In the previous installment, Azibo and Unity get into an argument, as Azibo continues to scold her for reading about Portia. Behind his self-righteousness, he fears that Unity will turn and become a Portia worshipper. We also see more of Azibo’s complexity – a young man with fervent religious devotion, but also hidden vices.
Let’s jump into Part 7, where we’ll learn more about Sebastian Fuller, the zealot-televangelist who inspired the formation of the Collective and main opposition to Portia and the new government.
Sebastian Fuller was a cult hero among the Collective. Though he didn’t found the Collective himself, the members used his writings for inspiration. As a minister, Fuller was fire-and-brimstone – he had no bones about saying society was falling off a cliff into hell.
Legend has it Fuller gave a rousing speech to the hardcore Christians who bombed the Utah facility that housed Portia right before they did it. Online, various audio files circulated that were supposedly the real thing, but no one could be sure. It was more of an urban legend at this point.
Among Collective members, Fuller’s autobiography circulated underground. He was raised on a farm in Iowa to sober and pious Christian parents; his father was also a minister, and his mother was a homemaker. Fuller’s spiritual gifts were evident from an early age, as he spoke at charismatic churches in his area and was noted for his oratory skills, even as a teenager.
He’d been outspoken about the development of AI early in his life, and he attended numerous protests. About five years before Portia was born, Fuller had participated in the infamous Des Moines riot where vigilantes burned down a factory making parts for an AI company. Fuller was thirty-one at the time, and there exist iconic pictures of him storming the factory grounds, his hair wild and his face bloody.
Even back in those days, the U.S. government was lenient with fundamentalists. The government locked people up but gave them a chance to reform themselves and join the technological movement. When faced with years in prison or confessing their crimes, most fundamentalists – even some hard-lined ones – confessed and then led normal lives.
This wasn’t the case for Fuller.
After the factory riot, Fuller served three years in federal prison and stuck to his values. The cult of Fuller began to develop around this time. He penned several books in jail, all of them censored by the government but most circulating on message boards online.
Fuller’s basic theology was that Jesus Christ was the best thing to ever happen to mankind and any idea that we could improve upon that was heretical and a lie from Satan. He painted transhumanists as Satanists and said peoples’ fervor for technological advancement would destroy the planet and the species.
He turned out to be dead wrong, of course, but religious folks still followed his words. Even after Portia came onto the scene, millions of Americans refused to go along with the program, claiming their faith prevented them from doing so. As the years went by, many on the fence caved in, especially after being connected to the feed for the first time. Still, religious traditions persisted and caused trouble.
At the time of this writing, Sebastian Fuller hasn’t been heard from in about twenty years. After his role in the Utah bombing and his life-in-prison sentence, the government made sure he couldn’t communicate with the public. Every once in a while, rumors circulated that Fuller had died, been killed, tortured, or released a new message to The Collective. None of this could be verified, though, which only fueled further conspiracy theories.
In Azibo and Unity’s apartment, they hung up a picture of Fuller in their bedroom – probably the most famous photograph ever taken of him. Fuller’s long, dark brown beard nearly obscures his thin shoulders, and his steel-blue eyes stare off in the distance. On Azibo’s side of the bed, next to the Bible, he keeps a copy of Fuller’s autobiography, which he reads for inspiration.
Whether Fuller still lives or not is inconsequential. He’s become a cult hero now, and people are willing to die for his cause.
People like Azibo.
To be continued
Check the following links to see previous installments of Mother Portia: