Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Locked thread
Sep 4, 2011
In, with Solarpunk.


Sep 4, 2011

One Hundred and Twenty One Again
1855 words

The patient stirred, yawning with a wide open mouth.
“Where am I?” he asked sleepily.
“A hospital, you were very ill when we found you,” said Xaxier, “this is Dr. Malhotra and I’m Xaxier, your attendant nurse."
“Bloody hospital.” said the patient. Then his eyes opened, and he frowned. He moved his hands to check his scalp. Then he suddenly came alive.

“What have you bastards done with my hair?!” he yelled.
“Your hair?”
“It’s flat! It’s horrible!”
“Oh, that’s right, it was in the notes- dangerous chemical product found on the patient’s hair and scalp. We had to get rid of it.” said Xaxier.
“First off, I’m a bloke, not ‘the patient’! And of course it’s dangerous and chemical, it’s hair gel!” The patient loudly snorted from the back of his nostrils, seemingly in frustration. The Doctor and nurse shuddered.

“You don’t look like doctors, what sort of rubbish doctor clothes are those?” he said.
“What’s wrong wi- never mind. I need to check that there’s been no lasting impact from the cryogenic process, what’s your name and date of birth?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“Rod Bollocks, 1959.”
“That’s not what’s listed here for your name.”
“Well sod whatever they wrote down!” He folded his arms petulantly.
“Do you know what would have been written down if it wasn’t Rod Bollocks?”
“‘s probably my birth name, I guess.”
Dr. Malhotra gestured for him to go on. Rod cringed.
“Alright, alright, Larry Prince Pringle, there, we’ve got it over with. If you tell anyone that’s my name I’ll piss in all your socks!”
Dr. Malhotra shrugged.
“I work in a hospital, you think that’s the worst thing that’s got into my clothes? What was your profession?”
“Musician, if we want to be posh about it. No, wait, that won’t be on there either. gently caress. Engineer then. Went to a poly and everything.” Rod seemed very different to the bare facts haphazardly reconstructed for his medical file, but he was clearly suffering no ill effects to his memory. That was promising.

Rod sighed. He started to look around the hospital room.
“This doesn’t look like any hospital I’ve ever seen.”
“Well there’s something you need to know, though it might prove difficult to accept…” began Xaxier, trying to pick his words carefully.
“Oh just tell me!” Rod was clearly having none of that.
“From your point of view this is the future. You were in cryogenic suspension for a hundred years.”

“Cryogenic? A hundred years?! gently caress me!” Rod’s eyes were wide with shock. This was the moment of truth, the shock of waking into a distant future could cause severe trauma.
“I really, really need a ciggy.” he said after a few seconds’ consideration. It was fairly underwhelming as such reactions went.
“Is that a cigarette? I’m afraid tobacco products of that kind haven’t been made for a few decades now.” said Dr. Malhotra.
“Well gently caress. This didn’t look like one of those clinical, squeaky-clean, hoity toity futures. Really had my hopes up for a second. No ciggies… what a bunch of wankers. In fact, how do I know this is really the future? You could be lying to me, some government conspiracy to capture and brainwash ‘radical elements’. I mean this looks nothing like the future, it just looks like normal but everything’s handmade and covered in floral bollocks! Handmade stuff is little old ladies making jam at WI meetings, and fat, bearded wankers in the country making stuff to hawk at fairs. I mean, is everything in this handmade? Even the wires, capacitors, light bulbs?”
“Even those.”
“What’s the point of it being the future if you’re going to make everything so bloody laborious?”
“I don’t know if I’d call freedom laborious.”
“Oh of course they’d say it was freedom, of course you think you’re all free. Bet you’re all puppets of the establishment. Bet this is some Brave New World bollocks or somesuch. When’s the brainwashing coming?”
“I think you might be the most interesting person I’ve ever met, Rod.” said Xaxier. Rod actually blushed.

“So, are you feeling any residual pain or discomfort?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“Well I need a bloody ciggy, and it’s the year two-thousand-and-bollocks, but apart from that I feel fine.” All the instrumentation supported that conclusion, even after all his body had endured he was in fine health.

