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Thread: In the Protectorate (collaborative fic)

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    Rand Al'Tor
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    In the Protectorate (collaborative fic)

    (I thought this was way too good to just let it lay idle for so long, so I decided I'd start it off. If it's still too soon, no problem, I'll jsut let this be then and wait for the proper things to happen then)





    I am Father Gerald Maverlon. On this datadisc do I write the story of my travels to the lands of the Hive, to spread the word of God, and hurry the downfall of Yang's vile empire. I hope my story will serve as a guide to later generations, and that they may look upon these hard years, and understand the dire situation the Lord's followers were in.

    I was born during the Spasm, in the year of our Lord 2334 and the evacuation of Terrible Swift Sword that was lost to the waves. My father had fallen to a mindworm attack months after my conception, and because of the poor conditions of the evacuation, my mother died in childbirth. I was raised in the convent in Hallowed Ground. Impressed by the work many of the monks and nuns did for the many wounded and suffering there were in those days inspired me, and I felt the calling to become like them

    I worked dilligently during those years. We had even less time for a childhood in those days than now, so I was expected to take care of wounded, most of them mindworm attack survivors from a young age. Eventually I graduated from the Seminary of Hallowed Ground in 2356, and obtained my medical license in 2358. I was a priest and a healer, and as such I was never without work.

    In those times, these times still, life was hard on the body, mind and soul. The worst effects of the spasm had subsided, and there were little flowerings. However, it seemed that while Planet's wrath had cooled, it still bore us a grudge. The land is dry, and xenofungus covers much of it. Besides that our 'protectors' of the University demand that we 'aid' in the war, and each year ships full of our strongest youths are sent to the east and west to wage war upon the other nations, many of whom are puppets... as we are. What's left to till the land and work the factories are mainly the old and the young. Not to mention that those from other factions seek to gain our lands, and many cities suffer bombardements.

    Our souls suffer too. The harshness of life sharpens some people's faith, but causes that of others to bend or even break. The constant presence of influences of the University... in our media, in their 'military observers' even in our very churches is a constant reminder of the weakness of our faction. They hold us in contempt, mock our Lord and Faith in front of our children, flaunt the abominations that come from their lab and we cannot even answer. Truly, it's a bitter joke that I am more free to say these things in the Protectorate than in my own base.

    But I get ahead of myself.

    The Lord has blessed me with the talent to heal minds with my hands and heal souls with my voice, and I was noticed by the Conclave. In 2363 I was given a great honour. I was to be the personal Doctor to Sister Miriam herself! She had withdrawn herself more and more after the spasm, delegating more to the Conclave, but among the people, many believed she was praying, as if she had gone live as a hermit in the dessert, and would return to lead us out of our poor lot.

    I hope this message shall not reach them, for the truth might weigh heavily on their souls. Sister Miriam is in the dessert, but has problems finding the way out herself. It is hard for me to conceive how she must have lived, a methuselah who has been on Holy Terra and visited Jeruzalem, who has established our Faction and guided us through our problems. I can only imagine the hurt it mut have caused her to see her sacred work in such a sorry state. Is it surprising then, that her mind and soul suffer?

    Sometimes it seems she lives in the past, talking about things that happened years... decades... centuries ago as if it had only recently happened. I feared she was senile, but she recognizes me and knows my name. It seems her mind just sometimes prefers the past to the present. When she does come to the present, her mood swings. Sometimes she is bitter and fatalistic, saying she awaits the day when Man's faith falls and the Lord God shall destroy us in well-earned disgust, other days she is wrathful, denouncing all the evil around us in a tone that speaks of fire and steel, and I realize why this woman led the Lord's Believers for so many years. But sometimes, sometimes she's just listless, defeated and even doubtful. Then her words echo the one I sometimes heard from those whose faith was wavering.

    Academician Zhakarov often visited her, and I dreaded his visits, for Sister Miriam's mood would be vdark for days after. I despise the man. I despise his sarcam, I despise his arrogance, I despise how he treats Miriam as a senile old lady, and seems to get some dark delight from her dislike of her visits. I know he despises me as well, and he once called me a 'snake-tongued brainwasher'. I learned that one of the men of the University I converted was one of his personal lab-assistants. He holds it against me. I must admity to some overly proud satisfaction about this.

    When Sister Miriam learned of this, she became closer to me, and in her more lucid moments, we had conversations lasting until the lights of dawn. From this, I learned a lot of the history of Planet, lost to the Datalinks, but still remembered, though occasionally fractured. But while these conversations, about the Believers' most glorious days, often brought a smile on her face, it tended to make her mood that much darker when she returned to the present. "How did it get this far? How did we get here?" was a question she often asked. I had no answer... I still have none... but I promised myself I would seek ot.

    For years I served her this way, as our population declined and the influence of the University waxed. These years, we fear the University will one day just take over. With our fighting men abroad, much of the defence is done by University soldiers, monstrosities whose flesh has been raped by technology. If Zhakarov would decide to take over, there would hardly be anyone to fight it. Miriam is fearful. She told me about a thing Zhakarov once told her, that Lithium would embitter her heart and break her faith. She had denied it then. She dreaded that when the day comes the Believers cease to exist, he shall take her up on the challenge. And if he doesn't, perhaps he'll leave the job to the Hive, who has taken over some of our northern cities and marches ever south.

