[(1)-the eldest son of Ismael, in Hebrew and Islamic lore, - Ismael of course being the only survivor of the whaling ship in Moby Dick.]
The Seventh Wave Boy’s Book Of Whaling For Universes.
Imagine the timelines of all the spiral politic as a tree, its roots the anchors of the web.
The tree is a mangrove. Its roots stand in the flat, drained 'soil' of the primal universe, surrounded by the 'waters' which are neither time nor space. [This 'floor' is sometimes called by Whalers 'the skin wall' - as in the whaling song:-
"A Captain there was who was full of sin,
and his ship grew as heavy as lead,
and he sank that ship in the wall of skin,
where it glows like a fish that is dead". ]
(Of course we may well get to see this ship and its crew of ghosts and walking dead during our narrative...)
In those waters are fish. Around the lower parts of the tree: the early epochs of eternity, they swim: but the roots of the tree seize the fish and draw them in, and their essences are incorporated into its strength. Some say among the roots, not pieced and made into the tree, is a great serpent. Others, more surely, say that certainly the fish are not all. There are larger dwellers beyond the mangrove.
There are whales, that are 'universes' in themselves - bounded bodies of space-time, sleek as porpoises, wild and unchained that escaped in the ceremonies of the Houseworld, that binding that set the first taproot of the tree. And of the school of those whales, there is a King Whale - an Emperor Fish - Leviathan, greatest of the swimming kind. Its exobiodata, its quiditty, is the most prized dream of the whalers.
It is said that it bears on its back, tiny trees, seedlings sprouting from the torn roots of the anchorage. Ghost timelines that can never now be. These too might well have their values. [It is rumoured that timeships believing themselves to be safely within the spiral politic have betimes landed upon the back of Leviathan within one of its pallid and strange branched trees, only to be drowned in the depths of non-space and non-time as Leviathan has dived once more. However a moments thought will suggest that this can hardly be true, since no survivor would exist to begin the rumour.]
The whaling 'ship' "Inclusivity" [formerly, the "Diversity" - renamed by order of the sponsoring House following the twelth committee on progressive description] is
seventy five galaxies long and twelve broad at the beam and tipped with a single specially constructed star, of which more later. While this is still 'minute' compared to some sighted whales, it possesses the capacity to display larger, exuding dark-matter, enhancing its gravity with revisionist geometry. (The geomancers are a core caste of the ship, by their work is it 'wrapped in its skin' the spacetime form that encloses its own seperateness.)
It has the standard armaments of the smaller 'whalers' the sun-cannons, starpoons, and galaxars (galaxies capable of firing as a single controlled quasar-laser, their pulses beginning 50,000 years in the past, and delivered as a phased wavefront in the present
as the light sweeps outwards star by star by star) - a weapon obviously that can only be used by a time active culture, and one which incidently binds a whaling ship to a certain path since like a proverbial samuri's sword: the instruction to use the weapon has in a certain future already been sent back to our past, and hence the weapon 'will' be used at a certain point, and all aboard know it (and it is said that the ships weaponsmasters know the very second of the very hour in which the galaxies will 'finally' flare). Already the power is broiling and burning through the skies of a million worlds even as the ship rests in its transdimensional docks. These weapons are essentially trivial however, and the whalers refer to the sun-cannon particularly, with the dismissive phrase 'pepper-shot'. The ship itself is a weapon, a spear tipped with a Strange Star.
The ship is galaxies wide and long and contains many cultures, but the backbone of the ship is the timeline of a single star and world, unthreaded from space-time. The bridge world, which orbits the 'Strange' and killing star of 'The Point' is the last thousand years of the world. Everything done in the rest of the ship, all the maneouvres and makework, all the threshing of blubber and the gutting of whales (of which more anon) is overseen by the local bridge-world, and thus part of the history of 'The Point'. Thus is defeated the problem of communication, for the Captain knows the history of his ship and thus its every part. Because of its 'removal' from space-time the world itself has no part in the history of the spiral-politic and its native inhabitants are therefore forbidden to ever leave the ship. They are the caste known as 'Jonahs' because their lives are lived forever in the whaling ship, and their religion/culture has it that the ship is - itself - a whale. Whether this is more than metaphorically true or not, it is certainly the case that a whaling ship is an Empire in time as well as space, and the descendants of a threshing world, may well pass their skein of woven exoblubber to their own ancestors on the world from which they migrated to process it further, as it is moved 'back' along the ship, into the 'past'.
