Devotees of Brayden Holtz, commonly referred to simply as “The Brayds”, were a curious phenomenon. Despite their control of the island and the financial backing of Saint Paul, they had very little financial resources. They also lacked political, military, cultural, or economic influence. Yet somehow wherever Humanity went they followed. Despite Entente efforts to discourage them, despite difficulties recruiting and general hostility from the larger population, they had a habit of always growing, never contracting. Their only asset, it seems, was an unshakable faith in their Messiah. -Prof. Duncan, “The Histories”
Bernard hit the Venutian ground hard. The solid igneous bedrock was only covered by a thin layer of black sand, mostly the byproduct of the limited construction going on. In the heat of Venus Bernard was sweating, a lot, and so the fine black powder mixed instantly with the sweat coming through his clothes to stain his pure white robe jet black. His fall sent this filthy dust scattering everywhere including onto the boots of the Entente Peace Management Servants who had shoved him.
“Asshole!” The team leader shouted, “You got my boots dirty! You better clean them off.”
Bernard clumsily rose to his feet, “I’m sorry.” he began, “But it was you who shoved me. I will not apologize, nor will I clean your boots.”
“A nut and a liar!” The team leader chortled, “What’d I tell you guys? All these chrome-domes are crazy!” The crew laughed with mirthless compulsion. Bernard, like all Devotees of Brayden Holtz, had shaved his head bald. He always found it strange that of all the possible insults “Chrome-Dome” was the one that caught on. He was even more perplexed that those using the insult actually thought it hurt them.
“I’m sorry.” Bernard replied, “But you are wrong.”
The team leader glowered at him with both cruelty and confusion. These lunatic Brayds never seemed to know how to play along. The rules were simple. The Entente said, you did. The Entente declared, you agreed. And right now, right here the Team Leader was the Entente. But this fanatic zealot was insistent on playing his own game. The PMS sergeant couldn’t tell if he was really insane or just mentally retarded. After a long pause the Team Leader finally gave up. “C’mon, guys!” He said, “We’ve got better things to do.” He stormed off past Bernard making sure to give him a rough shoulder check as he walked past. The other four members of the team did the same and the last one, a young man who looked new, made sure to give Bernard a hard shove from behind after he passed by. When Bernard hit the ground again he could hear cruel laughter from the PMS team as they sauntered off.
“Uggh.” Bernard grunted as he came up to all fours. He was nearly 50 years old and not in terrific shape. This kind of abuse was starting to hurt, at least physically.
“Need a hand?” Came a soft, friendly, female voice with a British accent. Bernard looked up to see a young Indian woman standing over him, hand extended.
“Thank you, young lady.” Bernard said clasping her hand as she helped him up from the black, sooty dirt. “I appreciate it.”
“Think nothing of it.” She replied with that kind of Indian accent that tells you she was educated and from a wealthy family. “You looked like you needed it.”
“Oh I did, I did.” Bernard replied as he dusted himself off. “May I ask your name? I don’t recognize you and there aren’t a lot of people here in Akwasi yet.”
“Oh, I’m Dayita. I just arrived yesterday. Today is my first day in my new role.” She replied cordially.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Dayita.” Bernard answered with equal politeness, “As thanks for helping me I would like to extend and invitation to you. We hold group meditation sessions every Wednesday at our tent, if you would like to come join us. Maybe make some new friends on your new planet?”
Dayita’s expression suddenly flattened into one of disappointment. After a long pause she replied, “You people are all the same, wherever you are aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry.” Bernard replied. “I don’t take your meaning.”
“Every Brayd I ran into on Earth kept trying to recruit me.” She answered, a tinge of hostility entering her voice, “It was so damn annoying. A small reason I came here was because I thought there was no way you lunatics had made it to Venus. I’ve been on the surface for less than twenty-four hours and I’m getting another pitch.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” Bernard answered her.
“Don’t apologize.” She said turning to leave. She strode off leaving a wake of disdain behind her. Over her shoulder she called back, “Don’t pitch me again! And you can pick yourself up the next time!” With that she was gone.
Bernard let out a small sigh. Disappointing sure, but such a response was not surprising in the least. In his ten years Walking the Path, the euphemism for believing in Brayden Holtz and living as a Brayd, he had gotten used to such treatment. He turned and began walking back to his tent to clean his robes.
