Gods of Men

By Garrett Berg

Chapter 1

Men have always wanted something beyond their being. What they have never realized is that what they were looking for could only be found within themselves—Richard Nidel, 22nd century philosopher

The ancient drill bit into the iron ore.

The friction grating against the drill bit turned the stone into molten metal as it was brought through the ore. The machine whined as the drill plunged deeper and deeper into the material. Sparks flew from the molten rock, draining down the wall, jumping to the operator's heat resistant clothing and resting there—to release their final light. Sweat dripped down the operator's brow, and along his chiseled arms. The light from the molten metal sparked through the mineshaft, revealing his form straining against the piece of heavy machinery. No other light existed.

He allowed his mind to go numb, to release himself of thought or responsibility and to become a part of the drill, an inanimate object, with no thought whatsoever. The recurring movement of the motor resolved all conflicts, it erased all thought, it destroyed all obstacles. The acids coursing through his muscles took him beyond reality; beyond imagination. It was the drunken escape of a convict from his reality; the labor was the result of a desire to be somewhere else. There was only the droning sound of grinding metal on iron ore. There were only the rhythmic vibrations of the drill. He imagined that he was the machine; that the antique piece from men so long ago had become a part of him, and that he was the metal shaft that could pry iron from the cold, hard walls of an asteroid.

But the pain would not release him. His muscles would not discharge his mind; they would not allow him to imagine something other than what could be real; what should be real. His body fused with the machine, and his mind became adamant. He could not think, and yet think he did. His head throbbed with the pain of exhaustion, with the frustration of a lost cause. That cause was the hope to lower himself to only primary instinct; and he lost it because he seemed incapable of such a task.

Are you too good to become numb? The drill continued to bite into the rock; to pry the iron from the walls of ice-cold stone. The thought of the rock triggered something within him; the pain of his muscles seemed absolved, they seemed to disappear and no longer exist, to become a machine to which his mind operated. He removed the drill, placing it methodically on the ground beside him. Letting the wall cool slightly, he placed his hand onto its surface. He could feel the vibrations of a hundred other drills, their music only heard to his hand pressed calmly against the wall. He bent over and lifted a small flake of iron ore. Somehow that ore was special. He did not know why, but there was something about it… something noble.

He tossed it into the cart. He was loosing his mind. He had been working too long.

Far too long.

He activated his headlamp and looked at a pocket watch. Just past eight. He had been working ten hours. He reached in and took the iron chip back out of the cart and put it into his pocket.

The worker set explosives into the wall and armed them. Sweat ran down his back, his legs, his face. He pressed a button and the wall erupted. The explosion from the blast sent small pebbles of rock to hail upon his helmet. It was hard and emotionless, without contempt, without hatred, without love or desire. His face was like the rock that hailed upon him; except no drill or dynamite could change it. He strode to the new pile ruble and began to shovel it into a large cart. His slow movements did not betray the intense pain of each stroke his shovel took. He dug the pile slowly, efficiently, unceasingly. It went like the tick of a clock, like a lever turning a wheel. His movements were distinct, measured; like that of a machine rather than like that of a man. The deep dark circles surrounding his eyes became more pronounced as the hours of labor passed, the only sign of his extreme exhaustion. His long, brown arms lifted what would soon be hundreds of pounds of steel. Covering his body was a gray cloth suit, stained in the sweat of his labor.

The worker leaned against the wall in his room, attempting to gain the pleasure of accomplishment. He closed his eyes and let his muscles relax, allowing the weariness to flow out, leaving him in a state of comparative ecstasy. But it was not enough. He looked over at the drugs provided to him by his company. They would send him into a world completely different from the one he was in; absolve him of his thought. He decided against it.

The ceiling above him resembled a box. A large, square, unintelligent metal box made for the sole purpose of keeping someone inside of it. The rusty metal and dim light shadowed his angular face against the wall. He viewed himself naked in the dusty mirror; the lamp sent shadows across his figure, detailing the curves of his toes, his legs, his chest, his face.

His charcoaled hair was like a void; absorbing all the light which struck it. Its straight dark appearance jetting out into empty space. Bangs covered one of his eyes from sight; his other stared directly at itself. The light danced on it, above it, behind it. It spiraled and swirled in a cyclonic torrent of an anger that would not be released. It looked back upon him with a reflection of power, of an idea that lay only a centimeter under.

