The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

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The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Phorcys » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:13 am


The Eudaemonia, in orbit above Uozo

A team of EVA engineers perform pre-flight checks on the shuttles and the docking modules. They clamber across the vessel, like pinpricks against the structural vastness of the spine. Beneath them hangs the great orb of Uozo, crested by the sunrise, orange and blue and whorled in silent, flowing white. The majesty of the sight aches in every human heart onboard, and for the EVA crews most of all. From space their world had once looked like this, a garden-home of shining colours, before the comet rendered it an ash-shrouded tomb.

“Like Earth”, one engineer whispers over the comms.

“Like Earth”, echoes another.

They had all lived terrestrial lives that to them seemed only decades ago, not the near-millennium it was in truth. From the perspective of their current selves they’d had the neuroscan and in the blink of an eye been transposed 800 years into the future, to be told they were dead and the planet dead with them. Reborn not into the paradise the Church had promised, but a horizonless world of pressurised habs on airless moons. The planet beneath them now was a dream restored.

“Rejoice then brothers,” their Vested-level supervisor calls out, “for this virgin paradise shall be yours”

“Praise the Progenitors!” the cry goes up, and like a wave of raw emotion takes them all.

"Praise the Progenitors! Praise the Progenitors!"


“Praise the Progenitors!” Expedition Commander Jannik Strohmeier greets each brother as they are deposited still steaming from the resurrection tanks. As Commander he had been decanted first, reborn a couple of hours ago. Now he watches the nano-styli weave muscle fibre and knit bone, as quantum-computed molecular algorithims reassemble his crew out of raw organics. Incredible; when Strohmeier was first resurrected on Callisto almost twenty years ago, the process took over a month. When they departed, it had taken over a week - and over the course of their long voyage the shipboard AI had optimised the process to mere days.

The Eudaemonia had made a journey from the Martian dockyards to the furthest reaches of the solar system, crossed the gateway out in the Oort, traversed the vast Nexus itself and travelled the expanse of the inner Zhuza system. Anyone making it over such unthinkable distances wasn’t just going to go to sleep for the ride. Every gram of mass counted, it was hard enough getting a ship out here in a mere six years without having to pack on enough life-support systems to keep a meat crew alive. Instead, only their neurographs had been stored. The ship had already been in orbit for almost nine months while the drones towed in asteroids, processing the raw minerals and complex organics needed to construct the resurrection module.

The lights switch to green and a res-tank chimes as it finishes its occupant. The fluids drain, the restraints unlock and the glass slides open, and out floats someone Strohmeier had decidedly not been looking forward to seeing on the other side. His second-in-command, and a drooling fanatic, an actual honest-to-goodness believer in alien gods and the secret artefacts.

“Ah, my friend”, Alexis Reza grins inanely, coughing up floating globules of amniotic fluid, “I only wish we had been here for the crossing into the Nexus. Imagine - to behold the work of the First Ones all around us!”

It's impressive, Strohmeier’s forced to admit, how instantly Reza seems to have gotten used to his new body. The Head Mentor kicks off from the tank like an athlete off the poolside, gliding over to the uniform rack with practiced ease. For Strohmeier it took an hour of retching before the tremors stopped and his proprioception was even working properly. It’s like the man’s propelled by the power of his faith alone. Or more likely his dog-like loyalty has won him a couple more gene-tweaks than Strohmeier’s ever been rewarded with.

“How many have been decanted? How soon do we make planetfall?” Reza asks, already having worked his way into a jumpsuit.

“EVA guys are already out and running the checks. Give them a couple more hours and they’ll be done, a couple more and we’ll have everyone done” Strohmeier gestures to the tanks.

The Chief Mentor isn’t really listening. He's drifted over to the porhole, gasping with awe - “Ah, Progenitors above! Alhamdulillah, selamat maju jaya!”

“It is quite something” Strohmeier admits. He can’t pretend the sight doesn’t stir him either. A whole new world. A living world. Back home in the anodyne corridors and capsules of Site Epsilon, Church nanotech can fulfil almost any material desire. Their HHUD’s can project hallucinatory vistas of open skies and rolling fields - but nothing can replicate the things they all remember from Earth - the touch and taste of the open air, the sensation of full g or of breathing soil underfoot. He is among the only humans who will ever experience these things again.

"Luar biasa! I have only seen it for a moment from above, and already I think it will be hard to return, even to the fold of the Church, once our work here is done!"

"The idea of a planet underfoot again..." Strohmeier agrees. No matter how much he loathes the man, at a time such as this his enthusiasm is still infectious. One good thing Reza'll have done for him then. After all this planet will be his home now. The true believers will likely euthanise themselves before the return journey, thinking their spirits will transmigrate to their next bodies. Most of them killed themselves before the voyage, in fact. Certainly Reza did. But Strohmeier never believed in that. Surely the fact there’s still a copy of him living and breathing on Callisto disproves it.

In truth, he’d want to stay even if there was a way to get his consciousness back to the solar system. Out here he's far from the grasp of the Church, from Corinealdi, Ben Abbes and all the rest of that cabal. He’d never been much of an Autologist, his wife had been. She’d only pressured him into getting the scan a few months before the comet came, and well, he wasn’t going to deny her the desperate hope of being reunited in the afterlife. Only turns out it wasn’t so desperate a hope, and he had never truly accepted being reborn into a world where the Church was all that was left.

Trouble is, there are two types of people who volunteered for the missionary voyages. The ones like him who wanted to get away from it. And the ones like Alexis Reza, who love and serve the Church with all their heart and soul. And unlike with Reza, it’s not always easy knowing who is which.

“Join me in a song of praise, brothers!” the Chief Mentor exclaims, trying to keep the newly resurrected distracted from the pain.

As Commander, with all his commanderly responsibilities, Strohmeier can excuse himself from joining in. He pulls up a random data file on his HHUD and moves his eyes conspiciously from left to right, to look like he's actually reading it. But he makes furtive glances at his fellow expeditionaries as they sing, hoping to glean from their facial responses some modicum of insight. He could be surrounded by potential allies in faithlessness, who dare not show themselves, or just as likely by zealots who don’t make such an outward show of it. He wonders if any of them are watching him out of the corner of their eyes, and thinking the same.

Anyone besides Reza, Strohmeier doesn't know so well. He barely met them all before the launch. They’re mostly Practitioner-level believers who’ve been living on the Ark orbitals. The ever-faithful, forgotten masses who the Church bled dry on Earth, but now has no more use for in the afterlife. They doubtless jumped at the chance to serve Autology in any way more meaningful than vegetating on the basic Church regimen of free drugs and HHUD porn.

“Commander, if you have a moment?" someone calls from above. Ah. That's Science Officer Malorie McGowan, so fixated on her terminals he'd hardly noticed her floating overhead, monitoring surface telemetry from the planet below. He got to know her a little better. And she is not like the Arkers.

"Go ahea-"

“-So probes indicate the atmosphere's highly toxic - which, well let's be honest is unsurprising given that it's fucking orange. Not exactly un-breathable, a good amount of oxygen down there, but the concentration of sulphur dioxide's high enough to damage your lungs if you inhale it for more than a couple minutes. Also - how's this for an exotic touch - the air's swirling with vanadium pentoxide dust, so that'll cause severe irritation and inflammation to any exposed skin. Not that you'd be stupid enough to expose any anyway. As for potential biohazard risks, well we'll have to get fauna and flora samples first to analyse native biochemistry"

Despite himself Strohmeier smiles. "Copy that, McGowan"

He could almost bring himself to like her. She brings a touch of levity to proceedings, acts the least culty, the most like a normal human being of anyone he's met in years. Anyone he's met since Earth, he thinks piercingly.

Only trouble is her record says something else. She's a Vested-level believer from Site Lambda. Doesn't mean she's a zealot, you might think, Strohmeier's Ordained-level himself. But then you look at her file. Canadian astrobiologist in her past life, joined the Church after the death of her husband in the anti-Autology riots and quickly climbed the tiers. Almost certainly a true believer then, and with an axe to grind against anyone who isn’t. What else could explain the transfer she requested from her cushy job at Site Epsilon to the rugged Lambda re-education facility on Ganymede?

