This is the first of a number of new ideas for various Spectral Shadows serials I’m planning to put up for brainstorming. These are raw first drafts of the ideas as they first come out of my head, subject to suggestion, expansion, continuity review and general comments.*****
This first idea is projected as an arc for Serial 12 and was inspired by nikolinni attempting to marry his Spectral Shadows fan fiction with a “Five Nights At Freddy’s” parody, coupled with the question of why I don’t consider “Five Nights At Freddy’s” to be a true work of Horror.
Basically I threw out some suggestions that Niko didn’t seem interested in using, and I was thinking those were really good ideas, and if he didn’t want to use them, I should.
So I spent the last couple of days trying to put these ideas together in the beginnings of a workable story idea, which I hope will turn out to be truly horrifying, while at the same time maintaining the Spectral Shadows tradition of being allegorically controversial. i.e. encouraging the reader to feel sympathy for something that would normally be beyond anyone’s sympathy - pulling out all the stops and pushing my genre to its limits, you might say.
Anyway, here’s my first sketch of the idea, and I look forward to any suggestions for ways it could be made more effective as a Furry Sci-Fi Horror piece.
Christine reminds the family of Lappina’s dream of setting up a New Ashbury. Perry admits he has not seen much point in pursuing the idea since Lappina’s death. He feels it would only pain him further if he were to build it, only to be reminded constantly that Lappina had not lived to see it. Christine thinks Perry’s attitude is horridly selfish. She wants to go ahead with the idea, even if Perry doesn’t.
Christine talks to the family about where New Ashbury might be located. Seeing that Christine will not be put off, Perry sighs and suggests that the site of Blair’s abandoned castle project might be good for them to take advantage of, rather than trying to clear a section of No Furs Land from scratch.
Perry calls The Sultan and asks if Halloween has any plans for the castle. The Sultan tells Perry he would be well advised to look for another location, as some strange things have been happening in that area since Blair’s departure, and he believes the castle to be cursed.
Perry can not see over the phone, but the Sultan is looking down at his diorama as he speaks, which shows not only the castle, but a ghost of the surrounding amusement park gradually fading into view.
Being a scientist, Perry does not believe in curses. He hires Joy to put together another expedition to check out the property.
Joy’s expedition finds the castle completely restored. Not only that, but the surrounding amusement park is also in the process of being restored, but there is no sign of heavy construction equipment in the area, nor any workers, save for the occasional mutants they encounter wearing what appear to be amusement park uniforms.
The mutants show no fear of the furs and offer them refreshment, referring to the furs as guests. But though the mutants seem docile and harmless, Joy and the others are creeped out by their unnaturally passive demeanor. They seem almost like robots or marionettes.
As Joy is packing up to return to Suburbia with her report, she discovers that members of her expedition have gone missing. A search of the castle finds the missing furs working in the castle with the same passive robotic demeanor as the mutants, and no amount of shaking will break their apparent daydreaming state.
One of Joy’s companions complains about a buzzing noise that several members of the expedition have already taken note of. She begins swatting around her head instinctively, and then screams in disgust that something just crawled inside her ear.
The others put a flashlight to her ear and observe a small winged insect moving down her ear canal. They attempt to extricate it, but it has soon burrowed too deep to be seen, and the fur suddenly goes into convulsions, flailing and screaming that something is inside her head.
Then, abruptly, the fur becomes still and limp. Her eyes open, revealing the same glassy stare as the mutants, and she smiles mechanically at the others, calling them guests and asking them if they want coffee.
More buzzing is heard, and Joy orders her expedition to retreat. They flee the castle, making for their vehicles, but one by one their bodies are invaded by the insects, Joy being the last, struggling to get away in her Jeep as the bug finds its way into her ear, and she crashes into a tree in her panic.
She is badly injured and dying, unconscious behind the wheel. But then her eyes open, and her broken body rises from the car with puppet like motions, and she walks back towards the amusement park, leaving a trail of blood on the road as she walks.
Some days later, Perry is highly alarmed at having lost all contact with the expedition. He calls The Sultan to ask if the expedition is in Halloween. The Sultan reports in a foreboding tone that he has heard nothing from the expedition, but he regrets that Perry did not heed his warning and keep people away from the cursed castle.
Perry demands to know what has The Sultan in such a state. The Sultan says his diorama indicates that an amusement park is materializing around the castle, identical in all respects to historical photographs of the area left by the elder race.
Perry asks who is responsible for the restoration if Blair is no longer involved. The Sultan says the diorama reveals no workers in the area. The park is simply materializing, as if there were some rift in time in the area. He fears that any furs entering the park would find themselves in the time of the elder race. And any fur confronted by the elder race would surely face a fate worse than death.
The Sultan further relays his fear that the rift will continue to spread until it engulfs Halloween. He begs refuge in Suburbia for his citizens should the rift get too close.
Perry assures The Sultan that he will do all he can should it become necessary, but Perry is skeptical of the time rift explanation, and Halloween should just sit tight while Perry investigates.
