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CHAPTER 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance

CHAPTER 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance

[ Theta Eridani IV | The Morning After | 0800 hrs. | Centre of the Plain ]

Standing at the back of the gathered Senior Staff, at the edge of the open area where the three bonfires towered over the two Captains, Dr. Nicander listened to the long list of personnel transfers that were about to take place. Behind his back, the two crews were spread out across the plain like a iron rose of grey uniforms - freckled with red, gold, white and teal.

While Captain Vasser of the USS Harbinger listed off the names of the personnel with new positions, along with whom they were to be replaced with once they had taken over their new duties, Lucan's pale eyes wandered the faces around him just like the rest of the people in the Valley. There was a low murmur of voices accompanying the announcement, with whispers of congratulations and consternation, yet since the plain was large and the voice of the Akira-class starship's CO carried far because of the audio enhancement equipment, no words were dampened by the unrest.

What Lucan was looking for, however, was not the faces of those mentioned by Captain Vasser - despite how well he masked his curiosity - but rather trying to locate a few individuals that were key to him. All but one was accounted for, and it was not until Vasser fell silent and Jien Ives stepped forth that he managed to find who it was that he had been looking for. Lieutenant Arcorn Neotin.

Captain Ives stepped forth into the sun - in his male form - and he held something in his hands. By his side walked Lin Kae - the Holographic Specialist.  "Could I please have your full attention," he said loudly, and the murmur on the plain died out soon enough. "Due to recent events and new research currently being made to give our Ship AI new possibilities of movement and freedom, along with heated opinions that differ in regard to Thea's sentience and rights aboard my ship, I have to make an official ruling, and one that I might have to stand for once we get home."

Home, such a vague dream at that point. Yet Lucan supposed the word did inspire hope for the horde of moronic cattle standing around him. His mind was elsewhere, namely upon the Ash'reem Engineer standing by one of the cranes high up upon the hull of the Theurgy-class starship.... though he did not betray his thoughts by looking upon him. No, he looked away as he praised his fortune, and the fact that the man had wished to stay clear of the crowd due to the mourning of his wife's fate.

"When the first holodeck was installed upon a Federation starship, the general opinion was that it did not create sentient creatures. They couldn't breathe, reproduce, or die. They were three-dimensional character models, like the characters in a story book. When shutting off the holodeck, it was the same as closing a book. Yet they could be programmed to adapt and grow, as much everyone now agrees on, which was what the Voyager's EMH did," said the Captain as he walked with the object in his hands, "Still, certain opinions might remain... that organic material is the only thing we should use to define anything as true life. Loudly, it has been stated that an AI is not life. It is an imitation of life. As if drawing a line in the sand, these people are saying that when it comes down to it, the absolute and only truth of the matter is that organic material equals possibility of life. That is the line that must be drawn from now until the end of time."

The Captain paused there, while Lucan was watching the Ash'reem in his peripheral vision.

"Moreover, it is said that what might confuse people is their perceptions of the interaction. If you would see a holodeck character cry, they would not be crying because they actually felt anything. They were doing it because they' were programmed to do so. Due to personification, people might easily think them alive. Yet... when you think about it, all life is matter arranged in increasingly complex patterns to produce a system or series of systems capable of sustaining itself as a unit. Which is exactly what a fully self-aware AI truly is. The fact that these holograms aren't carbon-based in origin doesn't mean they don't fit within that criteria. It might be possible for them to create other AI, each with individual traits and characteristics capable of comprehending their own existence... and like us of flesh and blood, death remains the final cessation of all system functions."

There was unease upon the plain now, some voices raised towards the back - nigh unheard. Lucan was barely listening anymore. He had foreseen the outcome of this development well before the Niga incident, where the Ship AI's will was made manifest by the freedom of choice.

"I hear contentment. Did someone say respiration? Respiration is not a requirement for life. That seems a little offensive to many other organic lifeforms. Thought? While it is a still a stimulus-response system, it is an adapting, growing, learning stimulus response system. Lest anyone downplay that, I should note that another form of a complex adapting, growing, learning stimulus response system is a brain. A brain is simply run by programs, complex programs, but still programs. Their line of thought being predictable, you say? Similarly with technology, our brain operates as it always has. Stimulus in, certain information, certain conditions, output equals something unique. Who are we to judge if it's complex enough to constitute a mind? And with a mind, does it not also have a soul? When a being is created, with memories, and thoughts, and realistic reactions that change depending on what is happening, then they are - in my firmest belief - alive."

