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RANDTS will last a thousand years.

- Albert

Chapter 2. Day of Judgement

According to the preacher's texts, The Holy revealed His new calendar when Bandar the Wanderer entered the seaport city of Punta Arenas at the southern end of the ancient and mythical country of Chile. He came less than a month after the War of the Burning Metals and the blazing of Shaitan's fires across the globe. Eight years later the Holy revealed Bandar as His preacher and anointed him Bel'dar, creating the first of the Cunif Califar.

We are all taught geography as children of course. It is fascinating to think what life must have been like back then, with the survivors of the war forming a global refugee population. The southernmost areas of the globe suffered by far the least of the fallout, and for decades they were the only regions habitable. The place that eventually became Bandar Arenas had one of the lowest radiation levels in the world outside of Antarctica, and it was a magnet for humanity.

It's difficult to imagine how small the city was at the beginning. The Book of Bel'dar suggests its population was only about 100,000 before the war, 2% of the present size of five million. By current law, both the world capital and the Priesthood contain one fifth of the world's population.

It took the Earth several hundred years to recover from the war. Two of the most serious isotopes in the fallout were cesium-137 and strontium-90. They both have half-lives of about 28 years. It also took several centuries for the ozone layer to recover from being destroyed by the nitric oxides produced by the bombs. The primary lingering health concern from the war is now carbon-14, with a half life of 5600 years. Fortunately the oceans and biosphere have recycled much of it out of the atmosphere.

Bandar Arenas is the southernmost city on Earth. There are also 120 townships scattered in North and South America, with populations averaging 167,000 each. Each township is sponsored by one of the 120 Guilds, and the Priesthood is the sponsor of the capital.

The name of my childhood township is Anqara, and it is the home township of the Guild for specialty metal fabrication. Anqara has the distinction of being the farthest township from Bandar Arenas, but with our close match in longitude with the capital, we also have the smallest shift in solar time. Our solar noon occurs only 24 seconds later than official solar noon. Official time is the same everywhere of course. There are no time zones. The rhythm of the daily Prayer is not fragmented.

In Bel'dar's calendar, each year has 12 months, and the months have kept their ancient names. Each month has 30 days. In addition to the twelve months, there is a five-day festival to celebrate the Holy's Judgment. The festival is at the beginning of year, shortly after the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. When the calendar year is divisible by twelve, the festival is lengthened to eight days in order to keep the calendar in sync with Earth's solar orbit.

The festival of The Judgment is the appropriate time for the childhood gates, and also for the gates that control adult advancement from one citizen level to the next. The childhood gates are used to test and cull all male children as they enter their 8th, 13th, and 21st year of life. Each of the three gates culls 10%. There is also continuous culling due to medical, behavioral, or heretical problems, for both children and adults. The end result is 65% of the 120,000 male children born each year survive the challenge of entering adulthood.

The First Day of Judgment of 8235 began as usual for me with 6 AM prayers. I and the 577 other members of the Initiate class of Anqara found ourselves in the presence of the Bandar Arenas test monitor. Some seemed to find it difficult not to be intimidated by his purple insignia of royalty.

The class moved through the familiar cycle of the morning prayers. The Prayer of Purification hour was filled with tests of power and form in the martial arts. The exhaustion tests of endurance would come later in the evening Prayer of Weakness.

At 10 AM I began eight hours of qualifying tests with the Guild that had been sponsoring me since my thirteenth year. I have spent the last eight years of my life as an acolyte member of the Security Guild.

Security is a coveted Guild for membership. It is a small Guild, only three thousand adults, but it is very well represented in the royal levels. All rulers and royalty are part of the Priesthood of course, but 25 of the 4,092 current royals (citizen levels 16 through 23) entered royalty through the Security Guild. The previous Cunif Califar, Abdul Matin, Servant of the Firm, entered royalty through Security.

