Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Locales of Riskail: Helical Cathedraes

Roughdraft of the Sanctuary of Saint Serith,
a Helical Cathedrae just outside the
Demrezza Marshland Preserves.
Excerpt from Valtassio's retro-unexpurgated Towards a Preliminary Consensus Regarding the Establishment of a Set of Core Biopolitan Principles (Riskail edition, the one with the lapis-blue cover)
During the Toxic Ages before History truly began, humanity was completely at the mercy of aging, ever diminishing physical capacities, inevitable senescence and death.  It was considered the norm, what was expected.  Like the weather which was continually knocked off-kilter by brute force stupidity and the prevailing so-called economic systems rooted in ignorance and superstitious belief in sacred scarcity and profane social strata that were completely removed from any sort of merit beyond a muddled genetic lottery, aging and death were worshipped and placated as intimate, tyrannical all-pervasive, all-powerful gods.  It was, and is, a tragic and shameful part of our collective inheritance.  The wages of ignorance are horrifically arbitrary and completely unnecessary.

Like all great wildernesses and frontiers before it, biology in time slipped out from the hands of those merchantile-scientists and feudaceutical pharmabarons who sought to preserve their personal advantage, corporate prestige and so-called profit margins and into the eager hands of dabblers, radicals and artists.  The restrictions and barriers of entry fell away as data was shared and collectively accumulated, and no longer hoarded by the greedy and fear-driven few.  The collective heritage of all humanity belongs to all of us, equally and forever.  What we've managed to learn about ourselves throughout the dark and dismal decades of industrial-barbarism and hateful, willful destructiveness of the Toxic Ages belongs to us all, thus it is freely accessible and serves as the shared foundation for all real research and experimentation, redesign and creations.  It is part of our Inheritance.

The essential geneprofiles, DNA sequences, and all related aspects of root-level biology derived from existant or pre-existant living human beings was long ago rendered Open Source.  Anyone, of any age, any background, can have access to the sum total of all that is known about what we have been and where we've all come from.  Even the Necrosophics respect this fundamental aspect of Polite Society.  Only the most egregious of the Fringedwellers and Isoclaves would ever consider denying themselves, and by extension their descendents, the benefits of their rightful Inheritance.

Biology as a science did not pass into the dustbin of parlor tricks and the edudramas of Reconstructionists, far from it.  If anything, biology thrived and proliferated and diversified and evolved rapidly and rampantly as education replaced indoctrination, free expression superceded conformity, and Art once and for all took its place alongside Science as an inalienable and intrinsically-integrated equal. 
Thankfully, the Golden Age only lasted for approximately 10 minutes, but don't take my word for it; it's still accessible via the Courtyard Gate within the Garden of Gilded Lilies which is permanently open to anyone wishing to pass into it, though why anyone aside from a few deliberately misinformed cultists or a self-proclaimed throwback would bother is open to conjecture.  Or you could sit with one of the Goldeneyed vagrant monks of Zhimbara who contemplate the Golden Age daily as they go about their various routine observances and religious tribulations down along the less savory canal-district alleys.  But again, why bother?  Like the Singularity, it happened, it's over, and we've long since moved on.  Besides, the Nine Second War is a lot more interesting than any faux micro-epoch of forced harmony and mass-enlightenment that just didn't take.

Nine Seconds, yeah, that's what the AI call it, but they also claim that only 3 of those seconds have expired at this point in the consensual temporal matrix.  It's one of those things that'll bend a poor monkey's brain in all the wrong angles.  Better we just talk about something safe and simple like biology instead.  Of course, biology in itself is a vast topic that contains multitudes upon myriads...perhaps we'd best drill down a bit and start with something smaller in scope, and looking out at your faces gathered around me here tonight I can see that the majority of you are Noobs, newcomers, podders, freeborn or something similar.  Most of you aren't from around here, and the rest of you are pretty much all on your own, which is far from optimal in a place like Devukarsha.  But you're here and you might as well make the most of it, right?  Of course.

Okay.  First off, don't any of you accept any offers from Lorshal or any of his people, at least not until after you've learned enough to make an informed decision.  These aren't the Dark Ages anymore and death isn't what it used to be, especially for any of you who're Reborn, Recovered or Resurrected and think that you're handling your memories, feelings and reactions even close to adequately.  You're not.  You died.  You not only died, you happened to do so back during a time when that meant something pretty much final.  But times change and technology and rust never sleep.  You've been brought back into the world, whether you wanted anything of the sort or not.  Get over it.  There are billions just like you out there across the Known Worlds.  The novelty sort of wore off a couple dozen centuries ago, even for the Retrocarnates and the RetCon Heretics.

How did you get here?  I'll spare you the 'go ask your mommy and daddy' jokes and we can get on with some answers instead.  Out here in the Marshland Preserves there are a couple of places some of you ought to know pretty well.  Yeah, I know I'm right.  You can just about see the glimmering green lights coming off of the Sanctuary of Saint Serith now that the moons are setting.  From a distance it looks downright pretty, but when you get a bit closer there's something about the place that stirs up your guts and puts a person in a foul mood, like walking down along the Charcotiere sub-district off of the Misiericorde Canal, a place I heartily encourage you all to avoid for as long as you can manage. 

