Unification through Absorption

Long, long ago, before the Gnoems were a single hive-brain, they were comprised of smaller groups — the individuals in these small clusters each shared their brains with other members within the group. The Gnoems as a species are very curious beings, always on the search for knowledge. The diversity the different groups brought allowed them to make many different discoveries in all sorts of sciences. Some groups were more drawn to astral studies, while others were drawn to other disciplines like medicine, or element manipulation. Over generations, some groups started merging with other groups — some through choice and some through force — as the greater the number of minds in a group can easily overpower a smaller group and take over. Forced takeovers were not allowed unless a case could be made that the smaller group’s work was deemed uninteresting or if their science was considered complete. These cases had to go in front of a committee that met once a year — it was comprised of at least one member of every group and had to be an unanimous decision. This practice went on for generations but would eventually have unforeseen consequences.

Over time, the committee got smaller and smaller as groups were taken over by other groups — this continued until there were only two main groups left. The first hive-group, nicknamed the “F Group” specialized in the “softer” sciences — they consumed groups that had expertise in things like psychology, communication, theology, philosophy, and persuasion. This group found success because it could easily make a case against pretty much any other group and quickly became dominant in the realm. But they were not without competition.

The second, and smaller group, nicknamed the “M Group” specialized in the “hard” sciences. They concentrated on absorbing groups that specialized in genetics, biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and telepathy. That last specialty was the subject of contention between the two groups. The last group to be absorbed by the M Group had picked it up as a hard science — the F Group classified it as a soft science but allowed it because they figured telepathy would not be useful once the inevitable happened and they would merge to become one large hive-brain — something the M Group was determined to not allow. They liked being different from the F Group and felt the two different teams could concentrate on their respective specialties better if they remained separated. And that is where our story begins.

Since the F Group and M Group are the only two left on the committee, one would have to willingly be absorbed by the other according to Gnoem law. F Group, being an expert in persuasion has repeatedly been trying to convince the M Group to allow their absorption — but their efforts have been unfruitful for years and they cannot understand why. The little trick that M Group has that F Group doesn’t know about is advanced telepathy — this not only allows the M Group to communicate with other beings without talking, but it allows them to read their minds. The M Group is always one step ahead and knows the techniques of persuasion the F Group is trying to pull and never falls for it. This little game goes on every year at the committee meeting as both group’s aggravation towards one another steadily increases. The M Group is tired of  F Group’s attempts to manipulate them into absorption and the F Group is frustrated that their best attempts are failing — delaying the unification of the species. The tension continues to mount until the F Group decides to play outside the rules.

The F Group decides they have been patient enough and being the dominant group, they will forcefully absorb the M Group once and for all. They will do this at the next committee meeting next month. What they don’t know is that the M Group has read the hive-mind of the F Group and knows what they are planning. If the M Group wants to survive, it’s going to have to come up with something creative to stop it. For the next several weeks, the M Group spends every moment in the lab, feverishly working away to try to come up with a solution to the coming absorption. They try using quantum mechanics to try to tie up their neurons so they can’t be absorbed — but that turns out to be a total waste of time. Then they try psycho-neural-plasticity in an attempt to rewire their brain as to not be able to be absorbed — that too turned out to be a dead end. They finally deduced the answer must come somewhere out of biology — something they haven’t practiced in so long they now consider it old science.

The M Group comes up with a 2-tiered plan to prevent the absorption by F Group. First, they will create an airborne virus that weakens the mind of F Group. This will negate their position as the dominate hive-mind and inhibit a hostile takeover. Second, they will inject themselves with modified DNA that will make their hive-mind stronger, giving them the net advantage over the F Group. With the meeting coming in just a few days, the M Group doesn’t have any time for testing. They are going to have to run with it live — being creatures with millennia of hard science behind them, they trust in their abilities and start executing on the plans for the committee meeting. The M Group has another bit of knowledge that will come in very handy for their plan.

The M Group knows that the F Group all house together — they do this because of their background in Communication sciences — this proximity ensures a tight bond of the hive-mind. The M Group uses this to their advantage. They put the virus delivery system on a timer the night before set to go off early in the morning hours — before they awake on the day of the committee meeting. The M Group will also inject themselves with the DNA modifier about the same time since they designed it to give a big spike in the strength of their hive-mind powers for the first several hours after injection — this will give them the biggest chance at countering the F Group’s attacks. The M Group haven’t slept in almost two weeks having been working non-stop to get everything done in time for the committee meeting. Everything is finally in place — they will sleep tonight and wake up early. After tomorrow, nothing will be the same again.

Early in the morning the alarm clock sounds and the M Group awakens. It is time. They gather in the main hall and form a line — their numbers are in the thousands even as the smaller of the two groups. One by one they receive their injection of the DNA modifier. It doesn’t take very long before they realize something is wrong. Is it possible — the M Group thinks to itself — that we made a mistake derived from the combination of  sleep-deprivation and practicing a science that hasn’t been performed in hundreds of years? Their bodies seem to be changing as some unforeseen reaction is taking place from the DNA modifiers.