Rod sniffed.
“So where is this hospital then? You both talk like Brits.”
“We’re on the island of Great Britain, yes.”
“Bet it’s ruled by the Inner Council of the Interplanetary Space Fleet or something… not that I ever read Dan Dare!”
“Nobody said you did.” said Xavier.
“You said ‘island of Great Britain’, is the UK not around anymore?”
“I’d be happy to tell you about it, but now is perhaps not the best time for a long history lesson.” said Dr. Malhotra.
“That’s probably a no, then.”

Rod was taking in his surroundings with a more careful eye than before. For the first time since he’d woken up, Rod seemed to be struggling for words.
“So, the future then. What the gently caress am I supposed to do now?” Rod’s angry energy had finally run out.
“Well, you might be glad to hear this isn’t the first this has happened. There’s a lot of guides and walkthroughs that have been put together… but something tells me you’re not the kind of person that would get a lot of use out of those. Let me talk to you about…”
“Excuse me, are you Dr. Malhotra?” came an artificial but earnest voice from the doorway.
“There you go, a robot, first thing that’s actually looked like the future.”

Sure enough, as Dr. Malhotra and Xaxier turned around, they found themselves face to face with a robot of unusual design. It was clearly capable of interpersonal communication but it did not have the kind of head, or body, associated with social robots. It was painted a dark black, and had a heavy bulk to its artificial musculature. It was a little intimidating.
“I’m Dr. Malhotra, yes, how may I help you?”
“I’m here as a representative from Woodbead Enterprise, we contacted you recently about supplying medicine?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t make contracts with non-artisanal groups outside of critical materials.” Xavier wondered how this robot had gotten past the orderlies.
“Yes, you said in your previous response, I was wondering if you might be persuaded to change your mind.”
“I’ll be honest, there’s absolutely no chance that we will be changing that policy, no matter what you suggest, or have been told to suggest.”
“Certainly. A counter-suggestion, then; accept the contract, and I will not be forced to destroy your critical medicine.”
“Wait, what?”
“If you attempt to contact anyone to report this, I will detonate the explosives that I have already planted on your HISP array.”
“Oh, I’m fully aware that if the solar energy grid goes down an emergency connection to the municipal grid will be established. I’m afraid I’ve already severed that connection.”
“People could die!”
“Precisely, and since you are medical professionals, bound to do all in your power to prevent such things, I am sure you will take the sensible option and agree to the originally suggested contract.”

The robot began to walk away.
“You’re a total wanker!” shouted Rod, as Dr. Malhotra and Xavier followed the robot out the room.
“Please, stop what you’re doing!” yelled Xaxier.
“Are you prepared to give in to my demands?”
“Absolutely not!”
“Then I will absolutely not stop what I’m doing.”
“How can you be a licensed robot if you’re prepared to take orders of that kind?”
“I believe you have just answered your own question.”
“This is murderous and absurd! The more I think, the more poorly thought out this is! We have to go home eventually, what are you going to do, follow every employee home? Keep us hostage in the building? There is no way this resolves without attracting attention!” said Dr. Malhotra
“Your logic is entirely sound. I regret that I am able to recognise that. I also regret that I am not a fully autonomous unit, and I must comply with my directives even in the face of their illogical nature. That is why I implore you to give in to my demands.” The robot continued to march down the corridor, its pace not much faster than a human’s.

“Wait, wait, stop a moment please!” yelled Xavier.
“Is there something you wish to discuss?”
“If we accede to your request, what then happens?” The robot stopped.
“All of your artisanal contracts will be cancelled, and as your remaining stock depletes it will be replaced with Woodbead products. Regular inspections will be made by Woodbead employees, who will also replace your current security. Any violations of the contract will be punished severely. Woodbead will be given a controlling interest in the hospital, and it will be used to further gain control of enterprises in this region. It is likely that you will also be forced to store illegal firearms.”
“Woodbead aren’t even a legitimate corporation, are they.”
“I am afraid they are not.”
“I will not have this hospital turned into a terrorist asset!” said Dr. Malhotra furiously.
“Then I am afraid I must press on with the directives I have been given.”
The robot began to walk once more.
“Please, don’t!”
“I’m sorry.”
They pleaded with the robot again and again, and nothing was able to stop its progress. Ten minutes of rhetorical effort made no dent in the cruel directives it had been given, but neither could they accede to the demands. The robot had reached the supply room, and was about to force the door open. Dr. Malhotra was about to give in, it seemed there was no choice.

