The World of PLENUM
When Art Penn was recruited (he’d say shanghaied) by an old Dragon named Morl back in 1999, he found himself trapped in a time war with the Knights over the Prime Context, the most probable human future. The context split into two time lines in 3092, four hundred years after the end of the worst catastrophe in any of the human contexts left mankind on the brink of extinction. Six centuries of religious slaughter and environmental collapse had left the few hundred million survivors with no hope of recreating the glorious technology of the twentieth century. All the easily accessible minerals and energy sources had been depleted. Almost all the books had burned. Only a few religious documents survived and even those were suspect after the centuries of carnage they inspired. Both the Knights and Dragons regarded that as a good thing.
Hopes remained, however. Dreams. Men told stories around the camp fire, stories of a golden age when fabulous animals filled the world and men created light just by wishing for it and pounded the earth itself into weapons of unimaginable power. Women whispered around the community hearth of a time when disease could be twisted like a hungry worm and made to feed on itself, a time when the secrets of life commanded even Life itself, and designed plant and animal alike to serve human ends.
The age of great machines was over but small machines were still possible, and if the oil and uranium were all gone then dreams must power the future. Small machines grew smaller and smarter. The code of life was edited, snipped and rewritten. The distinction between man and machine began to blur. At the same time the definition of humanity was rewritten: redesigned flesh incorporated the poorly-remembered dream. The trends coexisted for a time, but the tension between them grew until they could not share the world. In the year 3092, the human context split in two. One future belonged to the Knights and in it human consciousness, mind, abandoned biology and spread into the physical universe. The other future belonged to the Dragons. In it, human life began to incorporate the non-human world. Organic consumed inorganic and mind drifted away from machine.
For good or ill, we humans are locked into our private histories, the time lines into which we are born. Neither the Dragons nor the Knights were aware of the context split until emissaries from their distant futures opened the tunnel that touches every point in space and time. They revealed a larger universe, the context of all contexts, in which their time lines were slowly becoming less probable. One fruit of that revelation was a war over which context would dominate the human future, a war that spanned a thousand human centuries and all the countless human histories. Another was Arthur Penn, born in Chicago, veteran of America’s wars in the middle east, Dragon battles in ancient Rome, stone age Europe, and the depths of the last ice age, and beloved of a true woman, a Dragon woman, and . . . something else.