Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

The Antiquity Series

Over twelve thousand Earth years in the past, an alien species called the Ehrban have a vast interstellar civilization connected by a network of artificial wormholes, but so far as they know they are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, which they call Quelouva. A xenobiologist among them named Keius Meij, investigating why, discovers nanotechnology of unknown origin symbiotically intertwined with the cells of life from his world, and investigating further finds it capable of apparently magical feats when properly reprogrammed. This discovery comes on the eve of civil war within the Ehrban empire, and in one of the opening volleys of that civil war, Keius is supposedly killed, but in fact thanks to his discovery survives, in a sense: it turns out that all Ehrban carry a secondary, symbiotic consciousness within them, embedded in the network of their nanites, which is inherited from their ancestors and continues to develop in concert with the newborn person over the course of their lives. What survives is not just Keius, but the ancient inherited "spirit" of his entire family line, which was always a part of him and of which he, though now dead in a sense, is still the foremost part. At the urging of Keius' supervisor and potential lover, Tatia, the governor of the remote colony world where they worked, Goran, follows a trail of clues to find where Keius has run off following the attack on their research facility, to another remote world where he has developed his control over the nanotechnology to incredible, almost frightening levels. Goran is pursued by forces of the rebel faction that destroyed their facility, thinking Keius to be some kind of superweapon the central government was developing, but when it seems they are about to capture Keius and Goran, Keius effortlessly exercises powers enough to singlehandedly deflect the attacks on Goran's ship and allow Goran to flee; but when he clearly could destroy the enemy ship on a whim, he instead surrenders to them. Taken into custody and staying there quite obviously only at his own pleasure, Keius waits out the civil war, which is diffused in large part thanks to the political actions of Goran, who for his efforts is elected the first chancellor of the newly-reorganized galactic polity. It turns out that Keius has been telepathically manipulating the nanites of people on both sides of the conflict to fundamentally change the very nature of his people and indirectly engineer this solution, acting through Goran on one end of it and through his captors on the other. He has brought them into closer union with the collective consciousness they had already unknowingly been generating through the interaction of their ancestral spirits, a chaotic and disorganized super-mind that those with some slight awareness of it had perceived as an angry god, around whom the dominant religion had long been structured. Now in peacetime, Keius investigates the origin of these nanites, and discovers it to be from interference in their distant evolutionary past by a civilization of world-minds in another galaxy who continue to monitor them even now, apparently attempting to create another being of their kind on Ehrba. This discovery rocks Ehrban civilization to its very core, and against his own scientific inclinations, Keius is involuntarily thrust into the role of his people's new central religious figure. (More details).

Keius' discoveries subsequently usher in dramatic changes to Ehrban culture and society, and he attempts to do what he can to adapt to his new role as the center of his people's reformed religion. As part of that role, he begins slowly and carefully enabling functions of some other people's nanites that grant them powers like his own, simultaneously training those people in the use of those powers and vetting them for worthiness to wield them. The first and greatest of his pupils is his former supervisor and current lover, Tatia, who has already advanced to the level that she has begun teaching students of her own, among them Goran, who is also a former lover of hers. Unbeknownst to Keius or Tatia however, a conservative movement within the old church is ideologically opposed to Keius and have begun developing ways to resist the kind of mental invasion that he is capable of, and to negate the influence on themselves of the collective consciousness that is increasingly shaping the organization of their people. Goran's aspirations to train as a "mage", along with others secretly of his sect, are entirely a means to learn the power to cement that independence. Meanwhile back on the world where Keius first made his grand discovery, he and Tatia also continue something like their xenobiological research, now attempting to use the nanotechnology to engineer new sapient life de novo. They succeed, but almost too well, as their creations, a race they call the Asiron, prove dangerously powerful and unpredictable, though not at all overtly hostile; more like very young children somehow with strength far exceeding their parents and no idea how to use it appropriately. With a delicate and careful touch, Keius and Tatia manage to contain their creations without having to destroy them, and set them on the path toward future development into something greater. All the while, Keius and Tatia have been planning to create new life in a more conventional way, by starting a family between them. They have one child, and Ehrban tradition would have Keius raise it. But just after the child is born, a new wormhole in the constantly-expanding galactic network reaches a newly discovered planet, Earth, revealing primitive humanity, the first other naturally intelligent species ever known to the Ehrban. Keius becomes obsessed with studying them, and leaves his child for Tatia to raise, while he goes to investigate humanity. Finding they have no nanites of their own, he is intensely curious to observe the progress of their evolution, and he devises a plan to speed things up so he can get answers sooner. He modifies two of them with reprogrammed nanites, granting them both effective immortality; one of them to live among her people on the surface of the planet, the other to live on an Ehrban spacecraft in orbit and, telepathically communicating with the other, log her observations for future record. The entire solar system is then to be put in an enormous time dilation field, which the latter human will also operate, allowing reports on long periods of human development to be fed out of the system for Keius to read immediately. (More details).