As it currently stood Akwasi was not much to look at. It had been six years since the initial mission to terraform the planet. Bernard had to admit that Dr. Gelle had been very successful in that task. And by all reports he had done a very good job organizing the settlement and keeping things on track in the last year since they had begun colonization. Venus was a strange, disorienting place and Bernard marveled that humans had been able to make it to the surface so quickly. Only by the wisdom of Holtz. He thought, repeating the mantra of his faith, The Great Seer knew.
The acidophilic, photosynthetic bacteria and algae had worked like a charm. Within one year the oxygen content in Venus’s atmosphere had risen from negligible to 2%. Within three years that had risen to 11% and the first stirrings of an ozone layer had begun. In five years the oxygen levels had exponentially increased to 27%, which was more than even Earth with a more robust and thick ozone layer. The sulfuric and Nitric acid levels had decreased to a point where they no longer posed an immediate threat to humans on the surface. This atmospheric transformation was helped along by even more human ingenuity. Once the acid levels dropped to the point where physical objects were no longer threatened with disintegration, special satellites were put in very low orbit. These satellites had long dangling hoses that helped pump out a great deal of the CO2 which comprised 94% of Venus’s atmosphere before the transformation began. By the five year mark Venus’s previously scorching hot and high pressure atmosphere had come in just below the safe thresholds for human survival. At least in the polar regions, which is why Akwasi was inside what could be called Venus’s Arctic Cirlce.
All that was left was the rest of the planet. Venus may not have been a “dead” planet, but it wasn’t quite alive either. The only real activity on the planet were its innumerable volcanoes. These had contributed mightily to the deadly atmosphere and also had shaped the planet’s surface into a mostly level (at least far more level than Earth) plain of volcanic bedrock. There was no water, no soil, and with Venus’s exceedingly slow rotation (A Venutian year was two thirds the length of Earth but only experienced two sunrises) and rapidly transforming atmosphere, there was no way to predict the weather. As far as human colonization went, they couldn’t have picked a worse place.
Still there was something exceedingly Entente about the planet, Bernard thought. For one, Venus rotated clockwise so that the sun rose in the west. Also the planet had a nearly perfect circular orbit, was nearly perfectly spherical in its shape, and rotated nearly perfectly perpendicular to its plane of revolution, which meant there were no seasons to contend with. There was something about the naturally occurring mathematical conformity of Venus that matched the spirit of the Entente. Also the infinite stubbornness and unjustifiably obscene financial investment the project required harmonized perfectly with the soul of the Entente.
So here they were. Marching forward stubbornly and expensively, cruelly indifferent to the ripple effects of their actions, driven by hubris and cynical greed. It was truly the Entente’s world.
Still, they weren’t totally stupid. The first thing shipped down and assembled by men in protective suits was a huge array of solar panels. These were used as the roof of a grid of shaded walkways that patterned the layout of what would be Venus’s first Settlement, Akwasi, named for the scientist who had provided the insights necessary to beginning the atmospheric transformation. These walkways provided very necessary shade as well as collecting nearly infinite amounts of electricity, at least during the daylight seasons. Another perk of these panels is that they were made of a transparent plastic polymer. They would darken the more intense the sunlight and become clear during the night. There was shade during the forty day Venutian Noon and an uninhibited view of the stars during the long Venutian night. Speaking of which, they were already drilling out a shaft nearby and by the time the next night arrived, they would have geothermal power to heat their homes, cook their food, an illuminate the 2 ½ ESC months of darkness.
The harsh bedrock was also a secret boon. While there were no trees to use as building material, the Entente had brought with them something called a Furukawa Smart Probe. These automated robots were exceptionally skilled at cutting 50 cm by 25 cm by 25cm rectangular cubes out of the ground. The igneous bedrock was like a soft granite and was so dense that it didn’t need mortar to hold together. The weight of the bricks above simply held the ones below in place. Although most of the settlement was tents laid out in a grid matching the crisscrossing solar walkways, some permanent structures had been built and more were going up each day. So far native Venutian architecture consisted of a ten meter long by five meter wide one room brick hut with the canvass and ribs of the pop habs serving as a roof. The walls were sloped so that a cross section was a narrow pyramid, four bricks wide at the base and one brick wide at the top. Unglamorous, but effective.
