Before all things, he knew that he was a capsuleer. He was the most blessed being man had yet encountered in his long and lonely path across the universe. He was what man had always striven for, at the end of untold eons of evolution, conflict, and suffering. He was unbound and immortal. In these his final hours, he felt a vast tide sweeping over him, washing away what few doubts he had. He could see clearly the end of the chain of which he had so long been bound. Alone in the shuttle he was beginning to finally feel as if the hideously prolonged expanse of his being was truly something sacred. Not in vain, as the crumbling scriptures within some forgotten Amarrian megalith, but a feeling at last that he was truly connected to the universe. He had been wandering, adrift and alone, as a god no less than a human, irreconcilably misplaced within an inescapable emptiness.
He thought for a moment that it would be appropriate to sleep as he approached, but the thought of losing even part of his conscious mind was unacceptable. This was to be the absolute conclusion of his experience, and would be most worth recording, even in such transient matter. No human had ever entered the Eve Gate after its collapse, the wild rhythms of its electromagnetic pulses beckoned to him in they way the night sky had so very long ago, in some distant speck of terrestrial childhood. It was the first and final mystery of the universe, it was a new sea into which to gaze and wonder again. He began to remember a poem he had read once, followed by a poem he had written, and then the woman he had written it for, and in a moment was seized within web of endless interconnectedness. He quickly staved off the unwanted interruption, a feat which might have cost him hours, but the bright and unblinking eye of the universe that was his destination seemed to bring him comfort and calm, like the gaze of a mother. The memories retreated again into oblivion. The key to unlock his dilemma had at last been turned. He did want to fall asleep, to sleep in the light at last, and to lose his last, and now unbearably leaden burden, the burden of being.
It was now twenty six hours since he had passed the last safety beacon, the point of no return was far behind. At any other time than this his ship would have already been torn to shreds by magnetic tides, but now, at the peak of the cycle, the Gate relented and withdrew the whirling curtain of destruction that surrounded it. The waves were still there, but in a breathtaking fraction of their former power. They gently lapped at the craft's ineffectual shielding like waves upon some distant terrestrial beach. He had recorded and analyzed them, even translated them into audible sound. The Gate's fanfare was mysterious, fascinating, but it could not be absorbed by his still quite limited brain, and so it seemed to filter it out of perception without him consciously realizing it. He found this mildly agitating, as he did so want to fall asleep to this music. Perhaps on the other side he could sing as the Gate did. Mechanically, inevitably, his thoughts marched ardently back towards the reason. As sure as the cheap but unfailing circuits that permeated every nanometer of his shuttle, his brain had been wired to reason, to "science", whatever of it man truly had. He supposed it must have began when he realized he could no longer dream.
Gods had no need for sleep, and he usually couldn't afford it even as an eccentric luxury. But there had been a space once in his mind where he could conjure wonders. It brought the subtle change of shade that could give all of reality a new definition, a new purpose, being struck by something from beyond the well-trod roads of the self. As far back as anyone knew, humans had been creating, imagining, receiving and perhaps transmitting the dreams of the unconscious self. Dreams were the shadows of conscious inspiration, the singularity into which all reason and experience were pulled and inevitably broken down into their amorphous and uncanny components, and became the colors with which unknown worlds were painted. There had been room in the universe once such that all could be a canvas, unfettered by reason and science, an infinite and eternally repeating expression of free will. Even as his primitive ancestors might have laid dying from some ailment entirely beyond their understanding, they could still dream of a beautiful afterlife to bear them away even from death. They had such unbound freedom. It was the final escape for the soul. One night as he drifted aimlessly in the void between stars, he realized that he had no more dreams. When he let his mind wander, it could only find memories.
They were uncountable, perpetual; they sprang from his augmented neurons like a tide of sand, each so small that they lost all distinction, and all purpose. He realized then that he had lived longer than an entire generation, perhaps two or three. No one without a cybernetic brain could even begin to comprehend the totality of his own individual experience. Every moment of his life conjured connections to the past, and the memories brought forth even more memories, and the more an unending multitude. Subtle details were recollected with such clarity that they sprang to life with dozens of links both strong and tenuous to other moments, other decades, other lives, other selves, strung together like the jewels in Indra's Net. And they would not stop. The mundane, the mysterious, the redundant, the miserable, the sublime, the unknowable passed before his eyes endlessly, staying still just for a second before being replaced with something else just as ephemeral. He had considered wiping his own memory once, but he would just face the same dilemma again in another few centuries. It wasn't that he was overwhelmed, his various neural sub-processors ensured that. He could not truly fear or panic even if he wanted to, capsuleers couldn't afford it. He was the closest thing to a god that mankind had yet created, and his was perhaps the first dilemma of gods.
