Oizys First Contact

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NS Nation (Prefix): The Morthanveld Polity of
Client Tech Level: A2
Client Leader: Ancient One
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Re: Oizys First Contact

Post by Xah » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:08 am

The Advocate watches the unfolding conflict on the world below with a mixture of professional interest and personal distaste. Violence and aggression was an unfortunate facet of life for most species, especially predatory ones, or those with dominance based hierarchical structures. Nexus Law had been created in part to account for this proclivity, with Conflict Zones designed to limit the effects and eliminate excess collateral damage. War on a world such as Phorcys, with its delicate ecosystem and borderline habitability was even worse, but the Owner saw now that their arrival was almost guaranteed to provoke this reaction with the oizys; their evolutionary heritage and psychological make-up, whilst essential for their survival, was not well adapted to handling what had been termed 'Outside Context Problems' - the kind of event most civilisations encountered at least once, in the same way sentences encountered a period.

"Confederation of Swarms have aggressed against you. Retaliate-destroy them, ensure survival-loyalty of New Axis and benefit-furtherance of Nexus Collective"

The Advocate returned its primary attention to the room, signalling a request to the Nexus for cloaked recon drones to observe the ongoing conflict. The debate between the two factions in the room continued for a little longer.

"...But Owners, T'tu, I't'i'i - can liberate our Swarms. Only we desire peace-progress with alien intelligence."

"The Nexus shall remain neutral in this conflict," the Advocate said to both parties. "Your status as Client is not yet determined as it was not officially granted but I will continue to represent your interests to the Nexus until the Client faction is resolved. As such, requests for assistance to Nexus Clients cannot be officially sanctioned and will not be relayed through Nexus communication channels. If Clients wish to get involved, they may request through myself, but have a high likelihood of being denied unless they largely consist of aid.

"Your species has shown itself capable of basic levels of orbital access, so we shall re-locate the Nexus Gate an intermediate circular orbit of an altitude of 2,500 kilometres around Phorcys. As the appointed Advocate of your world, I hereby declare that whichever faction in the ongoing conflict can create and maintain consistent access to this orbit shall be granted official Client status. Consistent access consists of the infrastructure and technical capability to raise a crewed vessel from your surface to match the Gate's orbit, and return to the surface, with a success rate of no less than one loss for every twenty launches, and a frequency of at least five launches per orbital period. The faction that I deem capable of sustaining this shall be given Client status.

"If this can be maintained for five orbital periods, then re-location of the Gate to the surface may be negotiated. Should the conflict on the surface render all factions incapable of attaining orbital spaceflight, then criteria may be altered. The Nexus reserves the right to change the conditions of this offer at any point, without notification.

"Once a faction has succeeded in obtaining official Client status, then that faction shall be given all the rights and privileges associated with being a Client of the Nexus, including negotiation with other Clients for any assistance said Clients are willing to provide. As this is a non-martial contest, we encourage all factions on Phorcys to desist from violence to focus resources on the task." The Advocate didn't think its request for the cessation of violence would even be acknowledged, let alone acted on, but it didn't hurt to ask.

"More vessels have been allocated to return to your world, the barrier between the two factions shall remain for your safety. Please signal where you wish to be relocated to and it shall be done."

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Nexus Client: The Confederation of Swarms
Client Tech Level: A1
Client Leader: Confederal Consensus
Client Councillor: 0992904-Interlocutor
Client Species: Oizys
Location: United Kingdom
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Re: Oizys First Contact

Post by Phorcys » Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:18 pm

The Owner Vessel

3100441-Emissary has been kept segregated from the party since the declaration of secession. A spacious chamber at first, for only minutes until its agitation made it clear the oizys prefer small spaces. The environment is tuned to reassuring Phorcys norms. A broiling reactive mix of chlorine, ammonia and sulphur dioxide, dense, murky, and refractive. Acids form like dew and pool in burning puddles on the floor. The light is dim, almost pitch black to the eyes of the Mitaku onlookers, but stronger in the near infrared. No obstacle is posed to the Owners' instruments of course.

