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Nasr Al-Muntaqim (H minus Two Months)
"Haraam transit." Every time it made me want to throw up. Every time. Fifty drops through transit and I still got sick from it. I opened my eyes as the cackle-boom ended.
"Hello?" Someone asked, but I didn't answer right away. Instead I put a hand to my throat.
I kept it there. After five minutes, after I was certain that I wasn't going to puke, I looked at the woman trying to greet me. She looked pale.
"Um... Hello, sir?" She looked no older than twenty. She wore a white lab coat that contrasted with her dark skin. Her hair hung over her shoulder in a long ponytail. "Can I help you?"
"This is the Hut, isn't it?" I waved a hand at the statue grotesque trio of monsters I had transited in front of. "I'm here to train monsters. I imagine not these, but..."
"I'm Nicky... Dr. Putnam and Miss Putnam are waiting for you downstairs. In the Cave." Nicky didn't look into my eyes. She looked away.
Its always awkward, because my eyes aren't human anymore. They look wrong. They don't have pupils, not ones that look human enough.
"Major Nasr Al-Muntaqim. The Cave?" I paused, referencing the files I'd received on the project in my BrainSys. They were very vague. A map indicated most of the facility to be underground, a good part of it being massive tunnel structures.
"Yes... If you don't mind, this way..." Nicky took through a series of doors and white dry-walled hallways. Then she opened a steel door.
Past that door we stepped onto a carbon-fiber catwalk. Glass sealed it off from everything around us. Her shoes clicked as she walked. I had to keep pace with her, she seemed to be speeding through. As always the carbon-fiber mesh sounded wrong to my ears, looking like metal but lacking the right sort of clang.
"Here." Nicky waved at the massive tunnels the catwalk hung over. "Welcome to the Cave."
I glanced downward as we walked along the catwalk. A hundred foot drop to what looked like water below. It felt chilly to me. The walls looked organic. Dug out by nanotech. I'd seen such in the colonies. It made the tunnels look like a shiny cavern. They were a dark grey. The tunnel must've been as wide as it looked tall to me.
"Looks like a cave." I nodded. "I've gotten a map of those tunnels. We going down there?"
Nicky shook her head. "No, we don't go down there. That's for the Monsters."
The way she said monsters had a bit of a giggle to it. I recognized that sort of use of the word. Endearment. Monsters. Whatever these things Project Hecate had created, their feelings for them were strong enough to give them a term of endearment.
"Monsters." I repeated the word. "My BrainSys has files on them, but they are all incomplete. Whatever these things are, you sure avoided giving me technical details."
"I'm sure there are reasons." Nicky smiled as we continued to walk. "The oldest group, we've long called monsters. They were so cute."
"Cute?" I stopped.
Nicky paused and looked back at me. Her cheeks flushed. "Sorry, I know that sounds weird, but... they are... IDK. We know them, Major. They are magnificent."
"Cute." I repeated. "I don't care if they are magnificent or cute. We're facing extinction. This is just another last scream of our species."
Nicky led the two of us up to another steel door. "Major, I think our Monsters will change your mind."
I didn't respond to that. As we climbed down a set of stairs, I remembered back to the horrors I'd seen. A dozen different colonies, each falling in the end. Nothing we did could stop them. Nothing. Each time I'd transited away just as the last desperate attempt to stall the Enemy hit.
Zeus Protocol. Transiting away to see the feed from a world you left, turned into glass and ash. Those who couldn't get to a Transit site in time were stuck behind. Trapped, forced to be incinerated by the massive nuclear blast sent as a last desperate measure.
Another steel door. Nicky led me to a pair of women. Both looked related, their dark skin and black hair made them look like sister. We walked in what looked like some sort of heated discussion.
"It was ten years ago." My BrainSys read the QR tag identified her as Dr. Miri Putnam. A bit more heavier set than the other woman, she seemed frustrated.
"I don't want to talk about it. You haven't changed, and clearly can't listen to a word I'm saying Miri." The other woman's voice sounded like it was on the verge of a scream. "Look, this can wait, ok?"
My BrainSys read her QR tag as Ghale Putnam, one of the co-directors of the Pygmalion Program. I knew about her. She'd been recommended by my commander, and I'd been told that she'd brief me when I would get here. She and her sister had some sort of drama going on.
That only added to the uncomfort I felt.
"Miri?" Nicky asked. I took note of that. Dr. Putnam maintained some sort of informality. "This is Major Al-Muntaqim."
The two women stopped glaring at one another and looked at me. Even their eyes looked alike. How both looked at me was different, though. Director Putnam looked away like most people did, that trademark avoidance of my cybereyes. Dr. Putnam on the other hand, studied my eyes and seemed to be fascinated by them.
"Doctor, Director." I gave a salute. Might as well try to make the best first impression I could. "Nicky here was just telling me about your Monsters. I'm here to train them."