The M Group hive-brain starts to go into a panic as multiple changes start happening to their bodies. Their heads start to swell until it is over twice its normal size. Blisters start forming on their skin and face. Their noses shrink until its just a bump on their large heads. Within minutes the entire group of thousands is completely deformed — their bodies have mutated so much they are entirely unrecognizable. They no longer look like Gnoems — the M Group knows that there is nothing they can do about it. Their DNA might be changed forever. But body mutations are not the only change that has taken place in the M Group.

One thing did go right when they made the DNA modifiers — their hive-brain is much much stronger than before. They also notice their abilities are stronger — the ability to compute advanced mathematics, understand patterns in astral physics, and their understanding of the universe as a whole are all much more clear now. They can now understand their errors when developing the DNA modifiers and the —- wait, the virus was wrong too, the M Group now realizes. All the sudden, the M Group begins to pick up something in their mind — it’s coming from their increased telepathic ability. They can hear — can feel — tens of thousands of their fellow Gnoems from the F Group in pain. The M Group as a whole run to the F Group housing as fast as they can.

Upon arrival at the F Group housing center, everything seems quiet from the outside — but their telepathy is picking up a horror on the inside. They enter the building and see thousands upon thousands of F Group Gnoems dead on the ground. The few left were barely alive — the M Group approaches but knows it is too late. One of the F Group looks up at the M Group member and is in complete horror at sight of the physical mutation now standing before him. He manages to let out a few words as he lay there dying. “You have killed us all. Our hive-brain, once merged would have dominated all of the universes. Now, our sciences die with us and you have doomed our species forever,” the F Group member says as the last bit of life leaves his body.

All of the “soft” sciences were now gone from the lexicon of the Gnoem species. Theology, philosophy, psychology, communication, empathy, — all the things that help a species fit in to the universe socially — are now gone forever. The M Group is deformed and will spend part of it’s time over the next thousand years, attempting to reverse some of that deformity, but they will never be the same again. The Gnoems from that point forward go on the best they can — continuing to master the hard sciences at an incredible pace — especially without the obstacles of  ethics or morality in their way. The M Group might have protected itself from absorption, but paid the most valuable price in the eyes of the Gnoems — they paid the price of knowledge that they will never be able to get back.

Hand-me-down, Push-me-down Barge

My dad left the house when I was young but I still grew up a pretty good kid even without him around. I had a few great friends, school was going well, and I had an ACT score in the top 5%.  After high school, my father contacts me and asks me to come join him in the Nexus — he owns a barge there and seems to be doing really well. Since I really didn’t have a lot of options lined up at the time — and a little adventure sounded like fun — I went to work for him on his barge. I was young and excited to be working on a big barge in the Nexus — especially since I would be learning from my dad  — a guy who seems bigger than life. So, I gather my belongings and move to the Nexus — and instead of working next to my dad, he puts to me work with the cleaning crew. And not the crew that cleans the arena and gets good pay, he put me to work in the janitorial department, cleaning the bleachers — picking up all the crap the crowd left after the Barge Fights. I figure he doesn’t want to play favoritism and wants me to learn everything from the ground up — so I put in my time and do the best job I can.

Several years go by and I am still on the janitorial crew — I haven’t gotten to work with my dad at all although we party together at all the company functions. Over the years, I have learned everything there is to learn about the job and I am now in charge of everything janitorial. I hire the new guys, I fire the lazy assholes, I do the ordering, I am in charge of getting rid of the waste — it’s a shitty job, but I am owning this thing — I made improvements in processes which allowed us to shave off half the crew and still get the job done in the same amount of time. I meet with my dad to have my yearly review — I tell him about all the accomplishments and how the janitorial team is running better than ever with less people. My dad responds, “Yea, that’s your job. We’ll talk about things again next year.” — ok, that was a little less appreciative than I was expecting. Maybe things will get better as I continue to prove myself to him. I hear a guy in the maintenance department is retiring soon — maybe I can try my hand at that.

Fast forward six years, I’m in my late 20’s and I am now in charge of the maintenance department. When I first started, I didn’t know the difference between and wrench and a screwdriver. Over the last several years, I have mastered every system on the barge. I can fix anything from electrical, to the engines and warp drives, all the way to the arena floor saws — they always seem to get jammed with the bones of poor Helots that get in their way. Since I started here, I have implemented proactive maintenance programs that take care of systems before they break — this means we spend less time and money fixing things and need less staff to keep the barge running in better shape than ever. It’s not really what I had pictured I would be doing with my life, but I do feel good making a difference around here. Still not working with my dad, but man we throw down at all our company events! — he even put me in charge of running most of them and everyone has a great time. Whenever I try to talk to him about work, he pretty much blows me off unless there is a problem in my area — in which case, it’s less like talking and more like being yelled at and called a dumb-ass. I’m pretty sure he is proud of me though — how could he not be? There is an operations management position coming up — I know enough about pretty much everything — I’m going to put my name in the hat.