    And then I was called for one of the conclave members again. He told me the University had asked me in particular for an asignement, and the conclave couldn't refuse. I remember cursing Zhakarov, and begging to stay with Miriam. The old priest was sympathetic, but explained they had no choice. He assured me they would find someone else to be with Miriam. Then he told me the mission. The Protectorate, the wicked Empire that even our University masters feared, was in dissarray. It was known that Yang had ben absent, and the usually merciless and inhuman machination of his society was showing cracks. Agents were to be sent to take advantadge, and cause the Protectorate, dominating from without, to crumble from within. We were to tell them of the other factions, tell them the true history their masters hid from them and encourage them to throw off their chains.

    I was bitter, for I knew the Provost had chosen me to get me away from Miriam, as well as from the jaded souls of his people. So I was to die, or worse, have my mind destroyed and soul raped by the Protectorate's system, and my demise would serve him. And yet it was for Sister Godwinson I feared most. With a heavy heart I went to say my goodbyes, and couldn't help but share my dark thoughts.

    When she heard it, she actually grinned, and a fire rose in her eyes that kindled hope. She told me that this was an opportunity given by the Lord himself. For, she said, the people of the Protectorate are souls without guidance and light, not even the vain and artifiual lights of 'science' the University offers. Their souls are merely sedated, surpressed, so their power is in the hands of a few. Yet if this control was faltering, soon these souls would be in search for a purpose, for meaning, for a shepherd, for The Shepherd. Their souls were ready to be saved. And once these citizens had freed themselves from the dark night of the soul and walked in the Light of the Lord, with their impressive factories the University could not match, with their armies the University dreaded, with their population the University was dwarfed by, would they not help their brothers in need?

    And in her eyes I saw hope, more than I ever ha din the years I was with her, and my heart filled with hope and faith as well, and I was ashamed for my despodency. I fell on my knees in front of her and thanked her for her insight, and asked her for her blessing. She placed her hand on my head and asked the Lord to watch over me as I went to evangelize as he watched over his own evangelists that had spread his word in Rome, despite Nero's deeds. And I feared no more.

    The next day I traveled south, to Korolev Center, which had once been called Godwinson's Hope, and I could not help but think of the old name, and consider it a good omen. I was taught many skills, I learned the basics of electronic security and sabotage to preserve my safety and spread my message, as well as the basics of self-defence. I was taught all the details of life under the Protectorate, the different codes, ranks and how I was to act if I was to remain unnoticed. I was told there might be others there with the same purpose, some University, some from the other factions, and told that cooperation was definately an option.

    And then, one day I was put on an airplane. I was given a Protectorate uniform, supplies and tools to survive some times in the wilderness, and, together with many others, with whom I had little chance to speak, we were dropped in Protectorate territory. No doubt many of these people were apprehended and killed, or worse. I myself, with carefulness and prayer have managed to fall in among workers It seems the machines they gave me to hide my soul's freedom from the system here work, and I can think freely. Now my task truly begins. Now I shall shine the light of Truth and the Lord upon these lost souls.

    And I think of a prayer Sister Godwinson told me helped her on the Sacred Ship Unity.

    "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me."
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.

  2. #2
    korn469
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    My new life as a missionary reminded me somewhat of my first year at seminary. It was the silence. At seminary we engaged in quiet introspection while completing our assignments. I pondered my relationship with God, my place in the world, the nature of faith, and I overcame some of the shackles of fear that binds mankind. During that year I only had three opportunities to speak, and I remember everyone of them vividly as if the words had just rolled off my lips. I haven't said a word in three weeks. We march in silence to our workstations then toil there, while holocams keep careful watch on us. The second year of seminary I still couldn't speak, though I did get to sing in the choir. Here the only songs I hear are the strings of blasphemies at the beginning and end of each shift portraying Yang as an idol for the people to worship. Like all idols he will crumble. It wasn't until the third year that Father Avery finally asked us to enlighten him. I had so much to say I couldn't stop speaking...teaching...sermonizing for a month. Soon I will enlighten these workers that toil beside of me. Most seem like nothing more than automatons, though there are a few that spend their silence lost in thought. Their eyes betray them. Their souls hunger for truth, for salvation. God has a plan, and put me here for a reason.

    I have found my new flock.

  3. #3
    Rand Al'Tor
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    These first days, I have been quiet. The information The University acquired was vague and incomplete in many areas, and so I spend some time as an observer, toiling away in farms among the others, keeping my eyes open. The colony I'm currently in is called Yang Mines, and is underground as most Hives. It predates the Spasm, though it was heavily damaged, and some tunnels are still inaccesible, collapsed and likely crawling with mindworms.

    How to describe the Hiverans under total thought control, these puppets on strings? I had thought their movements would be slow and machinelike, their every movement decided in the electronic brains of some computer. Instead, they move swift and decisive, and I was reminded that the diabolical machines controls their minds, not their bodies. In fact, in some ways these people act like the monks at the convent. Content, purposeful and not distracted by matters of the flesh, their minds and souls on the higher purpose.

