[The previous section of this story can be found here. The next section can be found here. If you are a new reader, the first section of this story can be found here.]
Of any arbitrary grouping of people, Fiir had always been the smartest, the quickest, and the sharpest. That's why she had been inducted to the Tejwira bloodline: to supplement its regal lineage with her robust and indefatigable genetics.
It's what she told herself, at least. With that in mind, surely someone of such noble stature as hers would never have put themself in a position so dumbfoundingly ill-advised as the one she found herself in now.
Fiir sighed and reclined up against the wall of her personal quarters, one elbow wrapped around the vertical handrail in order to keep her from drifting idly about her quarters. The steadfast slisha's confrontation with the Terran girl had left her with much to think about.
"River Mullins". Not a diplomat, but just some half-witted girl. The young primate was both a curiosity and a complication. A deeply frustrating one, at that.
Against Fiir's better judgment, she had allowed Kalte, her personal AGI, to bond with the creature. The idea was to use the bonding link to leverage a direct interface with the girl's implanted neural control harness¹ and reprogram it to invoke mindless servitude. In short, Fiir would make herself the esper's new master. Solid plan. At least in theory...
Well, as it turns out, the brute force overrides that Fiir had employed in disconnecting the Terran girl from the seta jakeri vessel in the first place had also silently bricked the implanted control hardness firmware, rendering the device irrecoverably inert. Since she couldn't wipe the girl, it was just Fiir's luck that she now had the pleasure of dealing with a not-so-mindless esper stuck on her ship. If only scans had been able to reveal such a complication before hooking the girl up to Kalte's systems. Needless to say, the situation had Fiir livid.
Still leaned against the wall of her quarters, Fiir fiddled and crinkled a pre-packaged tube of food in her hands, loudly ripping it open. She put the tube to her mouth and slurped on the nutrient paste within, quickly and carelessly scarfing its contents down her throat.
There was a faint mechanical whir of an electric motor focusing a camera lens in on her. Her ears perked up and she look over to the security camera on the ceiling in the corner of her quarters. Great. Now it was time for her ship to tell her what an absolutely bang-up job they'd done.
With a mess of brown soggy paste still smeared around the corners of her mouth, Fiir made an unflattering and annoyed face at the camera, unbefitting of her sleek and polished complexion.
Fiir grumbled,"Fpɸa, fhɸr". Little watery specks of pasty-saliva mix sprayed out of her food-stuffed mouth as she mumbled unintelligibly.
Kalte's unmistakable deadpan male voice spoke over Fiir's neural link. Kalte ignored Fiir's childish noise-making. It appears that despite your vexatious attempts to appear otherwise, the Terran does fortunately consider you captivating. For whatever unknowable reason that may be, one might add.
Yes, just as expected. Ever the positively personable computer. Fiir groaned again. Kalte would never get away with being like this had it been assigned a more traditional captain.
Fiir slurped loudly as she finished suckling her tube of food dry. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and then rubbed her temples in discontent. Her voice reverberated over the neural channel, I hope you understand that I am Tejwira, not Architect. Beguilement is not exactly something that is within our nature, Kalte.
Fiir looked back down at her now-grimy hands and licked the nutrient paste off the back of her gloves. She then wrapped her long prehensile tongue around each of her fingers one by one and cleaned off the food she had sloppily gotten all over her hands.
She finished licking her hands clean and continued her extrasensory monologue, To be candid, if we were under normal circumstances, I would likely be under obligation to have you decommissioned, considering what you have just done. A bonding with a non-alaja host is completely unheard of and, frankly, reckless. It is beyond unorthodox. Even for us.
Kalte replied in an almost singsong tone. Reckless. Undercalculated. Illegal. Perhaps all such statements would be accurate. But as the noble slisha clearly understands, this unit's decisive action has landed a newfound valuable resource. But if you prefer, you could terminate the esper, throw the opportunity put before you out the airlock, and bring home nothing. The choice is yours, Tejwira Fiir.
The damned machine had certainly grown brazen in its time at her side. There was no denying that the thing definitely learned from example. As the old saying goes in the Regal Navy, “Visha-faj artishijasha jash’alaja”².
Frustrate her as Kalte may, Fiir had no real response. The AGI was right, and they both knew it. It was now time to plan their next steps, and backing out wasn't an option.