[The Houses prefer not to think too hard about the notional paradoxes involved in this. The official view is that a whaling ship is a 'black box' event and that no paradoxes within can leak out to the 'real' universe of the tree and the anchoring of the web. It is suspected that Faction Paradox takes a different view and may have agents among the whalers. The whalers themselves scorn this - in its internal time a whaling ship exists for 3,750,000,000 years bow to stern, from the 'moment' of construction, plus of course the duration of its projected thousand years of voyaging. More than long enough they say to 'winkle out any lubbers, and treeboundmen'. In this perhaps they underestimate the Faction.]
The major innovation brought by Scaratt to whaling following his investigations in the region of the Anvil Stars. Trained ‘hunting’ universes bred from the Leviathan-seeds isolated in the region of the Anvil. This resemble the ‘friendly’ universes sometimes sited by whalers, too small to merit gutting, which often travel along side whaling ships as part of some migratory pattern - or interuniversal non-spacial current. Scaratt has devised a means to use these entities to ‘herd’ swimmers. This innovation is, while it has yet to be grasped as such, a blow at the hunter-killer model of whaling and implicitly a move towards a ‘farming’ model. For this reason it is already ‘felt’ as a breach of taboo among the worlds of the ‘Inclusivity’ even though the geomancers, the fleshers, the ‘poonmen, and the jonahs would be hard pressed to delineate the source of their disquiet.
On the religion of the Jonahs
An important point of conflict in the novel is the world view of the Jonah caste. To them the whole flat plane of ‘the skin’ is but the hull of an even vaster boat, and the thread anchoring history merely its main mast. Those of the Jonah who have heard of the City Of The Saved in the very pinnacle of history, regard it merely as a distant crows nest. A point simply of vantage. Their belief is that the purpose of a life is to grow to be the steersman of that ship, the ship that contains all universes and all time, and to sail it to the Great Port where the First Shipwright will marvel at the men who have brought back his handiwork to land, and issue - at last - the true maps of the Heavens wherein it will thereafter sail. Any action which increases a Jonah’s skill aboard the whaler is seem as producing an equivalent growth in the skills and virtues needed to pilot the True Ship. To be craftworthy is the only virtue. In many ways the Jonah’s are much like the Pariah-caste of the deeptime engineers: the nechronomancers. It is perhaps unsurprisingly that each regards the other with horror.
For the Jonah’s hold that to be is to be moving, to be sailing onward, whereas the nechronomancers believe all time and space is illusionary and hence there can be no movement. It is one of the Seven Problems, that both approaches have produced incontrovertible results. It is undoubtedly the case that Scaratt’s primary problem on inheriting(1) the captaincy of the Inclusivity stemmed from his insistance on bringing aboard a nechronomancer among his retinue. (1)The term inheritance is here used to refer to an assumption of a war-role based on a loom-similarity to an officer unable to undertake the mission. In the case of a Whaling ship, the appearance, ethos, and iconography surrounding the bridge-crew, is a predetermined legend across the million worlds of the ship, and any replacement is undertaken with obsessive care. Scaratt whose birth in any event represented an experimental divergence from war-practice has come to suspect that part of the reason for his breeding was to fit him in due course for the assumption of this captaincy. He has expanded some considerable effort to discover the reason why the original captain is unable to take the helm.
The former Captain
His face is on the heraldic banners of a million worlds. In form, how perfect, in attitude how indomitable, in repose how serene. Cultures were engineered to follow him, and then he defected. What must it feel like to have a God-king turn traitor? The Jonahs know. What must it feel like to step into the shoes of a defaulting deity? Scaratt is learning. And as for ‘the Captain‘, a house traitor, a renegade, stripped of his name, known on the Inclusivity, as a hissing and a byword, and an excuse to hawk spit, where is he? He is - reputedly - the latest recruit of Faction Paradox. Captain No-One. [An in-joke of a kind that I will cut if it is too intrusive Captain ‘Nemo’ is the original Captain ‘No-One’].
Captain No-One’s agenda.
Born as Scaratt was but of the illfated and retrodenied Sixth Wave (in some respect Scaratt’s was created in his image) the Captain was crafted of human tissues loomed with house world bio data technology, and carried in a living womb. With him (and perhaps with the other ’missing’ members of his cohort, although this can not be determined) the psychological aspects of the process left him profoundly disturbed.
By temperament a nihilist, a romantic, and a ‘Byronic’ suicide: the Captain avoided the fate of his wave (whatever it may have been) during his deeptime training to Captain the Diversity (as it then was). He was regarded as possessing the correct ’flamboyance’ to command such a ship-culture, but the planners of ‘the whaling effort’ neglected to take into account the effect of exposure to deeptime reality on such a personality. The Captain was a morbid and suicidal mind that learned it was threatened by that most awful of dooms - irreversible and unavoidable immortality. At the end of time, he has learned, lies the City Of The Saved, a hideous and ineluctable trap leering at him with a mouth of mumbling years.