It has spent weeks here now, in their care. A unique opportunity for the Owners to observe an oizys alone. They have learnt seemingly most of what they can about interaction between conspecifics from the hours the delegation was together - but on display here is a unfiltered glimpse into the alien psyche. An isolated oizys. A scientific first. The Owners eagerly record 3100441-Emissary's every behaviour.

It is a resounding disappointment. But that reveals something in itself.

When introduced to the chamber 3100441 gave the environment a rapid but evidently thorough once over. Multisegmented arms slithering over every inch of surface in careful increments, trawling back and forth along parallel, invisible paths as if running transects. And then - shutdown.

In the weeks since the oizys has solely occupied a single spot in the middle of the chamber, equidistant from every entrance. It is not dormant - its every limb tense and swollen with latent hydrostatic energy. It rotates on an axis, almost constantly, clicking its cloacae at a constantly shifting range of frequencies - and its setae bristle with agitated vigilance when it senses the Advocate approaching through the walls. It is highly alert at all times. Even when torpor seems to take hold of it - the closest it comes to anything resembling sleep - it is never for more than a few hours, and even then it is easily riled by the slightest approach.

The oizys acknowledges their Advocate when it enters the chamber. Keeps its distance, but accepts the sustenance offered. Makes assurances of repayment - 'utility' - for its keep. And yet then returns to its equidistant spot, unmoving again save for the rippling tension in its arms, the scanning motion as it surveys its surroundings like a machine. Very occasionally it repeats its tactile survey - in almost precisely the same order, increment for increment.

Questions are posed.

Oizys intelligence is obvious. An empirical fact. But intelligent beings in confinment, even smart animals - they pace, or vocalise, or chew their fur, anything to provide distraction.

Whereas the oizys' mechanical behaviour would be expected of something hardwired, something barely conscious. Some lower order of arthropod or molluscoid perhaps - which in fact, its paradoxically uncephalised nervous structure most resembles. Nothing like a cohered brain resolves from all their scans. Only a spiderweb of scarcely connected cortices. The Advocate consults with Hub, searching perplexedly for any precedent in the Owners' database. The oizys is a miracle of evolution - but it should also be - and entirely appears to be, judging from much of its behaviour - as mindless as an insect.

Does it even get bored of its vigil?

The Advocate keeps it informed of the situation down below, updating 3100441 on the progress of his people's war based on intercepted communications. It is a methodical inquirer. Always asking for clarification. Details on particular troop movements or activities. The Advocate sees no reason not to oblige - the visible agitation at the ever worsening news is the most affect the creature has displayed.

It also leads to the first surprise of the observation.

"Honoured-emissary-friend" it stridulates, as the Advocate turns to leave on one occasion. "This one cannot return. Phonotaxis. Will not survive. Request-implore retainment. Can provide utility - translation. Operable-proficient in all languages of Confederation. Can provide utility - tactical-dialogic insight. Possess six orbital periods of emissarial experience in lesser polities of Near-West, and seventeen in Meridian. This one is of purpose-use".

It obviously struggles to, but the oizys parts the nest of its limbs and bares its flank, lowering its central mass in a documented gesture of submission. The Advocate searches for a response.

The West

Where buzzing clouds of parasites fester above thrashing shoals of necrophagic bloatworms, spraying their airborne larvae from the swamps in convulsive geysers of amniotic slime. Where gnarled black fronds rise like the rotten, grasping fingers of the drowned - swelling grotesquely with the dismal light on the horizon - and shrivelling like the desiccated things they are when the throes of Phorcys’ volatile star subside, the perpetual gloom descending in its wake.

Yet these rotting mires are everything. Everything left. The true wealth of the Western Kin-Leagues. For rich though the Masters of the Meridian are in minerals, materiel, and soldiers to die for them, in such times as these even they go hungry. But not the Masters of the West. Not when the most fecund ecosystems of Phorcys are their domain. Most of these regions have been denuded of life by massive intercontinental bombardment in the mere cycles since the war began, but that only increases the value of what agri-territory remains.

