Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 28


    The next cycle past without word from Illiquina or the Merrenian council.
    The cycle after that passed with equal silence.
    Darrian felt his nerves beginning to fray at the thought that time would simply pass endless while he wasted away in his office. Illiquina would accomplish nothing and the humans would die in a blaze of hellfire without any help from the outside.
    It was on the dawn of the third cycle, roughly one cycle from the supposed arrival of the Tulgucks at Mars, that he finally received a summons.
    And he was surprised to find that it was from A'alan't 32.
    "Report to the council chambers." was all the message said.
  
    Arriving at the conference room, Darrian approached A'alan't 32 and Illiquina stand at the far end of the table. However they quickly waved him away.
    "Not now." A'alan't 32 quickly said. "After."
    He looked around to realize that it wasn't just them. The other council members were slowly filtering into the room. Not only Ferris, but also Cagool, Cherryl, and Ugul.
    "What's this about?" Cagool demanded.
    "Oh, don't complain, Cagool." Ferris snipped at him as he settled at the table.
    "I'll complain if I want to." Cagool started in defense. "We don't even know where the old judge is or if he'll be joining us."
    Darrian had been wondering the same thing.
    So far, they'd requested the Merrenian council to provide a second middle-man for their council, but their requests had since been ignored. He'd considered it might be that someone behind the scenes might think it useless to assign a middle-man of the entire species would be dead in a matter of cycles, but Darrian tried to ignore that paling thought.
    Instead, he took his spot and looked expectantly at A'alan't 32.
    "At this point, it doesn't matter if the old judge is here." A'alan't 32 said to Cagool. "We have work to do."
    "Does it really matter? They're going to be dead in a couple of cycles. Then we find a new council."
    "Don't talk like that." said Ugul with a hint of sadness to his voice.
    "It matters." A'alan't 32 declared firmly.
    "Why?" Cagool asked again.
    "Because Harris and his team are still doing their jobs." she responded coolly. "The least we can do is return the favor."
    Darrian nodded and there were murmurs of agreement. Harris and his team were still out in a hostile, unforgiving solar system where they had to steer clear of toxic oxygen gasses, mutant plant monsters, and an incoming armada. The least they could do was review the information and send back responses.
    Or tell them to come home.
    "Just bring them back." Cagool snapped sharply, as if reading Darrian's thoughts.
    "No." Darrian said firmly. "If the old judge was right about anything, it's that we need to gather as much info as we can."
    "About those Guillae things?" Ugul asked.
    "About anything."
    There were a few sidelong glances, but it was clear that they were simply tired of the bickering and arguments.
    "Fine." Cagool said with resignation. "Anything's better than just sitting in my damn office all day."
    A'alan't 32 gave an approving nod and a smile and went about working the datapad. While she was not nearly as quick as the old judge with it and she needed to ask Illiquina for help a couple of times, she soon had the holographic imager running hot. A moment later, they were flipping through the messages from Harris.
    Many of them were so drull that Darrian regretted agreeing with A'alant 32.
    For all of the terrifying images that they had seen from Mars of Human-Guillae hybrids and the implications there-in, the data being sent in was almost non-existent. No video, no audio, and almost exclusively sampling and satellite imagery. Miles worth of long-range scans and data but nothing substantial. It was only after the hundredth orbital survey that someone finally said it.
    "They're not on the planet anymore."
    "You're right." agreed A'alan't 32.
    "But why?"
    Tense glances were exchanged, followed by a few unhelpful suggestions as to why the survey team might have retreated to orbit, but it was quickly agreed upon.
    "We have to contact them. Figure out what's going on."
    It took another few minutes of fiddling with the datapad before they got anywhere. Illiquina was talented and A'alan't 32 had watched the old judge, but neither of them really knew half of what he did up there at the front of the table. It wasn't until someone had the bright idea to reverse trasmit an old message that they got anywhere.
    A moment later, they were greeted with the steel-faced grimace of Harris.
    "Well isn't this a surprise." he commented. "Where's the old judge?"
    "We don't actually know." responded Ferris.
    The councilors took time relaying the incidents that occurred several cycles back; of the odd behavior and the sudden disappearance. Harris listened intently, but Darrian couldn't help but notice a twisting look of concern.
    "So that's it then? He just went crazy and ran off? No one's seen him since?" he asked in summation.
    There were a few murmured agreements.
    "Well damn." he groaned. "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to proceed from here then. I'll have to try to reach out to the Merrenian council directly."
    "Good luck with that." mumbled Ferris.
    "Don't bother." Cagool said. "Just come home. No point in being out there."
    "I can't." Harris responded.
    A'alan't 32 gave him a sidelong glance.
    "Why not?"
    "It's the humans." he said, returning her gaze.
    "What? There are still survivors after that catastrophe on Mars?"
    "No. Mars is a wasteland...if you can call it that. Technically, there's already vegetation regrowing around the bases but the humans themselves have all been...converted."
    "Then why stay?" asked Darrian.
    "You might have noticed that we've returned to orbit?" Harris responded.
    "I was wondering about that." commented Ferris.
    "It's so we can keep a better eye on Earth and Mars." he said thoughtfully.
    "Why?" asked Illiquina bluntly.
    "Because I only have so many people." he responded in exasperation. "I can't send recon teams to both locations. I have to use long range imaging."
    "I think what Illiquina means," offered Darrian, "is why are you so focused on watching both."
    Harris remained quiet for a second before responding.
    "It's the humans. I think they've noticed the incoming Tulgucks. The humans on Earth are mobilizing some sort of counter offensive unit. They're preparing for the attack."

