Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 24



    Darrian stared aghast at what he had just seen.
    "Wh-what was that?" he stammered, his eyes transfixed on the hologram.
    "Was that a Guillae?" Ugul quickly added, sounded just as shocked.
    Everyone looked to the old judge. However the old judge seemed just as transfixed on the near-silent hologram.
    In the image of the overgrown laboratory, there were still a few little green and brown specks floating harmlessly in the air. The quickly deflating plant cocoon could be seen wilting near the edge of the image. In the distance, the audio could barely pick out the sound of scattered screams and occasional bangs.
    Those were quickly silenced.
    After a drawn out moment of watching the dust settle in the hologram, Illiquina spoke up.
    "Judge." she said in a soft yet demanding tone. "Answer him."
    "No." he said shortly before glancing at Ugul. "That was not a Guillae."
    "Then what the hell was it?" Ferris asked with more composure than Darrian thought he could muster at the moment.
    Once again the old judge did not respond. Instead, he glanced from Ferris to Ugul to Illiquina and finally back to the derelict image.
    "I don't know." he said after another eternity of shocked silence.
    Reaching down, he picked up his datapad and began typing something. The entire conference table watched as his fingers flew over the screen in a flurry of speed. In the quiet, the tapping sounded as deafening as if he were pounding on a table.
    A moment later, the hologram flickered out of existence and he set the datapad down.
    "I've informed Harris and his team to investigate the incident further." he said quietly. "I've also insisted they use utmost caution to avoid those things."
    "They were human..." Darrian said aloud as the thought pervaded his mind. "Those things...they used to be human.
    "It certainly seems like that would be the case." the old judge agreed.
    "But how?" Illiquina asked quietly.
    The old judge could only shrug in response.
    Darrian found himself glancing at A'alan't 32, the only one in their little group that had an intact archive regarding the floramorphs. Illiquina and Ferris were both doing the same. A'alan't 32 was simply shaking her head.
    She doesn't know either. he thought.
    They were in uncharted waters.
    However, Illiquina either mistook that idea or couldn't accept it as a possibility. In an instant, Darrian saw her dismay and horror turn to unfettered rage.
    Rage that was directed towards the old judge.
    "You knew this would happen, didn't you?" she growled.
    Several heads around the table stared at her in surprise. The old judge being one of them.
    "Come again?" he asked, the shock plain on his robotic features.
    "YOU KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!" Illiquina bellowed; a surprising sound from her small frame. "DIDN'T YOU?!"
    The old judge stood, looking utterly incredulous as he tilted his head. Some of the other ambassadors were backing up a bit from the table. Some look shocked. Other confused. Only A'alan't 32 looked almost embarrased.
    Or was it annoyance?
    "Why would you think that?" the old judge asked, sounding almost offended.
    "Oh please!" Illiquina snapped. "You kept going on and on about how this would be some kind of an important experiment. How we needed to use the time we had to study what we could. You knew!"
    "Of course I didn't." the old judge defended himself. "If I realized it would create..."
    The old judge stared at the empty space where the hologram had been for a brief second before continuing.
    "Whatever that was, then maybe I'd have had the analytics team get involved."
    "Sure." Illiquina grumbled. "To plant more cameras maybe."
    If the old judge had looked offended earlier, now he looked outright angry.
    "What are you trying to imply, ambassador?"
    Illiquina barked a fake laugh.
    "I'll actually don't know. I don't know anything about you OR the Guillae. That's actually the problem!"
    A'alan't 32 looked up in shock and surprise; as did Ferris and Darrian. While it wasn't unlawful to yell at a robot, Illiquina's hacking into the archive code certainly had been.
    "Tell me, 'bot." she said with utter disrespect. "Why don't you tell me why it is that your file-"
    "Enough!" A'alan't 32 yelled as she shot out of her spot. "Sit. Down. Illiquina."
    Illiquina's wrath turned towards A'alan't 32. For the briefest moment she looked as though she might start shouting at her too. But, as she glared at the Bivvie, a flicker of realization crossed the little Cadrax's face.
    She let out an angry yell and, with nothing further, stormed out of the conference room.
    "Keep this up." Ferris muttered under his breath. "And we're not gonna have much of a council left."
    "Guess it won't matter soon anyway." Ugul regarded back quietly.
    A'alan't 32 shot them threatening glances before turning her attention towards the old judge.
    "My apologies for her disrespect, judge."
    "It's not your place to apologize for another species' ambassador." he said, clearly collecting himself.
    "Of course not." she agreed. "But you must be able to see where she's coming from can you not?"
    A'alan't 32 glanced around the table at the worried and shocked faces of the other ambassadors.
    "It all seems a bit suspicious. First your enthusiasm and now...this."
    "I suppose it is." he agreed quietly.
    "So tell us judge." Ferris said, speaking up. "What is it that you did expect?"


