|01 Liberty Jones: Primitive Agents
Author: Kit Williams PM
Six coworkers at a retail store are in for a big shock when they wake up on a spaceship in another galaxy. The pilot tells them that one will be selected to become the final member of the ship's crew. The ship is the self-aware and very illegal bio-ship, K1 5VN3, whose ongoing mission is to explore the galaxy for strange new discoveries and avoid the authorities at all cost.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Humor - Chapters: 10 - Words: 27,254 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 09-04-12 - Published: 07-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3044295
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Imagine if the sole reason for your existence was to love another being. Could you find it in your genetic blueprint, in your heart, or in your logic to love another being, sentient or otherwise, as much as yourself?" The lecturer paused a moment to let the question sink in.
Once she finished making eye contact with her audience, the lecturer continued by stating, "That's message contained in the mythology of Tuatha. They believe-"
"What are you doing?" Lib walked on to the bridge and saw the ship's first mate looking over some very old footage.
Since Dr. Thorn was credited as the creator of Kay-one-plus, the ship contained hundreds of video files on the esteemed scientist. The video Katherine had pulled up at random was from a university presentation Dr. Thorn had given as a student. This bright-eyed and very young version was the Dr. Thorn that inspector Komoru knew best. She was standing before her classmates presenting cultural data on Tuatha. Katherine had pulled footage just to check progress on her translator's calibration cycle, but soon enough she found herself sucked into the lecture's contents.
"So, Dr. Thorn was a woman." Katherine commented. "I had no idea."
Lib sighed before pointing out, "In case you haven't noticed, I tend to rub guys the wrong way." Katherine's free-spirited captain paused a moment before adding, "Well, the guys I don't particularly like, anyway."
The muician put the video on pause and sat down in the pilot's seat. Lib then pulled out a black pendent from under his/her/its shirt. From a distance Katherine could see that the charm was made of wood and hand-carved into a feather shape. Even though the wood was black, the feather shined with bright polish under the ship's lights.
"Tuatha is the birth place of the Black Feather Cult," Lib explained and showed Katherine the trinket. "Convicts will wear these for luck, but the story goes far deeper. Kay-one?"
"Loading files now," Kay-one-plus chirped.
In front Katherine's eyes alien portraits appeared. They were beautiful art pieces belonging to a culture far removed from Earths. Although they were indeed alien in origin, Katherine could feel an emotional connection to the images. They reminded her of Earth's ancient lore and legends suddenly making the young woman feel a little homesick.
"The black feather is a symbol of the night-bird goddess," Kay-one-plus explained. In Katherine's mind, however, the story's words translated as such:
Long ago, the goddess "Night Crow", like all the gods, walked along the world of men helping them and guiding them.
"Do I even need to ask where this is going?" Katherine muttered.
"Shhh!" Lib scolded.
Night Crow fell in love with a mortal. This was not a forbidden act since, as a goddess, Night Crow could have whatever man she desired. Night Crow, however, did not believe this to be a form of "true" love. Believing this Night Crow became easy prey to the trickster, Moon snake, and he put a death curse on the bird to test her devotion. Would she use her shortened life as an excuse to steal the man away from his mortal lover?
She did not. Night Crow accepted her death and because of his own
virtue and redemption, the man in question was allowed to become the god "Bright Crow." As you may well know, gods do not die. Even if they become trapped in death's grip, it's only temporary. Very soon after, both Night Crow and Bright Crow were reborn. Since they now stood as equals they could realize their true feelings for each other without fear. Moon Snake's death curse was still in effect, but it was no longer a burden to them. In each life they were allowed the chance to fall in love again.
"Lib," Katherine crossed her arms in disapproval and her captain sighed.
"Amaya is believed to be the reincarnation of Night Crow," Lib told her. "Her life, her love, will be dictated by that fate. She will live and die as according the legend of her predecessor. All of Tuatha's people follow some kind of predetermined fate."
"Wow, so before you even met she was already taken." Katherine leaned on her palm. "But for such an 'advanced society', legends must seem like crap."
"Urk… That's not really the point." Lib held up the pendant and looked at it with a faraway expression. "The union between my parents was taboo. It's almost comparable to bestiality in your culture."
"The people of Tuatha believe in love and rebirth above all things." Lib explained in a quiet voice. "Their spirituality gives me hope that my parents didn't make a mistake in meeting."
"Yeah, but you won't make it into any scientific journals with that theory," Katherine pointed to the paused video of Dr. Thorn.
