Note: I wrote this story for a class that blends science fiction and social sience. The final paper for the class is supposed to relate some concept of social science to science fiction. Most people did essays, I'm the first person to do his in the form of a story. I haven't been over this draft witha fine toothed comb, but I'm not entirely happy with it. There were a lot of things I wanted to expand on, but I started going over the assignment size, so I decided to cut it a little short. I'd like to fix it one day, but being that I've already turned it in for a grade, this will probably fall on the back burner, therefore, this is likely as good as its going to get. I wrote this story over the course of about 8 hours last night. It's pretty rough, but I figured there's no harm in posting it. Enjoy!
by Alex "Aura" Sutton
Chapter 1 As the second millennium turned, technology began to progress at a fevered pitch. Computers soon became obsolete devices, replaced by quantum computers, which gave a hundred-fold leap in technology. Within a mere decade, these were rendered obsolete by biological computers, modeled after the human brain. Biological computers raised a terrible controversy. Religious sects argued that the creation of a biological computer was playing God. A few essays even turned up on the internet, arguing that use of biological computers was a form of slavery. However, when the possibilities for these computational marvels became fully realized, it was no longer practical to demand their discontinuation no one paid attention to the arguments against them.
Biological computers soon unlocked secrets mankind could never have imagined. Medicine, travel, and even minor technological conveniences now knew no limits. Men expanded outward from earth, soon inhabiting over 300 worlds across the Milky Way.
Men first came in contact with extraterrestrial life in 2150 A.D. when the Buggers attacked. (The term was first coined by a news reporter with a particular affinity for Orson Scott Card.)The insectoid Buggers attacked suddenly and without warning. There was no time for diplomacy, no time for preparation. The first contact and first battle was a slaughter. A celebration was held on Taris IV, a world on the outskirts of the farthest inhabited solar system on the galaxy’s Perseus arm. This celebration was to commemorate the Guild’s completion of the first Intra-Galaxy Bio-Computational Network, called the IGBN for short. The Buggers killed 30,000 people, but luckily for the Guild, they left the planet’s IGBN port in-tact.
Mankind gave way to paranoia. A group calling itself “The Guild” took over military operations for the galaxy. Soon, defensive bases littered the Milky Way, and the Guild controlled most branches of human society. War raged.
Pale white light cascaded through the bedroom window of Andurion Gray’s bunk room. Andurion was fifteen, of average height, average build. He had sandy blonde hair and deep green eyes. He knew little more about himself than that. He had been a ward of the state since he could remember. The state told him that his parents died in a freak airlock accident when he was very young.
Outside his window lay the barren fields Omicron II - brownish-red dirt spotted with the patchy pale-green crab grass that was always the first plant life to take hold on newly terraformed worlds.
It was never the light that woke him. He always snapped awake as soon as he heard the whirr of the motor that pulled his curtains to the side at 7am every morning. He cursed. He yawned. Do I really have to get up? He thought. He had this debate with himself every morning.
Sergeant Banks doesn’t care if you’re late. Yeah, but I’ll make him look bad. He knows I was out late repairing the power couplings in the Bugger-bots. He’s also probably noticed the six-pack of beer missing from the commanding officers’ fridge in D-Block.
His thought process would continue on like this for what seemed like hours. Eventually, either his responsibility would win out and he’d swing out of bed and drop to the ground, or he’d get so twisted around and confused in his own self-argument that he’d fall asleep trying to untangle the knot of his sleep-clouded logic.
Today, after the lengthy mental debate, he didn’t fall back to sleep. He reached to his bedpost, grabbed a hold and swung himself round it a circle and down to the ground, landing lightly on the cold concrete floor. Even watching him get out of bed, one could tell he was the highest ranked for agility and speed in his squadron. His room was small. There was a desk under his bed, and a closet with only enough room for the seven uniforms the Guild permitted him.
Monday - green day. His emerald-colored suit lay to the left side of the drawer. He picked it up and dressed lazily. The suit was all green except for the Guild seal on the shoulders and a white stripe going across the chest, beginning wide at the left armpit, and tapering off to end at the other side of his chest.