The hard bedrock had another secret benefit: water. The Furukawa drones could be programmed to cut whatever shaped hole in the earth was desired. Once the bricks had been excavated and removed what you were left with was a water tight hole that had no possibility of bacterial infection, wildlife pollution, or contamination by underground fossil fuels like natural gas or oil because, well, there were none of those things. Not to say the water wasn’t screened and filtered for heavy metal contamination, it was, but the job of the water recyclers was much less strenuous than on Earth. All you had to do was cap them (again usually with leftover pop hab canvass) to prevent evaporation and you had a reservoir.
Also carved out of the bedrock were large hexagons. Each hexagon had sides that were 12 meters long (for an internal area of about 375 m2) and were 3 meters deep, with ½ meter wide walls between them. Into these shallow holes was dumped the refined human waste after most of the moisture had been reclaimed by the water recyclers. This was mixed with soil imported from Earth that had been impregnated with agriculturally necessary bacteria. Soon the Surface of Venus, at least around Akwasi, would be a honeycomb of giant, durable, water tight, planters. The first trees were due to be planted next year, just as soon as they fidgeted with their genes a little more.
The major problem was water. There just wasn’t any. Large shipments of water were brought in on each of the monthly supply runs from Earth. And while the necessary water today was very little, in order to grow past a few isolated settlements Venus would need more water than the Earth could spare. No matter. There were already proposals to use fast, powerful ships to collect large floating pieces of ice from the asteroid belt and beyond and drop them from orbit into pre-excavated quarries and just let them melt. Once the Entente built such ships that is.
So although the village of Akwasi was less than 500 people, and while trying to simply survive was a significant technological and environmental challenge, it was hopeful. The future was wide open and they really could make Venus into anything they wanted it to be. Such was the vision of its founder and leader, Joshua Gelle, perhaps the greatest asset Venus had. Bernard had only been on Venus for six weeks or so, but he already had gotten to know the Director quite well. Dr. Gelle was Entente through and through. This is what made him so valuable to Venus. His suckling, sycophantic attitude towards the homeworld guaranteed support and enthusiasm from higher level bureaucrats. Meanwhile his unforgiving, viscious, and condescending attitude towards all non-Entente people made him a terror to anyone who might want to rock the boat. Bernard had gotten to see a lot of that side of Director Gelle since he arrived.
Bernard had reached the tent he shared with the other two Devotees. One a young woman who was more or less born Walking the Path. Both of her parents had been life-long fans of Brayden Holtz and had immigrated to the Island as soon as it was recolonized. The other was a man, older than her but younger than Bernard, who had only been Walking the Path for two or three years. He had been born on the Moon and was a rebel soldier for most of the war. He was in South Korea as an occupational soldier when China was vaporized. Shortly thereafter his garrison fell and he spent the rest of the war in an Entente Internment camp. After the war he ended up a vagabond in Manilla in the Phillipines. Which is where he met Bernard.
Bernard wasn’t his real name. Or rather it wasn’t his birth name. He had been born Datu Sicat in Manila. He had had a life before the war. A life typical of a poorer man in one of the world’s most crowded metropolises. He had no formal education, married young, had a few children, and worked and scraped and begged and fought as hard as he could to provide for them. And, as was usual, it wasn’t enough. During the war four of his five children died during a Chinese occupation of the great archipelago. His oldest son was a soldier who died in the early battles. His youngest, also a boy, joined the underground resistance and was caught and killed by the Chinese occupiers. One of his daughters caught the eye of a Chinese officer and though she was only 14 was forced to marry the man and then was shipped to Beijing to await his return. That’s where she was when the ICBM’s hit. His youngest daughter died of disease by malnutrition due to the occupation. Though the native Filipinos eventually threw the Chinese invaders out, they had paid a dear cost for their freedom.
After the war his wife and only surviving daughter took jobs in Tokyo as maids at the now Entente sponsored University. The Japanese did not allow Datu to join them. From all this he was possessed of a great anger. He was angry at his country, angry at the war, angry at God, and angry at life. He was well on his way to drinking himself to death when one day he was approached by a man with a shaved head wearing a pure white robe. This strange man somehow talked him into attending a group meditation session and afterwards Datu felt so alive, so content that he practically joined the group overnight. When he was given his digital baptism a few weeks later he chose the name Bernard. Just Bernard. Those who Walked the Path had need of only one name.