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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 23


    As dawn broke the following cycle, Darrian settled into his place at the conference table.
    He was the last one to arrive.
    "I know some of you may be itching to review the new information from Mars." the old judge said after the initial greetings had been exchanged and the meeting begun. "You'll be happy to know that Harris has already queued up a wealth for us."
    Darrian appraised the old judge with unease. Something about the robot seemed almost happy this morning. Perhaps it was another learned emotion, meant to lighten the mood given the harshness of the last cycle.
    But still...
    "Have we heard anything back from Jin'thun?" Ugul asked quickly.
    "We have not." the judge confirmed.
    Perhaps Darrian was imagining it. Adding just some imagined level of villainy. But it sounded like the old judge was just a little too elated when he said that.
    The table groaned and muttered to each other. Discussions about whether or not the Gorderians would make it in time to save the humans were clearly heard around the table.
    The old judge quickly rapped on the table.
    "Enough." he said shortly. "Now, we have a hologram stream sent in from the analytics team. It would seem that the humans on Mars are alive. In a manner of speaking."
    "What does that mean?" Ferris asked with a bit too much anger in his tone.
    The old judge either didn't hear Ferris or simply chose to ignore him. He quickly tapped the screen of his datapad and the familiar scene of the lab appeared from the holographic imager.
    It only took a moment before someone asked.
    "What the...hell? What happened?!" A'alan't 32 said, shooting up from her spot.
    The scene in front of them, despite being the same viewpoint as the cycle before, was drastically different. Previously, there had been a clean, well-kept lab environment filled to the brim with shiny tools, smooth surfaces, and humans in safety attire working diligently. Now, it was as if the lab had been overgrown by a rain forest.
    A strange, humid mist seemed to hand in the air of the lab environment. Heavy, plantlike growths seemed to have covered the walls, floor, and even shrouded the large viewport window that looked in on the surgical theater. The room was dark, with the plant growths covering the fluorescent lights, but Darrian could clearly make out some kind of gooey ichor dripping from the ceilings above and little speckles of green and brown floating about in the mist.
    "It would seem," the old judge said coolly, "that there were some interesting side effects from the humans interacting with the Guillae."
    Darrian felt his throat tightening. All he could do was stare at the image. It was so drastically different than he'd seen the cycle before. He was in too much shock to do anything else.
    Around the table, many of the other ambassadors seemed to be going through the same thing.
    "I-I don't understand." Illiquina stammered. "What happened to the humans?! You said they were alive!"
    "In a manner of speaking." the old judge echoed
    As if on cue, Darrian noticed movement to one side of the hologram. A large trunklike section of one of the plants taking over the surgical theater seemed to thrum and move a little. It seemed to bulge and throb as if there were something moving about inside it.
    It moved like this for several moments before one of the bulges seemed to grew too far. A palm and five digits, which everyone readily recognized as the five-fingered hand of a human, was pushing against the membrane from inside the plant itself.
    The flesh of the plant gave and gave and then tore, letting out a moist, squelching sound as it ripped open. A spray of green and brown burst freely into the already heavy air of the lab and the human that was trapped inside the plant cocoon pulled itself free.
    That's right. Darrian thought. It was a cocoon.
    For the human that freed itself from the plant was not like any he'd seen in studying earth. Standing before the camera nude, she still resembled a human female. Her eyes were dark, sunken in, and the normal white of the sclera was a cavalcade of blood red and algae green. Her flesh: a palid, lighter tone now showed all of the veins and arteries that crisscrossed beneath. All of them ran deep, emerald green. Her body appeared soft and voluptuous by human standards, yet closer examination revealed that her flesh had taken on a strange solidity; as if she were covered by a hard shell.
    The most disturbing for Darrian however was the expression.
    Vacant. Hollow. Empty.
    Her eyes and her face seemed to display no intelligence or range of emotion; almost as if she were a walking corpse.
    "What...happened?" Ugul asked.
    The old judge seemed just as transfixed with the images as the other ambassadors. While he didn't look quite as horrified, there was no fabricated joy on his face now.
    Darrian didn't know if the old judge expected this kind of imagery, but he definitely didn't appear to be enjoying it either.
    "Isn't it obvious?" the old judge said. "Just as I said before: there would be interesting side effects from these two species interacting..."
    No one dared say anything more for a long while. What was there to say? No one could change what had happened. What WAS happening. No one even knew it was GOING to happen. Yet here they were with front row seats.
    And there she stood. Silent. Just standing there staring off into nothingness.
    That is, until a scream echoed somewhere offscreen and, in an instant flurry of violence and speed, the modified human shot off after the noise.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Crazy Week