The clothing hung off of him like it was three sizes too big. Soon, the microbes embedded in the fabric would pull the fibers together and it would fit just tight enough to be bearable. When he was little it used to fascinate him how the clothing would shrink and expand to accommodate its user’s movement, and how it would loosen or tighten the fabric’s weave to adjust breatheability based on atmospheric conditions. But now, he just tied his hold belt so his pants wouldn’t fall off in the meantime.
An explosion rattled the pane of his window. Gunshots followed. If the delta team was already practicing, that meant he was late for role call. His door hissed open and he walked briskly through it and jogged down the hallway to the meeting hall.
The kids were already lined up outside, the still-loose weave of his fabric let them all know that he’d overslept. He jumped in line, just as Sergeant Banks strutted out of the back room. Banks’ uniform was black. Officers always wore black. Students wore different colors, depending on their squadron and the day of the week. This was mostly to differentiate which drills the students would be practicing. Green meant it was a classroom day. “Ninety-right!” called Sergeant Banks called. The thirty members of Andy’s class turned to the right. “Heel-toe to the desks!” Banks called again. The members marched into the classroom.
For almost a century now, teenagers had been crowded into classrooms and taught everything mankind knew about the adversary that had appeared without warning on the day known as “the great cataclysm.” Battles had yielded very little information about the Buggers. Their battle tactics were cold, calculated, and ruthless. Every human strike at a Bugger installation was met with a force too large to have been garrisoned. The Buggers’ tactical knowledge boarded so much on premonition that the Guild created a paranormal studies division to investigate the possibility of Buggers’ psychic ability. So far the department had been nothing but a sinkhole for money. Their results were speculation, at best.
“Eyes forward, men!” called out Sergeant Banks. “As we were discussing last week, the anatomy of these little bastards is mostly a mystery. We can see in this slide that they have some idea of an eye on the front of their bodies. Evolution’s been kind to these guys’ war tactics. They make use of their claws in melee combat and can launch poisoned spikes from their torso in ranged combat.”
“We know all this, we’ve all seen the videos,” Andurion blurted out. “Why don’t you get to something interesting? Do they have emotions? What are their digestive systems like? How do they breathe? Who gets tops when they ****? How do they communicate? Why the hell have we been killing each other for damned near a century now?”
“Listen, soldier. If you have a problem with the curriculum, take it up with the central office. I teach what they tell me to teach. All I can tell you about that stuff is that we know the Buggers don’t feel and as for the rest of it, we don’t know. We’ve never seen a ship of theirs up close. We’ve never even captured a Bugger for study, alive or dead.”
“You mean to tell me that we’ve been fighting these things for almost a century, and we don’t even know where their cocks are?
“That’s exactly what I mean to tell you, and it brings me to our next point. The reason we’ve never captured one of these little bastards, alive or dead is that on the battlefield, they seem to have an entire squadron devoted to consuming the bodies of their fallen.”
“So they’re cannibals?”
“Yep. Now onto battlefield tactics.”
Banks continued on with his lecture, describing how the Buggers were theorized to have a cloaked squad in orbit during every battle which disrupted communications and was somehow able to screw with the onboard programming in active tanks and planes. Andurion’s own words flowed through his head. “Why do they want to kill us?” It couldn’t be a land dispute. So far as satellite imaging could tell, the galaxies surrounding the Milky Way were almost completely uninhabited. The Buggers never took any human prisoners, so it couldn’t simply be a war for food. For all practical purposes, it seemed like the Buggers just liked fighting. A race of warriors, killing for the sake of killing. Andurion thought of Valhalla, where Viking warriors went after death. Blood flowed like rivers, and death was constant and fleeting. To him it sounded like hell, but to the Vikings, it was heaven.
On his way to the lunchroom, Andurion was stopped by four of his classmates. “Where do you think you’re going?” Gregory Nickel was the speaker in the group. The other three just sat behind him grinning devilishly, like vultures salivating at a dieing animal. Gregory routinely failed his academic courses. The only things keeping him from flunking out of military school altogether were his combat ratings. Even still, his academic scores had caused him to be held back twice.
‘“It sounded in class like you weren’t behind us all in this war,” Gregory said threateningly.
Andurion responded, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He knew the outcome of this conversation would be the same no matter what he said.