    And so science has created an artificial form of faith. A fake, hollow, machine born 'peace'. Bile rises to my throat as I write this, and I cannot help but be enraged, yet I keep my face placid, for the Protectorate relies not fully on their electronic idol to keep check on its victims. Camera's are everywhere, and while I have some methods to hide myself from them to do my sacred work, I must not use them lightly.

    Because, as I saw to my relief... their idol is crumbling. On occasion I see purposeful workers sudenly stopping and looking confused, doubtful even, before returning to their purposeful gait. Others I see moving without purpose, and yet I cannot help but think they are acting like me. Protectorate Security forces look harried and stressed. One of my teachers in Korolev Centre conjectured that the Protectorate may have lost so much knowledge it is unable to properly maintain their devices for thought control, and now that they've run out of spare parts, it is detoriating. Another said that Yang himself only knew the secret to operate it, and with his absence, the influence wanes.

    But let these words not lead you to believe the Hive bases are in anarchy, and my task here will be easy! In fact, my time has convinced me that our way is the only way The Protectorate can be stopped. In Korolev centre, I was impressed by their factories and farms, and how their society seemed to recover from the Spasm, yet The Hive, with its ruthless efficiency, is growing faster. Terraforming projects are constantly being done, facilities are running. Even with failing Thought Control, this society will not collapse from itself. It is not in descent, but in a moment of vulnerability. If we fail to take advantadge of it now, we may never have another chance.
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.

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    Rand Al'Tor
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    And so I have gone into action. In order for this society to turn away from their tyrant, it is necessary that all levels are shown the light and the truth. From the lowliest drone slaving in the factories to the Talents that develop new technologies in their laboratories. From their soldiers to their farmers. All of them should turn to the Lord.

    One thing that illustrates the complete control the leaders of the Hive have is that their slaves don't even know of our existance, despite the war they're fighting against us! The news and history books here speak of 'The Nameless Ones', aliens these people fight. Even without the influence of machines, many here would still follow their masters, and who can blame them, as far as they know, they are the last remnant of humanity, bravely struggling against an alien invasion! Thus does the Hive twist the noble intentions of good men to evil ends! The very name of Protectorate shows how most of these people see their masters.

    This will be the first challenge. The lie must be shattered. I shall spread the truth as Sister Godwinson shared it with me, and tell them of how we came upon this Promised Land, how their masters, together with other evil men, ravaged it. I suspect that I shall not be able to return home after this, not while the University holds sway there, for I intend to decry their vile crimes as well, but while the Lord is in my heart, I shall always be home!

    And so, in a tunnel where cameras do not reach, I uploaded the following message in a corner of their data links with the scheduals for food. Most likely, it shall be found out soon enough, but by then, many will have seen it. Most likely it will be purged from most of their minds, but I will persevere. Repost it again and again, stress the failing mind control to its limits, keep the security personel busy with sabotage and defects so they won't have the time to flush me out. Once I've started, I can only go forward! If I slow down, they will reaffirm their grip.

    ...

    Brave people of the Protectorate,

    Stop and read this before you go back to take up your struggle, because there are things you have not been told that you should know. Things that are important. Things about the Nameless Ones, the Spasm and the Truth of things.

    Let me start by telling you of Holy Terra, the world where our ancestors came from! Where the skies were blue, and filled with air that was sweet to the nose and fresh to the lungs! Where the one-sunned days sometimes lasted until midnight, only to vanish later! Where men could jump in the air and almost fly! Where men held dominion over all creatures and shaped the world in his image!

    You know of it, it is a legend that none wants to erase, but what is not said is how we lost this world! Not by alien menace, but by humanity's sinfulness! In our arrogance, we overstepped bounds that should not be crossed, used weapons that should not be used and destroyed the paradise we had there.

    Yet a ship escaped. The Unity. You know the name, and you know a story, but you don't know THE story. They tell you that the Great Captain Garland died, giving control of The People to Yang, whom he had trained to do so.

    That is a lie!

    There were five who assisted The Great Captain. Pravin Lal, the master of health, the healer, Deidre Skye, the mistress of plants, who looked after the crops we still eat today, Prokhor Zhakarov, master of machines, who was in charge of caring for the Unity, Miriam Godwinson, mistress of souls, who relieved the despair and fear of people and Shen Ji Yang, master of weapons, who was given the task to make sure no harm befell us.

    Two of them failed in their task! The Unity was damaged. Not only that, but one of Yang's own soldiers turned traitor, and almost captured the ship. The traitor was called Corazon Santiago! Yang could not control her, and in fact was captured. Only through the efforts of The Great Captain and the rest of the crew could she be contained. Someone else was founf. Nwabudike Morgan, the opportunist had snuck on board. In his mercy, the Great Captain allowed him to remain.