“Hey, Mtakwenda", she calls out to their sec-officer, "not that we'll know anything much 'bout the natives till we biopsy one, but if we're going by the resilience of terrestrial arthropods to massive tissue damage, you'd better print off some nasty munitions as precaution. Might I suggest a nerve agent?"

Rui Mtakwenda's field stripping a coilgun to check for printing defects. "Eu vou pensar em algo melhor" he replies.

McGowan nods, "o que você quiser".

Strohmeier's not any surer what to think of Mtakwenda than of their Science Officer. File says he was a Brazilian PMC in his past life, now head of the Eudaemonia’s security detail. Only Practitioner-level, but the man has Autologist helixes scarified onto his arms and chest, which he actually specified he didn't want the res-tanks to fix. He wears little icons of Ishimura and Ben Abbes round his neck. Isn’t it all too much for only a mid-tier believer? He's either trying to hide a lack of devotion, or he's an absolute fanatic who just cant pass the courses.

"We haven't come all this way to kill, doctor", Reza reprimands, "we came to teach".

"Yeah well helps to be prepared. And well, whose to say a little positive reinforcement won't help the teaching?"

Mtakwenda laughs. Reza does not, only gives them both a stern look and drifts away. This is the thing. She behaves so flippantly that Strohmeier can't help but hope she's a secret unbeliever. He's seen people sentenced to fates worth than death for less than what she's just said. But why would she have survived all these years, why would she have been selected for the mission, why would Reza not demand to have her shoved back in her tank and disassembled, if she wasn't actually a proven believer through and through? She works at the Ganymede penal colony, for gods sake, probably experimenting and doing god knows what to the non-conformists. The fact she seems so undevout probably means the opposite. But he can't figure her out. He can't figure any of them out yet apart from Reza.

And if he makes the move and decides to trust any of them, Strohmeier can’t really afford to be wrong...



Six years ago, Site Epsilon, surface of Callisto

They were invited into the Chairman’s offices just as he was finishing a sermonstream. In Mandarin, this one, totally different to his bombastic English style that Strohmeier was familiar with. The Chairman didn’t move around or gesticulate towards the heavens, he spoke measuredly towards the camera, punctuating points with simple gestures of resolve and certainty. His accent was unrecognisable. As the stream finished and the studio lights came up, Strohmeier realised there were women splayed over the sofas and on piles of cushions on the floor. They looked drugged out of their minds, faces slack and glazed in expressions of unthinking adoration. So, Strohmeier noted to himself with little surprise. Turned out what they said about him was true.

“Welcome my friends”, Oumar Ben Abbes greeted them with the usual hearty, jovial introduction of his streams, voice booming in that avuncular, quasi-african accent that the Tunisian-born Chairman must have been putting on. “Let me embrace you!" He seemed to have switched back into his English-speaking persona the moment the cameras had stopped rolling. "Come. Come I have the greatest of news for you today.”

“Ch-Chairman I feel blessed to be in your presence” Reza blustered, overcome by emotion, or perhaps by the gripping force of Ben Abbes’ embrace - he was a big man. “It was your videos that brought me to Autology. That saved me! Nobody would help me, I-I walked past the Autology centre in Koja district every day and never imagined it held all the answers, until - until-”

“-It is alright my son. You do not need to praise me. It was you who completed the courses, your strength and your commitment in following the program that brought you here. I only showed you there was a way. But the power-” he placed his hand over Reza’s heart, “was always within you”.

The Chairman withdrew from the embrace, and gestured for them to sit, reclining into an armchair as Reza wiped the tears from his face. “That is the teaching of Autology, and that is why you are both here today” Ben Abbes always raised a didactic finger as he spoke. “The Church has very great need of you, friends, of your talent and ability”.

“What is the Church’s will?” Reza asked, voice trembling with passion.

“Yes, I too am eager to serve” Strohmeier parroted, with what must have been obvious but plausibly deniable insincerity.

He looked Ben Abbes in the eye and mentally dared him to give a sign - just a smile that wasn’t the big dumb smile he always had, or a slight narrowing of the eyes, a slight tilt of his head. But there was no change. Even though he knew that he knew. He must. He must have felt it. That Strohmeier saw through him, knew his secret. That the great Oumar Ben Abbes, the favoured of Ishimura, the second prophet, the beloved of millions, didn’t really believe in a word he said. Didn’t really believe in the Progenitor dimension or the alien artefacts or any of this shit. But he gave no sign.

Instead he simply gestured to one of his followers. “Fadiah…” Ben Abbes said softly to the girl, and wordlessly she came over, and knelt between his thighs. Alexis seemed flustered and looked embarrassedly at his feet, blushing despite the fact that this kind of thing was, in principle, absolutely in accordance with Autologist beliefs. Strohmeier just wondered why Ben Abbes did it. If the Chairman was trying to impress him or establish his dominance it was having no such effect. Strohmeier was married. Being married, in fact, had rather slowed his ascent through the ranks, Autology taking a dim view of commitments to anything besides the Church. But he’d stood by her. If he’d left his wife like Ben Abbes had his, maybe he’d be sitting in his place by now. But unlike the Chairman, climbing to the top of Autology had never been his life's goal. Being a member of this cult at all had never been something he'd asked for.

“The task the Presidium has given you is great, my friends”. Continuing as though nothing in particular was going on, Ben Abbes flicked a finger to share his display, a hallucinatory wall of text and images appearing in front of them on their HHUDs. "This is the report the Outreach Office has put together on the Volzhkerix species. Primitive, these aliens, according to what Owner records we have been permitted to access. Isolated from foreign contact. An optimum candidate for the Church’s very first extrasolar missionary expedition. The first step on our path towards the multiversal ascension, and an eternity of delight for all mindkind” his eyes burned with fake fevour at the words. “I would go myself, forgoing these comforts” he patted Fadiah on the head, “but the faithful need me here to guide them through the sacred tiers of self-understanding-”

“Of course you would, your Autoscience”, Strohmeier couldn’t resist the jibe.

“Please,” Ben Abbes waved a hand dismissively, “call me your brother, as you would any other believer”. If he noticed the slight he still kept up the act and gave no sign. “Or father, whichever you prefer”.

Strohmeier wondered if the Chairman ever came out of character.

“I-It is a great honour, Bapak, to be selected for this glorious undertaking” Reza blurted with obvious excitement, his embarrassment instantly forgotten. “Until now we have heard only rumours of the great ship being constructed. Is it ready? When do we depart?”

“Six weeks my friends! I am glad to say it. Ishimura himself would smile upon such eagerness. Though - you shall not be departing, as such. The great vessel cannot be overburdened on its long journey. Only your neurographs will be taken. If you wish to reach the new world, it will be necessary to release your spirit from its vehicle of flesh - as before on Earth"

Strohmeier barely resisted snorting.

"A second resurrection would be an honour indeed" Reza exclaimed.

'Truly" Ben Abbes tapped on his armrest and Fadiah crawled away. "Should you accept this gracious offer, my brave friends, I promise you that all Autology shall know your names".

Strohmeier sat back pensively. Unlike Alexis Reza he needed to think. If he went then he, or at least a version of him - but one as real as he was himself - would never see his wife again. But then...to be free. To be free of the surveillance, the endless courses, the gnawing indoctrination, all of it - even of her, he guiltily admitted, for she was as much a fanatic as anyone else he was wary of on Callisto. Even if it was not truly himself that would enjoy it - he wasn't going to kill himself after all - perhaps it would give him some comfort to know that somewhere out there, far away from here, he had found peace among the stars. The very thing Autology had promised, but never given him.

► Neurographic Data Manifest
Last edited by Phorcys on Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:46 am, edited 2 times in total.
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The Church of Autology and the fate of the Earth

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Kyoki Chudoku
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Re: The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Kyoki Chudoku » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:13 pm

Within the halls of the Supercommunal Council, Viryzhdra struggled to contain her dread. Ever since she’d been invited to the illustrious Supercommunity of Tariat, the international situation had been tense. But things were beginning to grow more dangerous by the day. The so-called Violet Princess struggled to believe that the meeting she had just attended could be real. It was all so...terrible. Viryzhdra stared at the global map, focusing all eighteen eyes on a single marked territory- the Second Offensive.

