Archive for January, 2018

Rings of Fate S2xE9 – Destiny – Life

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Well lit hallways, lined with plants on the sides, lay in a dormant state of early morning anticipation. Soon people would walk through them. Chat, both with their devices and in person, jest, laugh.

Hurry through them with important news on their minds.

Like Phineas Branston was, news he thought he’d get from the command centre, but obviously the communication officer just routed information along, without reading much into it.

Phineas scrambled around a corner, hurried onward to the tube access. Already in sight, he ordered a cab to the port. That was usually frowned upon, as one should use the access terminal next to the entrance to call for one.

But he didn’t have the patience to wait.

Too much was at stake.

 

“Morning!” He was greeted as he entered the meeting room. “Why did you call this meeting?” Clarissa Neubacher continued with a yawn.

“Because of this.” He pointed at the big screen in the room, after throwing a “Good Morning” to Clarissa and the others.

On the screen a planet appeared. On the side of the planet that was faced towards the camera that took the still image, was a continental mass spanning from one ice covered pole across the equator, ending in the south sea, and a smaller continental mass sitting on the equator. The rest was blue sea.

Patches of clouds covered parts of the planet, but it seemed to be a beautiful day on most of the shown side.

“I have gone over data sent from Explorer, and I proudly present to you, RV-p296!”

 

Anticipation in the room was almost tangible, Admiral Mirella Jagodic sat, waiting, at the head of the elongated table. The governors of the rings were present, seated to one side of the table, most of the other side was taken up by various scientists. Biologists, Geologists, Astrophysicists, Physicists, what not.

Phineas Branston, head of Destiny’s planetary development department sat on the other end of the table.

Normally he and the Admiral crossed paths only once a year, for the annual presentation of the proposed Destiny-colony once the ship reaches RV-p296. “I thank you all for coming!” The man with the curly blond, although receding, hair rose up. “A data package from Explorer revealed the first images of our future home planet.” He stated outright the reason why they all had been summoned. On the displays built into the table the images taken by the advance probes appeared. The north-equatorial continent, the separate equatorial continent, and two landmasses that are seprated by a narrow sea strait around the equator. Then there was a huge sea, only small islands were in it, over a presumed volcanic hotspot.

“It is beautiful.” Mirella smiled benignly, but she still didn’t fully understand why the meeting had been called.

“After the probe took these images, the onboard AI dislogded the ground surveyors. A group of drones designed to scout the planet and map out for potential sites so we could establish colonies right away when we arrive.” Phineas opened a schematic detailing the ground surveyors.

“There had been a lengthy discourse on Explorer already before the data was sent, Horizon forwarded it right away, but the discourse is still in progress there.” He opened up the image of the two continents that were separated only by a sea narrow. It was a series of still images. Four dots against the image of the planet indicated the descending surveyors. “The probe continued orbital survey as the drones landed. One was destroyed upon landing, due to faulty equipment. A replacement was dispatched.” He explained another dot in the following image.

After that he followed up with a zoomed in image taken from the landing site of on of the probes directed at the continents with the narrow. After a while he stopped.

A small red circle appeared. “This is the landing site of the eagle ground surveyor, Hawk landed on the southern continent. Another circle appeared around something in the thick green of forests that seemed to spread over much of the continent.

“This, is the cause for this meeting.”

Puzzled the others stared at the screens before them. Only Gale Whittaker, a geologist,  raised her eyebrows and let out a whistle.

“It isn’t a natural formation. Is there a better image?” A sly smile appeared on Phineas’ lips. “The AI was as curious as we are, and therefore, yes there are better images.” A series of pictures opened up.

“What is it we are seeing?” Mirella asked what was on the minds of the others as well. “Stone structures.” Replied Gale. “A town? Temples? Your guess is as good as mine. But that is not all.” Phineas wiped his hand over the screen, bringing up more footage. A small line of text in the upper right corner revealed it was footage recorded by the eagle drone.

 

After the landing, it established a connection with the orbiter, a clear line of sight was confirmed with a laser beam.

Following the connection establishing, the drone underwent a series of self tests, which took up an hour. After that time the Eagle began a preliminary examination of its surroundings, accompanied by a few snap shots. There were green leaves of plants around, not surprising as RV-p296 was earth like, orbiting around a G-type star like earth’s sun.

The eagle’s commands were simple in the first stage. Scout the land, map out dangers, landmarks, rivers, and coastlines. Only later once a preliminary scouting had been done, would phase two commence. Biological cataloguing.

Quickly the balloon of the Eagle filled with gas. For now, bottled gas sent along with the drone, soon it would produce its own. It hovered in the air, adjusted the electric fans used to steer and for motion.

Something moved in a shrubbery like growth near the drone, immediately the primitive AI scanned the place. A small animal crept out from underneath the branches, and looked quite curious at the unusual sight, assessing whether it posed a threat and should be feld from, or not.

Eagle took higher, and steered clear of the tree like plants. Soon after leaving its landing site the orbiter redirected Eagle to investigate the unusual structure.

If it truly was artificial that meant that the continent was inhabited, possibly not suitable for colonisation.

An hour of flight had passed, from a distance Eagle noted a volcanic mountain, reported the position to the orbiter, when Eagle’s sensors picked up a column of smoke.

Slowly Eagle approached the site, way above the trees.

 

“Each of these surveyor units is equipped with six crawler units, they are solar powered, have a limited battery run time and range. They stream information to the surveyor, which in turn transmits to the orbiter.” Phineas explained the following pictures.

 

The crawler, about the size of a standard plate, impacted roughly near the campsite that Eagle had detected. Slowly it navigated on it’s spider inspired, eight legs through the underbrush. There were huts around the campsite, simple accommodations, temporary accommodations.

Later the scientists aboard Explorer would assume a camp of hunters.

A group of creatures stood in the clearing around the fire. They had two slim legs, that reached to the front, and a thick muscular one that bent in the other direction.

They pointed with hands, that sported three fingers, at the treeline, in the direction of the Eagle module. They had clothing, and bows, indicating that they at least were somewhat advanced.

 

Immediately upon viewing the creatures Akira Matsuhoshi, the Biologist at the conference table grew exited. “Is there any more known about these creatures?”

“Data about the natives will be available to you as soon as this meeting is adjourned. This meeting was called in order to start the discourse on how we proceed with the settlement preparations.” Again the planet appeared, this time it was a representation in form of a globe. “So far, orbital observations indicated their presence on the two continents that are separated by the narrow straight, and the largest of them all. The one on the equator seems to be free of them.”

A short moment of silence followed Phineas’ words. “Just to inform you, Explorer opted out from settling on any landmass inhabited by the natives, Horizon is still in debate.”

Leaning her face on one hand Mirella sighed. “I move that we follow Explorer’s example.” She rose to her feet. “But ultimately, it is our children who will be tasked with deciding this, any resolution we make, they can overthrow.”

Again a moment of silence followed. “Admiral.” Gamma ring’s Governor, Vladimir Petriev also stood up. “I am all in favor of letting the indigenous people dwell untouched by us, develop uninfluenced, but what if they are on that last continent too? We need room to grow food, to mine minerals, to spread. After three generations holed up in these ships,  our children, and grandchildren, will want to spread.” He gazed down on the virtual globe before him. “If I look at this planet, I want to spread!”

A smile dance over Mirella’s lips. “As I said, any resolution we find today, next month, or a year from now, the group in command when we reach the planet will be able to overthrow our decision.” Mirella followed his gaze to her own display of the globe. “This equatorial continent is much more distanced to the others than they are from one another. I doubt they reached it. Even during an ice age there’s still a large distance over the sea. Judging from what I’ve seen so far they don’t sail that far.”

“Ancient human explorers and settlers sailed with pontoon boats across vast distances. From earth’s polinesia to the easter islands, and presumably on to south America. A sea isn’t a border, it’s a transport way.” Sheldon McCormick winked, he too was in the biology department. And apparently a history buff.

“The tiny islands on the far side of these continents should provide plenty of room for settlements.” Mirella shook her head with a chuckle. “However, we should wait for more data to transpire to us. Until that time, I would appreciate it if you all worked on the data you have, we should form informed opinions, not rushed ones. I expect reports to trickle in within the next week.” She winked at Phineas and left the governors and scientists to themselves.

 

Sitting in the garden of the sub alpha ring Mirella enjoyed a cup of tea. It was a rare commodity, she knew a guy from her schooldays who grew tea in his quarters, as did his parents. Most of his family in fact.

Again and again they had applied to get some spot in the gardens to grow some. But she couldn’t help that. Except when he approached her to plant them in the sub alpha garden. A section of that garden was a training course for the military on board, and there he could grow his tea, harvest it at night.

But still. A rare commodity, supplies of tea were limited, and the demand for it was huge. With a soft smile she appreciated the fact that they were able to produce coffee flavor and caffeine in the lab, the coffee riots her parents had told her about made sure research went in that direction. Before then there had been one woman on the entire ship that had coffee. Growing the beans in her crammed little quarters, and refining them in an unused storage room her son in engineering had access to.

After she died he retired from engineering and he and his wife continued her work. Mirella glanced in the distance, to the training grounds, where the tea was grown in between tracks and shooting ranges. It would be nice to live on the equatorial continent, she throught. There was plenty of room to, to do what exactly?

“Admiral?” Feeling a little lost she looked to the source of the voice. “Phineas! Come have a seat, and call me Mira, like in the old days.” She winked, patting the spot next to her, on the bench. “I can’t, I’m here to speak to the Admiral, not my friend.” He too smiled and winked, but sat down regardless.

“Okay? Tell me Dr. Branston, what brings you here?”

“You must sway the others to follow Explorer’s example. Right now the scientists are on your side, and alpha governor Rooney is as well. But beta and gamma governors are pushing for the opposite.” With an elongated sigh Mirella leaned back. Rubbing her left temple. “I don’t want to be on the ship that invades the natives home turf, rips the treasures out of their land, spoils their culture with ours. It may be our children who will settle on that planet, and I may not live to see it in person, but I can’t live with the knowledge that they will do these things.” He went on, Mirella’s tea got cold, much to her dismay. “I don’t care what lurks on their homeland, diamonds, gold, iron, rare earths, or the once oh so important oil, or soil perfect for cultivation. It is plain wrong!” Finally Mirella raised her hand.

“Doctor Branston, I very well understand your concern and frustration, but how should I sway them? In any case, our children, or who ever is in charge when this ship arrives at RV-p296, can, and probably will change the resolution we find.” She took a sip of now cold tea. “Phin, if it was my decision alone I’d set everything in motion for us to colonise the small islands on the far side of the planet, where we wouldn’t run into the natives for centuries, or however long it’ll take for them to build large ships and explore their home planet in its entirety.”

Smiling benignly she put the empty cup away. “Great speech, by the way. Perhaps you should’ve given that to the governors.

He turned to face her in a more casual way. “I did, that is how I swayed Rooney.” He too smiled, gently touching her shoulder. “How come we only meet once a year, and then only talk business? We were friends once.”

Taking his hand into hers Mirella shook her head. “We drifted apart, I have a busy schedule, and you chose to,” she mused for a moment, “you didn’t know what I felt for you. So you chose to go for Miranda Hollande.”

Both chuckled, knowing what mistake Miranda was for Phineas. After one year of marriage and a baby, she divorced him for some dude from the garden maintenance, beause he was buff, and Phin wasn’t.

“Killian is doing good, by the way.” Being a single dad of a pubescent boy, wasn’t easy, but he felt that he was doing a decent job. “Anyhow, I must get back to that meeting room.” He rose to his feet again. “So,” he paused, “I have your support?”

Simply nodding Mirella watched him leave.

Was her schedule really that busy? Or had she just evaded personal matters with Phineas out of hurt feelings? Longing for answers to her questions her gaze fell on the tracks again, the tea plantation. I should open my schedule, at least enough to have a child.

 

The tripedal aliens looked directly at the eagle module. Mirella looked back at them through time and space. Into those three frightened eyes, on each of their faces. A sense of failure overcame her. They already had tainted their culture and development.

To her surprise she had received a communique from Kismet. The emir and his advisers had decided to follow Explorer’s example and settle for grounds that wouldn’t influence the natives. Coming from a group that, only two generations ago, was profit driven, who had sold tickets on their ship after their needs of scientists and engineers were met, she was genuinely surprised.

Phineas had called.

She hadn’t answered. He sent a message, apparently the decision of the Kismet crew had swayed beta’s governor, he too favored the non invasive plans now.

Still.

She looked into those frightened eyes. Were the natives on earth equally frightened when more advanced groups of people came in contact with them?

No, they weren’t. What stepped out of the ship, or plane, was people like them! In this case however, there was just a giant metallic thing that hovered above the trees. In one generation there would be creatures arriving so vastly different to them, that all they could do was meet them with fear.

