One True Path
by DJ Burnham
forum: One True Path
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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One True Path


          Vangel glibbed a word bundle in his parler and fluted it across the Decisional Alter, straight into Sion's horn-shaped audory. It was a good shot, one that came from a lifetime of practice; being their species' prime method of communication. However, for the three Divrep Primaries aboard the ship, it was a less common occurrence. In accordance with their solemn vows, glibbing and fluting was reserved for the occasions that warranted discourse, and only were permitted to take place in the Alter Chamber.

          Standard travel time - that other than in a suspended state - was spent reading the Scribes of Omnipron and inking their personal reflections on the complex interpretation of the meaning of the text; exchanging parchments on their subtly subjective theosophies, for each others' consideration. They emitted a low humming tone from their frottle glands, when at prayer, but it was only as they approached the next Assessment that glibbing was permitted.

          The crew were less bound by fundamental orthodoxy, but were still devout Omnipronites, nevertheless. So as long as it was never done in front of the Primaries, glibbing and fluting were perfectly normal and permissible activities. After all, someone had to get on with the maintenance of the engines, life support, guidance systems and food supply. Those involved in the production of nutrifung were particularly prone to long bursts of glibbing, as their daily chores were relatively simple, and they had their activities down to a fine art, leaving plenty of free time. It was, however, essential work and they were experts in their field; literally. An entire deck was set aside for the cultivation of nutrifung. It required a huge area for its unique mycelium to thrive at optimum efficiency and the farmers not only had to tread carefully, during the periods of examination and harvest, but also had to maintain a delicate balance of humidity and culture medium characteristics (altering slightly with each cycle) requiring constant tweaking and adjustments. Crop failure would be disastrous, as it formed the bulk of their diet, providing a perfect balance of protein and vitamin requirements. Nutrifung was presented for consumption in a variety of ways, but over-flavouring was considered to be sinful and indulgent, so it was essentially the same meal every day.

          Liquid needs were met by vapour recycling within the sealed environment of the ship. This was occasionally supplemented if they flew through clouds of molecularly dispersed alcohol. The intoxicating droplets - formed by trawling the clouds with absorbinets - were handled extremely carefully, and quickly treated to remove any undesirable effects, converting them into water and oxygen.

          Back in the Alter Chamber, the Primaries' orange ceremonial robes fluttered in the downward breeze, generated by the beating of the Wings of Truth, which fanned the Celestial Proximeter as it swung to and fro; making the task of accurate fluting even more of a challenge. After a while the Celestial Proximeter settled into a fixed position in its Holy Gimbal. Ervou took a reading and consulted the astrohologram.

          "It appears that a new planet requires our Inquisition," he glibbed to Sion and Vangel, in a neat double bundle, dual trajectory fluting from a single parler burst. 

          "Then we must abide by the Alter and set about the mighty Omnipron's will, as has been decreed," glibbed Vangel. This was met by a brief hum from all three frottle glands and closer inspection of the astrohologram.

          "It is a blue-green planet, close to our present sector," glibbed Sion. "I shall instruct the helmsman personally and provide him with the Mission coordinates." With that, Sion took his copy of the holodisc from the projector assembly and, bowing to the other two, left the Alter Chamber.

          They studied the detailed enlargement of the chosen planet in silence for some time, before Ervou fluted a word bundle to Vangel; painstakingly glibbed, as he knew how tetchy the elder Primary could get at times like this.

          "Do you think that we might be blessed with a spiritual species on the occasion of this Inquisition?"

          "We must always travel in hope," came the curt reply.

          "Indeed, Primary Vangel. We must trust in Omnipron," fluted Ervou, lifting the edge of his robe, bowing and turning to leave the Alter Chamber.

          "In Omnipron we trust," echoed Vangel's word bundle, after his departing colleague, as he returned to studying the astroholographic representation of the subject of their next Inquisition.

