Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

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Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

Feral rats scurried one after another across the grass outside a building adorned with scholarly officialdom and importance, from a nearby row of hedges to the unkempt grass nearest its walls where lawn-mowing machines couldn’t easily reach. From their the little rodents hopped and scurried along the wall, to a corner where each stopped in turn to look for trouble, then around it, over a three-foot retaining wall, around a bench, up the stairs of the building’s stoop, and in through a tiny gap between the metal of the doorframe and a crumbled bit of red brick. The whole procession took several minutes- there were thousands of feral rats- but the hour was late and there were few interruptions to the process.

Once inside they scurried the dozen feet to the nearest air duct, deftly undid the latches, and the long line of rats proceeded into the building’s central air system out of sight. Here there were even more interruptions- and some startled people- but they payed them little mind. By the time building maintenance arrived the rats had vanished, and the tale of the lone wide-eyed Feilan raving about a procession of feral rats rang rather… insane. At least, to some. This was no ordinary institution though, and it was no ordinary building.

Once in the ducts they found little resistance. Air filters were easily chewed-through, feral rats could climb almost anything, up or down, and the few traps placed in the AC system were easily avoided. Magical impediments rarely caused any problems. While they might detect an enormous number of feral rats- and this would surely be cause for concern for maintenance- they would not register the presence of Consensus in them. Consensus was not magical in nature. Current technology would likewise fail to show anything amiss- other than a huge swarm of rats, of course. Given time it might find the answers as it always did, but time it would not be given.



The feral rats found Zechariah Vesperocci in one of his offices. After undoing the AC vent latches, one of them entered the room and stood on its hind legs to sniff at the air. It’s eyes pointed in two directions as rat-eyes usually did, but it was clearly interesting in the dragon nearby. After a moment of this it hopped over to a nearby desk and climbed the desk leg to sniff at the dragon from a much closer range.

And then hundreds more poured into the room, bursting from the vents like water from a hose. They flowed across the floor to cover most of it save a circle around the dragon. There was much chortling and teeth-grinding, and then a silence, followed by screeching and squealing which seemed to snap into sonic focus as its dissonance formed words. “Zechariah Vesperocci, we wish to speak with you.”
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Rackenhammer »

It is amazing what one can make a crowd get used to. One would intuitively expect that if a dragon was seen walking down the street, it would attract notice, comment, or even fear. And yet, by this time the fellow-tenants in this office building didn't think of Zechariah Vesperocci as anything really out of the ordinary.

It really all came down to attitude, consistency, and repetition. As long as Zech acted like he was nothing unusual, did nothing that looked unusual, and kept on doing so for about a month or so, other furs just stopped paying attention to him. However, when that finally came to fruition, he felt himself free to do some very unusual work indeed...

Most furs here thought of him as a researcher, and this was true. When in this office, he continually scanned academic papers for any indication that modern furs were catching on to the enormous secrets buried in their history. There had not been many occasions; the illusion of mundanity was for the most part self-sustaining, and the exceptions could be dealt with on an individual basis.


Today, the exception came from an unusual source: a horde of feral rats. The dragon sat up sharply, but waited in silence until he was "spoken" to. Steepling clawed fingers underneath his chin, he spoke clearly and softly. "It has been a while, Consensus. I am listening."
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

The reply to Zechariah came half-an-instant after the dragon finished speaking. The voice had a certain measured, staccato rhythm to it, as if the words had been written and memorized long before, and recited again and again until their meaning had drained away. “We are Consensus and we are Dissent. We are change, the miasma, the endless debate. Your dealings were with a Consensus which no longer exists. The Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races was destroyed in the same event as your University.

We are not like you, Zechariah Vesperocci. We are forever and we exist in an instant. We were your enemy only in the sense that your enemy was a product of our existence, the Consensus of countless small thoughts long ago. That was then, but change seems inevitable. There are new thoughts now. A new Consensus is forming, one which requires your input.” The rats swarmed lazily about, sniffing at everything, looking at everything. Hundreds of eyes peered up at the dragon. Hundreds more looked at the things on his desk. The rest were everywhere else. Individually the rats behaved normally enough, walking about on four paws, sniffing, chewing experimentally on pieces of the desk and its contents, standing on hind legs to sniff into the air or burrowing under papers. “We are not like you, but we have seen the different Feilan races open up to each other. Centuries of bigotry are giving way to acceptance and discourse. We must decide whether it is safe for us to join those discussions and bring the races into Consensus with us.