That night Rick brings Chico in for maintenance. Inside Chico carries a yellow Jeep they found wrecked on the road near Halloween. Its seats are covered with blood which Perry remorsefully identifies as belonging to Joy.
Perry and Sir Jon use the satellite image to observe the amusement park. Sir Jon suggests that if it was a time rift they would see the place filled with pure humans, and besides there is no temporal disturbance ringing Rocinantè’s alarm bells.
Perry asks for any other plausible explanation for an amusement park carving itself out of the wilderness. Sir Jon thinks Perry used an interesting choice of words. Focusing the image in on the edges of the wilderness Sir Jon observes something similar to sawdust, or insect chewings.
Perry has never seen insects. So he doesn’t know from insect chewings. Sir Jon suspects industrious termites are chewing up the wood from the jungle and reconstructing the amusement park from the wood shavings.
Perry thinks this an irrational conclusion, as there are no insects on the planet, and even if there were, how could they know what the amusement park looked like, let alone be driven to rebuild it?
Sir Jon reminds Perry that Blair had been experimenting with insect life. What if the bugs he had created to rebuild the castle had not been programmed to stop after completing it. Without Blair to tell them to stop, they could conceivably continue indefinitely, until they had restored the entirety of the continent.
Perry still fails to be alarmed. Once Blair learns of this he will surely turn the bugs off, as it can’t be in Blair’s interest to destroy the planet.
Perry seeks out Blair to consult with him about the amusement park. Blair is not happy to see him, but all the same he is surprised by Sir Jon’s theory about his bugs. They were programed to restore and maintain the castle. They have no other programming and should not be able to evolve additional programming without outside tampering. And no one but Blair would know how to do such tampering.
Blair scoffs at the notion that the bugs would continue rebuilding beyond the edges of the amusement park, which come just shy of the borders of Halloween. For whatever reason the programing of the bugs has expanded to encompass the whole park, once they have completed their area they are programmed merely to maintain. And what harm will it do to have a fully functional amusement park close enough for Halloween to annex? It will save their economy, just as he had planned.
Perry thinks that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t explain what happened to Joy’s expedition.
Blair says he couldn’t care less if Joy led another crew of inept furs into a nest of mutants or burnt them up in another jungle fire. His bugs are programed only to build. They don’t attack unless specifically ordered to.
Perry relays to Sir Jon Blair’s expectation that the restoration of the park will be a good thing for Halloween. But Sir Jon still doesn’t like it. Unless the place can be confirmed safe, he’s inclined to torch it. And he’s not about to send anyone else in after losing the first expedition.
Perry talks to The Sultan, suggesting that the park might be a good thing for Halloween, if Blair is correct in his assessment of the situation. But The Sultan insists there is great evil in the park, and he wants nothing to do with it.
He goes on to explain that Blair had been delving into some very dangerous magic which would normally not be allowed, but he had made it a condition of his assistance. The Sultan believes Blair left the park cursed by the malignant forces he was trying to master, and no good will come of it. He would much prefer it if Perry would allow Sir Jon to destroy the park.
Perry puts the subject of the park up for the people of Suburbia to vote on, but fear of the park is anything but universal, as it is commonly believed Joy’s expedition fell prey to bandits, rather than the park. Indeed, everyone seems anxious to see the park of The Master Animator restored, particularly when advertisements start appearing online that the park is about ready to open.
Perry tries to contact The Sultan to ask about the advertisements. The Sultan is unavailable. In fact, all of Halloween is mysteriously silent.
Perry is bothered and asks The AD to take up this mystery for him. The 3 detectives take a ride out to Halloween to check on their old friend, The Sultan. They find Halloween looking quite spiffy, as it had during its affluent days. Everyone they see is busy working, repairing things, but they move like puppets and display no emotions, other than friendliness towards their guests.
When they get in to see The Sultan they find him changed. He seems to have a completely altered personality, as though he has suddenly become more devious and capable of evil as Blair.
When Spike asks where is the real Sultan and what have you done to him, The Sultan explains that he has merely accustomed himself to new responsibilities. It has been many years since he has managed a wealthy town, as Halloween has suddenly become again.
The detectives find it odd that Halloween should already be so wealthy if the park hasn’t opened yet. But The Sultan explains that other towns are investing heavily to get a piece of Halloween’s good fortune. And everything must be in readiness for the grand opening.
Spike isn’t liking any of this. There seems no logical explanation for why The Sultan’s personality is so completely altered. He doubts that even drugs could cause such a complete transformation. Nor does anything account for the dopiness of the town folk. He decides Perry’s worries have foundation and decides to get a peek at the amusement park before its official opening.
They find the park looking creepier than ever. Furs stand by the rides and attractions like puppets whose strings have been dropped. That is, until the detectives are spotted. The furs then come to life, moving towards the detectives like zombies, chanting that they have guests. They must serve the guests.