His feet were set slightly apart, as if bolted to the ground. There was a slight rocking of the light due to vibrations in the ship's generator and the light shifted over his body like sands on a dune; his smooth, tanned skin seeming to shift through phases of existence; as if he could not truly exist. His body seemed to be an extension of the steel flooring below him; his eyes pierced through the mirror in their inferno of rage that seemed unable to be contained.

He wanted to smash something; the glass, the bed, anything. He wanted something more. He knew that something was wrong. A dark hand had laid siege on his soul and was not letting go.

He was sick of this life. He just wanted it to end.

This is the fate prescribed to those men of mystery. People can never classify them; they may be insane, or they may be geniuses—society can never tell. Their minds are the minds which think outside of the cold steel box others put them in, and they are the ones who do things which go beyond the norm—seeming to purposely violate and spit in the face of what is held as sacred. As such, they are seen as threats, and rightfully so. Their presence is contagious, spreading to those around them, destroying all social norms and tearing apart all veils. Men and women alike are drawn to their presence, seeming to become addicted to their thought. Their words are like a drug, except more powerful and addictive than any currently in production. Men like these are frightening in their passion, and destructive in their hate. They are consumed by something which seems to be impossible for the normal person, and this makes them unique. But their most distinguished trait is not their passion, nor their voice, or even their intelligence—although they normally posses them all. What makes them so dangerous, so incredibly impossible to stop, is their confidence—and it is this and only this which enables them to be what they are. That confidence drives them to any ends, without any care for the rebuttals of others, without any pause for the misery of those who would go against them.

This was the nature of the man now standing naked, his wet skin reflecting the light from the lamp above his head. Although he was not thinking such words directly, this was what he was contemplating.

He quickly put on a pair of clean clothes, leaving his room. The hallway of the rotating station was dark, as it always was during the night, only a few solitary lights hung at intervals every ten or so meters. He moved quickly, but there was a noticeable tiredness to his steps.

There was a lighted door ahead of him, and he went to it and opened it, entering the job transfer department of the station. Light flooded the hallway and the man walked into the room. An old gentleman looked up at him with a shadow of boredom covered by a thick layer professional courtesy. The man had been the night shift worker of the job transfer department for the better part of his life, and he did not let simple tiredness affect the way he treated customers. He held his job and his position with the highest esteem and respect. He was the perfect worker, feeling obliged to hold his end of the contract with the best of his ability, never complaining about his job, bending forward and working diligently at what was given to him. He did not pause for tiredness sake, and he looked at each new thing with a critical eye. His only downfall may be that he was wary of any change.

"What can I do for you today sir?" he said in an even, respectful tone.

"I am hoping to get a job transfer."

The older man nodded and reached under his desk to grab a sheet of paper. He found what he was looking for and put it on his desk, along with a pen. "Alright, just a few questions here," he took out his glasses and glanced at the paper. "Name?"

"Gano Kendrick."

The man scribbled on his paper, "And which position is it you would like to apply for?"

"I would like to be a mechanic and work on designing and repairing of space craft."

The man began scribbling some things on his paper, "A good field, that of mechanics," he said, "excellent pay, and there is a high demand now for them, especially in the government. I know we could sure use a few more good mechanics here." He nodded, as if assuring himself of his own words, continuing to scribble things on his paper. "And why is it you would like to go into this field?"

"I have always wanted to be a mechanic."

The man looked up at Gano and studied him, as if ascertaining if he was telling the truth. Making a quick judgment, he went back down and scribbled more onto his paper. "And what was it which dissatisfied you with this line of work? Did you receive enough pay?"

"No, the pay was fine. I would just like to be a mechanic."

The older gentleman continued writing on his paper, his hand increasing in speed. He licked his lower lip.

"Do you have any references?"

"No"

The older gentleman looked up, "It will be difficult to get into the field without having any references. Surely there must be someone you know in the field?"

"No, I do not."