"That's why it's called a 'faith'." Lib was unfazed by the jab. "Tuathans refer to themselves as a 'soul' species, a symbiotic relationship between an animal body and an energy spirit, but nobody's been able to proven it yet." Lib waved a hand to fast-forward the lecture video. "It was one of Dr. Thorn's pet projects."
"Why would she be interested in that kind of thing?"
Lib thought carefully about what Dr. Thorn had said and tried to shape those words into a way for Katherine to understand "Dr. Thorn theorized that there could possibly be some species that exist solely as energy," Lib explained. "They would be 'taking out the middleman'. Such beings could shape themselves into any form their consciousness desired." Lib looked up at the video. "If that were true, it would explain the Tuathian legends of symbiosis. The body would be one species and the consciousness/soul would be another."
"Uh, huh." Katherine didn't look like she was buying any of it.
Lib snorted, "The government bureaucrats share your disbelief, but Dr. Thorn had another approach."
After Lib unpaused the Dr. Thorn's lecture continued.
"One of the hardest questions we have to answer about ourselves is, 'who am I?" Dr. Thorn looked at her audience intently.
"Who am I and what is my purpose in life? Anyone on Tuatha already knows the answer to that, but we scorn this answer so easily. We shouldn't simply dismiss a possibility just because it hasn't been proven." She paused for effect again before saying, "We live in a chaotic universe."
Dr. Thorn then named another truth, "Order must be enforced." When it looked like the message still hadn't clicked she dropped into a low tone to draw her audience in.
"We say to ourselves, 'I have free will and my life is not dictated by silly superstitions.' And I say to you today, 'prove it'."
Lib turned off the video right there. "Dr. Thorn never completed her research," the muician relayed sadly. "She was scouted by the government not long after giving this presentation." Lib leaned back in the pilot's chair. "Inspector Komoru was very disappointed when he lost his rival."
"You would have made an excellent cop, Ran." Inspector Komoru said quietly.
Ah, but I plan to be an even better scientist, Dr. Thorn had replied before leaving the police university for good. People should learn to bow in humility to ants.
At that moment Inspector Komoru certainly felt like an ant. As he walked along the interior of the TSX BARON to the master's office, he couldn't help but think of how he, a small man, was about to come face to face with the oldest species in the galaxy and the oldest man in the galaxy. Actually, it was the general belief that the great leader was the oldest creature in the universe. Unfortunately for everyone else the gentleman didn't look any older than middle age. He was the one true leader of the Basts, the ruling family over the civilized planets of the galaxy.
"Please sit." The Bast leader waved at the lowly inspector politely.
"If it's all the same, your Excellency," Inspector Komoru replied nervously. "I'd rather stand."
"Very well," the Bast leader returned to his own seat and to tackling the mound of paperwork on his desk.
The two things the old man never parted with were his desk and his paperwork. It was an exhausting job, but somebody had to do it. From his seat he controlled every aspect of the galaxy's politics. There were even some rumors that the Basts were the ones who decided what planets "lived" and what planets were destroyed in the name of order. There was no proof of this within the galaxy of course, but there was also a rumor that the Basts didn't need ships to travel. They had eyes on everything and ears everywhere. Even something like the passing of time was trivial to a Bast. It was said they could just as easily be in two places at once. Inspector Komoru sincerely hoped that such things were silly rumors.
"As you know, I considered her like a daughter to me." The Bast leader sighed mournfully and Inspector Komoru knew right away who the old man was talking about. "I have no children of my own," The Bast leader explained and then added quietly, "It was never an option for me."
Inspector Komoru nodded sympathetically, but said nothing.
"My family," the Bast leader explained, "is made up of my closest associates and of course all the people of this galaxy." He shook his head. "But shewas very special to me. I had hoped she would become something more like a successor." The old man chuckled as he suddenly remembered, "She always hated paper work though."
After finishing his quick trip down memory lane, the Bast leader looked up at the inspector directly. "I'm sure you can understand why I've taken a personal interest in this case," He said. "I don't want my daughter's greatest work and reputation to be soiled."
The inspector nodded again.
"You were the one who tracked the muician to the zoo planet, yes? Would you be able to guess the muician's location one more time?"
Inspector Komoru finally spoke. "It'll be more difficult," the inspector replied carefully considering each word. "Lib will pick a direction to run without looking back." Rage entered the inspector's voice when he said, "But too many innocent lives were taken because of his actions. Even if you ordered me to, I would have no intention of letting him get away."
"Good man, inspector." The Bast leader praised. "If you can find the fugitive, I'll see to his capture personally. You won't have to worry about that." He paused before saying in an odd voice, "By the way, the fugitive didn't tell you anything… unusual about the ship?"
