To my new colleague, as well as his comrades,
I was happy to receive your letter, though it was more polemical in tone than I am generally used to. Your detailed warning were quite useful in particular, and I have passed them on to relevant Peacekeeping elements. As is our common intention, your short history will be distributed shortly, and it is my hope you will do the same with my own attached manuscript. Once this initial exchange has been completed, we should arrange for more personal communications so as to commence our true project. Until then, I hope you’ll stay fiery and functional (is that how they put it over there?).
A friend of Peace
A Short Introduction to this World, its History, and its People
I have been put before an impossible task: Summarize in a satisfactory manner the history of the last millennium. Perhaps I should have given up before even considering such a task. Instead, I have taken to this challenge as just another extension of the Great Harmonization that began so long ago. Effortless and natural as that was, why should its chronicling be any different?
Though I would not reduce the past of my people to a simple line of cause and effect, bereft of the narrative that makes history worth telling, I do find it useful to start from a set of initial conditions. Primarily, this makes it easier for me to provide a parallel with your own world, so that we may together study their divergences and design a common course. This is not to say that our worlds should be made into mirrors once more; but now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Starting from the initial conditions, it seems suspiciously likely that divine interference played some major role in the design of our worlds. We may deduce this from their antipodal nature alone; how could two planets, almost perfectly alike in geological and atmospheric consistency, turn up on two sides of the same orbit? No natural force could seem responsible. Given our subsequent dichotomies, I would almost suspect that our historical fates were the result of deliberate experimentation. However, neither of our peoples make for a plausible control group, and both Progress and Peace have apparently disavowed any involvement in the matter. It seems the entity responsible is absent at best. Since nothing more can be learned of this, let us move on.
Evolved from identical origins, it is no surprise that our pre-cosmic societies were similar too. Before encountering Peace, we were a set of preliterate peoples spread all across this planet, subsisting through various local and itinerant subsistence modes. Not much has changed about the latter, and even mass literacy was not the greatest change to come to our world. No, the true changes were wrought by Peace entire, though these are also diffuse as to be almost indescribable. Once again, I will try to start at the beginning.
As part of a cosmic infiltration operation, the Stateless State of Peace had managed to smuggle its Seeds into a myriad of freshly created universes. This all occurred innumerable timelines ago, its results carried forth through a strange and paradoxical trajectory that is too hard to trace temporally. Nevertheless, it helped to advance the cause and course of Peace; in the case of our own planet, it was at its very core where the specific Seed lay dormant.
Bringing the Seed to the surface took a geological amount of time, but just long enough for us to meet it when it emerged. Its shape and size were minimal, a simple black pod which drifted along the river which now bears its name. A few of our original people met it at a bend, carrying the strange yet seemingly organic object to a more central spot near their village. Here is where the first Tree would grow.
Of course our world had known trees before, but as we would learn, this specific organism was of a different kind altogether. The Tree was as a conduit, a catalyst, a node. It was all of these things, but also none of them. For many decades, we knew nothing of this ultimate nature. Then, when it had long since grown into an imposing specimen of purple-brown trunk and dark-red branches, a miracle would emerge from inside the Tree. As we watched, there stepped a humanoid figure from a newly formed opening. Though she had the bodily appearance of our people, her skin and dress were more similar to the Tree’s materials, all made of bark and leaves. When she spoke to us and introduced herself as ‘the Ambassador’, she did not do so by physical means. Instead, she channeled her intentions into us at our questioning, assuring us that all her actions would be noncoercive. As we had no reason to disbelieve, even the most skeptical among us would tolerate her presence. With this simple gesture, a new age was started.
In the first years of what would become our New Millennium, the presence of the Ambassador was a most minimal affair. True to her word, none of her activities struck us as intrusive or obstructive. Nevertheless, she was not inactive altogether. In general, she involved herself in our community through small acts of mercy: a sickness cured, a flood forewarned. All of it was freely taken and given, though she clarified that such conduct was its own reward to her. As an Ambassador of Peace, it was her duty to preserve the selfless lifeways whenever they could be strained. And since we valued those lifeways ourselves, we were more than grateful for her protection. So it went on for a while.
After this while, some of us did indeed begin to grow more curious. It wasn’t that we didn’t wish to know her ultimate origin, but a certain degree of politeness kept us from intruding on a guest. Still, as our people warmed to her company, some of us eventually dared to ask. Openness was once again her policy, and she began by taking us on a tour of the Tree’s cavernous insides.
The internal chambers of the Tree were more spacious than any of us had expected, though its walls were also lined with the dormant bodies of a short and stocky kind of creature. As the Ambassador explained, these were the collective avatars of a singular Intelligence, one which made the adaptation of a local environment its utmost priority. Where other cosmic communities would deride this being as the hive mind of a worker caste, its vast yet considerate potential was to be respected. If our people suffered any particular need or ambition, they would probably be able to realize it. As with the Ambassador herself, all they would have to do is ask.
