards a central location. That must be where my goal is, the directionality is right.
In a flash I fly over there and get through the door. I land on the floor, almost exhausted.
Going to be walking from here.
“Hey guys, I could really use some compassion here. I’m getting pretty tired, see what you can send me.”
Dimitri and Hogan both mentally nod and I feel a bit fresher.
I start to jog down the hallway, since my physical body is well rested and frankly hasn’t been doing much up to this point. It feels good to get my limbs moving, I can feel all the fluids in my body start to move, and heat up. Incidentally, this brings a fresh source of energy to my mind and the grogginess dissipates.
Feeling sharp again, I push forward with renewed energy. I start to note that more and more conduits are lining the hallways here, seemingly coming from every part of the ship, converging on what is ahead. There’s an eerie blue glow, and I can’t even see where it’s coming from. No light sources. This is some strange tech.
I walk up behind this massive black mass of cables and conduits. It’s almost like they are forming a huge monument of some sort. I walk around to the other side, and I see in a moment, what it is. It’s a freaking chair!
Inside the chair is a pale white human, completely attached to this mass of cables. I can see this blue light emanating from the human, and they seem completely unaware of my presence. They are completely hairless, and underdeveloped like a child. Sexless as far as I can tell, and I’m freaking out now. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this feeling of foreboding is starting to overcome me.
“Guys, are you seeing this?” I say.
“Uh, yeah” Hogan jumps in. “We don’t have any records of something like this. What do you figure is going on?”
“I’m willing to bet this is some human / AI hybrid, and that somehow it’s acting as the host for the extension of the group consciousness. Why it hasn’t responded to or detected me yet is another story altogether.”
“I think I can help with that”, Kali says. “I’ve gained access to another port and have caught onto their mental projections inside the construct. I’ve been able to see through the illusions they are sending through the channel, and am interacting with the code of the infrastructure directly. That means I’m beneath their active consciousness, in the fabric that they are riding on top of. I’ve been able to temporarily blind them to what’s going on in the ship, though I don’t think it will last long. These guys are SMART, and they will take control over their host pretty quick I imagine. We only have a short amount of time to come up with a plan and execute it.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I say.
“Oh no. Yeah I think it’s the only way. But how will we learn more about this threat if we destroy it? And what’s to stop them from coming back?” says Kali.
“I’m more worried about the clear and present threat. Did you see the size of those consumer chambers? They could eviscerate this entire planet’s resources, strip it bare in a manner of weeks. Once it starts, there isn’t much we can do but flee. At least if we stop them now, we can come up with a plan.”
“Kali, if I rip out their interface to the machine, can you program it to make a B-line for the sun?”
“For sure. I’m already in the infrastructure, though most of my processing right now is being used to keep them from finding me. If you remove that threat I can own this ship.”
“OK, I’m going to do this the old fashioned way.”
I literally go to town, and start ripping out cables. Black and multi-colored fluids start to fly everywhere. The human’s eyes open, and they are pure black, which is very strange when contrasted against their pure white skin. The mouth opens and I see very under-developed teeth and a small tongue. It (they?) screams.
I jump on top of it and continue to pull cables, I don’t really at this point know which are most important so I’m just bent on doing as much damage as I can.
That’s when my mind’s overlay jumps to the foreground, like when I’m in a vision, or the astral plane. I’m only dimly aware of my physical body, though I know it’s continuing to do damage, leveraging its sense of self-preservation.
In my mind’s eye, I see this dark mass of entities. It’s moving towards me, throbbing and pulsing. At times I can see individual faces pop out a bit, but they quickly get pulled back in, consumed. I sense great pain, great hunger. Images pass by of hungry ghosts, beings with large stomachs, and very very thin necks. This feeling of never getting enough, of being capable of consuming entire worlds, but never being able to fill that empty hole in the center of your being.
I think towards them: “It is your desire that is the problem. There will never be enough to satisfy your desire, the more you turn towards it, the greater it becomes. You must find peace in just being, do not seek, do not run away. There is a way away from this pain and suffering you’re going through. See how consumption has never helped you! Can you see that? How many eons have you been pursuing pursuit? How much longer will you suffer? You can choose to end it now, but only you can choose!”
The mass of beings rushes at me with a mental attack. I’m enveloped with their greater consciousness and I feel like I’m being crushed, suffocated. My energy body is being absorbed. My identity…is…where is it?
I slip into witnessing consciousness. Now I’m outside of it all, holding both the nihilistic cluster and myself inside of me. I know we are all of the same fabric, but at the same time, vastly different. I’m indifferent as to the outcome of things, but amused to watch it play out. I zoom out a bit more, and I can now sense the physical reality overlaid, and attached to the energetic subtle realm that I was just recently engrossed in.
Look at that! My physical body has done some real damage! There are cables everywhere, and the look on my face combined with the mass amount of fluids sprayed all over my body makes me look like a true savage of old. I’m in a frenzy, no longer operating with the higher-level thoughts even of an individual, never mind my collective. This is pure animal instinct that is operating, and it’s exhilarating. I can sense the fading consciousness of the nihilistic cluster, as their ability to communicate breaks apart, and their physical anchor is dying. I can sense their fear.
In an instant, they lose their hold on my energy body, and that along with physical reality snap back together, with the physical environment taking it’s place back at the front of my experience.
I’m covered in goo. It’s revolting, actually…ugh I don’t feel so well. I hold back my lunch as I jump down, almost slipping on the mess on the floor. I avoid looking at what I know must be a mess of flesh and bone that was previously the face of my attacker. I feel some sympathy, and compassion for them. They were too far gone, too hungry, driven by animal instinct to consume. I guess the irony in that is that it’s that same animal instinct that allowed me to defeat them, while they had grabbed ahold of my consciousness.
I walk out of there and take a deep breath, relieved that it’s over. That’s when I feel a shudder, and the ship starts to noticeably move.
“Kali? Is that you?” I say.
“Yeah boss, I’m getting this fucker going. Make your way to the nearest exit, I’ll overlay the path and open all the doors. Don’t worry about anything, it’s mostly shut down now. Oh, and I am also downloading all the code I can grab, hopefully we can make sense of it without the actual tech. I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave this thing laying around, right?”
“Yeah, agreed. Grab everything and send a copy over to the human cluster, let them tear it apart. At least if we collaborate on this new threat, we may be able to do something before they retaliate.”
With that, I start towards the exit. It’s going to be a long day, sorting this out, and coming up with a plan of what to do next. I’m just glad I’ve go the support of my collective, I can just let go of my individuality for a bit, and let them carry us towards a conclusion, using my own experiences as theirs.
Meet the Author
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals…” - Henry David Thoreau
Cian is a teacher of Yoga and Zen, and a sought after business coach for start-ups and boardroom executives alike. Known for his unique perspective on productivity, this serial entrepreneur and investor is a wealth of fresh ideas, constantly seeking new ways to 'do business better'.
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