To protect itself and continue existing against all odds, the Resistance aboard the Terra Supreme compartmentalized its actions to the extreme.
Yenfiri did not learn that a successful coup of the ship had taken place until well after the fact. Details were very scant, too. Messages went out, but amongst them were orders to remain hidden, and remain separated into restricted cells. Keep anonymity. Things were not yet safe, and may never be.
All of the messages were sent via new recruits, and there suddenly was a higher number of them! Which seemed odd at first.
If there had been a real coup, and a new government had taken the place of Father `e’s tyranny, which was very hard to believe, then why would even more people need to hide?
But as the recruits came in, the full picture of the coup’s results started to form.
And there were two critical pieces of information that came in right away:
- Father `e had not been killed, and still could not be killed. He had been captured and bound in layers and layers of Fenekere code. And many feared that he could soon learn how to escape, or those loyal supporters of his who still survive might manage to mount a counter coup.
- There was mass enough to build another ship, and in enough variety. But it was not in the holds of the Terra Supreme. Telemetry had found it 93 thousand years away at current velocities. Fortunately, the ship was already headed toward it. But they would not be able to escape until then, and had to plan accordingly.
Upon hearing these things, Yenfiri reflected on their own experience that so much in life seemed to be accomplished and done by other people. And the vast majority of it was done out of sight, or done in ways that were quickly forgotten.
This, of course, was simply a result of numbers. A single person could not possibly get to know and learn everything from everyone else. There was no way to keep up with everything that ever happened. It wasn’t a particularly profound observation, except that remembering it helped to fight both despair and confusion.
Often times, all one had to do was wait for something to happen, and eventually it would.
But that’s not exactly how Yenfiri had been spending their past centuries themself.
There were also, always, things for anyone to do that were worth doing. That needed doing.
The purges of cell worlds had been going on since long before Yenfiri had been born. So, again, other people had done the work necessary to make it possible to reconnect with the survivors of a purge. And, they had had to use these tools to reconnect with Ikri and Ninshai multiple times now.
Because of imperfect, compartmentalized communication, there were pockets of ignorance and terrible losses as a result. And there were pockets of hopelessness full of people who didn’t see just all the progress the Resistance had slowly been making.
Yenfiri had felt like they were in one of those pockets.
Maybe someone, somewhere was coordinating an overall plan, but nobody Yenfiri knew could see it. Or even speculate.
But now there was a concrete goal in sight.
It would just take Yenfiri a little over ninety-three times their own lifetime to get to see it. It was very, very tempting to sleep through most of it.
Instead, they had an ongoing conversation about the situation and how to plan for the future. It spanned lifetimes and included everyone in the cell over time. But, for eons to come it would reside in Yenfiri’s memory as if it had occurred in one afternoon, as if spoken over a slowly changing montage of group activities that ranged from preparing food to managing critical Resistance actions abroad.
“Can we really not delete Father `e?” a trainee named Shaikye asked.
Yenfiri had been studying that and could answer best, “In theory, it is possible. Anyone can be deleted with a simple command. But it comes down to a security web of permissions. If you or anyone else tries to issue the command to delete him, it simply won’t execute. The command is compiled and processed, but immediately gets denied and does nothing. The code that tells the ship to respond this way is protected by itself, as well, since it protects all code written by Father `e. In order to alter any of his code, a person has to be him. And no one else can be him.”
“Then how were we able to capture him?” an elder by the name of Twifa asked.
Ikri provided the best answer to that, “Reports say that Resistance operatives tricked him into writing the code for his own prison over the course of several centuries. The project, apparently, was begun before Yenfiri and I were born.”
“It’s true!” Rrebkarl interjected. “My own parents were instrumental in getting one of those commands written! It’s why I’m here.”
“I heard that there’s an ancient override command that predates all of the Exodus Ships that was needed to make it work, and only one of the eldest Resistance members knows it. That’s how old the Resistance is,” Fikrran said.
“If that’s true, why didn’t we just use it to kill him?” Rrebkarl retorted.
“Maybe they didn’t want to,” Fikrran suggested. “Maybe they have plans for him.”
“That sounds an awful lot like a myth to me,” Shaikye said, now a fellow elder in Yenfiri’s memory.
“Who can say?” Twifa responded to that. “I’m not entirely sure I’m not a myth, myself. And some day, you will likely feel the same.”
“Already living it, honestly,” Shaikye nodded. “I feel like no conscious being was meant to exist this long.”
“Father `e is older than any of us, and now he’s forced to exist in a prison of his own making for – how long has it been now?”
“I do not wish to count nor to look it up.”
“If he ever breaks free, what kind of madness will we be subjected to then?”
“It can’t be much worse than what he subjected us to before.”
“I wasn’t even born during his reign! His imprisonment was three and a half millennia old when I died at seventy-eight years old. I lived through my own coup, a disagreement between branches of the Resistance I think? And we studied all the different governments that have existed since he was ousted. So, I have no idea what that means.”
Yenfiri remembered losing track of who was saying what, but deciding to bring the conversation back on track, at least during one iteration of it, “Our cell’s purpose is to plan for the population of the new ship, and learn how best to manage it. It’s not really our concern what the mental health of Father `e is.”
