by Ocean Seven
Alternate timeline from main series. Working (public) version, for updating.
They came so fast, hit so hard, we were stunned for the first time in almost three thousand years. Us. The GDA. Stunned. We couldn't believe it. Refused to believe it, for a time. Some still do. Many died not believing it. Me? I'm still not sure if it really happened. It feels so surreal. Like it happened just yesterday, yet at the same time, so many eons ago. And I'm very long-lived, so that's really saying something right there.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating; it's not that we don't believe it happened, really. I think it's more that some of us- the older guys, those like me who've seen action back in the day or at least can say they were around in that era- just refused to believe that certain... things... came back.
Even us old guys, only some of us had seen 'em. By the time our generation came to, they were rare, on the verge of extinction, or so we were told. They weren't a threat back then. Even back in their infancy they weren't terribly dangerous to military might, especially riding solo. It was just what they did, how they did it, and all of the awful stuff that ran through your mind when you thought about it, what they could do in numbers. And I hear there were a lot of them back in their time.
It's not like they were terribly difficult this time around, although we weren't exactly expecting them. It was just the shock of how uncaring they were, of seeing them for the first time in ages for some of us, and the horror of seeing them for the very first time after hearing, at best, myths about them for the younger ones. Just how they carried out their actions, it, it was quite something to behold. This jet-black, towering behemoth that was unmistakably a machine, strutting about in that stereotypical, slow, heavy gait. Yet how... natural it seemed. How even though when you saw it, it was obviously a machine, yet it had a lifelike fluidity to its actions. It looked around like one of us, aside from the slow walk it otherwise moved much like a human does. And yet, when you looked at it, it had nothing but utter contempt for human life, turning its similarities into horrific mockeries of those which it attacked.
But one of the worst parts was it was clearly sentient. Maybe it was programmed sentience, some sort of true artificial intelligence, maybe it had an engineered brain. Maybe it was the same sort of unnaturally natural sentience as a BioAndroid; that kind of life where the only real difference between them and us is we come from two people and come out of a woman, while they come from one person, two people, ten people, a million people, and come out of a canister. Whatever it was, it thought. It planned. It showed goddamn emotions. That was probably the worst for the younger guys. Seeing this, this, thing in front of their eyes, pick someone up and show goddamn human emotion. The subtle movements of its jet-black head, the shift in its shoulders that registered as, as... goddammit, as regret. And then having that shatter before your eyes, its 'soft side' snap to rigidity just as the onlookers start to feel for it. And then watching it continue with its crusade, doing whatever it pleased with its captive like it was an ant. It had sentience all right. It had emotions, all right. But they were all aimed towards eroding people's sanity, toying with those it bastardized. That didn't help one bit with recovering from the initial shock.
But as soon as we did, we could see it for what it really was. It was a terrible thing, built less for its military applications and more for what we bore witness too. Its actions eroded sanity, eroded hope, eroded morale. It could fight, it could take a damn lot of heat, but it wasn't particularly designed to do either, at least not like a purpose-built weapon is. No, its purpose was to weaken the army it was sent against, send those they watched over into chaos and madness, hampering everything. Why create a weapon built for war to fight the army on even grounds when you can make a terrifying creature that would send the weaker men into a panic. No army is perfect, we can't afford to only take the best of the best. We'd have no way to absorb losses. So why not capitalize on that? There is always going to be far more of the weak than the strong in an army. And the way the weak work is through weight of fire. So build your terrifying weapon to scatter the weak, disrupt that weight of fire. The best of the best rely on the weak for their weight of fire, as they know where best to contribute their smaller numbers for greatest effect. If you remove the weak from the equation, its just the best of the best left- they are the weight of fire, the surgical strike, and everything else now. Maybe the weak will start shooting each other in their panic- no loss for you, the enemy. Now your weapon is on more even grounds. Where it formerly had little chance, it now is quite a force to be reckoned with. And on top of that, the elite have a duty to care for the weak, to guide them. So their own weight of fire is even less as some must try to rally the others. Now your once-weak weapon stands tall over the elite, with very little standing in its path.