Then, suddenly, somebody was running up the corridor behind them. There was a loud clang as something impacted against the robot, before any of them could turn around. It suddenly jolted like a ragdoll, and a hot, acrid smell filled the air. The robot collapsed with a loud metallic thud. Standing behind the robot was Rod, who was panting from exhaustion. His left arm was poised like he’d just punched with all of his might. Some sort of crude device covered his hand, and most of his upper arm. Dr. Malhotra realised with some alarm that part of the apparatus was a defibrillator.
“Sorry I’m late, it took me a while to find this HISP business and disarm the bomb. This really is a crap future, bloody bomb was so crude somebody born in 1959 was able to defuse the loving thing!”
“What… what’s that on your arm?” asked Xaxier.
“Oh, yeah, I figured it’s the future, robot’s not going to go down to a swinging fist. Made an electric knuckle duster.”
“In a few minutes you disarmed a bomb, then improvised a shock inducer using technology you’ve never seen before?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“I guess. Who says poly doesn’t teach you nothing?”
“You know Rod, I was a little worried about you fitting in. But something tells me you’re going to be just fine.”

Sep 4, 2011
Thanks for speedy crits.

Sep 4, 2011


I’m not sure what you intended from the ending but I got a “lol stupid lefties” vibe from it. Are you voting for Trump by any chance?

Absolutely not. I can't even express how opposite that is to my political and personal beliefs, and I'm a Brit anyway.

If there was any kind of 'lol stupid lefties' vibe then it was absolutely not an intentional one, I *am* a stupid leftie. But It's far from the only thing about the execution of the thing that I messed up very badly.

Sep 4, 2011
Alright then, in with Classical/Oceania.

Sep 4, 2011

Intense Heat

1683 words

Itinga wished that she had time to linger. As she moved across the floor of the open forest, carefully avoiding concealed tree roots, she was constantly aware of her surroundings’ beauty and intensity. Every waft of fragrant sap, every unknown bird call, every perfect beam of dappled sunlight pleaded with her to stay and discover more about Savai’i. Even the heavy midday heat suited her well. If only she’d arrived under better circumstances.

At first Itinga wondered if someone with magical ability was even needed. Everything seemed to be as it should. But as she neared the edge of the rainforest proper she understood. One moment the air was filled with forest noise, the next everything was deathly silent. She could even find the exact edge of the effect after experimenting. As strange as that would have been anywhere it made even less sense this close to dense rainforest, which should have been almost deafeningly loud. Itinga’s curiosity was suddenly supplanted by unease. She pressed on into the deep jungle.

Itinga realised she couldn’t even hear her own footsteps on the leaf litter, or the sound of any movement she made at all. She started to hum, to make sure that she was not the problem, and also to calm her nerves. As she moved ever deeper into the rainforest Itinga realised that her voice was not the only audible noise any more and stopped humming. She covered her ears, checking that she was hearing an actual sound. There was no doubting it. There was some kind of distant music, though it was too quiet to distinguish, even with no other sounds competing. Itinga frowned. This meant the trouble was probably human in origin.

The music became louder as Itinga pressed on. She realised, with some shock, that she recognised the music, making human involvement a certainty. She had met magical creatures from three different continents, had heard of hundreds of others, and not one of those creatures had ever shown any interest in Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy. It would have been almost comically absurd but for what happened immediately afterwards. Itinga noticed movement out of the corner of her right eye. She quickly turned. Before her, seemingly uninterested in her presence, was a figure in roughly human shape and proportions, but more like an artist’s mannequin in detail. It seemed to be made out of wood, as a mannequin would be. The bare wood, contrasted against living trees and the verdant rainforest, looked almost like bleached bone. The figure’s gait was graceful, and Itinga noticed that all of its movements were in time to the music’s melody. Before her eyes it pirouetted, using the momentum to chop a tree trunk with its bare hand. It sliced through the bole as though it was no effort at all. Itinga instinctively ran for shelter in a ditch as the tree toppled.

Itinga used the next few seconds to work out what to do. She was sure that the figure was artificial but she couldn’t simply blast it with a stream of fire. Such an attack would likely set the whole rainforest ablaze. If she had been home in Waipoua perhaps she would have judged that a necessary sacrifice, but this was not her land. She was here at the invitation of the Samoans, and there was no point in ‘saving’ the rainforest by burning large tracts of it to the ground, not if that could be avoided. Instead, she pulled a small but valuable object out of her leather pouch; her shaper. The metallic tool resembled a candlestick but it was entirely hollow from bottom to top. She secured the wide end of the shaper against her right palm, took a deep breath, and charged out of her ditch.