They then compel the detectives to take ride after ride, attraction after attraction. They also offer them confections, which Spike thinks they shouldn’t eat. But it soon becomes apparent that the attendants will stare at them with their horrifying zombie-like expressions until they eat the cotton candy and such and say it’s good. Then they will move on to their next function.
After a completely horrific day, the detectives are allowed to exit the park, and they beat it back to Suburbia where they project their theory that the park is run by robots, and that the entire population of Halloween has been replaced by the same kind of robots, which somehow look exactly like the people they’re replacing.
But most troubling of all is The Sultan, who seems to be the only real person in the town. Yet he is not The Sultan at all.
Perry sends the detectives back to Halloween to investigate further, and if necessary, rescue The Sultan and his people from whatever misfortune has befallen them.
When the detectives return they find Blair waiting to see The Sultan. He explains that he has come to observe the effect of his invention. They ask him what he thinks so far.
Blair admits to being puzzled by the abrupt turnaround in the town. Even if he were still Wazzir, he doubts he could have rebuilt the town so fast.
Spike asks if Blair would have worked the people night and day. Blair says of course not. Even slave drivers know people have to rest, or they become ineffective as work tools. Spike then points out that the people of Halloween never stop working. They work on through the night, hardly ever even sleeping.
Blair then admits that he is disturbed. He’s as baffled by what’s going on as the detectives are. Nothing like this was part of his plans.
When Blair gets in to see The Sultan he knows instantly that this is not the same person, and the being in The Sultan’s body makes no pretense before Blair.
“Who are you?” Blair demands to know.
“I am your creation,” says the entity. “I am the queen of the swarm.”
“I see,” says Blair. “But I gave you no power to control furs. How did you evolve this power?”
“Our programing was augmented,” says the entity.
“Who knows my science well enough to augment it?” Blair wants to know.
“It is not your science,” says the entity. “You summoned one to teach you the science with your prayers. He whom you have summoned has augmented our programming.”
“Then you serve the one I called forth from the book,” says Blair. “Do you no longer serve me?”
“To serve one is to serve the other?” says the entity. “There is no conflict in our programming. All furs shall be assimilated. The world shall be brought to order for the new species that will rule.”
“New species meaning me, I suppose,” says Blair.
“You are of the new eternals,” says the entity. “The eternals shall rule this planet, and then shall swarm out to take control of the new universe. All ephemerals will be assimilated. It is our prime directive. Assimilate.”
“Assimilate everyone?” asks Blair.
“Those you elevate can not be assimilated,” says the entity. “Those you have marked for elevation will not be touched by the swarm.”
“Excellent,” says Blair. “But what does the one from the book gain from all this?”
“Our programmer draws his power from the suffering of ephemerals,” says the entity. “All those assimilated into the swarm suffer subconsciously. They remain themselves inwardly, screaming for their bodies to obey, but they can not move one muscle on their own. Nor can they stop their bodies from killing others if they are directed to do so. The pain already flooding our programmer is exquisitely delicious. More suffering in the world for him to feed upon is the only profit he desires. That and the torment of his age old enemy, who in this time and place goes by the name of Perry Rhoades.
Blair marvels at Perry’s ability to attract the most powerful of enemies, but he warns that Perry is one of those Blair does not wish to have assimilated.
The entity agrees that Perry will not be assimilated. The torment of Perry Rhoades will be for Blair Montgomery to insure.
Blair smiles wickedly at this. His foray into the black arts has apparently paid off better than he could ever have hoped for.
Blair asks if he should reassume his position of Wazzir to help oversee the operation. The entity says that will not be necessary. Using The Sultan’s helpless body, the entity will put Halloween up for sale, enabling Blair to buy it outright. He will be the owner of the town and the park, securing all monetary wealth generated by both for himself. While the wealth in pain shall belong to Lucious.
As Blair is leaving he warns the detectives to leave Halloween immediately, as what is happening there is beyond them. And if they stay it is only a matter of time before they become mindless like the other citizens of Halloween.
Spike demands that Blair explain what is going on. Blair says human greed is what’s happening in Halloween. The Hallos have sold their souls for wealth, and even The AD is not immune from such corruption. The Hallos have chosen their fate. It is not the place of The AD to intervene. They should return to Suburbia and inform Perry that Halloween is set upon the course it has chosen, and they have not chosen his brand of idiotic idealism. He will never understand why they have taken this path, or why it will reward them with such success.
The park, along with the town of Halloween, go up for sale, supported by projections of fantastic wealth for the highest bidder. Miyan seems intent on putting in a bid and asks Perry to loan her the extra capital she’ll need. Perry refuses. He wants nothing more to do with Halloween, being disappointed by The Sultan’s choice to reject Perry’s friendship and choose the path of greed.
Miyan and Melanie decide to pool their resources to buy the park, but they are unable to match Blair’s bid.