His life since had been much better. He found a way to reconcile with his wife and daughter. He let go of the anger of his children’s deaths, though the pain remains to this day. He stopped drinking and when he wasn’t proselytizing others to join the Path, he was working diligently to develop his trade, which happened to be brick laying. Then when word got around that the Entente needed construction workers to go to Venus to help build the future, his Caucus decided he should apply. Thus here he was, in a temporary pop up habitat, using a dry steam machine to clean the dirt off of his robe.
“PMS come after you again?” Asked the young girl from the other side of the Hab. Like the buildings, the temporary habitats were 5 meters wide by ten meters long. It was a little crowded sharing the tent among three people, but Devotees had no need of luxuries.
“Yeah, Carra.” Bernard replied, “It’s not a big deal. They’ll be that way until they can read the code.”
Carra let out a small chuckle. “You always say that.” She replied, “But I don’t think they ever will.”
“Then that is their loss, and we must recite the blockchain more often, for their sake.” Bernard answered. While his robe was in the steamer he was changing into his work clothes. All the clothes they wore were pseudo-synthetic Holtz Tech. Back in Holtz’s time, the Great Seer had genetically modified some common fiber plants and then used them to create durable, light, and highly stain resistant material for clothes. That’s why the robes could stay so white. The material itself was highly aqauphobic and had a burn temperature much higher than other materials. This meant a small amount of high temperature steam would get rid of any stain. It also meant that his regular work clothes, while not as bleach white, were an eggshell color whilst every other laborer wore blue, gray, and black clothing. No matter what, it seemed, those who Walked the Path could not help but stand out. Bernard looked around the tent then asked, “Carra, where’s Tooma?”
“Tooma?” She said, “Oh he’s on shift right now. There was a hiccup with one of the new waste recyclers.”
“Huh.” Bernard replied, “Those things are having way to many problems.”
“I know it.” She said, “That’s not all. The second assistant to the Director stopped by while you were out. He wants to see you before you got to work.”
“Of course he does.” Bernard replied. He pulled out his palm tab and checked the time. He also saw he had a new calendar event. He accepted the Director’s invitation to a meeting then said, “Okay, Carra, I have to go. The Director wants to see me in less than five minutes and I only have twenty before my shift.”
“Okay.” She replied, “If your shift goes long, we’ll wait to do tonight’s meditations until you’re back.”
“Thank you.” Bernard answered as he hustled out of the tent and back into the street.
“I thought we had an understanding.” Joshua Gelle said sternly. This short, balding, greedy, unforgiving man had somehow maneuvered his way to being the Primary Co-Equal Director of the Akwasi Settlement Corporation as well as the official Entente Governor of all of Venus. He lived in not one, but two of the few stone buildings in the settlement. One was his apartment, which included private toilet and bathing utilities and the other was his office which was equipped with Venus’s only stand alone computer server. Both were air conditioned. Dr. Gelle continued, “I was very unhappy to find out that you and your friends had not disclosed your fanatical beliefs before you arrived here. But we came to an understanding. You would keep to yourself, and we would leave you alone. Do you remember that?”
“I remember,” Bernard began, “That the screening questions asked nothing of my psychological maintenance practices and that due to my and my companions’ iron clad Entente contracts you cannot send us away without just cause and arbitration. I also know that not one of us have ever been late to a shift, nor turned in sub-standard work.”
Joshua glared at him. Of all the non-Entente citizens of the solar system he hated these religious zealots the most. They never agreed with anything, but they somehow never told a lie either. It was maddening. Finally Joshua replied, “Hmm. Well, I called you here today to find out why you decided to harass one of our new computer technicians. Apparently you were so belligerent that some of our Peace Servants had to restrain you.”
“I’m sorry.” Bernard began. Joshua’s face screwed up into a fierce scowl as soon as he heard the words. The Director knew what was coming next, “But you have the chronology incorrect. I did extend an invitation to Dayita to join us for group meditation, but she declined and I left her alone.”
“That’s not what my Peace Sergeant is saying.” Joshua replied firmly.
“Is that what the security videos captured?” Bernard answered.
Joshua did not reply. He merely sat stone faced, an aura of hatred emanating from him like a cloud of noxious gasses. Eventually he said, “In light of this morning’s incident I am forbidding you from Proselytizing, or in any other way speaking about or in favor of your beliefs in Akwasi until further notice. I don’t need this kind of trouble this early in our colonization efforts.”
