Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 7


Than’yhidre and Meenakshi were back in Chennai’s Old Quarter at the hotel. The two women had taken a different route this time to throw off several suspicious pursuers trying to shadow them. Than’yhidre’s role as a Null-Dancer involved some training in detective work and espionage, or at least skills in those areas that lent themselves well to avoiding pursuit and attempts to throw her off the trail of a perp. Than’y had pulled from her bags an odd looking box with several studs attached to it, placed the device on the coffee table, and pressed one of the studs. A low hum issued, barely audible to the human ear, almost a register too low. “This is a wide-field DataNet scrambler. It’ll prevent even the best media snoops, and most spy agencies that may be working for our target from hearing anything we say. That’s why I screened this suite for nano-dust and any other bugging devices.” Than’yhidre had just finished a data-dump into a small hand comp from her wetware drive. Wetware as trendy but incredibly useful brain-apps were all the rage among the Kai’Siri upper class, especially those who travelled often. It’s all the better for adapting quickly to new cultures once interstellar travel was reestablished post-Shutter. Than’yhidre continued briefly, “It’s how I manage to avoid the paparazzi and fanboys (The fangirls are less annoying!) on every world I visit, and why I contacted you as my guide.” 

“What is it you’ve found? It must be enormously important or you wouldn’t have come all this way to find it. Sirug is kiloparsecs away from here!” Meenakshi leaned in closer, as her seemingly alien friend spoke in low tones.

“I’ve found the file for the girl I started life as. Better, I’ve found out who, or what, was responsible for taking me from this world. I’ve found the source of my dreams, of the nightmares I’ve had since girlhood!” Than’yhidre paused a bit, breathed, then continued,“I’m Indian Tamil by birth. The cosmetic surgery was done when I was only three years of age to make me appealing to Kai’Siri adoption agencies none too concerned about paperwork on where the children come from. It’s permanent, but I’m Tellusine, not Kai’Siri. It’s why I can only eat the foodstuffs of Earth. I found my name and the names and identities of the traffickers who took me.” Than’y hesitated for a moment, as the hint of a tear began to make its way down her cheek, “My birth-name is Lavyani, and I found out that you and I are family. We’re second cousins!” 

Meenakshi looked as though a bomb went off in her head, “Lavyani…You’ve come home!” The two women embraced for just a few seconds, before a loud thump! came from the locked hotel door. The thump! came again, louder, followed by the sound of something trying to rip the door off its hinges, but the two women were already out of sight. Two unnaturally tall and absurdly muscled men wearing featureless masks strode into the room, one dropping the wreckage of the suite entrance door, as the other dropped a canister on the floor, this followed by a billowing gas cloud filling the suite. There was silence, followed by quick search of the suite. One of the men removed his, or rather, its mask, revealing a metal skull-face and glowing eyes beneath. No, not a man, but a synthedroid. Whoever was after the two women was cautious enough not to entrust their capture to mere humans. Inhuman eyes caught a blur of motion to their left, and dodged a Miduuk-Yokku blade just in time to catch a depleted island-metal sabot round to the braincase from Meenakshi’s gauss rifle. Both women were wearing protective masks for the gas.

The other synthedroid, still functional, had caught Meekakshi’s weapon arm, threatening to wrench it off, as Than’yhidre’s blade split its biomechanical body in half from crown to crotch. Two down…

…And that’s when the third stepped in. 

It had waited outside the doorway, just out of sight, and strode into the room with nearly blinding speed on spider-like legs, catching both women unawares as it ejected a thin mesh net, trapping them before a jolt of high-voltage current put them out of commission. Unconcerned for any reward or praise, it destroyed the DataNet scrambler with the crunch of a metal tendril and opened a channel to its master.“Mister Shade, the targets have been procured, and are ready for transport. Units D8T5 and G7B9 have been damaged beyond repair. This unit survives undamaged. This unit will return to base with the quarry after eliminating all traces of damaged units. Communications out.”

To be continued next month…

Mongo Fiction | Languages, Schmlanguages!


How could it be? 

The chances of three hundred thousand words in three unrelated languages sounding alike and meaning exactly the same thing, despite no contact made between the civilizations that spoke them, civilizations separated by billions of years . . . how could it be?

Then again, how could it not. I’ve noticed that that humans alone can generate quite a few phonemes, but only a limited number, and there are thousands of languages in the history of humanity. 

I must consult my tables, but I’m convinced that the likelihood is surprisingly high, more than it might seem. It would be very surprising if there were no such coincidences, something which so many are far too dismissive.

This has spurred a search for me, the search for a language sharing no features, even coincidental ones, with any other language. What’s the probability of that? Let me find out!

Good luck. I’ve a feeling I’ll need it to crack this case. I’ve got an extra-temporal murder to solve. If only I can access the files in the Magnum Librarium, I’ll have the data I need. 