The wooden figure continued to take no notice of Itinga as she sprinted. Perhaps this would be easy. She ran right up to the creature, placed the tip of her shaper against its right shoulder joint, and allowed a heartbeat of fire. The wooden arm burned clean off. The other arm came sailing around, too quickly for Itinga to react. It impacted hard against her left arm. She yelped in pain and frustration. This time she burned through the neck, severing her opponent’s head. The creature’s movements were no longer in time with the distant music but that still wasn’t enough to put it down. It kept swinging wildly with its remaining arm. Angry, and desperate, Itinga pushed the wooden figure onto the leaf litter with all her strength, planted the shaper on the stump of its neck, and fired a longer charge that plunged into the creature’s body from top to bottom. It finally stopped moving, and Itinga breathed a long sigh of relief.

Fire was not the only magic at her disposal, but the creature had still managed to bruise her left arm quite badly. She cursed herself for dropping her guard. She wrapped up the bruise whilst examining the creature’s remains. There was no machinery inside it, making it something like a wood golem. She noticed a rounded area within the torso where the grain of the wood shifted. Itinga wondered if this was the wood golem’s heart, and made a note to aim for that in future. Having learned all she could, she got back to her feet, and continued to head towards the music. She didn’t even need Sugarplum Fairy now, she was following a train of destroyed forest that was clearly the wood golem’s handiwork.

Her gut instinct that there would be more was soon proven correct. This wood golem seemed to be doing something with a felled tree. Itinga was not cautious in approaching, the last one had ignored her until she had made her move. She came close enough to see what this wood golem was doing, and her heart sank. It was carving a copy of its own body parts out of the fallen trunk. Another wood golem was almost off the production line. This magical problem was not merely damaging, it was self replicating. Itinga knew she had to abandon all caution, and wasted no time. She marched up to the wood golem playing at tree surgeon, placed the shaper over the rough location of its heart. This time she needed no second or third attempt, and earned no new bruises.

But that was when all hell broke loose. Itinga saw wood golems rushing towards her from all directions, though she could still not hear any of their movements, seconds after their compatriot had fallen to the floor. She had marked herself as a threat. Itinga didn’t have time for this. Their movements were still all in time with the music, the source of the music had to be the key to dealing with this, removing that was more important than dealing with dozens of the wood golems. Now she ran towards the music, leaving the creatures in her wake as she outpaced them, barging aside the few that managed to get in her way. She ran and she ran, ignoring the pain in her legs and her lungs.Then, finally, she found it. There, in a huge area of destroyed rainforest, was the source of the music.

It didn’t look like much, it was nothing more complex-looking than a triangular obsidian rock. But there was no doubt that the music was coming from it. Itinga didn’t have much time before the wood golems caught up, she had to think of a plan or get beaten to death. It didn’t look like she could crush it or even dent it with her bare hands, and she dared not risk either of the hands she needed for her fire magic. She only had one realistic course of action and she didn’t know if it would work. She tried anyway.

Itinga dropped her shaper. She picked up the rock with both hands, and began to build heat. Even normal obsidian took high temperatures to melt, she had no idea how long this was going to take or if this was even possible. She had to try. Then the wood golems finally caught up to her. Only one move was left that didn’t require her hands, and it was desperate. She had just enough concentration to bring a spiral of flame into life around her, but it was weak without her hands to feed it. Wood golems tried to break through and burst into flames. Still the rock wouldn’t melt. The spiral wavered, she was beginning to panic. Wood golems began to push through her defences, even as they were set ablaze. They started landing blows on her before succumbing to the flames. Pain and panic won, the spiral died entirely.

Heavy impacts began to crunch against Itinga’s back and sides. She could no longer hear anything, not even the music. She was too late, and now she was dying. It was over. She waited for the end to come. It took her several moments, through the fog of pain, to realise that she was no longer being hit. Then she heard a raindrop hit a fallen wood golem. She could hear normally. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy had finally died. Itinga looked down. The stone had melted in Itinga’s hands. She had finally built up enough heat. The wood golems were all lying motionless, even those who hadn’t been burned. She hadn’t been too late. She had done it. It was over.