The world was divided between two large alliances, each in opposition to the other. The western continent was host to the main constituents of the noble Iron Allegiance, an alliance which upheld the righteous ideals of freedom for the princess caste. They had thrown aside the chains of the tyrant-queens and usurped their bloated lessers, who were now reduced to mere egg-bearing livestock. The eastern continent was home of the remnants of this bygone age, of rule by tyranny, of queens oppressing princesses. Their alliance called itself the Crown Sovereignty, but the truth was obvious to all with working brains- the colossal Shoryu Empire had taken advantage of the situation to dominate other tyrannical powers. Most of those powers were restricted to their continent, any conflict demanding a massive movement across the oceans. Viryzdhra was not an expert on war, but even she knew that reality. But there was one exception, one singular outlier that could result in calamity.

The Second Offensive. During the fall of the tyrants, a single power on the eastern side of the western continent had defeated the princess uprising. That power had now termed itself the Second Offensive- so named because of an unveiled intent to retaliate against the Iron Allegiance and bring the princesses back under their control. That single splotch of land controlled by the Shoryu’s little pets was the perfect place from which to begin an attack, and everyone knew as much. There was a reason both sides had dug out trenches and erected walls in the harsh deserts of the former Great Labour Empire. So long as that one power remained, the Sovereignty stood a chance of rapid victory. At first, it had not been an issue. The situation had been tense, yes, but the tyrantborn had too much to lose by pressing the offensive. But in a single instant, that stalemate had come crashing down. That moment had been the arrival of the Farcomers.

They called themselves “Owners”. They had introduced the Tariati to the enigmatic wonder of the Nexus, and the Tariati had introduced their allies. Virzyhdra had seen it with her own eyes as envoy from the Violet Sisterhood. She had been one of the last to witness such a sight. As soon as the rest of Uozo found out about this gate to another world, an international summit had been called. Members of each power had regarded each other with disgust, but it had been agreed- there was to be no monopolisation of this gateway, or the unaligned cowards and the Shoryu and their pets alike would turn against Tariat and bring the age of true, righteous royalty to an end. And so, the Allegiance, backed into a corner, had taken the only route left open- not a single soul was allowed to peer within that gate again. The tyrants could not be given any opportunity to access or exploit the Nexus.

It was despicable. It was pathetic, that the Tariati had been forced into such a position to begin with. Their industrial might was unmatched. Their Supercommunity was a union between the infamous diligence of the Great Labour Empire and the unmatched authority of the Dominion of Chalkoth. The Sisterhood would never have allowed such mistakes to occur within it’s own confines. But then, they were fanatics. They knew the Will of the Cycle. And she, priestess-turned-emissary, knew it even more than most of her compatriots. Nine months ago, there had been an omen- an omen on the dawn of the Day of Triumph. Stargazers across Uozo had verified it- the flash of fire in the sky. It was a sign.

The next time the Day of Triumph came to pass, the reign of the tyrantborn and their mothers would no longer be tolerated. It would be destroyed.

“Majestic mother.” Viryzhdra’s frills rippled in surprise at the sudden sound. It took less than a second for her to recognise the familiar scent of Vir’Kana, greatest of her soldiers. She released a burst of control pherohormone, relaxing her mouth-plates as she took in the way his expression now relaxed. “I have grown concerned about your well-being. But I do not wish to intrude.” Soldiers were so much more intelligent and courteous than drones. Still, her drones were responsible for her royal children- they had a role to play, as did all castes. In the Forelife, Vir’Kana’s soul had proven itself commendable but undeserving of regal authority. Her drones had proven too unworthy to be given a chance at true choice. And all tyrantborn across the world had failed. Their bloated forms, their vicious nature...all was punishment for their pre-born avarice and desire to subjugate their superiors. It was the Will of the Cycle that they be eradicated. They were unnecessary. They were vestigial. Countless Decoders had proved that. From the Sisterhood’s finest metaphysical analysts to Arexthi’s most prestigious anatomist, the same consensus had been reached. The tyrants were obsolete.

“Mother?”

“Forgive me, my child.” Viryzhdra did her best to focus on the world befriend her, at least as long as her thrall was in proximity. He deserved no silence. He only tended to his mother, as all good chosenborn children must. “The current situation is...dreadful. Come with me. Let us see the rest of the dynasty for some time.” She paused. Virzyhdra needed a distraction, a focus that wasn’t as morbid as this consideration of inevitable war. “I’ve reconsidered. Be so kind as to inform Daruzh’Vir that I require pleasure from him within the hour. My drone must serve his purpose once again.”



Within the confines of the facility, Arazulzh examined her subject. It was a remarkable specimen for the offspring of a tyrantborn. She had acquired numerous Taken slaves for this experiment. The breeding stock was suitable- she’d inspected each herself. Indeed, they were contained within this very structure. Such efficiency. The rate of production per individual rivalled even the greatest Taken hatchery. Of course, as an Arexthite, anything less would be a disappointment. It was by the will of the Iron Allegiance that she was permitted to work within Tariat, to handle the great stock of the former Great Labour Empire and its array of well-bred tyrant-slaves. That empire’s legacy needed to live on. War was coming, everybody knew it, and many worried about it. But though she was no solider, Arazulzh was one of the few on Uozo actually seeking to do anything about it.

She wasn’t trying to end it, of course- that would be antithetical to the ideals of the uprising. No, no, she would ensure the end of the tyrants. They had access to certain advantages- a greater egg-laying capacity, a greater strength of pherohormones, and worst of all, the accursed kill-switch pherohormone. Rumours abounded that the queens were seeking to weaponise this control mechanism, to incite entire Allegiance armies to commit suicide against their will. Unacceptable! If they were willing to explore such measures, then Arazulzh would do the same in her own way.

The first project showed more promise. It already had a basis in modern pherogenetic science. By applying enough pherohormones to a soldier, they grew stronger, more intelligent, more dangerous. Perfect for a war. Certainly, their lifespans beyond battle were expected to suffer, but that was of no concern. They were thralls designed to be expended in such service. It was a tragic but inescapable reality. However, Arazulzh’s interest was far more captured by the second project, the one with boundless possibilities if if she could just get it working.

She turned to her workers, then to the observing princess. Ixara, she was called, the so-called “Copper Princess”. Her very brown and cyan hue made the white-and-blue Arazulzh want to turn away. No doubt there was paint involved, an artificial complexion for an egotist of the highest order. Ixara loved her soldiers, to the point that Arazulzh wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to have an aberrant attraction to them. She, meanwhile, was a princess of more upstanding principles. She gazed upon the tyrantborn everchild suspended within the room’s centre, chained to the ceiling as workers armed their needle-guns and pherosprays. One held her hands against a lever- the designated electrocutor.

“Inject NGPh, forty-eight percent.” The appropriate worker followed her instructions, keeping a close eye on the dial, placing a needle through the skin of the test subject and flooding the eunuch’s veins with neurological growth pherohormone. “Spray PDPh, twenty percent.” The other worker obeyed, carefully spraying an aerosolised mixture containing physical development pherohormone. This entire sequence of experiments was a puzzle, a search for the one correct answer, the right way to go about this. All nymphs of the Volzhkerix polyptated twice before maturity, save for one caste- the everchildren. They never underwent that second metamorphosis. But what if they could? What if enough shock could be induced to force them to? What would result? That was Arazulzh’s passion, and she would devote her entire life to the search if need be.

“Electrocute, fifty-percent, two seconds.”

The lever was thrown, the chains electrified. Under the sudden shock, the eunuch thrashed and flailed, before its body went limp. It was dead. Another failure. Another batch of pherohormones lost. No matter. The search for truth would persevere.

