The Final Insult

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Two delegations approached each other at a wary pace across The Bridge, which had been freshly re-atomised by intro matter manipulators for the occasion and was shining in the midday sun. Wires reached from massive pylons like puppet strings from the gods. From a distance, the imposing construction reaching from the island of Introvia to the vast and verdant jungles of Exterra looked like a brace holding the world together.


The first insult was delivered even before communication had begun. By tradition, both sides would send eight delegates. But the intros – in their usual arrogance and as a not-so-subtle signal of their superiority – had only sent three.


The delegations could not have looked more different. The rigid intros floated a foot above the ground, their spiny bodies and disproportionate heads suspended in a forcefield brought about by the power of their will. Identical blue-grey robes covered most of their pale parchment skin. They stared with colourless eyes past the extro delegation, past the world, detached and uncaring.


The extros, on the other hand, had evolved to demand attention, to draw you in, to arouse merely with their presence. Their delegation moved with a down-to-earth grace as individuals and as a group, flowing over the bridge in a wave of colour and life that made the immediate surroundings more real. Each of them demanded attention in a unique way with a mix of humanoid, animal, and exotic features. Their bodies were part of how they communicated, so they did not wear clothes. This might have put the intros off guard if it weren’t for the fact that they were asexual and unempathetic. For millennia, the intros had reproduced solely through selective matter manipulation and careful consciousness merging, controlled in complex and stale procedures spanning centuries.


The delegations met at the exact middle of the bridge, which was marked by a polished metal circle fused into the stone paving. There was an extended silence.


Intros abhorred initiating contact. There were no social events on Introvia, and information was exchanged unobtrusively through the quantum cloud, to which each intro had a private connection. Direct social contact was rare, reserved for emergencies and outsiders.


The extros waited out of politeness. To them, it was an honour to initiate social interaction. In Exterra, it happened so seldom; they were continuously connected through their partial hive-mind, and there were always several conversations going on. Social interaction was a part of who they were to the point that they could barely survive without it. 


As the silence dragged on, the extros grew increasingly uneasy, but they held their tongues and minds in check, out of respect for the proceedings.


Finally, the middle intro detached from the other two and floated a few feet forward. A crude thought crashed through the extro delegation like a screaming wave.


“I AM ENVOY GRAZCH. THE ONE YOU CALL 'MORPH'. THEY ARE NOT HERE?”


An extro with fine white fur spotted in crimson like a jungle cat detached from the group. Her long tail curled around her, slinking suggestively across every part of her body as she moved.


“Morph is not here,” she said. Her voice was made up of several tones complementing each other, and the other extros subconsciously hummed in harmony with her as she spoke. “We are Sinestra. We speak in their name,” she said and gave a minute bow of her head.


As Sinestra spoke directly to the foremost intro, her body began to shift. It happened in a haze, elegant features blurring away and being replaced by colourless, semi-translucent skin and insectile features. Her voice was reduced to a dry, hissing monotone.


Despite the stale, dormant replica of emotions which lived in the Envoy's chest, this final insult pushed him into a fit of rage. The shape Sinestra had taken represented his innermost desires. Invasion of personal space was a terrible insult in Introvia, and nothing was more sacred and personal than the mind.


Sinestra saw the Envoy’s face wrinkle up in disgust, and she took a step back, lowering her insect appendages submissively. “We humbly beg your forgiveness if we have offended you, Envoy Grazch,” she hissed. “We do not control our matter manipulation like you do; it is a subconscious effect, evolved to please those we interact with.” Her droning voice held no conviction, for she was no longer capable of exhibiting emotion. The other extros watched her coarse attempt at communication in horror. It was devoid of tonality, emotion, depth. She spoke only in words.


Envoy Grazch was frozen in an expression of utter disgust. For a moment, there was silence, and then he screamed out physically and mentally, overcome with rage. It was an overt show of emotion so unthinkable in intro society that the other two envoys were repulsed by it, wobbling away through the air, dazed and confounded.

As the scream grew in strength and pitch it began ripping through the extros, separating them at the core, tearing atoms apart. The other delegates sent distressed thought-messages at Envoy Grazch, but he was beyond communication.


There was no blast or explosion, no screams or bleeding, no flash of light. The extros simply ceased to exist, de-atomised into their base components and restructured into harmless, grey dust. The dust cloud sailed calmly towards the ground, sunlight streaking through it in a disturbing tableau.


***


Morph felt his body transform, responding to someone approaching through the jungle. The alterations were familiar to him like the breath of a lover on his skin: deep green scales, a feathered tail, and majestic wings, feathers black with a purple gleam. 

His body smiled as he opened reptilian eyes to look at the lizard woman walking towards him, mother-of-pearl scales glistening in the afternoon sunlight. Amara.


But his joy waned. Her movement expressed a profound sadness and her thought-song was erratic. Something had her badly shaken. Morph extended his social awareness and was overcome by a torrent of emotions from extros in the vicinity. Their thought-song was deep and sonorous with a sorrowful base, regret rumbling at the centre, and a frightened treble.


Images and sounds reached Morph in bizarre and confused flashes. An atom-rending scream. A cloud of dust, ominously suspended in the air above The Bridge. An atrocious insect-being: aberrant desires made flesh.


Sinestra and the other delegates. Dusted.


Morph’s thought-song stumbled as it joined the others and he wailed out loud in anger. Then he breathed deeply, hissed between his teeth, and clenched his fists. He nodded at Amara, resolute. “It begins. The intros must learn that they are no longer the only ones with the power to change the world.”


Soon, a strange concept floated on the thought-song and spread across Exterra, foreign and absurd to all but the eldest of extros.


War.

Created: Jan 08, 2017

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