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Guidance Withdrawal chapter 16


(Michael Hrenka) #1

Guidance Withdrawal

First chapter | Previous chapter

Chapter 16

Back to Astelica

After leaving their guests some time to collect their thoughts, Yurai Aphedria called them to the large central community room. Adano, Arizzi, Kathatus, and Valeria were surprised by the early invitation, but complied and joined their hosts in the bright community room. Yurai excused eir tribe: "Our welcome was perhaps a bit too confrontational. Please let us allow to introduce ourselves properly without challenging you to defend yourselves. How has all of this really started? You may wonder where the origins of Astelica and our tribe lie. They are indeed interwoven. One of us has witnessed their genesis more than 100 years ago. That was when the first refugees of the Charan Matrioshkafication War reached Origis. What was special about that war is that it was the first great stellar scale war, and one of the first wars that has been fought out with qualamic war ships, driven by matter energy conversion reactors. While from our current perspective the transition from nelamic to qualamic technology was just an incremental improvement, for that past era it seemed like a true revolution. Some parties considered riding that new wave of technological advancement and use it for military purposes. The timing of the war shortly after the development of qualamic technology therefore isn’t merely accidental.

After the discovery of the Dexa Effect with the Solar Accelerator, multiple stages of technology involving stable artificial matter have ensued: Myonic-like artifical matter (Myolam) (2120s), neutronium-like artificial matter (Nelam) (2140s), quark-like artificial matter (Qualam) (2170s), and eventually Planck-like artificual matter (Plalam) (2190s). According to the highest available level of artificial matter the corresponding technological eras and their typical technologies are labled as myolamic, nelamic, qualamic, and plalamic respectively. Each stage came with vastly increased densities of artificial matter, and higher computational speeds. In many respects the transition from one stage to the next was truly revolutionary, and boosted technological, economic, and yes, military capabilities by orders of magnitudes.

More interesting is the reason for that war, however. Some groups, in particular the Unity, pushed for a maximization of the rate of progress and proposed actually creating a Matrioshka brain around the central star of Chara. Successive concentric massive Dyson spheres around the stars should capture photons of decreasingly energetic photons. That way, the system would loose almost no energy at all, and utilize it extremely efficiently. What sounded as noble energy efficiency proposal turned out to have dire political ramifications, because that Matrioshkans had no interest to allow habitats or ships within the Matrioshka structure that could interfere with that energy efficiency scheme. Bad news for materials and their sympathizers, indeed. While every seemingly reasonable person expected that a compromise would be reached by arbitration, attempt after attempt to reach a peaceful resolution failed. Or, with a slightly different perspective, they reached the final stage of arbitration: Regulated war."

Adano secretly expressed his puzzlemen to his peers: “What’s the meaning of this? Do they really want us to listen to the whole backstory of their tribe, ranging back to the Charan War? This smells like a very deliberate strategy, otherwise they wouldn’t have called us back so early.”

Arizzi agreed: “They have probably anticipated our strategy. The complex in their ranks can effortlessly predict the most likely strategy we come up with and employ counter-measures against it. This interjections looks exactly like a strategy employed to derail our plans. Be on your guard!”

Adano asked: “What are we supposed to do? Silently listen to their story, or what?”

Arizzi: “I would advise you to do exactly that unless you can come up with a better idea.”

Adano: “And then what?”

Arizzi: “Then it’s time for another tactical retreat. They can’t pin us down here forever.”

That really disappointed Adano. They had devised such a nice strategy to deal with the challenge of Jao, but they couldn’t execute it, because their hosts had preemptively called them here to distract them with their origin story. And it would have been very impolite and counter-productive to interrupt them.

