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Species 24

by K.T. Seto 5 months ago in Sci Fi
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A Sci-Fi Tale of the Watchers in the Skies

The meeting hall was only half full, but the air felt as close as if there were twice as many beings inside. The small team of researchers sat together in front of the raised dais holding the full contingent of the Galactic Defense Committee’s Science division heads and their assistants. Once everyone was seated a tall being entered the room and walked up onto the dais to take the one remaining chair, the one behind the podium that designated them as the Officiant for the hearing.

“This hearing is to examine the requests of researcher Q3-Axvi’Mbrk’s team regarding the planet Vertus 3 and its dominant Indigenous population. All empowered committee members are in attendance. We have barred civilian access given the project’s classified status,” the Officiant said, flicking all four of their eyestalks around so they could view every corner of the room simultaneously.

Q3 stifled the urge to adjust the collar of their heavily starched uniform and stood with a serene smile on their face, despite the sweat forming behind their ears. So much was riding on this hearing, yet they knew there was little chance of the committee granting even one request. Vertus 3 was such a volatile, backward, and confusing place. Not to mention the fact that it was also the birthplace of the most dangerous species in the 7 galaxies-The Thalen.

“Before researcher Axvi starts their presentation, are there questions from the panel?” The Officiant asked, and Q3 stifled the urge to groan. Why had they forgotten the committee could ask questions? They’d prepared their speech, practiced over and over. And the panel just negated all of their planning with one simple pronouncement.

The Officiant looked around, smiling magnanimously, and nodded as the oldest member on the panel cleared their throat and stood.

“Thank you esteemed Colleagues, Assistants, and Researchers. I just have a few questions. The first of which is about the abbreviations in the designations you use for the inhabitants of Vertus 3. What do the letters M and F stand for? Your report is quite confusing in this regard and full understanding requires a proper definition of terminology,” The Elder said, and several others nodded. Q3 sighed. Of course, they would ask about the one thing the team didn’t want to explain. The peculiar segregations of Species 24’s society were one of the main things that proved the stereotypes about the planet.

“My thanks for your most astute question, honored elder. As I, and my Colleagues, noted, Vertus 3 is a tribal based society and has several classifications that delineate societal placement. M stands for Makers, and F stands for Focus, and they dictate primary placement in the societal hierarchy. All other designations are modifiers. Our research has showed that they used these designations planet wide, and they permanently relegate those with the Focus designation to a subservient position in their society,” Q3 said and waited for the righteous disgust at the statement abate.

“Why?” the Elder said and Q3 sighed.

“Adherence to the tenets of their faith. An Abundance Cult dominates Vertus 3. There are different iterations depending on region, but the underlying paradigm, conditioning, and pervasiveness of the Cult appears universal. To date, we have found no other planet or species in the 7 galaxies that have anything remotely similar. We have posited that the Cult’s prime directive, regardless of official name and location, is unfettered species propagation. We think this is to ensure the dominance of their worldview. Our hypothesis is that they believe that by maintaining their place as the majority in the population, they will prevent and suppress the rise of anything that might supplant their rule. As stated in the report, my fellow Researchers and I believe that a more in-depth study of this Cult, not the planet and its life-forms, will provide us with crucial clues to assist in the battle against the Thalen,” Q3 said, and several of the committee members shouted angrily. To say the name of their most deadly foe was to invite scrutiny none could afford. It was a blunder of substantial proportion, and Q3’s Colleagues hissed in dismay. The Officiant rose and waved their arms to draw the attention of the assembly.

“I humbly request a return to order. Your ability to control your justified disquiet and maintain your composure honors us all,” the Officiant said, and the room gradually returned to the previous level of quiet attention.

“Your rapid compliance humbles me. You honor us greatly. Our gratitude knows no bounds,” the Officiant said, bowing to the entire assembly before returning to their seat. Q3 sighed and waited for the next question, nervousness making it hard to keep all four of their eyestalks focused on the Elder as they resumed speaking.

“Honored committee, you have my most abject apologies for the use of the most hated name. I will use their Scientific designation for the rest of my testimony,” Q3 said, bowing deeply, and several of them nodded.

“Please continue with your questions, honored Elder,” The Officiant said, and the Elder nodded.

“In your report, you stated the designations supersede all other factors. Yet you were not clear on the ways the designations effect their society. Were you trying to prevent the committee from having a more detailed account of your work? Was your team trying to hide something?” The Elder asked and Q3 bowed deeply, their head and eyestalks completely lowered so the Elder could see their sincerity.