The unexpected release of the Ames recording had complicated the situation on Terra. No one from Ejfosi Siltakos had anything to do with that disaster, of course, but it had nevertheless left the seta jakeri seriously spooked. Being that this system was a fringe military research installation, they had shut down all transit to and from Sol.
Even under normal circumstances, getting in and out wasn't exactly easy. Traditionally speaking, the only way in or out of the system was to covertly latch aboard the surface of a gateship³ and riding along for the jump. Usually it was a relatively routine manoeuvre, but the current state of affairs had all gateship arrivals on indefinite lockdown. Effectively, the Kalte was stranded in-system.
At this point, Fiir's mission was in completely uncharted waters. As a rule, Ejfosi Siltakos takes no prisoners. Negotiation was considered a tool for petty internal conflict, not for the existential threat of foreign occupation. Alaja ships had no brigs and no diplomatic quarters.
The Unified Collaborative, Ejfosi Siltakos, had one overriding and all-encompassing directive to shepherd the reclamation of a galaxy in shambles: immediate and decisive termination of alien dissidents.
And, yet... here she was. With the rank of slisha, Fiir had legal authority to conduct her mission as she saw fit, but even a slisha's authoritative immunity would be a stretch to justifying a violation of Reclamation Protocol 1. She could only hope that the utility of a mutually complicit esper would outweigh the risk of such a transgression.
Footnote 1: Vivisection report "Esper #2", translated. Full report truncated to relevant excerpts.
//Intelligence Bureau restricted archives, classification level 4//
Performing official: Alien vivisection conducted by medical officer Tejwira Kijatros Rjajkot Elkalsalfa-Artekij, aboard Architect cruiser Elkalsalfa.
Ascribed cause of death: Severe acute penetrative trauma as result of multiple kinetic bullet wound (KBW) injuries leading to expulsive organ rupture including but not limited to the heart and lungs, resulting in an immediate death response. The wounds present on this body are characteristic to a high-yield discharge setting on standard issue ferromagnetic rail weapons of alaja origin. The ventral torso is extensively mangled in a manner that would indicate dorsal penetration from multiple projectiles at close range.
External examination: The body is a Terran-origin human male, aged roughly 110 ASC quarters [Unit conversion: 24.8 Terran Solar years]. Subject body weight is [82.3 kilograms] and measures [185 centimetres]. Cursory skin examination shows signs of auricular cartilage degeneration and high skin concentration of melanin, but such is understood to be nominal within Terran subjects. Abdominal tissue condition is poor due to extensive mutilating wound trauma, with some additional minor degradation due to frozen storage prior to vivisection.
Internal discoveries: Compared to the limited remnants of one prior "esper" class specimen, this body contains a distinctive lack of the anomalous residual gravitational flux measurements that were present in the tissues of the previous specimen. From my observation of this body, I would likely conclude that this esper was approached from behind and terminated before it could react in defence to an unforeseen assailant. This aligns with our field agent's combat report.
While much of the abdominal region of this body is irreparably damaged due to high-yield KBW injuries, primary points of interest in such a specimen (namely, the head and upper cervical column) were surprisingly intact. With this vivisection, we now have adequate confirmation of the nature of the control scheme implemented by the Zeta Reticulans to deploy these esper shock troops. It appears that at some point during the augmentation and psionic awakening process, a fully inorganic computerised titanium-alloy control harness is implanted directly along the cervical column and well into the brain of the esper subject.
Through the extraction and computational analysis of the intact control harness found within this specimen, I have come to the conclusion that when activated, this control harness overrides electrical impulses to the esper's body, allowing for the host's body to be puppeteered remotely. As a result, the host would likely retain full consciousness, but absolutely no muscular control over their physical body. Interestingly enough, it does not seem that an implanted control harness has the capacity to actively harness gravitation flux energy in of itself. There is reason to believe that this so-called psionic/gravitational energy is just as, if not more, mysterious to the Zeta Reticulans as it is to us.
From my examination, I surmise that the method employed by the Zeta Reticulans to manifest and control the esper's psionic capabilities is exceedingly crude, even moreso than we first imagined. It appears that in order to trigger a psionic response, the control harness simply lights up the host's somatosensory system to cause excruciating pain until the host opens a raw and undirected gravitational flux channel of its own volition.
As has been reported by our field agents and limited encounters with active esper specimens, it appears that there is a somatic component to directing the gravitational flux energy unleashed during a psionic response. There is good reason to believe that these somatic gestures are a method employed by the control harness to subconsciously clumsily direct the trajectory of a psionic release into a crudely destructive form.