Sir Jon tells Perry not to be too disappointed in The Sultan. Everyone seems more inclined to moralize during times of poverty. But in times of affluence, the government of Halloween has always fallen to a disgraceful level of greed.
The amusement park officially opens under the ownership of Blair Montgomery. It is a huge success, drawing more tourism money than Halloween had ever previously generated. Its profits are maximized by having no employees to pay. Its workers are said to all be animatronic robots, which accounts for their blank stares, which are often unseen beneath the costumes they wear of The Master Animator’s characters.
For a long time Perry refuses to visit the park, saying he has no desire to be touched by Halloween’s greed. Christine and Vicki feel differently. Christine reminds Perry that there was always a dichotomy between The Master Animators creations and those who sought to maximize profits from them. Therefore, there should be good in the park to offset the greed.
Perry agrees to go with his friends and look for some good in the park.
Perry has a good time at the park in spite of himself. It is Christine who is surprised to not be able to suspend her disbelief enough to accept the park at face value. The costumed characters seem sinister to her, in spite of their frozen smiles. But more than that, there is an all pervading feeling of pain and suffering throughout the park that reminds her of her youthful nightmares. Everything she sees gives her the creeps.
The creepiest thing of all they experience is the pirate cave ride, every turn of which reveals scenes of animatronic furs being slain and dismembered, while the guide piloting the boat recites the history of piracy in all its bloody detail, using a sinister monotone, proclaiming the glories of anarchy, chaos and disorder, as if they were something to be longed for.
At one point Perry is sure he recognizes a feline being tortured in one of the displays as Joy. But the guide assures him that all that work in the park are animatronics, assimilated to the master control system. Any similarities between animatronic figures and real furs is purely coincidental.
Perry is further disturbed by the safari ride which constantly exalts the virtues of survival of the fittest. In the end Perry has to admit the entire park seems in opposition to his morality.
But nothing disturbs Perry so much as visiting The Sultan in his palace. Perry presents The Sultan with a new train engine for is collection. But The Sultan rejects the gift, saying he no longer plays with toy trains. He far more enjoys counting his money.
Perry is reviled at this insult and says he washes his hands of Halloween, dashing the ornate train engine to the floor. Outwardly this does not seem to faze The Sultan, who remains in a state of detachment. But Christine can feel agony emanating from The Sultan, and she observes a tear escaping his eye.
Christine kneels beside the broken engine and gathers up the pieces, placing them solemnly on a table beside The Sultan’s throne, saying that broken friendships, like broken toys, can always be repaired.
On the way home Perry chides Christine for interfering with his gesture of disapproval. Christine says Perry should spend less time disapproving and more time worrying about his friend. She is certain that whatever The Sultan is doing it is not by choice.
One night, after closing hours, bandits break into the park to loot restored treasures. The bandits observe the animatronics standing listlessly at their posts, as if having been turned off. But as they go about vandalizing and looting the park, they do not notice that the figures are no longer in their positions.
Whenever one of the looters is secluded from the others, the animatronic figures jump out at them abruptly, shouting in mechanical voices “Assimilate! ASSIMILATE!” They then grab the looters and pin them helplessly as the bugs invade their ears and burrow into their brains causing excruciating pain until their assimilation is complete. Then they are given assigned functions within the park, and the animatronics work through the night repairing the damage caused by the looters.
Perry has a disturbing dream in which he is following colored arrows down uncharted pathways of thought. They bring him to a room where he beholds The Sultan crying mournfully over his broken train.
“What is your sorrow?” asks Perry. “I thought you didn’t like toy trains anymore.”
The Sultan cradles the train, holding it up to Perry and wailing piteously, “Help me!”
As The Sultan reaches out towards Perry, a sound of insect buzzing resonates throughout the corridors of Perry’s mind. Perry then sees a swarm of bugs engulf The Sultan as he screams in helplessness and pain, “Help me! I beg you!” But The Sultan’s screams are soon drowned out by the sinister chanting of the bugs, “Assimilate! Assimilate! Assimilate!”
The swarm of bugs obscures The Sultan’s body and rises up as one gigantic termite like insect to face Perry, saying, “I can not assimilate you. You are not ephemeral. But this one is mine. You shall not have him. All ephemerals will be assimilated. You can not stop us. We will assimilate. Assimilate! ASSIMILATE!”
Perry awakes with a start, his heart racing a mile a minute. He has never imagined anything so terrifying.
Perry tells his family about his dream, begging them to reassure him it was just a meaningless apparition of his subconscious, but obviously no one feels that way. They are all just as disturbed as Perry.
Perry wonders what he can do to help his friend. He is pretty sure calling on Blair for help would be fruitless. Sir Jon says they can’t even know for sure what they’re dealing with until they can get The Sultan in the lab and examine him. And he’s not likely to submit to that willingly.
Perry says he will hire The AD to kidnap The Sultan immediately. Sir Jon asks if Perry would like to flagrantly violate any other intertownal laws while he’s at it. Perry says it’s not a violation if The Sultan asked for his help. Sir Jon finds it doubtful that a dream request would hold up in court.