Hello Lovelies,

So, I know I haven't posted anything since Sunday and I sincerely apologize. This week has been more than a little hectic and I haven't had time to think, much less write. I promise more is to come soon, but I simply have to get a few things in order before I do. Long story short, playing catch up on the medical issues I had sometime back coupled with the aftermath from Thanksgiving.

Sorry for the wait and I promise I'll be back soon. I will post Xenophobia Chapter 23 by our Sunday at the absolute latest.

- RB

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 22


    Darrian started to respond, but stopped.
    He looked from face to face, considering what had just been said. He had felt like something was odd about not being able to find any info on the Guillae; but the information had been altered? Even then, he had never thought about looking into the old judge.
    He simply didn't know what to say.
    After a moment of staring blankly at the other ambassadors, Illiquina decided to break the silence.
    "Let me ask, Darrian: what do you know about the old judge?"
    "Well..." he started softly, racking his memory. "I know he's supposed to be many hundreds of rotations old. He was created by the Merrenians at the conception of the Consortium to help deliberate, translate, and navigate the political situations that would arise from multiple species interacting."
    He thought for a moment before adding:
    "If I remember correctly, he was one of a dozen or something like that? There used to be a lot more but now he's the only only left over."
    Illiquina nodded in agreement.
    "Picture perfect to his archive entries."
    "Are you saying that's not the case?"
    "We don't actually know." A'alan't 32 stated.
    "All we know is that the information was removed." Illiquina added before glancing at A'alan't32. "We're hoping that the Bivvie might have record of something additional but..."
    "But it's not likely that the old judge was heavily documented. At his conception, he was little more than a worker drone for the Consortium and likely didn't garner attention." A'alant 32 finished.
    "So, in short, we have no idea what dirty secrets that thing has." Ferris growled in annoyance.
    Darrian considering asking about the Guillae when the question occurred to him that he should have asked right away.
    "How do you know any of this?"
    "Well. I mean it makes sense if you think about." A'alan't 32 said. "Why would the Bivvie care about a random robot drone? Particularly when-"
    "No." Darrian said, cutting her off. "I mean how do you know there was some kind of alteration?"
    Everything they were saying felt right. Felt correct in lieu of this nagging feeling that something was wrong. But he couldn't let himself fall prey to wild speculation.
    The other ambassadors glanced back and forth between each other before Illiquina responded.
    "It's in the code." she said simply with almost a confused tone.
    "Code?" Darrian asked perplexed. "What code?"
    Darrian stared at Illiquina, perplexed. She wore a similar look of confusion, as if she didn't understand the question.
    "She means the code for the archives." Ferris offered.
    "I...don't know what that means." Darrian stuttered.
    "Come here." Illiquina said, motioning him closer to him.
    Darrian stepped closer and only then realized that Illiquina was holding a small, strange-looking datapad in one hand. It was notably slimmer than his own work pad and it seemed to be rimmed with small tabs and nobs along the outside edge that could be manipulated.
    Illiquina tapped the screen and brought up an image that she offered up to him.