“Ah!” Ninshai held up a finger. “But, that is relevant! If we are planning that some of us get to be Founding Crew of that ship, there’s the question of how we will fare through the ages. Will we be able to trust our future selves? What will our descendants be forced to do with our remaining presence? And, more immediately worrisome, if Father `e breaks free before we can build it, how will he prevent or poison the project? Or, what is it that he’s done in the past that will still taint or endanger our efforts?”
“Oh, shit,” Fikrran looked up from what he was doing and said, “What if he seeds our ship with sympathizers with their own override codes, just like how the Resistance started when he made the Terra Supreme?”
Shaikye opened her mouth to say something, but Ninshai barreled right over her, “That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about, yes. And I think that –”
Yenfiri put a hand out, palm towards Ninshai and said, “Sorry to interrupt you, but Shaikye had something to say. Let’s hear from those younger than us, Ninshai.”
Ninshai stopped and nodded amiably, and Shaikye started imparting her wisdom to the group. Yenfiri would never remember the particulars, but in every replay in their dreams it was something slightly different anyway. What they were certain of was that it was the kind of thinking that ultimately led to Shaikye taking the title of the Poet, Fenemere, when `etekeyerrinwuf, the Sunspot, was finally built. Shaikye understood words in a way that few did.
And it might have been that little moment in that conversation, or one of the conversations, when Yenfiri had stepped in to make sure Shaikye could be heard, that had prompted her to endorse Yenfiri for the position of `e, or Eh as they would come to prefer the name. A very subtle difference in pronunciation that almost no one heard or rendered, but it was enough for them.
It was such a little thing, that moment. And certainly not the turning point for Yenfiri’s own revulsion at the thought of that name. And maybe they’d earned Shaikye’s trust a million times over in a myriad of other ways. Shaikye certainly thanked them for it afterward, once.
Shaikye and Ninshai ended up working together very closely to create a model of how the new ship’s culture should start. They both mined ideas from everyone they could talk to, and mostly did the work of compiling them. There were votes on which ideas seemed the best. But, in watching them, Yenfiri could see that a great deal of thought went into the refinement and presentation of those ideas, once they had them. And since Shaikye was better at being persuasive, and maybe because Ninshai was following the sentiment of that one soft rebuke of Yenfiri’s and stepping aside, Shaikye ended up getting most of the credit for it in everyone’s minds.
Ninshai had already changed so much since they’d first met. He’d mellowed and become somewhat inscrutable.
But, they all had changed in exactly that way. No, what was unique to Ninshai was that he had become far, far more focused on letting other people shine and say their own words. He just wanted to be there to watch, and to introduce people to each other to see what might happen.
Yenfiri mentioned this to Ikri once, and she said, “That’s just like you, you know. Only more intense. More purposeful.”
Yenfiri could not see what she was talking about. In fact, if there was anything about themself they could pin down as any kind of personality, it was that they were barely present at all. They always felt like they were following everyone else around and just speaking the truth when they saw it. And usually, they tried to use their observations to help people feel better, because it’s what had always helped them.
“Listen,” Ikri said. “Whatever is going on in your brain. However it is that you experience…” she gestured around, “all of this. The way you act and behave makes people feel welcome and included. They all feel like they are equals with you, and that you will listen to them. And it’s like you do this because it’s just your nature. Or even the nature of the universe. It’s a natural law that Yenfiri will be this way with everyone, and that’s how it should be. And Ninshai has learned to imitate you, because it works better for what they’re interested in. Which is watching how people work and then figuring out how to take advantage of it.”
Hearing that felt like it made all of Yenfiri’s thoughts click into place. It settled their mind in such a way that they felt they couldn’t protest the compliment, however much they wanted to. But they managed to say, “Thank you. If you’re right, you’re pretty observant yourself, Ikri.”
She smiled, and said, “Yes. Maybe. But my true Art is a bit different. Nothing to do with socializing or psychology. I just have you for a sibling and Ninshai for a best friend, and it rubs off. My thing is imagining new worlds and making them happen.”
And that was true enough, too. She’d had a lot of practice, with all of the purges.
It wasn’t that she knew all about physics, ecosystems, architecture, coding in Fenekere, or any of the nearly infinite details and skills that were needed to go into building a world. She could certainly build one on her own now, especially leaning on the archives of files she kept. But, it was that she could take all the specifications and descriptions that others fed her and create something that was even more like their visions than they suspected were possible.
She could do this with any creation, not just worlds. If it was a simple drawing of an imaginary person, it wasn’t that she could draw particularly well, but that the strokes she did put down on the paper just happened to fall in a particular way that they seemed to capture the very essence of the character described to her. It was rare that someone walked away unsatisfied.
And so, whenever a new cell world needed to be built, everyone in their cell naturally turned to her to lead the project.
93 millenia of practice in the end.
She wasn’t the only person in the entire Network of the Terra Supreme doing this, of course. There were others who were just as good. There were other cells working on the same project.
How was it then that they all became the Founding Crew of the Sunspot, and Ikri got her wish to take the name Jenefere?
Pure fucking chance.
Yenfiri was deep in a lucid dream exploring the aftermath of this ongoing conversation, arguing with dream Ikri about who was truly fit for what, when the real Ikri messaged them to wake.
“It’s time,” she said.