Dr. Putnam beamed. "Nice to meet you Major. Your eyes are fascinating."
"Thanks for coming." The Director ignored her sister. "I imagine you want some more context. The files we'd sent were a little unclear."
I nodded. I kept my hands behind my back.
"Oh yes." Dr. Putnam waved a hand. A nearby wall started to raise up, uncovering a large glass window like the ones on the catwalk before. "These are our Monsters."
She said that with the same endearment that Nicky had. I tried not to let out a sigh. It felt like being witness to some play. I remembered seeing the same hopeful look on general after general. The ones who lead in the field, thinking it would change things. The others who thought we could change tactics just the right way, and then we wouldn't lose drones to the Enemy.
That didn't matter. We always lost.
"Go ahead Major." Dr. Putnam pointed at the window. "Take a look. We can explain all the details you want to know."
I looked out the window. The same kind of tunnel like Nicky and I had walked over in the catwalk before. Huge and smooth-walled. Unlike the catwalk, we weren't suspended from up on high. We looked out from much lower. Bodies moved in the water below us.
Massive bodies. Huge. It took me a moment to register how big they were. Human shapes that were big.
"What?" I said aloud. I tried to close my mouth, but the word came out anyway. "How... how big are they?"
"Ten meters." Dr. Putnam answered.
There were twenty-five of them. Human-shaped. Their hair had been cropped short. Their bodies looked like skin, but looked like it flowed into scales. Metal plates. Their faces had lines. Lights that glow blue-green. Their eyes glowed that same blue-green.
Their bodies looked wider than I was used to. Different. Not by much, but enough to throw me off. All of these... monsters seemed a bizarre term to use now, but it seemed apt. All of these monsters looked young. Like teenager young. That reminded me of boot camp.
It also conjured up old memories of watching crowds of young boys transiting to alien worlds to die against the Enemy. Young, happy faces doomed to die.
"Each of them is part of a genome created here. These are about half of the members of the first generation of Homo Sapiens Hecate." Dr. Putnam expounded. Pride made her voice sound louder.
"They are artificial humans, not robots then?" I felt strange asking this sort of question. The Pygmalion Program had been created to abandon all of the big bans against certain technologies.
"A techno-organic species." Dr. Putnam supplied. "First of their kind. Humans with technology coded into their very DNA. Each able to carry on their particular technological traits on to their daughters, should they need to."
"Daughters?" Director Putnam inquired. She sounded like that was the first time she was hearing of that tidbit too. "They can breed. Miri?"
Dr. Putnam smiled. "Each of our girls down there can self-reproduce. They are... asexual. Given the right conditions they could induce self-pregnancy and give birth within a year or so. None have yet, but we were hoping to test for that before the project went live."
"They are large, but what training have they had?" I asked. I'd seen creatures that large before. Enemy soldier units. Each could be huge. Size meant anatomical vulnerabilities. More mass carried risks, and Enemy soldier units could be taken down with them.
It still didn't help us fight them. That mass still had advantages in the battlefield. But I needed to know what these... these monsters were capable of.
"Their bodies were designed to handle their weight easily." Dr. Putnam gestured to a nearby screen. The image of one of the Hecate monsters was shown. A almost female looking person, whose body looked too wide to be real. Bones and muscles were highlighted on the screen. "Each is born with a organic nanofactory. It supplies their bones with dense carbon fibers, and adds neo-alloys to parts of their skin and bodies. But they can still cause themselves trauma outside the prepared chambers in the Cave.
"Each part of the cave is supplied with water so they can use fewer calories in the water. In the field, they'll be fine. But during development we didn't want any of them accidentally trapping themselves or causing harm to their bodies in mid-development."
"And you think they can somehow reproduce in the field?" Director Putnam sounded aghast.
"They can handle their masses now." Dr. Putnam gestured at them below. "They spend most of their time these days in Dreamspaces. We've been working on the development of the younger generations. By the time they reach nine years, they are fully mature."
"Nine years." I sighed. "Nine-year-old giants."
I steeled myself. Time to start figuring out how to teach these nine-year-old giant cyborgs how to die.
#InTransitMonsters Part 3, meaning there is another bonus blog post this week. This week introduces some more actual cast, as well as starting to introduce the monsters of the Hecate Project: giant machine hybrids, seemingly all female, young and in no way prepared for the horrorshow lying for them out on Mars.
This is part of my idea on technology as messiah for this story. Humans using cloning, artificial intelligence and gene modification to create a new species of human. I don't know what kind of metaphor that is supposed to be.
Nasr is part of a cadre of characters I think I need to get introduced before we get too far along. This could turn into a novella at this point, who knows. Still need a cover or something for this thing.
Thanks for reading this. If you enjoyed this, please share it. If you have ideas or suggestions, please feel free to make them. This is a #firstdraft, and I'm always looking for ways to improve.