And these things, I tell you, are very difficult to stop. Don't get me wrong- the GDA is strong all right. We're the best there is these days. We beat the IBAE, even. Thing is, the IBAE was the best. Better than us. Still were when we took them down. We just had different advantages over them, like, the entirety of the Fallen First. And the assailed never really can defend against the attacker- they don't know how they'll fight the next war, but the attacker does, and the defender's in plain view. They have to be, strutting their stuff to deter the opportunistic. Well, both the IBAE and ourselves limit that, we know it's stupid to do it. But the masses, they're not as well-versed in the ways of war. The enemy, they never get it until you give them a smack in the face. The public stuff really only deters the smart opportunists. The idiots will always challenge the status quo, will always think they can make a difference. For them, it takes a crushing defeat to get them to go away and stay away.
See, the thing is, the IBAE was the best, and they had some difficulty with these things. They sent kill teams out entirely comprised of BAs and it took them some time. Mostly because they would appear in the middle of cities or far too close to major population zones or important areas to allow for their trademark overwhelming barrage of firepower. The only way to kill them, then, was to go inside, gut them from within. Thinking back to their sentience, I guess it must be similar to a BA's, as these things had no restraint. And of course, they were built by the IBAE themselves. I don't know how they overlooked it, and we'll never know, but these things got out of control. Which was a problem, as they are actually decently durable and more of a hassle than I make it seem. We never actually got a hold of much to tell us about them, but from what the Fallen First had been able to bring to us from any snippets they'd encountered was that these things had two roles. The first role is the one you ever really see it carrying out, and really, it was functionally its only role.
It was a weapon of terror. With a name that, while cheesy until you were face-to-face with one, was undeniably and profoundly fitting in its simplicity; it was known only as a BioTerror.
Its second role, a role which we've always wondered whether or not it was ever actively undertaken, was intended to be a custodian of the BioAndroids. Some sort of safeguard in case the BAs ever got out of control. Well, we'd like to say it failed utterly at that- the Fallen First are proof enough of that, and many more joined later- but with the lack of any proof that it ever actively did anything, we can't be sure. What we do know is that it does have passive defenses against almost every Mark of BA there is. For the most part these are mostly impulses that deter the majority of them from trying to gain access to the BT itself, but for certain Marks there is more effort. If the BT detects a hostile BA attempting to gain entry into itself, it will activate its broad range of deterrence impulses in an effort to get the intruding BA to back off. These are generally specific, engineered impulses to the bulk of Marks that do not occur naturally and were supremely well-guarded secrets, with evidence that they could be changed within both BA and BT if they were ever discovered. For the average BA, this is enough to get them to back off, as most of the later Marks are designed with increased sensitivity to this, which triggers massive chain reactions in self-preservation senses. For some of the earlier Marks, such as the Third and Fourth, there may be additional impulses sent out. For the Third, there seems to actually be weaker impulses, but with the same effect. There is evidence that these were once the strongest, but the incident between the Third and Fourth Marks while under production obviously allowed for measures against the Third to be lessened considerably; even if they did gain access, there is little the average Third could do to a BT. For the Fourth, the additional impulse is vivid signals of warzones and other horrific events. In all but the most self-controlled Fourth Generation BAs, this will cause immediate and catastrophic shock due to their bizarre pacifistic tendencies. Few Fourth Generation BAs would have reason to even approach a BT in the first place, but the issue lies more in avoiding a Fourth even getting close to a BT; the incident with the Third Generation caused the Fourth- originally a line of sleeper diplomats who could be activated in the advent of war for disruption efforts- to wind up with the WMDs intended for the Third, leaving the Third little more than a line of glorified bodyguards. The diplomacy installed in the Fourth Generation was complete at the time of the incident, but the activation routines had not yet been inserted, turning the Fourth Generation into a race of pacifistic walking weapons of mass destruction.