Lucan folded his arms behind his long white lab coat where he stood, having decided upon what had to be done. He would never have this kind of chance again, and the best thing was, there was no way he could be caught in the act. The thing inside would have opted for something less refined, yet this was something that the doctor could condone, because it would keep him in the clear - raised above all suspicion.

"At what point does intelligence confer rights?" continued Captain Ives. "In this regard the question ought to be; 'At which point does programming become advanced enough to become indistinguishable from human thought?' Because as soon as it does, it practically is the same thing. Yet to all those who still doubt this ruling of mine in regard to the Theurgy AI, I ask, at what level of human thought would you be referring to? Because, if we set it too high, even to an average level, we are effectively editing out humans with certain forms of mental disability, and even children. A human child is still human, still alive, is it not? A Vulcan child too, correct? Any species bears offspring in some form, and do they not have certain rights that equal our own because they are living beings? Another thought, if I may: It is a fact that an adult chimpanzee can be intellectually on par with a twelve year old human. Some dogs can be on par - despite linguistic difficulties - with a three or four year old. So, a child, or a chimp, or a dog can be deemed alive, whereas a program so sophisticated that it - by itself - controls the majority of a modern starship's functions can't?"

The philosophical comparison muted the raised voices to some degree, and Lucan could not help but smile ruefully, even if the majority of his thoughts were elsewhere.

"We sometimes become depraved in our satiety. We are complacent in how we see things to the point where we push to conserve old methods that are obviously archaic. We are hard to change and when change asserts its self we fight against it. Almost all wars to date are about fighting against change. We rarely conceit a need for change until an even so catastrophic event occurs that such a change is deemed needed. Even then necessary changes are often argued against. The Post-Atomic horrors, the Eugenics Wars, countless other feuds, they all show the sad nature of society in the face of chaos and anarchy. Today may mark the first day of a new conflict regarding holographic life, though I firmly believe..." Jien Ives said and raised the round object in his hand, "that Thea is key to overcoming our current unknown enemy. We must ask her to help us in any way she can."

Captain Ives put the object down upon the soil at his feet, and stepped aside, allowing for Lieutenant Kae to step forth. While the young officer began to work, Jien spoke anew. "So we have life, as much we have established, which depend on the sustenance of a holo-emitter. Suppose there was a being that could exist, and thrive in the heart of a star, would that make us all less persons by comparison? That would be like saying personhood is a matter of limited geography. The ability to get around that limitation would be technological then, would it not? So I ask, what specific invention made humans into people? Did they become people with the boat? The atmospheric airplane? Are any of our collective species people only now... because we can travel to that star? No, and therefore, I will authorise the use of our latest technology, which will allow for Thea to simply step outside her bulkheads like the rest of us. Lieutenant?"

"Ready, sir," came the voice from the Engineer.


She materialised, the AI of the USS Theurgy, right there upon the plain. It caused the crowd to stir, bodies shuffling back and fourth and in the slight commotion born from a crowd seeing a hologram in the open, Lucan acted. He pretended stumbling and crouched down, his long hair falling forth to hide his face. He closed his eyes... and reached for the elements. His inborn Câroon powers came to live within him, triggering each zi'naaq that ran down his body. First came the premonition, the light breeze he gave motion to - caressing the plain ever so gently. It was merely foreshadowing, of course, to make people notice their hair stirring and their clothes shift. Lucan did not have to see where to lay the next wind as he casually moved to straighten himself. For once he had shifted the aerial currents, he let go of his powers, and the light in his eyes died before he was back on his feet. He realised that people were applauding, so he smiled and joined in.

