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Nasr Al-Muntaqim (H minus One Month, 29 Days)
I walked with certainty through the Dreamspace. Hecate had given me Admin access over it. Each of the twenty monsters looked up at me. Curious looks.
It made me remember Haven. Memories of young faces watching. Ones that died in nuclear fire. I put memories of those horrors aside in my mind.
Each monster had avatars that looked human. Most looked like young teenage girls. A handful looked like teen boys, or some androgynous mixture. Young faces with bodies shorter than my own avatar. They'd modeled them on what data they must've found on human body measurements.
I'd designed my avatar to tower over them. Even if I was certain each of them were going to die, I'd do my job. I saw Dom's face on each of them. Some ghosts never rest I suppose.
"You are here to train. I'm here to teach you. And if you try, maybe, just maybe, you will learn enough to keep from dying on Mars." I waved a hand. The landscape around us twisted and changed. Then like a lens zooming in, the red and rocky dunes of Mars took over the Dreamspace.
"You have found by now that none of you have access to your voice systems. Nor can you text. There are only two ways you can communicate in my Dreamspace." I held up two fingers. "Two. I'm going to only tell you the first way: if I ask a question, you will get a chance to answer."
They all just looked up at me. They'd chosen their own avatars. These were the bare identities they'd forged in dreamspaces over the years. Dr Putnam's monsters had lived in VR all their lives, detached from their own bodies.
"Why am I taller than you here?"
My voice echoed. None of them answered. I looked over to one of the shorter of them. She'd chosen the form of a fifteen year old girl, her black hair very long and curly. Dark-skinned, her eyes avoided me and stayed transfixed on her feet. She looked like the spitting image of Ghale Putnam. My BrainSys told me her designation.
"Charlie. Why am I taller than you here?" I repeated my question. All of the others stared at her. She receded even further into herself at the attention.
"Um..." Charlie's eyes darted back and forth. "Because you made it that way?"
"Yes." I gestured out in the distance. "You are used to being able to make that choice, in this space. But you need to understand something. This form will only die against the enemy. There's a reason why your bodies are the way they are. Do any of you know why?"
They remained silent. Then a redheaded teenage boy spoke up.
"We were born to fight a war."
"Yes." I snapped my fingers. A thing appeared in the distance. Something thundered. "The Enemy never has Transited inside an atmosphere. Almost always they do so from outside the atmosphere, impacting the surface."
Fire crackled at the edge of the horizon. Something like a meteor struck. But it was no meteor. The fire that lit up the martian horizon was purple. Purple fire. Potassium Chlorates burning upon landing.
Putnam's monsters all shifted uncomfortably. Because the fire didn't die down when it crashed down. It kept burning in the distance.
"They land in a biofilm, which stores tons of fertilizer. The main cyst opens and releases the first waves of workers and soldiers. Of each of those, there are dozens of different varieties, each adapted to different roles." I waved a hand. We hurled toward the purple flames. Flames covered a massive, wet object in the Martian dirt.
It towered over us, covered in a pinkish orange slime. It looked like a bubble the size of a city. Then the bubble splattered into thousands of smaller bubbles. Each of those were as big as elephant.
Putnam's monsters watched transfixed as the humongous morass of bubbles popped. Eight-tentacled, orange-slimed covered things, that looked like crustaceans. They crawled and slid out of the cyst.
"Those are workers. Given even a few hours, they can alter the ecosystem." I shifted the time scale so that a single hour passed for each minute. Putnam's monsters took a step back, except for one. Charlie moved forward. She approached the nearest of the blurring fast workers. She seemed unafraid of them.
Strange, geometric structures erupted from the workers efforts. Like a fungal growth, they spread out from where the cyst had landed. I slowed time back to normal.
"Then the soldiers emerge." Then I waited to see how they'd react to it. I doubted they could pass this test.
Gases erupted from the structures. They covered everything in a slimy biofilm. Charlie clutched at her throat once the gases reached her nostrils. The coral structures shattered as the soldiers broke out of the cyst. Massive shapes struck at Putnam's monsters.
Each hard-shelled arthropod stood on six thick legs. There were some variation even at this stage in their development. But it didn't matter. Each soldier even while juveniles were five meters tall and over fifteen meters long. A hundred swarmed out of the cyst.
Their tiny human avatars couldn't withstand them. They panicked, trying to run away. Most had fallen like Charlie had, the gases have disabled them. The dreamspace mirrored the brain-eating enzymes those gases carried in the realspace. A handful of the tiny human avatars banded together, to try to work together to get away.
The soldiers of the Enemy caught them easily. Each soldier covered them in the orange slime I had seen countless times.
A moment later I stopped the simulation. Everything went dark. Twenty human avatar eyes stared at me in fear and anger. I smiled.
"Your first test. You failed. We will continue. Over and over. Until you are prepared to fight them." I could see they had questions. That they wanted to be able to speak again. But I didn't.
Instead we started it over. With repetition comes discipline.
#InTransitMonsters, part 6 of a continuing #ScienceFiction tale about technology as messiah, a new take on Frankenstein, giant robots and humans facing extinction from bizarre aliens. It's a #FirstDraft, so I'm open to criticism, comments, suggestions and anything else people can throw at it.
Alright. This one felt hard to get out. I think I might've underdone the action at the end; then again, I kinda enjoyed the tone. Nasr, despite his doubts, more or less plans to ruin the last refuge the monsters of the Hecate Project had: dreamspace. Which I think is a interactive dream state. I think.