“It is as I said last time, Arexthite,” Ixara muttered. “Everchildren are so named because they never. Grow. Up. I think it will soon be time for my fellow Tariati to be informed of how little your meanderings have accomplished.” She widened the gap between her mouth-plates, releasing pheromones to reveal her state of smug satisfaction, as though her tone alone were not already enough. “Such a small clade. Better mate again soon. I’ll donate a drone if you have none of your own...”

Arazulzh could barely resist the urge to frenzy at these accusations. Did the Cycle intend for her to go mad, locked in a laboratory with this self-righteous pain in the oviduct? “Play with your soldiers and stop wasting your breath. When my project comes to fruition, we will see who is left in disgrace.”



Between the eastern and western mountains surrounding Kazhidrat was lay a jungle.

The great city was home to an unfathomable number of personnel. Countless civilians, thousands of soldiers, great minds from all across the Iron Allegiance. The industrious Tariati, the populous Mhevembi, the warrior-priests of the Violet Sisterhood and the great decoders of the Adrexthites were all united by their alliance, by their common hatred of their deposed tyrant overlords. To some, it made sense to train in those cities. It was safe. It was fast. It worked. But to Mozhkandra, it was not enough. Those areas did reflect the true realities of war.

The jungle was dotted with Uozo’s signature purple soil, patches of yellow sulfur left to the sturdier planets to inhabit. A dust storm was sweeping in the, the dust swirling in the rising winds as distant plant-tendrils swayed. Many of these plants were covered in nematocysts, enough to kill an unfortunate Volzhkerix. It was a perfect environment for a test. The queens had numbers on their side, there was no denying that. But Mozhkandra intended for her forces to reign victorious in the inevitable war. Unless there was a crisis in Kazhidrat, she was free to command her forces wherever she saw fit, as long as it was not too far from the city’s bounds.

Winged creatures glided between stalks, one snatched by a meatflower the moment it tried to perch with its adhesive feet. One mistake was enough to be fatal in war. Sometimes, no mistake was enough. Her forces needed training in all possible environments. The great southern jungles were even more harsh, even more daunting, covered in swamp and with toxic fumes filling the atmosphere from vicious prey hoping to avoid being devoured. Nobody would expect a counter-attack through that region- the very idea was ludicrous. Mozhkandra sought to make the ludicrous reality.

She examined the weapons of her warriors. The standard issue hand-repeaters and hand-cannons, good enough in a fight but conventional as imaginable. The scatter-repeaters, an experimental form of weapon designed to counter close-combat attacks. Then there were the true monsters of war. The fire-streamer, designed to set enemies alight. The chemical weapons. The armoured war machines, too large to fit in the jungle, but nonetheless powerful. Even above there was an innovation- the bloatflyer, a new form of aerial craft equipped with powerful mounted cannons, able to soar above the fray and pick off targets from the sky.

Drones, armed with scatter-repeaters, took flight. They were weak-minded, yes, but agile. Then came the soldiers, with workers handling the machinery. A select few held hand-artillery, designed to puncture armoured targets if it came to it. There were few everchildren, for they were too weak for battle. Princesses stood beside their growing dynasties, countless willbearers and Taken at their command, those belonging to true families given far less dangerous assignments. It was a procession of carnage, or so it Mozhkandra hoped it would be. When the danger of battle presented itself, the Deathbodies of the Iron Allegiance would be prepared. There was no alternative save defeat and death, and that could not be allowed. Any advantage in the coming war needed to be attained, no matter the cost, for there was no greater cost than a tyrantborn victory.

That victory would never come to pass. She would see to it, no matter what temporary price would need to be paid to ensure that those bloated oppressors never restored their tyrannical authority over her kind again.
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Re: The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Phorcys » Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:20 pm


Covert oizys listening post, in orbit above Uozo
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Re: The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Phorcys » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:08 am


The first humans explore the surface of Uozo, 3088 CE


Expedition Commander Jannik Strohmeier is the first one off the ramp and the sun glares with the baleful strength of all his memories. So almost like the sun. And in that moment he understands that whatever else he is or has not been - he is first human in all of a thousand years to behold the vista of an open sky. To feel breathing soil underfoot and the natural weight of his body anchoring him to blissful, solid ground. He feels as though all mankind weighs on him to say something. Some words of moment for human posterity. Like Armstrong. Like Ishimura himself. But all he can do is to sink to his knees in some nameless emotion more powerful than any he ever felt - something like wonder and something like joy. An overpowering euphoria colliding with a crippling nausea, gripping a body that had almost forgotten the sensations of its first life. Somehow only the more life affirming for the pain.

And when Alexis Reza steps into the light and within seconds starts bleating out the songs of praise it feels like a profanation of something wordlessly and godlessly sacred that all Reza's piety could never imitate - or the man ever understand.

"Alhamdulillah!" the Chief Mentor cries in breathtaken passion, tears fogging up his visor as Strohmeier stares silent and blank as the perfect sky. "Alhamdulillah!" Reza exclaims again with opened arms, lifting his hands in trembling rapture to the rising sun. "Behold the gift of the First Ones my brothers and sisters! My brothers and sisters all!"

And yet he has no idea.

The dawn's light is cast over a bleak and sparing kind of beauty. Who knows what hues the baroque flora offers to alien receptors? To human vision its purples and yellows are muted and cold. But it is the beauty left to mankind and it is beauty all the same and they will cherish it.

Malorie McGowan staggers out next, shading her visor from the glare with both hands. Her hands drop. Without so much as an exclamation she falls next to him to her knees - and Jannik wonders if she could be sharing in these same sensations. Pure. Free. Feeling something untouched and unclaimed by the dogma and the lies. He wonders if there isn't someone out here all this way from dead home who still doesn't believe after all.

But that's when she whispers, barely audible over the helmet feed - until she begins to say it louder and faster, a mantra that hollows all of it from the moment he makes it out -

"Progenitors be praised, Progenitors be praised, Progenitors be praised, Progenitors-"

-and as Strohmeier slumps in his suit out off the ramp jumps Rui Mtakwenda. Who scans the horizon in a single motion left to right - then drops to a crouch to field check his rifle. When the Security Officer eventually looks up again with his squinting, impassive glare Strohmeier wonders - with a sudden emptiness heavy in his chest - what even the would-be wonders of Autology could hold for a man who doesn't see anything worth lingering over out there.

Malorie, at least, is taken enough that she's - she's taking off her glove -

"McGowa- Malorie! Are you insane!" he rushes to his feet to stop her. "You warned us yourself abou-"

-but Strohmeier freezes when he sees the beatific smile on her face. Their supposed science officer is scooping up a fistful of alien earth in her bare exposed hand, rubbing it between blistering fingers that turn red then black as it blows away in the wind. The skin begins to slough like tissue paper - but still she smiles in an abject joy that can only be as utterly unalike his own as Reza's.

"So what, Commander?" she laughs through wincing. "What's the worst it can do, kill me? Worth it I'd think"

Reza nods in approval, smiling with her. "With strange aeons, death has died"



“We are farcomers, do not be afraid of our arrival. We greet you as friends of all peoples and nations. Our mission has come to bring you joyous news from afar. A great discovery! We wish only to share it with all of Uozo, for what we have learnt is of the profoundest significance to all mindkind, mighty or humble, wealthy or poor, ruler or ruled"

The broadcast was looped, transmitted continuously from the Eudaemonia as the shuttle descended to the surface. Every Volzhkerix for a hundred miles would have seen it as it parted the clouds like a comet burning up in reverse - its tail the plume of its thrusters firing retrograde. Aerobraking it coasted over Kazhidrat, gliding to settle miles further in between the eastern and western mountains.

Trekking over harsh, swampy ground the party of eight forge a slow path towards where from higher ground they saw distant city lights. Mtakwenda and Squadmen Abdulayev and Luiz in the vanguard, visorguards down, surveying the terrain ahead in lurid false colour through their suit-cameras. Commander Strohmeier and the Mentor entourage following behind - Reza, Hammond and Hyo. And Science Officer McGowan trailing even further, injury slowing down her fieldwork as she extracts samples from the native flora. At least, to Strohmeier's relief, she admits getting carried away with what she did to her hand - and now her whole right arm, the medview on their linked HHUDs worryingly shows. Her suit's autodoc is slowly repairing the exposure damage, but maybe not fast enough.