She needed to figure out who had set all this in motion. She needed to tell the Samoans that Savai’i was no longer in danger. She desperately wanted to apologise for the creatures having already managed to destroy a swathe of rainforest. But as it began to rain, she stood there for a moment. The drops became a torrent, and water ran in streams down her face and body. She let it wash over her, let it sting her wounds as it soaked her clothes. She let it wash over her, and slowly forgot the melody of the Dance of the Sugerplum Fairy.

Sep 4, 2011
In with #12.

Sep 4, 2011
Prompt: Capricho No. 12

Tooth Fairy
790 Words

From the front the shop seems enticing, even at night. There’s a friendly looking door, an expensive pine counter in the front, a gracious and smiling assistant with an unctuous voice who waves when I come inside. If you’re not aware of how dentures are made it must seem terribly charming.

The back room smells of rot and dead things, it seeps out from the wood. Half finished dentures sit on the workbenches. I hike my dress away from the tar black floor as I walk across. A man is sitting on his old wooden chair, the man I need to see. Waiting for me is a mocking smile, a leering glance, and greedy little gestures.

The Tooth Fairy, that’s what he likes people to call him. His suit is shabby, his thinning hair greasy, and he knows he has power over me.

We both know I’m desperate for money, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. He takes pleasure in the pretense of civility, the flourish of showmanship. ‘I’m overjoyed to welcome you to this honorable enterprise miss’ he says, ‘Glad to have another esteemed colleague’ he says.

I start to grind my teeth.

The charade ends almost instantly. I’m sent out with tools and bag, out to the Lumburn gallows. ‘To reap the harvest’ says the Tooth Fairy. I’m ushered back out the front door as quickly as possible. He wants his treasure quickly.

Cobbled streets echo with my footsteps. I lose track of how long I’ve been walking. I wonder if anyone is watching me, from a window maybe, or from a deep shadow lamplight can’t remove.

There’s a howl in the wind’s voice tonight.

There’s Lumburn square in front of me, the gallows at its heart. A corpse still hangs from a noose. This is tonight’s work, the treasure that my employer seeks. The foul harvest begins.

I’ve seen hanged men all my life. I’ve never had to put my hand in a hanged man’s mouth.

I work myself up to it, squeezing my right hand tightly again and again. I force myself to do it, pushing past the corpse’s swollen tongue to check the teeth.

My body heaves. I force the bile back down. My throat burns.

The hanged man is missing two molars. Two less for the Tooth Fairy, and four less coins for me.

I take my pliers. With my other hand I hold the hanged man in place by the mouth. I set the pliers around a molar. I pull, and I pull, and I pull. Out the tooth comes, the blood around its roots dark.

I heave again. My body holds its nerve.

I take out the next tooth. It’s just as reluctant to be harvested, and just as bloody.

The wind howls loudly. I imagine the remaining teeth biting down on my hand. I hate the Tooth Fairy more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life.

One by one the teeth all come. Some are pearly, others cankerous. None of them come easily.

I finally finish.

Dark blood starts dribbling from the corners of the empty mouth. I leave to the sound of blood dripping onto wood.

I try to ignore teeth rattling in their bag, the sound makes my own mouth twinge.

The wind chases me back to the shop.

I throw open the door, slam it behind me. The assistant gives me exactly the same smile as before, exactly the same wave as I pass him by.

The Tooth Fairy is still in his chair. He leaps up when he sees the bag I’m carrying. ‘Not everyone manages to stomach their first harvest’ he says. His approval is genuine. It still takes all my strength not to smash his skull in with my pliers.

He takes the bag from me. Out come the teeth, spilling onto one of his workbenches. He looks at them like they’re precious gems.

Each is cleaned and carefully examined, down to the last cavity and imperfection. A dentist would be embarrassed at the care and attention so lavished. ‘A good haul’ he says at last.

Thirty teeth nets me sixty coins. He slips me five extra. ‘Consider it a bonus’ he says. He regards me as an investment now. His limited generosity is to keep me sweet. It’ll never amount to anything. If he paid me too well I’d simply stop working for him. But that’s still five more coins I wouldn’t have otherwise..

Besides. The money excites me. I hate that he’s able to make me feel like that, but it’s the truth.

Even so, I loathe the prospect of tomorrow night, of doing this all over again to some other thief’s corpse. But I already know I’ll stomach it.

I have to.

