Terra Nueva

War of the Queens -- Part I
Doctor's Log 2x07

[Encrypted as heck for discussion about war preparations and hints of our diplomatic backchannel]

One injection and uncounted tiny robots swim into my body, it’s odd. I can tell they are there, but it’s ignorable. Like getting a new filling – it feels weird at first, then in a couple of weeks you can’t remember it being different. They’re hard wired for this one task and will someday have to be replaced. I’ll study them. Take notes. See how they feel and work. Adapting them to the Tikket is going to take a long time – the biology is very different and we don’t know much about their aging. But I’m starting on feasibility research.

The Janus Three is headed out to the Belt to be the Belters’ base. I’ve got a psychiatrist trained to help Venus 3 on site, but I’ll still be in touch for sessions.

Meanwhile AUD1 and most of the Contact Team are trying to talk to the planet. It’s slow going. I swing by the lab when I’m on Aurora rotations to see what’s up and whether they are getting enough rest, but I’m not a mathematician.

We’ve got a team back on the Island of Understanding. Desert Bloom sent three Blossoms (black, red, and purple). The black one does all the talking, the others are “yes” bugs. No sign of Scorpion Bane or the Sands.

There are rumors of war. Coral Bloom reports that Scorpion Bane and the Sands have gotten very quiet on the psi-nets and dream web. From other sources, we hear that the rebels are preparing to starve out Desert Bloom. Our source says this has been planned for a while, but after we arrived. It’s our fault. This is new, unprecedented in Tikket warfare.

We meet with Madame President and tell her what we’ve heard. Do we intervene? With much reluctance no – we’re treaty bound to let things play out on the desert continent. We watch the bugaloo herds from space.

They begin to move. Nine hives have gone silent and left the fungal network. Coral Bloom isolates herself. Our contact is through Ozone and his echoes in Coral Bloom’s hive, but we’ll send a radio to her. Desert Bloom has vastly reduced psi power available to her.

The Tikket on Understanding Island suddenly suspend negotiations and go to their dome, their ants are on alert and a bio-tank has come above ground in a defensive position. Two diplomats meet on open ground – it’s not clear they are in contact with Desert Bloom anymore. We hunker down and watch.

With some effort, we create a telephone tree of primes and echoes to reach from us to Coral Bloom to Scorpion Bane. Things are going well for the rebels. Casualties but less than expected. New tactics from the rebels are helping. Desert Bloom responds with traditional Tikket tactics. Some of her allies have been removed and replaced with Scorpion Bane’s ally queens. The big mega-hive is cut off.

Do we take advantage of this to strike. No. We need to be sentients of our word. Instead, we watch, we wait, we prepare in case we are attacked. I start preparing for a humanitarian aid if we’re asked and can go. I don’t like sitting on my hands, but it’s not our fight.

Madame President has concerns that Desert Bloom might make a last-gasp attack on the data groves. They’re guarded by fire ants, who are loyal to her, one per grove. Marcus gets the job of planning a raid to defend the two oldest groves. He wants to fly it and probably will. I want to go – there’s no one better at getting field casualties back into the fight. It’s a risk, but it would be doing something.

For now, I need to be at Bayside and Aurora, working on the nanite project to see if it could be adapted in time to tempt some of the loyalists away. Eventually, we reach the end of what I can do with what we know. It’s feasible. We need to talk to Coral Bloom for more information on Tikket biology to see how to make it work.

Drums of War
Doctor's Log 2x06

[Encrypted as heck because of Rock Fall and other discussions]

It had been quite for a bit. Adams and Marak were busy with setting Freedom’s Belters in. Dr. Bow let me download a century or so’s worth of medical articles and manuals for the new equipment. I was in the midst of reading up on the anti-aging nanites, when the Senate wanted us to meet on Janus 2. This is the first time I had go through full decontamination and meet in paper coveralls. It is just wrong to see Adams in coveralls.

Coral Bloom told the Congress about a Tikket fungal network. They use it like wifi, but it can be used to spy. It could be nearly anywhere at Aurora and Bayside, but for places we keep scrupulously clean. Things are coming to a head with Desert Bloom.

The big problem is that the Tikket can’t handle dissenting thought. Coral Bloom expects Desert Bloom to start assassinating her foes. There’s nothing we can do about it – the cease-fire treaty requires us to stay out of her continent. That doesn’t mean that Desert Bloom might not strike at us, and that’s why the Contact Team is here – brainstorming.

Mass casualties are off the table – somebody finally understands the problems of killing one half of a telepathic link, never mind the backlash of many deaths on a race of telepaths. Vicinius and I pull together a status update on the psi-rat program. The rats were developed on Aute and scramble psi in a 2 meter radius. (I hate working around them.) They work for kibble and water, no rare earths needed. Easy to monitor. So far, it’s a pilot project, but anything that goes outside the lab is sterile. (The prion hasn’t started mutating them, but we need to watch out for it.)

There’s the usual updates – Medical’s post-Party-Flu randomized testing for surprises, post-Volcano emergency drills and training. Pairing key biological personnel with AIs to make sure no one gets nudged to, say, shut off the fusion planet’s coolant.

The anti-aging nanites should work, in theory, for Tikket, but it’ll take a long while to adapt them. It would give the elderly queens an option besides depending on Desert Bloom. I’ve been doing some back of the envelop math about how I suspect that anti-aging power works. If Desert Bloom is supplying all of the power behind it and isn’t teaching anyone else (so she can’t gestalt), it’s a pyramid scheme doomed to collapse.

If we offer the nanites, what then? We replace Desert Bloom as the source of extended life? Do we want to prolong the Tikket gentocracy? Do our allies want us to offer that? At least the nanites aren’t a pyramid scheme – with enough rare earths we could extend lives of everyone. And that has all its own issues. I think I’m going to have to try the nanites. I need to know whether having little robots running around adjusting my body all the time is going to be distracting or distressing. And I can’t in good conscience ask the Tikket to try something that I don’t trust on myself. I’ll have Marak take a look at the programing – I like Dr. Bow, but I want to check for Athenians in this gift from home.