After developing the prototype time dilation device, Keius wants it tested on another system before deploying it around his precious humanity. Goran volunteers to step down from his chancellorship, acknowledging that Keius has really become the true leader of their people, to instead lead the team locked away inside the time dilation bubble. Keius is grateful to have a trusted friend to lead the segment of the people that will be out of communication with him and the collective consciousness that guides them all. But he does not know, thanks to the telepathy-blocking "magic" that Goran and his religious sect have developed into themselves, that this is secretly a plot to gain indefinite time and resources and freedom from control in which to mount a force to overthrow Keius' new society, and reinstitute their more conservative vision for the Ehrban people. In ignorance of that plot, Keius welcomes Goran and his hand-picked team to take leadership of the world of Berona where the time dilation device is then tested. Inside the time dilation field, now free from Keius and any need to operate in secrecy, Goran and his religious sect implement their plan to take control of Berona and repurpose it singlemindedly, in whatever time it takes, to the overthrow of the new Ehrban society in the galaxy outside. But it does not go over so well with the other people of Berona, and a civil war erupts within the time bubble. Things in that war do not go well at all, and by the end of it the Ehrban inside the bubble have wiped themselves out completely. Untold aeons pass, geological ages, still frozen in time relative to the outside world, and from nonsapient life on Berona eventually new sapient life arises, a brutal and warlike species dominated by a God-Emperor to whom they are bound through the connections between their nanites (the individual Emperor manifesting as an incarnation of the collective-consciousness God created by the species as a whole). They eventually redevelop space travel, and in space discover the time dilation machine isolating their solar system from the rest of the universe. Turning it off, they find their forever-black sky suddenly filled with innumerable stars, which challenges their entire view of what they thought of as the universe, and they quickly declare war on it. All of that elapses in a mere instant to the rest of Ehrban society, who one moment are about to test an engineering marvel and the next are suddenly confronted with an interminable fleet of enemy warships bent on nothing but their destruction. The enemy fleet is also apparently unending, as whenever their numbers are depleted the Berol can simply turn the time dilation field back on, build a new fleet, and then turn the field off and release their reinforcements in the span of but an instant to the outside world. In desperation, the Ehrban eventually begin to retreat away from the Berona system, sealing off portals in their wormhole network as they do so to slow the advance of the enemy armada. The Asiron are also summoned and sent with all their might to attack Berona and destroy the time dilation field. But for the Ehrban it is too late, as the Berol manage to reach Ehrban itself and bombard it back to the stone age. Only Tatia and the school of mages survive the onslaught on Ehrba, thanks only to the use of their magic. And at Earth, Keius seals the portal from the Earth side to protect humanity, who he regretfully abandons to travel alone at subliminal speeds toward Ehrba, hoping it will still be there when he arrives, many thousands of years into the future. (More details).