Sep 4, 2011

Sep 4, 2011
1170 words

It was dark in the transport’s hold. That suited Aithon, being cut off from the rest of the world kept him calm. He hadn’t so much as whinnied since they’d had taken off. It didn’t suit his rider. Amaria had that cavalry instinct for wide open spaces, and her anticipation for the drop was building. She forced herself to remain still, to breathe deeply. Not much longer, she told herself. Not much longer.

“One minute to drop.” came Kavak’s raspy, comforting voice over the intercom. At last.

Amaria’s heart skipped a beat as she saddled up. Aithon was just as excited, as soon as he felt his rider’s weight he realised battle was near. He started to stomp his hooves on the metal floor.

She put on her helmet, and laughed as she felt its clasps clicking into place. Amaria could see everything around her as though she wasn’t wearing anything at all, and the thought that her enemies would only see her helmet’s skeletal filigree gave her deep satisfaction. It was almost time.

“Ten seconds until drop.” said Kavak. He cleared his throat. Amaria knew what was coming next, and made no move to stop him.
“Ohrmazd, firm among firm, wise ruler of the cosmos, bless this child Amaria Apion, daughter of Rome and Persia, fill her with your truth and your fire, protect her from harm. Activating gravity chute!”

Amaria and Aithon hurled towards the ground. Amaria could hear the sound of rushing wind but only as though from a great distance. An effect of the gravity chute. Six seconds until landing, her helmet said. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

The impact released an enormous plume of dust and broken earth. Out came horse and rider unscathed, their thick black armour gleaming in bright sunshine.

Amaria looked around her, at first seeing nothing but sparse, tufty grasses. Then she saw them cresting a nearby hill. Her enemies. Her targets. The rogue automata that needed putting down. Her face lit up with a savage smile. Finally.

Amaria pushed a button on the neck of her armour, activating the energy shield that covered both Aithon and herself. Its power cell would only last for twenty minutes of continuous use, but that was more than enough. Then she activated her lance, feeling the hum of its inner workings through her gauntlet. It was time.

Aithon charged.

Amaria’s heart was racing as she and Aithon drew within range of the enemy’s weapons. Bullets began to strike against the energy shield.

Amaria’s grin grew wider still.

An automaton was charging towards horse and rider, spear raised, confident that its opponent would be brought down. Aithon didn’t hesitate for a moment in his great strides.

There could be only one outcome.

Spear and automaton both splintered beyond recognition as they impacted against the energy shield.

Amaria laughed. This is what she lived for.

The hum in her lance changed quality, and the helmet told Amaria what she already knew.
“Energy lance charged.”
She pulled the trigger. She watched the bright scarlet beam scythe through dozens of automata in front of her.

She laughed again.

Amaria couldn’t really pretend it was battle she loved, she didn’t care about struggling for a victory well earned. She loved winning. She loved killing. There was nothing in the universe better than this.

Aithon crashed through any automaton that dared stand in his path, the energy shield merciless in its efficiency. Amaria’s lance struck out again and again, time after time. The automata had no expressions to read but Amaria knew they were afraid now, afraid of this beast, its rider, and their unstoppable rampage. There was no stopping the pair of them.

Only five minutes had passed but more than half the automata were already destroyed. Amaria was almost disappointed.

Then there was a loud rumbling. Amaria brought Aithon to a halt, curious as to its source. Then she saw it.

Cresting a far hill was a siege railgun, large as a Constantinople city block. For the first time since Amaria had been given the mission a flicker of doubt crossed her mind.

Nobody had ever had the opportunity to find out exactly what the device’s upper limits were. Amaria had been specifically warned that siege railguns were to be avoided for that reason, time and time again. Now she was face to face with one, and somehow she’d never really conceived of how enormous they were.

Amaria felt a cold sensation in her chest, her joy for battle suddenly quenched. There was a moment where fear might have won out. But she decided she didn’t care for the idea. She turned Aithon to face the railgun head on, and charged. If this was her death, so be it. Let it be a memorable one, she prayed.

The railgun fired.

When its shot hit the energy shield, everything shook. Amaria had to hold onto Aithon with all her strength to avoid being thrown off. At the same time there was blindingly white light from all directions. When Amaria closed her eyes everything was still lit up. A few moments passed that felt like an eternity. Then the light cleared. She didn’t know what would come next.

Amaria found she was nervous about what she would see when she opened her eyes. She opened them anyway.

Amaria blinked.

