Chapter 5: Things get rough
The Worms are new to the humans, but Dasaelos’ species is publicly well-known—conspiracies to ‘keep it all secret’ had been attempted — and failed from the very start. To paraphrase the late Stephen Hawking on the subject, governments had been no better at hiding aliens from the public than they were at doing anything else.
Most alien species have proven uncooperative in efforts to keep them secret. Doing business free of the hassles of attempts at secrecy is more advantageous to the economies of all involved, who do limited trade with humans in biologicals and those few technologies humanity had managed to surpass them with — like the digital music industry.
Indian classical recordings are a hot item among the Kai’Siri youth culture, while the Rj’lt’ai Intelligentsia tend to favor the mellow, melodic strains of heavy metal and punk from the ancient 1980s.
I’d been raised by Kai’Siri, working for them most of my adult life, and they’re generally good people. I must admit I like them, though as a trained soldier, there’s probably a bit of cognitive bias in my thinking… That’s why I’ve never attempted to get revenge on them for being turned into a doomsday weapon. That’s the fault of the leaders, not the people.
By far the biggest distinctions are cultural. It’s a culture that glorifies warfare, courage, discipline, and an honor of a sort many Eastern Terran cultures would favor. There’s also a sense of social unity that constructively channels aggression, tribalism, and undue self-interest felt as individuals.
I’ve been looking quite a while for others of my species, and much of my time on Terra has been spent on that, with only disappointment as my catch, only to move on with the search elsewhere.
That others of my kind may exist out there, somewhere, is a hypothesis that just won’t go away. Annoys the f*ck out of me. I know first hand of the Fractus, and of that lunatic the Magna, but not any others.
The ‘shards of humans I’ve come across, those posing as my kind, are cheap imitations of the real thing. They’re obviously reverse engineered from badly damaged copies with major components missing, like the cognitive buffers that work with the unusual architecture of my brain to keep me sane while having my mind in contact with sensory input from outside of mere three-space. The knockoff ‘shards are cobbled together using indigo-market technology not even out of the testing facility.
The subjects of these experiments all have one thing in common, though they came from all walks of life: Their psychological profiles identified them as compulsive attention-seekers, poor, desperate fools looking for time in the limelight, who gambled for a chance at fame…or cheap godhood.
I wonder who, or what, is running the operations that were doing this to people. Its financial resources would have to be enormous…and its reach far. I reject as implausible the idea of a vast conspiracy — too many people to keep it a secret for long, and it looked like this had been going on for decades or more, at least since I first visited Terra. Maybe not conspiratorial people, but mindless, self-organizing, bottom-up conspiratorial social forces.
The Mirus…Rather ironic that, and not even really a name. In Old High Kai’Siri, it means both “powerful weapon of argument,” the translation of their version of the Modus Ponens logical syllogism, and “dreaming weapon” which was how the Exarch viewed me, as a mere implement, to helplessly carry out her will on rebellious worlds.
I had…other uses…best unmentioned. The Kai’Siri had surgically altered my upper and lower canine teeth, lengthened to their aesthetic standards to make me a bit “prettier” to bored matrons. I would really like to forget, but it even shows in my records, and comes up briefly almost every time I do a data search on the things I actually need to remember. Back to business…
My attention shifts back to the real world, when the reptiliaform giant, whose species normally stands about a meter and a half tall, closes the distance between us, the dull thuds of heavy footsteps striking the rock and soil here atop the Tower, the massive alien’s tail casually swaying back and forth, like a cat getting ready to pounce on an injured and helpless bird.
Dasaelos is larger than even the Suthidruu, and a lot easier to read as far as non-verbal signals go. His species, like humans, has an immediate family history going back several million years, rather than the billions of the Worms. There’s no evolutionary connection—different biosphere, different planet, different variation of organic biochemistry—but there’s kinship on the perspective of the ages of the two species, and a few coincidences in our evolutionary histories.
