Warped: Eleven – Mind Fields

Warped
by Andrea Speed

Eleven – Mind Fields

Sometimes even when you had all the data, it wasn’t enough to help you make sense of things.

She had the medical scanners trained on Khal the whole time, and everything they were reporting was, to Dar’s eyes, gibberish. He was having some kind of massive brain seizure, especially concentrated in the areas of the brain which were the “empathy” centers. She had lots of brain energy patterns stored in the database, all personalized for Khal and his unusual brain … and none of them came even close to matching.

When things stopped, they almost stopped dead, as if a sudden downpour had given way to an eerie, dry calm. Khal, who was already on his knees, stopped screaming and keeled over, hitting the deck face first. By the time he did, all the Tk’Tk’Skree – save for Skr’Takk – were dead. She was still going over the data to determine how.

war8.jpg“What the fuck just happened?!” Gen demanded angrily, slumping against the wall and grabbing the stump of her right arm. “And where the fuck’s my arm?”

Kvec instantly went to Khal’s side, turning him over. Blood was streaming from his nose and ears, and as soon as Kvec had him on his back, Khal started choking on it, so Kvec propped him up against his arm at a more friendly angle. Kvec made hand gestures that seemed to ask the same questions Gen did. Except that thing about her arm; everybody else knew where her arm was.

Vani came out of the lift just then, and started seeing to Gen. No one here was even close to a medical officer, but Vani – like most of her species – was intellectually inquisitive and happy to learn what she needed to know to help out. With her was a small bag containing what was essentially the entirety of the medical equipment onboard the ship.

Vani, with absolutely no hesitation, picked up Gen’s severed arm (she had to work the bolt thrower free of the fingers first), and used an osmotic pressure bandage to temporarily attach Gen’s arm once more. She then injected a dose of surgical nanites into the fluid of the bandage; they’d pass through and do the actual dirty work of reconnecting the arm. All that you really needed to know about the nanites was how big a dose to give someone, and when to program them to self-destruct.

Finally she made some sense out of the current readings. “Khal is currently undergoing a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Do we have any nanites rated for brain surgery?”

Vani looked up at the camera nodes embedded in the wall, her usually laconic face betraying shock. “What? I … er, I’m not sure.” She dug through her kit as she went over to Khal and Kvec, stumbling on the dead carcasses of Tk’Tk’Skree.

“They’ve probably pulled back to assess the new weapon,” Skr’Takk clicked. “We won’t have a lot of time, though, so we’d better think of a better defense.”

“No, they’re all dead. The ship’s adrift.”

Everyone looked up at the camera nodes, even Vani. “Every single bug?” Gen asked first. It sounded like she thought this was a bad joke. “Did you shoot them or something?”

“No. The same foreign energy signature that appeared in the Tk’Tk’Skree here appeared to manifest in the Tk’Tk’Skree over there, but I can’t completely confirm that. All I can say there is currently no life signs aboard the vessel.”

“Foreign energy signature?” Gen repeated, as if testing the words in her mouth. “What the fuck’s that supposed to mean, Dar?”

Skr’Takk clicked in a way she took to be meaningful. “What kind of drone is he?”

“Telekinessiss?” Vani wondered, sifting through her kit for nanite tubes. “I’ve got none rated ffor brain ssurgery, but ssome rated for major repair. Sshhould I try it?”

“Yes. And I’m not sure telekinesis has ever been proven, even in an experimental context.”

“If telekinesis existed, MoSys would have an entire fucking army of telekinetics already,” Gen interjected, grimacing from the odd sensation of having the nanites reattach her arm at the molecular level. “Cryers would be extinct, last year’s model. No offense, Kvec.”

Kvec gave no sign that he even heard her. He was cradling Khal’s head gently, attempting to stroke his hair, apparently unconcerned with all of the blood sluicing down his crystal skin and pooling on the floor. Kvec was close to Khal because Khal could communicate with him more directly than anyone else, but there was something so oddly gentle in Kvec’s handling of him that she wondered if Kvec had some kind of emotional attachment to Khal. Technically Cryers were incapable of feeling emotions, but supposedly they were incapable of independent thought too, and Kvec had already proven that wasn’t true. Kvec seemed to watch intently as Vani injected the nanites into Khal’s eyeball. Opening the lid, they could all see that Khal’s eye was now red as blood with burst blood vessels; there wasn’t a single hint of white left. It was a disturbing sight, as it made it look like his eyes were bleeding as well.

Bruno cut through on her private comm. “Blue’s goin’ bugfuck, Dar.”

She checked the sensor nodes in Khal’s quarters, and saw that yes, Blue was hitting her keyboard with such intensity that it appeared she had a strobe light in there. It was Khal, wasn’t it? There was no denying the link she had with him. “Kvec, can you go get Blue and bring her to Khal? I think it might help.”

Kvec looked up and nodded, laying Khal down carefully – and turning his head to the side, so he didn’t drown in his own blood – before getting up and returning to the lift. He was slicked in blood, dripping it as he walked. As soon as he was gone, Gen asked, “And how the fuck can the squid help?”

“He’ss dying, Gen,” Vani said. “Give hher a chance to ssay goodbye.”

“Dying? He can’t die.” Gen sat forward, almost skidding in her own blood. “Hey you fucking junkie, wake up! You don’t get to die until you tell us what the fuck you did!”

“So that’s why you sent the drone with me,” Skr’Takk clicked. “He’s a weapon. You were going to kill me if you thought I wasn’t being honest.”