After the Volcano, we abandoned the Island of Understanding and never re-opened negotations. The treaty doesn’t give any provisions for another site, and doesn’t have any provisions for withdrawal. After hours of our usual bander, AUD1 breaks in – what does “yes” look like. If we re-open negotiations with Desert Bloom what do we want? To be left alone. Coral Bloom and the Tikket nearby to be left alone. Ideally, the Tikket to settle their problems without ichor-shed.

Finally, a plan. Clear off the Island of Understanding. With a meteor. Adams has been busy getting rocks into place as they mine out the big asteroid. Damn, he’ll be able to do it.

Give notice to Desert Bloom under the treaty that we’re going to await further discussions there. Move a portion of the Senate off planet during the negotiations. And start pre-planning a demonstration in case this fails. Other options are discussed. I still hate all of them.

And I still can’t get back to reading. Marak asked the Medynn to let us try using their gravity wave communicator on the planet. We try sending pulses in primes. Nothing. For days. Then the black crystals in the lab shift, and shift again. Repeating a pattern of primes. It’s very, very slow. The “plant” we found in the volcano seems to amplify whatever it does to control the crystals.

Finally, a rock falls. The Island of Understanding is swept clear. The Vigils go in when things settle to put up some earth-quake proof shelter. A violet Blossom and some ants arrives. We think Desert Bloom sent her because she had to respond by treaty. But Violet doesn’t see any point in negotiating with us.

Adams: (boiled down): We think you’re ready to declare war. We’d rather you didn’t.”
Violet: Your question suggests you have concerns about our success.
Adams, through the on-site team, shows them a map of the selected atoll. “We don’t.”
Our view shifts to orbit as six big rocks enter the atmosphere. The atoll and a couple of miles of rock under it vanish. I watch as it falls. If only there were gods left to pray to. But now, it is just physics. If this doesn’t work, many Tikket will die at our hands.
Adams starts to say something, and stops. I think Marcus kicked him in the shin.
Violet: We appreciate your concern. We’d like some time to put together a more formal delegation for extended talks.
Planet: (later) Seven pulses.

Lastly, on the eve of war, and neigh onto our fifth Landing Day, Cailen and I welcome to the world Ronan Theodore Flannagan Denhar. His sister, Elani is nearly two — how fast the time has gone.

The Grand Tour
Doctor's Log 2x05

The Grand Tour

It is good to be back home, and to arrive at about the same time I would have had I returned directly by Pegasus. I’ve seen Oceana – set foot on my third planet – and for the first time heard “city” used as an expletive.
We, and the team from Oceana met with Captain Rigel and the crew of the Freedom. A wooden star ship – who would have though it possible? With artificial gravity, no less. All our time spent in cold sleep, the Janus 3’s losses. Was it all for nothing, when our descendants arrive only a few years later? I guess not. We have begun to explore Terra Nueva, and have many skills for planetary exploration that Freedom’s colonists lack.
Adams proposes a grand tour of sorts. We travel to Oceana, let Freedom’s crew see their planet for themselves, bring a delegation from Oceana back to Terra Nueva, and have talks on Terra Nueva. Once of Oceana’s team will return to Terra Nueva with our Pegasus to make some arrangements for goods enroute. Freedom is much faster than a Pegasus – I won’t even arrive later than expected. Adams’ hope, shared by all of the Contact Team, is that we can stitch together our societies into one.
At our first dinner, Mehai (the Medynn navigator) stands up and delivers a toast. “To those whose path we have to find. We remember.” This passes around through the others. It ends with “We remember” every time. There is a sadness about these people – they saw first hand the destruction of Aute and were left behind in its birth.
There are but three Medynn, but they have a gene printer and plans to re-establish their race. They are travelling folk, distinct from the city Medynn of Mars. (Mehai pronounces “city” as if it were a dirty word. “We will take space back.” “We were raised to take it back.”
Those are our kin back at Aute and they are suffering. It would be suicide to go back now and try to take on the Vorta – they are well beyond our tech. But we shouldn’t abandon our kin even if it takes a century before we are ready to return.
Marcus is practically salivating at the new drive tech and their cyborg space fighters. I’ve been talking to Dr. Bow, their Medynn medic. The advances in nanotech are … the implications … I have much to study. Marak and Vicinius are busy trying to recruit the Medynn to their houses. The newcomers have no experience with Venus bots, none survived Aute’s destruction. They have no volitional AI of their own.
Marak has asked me an uncomfortable question. I’ve been scanning the auras of the newcomers, in part in concern that they may not be entirely what they seem. He rightly points out this is an invasion of privacy. I need to give it thought – reading auras is practically a reflex. I hadn’t thought how the patient might perceive it.

At Oceana, I’d forgotten how much Terra Neuva is different. The air here is all created and recycled. The gravity is higher, the atmospheric pressure thicker. All of the colonists have uniforms, all interact in a formal, military style. The Venus AI here have no rights – “toasters”. Venus 1 is formal, stand-offish. My door is open to her, if she ever needs an ear.

Once home, Adams makes introductions. The newcomers are not interested in meeting the Tikket or Fisher Kings around Aurora and Bayside – they’ve had bad experiences with aliens. Mehai is in awe of the Helios. Marcus wants to teach him to fly it. Adams is busy with diplomacy. Marak manages to toss a couple of monkey-wrenches into his plans.
Cailean and Seri have been working with the Tikket. The situation is unstable and will blow into civil war. The big question is how soon, and how can we stay out of the line of fire. Freedom’s arrival changes so much, if only we have enough time.