Completely unaware of the hidden conversation of his audience, Yurai went on: "A regulated war is a paradoxical thing: It’s regulated by the peacenets, which was basically just Cosmoshield at that time. But wasn’t the purpose of the peacenets to guarantee everlasting peace? No, not at all cost. You might think that there is no good reason for starting a war. After all, doing so ruins your reputation. Furthermore, it is excessively wasteful and destructive. Its utility however lies in exactly that threat of destruction. War is an extreme form of political resistance. The oppressed can still threaten to make the victory of their oppressors much more expensive by destroying their assets through acts of war. Overall, this possibility of war was seen as positive force that acted as strong deterrence against complete oppression. After all, it’s not a matter of who wins a war. It would be far cheaper and faster to determine the winner in a simulation. No, that’s not the point of war. The point of war is that it is indeed really expensive for all parties involved. But as we all know, any kind deterrence is only of limited effectiveness. Especially for Sirians, but we are all very aware that the Sirians are almost always the exception. But the regulated wars within the Sirius system were all of a relatively small scale. Chara was the first full stellar scale war. And it was especially fierce and prolonged. So it holds a special place in history. The news of the Charan War in 2207 deeply shook the whole Zone, for better or worse.

As Chara is 27 light years away from Origis, it took the refugees 27 years to arrive by beam. Interestingly, besides the waves of refugees there was a steady stream of arrivals from Chara from a very special group that called itself the “Universal Chronists”. Our honoured member Axiale had the much cherished opportunity to interview one of these Chronists, calling emself Still, arriving in 2234 in Origis. Furthermore, the interviewee demanded that he would interview Axiale in turn, at the same time. which was a highly unusual request for someone who was supposed to be counted as refugee.

The interview happened in Nerkator, a metropolis within the Northern part of the outer convective zone of Origis. Back then, there was already a vibrant Anti-Musean community, but it was mainly focused on the interior of Origis. The trend toward stellar crystallization was very strong at that time, and the Anti-Museans had the hope to crystallize Origis, too, which was very important to them, so they didn’t bother too much about the rest of the system. Even the concept of stellar crystallization sounded like sheer science fiction for the refugees, who were in a state of complete future shock.

At this point it needs to be said that most refugees already had a long travel before them. First, they had to evacuate the outer Chara system, then they had to move to Chara Proper, formally the region enclosed by the corona of Chara, to be relatively safe from the effects of the war. The rules of the regulated war of Chara were as follows:

  1. Chara Proper was excluded as battlefield from all military operations. No military actions against any targets within Chara prime were permitted.
  2. The region beyond 200 astronomical units (about 30 billion kilometers or about 27.7 light hours) from the center of the system was the boundary of the war: No military vessel was allowed to leave or enter that boundary. So, neither tactical retreat beyond that boundary, nor reinforcements from beyond that boundary were permitted.
  3. It was not allowed, in any case, to target civilians and their infrastructure. Locations inhabited by civilians had to be evacuated first, before they could become legal battle grounds for the war.

Regardless of the last rule, the sheer radiation from the battles and the wreckage from the war destroyed nearly all infrastructure within the Charan war zone, even though civilian targets were not attacked directly. Collateral damage was very extensive. Almost nothing within the war zone survived, so civilians really had no other realistic choice than to retreat to Chara Proper or get beamed to other star systems, or in some cases, targets within the Chara system that were located far outside of the designated war zone and shielded from the radiation caused by the war.

Since both Axiale and Still were virtuals, they agreed to meet in a virtual space. That virtual space was completely empty, except for a view of the stars visible from Origis. Both of them used avatars that were suited for hard vacuum. Axiale assumed a form as white Sirian herashar, while Still took the shape of a large mirror with a beautifully embellished silver frame. The reflection of that mirror filtered out all color, which was only noticeable due to the lack of color from the stars and Axiale’s yellow eyes being reflected as being a bright grey.