          It had been over a megacycle since they'd last encountered an alien species with a spiritual infrastructure which was sufficiently well developed, ethically principled and universally followed, to pass the test. Most had developed belief systems. At best there might be a tenuous code of conduct, at worst they found a mixture of warmongering, self-indulgent, fornicating, thieving primitives, with no sense of moral fibre or God-fearing decency. It was the task of the Divrep Primaries of Omnipron to instil order where there was chaos, spirituality where there was a vacuum, and a harmony of belief throughout. Essentially these were the fundamental doctrines of Omnipron, a sound foundation on which to build an acceptable and pious future.
          An Inquisition would be made once the Divine Proximeter had isolated a target planet; usually one with a sentient dominant species which showed all of the signs of civilisation, no matter how loose a term that might prove to be. The ship would go into a concealed orbit and the Divreps, with the aid of carefully trained crew members, would examine any electromagnetic transmissions from the planet's surface for a maximum of three microcycles.

          Such broadcasts, or signals, were perceived as an indication that the species responsible for them would be sufficiently developed to warrant an Inquisition. Lifeforms which hadn't reached that stage would have to be studied first hand. This could prove both unacceptably dangerous to the Divreps, and potentially disruptive to a society that already had a grasp of the concepts of an approved theosophy, and so was rarely undertaken.
          Following the information gathering stage of the Inquisition, there followed the Assessment, in which the Divrep Primaries met around the Decisional Alter for intense discussion. It was during this phase that all of the findings of the Inquisition were placed before them. The Divreps then had the demanding process of assimilating that material and trying to prove that the subject species followed a spiritual course in accordance with the doctrines of Omnipron. If the Assessment found that things were in order, then they would bless the planet and slip away discreetly. If, however, the Assessment found that there was a lack of spiritual infrastructure and ethics, (or even if these elements were present, that very few of the beings actually adhered to it) then it called for Divine Intervention.
          In mild cases of Intervention it could be a case of simply lending support to existing spiritual leaders with an approved theosophy, along with enforced equilibration of belief amongst the others. In such a way, basic tenets could be spread across the face of the planet and then bought to bare on the populous; who often lacked little more than guidance. Those situations could usually be resolved in 10 or 20 cycles of vigorous instruction.
          The most recent Inquisition had produced a considerable challenge. Ervou was beginning to despair of ever finding another planet which fulfilled the requirements, and to his growing concern, the other two Divrep Primaries seemed to thrive on total conversion cases. The last case had sickened Ervou, less from the lack of spirituality displayed by the species, than by the ultra zealous manner in which his colleagues had rectified the state of affairs. He knew that it had been for the best, and he had been in full agreement with the Assessment, but even so.

          An invisipod had been dispatched to the planet's surface, carrying Vangel and Sion, plus two back-up crew members, all of them physically altered to resemble the dominant species; through the fearful process of plasiversion. 

          The crewmen captured 20 of the self-styled Splaru, the closest that came to men of God. The Splaru were subjected to 30 microcycles of punishment/reward reconditioning, at the end of which the Primaries had 20 new converts, and ardent disciples of Omnipron.
          While the Splaru were being proselytised, the crew back on board the orbiting ship bombarded the planet with herbostatic rays, causing crop failure, and electrostatic cloud seeding, to create constant lightning storms. Measures which, although ultimately reversible, would strike fear into the hearts of the aliens.
          Each of the converted Splaru priests were delivered to specific locations around the planet, in turn enrolling new devotees. The Splaru were equipped with psybeam generators, used to induce an overwhelming sense of theistic vacuum throughout the settlement upon which they were directed. The Splaru priest would then enter the community and exude goodwill, converting huge numbers, sending them out, in turn, to preach to smaller groups, offering food and shelter as incentives to join them. In no time at all, the Divine Intervention swept across the face of the planet, reaping a harvest of believers. At the point when the majority had either been converted, or where accepting assistance, a global "Prayer for Salvation Day" was announced. The very next day, after the aliens had come together in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity and worshipped their mutual deity, the ship's crew terminated their disruptive efforts on the environment. The impact on the mass psyche was tremendous. They felt that they had been given irrefutable proof of the existence of Omnipron, that by accepting him into their lives and by abiding by his doctrines, that they were assured a certain future, full of love and mercy. Vangel and Sion retrieved the psybeams, returned to the ship, carried out a final Assessment and blessed the planet, before leaving orbit.

