The Grand Design

The Bringer of Light's first imperative was to construct a base from which the millenia-long plan could be directed. To this end he returned to the City of Dreams, taking with him a small corps of human servants. From these he would breed the "technos", who would expand the city into the far larger complex required for the co-ordination of the Grand Design. To fulfil the need for a less specialised labourer, and that of soldiers for his armies, the Bringer of Light turned to an offshoot of the hominid from which Humanity had been created. Australopithecus robustus provided the genetic foundation on which the Rooks were built.

Early in the program, the Bringer of Light retired to a psychically shielded cocoon, about which the technos constructed the Disruptor hive. Here he could wait out the years, gradually surrendering to an increasingly more vital life support system.

The directives issued to his minions consisted of a "cosmic blueprint" towards which the multiverse must be nursed, kicked, and cajoled. With it he provided the basic logistical approach the technos would use to manipulate the psi-matrix, as well as a number of other objectives. These included the location and destruction of any remaining Elders (be they Changelings or survivors of the War) and the further reduction of Humanity's psychic potential by at least two-thirds. First there was a Grand Survey of the Multiverse to be made. This Survey began in 1901BC, and was principally concerned with the creation of a master "atlas" of the psi-matrix of the focal parallels. It was at this point that the beings known as the Five intruded on the Grand Design.

Three of the Five were aliens that were refugees from their peers' civil war, who had fled the fighting almost as it began. They were dismayed by what had happened: their own answer to the inevitable was to urge an acceptance of their fate, and that Humanity should be nurtured as the inheritors of their knowledge and wisdom. In their haphazard flight they passed through a parallel under the rule of two Changelings, who in the past had acted against the Elders to preserve their realm. The Changelings snared the interlopers and intended to kill them, but fortunately they allowed their captives to speak. What they heard led them to join forces with the Elders: the Five were born.

They returned to the War, hoping to prevent the Bringer of Light's victory. At the last, however, they had to withdraw, feigning a fatal retreat. They now knew the Enemy's final goal, declared over the withered husks of his vanquished kin, and armed with this knowledge they could speculate with great accuracy on how he would go about achieving it. They knew they had to stop him: the problem was how. The Bringer of Light was a stronger psionic than they were, even combined. In addition, he had the legacy of the Elder technology. Faced with an immensely powerful and able foe the Five could only hope to stop him by going with the Grand Design. They would break in the storm, but they would not break, and in time they would find a way to defeat the Enemy.

By the time the Grand Survey began, they had formulated a strategy. As the use of Humanity was integral to the design, the Five would find a way to turn Humanity against it. The first gambit they played was to hide a single focal parallel from the Grand Survey. Unfortunately, shielding what was to become ZeroZero was to take most of their Psychic energy form then until the end of the trans-parallel war. On completion of the survey, the technos set the next element of the plan into motion. Obvious surviving Elders and Changelings were hunted down and destroyed. On parallels where the Changelings had interbred with Humanity (creating the races preserved in the racial consciousness as Elves, Dwarves, Satyrs, Centaurs, Vampires, Lycanthropes and others of this supposedly mythological catalogue) the Disruptors instituted a battery of genocidal culls between 1800 to 1100BC.

The latter years of this stage saw the initial "disruption" of Humanity's values and perceptions. The most notable shifts in this era are the shifts in religious and philosophical attitudes. For example, the merging of the Olympian gods with a plethora of "old deities", the consolidation of the religion of Yahweh by the Hebrews, or the subtle turnings taken by Chinese philosophers. With broad, almost casual brushstrokes the old histories were suppressed and rewritten across the parallels. The Disruptors also spread across the parallels the method of improving the quality of wrought iron; as iron acts as a damper of psi-fields, this was a valuable asset in the suppressions of Humanity's psychic abilities.

It took until 1500BC for the Disruptors to perfect the methods required for the trans-parallel manipulation programme. The continua were divided into five groups, each to be manipulated in a different fashion according to the prerequisites of the Grand Design.

The first group consisted of the Controls. These were a narrow range of parallels, with only five foci, over which the Disruptors would exert no direct influence. They would only be affected by the ripple or shadow happenings passing through the psi-matrix from the surrounding parallels. One of the parallels in this group was ZeroZero (though not, of course, intentionally).

The second group, Primitives, were parallels where technology was restricted to levels equal to or below that of pre-industry. Disruptor practice on such planets embodied the creation of a ruling oligarchy, typically a priest/priestesshood, which would very often embellish its rule with psionic techniques. Careful nurturing of the native psychics on these parallels furnished the gene pool from which the Disruptor Knights were drawn.

The third and largest group was the Technicals. On these parallels the development of technology was guided at first in tandem with the primitives, then beyond, through a gamut of "industrial revolutions". These were usually linked with or consequential to warfare, which escalated to global warfare across over 70% of the group during the final period of the Grand Design.