Anyway, this is the context in which the following duplex interview happened. Duplex interviews are still relatively uncommon, but have had a very special appeal ever since they started. I will just send you all a copy of that interview to absorb it at your own pace. In this recording, a speaker acting as interviewer in the context of this duplex interview is denoted by an asterisk after the name. When a person does not have that asterisk, e is just responding to the question of eir interviewer:

Axiale*: Thank you for accepting my request for this interview.
Still: You’re welcome.
Axiale*: If I’m too fast, please simply state that, I will adjust to your speed.
Still*: Thank you for accepting being interviewed about your reaction to the Chara War.
Axiale: You are welcome.
Axiale*: You describe your calling as being a ‘Universal Chronist’. What is that exactly and how did that begin?
Still: You are already too fast.
Axiale*: I’m sorry, I’ll try to adjust my tempo.
Still: A Universal Chronist is a witness of all cultural events happening as action or reaction within the framework of es past and present, also taking note of the reactions to es activity as chronist. This activity had its roots in the 2120s when there was a backslash against the ruthless efficiency of the superintelligences. Mere simple wanted a holistic experience breakdown mediated by other simple they could relate to. However, this novel way of reacting to cultural events was overshadowed by other trends, so it never enjoyed mainstream popularity.
Still*: Does the Charan War feed any feelings of superiority within the cultures of the inner core systems?
Axiale*: Your chosen name ‘Still’ is a short form of your poem name

Still standing as life
longing for enough meaning
Are we lost as seekers
Or fulfilled as finders

Our ways are troubled
Like perilous journeys
Touched by darker instincts
And countless adversities

Still we plough on
through cold and darkness
Seeking for redemption
Finding no shelter

We waver greatly
Still standing somehow
Means giving ends
Marching on still

We have seen a great increase in the valuation of the arts after the Proof. What surprises me is that you have adopted your poem name even before you were beamed to Chara from Origis. What motivated you to adopt a poem name in 2147?

Axiale: Of course this has to appear as rhetorical question. Yet, the answer must be mixed. With the notorious exception of Sirius, the inner core systems have been extraordinarily peaceful. The spirit of growing together as some kind of family of close star systems must have helped with that. We held hopes that this would also be true for the outer systems, but we accepted the possibility that they might become more extreme in some ways and eventually pass the threshold of a true war. Which is exactly what happened in Chara. So, it could be said that in a certain narrow sense we do feel superior, but at the same time we feel cowardly that we didn’t dare to explore the extreme possibilities that the outer systems are experimenting with. Our predominant reaction, if I can even speak for any kind of ‘us’, is that we are disappointed that the Charans could not solve their differences in a peaceful way.

Still: With the emergence of the Polymath Champion’s League and its immitators, the movement of the Universal Chronists gained traction, though it was still under the radar of the mainstream. We tried to demonstrate our resistance to instrumentalization by the superintelligences… I mean complex, by displaying ourselves as much as artists as we possibly could. So, we adopted poem names from the beginning.

Still*: When you say you were disappointed, what kind of preferred scenario for experimenting with extreme possibilities did you have in mind? Did you expect conflict resolution to be successful when both sides do have very large stakes in the ‘game’ they play? Could you really have been so naive?

Axiale*: It is a widespread perception that the refugees from the Chara War appear to be thoroughly future shocked. Interestingly, they seem to be more shocked by the discovery of the Proof by the Sirians than the revelation of the Cosmics.

Axiale: We expected the dynamics of the era of the Prestige Wars to continue until the eventual production of a Proof. During the heyday of the Prestige Wars no faction dared to even appear overtly aggressive fearing that such an appearance would cost them their reputation. Our hopes were that we would live forever in an age of cosmic sophistication. Yet, we understood that there could be circumstances in which people would stilck to their goals no matter the consequences to their reputation. What we didn’t expect was that such a seemingly mundane matter as the matrioshkafication of a star system could give rise to such vehemently hardened polar positions that both sides would accept the risk of a real war. In that sense, we have been too naive, yes. Though a large minority held the view that it was just a time until the outer systems made use of the ‘regulated war’ exception clauses of the Prestige Accords.