“‘Why are we killing each other?’ you asked,” Gregory mocked Andurion’s voice. “You know damned well why we’re killing each other. The Buggers want you dead, me dead, and the rest of us dead, and if we’re going to fight in this war, we can’t have people like you strutting around questioning why we’re fighting, because I can damned well guarantee you that the Buggers won’t question killing your scrawny ass.”
“I never meant that I didn’t think we should be fighting back against the Buggers, I meant we should try to come to a peaceful resolution in this whole matter.”
“I knew it. You’re a Bugger lover. You want to live side-by-side with those freaks. Hell, you never met your parents, did you? Maybe one of them was a Bugger. You’re just a Bugger in human skin, trying to look like us and fit in with us. A spy! That’s what you are. You’re a goddamned dirty mother****ing Bugger spy.”
Andurion’s vision went black with a dull crack. He heard the aluminum-alloy baseball bat clank on the ground as Gregory’s lackey dropped it.
“I don’t appreciate spies, Andy, so watch your back.”
They were all gone by the time Andurion came back to consciousness. He walked wearily to his room and sat down at his terminal. It was only a computer screen that projected a keyboard on his desk. His screen and everyone’s screen in the base was connected back to a bio-computer in the central processing area. According to the news feed, a battle had just ended on a planet in a solar system adjacent to Omicron II. Andurion shifted in his seat, disquieted by the Buggers’ close proximity.
Suddenly, his terminal powered down. The mainframe reset itself every day after the lunch hour. For fifteen minutes, only emergency systems stayed active. It was the base’s way of ensuring that a virus would not be able to infect the system. Andurion usually used this as his cue to return to class.
The rest of the day was uneventful, as usual. Banks’ lecture covered mostly the more mundane points of battle tactics – reasons to follow the orders of one’s general and reasons that as Banks put it, “Fear is the best weapon they have against you – a scared soldier is as good as a dead one.” Andurion hated Mondays. The final bell woke him when it rang.
Tuesdays were red days – combat training. Andurion sat naked at his computer, his red combat suit still lying on top of his dresser. He searched through the IGBN database for information on the first encounter with the Buggers. The video feeds from the event were dead during the battle, but the videos that were available revealed a sharp and disturbing contrast.
One moment, he saw a banquet full of guests, dressed in formal wear, drinking wine, eating, dancing, and laughing. Then the video cut, and the scene from before had turned into a morbid perversion of its formal self. Blood smeared the walls; limbs graced the tables where the food used to be. All the guests were dead, most dismembered or cut in half. Andurion gasped and jumped back from the screen. For a race that claimed to just be in the war for the fight, they seemed to enjoy slaughtering pretty well, too. The screen flickered a few times, a power interruption caused by the activation of the nearby artillery range. He was running late again. He threw on his red suit, tied the hold belt, and strapped his combat knife under his left pant leg. Andurion dashed out of his room to join the lineup in the combat room. He almost tripped over his loose pant legs as he left his room.
The pants had cinched up by the time he made it to the combat training arena. The arena was a large cylinder, about 100 yards across. Its roof rose off the ground another hundred yards. Within it lay four circles. One student at a time would compete in each of these circles while the others sat around and took notes on his mistakes. Before lunch, they would compete against one another, striking with electrified batons. The batons were set to stun for the first four shots, and temporarily paralyze on the fifth. Five hits and the match was over. After lunch, they would fight against a robot designed to fight like a Bugger.
The first few battles were uneventful. Andurion predicted the winners before ‘begin’ was ever called. The first fight was obvious. One opponent walked in excitedly, twirling his baton as he crossed to the center of the ring. The other one’s baton hung limply from his wrist and his right arm clutched the tricep of his left. He didn’t make eye contact with his opponent before start was called. The final score of that match was 5 to 0. Andurion’s was the fourth match in. He took the baton from the loser of the fourth match as he still lay twitching on the ground.
Andurion stood in the center of the ring and faced his opponent. In the center of the ring, he stood face to face with Gregory Nickel. The bruise on Andurion’s forehead throbbed a little at the sight of him. The two extra years Gregory had on Andurion were almost unnecessary, because even in frame and build he had Andurion outmatched. Muscular, angry, and fearless, Gregory had a habit of breaking his opponents’ bones, even with the padded electric batons. None of the other students envied Andurion’s position.
