Dante’s Inferno (Pt 1: Prologue)

Dante

An early artwork (unfinished)

Prologue: Dante

My feet glide effortlessly over the raw rock, bits of dust and detritus billowing behind me as I run.  My breaths come in steady rhythm, the nanites increasing the flow of oxygen and nitrogen from my lungs into my blood with increased efficiency as they work their invisible magic.  My two hearts flood nutrients into every cell of my being.

 I am the living embodiment of creation, personified in a five hundred thousand year old lifeform.

 I race across this broken, vulcanized world in an effortless glide, as easily as you walk to your corner market.  Your fastest ground vehicles cannot compare to the speed which I traverse the landscape.

 I am Dante, the DaVincian, and I am the last of my kind.

 Five hundred thousand years ago, when I was born, we were an ancient peoples already, rising up from the forest-tops of our ancient trees – not your broad-leafed kind, with skins the size of your palm in verdant greens and amber yellows, but real trees.  The kind with the gossamer filaments of magenta and cyan, that sway on songwaves, filaments of ghostly tenuousness that threaten to die the moment they sprout into existence, that glow in preternatural glory, shining brighter than your full moon at night.  The kind that if you looked at them long enough, you would swear your eyes were deceiving you, that they weren’t really there, but instead the forgotten remnants of a light glare, or hallucination.

 Those are trees, and the oldest this galaxy has wrought in its ten billion year history, as you reckon it.

 I flow, like a river across this barren scrap of a planet.  Like a song made manifest, a living extension of the consciousness of Creation.  I am the last remaining DaVincian in the universe.  And I am five hundred thousand years old.

 Is it such a stretch to know a being has lived this long?  To know that my mind has remained intact and cognizant through the countless ages you call years?  These eons?

 Would it frighten you to know that though I am the last of my species, that mine was the first sentience to evolve in our galaxy?  Would it frighten you to know that our technology was ripe, fluid, perfected, when you were still rubbing sticks together to create fire?  Would it frighten you to know that we colonized the known galaxy and catalogued your species before your people spit chewed-up plant material and burnt wood on the cave walls in the place you call France?  That we watched you with disinterest for two hundred thousand years?

Would it frighten you — no, humble you — that I met, personally, with your mitochondrial Eve, in the plains of Africa, before the Homo Sapien exodus from that mostly barren continent?  Should I speak her name to you, that you may cower in your ignorance? Should I tell you of her beauty and grace, of her obsidian skin that glistened with specks of gold, that you might be humbled by your own arrogance to know that she was, like so many of you, frightened her child would not survive the night?

 For that is my age, my life.  To have watched you in your infancy migrate naked across those barren savannas.  To have seen the petty tribal wars with neighboring villages, your cousins, over the eons.  To see how you took your distant cousins, the Neanderthals, as slave laborers, raping their women and children and incorporating their DNA into yours, as you have done for tens of thousands of years to those less fortunate.

 That is your greatest strength, this opportunistic superiority you hold so dear to your heart.  I hear your children, your women, your men, all saying, “To survive, I will do anything.”  You will do anything, correctly enough.

 Survival of the fittest.  You called him Darwin, but you did not understand what he said.  That is a lesson I shall soon teach to you.

 Would it scare you to know that we knew, long before your first civilization sprang up in the Alpine regions of Europe, before your great cities in Mesopotamia?  Would it scare you to know that we watched as you developed the Hammurabic Codes that would become the foundation of all laws of your civilizations for eons to come, and that it would usher in the age of democracy in your world and further enforce the ideals that the few could govern the many?

Yes, through fear you realized these codes, and subjugated your species to a thousand years of persecution and slavery, that you built your greatest empires upon.

 Well, I say to you then, that your Hammurabi was a tyrant, and all those who followed in his footsteps were no more and no less than the animals that came before him.  That you are all weak, and never learned the lessons he would teach you: the lessons the Gazelle learned from the Lion, or the Worms from the Birds.

 Law does not come from the stele, those two meter stone tablets erected in Babylon.  Law comes the heart, the mind.  It comes from life itself, and it is not be trifled with, nor trivialized.

 Do you forget your own history, how Babylon fell?

 Yet you wallow porcine in the mud of those very laws, the very thing that caused Babylon to fall.

 I am Dante, the last DaVincian.  You gave me this name, as well as that of my species, but you never understood, no more than any other lesson your evolution attempted to teach you.

 You never will learn.

 So I race across these molten plains, dust-filled and poisonous to your lungs.  I race across them, free for a time, breathing the intoxicating fumes of sulfur, the rotten putrefaction.  The smells of a dead world, that one day may hold the dream of life.

