Flash Fiction: The Countdown


I am Thraad4 and I am not a happy Technic.

I’m a member of Broogh fleet Magzichoolud-242563756, personally assigned by my God-Thegn to command a flotilla of vessels on a rear-action scouting and punitive mission.

For a Technic, I’m said to have unusually good command and tactical skills as well as my caste’s drive and knack for research. This is a serious mission. My God-Thegn does not dole out such tasks lightly, and failure to get results is simply not an option.

Broogh vessels are all sub-luminal velocity craft, though my species has always had a peculiar brilliance in the field of gravity manipulation. There is our fearsome gravity-bomb, capable of harnessing the might of a black hole to destroy an enemy fleet.

There is even talk, in hushed whispers, of using that same principle to generate controlled wormholes for quick interstellar jumps. So far, such attempts all end in catastrophic failure — so my species is condemned to flow across the galaxy only slowly in our massive, ancient, and powerful fleets.

The Flow, every fleet of our race not compromised by the suicidal Infection hounding us, driving us onward in fear, has found new species, smallish beings the size of my own caste, and found them to be worthy foes. Others are simply destroyed, their star systems and Oort clouds stripped and cannibalized for resources before moving on to the next target.

My species has been at war for so long that we have forgotten any other way of life. It is only with great difficulty that I even imagine other modes of being. Other species may be warriors, but we are War given flesh, bone, and mind.

I rouse myself from my reverie as I focus on the task at hand, to find the source of the Infection that forced the annihilation of a rival fleet.

We are in the target region.

I order the flotilla to raise gravity-bubble screens, and to initiate passive scanning for any telepaths within ten light-hours. We shall find our quarry.

Telepaths are dangerous to my species, and those born with the talent are quickly purged from the gene pool. The Infection began with a Broogh telepath, and I silently pray to my God-Thegn that it will end with one as well. We must use machines to pick up telepathic signatures, and to locate their source precisely.

We are not disappointed. Telepathic lock-on begun. There’s a signature from within two light hours, powerful, malignant, on one of the outer worlds in this system.

The current source of Infection. Already a group-mind, minds afire, brains overwhelmed by the insane power of an idea. We learned a word for that from captive humans — a meme — and this idea drives its hosts to destruction.

It is an idea, a living, thinking ideology that can in time transcend its source.

A transcendent meme. The Transcendent Meme.

And it was my species that has revived it after billions of cycles, may the universe cleanse us of our dishonor. It follows us everywhere. It hounds us. It is the one thing we fear, the one thing we are on the run from.

My vital fluids run cold in my four-fold circulatory system as I look at the projected readouts coming from the source we’re scanning. The signature builds quickly as we approach the Infected world, meme leaping from brain to host brain, triggering the Talent as it goes, gaining in strength to a critical mass of linked minds.

We’ve purged the fleet that was here before, but we are too late to simply burn this world and kill the Meme. My four hearts sink as I stare at the readouts in disbelief. Life signs on the target world are fading fast. The Meme has finally transcended, that terrible threshold of minds achieved once again. And we are heading right for it.

It no longer needs a body here, to exist, think, and act, and it will use us to carry it back to our fleet. It is the closest thing physically possible to a disembodied mind.

I make my choice. We have no other. We cannot allow the Infection to spread, so perhaps we can trap it here.

I order the fleet to drop gravity-bubble screens and begin countdown as the seconds pass. We cannot fight it, so we shall deprive it of minds to infect beyond ours.

Eight seconds until fleet self-immolation…seven…six…five…

May the God-Thegn save our genetic templates and birth us anew.

…zero.

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