Yet high above, at the edge of the Theurgy's hull, a certain Ash'reem stumbled by the fierce wind that came his way. Lucan did not have to turn around to look, for he could see it happen with his imagination and his understanding of Arcorn Neotin's medical scans. The Engineer would try to compensate for his loss of balance with his wobbly legs. He might even be quick about it, yet the wind was well timed, and quite uncompromising. Its course was perfect, ripping the last choked cry of ultrasonic panic from his mouth. Lucan knew that as Ash'reem, a species belonging to the water, Arcorn Neotin would not feel the wonderful feeling of flying that came with falling to ones own demise. The Chief Medical Officer also knew that he would have no time to feel the ground that greeted the front of his multi-coloured face, shattering the cartilage in his countenance into hundreds of pieces - driving them back into his brain. He wouldn't feel his pelvis straining against the sudden force of gravity, that they would give in quite immediately - dislocating both hips and breaking clean down the centre. Neither would Lieutenant Neotin feel his solar plexus cracking from the sheer force of the fall, nor his soft skeleton fracturing and breaking apart - spearing his amphibious lungs.

Luckily for Arcorn Neotin, he would feel none of this. In fact, he didn't feel very much at all.

Only, perchance, dread for his surviving daughter's fate.

Smiling, Lucan clapped until the shouts from the back sent a ripple-effect through the crowd, which soon made him enact a futile rush to save the poor, poor, Ash'reem's life. "Clear the path! Out of my way!" he cried when word reached him of the terrible accident, and he ran while the beast laughed high and loud inside. It was the perfect murder made in plain sight.

OOC: Finish up your scenes in Chapter 01 as quickly as possible and advance the events here. One or two scenes have just begun in Chapter 01, and those are of course allowed to be played out to one's heart's cotnent. More threads will be forthcoming in Chapter 02 that will leave openings for other scenes than the above gathering. However, this Chapter will be shorter than the last, and soon, the two ships be forced to take off at the start of Chapter 03.

Happy role-playing! Contact me for inspiration and ideas for your characters.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance]

Reply #1
[ Theta Eridani IV | The Morning After | 0800 hrs. | Centre of the Plain ]
CWO: Selena "Luna" Ravenholm

Luna smiled softly listening to the captain of the other ship's words.  It was beautiful sentiment all.   To hear his words talking so gracefully and kindly towards the rights of those synthetic in nature made her smile from ear to ear.  From her studies about the ship they were sent to capture she had read about the experimental Holo-avatar of the ship's unique AI.  Most importantly the level of sophistication in the program, a shift in AI programming that was decades ahead of anything aside from the work that Soong had produced in the Data series of prototype androids.

The thing that made her smile the most was his treatment of Theurgy, of Thea as they called her, as a person rather than mere software.  It was a step in the right direction as far as she was concerned.  There wasn't any real consequences for her, after all she was born human with just a bit of malfunctioning hardware.  The only machine of her was the quite visible modifications to her limbs which were almost totally inorganic save for the neural interfaces using the same kind of bio neural gel that now replaced the Isolinier chips and other internal circuitry of most Federation starships now.  Still with the amount of cyborg conversion that had been made to her body she couldn't help but feel a bit of empathy to what she referred to as "synthetic life".  After all It was synthetic components, non-living hardware, that allowed her to actually have a life that was worth living.

She was sighing softly when she noticed something out of the corner of her eyes.  She whipped her head around as she saw something falling from the edge of the Theurgy's saucer section before disappearing behind a horizon of people.  At first she thought it was just some tool bag nothing to worry about it was after all at least a hundred feet from the outer row of spectators gathered here this morning. Little did she know the crowd's reaction moments later would make it clear that something much more valuable than a repair bag had fallen from the Theurgy's saucer.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance]

Reply #2
[ Amikris Neotin ]

Only one among many gathered, Amikris knew not what had caused the stir. She looked around, saw people talking. Pointing back towards the Theurgy. Whispers muted on the breeze. People asking. Answers just as silent. Hushed, as if not daring to give the fact of what had occured any credence. As if speaking of it somehow made it real. Amikris did not need to hear the mute whispers to know something bad had happened. She felt it from the crowd through the pheromones they released. Like a growing stink of fright.

Someone jumped...

Someone toppled over the edge of....

Someone fell...

Someone died...

Yet when she looked around, she noted that the more whispers that swept across the crowd, the more people began to seek her eye. They were looking at her for some reason. Frowning, he tried to make her own inquires. "What happened?" she asked in Federation Standard, only the more she asked, the more quiet people became. Her few friends in Sickbay. They just looked at her, as if she had become someone else. "What is it?"

"Your father he...."

Someone fell...