Fire and Space
Doctor's Log 2x04

I am uncertain which of the Old Gods I offended that I find myself in the lava tube of an active volcano belaying my team into its depths. Marak was able to provide us with some Geeko grips, but even with them, AUD1 has fallen and is badly damaged. We’ll pull him up as soon as Adams finishes lowering a probe to the edge of the lava.

This is my own fault. Ozone had told us that the Tikket were likely aware of the volcano near Understanding Island and that its eruption was unexpected. The resulting tsunami was a surprise. The Tikket do have bio-engineered mining creatures they use to dig for minerals and to dig tunnels for their geothermal power systems. I had to open my mouth and speculate that Coral Bloom, among others, would have benefitted from the eruption that destroyed the diplomatic camp and killed several of Desert Bloom’s representatives. Of course, the Contact Team then were sent to see if there’s any signs of tampering with the volcano. And here I am watching the environmental suit’s alerts getting ever more emphatic.

And, of course, we find life even here in the lava tubes. Some sort of silica plant that grows here. We take samples. It does and doesn’t feel alive. Adams’ probe caught a glimpse of a bigger one at lava level, just before it failed. If we feed it heat (with a flamer), it briefly comes to life. Otherwise it is dead as stone. This is Vivarium’s domain – we’ll build it a kiln to study it.

Home now, safe. I’ve got the usual pile of paperwork to catch up on and patients to see. I had set up a mouse study on the Buggaloo nectar to see if we’ve overlooked anything. So far, just fat mice.

[Later still]
Off to space again in the Pegasus to see what is coming from home. Oceana is also sending its own ship. It’s…wood? It appears to be part of a Delson tree modified with Medynn engines. And it launches space fighters. We radio welcome and greetings. They respond in Ancle — a human woman speaks. She asks about danger, safety, the Vorta (aliens that were seen on the old world). We agree to dock.

The gist of what happened to Aute.

The Hoth had made the Vorta leave before our launch. Farndell (a Hoth) hid our departure and route from the Vorta. In the last years before the hatching, there was bliss and chaos. Some fled to space. There were about 5-10k humans off world, plus the Medynn on Mars and some Ren on the Moon when it hatched. The Gemini station was destroyed. Ceres moved to the moon and blessed it with one last spring. The Delsun trees rapidly bloomed. Some of the miners went to the shattered world to mine it. The Medynn prospered.

Then the Vorta returned. Ceres kept them off the Moon. The Medynn’s Hoth protected Mars, but the rest of the system was eventually brought under their domain. They wanted something from the Shattered World and are trying to get something from the Moon — mana? This ship fled — there have 1k humans, a number of Medynn and their gene bank/editing tech. They want a place to live — perhaps our asteroid belt. We, the Contact Team, agree that these are our people and we’ll take them in. The Vorta may follow them — if we could detect them, then the Vorta could, but did they? The newcomers have artificial gravity, a weak magnetic and a weak gravitic tractor/pressor beam.

So, now what….

Doctor's Log 2x03

Home at last. Nothing seems to have seriously gone wrong in the past month. We do have a better idea where the planet’s volcanos are – there’s two near Bayside, a supervolcano near Desert Bloom’s cluster of cities, and a hot spot deep under the ocean.

Better work on the core samples confirms the basics – a 500 year cycle of diminished normal pollen and higher volcanic activity – we’re mid-cycle there. Purple prions every 1,000 years, black crystals every 100 years, with a large release every 500 years that adversely affects normal plants, but not the purple pollen. Over time, Adams’ spiderberry seed is very, very slowly germinating.

Various meetings about trying to sieve the dust out over the oceans by cloud seeding, checking filters on the fusion plants and robo fac, and various protective measures. Many of the AI are going back to orbit, those down here will be sealed in bioplas. Many of the drones are being shut down to avoid contamination. More manual labor for the rest of us. Adams is rolling up his sleeves. I’ll head out to the fields and make sure my clinic time includes the inevitable sunburns, strains, and blisters this is going to cause.

Adams has had RUBY scanning near space objects, particularly orbit crossing ones. It seems that the belt tends to lose objects, mostly towards Primus, but a few in our direction. Oceana’s moonlet is likely an asteroid from the belt. (No dust patterns on Ocean, not even fragments.)

The big news is that she’s found some sort of anomaly in deep space in the direction of Aute. An anomaly with the same characteristics showed up twice between here and Aute – estimated distance 60 and 50 light years. AUD1 thinks it could be an object passing through space faster than the speed of light. It doesn’t match the records from the aliens who visited Aute – something new. There was an old ISP project for FLT, but it was abandoned because of the energy needs. Never got to testing. But this is vaguely consistent with the theory. If it is a ship, it’ll be here in six months. Once the data is confirmed, we’ll advise Oceana. Two months later, we find it again, roughly 10 light years closer. We think it’ll appear in the gap between the stars in four month – two weeks go get there by Pegasus.

I was just starting to get used to the planet as some sort of ancient terraforming device, now we’ve got something new coming from Aute. Good news? Bad news? Just more complications?

AUD1 and Breeze talk about teleporting. It isn’t faster than light, they fold space. The world is round, but the plane of existence is flat. The prime connects to a second Tikket to create a tunnel – they have to know where the ends are in relation to other things, AUD1 thinks he could teach Breeze to use GPS.

Ozone has integrated more into the colony. His Echoes are a familiar sight. He’s not a volcanologist, but he has some general knowledge of volcanos. He’s interested in the crystals, but doesn’t seem to see them as anything special. The spiderberry bush is more interesting, but Tikket don’t travel to glaciers – too cold.
He hears word from Coral Bloom about new colonies, and stress in the Hives because they are no longer of one mind. He expects Desert Bloom to take steps to enforce harmony. Coral Bloom expects war. We may be targets. We are unknowns, and the Tikket don’t like unknowns. Mostly, we need to stall.

