God’s Grove was as it always was—perfumed by the scent of a million million trees, silent except for the soft sounds of leaf rustle and wind, colored in halftones and pastels, the sunset igniting the literal rooftop of the world as an ocean of treetops caught the light, each leaf shimmering to the breeze, glittering with dew and morning showers as the breeze rose and carried the smell of rain and wet vegetation to Gladstone on her platform high above the world still sunk in sleep and darkness half a kilometer below.
A Templar approached, saw the glint of Gladstone’s access bracelet as she moved her hand, and withdrew, a tall, robed figure blending back into the maze of foliage and vines.
The Templars were one of the trickiest variables in Gladstone’s game. Their sacrifice of their treeship Yggdrasill was unique, unprecedented, inexplicable, and worrisome. Of all her potential allies in the war to come, none were more necessary and inscrutable than the Templars. Dedicated to life and devoted to the Muir, the Brotherhood of the Tree was a small but potent force in the Web—a token of ecological awareness in a society devoted to self-destruction and waste but unwilling to acknowledge its indulgent ways.
Where was Het Masteen? Why had he left the Möbius cube with the other pilgrims?
Gladstone watched the sun rise. The sky filled with orphan montgolfiers saved from the slaughter on Whirl, their many-hued bodies floating skyward like so many Portuguese men-o-war. Radiant gossamers spread membrane-thin solar wings to collect the sunlight. A flock of ravens broke cover and spiraled skyward, their cries providing harsh counterpoint to the soft breeze and sibilant rush of rain coming toward Gladstone from the west. The insistent sound of raindrops on leaves reminded her of her own home in the deltas of Patawpha, of the Hundred Day Monsoon which sent her and her brothers out into the fens hunting for toad flyers, bendits, and Spanish moss serpents to bring to school in a jar.
Gladstone realized for the hundred thousandth time that there was still time to stop things. All-out war was not inevitable at this point. The Ousters had not counterattacked yet in a way the Hegemony could not ignore. The Shrike was not free. Not yet.
No. It would go as planned until it went beyond planning. Into the unforeseen. Into the wild waters of chaos where even the TechnoCore predictors, those who saw everything, would be blind.
Gladstone walked the platforms, towers, ramps, and swinging bridges of the Templar tree city. Arboreals from a score of worlds and ARNied chimps scolded her and fled, swinging gracefully from flimsy vines three hundred meters above the forest floor. From areas closed to tourists and privileged visitors, Gladstone caught the scent of incense and clearly heard the Gregorian-like chants of the Templar sunrise service. Beneath her, the lower levels were coming alive with light and movement. The brief showers had passed over, and Gladstone returned to the upper levels, rejoicing in the view, crossing a sixty-meter wooden suspension bridge connecting her tree to one even larger, where half a dozen of the great hot air balloons—the only air transport the Templars allowed on God’s Grove—hung tethered and seemingly impatient to be away, their passenger nacelles swinging like heavy brown eggs, the skins of the balloons lovingly dyed in the patterns of living things—montgolfiers, Monarch butterflies, Thomas hawks, radiant gossamers, the now-extinct zeplens, sky squids, moon moths, eagles—so revered in legend that they had never been, retrieved or ARNied—and more.
All this could be destroyed if I continue. Will be destroyed.
message 0 :: we are alone on the spaceship Earth (Fermi's paradox)
message 1 :: AIs will need us for their survival as we need animals, plants & functional eco-systems for own survival
message 2 :: what You see now is just a vague image of things which the Time shall bring :: batteries hanging like fruits from inorganic trees; electronic trees connected directly to the electricity grid; future sentient beings for which human thought is as slow as trees are "slow" from human perspective