Two bodies lay motionless in the room, the scorchmarks of a hand laser marking their foreheads like macabre bindi, looks of utter surprise frozen on their features as a team of paramedics prepared them for spacing. In the burial traditions of my people, the dead are jettisoned into the local stellar primary, necessary to utterly destroy the bodies to the molecular level, and prevent the return of their troublesome spirits to the world of the living.
Silly that even a rationalist society as my own still has superstitions.
The woman was lucky. She died in less than a second as coherent light drilled a hole through her brain. The man a bit longer when he tried to avoid my aim, but to no avail. He lived just long enough to prolong the pain as the light burned a half-second longer through the thicker part of his skull, the steam of vaporized cerebral fluids escaping through the hole.
I am Special Agent Akarmiin Piruuta, and the discovery they made will win this war for us, but these two have been watched for a while, and they had to be eliminated. Silly academics. Sooner or later their sense of ethics would get the better of them. But they had to die. Orders from higher up — from the Exarch himself. As the youngest operative of the Order of Orugruuta on this installation, that duty fell to me. I must prove myself.
Tricking the late Instructor First Rank was easy, tricking his student was even easier, and getting them to take their cargo directly to this base was brilliant if I do say so myself. Scientists are so gullible. Gods of ancient Sirug, never let me be taken so easily! Of course, posing as a research student was the fun part. I’m called into my Coordinator’s office to discuss the new project…
The datacomp that Samdrumani kept her notes on is in my hands now. Easy enough to get the encryption key when you spike someone’s nanocotics.
“Ma’am. The targets have been dealt with, and we are ready to proceed with the next phase. The weapons and all of their data belong to us.” I hand over my dataspike, and my Coordinator inserts it into her handcomp, a hologram tailored to look like a dead Terran philosopher, Ariztotl, or somesuch, projected above the touchpad, looking rather sagely as he goes over the essential points, changing to a hologram of Samdrumani when her journal files are accessed. Damn, that’s creepy, seeing the face and hearing the voice of the woman I’ve just killed, even if it is a recording.
The recording ceases. “Agent Piruuta, I’ve received word from the Exarch, and he sends his congratulations on a mission well done. He wishes to continue with this project, so you are ordered to Sacred Terra to acquire testing subjects, three in number we’ve identified and kept under surveillance, that new species of humans who shall prove perfect for what we have in mind. They will serve as the housing for our weapons,” — she hands me the dosier of a boy barely in his teens, that of a girl just reaching adulthood, and of an older man in his thirties — “Any questions?”
A smile crosses my lips, canines just barely showing in predatory anticipation.
“Only, one, Ma’am….When do I depart?”
To be continued…
There’s a powerful and ancient civilization in the Gods of Terra setting, descendants of terrestrial prehumanity diverging from a common ancestor, and belonging to their own hominin genus: Meganthropus tokmolosensis, the gigantic Mokthraga, and a somewhat shorter species, Meganthropus mentis, the Miithrok, both looking something like massively-built, impossibly tall and well-muscled humans.
Mokthraga average about 4 meters tall and mass an average of 800 kilograms; Miithrok average 3 meters tall and mass about 450 kg, not exactly beings you want to get angry with you. The frightening thing is that these are not low gravity species, but natives of a 1.3 gravity world, rich even in the planetary crust and oceans with heavy metal concentrations toxic to terrestrial life, but exotic only in this regard — most life is still carbon-based, just with a higher tolerance of heavy metals, particularly titanium, which takes the place of calcium in the bones of most vertebrate analogs, and the exoskeletons and shells of others, for example, the local analogs of beetles and molluskoids.
This, and factors of the Giants’ anatomy deviating from the human baseline are what make them possible, keeping them from collapsing of their own weight due to the implications of the square/cube law.
First, it’s almost impossible to mistake them for humans in good lighting, even at a distance. They don’t look exactly human in proportion. They’re too broad in build. Think of the incredible Hulk, then scale that back a bit. The Giants are literally built to support their mass, including the use of titanium in their skeletons in place of the calcium that their ancestors used before the ‘Great Experiment’ of the Strangers, an unidentified, hypothetical civilization with a penchant for biological meddling that resulted in the divergent evolution of transplanted human offshoot populations on dozens of worlds.
The bones, muscles and the connective tissues of the Giants, including cardiac muscle, ligaments and tendons, are all thicker and denser, with much more tensile strength than those of baseline humans, adding to their builds and giving them the tremendous strength they need to live in their native gravity. This helped keep them from suffering more than their due from the medical problems related to heavy gravity living. That, in turn, relieved selective pressures toward a reduction in size and mass exceeding that of the Miithrok. At first, these were genetically engineered into them by the Strangers, in giving them the necessary adaptations for survival on their home, and these were built upon by natural selection once the population was fully transplanted and underwent breeding.