"I don't know what you mean." Inspector Komoru looked confused a moment.
"Oh, yes, yes. Of course you don't." The Bast leader nodded and motioned that the inspector was dismissed.
However, the Inspector didn't leave quite yet. He asked suddenly, "May I ask for Major Sarashi's help in tracking Lib?"
The inspector swallowed nervously. It was a very selfish and uncalled for request. He explained, "She was very useful during the investigation. I think it will improve our chances of finding the fugitive."
Realizing where the inspector was going with this, the Bast leader nodded.
"Yes, yes, of course," he said. "She was put on suspension," The Bast leader scratched his chin. "But I think we can put that matter on hold until this case is solved."
"Thank you." Inspector Komoru bowed before quickly leaving the room.
"That's one small step!" Katherine jumped down from the small shuttle bubbling with excitement. The spacesuit was a bit cumbersome, but her species hadn't evolved any defense against radiation yet, so it was a necessary nuisance. Although it wasn't technically her first time on an alien planet, Katherine felt like the rock they had landed on was her first true alien planet. The dust ball was uninhabited and everything was bright red. The ground, the sky, and the sun were all caught in some perpetual shade of sunset.
Katherine saw a small lake of liquid, presumably water, reflecting the red sunlight. "Oh! I'm going to build a sandcastle!" she declared suddenly.
However the captain instantly knocked the first mate over the head with a gloved hand.
"Focus," Lib ordered. "This isn't a joy ride."
Lib's suit was significantly lighter than Katherine's and allowed for more mobility, but it put them on a time limit. The planet trip was supposed to be a quick pit stop anyway to pick up some raw supplies and samples for Kay-one-plus to study. One of the downsides of a long trip was even the smart-ship might get bored. To keep Kay-one-plus from doing any experiments on the crew, acquiring distractions had become necessary. It was also a good opportunity for the rookie first mate to "get her feet wet". Lib could have picked the most boring planet ever and Katherine still would have been equally excited. Taking that into account, Lib resigned to the fact that he/she/it was traveling with (at the very least) a kid at heart.
"Here," Lib handed Katherine some beakers. "Go find some interesting rocks, soil samples… anything that'll keep Kay-one-plus occupied for a while." Katherine saluted before doing as ordered and Lib let out another sigh
"Every 'Kat' is entitled to a silly spell," Kay-one-plus quipped.
"You and I are going to have a very long and dull conversation about food and ethics," Lib warned the ship.
"I guess I owe you one, inspector." Major Sarashi shook his hand with a smile this time.
"Call me, 'Riku', please," Inspector Komoru insisted
"Mika," Major Sarashi offered her own informal name in exchange.
Inspector Komoru pulled a file out of his coat pocket. "You can return the favor over dinner," he said. "As long as you bring your military resources along, of course."
"Of course," Major Sarashi nodded and motioned for the inspector to lead the way. "Did you get anything out of the girl this time?"
Riku cleared his throat. "Tsukiko is being very cooperative."
"That's good, but I still hate to see my friends getting arrested," Mika said and Riku gave her a startled look.
No wonder she had been put on suspension. If she was close friends with Lib's accomplice…Riku banished the train of thought right there. Their priority was finding Lib. To do so they needed to look over the muician's entire history. It would be tedious task and some food would help keep them focused. The TXS BARON had a fully stocked galley and the cooks were kind enough to prepare a meal for the duo. Someone even snuck in some mood lighting much to Riku's chagrin.
"Why did Lib say, 'back in my day." Mika asked suddenly. "I wasn't aware that she had any military history."
"Me neither," Riku shook his head. "I've known Lib for a while, but…" The only reason Riku had known Lib for so long was because, to pay for his schooling, Riku had worked security at the circus races before becoming an inspector. He groaned and mumbled, "And here I thought his personality was bad before."
"Military history…" Mika mused on the thought for a bit before pulling some documents up. Since they were still on a military craft she could access holographic screens and data without difficulty. She played with several open screens before leaning back in her chair disappointed.
"Nothing," Mika said. "I've checked enlistment as far back as the revolt on Devocrat. Could she have been lying to throw us off?"
"Or telling a truth he knew we wouldn't believe to throw us off," Riku scratched his head. "That's more his style, but there's no way he's thatold."
Time was a tricky thing to measure and most people didn't even bother any more. Each species had their own lifespans and planets rotated at different rates. To keep an agreed upon record of time was considered too much work and since nearly everyone lived to see old age anyway, there wasn't much of a point to it. Tasks and appointments had no "deadlines", but were completed as efficiently as possible with due courtesy given to each member involved.