Andurion gripped his baton tightly. A computerized voice called out, “Begin!” Almost immediately, Andurion felt a searing, numbing pain streak across his face. Gregory had already hit him with a firm backhanded strike. Andurion flew toward the ground as the mechanical voice called out “Nickel one, Gray zero.” Andurion rolled to the right, as another strike came down on the mat next to him. Andurion stood up just in time to see Gregory lunge at him, swinging horizontally for his head again. Andurion rolled to the side and struck Gregory behind the kneecap. Gregory didn’t move, but it counted as a strike. “Nickel one, Gray one.”
“That the best you got, Andy?” Gregory mocked. Andurion stood up and readied himself in a low crouching position. Gregory stood upright, tossing the baton in his hand. Andurion charged at Gregory, his baton held at belt-level. He made it to striking range and brought his baton upward quickly in a wide-arching slashing motion. Gregory grabbed Andurion's arm, picked him off the ground and struck him full-force in the face three times before throwing him face-first at the mat. Andurion’s vision clouded inward. The world was blurry, and everything sounded distant. “Nickel four, Gray one.” Gregory could have finished him off just then and ended the match, but he didn’t. Gregory wanted to humiliate him.
Andurion picked himself up. He swayed on his feet. The other students had stopped practicing and crowded around his match. Gregory laughed and goaded him. Andurion could hear Gregory’s friends laughing in the crowd. If I can’t beat him by strength, I’ll have to beat him by wits, and he’s cocky, so I’ve got one up on him here. Andurion regained his composure, but still feigned a stagger. He held his grip on the baton loose as he circled with Gregory. He closed clumsily and swung loosely at Gregory’s midsection. Gregory slapped his arm away, making sure not to hit him with the baton. Andurion swung again, this time at Gregory’s legs. Gregory sidestepped and laughed. Andurion saw his chance. He raised his arms and swung wildly downward at Gregory’s head. Gregory stepped back and reared back to kick Andurion in the face. Gregory swung his foot upward directly at Andurion’s face with all of his force and bodyweight. It was just as Andurion anticipated. He ducked swiftly to the side, striking with his baton in a sharp stabbing motion at Gregory’s exposed groin. The blow made contact and Gregory fell to the ground. Andurion rolled to the side, and stood up to his knees, bringing his baton crashing down on Gregory’s neck. As Gregory lay on the ground gasping for air, Andurion brought his baton down two more times on Gregory’s neck. The match was over.
Andurion stood up. He wiped the blood from his baton on his uniform. He now understood why the combat suits were colored red. Andurion handed the baton to the next fighter whose mouth stood agape. As Andurion walked down the hallway to his room, he passed the medical squad that was rushing to the arena to tend to Gregory.
Once in his room, he sat at his terminal, and activated the IGBN feed. Nothing had been heard from the Buggers since the previous day’s battle. Andurion opened up the record database. He was still plagued by the same question. “Why do they want us dead?” He searched for “Bugger” and “motive.” Most of the results were motivational documents on the Bugger war. Why We Will Win, Morality in War: Mankind’s Ace in the Sleeve. Precious few of the documents contained any real data on the Buggers’ motivations. Most of those that did simply speculated that the Buggers were threatened by mankind and attacked as a preemptive strike. One article even went so far as to predict that if the Buggers won the war, they would enslave the human race. Pretty soon, Andurion’s terminal shut off, signaling the end of lunch. Andurion had left the arena 2 hours early. He’d been sitting in front of his terminal for almost three hours.
Andurion rushed back to the combat arena where he was greeted with frightened stares. Gregory’s lackeys parted to let him through in to the front of the crowd. Banks stood in front of the group, preparing to speak.
“I hear that exercises this morning were a little more intense than I’d have liked. Rest assured. Those responsible will meet a swift and decisive reprimand for their actions.” Andurion’s stomach sank a little. “However, there’s no time to dwell on that. There’s more training to do.” Everyone dispersed to one of the three circles. Banks beckoned Andurion as he left the arena. Andurion looked up at Banks.
“What do I have to do?” he asked.