With humanity’s advanced technology the natives would view them as what they were, other worldly. Perhaps divine.

Even if humans managed to keep away from the natives, if they were seen by them, it was enough to influence their culture, or cultures, beyond repair.

Mirella couldn’t help but doubt their right to colonise that planet, now that they knew it was inhabited.

Those frightened eyes.

She turned to the next image. From the crawler this time. An alternate image of the same event. Taken from the side, the faces of the natives weren’t visible as good, so she could at least look at it without a feeling of guilt.

The next image, also from the crawler was surprising her. The crawler was up in the air a bit, the natives still staring in the sky. Eagle had retreated out of sight, but they clearly looked where it went. Quickly she switched to the next image, a face with three eyes was up close, it seemed smaller, younger. Mirella gasped.

A child! It had picked up the crawler, investigated it with childlike curiosity. Staring into the curious, friendly eyes of the child she decided to make this the face of the natives in her mind, instead of the worried, frightened faces of the adults.

Over a series of images it became clear that the child had called for an adult to explain the unusual animal it had discovered.

The crawler later had been thrown into the underbrush around the camp, further images taken by Eagle revealed that the hunters abandoned camp, in a great haste.

 

“Governor Petriev, we have to evade the natives at all costs. There is no way to say what impact our arrival will have on these people.” The Admiral ignored the nagging voice in her head telling her again that they already had made an impact. At least on that group of hunters, and the stories they undoubtedly told after the encounter.

“Admiral, to establish a thriving colony, without the need to continue the infringement of our reproductive rights, it is essential that we have enough room to grow. I am willing to concede on settling on Equatoria,” they nicknamed the continent on the equator, “but if we discover that the aliens have spread there too, I will still motion to settle there.” Lights inside the governor’s office were bright, the interior was spartan. Although he had a wife and two children, there wasn’t a single picture of them to be found.

“Governor, how would you have reacted if the linkers had amassed on your domain, gamma ring? How would you have felt, or reacted, if they had taken not only part of your ring, but all of It, as it happened with Beta on the Horizon? The claim the linkers laid on the parts of our ships was as valid as is yours. They need room to grow, but would you have fought them? Even if that meant your certain demise?” Vladimir Petriev grew pale. Of course he would have. But was the Admiral really comparing him to the linkers? “We are, in this case, the invaders. The ones who want to take away that land from those who live on and off of it. That said, I direct you to our history, not just recent events. We can not, and shall not continue our forefathers mistakes. I hope you’ll consider this. And I can only hope that the crews that will arrive there, will also consider this.” Mirella got up, bid the now pale and silent governor a good day and left.

 

After her talk with Vladimir, Mirella wandered through the hallways of the gamma ring, paid a short visit to the gardens full of orchards. All the while pondering how fresh air truly felt. How wind, caused by nature instead of fans, truly felt.

From her pocket she drew her glasses.

“Phineas Branston, PhD.” She ordered the software to call. “Meet me, subalpha gardens, 1800. Where I was the last time.” She left a message, hoping he’d get it in time.

On her way to the gardens she dropped by her quarters and changed from her uniform into casual clothing.

As she arrived the bench was empty, as she assumed it would be. The tracks on the training grounds were empty, save for a few workers maintaining the garden, they were remarkably empty. “Your call sounded urgent.” Phineas’ voice startled her, but in a weird, pleasant way.

Calming her nerves she sat down, she felt like a schoolgirl, and that was what she didn’t want to appear like. “It is, somewhat.” She admitted, gesturing him to take a seat.

Confused as to what was so urgent he sat down.

“You know,” she stammered, paused and sighed, causing Phineas to squint at her. “I reckon that this is not a conversation between the Admiral and Doctor Branston, right?” Mirella nodded with a shy smile.

From her expression Phineas took everything he needed to know. “Mira, would you go out with me?” A warm smile washed over her. “Gladly!” Squealing? I don’t think I should be squealing! Mirella cleared her throat. “I was hoping we could stroll through this garden.” Phineas looked around, and finally up. “Tonight there’ll be rain here.” The dimming light had a blue hue to it, gently informing anyone in the garden of the planned rain in a subtle but noticeable way.

“Exactly!” Again she squealed, immediately clearing her throat again. “I was looking at the images from RV-p296, and I hunger for this. For wind that is not artificial, rain that is not artificial, but I can’t have any of that. I realised that I had stayed away from even the fake rain here, and that I need to go in the rain. I realised that, even after your divorce, I had remained steering clear from you, out of fear of being rejected, hurt and because I was a little angry. But I was angry at the wrong person, I was angry at you, when I should have been angry at myself. Now you are aware of what I felt for you, and still feel for you. I want you to be in the rain with me. Dance in the rain with me.” She sprang to her feet, extending her hand to him. A boyish smile on his lips he grabbed it and sprang to his feet as well. “I’ll gladly dance in the rain with you, every day.” A few drops came to their attention.

 

Damp air surrounded Mirella as she awoke. Something had woken her, unable to tell what it was she rose, clutching the bedsheet to her chest. Beside her the bed was empty, had Phineas gone? She saw a cold glimmer of light from the adjacent room. As Admiral she had the luxury of a bigger quarters, even though she was single. Sometimes it bothered her that she lacked the greatness of character to deny these.

The cold light emanated from a tablet, it was in Phineas’ hands, he typed frantically. It was that light thatn had woken her. “Chatting with your other girlfriend?” She joked, got chuckles from Phin as a reply. “No. Killian contacted me to ask where I was, and after I had told him I was sleeping out, he replied with a winking smiley face and went to bed. After that I thought, why not get a bit of work done?” He showed her his screen.

It was split in two, the upper half showed various images, the lower half was text. “I received another interesting information just now.” He smiled.

As Mirella sat down on the cushioned seat in front of him he opened something on his tablet. “You convinced gamma. The motion carries, Destiny is not going to disturb the natives on RV-p296.” Biting her lip Mirella nodded. “I can be convincing, it was just a matter of history.”

They both leaned back, staring at each other. Where would they go from where they were? “What kind of time consuming work awaits you and the other scientists now?” Mirella feared the answer to the question of their relationship.

“Sadly, not much. Most of the research will be done by Explorer, what they don’t work out, we get. Horizon is, understandably short on man power, they are currently trying to figure out, how to build something out of the nothingness of space.” Although dark, they both snickered at his remark. “But what interests me more at the moment than the colonisation of 296, is, where do we go from here?”

The question she had dreaded to ask, finally spoken out.

Still biting on her lip Mirella shrugged her shoulders. “Where these things normally lead to. Us being together, maybe move in together?”

Phineas nodded with a smile. “Yes, I think I’d like that.”

 

After the crawler had returned to Eagle the drone set off. It had received new orders from the orbiter, avoid contact with the natives. Ascending higher to avoid being too obvious the Eagle continued with its original purpose.

It mapped the volcano in greater detail, found it was active, but currently dormant. Turning north it furthered the mapped out regions.

 

“Hawk and Eagle found the Twins,” the unofficial nickname for the two landmasses separated by the straight, “are populated all over. The natives are scattered, much about the way they live resembles nomadic, and semi nomadic tribes on earth, like the native american people.” It had been three weeks of daily updates from the probes. Of course they were old when they reached Destiny, but to her crew and scientific community, it was new. Phineas glanced over the table, to his joy he found Mirella attending the meeting. He did these every third day, when enough information had been gleaned from the sent data.

“However, the Owl on the largest continent has found that its inhabitants live in conditions more similar to the bronze age.” Images of towns and cities appeared on the screens. “They have agriculture and as far as the Owl could could find out, they have trade, and they sail the oceans.”

Orbital images of sailboats and ships in harbours and the sea popped up. “It is only a matter of time, until they find out there’s another continent.” Someone else in the room said, commenting on the images.

Most of the conclusions and results were drawn by the Explorer crew, as Phineas had told Mirella, the Destiny scientists had not much to do. “Audio recordings of the different tribes, and nations, led us to conclude that they speak different languages. We haven’t deciphered any of them, but we’re working on it.” Proud of the work his department had finished so far and were in the progress of doing, Phineas let that information sink in with his guests.

What followed was a excerpt of the Bussard on Equatoria, no traces of the native people, plenty of wildlife, fertile soil.

“That was the good news, but there is a downside to it.” He displayed a short video, it showed trees shaking. “That was day 1. Bussard deployed crawlers, and seismographs. Day 3 and day 4, earth quakes. Day7, day 9, day 10 earth quakes. Then there was five days of rest, until it went on. The entire northern half of equatoria is unstable.” The orbiter image showed a series of fault lines running through the continent. “Bussard was sent to the southern half, which seems to be stable, but we have no information yet. I’m afraid the northern half will soon dislodge from equatoria. At least, that’s the conclusion that the Explorer geology department reached.” Soon, in a geologic manner of speaking. “Only one of the quakes was truly worth mentioning, the first one, then others were more like tremors, but still, any settlement plans have to take this into account.”

After a few more minutes the meeting was adjourned, and Phineas headed over to Mirella.

“I have had a glorious idea!” He smiled across his whole face, gently grabbing her hand.

 

After they had enterd the cab he blindfolded her, before telling the cab where to go. She noticed only that they became weightless for a while, and returned to a ring. By the duration of the ride she assumed theiy either had gone to alpha ring, or subalpha.

Leading her by the hand she soon smelled moist soil, and plants.

After a while he stopped. She heard a door open, and a gust of wind blew in her face.

It had come so sudden, so unexpected that it thrilled her.

Goosebumps ran over her skin.

 

He led her through the door, more wind gushed over her, again unexpected. It wasn’t like traditional wind simulations, not a continuous blow that varied in intensity. It stopped from time to time, came back in a gentle breezee, stopped, blew hard, and weakened.

To her it seemed to change direction too. “I hope you like the wind, it should quiet down soon, otherwise my plans will be ruined, or so I’ve heard.”

He lifted the blindfold from her head. They were at the tracks, at the tea plantation. From the corner of her eye she saw the wind turbines, they paused blowing, turned, blowed in a random setting of intensity, and paused again to turn, also randomly. “It was a minor adjustment to the program.” Phineas explained the unusual wind patterns that had thrilled her. At his feet was a picnic cloth, and a basket waiting for them.

Intrigued Mirella sat down, gladly accepted the sparkling water he poured her. Taking in the unusual scenery and setting, she was about to take a sip, when she noticed something at the bottom of her glass.

“I’ve always been an old school guy.” He gently took her hand in his. “Will you be my wife?”

Stunned Mirella managed to stammer “Yes.”

 

 

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World Wide Warning

An acquaintance of mine got a passive aggressive note passed to him by a stranger in the tube. A world wide warning. That the internet is evil and that you should appreciate live music, paintings in galleries and conversations in the flesh.
Bullshit.
I have a magic device in my hands as I write these lines, that allows me to listen to obscure African metal bands I could only listen to live if I invested a ludicrous amount of money (and time) to travel to some African country or another, while chatting with people on the other side of the globe and looking at paintings from the great masters, which I – again – would have to spend ludicrous amounts of money (and time) to gain access to. Carrying on my kindle an entire library worth of books, with no added weight. All while riding the metro. Or bus. Or sitting on the toilet.
Whoever thinks that only live encounters with art and people are worthwhile must lead a pretty boring (and/or expensive) lifestyle. Heading from encounter to encounter, with vast stretches of nothing in between.
Hey Mr. In-the-flesh, take your world wide warning and take it with you in your warm filthy hipster holes. I believe I have seen more than you did.

Take off the nostalgia goggles of times before you were born, those times had their shit sides too. (Coldwar, anyone?)

Take care,
A.

Rings of Fate S2xE8 – Destiny – DEHuman pt.4

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Howling alarms had driven the command crew of Destiny to the command centre. Admiral Jagodic reached it first, relieving the nightshift of their command.

Icy fear grasped at her heart, as the viewscreen displayed a Harpy ship, one by one her officers arrived. First officer commander Sioban Conroy, and her husband, lieutenant commander Sean Conroy, security officer.

Nightshift’s commanding officer Justine Lacroix manned communication. The navigation panel remained with Frédéric Belle. “What’s going on?” Mirella Jagodic barked in the middle of all the chaos.

“They appeared out of no where, hailing on all frequencies.” Justine gave her initial report of the situation. “Lasers at maximum.” Came Sean’s ready signal.

“Kismet reports readiness as well.”

“What do they want?” Mirella remained concentrated, despite sleeping for only two hours before the alarm came.

“They’re warning us that,” Justine paused, “the networkers are going to arrive at any moment, to prevent them from prying away too many of our crew we must set lose a program in our communication network. They have an authentication from Horizon.”

For a moment the Admiral pondered what a networker might mean, but it hit her after a second or two.