Still: Yes, that the Sirians have found out the Proof so quickly came as absolute shock to anyone returning from Chara. Not that I identify as refugee. I am merely a Universal Chronist. As you know, the signs of Convergence have been felt very strongly in the Chara system, so we had the hope that a Proof could be produced eventually, if we put all our efforts into it. But the general sentiment was that it would still take centuries, millennia, or even millions or billions of years, if it was a goal that could be achieved at all, and not just an idealistic theoretical possibility. Shock is a very harmless word that cannot adequately express what we felt when we were confronted with the Sirian Proof. It felt more like a complete reality collapse. There was this feeling of unreality that could not be compared to anything. If anything it was like being told that your whole existence so far, with all the suffering and hopes was just an inconsequential dream. Make no mistake, the Proof is the greatest achievement that any civilization can hope to accomplish. So, this revelation was of apocalyptic proportions. And with the Sirians, the crazy Sirians, excuse me my directness as I just reflect the sentiment of my peers, being the first to produce the Proof nevertheless! In comparison to that, the revelation of the Cosmics wasn’t all too surprising. We have almost always expected the discovery or revelation or disclosure of aliens to be imminent. No, you are completely right that the early completion of the Proof inflicted an extreme form of future shock on us. And I am still processing the ramifications of that revelation.

Still*: I still can’t fathom how you were blinded by that high hope of cosmic sophistication when the Prestige Accords were made with the explicit addition of the ‘regulated war’ clauses, based on the realization that a limited form of war, even considering its staggering costs, was still preferable to scenarios of ‘peaceful’ majoritarian tyranny. I mean, what’s the meaning of a totally explicit exception clause if it was never supposed to actually be used?

Axiale*: I think I can sympathize with your situation. In one moment you are still within a stellar civil war that’s tearing apart planets and in the next moment you have arrived after the effective end of history. It must be very similar to what ressims experience once they are reincarnated into our world. Yes, this does equate to a full reality collapse. Realizing this parallelism ourselves we started establishing integration centers that were modeled after the integration schools for ressims. We want to bring all refugees up to speed in the least traumatic way possible. Do you think we have succeeded with that?

Axiale: What we expected was that the prospect of a hot war destroying the reputation of all involved parties would make everyone want to avoid conflicts that were likely to bring forth a real war. We believed in the regulating force of compromises. We just weren’t ready to accept that some star systems adopted such extreme positions as full matrioshkafication, even at the exclusion of surrounding habitats for materials. Those possibilities always sounded like absolute insanity to us. We didn’t expect this kind of insanity, even from the outer systems. And yet, here you are, reporting about exactly that kind of insanity that we hoped would never again befall our interstellar civilization.

Still: Actually, I’ve been too busy fulfilling my role as Universal Chronist to be able to visit one of your fancy ‘integration centers’. As I’ve stated previously, I do not consider myself as refugee, or victim of higher circumstances. I just do what I have set out to do. I tell people about what happened in Chara, and I interview people here in order to tell the Charans of the future how their own history is being received here in Origis, or Sol, or whatever you call the system of origin of our interstellar civilization now. So, I am the wrong person to ask this kind of question.

Still*: So you are saying that you didn’t expect any kind of stellar scale ‘insanity’ that was sufficiently strong, so that it would motivate the losing side to engage in a war of rebellion? I must say, without the knowledge of what actually happened in Chara, this expectation must have seen reasonable. After all, this is about the decisions of simple, guided by the rationality of the complex. What could ever go wrong there? No, it did go wrong, and now everyone has to deal with the aftermath of it! You frame it as a kind of ‘insanity’ that happened in Chara. I must disagree absolutely! It was no insanity! It was the expectation of being able to put an end to all conflict within a reasonably near time frame by risking the prospect of hot war. Matrioshkafication of the Chara system looked like the most efficient way to produce any kind of proof of any Ultimate Value System Theorem. From the perspective of the inhabitants of Chara the completion of the Proof by a system like Sirius was virtually unthinkable, a true black swan event! The Charans have seen themselves as the most progressive culture there was. So, they pushed hard, very hard, extremely hard, in order to make use of their advantage. That was no insanity, but a calculated risk. So, you were wrong in your assumption that only insanity could lead to scenarios that would involve the ‘measured war’ exception clauses.