Millions of course will starve, before the Kin-Leagues can reap the predominance this position will give them. But that can only be allowed once the war is brought to its conclusion. There must be nutritional reserves in the interim. For the Western slave-army fights on its gizzards. And so beneath the acidlogged wastes wind endless warrens, fetid labyrinths of charred volcanic earth, carpeted in quivering masses of nutrient slime, tended to by thousands of vat-grown agri-slaves scuttling through the miasmal dark. It was once an efficient and judicious system. Surface radiation and carrion fumes seep through the rock and soil, carrying the taint of the necrotic swampgrounds above - and even processed and chlorinated the air that they breathe is poison. Genetic material is taken from survivors alone, so that brief generation by generation, the Kin-Leagues' castrated stock still evolves. The next batch born larger. Hardier. Stronger.

But even the pinnacle suffer now. Cycle after cycle no rest has been permitted, no quarter for the exhausted given. The sleepspaces lie empty. The slave-burrows given over to staging posts, stockpiles and makeshift armouries. For the walls quake to the coming of an army. The Kin-Leagues' last line of elite soldiery, veterans of the resource wars reawoken from decades of metabolic dormancy, now readying to face the Meridians they marched alongside - but ravenous first. They gorge through the West's crisis stores to fill their depleted energy reserves. Thick limbed oizys running rampant through the warrens, tearing the slime from the walls, tearing apart even the slaves themselves in knotted tunnel fights where the nutrient scum runs thin. Their ruinous indulgence must be tolerated. For it has come to this. With the enemy abroad in these very chambers the survival of the Western Swarms is at stake. Annihilation or utter dominion - the outcome depends on their vigor and ferocity in the tunnelgrounds alone.

Deeper beneath these warrens still, where the tramp of ten thousand pereiopods dies out, the oizys-drilled tunnels breach into halls of black stone hollowed by primordial magma flows, ancient beyond the delvings of any oizys civilisation. From these abyssal cave systems the mateborn of the Kin-Leagues rule and lair - the dark silence belying all the chaos they have unleashed above. The unforged passages wind ever down and deeper into the timeless caverns of the planet’s primordial youth; places untouched by light since the eons when the planet formed. In these forgotten chambers false pacts are forged, meaningless pledges made with fleeting allies as the Kin-Leagues direct the course of conflict, as much against each other as their nominal foe. But it is deep within the deepmost caverns - where lies the great sanctum-capital of the Kin-League Phonotaxis, architects of this final war - that 0055217-Executor ultimately presides over the fate of every Swarm.

The elder oizys sinks into the bubbling release of a hydrochloric bath, letting his limbs flate flaccid and his pereiopods drain. It is the first time in cycles he has been free from the presence of unkin - save for the castrated, nerve-broken slaves that stand silent and motionless in attendance - but the visibly withered, lobotomised sub-oizys do not even register as a threat to the deepest subconscious rudiments of his perceptual system. Certainly not after all he has faced. Since first strike he has had to fight his own war of words. Ascertaining the support of ambitious commanders, placating the caution of rival Executors, even deceiving their perfidious and temporary allies to the South. But the pieces are all in place now. It remains only to see how they fall. So with practiced calm he releases the tension from every segment of his body, presenting an air of unperturbed surety before his agitated, assembled kin. Inwardly he seethes. Silently assessing the stream of strategic data tapped out against his cuticle via teletactofeed. Circuitry thrumming with ever more tenuous strategies for survival - adjusting and qualifying second by second as more information rattles in. His attention subtly but totally directed at the dual problems of reallocating blame for this rapidly unfolding disaster, or failing that, how to reallocate himself from the West alive.

The slightest stirring of his gizzards is all that betrays his focus. Few oizys have such mastery over their bodies to conceal an internal state - but then none rise to the bloody peak of a Kin-League's rule without abilities beyond the scope of their conspecifics. Those may not be the brute strength or speed or savantism of a Meridian, but they represent a more complex, integrated meta-intelligence far beyond the instinct-bound wiring of the foe's eugenically 'perfected' specimens. An intelligence just advanced enough beyond the oizys baseline to approach the beginnings of an imagination - just enough to consider in all the more vivid detail than the comprehension of an ordinary oizys could allow what horror awaits him in capture. By either the Meridians or worse - his now disillusioned and fear-driven, furious allies.