It was perfectly absurd to think that he had experienced all that a human could possibly experience. At first he simply waved it off, but the gulf opened ever wider in his mind as it turned again to idleness. He was bored. He had been bored for a very long time. Power, money, glory, the things the capsule pilots wanted most in the popular consciousness had all been within his grasp, and subsequently dissected, contemplated, and overcome time and time again. He had ruled planets, brought billions to their knees, had enough money stored away to buy his own personal patch of the universe. He could start interstellar wars for fun and profit, and had once. But it had all ultimately failed to grab his attention beyond the moment. He could still remember, after all, why he chose to become a god to begin with. He wanted true freedom. Freedom by definition was possibility, possibility in vague plurality, and his flow of possibilities had at some point been choked out. Boredom with one's life was a common enough predicament for humans. One could amuse oneself indefinitely with a million ennui, but he had a more fundamental problem. He began to suspect that he no longer had any motivation to be alive. In the later stages of his existence he began to strive over and over again for personal reinvention, rebirth, a new awakening to some undiscovered plane of reality outside of sleep's barred gates. He had been a philanthropist, vigilante, inventor, and all of the more uncreative venues of enlightenment, but in the end was not successful. Time went on. Billions awoke to the day whispering his name in joy, and billions of others perished in misery. He had died too, twenty three times in total. He had never entirely gotten used to using jump clones, and the indescribable sensation of the artificial transmission of consciousness, the cold reincarnation of manufactured flesh. He had always been a reluctant infomorph. At first he was vaguely fearful that his "self" had truly died, and he was just a shallow copy who had merely inherited the memories of the original. It soon went from dread to idle amusement, as he discovered that he could not truly escape himself no matter how he tried. He returned ceaselessly to his same habits, same thoughts, same limitations. Thought he could have said himself that he lived many separate lives, some spindly thread seemed to prevent complete disassociation. And he seem to become more static and consistent as time went on. In so very long, no one had ever said that he had changed or become different, those few left who knew him at all. In his unending time he had families, lovers, brothers, parents, and children, people whose role shifted, collapsed and reformed with the callous tides of passion and circumstance, they came and went and left their mark. He felt like a stone polished clean and smooth by time. He began to shun human contact entirely, not out of any ill will, but simply having had enough of others. He could usually tell one's intentions, personality, and ambitions within a few minutes of talking, and it bored him. Perhaps it was not that he had exhausted his allotment of human experience, but had willfully discarded it.
In a fit of frustration he began to feverishly study the human brain. Perhaps even the clasps of subjectivity might be loosened or broken. Perhaps he could isolate the substance of imagination. By pulling the strings of the Lai Dai corporation, he advanced the understanding of human neurobiology by decades in secret. The manipulation of thoughts, consciousness, and memory by artificial means became his obsession and expertise. But ultimately he could not find what he sought. As had so often been the case, science could only measure the ripples, but not watch the splash. The research hit a dead end. He even attempted to buy the wisdom of the Jovians, people with whom he began to feel an ever more unsettling affinity. They refused, saying he was "unready" to know the fundamental terms of the human soul. He was not like them, he decided. Their secretive ways masked an insatiable obsession with humanity and human civilization. The other races were a just game to them, and always had been. He never could derive such crude pleasure, try as he might. Despite the refusal of the cursed Olympians, he became Eve's foremost expert on the human brain, though was never acknowledged as such. He was often assumed a madman at that point. Schizophrenia with chronic symptoms of Derealization was what the head of Lai Dai's research board had labeled his certain peculiarity of character. He knew full well that his understanding had dwarfed theirs. Her and they still clung to their transient labels, while he knew the concrete realities. He had begun to ignore her sexual advances, even when they represented his one strongest link to the wet gears of Caldari capitalism. But the gears began groan under the financially apathetic weight of his intellect, regardless of his monetary resources. Soon he was an exile. He was neither surprised nor distressed. Life as a capsuleer had ensured that betrayal was his singular constant companion. He had betrayed his corporations and been betrayed more times than he would ever care to count. His mind's longest thread of all was made up of his memories of betrayal, stretching back endlessly as far as he would think. Always had he gotten even with those who had wronged him.
A resurgence of Sansha's Nation came conveniently to the door as he left Caldari space for the last time. He was just the man they wanted. He allowed himself to be utilized in whatever capacity suited him. Never before had he worked for the Nation, he felt their paltry attempt at empire was beneath his attention. But such understanding of the human brain, as he had recently acquired, was invaluable to them, but he also realized how much pathos would be brought to bear against the State when it became public knowledge that he had joined they. The Nation was the warped nemesis of civilization itself, uniform, all members fully integrated and conformed. Forced obedience was the only god and commandment. It burned away at the small shard of Gallente idealism that still shined from under the shifting sands of his mind. But despite ideals, others' lives truly meant nothing to him, he realized. He had been forced to discard real empathy early in his career, and at such a late stage he was all but alien to the rest of humanity. His reputation grew tumorous and terrible as news of recent events began to spread. He was now the jewel in the Nation's crown and the bane of all Caldari. In this place he was given a limitless supply of living subjects to experiment upon, and left for the most part alone to do what he wished, so long as everyone ended up a "True Slave" in one way or another. It did not take long for him to make himself right at home, for there was just such a self within him who had. He had done such things before, when he had been a cruel and quite wrong-headed agent of the Amarrian Empire, having taken lessons from Imperial pain-shapers, seeking out the ragged limits of neural experience and even religious awakening in the suffering of others. Pain and fear could fascinate him to no end, the feeling of life coursing through his veins, and slick on his skin, the beauty of a wild hunt. But the fire of his baser passions had sputtered and waned long ago, and now even the most horrific of agonies either entering or exiting his consciousness were simply business. He felt agitated only that he had to suffer the tedium of repeating himself.