This turns to a long discussion about the groves of Memory Trees. We talk with the Fisher Kings about “buying” a suitable grove site that they were developing so that Coral Bloom can start making her own grove and we can watch the process at close hand. They want some help with lumberjacking and removing trees that compete with their tamed murder maples to expand their nest. This gives me a chance to spend time with their shaman on ethno-botany.

The Tikket store skills and knowledge in the groves, which the Queens extract and implant into their young, which then hatch as adults with all the skills/knowledge they are expected to need. Losing access to the groves would cripple a nest. The nest modems access, but there’s no index.

The giant shrooms are sending/storing modem/routers and also physical defense for the groves. Each nest has its own modem of a Tikket telepath enshrouded in fungus. Since he has been enshrouded in fungus, Ozone feels like he’s part of something ancient, older than the Hives. (Adams wants to teach him meditation; he’ll borrow the skill from Tara.) The fungus, he says, was found by a Queen, who started incorporating it into their diets. A form of it creates the cocoons. The Queen cocoons enhance their psi and support their life, as well as enhancing their connection to the data trees. The Tikket haven’t studied the purple prion much. They don’t know how it works, but it improves species survivability. It finds weaknesses in a genetic code and plugs them. In Tikket, it affects their ability to be born fully educated.

At breakfast, Aiken agreed to work with the Tikket to transfer their data to our computers. It’s going to be slow, but it is a start.

Doctor's Log 2x02 (Catching up a bit)

Doctor’s Log

Casualties are treated and stable. The Tikket are headed back to their homes. Senate sent us to take the Helios to sample the volcano’s ash cloud before prevailing winds bring it over Aurora. While Marak and Marcus modify Helios for high-altitudes (we want to be above the ash, not in it), the rest of us get boot camp on glacier survival and taking ice cores. Senate finally green-lit Vicinius’ proposal to take ice cores and get a better idea what the purple prion pollen and the black vampire crystals have been doing. Given the altitude and temperatures, we’ll living in suits or shelter. Still, I need to bone up on high-altitude medicine.
Helios is light on lab space, but we could get samples from the ash. Found what we expected – carbon, silica, fine glass (fused silica) – and black vampire crystals in “L” shapes. We tried applying energy – (sunlight, electricity) – they fuse into larger/thicker L shapes. We put the whole lot into freezers to go back to Vicinius’ labs at House Vitarium.

First look at the South Continent. It’s colder than the others and more mountainous. Satellites show at least three large mammals – something seal-like, something bear-like, and something goat-like. There’s the usual bugaloo and some sort of semi-aquatic elephant with flippers that lives at sea and on land. Once we’re closer we can take samples by drone. More green plants than we’re used to.

At the landing site, there’s bushes. On a glacier. 15’ diameter crystal bushes with 6” blue insects living in them and some sort of web or mesh in the ice. Helios dusts off as soon as we’re out the cargo bay doors. G’tard puts us to work setting up camp – there’s a storm to our east. Then we take the ATV to pester the plants. This thing is weird, but it isn’t trying to kill us. The spiders react when we touch the web, but don’t attack. AUD1 says the tree has scents like the Tikket and Prairie Bugs, but the scents don’t make sense to him.
Adams grabbed a spider – the others ran to the other side of the bush to hide. So far so good. When he got a dozen feet from the bush, the spider got agitated and began spewing acid. Ate right through the container and straight down. Marak managed to tag it with a tracker before it vanished into the ice. Adams grabbed another one. I euthanized it for dissection – weird internal structures – it has a seed within it. Somebody dubbed it a Spiderberry.

Lost the next day to the storm and digging out on and off in the night. Marak strained himself, but nothing that some rest and anti-inflammatories can’t handle. The stress seems to be getting to Marner (one of the miners with us). [Patient notes attached, medical encryption] Finally, the weather clears and we get some cores.

Just in time for another storm. We’re better prepared this time. The tagged Spiderberry stopped about 25’ down. Looking at our cores – sure enough a layer of purple and black at about that level. The black crystals are a different pattern, a blocky “8”. Looks like black crystal layers every 100 years or so, purple pollen every 1,000. Some changes in the atmosphere over time – that’s going to need better labs and tests than we have.
Adams suggests digging for more purple/black so he can try to grow the dissected Spiderberry seed. Either he or Marak asked Janus for an orbital scan. Marak did some work on the data. Crap. The crustals are forming layers, patterns, over and over again, in the ice. Letters are 1/8 to 1/2" tall aligned with the planet magnosphere. A single letter (or portion of one) every 1,000 years when the pollen and crystals coincide, laid down for tens of thousands of years. Janus looks at ice and glaciers across the world – this is the most complete but there are fragments everywhere.

[The tan is the pattern. Thirteen shapes: (1) horizontal line, (2) vertical line, (3) classic right angle (L), (4) reversed L, (5) inverted right angle, (6) inverted reversed right angle, (7) square, (8) squiggly horizontal bracket, (9) hairpin, (10) squiggly K, (11) oval with top and bottom pixels, (12) blocky 8, (13) blocky right bracket with projection on top. Eventually, we’ll conclude something has been laying this pattern for 60,000 years. ]

That settles it – the planet is being actively terraformed and has ben for a long, long time. Senate is going to send out another expedition to take more samples, but we’ve got to get ours home to Vicinius to study.
I’m starting to miss the days when the TIkket were the weirdest thing we faced.

Doctor's Log 2x01 (events take place 2 years after the last session)

[Recorded broadcast]

Pegasus 3 Inbound to Aurora with wounded.

Request available grav-jeeps for non-ambulatory patients transport. Files attached. Several additional with minor injuries. Ambulatory. Files attached. Several AIs with non-critical damage. Ambulatory. Files attached. Forensic and Technical Recovery personnel requested to return with Pegasus.

Medical and emergency response debrief scheduled for landing +48 hours.