 ===

Next Chapter (Coming Soon!)
Previous Chapter
Start at the Beginning

=== 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays



Hello Lovelies,

So, today there isn't much to say except:

Happy Holidays!

Also accepted phrases include Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Yule, Joyous Festivous, and more! All in all, I'm one of those dirty heathens that celebrates Christmas and enjoys the time spent with family and friends.

That said, I hope you all have a wonderful time and enjoy what you can with those you love. We'll see you back here bright and early in a couple days!

- RB

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 27


    The others glanced around at each other, not sure what to say. Illiquina watched them with an excited look that quickly dwindled.
    A moment of silence later, she buried her face back in her datapad and started pounding away.
    "I'm not sure I understand." Darrian said thoughtfully, the first one to speak again."So whoever it was that changed the info in the archives...they forgot to remove the information on the old judge's brothers?"
    "In essence." Illiquina responded with a mischievous smile, still typing furiously.
    "Wow." Ferris said stupidly.
    "Yep!" she said gleefully.
    "That seems like a huge oversight." Ferris continued.
    "Yes and no." Illiquina remarked.
    Ferris and Darrian traded confused glances.
    "What do you mean by that?" Darrian asked.
    Illiquina didn't respond.
    The silence grew louder, intensified by the incessant tapping.
    "Illiquina?" A'alan't 32 finally interjected.
    "Mmm?"
    "What do you mean?" A'alan't 32 repeated.
    "Well..." she said looking up. "whoever came through and changed the information on the judge did alter the information on the judge's brothers."
    Ferris let out a sharp, annoyed groan.
    "Then how is it any better than the judge's entry?" Ferris demanded.
    "Because they only deleted the info." she responded with a joyous grin.
    Again, they found themselves just staring at the little Cadrax.
    "How is that any different?" Ferris asked. "Or useful?"
    Illiquina's face darkened.
    "Actually, it's very useful." She quickly spat. "The judge's article was deleted and altered. His brothers only had specific segments removed and nothing else."
    "Or redacted, if you will." she added as an after thought.
    "How is that-" Ferris began.
    "Oh for the love of-! You really don't understand how your archive servers store information, do you?" she spat.
    "Illiquina." A'alan't 32 interjected once more with a warning in her tone.
    "Oh fine!"
    "Treat us as if we know nothing." Ferris quipped.
    "Like that would be hard." she snapped.
    Illiquina straightened herself up and took a deep breath, setting the datapad to the side for a moment.
    "Look: the archives are meant to store information." Illiquina started. "Meaning that, unless it has a good reason to, it doesn't simply purge information."
    "Information like 'old records', perhaps?" A'alan't 32 offered.
    "Precisely."
    "So you're saying that deleting something isn't a good enough reason to purge it from the archives?" Darrian asked, sounding utterly confused.
    "No! With multi-thread archiving, deleting something is just the beginning!" she said more excited than annoyed now. "If anything it's really just a hindrance."
    "I don't get it." Darrian said.
    "Me either." added Ferris.
    Illiquina stared at them with a look of complete derision.
    "Like I said: me know nothing." Ferris quickly shot out.
    Illiquina groaned under her breath.
    "Deleting is just the first level of the multi-thread purge in these systems. It removes the information from being readily displayed but it doesn't actually get rid of it. Unless the actual articles were altered...changed to reflect new information...none of the information in the stored backups is going to change."
    "In short," she continued. "If I can dig into the backup servers, I can pull out all of the information about our judge's dear old brothers."
    Darrian stared at the little Cadrax in awe. She was small and unassuming but she very well might be the most impressive one of the group.
    "Tha-that's incredible." stammered Darrian.
    "Damn straight."
    "What do you need from us?" asked A'alan't 32.
    "Absolutely nothing." she retorted. "Unless you know how to manually bypass 768 bit encryption or know how to plant a worm that will bypass security and draw out their database backups without triggering something?"
    "Do what now?"
    "That's what I thought." she said, scooping up her datapad.
    "How long should it take?" asked Darrian.
    "A while." Illiquina offered. "It might be worth heading home at this point. I'm going to keep working and let you know when I've made some headway. Very well might be a cycle."
    "Good luck." Ferris offered.
    Illiquina snorted and disappeared out into the hall.
        And with nothing better to do, the group said their goodbyes and made their way to their respective homes. That night, for the first time in a while, Darrian wasn't thinking of the humans or what was going on in their Sol system. His thoughts were racing with the possibilities with what Illiquina might find.