In such straits, not even his practiced facade is enough to cool his symbionts bristling panic. "These ones ready-await command" he is told with rattling urgency. "Sire-Master must command!” at increasing pitch.

0055217-Executor's siblings and scions cluster around the rim of the bubbling pool, begging for him to grant them the illusion of control. Scuttling slave-stock serve them with a menagerie of cannibalistic delicacies and addictive hydroxyl injections. His most prized specimens, fine-limbed and tight-cuticled, prostrate themselves to be mated at their pleasure - with catastrophe closing in there is no reason to retain his finest. But still 0055217's generously dispensed luxuries fail to calm their coiling limbs and flaring spiracles.

"Receive restitution-reward for efforts, honoured-valued-kin", he stridulates with a light and easy touch, trying to coax them, tone in bleak contrast to their stuttering chitters. "Our effort-endeavours complete"

"Complete?" 0056029-Prelator trills with panicked incredulity bordering on insubordination. "Enemy has breached fourth perimeter. All Sinusoid and Echopraxia veteran-reserves overwhelmed. This one's Kinguard impressed as tunnel-front commanders! Survived transit to Sanctum-Central only by chance. Executor must take responsibility-command!"

"Honoured-kin-sibling respected member of council, but will not presume-dare to question this one’s judgement again!” 0055217 rattles - and a true silence follows, for it is a rare risk of face for an Executor to raise his pitch, let alone at so close a relative as his brood-sibling. But a necessary one. With every condemning report from the tunnel-fronts their pheromonal signatures turn as surely as spoilt corpse meat. When the loyalty and resolve of even his closest kin stands palpably on a blade-edge, no breach of decorum is inconceivable. Yet of course - the same is true for them.

“Sibling-Master’s kin obey-follows” the oizys backs down, for now, lowering his forward limbs in concession. Apparently he teeters just on the blade-edge still. So 0055217 deigns to reach a pereiopod out and touch forgiveness, and 0056029-Prelator rises again, once the Executor’s authority is - at least temporarily - restored.

“This one not military commander" he patiently explains. "None present. Our purpose-use to establish preconditions for war, duty-task of Kin-Commanders to execute it. Interference drive-impelled by foolishness or fear. Trust-depend on specialisation"

There is of course another reason that 0055217-Executor has retreated from public leadership. Not merely respect for their specialists' military command. Yet it would not quieten his kin-circle's fears to reveal it. In truth, as the possibility - first of victory, now of survival - grows more remote, the Kin-Leagues' newfound unity falters with it. The Executors search for someone to bear the blame, and who among them will have forgotten that it was he who called for the convening of the elders for the first time since the Resource Wars. 0055217 who set all this in motion. Promising them dominion over all Phorcys-

“Kin-Commanders have failed us!” 0054118-Scion protests, stridulating at an almost discomforting pitch. "Projections predict-indicate imminent cascade-collapse on Eastern tunnel-fronts". Every teletactofeed in the room flickers into life, and a convulsive wave of chittering ripples across the chamber. All except the Executor writhe in dismay. "Fifth perimeter breach-fallen! Phonotaxis reserves engaged!"

"Hold-desist panic, loyal-kin" the Executor stridulates with two composed limbs, held taut but steady. "Preliminary objectives unattainable - this is ascertained. But negotiated conclusion achievable. Phonotaxis will render cost-commitment of total victory inexpendable. Meridian starve-concedes before possible. Recall - Meridian elite encircle-contained. Mass conscript assault suitable for rapid engagement-overwhelment - but not protracted warfare. Soon Western veterancy prevail-succeeds”.

In truth his kin-advisors may well be right. 0055217 too has lost confidence in Phonotaxis' complacent military command. But to be visible now, to take charge just in time to be forced to the negotiating chamber - would incur the unending hatred and rivalry of every Kin-League no matter the outcome. The truth he cannot confide to even his closest circle is that he hides. He is lying low like a cowardly unbroken slave, who slinks back into the mass more than willing for every oizys in his warren to be punished rather than to bear sole responsibility for his failing himself.

