| "What is it?" the elder asked.
"A question. Since the dawn of recorded
time, my race and every other has turned its attention to understanding
the universe, to discovering the ultimate meaning of our lives. You
have an advantage-you can bring the unified collective consciousness of an
entire planet to the process. So I ask: Have you solved that
question? Have you touched the unknowable?"
"I…" The elder paused, seemed momentarily to
lose focus. The he shook off the distraction. "Yes, we
have. When we became conscious, it was our first thought: Who are
we? And where did we come from? We needed to define ourselves
against the universe. So yes, we did ask that question, and after
years spent dwelling on this one question, we finally received an
answer. We know the meaning of all this, the importance of…"
The elder paused again. Looked at
G'Kar. His eyes widened. "The other…"
nodded. "She… is not like the others. Stronger. We had
thought she was the same."
"You were wrong."
The image came into her thoughts: Buried
deep in the planet's upper crust, a kind of bacteria, a microscopic
lifeform that had all the classic traits of individual neurons… it evolved
with the other native lifeforms, infected them over the course of millions
of years, created a symbiotic life cycle… took root in their own neural
relays until they reached a kind of critical mass, until they were
answerable to and controlled by the greater neural biomass.
There were miles and miles of the bacterial
matter coiled far beneath the surface, where it was warm, and moist, and
Correction: where it believed
itself to be safe.
She struck with a massive
telepathic attack. She felt the hive mind reel under the assault,
feel it struggle to meet her attempts to disorient it and shred its neural
patterns. It was unprepared-it had never thought it could be
attacked in this way.
Eyes shut, she heard
the creatures stampeding toward her, propelled by fear. Kill her, kill
her, do it now.
She knelt, dug her
fingers into the dirt, and pierced the hard ground with her
thoughts. She was sweating, shaking, but refused to pass out.
Break the neural link, overload the faux-synaptic pathways, neutralize
|chemical transmissions, break, overload, neutralize, break,
overload, neutralize… |
something massive and moist began to tear.
Blackness surged upward, rising behind her eyes.
In her mind, a planet screamed.
When she opened her eyes again, G'Kar was
standing over her. They were back in the Na'Toth, and she was
covered with biosensors. She tried to sit up, but the world kicked
slantwise beneath her.
"Don't move," he
said. "I found you on the ground and carried you back. Your
heart stopped for a moment, and I thought you weren't going to come back."
"… the animals…" Her voice was thin, a whisper. Her head
was pounding, and there was the coppery taste of blood in her mouth.
Must've popped a vein, she thought casually.
"They were wandering around aimlessly when I
found you. Whatever joined them together, it is now gone. Can
you tell me what happened?"
sips of water, she did.
G'Kar digested the
information for a moment before saying, "You killed an entire
"It pissed me off," she said,
and shrugged. "I killed the main body of the telesymbiotic biomass,
but I don't have any illusions that I got all of it. It'll build
back up to critical mass eventually, but it'll take centuries before it
can exert enough influence to pull together a new planetary hive mind on
the scale of what we saw here."
on him. It hurt. "I could feel you talking to the entity toward the
end," she said. "You helped me get in by distracting it. I
don't know what you asked, but it must have been one hell of a question,
because nearly all of the entity was focused on it. What was it?"
"Oh… nothing important," he said, fighting
what she suspected was an ironic smile. "Nothing important at all."
With that, he turned, headed back into the
cockpit, and fired up the engines.
next several minutes, the only sounds in the ship were the roar of the
engines, and G'Kar in the forward compartment… laughing.
Author : J. Michael Straczynski
Amazing Stories / Winter