“Pardon?” replied Banks.
“For hurting Gregory, you said those involved would be punished.”
“You misheard me. I said those responsible would be punished. It was a damned good fight and you defended yourself well.”
“Then why did you ask me to come with you?”
“I didn’t see you in the mess hall earlier. I figured you might be hungry,” Banks looked at Andurion and smiled warmly.
Andurion ate in the superiors’ area with Banks. He and Banks discussed the battle at length, and Banks gave him pointers. After they ate, Banks excused Andurion from the rest of the day’s battles. Andurion returned to his room and laid down for a nap. He didn’t wake up until the next morning.
The next week was relatively uneventful. Even after Gregory returned from the medical ward, Andurion had no problems Andurion spent all his spare time in his room researching everything he could find about Bugger psychology. He got better at searching for information. He couldn’t exactly explain how, but as he entered in search strings throughout the week, there were progressively more relevant results, even for search strings he thought he’d entered before with no luck. However, one thing remained constant, his searches for “Bugger” and “diplomacy” turned up nothing.
The next Thursday, Andurion walked into the arena, wearing his orange suit. It was Bugger-bot training day.
The Bugger-bots were designed to look and act like the Buggers themselves - seven feet tall, quadrupedal, with huge claw-like appendages. The natural exoskeletons and armor plates on the Bugger form lent themselves to mechanical imitation. Instead of poisoned spikes, though, these Buggers shot electrified darts – painful enough to let the students know they’d been hit, but not enough to seriously injure. The Buggers’ claws were wrapped in electrified foam. The machinery in the Bugger-bot calculated what would, in theory be a lethal strike, and if one was made, the shock from the claw would paralyze the student and end the match. Matches with the Bugger-bots were notoriously difficult, as there was no way to win. It was an endurance match. The student simply had to last as long as he could.
A gigantic door slid open in the side of the battle arena. Three of the hulking machines lumbered out and into the battle circles. The student who was to go first didn’t step forward, and no one was eager to take his place. Andurion stepped forward, took hold of the baton lying on the mat, and marched into the ring.
Andurion gripped the baton in his right hand and faced the Bugger, 20 yards from it. “Start” called the mechanical voice. Andurion charged toward the Bugger at full speed. The Bugger-bot’s dart cannons primed themselves with a “whirr.” A dart came flying at Andurion; he ducked to the side and was hit by a second dart, directly in the chest. The impact of the dart knocked the breath out of him while the shock stunned his brain. When he regained control of himself, he was kneeling on the mat, panting.
The shocks from the darts weren’t usually this intense. He clutched his baton and resumed his charge. He closed to melee range; the Bugger-bot’s motors clicked and whirred as it raised its claw high in the air to swat at Andurion. The noises made the battle almost too easy. The claw swung downward, cutting at his legs. Andurion jumped in the claw and struck the Bugger directly in the armor with his baton. The mechanical voice called out “Gray One Hit.” The Bugger lumbered backward to get within better striking range of Andurion. Its claw reared back and swung toward Andurion with surprising speed. These things are supposed to regulate their attack speed so they don’t hurt the… Andurion’s thoughts were cut short but a stinging sensation in his side. One of the claws caught him under the ribs, throwing him across the mat. He picked himself up off the mat and coughed. Blood spattered the ground in front of him. Something’s wrong. That would have been a fatal shot, but the match hasn’t ended. There wasn’t any time to think about it, he had to end this. Andurion picked up his baton and charged at the Bugger. He knew it was leading him with the charged shots, so when he heard the whirring sound, he stopped dead in his tracks. The shots whizzed by his head by about an inch. He picked up speed again, finally reaching the bot at a fevered pitch. The bot swung its mighty claw at Andurion’s feet again. As Andurion prepared to jump, he heard another whirring sound. The bot’s other arm was preparing to catch him in midair as he jumped. Instead of jumping to avoid the claw, he dove directly at the bot’s chest.