This depends on a lot, but with the data, this case is as good as cracked, and the suspect identified.

Then comes the easy part: nabbing the perp before anyone else gets killed!

Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 6


Than’yhidre stood at the DataNet hub, cloaked with a node screen to avoid notice from online snooping that might otherwise detect her, taking in the raw data as her internal wetware drive processed it. She had accompanied Meenakshi out of Old Quarter Chennai to the Outer City, after a weekend of breathtaking visits to the Old Quarter’s famous landmarks and lounging at a local beach, where the two women enjoyed a bit of sun and surf before getting down to business.

She was silent and unmoving as she focused on the data while Meenakshi stood nearby, on the lookout for any trouble that may show itself. Than’yhidre was mining records going back more than twenty Terran years of young girls then only two or four years of age. She was looking for someone of her own age at the time, on a hunch stemming from her recurrent dreams. It would be easy, she surmised, to match her own face, de-aged to childhood, with local records, and Gotcha, find her true identity. It would be a simple matter to find the Tellusine match. That is, if you ignored the short fangs, subtly pointed ears, and the propensity for seemingly exotic eye colors like ruby, violet, or gold of Kai’Siri. She could find the closest match by combing through the results. Or at least, she thought she could….

Than’yhidre was locked in an introspective state. Images flashed through her consciousness as she sifted the data for patterns, touching icons, virtually travelling along Net nodes, bypassing security measures, for the correct match to her face from so long ago. Here, in the world of the DataNet, she was an online goddess, powerful and deadly as she slew the avatars of security programs and gained access to their files. But in the world outside her head, she was physically immobile and helpless, an easy target for any nearby who meant her harm. So Meenakshi kept watch, being surprisingly skilled at handling Than’yhidre’s Miduuk Yokku blade in the correct manner. To slip or mishandle the weapon meant disaster for any unfortunate limbs, especially one’s own.

Than’yhidre found a promising spimescape file and opened it before stepping inside. There were again two young girls running from something, as in her dreams, but seen from the second person. Wait. Freeze that image. Zoom in. Stop. Run facial analysis software. Add Kai’Siri cosmetic traits relevant to: querant Than’yhidre Dunori. Age into adulthood by two decades. Processing. Processing. Match found. Identifying now… Identification made. Yes! Begin identification of the other girl as well. I’m burning to find out who she was. Processing. Identifying. Identification made. You?! That’s impossible! No, just unlikely odds. Wait. What’s that? Pan out. Reorient field of view. We’re being chased by…machines? Those look like big Terran owls with insect wings and scaly tentacles! Definitely modeled on insect flight biomechanics, likely Terran bumblebees. Hmmm, let’s get closer. Right here. At the base of the left set of wings. Stop. Aha! Serial numbers! I can use those to identify the manufacturers. Save data. Run search algorithm. Shade Industries. Hmmm. The CEO, Chairman, and majority shareholder is identified only as a Mr. Shade. No biographical data. A freak name. No direct contact information. Seems no one but the board of directors knows what he looks like, or even what species he is. Look at in-system court records. The company is an entity of interest in numerous criminal and civil cases in the empire, all stalled in court or adjudicated by bought judges. Save data to wetware drive for further processing. Time to wake! Disengaging induction field.

 

Than’yhidre jerked back to full awareness of the world around her as her task completed. She smiled, as she gestured to Meenakshi. “I’ve found something,” she said in a low voice, “…of interest to both of us. But I can’t say it here, and I need proof to back it up. I have found a few leads we can look into to get that proof! Let’s get back to the hotel and rest. I’ve got a headache after all that data processing.”

Elsewhere on the cislunar DataNet, eyes dangerously indifferent to the human condition, with vast resources and unsympathetic intellect, had noticed Than’yhidre’s search. Quietly, surely, those eyes, and the mind behind them, made its plans to deal with this new possible disruption.

So, child. You have returned to the nest of your species to seek your origins, and justice, and that I cannot allow. I’ll make arrangements to chat with you a bit, and with your new friend….In time. But time is with me, not you, and my reach is far. It will be…good…to meet you personally, and not merely through the eyes of a telepresence droid. Welcome to my long game, mammal. Welcome to the kingdom of Shade!

To be continued in June.

Lyapunov’s Children | Traveller’s Luck


So, this is it, he thought. His vessel came nearer the event horizon of the supermassive black hole, larger than the orbit of Earth, so large the tidal forces were minimal. But this close the time dilation was enormous, the universe past the accretion disk seeming to speed up as subjective time slowed down. 

It was almost there. 

Transition. 

He saw the universe flash almost blindingly bright, then fade out, darkened, just before crossing the threshold. Now, it was too late. 