Once again, we would dare to ask, though not until about a century had passed from the Ambassador’s first emergence. Perhaps we were apprehensive about the changes that would be wrought to our community, or maybe we simply didn’t have much to want for. Nevertheless, some of us would eventually make simple requests of the Intelligence, expressing their desire to change the landscape this way or that. Its avatars would do their utmost to make it so, albeit in a gradual and often generational manner. Some of these changes allowed our community to expand and increase in density, with the Intelligence’s architectural expertise helping us to build our homes into impressive multi-functional palaces. Before soon, another century at the most, our village had become a genuine city.
The urban life was new to us. Those who wouldn’t settle for it struck out on their own, usually accompanied by a few drones so that they could build a domicile elsewhere. Even those who took to wandering completely would often take a mobile communications device with them, graciously constructed and provided by the Intelligence. In this way, our disparate people maintained their community, with its multifarious culture expanding evermore.
As both urbanization and wanderlust infected the population, curiosity became the order of the day. Scholarly networks were suddenly everywhere, excited by the writing and printing techniques which the Intelligence had taught us. They endeavored to know more of the heavens, though the antipodal presence of your world would yet elude us. The Tree also became a favored topic of investigation, and the Ambassador knew that it was time to show us more of the faction which had sent her. Inviting anyone who’d come along, she took some of our people through the Tree’s interdimensional root—a novelty to us—towards the various worlds of Peace.
As she explained it, Peace had started as a kind of slave revolt, dissatisfied servitors escaping a heavenly predicament. In their efforts to escape divine retribution, they had found that a supernatural entity had either emerged from or latched onto their activities. For some arcane reason, their collective will to freedom was having an effect on the divine bureaucracy, adapting the administration of reality to provide them a hidden enclave. As long as they didn’t agitate any higher authorities, they would be able to expand this refuge to other dimensions, worlds, and beings. Thus was founded a Stateless State of Peace.
Most of us were awed by the Ambassador’s explanation, suddenly proud to be part of such a great endeavor. The diversity of worlds we visited only further enhanced this sense of belonging, and most of the excursion’s participants would soon after apply for admission to the Plenary Council of Peace, its only comprehensive governing body. As it turned out, joining it was merely a formality; what use was it to deny Peace to those who craved it so earnestly? Henceforth, any adult in our community who knew Peace and wanted to keep it would be instantly allowed into its organization. With this transcendent gesture, another great change had come upon us.
Though our participation in Peace did not grant us any new powers or privileges, our lives were nevertheless upended. The simple reason for this was that Peace knew no borders, and so we would now be able to travel along the Tree’s root network to whatever realm its members resided. Conversely, the people of faraway worlds would now also be able to make their way here; while local sovereignty and custom had to be expected in any case, this still drastically diversified our collective cultures. Before we knew it, ten thousand different lifeforms were dwelling among our population, and contacts had been made with places we could scarcely comprehend. Harmonizing this grandeur was a process that took centuries, but the results were truly magnificent.
Eventually however, an existential threat would come upon our orderly community. A supernatural source had been detected in this solar system, one which shared its cosmic origins with our own collective. Yes, I am sorry to say that this was Progress, the popular-emergent entity whose powerful constituents still make up the ruling class of your world. As happy as we were to finally discover your antipodal presence, it was clear that we couldn’t make ourselves known to you without becoming a target ourselves. Luckily, other members of Peace had more experience in dealing with the Directors of Progress, and they advised a strategy of subterfuge. By using extradimensional techniques of Space and Solar Magic, we would be able to transport ourselves to your world almost imperceptibly. Naturally, the first to do so would have to be thoroughly trained in your local society and culture. Our intelligence program intensified.
So far, we had been lucky that the growth patterns of Progress were similar to that of Peace, preferring interdimensional exploration over its extraplanetary variant. The first signals and satellites would be our own, keeping a constant yet magically obscured eye on your ruler’s activities. Covert infiltration would be the logical next step, but the ethics of our people necessitated a preliminary contact with the local populace. Thus, our first emissaries were more like diplomats than spies; I’m sure you’ve yourself met a few of them in their later expeditions. Their initial ventures were cautious, paranoid affairs, always making sure that those we contacted were not out to expose us. For their part, your representatives were just as suspicious of us; ironically, this mutual standoffishness was taken as a sign of dedication and professionalism by both sides, only furthering our solidarity in the long run. Indeed, once these hesitations were worked out, we quickly got to the real task of planning against Progress.
At this point, I feel like I’m recapitulating events you should be perfectly aware of yourself. The best I could do is offer Peace’s perspective on things, but you could probably infer that from the preceding. As some concluding remarks, I would only add that I am glad both our people are recognizing the need for a common history between us, even before our struggle has been properly won. Collectives are often forged in such circumstances, and our present project could help that along in a more deliberate fashion.
Having now exchanged our basic histories, the next step would be to pool our data properly. Many questions about Progress still remain, and even Peace can be a little too chaotic to allow for our full awareness of it. Thus, a great amount of work lies ahead of us, but I am sure that we can uncover these cosmic histories together. Throughout it all, there may be some solace in knowledge that regardless of what happens to us personally, our fates will be the end of the story. This wisdom is the privilege of the historian, and I am happy to share it with you and others.
With all that said, let us get to work.
Header image by Luc Schuiten