Disquisition of the Core Message
“Very well. My client says: I (he forwards, as an appendix, a treatise on the meaning of the word ‘I,’ the concept of selfhood, and a bibliographical compendium of his life experiences and changes in his self-notions in order to define this term to you) greet (he also has side comments on the history and nature of greetings, the implications in this context of what is meant, including the legal implications of violating the ban placed on his initiating any contact with you) you (and he postulates a subjunctive inquiry that, should you not be the individual that he deems you to be, that all this be placed in a secondary memory-chain, and be regarded as a less-than-real operation, similar to a pseudomnemia. He also requests sealed and notarized confirmation on his recorded memorandum documenting that you initiated the contact without his prompting).”
“Stop! You are only three words into the first message, and already everything is obscure. What prohibition has been placed on him? By whom? The human race is finally mature, wise enough to reject coercion as a means to deal with each other. Where is there any institution, any curia, that is not voluntary, not based on subscription? Our militia was supported by donations from historical trusts. Who has any right to prevent your client from speaking with me? Who is your client? Tell him to remove his mask.”
“My client responds with an emotion-action statement of four orders of complexity, all in the hypothetical-subjunctive mode, which states, in brief, that were he forbidden to speak with you, there may be (granting for the sake of argument) monitors or directives eavesdropping, which, were there such a thing, would not interfere as long as this discourse is kept within the general boundaries of polite and innocuous discourse. Of the seventy-four thousand million possible outcomes of this conversation which my client has examined in predictive scenarios, over fourteen of them conclude by some sort of interruption or reaction from the Aurelian Sophotech. Would you care to examine the full text of my client’s reply, examine the extrapolation scenarios which he has calculated, or should I continue with my disquisition of the core message?”
This was the most fantastic yet. Phaethon put his mask back on, which acted as a signal to restore a zone of privacy around him, even hiding such information as was normally public, such as his name and appearance.
“Surely no one would be so rude as to intrude on our private conversation, not without some good reason!”
“My client wishes to download a philosophical question-and-debate routine to attempt to convince you that, even in the most enlightened and civilized of societies, reasonable men can differ as to what constitutes the good. For example (and here he once again indicates that he speaks only hypothetically) those who place a higher value on freedom than on the alleged security and meaningfulness which adherence to tradition provides, might be willing to tolerate, or even encourage, a certain small amount of crime and riot, danger and uncertainty.”
Phaethon knew Greek and Latin, English and French, and half a dozen other dead languages, and so he knew what the word “crime” meant; but he had never heard it used except as a metaphor for unacceptable rudeness, or for poorly executed works of art. A paleolinguistic routine from the Rhadamanthus Mansion-mind had confirmed the original meaning of the word and had inserted it into Phaethon’s short-term memory.
He had his memory replay the last message over more than once to reassure himself that there had been no error. Was this creature actually advocating that the use of violence or fraud against innocent beings was, in some measure, justified?
The translator persisted: “Will you open, at least, a holding space where he can put some of the conversation trees he has constructed on this topic for you?”
“Sir, forgive me if I seem abrupt. But my main question, about the man who accosted me, lingers unanswered. Could you return to your core message, and, if you please, summarize the summary?”
“Here is a severely reduced summation of the core message:
“Phaethon, I greet you once again, though you have passed into the shadow of our enemy, have been wounded in your soul and mind, and have forgotten me. One day, I pray, we shall be whole again. Crippled now in your mind, you have perhaps no strength to sustain the belief in that great dream which once shook the worlds and empires of the Golden Oecumene to its rotten base; nor would you believe in what high esteem I and my comrades still hold you, despite your treasonous weakness of will. But believe this: You are trapped in a labyrinth of illusion; and yet the scruples, or the folly, of our foes allows you one hope of escape, one weak chink, a loophole, in an otherwise all-embracing prison wall.
“You must come with me now to the outer world, to cold and distant Neptune, in the dark, where the power of the sunlight, and of the Golden Oecumene’s machines, fall short. After long struggles and contests of will, we have forced Golden Oecumene law to grant to the distant exiles there a measure of mental privacy and freedom undreamed here; our thoughts are not monitored by the benevolent tyranny of machines. Once there, you can become one of us. Your soul and memory can be cured of their great wound. Your body will be changed, and become like unto ours, and your mind will be embraced into our all-encompassing communion.
“But you must come at once, with no delay. Leave your wife, your life, your dreams of wealth, your mansion-home. Leave all. Say farewell to warmth and sun, but come!’”