"Insufficient" echoes a familiar stridulatory tone down through the passage lock - and at first it does not set the Executor’s setae astir - it is one familiar - but also one that altogether does not belong here. And so alone it breaks 0055217's facade, makes the lymph swell in his cuticle, his cloacae contract and spiracles stutter, for in the instant he can read the cold calculation of the unthinkable in its terse two-armed clicks.

"Veterans reawoken at cost of own ration-reserves" 0194230-Habitat-Commander chitters, as he stalks into the sanctum, limbs rippling with latent force. "Mass-starvation in West no less inevitable than in Meridian"

"Explicate meaning of intrusion-interruption" 0055217 demands of his cousin. For a half-second he reaches a periopod with as much subtlety as possible for the monoblade sheathed in his cuticle harness - but even to raise the possibility of kin-violence would be a profanation that would void him of authority instantaneously. In that moment the Executor realises he can only hope 0194230’s intransigence will void him of his own before he is forced to make a desperate attempt for his life.

"You will be receiving emissaries" the traitor informs 0055217, and at the mention of unkin the Executor's two present Kinguards start towards the passage-lock - but immediate instinct gives way to hesitancy - their limbs quavering, the siblings unsure of whether they can assume defensive postures when their hierarchical superior does not.

“You betray kin” 0055217 accuses, his cousin’s intent evident now. The words set every hydrostat in the chamber squirming. The Kinguards rattle their electromitters in random directions, hiss their cloacae omnidirectionally, unconscious threat circuitry pushed to the limits of its comprehension. No oizys present has witnessed kin turn on kin in their lifespans. There is competition, to be sure, and corruption and favouritism for closer kin - but what could be more senseless than turning on the only conspecifics that wouldn't immediately mate one if they could? The oizys do not write histories, for yesterday's triumphs are immaterial to the senses next to the gratification that can be seized today - and that failing costs Phonotaxis now, as the Executor's finest Kinguard stutter their limbs in aimless, uncomprehending confusion. The calculation is clear. But the result cannot be parsed.

“Incorrect" 0194230 clicks, and from the momentary deflation of their pereiopods 0055217 discerns his own Kinguards are hanging on the reprieve this statement has given them. "You" the traitor explains - and the Kinguards writhe in discomposure again. "Your war costs everything. Only this one preserve-secures League’s future. Confers with Sinusoid. Negotiates concealment-escape of essential Phonotaxis conspecifics from occupied territories”

“Negotiation illegitimate-invalid. Executive Circle uninformed”

The traitor clicks and turns aside a forward pereiopod in a token gesture of apology, but he continues - “League-Commanders concur. Phonotaxis forces withdrawn. Defences Deactivated. Compliance-cooperation optimal survival strategy.

0055217 would burst into a frenzied rage - but he has only just lectured his siblings on the necessity of trusting in their Commanders’ specialisation.

“If military consensus campaign irreparable-” he grinds at a castigating low-pitched tone, desperate to uphold the illusion he has the authority to do so for even a moment more, “-if evacuation in progress, why has this one not been given precedence-priority? Elders will assess this lapse, Commander”

“Already have. Elders concur” 0194230 clicks coldly, “Nutritional reserves depleted. 76 percent of agri-territory destroyed. Cull required. First criterion agreed units which have perform-provided more detriment than utility”

The implication is clear.

“0055217's command proven maximally detrimental. War threatens Phonotaxis with extinction. But 0055217 will provide alternative utility. Sinusoid and Echopraxia permit escape of Phonotaxis vitals in accord-exchange for you. War claimed as conspiracy - conspiracy indicted on you. Peace with Meridian. Reintegration with Confederation of Swarms. Survival-escape of Phonotaxis. Sole-optimal choice. Calculation clear. All League-Commanders concur-”.

Before the second is up and the traitor has finished speaking, he has the Kinguard's electromitters wedged between his cuticle ridges - poised and primed to deliver a near-lethal voltage. The Executor’s Kinguards are undecided no more. In the end they are his brood-siblings, born fighting at his side, born to die just the same, and even if they have never raised a pereiopod against kin before the threat is maximally clear and an imprinted brood-ally comes far before a distant cousin.

