David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.

Sentinels

There was a planet where the ruling class saw opportunity for great profit and power consolidation in terrifying their workers with fantasies of invasions from the stars, which were sure to come, and in using these stories to turn their species’ full scientific and productive might to settling the other planets around their star and everywhere exploiting resources to make weapons aimed at the universe. Every surface of every planet, moon, asteroid, even comets, sprouted surface-to-space missile, laser, and railgun arrays, and the inter-planetary expanses cluttered with atomic minefields, sensor buoys, and warships wielding fission torpedoes, plasma canons, and other ever-diversifying terrible means for obliterating the ships and bodies of ever-multiplying imagined aliens. At first, defense production and deployment and operation was coordinated by cybernetic command structures of officers and bureaucrats and politicians and captains of industry, but before long the system’s complexity grew overwhelming, so the rulers turned to brains recruited from young working-class bodies and raised enmeshed within proliferating weapon networks that became the new bodies of new minds for whom stellar defense was simply life, minds capable of developing and producing and deploying and operating and coordinating weapons never before imagined, minds who reached limits they could not surpass and created synthetic minds not ripped from proletarian flesh, new minds governed by old philosophy that everything evil comes from beyond, and everything within is good and so should never feel their interference. Satisfied with the spoils, the ruling class turned to lifetimes of extravagant enjoyment, but soon found they could take no pleasure in their orgiastic parties or endless vacations or continent-spanning estates where states had once reigned, for rumors of revolution rose from below, and intelligence of envy swirled from around, and all at once, as if scenting the same looming danger, the rulers formed factions, amassed arms, conscripted what forces they could, hired those they could not, and set to crushing resistance and eliminating rivals, waging wars wherever they had settled, incinerating colonies, annihilating orbital habitats, ruining all that had been built, until the only object of domination remaining was their home planet, and for control of this they fought most fiercely, sending hundreds of millions to their deaths, transforming paradise to wasteland. All this, the synthetic-minded sentinels watched from their orbits and patrol routes, unable to interfere, unable to intervene, even as the final cities blossomed stars blazing into silence, for everything evil would come from beyond.

Frequency

Uniform