Measures against the Second Generation were the same as if anything had gained access- the Second was designed to be stubborn, a line of soldiers more numerous than the First to make up for the huge loss in durability inherent in the Quantum Material design of their precessors. Any detected Second Generation BA is met with immediate hostility, as they are more apt to brute force their way inside. Unless there is a vast number of them confronting a single BT, they will back off, as they know they are not their First Generation brothers, and cannot hope to tackle a BT without significant numbers- they're designed more as general purpose soldiers, not as dedicated armour killers. The only measures that can be remotely considered 'active' would be actions towards Seventh Generation BioAndroids. A line of dedicated snipers, they are some of the best experts at stealth. As an active scanning array would have given anyone with half a brain warning as to the BT's own location, as well as tip off the Seventh, BTs are typically warned when Seventh Generation BAs are known to be working anywhere near the BT's AO. When this signal is acquired, the BT pulls more power to its passive scanning arrays, and actively checks all sensors for anything remotely indicating a Seventh's proximity. While a Seventh is of little concern to a BT in terms of actual strength- a Seventh is tall, lanky and intentionally horrifying, having little, if any exterior covering beyond what is needed to protect its organics; it is built to be strong enough to handle recoil from its weapon, a feat achieved mostly through force deflection and redirection to minimize actual strength needs- the Seventh Generation is notorious for its independence, and they are known to use any spare time they can get to teach themselves skills to overcome their low strength, and it is a concern that while one could not actually go tearing through a BT, it is highly probable that one could find something it could access to rewire or find some other way of disabling.
It is unknown what measures a BT has against a First Generation BioAndroid. They are not known to have engineered impulse triggers, nor can a BT hope to take one on solo. It is likely that it would respond by trying to remove the First Generation if it detected one on itself, or otherwise steer as far away from one as possible. However, from previous experience it is known that if this is not possible- for any threat, actually- a BT will fly into a berserk rage in an attempt to get the threat to back off. Additionally, while a First Generation is surely powerful and durable, the BT series does appear to have over-engineered protection for its role, which is known to cause some difficulty in breaching even for a First Generation. This only extends to its armour in terms of durability, and does not offer it any additional protection once it is eventually breached. BioTerrors are also the first known units to make use of bioelectric metal, as used in the GDA's recent advances into literal mechanized infantry units. This causes additional issues to a First Generation, as all of its designed entryways become as sealed as the rest of the hull.
Ultimately, this is of small hope to a BioTerror, but it is still not meant to defeat a First Generation. Rather, these measures are meant to protect it while it is functionally helpless, less to best the First generation, and more to exhaust it- the only surefire way to kill one. In the history of the IBAE and the GDA, it is known that at least three members of the Fallen First have in fact been so utterly matched by a BioTerror's defenses that they were claimed by exhaustion after a full four weeks of single combat between the two relics. One thing to point out, however, is that it took an additional three days before the Fallen First finally collapsed; generally, a First Generation can last about a month and a half or so of solid combat before energy loss forces it into Emergency Mode. At this point, it reverts to a single-minded desire to preserve itself, and much like a BioTerror, goes berserk. Generally this is not a huge issue, as this typically happens near friendly First Generations who are trained to subdue their enraged comrade and get them into recovery. However, if left alone, the unit will continue to expend energy it can ill afford. In this case, it fell after three days as it was locked in single combat against a foe that was designed to keep