The man looked back at his paper, slightly more confused. He turned to his computer and typed a few things into the keyboard. "Well, your scores on all our tests seem to be higher than adequate, and you have been working with machines for the better part of three year… it looks as if you already have the training to be a basic mechanic in shuttle craft as well… I would say you have a good chance of getting into the program, even without any references. However, I will put in my immediate opinion of you as a reference—this will increase your chances immensely. You know how businesses are structured these days; any reference is far better than no reference, even if the reference is from a scoundrel. And I am no scoundrel," he said in jest, laughing silently. "Anyway, this should help you get the position."

The man paused, expecting Gano to say something in thanks. Gano looked down at him. "Will that be all?"

The man kept his professional attitude, "Yes, that should be all. Expect a response within the week."

Gano slowly nodded. "Thank you for your time."

The older gentleman inwardly relaxed as the words were said. Gano left the room in his same tired but quick walk as he had entered, silently closing the door behind him.

Darkness.

The empty void of space was forever, expanding into the abyss of the nothingness that existed outside the window of the shuttle craft. Its form rolled away from his vision for eternity, dotted with the occasional piece of matter, the separate and lonely stars—stranded within the deep sea of nothing which was space.

This is where he lived, this void of nothing. This is where life existed, this absence of anything. It seemed impossible that they had managed to survive so long on a speck of rock within such a vast expanse of emptiness. They thought they had mastered it, with their machines and their ships. Humans thought they could conquer the universe, with their intelligence. They thought they were more anything the emptiness of space could offer them. They knew that no matter how small and insignificant they seemed, there was always something special about them, something which made them greater than everything else. Perhaps they were right, perhaps they were wrong. What is for sure is that space is not where we were born. Its very enormity threatens to crush us in its emptiness.

The legroom, however, was horrible. Gano was a large man, and his knees pressed hard into the chair in front of him. He tried to stretch his legs a little; they felt like they were loosing blood.

"Would you like some gratil?" the flight attendant asked him. Gano turned to her, she held the pill level in front of his face, staring into his eyes with that blank and ignorant happiness which looked almost drugged itself.

Gano shook his head. The attendant momentarily seemed surprised, but turned to ask the person sitting next to him. The person greedily reached out his hand and snatched the pill, shoving it in his mouth and closing his eyes. A slight tremor went down his spine as the pill digested in his stomach. When he opened his eyes, his pupils had become large, and a smile was spread across his face. He looked like he had just won a million solvos.

The woman smiled her shallow smile at his happiness and went onto the next person, ignoring Gano. People accepted the drug in the same manner that the man next to Gano had, the same tremor of pleasure traveling down their spine. There is nothing greater than pursuing the joy of one's own ignorance: to have the shadow of reality thrown over our faces and to have the calming effect of a drug to hide its painful effects.

Gano sat back in his chair, trying to get to sleep. He had not slept in several days, and now he was horribly tired. He almost wished he had accepted the drug, just so that he would be released from his horribly uncomfortable position. After working so hard for the past two years as a miner, it was incredibly unusual for him to be sitting for so long; especially in such a cramped space.

Gano reached up to the compartment above his head and grabbed his traveling bag, pulling out his music player, allowing his mind to drift.

If there is one thing which the great men of society and the lowliest piece of dirt have in common—if there is one single trait, one strain of enjoyment which is practically the definition of a thinking individual—it is their desire to listen to music. Whether that person be a mindless wretch or the most powerful genius of their age, the human love for music seems to pass all lines of social difference, of intellectual gap, of political philosophy or religious observance. Music to us seems to be as instinctual as eating, and yet, nothing could be farther from instinct as the desire to listen to music. Music bridges that gap between what is thought and what is realized, between what one knows and what one understands. Music is the thing which calms, which clarifies, and which solidifies one's beliefs. The tyrants use music to calm and deceive the masses, religions use music to bring a touch of the divine to their congregations, militaries use music to rile up their troops. Music provides a rhythm by which our thoughts can tick to. Our blood flows through our veins according to the beat of our heart—but our thoughts flow through our minds by the drum of a melody.

Gano turned on his headphones and let them drift him away in their song. His body relaxed as he listened to that tune. Suddenly the area didn't seem so cramped, suddenly he didn't seem so insignificant against the vast expanse of space. He let the music flow through his mind, the notes flowing through his conscious like a stream of thought. He relaxed into the cushion of his chair and closed his eyes, allowing himself to fall asleep in the cool waters of melodious ecstasy.

