On the third day, I go back. The pregnant priest meets me inside the door and motions for me to follow. We go down several flights of twisting stairs. The building is larger than it appears. We pass through a succession of doors, not all of them obvious. Going down through several basements, we meet several people who call her sister. Finally, we come to a very deep, narrow room below everything else. Its left wall is glass. On the other side of the pane are two smaller rooms, stacked one atop the other. Storage creches – remnants from the Black Orchid ships that had settled each and every one of the Profusionist worlds in the first place. They are ubiquitous and nearly indestructable.
The top one obviously holds the “wine” that shares the memories of the community. But the one below it holds what looks like a storm of whitened sand.
“You are an officer,” the young priestess says. “Faith Gata, yes?”
I nod. “Chief of internal security – and much electronic paperwork.”
She smiles, a crinkle in her eyes. “And you are unsettled,” she declares. “We all are troubled. We have so little, no weaponry and very little money and still less talent. The bureaucracy of the Profusion gathers all these things, yes?
“All we have is patience and time and this,” she says, pointing to the top creche, “the Blood of History, named for our dear founder. But we have had them for four hundred years. Her memories and ours, generation upon generation. Everyone adds something. And things add up.”
She smiles. “You know, they always said religion was really about some collective unconscious. Now I would say that we’re finally aware of it. So we have made this.”
She points to the lower creche. “We call them the White Swarm. And something’s going to happen when they will be required. It will, because it always does. Someone, a small group of people will think they might have everything, and that this will be for the good of everyone. And they will set about getting it, to the ruin of all that is human in the universe.”
She looks at me a moment, considering. “Perhaps this is already happening. You are not the only officer among us. But the White Swarm is for precisely such a time. Its machines eat machines. They absorb, override, or rewrite much past and present programming, and dissolve sophisticated metals. We would like access to the military tech, of course – and to gain the means to disperse them. Then they will be able to consume all. So these would do no good on one world alone.
“We do not want to use them. We do not want to cause the death of anyone. We are not terrorists. But neither are we only martyrs, willing to die silently whenever the Profusion decides it wants more control. Think of us also as soldiers, a third side on behalf of all.”
She waves the creche walls to what must have been their default opacity.
“Well, Guardian Faith Gata,” she concludes, “it seems that now you truly have a choice.”