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The pursuit of science is the key to unlocking the universe. The knowledge and technology gained are the gifts given by the universe as a reward for perseverance. No race had more perseverance in the pursuit than the long vanished Ansaii, the Byrds of legend. While other races were still throwing rocks at one another in petty attempts at power plays, the Ansaii were developing interstellar flight in practical theoretical pursuits. They had a gift for research, that nobody else could even contemplate.
These first ones had built an interstellar cooperative, mostly made up of three other races that were the first to get gifted by the Ansaii. They had brought worlds together, and the order they had established lasted for thousands of years. Right up to the point that they mysteriously vanished with no clues as to where they went. The wars of ascension that followed the disappearance had set cultures back millennia. Now that those galactic civil wars were in the past, the noble pursuits were beginning in earnest again.
The capital of this new Stellar Coalition was a ring world called Mermaru, one of the few remaining artifacts of the Ansaii. The largest of the cities on the ring was Olympus, it was here that the main facility of the Ministry of Science was housed.
The Ministry was working nearly non stop, in an undervalued attempt at restoring the heights of science the galaxies ‘road builders’ had achieved. Even after two thousand years, they were nowhere near seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ministry building was a grand piece of masterful engineering, constructed of a kind of ceramic that could be molded into any shape or size conceivable. It was brilliant blue white on the surface, but, beneath the surface was millions of tiny emitters that could display anything just above the surface of any surface constructed of the stuff. Inside was a maze of corridors, mezzanines, and chambers, that housed research projects and experiments that hoped to restore the majesty of technology. The walls displayed the information on the projects nearest.
In charge of one of the larger projects, the bioweapons project, was Doctor Corin Bell. Bioweapons was not to be confused with biological affecting agents; this was an attempt to create biological, nearly self aware weapons that could be sent on independent operations. His office was above a large ballroom of general projects. The walls could be as transparent as one could want, to allow him to watch, or have private conversations, as the case required.
His was a clean, well lit office, a place for everything and everything in its place. The rote administrative tasks of his position was draining, but it was his job. He stoically sorted through the piles of data, organizing it as well as possible, signing off on requisitions, and the like. The desk, like the walls, was interactive, leaving little need for other types of furniture or equipment. But like anyone else, he had collected a few baubles and knick-knacks. Presently, an alarm icon blinked on the corner of his desk. With a sigh, he acknowledged the alert and stretched before he stood up.
Coring was a man well past middle age, the young are never in charge of exceedingly important projects. He was of average height, and a few extra mass units around the middle. His formerly dark hair was losing its color, and a bit of its volume. He gazed out over those below and inhaled deeply, he was great at this, even if underappreciated. After a moment, he stepped back to his desk, and pulled a tablet out from one of the drawers, and approached the door.
Like most doors on in the Coalition, it was automatic, responding to commands from the tablets people carried. For the most part, doors did not open if you did not have to go into a room, and if you didn’t have clearance, you might not even know a door was there, that was just how the structural ceramic was. As the door whispered open the white noise of the lab complex enveloped him, letting him know that everything was as it should be.
On autopilot, he continued to review paperwork, keeping up with the humdrum of keeping the massive research project running, as he made his way to his next meeting. Coworkers and underlings greeted him, and he automatically responded.
Bioweapons worked closely with genetics, that’s what this meeting was about, something was finally happening. The leader of the genetics department was a bruish named Jesk Hon. Bruish were a tall reptile species. Long lived, and exceptionally tedious, they are often called Turtles by the other species. Though they were not as slow as their colloquial names suggested, they were just overly methodical, perfect for scientific pursuits, or one would think. They liked to play mind games with each other and others too much.
Corin met up with Jesk at the bottom of a spiral staircase that kind of looked like DNA. Jesk was a head taller than Corin, Bruish were taller than Edun, or Corin’s species. Edun, sometimes called Monkees, were actually one of the original bioweapons projects that was completed. It was a project that was wildly successful but no one really knew why the Ansaii made Edun. Jesk’s skin was violet and his deep blue eyes were unreadable as usual. They walked beside each other in silence for a moment.
“So, I just read the strangest report.” Corin finally remarked, “Apparently, the Symbiote we call Camatal has had a child?”
Jesk, like all Bruish, was prone to machinations, their patience could put rocks to shame. It was not that unusual for people to forget the nuances of Bruish plans, but not that they liked playing games, and some even tried their hand at jokes. For a moment the turtle was silent, then he shrugged.