The universe behind him had died, and he was nearing the singularity, or was he? It looked strange, like a spinning white tunnel. This was wrong. This was against all expectation. This was against all sanity. He was still alive, not crushed into a dimensionless speck with his ship, and still the tunnel kept going. 

The radiation count was just below the limit of his ship’s shielding, and climbing quickly. Terrific, he thought. He would survive one thing only to be killed by another. Not so fast. He found himself spat out from the tunnel with a sudden lurch, the blinding horizon of a white hole behind him. 

Things looked even stranger in his new surroundings; oddly colored luminaries in the distance, complex, shaped like fractal structures, curving, spiralling, and twisting in ways impossible for a galaxy in his own region of space. But he was a taikonaut, and the unexpected was his domain in the dangerous job of space travel. 

Coolly, he smiled, and directed the flightpath of his ship to the nearest orbital bodies. He would make use of his predicament in this new realm, this, what seemed to be a new universe in itself, not just a new region of his own. 

Maybe he would find a way back, maybe not. Survival was the key here. He would find whatever might pass for a habitable world here, and at least attempt to survive, successful or not.

Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 5


Author’s note: This was so far the hardest and most fun to write chapter in this story. Part of that was the need to avoid cultural appropriation in the portrayal of a real world society, however far into the future it is projected. The other part was a desire for accuracy and fairness. I hope that in this chapter, I’ve succeeded in portraying even a fictionalized South Indian culture accurately and respectfully. So here is part 5 of the serial. Enjoy. ~ Troythulu

Than’yhidre and Meenakshi were fully attired for the day’s outing, both in stylish dress to avoid disapproving looks from the locals, with Meenakshi’s putavai, or South Indian sari, traditionally Tamil in cut and color, and Than’yhidre in a Moktuula-Yogg tabard and dual shoulder-wrap commonly worn by upper-class Kai’Siri women. Were it not for her dress and lavender-dyed braided hair, Than’yhidre would be hard to tell from a local woman. Kai’Siri were exempted from local laws banning muscle-powered weapons, but concealed weapons were not permitted, so Than’yhidre wore her Miduuk-Yokku nanoblade openly, peace-bound in a sheath, but ready to be released and used at a moment’s notice in her expert hands.

Meenakshi spoke momentarily in her guide’s voice.

“Chennai was rebuilt almost from scratch as part of the planetary reconstruction from pre-Shutter records and biological samples of plant and animal life found in vaults on Mars, by the best scholars, scientists, and engineers the emperor could find. The bombardment of India by a wandering Broogh swarmfleet in BIY-259 had caused vast devastation to the subcontinent. Cities were leveled, mountains flattened, forests razed, and tens of crores in the region died in the first salvo. The Broogh were defeated with the coming of a rival swarmfleet that the pre-imperial governments of the Solar System joined forces with. The Broogh you saw yesterday are descendants of that same allied swarmfleet. It’s been five centuries hence, and only within the last eighty years was reconstruction completed. My family line are among the survivors who rebuilt Tamil Nadu and Kerala districts. My great, great grandparents led the reconstruction and repair of surviving temples and other ancient buildings.”

She then lowered her voice and switched to a more conversational tone,“Not to pry, Than’y but how did you discover your Tellusine origins? How were you able to so early in life? I know very little about Kai’Siri other than the fine soldiers who serve duty in our military divisions, and some women tourists I’ve spoken with.”

“Well,” Than’yhidre began,“My adoptive family admitted it after much insistent badgering from me on the day they sent me to the Academy to train. But it began with my dietary problems. I can’t easily consume many of the common food staples of Sirug, as those sometimes caused allergic reactions . . . alien animal proteins and vegetable products. The Kai’Siri are very much adapted to the foods their ancestors learned to survive on. My first reaction to local food led to a brief visit to the hospital, which after treatment led to genetic tests, and since then they were careful to give me only foods from Terra. But I was a good child to them, and they were wealthy enough to afford the cost. I grew up increasingly alienated from others after being bullied by other children for eating “Erturi-food,” but that only made me more angry and combative, which led to my wanting to get training as a Null-dancer. I loved watching them perform, and wanted the glamour and glitz of the very best ones. Plus, I had a knack for dance. I practiced almost constantly. I loved my adoptive family, well, most of them, but was only too happy to go. And so were they. They gave me full access to my medical records on the day I entered the Academy.”

The two women turned as the reached their destination, the first stop on Than’yhidre’s visit.“This temple is one of those that survived the Broogh bombardment almost untouched. For some reason, it wasn’t a priority target. It’s one of the oldest temples in this locality, said to be several thousand years old if you believe the local lore.”

Meenakshi did a mock stern and serious face as she said, “Do you remember the protocols for entering?”