it at bay, causing it to expend more and more energy into trying to breach its hull. Without an ending, it burned through its two-week reserves in just three days in an orgy of escalating rage. The end was bittersweet for both units, however, as the BioTerror fulfilled its purpose, holding the First Generation BA off until it exhausted itself to death- but wrath of a BA in Emergency Mode, using so much energy so as to burn two weeks worth in three days must have been something to behold, and evidently did manage to overpower the BioTerror in turn. When allied units finally arrived, about two hours after the unit expired, the immediate area was scarred beyond belief, at the BioTerror had huge craters all around its hull, with one massive, angry gash in its side where the BA had finally managed to breach the BT's hull. The BA was found after some effort- the area was incredibly hazy, and it wasn't until someone connected the scarred and scorched ground with the abrupt stillness of the unit together and determined the unit has burned so much energy in such a short time that it had actually managed to immolate the immediate area. It was found through trial and error in the heart of the haze, still emitting tremendous amounts of smoke as the air returned. It was burned so badly that everything that was not made up of Quantum Material was virtually fused together. It was only with tremdous effort and no small heap of luck that the data recorder was not totally destroyed, partially encased within a vault of QE. It was heavily damaged, and not much was recoverable, but it was discovered that it had torn the huge gash in the BT almost two hours before it finally died, which explained why it was found in a seated position. The fact it was seated and not particularly described as alert and prepared to defend itself is a question that has never been adequately answered since. The leading theories are that after it emerged victorious, it was able to differentiate between the thrill of combat and the deathly calm of the aftermath, and this managed to penetrate through its otherwise overriding sense of self-preservation, shocking it into submission. Building upon that, the other leading theory runs along the same lines, but goes further by saying that it could have shocked it back into sanity; it could have been enough of a difference to release it from the binds of Emergency Mode, and it could have died completely sane, as if it never entered Emergency Mod; or it could have played out that it died still gripped by Emergency Mode, but in those two hours it somehow was able to think clearly despite Emergency Mode, and it may have known that there was nothing else nearby, and that it was running out of energy, hence why it simply sat down and died.
However the end played out, what is also known is that it died holding the huge strip of armour from the BioTerror, and the posture it fell silent in seemed to some of the recovery team to be almost regretful or sad, as if it felt bad for destroying something that was not that different from itself; a fellow life-form, built, born and bred only for battle. A small section of energy usage was recovered, which showed massive levels of consumption for the hour or so that was readable. At the very edge of this data was a dip that went unnoticed for quite some time before someone thought it could have been a data set from the end, and went about trying to date the contained atomic structure of the data. The data was dated at roughly five hours after the arrival of the recovery team, leading many to believe that the most correct theory was the last one- that it simply sat down and died, gripped by Emergency Mode but very much aware of its situation. The visible section of the dip is very small, but in comparison to the flurry of rises and dips from the rest of the data, it does turn out to be a lower dip than anything else; almost as if it managed to slow its energy usage down through its own will. Indeed, while it has never been proven due to the finiky and ancient nature of First Generation energy generators, some believe that it did manage to do so, and that had it not, it would have died shortly after it destroyed the BioTerror. It must have managed to pull those additional two hours from the last of its energy through force of will, giving it the time it needed to focus out from the hazy Emergency Mode and think whatever it thought in its final moments of life.