The Worms stand uncoiled and fully upright at only two meters, dressed in self-assembling, self-solidifying armor that’s literally poured onto them, each suit shaped to its wearer’s unique limb configuration, this being a byproduct of their life-cycle from mindless larval-mass to fully sapient adult.
The giant lowers his gaze to me, lizard-like lips pulling back to reveal backwards-pointing serrated teeth in a smile that is, like that of most predatory sentient lifeforms, not intended as a sign of goodwill. I smile back, my canines showing in a grin, just long and pointed enough to be visible, but not so much as to protrude over the lips when shut.
My eyes light up with a violet glow as the interspecies communication system of the ‘shard wakes up and begins accessing its banks of linguistic files. There is no way that I can possibly pronounce the giant’s language with my human vocal equipment, but I can just as well translate both our spoken tongues between us. That would be of some help. I’m just glad that I’d updated the language drive recently.
“Good to see you. I thought I told you to stay off of this planet, and never plant your oversized feet on any world in this star system.” There is a mocking grin on my smug face, the left corner of my lip forming a smirk, for effect, and almost a growling and serpentine hissing lilt to my voice as the translation corrects for vocal equipment and accents as well as semantics and grammar.
I wait, but only for a few seconds, before Dasaelos’ voice, with his three sets of vocal cords, hisses and booms, “I’m overjoyed to see you as well, Small One…For I think that here I’ve been given the perfect moment by my new friends…” He gestures around to the Suthidruu planetfall party to the Crusade Swarm’s Holiest and its entourage, “…to face you one final time, and cleanse my shame by killing you on the field of battle, with my bare hands.” He hisses with a deep rumble as he removes his armored gauntlets, “Today is truly a good day for you to die, and for me to live forever.”
“You see, the Suthidruu have been so kind as to grant me some of their own life-extending technology for my own use, tooled for my species, of course, and I, alone of all sapient life in the universe will live! They’ve taken a look at my past accomplishments and deemed me so vile as deserving to remain in hell. No matter what you think of their theology, you must admit that this clearly works to my advantage.”
“So,” Dasaelos rumbles with a bass growl, “Be so kind as to die, won’t you?”
Dasaelos gives an ear-splitting roar, suddenly lunging forward, and faster than I can possibly react, grabbing me by the front of my jacket, lifting me off the ground with a jerk, tossing me, like…what did the humans call it? Fast-ball special? My unfamiliarity with the cultures and customs of my probable birth-world are going to be the death of me.
I’m going to hit something hard. This is going to hurt.
The impact safety systems of the ‘shard kick in, using a probability field to cushion what would otherwise be a fatal landing. I’ll probably still feel some the impact, it will smart like hell, but at least nothing will be permanently broken or torn. There won’t be any lasting scarring to worry about with the ‘shard operating.
Except for my suit. It will be ruined, torn to shreds. Provided I survive this, I’m planning to add new Terran costumery templates to the Enza’s wardrobe synthesizers, maybe a few variations of those cool-looking Nehru jackets, and a sari for Imegaa, something that would look fashionable on her at a decent resort in the Martian highlands.
Back to reality.
I shook my head, my dislocated left shoulder and right elbow clicking back into their proper places, my entire body feeling a dull ache as the ‘shard performs its medical functions, irritated by the maddening itch of rapidly setting and mending bone and flesh, angrily brushing debris off of my now shredded suit jacket, getting back up as the pain fades, and taking stock of the situation.
I angrily look up, eyes giving off a cherry red glow as the ‘shard goes into interpersonal combat mode.
I feel like hurting things, and a certain giant alien is tops on my list. A cold, focused rage comes over me, a step up in usefulness from a fully berserk state, at least less injurious to the Suthidruu until I find it necessary to resort to plan B and just kill them.
The ‘shard generates its tactical display, the augmented reality giving its readouts in five-dimensional clarity, showing all possible combatants, noncombatants, their positions, activity, and best of all, whispering assessments of probable scenarios that would likely occur with the most efficient response to them.
The ‘shard is making itself damned useful. I pick my likeliest targets. I query the ‘shard as to whether to target the Suthidruu or not. The readout suggests no.
