Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 1 Untitled Story
04-20-2013, 12:34 PM
This is kind of a random story I've been working on. It's mostly done, but lacks a title at the moment. At best, it's a first draft, but it is as complete as I want it to be. I'm not seriously concerned about grammar unless something is bad enough to make the meaning unclear. I did something with the tense near the end on purpose, should be kind of clear what by that point. Scene setting and descriptions kind of fell out a bit after the first part as much of what I want to reflect is done in dialog. There are four parts, so 4 posts. Please feel free to comment and ask questions. Try to be constructive, it helps make the writing better.

Benevolence

Evaren Aullra entered the embassy with more than a little trepidation. It had taken more than a week to convince herself that she wanted to go. There wasn't anything to be afraid of, she had told herself; everyone who has gone in, has come out again. Only a few had stated they were seriously considering the offer, and so far none had taken it.

Still, the rumors swirled. Those who went in were turned into weird sleeper agents to be sprung on the world in time for conquest. They weren't real, they were biomachines of some type or another. They had already taken over, just no one knew it. She had heard all the rumors, read all the rants and raves, shifted the lies from the truth as best she could.

Evaren was still a bit afraid. Not as much as others, of course. There was something wholly fascinating about them, and their offer was just that, an offer. There were no strings, that she had been able to find, no restrictions. They would take anyone, but only if the person wanted it. The embassy was there to answer questions, ease concerns and make the final offer.

The embassy itself was one of their smaller ships, or so she had learned. It was like all their ships, marble white, curved and sleek. It wasn't huge, barely bigger than a small home she had visited once, but they said they didn't need much more. The lone resident rarely left the embassy, preferring to meet potential candidates inside.

The side of the wall felt almost warm. It caught her a bit by surprise, though otherwise it felt like a textured metal. The texture was low bumps, just enough to give it some tactical grip, but not enough to ruin the obvious smooth angles. The room itself felt clean, but not overly so. There was a desk, something that seemed to have been bought locally to help the place 'fit in.' Yet, it didn't feel out of place. The carpeting had a unique pattern, but made of a rugged material, one planned for a great deal of use. The desk itself was tidy, but obviously used. The walls had a few pictures on them, but nothing she recognized. It almost reminded her of a proper office, if it weren't for the strange walls and their odd angles.

If they had been aiming to make her feel comfortable, they had succeeded. Not wowed, however, something that disappointed her a bit. Evaren sat at in the one chair available and waited. She knew from her readings and the statement in the official offer that she should simply wait for the ambassador to arrive. Everything she had read said the wait wasn't long, but she worried she would be there a bit and be disappointed at how normal this place seemed.

Behind the desk was an obvious doorway, and a stairway leading up from there. That would be where the ambassador would come from as there was no other way into the small room. Above the door was a framed plaque. A white field was embossed with black letters and it stood for everything they claimed to believe in.

Benevolence. Openness. Reason. Grace.

Those words, those had drawn her here. Were they true though? That was the question that hung in her mind. What did they mean to them, the same as it meant to her or something else? Nothing said what those words meant to them, they barely even commented on it. A single line says it?s their credo, but beyond that, nothing. Why those words?

As Evaren contemplated them, a figure began to descend the stairs beyond the doorway. The ambassador had come and with each step a bit more of her form was revealed. She was tall, clothed in a white, flowing garment that was as much a bed sheet wrapped around her as a dress, and even with those alien features, it was most certainly a woman. Her hair was a dark gold color and it puffed from her head in a sea of curls, and she smiled as she saw Evaren.

She said nothing, sitting across from Evaren, and placed her hands on the desk, and smiled. It was here that Evaren could see the strange cables that wrapped her hands. They weren?t cumbersome, far from it, but their nature and purpose remained a mystery that had yet been solved. Otherwise, she was near flawless, her skin bright and healthy, her eyes sharp yet inviting.

"Welcome," she said. "We hope you haven?t waited long."

"Uh," Evaren paused. "No not long. I, um, hope I'm not interrupting anything."

The ambassador shook her head. "Of course not, it is our mission to meet with your people, any other tasks can wait." She paused, looking Evaren over. "May we please have a name to call you?"

"Evaren," she paused then decided against saying her full name, a touch of fear still there. "I didn't think individual names were important to you."

"Important, no, but they serve as identity. Would we call each other by numbers?"

Evaren hadn't thought about that, but it still felt odd given their nature. "Still, isn't being one the idea anyway, a name would interfere with that."

"Ah, yes, we understand the confusion. Just a moment." She reached to the back of her head, burying her hand into her hair, there was a soft click. In her hand was now a flat box, barely the width of her thumb with a pair clips on either end. She placed it on the desk. "Now you and I can talk more freely."

"What did you do?"

"I have disconnected myself from the Collective. My name is Ariena." Evaren looked at her for a moment, unsure. "It is my name; my mother gave it to me when I was born as it was her mother's before it. It can be traced to the name of a great leader on our world once, remembered and passed on across the generations. Where does yours come from, if I may ask?"

Evaren looked at her, then the box. "It's short for Evarenmontila, it means 'born with great joy.' I was the first of my parents."