"I thought you said the atmosphere'd cause irritation and inflammation" Strohmeier quotes, monitoring the medview with growing concern. "McGowan, it's killing you."

"Well no way I could have known for sure until we found out the hard way. You should thank me. I'm sparing any of you the first field test. Just shoot me, or whatever, if I'm slowing you down too much"

She means it, Strohmeier thinks grimly.

She gets her wish when one of the plants she's poking at rears up like a provoked animal - and stabs her right through the torso with a metre-long stinger. It unsheathed from a harmless looking frond like an oizys ovipositor. Striking without warning. The suit's autosealant clots the perforation in seconds but it can't repair the gaping hole in her anywhere close to fast enough. She's properly dying now. Sure as anything.

Mtakwenda hauls out the uplink equipment from its cases and carefully sets up the hyperload array, while McGowan lies immobilised and haemorrhaging in the dirt. Her helmet will take the neurograph, the array just provides the bandwidth to transmit the atomic data.

"Quebrar o galho?" she asks once the upload's done, voice trembling with pain. Rui comes over, and nods. Holds her hand. And fires a magnetically accelerated slug directly through her temple.

"We'll see her soon" Reza says as nonchalantly as if she'd left a room. McGowan's body slumps over the roots of the thing that killed her, eyes staring up at it wide and open.
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Re: The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Kyoki Chudoku » Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:06 am

Within her chamber, Viryzhdra cannot help but feel insignificant. It is a fleeting feeling, she is aware, a meaningless emotion. But all the same, it penetrates her. She has done much for the cause of the Revisionist faith. She is entrusted to serve as emissary between the Sisterhood and Tariat, privileged to witness sessions of the Supercommunal Council as they progress, and yet...all she has done for the Cycle since her arrival is interpret signs and recite the same lectures, same sermons, time and time again.

They are important. That is not in doubt. The young royals, freshly emerged from their polyps, must appreciate the interaction between Forelife, Life, and Afterlife. The Forelife shapes their caste. Their Life shapes their legacy. Their Afterlife shapes their eternal future. They must be made to understand the importance of the ancestors. They must be made to despise the avarice of the queens, the sin that brings them into this world in their hideous forms. The tyrants must be punished. And they must follow the Will of the Cycle.

So long ago, there was a sign. She does not dismiss it now. But doubt lingers. Permeates her. Dissolves her conviction. Is it truly a portent the war to come? Fire in the sky, no, amidst the stars. Fire destroys souls. But which souls will it burn next? Tariati? Shoryu? That is why she doubts. She is an interpreter of the Cycle. She must divine its will. But at times, it is inscrutable.

Perhaps this is a fleeting sadness, as it always is. For all her efforts, all her praise, she is often accused of shifting without warning between satisfaction and misery. Others do not understand it. She is alone. Or at least, she is alone amongst her royal comrades. Her own children, the soldiers among them...they appear to understand. She cannot escape this by seeking the comfort of her drones forever. Perhaps she should seek the comfort of her soldiers instead.

“Vir’Kana.” The soldier tilts his head, a sign of attention. “Tell me something. Why is it that, surrounded by so many of Tariat’s royalty, I find you the most compelling and intelligent company?”

“I cannot say,” he replies, “and I cannot believe that is true. Majestic mother, I appreciate your compliments, but you are my dynast. You are wiser than I. You know full well that soldiers such as myself are worthless without the direction of a princess. Without your command, my life would be forfeit to a purposeless existence.”

“Perhaps you are correct,” she says, “but you are not the only one capable of feeling purposeless.” Her frills become downcast as she turns away. “I confess I struggle with much the same myself. I know it will not last, but even so...I can only find distraction at the end of an ovipositor for so long.”

“Another bout of sadness, mother?” She says nothing, but he knows. She knows he knows. He always knows. Perhaps it is the pherohormones. Perhaps it is her expression. Perhaps it is the Will of the Cycle, for this to be. She doesn’t not know why. She only knows that it is. “I would not worry yet. Soon enough, there will be-“

A sound echoes throughout the room. Viryzhdra looks out of the open window, and cannot believe what she sees. Fire in the sky. A sign! Another sign! Cycle be blessed! She has found another sign! The fire stretches onwards, and she hears crackling from the nearby radio. She twists the dial, and hears it.

A message. A message from beyond! She listens to each distorted word, each unusual phrase or strange tone only adding to the ethereal atmosphere of the experience. Farcomers! Farcomers who come to bring revelation to Uozo! In all her life, she had never felt so overwhelmed, so in awe, so joyous! The Cycle has spoken! She is delivered from her sadness by the arrival of the unprecedented! Without a moment’s hesitation, she rushes from her chamber, clambering across the ground to reach the nearest radio transmitter. The Sisterhood must know! Tariat must know! All of the Allegiance must know of this tremendous event!

With the fervour of a fanatic, Viryzhdra storms the communication room, dialling the radio, readying the telegraph, calling upon her children to come to her aid. The word must be spread. The message must be delivered. This omen must be known, and must be acted upon. Revelation has come. And the time had come to receive it.



After the progress of this exercise, Mozhkandra has come to believe that the harshness of the jungle is unparalleled on Uozo. Everything smells wrong, a miasma of spores and mild toxins from nearby foliage making it harder to identify and project pherohormones. Even vision can be difficult, Zhusu’s light often blokced by the thick canopy above. Taskmasters force their willbearers onward, several Taken soldiers sacrificed to the whims of nature. One Taken of the worker caste approaches a plant, searching for signs of danger, only to be stabbed in the head seconds later. The wound isn’t fatal, but the poison will be. The Volzhkerix have adapted to many poisons, but Uozo’s life is in a constant arms race to overcome such protection, leading to plants covered with nematocysts and animals shielded by powerful armour or incredible reflexes.

As they push onward through the harsh terrain, another Taken steps into a small pool of muck- only to gripped by the firm jaws of an undersnatcher. Pink haemolymph flows from the wound, worm-like larvae pouring into the opening from tiny burrows in the ground. The soldier is useless now, soon to be devoured from within- but there is no sense in wasting ammunition on him. He is tyrantborn. To end is suffering is not worth a single shot. Within this environment, no moment can be wasted, no action mistaken- or it might cost one their life. The soldier stumbles, one of his legs trapped, entering a desperate frenzy from the pain. He claws and stings and bites and flailing at nothing, unable to do anything but scream as his flesh becomes more and more gelatinous, his nerves shutting down as the poison overwhelms him.

The further they venture towards the swampland ahead, the murkier everything becomes. Small patches are dotted with yellow-green fog in the undergrowth. Not even the princesss are secure. An impaler worm emerges from above, the lower half of its segmented body attached firmly to the branch of a tall plant. It extends its mouth, a fierce barb designed to draw blood with a single strike, but it doesn’t get the chance. One of Mozhkandra’s guards blasts the creature with a scatter-repeater shot, the impact sending its innards flying across the canopy. For all that nature may throw at them, Mozhkandra’s troops will conquer it. She can see it now, the surprise of the oversized grubs that are this world’s oppressors as an army of Tariati and Mhevembite troops emerge from impassable jungle. They could never counterattack. Their bloated bodies could not go five seconds without triggering an undersnatcher or being impaled from the treeline.

“It is remarkable,” ponders a princess besides her, “that so many horrors can exist in one place.” It is the voice of Azara, one of the Arexthi observers of this expedition. “But our designs will overcome all that this world can produce.” As if to punctuate her point, there is a distant scream from above- a flight of spingliders passing overhead. “Even gravity cannot constrain us. Arexthite engineers designed the first of those machines. Even the bloatflyer-“ before she can continue, the light armoured engine beside them rumbles, revving its engine loudly as its trends begin to sink into the mud, the metallic shell surrounding the machine covered in graze marks from brushing against barbfronds or being assaulted by impalers.