“Child is not the most correct term for the phenomenon. That would imply it was an animal of some kind.” He pointed out more directly than Corin thought possible, “This is more closely related to a plant’s bud.”
For generations, it had been believed that symbiotes could not reproduce on their own. So anyway one put it, the news was astounding. Corin had never known Jesk to attempt a joke, but he could not figure out what the other was up to. and that creeped him out.
“You said that was impossible.” He finally managed.
“Those words were never spoken in that regard, for this situation.” Jesk returned as he stepped into a hallway, “I believe, it was said that the exact mechanics of auto-procreation was unknown for the symbiote. The program was, as you know, was so advanced, even when the byrds were still here, that when they flew the coop, that even now we are only beginning to scratch the surface again.”
The directness of the conversations was setting off alarm bells in Corins head, but he didn’t know what to do about it, “Now, we know that symbiotes can survive its host’s death, so we might be about to complete a condition for reward.” Jesk finished
“Oh, so you think we are going to figure out how to get a symbiote, or a host to survive the other’s death?”
“What are you up to?”
“Science, great to learn, knowledge is power...”
“I mean, It, I’m not used to you being so, up front...”
“Communication advances, adapts, evolves.” Jesk shrugged, manipulation was just so fun, even when he had no goal in mind, “What’s that phrase you used, ‘keep on keeping on’?”
“Sure.” Corin sighed, deciding to give the other a taste of his own medicine, “Like when the rest of Byrd society was giving away knowledge like candy, a few counter cultures decided to start keeping their own council.”
“What are you up to?” Remarked almost as an afterthought.
“Well, like you said, we are mining a secret cache of understanding that has kept schmuks like us employed for quite a few generations.”
“Well, we are lead to believe they thought a war was coming and wanted the galaxy to be prepared.” Jesk returned, “But at least the “Y” prizes have yet to be realized.”
“So, what I’m hearing is that you think you’ll solve that puzzle, I thought you were working on why these things only bond with women?”
“All parts lead to the same goal posts.”
“You think you’ll succeed where all others have failed?”
“That is how winners think.”
“Whatever, has this spawn manifested any matching signs?”
Deep within the facility no door was automatic, for security reasons, each person that wanted to enter a secure room had to type in a verification code on their tablets to enter. The pair approached the most secure wing in the facility, having to stop every so often to retype their passkeys.
“Fish spawn, symbiotes, apparently bud.” Jesk returned after the latest door had sealed, “And even the ones we grow don’t manifest signs for a few deka-cycles, they have to mature first.”
“More like cheese.”
“Is that why we are only now examining it?”
“Works of the mind take time and patience.” Jesk shrugged, “But right now, this is our best key to figuring out how to get them to auto-procreate.”
“Oh, that’s just perfect.” Corin laughed, “The research staff involved will receive more money than anyone can spend in one lifetime. They will all begin to slack off, and all their knowledge and intellect will be lost to the trade.”
“Others would carry on the work if you Monkees opt out.” Jesk responded.
They stood in front of a door waiting for the security cycle to complete and the door to open. As it did, though they expected to be confronted with an assault of data, what they received was not so much. The room which should have been full and active was empty and bare. This was a disaster. All the pair could do was stare in shocked silence.
Bruish had plans and backups out the wazoo. They did not deal with the unexpected well. It was Corin who recovered first.
“Bahgren!” he called without taking his eyes off the room.
Bahgren were another bioweapon, designed for security. The could sense nearly the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and as a hive mind, had no sense for self preservations. They were incredibly stubborn, loyal, and literal. The fact that they looked like giant pill bugs only made them more suited to the task.
“How can Bahgren help Doctor Bell?” the bug started in its freaky monotone, computerish voice devoid of any emotion.
“Where is all the stuff that is supposed to be here, what happened?”
“Bahgren has been restricted from this room. Bahgren has not been informed of any change of status for this room. Bahgren has not noted any transitions from this room for a deka-cycle, and at that, only objects have been moved into this room.”
The pill bugs were patient, and would carry out any order to the letter. Corin did not respond for a while, and the Bahgren merely waited.
“Wonderful.” Corin sighed under his breath, then aloud, “Get back to work.”
Dismissed, the bug scurried off, leaving the dumbstruck scientists in a stupor, “This will not get anyone a prize.” Jesk finally managed.