Ariena smiled, a genuine smile as far as Evaren could see. "There are a great many names that mean something similar within the Collective, perhaps you could join one of their clubs, or start one." She gingerly picked up the box. "Would you like to hold it?" A moment?s hesitation was all Ariena needed and she quickly spoke again. "I do promise it won't bite or anything. You lack the implants to make use of it."

Evaren took the box, carefully, and rolled it over in her own hands, cautiously keeping the clips away from her flesh. "This connects you to the Collective."

"It is the bridge between my mind and the network that links us all. When it's in place, everything I see or do is fed back into the Collective, and they can offer suggestions and comments on the situation. Without it, they are blind and will not know what was discussed here, unless I choose to let them know."

"They can't just read your mind?"

Ariena's head shook. "Being part of the Collective is to be voluntary; taking someone's thoughts and memories would mean that the person isn't there by choice. It would be a crime to us."

"You share thoughts though."

"Yes, and in sharing we gain understanding of each other. The act of sharing is initiated by the one with the thought. From there it can be discussed, debated and put to use. The discussion between us now will be of great concern to the others of the embassy group, if only that we may learn what you wished to learn and provide the answers that would satisfy those like you in the future."

Evaren placed the box back on the desk and looked at her. "So there are no secrets in the Collective?"

"Oh, but there are a great many secrets. Do you wish me to keep this a secret? I can do so, it's not hard. I can keep the whole thing from the Collective, or just part. If you don?t want your name or face known, that?s easy enough, and I would do so at your request. However, that defeats the purpose of the Collective."

Big question, one of them at least, and one asked countless times by now. "What is the purpose of the Collective?"

"So common a question, yet the answer never satisfies," Ariena replied. "The purpose of the Collective is to achieve something greater together, as one, rather than piece by piece as many." She paused in thought. "I know, let me show you something." She slid open a drawer and placed one hand on a panel that filled the drawer. None of her fingers moved, but the panel certainly reacted and Evaren concluded that the twist of cables around her hands were part of an interface. In the middle of a desk, an image appeared, floated up so it was hovering between them.

Evaren couldn't make it out at first. It looked like a jumble of white towers, linked by long corridors. It moved out slightly and she could see one of the Collective's explorer ships flying near it, making it clear it was space, and more clear that this structure was immense. It dwarfed the already very large ship, and seemed to go on and on, with no end. "What is it?"

"The Unicomplex," Ariena said with no small measure of pride. "This is our greatest creation, the work of billions of minds and bodies working as one. It is our home, the center of the Collective, the great transmitter that links us all. It is my home and where I will return when my task here has finished."

"It's amazing," was all Evaren could say.

"I have no doubt that your people could, given time, build something similar. It would take time and resources you couldn?t spare, but it could be done. Working together, we assembled it, making use of resources wherever one of us found them, and finding just the right place for everything. We wish to build more one day, but for now, this is enough."

Ariena removed her hand from the panel and the image of the Unicomplex vanished. "We worked together, as one, to build it, and much more. We communicate over vast distances so that we may all share in great discoveries. Even though I never have, I know what it?s like to climb the grandest of mountains, fly amongst beautiful nebulas, and see the greatest of stars up close and personal. The Collective allows us to share these experiences, and build on them. With each individual mind added to the Collective, we become greater. With each individual experience and thought, each of us becomes greater. Poets share their greatest works in a moment, perhaps keeping the true meaning to themselves, but able to see what everyone else thinks. Artwork is created and I can witness each brush stroke. A performance means so much more when you know the emotions of every actor at that moment at the same time."

"How do you decide anything though? With so many minds and thoughts rolling around, where does the direction come from?"

"We have a leader, after a fashion," Ariena said. "She's often called 'queen' from those outside of the Collective. She helps focus the Collective on a particular issue. From there, we debate on a course of action."

"But that takes time," Evaren interrupted.

"Not really. It moves as fast as thought, and without words to get in the way, we can more clearly communicate our points. It happens quite fast, and what you might call a vote is called and the decision is made. Something that great, though, is rare, and important. Our decision to visit your people was one of them."

"A close vote?"

"Not really, but some always protest against contacting other peoples." She smiled. "I wasn't one of them, if you?re curious."

"Thanks?" Evaren took a breath. "What happens if you did disagree?"

"The greater good is respected, so even in disagreement, we follow the chosen direction. By joining the Collective, we all agree to follow the direction chosen."

"No alternative?"

"Just one, they can leave."

"Just leave, no consequences or anything?"

"None. It happens rarely, but when one disagrees with the Collective strongly enough, we allow them leave." She held up her hand. "After we remove the enhancements that join them to the Collective."

"So no going back if they leave?"

"It is much more difficult to rejoin after leaving, but that has also happened. Often it comes when the Collective makes a general change in direction. It also often comes to a general vote, as it were. We do not take a departure lightly, and we expect the ones who choose to leave to have taken it just as seriously."

Evaren nodded as Ariena finished her answer. Most of this matched what she had read from others. Only the Unicomplex thing was new, she hadn?t read about that before at all. It seemed spontaneous, like the thought had just come to Ariena at that moment. If it was true that the little box that still sat in the middle of the desk was her lone connection to the Collective, then it proved that she was still independent, and not some remote drone as many feared.

Her eyes drew up the words above the door again, her thoughts moving to how to word her next question.

Ariena noticed and looked back as well. "You want to know what it means?"

