I don’t have much to say, this time. No real changes, just more fleshing out of characters and the Undergrowth. ❤
Right Wing Utopia (The Novelette or 2k more words)
Maduenu continued, “We lost one of our technical experts, goddess rest her soul, but you would be able to fill the role perfectly. Unless, of course, you do not wish to associate yourselves with us. However, I can make you one promise. We will not interfere with your personal growth and identity. All we ask is for your unique brand of comradery and fulfillment of your assignments. If you accept this, we will reactivate your VAUX chip, and allow you access to the necessary information to bring you up to speed on every detail.”
Alethea had finished her relieved emotional outburst by drying her eyes, and began to nod, “Yes, oh my, yes.” It was the only response she could muster after feeling the reaper’s icy grip tightening around her over so many years. The androgynous battle-hardened and scared onyx form before her seemed larger than life, an effigy from which to draw inspiration, smiled at her which made Alethea smile back and shiver ever so slightly. The person before her closed their eyes and looked up slightly focusing just above Alethea’s crown, and she felt her head begin to tingle and warm slightly. A comforting sensation, warm and soothing, pulsed through her body as the chip inside of her mind began to reactivate. She could almost feel the knowledge flooding her mind and her muscle’s coordination and endurance improve. She was awakened once more.
As the intel began to stream in, she looked around, and the details of those around her began to display. Standing before her was Maduenu Ifeanyi, twenty-eight, they/them pronouns, 180 cm tall. As the computer began to recognize her brain’s patterns once more, the notification advanced to reveal biographical information. The new notification stated that Maduenu had graduated both the top university in Sector Alpha, but not just once. They completed training in propulsion systems, astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, and condensed matter physics. After the first two doctorates, they had been drafted and deployed to Mars as a saboteur to destroy a base there. No details of the mission were available, but Alethea recognized the year. 2070. That year, two rival corporations were attempting to achieve glory for their respective home nations. The world held its breath as the groundwork for the next and last superpower was being laid before their eyes. The Chinese had been the first to the dusty red planet, and they already had their base up and running long before the Nautilus arrived to setup shop for the United States and her money. The world thought the results were final, and that the damage had been done. They believed that the war for the future had been won, but that was merely because few anticipated the lengths the “former” owner of the globe would go to in an attempt to save face. The world had begun to scream just as Alethea was about to blow out her 13th birthday candles. An urgent alert from the president had been issued, and it had sent the wi-com device, willingly attached to everyone’s face for visual and auditory feedback, into a frenzy. The alert blared loudly as a notification scrolled across the screen: Casualties on Mars. 128 dead, 42 missing. Nautilus ship, base, and crew OK. Unknown cause. Chinese Declare War.
It had been a grave distraction from the festivities, and though she was young, Alethea couldn’t help but feel a sense of attachment and loss. She was young and naïve, and did not believe that science should be subjected to the external forcing of nationalism. However, it didn’t seem to her like the people in charge cared much about that. Such human bias made for a good story, and kept people interested. Rivalry brought so many people together on Earth, and few could imagine any other way. So, while some unquestioningly celebrated the newfound luck of the United States that put their team back on top, she remained skeptical and mourned for the lives lost that were there to pursue knowledge regardless of risk or influences. Knowing the past of her new friend made her shiver for she knew that she was looking at the destroyer of worlds. She did not judge them, because she knew that there could have been many factors at play that she need never know that forced her companion into such an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Alethea continued to scan the notification. The date of their comrade’s return was also the date of their deployment to Sector Gamma, which the southern half of the Asiatic continent was renamed to during the war. It was kept, as it was a useful tool to eliminate national identity and patriotism which allowed for the ushering in of a singular cultural identity under the G.A.E. banner. The notification showed their insertion point as being 31 N and 121 E, likely through the ports of Shanghai.