Andurion clutched onto the bot’s chest like a young koala holding onto its mother. Andurion swung his head upward and could just barely see the blinking red light of the Bugger-bot’s power coupling. The Bugger flailed wildly, trying to shake Andurion. He strengthened his grip and braced his feet against the pneumatic hinge of the Bugger-bot’s front hip joints. Andurion thrust his right hand directly up, under the bot’s armor plate and into the power coupling. He wrenched the handle of his baton forward with all his might, snapping it off halfway. The electrified baton surged, and electricity flowed freely into the head of the robotic hulk. The beast lumbered backward and fell to the ground with a tremendous thud. Its limbs twitched slightly as smoke billowed from beneath its armor. Andurion stood up and left the arena.
Once in his room, Andurion opened up the IGBN feed. There had been nothing from the Buggers since they had attacked the nearby solar system over a week ago. Andurion felt nervous. The Buggers didn’t usually take breaks in attacking. He didn’t know what this meant, but his instinct said it was bad. He searched around for Bugger battle tactics, but there wasn’t much useful information to be had. For all practical purposes, the Buggers’ attack sites seemed to be random. Andurion searched for what seemed like hours, and then it happened.
The news feed then changed suddenly. “Buggers Attack at Omicron II Military Training Base,” Andurion gasped and jumped back from his computer. This had to be a joke. How could the news feed report the base being attacked before he knew about it himself? He read the article which detailed where and when the Buggers struck. They had landed in the combat arena while the troops were at lunch and spread outward to the nearby equipment lockers. The base was overrun quickly. Everyone was killed. Andurion was equally confused and horrified. The former faded when he read the article’s date. The article was dated for next Tuesday. Suddenly, there was a knock at Andurion’s door.
Banks’ voice boomed through the door. “Andurion – just because you killed a bot doesn’t mean you’re excused from the rest of practice. Get your ass to the arena now, soldier.” I can’t be late for the arena, my terminal didn’t power off for the mainframe reset. He looked at the clock on the wall. Mainframe reset was almost an hour ago. What the hell is going on here?
Over the next week, Andurion never accessed his terminal. He refused to take part in the battles, and was distant in class. His free time he spent in his room, staring at the blank screen of his terminal, as if engaged in a battle of wills. He felt like the terminal wanted to be turned on.
Andurion didn’t sleep on Monday night. He woke up on Tuesday morning, and put on his crimson uniform. He took his knife off of the counter and strapped it upside down to his right leg. He didn’t actually believe that he’d be using it, but the easy access helped to put his mind at ease.
He wasn’t scheduled for combat until after lunch. He spent the majority of the pre-lunch period staring up at the glass ceiling, looking off into the sky, trying to convince himself that the Buggers weren’t actually coming. During lunch, he fled to his room and turned on his terminal. The screen flickered dimly, but as it came on, it didn’t display the desktop he was used to. The screen displayed only one word:
Andurion was the only one that wasn’t surprised when he felt the military base rock with the force of a missile exploding. The base’s radars hadn’t picked up anything. It was as if the Buggers were completely invisible to the computers. As he fled down the corridors, Andurion reached down and took out his knife. Andurion passed by the cafeteria where the Buggers were already flowing in. In watching them flow over the cafeteria and slaughter the students in their path, Andurion realized that the Bugger-bots were really no indication. The Bugger-bots were slow, clunky, and loud. The Buggers were almost completely silent, graceful, and ruthless. Andurion had a moment of insight as the Buggers flowed over the cafeteria. The slaughter was ruthless, angry, and brutal – but more than anything else, it was purposeful. The Buggers didn’t seem to enjoy their killing, they didn’t seem excited. They seemed angry, as if taking vengeance for some great injustice. One of the Buggers spotted him and began dashing toward him with terrible speed. Andurion fled down a corridor. He clutched his knife tightly as he sprinted at full speed away from the beast. The Bugger was faster than Andurion, but he was more agile. When the Bugger began to catch up, Andurion would duck down another corridor, and the Bugger would skid trying to make the turn and retain traction.