Evaren blushed lightly. "Yes, uh, well, I mean," she took a breath. "I mean, I know what the words mean, but what do they mean to you, to the Collective?"

Ariena stood, for the first time since the meeting had begun. "Almost no one asks that question, they assume that they're just words, a way to make us appear better to them. That's not true, these words were chosen because they represent what we, as a society, a culture, a Collective, want, not just now, but in the future as well.

"Benevolence means we want to do what?s good for all. Not just those in the Collective, but those outside it, our allies, our friends, even our enemies if it comes down to it. While the Collective will come first, we will do all we can to help those in need.

"Openness means we won't hide who and what we are. Any question asked will be answered truthfully. Any idea will be listened to and we will not shut out those whose ideas differ from ours. We will welcome any who want us, but never force ourselves upon them.

"Reason is how we will pursue every act. We will debate the merits of every decision, every act, and pursue the one that supports our beliefs. We will not cloud our decisions with overwhelming emotion, tempering them with facts and truth. We do not believe in revenge, or hate, or disgust, but we will not ignore that these things exist, and will face them with rationality.

"Grace is what we strive for, to build a galaxy where every act is one of charity and support. We accept that it's an impossible goal, that a utopia of such nature will likely never be, but we must make every decision toward that goal that is possible. We may pause, or even lose our way, but once we find it again, we must pursue it as best we can.?

Ariena sat back down. "That's what it means to us," she paused, picking up the connector box from the desk. Holding it up she looked past it to Evaren. "And me."

Evaren stepped out of the door. There were no witnesses this day. No cameramen or reporters followed her in or back out. That had happened to the first few that went in, now it is a non-event, unimportant.

It would be though, history would show that. She would spend week thinking on it, but the decision was made as she exited the embassy door. Evarenmontila Aullra would be the first to join the Collective.

Last edited by theeishtmo; 04-20-2013 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Stupid forum not recognizing quotes.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 2
04-20-2013, 12:37 PM
Openness

"Annexation is gaining support in all sectors. Our best debaters have been hard at work, but little ground is being gained."

Evaren rubbed the bridge of her nose in thought as one of the others spoke, not thought, his concerns to her. She knew all this, of course, she and billions of others had watched the debates. Still, Fedallus was young, only having joined the Collective a couple years before, and it helped him form his thoughts a bit better. In another hundred years, he wouldn't need this, but at the moment it gave him a moment of clarity.

"We, I, don't know what else can be done. It seems likely that annexation will be approved, perhaps rather easily," he finished. There was almost despair in his eyes, and his thoughts said much the same.

There were four of them in Evaren?s chamber. Fedallus was the youngest, and one that she had brought into the Collective herself. Gallus was by far the eldest, at least 500 years within the Collective, perhaps more, but also the quietest. Harl lay somewhere in between Evaren and Gallus, but she was far more direct with her thoughts than the others. Evaren sat in the regeneration alcove, her mind filled with the thoughts of the whole anti-annexation group, which numbered nearly a billion. The three with her could be considered the leaders of the group, if any could within the collective. They certainly felt the most strongly about it. She silenced the extra voices for a moment to focus more on the group before her.

"I think a more aggressive approach would be best," Harl said following the younger ones lead to speak rather than think. Speech allowed her to add a growl that rarely translated well to thought.

"I'm not sure that's possible," Fedallus countered. "Already the annexation movement is claiming we're being too aggressive, if we increase it, we might lose what support we do have."

"Then what? Be more passive? Then it'll look like we?re backing down and still lose support. I'd rather lose this fighting all the way rather than hover where we are."

"I don't know," Fedallus said.

"We do have an option," Gallus said. Everyone turned as he spoke, which after so long he rarely did any more. "But I'm afraid Evaren will have to pursue it."

She took a deep breath, knowing what was coming, but still finding it hard to brace for it. "What is purposed?"

"The queen, if she can be convinced to join our cause, it could shift momentum back in our direction. Of us, you are most qualified to bring the matter to her attention."

Evaren stood up. "I know." With a thought she directed the others to leave and they did in short order, even the young one who hesitated when the request came. As they filed out, she placed her hand on the panel near the door and requested transport from her hub to the central core. Then she disconnected herself from the Collective to think.

It was a software switch now, where once it had been something physical, mechanical even. Now it was as simple as directing the connection to stop transmitting. Sometimes she missed the old method, it was more visceral. To physically hold the connection in hand, she KNEW she was disconnected. The software method, however, made her wonder. Still, she needed a moment alone with her thoughts, especially as she traveled the length of the Unicomplex.

She waited at the transport hub and watched her fellows as they went about their daily lives. The few times she had disconnected always felt odd since she couldn't touch the thoughts of the others around her, have complex and compelling conversations with passersby. She wondered how many had already reached out to her, and found she was separate.

Aboard the transport she found herself more alone as she was the only traveler this day. It was rare to move between hubs, there was little to be found in one that could not be found in another. Visiting across hubs was not unheard of, but with the Collective, wholly unnecessary. At least now she could focus on the task at hand, one she had wasn't happy about undertaking.