“Would you shut the fuck up?” Gen roared, her face flushing dark. She was upset, angry, and also, if Dar was interpreting the medical readings correctly, actually somewhat unsettled by the thought of Khal dying. It was a distressing thought; he was an invaluable sensor system that couldn’t be detected or blocked by technology. “He wasn’t a weapon, he was an over-sensitive junkie squid fucker! And knock it off with this “drone” shit, all right? It’s annoying!”

Skr’Tak made a noise that sounded half way between an angry buzz and a mechanical whir. “You don’t use that tone of voice with me.”

Gen scoffed, rage and indignance making her feel braver than usual. “It’s my ship. I can use whatever fucking tone I want.”

The lift returned, and Kvec came out holding Blue like she was a fragile creature, her tentacles wrapped around his thick arms as if she was afraid he might accidentally drop her. Everybody stopped talking, perhaps because they were still surprised by Blue’s ungainly appearance, or just taken by the somber atmosphere. But while Kvec knelt down beside Khal and lowered Blue down to his side, Vani got in contact with her privately via her implant. *It was telekinesis, wasn’t it?*

*How could it be? It doesn’t even exist in theory, not according to any files I’ve seen. Do you know something I don’t?*

There was enough hesitation that Dar wondered. In the meantime, Blue had slid down to the floor, not concerned with the growing pool of Khal’s blood, and laid a tentacle across his forehead. It was a gesture both comforting and familiar, and Dar detected that unusual energy that was essentially the empathic communication of her people. It seemed to be having an effect on Khal, or perhaps it was just coincidence that his left leg stopped its spasmodic twitching.

Finally, Vani admitted *They were looking into all sorts of mental powers, from telepaths that could act as secret police to soldiers who could work at a farther range than a Cryer. But the engineering of empaths proved that extensive brain alteration was a risky gamble that almost never paid off. Even if you could keep them sane – a big “if” – controlling them was something else entirely. And could you imagine trying to control someone who could kill you with a thought? They tried, and cancelled all projects into alternate psionic abilities.*

*Could no one have pressed forward with their own project in secret?* Khal’s heartbeat was slowing, but into a move even, regular rhythm; the bleeding inside his skull was starting to lessen. The nanites were working, and Blue was getting through to Khal, speaking to him at a level that no one else could reach. While their “relationship” was hard to fathom, this was certainly proof that Blue was intelligent on some level, and that Khal wasn’t crazy for thinking that.

*In the MoSys bureaucracy? Unlikely, not without having papers okaying it signed and stamped in triplicate.* Out loud, Vani said, “Hhe’ss responding.”

“To what?” Gen asked testily. She was probably going to be a royal pain the ass until her arm was back on.

“The treatment or Blue; I can’t tell which.”

“I need to get to the ship,” Skr’Takk interjected. “If it is indeed devoid of life, I can commandeer it.”

Gen snorted derisively. “Oh yeah, sure. We nearly get killed for your segmented ass, and now you’re gonna take off in a war ship. How stupid do we look?”

“Do you want an honest answer?” she replied.

“The ship has a beacon that went off almost the instant the crew stopped living,” Dar reported. “It was too rapid for me to intercept it. We have to assume the other Tk’Tk’Skree know what happened and have sent out a response team.”

“Do you meatbags know what this means?” Skr’Takk said, antennae jittering in irritation. “They were just going to neutralize you and take this ship for study. Now that you’ve killed an entire crew, they’ll consider it an act of war.”

Gen started flexing her fingers on her formerly severed right hand, and apparently could. The nanites must have been just about done. “That’s for MoSys to worry about, not us.”

“Except it will tell them where we are,” Vani retorted. That even made Kvec look up, probably concerned, but you could never quite tell from his facial expressions; that was the inherent problem in being a life form made of crystal. He basically just had the one constant look, never changing unless someone managed to take a chunk out of it with a weapon of some sort.

“Bullshit,” Gen argued. “It could be pirates or some other aliens for all they know. Why would they assume it was us? There’s nothing tying us to this.”

*You think there is* Dar sent to Vani through the implant. It wasn’t actually a question.

*If someone knows or even suspects what Khal could be capable of, under extraordinary circumstances …*

*This is a red flag.*

*This also could be what they’ve been waiting for.*

Khal seemed to be in what was physiologically a coma, and finally the bleeding had stopped, although he was so covered in it it was hard to discern. He’d lost a lot of blood, much more than you would have thought such a slight man could possibly produce. They had no blood substitute aboard, but perhaps she could program the nanites to make some. *Explain.*

*As you said, telekinesis and other mental abilities have never been proven in an experimental context. What if this is something that simply can’t be done in a lab? What if this is only something that can be proven in a field test, with the right set of circumstances?*

This was pure conjecture of course, nothing but speculation, and yet what Khal had just done proved that the realms of conjecture were muscling their way out into the real world. Vani’s hypothesis was troubling, and yet had the bitter taste of plausibility about it, more so than anything she could brainstorm at the moment. *If your assumption is correct, then MoSys let us escape.*

Vani was packing up her small kit, but as she did so she bobbed her head, a truncated kind of nod. *Yes. And now they’ll be wanting us back.*

Entropy could only increase in a closed system; it could never decrease. Perhaps that’s why they had gone from dead Cryers to a singularity weapon to aggressive alien insectoids to a psionic time bomb living on their own ship. Their own closed system was imploding at an ever increasing rate, and there was no way to stop it now. There was no turning back.

The Tk’Tk’Skree had a weapon of unimaginable power, one you couldn’t defend yourself against; as soon as you were within range, you were dead. But now it seemed MoSys had a similar weapon, albeit one much more subtle in intent and design. So subtle that even the weapon hadn’t known that’s what he was.

The only thing left to decide was what they were willing to die for, and who they were willing to let do the killing.

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