Undoing Peace (Lives of the Koanan #4)
The Koanan matrix is a kind thing. It engenders absolute stillness. To be Koanan is to be still. They are conscious of this. Stillness infuses them from their first moment of spark and persists throughout their interconnected existence as cerebral entities in the conductive medium. But a Koana is also a student, gaining knowledge in three ways: intuition, immersion and analysis. One or both of the first two must always precede the third. It is not in the nature of a Koana to pre-judge.
In his previous phase of awareness, already described, Milkanas had found himself invaded by warring creatures whom he had needed to evict before returning to equilibrium. Normally, a state of sleep would follow such a tutorial event, but this time he remained aware, and puzzled. Had his defensive behaviour been self-determined (unthinkable for a Koana) or had it been the effect of his immersion in the matrix as it related to his experience? Then again, experience for the Koanan was always virtual, occurring within their own cerebral cells, so had anything happened at all? He was questioning the validity of his own thought, and therefore his received reality. Could those warring elements have been a projection of his self? Could they have been an entirely new phenomenon, arising from somewhere deep in the matrix, or outside the matrix?
Gradually he became aware of sounds, and then of their coherence. They were units of meaning and they seemed to be picking their way through the matrix as if it were a sticky territory. They would move with clear identity, then pause and huddle in groups, their various emanations becoming incoherent chorales, like a multitude of insect wings rubbing vigorously together.
Were they the evicted invaders, still seeking a host? He had presumed the lesson learned and the theme closed. Now here were more intrusive entities, sending unpleasant currents to what he felt were his extremities. It occurred to him that he himself had not been an invader, as he had thought earlier. He had never before revised a conclusion, but this one seemed inaccurate:
In what way had he been an invader? When the creatures had entered him and used him as a battle-matrix, he had taken to living locally for a while, simultaneously activating and de-activating various parts of himself, taking different sides. So he had never been fully engaged. And his executive function had just watched impartially as usual. Besides, if there had been war within himself, then his whole self had not been an invader. He had never confronted another being, unit against unit. The experience might have been a new kind of immersal in a virsoc—those intuited virtual societies from which Koanan gain information about their origin and nature—but there was nothing to suggest that he should identify with the small scuttling entities instead of the large matrix of his conscious and unconscious self.
I have been invaded and I have been an invader. It is for this reason that I have lost limbs and lie floating now in a communal sensate matrix.
So the conclusion was at best shaky, and most likely incorrect. He had been invaded, intruded upon, occupied, by alien forces. Here they were again, wandering the medium that gave him sustenance, attempting to disrupt it. What would happen if they reproduced? He had encountered reproduction in his virsocs. He knew that both bodies and thoughts could mate and replicate. He wondered which were these, and whether they were of a solid, base substance from outside the silky cognitive tissue of his world.
The sounds increased. He felt them as low waves, then stabs, then as spears that gave him pain. They seemed to mass around him. They rose to a menacing clamour. He contracted with shock and then, with panicked haste, focused on defining the limits of his self. It was difficult, not normal practice, but he was overwhelmed by the feeling that he needed defence. Using all his intuitive strength, he felt for the border between himself and the matrix, conceiving it as the drawing of a map. Little by little, his limits became a heavy, erose line like a dark trench. When the line returned to its beginning and there was no gap, he sighed deeply and said, I am Milkanas. His joy was such that he thought to draw an outer line, even thicker, to extend his boundary a little beyond himself—for space, he thought. Yes, for room to turn. Turn? By oneself? Well, perhaps. One new concept breeds another. He felt larger than he would have expected if he had ever thought of doing this before. Large enough, certainly, to combat those antagonistic nitwits.
What had first been fear became anger, and anger became motion. A great heave disturbed the matrix as he tested his ability to confront the sources of the hostile vibrations. Findaul felt it, as did Tefuar and Ristad, and they began to search for the source. Not knowing each other's names or dimensions, having no cartography, each one intuited a virsoc in order to find an explanation. They dreamt within their own nebulous environs while Milkanas made parts of himself erupt over and over in an effort to project missiles of vibration at the perceived invaders.
There was attack and counter-attack. His awareness became red and black, seared now and then by cruel yellow streaks. He forgot everything but the struggle, entering that state in which thought is subsumed by action, a kind of intoxication. A state unstill, a state incompatible with himself.
The matrix rearranged. An effusion of moisture spread across its many aspects as it slowly re-absorbed the remnants of a once coherent presence.