“Linkers!” She jumped from her seat. “Do it!”

“I must object, it might be a trick from them to wreak havoc on our systems, so they can overpower us.” The lieutenant commander’s objection caused the Admiral to gaze over her shoulder. “They could overpower us in any case, they don’t need these tricks.” She raised her eyebrows, punching in the codes sent from the harpies.

“Program is fully uploaded. Setting it free,” Mirella paused, an alarming beep from the navigational console drew her attention.

“Another vessel on approach, Ma’am.” And I thought space was vast and quiet!

“It’s the Ark1, sort of.” Immediately the nav officer put the image on the main viewscreen. Misshapen, more resembling a technological potato than a ship, the Ark1 moved closer. Without warning they began attacking the Harpy ship, which took a few hits, before retreating to a safer distance, where they had an easier time evading the beams sent from Ark1.

After a few moments of that dance the Harpies vanished, presumably jumping away. “Incoming transmission!” Justine sighed.

“Put it through.”

“We are the collective mind of the Digitally Enhanced Human race, aboard your ships are members of our kind. Let them go unharmed and no harm shall come to you.”

With an audible signal it was clear the transmission ended.

Quite surprised, if not stunned Mirella turned to her crew with an inquisitive expression on her face. “Options?”

“None.” Sean Conroy stepped back from his console. “We suggest you let us proceed to our people, Ma’am.” Sioban also left her post.

Not noticing her mouth was open, Mirella sat down.

The others in the command centre had pulled out their side arms, aimed at the two Conroys. With a wave of her hand she gestured them to lower the guns, as they surely had established a connection with the Ark1.

“Your demands?” For a moment the two seemed to think, but replied with one voice: “We need more of the ores in storage, storage capacity, and free passage for our people. The ties between our species diverge from this point forward.”

Without further word the two left the command centre. Trying to access the computer Mirella swung around in her chair, but found she was locked out, and the program received from the harpies had been deleted.

 

Plain metallic walls spanned all around Mirella and Justine, followed by a team of seven security guards, as they climbed up a tube. Three technicians tagged along to ensure that no cab was going to run them over.

Cursing herself and her predecessors for not following the DEHuman threat up, Mirella was in the vanguard of the group. It would’ve been relatively easy to sneak the jamming devices away and turn them back on every year or so, compared with the problems they faced at that very moment.

Locked out of every major system, no intercom, in an instant Mirella had lost control over her ship! “Ma’am!” The yell came from Lacroix.

“Yes, Justine?”

The young woman smiled as Mirella glanced down the ladder. “I’m getting something on the radio! It’s old fashioned, and distorted, but I believe it’s the Kismet.”

Hastily Mirella fumbled with her glasses. Indeed she too could make out a radio signal from Kismet.

It was faint and hard to make out, but as far as they could gather, Kismet had been able to implement the program from the Harpies, still they had a group of implanted people asking for release.

“Aprise their commander of our situation, and that we’re working on retaking the ship.” Hoping that Justine wouldn’t ask how she planned on doing that, Mirella continued to climb.

 

Strains of her dark hair floated in front of Mirella’s face as the entered the central tube hub, where gravity was non existent. Surface tension kept the sweat beads on her skin. “I have pressurised the cryogenic chamber tube, we can go.”

Why am I even here? I hate zero G! “Alright, move on out, people.” I’m the Admiral, I should remain in the command centre, or close to it, instead I’m floating through a tube in the spine of the Destiny. What am I? Insane?

The lights came on as soon as they opened the pressure seal doors. Seemingly infinite the tube stretched out before them, running on until it reached the hub on alpha. It was narrow, as the cryogenic chambers with people from earth took up place on one side of the tunnel.

“Where are we going?” Justine asked one of the questions that Mirella had dreaded. “Engineering.” Good one. “They cut off our access to the computers, we cut off their power. If possible.”

Sounding way more confident in her plan than she felt, Mirella continued to move on.

 

Communication with the Kismet was lost near the center of subalpha, and impossible in the central tube with the cryo chambers. Too much interference, too much stuff in the way for a radio signal to penetrate.

The thing that Mirella hated the most about their journey to subgamma, were the hubs, with the fast spinning siphons. At the last siphon of the journey Mirella feared to be smashed against a wall, and subsequently falling to her death, but found a rather pleasant surprise waiting. On the other side of the hub was a recess with a maintenance cab in it.

Being as they were manually driven, the computer lockout didn’t have an effect on it. As she entered the open cab she thought she needed to make sure such a cab is always parked at the other end of the spine as well. Just to be sure in the future.

 

“We have some control over subgamma.” The voice of her chief engineer, a man called Schultz, of german descent, came over the intercom as they left the tube network. Continuously Justine had tried to raise someone, now her efforts were rewarded. “But we are out of contact with the rest of the ship.” Two men in armor and guns turned the corner, raised their weapons. “Linkers?”

“No.” Mirella remained calm, despite having a gun pointed at her face. Uncertain the two men exchanged a look. “How can we be certain?”

Mirella looked over her shoulder. She wished she knew how to be certain, as far as she knew each of her team could be linked. “Would we be travelling with a maintenance cab after crawling through the cryo tube in zero G if we were linkers? They are in control of everything, remember?”

Somewhat satisfied with her repkly the two lowered their guns. “Schultz has set up a command base in main engineering.” They waved the Admiral and her entourage to follow.

Although she had seen main engineering before, Mirella couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the look of it.

Only half of the displays showed the lockout screen that had crippled her command centre. Subgamma’s barracks must’ve been empty, as all the privates, ensigns and trainees were running around in engineering.

“Greetings Admiral.” The chief engineer approached her, mustered her and her group with an alert eye. Out of nowhere a satisfied grin appeared on his lips. “I hereby transfer command to the Admiral!” All personnel in the room saluted her, and remained standing still.

“Carry on.” She stammered. “How could you be certain that we’re not linkers?”

Schultz pointed at the displays in the back of the room, the ones that displayed the fusion reactor stats. “My predecessor from the time the linkers made trouble, kept one of their reprogrammed nodes hidden, and easy to turn back on. He also disconnected engineering from the main computer. Closely linked, but separate. When they showed up and took over the ship, his firewalls kept them from taking engineering, we just severed the physical connections, to keep it that way.”

Intrigued by that paranoia driven ingenuity that seemed to have paid off, Mirella felt relief. “We need to retake the ship.” She sat down on a console in locked mode.

How had Bill Wallis been able to achieve that level of tinkering with Destiny’s systems without knowledge of the admiralty? Under normal circumstances Mirella would call for an investigation, maybe even a tribunal hearing, but she was actually quite comfortable with those developments.

“I thought so.” Herman Schultz nodded, “Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do with the locked computers.”

Both the chief engineer and the Admiral turned to Justine who was in contact with the Kismet again. An idea came to the Admiral’s mind.

 

Even though engineering computers were working, they only could use the analogue frequency of the radio for communication. And data retrieval.

Watching the progress bar was a mind numbing, and painful experience, but the promise of obtaining the program sent by the harpies gave the task a silver lining of hope. “I must say, this poses a danger, what if they have control over Kismet and send their own program?” Schultz sat beside the Admiral.

“It isn’t connected with the rest either, I may be desperate, but not foolish.” Bored Mirella kept her eyes fixed on the screen.

50%

“Once we have it, you make sure it is legitimate, if so, distribute it, I need to check on your detainees.” Breathing out her frustration she rose from her seat and left the room, Justine wanted to follow but was dismissed with a wave of the Admiral’s hand.

While the plan for the analogue transmission of the Harpy program was devised and prepared, Schultz had informed her of a group of DEHumans he had detained after they broke down in engineering, trying to access the computers there.

Well aware that everyone outside the main engineering area still might be a linker Mirella marched through the hallways. Schultz had relied on humans as communication carriers for two reasons. One was to prevent the linkers from listening in. The other was to expose the couriers to the node that Wallis had kept, to see if they would react to it.

Feeling kind of relieved to see all those young men and women still buzzing around she navigated to the local brig.

“Admiral on deck!” An all too eager Ensing yelled as she entered the facilities. “At ease.” Came her mumbled reply.

Slowly she walked past the cells, packed with people, all standing still, like eerie living mannequins, with their eyes closed. Surely linked and far away with their brethren on the Ark1.

She studied their faces, to see if there was anyone she knew personally. Sure, she had not only memorised the names of her subordinates, but also their faces to a certain extent. Everyone looked familiar to some point.

No one in the cells looked familiar enough to her to trigger an emotional response. “Where are your people gathering?”

No reaction. Not from the person directly behind the bars, not from anyone. “I need to know, so we can coordinate your transfer.” Still nothing.

“I know that you have taken a lot of landing craft from either Explorer or Horizon, an entire ring by the looks of it, I will not let you steal that many crafts from Destiny.” She stopped at the last cell. Andrew Galeson stood behind the bars, a well known actor, from a tele novella set on Destiny’s infirmary on gamma.

Somewhat saddened she studied his face. Looks like you will die in the series. “Listen here, we will retake the ship eventually, and then there will be no escape. We won’t let you leave, and your friends out there won’t shoot at us, because they could be killing you.”

“Admiral!” The soothing voice of Galeson called her back. “Don’t overestimate our worth as leverage. Even if you should succeed in taking back your vessel, which is unlikely, we are linked. Our memories, personalities and thoughts are within the link. If our bodies die, we will live on.” His slick smile was something she admired in the series, but now it disgusted her. “We’ll see.” She hissed turning around.

“Don’t underestimate us!” All the detained people shouted as one after her as she left.

 

75%

Restlessly Justine paced arpund the engine room, the waiting game wasn’t her foray. “Sit down, or go on some errands, but stop wearing out the floor of my engine room!” Annoyed the chief engineer threw her a gaze that could freeze boiling water in an instant. “We need an update from the group keeping watch on deck 12, tube exit 8. If you won’t stop, I’ll send you instead of an Ensign.”

With an angry hiss Justine sat down, looking back at the progress bar.

No change.

Watching Schultz act like the second in command, Justine couldn’t help but wonder about the consequences of the new DEHuman outbreak.

Would she get promoted? Were the plans of the three ships in jeopardy, as the linkers could easily zip ahead and claim RV-p296 as their own?

“How is the download doing?” Admiral Jagodic entered the premise of the young woman. “Eighty percent.” Surprised by the high number Justine realised how long she had sat there pondering.

“Good, Schultz, do you have another node for me?”

Pointing at the mess of wires, chips and other things in front of him, he shook his head, ever so gently. “Sorry, not yet.”

Not showing her disappointment she put her hands on her hips and looked at the console above which the other node was hidden. “Do we have intercom back?”

Diverting his attention only for a fraction of a moment from his work, Herman looked at her. “No. Not for what you’re thinking off.” He tipped at his glasses, indicating that audio only was available, as signals would need to be transmitted analogue, and thus couldn’t disrupt the link.

 

Left with no alternative other than wait, the Admiral sat in the mess hall. Air condition, water refinement and food dispensers worked fine, despite the lock out. It definitely showed that the Linkers had no desire to kill the non linkers.

Disinterested she chewed on her lunch, but rather would’ve had her ship back under control. “Admiral?” An ensign from the engine room stood in the door, hurried to her as she looked up. “The download stopped!” He spoke under his breath, prompting her to jump from her seat and hurry off.

“They’re jamming analogue frequencies, I’m getting only static now.” Justine informed her as soon as she entered the room. “How much did we get?”

“Ninety five.” Was the short answer. Devastated, so close to reaching her goal she turned to Schultz who still worked on the device. “I’ve got someone working on the code.” He sensed her gaze in his back. “In the meantime,” he closed the lid on a box, after tucking some wiring inside it, “I got you this.”

Proudly he wheeled the tiny table over to Mirella, on it the node. “I outfitted it with a strong battery, but it’ll still run out pretty fast, keep it close to the induction chargers.” He referred to the many places aboard the ship where wireless charging of handheld devices was possible. Tablets, glasses and other devices, such as the node.

“How were you able to build this thing without taking the other device apart?” Justine asked, what Mirella hadn’t questioned.

“Blueprints. They were in the same space as the other device.” Again he tipped at his glasses. “I presume you want more of these, so if you’ll excuse me.” He shuffled off to gather parts. With an inquisitive expression Justine stepped closer.

“It’s time to bring the lockout to the linkers.” Mirella’s voice had a dark tone to it.

 

Galeson stood in his spot, unmoving, eyes closed.

Just as the others around him. None of them paid any attention to the Admiral entering once again.

“Will you return control over my ship?” Mirella stared at the man with a sinister glare. “We will, once we have been cleared a path to the beta ring. That portion of your vessel will be our departure point.”

“I’m guessing you want to take some of our crafts and pods with you?” She replied, with quite some irritation at the fact that all of the detained people spoke as one voice.