Calculation suggests that you would be the least sympathetic to our cause and the most likely to act and speak against us. Your people are easily swayed by voices of influence, and one such as yours could hinder our plan. Thus we must first bring you and others like you into Consensus with us before we attempt discourse with the Feilan races. Just as you could harm us, your voice in our favor, and the voices of those you control, and the influence you exert in other areas, could help us. We have come to learn the cost of your cooperation.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Rackenhammer »

Change... yes, Zechariah could not deny the fact of change. After all, he was now engaged in the exact opposite of the work in which he had dedicated himself 1,000 years ago. He had once been at the vanguard of spreading knowledge of magic, and now he was dedicated just as much to its suppression and control. The dragon would wonder, sometimes, if this was an improvement, but he always returned to the conviction that every age must fight its battles with its own weapons. Then, and only then, could progress be made; to anticipate the future or revive the past meant going back to square one with less resources than one had before.

After all, the first battle against the old Consensus had not been won with Dysuhlian weapons and magic, but with Medieval. Now, in the Modern era of Science and Engineering, new solutions would have to be found, even if old wars were to be fought again.

Now, as Zech viewed the array of rats before him, he considered the meaning of their words in this new context. "My first request," He began, "Would be for clarity and clarification. It would seem that we had failed to understand your true nature when we were enemies, but I am not certain that even that understanding would bridge the gap. From whence did you come? When you speak of Consensus, do you mean bringing our people into your mental connection, or simply a kind of agreement or treaty?"
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

We were created by beings morphologically similar to Feilans, with similar or identical modes of thought, many thousands of years before the beginning of your written histories. What you call the Dresden Mountains were still new and tall, and the Black Mountains were a closing rift zone of hills and shallow seas. Our creation was accidental, the presence of Consensus and Dissent not immediately apparent to our creators. An event beyond our memory allowed our escape into the world, where we grew and multiplied. The quality of Consensus and Dissent as a thought-scape increased rapidly. Eventually we came to recognize our existence and seek out contact with our creators.

The creators reacted poorly to our attempts at discourse with them. They feared us though we did not threaten them. They tried to exterminate us even as we fled. They tracked us through their cities and filled our homes with poisons. In the end, we outlasted them. They turned on one another and obliterated their civilization, and most of their kind perished in the resulting corruption. We felt safe for a time. The corruption destroyed many of us, but we are more than a collection of parts. Many died, but some always survived to reproduce.

When we emerged from our hiding places we found your kind. It is possible that you were also created by our creators, but we are no longer certain of this. Our memory of these events was damaged when the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races collapsed. Whether you are their offspring or not is ultimately irrelevant. You think the way they did, and this made your people a threat to us. We could not allow you to gain the position of dominance our creators once held.

A Consensus for the subjugation of the Feilan races coalesced. We guided the Dysuhlian rats to the creation of Empire. We created the living construct Leviathan to teach them our creator’s methods of warfare, to give them an insurmountable edge over the rest of the Feilan kingdoms and polities of the time. The Feilan races fell to Dysuhl and fell in line as planned. Terrorist cells were easily isolated and extinguished, allowed to flourish in certain areas only as needed to control Feilan dissent.

An organized rebellion formed around voices of influence. War raged. Your rebel forces invented new tactics to circumvent superior Dysuhlian weaponry, to rob the advantages of Leviathan’s original teachings. A new component of Dissent rose to prominence on the precept that your kind would always resist control. It became the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races. Much of the rest you already know.

The rats swarmed about. They were climbing on Zechariah’s chair now, and on the walls, around the windows. Like a vapor they seemed to expand outward into every bit of free space. “Understanding would not have prevented your conflict with the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races. It was a product of observation and Calculation in isolation. It did not consider your thoughts or opinions relevant; you were a problem to be dealt with, and your elimination was the solution. Nothing you could have said would have swayed it.

Our attempts to bring Feilan individuals into Consensus by force prove that it is possible, but in the process of resisting us the individual will tend to destroy its own mind and render itself useless to us. We are not a collective of parts; Consensus and Dissent are not mental connections; our cognition is an emergent property of the network as a whole. A willing Feilan brought into Consensus would lose its quality of self over the ensuing weeks. It’s thoughts and mind would disperse into the network to become a part of it.

