Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Someone with a complete lack of filter like Seshathirlin was a useful barometer into sentiments that could shift abruptly – a swelling reaction carried almost instantaneously through the aether, well ahead of any news dispatches. A Thorian all the way out in the Imperial borders of Dead Space could be waiting for two weeks to find out why they’re feeling elated or why a sinking dread is has taken residence in their stomach. Kalirit would be able to tell by the movements that surrounded her that something was amiss but she would have no way of knowing what it felt like. Without a good eye into the storm she felt most vulnerable, most likely to get exposed as a netkarthi.
Her first experience with this had been at university on Kai Thori, when she was blind to the initial exhilaration and the eventual devastation at the end of the Last Gasp War. It was the first time in two thousand years that a Thorian military conflict resulted in a net loss of territory. The had succeeded in cutting deeper into the Iastret Dependency, including the space around Krevali but lost large swaths of their Vaparozh colonies, and almost surrendered Nabak to the Mraborans. When news of the Treaty of Krevali started spreading through Thorian space, the sheer force of it caught Kalirit by surprise.
She remembered waking up late at night and finding her roommate, Nirtaren, sitting at her table with the light on and her hands hanging limply at her side. When Kalirit whispered “hey”, Nirtaren turned in her direction and Kalirit found her friend ashen, eyes sunken in, each bone illuminated harshly by the desk lamp. “What’s wrong?” Kalirit couldn’t stop herself from asking and was met with a look on Nirtaren’s face that made it clear that her question was as foolish as asking someone who had just lost both her parents why they were so upset. Fortunately, in her distress, Nirtaren didn’t seem to register Kalirit’s reaction that night and didn’t mention it again. For Kalirit, it was almost a costly lesson to never let her guard down or forget that she’s moving blind through a world of seers.
The gloom that hung over Kai Thori that winter was palpable even for a netkarthi, but while her classmates drowned in a mire of defeat by wars fought and lost light years away, she rose to the top of her class. These days she scoffed at the foolish years spent lamenting this missing link to the rest of the Thorian species, when she had believed that being a netkarthi would stand as an impenetrable boulder between her and her success. It took her a long time to learn that anything can be forged into a weapon. Where in other Thorians the sense of duty to their people lived inexorably in their gut, Kalirit was free to make every decision with her head. And sometimes what was best for the Company was not what was best for Thorians as a whole.
Some, like Vice Commissary Seshathirlin, understood this in principle, though their nature would never permit them to act on it. And those like Eitherorik were a particularly irksome lot, growing in discontent as the species-wide mood slowly soured throughout the course of their lives. They were especially sensitive to the preservation of Thorian-wide happiness, which is why the more time Eitherorik spent on Vesh Takar coordinating the next fist-shaking endevour, the more freedom Kalirit had to govern the Company as she saw fit.
With that thought, Kalirit pulled up the pirate activity report that Eitherorik had sent. For someone who had entered every room with the bluster of a seasonal gale, he seemed to be having difficulty replicating the same effect for the pirates that had plagued the outer rim of the Empire. Perhaps a subtle reminder about this was overdue, though in Eitherorik’s defence, ever since the pirate clans amalgamated several years earlier, their attacks have become exceedingly coordinated, relentless, and focused almost exclusively on Anthar Kai assets. Hatvan luxury liners cruised unmolested and Vaparozh trade had flourished, while the Anthar Kai diverted valuable resources to fighting off this new pestilence with little apparent success.
Perhaps something marginally less infuriating required her attention, so instead she pulled up the dispatch from Governor Fainreshlin.
Fainreshlin chose to send his communication as a branching dialogue tree, which he preferred because of his firm belief that he could think five steps ahead of anyone and predict every twist and turn a conversation could take. This method was only slightly less crude than simply sending a long-winded monologue, and far-removed from using a well-trained proxy, something that took countless hours to hone and for which Fainreshlin lacked both the discipline and foresight.
Thorian collective empathy moved through the aether instantaneously, but conventional communication was afforded no such luxury. While information travelled faster than any available transportation, depending on the distance and the position of relay satellites a message could take up to a month to cross from one end of the Known Reaches to the other. Sending single one-way messages often ground communication to a halt, and while some Thorians liked to blame their perceived decline of the Empire on the increased respect afforded to non-Thorian sentients, Kalirit was convinced that if there were any fingers to be pointed at anything, it would be squarely at the decrease of the use of AI proxies. Either people now had too many secrets they couldn’t risk their electronic counterparts blabbing, or nobody had the time anymore to craft a near-perfect replica of themselves that they could send to any corner of the Known Reaches to have a fulsome conversation in their place.
Kalirit believed a lot could be discerned about a person based on what method they used to find efficiency within this technological limitation. Every day Kalirit set aside dedicated time to her messenger, and as a result, whenever she had the need to review older recordings she would sometimes have a difficult time discerning her personal conversation from her alternate’s.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.