“We need room to grow.” Squniting her eyes at the man whom she had selected as the face of the linkers for herself, Mirella was grinding her teeth. “I won’t allow that. I can’t in fact, allow that. And I will fight you.”

“Admiral,” Galeson opened his eyes, speaking soothingly and without the others as support. “you can’t truly think that you can win. We have destroyed a Harpy vessel with a few blows. We are taking what we need to fulfil our goals, without destroying you. But if we must, we will.”

Mirella stepped closer to the bars. “Would your friends attack us if we were to lock you out of the link?” Did he flinch? Mirella wasn’t sure.

“We are linked, and the device in your engine room can’t harm us here.”

Raising her eyebrows Mirella turned to Justine, gave her distinct nod, after which she flicked a switch on the outside of the box that Schultz had made.

Immediately the detainees opened their eyes, yelling in protest, screaming in fear, and giving the assembled security detail angry looks.

“This decice can also bring harm to your kind, as far as I recall. Shall I dial up the intensity of the jamming signal?”

Galeson’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. “Please don’t. We are not human anymore. We are a new species, DEHuman. Aren’t you obliged to savour any new lifeform you encounter by the rules and regulations of the fleet?”

“Not if that new lifeform threatens my ship!” Calming herself with a few deep breaths Mirella stepped back a pace. The noise around her quited down.

“Your friends out there won’t destroy us, with you on board, after all, now you’re not linked any longer. Return me my ship, and I’ll let you go, without compromising my ship however.”

Andrew stared at her angrily, desperate to return to the linked consciousness of many. “What guarantee do we have that you won’t sabotage our exodus?”

“My rules and regulations. If you hand me back control over my ship, and won’t take any parts of it with you, I will let you depart.” Striding to the device Mirella sighed. “Consider it, in your entirety.” Flicking it off she left the cells, bound for engineering.

 

As she had expected, there was no progress worth mentioning with the Harpy program. Suddenly there was an alarm sound howling through the rooms and hallways, just once, immediately followed by all screens that had been locked out, flickering and coming back to life. Justine called her. “We have intercom, and full computer access, however, communication with the outside of the ship is still locked.”

Feeling that her plan had succeed Mirella had the sensation of triumph, at least for a moment. There still was something feeling odd.

And it wasn’t the cut off communication.

It was too easy.

 

The still disconnected engineering computers would remain that way, to avoid any hidden programs from seeping in and taking the entire ship.

Other limitations popped up. Although intercom was back, it allowed for audio only, not the suppression signal, beta ring was inaccessible and the sensors had been disabled. The DEHumans probably figured that the crew from Kismet could’ve found a way to send the Harpy program to Destiny via their external sensors.

Mirella sat in a darkened room near the engineering section, trying to find some rest.

It had been seventeen hours since the Harpies showed up, alarms blared and woke her, drew her to the command centre. And before that, two, maybe three hours of sleep.

Exhaustion pulled on her limbs, her legs felt heavy, and almost hurt.

But her mind was too busy to allow for her to sleep. Stil desperate for rest she reclined on the bunk bed.

It had been too easy, but if the linkers tried to leave with beta rings landing gear, there was not much she could do. At the moment she couldn’t shoot them down, as weaponsystems were tied in with the external sensors, and locked too.

There had been discussions to form small fighters and train pilots, but seeing that the Harpies never attacked Destiny, the governors always vetoed.

Besides, Mirella doubted that the crafts they could’ve built, would’ve been effective. Probably the entire force of their nonexistent fighters would have been locked out too, and remained that way.

“Admiral?” Justine stood outside the door. “Come in. Door’s open.” The young woman looked terrible, she had been in nightshift, was awake for much longer than herself. “Come, you need rest.”

Pale, with rings under her eyes Justine approached the bed. Sat down next to her Admiral. “Still no way into Beta, no communication with beta. We can’t monitor them however. Occasionally the crews need fresh oxygen, and they can’t stay there indefinitely, we also haven’t got enough maintenance cabs, to keep up a rotation. Cussing Mirella got up, ignoring the pain that shot through her legs.

“Were there any transports from beta? You know, people who had been deported from there?” Justine gave no reply, when Mirella turned to look she found the other woman had fallen asleep leaning against the wall.

Envious Mirella gently took the tablet from Justine, and snuck from the room. In the displayed text she found all of what Justine had told her before, at the bottom it read that Schultz had managed to get another device ready, and his programmers had made some progress on reconstructing the harpy code, it was estimated that the program now was 96% complete.

Intrigued Mirella wandered down the hallway. Instead of bothering the hardworking engineering crew in their efforts, Mirella instead turned to the brig.

“Admiral!” Came the voice of Andrew from down the hall as soon as the first detainee had seen her. “We were wondering when you’d come back.” Trying not show the extent of her exhaustion Mirella forced herself to his spot. “We kept up our end of the bargain, with a few alterations. You see, we need beta. Or at least part of it.” He smiled benignly. “We have women, children, and we need to incorporate an entire colony. Whilst you will adapt, we have less time, as we have faster means of transport.”

Her raised hand stopped him, or them, from further talking. “You can’t have beta. Not even parts of it.”

His benign smile became less friendly, more fiendish. “Look at us, Admiral. We have already linked, and we linked up, in case you cut us off again, or we get killed, we will continue on in the greater mind of us. You can not use us as leverage again. Still we have returned you control over most of your precious ship. We are not the enemy, we just want to leave.”

Tired of the conversation on top of her whole exhaustion Mirella had to force herself to keep standing. “Just for the sake of the argument, what if we were to give you beta, what will keep you from coming back and taking more?”

“We built the propulsion to cross the interstellar in moments, instead of generations. We need the room for our departing people, once we have left, you, your ship, your species, are of no interest to us any longer.”

As Mirella was pondering how to reply, a rumble went through the ship, or at least subgamma. “Are you already attacking?” She furiously spat her words at Andrew.

“No,” if she didn’t know better, Mirella would think he was pondering, “it was your friends who fired at you.” Laughing he turned his gaze at her. “Perhaps they are afraid you were overrun by us, and now want to eliminate the threat?”

Not listening to such ramblings Mirella left the brig, suddenly her exhaustion was pushed to the far corners of her mind, adrenalin shot through her veins as she hurried through the hallways to the engine room, where she had established a makeshift command centre.

Crews had disconnected the computers in the command centre from the network, but still she had more confidence in the system that had already proven itself. “Sit rep!”

“Kismet sends it’s regards.” Schultz greeted her with a broad grin, the intercom blared an automated signal, already the chief engineer had dispatched an armed team to the impact site. “To what end?”

“Just listen!”

As the Admiral stood there and listened to the signal over intercom her tense expression was replaced by the same broad grin that the chief engineer displayed. “They sent a probe containing the program!”

 

After the program had been retrieved, Mirella went back to the brig, only to find Andrew and the others in their linked up state. “I know you can hear me.” She felt the exhaustion returning, but pushed on nonetheless.

“I am giving you one more chance. I even am willing to compromise.” With a sudden flutter Andrew’s eyes opened. “We are listening.” He smiled. “Did the ineffective attack from Kismet scare you?”

Smiling viciously Mirella tapped her glasses. “You have disabled data transmission on the intercom, but our glasses, tablets and other devices can transmit data. The ineffective attack as you call it, was a probe bringing us the Harpy program designed to take out your link.” Suddenly all color feld Andrew’s face, followed by the others around him. “I am willing to give you the outter most layer of beta, if you cram in there really tight, you can get all your people across to Ark1. As you said, you have the faster transportation technology, therefore it will not be too inconvenient for you. Soon you will have reached your destination, and the question of room is moot.”

Still colorless Andrew’s features hardened. “If we take more than allotted?”

The vicious smile on Mirella’s lips turned malevolent. “We are ensuring that you won’t.”

 

Working in spacesuits was not Justine’s foray, but she kept her concentration up. The few hours of rest she had gotten were enough, although not enough for her liking.

She cut the wires of the mechanism controlling the doors in the tubes that lead into the beta ring, then she proceeded to hardwire it to a modified tablet she had been given by Schultz.

With a few presses on the display the doors opened, simultaneously she felt a yank at her shoulder. Her colleagues pulled her back up into the maintenance cab. It had already docked with the siphon, but all doors were open. In the weightless section two more cabs sat in wait to access beta. They were filled with armed men and women, as resistance was expected.

Silently the doors closed, pressure was reestablished, and momentarily the cab set in motion, down into beta.

After a few minutes the cab docked with a door, and released them into the hallways of beta. Oddly enough, no one awaited them. Behind them the door closed, and opened again some eeconds later, releasing the crew from the other cab. That repeated until all people from the cabs had assembled, except those who maneuvered the cabs, since automatic controls had been disabled to avoid the linkers from tampering.

Quickly they went through the rooms adjacent to the hallway, determining that they were empty, and uploaded the Harpy program into the computers of the individual landing ships.

Instead of using the tube network they used the ladders, so there wouldn’t be a surprise attack force waiting for them in front of the doors.

Justine had seen too many identical computer interfaces for one day already, although the others always worked with the adjacent ships too.

“We’re afeaid we can’t let you continue on.” Standing in the center of the hallway was a single man, Justine felt as if she had a heart attack when he suddenly spoke.

“Do you intend to stop us?” A security officer behind Justine spoke, shoving her aside. “We will at the very least slow you down.”

An alarm rang through the hallways, emergency doors shut throughout the hallways, forming them into small rooms. The emergency decompression program!

Immediately the men took up their guns and started cutting through the thick doors with the lasers.

 

As the door between them and the sole linker fell to the ground, the man was hit with a stunning dart and fell to the ground twitching. Quickly they proceeded onward, uploading the program to the ships around while others cut through the next blast door.

“We have contact!” Justine heard them yelling from outside after the third or fourth blast door. The unmistakable hissing of the oxygen discharges and propelled darts sounded from the hallway. Undeterred by this, Justine hooked her tablet to the computer after isolating it from the network, she uploaded the program, and executed it.

After a moment the calls from the hallway changed. From distraught security personnel facing an armed force of the DEHumans, to linkers cut off from the network.

 

“Alright!” Andrew yelled. Mirella had been sitting in the hallway all the time since her teams had infiltrated beta. Almost wincing he shook his head. “We will retreat, claiming only the outter most vessels.” Feeling victorious Mirella got up. She gave the order to proceed, but not incapacitate the link further unless provoked.

“I have no grudge for your kind.” She declared, although she felt a deep betrayal had been done to her by the linkers, especially the Conroys. But she also remembered earths history, new societies almost always caused new conflict in their birth. In retrospect Destiny and Kismet had gotten away with a black eye, compared with other historical conflicts of the sort. “Now, give me back the rest. These men will accompany you to beta.” She pointed at a security detail standing ready.

As Andrew nodded Mirella’s glasses were immediately flooded with calls from Kismet, smiling she gave a gentle nod to the security guards.

“I’ll gladly talk with you dear prince,” Mirella allowed herself a heartily yawn, “but first I need sleep.”

Iss it’s only a theory.

“It’s only a THEORY!” It’s the battle cry of those people so far beyond the Dunning-Kruger that you couldn’t find them with the worlds most powerful teleskope/microscope.

This is a declaration of mental bankruptcy. These people cling to their beliefs as if it were a lifesaver in stormy seas after their boat sank. You cannot educate them on the difference between theory and hypothesis, or more specific, the difference between “theory” in scientific and colloquial use. 

Whether it is evolution, germs, gravity or big bang, or something else. Whenever someone says/writes “But it’s only a THEORY!”, presumably with a victorious shit eating grin on their face, you know they have quit the discussion. 

You have won. 

By default.

Whatever else comes out their mouth, is irrelevant and warrants no attention, let alone debate. 

In scientific terms, a theory is factual. Tested extensively. 

It is true.

Any theory that doesn’t hold up to rigorous testing, becomes a discarded hypothesis. 

It is funny though, you know? Just a century or so ago these people would’ve been the village idiots. Never would they have children, never would they breed and pass on the idiocy. Everyone would’ve laughed at them. 

But now, they have internet access, and gather in groups, accumulating their collective anti-knowledge in a celebration of cerebral abstinence. And they breed. And they vote. 

Anyway. Just rest comfortably in the knowledge that you have won any argument by default as soon as these words are uttered. (If it is about a scientific theory that is)

Take care,

A.

Rings of Fate S2xE7 – Horizon – Harpies

image
Rudly awoken by her boyfriend Jane felt confused and disorientated for a moment. She must have fallen asleep while reading the Digitalys logs. Faintly an alarm reached ear and consciousness.

“Come on, Harpies are back!” He left their quarters.

Suddenly wide awake and alert she brushed her hair and tucked her blouse back in her pants. While he headed to the barracks, she headed to the command centre.