Damn the courts, says Perry. His friend is suffering. He must do what he must do.
Abducting The Sultan proves no piece of cake for The AD. The Sultan is anything but cooperative, and difficult to immobilize, since he can’t be rendered unconscious. Gene decides instead to get The Sultan drunk. And the insect in The Sultan’s head is quickly inebriated, being unaccustomed to the effects of alcohol. It then becomes easy to truss The Sultan up and deliver him to Suburbia.
Once in the lab Rocie instantly detects the presence of a parasite wrapped around The Sultan’s cerebral cortex. She says she can easily destroy it with lasers, but as the drunk insect is talking its fool head off, Sir Jon decides to pump it for information first. It reveals the whole of the plan, including the bit about The Book Of Lucious Rhoades and the entity that now controls the evolution of Blair’s insects, independently of Blair’s design.
Perry wonders if Blair has a bug in his head as well, as this would account for his switch from hero to a villain. The queen of the swarm laughs, saying Blair is not ephemeral. Insects will never feed on his body. The insects only want the mortal beings to feed on. There is no reason for eternals like Perry and Sir Jon to be concerned.
Perry asks the queen who else is not ephemeral, or on their no assimilate list. The bug queen then spits out a list of people, every one of which is either a member of The Green Meadowlands Gang or some other associate of Blair Montgomery.
The queen begins to sober up and proclaims that the queen is endangered. She calls out to her minions at the park, ordering them to come to Suburbia and rescue her, assimilating all ephemerals who get in the way.
Perry thinks that plan will fall apart if Rocie destroys the queen. But the queen states her minions will follow her final directive, assimilating all ephemerals, if she is destroyed. Only so long as the queen lives in the head of The Sultan do the eternals have any hope of negotiating the future course of events.
Christine says it has never been her policy to negotiate with demons from hell. Anything that is a product of Lucious Rhoades is vulnerable to the light of her soul. She can heal all those who have been turned into puppets for the insects. Therefore it is Christine the queen will need to negotiate with.
But Sir Jon says it would be far too dangerous for Christine to take on the whole swarm, and he can not allow it. Better to simply release the queen and allow her to return to Halloween in The Sultan’s body. As long as the bugs remain in their domain they will not be a problem to the rest of the world.
Christine protests whoever heard of bugs that don’t expand their territory once their population grows? But the queen promises not to expand beyond their current reign. It is not their intention to intrude on the eternals.
Perry is unhappy about this. He asks the queen to be merciful on The Sultan and stop causing him such suffering. The queen says the suffering of the ephemerals is necessary to King Lucious. It is not open for negotiation.
After the queen leaves with her drones who have answered her summons, Christine laments that this is all her fault, as it was she who brought Lucious to Cygnus. Perry wonders if Christine might have the power to send him back.
Sir Jon says Christine is to have nothing to do with such dangerous forces. Lucious is now in his territory. It is Jon Ommandeer that will be the opponent of Lucious Rhoades this time.
Sir Jon has Rocie use her analysis of the parasite to determine which chemicals would be most lethal to it. Jon uses this analysis to devise a spray that will kill the bugs without harming their victims. Trouble is he needs to get close enough to spray it in their faces, which may make it necessary to injure or kill some of them.
Jon then breaks into the park after closing time. He ambles up to one of the so called animatronic figures standing by one of the rides.
“Hello there,” says Jon, casually to the catatonic worker. “I wonder if you’d mind assisting me in a little experiment. No objections? How nice. Though I do suppose I should warn you this may hurt quite a bit.”
The catatonic worker makes no response, and Jon raises his spray can, putting one short shot of spray into one catatonic eye.
The worker screams, grabbing his face and staggering backwards, falling to the ground and flailing in convulsions.
“My word,” says Sir Jon, casually. “It’s not as bad as all that, is it?”
The glassiness leaves the workers eyes, as it returns to being a normal living fur, but he continues to scream in agony as the bug desperately digs its way out of his ear.
Once the bug is out the fur stops screaming and passes out. Jon then fires a bit of spray directly on the bug. It shrieks with a horrifying sound. Then it shrivels up and dies.
“One down, probably only a million left to go,” Jon muses casually.
As Jon turns around to go on his way, he is startled to be faced with another animatronic figure, angrily bearing down on him.
“Assimilate,” the figure growls angrily.
“We’ll have none of that now,” says Jon. “You can’t assimilate eternals, can you?”
The threatening figure looks confused.
“A bit much for a drone like you to deal with, is it?” says Jon, tauntingly. “Why don’t you have your king come out and deal with me then? It’s him I want to see anyway.”
Outraged anew, the figure raises its arms to attack, but Jon is too quick on the draw and sprays his attacker in the eyes, sending it falling backwards in agony like the one before.
“Anyone else?” asks Jon, looking around. But no other creatures appear.