 ===

Next Chapter (Coming Soon!)
Previous Chapter
Start at the Beginning

=== 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 26


    "What was that today?" Ferris demanded, glancing at Illiquina.
    They were once again in the darkened meeting room, joined by A'alant 32 and Darrian, standing in a small semi-circle. While there was a touch more planning than the last time around, they had still elected to keep the lights off and the door locked.
    Don't want someone thinking we're up to something. Illiquina had said.
    What? Like we're not at this point? Ferris had retorted.
    That hadn't gone over well given Ferris's annoyance and Illiquina's barely contained rage.
    Not five minutes later, it looked like they were about to start fighting again.
    "What do you mean by that?" Illiquina snapped back. "That damned 'bot is a lying piece of-"
    "No, no, no." Ferris quickly backtracked. "I'm not talking about your eloquent tantrum earlier today."
    "TANTRUM?!" Illiquina's entire upper body flushed.
    Despite her diminutive stature, Illiquina looked like she very well may try to tear Ferris clean out of his robotic exosuit.
    "Enough." A'alan't 32 stated firmly. "I've had enough of your fighting recently."
    "She started it." Ferris grumbled.
    A'alan't 32 pointed a single, transparent blue digit at him.
    "Are we done?" she asked flatly.
    "Yes." they both answered in conjunction.
    "But I don't understand." Illiquina interjected quickly. "What happened after I left?"
    The group took a few moments to explain everything to Illiquina. They went over the sudden change in tone. The strange observations that the judge somehow thought something different would happen and that it seemed like he somehow felt responsible for the deaths of the humans. They ended by recounting his sudden 'Insufficient Data' comment and how he near about fled the conference room.
    "He's a dirty liar." Illiquina griped. "Covering his tracks."
    "I'm not so sure." Darrian said hesitantly.
    "He's a robot." Ferris observed. "Sure, an old robot designed with the capability to learn...but still just a robot. He's got a base programming. He shouldn't be capable of doing something as implicit as outright misdirection."
    "Well, clearly he is." she snapped.
    A'alan't 32, who had taken and settled in a nearby chair during the earlier discussion, seemed to glance back over the table. Much like the old judge did earlier, it was as if she was rewatching the hologram of the altered human.
    "That doesn't make sense." A'alan't 32 said quietly.
    "Than what do you think it is?" Illiquina demanded.
    A'alan't 32 glanced over to the small Caldrax and considered her for a moment before glancing back.
    "I don't know."
    They stood in silence for a moment. In the low light, they all looked distracted. Concerned. Even Illiquina whose voice burned with rage still looked more upset than she did angry.
    Something didn't add up.
    "What's the old judge's programming?" Darrian asked, thinking out loud.
    "Come again?" Illiquina responded.
    "You said that he shouldn't really be able to do something like lie. It wouldn't be within the realm of his programming." he responded, motioning towards Ferris. "But what if it was. So again..."
    "What's his programming?" Ferris echoed Darrian.
    "Who knows?!" growled Illiquina. "All of that information was deleted! Did you forget the last time we were here? All we know is whatever is in that damned file!"
    "He's a diplomat." she started to count off. "He's a robot. He's part of a larger team of-"
    Illiquina suddenly went blank.
    "-of other robots...with the same purpose..."
    Darrian looked at her sideways.
    "Yea? We know that."
    "No." she said, her entire mood flipping in an instant. "No. no. no. no."
    Illiquina fished out her datapad out of seemingly nowhere and began tapping away on it furiously. Darrian couldn't help but wonder where she'd stowed it because he couldn't remember her coming in with it.
    "What is it?" Ferris asked, clearly confused.
    There was no response. Simply incessant tapping.
    "Illiquina?" A'alan't 32 asked.
    No answer.
    They stood there staring at the little Cadrax in silence as she pounded away on the datapad. Seconds drew to moments in utter quiet, filled only by 'taptaptaptap'.
    Just as Darrian was about to ask again, Illiquina let out a cheer.
    "YES!" she shouted far too loud. "Yes! Yes! Yes!!!"
    "What?" Ferris asked, clearly annoyed by the antics.
    "I have a way to figure out what the old judge was programmed for!"
    "What?" Darrian said, taken aback. "How? The archives were altered."
    "His brothers." she said with a growing smile. "We still have information on the other robots that he was a part of! We can figure out his real purpose!"