Still no one could reach the Admiral.

Perhaps the alarm would draw him out.

“How nice of you to join us. Man your station.” O’toole snapped at her, and pointed at the screen.

It displayed the Harpy ship they had encountered just a bit over a week before. At least that’s what she thought, the markings on what remained of the hull were the same. Power output of the vessel was fluctuating, some of the biomatter controlling the ship was exposed to space, and showed signs of decay due to radiation and exposure.

 

“Incoming transmission!” Fohler pointed out after the according signal came from her console. With a nod O’toole acknowledged that fact and told her to put it through.

Monotonous and emotionless the translator kicked in over the distressed voice of a Harpy. “We request assistance, please reply.”

Stunned and overwhelmed O’toole raised his eyebrows, nodded again to open a channel to the Harpy ship. “This is the acting commander of the Horizon, we read you. What happened?”

Coughing was the first reply, then came a moment of silence, Jane felt a knot form in her stomach. “Hostile encounters, please permit us refuge.”

Clearly struggling with his sense of duty for the safety of Horizon and the request for aid tearing him apart, O’toole felt incapable of replying immediately.

“Receiving a call from within the ship, it’s the admiral.” Again it was Fohler breaking the silence.

“What is going on up there?” Muffled, as if he was in a crammed room, the Admiral’s voice came through the intercom. “The Harpies are back, in bad shape, they request refuge and assistance. ”

What followed was a moment of silence. Jane’s knot intensified. “Assessment?”

“Security wise I’m against it, but from a tactical stand point, it might be good if we aid them.” O’toole replied, explaining his dilemma.

“Mulgrew, assessment?”

Now Jane knew why she had that uneasy knot in her stomach. “We are probably responsible for what happened to them, therefore we must give them the help they ask of us. Besides isn’t it our humanitarian duty to help anyone in need we encounter?”

Again there was silence, but it was made uneasy by O’toole’s judging gaze.

“Let them dock, but contain their presence on the ship, Mulgrew is in charge of the situation. Admiral Doherty out.”

Still O’toole’s eyes lay heavy on Jane.

Quickly she drew open a map of the Horizon.

“I suggest we surrender beta gardens to them, we can post security personnel at the entrances and thus contain them.” She ignored the gaze from O’toole. Even as he shrugged his shoulders he was judging her.

Did he think she was bedding the Admiral or something? Jane decided to forget the judging gaze.

For now.

“Harpy vessel, please adjust your navigational pattern to the rotation of the beta ring, sending you specific coordinates.”

 

At the skeletal remains of what used to be the beta ring, a light went on at an access port. From the central ring, that couldn’t be detached from Horizon, only hallways and tubes were extending outwards. Safe for the buffers that once were supposed to be used as normal landing craft.

Against O’toole’s objections they were being reverted to be used as originally intended.

Without any noise the huge harpy ship descended towards the lit up port for docking.

Like the trunk from an elephant a tube extended from the harpy ship. To cope with different docking mechanisms throughout time, and now species, the Harpy ship was equipped with a polymemetic compound at the end of its docking umbilicus to seal the lock.

Jane stood in the empty hallway, half a dozen guards at her back, fully equipped and armed. The uneasiness she felt, did not come from the impending arrival of numerous Harpy refugees, but the fact that none of the doors around led to anywhere. All would open up to empty space, if they hadn’t been welded shut. Like an ugly scar the welding marks across the height of the doors was an uneasy reminder of that circumstance.

In her mind she was fostering an idea that sparked as the seal on the lock was confirmed by Horizon computers.

Two of the now obsolete bufferzone landing craft could be moved to the port. To provide room for diplomatic meetings with the Harpies in the future.

If the humanitarian mission went well of course, and a lasting peace could be negotiated.

Far away from any disruptive forces in the population of Horizon, the pods would be ideal for that sort of use.

 

Torn from her thoughts by the hiss of the opening airlock Jane straightened up. Behind her she sensed the guards tensing as well, but a short glance over her shoulder eased them again. “We’re here to greet them, not take them into custody!”

A Harpy left the airlock, she was unarmed, but the hHarpies behind her seemed to be just as tense as the guards from Horizon.

“I am Jane Mulgrew, and I welcome you to the Horizon.”

“I am subcommander Cyril. We request treatment for our wounded, and supplies for repairs, if you have any left.” Not going to hold herself back with diplomacy Cyril cut right to the chase.

Pointing down the hallway after dismissing the guards, Jane took the lead. “I was authorised to negotiate these matters with you in behalf of our Admiral.” She waited at the tube network, other Harpies followed them into the cab, only once it was full did she embark the cab to the gardens.

As proposed the hallway to the entrance was lined with guards, behind makeshift fortifications, which were O’toole’s contribution, and which made the Harpies tense up again.

“You must forgive our chief of security, he is cautious about you.”

“Understandable. I wouldn’t do it differently.” Cyril’s reply lacked emotion, not due to the translator, but in her natural voice as well.

Jane caught a glimpse of awe from Cyril however, as they entered the garden. The other Harpies in the group were as surprised as she had hoped.

“We have set up an encampment for you, as you know, we are short on other accommodations.” Jane had linked her translator with her glasses, was reading the reactions the other Harpies gave. “It’s beautiful!”

“A wonder what these creatures have here.”

“I might just stay.”

“Incredible!”

The monotone voice from the translator for Cyril broke Jane’s smile of triumph. “It is adequate, we will accept your hospitality. We have medical personnel, but many wounded, we might need equipment and materials to treat them.” With a nod Jane comfirmed her request and immediately sent a message in text to the infirmary on subalpha, where they had the most experience with Harpies.

 

While Cyril got her people situated Jane requested the empty vessels to be moved to the port. It could also provide a waiting room for new arrivals, before transporting to the gardens, as there were only so many cabs available.

To her surprise O’toole agreed to her proposal and went to work.

Inside a tent Jane had set up an office. Arrivals who were in need of something had to run it through that office of hers.

Beatrix Fohler, a cousin of the communication officer in the command centre, entered the tent. Normally she worked In the sub alpha infirmary, had dealt with Hylia and her children when they needed something.

For hours she now had gone through the gardens and checked up on the refugees.

“Most of the refugees have respiratory difficulties, due to inhaling smoke.” She began reporting. “Some have burns, the most severe ones I had assigned to be transferred to sub alpha infirmary, we have the most experience after all. There a few broken bones and other physical injuries, same result there. Here’s the list.” A short transfer of information from one glass system to the other, and Jane went over the list.

“Any information on,”

“What had happened?” The question was posed by the computerised voice of the translator. Behind Beatrix stood Cyril. “And the resident leader of the Harpies wants to talk to you.” Beatrix ended her report, saluted briefly and turned away to leave.

Upon request from Jane she stayed, but at the entrance to the tent.

“Yes, what happened?” Jane sat down on the ground next to the desk. Cyril in front of her. Figuring that if she sat above the Harpy she implied dominance, Jane had lowered herself to eye level, in the hopes of procuring peace.

“We ran into your networkers. They dealt us some damage, but we are confident that we were able to send them the program. Afterwards we moved away.”

 

Slightly damaged by the oddly shaped vessel of the human networkers, the Harrak retreated into a safe distance. Still the human ship fired after them, but they stayed with the other human ship.

“Prepare to jump.” Commander Fyra looked over the data. Although they had sent the program and the information on what it was and how to use it, it was very unlikely that the Destiny could do much with it, since there were only a few moments between the transmission and the arrival of the networkers. “Engines at 50% capacity. We can’t jump far.” Cyril relayed information from engineering.

“Just get us out of here.”

Figuring the best course of action was to tell the humans of Horizon of the incident, Cyril laid in coordinates to get closer to them, after the ship told her they’d need a second jump to reach them. With a simple command the ship engaged it’s engines.

 

Empty space, no trace of the human networkers. “No sign of pursuit.”

Satisfied Fyra nodded, looked to Cyril, as if to say that they had done it. “Reading a ship on long range.” A navigator interrupted the gaze.

“Networkers?”

For a moment the navigator waited on the ship’s brain to process the data. “Negative. It reads as the Braxi. Patriarchists.”

Immediately defensive and offensive systems were alerted and powered.

A soft, yet uneasing chime told everyone aboard that they were about to engage in battle. The patriarchists made no attempt of communication, but fired right away at the Harrak, weakening the shielding significantly.

Hareak returned fire at the Braxi, due to weakened power supplies their shot was less instense and devastating.

What the Harrak didn’t deliver in intensity of the shot, she made up for in repetitions.

Immediately after the first shot, she fired a second, a third.

The Harrak herself wanted to live.

Another hit from the Braxi, shilding was gone, in horror Cyril oberved parts of the hull fly off. After yet another shot from Braxi various fires broke out. “Clear the bridge!” Fyra demanded, all obeyed. Hirarchy was strict.

Cyril looked back to Fyra, she had a breathing mask on.

 

Harrak returned fire, furiously pounding her weaker discharges against the other ship. “Harrak, are there any shield generators operational?” A confirming signal chimed through the smoky bridge. “Charge the debris from your hull with them, and fling them at Braxi.” Hull debris was immediately caught in a kinetic wake from the shield generators, and flung at the enemy vessel with incredible speeds, as the Harrak used it’s remaining generators to accelerate them.

Impacting at the shielding of Braxi, the first few pieces downed the shielding of the patriarchists ship, opening the way for the next waves.

Another weapons discharge from Braxi struck Harrak but dealt only damage to the hull, supplying Harrak with more ammunition for the improvised rail gun.

After a few moments fire from the Braxi seized.

Cyril watched the display in the auxiliary bridge, noticing that the Braxi was adrift. “No life sign on the bridge,” someone commented. “Radiation leaks all over, neurological pathways are necrotising!”

“Can we jump?” Cyril heard herself say. “Affirmative, destination?”

“The mammalian ship. And get the leaks under control.” Cyril sat down in the place of the commander, a spot she had hoped to sit in once Fyra retired.

 

“Only by mass acceleration of hull debris did your commander win that battle? That is impressive!” Jane was genuinely impressed. Although executed in a high tech way, it was, basically, a low tech strategy, equivalent of flinging rocks.

“Sadly, commander Fyra died. Before we jumped she had suffocated, the breathing mask couldn’t filter out all the toxic gas and ash.” The Harpy studied Jane’s expression.

To her, humans showed a broad variety of emotion on their face, while Harpies conveyed their emotions much more subtle. And the humans reeked. Their bodily odours were repulsive, but she slowly got used to the stench.

“I have noticed that you are receiving the Digitalys logs. Did you have chance to read them yet?”

Surprised at the sudden change of topic Jane looked to the desk, her tablet rested there, with the translated logs open, as she was reading every now and then.

“As a matter of fact, yes. I currently am reading through Cruq’s logs.”

Unnoticeable for the human woman, Cyril made an acknowledging face.

“I must say, I am glad that you are our liaison, instead of the men you serve under.” Confused and suddenly uncomfortable Jane shifted. “How so?”

“Men are erratic, impulsive and unstable. And quite often they don’t consider the consequences of their actions.”

“Cruq seems to be thinking ahead.”

“Just wait.” Cyril got up, prompting Jane to do so as well, although now again way taller than the Harpy, she still felt on eye level. “We need a few supplies to fix some of our damage. In the meantime Harrak will retreat to a more safe distance, there still are radiation leaks and there is cause for concern with the engines. They might become unstable.”

Vowing to take matters into her hands Jane complimented Cyril out, activated her glasses to go over the inventory of stored materials from Ericsson.

 

Disappointed by the fact that they couldn’t meet most of the needs to fix the Harrak, Jane wandered through the beta garden. Still there would be transports.

Hylia had suggested to send medical supplies as well, to treat the damaged neurological pathways of the ship.

Ferrying materials to the Harrak was conducted by the tiny beak flyers, as the Harpies called their one to three person ships.

As she crossed into the hallways outside the gardens she noticed that the makeshift fortifications had gone, as well as most of the armed guards. Two were sitting at the other end of the corridor, watching both her and a display.

O’toole had pressure plates installed, detailing how much weight was on them, and where in the corridor the subject, or object of the weight was. That way anyone using even a personal cloaking device could be detected.

“Good evening.” She tweeted to one of the two men. Wolfgang.

“Hi gorgeous. I still have an hour until my shift ends.”

“I’ll wait with dinner.” Winking at him she walked on when the other rose, his gun raised. “Section alpha three!” He barked, Wolfgang pushed Jane behind their table, also raising his gun, pointed at the same location in the hallway. With her eyes she couldn’t make out anything in the direction the two were aiming, but a glimpse at the monitor refealed that something was there.

It was about as heavy as a Harpy.

Quickly she undid a small gun she had hidden in her trouser leg, it only activated with her subdermal implant, so she didn’t fear theft of any sort. “Deactivate your mechanism.” She shouted, using the translator to make sure her message was understood.