Axiale*: If you believe it or not, there are two factions within this star system. The Museans want to preserve this system as historically complete as possible and call it Sol, while the Anti-Museans want to overcome this strict attachment to history and call this system Origis, simply standing for ‘origin star’. I do not make a secret out of the fact that I am very much on the side of the Anti-Museans. Anyway, let’s move on to what happened in Chara. Apperently you tried to extend your stay in the moon Mustard Praline of the gas giant Chocolate as war reporter, but were denied that right, and instead were forcibly evacuated to Chara Proper. Soon afterwards, you decided to get beamed to Origis. What motivated you to try acting as war reporter in the first place?

Axiale: You shouldn’t forget the zeitgeist of the time that the Prestige Accords were created. The idea of an Ultimate Value System Theorem sounded like a completely impossible idealistic mirage. It had been expected that the cold war between the V factions would go on indefinitely. On that basis it had seemed insane to expect the behaviour of people once they really looked forward to working towards an actual proof of such an impossible looking hypothesis. Well, in hindsight that has been a huge mistake. However, it was a mistake that for a proper perspective might be likened to armed forces not making war plans for the eventuality of being invaded by hordes of demons.

Still: As Chronist I want to be as close to the contemporary action as possible. Acting as war reporter was the logical conclusion in this circumstance of a stellar war happening all around us. Unfortunately, Cosmoshield decieded that I had insufficient qualifications to count as true war reporter and ordered me to evacuate to Chara Proper. In practice this means that I had to beam my mindfile to the central star of the Chara system from Mustard Praline, or else they would just do that forcibly. Well, I actually decided to let Cosmoshield beam me to Chara Proper forcibly. In Chara Proper we Universal Chronists had a list that allocated to each of us a time and destination of departure. I just happened to have to wait there so long that I could experience the destruction of Chocolate from afar. After all civilians have been evacuated from Chocolate and its moons, the Matrioshkans immediately started bombarding it with kugelblitz torpedoes. Anticipating that move, the Rebellion forces diced up Chocolate into small pieces that were subsequently absorbed by their war replicators, spitting out war ships as fast as possible. Due to the fear of the moons of Chocolate being subject to collateral damage, they were evacuated, too, and logically suffered the same fate as Chocolate.

Kugelblitz torpedoes are very fast drones that contain a warhead which creates a microscopic black hole with a mass of typically 10 tons. When the warhead is released, the black hole will evaporate within less than 100 microseconds releasing the equivalent of about 200 gigatons of TNT (or roughly 20 million times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb). The Matrioshkans launched tens of trillions of such torpedoes in order to blow up Chocolate and its moons. By the time that the evacuation had finished, Chocolate and its moons were already dismantled into small packets that dispersed with relativistic speeds. Consequently, the Kugelblitz torpedoes targeted these packets. The equivalent of the total solar output of Chara of multiple years was then released in one of the biggest fireworks in history, briefly outshining every star in every location of the Emergent Culture Zone. This single set of explosions alone, now referred to as The Chocolate Fireworks, caused extensive damage to sensors and other devices throughout the whole Zone. That’s why Chara is still paying reparations to every other star system. Without this early massive strike by the Matrioshkans, the war would have lasted much longer, however. In about the former area of Chocolate, now lies the Chocolate Memorial Shell, which is a supremely popular tourist attraction which essentially generates the profits that the reparations are paid of with (but of course the actual economics of that are far more complicated).