[Private channel, Recorded]

Eleni. Mom’s headed to Aurora to take care of some people. I’m safe and well, but I may be away a bit longer. Give Dad a hug for me.

[Log begins]

It was supposed to be a briefing. A planning session. We’d sit around and discuss the problem for a while. Getting back to exploring after two years of settling in. It’s P3, the Purple Pollen Prion. It’s affecting 100% of the Mict, all in the same way. Humans about 18-20% in two predictable ways – either reduced need for sleep [Link to Patient Zero file] or extra body hair [reducing some of the adverse UV effects]. So far it’s been beneficial, but that could change at any time.

I was expecting to talk about Vicinius’ proposals for ice core samples, for tree ring comparisons, and requests to Coral Bloom and the Desert Queens for help in getting samples from the P3 corals and desert plants. Maybe even dust off that Tikkit archeology proposal. But we’d barely gotten started when word came – we’d lost contact with the Island of Understanding. A few minutes later, Ozone confirmed, he’d lost contact with Speaker, but Speaker was at least alive. AUD1 estimates 40 sentients on the ground – Mict, Human, AI, Tikket, and both kinds of ants.

The team was already there, but for Vicinius and Marcus, enroute on the Helios from Bayside. So we started packing the on-call emergency medical team into a Pegasus along with supplies to treat Tikket and Ants. A Janus came over the horizon as we were stuffing gear into the cargo hold – a volcanic eruption on a nearby island. But that doesn’t make sense – Vulcan isn’t here to be angry with us. This planet isn’t an egg nearing hatching. The why doesn’t matter as much as the search and recovery. Looks from the early images like flooding. We saw that in some of the big shakes back home. We need to get in and out fast in case this wasn’t the biggest shock.

We land on the highest ground – a hillock to the east of the flooded area. Even on a quick pass, it’s bad. The main domes are in chest-deep water. Two of our buildings are half-collapsed. Adams was able to get comms working to N’yet, who was trying to get into one of our buildings. The rest of the team heads for the western hillock to set up a field station.

Marak sets off south towards a group of golden ants by a pond. I take a medic towards the diplomatic dome. Adams heads for N’yet and our damaged buildings.

Marak finds one golden ant dead, acid burned. I remember this – it’s the volcanic gasses in the water, makes it acidic. The other ants are unhurt and can contact two Echoes. Marak tell AUD1 heads towards the south of the main dome.

The diplomatic dome is silent. The medic and I find bodies, human and Tikket floating on the water. First Bloom is dead. So are several of the princesses. And several of our team. The only life I can find is one of the Mict, and he’s badly hurt – concussion, internal swelling. I can buy him some time, but it is too soon to focus on any one patient. I have to send him to the field station with the Medic. We’ve got another doctor who is as good as I am, probably better, with humans and MIct. He can handle this. I confirm the dead are, indeed, dead and begin to move on.

Adams helps N’yet into one house. George Marcus (the colony’s firstborn) is trapped there with his nanny bot. It takes them some time to carve a path through the ruins, but he’s safe and unhurt. His parents were last seen in the Greenhouse Dome. It’s north of the diplomatic dome and probably took even more damage. AUD1 says the Tikket made underground spaces and tunnels – maybe some safe air pockets are left.

AUD1 finds Speaker. Scorpion Bane and Ocean Breeze are using a table to float, with Speaker on top of it. The Tikket don’t float and they breathe thru their abdomens. It’s a minor miracle they’re alive. I wade to them. Speaker was an unlikely biological construct from the start – it’s no surprise that he’s badly hurt. Internal bleeding from what passes for his spleen. Again, the best I can do is stabilize for now while AUD1 and the rallying survivors pull the table to the west and the aid station. The Queens are hurt, but ambulatory. We’ve still got over a dozen missing. I head toward the Tikket domes.

Marak heads into the Greenhouse dome in a Lumberjack’s exo-skel and sends an Eagle drone to look for survivors in the down-wash to the south. It finds a few – Adams can reach it more easy that the rest of us by going around the worst flooding.

Marak finds most of our survivors – human, AI, and Tikket. The fungal walls in the cellars are keeping the water out of two labs, but the halls and floor above them are flooded. Marak sends for some survival bubbles from the Pegasus – he can cut a small slit in the walls, push in the domes, have everyone stuff themselves into them and drag them out before the labs flood. Yes, they’ll lose their samples, but they’ll live. He finds George Marcus’ father, but his mother, Breena, is still missing. There’s no one in the other Tikket domes, but there are tunnels underneath. AUD1 starts searching.

Adams finds more dead Tikket and a group of badly wounded ants. He can stabilize them for now, but the chitin damage is serious. AUD1 has some ideas about creating casts – that’s for another day. The best he can do is cut up his own armor to patch them for now. I’m about to head that way when I get the call from AUD1. He’s found Breena in an air pocket in a tunnel and sends me her biomonitor feed. I mutter a prayer to absent gods, again, and slog as fast as I can through the water. Marak joins me while AUD1 clears the rest of the tunnels.

The injuries are all internal. She’s not already infected with whatever’s been washed in by the sea. But she can’t be moved without surgery and she’s going to die in this tunnel if I don’t do something. I can’t get a portable surgery down to her – I can’t even make a sterile operating field ankle deep in mud. For all the miracles that Aute’ medicine offers – it’s useless here. I can do this with psi. I’ve dissected enough lab rats and mice this way to be glad that the Hunted have no gods here, but this is the first time with a sentient.
As I settle into the mud, we get another shock, lesser this time. Marak takes watch. Best chance she has is if I concentrate fully on this. Hopefully, the tunnel will hold.

The Ren said that the Hoth sung Aute and its many peoples to life. When I sense someone’s aura, I hear it as much as I see it. Each person has an orchestra inside them. In her case, it’s as if half the brass section quit in a huff, stomped on a few instruments, and began to walk out. I’m simultaneously trying to keep the rest of the orchestra performing, wire and glue the instruments back together, and bagger those lazy bums back to their jobs. It feels like forever. Marak says it’s been an hour. She’ll live. Another prayer, of thanks, that I don’t have to tell a boy that his mother is gone.