From death, life, and from life, death, your Buddhists might say.

 I am Dante.

 The cliff face looms before me.  My nanites see it long before I do.  You call them WSKRS.  Extensions of my being that feed information to me even while I sleep, so that I can adapt, adjust, and predict future probabilities.  My WSKRS are quantum constructs, existing in a state of quasi-reality, able to process information faster than neurons can transmit information to each other.  In that respect, I’m better than you are, able to efficiently react to changes in environment and conditions faster than — what do you call it?  Planck Time? — as I demonstrate as I dive across the chasm before me, arms outstretched.  Vestigial bone and muscle react instantly, instinctively, without conscious thought; they extend, and a leathery membrane studded with feather unfolds from my elbow to my ribs.  It catches these thermals, allowing me to glide effortlessly over the valley hundreds of meters deep.  I soar, like my avian ancestors of millennia ago, across the valley below, descending, descending, descending still, until with a great crash I reach the molten valley floor.

 My enhancements steel my feet against the onslaught of that molten rock, just as your bio-engineered boots of carbon nanofibers do.  But mine is flesh, emboldened by nanites, hardened in the instant they detect an environmental change.  The nanites instantly transmogrify my cells to harden against the sudden heat, nanoseconds before they even touch it.  You raise your weapons to me, and fire, but my nanites see your efforts before you can react, before you even know you’re pulling the trigger.  The space of time between thought, decision, and reaction.  My nanites have already processed the thought, devised a response during the time it takes for the chemical bonds to manifest themselves, discharge their chemical electricities, and act before your reaction.

 My arms reach down to my hips, drawing a Katana from its sheath.  A Homo Sapien weapon.  There is a story there, about that Katana, but only one member of your species knows it; only one person knows of its importance, why I wield it, and why it even exists.  It’s Genesis will be forever mysterious to you, as is my own Genesis.

When you decide to pull the trigger, it’s already too late.  Your weapon cleaves in two, and your neck with it.  One falls with a swift stroke, and as the sword swings in its graceful arc, two more fall.

 And I haven’t even finished falling myself yet.

 I hit the ground and kill three of you before I roll out of it.  A dozen more of you stand before me, weapons raised, but all the likely possibilities have been calculated, collated, and categorized before I ever lighted upon the ground.  All twelve of you are already dead, but you don’t know it yet, and won’t for another three and a half seconds.

 All this from my nanites: thought, decision, and reaction; before you can even see me hit the ground, before your so-called Planck Time.

 I cut you down, running, my breathing slower than yours.  My hearts pumping as effortlessly as if I was asleep.

 How small you are, Homo Sapiens.

 How dead.

 I slow to a stop, my feet skidding across bedrock and sand, sending up puffs of detritus into this barren world.  The ground is hot, many hundreds of your Kelvins, but it is nothing to me.  I stand naked on this outcropping, only a short belt of leather holding the scabbard about my waist and back.  I stand naked, while you struggle in your environmental suits, protected against the elements.  I breathe this toxic air, letting it infuse me with purpose.  My nanites serve me, enhance me, intoxicate me.

 If my species could laugh, I would be a comedian in this Divine Comedy.

Dante.

No, you never learned.

 You dare think you can defeat me?  You killed my species, across a thousand thousand worlds.  But it is easy to slaughter in the billions, less so when there is just one left, with the legacy of five hundred thousand years of life, knowledge, technology, and wisdom behind him.  Less so to know that thirty million years ago when we lived in huts, you were just lowly mammals about a quarter of a meter long, covered in fur, barely surviving in a ravaged world.

 I watch you, oh Homo Sapiens!  Techno Sapiens as you call yourselves now.  I kneel on this outcropping of heated stone that would melt your metal ships, and watch as a hundred of those ships descend from the meteoric skies to the valley below, never to ascend again in your zeal to destroy me, to steal my secrets.  I watch as a thousand or ten thousand of you pile out like insects, armed with weapons that could devastate an entire world.

And my nanites have already seen your actions, measured the minuscule vibrations of air molecules on this Volcanic world.  They’ve already run through 1010 permutations to predict your next moves, your positions, your plans.  They’ve analyzed the enzymes in your blood, the chemicals coursing through you.  They’ve measured, codified, and unencrypted your radio transmissions. 

 I know everything you are about to do.

 And every single one of you, all thirty-three thousand one hundred fifty-two of you will die in the next thirty-two minutes and eight seconds.

 Give or take a few seconds due to quantum error.

 I am Dante, the last DaVincian.  And this is my Inferno.

 Oh, poetic, you are as a species.  You have absolutely no idea.

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