Still*: In essence, you are saying you didn’t expect something like the events of Chara to happen, because such a possibility looked exceedingly unlikely in the historical context back then. Well, I am not here to judge. And in any case, those who are best able to judge are the wise, and they will judge regardless of anything we say now. It just remains to be stated that it was your mistake to have failed predicting the future we find now ourselves in.

Axiale*: Do you have any particular take on the destruction of Chocolate as a Universal Chronist?

Axiale: Well, with regards to the unlikely event of a Proof, the position of the writers of the Prestige Accord, were of the opinion that this was such an exceedingly unlikely and positive outcome that local wars would have been a ridiculously small price to pay in the meantime.

Still: We Universal Chronist also had many actual war reporters who were present at Chocolate during the kugelblitz bombardment. Of course many of them died and had to be restored from backups. Exploding black holes don’t leave you a lot of time to prepare a transfer beam, you know. We weren’t particularly enraged about that. After all, that’s what should realistically expect of a hot full scale stellar war. We all knew the risks involved. As Chronists we don’t judge ourselves, but merely transmit the judgment of other groups. And the general sentiment of nearly everyone present at Chara Proper at that time was that the writers of the Prestige Accords and Cosmoshield were to blame for that tragedy, because they allowed something like that to happen.
The warring parties merely have done what seemed rational in a war like this.

Still*: Oh, so you admit it yourself: The prospect of limited stellar wars with all their destructive potential was just a kind of collateral damage that was merely accepted given the prospect of an eventual outcome that seemed too good to be true. So, how did the Origians that devised the Prestige Accords differ from the Charans who wanted to dismantle all celestial bodies of their star system in order to turn them into nested spheres of computronium? Both parties accepted the expected losses, because the ends justified the possible violent means. So much for a sophisticated interstellar civilization…

At this point the recording ended. Yurai commented on that: “This first part of the interview is the most relevant. The actual end of that interview only consisted of polite acknowledgments and thanks for the other side.”

After everyone has had enough time to go through the interview, Yurai continued: “Now I will give the floor to Axiale who has been with us for almost 100 years.”

Axiale, in his violet bunny form, accepted and first spoke to Yurai: “Thank you very much for your introduction, Yurai.” Then he addressed the visitors: "As you know, the Charan War ended after months of fighting with a definite victory of the Matrioshkans over the Rebellion forces. In the meantime, quadrillions of warships were built and destroyed. Hundreds of Origia (Earth) masses were lost to entropy. The details of the war are a matter for military historians.

It was certainly more interesting than carrier ships attacking enemies with interceptors that fired penetrator missiles and photon torpedoes, but this first approximation does sum up what happened essentially anyway. It took Chara years to get rid of the excess heat that was produced by the war. Then it proceeded to replicate Dyson sphere after Dyson sphere around Chara Proper.

A great decade of peace, prosperity (despite the massive reputation losses, embargoes, and reparation payments), and rapid progress ensued in the Chara system. But afterwards, the loose alliance between the Exuberance and Unity that pushed for matrioshkafication of the system broke apart, and the momentum towards maximization of progress has been lost. Consequently, the Charans never put sufficient resources into producing a Proof to actually achieve that goal. Instead, they were simply overrun by the Sirian Proof Front.

After they had come to terms with that shock, they decided to react by turning their star system into a museum, while other systems that also embraced matrioshkafication, such as Arcturus and Denebola, moved on and progressed to saturating their systems with Dexa gigastructures. Now, all those systems are very popular destinations for tourists, but for entirely different reasons. Chara now stands for a past vision of a great future. A relic from a bygone era. Forever displaying the dire consequences of the effort to push too hard towards progress, where simple patience would have sufficed to get to better results without the tragic costs of a stellar war."

After a brief pause, Axiale added: “Let’s say that the reception of my duplex interview with Still was quite inspiring. It brought together a group of people who wanted to learn from those who returned to Origis. Those were the roots of our tribe. The construction of Astelica started a decade later.”

Adano burst in due to an impulse he got from Diolineda: “And how did this story aid in the formation of Astelica exactly?”

