In the year of Niska, the child religious leader, system population exceeded one-hundred six billion. The Csu, a secondary religion founded by the prophet of the Lord Qat-Csu developed the political system that began at the remote corners of the planet the century before.
Missionaries moved through villages of farmers promising that the Lord Qat Csu would bring sufficient rains for the colonies in the back country. In the years that followed, a small but dedicated group of followers preached to anyone, anywhere giving testimony to the power and glory of the Lord of rain and plentiful harvest. Qat-Csu brought rain and plenty to all those that followed. The true followers of Qat-Csu were required to have the small fingers of each hand amputated. Failure to do so, marked one as not truly a follower, who suffered denials of rain and good harvest.
Those that received good rains but were not true followers would be found guilty of heresy and have all the harvest taken on the word of the ruling Cahir, the high priests of the church of Qat-Csu. In the generations that followed, resistance grew as the word of Qat-Csu was felt to be interpreted by the corrupt Cahir of the religion.
Claiming that a growing splinter group were apostates, calling themselves simply the Csu. The Csu did not believe that amputations of fingers as an answer to anything.
The Cahir of the Qat-Csu enlisted a fanatical genius who developed a virus to target carriers of five-finger DNA, obtained the virus through an apostate who left the Qat-Csu and leaked information out at the cost of his life. A DNA bioengineer modified the virus genetic coding to target three-fingered mutations.
The following war was a biologic nightmare. Missiles passed each other in mid-flight. A blow for each of their gods.
Ninety-seven percent of the population died outright in fever-induced seizures, after the ravages of the illness, fewer than ten-thousand survived out of billions.
The religion of death survived until the last, one of the last remaining Cahir walked down the path. The prophet of no name died of his own hand.
Looking into the eyes of his Hukis, students of the Qat-Csu, the Cahir spoke.
“The Lord Qat-Csu that speaks only to the prophet.” The hazel eyes of a farmer-come-priest wept. “It is a machine, an automaton .”
Called a blasphemer by his adepts, the students attacked and killed him with a golden candlestick, his body burned and his bones thrown from the cliffs into a river.
Peace settled on the dead planet, but life assumed to be extinct, found a way.
In the steel skeletons of the machines of war, lined up to be used by the dead hands after the biologic attack, life took hold.
The steel garden, lived.