The Worms aren’t doing anything yet. It would still be within the next hour that they would perform their sick, twisted ceremony for humanity. They’re interested in only one thing; The blissful salvation of all life in the cosmos—one planet-buster bomb or nova-trigger at a time—until all life has been sent to the paradise of the their Gods.
This is what’s been going on for the last two billion years, the Suthidruu rampaging across the galaxies in their crusade, their agenda of salvation by death effectively unopposed. Whole galaxies being stripped bare of even the simplest forms of life. Kind of what the I once did as a professional consultant on the mass-extinction industry.
I mean to see that end in this galaxy, on this world.
Either I, humanity and all other life in the solar system would die, or the Suthidruu’s insane expression of universal love and charity would be halted…
But first, I’m going to kill Dasaelos—again—for ruining my favorite suit, oh, and also for being a major pain in the *ss.
Dasaelos’ left hand gains a platinum sheen as it begins to flow and shift, changing almost like a liquid as it morphs into what looks all the world like an unbelievably ornate, double headed axe with a tubelike shaft, a particle weapon of some sort—that will prove hazardous if it actually connects.
Now within arms’ reach, I barely dodge the axe blades. The swing is sudden, but the range is too close for a safe particle-strike, so the giant uses his weapon’s blades to lengthen the distance between us and finish me at a safe range, where the splash effect of the radiation will be minimized, enough for his armor to protect him. Damn. For something so big, he’s damn fast!
Dasaelos is furious, and he screams, more like the roar of a feature-film Tyrannosaurus rex, while attempting to hit me,“Why will you not stand still? Die! Why don’t you die? The Suthidruu promised me the chance to rule supreme! Life! Life eternal! Life in a universe cleansed of all threats to my supremacy! A universe cleansed of YOU!”
The ‘shard’s translator function is no longer needed…the time for words is past, and the only thing left saying is the dialogue of life and death. Mine, or his. I must end this lunatic now.
I pepper the giant’s armor with quick blows, using a strength ordinarily impossible for a being of my size and mass.
I rip off armor plates, some woven into the surface of his skin. Now he screams in pain rather than rage as I rip off the bionic housing for his weapon from his left arm, carrying with it chunks of flesh, bone, and bluish blood spurting from the stump…rich in a kind of hemocyanin. The giant, now disconnected from his weapon, will be unable to use it.
His scream is now closer to a peal of thunder from a nearby lightning strike, a scream at such volume that it shakes the mountaintop. I can feel the vibrations through my booted feet.
My combat rage subsides just a bit as the metaphorical gears turn and I dodge just in time to avoid a right cross to my face from a massive scaly fist.
Systems built into the giant’s armor have cauterized his wounded arm, and all that’s left standing is eight hundred kilograms of mindless reptilian rage, blindly lashing out with tail and fist, maddened with pain and fear, the fear of losing his last chance at immortality and ultimate supremacy as the only living thing in the universe, nothing challenging him, nothing to threaten him. Not even Death. Death? That would be me.
Dasaelos has finally gone over the edge and needs to be put down before he kills someone more worthy than himself. I leap, and land a solid kick to his head, knocking him to the ground, forcing him to crawl to his feet before pathetically collapsing to the ground, with bluish, congealing Rj’lt’ai blood pooling around him.
In seconds, it’s all over. I stride over to him. He looks piteous.
I reach over to the fallen giant, and take a ring of glittering transparent metal from his right middle finger. Dasaelos is quite dead. The ring shines with its own light as I close my hand around it, crushing it. A cascade of sparks erupts from between my fingers as Dasaelos’ means of life-extension, body-hopping using clones, is destroyed. It doesn’t look like he will bother anyone ever again.
Poor Dasaelos, so afraid of death that he was terrified of truly living. He never knew how to enjoy the simple things in life, as well as the beautifully complex. I forget my enmity toward him for a moment and think a short eulogy to commemorate the fallen.
Now, back to work.