Axiale expaned eir light aura to the whole room and transmitted: “Well, you need to consider that during the Charan Matrioshkafication War the materials suffered greatly and were perceived as marginalized group everywhere else. That caused a great shift in the general trend towards virtualization and revived material culture. As you know, the Anti-Museans have mainly been virtuals stationed in Origis Proper. The resurrection of material culture caused a rise in the importance of habitats suited for materials, such as Asgard, or the Metatron Gigahabitats. For that reason some stellarians relocated to Asgard for a while. But eventually they realized that a more compact and imposing habitat would serve the purpose of a converging place for cultures of materials much better. Since Origis has been a very bureaucratic place it took nearly 10 years to get the permission to create Astelica within the Gautama habitat belt.”

Adano insisted: “No, that doesn’t answer what relevance the interview has to the emergence of Astelica or your own culture.”

“The impact of the interview of Still was 19427 times higher than the average impact with an ordinary refugee. So, it could be said that the persona of Still accelerated the emergence of Astelica to a amount that is vastly above average, but in the end still comparatively infinitesimal. Astelica would have been created anyway. The Charan War was the essential trigger in any case. This infinitesimal accelerator still makes for a decent origin story for our tribe, since beating an impact factor of 19427 is quite hard. We aren’t that exceptional. And we don’t claim to be exceptional.”

This weird combination of modesty and honesty came as very unexpected shock to Adano, especially since it came from a complex. How could a modest factor of 19427 be the greatest a group of beings achieved that totally focused on being the best they can be at any time? It felt unthinkable! Wasn’t this an admission of ultimate defeat? Or ultimate ordinariness despite one’s best effort to be exceptional? Well, what if so many people and groups tried to be exceptional? The competition would be murderous! Which is exactly what happened to their hosts: They tried to be the best they can be, and since everyone did that, they weren’t really much better than average!

To Adano the case was clear: Their hosts had settled! Despite all that was working in their favor, within their own league they failed at being truly exceptional. And that’s what happens when Exaltationists settle: They stop striving for true greatness, but are content with flawless, yet unremarkable, work and results. Against all odds, in this moment Adano felt superior. He still hasn’t given up his hope on becoming legendary. True, he was very young, he was very aware of that, but he had still a spark of aspiration going for him that seemed absent in his hosts.

Yet, this insight also made it clear to him that he had to employ the most extreme measures to grant him any conceivable advantage possible. And that included being coached by a complex.

At this moment Arizzi warned Adano secretly: “This is a trap! Don’t get caught in a natural conversation about this topic. They expect you to ask questions in order to execute their strategy. We need to retreat immediately!”

It was hard for Adano to deal with these mixed signals from his wiseguide and his mentor. While Diolineda encouraged him to stay, Arizzi called for a retreat. That kind of divergence sometimes happened. Arizzi did not have access to Adano’s communication with Diolinda. Diolineda could erase every trace of any such interactions from Arizzi’s mind. And occasionally Diolineda used that power to push Adano in a direction that was different from what Arizzi had in mind. In such cases the solution was clear: Trust the being who gives better advice, and the advice from the wise was of course infallible.

So, Adano, regardless of the warnings from Arizzi, went on with his third interjection: “Wait a minute! Your whole story seems to have the point that trying to act as Anti-Musean as possible ends up with becoming the most conservative kind of Musean. Is this supposed to be a cautionary tale against extremism, then?”

Axiale praised Adano: “Yes, that’s very observant of you. That’s actually one of the most important points of this story. Extremism rather than producing the desired result, often results in a backlash that in the end produces, in the worst case, the exact opposite of what was intended. As the degree of extremism increases, the probability of a backlash increases in tandem. In that sense, extremism is dysfunctional. A more moderate approach typically produces much better results.”

Cynically, Arizzi commented privately: “Great, now you have given them exactly what they wanted. Are you content with the results of your disobedience, when you try to be clever?”