    But then, the Great Captain vanished. Zhakarov, Yang and Deidre, as well Morgan and Santiago all quickly claimed part of the ship as their own. Only Lal and Miriam Godwinson remained true to him. On her search, Miriam was threathened by the fighters, as Yang usurped the ship, but she managed to find people that had been stuck, and gave them hope.

    However, the pods could not leave, for they were stuck to dying Unity. It was the Great Captain who sacrificed himself so we might live. It is said that He was something more than human by some, and he might be a Friend of Man that visited us again. You shall hear more of him)

    But there were seven groups of humans that landed on this world. Those following the mistress of plants called themselves the Stephdaughters of Gaea. The ones with the master of machines were known as the University of Planet. The people who had been taken under the care of the master of health called themselves the UN Peacekeepers. Those who were under the power of the traitor called themselves the Spartan Federation. The ones bought by the opportunist helped him found Morgan Enterprises. The people that had found hope under the mistress of souls came to be known as The Lord's Believers. And Yang, the disgraced master of weapons. He too had people under his sway. And he dug in the earth and formed a society. Back then, it was called The Hive.

    And that is the true genesis of the Protectorate.
    Last edited by Rand Al'Tor; August 31, 2006 at 09:40.
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.

  5. #5
    WotanAnubis
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    [We interrupt your Believing narrative to bring you the following piece of Data Angel fiction]


    Introductions
    --------------

    My name is Ferret and this is my diary.

    Actually, neither of those statements is really true. My real name is only known to a few people and I'm not gonna spread it around on the 'links. Ferret is pretty much a nickname, but one that gets used so often by everyone around me it might as well be my real name.

    I don't know what your name is and I don't care. What I do want you to realise this is that this is history. Of course, at the moment it's still the present but one day it's going to be history, just like the Myth of Earth, The Spasm and the Rain of Planet Busters. When you read this, hopefully, the chapter of history known as "The Protectorate" will be nothing but a fairytale from a distant land, just like everything else I just mentioned.

    Anyways, whether you think of this as actual history or simply a fun little story, I just want to tell this. Because no matter how the future turns out, the official history will mostly be told by Official Sources and like all Data Angels I have healthy disrespect for Official Sources. Of course, I fully expect you to have a healthy disrespect for everything I'm going to say. And if you do, good for you. It's the Data Angel way.

    Back to the beginning:

    My name is Ferret. I'm a Data Angel stationed at, believe it or not, Ferret's Lair. I'm a reconditioner.


    The Hive
    ----------

    Before I became a reconditioner, I was part of a pretty elite probe team. Of course, my faction wasn't exactly big or well-organised, so the term "elite" doesn't mean that much, but we were still pretty good at what we did. And what we did was annoy the heck out of the Hive without them ever really noticing. Of course, in those days, which to me are still these days, the Hive styled itself as "The Protectorate", the only remnant of human civilisation left on Planet. Complete bullshit, of course, but no police state is ever complete without propaganda. Not that the Hive needed propaganda. Not any more. Because they have perfected the art of Thought Control. In even the smallest Hive base, the air is filled with neurochemical triggers that leave everyone who breathes obedient and loyal. It's in the food they eat and in the water they drink. It's the Hive's greatest success.

    And their biggest, stupidest mistake.

    The Hive leadership, whether it really is Chairman Yang or a bunch of power-mad sycophants pretending to be him, want their people to be docile and obedient. Tiny, insignificant bits of a greater whole. There is no place in any Hive base where anyone is truly alone. You'd think an environment like that would be difficult to infiltrate for even the best spy. You think wrong.

    The thing about suppressing human thought is that, well, people don't think. And people who don't think, almost by definition, are really bloody stupid. It's not that they don't notice you, it's that they don't think about you. The only thing the ordinary Hive Drone or Worker is capable of is following orders. You could walk right past them with a coat saying "Death to the Chairman!" and the only thing they think (if they think) is that you were ordered to wear that coat. Otherwise, why would you be wearing it? They do nothing without orders and they simply cannot comprehend that people can do things without being ordered to do them.

    The Hive Talents aren't much better. Oh, in the old days I suppose the Investigators really were to be feared, but in this day and age nobody in the Hive escapes the mind control devices. Sure, the Investigators do get antidotes, but not complete antidotes. They are just resistant enough to do their job without sucking completely, but their minds are still so numbed that they're easily fooled by reasonably trained spies.

    Us Data Angel spies, by the way, also recieved counteragents. And because we think the enslavement of the human mind is a Very Bad Thing our antidotes actually work very well indeed.

    Still, even though getting inside Hive bases unnoticed wasn't that hard, we never managed to do much. Maybe in the future we can really start making a difference, but for the moment we're little thorns. And I don't care. Because what we do is important.

    We steal people.

    It's not that hard really. You just break into the system and change orders. People read the orders and, without thinking about them, follow them. And when they're out there in the wilderness, other teams scoop them up. And the beauty of it is that, because Hive bases are so filled with people, nobody really knows anybody and nobody is ever missed. Not until it's way too late, that is.

    Which brings us to my current job.


    Ferret's Lair
    -------------

    Ferret's Lair isn't an ordinary base. It started as one, but it didn't last. Right now it serves as a rehabilitation center for those recovering from mind-rape. I work here now because I wanted to see what happened to the people I got out of the Hive.