“I’m sorry,” Bernard began, “But I don’t think you have the authority to do that. Entente legal precedents are quite clear that you cannot compel behavior from fully contracted citizens when they are not at work.”
“Am I the Colonial Policy Arbitrator of Venus?” Joshua asked.
“Yes.” Bernard replied.
“Am I the only person with executive and judicial authority within the bounds of Akwasi?”
“You are.” Bernard answered again.
“Finally,” Joshua began as he leaned over his desk, staring hard at Bernard, “Do the Peace Management Servants enforce abstract Entente Law, or my edicts?”
“Your Edicts.” Bernard answered.
“Then within the confines of Akwasi I can do what I want.” Joshua replied flatly.
“May I ask a grace period of twenty-four hours so that I may inform the other Devotees in my Caucus?” Bernard asked.
Joshua’s face contorted in a dissatisfied grimace. After an uncomfortably long pause he said, “Twelve hours.”
“Thank you.” Bernard said standing up from his seat, “I must go. My shift begins in five minutes. May the Blockchain grant you peace.” Bernard smiled at Joshua as he offered the general valediction of the Brayds. He then turned and left under the unforgiving stare of Joshua Gelle.
While people could mostly stay in the shade on Venus, due to the walkways and the Pop Habs, a lot jobs required work in the direct sun. At least for now while things were being built. Work shifts were divided into five blocks with one hour and forty minutes of work capped with a twenty minute rest in the shade to hydrate and cool off. Brayds typically didn’t wear head coverings, in fact head and face coverings were more or less forbidden, but to survive the harsh Venutian sun as a bricklayer Bernard had been granted permission by the Caucus of the Island to wear a large, white, wide brimmed hat while he worked. Also, while the hat was made of the same miraculous Holtz Tech fabric, it had been given a reflective coating similar to the coating of the Hab Canvass. This helped reduce his heat fatigue a great deal. So much so that Bernard found himself in need of fewer breaks than his fellow workmen and often worked through other’s breaks. At least one Peace Management Servant was near whatever worksite he was on at all times. No doubt spying for Joshua Gelle and looking for even the slimmest excuse to kick Bernard and his friends off the planet. Bernard had no worry of this. Walking the Path, adding to the great Blockchain of the Universe first seen by Brayden Holtz provided no opportunity to fail. The usual human failures that plagued the rest of humanity were strongly disincentivized by a Brayd Lifestyle. After one’s digital baptism all those faults and failings just seemed to fall away. Thus Bernard was not worried about Director Gelle and his spies.
He did notice one other laborer who seemed to be watching him a lot. He was a short portly boy in his early 20’s and probably of Hispanic heritage. The young man was usually slow at work and took extended breaks. He was competent enough at his construction trade, in this case the young man was a pipe fitter, but his constant lethargy held him back. Bernard often saw the young man staring at him, almost longingly, during their shifts. Maybe he was another one of Director Gelle’s spies, but there was something else in his look that Bernard could not quite place. While somewhat curious about this young man Bernard mostly paid him no mind and did his work diligently and with great care. At the conclusion of his shift Bernard stood back with a great deal of satisfaction, and just a little pride, to survey the new Venutian hut he had built. The utilities needed to be finished, and the roof installed, but the walls were built. And they were solid too. Whoever would come to occupy this home would be safe and cool. Bernard smiled as he logged his progress in his tablet. Then he turned to leave.
About halfway back to his tent he noticed that young man who stared at him all the time was following him. He found this young man’s attention strange, but he felt no malice from the young man. More like curiosity. Bernard decided to see what was what. He stopped on the walkway and turned to face the young man who was following at about a half a block distance. Bernard then looked at the young man and smiled then casually began walking towards him. The Young man froze, seemingly more embarrassed than worried. He then began looking in other directions, perhaps trying to find an excuse to run away. One could not be found and very shortly Bernard was a friendly distance from the youth.
“Young man.” Bernard said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but you seem very interested in me. May I ask why?”
The young man looked away shyly, then half mumbled, “Man where’d you get those clothes? And that hat?”
“We made them.” Bernard replied, “They were made to conform to our religious beliefs.”