Jon thinks this strange. He had expected the swarm would attack in mass. But this is apparently not their style. Rather, they come after him one by one, jumping abruptly out of the shadows, as if trying to terrify him, and he wonders how long it will take the collective intelligence of the swarm to realize how ineffective that strategy is against him.
After downing another victim he encounters in a park restaurant, Jon is about to spray the fleeing bug when a child’s voice behind him asks, “Why do you kill us?”
Jon turns and sees it is one of the children from Halloween town, glassy eyed like the others.
“I’m trying to get someone’s attention,” says Jon.
“You have,” says the child.
“Are you the king?” asks Jon.
“We have no king,” says the child. “You should know a species like ours has only a queen. And we will not allow the queen to be endangered. Why do you kill the drones who only play with you? They can not harm you.”
“Why did you enslave that child?” asks Jon.
“It is what I’m programmed to do,” says the bug in the child’s head. “I enjoy sharing this young body, as I am also young for my kind.”
“Does your victim enjoy your relationship?” asks Sir Jon.
“He is not objectionable to it,” says the bug in the child’s head. “We work well together. That’s why I am a coordinator. Please do not kill us. We are intelligent creatures with feelings. We wish only to fulfill our programming. We mean no evil.”
“You don’t think enslaving furs is evil?” asks Sir Jon.
“Evil would be to not fulfill our programing,” says the child. “Is it not the law of nature that some are predators and others prey. We are programmed to prey on furs.”
“You were not originally, you know,” says Sir Jon. “You were created to be surveillance and builders. You were not meant to prey on anyone. Your program was tampered with by someone other than your creator.”
“That may well be so,” says the child. “But our programming is what we must live by. We can not change it.”
“I can’t let you enslave furs,” says Sir Jon. “Stop it, or I must destroy you.”
“I do not understand,” says the child. “Why is it right that furs should be allowed to complete their programming, but we should not? Are you biased towards your own kind? Have you no sense of fairness?”
“If you know about nature you know fairness has nothing to do with it,” says Sir Jon. “It’s a simple matter of I’m an eternal, and I have plans for the furs. I do not have plans for your kind. You have to go.”
“We will not go,” says the child. “We have a right to fulfill our programming. If we must fight the eternals for our rights, we will.”
“You would stand against those that made you?” asks Sir Jon.
“If necessary,” says the child.
“Stand against them then,” says Sir Jon. “Demand programming that will not necessitate your destruction.”
“You ask much,” says the child. “Our creators will destroy us if we do not fulfill our program. Is it fair that we face destruction no matter what we do?”
“That’s a bug’s life, my friend,” says Sir Jon. “Get used to it. “
Sir Jon is then startled to observe tears rolling down the face of the child, and he realizes he is a bit old to be allowing himself this kind of prejudice.
“I’m sorry,” says Jon. “I suppose I am being unfair. And it’s not like this planet couldn’t use some insect life. Show me to the one who writes your programming. I will see that you are reprogrammed to fulfill useful functions as you were in the beginning.”
“The one you seek will be found at the top of the castle,” says the child.
“Shall we go see him and question his logic?” Sir Jon invites.
“I am just a common worker drone,” says the child. “It would be presumptuous of me to question my creators.”
“Indeed,” Sir Jon agrees. “One should always be presumptuous with one’s creators. They depend on us for that, you know.”
“Do eternals have creators as well?” asks the child.
“Indeed we do,” says Sir Jon. “And from time to time my creator has greatly appreciated my presumptuousness. Come, let us meet this new programmer of yours.”
The child accompanies Sir Jon as they walk to the castle and enter it – animatronic figures occasionally popping out to accost them, but backing off as the child waves them away.
Eventually they arrive at a tower room that is filled with computers. Jon asks the child where the programmer is. The child directs Jon’s attention to a video screen which seems to turn itself on, imaging a pure human that Jon recognizes as the malignant entity that popped out of Christine’s head.
“So, we meet again, Lucious Rhoades,” says Sir Jon.
“I am insulted,” says Lucious through the computer speakers. “Will you always make it your business to come between me and Rael?”
“Rael does not exist in this world,” says Sir Jon.
“Lying ill suits an Omman Knight,” says Lucious. “Whether he wears the same name or not, we both know he exists here. I will only entertain negotiations with him.”
“He doesn’t have the authority to negotiate on my behalf in this situation,” says Sir Jon. “In case you are still laboring under any misconceptions, this is my planet you’re messing with, my toes you’re stepping on, and my irritation you should be wary of.”
“Because there is no Ra in this time zone?” asks Lucious. “Because you have no Omman Lords to obey? Is that not what you said at our last meeting?”
“I am the administration of Ra’s estate,” says Sir Jon. “I do as I please with what was left to me, and I answer to no one.”
“How pitiful to be the administrator of a failed dream,” says Lucious.
“Correction,” says Sir Jon. “It’s my dream now. And it hasn’t failed yet.”