0194230 deferentially retracts his pereiopods, coiling them back behind his central mass away from the Executor. He does not resist. But he does not need to.

The Emissaries have arrived.

The overpowering pheromonal stench hits 0055217-Executor first, and even his composition is nothing at the absolute horror of Meridians abroad in the innermost inviolate sanctums of his Kin. Purpose-bred Meridian assault troops, metres-spanning and monstrously-limbed, marching through the passage-lock alongside the Sinusoid soldiers who should have been fighting to the death to repel them.

And 0055217 echosenses the wiry form of 0020191-Executor in their midst.

“Traitor-wretch” the doomed master of Phonotaxis rattles out with abject, trilling hatred, at his cousin and his treacherous ally in equal measure. His Kinguard leap back to protect him, his siblings and spawn burst into an instant phalanx in front of him. It will delay the enemy only seconds when violence breaks out.

“0055217-Executor traitor-wretch” the Habitat-Commander heinously proclaims. “Traitor to Kin-League Phonotaxis, and to all Western Swarms. Traitor-” he continues, most mocking of all, “-to Confederation of Swarms”

“Supremacists fools to believe these lies of conspiracy” 0055217 rages, “all Leagues complicit!”

“Executor of Phonotaxis should know better than any” 0020191 - his eldest rival - retorts with barely concealed, trilling gratification, “Supremacists know. But Supremacists will believe what is constructive-advantageous to believe. Fabrication eases Western re-entry into Confederation’

"Is 0020191 certain-sure?"

0020191-Executor does not answer that. "This one acknowledges valued-honoured-leader's service-function to Western Swarms" he rattles with quick-limbed insincerity. "Decision made solely for mutual utility of all our Swarms”

“Mutual utility, Executor?" the Phonotaxite challenges. "0020191 observes address-protocol not from respect - only to sustain illusion-projection Sinusoid too will not lose everything, once surrender to Meridian complete"

His rival trills in a clear admixture of irritation at such open disrespect - and fear at the bristling Meridians that throng behind him, all too ready to realise 0055217's prediction the very moment their own masters release them from this false leash. As the Sinusoidal well knows. He knows. 0055217 has that satisfaction-gratification at least.

"0055217 requisitioned" 0020191-Executor replies with all trace of respect or deference suddenly gone from his tone. "Come".

Of course he does not.

"Does 0020191 believe he will survive dysfunctional eugenic anarchy they bring?" he replies instead - and as if on cue to prove his point the Meridians stalk forwards, enraged by his defiance, cloacae convulsing in rapid surveillance, limbs contorting between combat stances in confounding split-second intervals.

"0055217 resists then" 0020191 clicks, emotionless. "Futile-destructive. But irrelevant".

The Phonotaxis Executor's children rush forward to intercept the onrushing Meridians in a suicidal frenzy. His brood-siblings ring round him, cuticle to cuticle, chittering war-chords to the last as the enemy tear their way in seconds through to their ranks. Whatever could have been avoided, whatever compromise or reconciliation might have been achieved, their final moments are driven by purest brood instinct. For all the West's cybernetically engineered society has taken them on a divergent evolutionary path, they are still oizys. Still animal circuitry grown too complex and convoluted than ever was their evolutionary right.

They die unthinking.

From the overrun and conquered domes of Habitat-Vault 05, pouring chlorine blackened with smoke from a hundred bombardment wounds, a multi-frequency and omnidirectional transmission is broadcast. Officially a message to each of the fourteen Vaults that the fighting is over, but intended in truth for the Owners above all.

A grainy low-resolution recording of a carved symbol in oizys-visible light is transmitted - 'Confederation of Swarms' etched in Glyphic. Intended not for oizys eyespots but for alien eyes.