Due to the limited alaja contact with such subjects and the relative novelty of the esper condition, we have limited conjecture beyond what we have so-far encountered. Luckily, it appears that the Zeta Reticulans are at a similarly pioneering stage of understanding into this new evolution amongst their primitive guinea pigs.
Footnote 2: Linguistic Note: “Visha-faj artishijasha jash’alaja”
Most literally, “An AGI connects an alaja’s spirit”
Definitely clunky when translated for the Terran ear, but this expression is highly culturally and linguistically loaded in a manner that is difficult to adequately convey to an outsider to alaja society.
Within the context of the Regal Navy, military ship captains are typically assigned an AGI counterpart to assist in both the operation of their vessel, actively responding to time-sensitive threats that preclude consultation time with the organic crew, and even simply advising general decision-making or giving a second opinion when needed. When assigned, a captain's AGI will be neurally linked to their captain through a process which can be referred to as "bonding". The process of bonding is two-fold, with repercussions to both the AGI and it their organic host. This process re-maps certain heuristic pathways within the AGI to make it more receptive to the emotional state of their organic counterpart, but also subtly chemically alters certain brain chemistry of the bound organic mind in order to allow for their AGI real-time read-only access to all thoughts and memories any time their captain is submerged in a full-immersion digital environment. The idea is that this organic-automaton command interoperability fosters a more responsive, disciplined, and effective navy than purely organic leadership ever could, but still retains organic hegemony within alaja command structures.
The adage "visha-faj artishijasha jash’alaja" is a commentary on the idea that the nature of this form of consummate relationship can often lead to a form of personality mixing or other similar converging interpersonal development between a captain and their bound AGI.
The word “jasha” refers to an instruction set of some kind of a programmatic or heuristic nature. This can refer to an actual computer program (‘artishijasha’), or can be used more metaphorically to refer to any sort of entity capable of calculation or consciousness, such as the “spirit” of a sentient being (‘jash’alaja’, lit. alaja’s spirit/soul).
“Visha” is the alaja-language verb ‘to connect’, where ‘faj’ is a transitive marker. It may strike the reader as odd that ‘visha’ is being used transitively in this manner: “the AGI connects the alaja” instead of “the AGI connects to the alaja.”
This expression intentionally makes use of a nonstandard but still grammatical construction in order to succinctly conclude that an AGI does not just mimic their master, but grows so close as to become a direct extension of their master, serving to ‘connect’ their alaja to the world more efficiently.
Footnote 3: Excerpt from the Lejth Public Information Network, translated:
With the disappearance of the Architects, gateships are quite likely the single most prominent class of artefact that litter our galaxy. These massive city-sized leviathans were constructed on a technological scale long lost to the galaxy and are presumed to be the primary tool used to conduct interstellar travel by the Architects.
Each gateship is equipped with a set of tachyon conversion (TC) generators which are used to allow the instantaneous travel between set paths in space known as "hyperlanes". TC generators are gargantuan structures that feed inordinate amounts of energy from an antimatter power system that is as of yet not well understood by our researchers.
What we do understand, however, is that a TC generator system takes roughly 8 ASC days [Unit conversion: 4.57 Terran Solar days] upon receiving course coordinates to accumulate adequate power to perform standard hyperlane jumps. This length of time may vary slightly depending on several factors such as the hyperlane travel distance and specifics to the gateship's size or manufacturing class. During the charging period, a gateship will emit a progressively increasing TC-radiation field that will scramble most electromagnetic sensor systems within a large vicinity of the gateship. The nature of TC-radiation and why it occurs is, also, highly subject to debate within the scientific community. Consequent to reaching full power accumulation, the TC generators aboard a gateship will rapidly discharge, instantaneously converting the ship and a small bubble of matter around it into tachyons that immediately re-appear at the target hyperlane exit.
Due to ongoing hostilities with nescient societies present beyond the boundaries of Ejfosi Siltakos controlled space, alaja researchers have had limited access to gateship technology. Nonetheless, researchers continue to strive toward new levels of understanding as decryption efforts continue upon our domestic archive resources present here on Lejth.
The opening artwork to this piece was created by me using Artbreeder and GIMP.
A high resolution download of the Fiir portrait can be found here. The original (anatomically incorrect) Artbreeder version of this image can be sourced here.
Also of note, the footnote image was also sourced from the public domain and edited using GIMP. Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/autopsy-dead-death-mortuary-2828592/