    The image didn't make any sense to him. It appeared to be nothing more than a random assortment of letters, numbers, and symbols. Here and there he saw things that might vaguely represent words, but all together it proved little more than gibberish.
    "I don't know what this is, Illiquina." he stated with unabashed honesty.
    "You and me both." Ferris offered.
    "Aren't you Merrenians supposed to be experts in robotics?" Illiquina said with a huff. "How is it you don't know coding?"
    "The smart Merrenians make it easy for us dumb ones." Ferris said with a smile.
    "What he said." Darrian said, pointing at Ferris.
    Illiquina let out a soft growl of annoyance before pointing to the a certainly clump of letters and numbers.
    "Here." she said. "Do you know what that means?"
    Darrian offered a little shrug of confusion.
    "THAT!" she said with a sharp tap. "Is the file having to do with the Guillae."
    "Okay..."
    Illiquina huffed again but decided to try a change in tactics.
    "When did the old judge say the Consortium encountered the Guillae?" she asked.
    "Couple hundred rotations ago?" he offered while looking to Ferris and A'alan't 32, who both nodded in agreement.
    "Couple hundred." Illiquina confirmed before pointing to another blotch of numbers and letters. "Than why would all of the data have been removed and then edited twenty rotations ago?"
    Darrian stared at the stream of logic on the screen blankly. He tried to make sense of what she'd said. What he was seeing.
    "It says that?" he finally asked.
    "Yea." she said with a nod. "The data for the Guillae was actually very bloated. Huge in size. All of the sudden, about twenty years ago, it was all deleted and reduced to a fraction of a percent of the original information."
    Darrian considered that for a moment, not sure what to say.
    "Something similar happened with the old judge." she continued, moving further down the stream of information and pointing to another batch of code. "Here."
    "It was edited twenty rotations ago?"
    "Not for the judge. His information changed about forty six rotations ago. Just like the Guillae, his file was outright deleted and then edited to a notably smaller portion of info."
    "Maybe it's some kind of coincidence?" Darrian asked. "And maybe some kind of data loss or something forced them to rebuild the archives?"
    "If that were the case," Illiquina said with an annoyed tone in her voice. "Than I wouldn't have record of it in code."
    "Whatever happened or why," she continued. "Someone actively changed the information on the Guillae and the old judge. Removed information. And I wouldn't doubt that they changed it to meet some hidden agenda."
    "But...why?" Darrian asked, his head swimming.
    "That's what I hope we'll find out." Illiquina said softly before glancing at A'alan't 32.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving


Hello Lovelies,

Today, we will not be adding anything to the story. As some of you are aware, I'm one of those horrible, dirty Americans with a penchant for consuming all that walks the Earth. As such, I celebrate Thanksgiving. While this year is certainly a sordid and dirty affair for many given the realm of our political situation at present, I am happy to be spending some time with my family over a nice dinner and a quiet evening.

We will return to our regularly scheduled program promptly, but as for now, I want to wish all of my American readers:

Happy Thanksgiving

And for anyone who doesn't celebrate the holiday, I hope you have a wonderful day and a pleasant evening.

