Henry Briggs

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Henry Briggs was one of Earth’s foremost xenobiologists and a close friend of explorer and politician Tom Connery. Best known for his discovery of and research into extra-terrestrial artifacts and ruins, he suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism characterized by difficulties in social interaction and restrictively narrow focus and interests.[1] He was inexplicably able to slowly “cure” himself of the disorder after an experience in 2632: The moment he helped discover the first known alien artifact, citing a vision in which he was shown his past and first experienced the feeling of empathy for others.[2] Though he is credited with starting the movement that eventually evolved into today’s Vanu Sovereignty, Briggs’ suicide in 2660 prevented him from seeing the far-reaching effects of his research and experiences.[3]

Previously, I had never really felt like something was “wrong” with me. Others were always a closed book to me, and I preferred it that way. After all, I was the one with three PhDs, and they were merely idiots with their superficial interests and concerns.

Henry Briggs, in a personal Holovid Diary entry[4]


[edit] Detailed History

With a three simultaneously-earned doctorates in xenobiology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics, Henry Briggs was undoubtedly one of the most formidable minds on Earth even at the young age of 27. Despite this obvious fact, however, Briggs’ lifelong battle with Asperger Syndrome left him with few willing to consider hiring him, as his bitter, condescending, and often overcorrective tone made him unpleasant if not impossible to work with. He worked a string of odd jobs that were more befitting an undergraduate than a PhD holder for nearly two years before accepting an unlikely position as a “willing to travel” dog sitter in March of 2631.

To his great surprise, the dogs he had supposedly been hired to care for were none other than the six German Shepherds belonging to famous explorer and newly retired Terran Republic President Tom Connery. When Briggs was introduced to Connery on his first day, Connery’s intentions were made clear: He had hired him discreetly not to watch his dogs, but to accompany him on his return mission to the Moon Belt, which he had discovered fifteen years earlier, in an effort to investigate a rhythmic signal he had detected but been unable to investigate on his first visit. The former President not only knew of Briggs’ condition, but was relying on it—Connery was convinced after reading Henry’s dissertations, research papers, and blog posts that he was not constrained to the modes of thinking that so many scientists of his time were. Threatened that one misstep in his behavior would have him sent back to Earth without hesitation, Briggs accepted Connery’s offer to join him in making the discovery of a lifetime.[1]

Eighteen months later, Henry Briggs stood beside Connery in a small cave located in a half-mile-long moon fragment, looking down at what would prove to be the first alien artifact discovered by humanity. Seemingly hypnotized by the delicate carving’s rhythmic pulse, Briggs, heedless of Connery’s warnings, reached out and touched the idol. When he did so, he received a vision; He saw his past and future laid out before him, and the effects his aloof and distant nature had had on those in his life who had cared for him most. When Connery freed his hand and he snapped back to reality, Henry was left with only a single word ringing in his ears: Vanu. From that day on, Vanu would be his private obsession—the seemingly endless puzzle for which he longed to find the solution.

After receiving the vision from the artifact, Briggs was given leave to study it in detail during the fifteen-month trip back to Earth. During this time, he and Connery discussed Vanu—which Henry had decided was the name of whatever divine presence he had felt in his vision—and speculated on what his people and culture must have been like. All the while, Briggs was finding himself changed; he no longer disliked this socialization and his formerly narrow focus on his interests was widening and offering him additional clarity. Within a few short years, the new Henry Briggs was almost an entirely different person, seemingly cured of his Asperger Syndrome. And in Henry’s mind, every one of these positive changes was directly attributable to the amazing power of Vanu.[2]

In 2636, Connery stated his intention to mount an expedition through a mysterious wormhole that opened in the solar system for several weeks every 98.3 years. Briggs, who had maintained close ties with Connery since their discovery of the artifact, was quick to volunteer for the mission and accompanied the Wormhole Expedition through the mysterious rift in October of 2640. The trip was not without incident, however: The stress of the fleet on the unstable wormhole caused it to collapse, taking the lives of almost half of the 75,000 man expedition and stranding the remaining 40,000—Henry included—in uncharted space. It wasn’t long before growing dissent aboard the stranded fleet gave birth to an insurgency movement, most of which was attributed to an entrepreneurial group aboard the fleet known as the New Conglomerate. The movement grew more violent with each passing month, and Henry watched as Connery, whom he had known to value personal freedoms above all else, resignedly instituted strict curfews and military patrols in response.[2][5][6]

All Connery’s efforts proved to be for naught. In January of 2642 a team of insurgents struck at the Terran Republic military cruiser Explorer-5, first taking the weapons depot and then the bridge, killing the military leadership there before they themselves were killed or captured. His hand forced, Connery set up a diplomacy meeting between himself, the remaining military leadership, and insurgency representatives. While aboard the civilian ship Discovery-7 for the meeting, Connery and 591 others were killed when a bomb was detonated, utterly destroying the ship and everyone on board.[7][8]