The guard closer to Jane moved his gun, as the displayed weight on the screen moved. Firing a shock dart as a warning did only speed up the cloaked harpy. Suddenly it disappeared from the weight plates, only to reappear a lot closer. Again Wolfgang’s colleague fired, as did Wolfgang.

“Their cloak is also ablative to projectiles!” Jane shot her laser, mere two meters from her a harpy dropped on the floor.

Partially still cloaked to the naked eye, partially the cloak had failed. “It’s a male.” Jane cowered next to him. And a patriarchist I presume.

“Honey, go into the garden and call for Cyril. You, call O’toole over here, with a security detail and a medic from subalpha.”

Wolfgang hurried to the garden, while his colleague stood petrified next to her. “Don’t you dare pull rank on me, Sergeant, I’m only doing what’s necessary.” She yelled as he still wasn’t moving a millimeter.

Sighing she kept her gun aimed at the Harpy on the ground, raised the other hand to her glasses, calling O’toole herself. “Sir, get over here, bring a security detail and a medic. We have a situation.”

 

“Your conduct was out of line!” Although the Harpy had been apprehended, and jailed after it was treated for the injuries caused by both the laser and the radiation from the cloak, O’toole was still furious.

The tone with which Jane had addressed him in her call was showing no respect, and the Sergeant she had spoken with said she hadn’t treated him with the proper respect for his rank either.

“Because I did what needed to be done? Or because I made you aware of a situation as quickly as possible without delaying everything by using the proper wording?” Admiral Doherty sat in a corner of the room, he had returned from his vacation because O’toole hadn’t let him stay hidden. After tracing the Admiral’s call, O’toole had searched for him, and contacted him.

Mostly because he thought Mulgrew unfit for her assignment.

“Enough. Both of you.” He rose to his feet.

He felt all the relaxation, he had been gathering, fade away in an instant after the hearing began. “O’toole, I’ve been going over the logs and reports of her actions, and find nothing wrong. Let it go. Mulgrew, although you did an excellent job, learn some god damn respect for the chain of command! Dismissed.”

O’toole gasped for air to protest, but the Admiral repeated the dismissal.

 

In the corridor Jane headed for the tube network, ignoring the blooming plants, that seemed to capture the attention of some other people aboard. Every so called spring people were fascinated anew by them.

“Ensign.” The Lieutenant Commander’s voice stopped her. “Yes, sir?” She rotated on her heels, all stern and official.

“I believe I owe you an apology.” Thrown off by these words, Jane almost lost her composure. “No, sir, you do not. It is I who must apologise for my disrespectful demeanour.” Although she didn’t believe her words, she uttered them so convincingly that O’toole seemed to believe them.

“I was certain that I was going to be promoted to become the first officer, instead you got promoted one rank, and now occupy that very position. So, yes, I must apologise. My petty feelings of jealousy shouldn’t influence our working relationship.”

Grinding her teeth, Jane could her that he didn’t want to apologise, but felt it was his duty. “Sir, I didn’t mean to address you, or the Sergeant, in a disrespectful manner. The sarge was petrified, and you needed to be made aware of the situation as quickly as possible. Any disrespect on my part only resulted from the situation, and was not intended.”

O’toole stood in front of her, also grinding his teeth. As he closed his eyes he shook his head. “Let us forget this incident. Care to join me in the interrogation of our culprit?”

For a moment Jane wanted to decline the offer, but then decided otherwise. “I would like to bring subcommander Cyril into the fold, sir. The female Harpies have experience with the patriarchists, so it would only stand to reason that they might be of help in this.”

Clearly weighing his options O’toole gazed at Jane, through her in a sense.

“Alright. Interrogation takes place in the holding cells on sub alpha. You have fifteen minutes.”

 

Half the time she was given, Jane had needed just to find Cyril. After the patriarchist was apprehended she was made aware of the situation, confirmed that the injured Harpy was none of her crew, but after that, she was returned to the garden while the prisoner got taken away.

After convincing the Harpy, Jane raced back to the tube network with her. Two security guards accompanied them, sat down in the cab.

At first Jane felt irritated by their familiar faces, but when she read their name tags that cleared up. Falkner and Grienberg, the sons of former Admiral Solomon Grienberg and former head medical officer Johannes Falkner.

By the way they were talking with each other Jane figured they had formed a friendship similar to that of their fathers.

The weightlessness set in as the cab entered one of the central tubes to cross from beta ring to sub alpha. Checking the time Jane realised she was almost out of time, three minutes left to go, when suddenly an alarm rang, and a rocking of the cab ended their ride.

Alarmed but remaining relatively calm Jane looked to the two men, who were as clueless as herself, while the alarm continued to ring.

“This is Ensign Jane Mulgrew, raising the command centre, please respond.” Static.

Chaim Grienberg also tried raising someone on the intercom but also only received static. All eyes laid on the Harpy which seemed as frightened as can be. “I believe there has been,” she paused turning to Jane, “an incident.” Quickly she explained that her neural implant, although prevented from networking, had received a short signal.

A suicidal one, like the death cry of a warrior.

“Alright.” Jane concentrated. All of a sudden the walls of the cab seemed to move in on her, and she felt as if every breath of air was pressed from her lungs. “We need to figure out where we are, and what had happened. Next steps depend on our findings.”

Immediately the two men and Jane tried raising alpha, beta and gamma, Falkner tried reaching his mother on subgamma in engineering, but no call succeeded in getting out.

Was it possible that another saboteur had destroyed the tube and they had been flung out to space? Immediately as she had that thought Jane chased it away, as her claustrophobia only worsened.

 

There was a jolt. Although they had no weight, there was inertia.

Jane’s fear felt validated as they rocked in various directions. She had seen videos of theme park rides on earth, and couldn’t believe that some people went willingly into a device to be rocked in various directions without any sense of where they were.

“Still, nothing on the radio.” Falkner sighed, continuously trying to reach anybody, for nearly an hour.

Rather worried Jane took out her tablet computer. Was it her claustrophobia, or actual sorrow? “How much air is in here?”

Without saying a word Chaim opened his seat belt and floated to one of the doors, accessing the computer panel on the wall. “Not much left to breathe,” he sighed further punching at the touch screen, “either we have another power out, or we were flung to space, the cab can’t establish a connection to the magnetic fields.”

That’s it. We’re going to die in here.

Falkner pulled out his gun. For a moment Jane thought he was going to shoot himself, but he took out the container with pressurised oxygen that propelled the darts out of the gun, and vented it.

“How about now?”

Chaim smiled. “Better, but it isn’t going to last forever.”

 

Half of an agonising hour passed, before another series of jolts rocked the cab around. Retreated into her mind Jane looked around as if she watched a movie. Suddenly gravity kicked in, and a pressure seal was established at the door that chaim had used the interface at.

It opened with a noisy hiss.

Three people were in the other room, the two women were dirty, the man sitting at the computer panel was only using one arm, the other was in a sling.

“Technician Junkic to command centre, we have them.” Relieved Jane opened the seat belt and hurried out of the cab, Cyril closely behind, followed by Grienberg and Falkner.

“What happened?” Jane and Chaim simultaneously asked the same question, instead of a reply Jane received a call from O’toole on her glasses, informing her that the Braxi had showed up and decided to shoot at the Horizon. Retaliation was not very successful at first, but after the Harrak had weakened the Braxi’s shields sufficiently, the lasers from Horizon dealt enough damage.

“Enough for what, sir?” Figuring it meant that they retreated, or were left adrift and unarmed for Harrak to deal a final blow to them, she received damage reports instead of an answer to her question.

 

Damage reports from all over the ship. Subalpha was in bad shape, alpha had a hole in it, gamma had lost much of their buffer zone. The only thing intact were subgamma and beta. Even the tubes between alpha and subalpha had taken a beating, which had delivered them out into space, where a beak had taken them to the bea ring remnants, and later docked them.

“What happened to Harrak?” She noticed that all scheduled deliveries to the harpy vessel had been cancelled. “She’s not going to be repaired. What was left of the crew is abandoning ship and sending for help.” Finally having arrived in subalpha Jane sat in the briefing room near the command centre.

To her relief Wolfgang had been on duty at the beta garden entrance.

“You still haven’t told me what happened to Braxi, sir.”

Instead of telling her O’toole pointed her attention to the large screen. Cyril and Jane looked. A series of harpy glyphs on the edge of the frame told them it was recorded by a beak affiliated with the Harrak.

The vastness of space opened up before them, and the grueling image of the badly beaten Horizon. Hovering at beta was the beak with the cab in tow.

In front of the Horizon was the intimidating Braxi, although her shields had failed she still was impressive.

An energy discharge from the Harrak behind the beak, mand thus the camera, opened up a gap in the Braxi defenses, as the beaks had scrambled after shield failure.

That’s when the lasers from Horizon followed, bombarding the hostile Harpy ship, until the beams of UV light emerged on the other side of the ship, tearing the beaks there to shreds.

“We wanted to fire a nuke at that point, but, see for yourselves.” O’toole spoke at that point. There was satisfaction in his voice.

A series of explosions ripped through the Braxi, Cyril clawed the seat she sat in as the explosions moved from the hole in Braxi outwards, until reaching the engine core, from where a singular explosion tore the Braxi apart.

“Yes!” Cyril hissed, with an angry victorious grin on her lips.

Her fallen sisters had quasi been avanged. Overwhelmed by the victory the Horizon had achieved, Jane too couldn’t hide her satisfaction.

 

“Our ship will be arriving soon.” Four days had passed since the destruction of the Braxi. Jane strode through the gardens on beta with Cyril. “Following your actions in this crisis, the matriarchy will consider peaceful ways with your kind, but know this, there will be no technology made available to you.”

“I understand, my superiors do too, although there certainly are forces aboard Horizon who would want it, but we have had too many cautionary tales in our own history and cultures, to ever truly follow it through. Just think of the linkers.”

Laughing the two stopped, Hylia wandered down the path, her two children behind her. The two were excited, as they were leaving with their people, always welcome to return to Hylia on Horizon. The older Harpy had decided to stay, as she felt more at home there now, than with her people. Besides, she didn’t want to spend what was left of her life as a curiosity and story teller.

“I’ll leave you to talk.” Jane headed for the exit.

Still there were issues to be dealt with resulting from the patriarchists attack. Admiral Doherty had been killed in the attack, and O’toole was a prime candidate for succession of that office. Before that became truly relevant, work schedules to repair damaged areas, and replace some if possible, was more pressing.

Jane started on the work schedules immediately upon leaving the garden. Most important was to close of the exposed tubes between alpha and subalpha. The spine of the ship, almost broken.

“I heard you’re getting another promotion?” Wolfgang studied her from head to toe. “Unofficially, yes. Officially maybe in a year, probably two.” She winked entering the tube cab, swallowing a chilling sensation.

Although badly beaten, Horizon had learned much from the incident. Better shielding, buffers and more effective and efficient lasers for future enfounters, could be developed with the collected data.

Improvement and repair was her new assignment, once the Harpies left the ship.

 

“Good morning, sir.” She manned her station in the command centre, O’toole sat in the chair of the Admiral. “Good morning, Mulgrew. I have a task for you, find out how much our trajectory was altered by the bombardments and decompressions, and then, alter it to our previous heading.” Confident in her, he smiled, tunring his attention back to the main viewscreen, where long range scans already picked up the Harpy ship that would pick up their refugees.

Vaping

Imagine you’re walking a street – any innocuous urban street – and about two meters in front of you walk two guys.
In the olden times they’re regular old smokers. They smoke as they walk. You would’ve gotten a whiff of their smoke and to a degree you could even tell the brand. At least whether they’re smoking cheap or expensive tobacco.
These days, they vape. As they walk. You get a cloud of scented shit in your face. The artificial chemical approximation of ‘apple’, or ‘vanilla’, or something else that it doesn’t smell like.
We get it.
You vape.
It’s hip these days. But here’s a suggestion to all you vapers out there: grow a lung and either smoke like everyone else, or don’t smoke like everyone else.
But this steam bullshit ain’t going to cut it.
Research showed it is just as chock full of poison as traditional smoking, and you look like a colossal dipshit doing it.
The clouds you leave behind smell like a unicorn fucked a potpourri turned into vapor.
Seriously.
Stop.
This is vegan sausage all over again.
Either you want to be a vegan, OR you eat sausage. Either you smoke, OR you don’t.
Decide. But don’t try to dance on both weddings at the same time, ruining the fun for everyone.
Take care,
A.

Rings of Fate S2xE6 – Digitalys – Digitalys

image

Like stars in the far off distance, various controls and lamps on the control panel lit up from time to time, only to darken again.