I have been the Operations Manager for about eight years now. Things are running incredibly smooth all across the barge — it took a lot of work. I laid off about 60% of the entire crew after writing SOP’s that improved efficiencies in every department. I have this barge running lean and mean. Now, we host less Barge Fights per month — limiting our risk of getting raided by the INC — but we make more profit overall because of less overhead and the renegotiated Barge Fight contracts I got pushed through a few years back. My dad is now retired and only comes on the barge a few times a year — I’ll never forget his words to me when he retired, he said, “with me gone, this barge will be shut down in 6 months.”  Always the supportive father figure. To be honest, when I first started working here, I never thought I would still be on this barge over 20 years later — I always kind of wanted to try my hand at being a Lanista — I think I would have been good at that, I’m too old now — but hey, at least I’m making a difference around here and the people I employ get to feed their families. I’m taking a vacation next week — going to go see my dad on his luxurious retirement ship.

My dad and I have a great time while I’m there. We party, get drunk, eat very well, and go watch some sanctioned Barge Fights together — those are the expensive ones where everything is top-notch. Boy are those sanctioned Barge Fights the way to go — personal waiters never let your glass get empty. Anything we want is sitting within arms reach. The seats are all reclining leather and the place smells way better than any of the barges I’ve ever been on. Anyways, afterwards we head back to his ship — we have a nice little talk where he says he is finally ready to turn over the barge completely to me — I can pay him every month until I get it paid off and I can run it like I want to. This thing will finally be all mine. I go home proud that my dad finally trusts me enough to sell the barge to me — and mean, why wouldn’t he? I’ve been killing it in every department all these years. I’ve been in great spirits running the barge ever since that meeting with my dad — I think I’ll call him up and see what we need to do to get the paperwork all rolling.

I call my dad all excited — the day is finally here — I’m going to own my own Barge. My dad answers and I tell him we should go ahead and get the paperwork together to sell the barge over to me. He responds, “why the FUCK would I ever sell the barge to you? What makes you think I would do that? Are you stupid?” — wow, that was not the response I was ready for. “No dad, I’m not stupid. Remember, we talked about this when I was over there on vacation a few weeks back?” I answer. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are! That’s MY barge and will always be MY barge you little shit!” he fires back at me. — No, he’s not psychotic, that’s his way of changing his mind. A huge lump forms in my throat — my dreams destroyed — “ok, ok. Forget I ever brought it up.” I tell him. He hangs up in my face as tears roll down my cheek. I can’t take this anymore.  I have stayed up for days in a row working on this barge, making sure everything is perfect. I have expanded my skill-sets to ensure I know everything there is to know about this vessle — I have given my entire adult life to this barge….to HIM! I gave up my future for THIS!? But my dad isn’t done with me yet. No, he doesn’t stop there. I’m not completely pushed down.

A few days later, I get an email from him. Basically, telling me the same type of stuff. “I am crazy if I ever thought he would sell me the barge. Why would I ever think I could own a barge like this?” — so on and so on. I am about to fucking snap…. I jump in my little cruiser and fly off around the corner — I just gotta get out of that barge for a minute. “FUCK THIS!” I scream to myself…”I’m calling this motherfucker right now!” — I dial the phone and he picks it up. “You didn’t take long to process my email.” He snarks. “You’re damn right. I didn’t even need to read it after the phone call. Here’s the deal…I’m out. You figure out whatever you are going to do with this barge — and you figure it out without me. I’m done.” I retort. “What do you mea–” “I’m DONE! What don’t you understand?” and I hang the phone up. — breathing hard and a tear in my eye, I sit there in the ship — staring off into the Nexus. Looking at all the barges tied together, there must be hundreds and hundreds of them. I think about what might have been. I know I am better than most at pretty much whatever I put my mind to. I think about how if I would have chosen to become a Lanista and how I know I would have been rich and famous beyond imagination by now. All those barges…I better hope that one of them is hiring — I’m pretty fucked right now, I have no clue what I’m going to do.

The next couple of days I go into work at the barge as normal. I haven’t heard anything from my dad — but if I know him, he’s going to be high-tailing it over here as soon as he can. His wrath is never one to go un-quenched. I’ve seen my dad in these situations many times before. He’ll come in, tell everyone they suck, and they are horrible at what they do, and that their lives have no meaning. He’ll demean me — again — and possibly throw stuff around the room. Then he’ll either tell me to get the fuck out or he’ll settle down and come to some sort of compromise — who am I kidding. Compromise? No, best case scenario is he’ll figure out a way to make me ask to keep my job and then allow me to do so. It will be any day now.

Here is the part where I tell you that everything worked out and there is some snappy-twist ending that just blows your mind. Well, I got news for ya. This is real fucking life in the Nexus –the snappy-twist ending is that hopefully I get to keep my job long enough to either formulate a strong Plan B to keep me afloat, or change my dad’s mind about selling me the barge one day — if past behaviors are the best predictors for future events, I’d say there is a Helot’s chance versus a Barge Beast against that happening. Either way, I meant what I said. I’m done — done with him being my boss and I’m done with the status-quo. Somethings gotta change. But I’ll be patient and play it smart the way I always have. I didn’t get to where I am by making rash decisions. As for now, I await the arrival of the one I have seen as my dad all these years who apparently never really saw me as a son.