The change in pressure woke him. There was a hiss of entering oxygen as the doors of the shuttle opened further, revealing the lighted interior or the shuttle hangar. Gano turned off his music player and put it into his bag, standing with the other passengers. Their gratil had worn off, and they were now experiencing the only side effect of the drug: a slight drowsiness. Some of them wiped their sleepy eyes as they reached to retrieve their own belongings.

"Welcome to Station Mella of the Titan quadrant," said a tall woman in the doorway, "In front of the ship is where you will be receiving your room; please proceed there immediately and give them your information. If you like, tours of the station will be given later in the day…"

Gano zoned the rest of her words out, uninterested. He stepped out of the ship and examined the hangar, paying close attention to its size. What kind of ships did they bring in here? What kind of cargo did they have? He felt it necessary to analyze each detail. To understand his surrounding and allow it to become part of his memory.

"Identification?" said the bored tone of the desk worker. Gano handed him his government ID. The man scanned it through the computer and quickly looked at Gano. He continued, "Alright, here is your password to the computer network. Your room is written on the bottom right of the paper and your work schedule is printed on the bottom left. Do not loose this paper. Have a nice day."

Humans are never satisfied with their condition, and so they always seek to better it. Although they know that they will not be satisfied at the next step, they continue on anyway, trying to find more and more of that substance which is called happiness. The devout minds find solace and comfort in repetition—in the daily occurrences which occur around them, with only a comfortable level of growth. The weak minds find their thrill in the form of what is called synthetic pleasure, always looking for the next big thrill, always willing to try new things. They neither deny change nor accept it, they do not seem to care. They just go from one second to the next, selfishly flinging themselves at what can find them joy—seeming to have no concern for either their future or others. Finally, men such as Gano find their greatest joy in change. They look at the world with a critical eye and always see a problem, always think about something which can be fixed. As such, they welcome change with open arms, but are at the same time critical of the new situations they enter. Men can never achieve perfection, but men such as Gano will always try.

He entered his room and examined it. The wall was painted a light red colour and a large light sat in the middle of the ceiling, casting a warm, friendly glow on the room. A small, comfortable looking bed sat in one corner. In the next room, a large oak desk, with curved, flowing wood was situated; along with a comfortable looking sofa. On the desk was a state of the art computer.

Gano put down his carry on bag and went to the computer, placing his hand on the black pad. He felt a warm feeling travel up his hand as the system fused with his nervous system.

The computer echoed its voice inside of his head, speaking to him, luring him to what he needed to know about the station. Gano let his mind fuse with the knowledge, he let the information flow through his brain like water. It was so beautiful, the inside of the computer. It had been several years since the last time he had used a direct connection interface, and he sorely missed it.

The Director has scheduled an appointment with you in fifteen minutes. The voice of the computer was inside his head. Is that satisfactory?

Gano was surprised. The Director wished to see him personally? Yes, that would be fine.

Very well. Uploading station map and directions now. Gano allowed the information to flow into his brain. Images and words played across his consciousness; flying in front of his vision faster than he could have ever seen with his eyes.

It will take you approximately ten minutes to arrive at your destination. It would be prudent to begin shortly.

This technology was old, very old. It had first come into circulation around 2030, and had not been developed much beyond that. Six hundred years later, and computers had not changed a bit. The reason for this was because around 2030, computers had become so fast and powerful that the population had become worried artificial intelligence would develop. This paranoia spread to the government, which put a halt to all research and development in computing. "They are fast enough," they said, "Any more, and if they became sentient, we would have trouble competing against them. This is an issue of national security."

This had been the beginning of the end of technological progress. Countries formed coalitions, and all united under the banner of the Ragrier. Progress was forcefully put to a stop, for fear that the inventions of man would turn on mankind. These countries saw any nation which did not comply with these global treatise as a threat. World War Three, the last war for the past six hundred years, erupted in bloody carnage. Millions died, but once it was over, only one nations stood in dominion of all the earth. The Ragrier.

Gano removed his hand from the black screen and quickly walked out of the door.