The bone tiredness vanishes with a shot of a stim. Marak carries her out in a bubble to the aid station. The Mict is nearly done. I turn to Speaker. Easier, this time, he’s not so badly hurt and I’ve heard his quirky, improvised song since I cut him out of his hatching pod.

We pack the wounded into the Pegasus. Off those alive when the Pegasus landed, we lost two – one of the fire ants and one of the golden ants that Adams tried to save. Marak and AUD1 will wait for the last of the fire ants to dig themselves out of their burrow. The Pegasus can drop us off at Bayside and return with a team to recover the dead and the most critical tech before that Volcano blows again.

And we are inbound for Aurora. The dead – four blooms, including Crystal Black (1st Bloom of Desert Bloom), Golden Sand’s echo, three of our human diplomats, and at least six ants. Wounded (non-ambulatory): Speaker, Breena, one of the Mict, and two ants. The rest need to be checked, and some minor care.

[Log ends]

Baby Showers, a Wedding, an Adoption
Doctor's Log 1x21 (coda to end of Season 1)

[Events take place in Parallel to 1×20 (Elections)] [standard personal encryption]

Meanwhile, while all the politics were going on, people were doing what they do. Starting families. Having kids. We’ve had our first Mict births, clones with some genetic mixing. House of Children has been slowly adding the local environment to the artificial wombs, with success.

The first survivor has had some breathing issues, but is otherwise adapting. Congratulations to the parents. This is a wonderful sign. The second Mict child has fewer breathing issues. Things are looking good for adapting to Terra Nueva.

[Encrypted portion, standard medical encryption]
Oddly, the baby has some new structures — muscle bio-batteries like the dino boars. On Aute, the Mict had bursts of speed that were mana dependent. The new structure may replicate that ability. It must be a product of the purple pollen. Maybe it is interacting with some genetic predisposition of the Mict. I’m not head of medicine or the treating pediatrician — decision made so far to watch and study, but not worry anyone.

The second survivor has similar adaptions and better lung capacity. Dr. Vicinius and I are studying it — I find his attitude a bit disturbing. No bedside manner. Looking at the conception and post-birth genetics, the prion is making changes in utero. So far, positive ones, and the same in both. That’s weird and concerning. [end encryption]

Just as I was starting to roll up my sleeves with Dr. Vicinius to look at the adaptations, Gala called me in. Marcus is taking the Pegasus out to maneuver the medium asteroid. It’s a long trip and he needs a medic. I did point out I was in the middle of research and was reminded, pointedly, that there are over 100 other doctors who are better physicians, better surgeons, and better geneticists than I am. But I’m the best for providing emergency medical care in a low resource environment. She’s not wrong, but it stings. I can keep in touch with Vicinius via comms, light delay won’t be bad, and I’ll probably have plenty of down-time to think.

The annoyance is forgotten when we clear atmosphere. I love space — there’s something so starkly beautiful about it. I could spend hours just watching Terra Nueva from up here. The first asteroid “catch” had gone well, with minor damage to Pegasus’ cargo claw. This asteroid is much bigger. With AUD1’s help, the second catch goes well. It is on track to go into orbit. The big one is enroute, all 4 1/2 miles of stone and metal.

While I’m on standby up here, the third survivor is born.

[Encrypted portion] And again, consistent changes, in utero. Ozone says the TIkkit knew that the prion does this. They were once more like the ants, but they went underground and consciously embraced the fungus and the changes the prion made to them. We talk about archeology to find early, pre-change Tikkit ruins — likely in the desert which is highly dangerous, even with our Tech.

When I get home, I stop by the incubator for our oldest human child, George Marcus. It has been a long time since I heard a baby’s aura. This one is healthy, sharp, clear. The lungs look good — a bit larger that the parents, but that seems normal. There’s a tiny odd note — an antigen I’ve only seen once — a House Willowbark farmer. Flagged to the treating pediatrician and to Dr. Vicinius, we don’t know what it does.

Vicinius asked Adams about plant mutations. Agrotech, of course, has full records and yes, there have been more beneficent mutation than seems statistically probable. Something is manipulating us. Beneficial so far, but what happens if that changes.
[end encryption]

Another Mict birth goes smoothly. Marak gets himself married at Bayside, with Capt. Gunthar officiating. There’s some unrest that he’s married both Jeannie and Lyra, but no violence.

The last asteroid nudge begins— it is really hard to describe how big this is — something nearly 5 miles long and 2 miles wide shouldn’t be moving. It looks like a small mountain, but it is hurtling towards our new home at frightening speed. Fortunately, it will go into orbit cleanly.

When we get back, Coral Bloom’s echo (the healer we met first) arrived along with Fertile Bloom, Sleepytime Bloom, and Water Lilly Bloom. I can’t spend much time with them (security issues), but I can set up a hospital tour and can show off some of our tech. One of the things I find most limiting about sensing auras is that I have to rely on memory, I can’t store the image like a normal medical scan. They’ve got the same limits. Being able to look at readings over time — not something they’ve done.

I’ve got a project planned to “apprentice” myself to the Fisher King refugee shaman. From what Adam and Marak have been arguing about, many of the delegates see the Fisher Kings as savages with nothing to offer. We’ve seen the two shaman apprentices here — going there lets us see what they know. And I could really use a break from the politics. Field work sounds great, especially if I can wrangle Cailean as part of the team. Jeannie says Willowbark will support it and send one of their ethnobotanists. Vicininus is behind it too if he can include one of those “lesser xenologists” he runs ragged. So I’ve got my team, just need approval.