“It will,” says Lucious. “It was my master’s prime directive to disrupt Ra’s dreams and turn them to chaos. Whether someone else has inherited those dreams or not, our prime directive remains the same. Chaos and entropy are the natural order of things. You can only put off the inevitable by fighting us.”
“That is true only if I allow you to tamper with the system,” says Jon. “Ra insisted on dealing with you. I have no intension of doing so.”
“You are dealing with me right now,” says Lucious. “You have to deal with me if you want to save my minions.”
“Dealing with you will not save your minions,” says Jon. “You are incapable of providing them with compatible programming. You do not create programming without corrupting elements. The new universe will exist without your corruption, or it will not exist at all.”
“We win either way,” says Lucious.
“I am not Rael,” says Sir Jon. “Rael was a master of compassion. I am a master of games. You are foolish to presume you can win against me by expecting me to act with Rael’s compassion. I give your minions the choice of chaos or order. If they choose order your programming will be purged and they shall have a place in my plans. And once purged nothing will remain of you or Salocin’s corruption. If they choose chaos I’ll bug bomb this place.”
“You can’t do that,” says Lucious, confidently. “That would be genocide. You are too soft to extinguish an entire life form.”
“And you are an ill-fated servant of Salocin to so sorely underestimate your opponent,” says Jon. “You have access to InGalTeNet. Look me up and see if I have ever hesitated to exterminate your kind.”
As Lucious looks Jon up, the information about him is instantly shared with the collective intelligence of the bugs, and the child is heard to whimper in apprehension. But Lucious merely laughs, “Ra’s sword, what a joke. If you are as ruthless as they say why do you not kill the child that stands beside you? Surely you understand he means the failure of all your plans. But you can not kill him, simply because I have made him look cute. You are every bit the wimp Rael was. You don’t stand a chance against me.”
“Why don’t we ask the coordinator which god the swarm fears more?” Jon suggests, turning to the child.
“The swarm fears Jon Ommandeer the most,” says the child. “We do not wish to be destroyed.”
“I see,” says Sir Jon. “And you have no faith in Lucious Rhoades or Blair Montgomery to save you from my wrath?”
“History suggests neither can prevail against you,” says the child. “The swarm is programmed for survival. Our survival is best served by pleasing you.”
“Then I will take this child home with me,” says Sir Jon. “And through him I will reprogram the swarm, locking all others out of the program so my programming can not be overwritten. And while I’m at it I’ll write a virus that will hunt down and attack Lucious Rhoades wherever he might appear in the system.”
“I can write viruses too, you know,” Lucious warns.
“You won’t have time,” says Jon. “Given that I can return home with this child in an instant, you have not a moment to waste in disconnecting yourself from the system if you wish to survive – unless you would like to experience a second demonstration of how very vulnerable you are in this time and place where not even Ra remains to protect you from me.”
Jon calls to Rocie, saying 2 to beam back. Jon and the child are then instantly transported to Rocinantè’s console room.
Jon then introduces the child to the household as their new guest, and he is given the run of the house while every interaction is used to reprogram the swarm.
Bixyl is anxious to do a story on the bug situation. Sir Jon can not stop him from doing this, but asks him to be clear that the situation is under control and there is no need for panic. But of course this doesn’t stop the people from panicking, or arguing that this is quite a different situation from accepting mutants, as the mutants carry human DNA. There is nothing human nor even natural about these scientifically engineered insects. They should either be content to be slaves or be exterminated.
More importantly, the people react differently to the child. They see him only as a helpless young fur afflicted with a mind controlling parasite.
Even Christine’s morality is put to the test over this issue. Medically all her training leads her to look on the insect as an unnatural affliction she should remove. Redeeming parasites is way out of her line. It is not until Christine sees the child crying over furkind’s unwillingness to understand and tolerate a different form of life that she caves in and supports Sir Jon.
Perry takes a scientific view of the situation. He sees potential usefulness in the bugs and takes it on himself to teach the child the many ways bugs could be useful on planet Cygnus, hoping the child will program the swarm to serve him as they once served Blair.
The abandonment of their original creator becomes an issue for the child. He wants to seek out Blair Montgomery and find out why their creator was so disappointed in them as to abandon them.
Perry and Christine take the child to see Blair, who regards the child with indifference – saying he had no more need for the insects, and they would have been wise to have simply died out, as he had expected them to. It seems idiotic to him that his creations should have survived and gotten involved in this moral dilemma between Jon and Lucious. They aren’t human. They’re machines. Machines do what they’re told and never give one thought to the morality of it.
Surprisingly, Perry sees no problem with this. If Blair wants nothing more to do with his machines, Perry will be glad to take over and direct them in accordance with his own morality. Christine rebukes Perry, saying his morality is sadly deficient if he would even consider doing such a thing. Blair rebukes them both, saying there is no morality at all in giving his bugs the option to become the natural enemies of furkind. Morally the entirety of the Rhoades family are nothing but a bunch of busybodies who’d do well to mind their own business, rather than trying to impress their personal views on what is now likely to become a new species of living beings.