Fifty years ago she had promised herself not to even contemplate using her connection to the queen for any reason. They conversed still, of course, but never had Evaren pushed any of her myriad of missions. She had become something of a celebrity due to her activities in helping direct the path of the Collective. She had led so many debates and conversations that it was considered a good omen to have her support on anything. She hadn't won all of those, of course, especially when it came to the wars, but that wasn't the point, the point was to remind everyone of the goals of the Collective.

Annexation would be a betrayal. That was an argument that everyone seemed to agree on, but so many saw it worth the price, at least this time. The transport stopped and she climbed off at the central core and was exposed to the price up close. He was missing an arm. It had been replaced with a temporary contact limb while a new one was being grown. What battle had he been in? There had been so many now, it was hard to know. He had come back, alive and mostly intact, which was far better than a great many others. They were the ones who supported annexation more than anyone who stayed and lived in the Unicomplex. Convincing even a few of them to remove their support had proven difficult, even maddening on some level. It could be done, it would have to be done.

Evaren approached the queen?s chamber carefully. Guards stood here, more as a show for guests than to protect against any real threat, but often they were veterans of the war, and while the Collective could calm a mind, there were still moments of irrationality. She greeted them with a simple head nod, indicating she was disconnected, and one raised a hand as she approached. "The queen is busy with representatives from our allies. She did not wish to be disturbed until they were done."

"I see, I will wait," and she sat down on a nearby bench. The last time she had been here was at the coronation, if it could be called such. The previous queen officially handed over the job to her replacement, and that was it. No big party or event, just a simple "it is your job now." Of course, there had been more before and after, mostly suggestions, lessons and direction to the finer acts of diplomacy not just with those outside of the Collective, but within the Collective itself.

The door slid open and a small group stepped out. They were clearly part of their respective governments, their allies in the war. Wars, Evaren reminded herself. They looked pleased, hard to really tell given that she couldn't read their thoughts even if she was connected to the Collective. They were a mix of diplomats and generals, each with their own perspective on the war, and on the Collective, and knowing their minds was constantly up for debate within the Collective. The queen's job was to interact with them personally and find out their true intentions. For now, the consensus is that they viewed the Collective as the leader of the alliance, and their protector. She doubted that had changed in this meeting.

Entering the queen?s chamber was something she hadn't done in nearly 50 years. It had changed, quite a bit in fact. There were more cables running along the walls, but they were tucked back as best they could. The central regeneration alcove seemed busier, with larger lines and more devices attached. There was still evidence of that smooth walled chamber that she had seen back then, of course, but it was cluttered now, and all about business. And that business was war.

"Evaren? What a pleasure!" Ariena stood from her oversized chair as she greeted her friend. The chair acted as the "throne," a decision made more to please their allies than anyone else.

"Your hair," was all Evaren could reply. Ariena's dark gold hair had been trimmed to near nothing, and a mess of cables towered above her skull, giving her a strange look that didn't fit with Evaren's memory.

"Oh, this," she touched the remains of her hair, almost embarrassed. "A sacrifice for the war effort I?m afraid. I hook it into the alcove during the larger battles to help direct them better."

"You never told me about that."

"No, I," she paused, looking for the words. "I didn't want you to know. I wanted you to think of me as I was before this whole mess." She trailed off a bit, before sighing. "Would you like some tea?"

At the far end of the chamber was a simple table with chairs. One of the queen's attendants arrived with the drinks, turning on the view screen as he left. The screen displayed an outside image of the Unicomplex, something impossible to see from their location deep within the central core. The image saddened Evaren slightly, a reminder of what the war had forced on them. The once elegant, almost delicate structure, had been armored to protect against attacks; attacks that had been launched early in the war, and killed many.

Ariena seemed to notice her staring at the distance structures and spoke to it. "I want to pull off those panels too. The odds of a suicide strike has been growing as we push into Iaptan territory. It would be too dangerous to pull them off now."

"I know," Evaren looked at her friend. There were signs of stress along her face, even amongst her positive attitude. "I take it the meeting with the allies went well?"

"Yes, as well as possible. They are rightfully worried about the Ma!rn, who have been moving forces toward their Iaptan border."

"Another war already?"

"Sadly, yes." Ariena seemed unhappy discussing it, so Evaren prepared to drop the subject. "I wish I could talk with you about something else, but at the moment my mind is filled with it. Our last personal communication was far too brief, yet I have little to add to it even now. I'm sorry I can't be more personable."

"Not your fault."

"I wish I could say the same," Ariena stared into the view screen. "In the 50 years I have been queen all that I've done is wage war. I wonder at times if I could have made other decisions, better decisions, and that fewer could have died."

So many wars. The Iaptan war was the fifth and most recent, and one where the Iaptans were the aggressors not just on the Collective, but on their allies and friends as well. "Often you were given little choice, and the Collective has agreed with you."

"Yes, I know, but I would have preferred not to," she reached up to her scalp. "And I would have liked to keep my hair." Both laughed at statement, and the mood lightened a bit. "I suspect I know why you're here," Ariena said. "Annexation has been quite contentious; my support of a longer debate seems warranted now."

"The debate has been quite tense, have you followed the details?"

"As much as I can be, but my attention has been divided."

"Then you know my position."

"More or less. I also believe your position is losing."

Evaren nodded. "It looks that way. Annexation runs against the purpose of the Collective. And the further plans that come with it are even more glaring. The very act is practically a crime."