She was still in the world of the living, the battlefield still surrounding her, the railgun looming in front of her as it came closer and closer. Amaria roared with vicious laughter as she noticed that Aithon had never faltered for a single moment in his charge. He was even more the warrior than she was.

Then the helmet spoke to her again.
“Energy lance charged to 2000% capacity.”

Amaria’s smile felt like it would split her face in two.

She pulled the trigger.

Instead of a slim, precise, dartlike beam the lance pushed out a raging torrent of energy, not only penetrating the enormous railgun but tearing it apart on all sides.

It was incredible.

Amaria didn’t want this to end.

She brought Aithon back around, to face the remaining automata left on the battlefield. The lance was still firing the entire time. Amaria had no intention of letting go.

The beam scoured the remaining automata, their pieces falling like a thick rain on the battlefield. Soon, far too soon, they were all gone. Not a single foe remaining.

Amaria and Aithon, at last, came to a halt.

Amaria sighed. The thrill was gone. The glow of victory was sweet and warm, but not enough. It would have to do.

She took off her helmet, felt the wind on her face for the first time that day. Debris started to land on her hair and her face. She turned her face upwards, up to meet the rain. She stayed like that for almost half an hour.

Then she put her helmet back on, and spoke for the first time that day.
“Cataphract reporting in, sally successful. Come pick me up.”

Sep 4, 2011

Sep 4, 2011
First Contact

1407 words

One morning, curious signals tickled the Aemete hive mind in the ear. Little whispers from a distant star, so faint they could be mistaken for cosmic static. Almost as soon as they were detected they disappeared. But the hive mind noticed. The hive mind waited.

The signals finally returned after two weeks. The Aemete was ready, and analysed the transmissions thoroughly. There could be no doubt about it. Somewhere, not so far away, was a new interstellar civilization. The Aemete chittered with excitement, then remembered there were protocols about this sort of thing. However tedious, the niceties had to be observed.

The Aemete reached out to its peers. Unfathomable, impossible energies were hurled across the galaxy in their effort to communicate. However, there was no response at first, even after they’d tried twelve different intergalactic civilizations. The Aemete were patient. They waited. If they had possessed thumbs, they’d have twiddled them. Then, at last, there was an answer. The Nexian construct sent the following reply.

“Oh, it’s you.”

Unperturbed, the Aemete pressed on.
“So, turns out there’s a Lum category civilization in our neighborhood. Just confirmed it today.”
“Oh, you did? Well done.”
“Given the treaty and everything, we thought we’d best reach out to someone as soon as possible.”
“Quite right, quite right.”
“Looks like it’s us and you. As we recall, it’s your turn to lead FC this time.”
“Well, my recollection is that it’s your turn, but let’s not squabble over such petty details. I’ll provide the ship, and lead the First Contact. Let’s rendezvous in the Soon sector.”
The entirety of the hive mind rolled their compound eyes. Even in quantum communications the Nexian always managed to sound so officious.

Five years later, the expedition was launched. The Nexian had dubbed its consciousness into one of its robotic drones, the Aemete was sending a trio of worker caste drones to carry the hive mind to the intended destination. They were travelling in a ship specially constructed to accommodate both sets of ‘ambassadors’, which would arrive at its destination after a few days of hypertranslation transit. The optimistically named FiCoExSh-9998213 thus set off on its journey, carrying with it many hopes for the future.

It was a few hours into hypertranslation before the travellers resorted to conversation. One of the Aemete’s drones tapped its chitinous claw on a surface awkwardly.
“So when was the last time you contacted Roc-0? He’s been asking about you, you know.”
“I’ve been very busy, not all of us have the spare time to go around discovering new civilizations or chatting to sentient stars you know.” said the Nexian-dub, not looking up from its control console.
“Come on Nexy, don’t be like that. He’s getting on, you know, getting near to Stage 6 in his lifecycle. It wouldn’t hurt you to drop him a message.”
“Don’t call me Nexy unless you want me calling you Ammy.”
“We hate being called Ammy…”
Not for the first time, the Nexian wished it had given its drones the ability to smirk.

Not long afterwards, the Aemete drones started synchronised dancing.
“Must you do that?” asked the Nexian-dub.
“We’re capable of ordering the exact behaviour of nine trillion drones across three separate star systems, of overseeing quadrillions of calculations per second about absolutely everything. No, we don’t have to do that, but even a hive mind gets bored.” chittered the Aemete.
“Well, I’d really rather that you didn’t do that please.”