Since the Harpies had left the Horizon to warn Destiny, almost a week had passed, a week of ongoing repairs, and in between repairs of mind numbing boredom. 

No news from the Harpies, no sign of the DEHumans, not even transmissions from Explorer or Destiny, even though longrange communication was routed through the new whisker probes.

“Miss Mulgrew, where is the Admiral?” Startled Jane took her eyes off the panel before her, turned to security chief O’toole.

“He didn’t ?” Not ending her question Jane closed her eyes in disbelief. O’toole was the head of sefurity for the entirety of the ship, and the Admiral hadn’t informed him?

“He is on vacation. I have no clue where he is right now. Nor will he be reachable via intercom, he left all of his devices.” With her head she pointed at the door to the adjacent room. “Didn’t he tell you?” 

“Obviously he neglected to do so. Otherwise I wouldn’t need to ask you, Ensign.” O’toole didn’t shroud his disdain for Jane’s rushed battlefield promotion. “Who is acting commander of the Horizon?”

Running her finger along the edge of her console, and inspecting it for dust afterwards, Jane kept her mouth shut. “Lieutenant Fohler!” O’toole raised his voice to draw the attention of the communication officer. But she kept silent as well.

Sighing a silent prayer O’toole turned to his station. “So,” he ground his teeth, “acting commander Mulgrew. Sit rep!” 

“Repairs are underway a little ahead of schedule. All entryways to the now non existing compartments on beta are being welded shut. Some of the pods we formerly had as a buffer are now being converted into habitable rooms. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report, sir. Handing over command to highest ranking officer in the command centre, sir.” 

Again sending a silent prayer to the heavens around the ship O’toole thanked her. Although he knew that she hadn’t done anything wrong, or illegal to ascend to her current position and rank, O’toole felt left out, like Jane’s peers, who were still a rank beneath Jane. After Joleen Jenkins had defected to the DEHumans, he should have been promoted to first officer, but instead there had been no promotion, and a private was promoted to Ensign, and placed in the position of the first officer.

“I am receiving a message, sir.” Lieutenant Fohler explained a sudden beeping noise on her console. 

“Source?” 

“It’s a Harpy signal, text only. Judging by the signal degredation it appears to be old, very old.” 

Already not in the best of moods O’toole closed his eyes to remain calm. “Can you specify that?” 

“No sir, between four and five hundred years old. It is currently running through translation.” 

“Ensign,” the Lieutenant commander turned to Jane. “Please analyse that signal, once translation is complete, if necessary, talk with Hylia.” 

14th Shekray, 3221 after Digitalys settlement. Daxa.

We have successfully spliced the genes of all our crops with sequence 531. Widespread implementation has begun, predicted crop yield is at 90%, with a predicted 95% mortality rate among pests, and weeds.

I can’t wait to witness it with my own eyes, finally the bugs won’t eat my Arratis, and the indigenous plants will be susceptible to herbicides that won’t touch my Arratis.

It was damp and dark in Hylia’s quarters, her two children sat in a corner, reading some human literature that they were interested in. Other media didn’t seem to interest them as much. But that might be because Hylia had raised them that way.

“Welcome to our home, I hope it is something absolutely not life threatening that brings you here.” The elderly Harpy seemed to be in a jolly mood, perhaps because she had a chance to alter the climate in her quarters.

Or because she finally felt vital again after constantly fending off the DEHuman network trying to pull her in. 
“We are receiving some sort of signal.” She handed the harpy a tablet. The jolly mood seemed to fade away, a more stern expression replaced it.

“The Digitalys logs.” Although the computerised voice was monotone and emotionless, the sounds that Hylia made sounded anything but jolly. “Sent as an analogue signal, to keep it from too much degradation. It will take you some hours to receive all of them, but they’re worth reading.” Glancing over to her children who had begun listening to them instead of reading, Hylia request a copy for them to read.

“Digitalys, has become a synonym for a cautionary tale in our culture. I won’t spoil it any further for you.” Hylia handed the tablet back.

23rd Shekray, 3221 after Digitalys settlement. Daxa.

Softly the blossoms of the Arratis swayed in the wind, under a forgiving sun. Scientists crawled around the field in protective suits, to keep their samples from getting contaminated with any feathers or scales. 

Somewhat satisfied Daxa looked over her field. For years she had tried to fend of the bugs, and for years they had eaten up to half of her crops. For just as many years the indigenous plant life had been competing with her crops, but herbicides also killed the Arratis. 

Now, there was nothing to see but the Arratis blossoms in the afternoon breeze that came in from the ocean. “Thank you for letting us collect the samples. We’re off.” 

“It is I who must thank you. Less fertilisation, irrigation, no pesticides and simply spraying herbicides onto the weeds, It is truly me who must thank you.” 

The wo,man in the environmental suit smilingly shook her head. “Sequence 531 is to thank, we’re just making sure it does work properly.”

Thinking that she and the other farmers would’ve told the scientists and the matriarchy about any problems, Daxa just nodded.

“This is the future, my dear.” Daxa turned to her mate who was preparing a small robotic tiller for another field. “I guess, my love.” He winked. 

7th Hakiray, 3279 after Digitalys settlement. Goraka.

Cold light filled the room, shining down on testing equipment and computer pads. 

“Begin log.” A relatively young harpy entered the room, she seemed aggravated. “For some fifty years we have deployed the spliced crops. It had begun some five or ten years later that farmers reported weeds and bugs adapting. I brought this matter before the matriarchy of Digitalys, but they threatened me with revoking my status within the scientific community.” Carefully she picked up a test tube with samples of the Arratis fungus in it. Theoretically the fungus should’ve been wiped out with the deployment of sequence 531, but still it had not only survived, but adapted and grew around the roots of Arratis. 

“I hold in my hands irrefutable proof that the flora is adapting to the changes we introduced. I also have genetic evidence of the gobbler bug developing an immunity to sequence 531.” She put the tube back into the shelf she had taken it out from. “Going to need more evidence apparently, until they can’t ignore me anymore. End log.” Breathing heavily she stood over the notes on her desk, but turned away. 

A long day was lying behind her. At the present moment she simply didn’t have the mind to go back to work.
“How was your day?” Immediately after settling down for dinner, Jane’s long time boyfriend Wolfgang Peters asked. He always asked.

Mostly Jane adored it. 

That day she was annoyed by it.

“It was okay. All I’ve been doing was reading. Ancient Harpy logs from some colony of theirs.” She picked up a piece of meat with her fork. 

Lab grown meat, stem cell beef, the generation who had once lived on earth called it. She couldn’t believe that there was another way to get meat. One that involved killing another lifeform. 

But she enjoyed the taste, if she had lived in an environment where slaughtering animals was the only way to get meat, she probably would eat meat, despite the brutality behind it. “What are these logs about?” 

Still more talking. “The rise, and presumably fall of the colony. They released a GMO into their ecosystem. Sequence 531 it is called.” She vaguely remembered seeing the details for sequence 531 somewhere in the logs.

But unable to make heads or tails of it, she skimmed those that were to detailed in their scientific explanations.
After dinner Wolfgang went to bed early, as he had an early shift in the infirmary. All too often Jane was bothered by that circumstance, but on this evening she found it to be a good thing. Eagerly she reclined on the bed next to him, her tablet in hand, looking for the next log. 

8th Hakiray, 3279 after Digitalys settlement. Goraka.

A beautiful morning sun greeted Goraka after she left the house. Some small animals were shouting out to their kin, something furry was gliding from one tree to the next. It sang to it’s children waiting in a hollow for her return. 

How they managed to do that with a mouth full of berries, seeds or nuts, was beyond Goraka. All she knew was that they were considered pests out in the fields, normal in the forests and cute in the towns. 

After the long row of trees along the road to the research centre she found a large transport waiting outside the building. 

Uneasy she entered, a row of workers from the matriarchy was carrying out crates filled with notes, papers and samples. The uneasiness spread in her. 

Still there was a small chance of hope inside her, although the equipment carried past her, looked awfully familiar.

With weak knees she walked to her lab. No one had spoken to her, since she entered the building, only gazes were shyly thrown in her direction. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Her crushed hopes vocalised as she came to stop in front of her lab.

Or former lab. 

A few matriarchy officials were still inside the room, opening closets for the tenth time to ensure nothing had been left behind.

“I’m terribly sorry, Goraka.” Slythis approached her, the head of the research centre seemed to be truly sorry. “The matriarchy revoked your position, confiscated your research. I tried to fight it, but,”

Goraka raised her hand. “No ‘but’, you tried, you failed.” Goraka clenched her jaw. Nothing would’ve satisfied her more than to jump at Slythis and maul her. But she wasn’t the one to blame. 

“It is I who must thank you. For your patience with me over the years, and the attempt to save me.” And it is I who is to blame for this.

Not waiting for a reply from her former superior she turned to leave. “They are watching you! Dont pursue your ideas.” Slythis grabbed her by the hand. “At least not publicly.” She hissed, letting go of Goraka’s hand, leaving behind a data crystal. 
“My position with the scientific community has been revoked. Matriarchy knew of the problems with sequence 531, the fact they confiscated all my research is proof for that. Gladly Slythis has saved all of it digitally and returned it to me. They must’ve known about the transferring genes! I will continue my research in private. Gotta be extra careful now that I have no backing.”

Humming ventilation was almost a lullaby for Jane. All her life. 
But in Hylia’s quartes it was keeping her awake and alert, she almost felt as if birds and insects were buzzing around, ready to peck at, or sting her. 

“These logs contain a lot of scientific data I can’t follow.” Hylia studied the logs Jane was referring to. “I’m an engineer, I knew the brain of my ship, and the engine parts. I don’t understand anything about genetic manipulation either.” She closed the logs.

“But that isn’t what they are supposed to communicate. Yrag included that data to show how sophisticated the genetic engineering was, but still failed to understand the greater picture.” The harpy made a face of regret. She hadn’t intended to mention the name of Yrag just yet. “Forget that name for now, the next one you’ll be interested to read about is Cruq. A male, but with a lot of genius, no wonder, was he the son of Goraka.”

16th Joshi, 3309 after Digitalys settlement. Cruq.

There was a certain stiffness to the wind that came down from the mountains. Cruq glanced into the diatance against the wind. 

Up in the mountains weather must’ve been harsh. 

Crisp air, perhaps early snow. 

Glad he didn’t live there, he looked across the fields of Arratis before him. They belonged to his sister in law and his wife Lyma. Eco rebels as the matriarchy called them, as they had largely unspliced crops. Pollen from spliced crops however crept up on the fields with the wind and migrating pollinators. 

It worried him. 

Shortly after being expelled from the scientific community Goraka had found a man, and settled in the area, they had only one nest, and only one egg hatched.

Him.

He met Lyma in their childhood, her parents already were eco rebels. But the matriarchy let them continue.
Seeds were low, he noticed with a worried experts eye. Many Arratis plantaswere dead from fungus and weeds, what survived was ravaged by the pests.

But, the harvest was free of spliced sequences. 

“We found the new sequence on the property.” With a shaky hand and angry undertone to her voice Lyma handed him a datasheet.

“I told you.” Expressing his dislike for her always checking his findings with his facial expression only, he took the sheet back. “Sequence 2210 is even worse than 531!” Crying in anger she trembled as a whole. “It is found to kill animals that eat those that were supposed to be merely repelled by sequence 2210!”

All the facts she was reciting to him, hen had heard before. Some he brought to her attention. But he kept silent as they walked down the side of the field. 

The smell of the rotten roots and plants lingered in the air with an all too familiar moldy-sweet note, mixed with the smell of the near ripe seeds. 

“We can’t release the harvest.” He stopped underneath a fruit tree the two had played under as children. 

Worried but still furious she looked in his eyes, although an eco rebel she was a strong matriarchist. Convinced that men, although smart sometimes, were not as smart as women. “That’s silly,” 

He put his finger to her lips. “I know what you believe, this is not a sexism debate, nor should it be. We provide splice free crops for like minded people. They are not splice free. They are now laced with the most dangerous sequence the matriarchy has yet spat onto our plates. We cannot release the harvest. Think about it Lyma, and you will come to the same conclusion.” 

Leaving her to ponder his words Cruq marched down the beaten track, he had a shed there. Under some old trees, which had overgrown with a fungus from the fields. They had formed a symbiosis with it. Not pretty to look at, but healthy in its own little weird way.

Silently gliding into the wall, the door revealed a tidy laboratory inside the shed. Once, it was his mother’s, now it was his. 

“Computer, open nanite research, replay last programming sequence.” Under a low hum a holographic projector went on. 

In the middle of the room a giant apparatus was projected, but Cruq knew it was as small as a few molecules in truth. 

Routines and subroutines appeared next to it, always so that he could read them, no matter where in the room he was. “I still have to introduce you to my wife.” He sighed judging his creation. 
12th Shekray, 3310 after Digitalys settlement. Cruq.

