Canaith Lydian was tired. His mind had been busy on many levels, sending mental commands to his ship’s systems and receiving hard-wired signals back for hours upon hours. Looking up to verify that his ship was successfully moored after docking, he finally willed his pod to leave it. After a time, he perceived some degree of rest as his mind had less with which to concern itself.
He did not leave the pod. He had not done so in an exceptionally long time. At some point, he had not perceived a need to be elsewhere, to walk, to move about. He was the pod. Without it, he stopped being himself. Without the pod and its interfaces, he was left to do nothing but pretend that he believed the Lie. But he did not believe the Lie. He realized the Secret Truth and had long since decided to walk in it. This kind of walking did not require his legs.
He did not speak of The Lie to others very often, and only then to those he knew had come to see the falsehood for what it was. He had spoken of it to Meara, his dearest friend, and… to who else? Anybody? There was another who shared this cosmic secret with him, was there not? He had to be too tired to remember, surely, because he and Meara could not be the only ones who had shared their realization of the truth, the Great Lie… the irony of ironies that was hidden in plain sight. Tired of trying to remember, Canaith let the subject go.
He sensed a notification from his communications channel with Meara, and he gave the mental command to receive her message with something close to joy.
“I am logging off, Dear Friend,” came the missive. “Please contact me at once should you have the slightest need of my assistance.”
He perceived her sincerity both by her formality – something they rarely used in their daily comms – and by the pleasant emotional wrapping she had sent with the message.
‘She must have sensed my fatigue’, he thought to himself, and followed this thought with one on Meara’s channel. “Be at peace during your time of rest, Meara. I am logging off for several hours myself.” He did his best to match her emotional wrapping as he willed his thoughts to her, and then hastily – and with formality – added, “Your assistance to me, as it has been on every other day, is evidence of your dedication to your purpose. I am once again grateful for your service to me.”
“And as has been true on every other day,” came her unhurried reply, “I am grateful for that purpose.”
They simultaneously shared the slightest parting thought, which was barely more than an emotional wrapper of thankfulness.
As he continued to walk through his mental checklist of closing the various communications channels and virtual displays, he reflected on the events of the past several hours. He asked himself the questions he asked himself at the end of every day: “Were you a benevolent spirit, Canaith? Were you an agent of Purpose?”
He considered the ships of other Capsuleers that he had destroyed today. There were 13 of them. Then he considered his own ship losses, of which there was one. So many mortal lives were ended today, consequences of physical actions manifested from his whim. But the people who died had done so in fulfillment of their own purpose, just as he had been fulfilling his. Canaith Lydian would remain steadfast. He would aim straight. Doubt and regret were motivations of the living and not the dead.
Then, with that thought, the memory he had failed to recall earlier came into his mind. He had discussed the Secret Truth with his friend, Moonbeam. Unlike Meara, Moonbeam had not received the premise well, at least at first.
“What did you say?” she had asked. “You believe what?”
“I believe that all Capsuleers are already dead. We do not fully live again in future clones, as we have been told. That was an important but convenient lie.”
Canaith had read the wrapper of emotion from Moonbeam’s comm channel. It was a bit of confusion mingled with skepticism and scorn. This was, of course, the reaction he had expected. There was great power in the Lie that Capsuleers would live forever.
“Are you playing with me, Canaith?” she asked. He knew that she was hoping he would say “yes” so that this conversation could be over. Moonbeam made a lot of ISK from trading with him, and so she wanted to be assured that he had not lost his mind, risking future profits.
“No, I am not,” he answered, avoiding the easy out, “But we can refrain from discussing it if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“How do you mean ‘all Capsuleers are already dead?’” she retorted, but without video he had to imagine her sigh. “We are interacting right now. We have continued to live since… um, since…”
“…since our ‘first death’”, he offered, finishing her sentence.
“Yes,” she said. “Exactly that. And here we are, living on, speaking with each other.”
“Yes, there are two of us here communicating with one another. We consist of the same kinds of parts and pieces of which we consisted before our ‘transition.’ Yet the evidence is clear to me that our ‘first death’ was more significant than we expected.”
“Oh, Canaith,” she messaged wrapped in amusement, “Are you among those who worry about our lost souls? That idea was put to rest ages ago.”