At first he considered that he would be ‘safe’ from entombment in the City, if the Diversity were to flounder deep beyond the spiral politic, but making contact with the Faction, he learned via their representative in the City that the human-derived crew of the skin-embedded ship ‘Indomitable’ nevertheless were reborn on Resurrection Day in that great iron prison. If going beyond the universe itself was not enough to avoid the harrowing engines of eternity, what could he do? He determined to learn the secrets of Faction Paradox, seeking - not as the Grandfather had to remake himself as a shadow that had never been, but to erase himself utterly - embracing
Nothingness. In return the Faction asked him to abandon his command: leading to the goal they desire, the provision of the whaling ship ‘Inclusivity‘ (as it now is) to Scaratt‘s Captaincy, one which they believe will achieve great things that the nihilistic Captain No-One would never have conceived.
However:- despite the Faction’s honestly attempting to erase No-One from history - there is a place he remains, and it is in the cultures of his ship, where his presence is a perpetual absence, looming at the back of every endeavour.
No really, what really happened…
The above account is what the Faction claim (a claim based on half truths and intended to portray themselves as still important powerbrokers) it is not entirely true. Captain No One is not dead, he was that rarest of Homeworld-born a twin. He did not discover that the Indomitable sank, he killed his own brother - its Captain - and piloted it himself into the skin (feeling some trace sentiment at the breaching of his own vessel, if not at the killing of his kin). Reborn in the City of the Saved, he hunted his brother down there again imprisoning him in an exitless metal-prison, so that decamping by the downtime gate he could step back into his own shoes, and take back his own ship.
However he miscalculated the relative strain of the principles of linearity and even though he had been gone a brief span, he had been declared dead - believed killed on the Indomitable with his mad brother - and his ship had been handed to Scaratt.
Very well, he smuggled himself aboard as a simple ‘poon man. He would take back his ship. The weight of its whole history is shaped to him. He will own it, and he will hunt Leviathan and drive his great ‘poon into its core.
He will command Leviathan and pilot it through the Maw, a flaw in the thread of history itself, bringing it up to the ends of time (it alone has the ‘lifespan’ for that voyage into deep time where even the timeships falter) until he bursts the floor of the City of the Saved and brings its slaves true death.
So much and no less he intends.
But what do the Faction Want From Scaratt?
Cousin Ermintrude and Cousin Discarnadine, are the dissolute and - in another sense - abandoned members of the so-called ‘Seaman’s Missions’ a defunct Paradox Cell founded to investigate the possibilities for paradox implicit in the bounded universe of a Whaler, and the exobiodata it collects. Discarnadine is sadly addicted to ‘splendour’ the pungent effluxia left after the Houses have taken their refined extracts from the Whalers’ hold-worlds. The long suffering and contemplative Ermintrude is concerned mainly to prevent Discarnadine passing away from ‘splendid isolation’ the peculiar state of nihilistic lucidity associated with the extract, But Discarnadine has conceived that rarity among the Faction, a heartfelt belief.
He believes that in the roots of the world tree - trapped by the weight of all history, is the great serpant - the King Loa. He intends that Scaratt should pilot his whaling ship into the Great Deep and bring sacrifice to the King Loa. [Implicitly the sacrifice is seen throughout the book as something large perhaps the ship, itself, perhaps Scaratt, perhaps the long-suffering and patient Ermintrude who surely can not be as innocent as she appears, but it is Discarnadine’s shadow he intends to offer, letting the King Loa take back the emblem of Paradox, giving up his own mastery. Emptying himself into the Loa. While he would claim to have no hope of ’gain’ from such an act, it is hard to think that he doesn’t see the role as essentially messianic - bridging the gulf between Faction, and the Spirits in a new and transcendent way.
As will be seen it is Ermintrude - his minder - who is preparing him for this role, to carry the scroll seen sometimes in his shadows hands, of which he is consciously entirely unaware ‘back’ to its origin in the deeps of time.
His character is at best unusual. He has no self-interest: that is he does not find himself interesting, nor is he interested very much in the war, or the tasks the Houses set him. He is interested in finding out things that the Houses do not realise, or more likely do not recognise in the ways he can.
The cultures of the whaler delight him, as a child with a new game. He intends to see the denizens of the Greater Seas, and aye land Leviathan as Nebaioth the ‘poonmaster demands if need be, and see the very roots of time as the Faction ask, if it please him. If the Jonah’s do not kill him, of course, and if he can learn the secrets of his vessel before Nebaioth impales him as a False Captain.
The book is among other things his biography.
The Incidents of The Voyage Of The Inclusivity and Their Resolution In The Great Maw.
Chapter-by-chapter breakdown to go here next……
20th October 2005