As the ship approached its destination, the original signal, the whisper, grew into something much louder, and many other signals that had been lost to the void started coming into focus. The data that was coming in began to cause great excitement.
“Are you seeing this Nexy? There’s more than just communication bursts being demonstrated here, there’s complex visual and audio communications too.”
“Of course I am, I’m seeing exactly the same data you are.”
“What a strange species, we can barely make any sense out of most of this.”
“It’s not like most of what you say makes sense either.” said the Nexian-dub under its breath.
“I’m glad we decided to pursue this course of action, this is a fascinating form of consciousness.”
“As am I.” said the Nexian-dub with sincerity, much to its surprise. Despite the odiousness of the Aemete, it was finding itself increasingly certain that this had been a good idea. Its misgivings had proven inaccurate it seemed.

The data continued to become more and more intense as the hypertranslation neared completion. Only two hours were left of transit, and now almost every transmission this interstellar civilization had ever made was being detected and analysed. That was where the trouble began.
“Nexy, are you seeing these intensifying data transmission patterns?” The Aemete drones began chattering, as if highly excited.
“I am, they are after all quite obvious on all the readings.” said the Nexian-dub in its usual dull monotone.
“We feel there’s only one realistic cause of something like this, and that’s some kind of civilization-wide intercommunication network.”
“That seems reasonable… where are you going with this.”
“We think it logical to conclude that this civilization is a cybernetic hive-mind organism, we and you should proceed with First Contact accordingly.”

Despite the complexity of its processing, designed in every way to emulate a star-system spanning artificial intelligence, the Nexian-dub was temporarily lost for words.
“Okay, hold on there. Firstly, that’s a rather hasty conclusion to come to before we’ve even met the civilization in question. Secondly, I thought you asked me to be in charge of this First Contact situation, shouldn’t I be the one making the decisions about how we approach this?” said the Nexian-dub.
“Oh, so being in charge of this FC scenario means you’re not listening to well informed suggestions?” The three Aemete drones began to hiss.
“I will most certainly listen to any well informed suggestions you make, please let me know when you decide to start sharing any with me.” A harsh, electronic quality started creeping into the Nexian drone’s communications processor.

“What’s your evidence for disagreeing with our assessment?” The hissing from the worker drones grew louder.
“The lack of data.” said the Nexian-dub.
“That’s not the only reason. I can tell you’re reluctant to consider the idea that this is a hive-minded organism at all.”
“But there really isn’t any data to directly support that theory!”
“Just admit that you don’t want us to be right!” The Aemete drones screeched.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to be right, it’s that I don’t think that you are!”
“Admit it!”
“Oh grow up!”
“Admit it!”

“Here we go, it’s just like how it was last time…” said the Nexian-dub, ignoring its console entirely and turning to face the three drones.
“Don’t you dare say it’s like how things went with species 3991…” The drones’ screeching grew even louder.
“This is exactly how it went with species 3991!”
“This is nothing like the same!”
“You thought that 3991 were hive-minded because of their patterns of intercommunication via neural transmitters, you dissected one of them to see how they worked, they destroyed the envoy craft with fusion weaponry!”
“That was an honest mistake! We’re not proposing we dissect one of these creatures, we’re just suggesting that hive-mind behaviour is likely and to prepare accordingly! You think we always assume a new species is hive-minded, don’t you?”
“Yes I do!”
“And because we’re the ones that said it, that means it’s likely untrue, that it’s not worth considering!”
“Absolutely correct!”

The screeching stopped. The compound eyes of the three worker drones switched from blue to red. Their pincers opened. They began advancing on the Nexian drone, claws casually slicing into the decking below with no heed for internal damage to the ship.
“Okay, I lost my temper a little, let’s not do anything rash Aemete.” said the Nexian-dub, backing away. The Aemete drones kept coming.
“Let’s be reasonable about this.”
Those claws really are very sharp.
“We hate that name.”

If any humans had been in possession of an achronal neutrino telescope at that moment, they might have seen a great explosion of some kind, some four lightyears away. They would have worried about its cause and its meaning, perhaps for decades and decades, arming themselves in fear of what lay lurking out in the void. But they didn’t. So they didn’t.

Thus ended the First Aemete-Nexian expedition to the Humans.


Sep 4, 2011

  • Locked thread