Adano froze. He didn’t know how to react to a situation like this. So, he addressed Diolineda: “What am I supposed to do next?”

Thankfully Diolineda actually answered immediately: “Your hosts now feel secure and perceive that they are in the advantage. Just let them in that belief. You can’t do much better against adversaries like these. If you want to frame them as adversaries. In a more useful frame they are the stepping stones for your destiny. Leave them in their belief of superiority, but also maintain your own awareness of what you still have that they have lost.”

Adano thanked Axiale: “Thank you very much for your insights.” Arizzi then expressed the sentiment that Adano submitted to him: “We have to thank you for your revelations about your origins and the lessons from history. Now please excuse us, we still have to recover from our long travel.”

Their hosts had let them go. Arizzi asked Adano: “This was Diolineda’s work, right? Let me guess: She let you play into the paws of our hosts to let them feel superior. Yeah, I know that strategy. That’s what they probably expect us to do. If we want to manage this better, we need to behave more unpredictably.”

“You are right. Diolineda guided me here, with exactly that line of reasoning. But in our last strategy session we already tried behaving unpredictably. And they seemed to anticipate exactly that. How can we become even more unpredictable without becoming actually irrational?”

“That’s the trick in dealing with complex: If you want to derail them effectively, you have to surf the fine line between predictability and insanity without ever falling into one of those extremes.”

“Well, in that case I need to learn how to do that. In a different matter, I am toying with the thought of accepting the coaching offer by Ephiri. It seems to me that I really need coaching from a complex in order to unfold my full potential.”

“Sure, I can tell you how to deal with complex. On the matter of Ephiri: I would be extremely careful. Ephiri has the reputation of being unusually eccentric as coach.”

“Is that a bad thing in this case?”

“Let’s just say that it flies in the face of everything they have expressed against extremism. Ephiri is positively extremely crazy as coach.”

“You didn’t answer my question properly!”

“Joining Ephiri would expose you to extreme risks. At the same time, it may increase your chances significantly.”

“Can you provide a better alternative?”

“At the moment I can’t. Ephiri is your best option, if you really want to risk everything in order to become legendary. But you need to be aware that this decision is absolutely dangerous. You might lose everything! And since your destiny is entangled with my own, I could also lose everything I have worked for.”

“How would you decide?”

“Are you absolutely positively dedicated to your goal of becoming legendary?”

“Yes, I am!”

“Then you must accept the offer, no matter what it costs to you or anyone else.”

Adano was a bit surprised about this positive reply. He then asked Diolineda: “Is it really the best decision to accept Ephiri as coach?”

“Given your last reply, the answer is simply yes. Now you understand a glimpse of how nearly impossibly difficult it is to become legendary. You must not hesitate to take the most extreme measures to improve your chances to achieve your goals, even if the risks involved are absolutely intimidating.”

“You make this sound very scary. I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“The worst thing that can happen to anyone.”

Adano gulped and a cold shower went back his spine. Was he about to blindly make a pact with demonic forces that any sane person would never want to come close to? And if yes, what kind of person would that make him? A madman? A fool? A hero? Or just food for a dragon that would devour him alive?

Diolineda commented on those last thoughts: “Now you should understand that the difference between all of these concepts isn’t really big in this context.”

Realizing this, Adano suddenly had the urge to flee as far from all this insanity as far as possible.

This, Diolineda also remarked on: “The hero is the person who is afraid, but still does the right thing, despite any amount of fear. To do the right thing, you must become a hero. There is no other option. When you shy back from becoming a hero, you are doing the wrong thing. And there’s no reasonably justification for that!”

And in this moment Adano truly and deeply cursed his blessed existence and wished not having been born into his tribe. A fleeting thought that was quickly replaced by wild courage and mad anticipation and courage about the unknown. After all, he wanted to become more like a Sirian. He would do exactly that, no matter what it cost him!

… to be continued …