Part 8: Mary had a little lamb
"Have you checked over there yet? Careful now, remember to burn the corpses before the spores hatch!"
"What the heck is... Fucking crap it just moved."
"Don't shoot! The scientists will want to take a good look at this!"
"So, as I have said again and again over this presentation, the mind worms remain an enigma. The open questions around them remain unsolved. But we do have some hints."
The auditorium listened attentively as Dr Scott switched to his final set of slides. Over the datalinks, an even greater audience watched on the live feeds. It was said that Lady Deirdre Skye herself was one of them.
"First, is the mechanism for their attacks. Mindworms, we know, cause terror in their victims, allowing them to implant spores, leading to death - or worse. We had thought that there is a chemical basis for this attack, but studies using different filters have put paid to that. The evidence seems conclusive, that this is our first example of the legendary 'psychic' effect. In some way, over some unknown medium, worms have been able to communicate some sort of harmonics to other minds. In other words, Lady Skye is totally correct in her previous characterisation:"
'Having now established a secure perimeter, we have made ourselves relatively safe from enemy incursions. But against the seemingly random attacks by Planet's native life only our array of warning sensors can help us, for the Mind Worms infiltrate through every crevice and chew through anything softer than plasmasteel. - Lady Deirdre Skye "The Early Years" '
Murmuring filled the room. Scott waited for it to subside.
"The second is their origin. We know that worms come in some way from the fungus. What we still don't know is how. While the fungus serves as a successful shield to radar, it does not explain how the unmanned probes sent before the Unity found little or nothing. Everything points to the following conclusion - that mindworms are of very recent evolutionary origin."
"The final question is... What is the purpose of the mind worms?"
The murmuring broke into loud protests. Scott did not wait this time, but continued, almost shouting.
"Why are we so unprepared to see this? Ladies and gentlemen, recall the Lovelock 'Gaia', the idea of an entire planet as a single organism, its lifeforms being its many cellular mechanisms. On Earth, Gaia was just a poetic concept. On Planet, it can be a reality."
"Why would an organism light years away be evolved sorely to harvest humanity? What explains the monoliths, and what appears to be unknown writing on them? Why the strange surges of confidence one gets in the human mind by being in contact with them? Why do worms seek out and infest Unity pods?"
"The worms, I suggest, are intelligent. And they know a way to communicate directly between minds. Sum up that intelligence, and what you get is the Planet as a lifeform. The purpose of the worms would be to be its guards, its white blood cells. Working to remove the intruders that is humanity! The only way to understand the worms is to understand how they relate to ourselves!"
The audience was in uproar. Some applauded, whilst others, many of whom had friends lost to the mindworms, screamed curses.
But the effect was not lost on the Gaian leaders watching.
Deirdre didn't flinch as she walked in through the vacuum sealed door into the makeshift laboratory, though some of her attendants visibly gagged, or at least made an effort to look away. She ran her eyes around the room. A few technicians, a dark suited man seated on the corner of the room, and a gaunt looking man he knew to be the intel chief, codename 'Mesan'.
She steeled her gaze. "Explain, Mesan."
"Patrol ran into worms a few klicks west of here. Second team got sent in to investigate. The worms were waiting, hiding in the corpses. Burst out as they got over, chewed up the first ranks pretty bad. The rear guard managed to recover in time to hose down the area. This guy was in the former. The other guy, an intel man, was in the latter. So shocked he can't tell us his name, only show this access card and relate the story. The 'patient' is a foreign citizen, but no one will care if he disappears." He nodded over to the man in the corner.
Dierdre squatted next to the bloated thing that lay, stretched out, on the bed. The thing was a roiling mass of oddly coloured flesh, squirming visibly in the dim light.
"Ah, I wouldn't get too close if I were you," a scientist said. "It doesn't seem to be doing anything, but we don't know if that'll last."
"Was. We pumped him full of painkillers until brain functions ceased. Out of mercy, see. The worms growing in him are still holding on."
"What happened to him?"
Mesan stood up. "Ah, it looks like he botched the capture procedure. Figures, since he was just a tagalong..."
Deirdre turned to look at him quizzically. "Capture procedure? Why haven't I been told?"
The man frowned and backed away. "I thought, I thought you'd been told? It was just something the military boys were trying. Doing military application work. Psi research. We found a way to make worms and humans live symbiotically, make it weaponised... If the worms find a similar mind, see, they don't attack, but sort of get absorbed. There's lots of other applications. Mind control, telepathic long range communications, etc etc. The generals told me that..."
"I want it stopped. Right now. Until we understand what this is doing. How many times has this happened?"
"But we can't stop it! Right now, I have two independent projects regarding the Spartan eastern settlements under deep cover. It's too late to send abort orders. And the soldiers, this is the only method that really works! They stand a ton of a better chance trying to capture than trying to fight off the worms!"
She waved him away. "There's got to be another way. Get me a full report. And next time you try something, acquire authorisation, or I'll throw you out faster than you can blink. I'll deal with you later. Get the hell out of here!"
The chief fled the room. Deirdre looked over to the charts across the walls and wondered...
: In stunning events this morning, armed mobs took to the streets of Fort Survivalist and Assassin's Redoubt, storming the governor's compound, demanding a switch of allegiance to the Gaian faction. Spartan officials are said to be furious at these 'inexplicable' actions, though it is understood that the Federation so far intends to stick with its firm stance on self-determination.
: When asked to comment on today's events, a representation of the Assassin's Redoubt Revolutionary Council responded with the following:
Mary had a little lamb,
Little lamb little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.
: Experts are still debating the meaning of this transmission.
What monsters are we becoming?
Ok, Empath's Guild will be finished next update, so we'll probably have alot of first contacts to get through. So your options today are our default stances towards the different factions we haven't contacted yet. Oh, and new base names/unit names are always welcome. Especially for police units, specialised anti-worm units, highly trained units, and nerve gas units, since those just became available...
: Antagonistic - reject any deals
: Friendly - reject bad deals, but take tech trades, and attempt treaties of friendship
: Submissive - accept bad deals, attempt treaties of friendship
Factions: (Listed in order of dominance)
Hive <- I'm vetoing antagonistic stances for these guys for plot reasons.