    It's not very cheerful.

    The only people we ever really manage to snatch up were Drones and sometimes a Worker or two. I wasn't exactly expecting much sophistication. I was still expecting too much.

    Here we have a people who have never had free will, who have never done anything without orders. You can't undo all that just by purging their bodies from the Protectorate's finest poisons. They don't understand why they have to eat, they don't know why they need sleep. They never thought about it before and explaining it to them now is... troublesome. Their minds may be free, but in a way they're still locked. They just sit and wait for someone to tell them what to do. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of kindness to change. I admit, I'm not that patient, but I've seen the people that work with these cases and, well, they're saints.

    Then there are those who still don't think, but who do act on their own. Humans, when you get right down to it, are still animals and they have animal needs. Apparently, most of these needs revolve around sex. Actually, it's not sex, it's not even the fake ****ing of MorganPorn, they breed. Sure, they eat when they want, sleep when they want, drink when they want and when they don't want that, they ****. Doesn't matter who it is, as long as its from the opposite gender. I thought the men would be worse when it came to ****ing, but the women are just as bad. Ferret's Lair probably has the most pregnancies out of everywhere on Planet. The children that are so frequently born are quickly brough to other bases to be raised a bit more properly. The 'parents' don't even miss them. Apparently, mother instinct isn't that strong in the human animal.

    But even they can be helped. As long as they're fed and taken care of their brains will start up again, thought will begin anew. Usually just before they have an orgasm, which is really funny to see in all honesty.

    And then there's one last category. The smallest, but at the same time the most hopeful.

    I'm beginning to suspect that the Hive screening process to seperate Talents, Workers and Drones isn't exactly foolproof. With their minds so subdued, nobody can really reach their potential. If you're born in the Drone pits the very air around you murders your mind and makes you a Drone, even if your mind has the capability for greatness. In the Hive, people who would've been members of the upper echelon in any other faction are often nothing more than just another Drone.

    After the first treatment, these people usually sit down and do nothing, but instead of waiting mindlessly for orders, they think. Or at least, I think they think. I can't be sure. But I do think they think. The thoughts they never had before begin flooding their minds and the rest of their bodies shut down to devote as much energy as they can to sorting through the deluge. And then they... blink. They look at their hands or their surroundings and then, slowly, awareness creeps in. The slow realisation that they are them: individuals with feelings and thoughts of their own.

    There is hope for mankind. No matter how ****ed up the factions try to make us, as long as people are these are born, there is and will be hope.


    Gaia's Stepdaughters
    ----------------------

    You're probably wondering why I'm writing (or am going to write) about the Gaians. Truth be told, I don't know either. They were just a line in the History 'links. Wiped out by Planet Busters, it said. They're extinct.

    And yet, lately, I can't stop thinking about them and I don't know why. So now I'm going to bother you with my thoughts in the hopes that I can put it behind me.

    As far as I know, the Gaians were never a really big factor in Planet. They didn't have the population numbers to sway a Planetary election, their research was way too restricted in a single area and their military sucked hard. They had never been a 'force to be reckoned with' and I don't think they ever really wanted to be.

    But they were important in their own way. You may recall the fairytales of the whispering Planet. How the Stepdaughters talked to the mind of Planet in their dreams. Silly stories, I always thought, but for some reason I'm not so sure any more. It is true that the Gaian people... developed. Some say they became less than human, others say they became something more. All say that the Gaians started to sense the moods and thoughts of others, that they could manipulate matter with their minds, even that they could tame mindworms. They were starting to form an organisation for these gifted people. The Empath Guild, I believe it was supposed to be called.

    Not that it really matters. When the Planet Busters rained, the Gaians were wiped out. The only thing left of them are the Planet Cult, pitiful remnants howling in the wilderness. When the Gaians disappeared, the empaths with all their talents went with them never to return and Planet stopped talking to us.

    Perhaps... we lost something that day.

    Something we shouldn't have lost.


    XR-5563
    ----------

    Funny how people can get used to the weirdest things. Not all that long ago when I saw a bunch of people breeding in the corridors I'd be annoyed. Nowadays I just shrug and move on. Who they are now isn't really important, it's who they might become that matters. But I thought I was getting pretty used to the place and could start doing, you know, something useful.

    And yes, I now realise that thinking that is more or less the same as saying "what could possibly go wrong?"

    It started yesterday when I was having lunch in the communal dining hall (one of the perks of not being undercover in a Hive base, by the way, is that the food is actually worth eating). I was by myself and, by some stroke of luck, no breeding was taking place anywhere within hearing or seeing range.

    That's when XR-5563 walked in, one of the recently liberated Drones. She was, unfortunately, naked. Before people really grasp the rules of decency they tend to wear clothes when they're either ordered to or when they feel like it. I suspected XR-5563 was one of those who saw clothes as an occasional adornment, not something necessary for nakedness.

    She's beautiful too. That actually managed to make things even more awkward for me.

    "Good morning," she said, her voice strangely melodious for someone coming from the Hive Drone pits.