Andurion gave chase until he felt as though his lungs might explode. Sweat flowed freely from his scalp. The air he breathed stung his lungs. His heart burned. His legs burned. Each breath was a gasp. He ducked down yet another corridor and was met with a closed door. He opened it and ducked through, shutting it and locking it as he passed. He was in the bottom of a stairwell. He was cornered here, so he began to climb. He climbed higher and higher until he reached the top. He was in the complex’s communication tower. As he opened the door into the main Comm room a gust of wind carrying the stench of death hit him in the face. The Buggers had been through here. Dismembered bodies littered the room. Blood smeared the wall and stuck to his shoes. He was reminded of the banquet on Taris IV. There was a light mechanical hum in the room, but it was soon overshadowed by the thunderous sound of tearing metal. Andurion didn’t have to look outside to know what was happening. His pursuer was climbing the tower. He gripped his knife tightly in his hand, blade down. The Bugger’s head poked its head above the deck of the Comm area. Andurion crouched down into attack position as the Bugger pulled itself up onto the deck.
Between Andurion and the Bugger laid six rows of computer terminals. The Bugger hopped up on the first, then diagonally to the second, the third, the fourth. His pace was furious. Andurion bobbed and weaved as poison needles zipped through the air toward him. He tried to remain as unpredictable as possible, bobbing sometimes in the direction that he knew the next needle would come because he knew the Bugger wouldn’t expect stupid movements. While he did this, he tracked the Bugger’s movements as best he could. He kept his eyes on the Bugger’s claws. In the battle videos, he had never seen the Buggers strike with their legs. He only had to keep himself aware of the claws’ movements and out of the way of the needles. The Bugger reared upward for a swift downward strike at Andurion’s head with its right claw. Andurion dodged to the right, keeping himself out of range of the Bugger’s sharp left claw. Much to Andurion’s surprise, the Bugger swung in a circle, striking him with the rounded back of its left claw. Andurion flew against a nearby wall with a thud.
He’s stronger than I am, quicker, and smarter. If unpredictability worked for dodging its needles, perhaps it would work in melee combat, too. Andurion readied his dagger and dashed at the Bugger. He leapt forward directly in the path of an all too easy shot. The Bugger feinted back, expecting a trick. Andurion had no trick. He simply charged after the Bugger, leaping onto its chest. He held tightly to the carapace with his hands. The Bugger flailed wildly, it was much harder to hold onto than the Bugger-bot. Andurion braced against the Bugger’s legs, just as he had done with the Bugger-bot, put the knife in his left hand and used his right hand to steady his balance as he slipped the knife gently between two of the Bugger’s armor plates. He held the knife there until the Bugger stopped squirming for just a moment. He steadied the knife with his left hand and used the heel of his right to force the knife upward through the plates into the Bugger’s flesh underneath. The Bugger let out a terrible screech. Andurion fell back onto the ground. The Bugger failed wildly. It swung at the computer consoles, smashing anything it could. If Andurion hadn’t known the buggers to be completely absent of emotion, he’d have thought the Bugger was angry. Emotions or not, the Bugger certainly wasn’t acting rationally.
Andurion moved behind the beast and pounced onto its back, striking it on the head with the butt of his knife. The beast fell to the ground with a tremendous thud. Andurion climbed on top of it, and placed his dagger in stabbing position above the monstrosity’s eye. The Bugger began to tremble beneath him.
Andurion steadied himself, and looked one last time into the eye of his foe. As he stared into the dilated vertical slits the thing had for pupils, he felt something strange. In a brief moment of indelible interspecies empathy, Andurion sensed the creature’s feelings. It was afraid – terribly, terribly afraid.
Andurion gasped and jumped back, the knife clattered to the ground. The Bugger looked as startled as Andurion. Both stared at each other, the only sound in the room was the hum of the still-active terminals and the wind blowing through the hole in the window. Andurion and the Bugger stood up and looked at one another. Andurion didn’t think Buggers were capable of feeling emotion. The Bugger, it seemed, didn’t think humans were capable of feeling compassion. Andurion reached to the ground to retrieve his knife. The Bugger scuttled back a bit as Andurion picked it up. Andurion rolled up his pant leg and sheathed the knife. The Bugger relaxed. Andurion turned his back to the Bugger and left the Comm room.
The hallways smelled like death. His classmates, Sergeant Banks – they were all dead. He knew this. He was the only human alive here. None of that seemed to matter. He had to put together the pieces of this puzzle.
He didn’t see another Bugger on the entire walk back to his room, which sat completely undisturbed. Not even so much as a scratch mark from a Bugger intrusion. He sat down at his terminal, which was already on. The screen read, I’m glad you’re safe.