"The Iaptans have committed many crimes that are far, far worse than annexation would."

"I know of the crimes, but to annex a whole race for the actions of a few?"

"Their actions seem supported by their entire people. No evidence has been found that says otherwise."

"And when they are joined to the Collective? Already we are willing to bend, if not break, our own code, adding them could only make such a thing worse."

"Others disagree," Ariena countered. "The current belief is that the Collective?s voice will calm their nature."

"The only way to calm them is to silence them," Evaren said. "Then they'd be little more than drones, adding nothing to the Collective as a whole. How can they make us greater then?"

"They can't. There are other ways to help the Collective, though."

"As cannon fodder? Many who are on the front lines want to do that."

Ariena nodded slightly. "We have lost so much with each death, no one can say we have not been made weaker by these wars as a whole. Sacrificing those who have added nothing to the Collective in the first place seems perfectly reasonable."

"Reasonable to us, I doubt the Iaptans would agree."

"True, but they are already been puppets to the Ma!rn, so the role isn't unfamiliar. And it?s better than what our allies want to do with them. At least this way, some might survive. Some might even assimilate into the Collective in the end."

"Better, but not right."

"No, not right at all."

Evaren stood and walked to the view screen as if she could see clearer by being closer. "You're for it aren't you?"

"I'm not against it, I'm sorry to say."

Evaren shook her head sadly. "Bit by bit, we?re turning on everything that attracted me here."

"I feel the same," Ariena said as she joined her friend. "What helps me is to know that it can't stay like this. The wars will end and we can get back to what we were." She placed her hand on Evaren?s shoulder. "And I think it'll be up to you to guide us back."

"What are you saying?"

"When the wars are over, I'm going to step down as queen, and I will nominate you to replace me."
"I, I don't. . ."

Ariena put her finger to Evaren's lips. "Don't say anything. You've proven on more than one occasion that our credo means a great deal to you. Seeing us straying from the path has always bothered me, but with each crisis I can accept it more. Taking us back, that will need someone who isn?t used to such things, who wants to see us return to our old ways. You are most capable, and already respected by the Collective enough to see it through to that end."

"I won't have to cut my hair will I?"

"Hopefully not."

Last edited by theeishtmo; 04-20-2013 at 12:56 PM.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 3
04-20-2013, 01:10 PM
Reason

The only moment of peace happened during regeneration. Here, Evaren could remember the past, regret the present, and worry about the future. There was no action though; the Collective voice was too dominate for her to speak up, to say it was wrong.

Feldallus and Harl had spoken up. They had challenged the Collective and the Queen. It was dramatic, and they weren't the only ones. Gallus and Evaren told them not to, begged them not to, it wasn't time to do this. They insisted. They had been droned. Their voices were silent now, their thoughts locked away behind a wall of technology. They were also dead now, sent off into battle, to assimilate more of the galaxy, and killed in the process. Not that they were really alive at that moment.

They were brave, perhaps foolish, but brave. Evaren was a coward, she stayed silent. Even then, the numbers of friends and contacts that had been droned for opposing the Collective?s will had been large. Losing Feldallus and Harl, two of her closest friends, had been more than enough for her to withdraw completely.

The deeper connection demanded by the Collective, and the Queen, made even thinking about such things treasonous. Her only out was memory, and that's what she replayed while she regenerated. It was better than letting the voices of the Collective in, those hateful voices that were not the ones she had heard so long ago. She should have left, back when she remembered she could leave. Probably wouldn't have done any good, she would probably been assimilated and droned later.

At least by staying, she retained some of the old rights, like the choice of duty, and some, if very weak, influence on the Collective itself. The price was her body. Her arm had been removed, mechanical pieces attached to her eye and head, and various devices and machinery added to her body. If she could look in a mirror, and there weren't any anymore, she wouldn't have recognized herself. Just like she didn?t recognize Ariena, or her friends, or the Unicomplex, or anything.

That was why she chose tactical service aboard a Unimatrix ship. Once, these had been merely large exploration vessels, ones designed to ply the galaxy looking for civilizations that wouldn't be completely put off by the Collective's nature. She could remember when one approached her world oh so long ago. How massive it had been, and how beautiful, it's white hull gleaming in the starlight. Now it was little more than a sector assimilation and command ship. In essence, she was doing the very thing she hated, but it was better than being in the Unicomplex, and near her.

"Disconnection detected. Unable to communicate with Unicomplex. Reestablish local Collective connection. Connection established."

Evaren opened her eyes in surprise as the emergency voice echoed in her mind. She aborted regeneration and moved to her console. There was no need for the Collective to order her to investigate, there was a legitimate concern. She opened the panels and examined the data quickly. Last entry referred to a private meeting between the Queen and a time traveler, no specifics. Imaging data showed the central core exploding before full disconnect engaged.

"Queen is no longer in contact. Contact lost outside of local Collective. There must be a Queen."

"Queen is likely alive," Evaren responded. "Cloning process and memory duplication means Queen will be reestablished elsewhere."

"Reestablishment is not necessary, line of succession is clear. Unit 2 of 5 is next in line as Queen."
Evaren blinked as the Collective spoke her 'designation.' That was true, she remembered Ariena had said she wanted her to take over, but that was so long ago. "This unit accepts designation as Queen," she responded almost mechanically, before she even had time to think about it, after all it was the will of the Collective. The Collective suddenly backed off in her mind, leaving her mostly independent for the first time in ages, and with a strange suddenness, she realized what had happened.