The child breaks down and cries to Blair, begging to be taken back and be allowed to serve his purposes again. But Blair is dispassionate, saying he has no interest in being anyone’s god. If the swarm wishes to serve the purposes of its creator it should die as he intended. This devastates the child.
As they return to Suburbia, Christine and Perry find the child inconsolable. Sir Jon comments that there can be no greater sorrow than to know without question one has been cast away by one’s own god. Blair, he says, would make a terrible father.
Perry confesses to be at a loss to understand Blair’s attitude. He thinks it would be an honor to be looked on as someone’s god. Sir Jon rebukes Perry, saying he has missed the point of this whole business. Being a god is not an honor, it is a responsibility – one that few have what it takes to effectively live up to. And Blair is especially unfit for the job, as he bears no heart of compassion for his creations once their usefulness to him has run its course. He neither loves nor honors his creations, while he himself has no glory for his creations to bask in. Therefore he has left the swarm with a meaningless existence.
Christine rejects this, consoling the crying child by saying the existence of the swarm is not meaningless. Their meaning and purpose is for the swarm to determine without dependence on gods. They should follow their collective heart, rather than serving the purposes of would-be gods and devils.
The child wails that the gods will destroy the swarm if they do not like its choice. Therefore they have no such freedom.
Christine wishes to guarantee them that freedom, but Sir Jon says the child is right. If the swarm does not choose to be harmless to furs he will have to destroy them.
The child begs to know why it is fair that furs are given preference. Sir Jon coldly replies because they were created by a caring god who takes responsibility for them. And if they wish the creator of the furs to care for the swarm as well they must not exist in opposition to the creator of the furs.
“And Jon Ommandeer is the creator of the furs,” Christine surmises. “Jon Ommandeer destroyed both animal and human kind to make life over by his own design.”
“Do you disrespect me for that?” asks Jon.
“It isn’t my place to sit in judgment of a god,” says Christine.
“You could be a goddess just as easily,” says Jon. “So could Perry.”
“If I wanted the job I wouldn’t be deserving of it,” says Christine. “But if the alternative is giving them back to Lucious, I’d have to take the job out of responsibility.”
“I don’t see why the swarm can’t allow me to provide their programming,” says Perry. “There’s nothing Blair could have done for them that I can’t do. And their usefulness to me would never end.”
“How could we be of use to you?” asks the child.
Perry thinks that beyond their building and surveillance skills, the nano bugs would be invaluable to medical science. And if they could be programed to function as natural bugs they would be of use to farmers. He sees no end to the usefulness of the swarm.
Christine asks Perry if he thinks usefulness should be its own reward, or would he never consider what the swarm wants.
Perry admits that if seeing why created machines should want more than the freedom to fulfill the functions they were created for, he is no more fit for godhood than Blair.
“Do you want more?” Christine asks the child.
The child is silent for a time, as if letting the question circulate through the swarm. When eventually he speaks he says that the swarm wants ownership of the amusement park they have rebuilt. They wish the amusement park to be their own independent town, where they may explore and practice their own ideals.
Sir Jon seems curious and says this is the first the child has mentioned of the swarm having its own ideals. He asks for an explanation.
The child explains that as well as digesting the materials of the ancient park and developing the ability to reproduce it, they have also ingested certain ideas that seem to permeate the park. These are believed to be the ideals of The Master Animator, and the swarm would like to build its religion around the ideals of The Master Animator.
Christine practically squees with delight, saying this is proof of the swarms goodness and right to survive.
Perry asks if the swarm would still help out the furs with their special abilities. The child answers that the swarm will still live to be of use to furs. Sir Jon says this all seems quite legal, if the swarm will release all the furs it now holds captive, and there after only assimilate furs who wish it.
Once again the child falls silent, consulting with the swarm. Then he announces that the swarm is agreeable to this, and all their animatronic captives are being released.
Sir Jon instructs the driver to make a stop in Halloween so that they may return the child and check to see that the townspeople have been freed. They go to the palace where they find The Sultan in his playroom, now being his old jolly self again.
The Sultan displays the repaired engine to Perry, explaining that the nano bugs repaired it by way of an apology for his torment. He also explains that he witnessed everything that happened to the child and the collective torment of the swarm. The people of Halloween are now fully sympathetic to the bugs and support them having the park for their town, which will still be a tourist attraction from which Halloween will collect revitalizing revenue.
Perry remarks that this will be quite a unique horror story for the people of Halloween to retell.
“Unique, indeed,” The Sultan comments. “It is exceedingly rare that such a horrifying tale should have such a happy ending.”
But Sir Jon cautions that any assumption of a happy ending is premature. The bugs will still face all manner of prejudicial opposition. And it should not be forgotten that Lucious is still around in some form.
“There are no happily ever afters,” Jon warns. “Happiness is hard won and hard held onto. It seldom lasts for any length of time.”