A nearby princess smashes her mouth-plates together repeatedly in mockery. “Arexthi engineering is nothing without tenacity. The Sisterhood teaches us devotion. Pride in bloodshed. Our frenziers are unmatched.” Mozhkandra pictures the legendary frenziers of the Violet Sisterhood. A terrifying force, correct. Vicious in battle. Using drugs and self-injury to incite ferocious frenzy before combat. But they have a severe limitation-

“Your frenziers survive a single battle, if that. Our machines may last many encounters.”

“If they can reach the war to begin with-“

“Both of you,” says Mozhkandra. “You each have a point. But I suggest you focus on your kin. Their lives depend on your command, remember? Focus! Concentrate! Observe, as you are meant to!” Her tone is not harsh, but they obey nonetheless. Argument and debate has a place, but the battlefield is not it. At very least, not this battlefield, which is rapidly becoming a graveyard of unvenerated dead. They most focus carefully. See the barbs before they are pierced. Smell the toxins and move before it is too late. Hear the-

A distant sound emerges. Bizarre. Unknowable. Unnatural. The instinct is immediate. Soldiers flood forward, weapons loaded and armed, to confront the source. Hostile spies!? Unknown creatures!? What is going on!? Mozhkandra is amongst the princesses that rush forth to the clearing, surrounded by their warriors, drones hovering above. As if to punctuate the moment, a squadron of spingliders passes overhead. Within the clearing is an enigmatic sight. The workers and soldiers show their agitation with shrill shrieks, crushing their plates together to create vicious scraping sounds- a precursor to aggression. A group of strange beings stands beside them, each with only a pair of legs to their name. They are covered in armour, or are themselves machines- there is no way to be sure from here. Strangers. Unknown enemies. And then she realises it.

Farcomers!

“Aim! Aim! Hold fire!” she shouts in frantic Tariatimn. “Farcomers! Hold fire! Await signal! Azara, contact Deathbody command immediately! Unknown farcomers! Here!” She turns her attention towards them. Some of them seemed armed with weapons she’s never seen the likes of before. But there is no doubt from their posture- they are weapons. “You! Farcomers! Comply with my instructions! Explain yourself! Immediately! Explain!” The panic of the situation makes her words sharp, focused, fast. There is no time for formality here. They must determine whether this threat is a hostile one and if so, eliminate it. “Explain, or die!”



Surrounded by great walls and statues of the lost, a gargantuan mound rises from Uozo’s soil. Once a mountain, the structure has been carved out, an extensive network of tunnels and catacombs containing the venerated ancestors, wrapped in worker’s silk and left preserved in silver coffins. But it is not the dead that now chitter and clamber within the candle-lit depths of central chamber. It is those who continue the legacy of the Shoryu. Within the room, workers and soldiers scamper and hold still beside their mothers. Armed guards of the soldier caste keep watch, personal droneguards perched on the overhangs that cross the upper level of the mound. The moment they are called, they may inject their ovipositors into their parents, their owners. A select few princesses stalk the outskirts, bound to their progenitors in mind and soul, submitting without question- as they should. And between the lesser castes, upon podiums built into warm springs, rest the masters of this domain, true royalty, the High Queens of the Shoryu Empire.

At first glance, one would scarcely believe they are Volzhkerix. They are thrice the size of even a soldier, bloated, ponderous. All that remains of their limbs are frills brimming with nematocysts and the withered remains of vestigial tendrils, writhing like flagella as their bodies expand and contract. Even their tails are little more than a single segment of chitinous armour, ending in a glistening egg-layer. Six trios of pheromone emitters emerge from each lumbering mass, six trios of eyes resting between them. Upon the top of their forms is the oviductor, pulsing with each breath, and before it is a long tendril stretching beyond the edge of each queen’s mouth- the nematocyst injector, able to kill with a single strike, able to incite self-destruction with a single touch.

A crowd emerges from the chamber’s uppermost door. A battalion of soldiers carries a platform holding another queen down the gold-coated ramp that leads to her podium, the throne of the Shoryu Empire. One of her drones smashes an instrument on the overhang. At the sound, all becomes quiet. Workers rush to sides of their queens, spreading their legs and bowing their heads in reverence. The queens retract their injectors in their own gesture of submission. For upon that podium now rests Eiet, High Queen of All, supreme empress of the Shoryu and their kin. For all their respect of her, the high queen’s presence inspires terror in those closest to her. It is no secret that Eiet has risen to such ranks not solely because of heritage or responsibility. She possesses the slaver trait, the ability for her control pherohormones to affect even fellow royalty, to bring even queens into a state of contented subservience.

Her injector points to one of her workers, holding an tape-container. The child places it within the room’s tapereading machine, located beside the podium. A distorted sound plays, indecipherable, before the messages proper begins. “This transmission is from farcomers” comes a voice. Bizarre. Wrong. Yet spoken in intelligible Shoryu’at. But is not the sound’s quality that causes each queen in attendance to writhe in discomfort, to shift her body in place, to bare her injector out of paranoid dread. It is the revelation. Farcomers! They know little of what the Tariati spoke of when the gate first emerged, but they know that entryway should be in disuse. Yet here and now, farcomers have emerged! “Farcomers designated Confederation of Swarms.” An unknown entity. Do the usurper states know of them!? “Confederation of Swarms requests dialogue with authorised agents of paramount volzhkerix power.” They are recognised as the paramount power of their world! And yet, for all these revelations, it remains unsettling. They wish to speak? They wish to meet? “Confederation desires informational-artefactory exchange for mutual furtherance of interests. Arrival of Confederal agents imminent. Prepare.”

The transmission ends, leaving the room in stunned silence. Before anyone can begin mumbling, the High Queen of All speaks up, her voice echoing throughout the vast chamber. “This transmission was sent to many Shoryu clusters simultaneously. For years, the usurpers have deprived us of knowledge of the farcomers! By our will, their connection was vanquished! By our will, their advantage was removed! Yet now, more farcomers venture to Uozo! They seek us out!” For a moment, she relishes this triumph. It takes only a guttural snarl and the harsh grinding of her mouth-plates together to bring cold fear back into the room. “Why? Why now? Why at all? Why do they come to us, not the usurpers like other farcomers? Why, and how?” On their own, those words would be neutral. But Eiet bares her injector. She is on the edge of frenzy now, and her children feel the pherohormones she releases, bringing them closer and closer to relentless violence. It is an inescapable urge to them, a chemical command they have no choice but to obey.

“Calm! Calm!” shouts Dara, one of the lesser queens to receive the honour of inhabiting the central chamber. “They recognise our superiority! The Shoryu Empire commands a seventh of the world alone! We have the largest population! The greatest legacy! The most territory! The most powerful alliance! They know we will crush the usurper states, and wish to align with us early! These farcomers are wise.”

“Is that correct?” asks Eiet, scanning the room with her injector. They know that she can force their children to turn against them. They know that she can overcome their minds and force them to destroy themselves, if she can get close enough. Her own children are the most numerous in the room. Defiance will be punished. She knows, too, that Dara is arrogant, presumptuous. She always has been, but her speed in answering proves it all the more. She didn’t think. She blurted out what made sense to her out of terror, out of desperation. A poor ruler. She is fortunate to be here at all. “Is Dara correct? There seems to be little agreement.”

One queen- Orit- slides forward. A daring move. But a sign of action at last. “Dara’s theory is unlikely,” she claims. “There is most likely another stimulus for their emergence here. The farcomers, perhaps, do not approve of Tariati enslavement of royalty.” Mentioning that common practice puts everyone on edge. It’s a truth, a harsh reality, that Tariat and its allies often enslave royalty like animals, stealing their children and killing them when their supply of eggs is exhausted. But to mention it so brazenly, without even a preface of warning- such a lack of etiquette! “Perhaps they are unsuitable candidates for such an exchange-“

“Imperial majesty!” shouts Rana, emissary between the Shoryu and their western allies. Her skin is albino, like that of much of the Regency’s higher classes, a side effect of their habit of inbreeding with closely related drones. “New information! Reports of second transmission! Regency Network transmitting copy now!” Seconds later, a drone carrying another tape-container flutters down from above, buzzing wings the only sound in a room now filled once more with these silence. The drone stands before Eiet, who gestures with her injector- approval for his next action. The previous tape is ejected, and a new one played throughout the room.