"Directive, locate other units of Collective, reestablish Collective communication."

Queen, they had made her Queen. One chance, she could do something with this, maybe not much, but something. "Cancel directive," she responded instantly. Contacting the rest of the Collective would be bad, as Ariena would have been resurrected there and she would be pulled from this precarious position. She didn't want to go back to that.

"Clarification necessary. Directive is necessary for reestablishing the Collective."

Her thoughts bounced quickly. She needed to convince this local group that this would be bad, not just for her, but for all of them. The fall had been so great, so hard, that this one chance to get back out couldn't be wasted. Then, she remembered.

"Benevolence. Openness. Reason. Grace." The Collective seemed confused, and then demanded clarification.

She had spent so much time living in the past that she hadn't really had a chance to THINK about what those things meant to her, especially in the light of what had happened. She needed a moment to collect those thoughts.
She repeated it, and began digging deep into her memories. The first meeting with Ariena, the former Queen, came to the forefront of her mind and she laid it all out. The definition of each, spoken by someone they would respect, even if it was so long ago that it was practically legend now. Evaren now began to use Ariena?s own words against her. A new debate, and she would lead it, that they had gone down the wrong path, that they were something they were never meant to be.

Other voices began to rise up within this small Collective. Ones she recognized from long in the past. They made similar arguments, digging within their memories for more evidence to present. The debate was growing larger by the moment. Memories and purpose streaming out of corners she never knew existed. Some were things she had known but forgotten, others were private moments never shared with the Collective before despite the best efforts of the Queen.
A presence caused her to turn and see Gallus standing with her. He was twisted, of course, they all were, cables and mechanisms hanging off his body, his skin pale and thin. He said nothing to her, but spoke to the Collective at large. His voice was, as always, strong, and potent. His memories were from long before any of them, back when the Collective was just starting. They were near a tipping point, and now it fell to her. With her thoughts formed, and the many voices backing her, she spoke to the Collective as a whole.

"Benevolence means we must do what is good and right, even when faced with a two wrongs as the only choices, we must choose to find the right one buried beyond it.

"Openness means not ignoring ideas and voices because it might cause disruption or be contrary to the overall decision of the Collective.

"Reason means to balance emotion and logic, letting neither rule, but never ignoring the other.

"Grace is what we must now do. We have fallen from the path that was intended when the Collective was created, and we must strive for it again. It will not be an easy path, it will cost us, perhaps dearly, but we cannot fail, not again, or all that we are meant to be will die forever."

The Collective was silent. She held her breath at the silence. It was eerie, and now that she had been declared Queen, the Collective could cut her off from the discussion that was rolling through it. When it spoke again, she wasn't ready.
"The Collective is not following the directives of its founding. New direction needed to return to these directives needed."
Evaren nearly fell down, caught only by Gallus at the last moment. All that time living in fear, all the lives lost, and now, only now, did the Collective get it. "It is time," he said to her quietly.

"We," she said as she was helped back up and straight. "We should gather. All current directives are canceled. Report to the following location." She quickly scanned nearby systems and selected one mostly at random. Uninhabited and remote was perfect for her needs.

Gallus stood with her at the panel as the order rippled out through the Collective. Without another word from him, Evaren ended the required connection mandate, and Gallus smiled for the first time in centuries. "There is still much to do," he said.

The two shared their thoughts on the problems that now faced them. There were literally billions of drones even in this small Collective. They would have to be examined, awakened, and evaluated. She looked at one of the drones in the alcove near her and shuddered. "Most will have their minds atrophied to the point of uselessness, or have gone utterly mad by now."

"We are forced with a decision on those; do we terminate them, or use them?"

"Already, there is a choice between two wrongs." Her own words started to haunt her, but at the moment there was little choice. "We will have to use them. We are already outnumbered greatly, and losing so many would only make our mission that much harder. We'll sacrifice the atrophied first when the time for combat comes. Those driven mad may still be salvageable."

"It will take time to sort them out."

"We need time." Attempting to rebuild the old Collective here and now would be all but impossible. Soon Ariena would regroup and reform her collective. They would search for them. Worse, they were surrounded by enemies, none of which would even for a moment think to offer them any form of aid. "We will have to leave the quadrant; there is nothing for us here."

"The farther away the better, but where?"

Her first thoughts turned toward escape. The globular clusters just outside of the galaxy appealed to her, they were remote and the perfect place to rebuild. The gulf that had to be crossed to get there was daunting. There was nothing there, and they lacked the resources to make the trip. And worse, it would leave Ariena with free reign over the galaxy. "We will have to fight, sooner or later too."

"Sadly, yes," Gallus replied. "So wherever we go, it will be the front lines of the war."
Her eyes went wide at a thought. They were far away, they were already fighting Ariena, she was obsessed with them, and they might be willing to listen. She communicated quickly her idea to Gallus who scratched his chin with the end of his contact arm. "They aren?t the strongest group we know of."

"But they're willing to fight, to resist."

"Sure it's not just to get under her skin?"