    "Hi," I said.

    She was quiet for a very long time, thoughts assembling behind her clear blue eyes.

    "I... no..."

    "Uhm, what?" I said. "Are you trying to say something?"

    "Yes," she said. "But with... tact."

    I blinked. As you may have gathered already, I rarely expect former Hive Drones to know what 'tact' is.

    "You are... noticeable."

    "So are you," I said, keeping my eyes on the Drone barcode tattoo just below her left eye.

    "Yet you are a woman, just as I am."

    Oh, that kind of 'noticeable'. No wonder she sounded puzzled. I probably did too, once.

    "That's true," I said.

    "But there is no reason for this," she said. "We cannot procreate."

    I was impressed. This was pretty high-level thinking for someone who until very recently had her mind raped every single second.

    "Should that be a requirement for noticeableness?" I asked and I couldn't stop myself from sounding teasing and maybe a bit arrogant.

    She thought about that for a while. "It would make sense," she said.

    "Humans don't make sense," I said.

    "You may be right," she said. "That would be a good thing, wouldn't it? Difference."

    "I like to think so," I said.

    "Yes," she said slowly. She nodded and stood up. "Thank you. Can I talk to you again later? I'd like to think for a while."

    "Sure," I said. "See you."

    "Yes."


    . . .
    -----

    It wasn't long before XR-5563 came to talk to me again. She was dressed this time, thankfully, although truth be told that didn't do all that much to reduce her... noticeableness.

    "Your name is not Ferret, is it?" she said.

    I thought that was a pretty strange way to start a conversation, but eh.

    "No, it's not. It's a nickname or callsign or whatever you want to call it."

    "What is your real name then?" she asked.

    I told her.

    "That's a much better name than Ferret."

    "Probably, yeah," I said.

    "I realised that I have a name as well."

    "Uhm, I don't think 'XR-5563' is much of a name."

    "That's not my name. Merely the code given to me," she said. "I... remember... my real name."

    I wanted to tell her that there was no way that was possible, but decided not to. "So would you mind telling me your real name then?"

    "Skye," she said. "Deirdre Skye."
    "I'm too young and too male to be the mother of a seventeen year old female me!"

  6. #6
    Hydro
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    Transcendi Interrogation

    The deviant transcendi was apprehended while engaged in actions that were, in the opinion of the office of the Prime Investigator, a threat to the state. As such, this individual was forcibly encapsulated, pruned of unauthorized energy and information sources, and given into the custody of the Prime Investigator for interrogation. This memory transcript is the most intriguing of all the memories or information that was extracted. The time period of the memory transcript indicates the deviant was an original Unity colonist from the long extinct Gaian faction. As such it may have bearing on the ongoing historical imperative that the Justice Ministry has announced.

    At this time the memory transcript from the deviant transcendi is considered suspect. The reference frames and locations synch with known places, although most of the individuals mentioned in the memory engram are unknown to the Prime Investigator and cannot be corroborated. It is highly unlikely that any Gaian of that era would have survived long enough to become a transcendi, been undiscovered by the Hunter Algorithms, and evaded the periodic purges to become a transcendi. However, if this is true then it is critical that such methods be known to the Prime Investigator so that greater security can be affected. If the memory is false then the fact that this apparent falsehood has withstood intense scrutiny is also of interest.

    Unfortunately the transcendi did not survive the ministrations of the Prime Investigator and additional force queries are not possible. Additional analysis is currently being performed, and in particular additional extrapolations are being completed on non-standard references within the memory transcript.

    Transcendi Sam-sul Sighn, non-corporeal collective entity
    Senior Prime Investigator Operative


    *~*~*~*

    The sun is so bright it hurts my eyes. At the horizon the sky is an intense blue green. It contrasts so much from the deep blue sky of a clear day on Earth. I miss the blue so much and even after all these years the blue green of Planet seems somehow wrong. The white puffy clouds are mostly the same, although the clouds seem thicker and higher here on Planet. That probably has something to do with the thicker atmosphere, or that’s what the self-appointed climate expert Randal said a few months ago. For once that sounded reasonable so I didn’t pick another fight.

    That isn’t to say that I saw the sky much before launch. I was so busy, and when I did look up there was a pall of gloom over everything. All that I loved back in Rennes was falling apart, so maybe being consumed by Unity was a blessing since I was distracted from the latest nuclear conflagration in southern Asia, vicious factional fighting in the North Americas, and terrorist gas attacks at home. The sky was almost never seemed blue anymore. I guess I can learn to love the blue-green of Planet.

    All around me the land is a virulent red and somewhat disturbing blue. Bright sun makes the red waving fronds and bulbous of the xenofungus look like they are beckoning to me, almost friendly and inviting. I’m not even sure why it seems so hospitable to me since I know the fungus is very dangerous. Maybe it is the promise of something new and unknown, and of an understanding that just barely within my reach. All I need to do is open my mind and let the red whisper its secrets to me. Everything else on Planet is merely physical, like the climatology blather Randal keeps droning on about or the sterile prattle of the geologists and engineers. Heavy gravity blah, blah, blah; nitrogen narcosis, blah, blah, blah; load bearing structures, blah, blah, blah – as if I don’t know that already, or that I care. Insufferable twits. The living fungus is a true treasure, a breathing ecosystem that is complex and wonderful.

    But the deep blue of shadows all around the fungus give me pause and, to be honest, I don’t like it one bit. Blue is lurking beneath and around the red, always out of sight of the bright blue-green sky. I just heard that my good friend Ruby was found dead yesterday. Ruby wasn’t his real name, of course, but that is what everyone called him. In fact, I kind of gave him the nickname when he came home from one of the first expeditions after landing; he had found a lode of red-colored fruit that had given him a distinct pinkish hue. He loved the fungus just like me, but it killed him anyway. It didn’t just kill him; it partially ate him – alive. Even in rigor mortis his face showed that he died in stark, sheer terror.

    And I get to go in there every day. Oh, I know that I volunteered and that old Emanuel Phillips wouldn’t let me weasel out of it. We’ve fallen into a pattern with my whiney complaints and his stern rejection of my whiney complaints. He tells me to ‘suck it up’ and ‘get my ass in gear’ and I sputter in indignation. Through it all there is an undertone of humor, although Dee once asked if we had a problem. I told her no and then took the opportunity to fill her in on our latest finds on the razorback and glowworms. She actually spent almost half a day listening and asking questions! Her handler was none too amused, but Dee shushed him and eventually he left in a huff. Officious putz. Just like Randal.

    My scouting efforts have gone well. My Companion is always amazing and is my partner in every way. I’ve taken to calling it ‘him’ or ‘he’ and whenever I do I get a mental equivalent of a laugh and a gentle reminder that denizens have no equivalent of gender. I swear, there are times I think my Companion has bonded with me simply for his amusement – typically at my expense. I’ve always wondered what the Companions get out of the partnership between humans and denizens, other than a detached amusement, that is. When you get right down to it we are totally different in all ways except that we share a higher form of thinking, and even that is totally different! I mean, human have an organic-based singular intelligence and the best we’ve been able to parse is that the Companions are nodes or offshoots of a collective intelligence. Even stranger, they remain individuals even while being part of a larger whole. The more I delve into this the more alien it becomes for me – and more intriguing. If humans can only open our minds enough to learn from our Companions then we will be much better for it. Could humans one day have their own collective intelligence? Could we develop new ways of sharing information, or even forming bond-pairs with each other or with denizens? Imagine the possibilities!

    Anyway, in the last ten years I’ve scouted huge tracts of the northern territories. Moving through the fungus is natural for all the Companions. The closest analogy I’ve found is that they partially disaggregate and flow through and around the native flora and even fauna. What is odd is that when I travel with him the flora and fauna seems to help him by moving out of the way (unless they are sessile, of course) or even providing him a lift here and there. It is very rare to see any active or even passive opposition to our travel. The only examples of what might be called opposition are the vast fungal towers, which have been impervious to all forms of empathy or communication. Most Companions avoid them and refer to them in a strange third person, which leads me to believe they are either a unique part or isolated from the semi-group consciousness the Companions seem to share. We all know the towers do not like humans at all and react, shall we say, most negatively to any intrusion on their space. Towers aside, traveling through the fungus is a joy for both of us. I get to examine the ecosystem in detail and share in his interaction with it, and my only gripe is that he travels so fast I have to do my work quickly. I’ve collected tons of samples and terrabytes of data and I’ve only scratched the surface. My Companion does seem to enjoy my observations and comparisons to Earth-based life and asks such odd questions. Some literally make me stop in my tracks, either because they are so off the wall or painfully insightful. I can feel that I do the same to him at times. So it seems we are expanding each other’s point of view, and that is a very good thing. Perhaps that is the key to our companionship – mutual learning, understanding, and growth of abilities and function.

    One of the most interesting finds we’ve made recently was a huge tract of fungus in the northern portion of the continent we inhabit. We’ve colonized most of the southern area of the continent, which is fairly friendly to humans since it has abundant rivers and lands that are fairly free of xenofungus. Very little standard terraforming is needed to make it productive for humans. What lies to the north is fascinating, and I find it endlessly amusing that the other factions would find this territory to be useless and hostile in the extreme since it is almost completely covered with fungus. The idiots! Little do they know! All around there are strange alien monoliths, each of which act on the Companions like moths to a light. They even make my hair stand on end (assuming I had any hair left after being with my Companion for so long). As far as we know this is the only portion of Planet that is like this and it has to be there for a reason. So much on Planet seems too harmonious, and when I ask my Companion about this he shrugs it off or responds as if the answer were obvious and I am too thick to understand – and perhaps I am. The Council should consider a greater expedition to these areas, and perhaps…

    **!!DISCONTINUITY!!** The deviant terminated during this portion of the recording, and the termination itself was non-standard. As far as can be ascertained, the transcendi simply ceased to exist. Evidently the deviant did not want this portion of this memory to fall into our hands. Removing a memory so completely that there are no remaining links or traces that would allow a full or partial memory reconstruction is extraordinary and is far beyond the ordinary transcendi. This implies that this memory is either an exacting forgery or that the late transcendi had abilities we did not record before termination during memory extraction. The termination itself is another anomaly since the complete dissolution of the entity and all of its energy-based memories violate known laws of the conservation of energy and, therefore, it is of great interest to the Office of the Prime Investigator.

  7. #7
    Rand Al'Tor
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    As the days pas, the true challenge of this undertaking shows. Not my eloquence is tested, nor my ingenuity, courage or prowess. My very faith and soul are my shield and sword in these pits.

    The devices and antidotes I was given at the University's bases do help, but as time progresses, they are not enough. After I eat their poisoned food (what choice do I have?) I have found my mind to be somehwhat numb and agreeable, a feeling not unpleasant, yet posion to the soul. The mandatory watching of vile propaganda that followes takes advantadge of the faltering defences, and makes thoughts I find abhoring sound entirely rational. Fortunately, I was on my guard, and have taken up the defence.

    Understand that this defence is a balancing act. I have no doubt that I am continually being scrutinized. As long as I am one among the throng, I may pass unnoticed. Should I ever be singled out, I shall soon be undone. So I cannot rage, I cannot retch, I cannot weep. Not even inwardly, for it is a trifle to measure heartrate and breath, and who knows what other controls they have. As my eyes follow the movies and my lips wear the empty smile of the men and women beside me, I quietly recite prayers

    These few cherished moments as I prepare to upload yet more history to the Protectorate's net are like an oasis though. A few moments where I can justify using my tools to get a cherished few moments away from prying eyes and cameras, write this down and pray without feigning. Truly, it is when I am surrounded by people that I am lonely, yet when I isolate myself from others that I feel my loneliness dissipate. For than I am closer to the Lord.

    But it is time to tell more of this world's history. More later.

    PS: I have noticed that the Security forces seem more agitated than usual. I would like to think this is because of my work, yet most of their work does not involve sharpened control of the masses. I overheard one mention of the word 'transcendi'. Has Chairman Yang finally degenerated to that degree of insane paranoia he has his men looking for ghosts and faery tales? Regardless, it is to my advantadge.


    Braves of the Proletariat

    I spoke to you of the circumstances of the landing. Of Yang's failure and betrayal. Now, I shall tell you of the following years. Seven were divided over four. Two, Zhakarov and Miriam, in the east, three, Lal, Deidre and Santiago in the west, one, morgan in the north, and one in the centre. Yang was in the centre.

    Those first years were harsh, that much is true, and your historybooks describe the problems truthfully, barring the references to the Nameless ones. We had few supplies, few people. The air on this world was noxious, mindworms threathened, much knowledge was lost. In many ways, we had to start froma clean slate. A curse and a blessing. A trial and a chance. Some used it differently than others.

    Morgan, who could not think in terms but that of ownership and greed claimed property of humanity's last chance! He turned the Great Captain's gift in nothing but an organization that existed for nothing but lucre. People were reluctant, but enough were seduced by the shallow pleasures he promised that those that resisted had no chance. In hubris, he called his 'company' Morgan Enterprises.

    Lal remained ever true to his mission. He built the colony those that launched the Unity had envisaged, and therein lay his goodnatured mistake. For those that had launched the Unity were those who had destroyed Holy Terra. He was not sinful himself, but tolerated sin among those with him. His people were free to do as they desired, and in their desires they defiled themselves and others.

    Santiago, the traitor had been the first one to plan to make her own colony. And so she did. With endless drilling, brute force and indoctrination, she and hers warped the colonists into thoughtless, brutal pointless soldiers, with no ideals but an endless, pointless struggle for strength, with no place for the meek.

    Deidre, kind soul that she was gathered her followers and swore to treat this world better than the last. It is said that her people could befriend mindworms, and what is more, they did so without technology. Yet she too made a mistake. She was thankful for the gift, but ended up worshipping the gift, rather than the one who had given it. She loved the planet so, she lost touch with humanity, and its task and destiny as rulers and keepers of this world.

    Zhakarov... the master of machines. Old and crafty he valued nothing but the cold, black on white results of his computer. He and his people, rich in thoughts and brains but with hearts cold and dead held the simple, good folk in contempt, seeing them as nothing mopre but janitors in their university... or test subjects.

    Miriam Godwinson. She is the one I serve. Yes, I say so without fear. She took her people and showed them the Mercy of the Lord through the world, and that they should take this second chance to heart. And they did, they toiled the land and raised their children.

    And Yang? On his great island, he took free people with souls yearning for the light and hid them under the earth in darkness. It went slowly, using threats of aliens and mindworms to allow for more security. He spread over the land like a cancer, and swept through people's minmds like one as well. Each generation got further from the brave men and women that braved space to start a new world, and become more like beasts, mindlessly obeying him.

    But hear this! I hold you not in contempt! For every man and woman holds a spark of those brave man and women within. And that spark, when fueled can turn into a flame, burning away what keeps you down.

    The Protectorate doesn't protect you from aliens.

    It protects Yang from YOU!
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.

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