Sunday, December 4, 2016
Xenophobia - Chapter 23
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.
"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.
Next Chapter (Coming Soon!)
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