The ancient counterpart of the Security Guild would be a combination of domestic and international spy agencies. The Guild does not do installation and maintenance of the worldwide monitoring systems, but it does have ownership of their operation and technical evolution, and Security works closely with the Priesthood, in particular their embedded military and police units.

The Security Guild's township is called Jizari. It is located 360 km northeast of the capital, across the Straits of Magellan. Not surprisingly, Security's home is the closest township to Bandar Arenas.

There is a saying all males learn in nursery school, that the boy chooses the girls, but it is the Guild that chooses the boy. As a young child though, I discovered I have a unique talent, a secret gift that is the fuel for my hidden ambition. My gift let me choose my Guild. I have a perfect memory.

Am I a mutation? Probably. So many of our religious practices evolved from the mutations problems of the war, and how urgent it was to adapt society to the new reality. The culling was necessary to stop the degradation slide of the human genome, and it made the Genetics Guild one of the most powerful organizations under the Priesthood.

Major genetic changes were engineered in the first few thousand years after the war, as the Genetics Guild mastered the science of writing DNA at the level of complexity of the human genome. Evolution jumped from geological to generational timescales, and the Ruling Priesthood became the supreme legislature for determining the definition of human.

The ability of the species to repopulate was a critical concern, and one of the first successful genetic modifications was to change the male/female probability birth ratio from roughly 1:2 to 1:3. There are currently 120,000 male births a year and 360,000 female births. Daily sleep requirements are also half of what they used to be before the war.

Another genetic modification made the human genome compatible with anti-aging drugs. No one has lived to be 400 yet, but with continual use of the drugs 300 to 350 years of life can be expected, with all but the last few months in fully functional health.

My memory mutation is a powerful gift. It goes far beyond the ability of perfect recall of experiences. I have perfect recall over everything I sense. I can stare at my monastery study monitor flashing several pages a second and then read what I've observed at my leisure when I have time to close my eyes. I was six years old when I learned the trick of stealing Imul passwords by glancing from the corner of my eye, watching them type long and rapid password strings. I would later replay their finger movements in my mind.

For years I did nothing with my illegal access to knowledge. But when I was nine and had passed my first gate, my class went through a basic course on network security, and I realized Anqara has a weakness in its local security design. There is a six-second window every night at 11:30 PM when the township's network establishes new security handshaking protocols with the worldwide web. During this period, worldwide Security can't monitor local data access directly, and relies on the local logs to bridge the six-second gap once handshaking is reestablished.

But there is a flaw in the local monitoring software. It polls central video memory every 400 milliseconds for the image being transmitted to my room's monitor. With access to the monastery computers through an unrelated course on graphical displays, I used my stolen passwords and left behind a small and I hope untraceable daemon.

The end result is I have fifteen 400-millisecond windows every night to access restricted data. I start my process just after the end of the security polling cycle; loading the data into my video buffer, flashing it to my screen for 350-ms, and then shutting down and terminating the data request before the security poll asks my video buffer again what it is doing. End result? I get fifteen views a night with as much data as I can fit onto my screen, and there is absolutely no record of my activity.

In the last decade, I have had access to vast stores of information, far beyond what an Initiate is ever allowed to see. It is an extremely dangerous game. Sidestepping the local audit logs is not easy, but my greatest fear is someday showing that I know not too little but too much.

When I was eleven years old, I decided that the only truly safe way of protecting the use of my gift would be to have access to the Priesthood's master security logs, and the only way to do that would be from inside the Security Guild. I modified my performance on my aptitude tests to appear especially attractive to them, and at my thirteenth year, when the Guilds pick their acolytes from the survivors of the second gate, I succeeded in my quest to have the boy choose the Guild.

And the years passed. I reached my third gate. My final day of childhood continued. After four hours of Guild testing, I was pleasantly surprised to be served a lunch at 2 PM. Except for Guild training materials and courses, all children are completely under the control of the Priesthood, and the acolytes for adult Priesthood would be finding this a fasting day. But the other acolytes are owned by both the Priesthood and their Guild on Judgment Day, and it is permissible after morning prayers for the sponsoring Guilds to feed their acolytes.