Communication to Vaults 01-14|Vault 05
Confederal Occupation Command [Identities Confirmed]
Timestamp 71.22.08|136.65

Message start_
+++Southern invasion repelled|Communications with East Continent restored|Western insurrection suppressed|Conspiracy within Kin-League Phonotaxis discerned|Conspirators responsible for attack on alien craft|Conspirators responsible for conflict instigation|Kin-League Phonotaxis deemed malignant|Confederal Occupation Command beginning excision with co-operation of all non-conspiratorial Kin-Leagues|Confederal relations with all non-conspiratorial Kin-Leagues restored|All combatants to cease operations|Report to nearest surface outpost for further orders and extraction+++

"Consensus required"

Over hardened and maximally encrypted backup comm-lines once secret to all but the Supremacists themselves, the unsleeping Masters of the Confederation confer once again. Their precise locations are now secrets in themselves. Signals are painstakingly rerouted and redirected between remote communications bases scattered across all Phorcys. Security verges on paranoiac at the most co-operative of times, but now none can be trusted. Allies no more than enemies.

"Resolution requisite before further communication with alien"

The Confederal Consensus numbers less than fourteen for the first time in generations. If the surviving Executors of the Kin-Leagues are ever readmitted as more than tributary vassals, it will not be for many cycles to come - and though the official proclamation claims otherwise the East Continent Technarchies remain dark on all channels. They did not participate in the treacherous insurrection to be sure, but it is abundantly clear that they have waited to see which side emerges victorious, and now are similarly divided on how to precede. They will not be enemies, nor vassals when they return - but if anything is certain it is that their disunity cannot be tolerated, nor left unspoken or unpunished.

"Possess window to enact-perform perennial necessity" 1613839-Supremacist trills with unbridled killing lust. "Total-conclusive extermination of West". The rapid convulsions of his cloacae are audible over the feed. "Inclusion in Confederation represents geo-military threat - security-intelligence weakness - and dysgenic-ideological contaminant. Hierarchy of Habitat-Vault 03 demand-proscribes final solution to these detriments"

"If possible, exterminatory solution optimal" 5790219-Politect concedes, clicking distinct, clear and careful, "but probable extermination impracticable". His determination not to offend the Meridian Hierarchies, their predominance in the Confederation more proven now than ever, is evident in every measured chord.

"All significant population centres under direct control of Occupation Command" the Meridian trills in high-pitched anger, exasperated by the protestation nonetheless.

"Kin-Leagues' surrender calculated" the Isthmian stutteringly explains. "To contain damage. To secure negotiated re-integration - essential-desirable against increasing risk of unconditional imposition. Total extermination incurs total resistance".

"Any resistance immaterial-ineffective. Western military inoperable - dysgenic-dysfunctional. Predominant fraction of Western population kinless, geno-morphologically randomised slaves produce-harvested by mass ectogenesis". The point is rewarded by a chorus of disgusted hisses from the Supremacists. "Once threat of punishment-suppression from Masters removed, individual operants possess no purpose-motive to fight. No kin-group interests to defend. Only individual survival. Optimal survival strategy to unresist"

"Concur" chimes another Meridian. "Disable environmental defences. Override life support controls. Resistance insignificant. Mass death attainable with minimal direct intervention-expenditure"

"-and remainder starve without sufficient personnel to tend hydroponic reserves" a third Supremacist trills eager accord.

Though the East Isthmus Consortium stands more united as a single polity than the fractious Meridian Hierarchies ever have, none of the three Politects dare raise their limbs in protest. Uniquely among the members of the Consensus they communicate from the very same hidden chamber deep within the tortured fissures of the Isthmian magma caves - and at once all their feeds cut out. Long moments pass, each pregnant with their weakness as - and as every Supremacist can guess - recriminations of cowardice and duplicity fly between them in the flesh.

But "so does Meridian" echoes a stridulatory tone that all fear - Supremacist and Politect alike, and the Isthmian feeds snap back on in unison - eager to reap the authority the seeming agreement of the Master of 01 affords. "Without trained Western oizyspower to operate reserve agri-complexes, Meridian ration-reserves depleted within twenty cycles. Projections predict-indicate minimum of sixty required to enact population cull concurrent with order-retention across all Habitats"

"Ship excess population to West under pretence-claim of agricultural labour" 1613839-Supremacist boldly counters. "Abandon. Excess starves in West. Then disorder-violence only abets extermination. West must be destroyed!"