The man frowned a little disappointed, “Can I get some?” He asked, “Man this sun is killing me. I’m from North Vancouver. I’ve never seen hot or sun like this.”
Bernard smiled broadly. “Certainly.” Bernard replied, “If you come with me to our hab we have some material to synthesize a set of clothes for you.”
“Really!” The boy said excited, “Man I can’t tell you how much I need this. Uhhh…how much?”
“How much what?” Bernard asked.
“How much for the clothes.” The boy replied, “I’ve been going over on my water rations and it’s really cutting into my pay. The vouchers they’re giving us are dropping, a lot, compared to the Prosperity Coin. I don’t have a lot.”
“Oh, no charge.” Bernard replied, “Besides those of us who walk the path only accept Millennium Coin.”
The man looked at Bernard quizzically. Then he asked, “That old stuff? I though they stopped using it after the war.”
“They did.” Bernard replied, “But we who Walk the Path still use it. Also, because Millennium is fully mined and Prosperity is still increasing in supply, Millenium’s value is actually increasing relative to Entente Currency.”
The boy looked surprised and intrigued for a moment. Then he said, “Man, you guys got it all figured out!”
“Well,” Bernard began, “If you follow me I can answer any other questions you may have.” He then put his arm around the young man’s shoulders and led him away back to the Brayds’ hab.
“I thought I told you not to Proselytize anymore.” Joshua said with a deep scowl on his face, “We just discussed this two days ago.”
“And I obeyed your request.” Bernard replied, “Jaime approached me of his own free will. He asked for a set a solar protective clothing, which I provided at no cost to him, and he had some questions for me, which I answered. Apparently he’d never really seen or known Brayds before and we are quite a curiosity to him.”
Joshua’s scowl only deepened. The Director was growing ever more frustrated in stymieing the influence of these zealots. “To me that’s proselytizing.” He said flatly, “Now I wake up today and I see another person dressed like you. What am I to think?”
“I would not pretend to dictate your thoughts.” Bernard replied, “All I can say is that there is no malice in my actions and all I did was provide solar resistant clothing to a young man in need of them.”
“Are you saying that our current safety regulations are insufficient?” Joshua snapped back. If he could get these maniacs to log a complaint, to somehow get a bureaucratic process initiated, he could strangle them.
“Not in the slightest.” Bernard replied, “This young man just needed a little help. As I understand he’s already performing above his normal proficiency.”
Joshua sat back, his eyes glazed over as he activated his netbox. His eyes flittered back and forth as he checked the latest shift logs. Sure enough, Jaime was taking shorter breaks and getting more accomplished during his very next shift. When he was done, Joshua’s face screwed up into a hateful grimace. He then stared Bernard directly in the eyes, “I don’t like you.” He said flatly.
“That is readily apparent, sir, and I am sorry for that.” Bernard replied pleasantly.
“I want you off my planet.”
“That is also rather obvious.” Bernard answered, “And I am sorry I can’t oblige you at this time.”
Joshua stared meanly at Bernard. “I want you to stop recruiting. I don’t want to see anyone else in your stupid white clothes designed by a madman from a century ago.”
“Are we under orders to reject requests from others?” Bernard asked.
“Yes.” Joshua replied.
“I see.” Bernard replied, “Then you are no longer interested in being director of Akwasi, I suppose.”
Joshua’s brow furrowed and his eye lit up with anger. He then answered through gritted teeth, “What are you talking about?”
“Well,” Bernard began, “I cannot lodge any complaints against you, or the corporation. Nor do I wish to do so. But if one of your resources found out that you, through personal edict that violated contract established rights, prevented them from getting necessary clothing they might lodge a complaint. And if you were named in that complaint your authority would be immediately put in suspension until the conclusion of the Arbitration. This may take some time considering we’re several dozen million kilometers from your superiors at any given time. To avoid the transmission delays they might even ask you to return to Earth for any official proceedings. I suppose you shouldn’t worry, First Assistent Director Yun Hee will do well in your absence. She is a very competent, and ambitious, woman.” Bernard let that last line hang in the air. He could see that Joshua felt it.
“I’ll never know,” Joshua began growling through a clenched jaw, “How you can be so obtuse to Entente social customs and yet know so much about our processes.” He sat back, a mixture of surrender and vengeance on his face, “Fine. Make all the clothes you want! I can’t stop you. But I swear as soon as your contracts are up, you fanatics are out of Akwasi! And I’m going to add some screening questions to make sure none of you every get assigned here again.”