- RB

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 21


    Darrian stared blearily at the screen of his datapad.
    He felt his vision fade in and out briefly, but he shook it off and continued lethargically flipping through the Consortium archives.
    Ever since the old judge had excused the councilors earlier in the cycle, Darrian had been holed up in his office. He'd considered returning home but something was eating away in him anytime he thought about the humans or the contradictory things that the old judge had said.
    Now, instead of being home, he sat in his darkened office flipping through archives older than his grandparents.
    His first attempts had been to start looking at information on the Guillae. It turned up unfruitful. The Guillae were the first race he'd ever encountered in the Consortium databases that simply didn't have information.
    No tendencies. No home planet. Nothing.
    So he started looking for anything related to the Guillae. Floramorphs. Spores. Plant people. ealliuG. By the time the double suns, Jurra and Nurra, had set on the horizon he was manually browsing through archive tags on a wild hunt to find anything that might lead him to more information.
    He hadn't found it.
    Now, deep into the evening of the cycle, he was still mindlessly scrolling through archive tags several hundred rotations old, but no longer with any vigor.
    That was when a message flashed on the right side of his screen.
    Meet us in the conference room.
    "Us?" he asked out loud.
    The message information was blank. It didn't show any sending or receiving information and Darrian had no clue as to who could be asking for him.
    If not for pure curiosity, he might have stayed in his office.

    When Darrian arrived at the conference room, he found the door shut and the display panel flashing a red "locked" symbol.
    To his surprise, however, the door 'wooshed' open of its own accord after a moment or two of standing in front of it. The 'locked' status on the door panel never changed.
    Inside, the room was dark, but he could make out a faint blue glow on the far end of the room.
    "Hello?" he asked in utter confusion.
    "In here." he heard A'alan't 32 say softly.
    Darrian stepped inside only to have the door close very suddenly behind him. He glanced back in surprise, but turned his attention towards the far end of the darkened conference room.
    There, seated at the table, were A'alan't 32, Ferris, and Illiquina.
    A'alan't 32's blue, nearly holographic body was giving off the glow he had seen.
    "Please. Sit down." Illiquina said softly.
    It was at that moment that it struck him how rarely he heard Illiquina voice any opinion recently and Darrian was shocked for a brief moment to hear her voice. She had almost become a part of the furniture for the last cycles since everything started happening and it was odd to hear her speak.
    Considering this, he settled down next to the rest of them, eyeing her suspiciously.
    "Well this is...odd." Darrian observed.
    "We knew you were in your office." A'alan't 32 offered.
    "And I had a feeling you'd come if we were just cryptic enough." explained Ferris.
    Darrian stared at them for a long moment, trying to decide if he was more annoyed or confused by this strange meeting.
    "Fantastic." he said dryly. "But what's with the cloak and dagger routine?"
    "Well..." began Illiquina.
    "Something's going on." said Ferris with a look of tired annoyance that Darrian felt matched his own.
    "Right." agreed Illiquina.
    A'alan't 32 looked at them both before shaking her head.
    "They mean with the old judge. And the Guillae." She offered. "Something's not quite right."
    "Yea." Darrian agreed slowly. "Something did feel off. But...what are we supposed to do about it?"
    "Lemme ask you this." prefaced A'alan't 32. "What have you been doing all day since you were dismissed?"
    Darrian thought back to his endless scrolling and searching along with his failure to turn up anything of worth.
    "I was looking for answers as to why the old judge seemed to care so much about the Guillae."
    The others all nodded in agreement.
    "Us too." confirmed Ferris.
    "I didn't find anything though." said Darrian with a half hearted shrug.
    "We didn't either." A'alan't 32 said. "But I think I know why."
    "Oh?"
    "What would you say if I told you that the database for the Guillae and for the old judge had been altered?" asked Illiquina.


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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 20