          The ship had established a concealed orbit above the latest subject planet. It was an uncommonly beautiful world, with a confusing mass of electromagnetic output. From the continents bathing in the immense waters, they chose one small island at random and locked into a stationary orbit above it. Following the three microcycle Inquisition, the Primaries met once again.

          Vangel glibbed the opening statement. "My brothers. We are gathered around the sacred Decisional Alter to debate the case of Earth from the information afforded by the Inquisition. Blessed be Omnipron. Let they Assessment commence."

          As was customary it fell to Sion to present the first phase of the Assessment, and he glibbed a constant succession of paired word bundles in his parler, fluting them to Vangel and Ervou's audories as he went along.

          "Preliminary results suggested that we were dealing with an advanced society and a bewilderingly dense EM output from the planet was identified. It would have been impossible to analyse such a plethora of information in three cycles alone. As a consequence the Inquisition focused on one small island, chosen at random.

          "The language is an unfathomable generation of precisely controlled air movements and associated noises. Consequently, in the time available to us, we agreed to concentrate on the premiss -  as is written in the Scribes - that actions doth speak louder than words.

          "At first, the EM analysis showed nothing that was readily identifiable with the basic principles of Omnipron. With little grasp of their cultural complexities and language it was essentially impossible to dissociate between reality broadcasts, historical reconstructions and entertainment, but I shall come back to that. A concerning portent was the apparent emphasis on material acquisition. It has been our experience that the more self-indulgent species are less likely to adhere to spirituality within a formalised context. Some of the EM output portrayed acts of violence visited upon fellow species members, often with primitive hand-held devices, which relied on the sudden generation of explosive energy in order to impart velocity to a projectile, which in turn penetrated the outer shell of the target being, causing sufficient internal disruption to bring about termination. Although these instances did not appear to be orchestrated in a manner synonymous with a major conflict scenario, any act of violence perpetrated on a fellow being is in direct contradiction with the ethical principle. However, as I mentioned previously, it is impossible to ascertain whether these distasteful broadcasts represented the direct reporting of current events, were a form of entertainment, or as I now believe to be the case, can be interpreted as an educational tool designed to remind the population of the horror and atrocity associated with such deeds.

          "Of the non-visual forms of EM, the most common consisted of bursts of melodic patterns, infinitely varied and wide-ranging in nature. Interjected between each of these was a brief commentary and occasionally the vocal repetition of a segment. From the number of these forms of non-visual broadcast, we can safely assume that they are enjoyed by a large number of the population. It is quite possible that we have found a form of aesthetic celebration. The next most common form in this area of study were purely vocal broadcasts. Although we have been unable to translate them, we have been able to identify tonal variations within the delivery and we believe that they represent a scale between peaceful discourse and aggression. The majority of the vocal-based EM analysis fell into the former category. I think that it is reasonable to assume that this well balanced level of discourse, often between several individuals, could represent theological debate, or at the very least is demonstrating civilised activity of a uniform nature.

          "Towards the end of the second microcycle we identified a constantly repeating feature on almost all of the EM bands under analysis. We would have to wait before its meaning would be revealed, as the species spend approximately one third of their time in an unconscious regenerative state. Again, this could be regarded as an indulgence, in comparison with our own, brief rest periods, but time has not permitted for a study of their physiology, so I am content to assume that this is a health necessity, rather than an avoidance of spiritual duty."

          Sion came to a close. Rubbing his parler thoughtfully, he looked across to Ervou. 