Henry Briggs lost his closest friend that day, but never gave up on the ideals Tom Connery had stood for: Freedom from oppression, and being true to one’s beliefs. With Connery dead, the fleet fell under military control; what few liberties remained were voted away by frightened crewmembers in favor of greater security.[8] Though the bombing was never officially traced back to the New Conglomerate, they and the Terran Republic military grew increasingly at odds over the incident, polarizing much of the crew against one another. It was Briggs and his associates—scientists, engineers, experts in every theoretical field—that kept themselves aloof of the warmongering among the rest of the fleet, instead devoting their time to speculation about alien life and technology rather than petty conflicts and politics. The impending storm was ultimately calmed by the discovery of a devastated planet, tentatively dubbed “New Earth”, that was nonetheless ideal for terraforming.[2]

The planet, renamed Auraxis after its terraformation, proved to be a xenobiologist’s paradise, dotted with alien ruins ripe for exploration. While details of the last fifteen years of Briggs’ life are scarce, it is known that in 2650 he took part in the discovery of a second alien artifact, identical to the one he and Connery discovered over fifteen years earlier in 2634. This discovery, which was accompanied by another vision and the voice of Vanu speaking directly to Briggs, was likely the event that sparked his rise to the leader of a group devoted to the study of Vanu, its people, and their technology, more of which would be found on the planet throughout the following centuries. Though Briggs committed suicide exactly ten years later in 2660, his legacy would carry on and eventually be reborn into what is known today as the Vanu Sovereignty.[1][3]

[edit] Holovid Diary Entries

[edit] December 21, 2642

Of late I've been thinking about the fighting that ultimately led to Tom's murder. I recognize that the trip, which is taking so much longer than we anticipated, is weighing down on many. Tempers are flaring out of control. A very palpable feeling of fear and dread is spreading throughout the fleet, leading to unprovoked fights between good friends and family. But why are so many people acting in ways they never have before? Why are good people taking up arms and blowing up ships?

I've had a lot of time to think about this madness since my job won't get started until we land on New Earth. As one of the very few people Connery himself brought into the fleet, I'm shown enough courtesy to be able to shuttle between the ships and be welcome wherever I go, just as long as I give my talk about how great the man was and how his vision still guides us. I know Connery was flawed. We all are. However, I honestly accept he was not only a great man, but a great visionary, and I don't think we'll see his like again. Unfortunately, even though I can't say this aloud, I truly believe it's no longer his vision that's guiding us.

Connery believed in peace and equality and I saw how much it pained him during the early riots to impose even the slightest restrictions on the fleet, let alone the prohibitive curfews the military insisted on. I know he was planning on lifting them as soon as he could, but with his death went any chance of them being removed. The Terran Republic brass certainly don't share his views. I think if they could get away with shackling tracking bracelets on every one of us under the banner of "preserving the peace", they'd have done so even before Connery's body was sent drifting into space. The T.R. hierarchy used to be transparent, so everyone knew where their vote went and what was going to be done. It's a shame that these days they've become the exact opposite of Connery's dream. I know that if he were still here today, things would be far more in line with his wishes. I don't usually consider myself a vengeful person by any means, but I wish I knew who was responsible for his death.

Not all that dissimilar to my days in college, people are drifting into cliques. I notice the law and order guys who fear the rise in violence and crime are gravitating to the Terran Republic gatherings. The T.R. give speeches, promising safety and security, and I see a lot of the frightened folk are drawn to that message. They want protection and they trust the T.R. to make sure they're treated equally. And even though I find the T.R. to be inches away from being dictators, they do keep the peace. Perhaps in these stressful times that's exactly what some people need.

The group that really surprises me is the businessmen, the New Conglomerate, as they call themselves. We knew they hired paid mercenaries, so despite the incongruity of Earth's top CEOs and glorified contract killers working side-by-side, I understand that bond. What I wasn't expecting was all the young people siding with the N.C. It turns out the N.C.'s rallying cry for freedom from government intervention is something they both favor. Both groups are fed up with the increasingly harsh government regulations, and now they stand together against a common enemy. I guess the old saying about politics making strange bedfellows is still true.

As for myself, however, I find I'm spending a lot more time with the other scientists, doctors and techs. We can't meet after work due to the T.R. restrictions, but each day between shifts and during breaks, a growing number of us get together in the mess or in the labs and talk about our lives. None of us care much about politics. We help each other work through complex problems or sometimes just commiserate over what we believe to be the general ignorance of the rest of the fleet. We speak for no more than an hour or so daily, but I look forward to that time. After a lifetime of solitude, being able to finally speak to others like you is incredibly freeing.

Yesterday, before second shift, we once again got into everyone's favorite subject: the artifact. I told them minor details, more than we had ever revealed to anyone else, but I was careful not to tell them too much. Although I spend so much time thinking about it, I still feel odd to talk about it with others. I feel like imparting the knowledge I've gained from the artifact is important, but it's difficult to imagine how much I can say before I start sounding insane.

As a result, I've kept a lot of the experience to myself. After all, I couldn't risk the T.R. getting wind of what I went through. I have no idea what "treatment" or experiments they'd perform on me. When we found the figurine deep in the tunnel, Tom and I could feel it vibrating, creating a series of repeating rhythms that felt like voices in chorus. I didn't intend to touch it, and Connery warned me not to, but the rhythms, crazy as it may sound, called to me. I heard voices, not audible, but somehow still inside my head, the way I always assumed telepathy would feel if it was real.