===

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter
Start at the Beginning

=== 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 25


    The old judge stood there quietly, his eyes playing across the council. He seemed as if he was thinking what to say but the words simply wouldn't come to him.
    Not thinking. Processing. Darrian thought to himself as if that distinction meant something.
    His gaze drifted back to the blank space where the hologram of the altered human had been before finally speaking.
    "Not that." he said with surprising softness in his tone.
    "Then what?" Ferris demanded, not nearly as harsh or aggressively as Illiquina before him, but plenty firm.
    The robot continued to look past the ambassadors as if he was seeing the images stilling playing out before him.
    "I'm not sure." he uttered quietly. "When I had originally considered the idea of the humans and Guillae interacting, I was deeply excited. I hadn't heard or remembered a water-based lifeform like humans interacting with the Guillae on a close personal level."
    Darrian felt a twinge of surprise.  
    Remembered? Shouldn't all of that information be stored? Flawless and infallible?
    "But with the Guillae's constant thirst for water...the way they absorb it, use it, and change it into something great and beautiful even if it's parasitic in nature..." the old judge continued. "I suppose I expected something a bit more elegant."
    "Symbiotic, perhaps." he said with an expression somewhere between sad smile and a frown of regret.
    A surprising emotional response for an automaton.
    "Why would you expect that, judge?" A'alan't 32 asked, her tone matching the softness in his.
    "I-I don't know." he responded, finally looking away from the blank air above the holographic imager to match gazes with A'alan't 32.
    "Strange for a 'bot to not understand." Ferris said in a derisive tone.
    "Enough." Ugul warned.
    "No. He's right." the old judge said quickly. "Upon closer examination, I'm confused by my own calculations."
    "What do you mean?" Darrian asked.
    "My belief was garnered from a preconceived consideration that the Guillae were a relatively peaceful species that were generally beneficial while unintentionally damaging." the old judge said with a glance towards Darrian.
    A'alant 32 and Darrian traded glances. They both looked surprised as, for the first time, this information sounded the same as to what A'alan't 32 had shared with him.
    "That flies in the face of everything you've ever told us about them." Ugul noted.
    The old judge's expression seemed to darken and go blank. Only his eyes twitched and shuddered. It was as if he were recollecting. Considering.
    "You're not wrong." he said after a few moments of silence.
    They looked around the table at each other. A'alan't 32 in particular looked surprised, if not distressed, and her full attention was on the old robot.
    "Ambassadors." the old judge said in a notably louder, more determined tone. "I must apologize to all of you. In my haste and excitement, my miscalculations may have lead to the death or worse of those humans. I may finally be reaching my termination date."
    Darrian sat back surprised at the blunt straightforwardness.
    "Why would you think that, judge?" A'alan't 32 questioned.
    "It's quite clear that I am missing previous variables. My thought process has produced faulty considerations regarding a clearly hostile race and my preconceived notions that something beneficial would occur has lead to deaths."
    "Sir. You've never given us the idea that the Guillae were anything but hostile." Darrian stated with as much control as he could muster in his voice. "Why would you have ever thought otherwise?"
    "More than that." A'alan't 32 quickly added. "You had no hand in the humans finding the Guillae body. Our single goal has been to research while maintaining the quarantine. Why would you think it was somehow your fault that the humans died?"
    One again, the judge seemed to stand still for a very long time. Thinking. Considering. Deciding.
    Processing.
    Finally, after an extended period of building silence, just as Darrian was considering to check if the robot had completely malfunctioned, the old judge responded.
    "Insufficient Data." the old judge said in the most robotic voice he had ever heard from the unit.
    The council just stared in shock.
    "My apologies." the old judge quickly added, regaining his normal tone. "Ambassadors. You must excuse me."
    He quickly began making his way towards the door before stopping briefly.
    "If you contact the Merrenian embassy, they may be able to acquire another intermediary on short notice. It would seem I must deal with whatever-Well. Whatever this is." he said apologetically.
    Before anyone could think of something to say, he was gone, leaving them sitting alone in an empty conference room wondering what had just happened.