Than’yhidre smiled, counting on her fingers,“Let’s see, washing before visit: check. Dressing appropriately: check. Buying some strange but yummy-looking Terran fruits to offer the deities: check. Leaving handheld electronics at the hotel: check. No animal skins in clothing: check. Easy-to-remove footwear to leave outside: check. Oh, yes…” She looked down, following Meenakshi’s gaze, at the Miduuk-Yokku nanoblade in its sheath by her side, embarrassed that she’d almost forgotten, as she detached it and sheepishly handed the weapon to an attendant, “…and no weapons! And for what goes on inside, that was easy to access from the local Net nodes and go over scores of times in my head!”

“Good girl!” Meenakshi said, suddenly dropping the mock serious face, “So, get ready for your first real taste of one of the oldest cultures of Terra.”

The two women, footgear now in cubbies alongside the temple entrance, strode inside together. One might almost think them sisters . . . .

To be continued.

Mongo Fiction: Evicted


The clawed octopoid towered over the comparatively tiny human standing defiantly at its feet. With its waking, a wave of madness had swept the planet, and this world looked as though it would meet its end. But still the lone human stood there, waiting.

“I know you can understand me, just like last time. We both know I can speak with anything that has language, so I’ll warn you just once: leave. This planet is protected, and you are not welcome here. Maybe come back in a billion years after the sun brightens and the oceans have boiled away on their own. And I know how you’re causing the madness outbreak, you fraud. ‘Cosmic Mysterium Tremendum,’ my ***! You’re using a planet-wide psychotronic disruptor network, which I’ll just shut down like so.” The human clicked his finger, as a wave of blue light rippled across the planet, shorting out the network of alien devices as sanity returned to the suddenly lucid but bewildered humans, those who did no serious harm to themselves or others under the influence.

“Get off this planet, you charlatan. I’ve got worlds to create, not pretend gods to unmask!”

The octopoid stood silently for a few seconds as others of its race gathered nearby. Then, it began to unfurl massive membranous wings, of the sort that could ride the solar wind, and soared skyward as its fellows followed suit. In minutes, they were gone. This world would survive, at least for a little while longer.

Humans nearby gathered around the man from a distance, terrified by the fact he had the power to stand down Old Ones, but grateful that he had saved their lives and minds.

The man glanced at them, saying, “You’re all safe for at least another few million years, until the next alien catastrophe ambles along, or you get smacked by an asteroid. But don’t get used to it. I only sent him on his way this time because he once tried to cheat me in a game of cards. I hate cheats.”

Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 4


Than’yhidre slept like a baby, and woke with the rising of the sun through the living crystal windows of the hotel suite. She had been dreaming strange dreams, of shifting sands, rainforests, beaches, and ancient gods known only to the Kai’Siri in myth and story. But none of these were the gods of Earth.

She recalled scenes of temples, tall and ancient, impressive in size given the technology used to build them. No aliens built these structures. They were strictly the work of the ancient peoples. These remarkable sites were highly decorated, as one would expect from holy places, and were so well built as to survive even to this day.

Than’yhidre was not a believer in supernatural beings or forces, being raised in the Kai’Siri culture all her known life. But spiritual matters to her were personal, and so long as there was no imposition by others on her, she respected others’ right to believe whatever they liked.

She had seen someone in her dream, a young girl, and this was something that haunted her throughout both childhood and adult life. She dreamt of her again last night. She meant to find out who the girl was.

Her brooding had obviously caught the attention of Meenakshi, who asked, “What disturbs you, Than’yhidre?”

Than’yhidre spoke for the first time since waking only moments ago,“Since my childhood, my teens, and my entire adult life, I’ve had these dreams, dreams of a young girl of this world. I somehow feel I know her, or did, and in these dreams I can feel someone or something is after her, chasing her. I dream that I’m by her side as she’s being chased, running with her from her pursuers. Her face seems familiar, and yet I cannot place it. It corresponds to no face of anyone on record anywhere in the Exarchate. I mean to find her face, somewhere in the records of this world, to find out who she is and add a piece to the puzzle that is my past. I wasn’t born on Sirug, only raised there since the age of two. My own early records are sketchy, and go back no further, but I’ve found that my family, my real family, is from Terra. I found from my genomic records that I descend from Terra and not Sirug. And I have the data to prove it, but always the tapestry remains incomplete. I mean to complete it, and to know my past and the truth of these things that haunt my dreams. But I don’t want to burden you with my problems. Are things still clear to visit those temples?”

“Yes. We’re cleared to go there this afternoon if you feel up to it. It’ll help cheer you up to see the sights here in the Old Quarter, raise your spirits, as we of Terra say. Wash up, dress, we’ll take breakfast, and I’ll tell you of some local customs that the planetary Net would merely gloss over or even miss!” Meenakshi smiled as she stood. The two women parted, each to their own rooms to prepare for the day’s outings.

To Be Continued Next Month…