The Sanctuary of Saint Serith is one of the Helical Cathedraes.  There are twenty-four recorded Helical Cathedraes in Devukarsha and I personally know of three that are clandestine or off-the-records, including one that has gone terribly wrong down in the Charcotiere area.  These Cathedraes are old, most date back to before Riskail had any sort of breathable atmosphere.  Back then they served the Garteil who were engaged in processing the atmospheric gasses into something that would allow them to open the Sea Gates, River Gates, and so on.  No one is keen on popping open a gate and allowing millions of tons of hyper-pressurized, super-heated corrosive-poison gasses to come spewing through.  At least not around anywhere decent or even partially civilized, except maybe Driskool or Baird, but no one gives a shit about those deader than dead places, not even the undead'll go there any more.

The Cathedraes are dedicated to the Sanctity of Life.  They are repositories of germplasm, seeds, ova-eggs, and embryos salvaged from just about everywhere.  If there is a way to recover living tissue, fragments of relict DNA or to recover those long lost to death, these places put it to use regularly, constantly and often.  They collect samples of all living things, especially any that aren't already in their sealed databases and --what's that?  You don't understand sealed databases?  You are a Noob, aren't you?

Well, it's like this; what constitutes our collective past is all ours for the taking, it's our Inheritance, to do what we want with.  Anything that we develop or derive directly off of the stuff that we all share in common is considered common property that we all share.  But if anyone starts to develop unique stuff on their own they can apply for a veil of privacy, which if it is granted, allows them to work on their own projects apart form everyone else.  This is how proprietary databases get started, how corporations have survived beyond the Bitter Interregnum, and how Genartists and Biomantics have managed to get anything done at all.  Committees and Councils work very well for conservation and consolidation, but true innovation requires insight, inquisitiveness (Free Inquiry) and a bit of enlightened self-interest to really work best.

Every century or sometimes two, the accumulated works of researchers, academics, scholars, and so on get collected, collated, and released as part of their ongoing legacies.  Some scholars make great efforts to make their work accessible, indexing and summarizing everything in excruciating detail, others leave it all in a tangled lump of raw data and cryptic records that they set out like an intellectual landmine field for anyone foolish enough to attempt to sort it all out.  There's a lot of latitude in how one bequeaths their work to posterity.  Some people are more civic minded, others are just plain perverse or outright mean.  But that's their right.

So, in terms of the Helical Cathedraes, these places have vast collections of every sort of biological trait, process, species, genoform, and more.  Most of these records are accessible, and for a small fee or some coordinated swapping you can get ahold of raw samples of just about anything that has ever lived, including a wide selection of our ancestral genetic forebears.  Aside from the odd tribal taboo or some superstitious rituals, the rights of the dead have been fairly minimal for most of human history.  Archaeologists plundered the tombs of pre-industrial cultures for centuries before the first Necrolisti enclaves arose amongst the Hanging Gardens of Xaalb to fight against the tomb-looters who were systematically plundering all of their sacred cryptuariums and memoriacysts.  Even then, it took the Black Crusade of Androphus III to finally establish unambiguous rights for the dead once and for all.  Rights that no longer apply to any of you.

Yeah, that's right; you now have fewer rights than a dead person.  How's it feel?  Aw, it isn't so bad.  Once you get started doing things and establishing your identity, things will get better fairly quickly.  You just have to get involved, get active, get out there and do something, anything, and you'll start to make your mark and take your place in Polite Society.

So what do the Helical Cathedraes do, aside form collect biological specimens?  They bring the dead back to life through any and every means available.  Unlike the Wombships or Birthwings that scatter fresh, new life out across the worlds, the Cathedraes are primarily focused on the recovery of those who've already lived previously.  Most of the time they only manage to salvage a tiny fragment of what once was a full person, so they use those broken pieces as kernels around which to reconstruct viable personalities that they then release into the world to make it or fail on their own recognizance.  Some of the older Cathedraes are engaged in a massive effort to track down and reconstitute the souls of the ancient dead, but that has led to something of a schizm between the biologically-oriented materialist Sanctuaries and those that are attempting more metaphysical efforts of questionable spiritual legitimacy.

Maybe you don't like it.  That's your right, of course.  There are extremists who try to bomb, hack or subvert the Helical Cathedraes, but they are a small, numerically insignificant minority.  For the average person who was only born for the first time in the last few centuries, the Helical Cathedraes are just a natural part of life, and a comforting presence that guarantees that no matter what, they'll never have to die permanently unless they opt to do so.  Then there are those people who are longevity-impaired either through cultural practices, intrinsic dogmas, or persistent nanoscale chatter or resonant damage from the various wars, feuds or whatever.  Those folks depend upon the Helical Cathedraes for scheduled rejuvenation and periodic restoration.  It doesn't get more personal than that.  That's something that each and every one of you need to consider, since every last one of you either came directly out of one of the Helical Cathedraes, or will be next time around.
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