And in a gold-soaked room, the woman in purple spoke.
"We are not unlike the Starmoth Initiative. In their image we are a child of the Low Age, but the conclusions we drew from the era of strife diverge at the root. They were born from the orders of secular monks, hell-bent on preserving the knowledge of ages past, at the cost of their own soul if need be. We are the descendants of the post-apocalypse, some would say of the cults that revered the collapse itself, the great tabula rasa that appeared when the thermal-industrial world caved in on itself. But that is not accurate. We did not revel in the collapse, we measured it for what it was -- the event that should have destroyed us, sent us back to the caves, the Great Filter we cheated. We, humankind, are dead. I do not mean this in a pleasant or metaphorical way. We failed. We died. Global warming, ecosystem collapse and widespread wars killed us, butchered us, scattered our bones to the burning plains and dessicated cities of what once was the Earth. This is the fundamental truth of this kinetic age. The interstellar era isn't a blessed time of progress, exploration and prosperity. It is the new, accidental evolutionary step of a zombie species that should have never reached this age, a foolish band of mortals lost in a galaxy it should have never reached.
Algorab considers that humans now live on borrowed time. Our species should not have survived through the industrial era. The fact that it did, against all odds, is an anomaly. All intelligent species have to die, posits Algorab. Humankind should have died in the furnaces of global warming and the killing fields of nuclear annihilation. In fact, for all intents and purposes, it did die. The interstellar age isn't a new golden era of progress, exploration and prosperity. It's the new, accidental evolutionary step of a zombie species that should have never reached this stage. A fragile, foolish band of humans lost in a galaxy it should have never reached. A species that should be protected at all costs because it is now deeply, fundamentally out of its depth. By some miracle, we passed through a gate that was not meant for us. The geometry drive is not a miracle, it is a cold, careless object capable of turning spacetime itself into a weapon. Where you see ruins to explore and understand, we see the tombs of failed civilizations. Where you want to reach out, we seek to protect. Where you are cautiously optimistic, we are confidently pessimistic. What happened once can happen again. All species are mortal, ours even more.
As a navigator, you considered yourself as humankind's searchlight, seeking shiny objects in the depths of space. Now you will be a holstered weapon, the mind behind a swarm of nuclear-tipped missiles attached to the black hull of deep space vessel. Understand that our existence is not born out of a misguided sentiment of human supremacy. Algorab is not a sword, it is a walking aid. We are weak, we are foolish, we are not made for the galaxy and never will be. We are only allowed to exist because there is no competition, because the galaxy purged itself of its empires aeons ago through the spider-rattle of entropy, webs strewn between atoms and stars alike. But sometimes these empires twitch and their half-remembered dreams are enough to crack stars open.
But you have to understand what we do -- the heart of it, beyond the curtain and the posturing and the crows pinned on our chests. An Algorab operative, you will wield tools of war and you will be expected to use them. You will be exchanging fire with Sequence ships, diving at the heart of megastructures older than the galaxy, crawling in the dark corners of Terran cities forgotten by the apocalypse. You will see the true extent of what lies behind the curtain, of the data hells left by the Internet and their hardcoded demons, of the womb-worlds of the Sequence and their perversion of genetics, of the kaleidoscopic disintegration of a human psyche and body when quartered through the edge of a failed geometry translation, and the way the world itself unravels, meaning and dimensions strangled by the chokehold of a Krasnikov tube turned into a weapon. For many, it is all there is. It is the extent of what we seek to delineate, to warn against, to combat.
It is but the surface.
What killed us once aren't nuclear wars or rogue artificial intelligences, but hypercanes and the disintegration of the food chain. We do not fear the Sequence, for it is only an unwilling enemy we can ultimately understand, even through the barrier of ideology and biology. Here, you will learn to tangle with much more fundamental threats, for which we have no answer yet. Gamma bursts that can erase a planetary biosphere in seconds, holes in the fabric of space and time, effects happening before causes, strange matter corruption -- the multiple threads from which our world hangs; and the knives that could -- will -- cut them.
This is where the raven shall rise, or fall."
Illustration by HolBat for Starmoth.
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