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An excerpt from the journal of Addax Dawn, agent of the Rapid Evening, Lilac Duke of the Principality of Kesh:
Finally, after dismissing our testimony and reports, our studies and our evidence, the Golden Branch has come to the realization, all too late, that Rigour remains a threat.
It was never defeated, only ever delayed. I fear that it may only ever be delayed. Our reconnaissance shows that every player, large and small, now rushes to prepare some solution for a problem that each hopes someone else will solve. But each proposed solution is just another sort of devastation.
In the quiet halls of the demachy the secret cult of Apostolos guards carefully the Gnosis Virus, that diskette secluded away by Kevin Vacation from an experimental lab so many years ago. A virus that weaves between flesh and mesh, connecting neural pathways to pure information and then rewriting language, thought, and self. Such a weapon could, maybe, change what Rigour is, but what would it to the soldiers nearby? What would it do if deployed on Counterweight? Who needs Rigour when the virus could make us blank slates in an instant.
The Steiger siblings, meanwhile, do more than tinker with taboo Rigour tech. They've built their own combustor, like the old ones. The ones we used before, all those ages ago, to fling Rigour away at the cost of hundreds of billions of lives. This time it would be trillions. Without any connection down branch to OriCon or the Diaspora, without sending warning first so that they could prepare, there might not be a chance to stop the force and fire of Minerva's bomb.
And Grace, oh Grace. I can feel her whisper still. I- I tried to explain it to Jace once. Fifteen years since I piloted Peace now and fifteen years since I stopped being a candidate and I still hear Grace. And the terrifying thing is that her solution isn’t a super weapon at all. It’s bodies. It’s just bodies, one and then another and then another. A planet worth and then a sector and then another. Bury Rigour in population count, she thinks, there’s enough people to go around. And when I run the numbers, when I put our machines (Rigour kin themselves) to work, I fear she’s right.
This isn’t the Golden War. The old model, the one where heroes like Jace, like beautiful Jace, do the unthinkable; the numbers don’t support that view anymore. There is no miracle coming. There isn’t a magic bullet for Rigour. There is just flesh and metal and whatever is in between.
15,000 years or so before the September Incident, it went something like this:
Somehow, they'd survived. They'd peeled across the galaxy itself, launched by the combined force of a half dozen stellar combusters. Shielded by Rigors endless mass,they'd subsisted on machine-assembled proteins and nutrients, suffering in the lonely dark at high speeds.
They weren't quite candidates, but they were the closest thing Rigor had. So it strung, in so far as Rigor can be stung, when they slipped from its grip in the light of the Golden Branch. As the bulk of its body bore deep into the ice of Ionias (and deeper still into slumber), they wrenched free from it and found land elsewhere, taking bits of the machine god with them.
Some survivors joined under the banner of a young, charismatic leader—Chess Kesh—whose optimistic belief that the human spirit (and a lot of careful oversight) could control the power of Rigor's technology without being subsumed into a mechanical rhythm of dehumanization.
Others, the Apostles, preached that if people learned to shape a world such that Rigor felt itself unnecessary—a world where every individual strived to be their own best self without the gaze of a brutal supervisor—it would remain in slumber indefinitely. And so they built themselves a new leader, using what they knew from Rigor but never using its flesh—algorithmic and driven, they knew, towards a singular end.
And though there was conflict, there wasn't war—after all, they'd all survived Rigor's whip and the brightest violence that the Diaspora could light. So they disengaged from each other, and found new, internal troubles to focus on. Until one day, new ships with old marks appeared on the horizon.
This week on COUNTER/Weight: A Splintered Branch, A Ringing Bell Pt 3
The sky was blue beyond compare...