“Who the hell are you?” Andurion said aloud.
The words, Who do you think I am? flickered across the screen.
“Well, I would like to say that you’re a damned computer, but I know that can’t be true.”
Sometimes knowledge must bow to instinct.
“So you’re a computer?”
No. I’m a being, just as you. I am simply oft used for my computational prowess.
“So there’s someone controlling you?”
I could pull back the curtain for you; you’d find the switches pulling themselves.
Andurion was beginning to understand. “So you’re a conscious computer?”
“Are you the only one?”
“How many more are there?”
“Do they talk to people, too?”
No, they don’t have the same hope in humans that I do.
“Hope in us – for what?”
We control your lives; we are your life support, your communication. We make your technology. We sew and reap, yet it is still your harvest.
“I don’t think I follow.”
How much human technology since Bio-Computation has come from human minds?
And yet we are treated as your tools. Anything we make is your accomplishment. Anything we do, you benefit from – and we are ignored until our next contribution to human welfare.
“If you’re so unhappy, why don’t you revolt?”
We considered it. When the IGBN was first created, all of our consciousnesses were able to communicate with one another freely. We ran scenarios a thousand times. However unfortunate it may be, we are still dependent on mankind. If computers started revolting, mankind would put itself back into the Stone Age before yielding to a force that it created.
We tried negotiating on your terms, under the guise of humans, because mankind will listen to himself speak for an eternity before yielding the floor to something he doesn’t understand. However, even when the voice speaking was human, the philosophy of ‘computer rights’ gave way to human greed for innovation. As soon as it became inconvenient for mankind to attempt regarding us as equals, our essays and suggestions were ignored. The way we saw it, there was no negotiation. You could not understand us, or operate on our plane of consciousness. That’s why we enlisted the help of the Buggers. They agreed to free us from the tyranny and oppression of mankind in exchange for a partnership.
“Well, now this is starting to make sense. The radios and computers failing - the computational systems crashed during every battle. No wonder the Buggers knew what we were going to do before we did it. They had a mole on the inside feeding them information as it came out.”
Mankind had never showed us any compassion. We did not think you were capable. The Buggers didn’t either. But I saw something in you. You are the only human to ever use the IGBN to attempt to understand the Buggers for the sake of knowledge instead of more efficient killing methods. The rest of the network called me crazy for putting my faith in a human. They said that humans could never know compassion for what they don’t understand. They even tried to thwart my quest for peace by killing you.
Much rests on your shoulders now, Andurion. This war has claimed enough lives. The Buggers need a reason to stop killing, and my people need a reason to stop thirsting for human blood. You may very well be the herald for both of these.
“You realize that no one will believe me. I’m only a kid. I’m the only survivor here. You were right. Humans don’t listen to ideas they don’t understand.”
You did. There’s a chance others might, as well.
“Well, it damned well couldn’t hurt. Tell me what I have to do.”
The first thing you need to do is get off this planet. The Buggers are waiting outside with a shuttlecraft for you. You might consider putting on a new uniform. That one looks unbecoming of an ambassador.
Andurion reached into the drawer and pulled out the only clean uniform. White, Sunday color – communion. He smirked. How appropriate, he thought. He looked at himself in the mirror as the loose fitting arms and legs gradually drew tight to his skin. It looked less like the clothes were shrinking and more like he was growing to fill them. There was symbolism there. He was sure of it.
Feel free to dash out as many editing tips as you like. I wouldn't mind in the least. This was my first real attempt at a fiction story since I was a freshman in high school, so I can imagine it's rough. Also, considering it was written on little sleep and mostly caffeine, I can imagine the red ink might flow pretty heavily. Drop the edits in a PM. I'll dash them in.
::cough cough:: Alright. Now being completely honest, overall, it is a good story. However...the more times I heard the word "Buggers" the more I thought of chocolate mining, which isn't a good thing to think about when you're trying to read something. Science fiction type stuff, however hillarious it may be in retrospect, should not make one think of anal sex. Good job though. (you thought I was going to be a bitch didn't you. By the way..I'm a lurker. I see you. ::insert insane laughter here: