With this entry, I’m bringing back the weekly fiction installments. Here is another chapter draft for my short story “Dirge.” In future installments, I’ll continue where I left off on the Journal of Sergei Romanova entries, and then there’ll be a change of pace with doctor, war vet and inquirer into Weird Things, Francesco Novella. ~Troythulu
Chapter 4: An Unpleasant Surprise
A bright blue nimbus of light flickers, and the Suthidruu are here. The Elder Worms. Ancient, powerful, insane, and heavily armed the lot of them. The sane ones are always culled from the gene-pool, leaving only the zealots to survive and thrive.
Theirs is a society run like a strict authoritarian ecumenical hierarchy which crushes all dissent by killing it before it spreads. Terran sectarian fanatics would be envious at the apparent success of this model. It’s also stagnated their science and technology for billions of years, even as advanced as it is.
My blood runs cold. There, among the Worms, is a familiar sight. Dasaelos Gurao. Well, no, that’s not his real name, just the best approximation possible with human vocal equipment. Add a bass rumble to the vowels, a staccato boom on the hard consonants while simultaneously coughing and hissing like an angry cat and crocodile performing a duet, and you have something close to how it’s really pronounced…
He’s a physical giant of his normally squat species, Pseudoreptilias tenax, the Rj’lt’ai, also known locally as the Dragons. He stands in at three meters tall, and masses about eight hundred kilograms of reinforced muscle, bionically augmented bone and connective tissue, and heavy prosthetic armor plates nano-woven into the skin.
The Dragons are a conservative species, given to a society in which harmony and order is valued over individual social mobility and justice. They take a dim view of social change, though their philosophy admits the need to adapt to a changing universe to survive — their conservatism doesn’t blind them to reality. Still, change is ill-regarded when not forced.
Dasaelos is a seasoned leader, and a veteran of more wars than I remember having years in my own far too long life. A cybernetic hand tips Dasaelos’ left arm, and it is well known that it can do much more than simply punch, crush, lift, or manipulate objects. It’s a piece of nanotechnology, made up of billions of microscopic systems and circuits that can rearrange into any one of several useful weapons, shifting from one configuration to another, visibly flowing between shapes like some kind of liquid metal.
Dasaelos is a revolutionary by his race’s standards, a military officer who rose to become the warlord of his species until a certain someone brought him down for declaring war on humanity. Needless to say, I took offense at that.
You see, I happen to like humans.
They’re both silly and brilliant, given to both senseless brutality and astonishing compassion. I see them as potentially the greatest agency for both good and evil there is. They have their shortcomings, but it’s their ability to alter the course of history that matters.
Collectively, they can work wonders. It’s always struck me as baffling why such a fantastic species would waste its time crediting its own success instead to the billions of gods it invented from whole cloth.
No wonder the older species fear humans so much. After all, they’re cousins to the Kai’Siri. What strikes me most about them is the capacity to heal their emotional wounds when injured and move on.
Isn’t it funny? I can bring the Moon down from the sky…blast it from orbit…but I can’t mend a broken heart. I envy humans.
The giant looks far out of place with the Suthidruu. What the hell is he doing here? I’m curious to find out.
I self-consciously adjust my field uniform’s half-cloak, taking stock of my surroundings. I consult my ‘shard’s visual overlay, and stride casually over to meet the aliens, looking more sure of myself than I feel.
This had better work.