The hallways of the station were well light, and the walls were clean. The environment was completely different than the one he had just been in, only thirty hours before.

Gano quickly moved through the corridor. He felt uncomfortable: out of place. The men around him seemed like drones, all too eager to please their bosses. All too eager to outdo their co-workers so that they could get higher and higher up the ladder. This was the state of businesses. Nobody seemed to desire to work with for its own sake, for simply the joy of designing and understanding. They were all there for some other end; for money or for drugs—just like every other person.

Gano shook his head. Ignore it. He walked into the Director's office.

The Director was a thin and gangly man. He had short brown hair, kept well trimmed but not expertly styled as it seemed to come out in somewhat of a disarray from his face. He was young for a Director, but his eyes and face appeared rather old. Weariness, it seemed, had gotten to him early in life. The eyes were set back in his skull, as if repressed; and his face was slightly wrinkled for his age.

"Close the door please," said the Director, without looking up from what he was writing. Gano closed the door. "Please have a seat." Still, the Director kept looking at his notebook, scribbling something in pen.

He glanced up. "Ah yes, Gano Kendrick. Good to have you here." He reached a hand across the desk. Gano firmly took the hand in his own and shook it. He did not smile.

Geovanni smiled when he shook Gano's hand. "Were you surprised that you were allowed to come back into the mechanics field so early?"

Gano starred at the Director, offering no response. He knew exactly what he was talking about. Men such as Gano have difficulties with authority. It is not that they want to go against it, but rather that they do not care. They understand their own judgments, and they tend to ignore what others would tell them.

"You disobeyed a direct order to one of your superiors. I have read the file, and I have read the disciplinary papers. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Gano remained, showing nothing on his face. He was like a statue. "If you would like me to apologize for what have done, then you should have never brought me here. I did what I did because I was right," Gano paused, realizing he might be throwing out his chance. Making his decision, he looked straight at the Director, "and he was wrong. I will now tell you the same thing which I told him. The additions to the engine which I designed would have made it better than ever before."

Well this was it then. The entire job offer had been a hoax. This had been the reason he had left; the idiotic and inescapable hand of authority which seemed to hover like a demon over his every actions. When he was a miner, at least they left him alone. All that mattered was who drilled the rock the fastest. They did not care how you drilled it.

And here it was again. The Director was going to give a polite smile, to spread his hand across the table, give a weak handshake along with a weak 'thankyou for coming in'—and then Gano would be gone. Back to being a miner. It wasn't that he didn't expect it. It wasn't like he was crushed by the fact that no one would allow him to do what he loved, what he was good at. This situation had been repeated for his entire life; he was used to it by now. It just seemed as if each time it happened, they stole his very reason to live.

But that is not what happened.

The man's eyes seemed to light up at his words. The wrinkles on his eyes seemed to disappear, and his very face began to smile. He reached across the table, his hand held strong and his shake firm. "Your hired." He said.

Gano opened his mouth. And then closed it. He had judged this completely wrong.

Geovanni continued without pause. "Almost everything you designed would be illegal to put into production. I don't care. My superior and I would like you to design anyway. We would enjoy your insight, so that eventually, we may be able to use it. I realize that most likely, nothing you develop will be put into production, at least not in your lifetime, but that is beside the point. I have a certain amount of money the company gives us for new research, and you are by far the best mind I have come across in this field. You are hired."

The Director looked across the table, a man pleased to discover that his expectations had been met. He was a businessman, but more than that, he was an entrepreneur. At fifty three, he had been the director of one of the most successful engineering firms for more than fifteen years. He took his job, and his work, seriously. "I can't tell you how much of a pleasure it is to finally meet you. I looked at several of your designs, and I can't help but say that they were brilliant. I know that this is generally against the tide of the public, but finding out new things is my greatest passion. I very much hope you will accept."

"I accept."

Gano's voice was firm, but it was mixed with the unexpected joy of a man who finds himself redeemed from condemnation.

The Director seemed to relax, leaning back in his chair, a small smile forming on his face. He nodded his head silently. "Your job starts at seven in the morning in research bay two. You should access the computer and refresh yourself of engine designs before you arrive."

Gano nodded his head, shook the director's hand, and left the room. When he got back to his room he went directly to his computer. There was a smile on his face.