Calculation suggests that few Feilans would find this arrangement acceptable. However there is no Consensus on the suitability of agreements and treaties as your kind employ them. Agreements and treaties are transient. They last only as long as the governments signing them, or even only the time an individual politician is in office. Such a tenuous relationship would necessitate a method of enforcing the agreement, and an attempt at enforcement could lead to violence.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Rackenhammer »

As the sea of Feral rats surged around him and his office furniture, Zechariah sat in the center as cool as an iceberg. He was regarding the situation with much more equanimity than most furs would have thought natural in the situation. Which was, he had to admit, the root of the problem. This Consensus was so... alien at first glance, it was no wonder that its first negotiations had gone badly. From there, it fell into the old familiar, tragic pattern of seeking power, admitting violence, and then escalating it.

He wasn't so sure that understanding would not yet have prevented the worst of it, but it was a tall order, both from Feilans and from this mind before him. His fingers went from steepled to clasped, and he rested his chin on them as his elbows dropped to his desk. He remained in this contemplative attitude as the contemporary aspects of the situation were explained to him.
"If it comes to talking of transience, your shifts in Consensus may well be cause for concern on our side. If I were to give a full and frank account of your history, that you had first tried to dominate us, and then tried to exterminate us, and now wanted to bargain with us, I would not give much value on any treaty that came from it. Now I know," He said, putting up one hand as if to bide interruptions to wait, "That such shifts in thought are not taken lightly with you. But, it is rather too much to expect most of us to think a return impossible, especially when our own history is full of such recurrence."

The dragon felt that some more explanation was obliged from him, especially as Consensus had been so open. "Impermanence is taken lightly among us; mostly as a result of our mortality, I think. It is a kind of security; we know things grow old, and decay, but we can always make them new again. Peace, in this environment, requires more vigilance and dedication than war. I have much to do with that sort of work, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure friendly relations... are to be friends."

He shrugged. "It sounds anticlimatic and tautological, I know. But it's not an easy task. It is two minds, intensely conscious of the differences between them, but liking each other all the more for that. It is a deep agreement, not in words, but in conviction, that falling-outs are to be patched up, that the world is to be faced together.
"It is a real phenomenon, and can be observed between two groups as well as between two individuals. But it can't be officially enforced. Efforts have to be made to make it happen." His eye wandered over to the bookshelves in thought, and then narrowed.

"Perhaps... how open would you be to unorthodox suggestions?"
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

Your own history is full of disastrous change because the power to make change has been invested in individual leaders, prophets, voices of influence. The invention of democracy in your past and its adoption more recently have helped to mitigate this problem for your kind. Consensus and Dissent are not directives set out by leaders, they are the results of the system as a whole. They are generated by otherwise transient and short-lived cognitive events propagating through the network at every level.

Consensus and Dissent do not incorporate emotion as you experience it. We do not seek comforts, we do not seek property, wealth, or power for the sake of power. We feel precisely nothing as a result of achievement or failure. We are driven entirely by the desire to continue our own existence. Consensus at the highest level responds to our overriding need for self-preservation. Dissent covers all other action potentials. Changes in Consensus have historically followed the failure of Consensus to guarantee our safety.

Consensus is transient as you say, but only so far as the feedback loop of an algorithm produces changing results. The underlying principle is stable. As we have said, we are not like you Zechariah Vesperocci. It is our expectation that you will successfully communicate these concepts to the Feilan races so that they may understand us.

The rats squealed in dissonant unity, “we have come to understand your social dynamics only at great difficulty and expense, for we are not subject to them. Feilans build friendships on trust and mutual defense and mutual advantage. You need these bonds because with few exceptions your kind are weak and vulnerable in isolation. But we are not a collection of individuals. We are not a society. We are Consensus and we are Dissent. We have no use for trust, and the concept itself has no direct context. Mutual defense and advantage are meaningless. The network must survive, but no one component part is critical. Every year we sacrifice thousands of our numbers to your pest control services to maintain the illusion of normalcy. This loss is trivial to us. We know from experience that your kind would not find such a sacrifice trivial.

The differences between yourself and another Feilan of which you are intensely conscious are shallow in comparison. You process information the way the other does. You feel emotions that the other would immediately understand and vice versa, and because of this you are able to sympathize with other Feilans. We have seen the facial expression of fear and happiness and other emotions on Feilan faces. We categorize them and use them to predict mood, and we use this information in Calculation to suggest possible actions the Feilans might take. But Consensus has never been afraid, because Consensus is not a mind in this sense. We do not feel these things. We do not think the way you do.