"I am sorry, he jumped from..."

Someone fell from the edge of Theurgy's hull.

"Dad?" she asked, eyes going wide behind her goggles, dumbstruck as she began to push her way through the crowd. "Dad? No. No. Father!" She was shoving people aside. Tried to run. Stumbled into friends made strangers by the waking nightmare. She felt so dry. So cold. She began to whimper as she pushed her way backwards. The whimper turned into raking sobs and crying. She knew already what had happened. With the realisation dawning on her, she began to scream while she stumbled forth.

She screamed like no human. Her blood-curdling cry was that of her native tongue, a wail pitched so high there was only one person in the crowd that could hear the extent of her horror. While her face was twisted in shock around her goggles, and her scream still pitched beyond regular hearing, the only thing that held her together was that last hope that it wasn't true.

Daddy, please don't leave me alone. I cannot do this without you and mom.

Her screaming only paused when she sucked in air, and she was soon about to reach the edge of the circle that had formed around the fallen...

OOC: Attn: Brutus

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance]

Reply #3
[Sarresh Morali]

Sarresh had been listening in with half an ear to the speech that Ives was giving. Things were still...weird for him, after the pervious nights conversation with the chameloid, and the following...reconciliation with Amikris. Crew Transfers? Paled in comparison to the previous night. Holographic rights? Something about that nagged the back of Sarresh's mind, but he shrugged it off too; he'd promised Amikris he would try in the moment and build a new future. That meant not picking apart every nagging thread that made him almost remember something from the future/his past. Sarresh was fairly certain that the subject of AI and Holographic rights was (would be?) settled, eventually.

He crossed his arms tighter as a breeze blew up, managing to ruffle his slick hair and add just the slightest chill. Perhaps an omen of the ships AI's new found freedom? The planet having its say? He shook off the foolish thoughts; one night in the sack - well, crates - with Amikris shouldn't leave him so distracted and philosophical, even if that had been the girls goal, in part. He sighed again, and looked back at the captain and the AI. He wondered for a moment where Amikris was in the crowd; he'd arrived alone and unlike the 'senior staff' of his new ship, he didn't need to be right up front. So he'd lingered in the crowd

Until the cries were coming from the crowd. Until he saw the man he knew as the ships doctor start to break away from the other staff. Until her heard that high pitched wail of despair that could only have come from one person. His goggled head whipped around, spotting the way the crowd rippled and flowed away from a spot near the Theugry. He saw the doctor rushing from the front, and a similar disturbance from the side, and he ducked his head down.

Making no attempts at apologizing, the temporal agent forced his way through the masses, with judicious placement of elbows and feet. Some parted once they realized who was barreling through; others had to be shoved aside. The male Ash'reem beat Amikris to the gathering with little time to spare; he caught a glance of a sprawled out body, twisted in ways that no one could survive, with the sticky sweet blood of his species seeping into the ground. And then there was Amikris, her screams growing near. He turned his back on the gruesome scene and bolted to the left. Nearly tacking the girl, he wrapped his arms around her and pressed her face to his chest. His grip was tight, confining, and he wouldn't, couldn't let her past, let her see it.

<Don't look. Don't look. I've got you, don't look> He repeated in their own, native tongue; he didn't want her last memory of her father, a man her barely knew or got along with, to be that...broken thing on the ground.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance]

Reply #4
~ Let me go! ~ wailed Amikris, thrashing in Sarresh's grip - fighting to get through to her father. She writhed and struck, kicked and screamed, yet her lover refused to yield. ~ Get your hands off me! Father! I can save him just let me go! You are killing him! Get away from me!! ~

If there was any hope that a sliver of life remained after such a high fall, she was closest and had medical training. She could save him. Yet Sarresh was stopping her, and she hated him for it. Wildly, she tried to push him away, trip him, and she even screamed that he was hurting her, begging the crowd to pull him off her. All she could glimpse was a wall of uniforms beyond Sarresh's shoulder, an opening in the crowd, and that there was something in the middle. Too brief glances to make anything out. She saw a grim-faced Dr. Nicander push past her and Sarresh, and she screamed after him.