I was touched by my Guild's generosity. They had sent me a magnificent lunch, one worthy of a royal. There was a fine selection of delicate fishes and meats wrapped in small pastries, plus an assortment of fresh fruit slices and greens from the southern hemisphere. It wasn't a large amount of food, but with the Prayer of Weakness testing in six hours, stuffing myself now would be foolhardy. The lunch was perfect. I thought about the message my Guild was sending me with their extravagant feast as I savored each bite.

I had to keep my wits about me during the last hours of testing. I was being asked to make intelligent guesses about matters that I had factual knowledge of only through my nocturnal data access. I intentionally made numerous guesses reasonable but wrong, especially those concerning the political alliances within the ruling Priesthood (the 87 Priests of Citizen Level 24 though 31).

One of the last tests from my Guild measured my memory and manual dexterity. I was shown long strings of random characters on a monitor for a brief period of time, and then required to rapidly type them. All adults have a minimum requirement of entering twenty-character complex passwords in ten seconds, but Security's requirement is a minimum of twenty-four characters in eight. I passed the test easily, overshooting my Guild's requirements by a considerable margin, but then holding back so as not to reveal my hidden talent.

The hours of Prayers passed quickly. I had no trouble with the theology. It did surprise me that the Hour of Weakness was used for unrelenting full-contact sparring. I am not the most aggressive fighter, but my form is efficient, however I received only three minor demerits, two for taking too long to defeat my friend Afeef, a clearly weaker opponent, and a third demerit for being too merciful with the selection of the combination holds that ended my final contest. The judge ruled I had a perfect opportunity to end the fight much sooner albeit much more brutally.

My class spent the Hour of Repose in perfect silence. It didn't feel like a test until near the end, when I realized other acolytes bruised from the sparring or worried about passing might be finding it difficult to maintain the required perfect stillness. When the closing bell sounded, there were numerous sighs of exhaustion. We all rose and quickly walked to our small bedrooms. I glanced around at some of my classmates, trying to make eye contact and offer encouragement. The testing was over. Talking was not strictly prohibited, but it certainly wasn't encouraged either, and we all make our way back to our rooms in silence.

I closed the door of my room as required, hearing the lock click and the door seal behind me. The time was 10:09 PM, and the Day of Judgment was almost over. Sometime within the next five hours, I would hear a gas hissing into my room. It would either be a simple nitrogen-oxygen mix, or something just as odorless but extremely lethal. By tradition, acolytes void their bladders and undress, in order to minimize the work of the acolytes in next year's class.

Some acolytes doubt this, but bedrooms really are unmonitored. The human psyche needs a place to wallow in peace during the hours of low impurity, and the Priesthood does provide that place. One thing I've learned about the Priesthood over the years is that they are many things, but they are not liars.

I actually fell into a restful sleep shortly after entering my room. I was that confident, and regardless the matter was out of my hands. I've learned the lesson to grab rest when I can. I was awakened by the faint sound of hissing air. I opened my eyes and glanced at the clock display on my monitor, 2:53 AM.

It was later than I expected. The test administrators are required by law to complete all executions by 3 AM. I shuddered as I thought about being one of the thousands of judges for the gate. A vast amount of the scoring is based on computer tabulation, but the final decisions are human, done over a worldwide teleconference. With over 87,000 Initiates per year, there are rumors of many heated discussions for the exacting rankings near the cutoff.

I laughed at myself as I realized I was sniffing the air. My subconscious demand to live was overwhelming my reasoning. Sniffing the air made no sense. I tried to calm myself by thinking of the soft hissing sound as relaxing. I looked at my sealed door, and waited for my adult life to begin.

2 mad rant(s):

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  2. Generic Pharmacy said...

    I had no trouble with the theology.  


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