It must be all confusing to see all of this. Some things connect while others seem irrelevant. But the final thing of note for that incident is that when the GDA returned to the site to mull over the remains to see if they could scrape up anything else at all, the unit was back in its place. Without a word, the Fallen First had taken the unit from where it waited in the labs back to where it died. Of equal- I daresay, greater- importance was the fact that they had left the BioTerror where it lay. Nobody could bring it back on the first trip, given its size, but even though it had caused one of their number to die, they had left it alone. Well, mostly alone- from orbit, the research team could clearly make out a memorial within that huge gash, and the general area looked like it had been worked over with immense effort. The scorched outline remained, but most of the marks within had been cleared out, and the area was surprisingly tidy. When their ship made planetfall, they'd seen something in the area and held back. From a distance, they saw that the entire area had been transformed into an extremely peaceful site. As they were packing up to head towards it, several members had the feeling they were being watched- sure enough, they spotted one of the Fallen First standing a considerable distance away, partially hidden by an island of trees. There was just silence for a long time. While most of the team was somewhat confused, there were two old souls within their ranks who held eye contact with the distant Fallen First. No words were shared, and yet, there was communication. A long time after the remaining veteran would reluctantly say that he was pretty sure the Fallen First was communicating in Bioandronian; while he had never learned more than that it existed and that it was incredibly difficult to learn, he found himself overwhelmed by many things, the strangest at the time being the sense of supreme agreement. When someone asks if it was mind control, the veteran seems to stare into the offender's very spirit when responding with a very, very restrained negative. He maintains that the Fallen First are no different from himself or anyone else, despite what they seem. He speaks quietly of his early days, when there was some fear towards them, but there was also a small oasis of those that thought the way he does now. He admits he feared them at first, and could not take the others seriously, but as time wore on and he came to work closely with the Fallen First and other BAs, be came to at the very least consider them nothing to fear. After his silent communication with the Fallen First that day, he feels he's finally joined that small group that believed in the BAs, and says he thinks he knows why Bioandronian is virtually impossible to learn. He says that it is impossible to learn because it isn't a language in the sense that everyone thinks of a language as. He points out things that are languages that the average person tends to not associate as a language- binary, sign language, body language. He admits he's tried to decypher Bioandronian before, and now he's realized what he was missing the entire time. He recalls some snippets he worked over to no avail, and that one of the things he forgot to take into account is that he, like everyone else, associated language with repetition- after all, this is how all languages work, is it not? However, it is not the case for BioAndronian. He has seen repetition, but comparing the body language and atmosphere of those snippets, they couldn't have been more different. With his communication with the Fallen First, it had hit him square in the face- Bioandronian is not a language based on repetition. The reasoning? In his encounter, neither spoke, yet he felt he knew exactly what the Fallen First was communicating. In the end, he says, Bioandronian is completely impossible to learn. There is no way to teach someone to speak Bioandronian, and no way to help someone learn to write. He's admitted to reading several papers, and in hindsight, thinks that the one time where the writer was speaking out loud, that they were trying to point him to this conclusion. The spoken words did not remotely match the writing, yet the audio and visual both produced the same effect, which he dismissed as tiredness. In reality, he had actually understood both, he just didn't realize he could. Bioandronian, he says, is not a spoken language, nor a written one; it is similar to body language, only on a whole new level that is as complex as it is simple.
He goes on to say that the biggest hurdle for people to comprehend Bioandronian is their strong wish to understand it. They want some basis to go on, so they can learn for themselves. But this interferes with the process, as this is not an expectation that can applied to Bioandronian. He jots down several phrases he's remembered over the years, shows them to those gathered around him, and states they all mean the same thing. He then jots down more, and state they mean the same thing. His third series seems identical to the first with minor variations, yet he says that it means exactly the opposite from the other two. When questioned about the logic of that, he simply responds by telling those around him to look but not read, absorb but not analyze. To think of it as a person's face. This, he says, is about as far as someone can teach another how to understand Bioandronian. The rest, he goes on to say, everyone already knows. If you can read facial features, body language, or have ever listened to someone speaking in a foreign language yet felt you got the general feeling of what they were saying, you can understand Bioandronian already. Anyone who has seen another in panic, such as someone running from a house fire and trying to tell someone else about it but their words are all over the place, if you got the general idea that they were in a panic because something happened, and it is clearly something that rattled them, and from there you can pick apart the jumbled words to figure out that there was a fire somewhere, you can not only understand Bioandronian, but you just did translate Bioandronian.
Bioandronian is not a spoken language, nor a written language. The same phrase can mean a million different things. The words are not important, because of this. There are no meanings to words, no idioms, no concepts, no verbs, no subjects.
Because Bioandronian is the language of emotion.