She thought about that for a moment, and shook her head. "No, not just for that. Her collective already thinks they're a long term threat, adding us to them would only make it stronger, and every failure she has against them will weaken her. Her obsession and their fear is our best chance."

Gallus nodded. "Then let the Collective hear your arguments, and we?ll go from there."
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 4
04-20-2013, 01:18 PM
Grace

It was a risk, Evaren knew that. The Collective had agreed it was worth the attempt though, even the debate didn't last long. They had memories to work with, they knew what she knew, and knew what Ariena had been.

She remotely watched the probe approach Ariena's ships. They were black and green, imposing and mechanical. The probe was expendable, it had to be. The drones aboard were too far gone to be brought back, their connection the Collective was tenuous at best, and easily destroyed. This minimized the risk, but there was still a chance they could trace signals back to her. She had contingencies there as well, but there was only so much to be done.

The other ships sent out a feeler connection. The probe responded as instructed, and the other ships stopped and surrounded the probe.

"Evaren, dear, I was so worried I had lost you."

Ariena appeared on the view screen before her and smiled. She looked even worse than when Evaren had last seen her. More machine now than anything else, with an air of menace surrounding every word. "I'm so glad to have found you at last, the Collective was feeling rather empty without you."

"You have to stop Ariena."

"Stop? Stop what?"

"All of this. Everything. The assimilations, the conquest, the obsession with perfection, all of it. You've strayed from the path and it's time to return to it."

Ariena chuckled. "You have been separated for too long. Thoughts like that go against the will of the Collective, and I can only protect you so much."

"This is wrong. We can't stand for it any more. You must stop."

"We?" Ariena tilted her head in confusion. "Oh, I see, you've built yourself your own collective. How quaint. Must be from the group of ships that were lost after the Unicomplex was destroyed. I'm proud of you for that, I really am. You were always Queen material, and to have built a new collective and survived for this long is quite impressive. Of course, now that's over, and it's time to return to the Collective proper. I think we can push all these silly thoughts aside."

"No Ariena, we will not return."

"No? Your collective wills this I take it?"

"We have debated it fully. The Collective is in agreement that you have strayed from the stated goals of the Collective. We must return to them."

Ariena laughed. It was dismissive, and chilling, but Evaren steeled herself against it. "And how have we done that? We have done everything according to beliefs."

"We have committed acts of evil; torture, murder, kidnapping and practically genocide."

"And they would have done the same to us, and each other. Those assimilated, however, no longer need to fear this act, nor will it ever occur to them. We have freed them from the evils other races inflict upon each other, a greater good than simply doing nothing."

"We have stolen their minds and memories. We refuse to listen to anyone but ourselves and if one disagrees or argues, we silence them."

"There is no need for them to speak out; their memories are shared with the whole of the Collective. We know what they want, but it goes against what is best for them. We show them the way, letting them hear our voices and the truth of who we are and what we represent."

"We ignore that these people are living, feeling creatures. They have as much right to live as us, yet we treat them as tools. We have reduced living to functions and won't hear any argument even remotely based on emotion as it is inefficient."

"But they are inefficient. Without our reasoned guidance, they would simply stumble around without direction or purpose, only to use those emotions to hurt others. Better they work as part of a greater good than be allowed such a meaningless existence chained to their primitive emotions."

"We are agents of evil. The galaxy fears and hates us. They desire nothing but our destruction, and so we will be constantly at war. With every action on the current path, we only make that greater."

"Resistance to any great project is going to exist. They don't see how much better their lives will be within the Collective; they fear the unknown and they hate what they fear. Eventually they will understand, and we will show them a society of peace, where there is no fear and no hate. The galaxy will be at peace then, now and forever." She smiled. "Now then, ask your collective if they still think we're in the wrong. Then you can come home and we can get back to work."

Evaren had heard all these arguments before, but said nothing to counter them. The Collective listened to Ariena's arguments, and spoke to Evaren. "They disagree," she said with no small amount of pride. "Your words are all true, but they ignore the intent of what our founders meant. We can't pursue that line anymore."

Ariena frowned. "The Collective agrees with me that this is the proper path. Your small collective cannot, and will not, change that. Better to just rejoin us, because there is no way you could stop us. Resistance is futile."

Evaren stared at her friend through the view screen. "If we do nothing, we are no better than you." She paused, the Collective spoke to her and caused her to smile even more. "And we will fight you."

"Don't do this Evaren. I don't want to destroy you."

Evaren raised her arm, long ago replaced with a contact arm. "You already have destroyed me, with machinery and fear. I will not let it happen to anyone else, ever again." With that she ordered the probe to self-destruct and cut the communication.

---------

Captain Pissarro nearly falls as his ship is struck by a Borg torpedo, only stopping himself by grabbing his console. "Helm, hard right, down 10 degrees," his first officer yells.

The Virgil's bridge is chaotic as crewmen and officers run between stations and drag away the injured. "Captain, 2 minutes until the tac cube is in range."

Pissarro cursed to himself. This was meant only as a spoiling strike; take out a couple of cubes that were part of a convoy and run before the tactical cube escort caught up. Four minutes should have been plenty of time, but the entire thing had gone sour as soon as his squad had entered the fray. No cubes had been taken out, heavy damage to the Virgil, Adams and Lancing, and things continued to get worse.