“We are farcomers, do not be afraid of our arrival.” The voice is different, off, yet in a different way to the past transmission. It had been too harsh, too precise. This voice is too soft. “We greet you as friends of all peoples and nations. Our mission has come to bring you joyous news from afar. A great discovery!” New technology? A revelation about the Cycle- no, farcomers do not believe in such things. That would be impossible. “We wish only to share it with all of Uozo, for what we have learned is of the profoundest significance to all mankind, mighty or humble, wealthy or poor, ruler or ruled.” Share? What did they come to share? The transmission begins to repeat, but the drone shuts it off at Eiet’s instruction.

“Radio-leaping takes time,” Rana mutters. Her voice is now quiet, but the room is so attentive that it does not matter in the least. “First reports occurred longer ago than now. The message appears to have been sent a short time before the Confederation of Swarms transmission.” A princess beside her began to speak in her native language. “Additionally, there are reports of fire in the sky. Details confirmed by a multitude of witnesses. There is doubtlessly a relation between these events.”

The room is filled with mutters of agreement. These events must be a correlation- such proximity in time cannot be coincidence. Eiet emits a snarl, all attention returned to her. “Where did these farcomers come from? Have the Tariati accessed the gateway? Have the farcomers emerged from their domain?”

“They would not dare!” shouts Dara. “They know we would crush them as soon as we discovered it! Even usurpers are not so without minds as to risk such destruction!”

“If this is their doing, we will make it their undoing.” Eiet revels in the possibility, of finally avenging her western kin. The irony of the Tariati and their allies was that by exterminating and enslaving so-called “tyrants”, they had united what remained of the rational world under the Shoryu banner. They would soon prove the architects of their own demise. And if this could prove the justification, the final affront, an unforgivable treachery...

“That is uncertain.” Orit turns her mouth towards Dara, bulbous mass pulsing as she respirates, injector now coiled back. “Perhaps this is a deception. Is there any chance of Confederation of Swarms communication to the usurper states?”

“It is possible,” Rana concedes. “We have no way to know. They have begun using new codes we are unable to decrypt so far. It appears that the mindkind farcomers cared little for secrecy. Swarm farcomers sent direct transmissions. Different focuses. Different offers. But we can only act on one. The Iron Allegiance controls the west. There is no way to access the mindkind farcomers in person.”

“Do the usurper states know we know of this offer?” Eiet’s tone becomes calculating, rational- she is no longer on the edge of fear, terror or frenzy. She is always at her most dangerous when thinking clearly, considering every obstacle in her way and how to eliminate it.

“Likely. But unlikely they know of the other offer.”

“Then we have another advantage.” The High Queen of All recoils further back into her podium, injector retracting, mouth-plates smashing together in the Volzhkerix equivalent of laughter. “Rana. You are the most sensible of this chamber. You are to determine suitable coordinates for our exchange with the Swarm farcomers.”

“I am honoured,” Rana says, “but there remains a concern. What if both farcomer arrivals are related? Competing enemies? Cooperating arrivals? Coincidence is doubtful, as we have already established.”

“More information is needed,” Orit unhelpfully chimes in. “The only way to be certain is through dialogue.”

“Then so it shall be.” Eiet examines those before her. The smell of it. The distant aromas of scented candles, the pherohormones in the air, the scents of fear and frenzy and control- she is one of those few who can truly appreciate it. She doubts the farcomers can. All reported farcomers so far have been solitary species, asocial creatures- there is no reason to think these will be any different. “I await your success, Rana. May your choice not prove regretful.”


Transmission: Shoryu Empire —> Confederation of Swarms
Radio-band #2889965

Your offer is accepted. Our emissary will meet you at the following coordinates:

50° 23’ 12.442” N —— 108° 34’ 15.323” E

Shoryu forces will be armed for purpose of security. We await your arrival.


The Aiobi desert stretches across the northernmost clusters of the Shoryu Empire. It is a desert by the narrowest stretch of the definition- arid, cold, yet plentiful in life. Much of it resides below the open ground, avoiding the patches of sulfuric dust that come from the eruption zones that dot the area. Those very eruptions lead to fertile soil in an arid wasteland. Those plants which can survive the dust storms, the occasional sulfuric rain, can thrive here. The animals which have adapted to the environment can prosper. And among those animals, though above them all, is the Volzhkerix, for this is the ancestral homeland of their kind.

Zadrit had always respected the variety of life on Uozo. From the brutal jungles to the lush floodplains to the shimmering oceans, it existed, continued, expanded. Many saw little to gain from these creatures, save the occasional exotic item or piece of food. They were blind. Farcomers were different, bizarre, strange- but they were life. They had anatomy. They had analogues. They could be studied. And even now, in an era when farcomers seemed ever more distant, she knew that this world alone contained a variety of aliens of its own right. She assumed that was all she would get, and all she would need.

Now, she rests upon a wheeled platform in the middle of the Aiobi, awaiting the arrival of emissaries from another world. Precautions have been taken. Around her is a personal droneguard of eight, each armed with a hand-cannon. The platform she rests upon mounts a fixed repeater. Soldiers stand beside her, along with two unarmed drones. Workers surround the outside of the vehicle. They do not wish to give away their most advanced technology, but neither can they risk their own uncontested destruction should things go awry. Zadrit’s mind, however, lingers nor on her immediate surroundings. She is focused on the farcomers.

She knows not what form they will take, and the possibilities excite her. Something as simple as movement has so much variety! Will they slide across the terrain like the impaler worms of the western jungles, darting between the canyons and precipices like such a creature leaps from frond to frond? Will they stride above the ground, like a stiltwalker that roams the land-reef, carrying its vital organs high above the surface? Will they jump on four feet like scythehoppers, vicious predators of the eastern mountains, clambering up cliffs with ease?

That is just their locomotion. What of psychology? It seems unlikely that they will be eusocial, like the Volzhkerix. Farcomers tend instead to be asocial. Of course, it is also impossible for them to be violently self-destructive. No such species could form society, civilisation. Still, they will lack the biological division that allows Volzhkerix society to function. How known farcomers even developed civilisation with such asocial biology remains a mystery. Most disconcerting of all, however, is their enigmatic motives. These Swarm farcomers are offering a technological exchange, and yet...they cannot determine why. Zadrit knows it is beyond her concern. She is to conduct diplomacy, not an interrogation. But even so, it gnaws at her. She coils her injector, scraping it gently against her flesh, impatient. So many possibilities await her…

“Zad’Itra,” she calls. One of the unarmed drones answers. She cannot help but admire his form. The long receptors on his head, the wings on his back, the extensive ovipositor...like all, his kind was forged in the Forelife for a purpose. Drones were lesser incarnations, almost mindless. Soldiers and workers were higher, greater, more worthy. And above them all were the queens, and among them, the gifted, those with the incredible slaver trait- how she envies them! Those souls were forged to be the pinnacle of society- and how they showed it! Zadrit turns away from her drone, exposing her ovipositor. Perhaps it is an indulgence to do this now. But to settle this unease...there is no better way than for each to fulfil their purposes. As she releases her pherohormones, the drone cannot resist. He takes flight, hovering above her, before injecting the ovipositor.

For a moment, there is euphoria.

Calmness follows.

Her mind cleared, Zadrit returns her focus to the desert. In the distance, a sandstorm is brewing. Vanadium pentoxide dust swirls with sulfur. Beside her is a ruined temple, a monument to ancestors fallen, many of their number still contained within subterranean tombs. Pillars rise from the rocky ground, portions eroded away by sulfuric rain. These fragments of an ancient civilisation have been preserved by the Shoryu to respect their legacy. The usurpers do not appreciate history the way they do. They would see ruins such as this pillaged, built over, destroyed. They claim to respect ancestors, but they do not. They desecrate their own mothers, enslaving them in cages, stealing their children. Traitors. Monsters.