Maybe. Maybe to let them live will one day doom the Confederation, as it almost did these past cycles, but no matter - the Politects cannot allow it. Without the counterweight of Western power to check the Meridian's predominance, the East Isthmus' long preserved independence from the Hierarchies would falter. Their closest ally the Meridian may be, but this is oizys politics, and that fact would earn no more mercy than the West is receiving now the instant the power and population balance shifts. They would become as subordinate to the Supremacists in victory as the Kin-Leagues are in defeat.

"Insufficient infrastructure" the Supremacist of 01 denounces the notion, to the Isthmians' chittering relief. "Marinefleet destroyed, landfleet depleted. Kin-Leagues will discern intent and total resistance begins"

"Sufficient window to alleviate cull impact on Meridian before intent discover-discerned. Total cull displacement in single operation unnecessary objective-aim"

"Window insufficient. Dysgenic ideology - but not fools"

Back and forth the undisputed masters of the Confederation dispute, the Politects reduced to mere listeners. But with mass starvation imminent in mere days, the future and freedom of their Swarms at stake and the Meridians proffering no solution that does not seal their destruction - one finally finds the will to offend.

If the mere suggestion earns the hatred and enmity of the Meridian, their chances of long term genetic survival are still higher than they will be trampled under the pereiopods of unchallenged Meridian power.

"The aliens" 102335-Politect chirps.

Silence immediately follows. Then-

"Explicate" chatters every Supremacist in near-unison.

But 102335-Politect can. The suggestion itself might outrage and terrify, but the numbers and the audiographics weigh in his favour. No final resolution for the West presents itself that does not entail unacceptable cost for the Meridian, devastated as it already is - and with the East Continent Technarchies remaining aloof and unscathed, to further weaken their depleted defences is to invite a second war they cannot afford.

Buried within the convoluted, mostly indeciperhable protocols the aliens have transmitted them, the Isthmus' most elite and highly specialised cipherers have discerned what would have been - and still is - a scarcely conceivable solution.

"Establishment of bio-ecological reserves within 'Nexus' construct permissible. Purpose-motive of protocol unknown. Observational-experimental or hydroponic function hypothesised" the Politect explains. "Possible to enact mass relocation of Confederal population into Nexus preserves. Burden of sustenance-support assumed by Owners within Nexus construct parameters"

The predicted outrage over exposing specimens - and their technology - to Owner observation arise. But even to the Supremacists it has become clear that subjugation-incorporation into this alien polity is inevitable. The false flag attack may have risked the species' annihilation - but it has also ended up as an invaluable datum. The Confederation's most powerful weapon was launched. A uantity of antimatter sufficient to destroy all life on Phorcys, travelling at speeds uninterceptable by any Confederal technology it was somehow deflected - and yet it was. It failed to have any effect upon the alien craft at all. Resistance has been conclusively proven impossible in its wake. And it follows that if the Owners desired specimens they could simply take them. That they have not implies indifference - and if so - then what more do they risk by allowing excess population into their new alien masters' grasp?

"Consensus confirmed" a terse round of single-toned clicks concludes with dour reserve. All resigned to a course of action that only days ago would have been beyond the most condemnable traitor's comprehension.

But hours of discord have relentlessly narrowed down all alternatives. As for the defeated West, co-operation is calculably the best survival strategy. And a relocation request is both show of willing submission to the new order - and a chance for massive utility at the alien's expenditure-expense. The Confederation must take such advantages where it can. Perhaps they will even see it as a tribute offering?

The Confederation submits.

The Confederation will bide its time.

Confederal Consensus [Identities Confirmed]
Timestamp 14.62.18|136.65
Message start_
+++Clientship dispute resolved|Confederation into Nexus Collective accepted pending further request|Damage sustained during conflict|Agricultural land inoperable|Ration-reserves depleted|Enviromental defences destroyed|1.9 billion projected deaths imminent|Request relocation of negotiable proportion into Nexus 'Enclave' per transmitted protocols+++

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