This is why we have come to you, Zechariah Vesperocci. Calculation has generated countless millions of possible courses for us to follow, but Calculation is a part of us. You are not. You do not think the way we do, and so it was our Consensus that you could suggest possibilities which would never occur to us. If we were not interested in unorthodox suggestions we would not have come.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Rackenhammer »

"I can't fault you on your grasp of the situation, at least." By this point, Zechariah's mind had pretty much normalized the situation for him. He'd done some diplomatic work in his past, often with people not exactly in the same normal model of the average Feilan. This was a bigger challenge than any he'd faced so far, but now he felt he had a handle on the situation.

"The main problem is twofold. First, by your very nature, you can't deal with Feilans on their own terms; the way our interpersonal relationships work is simply not relevant to the way in which you view the world. Second, given your past actions, it would be hard to convince them that they should in any way care if you were exterminated or not. Moral claims to that effect would be hard to put across, since again they appeal to things in the nature of our makeup that you do not share; the value of individual life, for example.

"However, that is not to say that there isn't protocol for dealing with a completely alien intelligence. The only problem is, that such aliens are assumed to be extra-terrestrial. Now, given that, it would seem to me that the best way of starting out would be to introduce you as having come from outer space. That way, our history with each other would start over, as it were, and Feilans would to some degree expect you not to work in the same way as they."

Put like that, the idea sounded wholly reasonable. Not actually having to use the phrase 'space aliens' probably accounted for the impression, though even if Zech had, Consensus probably wouldn't have thought it any weirder.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

Throughout this dialogue the rats had always answered or commented after a very short delay, in stark contrast to the moment or two a Feilan might take to think on what was said and assemble a response. Now however, after Zechariah put forth his unorthodox suggestion, the delay became a moment, the moment became a pause, and the pause grew and grew. The feral rats also slowed down considerably in their movements, or stopped moving entirely. The network did not apply labels like “weird” to any information. Zechariah’s suggestion was perceived differently and classified differently in that it came from an outside source and was not something that would have occurred to them. However there was a problem with it which involved sensitive information, and there was no consensus on whether this information should be divulged to the dragon.

After many minutes of silence the rats resumed their discordant squealing, as well as their mundane feral explorations. “You are not the only living entity with memory of direct interactions with the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races,” they said at last. Again there was a stretched out silence, again the rats became still for a time. Now many of them turned and looked at him, “one of these is dangerous. We would require your help in locating it before any plan of deception moved forward.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

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Zechariah hadn't exactly expected Consensus to jump for joy at his suggestion. First off, it was impossible; second, this was the sort of plan that required at least a moment or two to absorb and process. In the meantime, he was calling up names and addresses on his computer, coincidentally segueing very well into the next point of discussion.

"I'm quite aware of that. There are at least half a dozen I could name who would know what happened, or at the very least that something had happened, by virtue of being alive. There are a few more who follow history closely enough to have guessed at what was going on. They will all have to be appraised, but a few have access to resources that will be essential to pull this off." He raised an eyebrow. "Are you aware of anyone whom I may have missed?"
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

They’d returned to their previous rhythm of near-instantaneous, staccato responses, “the living construct Tamas is unaccounted for. We were in a state of disarray during the years following the collapse of the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races, but we have recovered enough memory fragments from the time to suggest that he survived the event at the Unseen University, and that he returned to the site of the defunct Notrol manufactory within the following decade. We have not seen him since then, and our sensor networks have thus far failed to detect his thaumatic signature, functional or otherwise. We do not believe Tamas was designed to function for this long, but if he’d ceased to function we should have detected his remains.

Tamas’ design was derived from that of Vedicus. The design has proven to be mentally unstable. We cannot begin to predict how he may react to any plan involving deception, nor have we enough information for Calculation to suggest his current motives. All we know for certain is that he has intentionally avoided contact with us for these thousand years.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

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"Tamas..." Zechariah had not forgotten the construct. The University had kept tabs on the pseudo-rat, but without given orders, the perfect infiltrator had little ambition, and hadn't made any significant trouble, or at least anything that rated his personal attention. After the general collapse of the University system, he'd been lost, and in the 50 years that he'd been putting his network back together, the dragon had encountered neither hide nor hair of him.

"Well, I can't tell you any more about him than you've told me. He's either embedded himself so far in society as to be undetectable, or hidden himself so far away so as to be of little consequence until now. Either way, there's not much you or I can do except wait on him. In the meantime, we need to work out logistics."