Even his master, the being that claimed to be "Master Kuveki" found him strange and unsettling. The master was truly mad, he quickly realized. He had enough of a grip on reality to know who friends and enemies were, but everything beyond that was uncharted wilderness. He could find the master amusing at times with his elaborate but direly jaundiced body of intellectual dogma, but his were still the petty ambitions of a child. He only wanted control, and he knew well enough what he wanted to be very suspicious of one traitorous and very old capsuleer who had suddenly volunteered his service. The master viewed him with a mixture of awe, curiosity and mistrust, which were certainly rational responses. Kuveki at times chided him, even, for being so jaded and stubborn, unwilling to enjoy simple pleasures for what they were (these times made him strangely angry, though he would never show it). But the master was not very intelligent, not enough to find any fault with his services, he knew because there was. The stinging blow to the Caldari dealt by the Nation's many new and masterfully engineered pilots was another drop of honey upon his tongue. He watched death, disillusionment; planets stripped bare of human life, just as he had dozens of times before. In countless, ceaseless wars he had been both the triumphant victor and the wretched vanquished. He had watched millions of lives snuffed out in an uncaring instant. The unceasing multitude of his own psyche cried out in a hundred voices from revulsion to revelry at his deeds. The fires burned, and from the broken shells of fallen arcologies, from the bodies of dead children crushed under the charred skeletons of man's frail paradise, from the ruin of a thousand cruelties, life had always sprung anew, as if by the blood of some masochistic god of eternal repetition. For that, the Caldari and the other imperials fought back stronger than ever. Even less than destruction, he had accomplished nothing. He remembered hearing a parable long ago of a man who had fallen while traveling a treacherous mountain path, and dangled from the edge of a cliff, holding on only by a vine, but who did not pull himself up because there was honey dripping down upon his tongue from a beehive near the edge. So many times had he been distracted and preoccupied by what was ultimately empty of satisfaction and meaning, had blinded himself for the sake of temporary truths. He was intolerably bound, gagged, and tied to a great and ever-turning wheel, to a world without end. Before much more could be accomplished by his patron, the fleet had been effortlessly wrested from his feeble grasp and shattered in a single screaming convulsion of blazing fire. The armada fell into ruin and disarray as the mindless puppets turned upon one another. He had been the true master from the moment he was granted access to the networks. He had ruined the Nation's campaign in the height of its savage glory, his glory. He didn't bother exterminating the remnants, or their hapless leader as they fled back into their forlorn wastelands from the brink of victory. It didn't matter, none of it did. There was nothing left for him, nothing left of which he had not become master, and likewise transcended. His final epitaph for the human race was as incomprehensible as the winding labyrinth of time that had been his life, and his prison for so long. He knew where the way of escape was, as at last his reality settled into a single coherent pattern. There would be no more time.
The complete destruction of one's own clones and the disconnection of the neural impulse-caching network to which one subscribed is a remarkably difficult process. In many cases he had to sabotage key devices himself, and at no small expense. It was expected that capsuleers would die, but not by their own hands. He realized then that he may be be the eldest of them all, a Methuselah, for he had met no others who truly shared any of his sentiments in well over a hundred years. Perhaps he was the oldest human who had ever lived. He didn't especially care to find out. Nor did he care to seek for some other purpose or meaning for his existence, as the truth had become plain to see. The whole of humanity together walked a dark and aimless path, wandering forever through silence, torn hither and thither by the mad, reasonless winds of the eternal. Endless numbers of beings disappeared from sight only to return again instant after burning instant. He had felt it all. It mattered not where the incarnations might lead him in time, but that there was a way to escape. For the first time in so very long he felt joy, he felt ecstasy, he felt peace, and he felt anticipation. At the notion of an end to experience, suddenly all the existential quandaries that had so long barred men from willing death slid away from him. He was tired of it, so incredibly tired.
The light from the Gate poured in, blinding, through the shuttle's small windows. He sat before it in the flesh, without a capsule womb to shield his aged body. He could feel the its cleansing heat wash over him, burning away his past, his passions. All the myriad selves he had been seemed to collapse and sift down, refine into one whole totality, one will, one purpose. He would escape. He would shed his carcass of exhausted hopes and dreamless sleep. He could at last dream again of a new horizon, an undiscovered vista beyond the worn edges of his endless humanity. The Gate that was the origin called to him, beckoned him to come closer, for he knew that beyond it was where the universe was dreaming. No one knew what would happen when he entered, just as no one knew what it truly meant to be a god.