The Programmer – Introduction

The scene of empty darkness painted by the occasional bright spot had been getting old for a long time. Still, it had gone well past the point of tedium and had become a feeling of despair. It was morning for me, but it didn’t really matter. I was stuck in space and the scene was always the same. There was no sunrise or sunset. There wasn’t even a point to me getting out of my warm bed.

 

When I’d first left Earth’s atmosphere, it was the most amazing sight I had ever seen. From where I stood I was surrounded by the universe like never before. The stars and the sun looked amazing. Earth was even more beautiful. I was watching home become smaller and smaller as the ship ascended into space. I was in awe at the beauty of the universe. It’s too bad that feeling couldn’t last when I started to miss home.

 

Twelve years. It seemed longer, but it had actually been shorter. I had only been awake for four of them. Only? Saying the word in my head showed me what an odd choice of language it was considering those four years were the longest of my life.

 

I often wondered if I was insane yet, but there’s no point of reference for someone who’s alone. Without all of the computers surrounding me, I wouldn’t have known exactly how long it had been.

 

My transmitter had plenty of range to reach Earth, but I couldn’t call home for retrieval. With all the computers on this stupid probe, it was the most inconvenient coincidence that the ones that performed communication and navigation functions were broken.

 

I couldn’t pilot the probe home myself, either. Its course was predetermined and would return to Earth after its mission to take photographs of several of Jupiter’s moons was complete. It was supposed to be on its way home now, but it was just moving slowly in whatever direction it had been traveling when the computer crashed. The whole mission was supposed to take approximately ten years, but I was still there watching for any signs of home or help.

 

The mission was pretty much designed to run itself. I was on it to provide basic technical troubleshooting for any problems that came up. I was chosen because I was just expendable enough and just qualified enough to do the job with minimal training. I had experience providing basic technical support, which was what they anticipated needing for the types of problems they anticipated. They wanted to send someone who was good enough to deal with the issues that were likely to come up, but NASA didn’t want to risk sending their best personnel on a mission that was farther than any human had traveled.

 

 

 

 

The funny thing about it was that I was less skilled than they realized. In college, I majored in literature because it was the easiest way to get a four-year degree. With a literature degree finding a job was about as easy as finding a needle that fell on a carpeted floor. Basically, you won’t find it until you step on it, and by then it’s already punctured your foot.

 

I had no technical education and my experience was limited at best. I couldn’t get a job with the degree I had, so a friend of mine named Ryan recommended me to his boss, Edgar, for a job working with him providing technical support to a bunch of lawyers in a large firm based out of Washington, D.C.

 

Edgar hired me partly because of Ryan’s recommendation, but mostly because I was a good communicator. It was a small department and he needed someone to write up proposals and explain why the IT department did things. He said he saw my lack of a technical background as a bonus.

 

Because my knowledge of technical stuff was average at best (or above average when compared to a lawyer), I’d be able to put things in simple terms that anyone would understand. I could explain things in a way that lawyers would understand rather than the technical jargon that he or Ryan would spew.

 

I managed to get by because lawyers are inherently stupid in most aspects of real life. The job mostly involved me performing simple tasks like fixing “broken” monitors and laptop charging cables by plugging them in. A couple of times I even fixed a couple of paper jams by opening a paper tray and pulling out the stuck paper.

 

Occasionally, a more complicated problem would come up. I would usually ask Ryan for help with those. He was really smart when it came to computers and technology in general, but he hadn’t bothered with getting a formal education. He dropped out of high school and that was it. Ryan applied for the job initially when he found it on jayslist.com, a website full of classified ads. When Ryan told me that, I couldn’t help but imagine the kinds of people that would apply for a job that’s advertised on the same website where people sell sex and used beds. It was no surprise to me how Ryan got the job when I imagined his competition.

 

After working for these lawyers for a few years, I realized how boring I had become. There was a time when people would ask me how I was, what I had been doing lately. I always felt like a loser when I didn’t have anything to say. Sitting at home after work watching television or playing video games didn’t make for the most interesting conversation pieces.

 

I decided to make myself a more interesting person.

 

I figured I should start by getting some certifications in Information Technology to help pad my resume. The material was difficult, but through mindless memorization (and Ryan helping me cheat) I was able to pass. Armed with a few technical credentials, I started looking at job postings on a regular basis.

 

My ambition overcame me when I heard about the NASA Jupiter mission. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it a second though, but the job requirements were extremely low. It was one of the strangest job postings I’d ever seen and I figured it must have been a mistake. On a whim, I sent them my resume despite my misgivings.