It didn't speak in words, but in feelings and images. One moment I was staring at a trinary star system, and the next I was plunging into a wall of fire. I felt elation followed by unbelievable dread.

I saw the faces of people I knew, and somehow, as I was to later learn, people I will know in the future. There was something else, too. I felt their emotions; their pains and their elations. I experienced my parents in a way I never had before. I felt their love for me when I was a child and how they tried to help before I completely chased them away. I saw their hearts breaking every time I talked back to them, and I felt shame and regret for what I had done to both them and others.

Previously, I had never really felt like something was "wrong" with me. Others were always a closed book to me, and I preferred it that way. After all, I was the one with three PhDs, and they were merely idiots with their superficial interests and concerns. As time has gone on since that day, however, I feel like I've become more and more literate to others.

It was like this thing had reached into my head and made me understand for the first time the hurt I caused by being aloof and distant from everyone who ever tried to care about me. But it also showed images of me with friends, laughing... living. It all felt like a bizarre dream back then, but I'm sure that what I was seeing was a prophecy.

I remember the flesh on my arms turned translucent and then rippled and cracked while I could do nothing but stare. Otherworldly patterns of infinite complexity covered every surface of my vision and went on in every direction. I couldn't explain the shapes and feelings I saw and experienced; no words existed that could describe them. I couldn't understand any of the sounds I had heard at first; it was just a modulating jumble of static and reverberations. Eventually the cacophonic echoes synced up like an ancient radio signal being properly tuned and I clearly heard a single word: Vanu.

And when I said that word, it was as if I was suddenly and violently hurtled back into reality.

I had snapped out of the trance I was in and was back in the tunnel, no longer touching the figurine. Connery had grabbed my arm and pulled me free. Only a moment had passed, but the short time the artifact was in my hands felt like days. I felt like I had a taste of some type of knowledge I hadn't even dreamed of. I was left with an impression of an incredibly powerful presence that I cannot overemphasize; I was given a glimpse of divinity. However, in the minutes after I was pulled from the object, it began to fade like a dream after an alarm startles you awake.

In the days after the event I noted a startling change to my thought processes. My rational mind seemed as robust as ever, but I was able to see things from other points of view like never before. It was obvious to me that I had previously been completely myopic in so many areas of thought, and now felt a vastness of new interests and understandings flooding my consciousness. It was overwhelming at first, but I was able to discuss it in detail with Tom, who was able to help me a lot. This was another completely new experience; human interaction that affected me positively.

Together we'd blue-sky wild ideas about the alien race who designed the artifacts. I believed because I had heard the word Vanu that it has to have some kind of meaning. Perhaps it was the name of the alien's God, and the statue we found was his idol. Tom joked that Vanu was just the figure's name; after all he'd say, we have Dorothy dolls and Quincy Quacks, so maybe the aliens had Vanu bobbleheads or something. Maybe he was an action figure based on some kid's holovid? I remember feeling genuine rage for the first time in my life when he joked about that figure, and he could tell. He never joked about it with me again. When I wasn't spending time with the figurine, Tom and I often postulated about their society and imbued them with human emotions despite the obvious fact that they, whoever they are, are definitely not human.

I managed to convince Tom to let me keep the artifact for study, and to learn more about what I had felt that first time I had touched it. I studied the figurine for months while on the journey back to Earth. As time went on, I noticed more subtle changes about myself. Though the voices never returned despite all my attempts to conjure them, a purpose within me was crystallizing. A purpose that was stronger than any of my weaknesses. Maybe I should have questioned these changes more, but for the first time in my life I felt I belonged. I felt I knew why I was here.

Vanu. Vanu was my purpose; my reason for being.

I still wasn't certain this was all real, and I hoped I wasn't still crazy, but in an all-new and different way. I couldn't tell my new friends any of this, of course, and in the mess that day I held nearly all of it back. Yet, they were still excited by what I did reveal. They were thrilled at the very concept of learning about a race that had no ties with humanity. As a xenobiologist, the thought of interacting with beings completely different from us is, I admit, intoxicating. Our little group is definitely filled with kindred spirits, less involved with the politics of the T.R. or the N.C. and far more aligned with Connery's hopes for the future.

Together, we look towards a new chapter in humanity. Our scanners show New Earth to be an inhospitable and devastated world. Scientists with knowledge on the matter have told me that even after we terraform it, life on our new planet will remain difficult. However, I know how adaptable we are in matters of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, even if only given the last 300 years of history as an example. I have no doubt in my mind that the discoveries we'll make will make up for the hardships this journey has caused us to endure. Tom would've probably had more eloquent and reassuring words to inspire us, but he's not here. Luckily for me, I've found a new inspiration for the future.

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BACKSTORY: HENRY BRIGGS – PART I – 4.3.2631
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 BACKSTORY: HENRY BRIGGS – PART 2 – 12.21.2642
  4. BACKSTORY: HENRY BRIGGS – PART 2 – 12.21.2642
  8. 8.0 8.1 TERRAN REPUBLIC BREAKING NEWS 01.06.2642
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