That is why she has devoted herself to this. Whatever their intentions, the farcomers may offer the potential to eradicate the usurpers, to restore balance to this corrupted world, to avenge the ancestors. In the Afterlife, their legacy will tower above that of those who betrayed them. In time, those monsters will be forgotten, buried in the sulfur pits that devour flesh, or burnt alive so their souls may not progress to the final stage of their existence. All of that could well depend on how she performs today.

Zadrit does not know how this encounter will proceed, but she is certain one one thing. Whether or not she is venerated as a legend for generations to come, or cursed each time someone mutters her name, will depend upon this day.
Volzhkerix | Supercommunity of Tariat | The eusocial jellyfish-bugs stuck in an industrial-tech cold war

Eriaroon | Eriaroon Eugenic Republic | The abyssal cephalopods who think that reality is the afterlife

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Phorcys
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Re: The 1st Extrasolar Missionary Expedition

Post by Phorcys » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:19 pm


'Pilgrim’ mk. IV multipurpose exosuit (visorguard down) w. force-amplifying reactive power harness.
Autosealant safety system, integrated medical AI and emergency neuroscanner equipped as standard.



“Come, my friend”

A gloved hand rests on Strohmeier's shoulder

“Do not linger over an empty vessel. Inshalaliha she is already returned to us above”.

Above, maybe. But here lies the ultimate mystery of Autology. Slumped in the new world's dirt, face blistered and burned by vanadium pentoxide. Right here is the only question in the whole wide dogma that ever really mattered. Is what will wake in orbit the same as what looked through those blood-swollen eyes?

"Commander?"

Oh the Church has its answers, of course. Strohmeier could turn to Reza right now if they would bring any comfort. "Quantum entanglement" he would say, voice trembling with esoteric wonder. "Waveform collapse" he would promise, invoking the names of the theories like sacred mantras. As if they were written in the sky or carved in cuneiform on the mountains - instead of highly technical scientific terms he only dimly understands. As if the technology of the resurrection was not entirely conceived and constructed by AI. Their most brilliant scientists really any better than witch doctors dancing with rattles and beads.

But he's never been so sure. So Strohmeier doesn't ask. Only wonders, as they cover her face in a scattering of dirt and underbrush - the most the Chief Mentor would allow - if this isn’t the last he’ll ever see of Malorie McGowan. The one that was breathing seconds ago, if not the one he’ll greet on the next shuttle down. He wonders if his own consciousness was born only yesterday, and never lived through the life that it remembers. He wonders-

"The men are ready"

Reza waits patiently of course, giving away neither concern nor frustration. But Strohmeier doesn’t budge. Why should he? Why should he listen? Out here there isn’t anyone the Chief Mentor can report him to. No secret police to haul him away in the night. Ben Abbes chose the wrong man to lead this expedition, because he isn’t afraid to spare a moment over a dead friend anymore.

Or if not a friend, then the closest thing he has all these lightyears from home.

“Brother”, the Chief Mentor urges yet again, still careful to sound duly deferential. “There are many miles to go - and it is best we make the settlement by nightfall. For the sake of those under our command-"

Our command?

"-I truly must insi-"

“Bury her”

"What?" Reza only stares at him blankly. "But what can you mean, brother?"

“We’re burying her. Come on."

To Autologists of course there is nothing sacred about the body. Only the neurograph - the divine imprint of the soul. Either cowards or true believers the others steer scrupulously clear, as if the Chief Mentor could have them shipped to Site Lambda just for looking at her. But if there’s even a chance she wasn’t really a fanatic through and through - that being buried’s the closest thing to rebellion she’ll ever have - then Strohmeier will damn well give it to her.

He heads back to rejoin the team, about to raise his voice for spare hands -

-"Lá!" when Mtakwenda raises a fist for them to halt. "Ter cuidado!" He sounds panicked.

"What is it?" Strohmeier asks - snapped suddenly to attention. It's the first emotion he's ever heard in their Security Officer's voice, and that can't be good. Has the sound of the coilgun drawn some kind of patrol? He scans the underbrush. If so, he can't make it out. Nothing stirs through the jungle’s purple-yellow gloom. Of course that foliage is deadly enough itself, as they've seen.

"Where, Mtakewnda? I cant-"

”-infravermelho"

Even sealed in his suit his voice is dropped to a whisper. So Strohmeier supposes there must be something out there. Pulling down his visorguard he switches to false colour and-

-oh gods.

In infrared the jungle lights up like a city block.

From every direction there rises a noise like a sea of scraping teeth - like nothing any human ear was ever subjected to before - and boiling suddenly out from the twisted undergrowth is a frenzied tide of alien creatures, masticating the awful war-cry with a hundred grinding face-plates. Unmistakably the volzherkix. Brandishing what are even more clearly weapons in far too many frantic, jerking limbs. Before the security detail can even take position to cover their flanks winged ambushers appear from the floratops - darting overhead and cutting off the last escape routes in all the seconds they had left.

Strohmeier struggles to stay calm. This was not how he imagined first contact. They had expected to be intercepted, he reminds himself - that was the purpose of their message after all - but they did not expect to blunder into an army on the warpath-

"Do not be afraid my brothers!" the Chief Mentor smiles, stepping out towards the volzhkerix with outstretched arms. “This is the beginning of our sacred work! Drop your weapons. We are here to bring peace, not profane their world with acts of war!”

"Belay that!" Strohmeier orders. The aliens look about ready to tear them apart. "Be afraid! Be very afraid and keep those guns pointed! Reza - stop where you are! Nobody moves!” The Commander can't be as nonchalant about his imminent death as a true believer. The question is who the others will listen to.

"Capitão, eles não vão entender!"

"I know" Strohmeier winces as the volzhkerix discover McGowan. "I know". Perhaps they could have covered her up more if Reza had allowed it - but then volzhkerix olfaction is sharp. Alien claws drag her from the undergrowth like so much meat, and they chitter over the remains with what could be fear or curiosity. Strohmeier forces himself to watch as they pry out the native stinger embedded in her torso. Because it matters greatly which. Because he thinks they're peering into her suit visor too. At the neat hole blown straight through it, the bloody shattered mess of her cranium underneath.

How can they say 'we come in peace' now they've seen that? Who knows if they could understand the concept of a mercy killing?

But that's not even their biggest problem right now. Saying anything to get them out of this mess is impossible while their suit AIs aren't translating, still busy trying to decipher a hundred aliens' simultaneous speech. And if the many gesticulating claws pointed directly their way are anything to go by, their lack of communication could prove fatal very soon. So with a neural impulse Strohmeier tells the suits to stop bothering. His command override focuses all their distributed intelligence on what can only be the leader. The tallest alien, with the strange frond-like extremities sprouting like a fungal infestation from its back. And-

'You! Farcomers!'

The suit renders its backlog in seconds, synthesised voice incongruously calm.

'Comply with my instructions! Explain yourself! Immediately! Explain!'

This party clearly haven't received their transmission - that's not good.

'Explain, or die!'

Strohmeier swallows. He opens his visorguard in the vain hope that revealing his face might be seen as a placatory gesture. "We are not intruders!" he declares - and his suit's external speakers chime out a synthesised rendition of Tariatimn. Translation is instant now. His response is halting only because he searches for words that won't cause more alarm. "We are...messengers". He goes for clarity. Consistency with the transmission. But this is not his forte. "Reza?" he switches back to their internal channel, "could you, uh, do the honours?” Strohmeier's last hope is that the bastard can at least do what he was sent here to do and get them out of this alive.

"Of course, my friend!” comes the immediate, overjoyed reply, and a chime as he switches to open broadcast too. "There is joyous news!" the Chief Mentor announces to the volzhkerix - and his whole body begins to visibly tremble. Not with fear - but in rapture. His is the honour, is all Alexis Reza thinks, of speaking the first words of the missionary creed ever revealed to an alien intelligence. "We have come to your world" he cries out in breathless exhilaration, "only because we wish to share this news with all!"
The oizys species of the Confederation of Swarms

The Church of Autology and the fate of the Earth

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