===

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter 
Start at the Beginning

===  

(Hello Lovelies. Hopefully I'm not saying too early, but 'there we go...getting back on track'. I also wanted to take a moment and say Thank you. I legitimately appreciate the kindness and well-wishing. While I wasn't looking for it, it certainly makes me feel warm inside and is comforting. Thank you.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Optic Neuritis



Hello Lovelies,

Once again another week passes, and once again I'm suddenly missing. I want to apologize but this time I also want to give a more detailed explanation.

As it were, I ended up in the hospital once again.

However, rather than just telling you I was there, I feel you deserve a little bit more of an explanation. I suffer from an inflammatory disorder that has been tormenting me for a few years now. Most often, it results in what's calling 'Myofascial Syndrome', which is a fancy way of saying I have chronic muscular pain; most commonly in my back and shoulders. It's regularly treated through steroidal injections and interventions, but it's one of those things you just have to live with. This is most commonly related to my sudden disappearances although there have been exceptions.

However, this last Thursday, I woke up with pain in my left eye. I didn't think much of it at the time, pain being relatively normal for me and it wasn't the first time. Probably just slept weird and had my eye open or something. I thought. However, on my drive to work, I suddenly lost vision in that eye. From there, you can guess where I headed.

Arriving at the hospital, they quickly realized that my left eye was not dilating and, when it was, it was doing so very poorly. While there, I was subjected to a number of tests including several MRI's, blood tests, and examinations. I also got to see an optometrist and, after even more tests, he's concluded that I'm likely suffering from Optic Neuritis.

In short, it's relatively rare condition that results in inflammation of the optic nerve. It most often is associated with those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, however it does happen to those with inflammatory disorders. Read: me.

So, while I get to go back and deal with the optometrist for more tests over the course of the next two weeks, that's the current belief. If it is the case, I have one of three possibilities. One) My left eye will improve on its own. Two) I get to undergo a steroidal treatment to help my eye heal; a process I'm already familiar with and don't react well to...but can be managed. Or Three) I permanently lose vision in my left eye.

This is not meant to make any of you feel bad for me, but simply give you a more detailed explanation as to my disappearance. I intend to continue working on Xenophobia and HOPEFULLY maintain it on a regular schedule. However, I felt it was much more important to me personally that you all understand why I haven't maintained my promised schedule. You deserve better and I wanted to give you that.

I hope everyone else is well. I'm working on Xenophobia and, if it's not posted tonight, it will be Monday or Tuesday. Be safe and I love you all.

- RB

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?"


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.

===

Next Chapter (Coming Soon!)
Previous Chapter 
Start at the Beginning

=== 

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