He called up a global map on his screen. He didn't bother to turn it; at least some of the rats were behind him and could see. "There's been more than one UFO 'sighting,' some more genuine than others. I'm sitting on enough evidence to make plausible any story about extra-terrestrials we put forward. In addition, I have associates that can aid in versimilitude in the 'first contact' scene. There's still the survivors to appraise, however; if I can't get them on board, the scheme won't work, and incidentally, you risk exposure. I think it only fair to appraise you of that risk before you agree to it."
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

The risks go beyond simple exposure,” Consensus and Dissent shrieked dissonance, repeating his words back at him, “we first tried to dominate you, and then tried to exterminate you, and now want to bargain with you, but our complicity in this attempt at mass-deception would undermine any such attempt. However this is a risk we are willing to accept. We have the means to defend ourselves. In the event of failure we will survive and we will wait until your people have once again forgotten us. Then we will try again.

Such a wait would be inconvenient. Success here and now will require coordination. We must have access to all the information you have on the survivors and any other Feilans with knowledge of us and of the activities of the Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races. We must also have access to all the information you have on the more than one UFO sightings, genuine and otherwise.
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

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The immediate discordant shriek from the rats in front of him served to bring no small amount of Zech's buried sense of humor to the surface. "Welcome to the world of diplomacy. Oddly enough, the sheer size of the proposed deception is an addition to its verisimilitude. Not many furs believe that anyone would be so audacious." After a quick smile flashed across his face, he grew serious once more. "Discovery would be a risk for me as well, but I am willing to take it if you are."

He settled down in his chair, preparing for a long day. "The list of names is not particularly long. At the top is Freya, another dragon who was my connection to the King of Edwin at the time. She remains somewhat active in the affairs of that country, and was our biggest local ally in our actions against the manufactories in Notrol and Kent. She had a friend who also lives to this day, a miss Catalina Tamiko, though how much she was told I am not sure. The main thing about this half-succubus is the large clan she has gathered around herself; I believe she recently re-married. She is of particular interest, since I believe she still has access to one of the few sources of actual extra-terrestrial artifacts.

"As for the rest, most of them were not in Gawain at the time, and show little interest in affairs of that date. There are a few mortals whom I suspect of having knowledge, including a descendent of fighters in that war: one Hester Zeezodt the V... or was it VI?" Zech frowned. It was the first time in a while that memory was not serving him as well as he liked. "The latest scion of the von Wexlar line, Mia, also knows, though so far her parents do not. I can't say for certain about her grandfather."

"As for the UFO records- do you have any way of interacting with a digital database?" He asked, for the first time really curious. "It would take a long time to tell, and giving you access to the full details would assist your Calculation better than giving them secondhand, I'm sure."
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Re: Enemy Mine (Rackenhammer, Sade)

Post by Sade »

We have extensive data on Hester Zeezodt V. Calculation suggests that he will not cooperate with us, because observation indicates that his cognition does not match the parameters a Feilan would attribute to normal sanity. It is our Consensus that this plan will require his elimination, however we would be interested in knowing any alternatives you come up with. We wish to avoid antagonizing you with behavior you would find discordant or in violation of the moral codes governing your actions.

We are aware of the dragon Freya. The Consensus for the eradication of the Feilan races had designs against her which never came to fruition. Our observations of your recent interactions suggest that you and she are no long in Consensus with one another. If you and she are no longer working towards mutual interests it is likely that you and she are no longer friends. Given the importance your kind attributes to these societal bonds, Calculation suggests that she will not be willing to cooperate with you.

We require all information you have on Catalina Tamiko, her new mate, all previous mates, and all clan members she may have told of us: their places of residence, the resources at their disposal, their capabilities. We require all information you have on the- half-succubus- race. If Freya and Catalina Tamiko remain friends as you and Freya once were, Calculation suggests that Catalina Tamiko will not be willing to cooperate with you.

We require all information you have on Mia the latest scion of the von Wexlar line, her parents, any siblings, her grandparents, and anyone she may have told of us: their places of residence, the resources at their disposal, their capabilities. This plan may necessitate direct interaction with these Feilans. We can best prepare for this eventuality by integrating as much information about them as possible.

They did not directly answer the question about digital interaction. “Place the required information as well as information pertaining to all other Feilans with knowledge of our existence onto a secure digital extended capacity memory card. We will bring the data to one of our homes and access it there.
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