“On the contrary, most esteemed Elder. We have nothing to hide and merely focused on what we deemed the most important factors. The team collected cycles’ worth of data, all sorted and preserved for the benefit of all. Culling that data for the most pertinent facts to our presentation took many cycles as well. I and my team stand ready to provide you all with whatever you require,” Q3 said, stopping short of accusing the Elder of questioning the honor of his team. That definitely would cost them several items on their very long list.

“Do the inhabitants have a more extreme variation that would warrant permanent designation of fully half of their kind to a subservient status? Is there some mental or physical defect that causes such rigid control? What does subservient status mean in this context? Tell us what is the function of this permanent lower class? Are they enslaved?” The Elder said, and several members of the committee hissed in displeasure. The 7 Galaxies outlawed the enslavement of sentient beings 3000 cycles ago. That anything approaching slavery existed anywhere was an anathema.

“There is no defect that we could find in our examinations, which by law we conducted from the safety of our observation post on the planet’s satellite. Their appearances are remarkably identical, with only a basic level of variation. The dominant life-forms are uniformly bipedal with a single set of recessed eyestalks and auditory appendages. Their flesh has minor variations in hue and pelt and size varies from as little as 3 Xromtics to as great as 8 for adults. As far as we can determine, the assignment of designations solely depends on the method in which they provide the composite cellular material necessary for offspring propagation. Class M beings provide reproductive matter externally. Class F beings carry their reproductive matter internally and are the sole reproductive cell incubators. This is a trait shared with many other life-forms on the planet but theirs is the only species where this is assigned significance. Species propagation has several rituals used to germinate the cells which we describe in appendix 12 of the report. They also appear to prioritize the incubation of the offspring over the heath and status of the class F creatures, per the statutes of their Cult. They are the only creatures on their planet that appear to worship the incubation and germination of their young. There are also several rituals associated with incubation, which we describe in sections 55A- 57E of the report. We found this puzzling at first but once we analyzed the preliminary data on the fundamentals of Abundance- which make up the nucleus of the Cult’s core paradigms, it made sense,” Q3 said, and several committee members made indistinct noises of disapproval. Unsurprising, but as a Researcher it was Q3’s job to not pass judgement on the Species they studied, no matter how odd.

“This is most disturbing. I must think about this more. I appreciate your willingness to speak on something so disconcerting,” the Elder said and then continued. “One more thing, given the importance placed on incubation, why did your team include a request to remove several class F beings along with the Class M beings you deemed crucial to your study of the Cult dynamics? Clearly, they have little importance in the tribe hierarchy. If their own kind has not granted them the status accorded to sentient beings, why would they be necessary to your study?” The Elder asked and Q3 fought to keep their expression impassive.

“We have determined that we can only get a full understanding of their Cult away from Vertus 3 with specimens from both classes of the species, regardless of the status of the second class. Apparently, Class M beings require Class F beings for optimal neurochemical releasing interactions. We have not discovered the reasoning behind this, but hope once we start phase 2, the answer will become clear. All of our data suggests that the security of Class M’s dominant status in that locale will prevent us from effectively examining and removing the Cult conditioning. As you know, categorizing and altering conditioned responses requires a complete stripping of the psyche. This isn’t possible in the security of their primary environment,” Q3 replied, and waited as the committee members spoke among themselves. The Elder bowed and resumed their seat and another member rose and bowed to the assembly before turning to face Q3 and the rest of the research team.

“Couldn’t you get the information you need by a focused virtual immersion in their Cult rather than removing them from their planet? After all, we created the implant spores for just this purpose.” The member said, and several others made sounds of approval in response to this statement. The research team had predicted push back, especially on this one point. The embargo on that system prevented the removal of any organic materials, especially life-forms. This protected the planets from exploitation from the more mercenary species in the 7 galaxies, and also kept the eyes of their enemies off their home system and hopefully blocked them from obtaining reinforcements even though they’d detected no sign of the Thalen on the planet since their research began.

“This is the most unfortunate of our findings. Species 24 shares one incontrovertible trait with our enemy. They have a universal resistance to implantation. Every attempt has failed to date. The chemical structure of their brains appears to reject them in exactly the same manner as the Tha- Species 23. Of course, we cannot know for sure, which is why getting tissue samples is also on our list,” Q3 said, and the chamber erupted.