“That is your prerogative.” Bernard replied, “If you’ll excuse me I have to get to work.”
The coming weeks and months, measured by ESC that is, were a source of supreme frustration to Joshua. Each day there seemed to be one more person wearing the white clothes of the Brayds, clothes that only accidentally were perfect for hard labor in the severe Venutian sun. Even a few of the computer technicians, who worked in un-airconditioned huts filled with computers spewing out hot air from their fans, had switched to the everyday, work clothes manufactured by the Brayds. He had tried to put a halt to this by levying a tax on all goods not sanctioned by the Entente, but all that did was spike requests to be paid in Millennium Coin so that his resources could pay the Brayds for their new clothes.
He also noticed that each week after the Brayds held their group meditation chanting sessions there would one or two more regular citizens coming out of their tent. All wore smiles of satisfaction. Joshua sincerely hated this, all of it. But soon enough he settled for playing the long game. They couldn’t formally initiate any new members and their contracts would eventually run out. He had already sent requests back home to try and create solar protective clothing that was better than what the Brayds were making and by the time these wackos were gone he could formally expel them and crackdown on anyone insistent on continuing their practices.
He was helped by the structure of the contract. People were paid per work completed, not by hours of labor. A Venutian contract was meant to incentivize people to complete a certain amount of work quickly. The faster they went, the bigger their bonus, and the sooner they could get off this desert and go back to the luxuries of Earth. Mostly this worked and while only about 15% of Akwasi’s setters were pegged for permanent residence, the constantly increasing infrastructure provided new and more opportunities for contract work. To Joshua’s surprise and delight the Brayds were the fastest of all. They worked well, quickly, and never turned in sub-standard results. Their bonuses would be large, sure, but they were being paid in that useless Millennium Coin. Sure it was expensive, due to the constantly falling exchange rate as each week more Prosperity Coin, the Entente controlled blockchain currency, was created. But no matter. Let them take their useless wealth and be gone.
He was delighted when his netbox alerted him that all three of the lunatics had reached the end of their contracts on the same shift. He did a quick review of their latest work and noticed that they had seemed to work slower or quicker, depending on the person and their contract, just to time it so that they would all finish together. Perhaps his constant harassment had worked. Perhaps they were as sick of him as he was of them. Either way, they’d be gone soon and Joshua decided to see them out personally.
“Done at last?” Joshua asked as he strolled up to the Brayds Hab. They were breaking down the habitat and packing the collapsed components and all their meager belongings onto carts for transport.
“Yes.” Bernard replied as he stacked some hab canvass onto a cart. “Director Gelle, I would like to thank you for this opportunity.” He said smiling warmly and extending a handshake.
Joshua smiled with cruel satisfaction and took Bernard’s hand, “You’re quite welcome.” he replied, “And I’d like to wish you safe passage out of my settlement.”
“Thank you.” Bernard smiled as he returned to packing. Joshua looked around and suddenly his cheery demeanor was replace with a fretful frown as he noticed several other settlers whose contracts had recently terminated were helping them pack up their equipment. They also wore the white work clothes of the Brayds. Joshua’s scowl deepened as he looked around at the carts. They seemed to be filled up with more than just the habitat and possessions of the Brayds.
“What’s going on here?” he asked imperatively.
“What do you mean?” Bernard asked.
“These other people, these other habitats.” Joshua replied, “Why are you packing them, why are they helping?”
“Oh.” Bernard replied, “Well we all decided to keep our habs. They’re very useful, and very cheap…If you’re paying in Millennium Coin that is.” He smiled knowingly, “Also these people have decided to come with us. They see the Path as a worthy one to Walk. They have decided, of their own free will, to add themselves to the Great Blockchain. Don’t worry—” He held up a palm to preempt Joshua’s impending objection, “There won’t be any baptisms in Akwasi.”
Joshua glowered at Bernard. He supposed he should be grateful, this madman was taking others susceptible to brainwashing out of his colony for him. “Whatever.” Joshua replied, “Just get out. As soon you can.”