If all goes well, with all the weddings in the air, it is time. I’m hoping Marcus will stand in for my brother at the handfasting. He agrees. Given Marak’s innovative marriage contract, I’m inspired. I ask Marcus about a mutual adoption as siblings. I miss having a family. He gives it some thought and we bring the papers to Weston. (I think he may start avoiding our team soon.)

[And the 2 year gap between Season begins….]

Doctor's Log 1x20

Personal, Standard Encryption

Now that things are settled, for now, with Desert Bloom, it is time for the Colony to settle its own affairs. The Council is not fully happy with Counselor Bahiti’s work – if Coral Bloom is to be part of our Nest, then she and the three other Eastern Queens wants to observe the Constitutional debates. Seems reasonable to me, but Adams is going to have to stop joking about extreme responses in public.

Bayside and Aurora are expanding. Aurora has several satellite camps for crafts, mining, and logging. Marak and I have been talking about a small, short-range aerial transport for 2-3 people so we can get a doctor out to the isolated camps quickly, or get a patient back here for treatment fast. The historical databases have ideas, but as usual, resources are an issue. I’ll mention it to Drs. Willowbrook and Gala – let them fight for it with the Council. Counselor Bahiti and Vincinus are staying at Bayside for now to work on set-up for his house.

The issues at hand are the shape and scope of the legislature, citizenship and voting rights, basic protected rights and liberties, the sentient AIs’ status, and relations with Tikket and Fisher Kings. The mood on our arrival is low. Desert Bloom agreed to return their geothermal venting to its original condition as a show of good faith – but it will take a while for the rainy season to clear. There’s mud, more mud, and exciting new species of fungus and mold. Of course Dr. Gala assigned me to clinic duty. The Fisher Kings and Ozone warn that one of the new mosses is a sopsoporific. [Flag to House Willowbark for medical uses; Flag to Vigils as safety issue] They also warn that another mold is very aggressive and corrosive. [Flag to Medical, Vigils, and Agrotech (re the food vats)] I’ve put reminders on the entrances to Ozone’s area to be sure to decontaminate before entering – I’m concerned about something contaminating his fungus.

Clinic duty isn’t so bad. It is refreshingly normal patient care. Many of the workers with the most downside time are at Bayside, helping them get set-up. Aurora has a plethora of newly defrosted workers who haven’t yet learned how Terra Nueva works – this place kills and eats the complacent and the unwary. I’ve also got to figure out how to get people to come in early for care. I wonder if Bugallo nectar can be made into lollypops.

Marcus is taking advantage of the mud for sports. Ground rules are no crippling injuries, no major organ damage – cuts, scrapes, sprains, can be fixed if it helps morale. I’ll see if I can get a team together from the hospital – we could use the stress relief. Adams is teaching boxing – more civilized violence, I guess.

I went with Adams and Marcus to a couple of the political events. Got into a heated discussion with Ansi Hammadi about citizenship, voting, and whether to create a citizenship requirement for service to the colony. I don’t know why she got under my skin – it’s going to be generations before we can afford to have any idle able-bodied colonists, social pressures should be enough to dissuade laziness. I don’t have much use for idleness from anyone. Like Marcus, I’m usually more frustrated with Suits who don’t understand field work and by Celebs with more money than sense than by somebody who’s poor and working hard to get by.

The other bit that got under my skin was Hammadi’s idea of a work requirement for care, and asking whether I’d let someone starve if they were able-bodied but refused to work. I guess I’m reacting to the team arguments over defenses against the Tikkit and feeling like I need to prove I’m not soft or weak. I saw starving people back home; there’s not enough of anything during a disaster. Triage – deciding who gets what scarce resources was, and is, part of my job. In scarcity, yes, I have and can let someone go without so someone more likely to survive has a chance. In time of plenty … I ignored beggars and the homeless on the streets just like everyone else back home. Here, though, if we have beggars they won’t be strangers, they’ll be someone you know. I think I could tell someone able-bodied but stubborn that I can find them work – mopping the hospital floor if need be – for food, and not just give a handout.

Julia Lucinta Septima also had an election event. She’s a more polished speaker than Hammadi. She and Adams sparred politely over AI rights. Much fewer sparks then when Lucinta tangled with Marak and AUD1 earlier this year. It’s been quiet with AUD1 staying on the Island of Understanding and Marak too busy with his many, many projects. Marcus caught someone trying to interfere by slipping extra drinks to he, Adams, and I and warned him off. I don’t know the guy, but we’ll find out who he is. Probably just politics. Lucinta was a minor noble on Aute and a lawyer here. (Marcus likes lawyers even less than Suits and Squints.) She wants to keep a place for hereditary nobility. I don’t see it. On Aute, the nobles were, demonstrably, kin to the Gods. The highest of them had divine blessings, curses, destinies, and prophecies. But nobody with any measurable amount of divine or magical anything could come with us – we’re all just human (and Mict, and AIs). We’ll need to earn what we get, not inherit it.

I heard from Marak that Adams met with Lyra after Lucinta’s talk to try to persuade her to trust him and not to stir trouble during the election. She told him about Marak’s proposal. I’m told he was speechless. Marak later said that Jeannie and Lyra agreed – I hope for the best for them all.

Finally, there was Dulin’s event at Agritech. I love the new building, but I’m concerned about a House-specific arcology and fragmenting our very tiny society. They’ve been growing plants from home. I haven’t had a strawberry in … feels like forever. Marcus spotted Vivian moving in the crowd towards Adams and Dulin and gave the head’s up. More politics? This could be dangerous – folks are tech enough about Tikkit telepathy, don’t need them getting paranoid about our own people.

At Psi Core breakfast, we talked a bit about my psi genetics project, particularly in light of a conversation with Marak about psi and his hopes for children. I think we need, at least, to try to keep, at least, telepathy, healing, psi sniffing, and anti-psi in the next generation, if for no other reason than to understand and deal with the Tikkit. The other stuff is important, but if I have to start somewhere, I’ll start there. Nobody wants a gestalt.