    The room sat in extended silence. A number of the other ambassadors exchanged confused and concerned glances. The old judge seemed oblivious, or at the very least as if he was ignoring the obvious surprise his comment had rendered.
    "I don't understand." Ugul finally said slowly. "Why would we be worried about the Guillae?"
    "Why wouldn't we be?" retorted the old judge as if he were educating a child; just a hint of condescension. "It's good to know and understand any rogue element within the stars."
    "This council is meant to monitor and review information on the humans." Darrian said shortly.
    "You're not wrong." the old judge agreed.
    "Then, to reiterate Ugul's point." said A'alan't 32. "Why would we be concerned about the Guillae?"
    "The Guillae are a rogue element." the old judge responded in that same condescending tone. "We need to understand them in the rare instance that we ever have to encounter them again."
    "But this is about-" started Ugul again before being cut off by the old judge.
    "The humans. I know." the old judge snapped.
    Ugul looked shocked having been cut off by the old judge, as did a few others. He wasn't some child. He was an ambassador of the Jigger species. He wasn't the smartest or most outspoken of the council, but he was hardly out of line to question the old judge on this apparently unspoken motivation.
    "Then why aren't we more concerned about the humans?" demanded Ferris.
    "The humans are dead." the old judge stated with a level of cold detachment Darrian could only imagine was possible for a robot. "We need to use the time we have to learn what we can."
    "They're not dead-!" Ugul started to bellow.
    "They're dead. The Tulgucks have already entered the galaxy. The Gorderians haven't even mobilized yet and there's nothing the humans have in their arsenal that will stop them."
    "There has to be something." muttered Ugul in distress.
    "They DO have nuclear capabilities." offered Ferris.
    "Capabilities pointed at each other and low in yield." he retorted flatly before adding, "It doesn't matter."
    "Then why are we bothering?" demanded Darrian. "Why are we sitting here discussing politics about a species that you've already decided is dead before they even take the hit?"
    "Because, again, we can learn more about the Guillae and how they interact with an oxygen-based, high water life form."
    Darrian could feel the questions swimming, but didn't voice them. Why? Why do we care? Why does it matter? What good does it do?
    "It's clear that we cannot progress any further today." the old judge said with cold sternness. "We can reconvene at a later time. You're all dismissed."
    Darrian looked around the table but none of the judges moved. Even Cagool, who had finally stopped shaking from his exchange with Jin'thun earlier, sat in silence.
    The old judge glowered at them.
    "Ambassadors." he said with a mechanical sigh. "If this really bothers you all so deeply, I'll explain further."
    "Please do." responded A'alan't 32 matching his own low, stern tone.
    "Fine. I'm going to offer a guess: when I first mentioned the Guillae some cycles back, what was the first thing you after the initial meeting? I presume you went and tried to investigate them, did you not?"
    There were a few assorted nods and muttered agreements.
    "And what did you find?"
    There was silence. Darrian knew that he personally hadn't found anything in the Consortium databases, but that A'alan't 32 and the Bivvie databases had been chock full of information on the Guillae. They locked eyes, but it wasn't A'alan't 32 who spoke up.
    "Nothing." offered Cagool.
    "I didn't find anything either." said Ferris.
    "Me either." agreed Ugul.
    "We don't know anything about the Guillae." said the old judge flatly. "In the short time the Consortium and the Guillae interacted, we never had a peaceful interaction short of the strained meetings that led to the Guillae and Consortium agreeing to stay out of each others' way."
    "We need to learn as much as we can so we can add it to the limited cache we know about them. They've always seemed to be an extremely hostile species that is simply bent on taking over any water based planet that they can land a spore on. It's almost as if they're driven by a hunger that we don't rightly understand."
    Darrian looked across the table to A'alan't 32 for confirmation of what she'd told him before and stared in shock. The Bivvie, who's transparent, seemingly holographic body always flickered between so many emotions and ages, seemed almost stable. The differences were minor at best. Almost solid. And all of them showed a glare of anger at the old judge.
    For just a brief moment, A'alan't 32 glanced in Darrian's direction, perhaps sensing that he had been staring at her for too long. Without a word, she simply shaked her head.
    "Now. That is all." the old judge said finally. "Take the rest of the cycle off. I will see you on the next."
    The other ambassadors got up with little murmurs and mutters, but no one said anything against the old judge. Darrian didn't know what to feel. He trusted A'alan't 32's information and the data gathered by the Bivvie, but he couldn't understand what was happening. Did the Consortium really not have access to any of the information on the Guillae, leading them to believe this was some conquering race? Or were they intentionally misleading the species of the Consortium?
    As Darrian sat there trying to understand his own thoughts, he watched A'alan't 32 storm out of the conference room. For the first time ever, her shape appeared to be almost solid.

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