The fourth set of parallels were the Secures. As with the Controls, this was a very narrow range, but essential to the Disruptors. These were parallels so firmly under their control that their societies could be swiftly reorganised to damp down psychic resonances, occurring on other parallels, that were harmful to the programme. Due to the activities of ZeroZero, the various World War II scenarios were designed to greatly expand the number of Secure parallels.

The final group was known as the Bleaks; parallels on which the Earth had passed beyond usefulness to the Grand Design. This was normally due to that Earth being destroyed in warfare or ecologically. The only use to which they were put by the Disruptors was for the establishment of training bases for their Knights and other psychics.

Over the centuries, the Disruptors consolidated their position and refined their techniques. They began to shape the parallels into the alignments and configurations required by the Grand Design. The Five bided their time, waiting until the Enemy was fully committed: they needed to find some point in the Disruptors' plans where any chance would cause them difficulties.

That chance came with the "Messiah-vessels"; a single native on each focal and second-order parallel who had been prepared by the Disruptors to deliver the ethical and moral foundation that would lead to their power being almost absolute across the parallels. It was a massive operation, stretching the Disruptors to their limit. At the height of the operation the Five reached out and gave each Messiah what the Disruptors had so carefully excised from their psyches: free will. Consequently, the myriad Ashokas, Amaterasuses, Yeshuas and their contemporaries did far more than the Disruptors had intended: yet, with the players primed and the stage set they were powerless to rescind what they had set in motion. Frantically a counter-programme was set up to neutralise or subvert the Messiahs' teachings, the running of which occupied the Disruptors' faculties until the early 1500s AD.

With the Enemy distracted, the Five next set about the long work of selectively breeding Humanity back towards greater psychic and physical potential. They worked broadly across the parallels, hastening the process in the 1100s and 1200s AD. Great care was taken to have this appear as natural to the Disruptors. Carefully manipulated field agents sent back doctored reports. From these it was concluded by them that the social and religious manipulation the Messiahs' incident had necessitated, had resulted in a natural gene drift towards enhanced psionic abilities in Humanity, particularly the female of the species.

It took the Bringer of Light and his minions nearly two centuries to formulate a solution; the socio-psychological trauma of the "witch-hunt craze". This acted to suppress psionics, together with a package of genetically engineered plagues, foremost of which was the Black Death: its variants included factors specifically aimed at psionics. Some would cause gross disfigurement of the psychics or their offspring, others would cause only a blemish; the so- called "witch's mark".

The Five withdrew their manipulation, saving the best of the gene pool. The various tales of disappearing people and tribes give a distant echo of such an event; the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin being perhaps the best-known.

The next three centuries passed calmly enough for the Disruptors. To all appearances, the Grand Design was proceeding well: the lines of probability were converging towards the nexus from which the New Order would rise. Almost it seemed that the psi-matrix was reduced to a tame animal, obeying the Disruptors' every command. The Five, however, had been far from idle. The scattered descendants of the psychic humans were drawn slowly into a breeding programme across the parallels. The Five took great care to shield their childrens' potential, grafting a distortion into the twenty-third chromosome pair. This effectively crippled the psionic potential of their thoroughbreds. On countless parallels the protection failed and the psychic abilities surfaced: the Five had to watch the Disruptors move in, either to recruit or kill.

On ZeroZero put the Disruptors' own techniques to use. They consolidated the power of the Holy Roman Empire during its early years. A tradition of scientific tolerance and curiosity was fostered within the Court; the power of the Church was weakened. Science was primed to take the place of religion, and through it, control of the military government. To the minds of ZeroZero's Boyle, Malpighi, Wren, Huygens, Hooke and Newton came the guiding inspirations that would culminate in Marx's "incredible vision, like music, a symphony of the spheres, quite incredible, so very beautiful."

In the early twentieth century, as the Disruptors accelerated the final stages of the Grand Design, the Five began the unshackling of their DNA-warrior. At Ypres, on Para. 00-30-22, they telekinetically nudged a grenade in flight. Arkwright's grandfather died, his psychic scream all but killing the Disruptor Knight in the opposing German lines. Such power could not go uninvestigated: the shockingly powerful, but strangely and mercifully unable, psychic family was examined and watched.

The son of the dead English Guardsman had a psi-strength far beyond the Human norm, but an ironic twist of his genetic makeup kept his potential power locked beyond the reach of his conscious mind. Even so, his intuition, coordination and endurance were extraordinary. The Disruptors reached a decision. A suitable wife was found for Captain Gavin Arkwright; a Disruptor Knight whose memories had been adjusted and falsified. On the 15th February 1950, the Rooks were summoned by the observing Disruptor Knights, and the Disruptors acquired what they hoped to make into the perfect Knight, the Champion of the Grand Design's last hour. Instead, they nursed a viper. The plans of both the Disruptors and the Five were approaching fruition; the Adventures of Luther Arkwright were about to begin.