“We will, sir.” Bernard replied piling a few remaining containers onto a cart. Bernard then looked around at the other Devotees and saw they were mostly finished as well. “Is everyone packed?” he asked. They all replied with affirmative nods. Bernard smiled joyfully, “Well then, time to leave, everyone.” They took their carts and began pushing them away. Joshua watched with relief and joy as they left. Then he noticed one last thing. They were going the wrong way. He called out, “Bernard, the Holtz Engine is the other way. The pods to put you in space are on the other side of Akwasi.”
“I know.” Bernard replied. He stopped his little convoy and spoke to one of the other Brayds, instructing them to keep going. Bernard then walked back to Joshua, “We purchased land from the Entente. It’s an official and officially protected homestead. In time we’ll be the primary food and clothing synthesizers for Venus.” He said, “About 15 clicks west-northwest of here. There is a delightful place to settle. We even purchased our own Furukawa Smart Probes, well they’re actually Czonka Drones running Groot routines. Some folks on Vesta who work for Saint Paul had them. They left Vesta two months ago. They’ll be delivered on sailing ships of all things, if you can believe it.” Bernard smiled. “Don’t worry Joshua. It’s all quite legal. You know us, we always follow the rules. Besides I think you’ll find that we’ll be very quiet Neighbors.” Bernard then turned and walked away to join his little caravan.
Joshua silently fumed in anger. His face turned so red that one would think the atmosphere was still full of acid. After a moment of silent rage he opened his netbox and pinged the Nearest Peace Management Servant team to meet him at the far western edge of Akwasi. He then angrily took off after the Brayds. Akwasi was not large, but the time it took them to reach the far western edge felt terribly long. They eventually made it to the end of the covered walkways. Here the Brayds paused and all of them put on their wide-brimmed, solar repellent hats. Then they stepped out of the shaded, closed walkways of Akwasi into the pure daylight of Venus where their white clothes shimmered beautifully. Joshua ran up to the edge of the shaded path and began shouting at them. “Stop!” he hollered, his voice growing hoarse with strain, “I’m not done with you!”
“I’m sorry.” Bernard replied over his shoulder, “But we’re done with you.”
“I said STOP!” Joshua fumed. By this time the Brayds were a few dozen meters past the edge of the settlement. “I said STOP!” They ignored him.
“Hey, Boss.” Came a friendly tap on Joshua’s shoulder, “What’s the problem?”
Joshua spun around to see the Peace Management Servants he had called. He felt a flush of joy and began rambling, “Stop them!” he said, “They’ve subverted Entente Rules! They’ve subverted MY authority! They—” He suddenly stopped. He now noticed that the entire PMS team was wearing the off white work clothes of the Brayds. A few even wore boonie hats made of the same material. “I—I—” He stammered, “You—why are you wearing those clothes?”
“They’re super-comfortable.” The team leader replied, “And they clean easy. They’re awesome.” The team leader then waved at Bernard, “Thanks for the hookup man!”
“No Problem!” Bernard waved back.
“So, Boss, what’s the problem?” The team leader asked.
“I—I—” Joshua began, “I don’t know.” He stood dumbfounded. He turned and looked at Bernard’s caravan. It had stopped just about 100 meters from the edge of Akwasi. They were beyond his control, beyond his authority now. Perhaps, he realized, they always were. They answered to something greater.
Bernard had arranged his people in a circle. The newest members, about nine of them, six women and three men, formed an outer ring. Bernard, Tooma, and Carra formed an inner circle at least as much of a circle as three people can. One by one the new members would walk to the center of the group. Then they would disrobe to their underwear and kneel, clasping their hands in prayer. Bernard would then shave their heads. Next they would declare their new name, their only name. Then Bernard and the others would hold up their palm tabs and using the holo-projector functions they would bathe the neophyte in the code of Millennium Coin’s blockchain, adding them to the Great Blockchain and admitting them to the Path. Then the member with the least time on the Path would walk forward and give the new member a pure, clean, bleach white robe. The newcomer would accept it, put on the robe and take their place in the interior circle.
Joshua watched helplessly as one by one each of the new nine members were baptized just past the officially incorporated bounds of his colony. Once all nines had been digitally baptized the twelve Brayds formed a complete circle and then they held hands and bowed their heads. They offerred prayers and thanksgiving to the Blockchain and praising the Great Seer for showing them the way. Finally, with joy and contentment in their hearts, the Brayds lifted their eyes to the sky and began to chant in unison the source code of Millennium Coin.