Akila and Vivian sniped at each other about what role psi may play and about policing misuse of psi. Somebody, don’t recall who, sniped that I had nothing to worry about – nobody’s afraid of healers. I shouldn’t have done it – I used TK to crush a small glass (nothing I couldn’t have done by hand, just no risk of getting a cut) – I’m not as harmless as it may look; we’re all in this together.

I talked to Vivian afterwards – she won’t talk about who hired her, but she might be open to counterbidding or insurance. I also suggested she make the Council and First Contact team off-limits – if she picks up classified info it might be dangerous. I’m trying, tho not always, succeeding, at staying out of the politics. A doctor should be neutral. Vivian thinks I may need to get more involved. Jeannie’s better at the politics. Justinius is the Vigils’ rep on the Constitutional Committee. They can handle this.

So I spent a while sitting on the beach when I was at Bayside thinking. Sunset lasts forever around here.

What do I want? I want my children to carry on my abilities and to be able to use them without a second though of someone freaking out. I grew up scared that I was going to slip up and get dragged off to a Gestalt, lynched by a mob, fired, or get the psis in my family in trouble. Having gone public, the weight of Atlas is off my shoulders. I don’t want anyone to have to bear that weight again.

I want my children to live in peace, to explore this amazing new world and the space beyond. I hope we can leave humanity’s worst traits behind. I hope they know how to cope with disaster, how to defend themselves, how to take care of themselves and their neighbors. I hope they never have to use that knowledge.

It’ll be a while, if ever, before we have Aute’s frivolities. Weirdly, I sometimes miss the stupid stuff – celebrity gossip, fashion trends, even cat holos. I couldn’t stand it back home, but it was a sign of how much we had. We won’t have that for a while, but I want them to have stuff like the comfort foods my parents made, chocolate, Aute fruits, maybe someday coffee. I want them to have time for music, art, and reading for fun, not just working for survival.

I want them to have the rights I take as a given and the values I hold.

I want them to be happy.

Election Results:

House Reps:
Charles Dulin: Aurora/J2;House Agrotech
Gallionus Justinus Quintus: Aurora/J2; Vigils
Genevieve Lucianus Ulfsdotter : Aurora/J3; House of Children
Guthar (Legate): Captain of Janus 4/Bayside; ISP
Marak: House Mercury

Aurora Rep
George Adams: Aurora/J2; Agrotech

Bayside Rep
Jed Wilson: Bayside/J4; Bovine Plus

At Large:
Lorn: Aurora/J3; Agrotech
Tau Ming : Aurora/J2; Colony Treasurer

The Island of Understanding
Doctor's Log 1x19

History classes made this sort of thing sound so easy, so inevitable. Everybody gets together and out comes a treaty without any of the messy uncertainties and confusion. I wonder about the untold stories of the early Empire and the Compact – were things as messy then? I also wonder what stories they’ll tell of us a generation or two down the line – assuming peace holds, that is.

Counselor Bahiti did a fine job negotiating a truce – all the more impressive for negotiations in a language neither of us speak as native, with concepts from a Stone Age civilization. We’ve got a prototype scent translator, but it doesn’t have the vocabulary for detailed discussions.

It began with Desert Bloom loudly accepting our invitation – using a psionic transmitter dropped from a height. The Council had to scrabble to explain this to the Colony, since the response was loudly in the heads of everyone near Speaker. Ozone’s echos have shown little interest in leaving the dome, but we probably should let people know they are here.

[Medical note: still need to work on dosage for the miracle fish pills, Virgil’s procedure ultimately successful, but more stressful than expected. At least he’s cured.]

From surveys, we saw the Tikkit arrive – with a group of fire ants and more golden ants. They set up some domes. We decide to go in with equal numbers, the diplomatic team, some Mict, and several civil engineers to set up shelters. As we set up camp, we are met by two of the desert ants with a container of Buggalo honey. We offer a gift in return – something sweet from our stocks. Adams is an excellent cook and the Buggaloo glaze works well with steak vine, but I just can’t deal with much of that stuff.

The Tikkit don’t like open spaces – the golden ants form a tunnel for them to move into the meeting dome. There are five queens – last daughters of Desert Bloom, each with a vest of unknown power. The elder and senior has a black flower and calls herself First Bloom of Desert Bloom. The Bringer of Harmony, of Peace, offers us a chance to become part of her hive and to help us grow. (As we later realize, at times Desert Bloom may be possessing First Bloom to talk directly to us.) Counselor Bahiti respectfully declines – it is a generous offer, but we seek to be friends and equals, to work with her Hive, but not as part of it.

At lunch, we break. The Tikkit don’t seem to have the concept of two hives that are not essentially one. How do we convey this idea? While we are talking two of the golden ants approach discretely. They are allies of the queens from the southernmost end of the central mountains – Golden Sand and Desert Sand. In public, the golden ants are servants, but in private they work with the Tikkit to deal with the dangers of the desert. They and their queens are worried about fighting, either between us and the Tikkit, or a fracturing of their Hive because of us. We talk about options and proposals.

Counselor Bahiti eventually returns to negotiations with a proposal for two groups – their Hive and our Nest, separate and competative, but not at war. (This does leave Coral Bloom in an odd spot.) The division is based on continents. We agree to keep delegates on this island (The Island of Understanding) to study from and learn from each other. While that happens, we try not to take any actions that might be misunderstood or cause conflict. Sadly, none of us will be able to stay – we know too much about the Colony’s defenses and contingency plans.

So peace for now – about the best result we could realistically expect. Now we need to settle our own affairs – get through the elections and figure out how we are all going to work together. I’m hoping for some time for my own projects, including treatment protocols for Tikkit with our technology. Ozone is our guest – it’s our job to keep him healthy and safe.


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