 

Luckily – or so I thought at the time – the person conducting the interviews had even less technical knowledge than I did. Taking advantage of that along with my superior communication skills, I was able to bullshit my way into a space mission. Or so I thought at the time. I had no idea that I was the perfect candidate already. I ended up getting the position because I was one of only a handful of people with my level of skill to apply. Almost none of my intellectual peers thought to apply for a job at NASA. NASA’s for smart people, after all.

 

Well, time was over for my morning reflection on life. Not even looking through the window next to me to see that the sun was still basically in the same place it was when I had gone to sleep, I forced one foot out of bed and let gravity pull it to the floor with a clanging noise from hitting metal. The floor was so cold that my foot could feel it even through my sock.

 

I turned my body and sat up. It was time for the usual morning routine. I spoke.

 

“Good morning,” I said to myself.

 

I frequently spoke to myself, which is part of why I thought I was insane. I had what I thought was a rational reason, though. I didn’t want to forget how to talk. If I was found and got home, speech was one of the abilities I didn’t want to have forgotten.

 

“Time to start, I suppose,” I said.

 

I stood up and started walking. Because the room was small, I turned and began walking around the room inside its square shape. Every time I made a turn at a corner, I would say something.

 

“Good morning… How are you..? What are you doing..? I’m walking… Walking where..? To the next corner…”

 

I wanted to make sure I was relatively fit by walking a lot every day, but I also wanted to do it for the same reason I spoke at every corner. I didn’t want to forget how to do either activities.

 

I read books and practiced math problems so that I’d remember all of that stuff, too. I knew it wouldn’t be current when I got back to Earth, but it was the best I could do.

 

Eventually, my day of walking, reading and speaking aloud ended. My days were over when I was tired, basically. There weren’t any visual cues like light and dark unless I turned off the lights, so I slept when I wanted to and didn’t bother waking up at any particular time.

 

I turned out the lights and fell asleep pretty quickly. That was one nice thing about space that I still liked more than Earth. Sleep. On Earth, days lasted an exact amount of time and I had to be awake when I didn’t want to be, so I had to compensate by forcing myself to sleep when I wasn’t tired. There wasn’t a schedule in space, so I found it much more efficient to sleep and wake naturally.

 

I sat on my bed and turned to the light. I turned it off and laid down. I was asleep within a couple of minutes.

 

When I had dreams, they were almost always about my past. A lot of them went back to childhood. None of them were especially good or bad. They were just memories.

The Legacy of Ferma – Introduction

In one continent on the planet Ferma, a great war began that didn’t end until after its one thousandth birthday.  Although it was a bloody war, it became a way of life over time.  The young knew no other life but fighting and the old could not recall stories of a more hopeful, peaceful time.  War became the natural state of existence.

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Sometime around two thousand years before the beginning of this story, a small, isolated religious organization began to reach out to its surrounding communities.  This organization lived on a monastery called Antanelis that stood at the top of a mountain called Divine.  This outreach was very successful and the movement was soon widely known as the New Beginning.  The leaders at Antanelis declared one particular day to be a launching of the New Beginning.  That day became the point of reference for most measurements of time throughout the land.  The time element of every other event that occurred was described as it related to the New Beginning, by counting the number of years before (BNB) or the number of years after (ANB).

Missionaries called Viators carried the lessons of their religion, Consumma, to everyone they could.  They taught their neighbors to dedicate their efforts and faith to discovering and obtaining the optimal potential of human beings.  This was the basis of Consumma.  They believed in no deities.  They believed that the ultimate power of the universe existed within the bodies and minds of humans.  The Viators worked toward Consumma’s goal under the guidance of their Elders.

The title Elder was given to Viators who had gained vast wisdom through their age and experience.  They did not travel much, however, doing most of their work in an advisory role.  They spent almost all of their time living in Antanelis Monastery.  The Viators also spent their time there when they weren’t away on missions.

They did a lot of good work at first, helping those who were poor and without families.  Soon they discovered that those surrounding communities, the people they were trying to help, were constantly at war with each other.  They continued teaching as many people as they could about the ways of their religion with the hope of accomplishing peace.  They soon saw that it wasn’t enough, however.  The farther they spread their word, the more people they found, all of them violent by nature.  At least, in their eyes.