Whatever they were when first brought to Tokmolos from ancient Earth, they are now so unlike us biologically that only their DNA and fundamental chemistry speaks of terrestrial ancestry. Even the foods they eat would be toxic to humans, which makes setting up interspecies restaurants difficult — food items must be labelled for edibility by species, as some Tokmolosian delicacies are poisonous to beings such as humans.
As I said, they’re an old race for one descended from early terrestrial hominins, becoming a technological civilization about 50 millennia ago, after transplanation from Earth about 450 millennia prior, brought to Tokmolos as live specimens and genetic samples, before the rise of anatomically modern Homo sapiens.
The Giants have a conservative streak; not in the political or ideological sense, of course, but they’ve grown old as a species and are slow to change. There is a certain degree of contentment, with a patience and tolerance of difference that makes them amiable enough with other beings, but slow to react to threats and they are no longer as curious as they were in their youth as a species, when much of their scientific and technological innovation occurred. Oh, they still do science, but not as much.
They’ve turned inward, and stopped looking at the universe outside their sphere of colony worlds, systems cut off from contact by massive Dyson spheres and Cryswell structures built around their stars.
This could mean their end, despite their status as a Type II civilization, as a new and aggressive race, the Kai’Siri, are encroaching on their ancient borders, and have discovered a frightful new weapon to counter the powerful but old technology of the Giants: Humans, or something very much like them, ‘Wavetouched,’ implanted with the powerful quasi-matter hypershard relics; mind-controlled soldiers empowered to single-handedly cause planetary mass-extinction events.
Will the Children of Tokmolos survive? Or will their Elder civilization be wiped from the skies forever by enslaved doomsday weapons that kill every world they’ve ever been sent against?
We’ll see…Time and luck are of the essence.
On the final leg of our journey from our expedition, we settle into orbit around the Damendas system’s mainworld, used for an orbital military installation for the Exarchate and a munitions testing ground, the perfect place to take our findings.
We’ve discovered ways to better handle the relics, these ‘hypershards’ as Ranan calls them, and to access their control systems, using brain-machine interfaces.
He’s…highly capable…in our more intimate moments, hardly the stuffy academic I first thought him to be. Our relationship has become our little secret, as it would be ethically unacceptable in University circles. But secret it must remain. I’ve already been forced to duel a fellow student, Embael Maaga for threatening to report us, ‘accidentally’ putting her into a coma with a well-placed blow before she could go public with what she found out. That rabid bloodferret had it coming anyway!
I must make sure I show more discretion in future nightly encounters… At least my honor remains unsullied for the time being.
It turned out to be fortuitous, for Embael’s comatose brain proved the perfect interface with the relics after we ran a few tests. Or so we thought. The hypershards ghostly quasi-matter will with little resistance pass through flesh and bone into the brain itself, and we are able to set up a means of controlling the relics remotely, sending signals into a ‘shard which then controls the brain, which then accesses the ‘shard’s functions.
Like weaponry. Whatever these things were meant to do, they make powerful weapons, as we suspected the day we found them. They have incredible defensive and offensive systems, and would be perfectly suited for a new breed of elite soldiers.
“Emisse maatan porangas, Embael Maaga” — “Embael Maaga, in service even in endless sleep”
About an hour into testing, poor Embael’s brain had burned out from apparent sensory overload and a power surge caused by a faulty connection in brain wiring.
Dead because her brain wasn’t so perfect after all… Oh well. At least she still proved useful.
There must be something maddening about getting raw sensory data along ten or more spacetime axes, even in a permanent dreaming state.
Surely there’s a solution…
Our time at the outpost, Warstation 43758, has still been productive, and we’ve learned much of the relics. While we were together last night, I ran the idea past Ranan of using aliens for the ‘shard receptacles, other species of humans, specifically a new daughter species we’ve discovered on Sacred Terra.
A nascent species, on the Motherworld of us All, with just the right brain architecture to handle the relic’s input and energy levels without burning out, according to computer models. There are only three we’ve found and identified, all of them relatively young, and all unaware of their status.
We call them ‘Wavetouched,’ and they are special indeed, for they are what the Terrans may yet evolve into. Not that silly ‘ladder of evolution’ fallacy, just a new sidebranch on the tree of human descent, which may or may not supplant their parent species in time.
They have potential…the potential to become gods…gods of Terra. They must be watched…watched and controlled.
I must close this journal file. Ranan is on his way to see me, he says for something *special* tonight. No one must see what I’ve recorded.