"Let me help! Lucan! Please, let me see him! I know the Ash'reem physiology! Doctor!" Her cries, even in Federation Standard, fell on deaf ears - the CMO not even looking back towards her. He was a tall man, so she saw him run the last couple of yards before he vanished from sight, with the chirping sound of a medical tricorder echoing in the silence. A silence only broken by her continued struggle against Sarresh.

"Time of death, 0807 hours," came the voice from her superior officer.

"No..." It was as if she deflated. Her struggles ceased, and the tears blurred everything behind her goggles. "No, no, no... daddy." From that point, she held on to Sarresh as the acute grief washed over her. White-knuckled, webbed fingers latched on to his uniform chest as she buried her face against him. She wailed in defeat and misery, of shame and regret, for she had never gone to her father the night before. No, instead she had been with Sarresh, seeking pleasures to forget about mother. Now, she had lost her father too, and she had not even gone to him when he asked her to."This is your fault," she hissed against Sarresh's chest, and she knew it made no sense, yet she needed to blame someone. Nevertheless, her voice was filled with vitriol.

"I never got to say goodbye," she bit off her words in anger and pushed away from the other Ash'reem, and her face was twisted in hate-laced shame. "If he killed himself, I will never forgive you. I could have stopped him!"

"This is Dr. Nicander," came a faint voice from the cleared area, "I need a Medical Transport to the Triage Centre for myself, Dr. Miko Dauntless and Lieutenant Arcorn Neotin. Energise."

Amikris was still glaring, trembling as she looked at Sarresh, fists clenched by her sides. "Next time you need a shoulder to cry on, keep it to yourself, or find someone else."

Then, she finally pushed past him, and she walked out to the wet spot on the hard-packed mud. She sank to her knees and could not use anger to thwart her despair any more. Instead, she buried her fingers in the wet dirt and cried; scraping at the ground as if to try and recreate her father with his blood and the planet's soil. She did not care if people looked at her. Let them look all they wanted. It changed nothing. She would still be bereft of both her parents.

Re: EPISODE 03: Unconquerable Soul [Chapter 02: In the Fell Clutch of Circumstance]

Reply #5
He could feel her fists bouncing off of his chest; they were so much smaller then his, he thought. Such an odd thing to realize. Her pleas to the crowd fell on deaf ears, or more accurately, her first pleas were too high pitched for nearby ears to understand. Sarresh knew the words though; he heard what she said, what's he called him. What she accused him of. ~He's dead. I'm sorry, I'm sorry he's dead, don't look, don't look.~ It didn't matter. She switched to standard, and he could hear her shout to Lucan. The doctor was there. He'd confirm what Sarresh already knew. The hum of the tricorder mixed in with the grunts and gasps from Amikris as she fought in his grasp

"Time of death, 0807 hours,"

That was that then. He'd been dead on impact. No way someone could survive that, especially not an Ash'reem...brittle skeletal structure...cartilage chance. He knew that, but she wouldn't care. She sobbed into his chest, tears leaking past the brim of her goggles. ~I'm sorry~ he whispered. Another of their kind dead; their numbers were already dwindling and now...her mother and her father. The poor woman.

The poor woman was beating her fist against his chest again. She was so small...yet it hurt so much.  "This is your fault," He took a step back when she said that, swallowing. She didn't mean it, but it hurt... "I never got to say goodbye," he knew she wouldn't have been able to anyway's. He opened his mouth to tell her just that. "If he killed himself, I will never forgive you. I could have stopped him!" Gods above, did she mean to say that because of last night...amongst the cargo containers? No

He reached a webbed hand out to her, slowly. ~Amikris, wait, you know - ~

"Next time you need a shoulder to cry on, keep it to yourself, or find someone else." She pushed past him and fell to the ground, leaving him standing behind her. His hand slowly fell to his side. She hate him. He'd tried to spare her the pain of seeing her fathers body broken on the ground, and she hated him. She blamed him. She...the only person that gave a damn about him as a person, and not an asset, on this bloody ship and its godsforsaken mission, and now, because he tried to spare her grief and agony...she hated him.

He swallowed back a sob. Not here. Not while she grieved. He turned on is heel without another word. Nothing he could say, nothing he could do would ease her pain or change her mind. Time might give him that but...right all hurt too much. He let himself get lost in the crowd instead. By the time Amikris would look up, from her tears, from the blood soaked ground, her lover would be long gone.

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