The large populations became an obstacle, too.  There were so many people in the world that the Viators could not spread their message effectively.  Around 1000 ANB, they responded to their own frustration.  They knew they had to organize their followers and forcefully spread the word, so they began a war that lasted for a thousand years.  As they conquered foreign lands, it became increasingly difficult to maintain control over them.  Unrest built up quickly among their newer citizens the farther they expanded.  It was difficult to rule over their significantly increased population, especially when those people were far from the monastery from which they ruled.  As Antanelis’ power and influence grew, the Elders named the land they ruled Eklesia.  Eklesia encompassed the majority of the continent.

Eklesia had officially become a nation by 1200 ANB.  The Elders found themselves distracted by the duties of running a country and its society and the Viators found themselves carrying out menial tasks in order to help maintain power over the land.  Distracted by their expansion, they lost their focus on Consumma and the religion’s meaning was diluted.  The Viators and Elders continued improving themselves through their studies and various forms of physical training, but they had lost the sense of purpose behind what they did.  They all but forgot the ideals of Consumma over time, although not its goals.  They eventually even forgot the word Consumma.

This also slowed their expansion.  They learned that they had to be patient.  They had to take the time to spread their message among the people from whom they seized control.  Then they had to assimilate the conquered people into their religion and into their culture.  Each time they conquered new territory, it took longer and longer to assimilate its people before they could continue.  After a long time and lot of work, the Eklesians were in a position to control the world as they knew it – all the land that existed up to where it met the oceans.

With the extensive resources, people, and knowledge they had gained through their conquest, the Viators were able to come closer to what they believed was the true human potential, though they stopped referring to it in the terms of Consumma.  Those who had natural abilities or those who were willing to work the hardest became stronger and smarter.  They quickly became military leaders and lands were taken with much more ease.  Eklesian leaders quickly began training new Viators to increase their efficiency even more.  They were elite warriors and brilliant thinkers.

These quick and easy victories eventually became unpopular, however.  Eklesians and non-Eklesians saw the Viators’ easy victories as barbaric.  Even the Viators who were merciful and fair in battle were seen as unsporting simply because they subjugated their opponents so easily.  As a result, the Viators didn’t lead Eklesian armies as frequently.  Many of them took roles as wandering scholars, traveling to learn about different cultures.  In the eyes of many previous critics, this made the Viators appear to be less like conquerors and more like the peaceful missionaries they pretended to be.  The real intention of this action, however, was to gather the knowledge to create even smarter, stronger leaders and soldiers for when they could use them again.

Around 1700 ANB, people everywhere could see that there were fewer Viators leading what had become widely known as The Great Unification, also named The Thousand Year War by some, and the speed of the conquest had diminished.  However, people were disturbed with the unsporting nature of the few battles still led by Viators.

Then in 1980 ANB, following a horrific encounter that was known as The Battle of Suffering, the unpopularity of Viators as military leaders became too much for the Eklesian leaders to control.  With only one small but stubborn area remaining, the Elders realized that if Viators were used in the conquering of the remaining land, it would create a disturbance in their entire nation.  They stopped using Viators as military leaders after the Battle of Suffering, in which many innocent people were killed by Eklesians to gain a simple strategic advantage.  That battle almost caused a wave of support for the remaining free lands among Eklesian citizens.  The Elders were able to prevent an uprising by using a vast public relations campaign across Eklesia, but they decided to be cautious and suspend the use of Viators indefinitely.

The absence of Viators participating in battles over the twenty years that followed provided the people of the remaining free land the chance to learn how to resist invasion.  They formed their own nation, the nation of Prosta.  It was significantly smaller than Eklesia, but uniting the rest of the free world was an effective method of fighting back.  All across Eklesia and the free lands, the Battle of Suffering was considered a turning point because the resulting unrest was one of the most important factors that led to the free people working to unite.

Prosta was careful to draw its borders strategically.  To the east lay a mountain range, to the north was a virtually inaccessible marshland, and the south and west borders were blocked by a wide river that would be difficult to move an entire army across.  These geographical factors helped Prosta maintain its freedom for years, although it was still a difficult task to defend against the Eklesian invaders.

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What no one could have foreseen, however, was how extensive an impact the Battle of Suffering and the creation of Prosta had on the rest of The Thousand Year War and its conclusion.  As the stories of that battle, and soon several other atrocities, spread across the land, Eklesians and Prostans alike developed distrust for the residents of Antanelis.

The vicious tactics employed by the Eklesian rulers also inspired action from a small group of heroes with the power to do something.  The following tells of how this handful of heroes was able to influence the course of a continent, and then a world.