[quantum file encryption complete: eyes-only log saved as ordered]
To be continued…
I am Samdrumani Amhadiraan Natalanaana Paruul, and I am a proud Kai’Siri woman, for today, after months of digging at the gravesites of dead civilizations, my teammates and I have made a most unusual find on our most recent excavation. We are, my team and I, archaeologists from the esteemed Madutraada University, main campus, on the homeworld of my species, mighty Sirug, city-continent Avatrumuulat.
We have found an anomaly, a very old one, too old, indeed, older than the origin of my people on our adopted planet, the capital of the Galactic Exarchate of Sagmaruun. But I get ahead of myself, and shall related things as best I can for posterity’s sake. Should anyone recover this journal, they will know that this finding will shake the galaxy, and end our bitter war with the Giants of Tokmolos. I shall start from the beginning, at least, the interesting parts.
We had been at dig site after dig site on this dying world, its resident biosphere already on its last gasp as its stellar primary began to brighten too much and boil away the oceans, its stellar wind stripping the once breathable atmosphere to dangerous thinness and exposing the ruins of the surface to lethal levels of stellar radiation. We must all wear protective suits since our stay here, only the simplest forms of life, the hardiest microbes analogous to extremophiles living on my homeworld, remaining. Of those, only species far beneath the crust and its dead mantle will continue, for a time, at least.
We were at a newly identified location on this planet’s northern hemisphere, where the icecaps once covered the pole some million years ago, before the planet’s sun began to die. We had gotten some very strange readings from a site that looked barren, no surface structures, yet our readings indicated that something was emitting Dunar radiation, something far below the ground, something that could only be technological. At arrival, we zeroed in on the readings, locating our spot, and set down, garbed in our suits.
After months of fruitless digging, spurred on only by what was left of our funding and the readings of our instruments, we were about to give up, pack our equipment, and head back to Kai’Siri space, when we found it, or rather, them. It was our group’s assistant excavator, Khamudraht Vaasa, a brilliant young man barely out of his teens who uncovered them, alien artifacts in a set of three, all broadcasting a Dunar signature that was off the scale from all previous discoveries.
Relics. Relics billions of years old, relics predating the evolution of life on Sirug. This was an impossibility. There had to be something wrong with our method of dating the findings, but after recalibrating our instruments over and again, the readings checked out. Young Vaasa was killed instantly. Or so it seemed. Probably some sort of security failsafe built into the relics, or a malfunction, whatever. It was a pulse of Dunar radiation that went off as soon as the digging was complete. He was closest to it, instantly disintegrated. After an impromptu funeral, sending a starfold courier drone with the news to the nearest Kai’Siri outpost system, we looked closer…
They were shining spheres, well, not quite spheres, but constantly shifting back and forth between sphereishness, to things altogether different, as the radiation died down and we examined them closer, in relative safety given the local conditions. Made of some kind of bizarre alien crystal, they seemed to rotate in and out of spacetime dimensions higher than the usual four, barely tangible to our sort of matter. We were forced to hold them using instruments employing Dunar fields to grasp them at all, much less in safety, once recovering them from their casing, a sort of stasis box.
It was then we made our next discovery. Instruments showed fossils below us, probably the ancient remains of native life, or so we thought, until we made sense of the scan we were getting — it was a fossilized human skeleton, dated at fifty-five million years old, and it matched the measurements of Khamudraht Vaasa, our comrade who only hours before had been seemingly destroyed…
To be continued…
The video is a good, though slightly off-canon depiction of the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration from a presumably aged Eighth Doctor at the final moment of the Time War between the Time lords and the Daleks.
I say slightly off-canon, as the general idea is the same despite differences in the details of events as related in the television series and this video. Time Lords die, Daleks die, Ninth Doctor appears for the first time.
Cue Nine’s catchphrase – “Fantastic.”
Over at Seriously Eclectic, Stu Barton has a good piece on literary alien design, Aliens Are A Playground. That and this video gave me some thoughts about aliens of my own, and describing them in my own fiction. I’ve noticed that my first short story draft has a need for some rewriting, now in progress, and I thought of using more in-depth, but reader-friendly alien descriptions, and one of them, for the Sthidrr (I’m working on a pronunciation guide in an appendix of the book for alien names and vocal sounds for those species that use them), might be something like this:
“Think of something somewhere between an earthworm and a double-ended piece of asparagus, all but the ends being covered in what looks like bluish melted gauze, with about twenty-seven much smaller worms attached to it seemingly at random, all writhing about as if looking for something, tipped with tiny mouths, eyes, and unidentifiable orifices opening and closing at odd intervals, emitting high-pitched sighs in between what sound almost like words — words not spoken in this part of the universe for billions of years.”
One thing is certain — Whatever description I use will give me ample opportunity to try out ideas. Since I started blogging in 2008, I’ve had little time for independent writing. But now, I’ve the time, I’ve MADE the time, and no excuse not to use it.