The Last Great Hive

 

Continued from The Ghepions

Unexpectedly, the Iodine Era was brought to an end not by a calamity but by the shock of amazingly good news.  The city of Ao suddenly achieved a breakthrough in the creation of a "hive" - a group mind which harked back to the old-fashioned, innocent and successful hives of the Phosphorus Era.  The new Aoan Hive consisted of a levy from all the minds in the city, allowing each individual to retain his full consciousness through the added advantage of the melding which created value that was somehow given back to the individual.... rather as though it were possible to get something for nothing.  In addition, as a kind of co-ordinating core to this group consciousness, the Ghepion administrative computer contributed its own mind.  The combination worked.  

If it can be done, this sort of thing is a good bargain for both city and population.  The city-mind is exalted by the capabilities of the humans living in its territory, and vice versa.  Very occasionally, it is believed, the various conscious minds of the people may have joined fully with the city's own consciousness to form a brief super-mind, but mostly the effect was a sharing, rather than an intensifying, of consciousness.  And all reports and diaries insist that it was gentle and considerate, and you could drop out whenever you liked. 

Other cities had tried the techniques which led to all this, but only Ao ever succeeded.  The success was bound to be temporary, for too many destabilizing factors existed to allow it to last.  Remarkably, the Aoan Paramountcy (era 54, the Xenon Era) lasted 1,735,700 Uranian days - 70.7 Uranian years - equivalent to 5,940 Earth years; one of the shortest of the great eras, but an impressively long time for a city hive-mind to have preserved this moral balance between the collective and the individual.

The precise mode of consciousness of the Aoan Hive is beyond our reach, yet we have reason to suspect that it knew roughly the extent to which its days were numbered; also that it knew the chief purpose of its existence, which was to stave off the hylozoic powers that had been awakened like a cancer in the planetary subconscious, by the fight with the Mad City.  What the Aoan Hive actually did to shield Syoom during its paramountcy, we do not know; the answer may lie in the spools of the archives of Skyyon.  What we do know is that the controlled death-throes of the Hive lasted 13 minutes (the Caesium Era) during which it transmitted as much as possible of its wisdom to the Sunnoad.  These transmissions, known as the Aonian Blasts, amounted to a kind of hand-over of consciousness. 

The following Barium Era (54 days, 7 hours) was occupied with the action taken by the Sunnoad, based on information received from the Hive.

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