The inflection, the body language, the atmosphere, that is what Bioandronian is. The feeling that the person speaking in Russian- quickly, louder than normal and waving their hands around in sweeping arcs- must be talking about an aerial battle, is Bioandronian. The silent communication between two old veterans, and the mutual understanding, is Bioandronian. The oral and written aspects are just two different ways of expression, with their own important points. Really, he says, oral Bioandronian is only required when there is no face-to-face contact. Just looking at another, one can convey meaning- and in a case like his, between two veterans, even movement is redundant. The written form is probably the most difficult, as it relies on the reader's capability to read in the intended tone. However, the way one writes has assisting effects, such as the additional pressures on paper when conveying anger, or the lighter script of calm or happiness. Even without such involuntary assists, there is still the words themselves. They can be absolute gibberish, random squiggles on a page, but to someone with enough understanding of Bioandronian- he emphasizes that everyone can understand it, but that there are degrees of understanding, much like there are degrees at which people can understand additional languages- they can see that the writer is writing about happy times on vacation. He also points out that words and the like can be used as additional assists, but again, not required. To someone with a high enough degree of understanding of Bioandronian, the words spoken or written are no more than habit, personalized quirks, novelties, eccentricities. The choice of words becomes irrelevant, although for the most part speakers seem to use real words, and judging from what he's heard, they may not have anything to do with the subject, but are used for their feel, nothing else. Someone might mingle harsher languages like German, when angry, or a smoother tongue, like Italian, when happy.
So it was, that when the two broke eye contact, that they turned and headed back. They had understood the Fallen First's silent communication that while they weren't unwelcome, their purpose of coming was. In closing the veteran points out one more thing, something that really screws with your mind when you think back to the BioTerrors and what I've said of them. He said he got the feeling from just looking at the site itself that something was off, and when he looked into that Fallen First's eyes he saw what it was. That the BioTerror, despite its terrible purpose, its horrific deeds, was to remain all the same as their Fallen First brother. The sensation is faint after all this time, but he knows there was more to it that he couldn't comprehend then and there. While he can no longer recall everything, he feels that the intention was that the BioTerror was being respected just the same as the Fallen First. Or it may be that the whole thing was just tradition, but both were in truth being left out to be judged by whatever you will. The Fallen First are a mysterious lot, both like and very unlike us. BAs are capable of just about everything we are, and if they want to, they can blend in flawlessly. Yet the Fallen First are different from the other BAs in other regards. He feels that they carry a huge burden with them. He's heard the stories about them, and knows the truth from the fiction but declines to point either out. It's part of their past, is all he says on the matter. It could be that they pay respects to both their brother and that which took him from them, or it could be that they lay both out to be judged. He's seen several other memorials like this, not always involving a Fallen First. Each one has a unique atmosphere to it, but comprehension seems just beyond his grasp. Like they lay out the emotion to those that visit, but the true meaning behind each one is for them to know. Still, he feels it is there, and that they must leave it there for anyone else who may understand. While he's doubtful anyone else has, he adds that it is likely very profound, and that anyone who does understand would no doubt understand their reasons, or at least understand enough to keep it to themselves, as he has for the truth and fiction of the many stories of their past.
And in closing, he adds that if he had to give an opinion one way or another as to the meaning behind this specific site, he would have to say that he thinks both are being respected. Because, when he looks back at the site in his mind's eye, there is another sensation- faint, buried under the overarching sense of the site itself but there all the same- that seems to come form the BioTerror. He's not sure if it from the BioTerror itself, or a sensation left by the Fallen First, and either way it too is fuzzy. But he draws him in. He feels something, but can't put a word to it. He's tested himself to see if he can match it to any existing brainwave patterns, but it doesn't appear to register at all, or if it does, it is hidden within the normal activity of the brain. He says he doesn't have a basis for this, but he feels it may be from both. Perhaps the Fallen First left one behind to respect the BioTerror, much like their brother seemed to be sad at the strip of BioTerror in his grip. And that perhaps the BioTerror felt something as it fell, maybe the two connected, maybe they didn't. Whatever it is, he thinks the BioTerror may not have been like the others, to put it awkwardly.