Riku had to seriously think of how "old" Lib might be and "how long" the muician might have left and even then the inspector couldn't come up with a definite answer. The muician had lived a long life (longer than what was usually expected of an 0-type) and it was very possible that Lib's "time" would end soon (long before Riku retired as an inspector), but for Lib to be even older than the military records Mika had access to was impossible.
Suddenly Riku thought of something. "Has the military every experimented with suspended animation?" he asked.
"Sure," Mika shrugged. "Lots of times, but it never worked."
"Not even once?"
"No, but it was one of Dr. Marise's areas." Mika pulled up the file to show him.
"Dr. Marise… Lib's biological parent?!" Riku stood up suddenly. He remembered something. Although he had never met the muician outcast himself, Dr. Thorn had spoken fondly of the old muician as a scientist. None of Dr. Marise's research could be considered groundbreaking and most of the projects failed, but Ran had spent hours poring over each detail. What was it that she had said?
"Okay, Katherine," Lib called. "Let's wrap this up!"
Katherine's response was not audible. Lib's back was turned so there was no way for the muician to see that the curious human had climbed up a jagged rock face overlooking the pond. When Lib called out to her, she turned around too quickly. The response Lib heard was a "squeak" and a loud "SPLASH".
"Kat-!" Sensing that the first mate was in danger Lib rushed to the pond, but by the time Lib reached the edge Katherine's heavy suit had already dragged her under water and out of sight. Lib called up to the bio-ship, "Kay-one!"
"She's unconscious." Kay-one-plus reported. Since Katherine's translator was linked to the ship's database, Kay-one-plus could detect the girl's brain activity or lack thereof if as the case may be. The ship concluded, "The impact must have stunned her."
Lib groaned and mumbled, "This is not happening."
The muician's first instinct was to dive after the girl, but-
"Low levels of toxicity detected." Kay-one-plus reported. "It won't kill you right away."
That was the cue that Lib was waiting for. After ripping off the light spacesuit, the pilot and appointed captain of the illegal bio-ship K1+5VN3 jumped into waters unknown to save the ship's first mate. Kay-one-plus had been correct in her earlier calculations. Katherine had earned her place on the crew and just as she was willing to defend it herself, her beloved captain would in turn protect a sworn colleague.
I feel sick, Lib thought. I'm just sickened by this desire to be needed.
There was no way of telling how deep the pool went and Katherine already had a good head start. Luckily the muician was (sort of) prepared.
As Katherine had guessed, muicians were far closer to plants than humans, but Lib had a vestigial organ waiting for just the right occasion, gills. Unlike fish, Lib's gills were located in four places, just above and below his/her/its collar bone equivalent. This wasn't Lib's first unplanned swim, but it had been a very long time for since the pilot needed to navigate underwater.
Fortunately, the gills knew what do and began filtering precious components out of the surrounding liquid the moment Lib took the plunge. All Lib had to do was worry about finding Katherine in the murk.
It was no secret that Lib's physiology awarded the alien many advantages in speed, power, and durability that would be the envy of any human, but there was something that Lib could never know as humans do. The muician's "faith" in the Tuatha legends didn't just include the part of about rebirth; Love was an equally foreign concept to Lib. The flaming passions that Amaya was destined to feel in every incarnation were something Lib could never provide to her or anyone else. It wasn't a simple matter of being a man or a woman. Lib's ship probably had a better understanding of romance than Lib did. Although Lib could easily call Katherine a "child", the muician's physiology would only ever allow Lib to know "childish" feelings and nothing else.
Damn, you, Riku. Lib thought in jealously.
Katherine woke up in a daze. She didn't know up from down and she could have sworn she heard whispers coming directly from the water. The first intelligent thing Katherine did was stretch out her body and hopefully slow her decent to the bottom. Her suit felt even heavier in the water than it did on land. Katherine swallowed anxiously.
"K-kay-one?" she called out timidly. On the other end of the com-link came pure static. The whispers, on the other hand, slowly grew louder.
A child! A child!they cried.
I'm not a child,Katherine thought irritably. Still if she was hearing voices…
Katherine turned her head in all directions trying to make out any kind of image in the dark water.
"Hello?" she called. "Is anyone there? Hello!" She swallowed again before asking, "If you can hear me- Please! Can you me some kind of a sign?"
When Katherine looked to the left she saw a rectangular object sinking with her. The object was flat and longer than her body. She could only catch a glimpse before it became too deep to see. On it, however, Katherine had clearly seen the words, "Fresno 60 miles"
"Oh that is so not what I meant."