“I have received information claiming that sequence 2210 has shown up in our own kind!” Behind Lyme the door to Cruq’s shed slid close again. It was three months since he had shown her the lab his mother had created, three months in which Lyme had changed her look upon her man completely. 

He had, in her eyes, the mind of genius woman.

“Say again?” He turned from a microscope to face her. 

“Three people have died from sequence 2210, several dozen are poisoned, and it is linked to ovarian death syndrome in half a dozen cases.” She sat down next to the hologram of the nanite Cruq had running to view changes he made, on a large scale.

“Dead hatchlings? Due to 2210?” Uneasy he got up, paced up and down the room. “I can’t believe it. Are these allegations confirmed?” 

A stern glance from Lyma remined him that confirmation of such allegations was a tricky thing, as the matriarchy denied them, hushed them.

“I have good new however.” He turned to the microscope, with the push of a button the nanite on display changed minutely. 

“They’re ready.” 

Almost instantaneously Lyma jumped to her feet. “Ready for what?” 

“They target sequences 531, 2210 and markers identified in the DNA of both weeds an pests threatening our crops. They can even be used on people.” 

Determination in her eyes Lyma stretched forth her arm. “Give it to me, if you err, I will perish, but you can continue to work, so don’t do the crazy scientist stunt of injecting yourself with it!” The tone of her voice told him not to try and argue her out of it. 

Nodding he strode over to the desk and took the batch he was working on from it. “If we want this to be spread, we have a lot of work ahead of us.” He mumbled under his breath as he prepared the injection. 

“If we want this to be spread, it is better we try to sell it as either a joint venture, or my idea all together.” She rubbed the point on her arm where he had injected her. 

Agreeing with her he put the injector aside, and took out a small wand like scanner. He waved it over her arm, and her torso. 

“They’re spreading as planned. According to the signal they emit, they’ve found 2210 and traces of 531 in your body already and are targeting it.” The data was displayed in the hologram, in a way so they could easily read it.

“I feel quiverish.” She admitted, but figured it was due to excitement. Before the two left the shed he began synthecating more nanites over night. 
Halfway to the house Lyma looked across the harvested field, standing underneath the fruit tree. Satisfied that she had listened to him when he said they couldn’t release the harvest she smiled, as a cold wind from the mountains set in.

“Thank you.” She took his hand. “For what?”

He squeezed it back, not letting go though.

“For putting up with me, even though I sometimes treated you like most women treat men.” She stopped, leaned against the fence. 

“And for sharing your invention with,” suddenly short on breath Lyma sancknto the ground, Cruq tried to suppn but was utterly helpless. “What is it?” 

“I can’t breathe!” 

From his pocket he produced another scanner wand. “They’re multiplying too quickly.” He read from a small display at thenother end of the device. Quickly, with a surprisingly calm hand, he adjusted a few rings on the wand, checked the reading on the display and confirmed the new instructions for the nanites.

Gently stroking her hand he kept kneeling next to her. “It is getting easier!” Falling in love all over again with that smile of hers he couldn’t help but smile too. “Good, now don’t let me forget to make that adjustment on the new batch tomorrow, or you’ll end up a widow.” 
17th Shekray, 3310 after Digitalys settlement. Cruq.

Satisfied with himself Cruq led Lyma through the fields. He had successfully injected himself with a new batch of the nanites, and even had given it to their children, without any ill effects. They had to keep it under wraps as the matriarchy would surely disapprove of it.

“I have made contact with a friend in the scientific community.” Lyma said, her hand brushing the leaves and fruit of a nearby bush as they strode through the fields. “She has agreed of giving me aid in our paper.” 

Proudly nodding Cruq looked around. 

There had been another spot he and Lyma had often visited as children, they even had built a tree house there.

It was the spot where he had proposed to her.

“Take a look.” He finally sighed as they had reached the oak like tree. The house was still there, although it had fallen into disrepair. 

Warm autumn sunrays shone on it, and them. But not as warm as her smile as she laid eyes on the tree house. 

“Why have you brought me here?” 

“Here I first proposed to you, here we two agreed to our matrimony. So I figured this is the perfect place to renew our matrimonial vows.” 

He took her hands in his, and locked eyes with her. “I hereby vow to always cherish you, care for your needs and wants, to the best of my abilities, and beyond. Lyma, I hereby vow to stay true to you, as your husband.” 

Stunned Lyma stared at him. She had forgotten the date. 

Their anniversary! 

“My dearest Cruq, I vow to always uphold you, support you in your need, and catch your fall. My heart belongs to you, and I shall always stay true to you and our matrimony, as your wife.” She recalled her vows word by word. 

Gently he touched her forehead with his. Producing a necklace from his pocket with one hand. 

A small pendant showed two harpy hands holding each other around an egg shaped gem. “Happy anniversary.”
“Two hands and an egg?” Jane giggled, Hylia didn’t seem to be as amused as the human woman. “It’s wonderfully romantic, kinda cute.” she added. Longing for something romantic from Wolfgang, but the most romantic gesture she could expect was dimmed lights, her favorite dish on the table and romantic music playing.

And that got old, fast. 

“Maybe you should tell your man to be more romantic, instead of giggling with an almost tangible yearning over gestures from people who are dead.” Hylia winked, a habit she had picked up from the humans. 

Walking down a path in the beta ring’s garden, the two enjoyed the simulated wind. “You must read on, to understand the meaning of the word ‘Digitalys’.” Hylia sat down in the Orchard, underneath an apple tree.

With a glad glance she looked around at the tall grass, just moments ago she had surprised the young human woman by appearing out of it.

For a brief moment both had experienced how life must’ve been 65 million years earlier on earth.

14th Hakiray, 3315 after Digitalys settlement. Cruq.

Waving a tablet computer in her hand Lyma rushed towards the tree house. Underneath the tree Cruq had built a bench, on which he sat.

From afar he could make her out, the tablet’s surface reflecting the noonday sun as she waved it in excitement. 

From her demeanour alone he knew what had happened. What had failed three time prior. 

The nanites got approval. 

In earlier attempts his name always had shown up in the proposal. In the first one it was him and Lyma, then it was Lyma and him as the authors. In the third attempt it had been her with him as aid. 

As an excuse in the third attempt, the matriarchy had brought up concerns of the networkers. Even though his nanites didn’t even remotely do what the implants did. 
For the fourth attempt they had taken him out of the picture entirely, sold the technology as hers alone.

No recognition, no fame, no memory for posterity. 

Lyma’s nanites they would be called.
Although glad that the salvation for the devastation caused by genetic engineering had finally gotten approval, that he and Lyma had won a great victory, he felt a bitter aftertaste.

“It is approved.” His voice echoed this bitter aftertaste.

“Don’t ruin our, no, your victory here.” She scolded him, still catching her breath. “We both know that it is you who deserves credit for saving Digitalys from the doom brought upon it by its denizens. Your conscience is clean, and I am honored to be the puppet that brought into the light of day.” Cheering his mood up with her words, she handed him the tablet with the news.

“Synthesis of your nanites will begin shortly, large scale implementation will commence next season.” She gave him the abridged version, before he could read it. 

“Great news.” Smiling, the bitter aftertaste vanishing, he put the tablet down. “In two months the greatest threat to our society will be gone!” 
11th Jekram, 3366 after Digitalys settlement. Yrag.

Watching thunder strike the ocean in a few kilometres distance to his position, Yrag stood on the shore. The bolt moved along the dome shaped outline of an invisible forcefield, created by a grid of emitters designed to shut off nanites.

His grid.

“We have lost communication with the matriarchy.” Jujy approached him slowly from a small building in his back. It had the likeness of a lighthouse, but was a satellite relay station, the two lived in. “I hope it’s just the storm, but of course it is more likely they had suffered the same fate as the rest of the mainland.” Another bolt of lightning followed the shield’s outline before striking water.

“They’re sludge.” He replied. 

Both had seen the effect of Cruq’s nanites, rampant in the wild. Only a few years after global implementation the nanites got out of control. 

Replicating out of hand. 

Originally they replicated and destroyed sequences 2210 and 531, but soon they replicated despite also consuming other materials.

Other DNA molecules, other molecules, all sorts of material. 

In affected areas soon the soil, streams, lakes, soon the ocean and even the air became laden with nanites.

Trying to fend off the sludge, as the silvery mass of microscopic robots was called, both he and Jujy had risked their lives.

Only by exposing the sludge to intense bursts of magnetic fields did the nanites in it become inert.

Fleeing them they had retreated to the island. A community of roughly five hundred lived on it. Like the eco rebels fifty years before, the islanders refused splicing, but also Cruq’s nanites. Jujy had spoken to the local government, oddly enough composed of females and males, to set up the grid, with success.

“G-type stars are so rare, we find one with a planet suitable for colonisation, we do so. And what did it bring us? We destroyed this one.” He gazed out at the ocean. 

Most colonies were on tidal locked planets around red dwarf stars, only few planets were like Digitalys. 

“Not all is lost my love, we have the haven.” She pointed at the island in their back. “For now.” He added, his eyes squinted, focusing on a shadow in the water.
18th Jekram, 3366 after Digitalys settlement. Yrag.

Exhaustion weighed Yrag’s body down. He sat at the desk on the other side of the entrance to the satellite relay station. For the entire previous day he and Jujy had been in a small craft hovering above the waves just inside the perimeter of the shield. 

As he had suspected, the large shadow in the water was one of the aquatic giants of Digitalys. 

Like some ferocious fungus the nanites oft times infiltrated a larger organism, drove it to new grounds for the nanites to multiply at, where the organism was completely consumed so the nanites could spread.

The creature had been infected with the nanites. For hours they tracked its movements beneath the waves, took readings, and finally decided to blast it with the magnetic pulse.

After which the creature died, already the nanites had taken over too many parts of the creature’s brain and internal organs, bloodstream. After the nanites were deactivated the creature died within moments of the blast.

What followed was dragging the creature inside the shield, and dissecting it. 

Matriarchy’s false accusations of the nanites being like the networkers chip were actually somewhat justified the examination revealed. “They formed a command structure within the creature’s brain, taking over in essence. Not to bring other creatures into the network, but to spread.” He noted in his log.

Heavy rain pounded against the window and door of the building, Jujy was just as tired as him, as she came up from the subterranean room. “We’re on reserve power.” She sighed, for days it had rained, and for days there was only black clouds overhead. Solar cells couldn’t charge with that kind of weather, and both had a feeling that the nanites were causing it. Their heat evaporated enough water to fuel the rainstorm.

A researcher had described the sludge as hot to the touch in his final moment on mainland. 

He actually screamed out that it was hot, and weird. Yrag looked out the window. To think the locals began referring to the island as Yrag’s haven after he and Jujjy had set up the shield.

Now it was going to fail. He clearly saw the lightning striking inside the shield now. 

“Shielding this building.” Jujy stated dryly behind him. “Shall I send the last logs?” 

Tired and sad Yrag turned around. Currently dozens of creatures smashed themselves ferociously at the shield, in the programmed hopes of getting their nanites through. 

Deafening thunder caused the two to rush to the window again. 

Outside a small tree had been struck by lightning, rain fell. 

Silvery rain. It consumed the leaves from above, sludge seemed to crawl upwards from the ground. Crackling the tree fell over and seemed to melt into the sludge.

“Yes. My beloved.” He sat down at the desk with her. All the logs he had obtained, that documented the events leading up to the Digitalys apocalypse, were already stored in a geostationary satellite. Only their latest findings needed to be sent. 

The heat radiating in from the door and window became noticeable across the room. As the nanites changed other materials into new nanites, they generated heat. 

“I love you.” He took her hand, squeezed it gently. “I love you too.” More breath than words, as Jujy supressed her urge to cry.

Taking each other in the arms Jujy and Yrag closed their eyes. The last data package was transmitted to the satellite, along with the command to start the transmission of the analogue signal. 

A countdown flashed up on the screen. “I don’t want to become nanite fodder.” She faintly smiled as an explanation. “Nor do I.” He touched her forehead with his, approving of her activating the self destruct program. 
A violent explosion tore the ground on Yrag’s haven’s south peninsula up, engulfing, consuming it and all on it. Harpy, structures, nanites and rock.

A shock wave plowed through the silvery sludge, deactivating what nanites it touched, but a new wave of nanites was released from the clouds immediately. 

19th Jekram 3366 after Digitalys settlement. Yrag.

Upon reading this log, know that I have perished, that we all have perished. In the end, our own shortsightedness was our undoing. 

Please my sisters and brothers, find a way to peacefully coexist with the universe around you. What ever species you might encounter, what ever spaces you enter, do not force yourselves on the universe, but go with it.

This is Yrag, take a lesson from these logs.

Digitalys settlement, out.