“I speak more of philosophy than religion.” he answered, wrapping his message with conviction. “Something crucial to our human essence was destroyed with our first death. Something fundamental yet difficult to weigh. We did not transition to posthumanism, as if we represent a step in human evolution. We regressed. We lost something, an essence that is connected somehow to mortality.”
He sensed from her a change in her emotional wrapping. It was the same as before but tinted with concern. He did not know if she was concerned about the meaning of his words or his mental health.
“Think of it this way,” he went on, “What kind of living person could live as I have, slaughtering thousands or even millions of heretics without pause? Just as many pirates, too, yet I have not lost a moment’s rest over any of them. Add to that the crews lost on both sides in my battles with Capsuleers.”
“But they are heretics and criminals! You are serving the Empire, my friend, and so losses are inevitable.” she exclaimed.
“Yes,” I answered, “But all those humans lived once and now live no longer because of me, and yet over all those deaths I suffer no regret, no fear of blame, not even one sliver of doubt.”
“That is because you live for the Empire’s truth, Dear Canaith. Your dedication is obvious. You follow orders.”
“You are not wrong that I love the Empire and its truth, but you are wrong to think that it is that love that has silenced my conscience.”
“Then what, Friend, has done this to you?” she sent, wrapping her message in gentle amusement, still hoping he was playing a joke on her.
“Death has done this to me. It has separated my reality from theirs. They are too distant from my perception to invoke any doubt.”
“But you are right here!” she said, as if tapping her finger to a table, this time wrapping the message with frustration.
“Yes, I am present with them. I share time and space with them. We co-exist in the physical universe together and are formed of similar matter. Yet, we are at the same time imperceptible to each other.”
“Oh, Canaith,” messaged Moonbeam, wrapped in some sympathy, “Surely it is not as you say. Does your crew not follow your orders? Are you not concerned about them? Do they not perceive their captain?”
“They serve the ship, and the ship follows my orders. My interface is not with them, however, but with the ship. To them, I am nothing more than a ghost, a Presence they cannot understand anymore. They must believe that the ship is responding to my will, but it is a faith in something they cannot understand. They are certainly more comfortable when I do not address them directly, just as I am when their affairs are not brought to me. They have become abstractions to me, just as I have to them. We both prefer it that way.
I do not wish them harm and have a certain kind of concern for them, but are they happy? Do they enjoy their work? What do they do in their spare time? These questions never enter my mind because our worlds are separated by something more meaningful than distance. ”
“Separated by the fear of death?” messaged Moonbeam, wrapped in something close to affirmation.
“Yes, something like that. Separated from them by a concern so central to being human that I, no longer having that concern…”
“Can no longer be considered human?” she interrupted, wrapped in an emotion approaching agreement.
“Can no longer can be considered ‘alive’,” he clarified. “Having lost the fear of death, Capsuleers have travelled to a different dimension. It is not one of time and space, but philosophy, or spirituality. In this dimension, we share little in common with the living. We can play at it, pretending that we live, but the truth will win us all over in the end.”
At this point, Moonbeam had gone silent for a time. Eventually, the pause approached awkwardness.
“So, Moonbeam, do you think I am crazy?” he asked, wrapping his question with a taste of humor mixed with humility.
“No, Canaith,” she answered. “What you are saying is resonating with me. You have put words to something I have been feeling since… um, ever since…”
“We died,” he said.
“Yes, ever since we died,” she messaged, wrapped sorrowfully. There was another awkward pause.
“So,” she finally continued, “if we are dead as you say, but still here… what are we?”
“I choose to believe that we have options,” he said, eager to encourage his friend. “Our interaction with the living world can be mindless – and many Capsuleers have chosen that path - or we can have purpose. We can haunt the universe, or we can assist it. We cannot perceive it as the living do, not anymore; but we can devote ourselves to our Purpose. And in that, we can at least be benevolent spirits to those who yet live. We must serve the living, otherwise we are utterly lost.”
Moonbeam sent a wrapper of gratitude. “So, we can be ‘benevolent spirits.’ I can ‘live’ with that, I think. I will have to process this.”
They both messaged a polite parting word and signed off.
Canaith tagged this memory so it would be easier to find next time. He, Meara, and Moonbeam had remained friends devoted to their purpose ever since. He and his friends would not haunt New Eden. They would stay dedicated to their common purpose. They would be benevolent spirits.
With that thought, Canaith entered resting mode with a timer set for a full 8 hours.
“Apparently, even ghosts need rest,” he thought, embracing the quiet calm.