          This was his chance. If he could just convince his colleagues, then there was a chance that this planet could be spared Divine Intervention. Ervou gathered himself up, straightened his orange robe, placed his hands on the designated sectors of the Alter, and prepared to make the case for Earth, in the second phase of the Assessment.

          "In the third, and final microcycle, we concentrated our reality viewscreen on the most densely populated region of the island. It was at this point that we had a major breakthrough. Large numbers of the dominant species were utilising their self-contained, bipedal apparatti. This was unusual, as up until this time, the majority had relocated by utilising independently propelled transport modules. Our previous experience has shown that large groups, moving without artificial assistance towards a common area, can be associated with spiritual activity. Their destination point tied in with an image that featured recurrently in the previous microcycle's EM analyses; which were themselves now becoming even more frequent and longer lasting.

          "Almost a third of the local population gathered together in this one place, positioning themselves in such a manner that each being had an uninterrupted view of an oblong of close-cropped vegetation at the centre of the assembly zone. Our simultaneous EM uptake analysis revealed that a further 50 percent of the beings in the immediate region were adjusting their receptors, in order to witness the transmissions emanating from this area. This in itself was encouraging and when we checked the EM uptake in a wider scale..."

          Ervou dissected the word bundles, mid-sentance, in his parler before fluting them, for dramatic effect.

          "...over half of the population of the entire island were gathering in groups to observe the proceedings, or else focusing their personal dwelling-based receptors - both visual and non-visual - onto this event.

          "Many of them were seen to be be wearing garments of a matching fabric.

          "Something had drawn them to this place, and although their behaviour was not yet entirely uniform, it represented a fabulous potential for devotional activity. What happened next almost made me forget myself and glib with excitement. The assembly of Earth beings started to move the air with their physical tonal systems and, wonderfully, as it grew in volume, it became clear that they were producing the same sound. This activity is synonymous with prayer and we had proof of a well-developed harmony of purpose.

          "A small group moved onto the central area of vegetation. The noise from the assembly grew further, almost reaching the aggressive end of the scale. At that point I had serious misgivings, that perhaps we were about to witness violence on an amphitheatrical scale, as we had once seen many cycles ago.

          "However, one solitary being, carrying a round, white object, made his way to the middle, and the volume decreased. On magnification and spectrophotometric analysis it was found that he held a sphere of treated animal hide. He wore black fabric, whilst the others had divided into two evenly numbered groups, standing in readiness, and distributed such that those wearing white fabric formed a pattern across one half of the oblong, whilst those in red mirrored that pattern in the other half. A small ritual took place at the centre and the black-clad being presented the sphere to a red-atired individual, who placed the sphere on the ground, eliciting more noise from the assembly. The black-clad being, who I will now refer to as the Primary - for reasons that will become clear - briefly expelled air into a small object which emitted a high-pitched, shrill sound, and the red-atired individual struck the sphere with end of one of his bipedal apparatti.

          "As the event progressed, the sphere was captured first by one group and then the other, travelling up and down the area of vegetation. At times the Primary would produce the shrill sound and activity would cease for a moment, while he conversed with one of the individuals. Sometimes the sphere would leave the confines of a white demarcated border, within which the events were taking place, and again, the Primary would cease the activity, relying on disciples who would advise him of the precise point on the border where the sphere had crossed. Depending on which group individual had last contacted the sphere, the Primary would then direct one individual from the other group to project it back into the unfolding drama. If the sphere approached either of the far ends of the demarcated zone on the vegetation, then the assembly became quite restless, and occasionally the sphere would
be propelled into a holding area, although a previously static individual would endeavour to prevent its ingress. At these moments the noise from the assembly would verge towards the aggressive end of the scale.

          "I have spent some considerable time in evaluating activity, and I now believe that I understand its meaning."

          Ervou rubbed his parler, while the other Divrep Primaries waiting expectantly, before continuing with his appraisal.