Once again, the assembly disintegrated into shouts and hissing. Q3’s eyestalks swerved in every direction, trying to gauge their reactions beyond the verbalizations. Emotion would not rule in the end. They needed all the information they could get to aid their fight. Otherwise, they would have never agreed to put an observation station so close to the only occupied planet in an embargoed system. Once again, the Officiant rose.

“I humbly request a return to order. Your ability to control your justified disquiet and maintain your composure honors us all!” The Officiant said and the room gradually quieted to the previous level of quiet attention.

“Your rapid compliance humbles me. You honor us greatly and our gratitude knows no bounds,” The Officiant said again, bowing to the entire assembly before returning to their seat.

“The Council of the 7 strictly prohibits dissection unless conducted under the powers granted by the Conflict Codicils in the Treaty of 24860,” the Officiant said, holding up a hand to forestall further outbursts and Q3 nodded.

“This is true. However, the committee granted the right to conduct this research under article 15 of the CC. Which is why we deemed are requests appropriate in the interests of obtaining all of relevant data for the committee’s use. Given the current trajectory of the war, we understood our mandate as a last resort kind of measure. As such, we looked at every avenue of inquiry available no matter how personally distasteful,” Q3 said quietly and waited as the angry hisses turned into murmurs of assent. Q3 watched as the Officiant spoke in low tones to the committee heads and resisted the urge to turn and look at their team. They’d elected Q3 to present their meager findings. It was Q3’s job to convince them to let the research team have free rein to aid in the fight against their enemy and potentially liberate the oppressed on Vertus 3. The time for delicacy has passed. Finally, the Officiant rose.

“The committee concedes the point. We shall suspend further questioning until after the official presentation. Researcher Axvi, you may begin,” the Officiant said, bowing slightly and then seating themselves once again on the raised dais that held the rest of the committee.

Q3 cleared their throat and launched into the presentation, including all the evidence they’d gathered to prove that they’d given the dominant species of the Planet Vertus 3 the correct designation- Species 24. Some might argue that it was too soon to state that they shared genetics with the Thalen, but the data didn’t lie. The Thalen would be Species 24 if they’d stayed their home system. Q3 laid out their hypothesis, working hard to make sure the committee understood they believed defeating them depended on understanding the biology and psychology of the ones left behind.

When the speech was over, Q3 returned to sit with the rest of the team to await the verdict. The committee filed out, leaving the research team and Officiant behind. Less than an hour later, the committee returned to the room and presented the Officiant with a tablet.

“Researcher Axvi, the committee would like to commend you and your team for your work. We understand the difficulty and importance of your efforts and will not forget your contributions to the cause. However, the committee has denied all but one of your requests. It is the finding of this body that given the extreme danger posed by the removal of anything from the yellow dwarf system 12X- also known as Vertus, specifically the planet Vertus 3 we cannot allow the removal of any beings of designation M from their primary habitat, nor can we grant permission to land on the planet to retrieve biological specimens of the soil and other organic matter. The committee hereby grants the research team license to remove as many class F beings as required for live testing. This waiver of the prohibition excludes dissection, and you must return all test subjects unharmed within 20 cycles of their removal to prevent permanent damage to their physiology,” The Officiant said and Q3 worked to keep the smile off their face. The committee didn’t know it, but they’d just given them the key to winning the war. Though they hadn’t included it in their report, everyone on the team knew that anyone given the classification F in species 24 wasn’t at all defective, just repressed. Given a chance away from their home planet, they would be powerful weapons against their hated foes. Species 24 are much more ferocious and cunning than their predecessors Species 23, the Thalen. Freed from the need to kowtow to the whims of the Abundance Cult Class F beings would make the perfect weapon against their foes. Q3 rose and bowed with their team, then once they exited the chambers, allowed themselves to celebrate.

Species 23 wouldn’t know what hit them, and the Class F beings from Vertus 3 would flourish once removed from their planet. After all, you can’t really grow if you’re told there’s a limit to what you can be. Freedom is more than just escaping oppression. It is also being able to be who you are without the weight of expectation holding you back.

Sci Fi

About the author

K.T. Seto

Hi all I'm K.T. Seto and I play what if. I write Speculative Fiction with a paranormal bent and joined Vocal as a way to write stories that aren't tied to my other works.Vocal is for the odd bits that don't fit, so hang on for the ride.

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