She could recall the town being cleaned off the face of planet Earth. It was the detonation site of the first Babbling Brook, a devastating implosion device whose radius of effect could be easily be tuned remotely or programmed. The toaster-sized device could be delivered in a variety of ways, but by far the most surprising was sneaking someone in, and allowing them to perform the operation alone. The device itself attracted little attention, and allowed for the operative to plant it wherever they like and retreat to safety before removal of the area. The little objects with large appetites earned their nickname by their peaceful auditory emissions as they began to ionize the area around them, and their strength began to increase. Little was known about why it sounded the way it did, but humans not knowing something didn’t prevent things from behaving as they do. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop people from speculating or forming hypotheses. Perhaps it was the sound of everything within the device’s hemisphere of influence being slowly sucked into the Cherenkov blue abyss, forever to be locked away behind unfamiliar doors within the machinery. Maybe it was the weeping of the universe as another atrocity was committed with its own natural laws. No one knew. In fact, no one really cared. It worked. It did its job. It ended the war swiftly. No one cared to bother with trivial details, such as they were. It was only after this deed was performed that Maduenu returned for further schooling. Below their military and school information was a note for acknowledgements. They were credited with the invention of the Flat Entangled Emission Drive and the weaponized version, the Babbling Brook. The former was just a fancy way of saying that humans had been able to harness the power of small two-dimensional black holes and use their radiative emissions as a way to give a much needed boost to smaller spacecraft as compared to ion drives or solar sails of the past. The dangers of operating such a drive was great, and it was only used on crewless voyages for supplies, probes and the like. The drive had a failure rate of 1 in 20, and when it failed it failed spectacularly. It would swallow whatever it was carrying whole and dissipate relatively quickly, which was what sparked inquiry into its weaponization. The first invention had likely been an act of goodwill and faith in humanity, but the latter was simply the result of money greasing the right palms and “loving” coercion. They had been so young, gone so much further, and seen so much more than it seemed likely in a single human lifetime, but here they were. Still one against many, outnumbered many times over, but fighting to keep their faith in humanity strong, because it was all that was left.
Alethea began to examine the other individuals that were still working around her. As she settled on a target, the display changed to Bel Haverstock, twenty-two, he/him pronouns, 191 cm. The page turned, and showed a B.S. from a noteworthy school in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in life support systems. He had served in Sector Beta and notes indicated he was a bit of a Swiss army knife of sorts, as he enjoyed weaponsmithing of all sorts. She turned and eyed the person to Bel’s left, and their information popped up with Alexei Lesya, thirty-three, xe/xem pronouns, 163 cm. Once more, the next module of information revealed the person behind xyr details. Xe had a Ph. D. from the same university as Maduenu, but with a specialization in artificial intelligence and neural networks. No military experience was on record, but the acknowledgement pinned them as the creator of the ReSYNC pod.. or was it pods? No matter what it was considered, the usefulness was obvious, as it greatly reduced the amount of space a large group took up simply by living.
The next glance was to Alethea’s left, and more information became available. Rebecca Clark, twenty, she/her pronouns, and 166 cm. No formal education was listed, but her acknowledgement was for being a remarkable artist and being quick to learn new duties. The person to the right was Ekkehard Lorenz, thirty, he/him, and 180 cm. Military experience was limited to Sector Alpha, and they had a bachelor’s in chemistry with a doctorate in general physics. Their acknowledgement was regarding their defense of Sector Alpha during the last ditch attempt by the falling neo-superpower to turn the world into a burning cinder. Unfortunately, their air force could not counter the deadly precision of the crewed and automated turret system that patrolled every conceivable route of attack. Ekkehard alone was credited with decimating about 62% of the invading fleet clearing them from his machine’s hellish sights without remorse only duty.
Maduenu began to speak, “I’m sure that you hear the other comrades elsewhere, it’s hard to miss when the bunker is so good at carrying the discussions throughout. However, you will have very little interaction with them beyond seeing one another about. I don’t recommend much interaction beyond this.”
“Why? I’ve never been able to interact with many people, especially not people that understand,” Alethea had stood up rather quickly, reacting to the least of her concerns without much thought as to why, and looked quizzically at the figurehead.
“We generally have a very short lifespan,” the veteran continued, “Many of these people that you will pass are soon to become ghosts of your past. Nothing more than a fluctuation in your memory that briefly disturbed the space near you. This is the price we pay for our attempt to exist. We survive only as long as we’re able to stay one step ahead, and we concern ourselves with the 6-person groups we are assigned to. We cannot be concerned with what happens in other units, as it can be a drain on the psyche, and burden one’s skills.”
It was cold, but Alethea sheepishly looked away, because it was entirely true. Even if they hadn’t been Undergrowth members, they would still be hunted until they no longer existed. If it could be found that a person was defective, they would be eliminated without question or reason. It was the natural order, now. It was as tradition dictated for so many years. Try as they might to fight it, many of them were doomed to be memories that would establish a future they would never be able to exist in and enjoy. They were giving their time and lives to ensure the survival of their own slice of humanity.