          "As I have mentioned, I believe the being wearing black fabric to be equivalent to one of our own Primaries. He alone has the authority to suspend activity and to guide the others. It is he who presides over contentious issues within the drama of spiritual society that unfolds, even to the extent of banishing any one of the other participating individuals, if their behaviour falls outside the predetermined principles of ethics that are so clearly in evidence.

          "The white sphere represents the passage of the soul. The drama is a reenactment of its path through life, the pressures and temptations that are put upon it, and its eventual destiny. It meets many challenges on its way, often depicted by severe and harsh treatment, as is portrayed by the force with which the sphere is struck. If it is propelled beyond the boundary, as demarcated upon the close-cropped vegetation, then it has symbolically been jettisoned into purgatory. it is the Primary's task, in this situation, along with the assistance of his disciples, to bring the soul back into the vessel of life, as is represented by the vegetation.

          "The groups of beings work together to influence the path of the soul through life. My considered opinion is that the white fabric wearers embody the positive, the good, and the principled doctrines upon which their society was founded. The red personify the negative, the evil and the indulgent temptations of sin.

          "The two ends of the vegetation represent the eventual destination of the soul. For red individuals then, their task is to try to guide the soul towards damnation. If it is propelled past the white protector, into the holding area behind, then it has figuratively been plunged into the realm of eternal torment. If, however, the white individuals can deliver the soul past the red protector, then it has passed through the gates of salvation, and is guaranteed a state of grace in the life ever after.

          "The noises made by the assembly are the prayers of response. As the soul is in jeopardy, so they pray for its delivery, and when it is in the care of the good, they rejoice.

          "The actual passage of the soul into the holding areas is essentially inconsequential to the overall message of the drama, which is the reaffirmation of spiritual infrastructure within the planet's society."

          Ervou stopped glibbing and gave his parler a well-earned rest. Vangel and Sion waited for him to recover a little.

          "So. We are concluded with our Assessment?" Glibbed Vangel, after a while. "Is there anything further to be added?"

          Neither of the Primaries responded, so the time had come.

          "We are gathered together around the Decisional Alter to determine whether the dominant species of the planet known as Earth follow a spiritual path in accordance with the fundamental doctrines of Omnipron." Vangel glibbed the Divine word bundles with great care, and fluted them gracefully to the others. It was almost superfluous, as they both knew the contents, as one bundle landed in each of their audories, but in matters like this there was no question of deviating from ritual.
          From beneath their ceremonial orange robes, each Divrep Primary produced a matching precious jewel and held it above a twin-cupped receptacle, in front of their relative positions around the Alter. A low hum emitted from their collective frottle glands and at a crucial moment of their prayer, they synchronously dropped the jewels. Each receptacle acted as a balance, and all three had voted the same way. With a sound that was halfway between a click and a chiming bell, Vangel set the Celestial Proximeter free, within its Holy Gimbal, and the Wings of Truth began to fan it, once again.
          "It is decided," announced Vangel.

          Ervou's expression was one of great joy and relief.

          Following the traditional blessing of the planet, the ship slipped away, out of Earth's orbit and back into space, to continue their quest.

          Back down on Earth the usual post-match brawls were springing up outside bars in the immediate vicinity of the newly opened Megastadium. Lurid football chants echoed around the streets, as the yobs got to work on smashing shop fronts and terrorising the local inhabitants, until the police waded in, brandishing batons.
          Elsewhere, the war ground on in the Middle East, tension mounted in Asia, the Third World continued to be exploited or ignored, crime flourished, and the planet's resources were continuing to be plundered and polluted by the voracious activities of the dominant species.

          Little did they know, just how close they'd come to being the subjects of Divine Intervention.




copyright 2004 DJ Burnham.

DJ Burnham
David Burnham is a Health Service worker living in Brighton (UK). He recently retired from the exciting sideline of concert promotion, and this has freed up some spare time to get back to the fun of writing and artwork. 

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