Courtesy: Part 44

Logically, I should have told him to shoot it. The longer we took with this, the more time the greater horde had to reach us. Plus, it was most likely an avatar for a larger entity that was willing to sacrifice human life without a thought.

Why didn’t I? First of all, Alex didn’t take orders from anybody. Second, we didn’t know where the core of the entity was and a conversation could give us time to find it that combat wouldn’t. Beyond that, would the Fungus Collective simply hand us the core of its mental processes? Unlikely. If I had to guess, I’d guess that the kid was intended to be a distraction for us.

Also, there was the possibility, however small, that we were actually looking at a kid.

I thought at Daniel, Can you figure out what Alex should touch? The kid? The pool? The floor (if we’re lucky)? One of the mounds. My bet would be one of the mounds and most likely on the other side behind the kid. 

I felt agreement through our link.

Daniel looked over the room as the child said, “I know we got off to a bad start, but I’m very young. I was born today. I’ve learned a lot in my short time alive. I want to coexist.”

Standing off to my right, Cassie laughed, “I’ve got thousands of footfalls coming this direction that says that you want to kill us.”

The child said, “If you want proof, I can stop them.”

From behind me, Haley asked, “Can you make them stop and retreat?”

“Yes. I’ve already done it. Check if you wish.” The child looked over the group of us, not saying anything.

Speaking into the main League channel, I asked, “Control, is he telling the truth?”

At the same time, I checked cameras from the bots I left outside the building. He wasn’t lying.

It looked like a battleground outside, specifically as if a fantasy background had been transported into modern Grand Lake.

Elves on horses, draconic beasts, trolls, goblins and more stood in the street.

Fungus monsters of all kinds lay on the ground, all of them hacked apart with medieval weapons. Fungus infected humans that had been ensorcelled stood near them, some staring into space, others endlessly dancing as a short, bearded fey played a violin.

The fey duke seemed to have taken Adam’s  request not to kill humans seriously. From the frown he wore as he watched the fungus creatures withdraw to the other side of the street, making a barrier of fungus creatures between the controlled humans and the fey, I assumed that he was disappointed.

He sheathed his sword and crossed his arms for a few seconds, but then started shouting to his troops, putting them into formation for fighting should the fungus creatures return to the fight.

As I decided that I’d seen enough, he raised his right hand, looked directly into the camera of the bot I was watching from, and gave a small wave with his fingers.

I gave my attention back to the room with two new thoughts to add to the many on my mind—1) don’t mess with powerful fey and 2) take a cue from the fact that he expected the fight to continue.

Over the comm, Kayla said, “The bots show that all of the fungus and fungus controlled creatures have stopped fighting and withdrawn from the fight. That includes several units of National Guardsmen in tanks, Rocket suits, and mechs.”

Haley stepped forward, “Okay. We’ve got confirmation that you retreated, but it’s not far.”

In my head, Daniel said, I’m searching our best futures. If you can believe it, there are lot where talking to the child and not fighting ends this. I don’t know how, but that’s what I’ve got. There are real futures where the fungus is an ally. On the other hand, there are more futures where we talk and then there’s fighting. Some of those go bad, but overall it’s still better than when we don’t talk.

Over the comm, Daniel added, “Paladin, the child isn’t your target. I’m checking mound by mound right now. I’ll tell you when I find it, but right now, it’s better to talk.”

Alex’s eyes flicked toward the mounds behind the child and he said, “Got it,” into the comm.

“Thank you,” the child looked around the room, hopefully unable to hear that exchange. “I know you have every reason not to trust me, but as I said, I’ve learned a great deal more about human beings since my creation—even since you freed my chosen  spokesperson.”

He paused, I assume taking in our response to that.

“It puzzled me,” he continued. “I’d made you an offer in what I considered good faith and even included the death of a useful tool to show how serious I was. Fortunately, I’d recovered a number of dead bodies, one of which I have here.”

Another humanoid form rose from the pool. This one had a grey, mushroom flesh body and Arete’s head.

The child smiled, “I thought you’d recognize him! I’m sure you find the idea that he’s dead disturbing, but getting access to his mind as well as that of the other deceased individuals gave me the insight I needed to understand why I shouldn’t absorb all life. Traveling through the pathways that these individuals made over their lives, it struck me that absorbing these people before they die might be… wrong.

”I think there’s something useful about the way that you all go through your lives, alone, unable to feel the thoughts of the rest of your species. Absorbing you only after your deaths might allow me to think thoughts a composite being such as myself couldn’t ordinarily think. For you, it offers immortality within me.

“Oh, and there is one other matter. From what I’ve gleaned from inspecting Arete’s consciousness, it appears that the Xiniti will exterminate all life on this planet if something like me takes over.

“For that reason, I propose an alliance.”

8 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 44”

  1. “Different perspectives are useful.”
    “… leaving you all separate from me assures that there will be other minds”
    Oh no, the fungus was listening to diversity lectures (absorbed the mind of a diversity consultant?), the planet is doomed! 🙂

    Possible typo:
    “I’d guess that the kid was an intended to be a distraction for us”
    “an” shouldn’t be there? Or, “an intended distraction for all of us”?

    1. I was trying to figure out how it would express the idea that absorbing everything on the planet into itself might be wrong and it came out that way.

      That’s something that didn’t quite work for me and hopefully I’ll figure out something better.

  2. Imagine the fungus becomes some kind of undertaker/funerary service. “you can take dead people but only if they consent to it while alive or their families consent to it after they died.”

    1. Alternatively/additionally, taking the bodies of deceased supers while they’re still “fresh” might allow the fungus to functionally bring them back – they won’t be the same person (on account of both brain damage and having their remaining consciousness subsumed into the collective) but they may retain knowledge, skills, and powers. Fungus!Jody would probably be an improvement…

  3. Might be missing the word “made” in this sentence.

    “Traveling through the pathways that these individuals over their lives”

    as in the ‘individuals made over’

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