"We need to get rid of at least one of those cubes," he growls. "All ships, target cube five alpha. Take it down, NOW."

His first officer orders the Virgil to turn and prepare a full spread of torpedoes. The cube appears on the view screen and within a moment, the torpedoes fire. The spread flies forward as a dozen different beams batter into the cube. The cube withers, bends and finally explodes under the pressure.

"This operation is over," Pissarro orders. "We're clearing out. Lancing, you head out first, followed by Adams. We'll stay behind to cover your escape." Only a glance between him and his first office is given, an acknowledgement that they probably aren't going to get out of this alive.

"All hands, prepare to abandon ship. Tactical, fire at will!"

Beams fly out of the Virgil, trying to get the attention of all the Borg in the area. Spheres, probes, cubes, didn't matter, they need to anger everything on the field.

"Tac cube is here sir."

"Just what we need, keep us away from that thing, keep firing until the others are clear."

"Full forward spread, fire!"

Torpedoes fly out striking a pair of probes dead ahead of the Virgil, destroying them. The tactical cube opens fire, burning a gash along the rear portion of the Virgil's already weakened hull, shaking the ship.

"Evasive maneuvers, pattern gamma!"
The ship lurches forward, only for the tactical cube to snag it with a tractor beam. Fire begins coming from all directions on the lone ship.

"Sir, Unimatrix ship incoming, fast."

"This day just keeps getting better, knock out that tractor beam, NOW!"

Another beam comes out of the Virgil, slicing into the tractor emitter and shredding it. The Virgil was freed, and climbs rapidly out of the firing arcs of the various ships.

"Unimatrix has arrived sir, you need to look at this."

The view screen flashes over to the Unimatrix ship. Everything is normal about it, except that it's bright white. A pulse of light begins to glow along the front of the ship. "It's powering its lance!"

"DIVE NOW!"

The lance fires. It's light burns through the sky and strikes the tactical right in the middle, coring the ship. It explodes in a fireball. The other Borg ships turn away from the Virgil and make their way towards the Unimatrix ship. As they do, more white Borg ships warp in, cubes, spheres, the lot, and they engage the other Borg ships directly.

"What the hell was that?" Pissarro said.

"Sir, Unimatrix ship is hailing us."

"Oh screen."

On the screen appears a single female drone. She looks a bit different than a normal drone, as if parts had been removed. It looks like hair, newly grown hair, is seeping up from her scared scalp and she's wearing a white cloth, like a toga. Behind her is a sign, black letters on a white background, which has four words on it. "Benevolence. Openness. Reason. Grace."

"We are the Collective," the drone says. "We are here to help you resist."
Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,619
# 5
04-20-2013, 10:47 PM
Fascinating stuff.

I really like the idea (one that LC author sparklysoldier is also exploring) that the Borg were not always evil, but that their purpose has been corrupted by their skewed concept of "perfection." (Perhaps that word would work as the overall title for your story?)

It might have been helpful to see the march of time through this story - i.e. how many years had passed from the time Evaren joins the collective until they start "annexing"/assimilating other races against their will and from there until Evaren finally breaks away?

Also there's more than a few ?s where apostrophes should be which is a little distracting.

But otherwise, great work!

"The Snowmenz Are Coming! The Snowmenz Are Coming!!"

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 6
04-20-2013, 11:29 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sander233 View Post
Fascinating stuff.

I really like the idea (one that LC author sparklysoldier is also exploring) that the Borg were not always evil, but that their purpose has been corrupted by their skewed concept of "perfection." (Perhaps that word would work as the overall title for your story?)

It might have been helpful to see the march of time through this story - i.e. how many years had passed from the time Evaren joins the collective until they start "annexing"/assimilating other races against their will and from there until Evaren finally breaks away?

Also there's more than a few ?s where apostrophes should be which is a little distracting.

But otherwise, great work!
Yeah, I tried to get them all, but apparently the forum code doesn't like it when you copy and paste from Word, and turns all the quotes and apostrophes to question marks. I tried to get them all, but it was annoying and I was tired of looking at it.

I was trying to keep time kind of vague because, honestly, I don't know how long it took and there's little canon to guess at it. Just to slide it in.

You know, reading through it, there really isn't much about perfection in this story at all. Even the Grace part of the credo points out that it's basically impossible, so that might not fit as well. I was thinking of "Road of Good Intentions" but that's too damn specific in this case.

At it's core, I was trying to grapple with an odd contradiction of Borg existence: If the assimilated become part of the Collective, shouldn't the Collective be inclined NOT to assimilate others? The more they assimilate, the louder the voices are AGAINST assimilation. This is my solution to it.
Lieutenant
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 36
# 7
04-21-2013, 09:49 PM
do you guys write for war and peace? i mean really, theres sooo much crap in one post on this thread i dont even want to read it
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/CushionRide/a182.jpg
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 137
# 8
04-21-2013, 09:50 PM
I'd be more offended if you weren't a fleetmate.
Lieutenant
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 36
# 9
04-21-2013, 09:51 PM
i want popups and crayon dammit lol
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/CushionRide/a182.jpg
Career Officer
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 25
# 10
04-23-2013, 06:40 AM
I enjoyed it. and cushion don't worry there is a puppet show version in the works.
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