I strain mightily to retreat, resisting the pull of an incredibly strong gravity. Their mental strength is even stronger here than I’d felt from those powerful Baby-pods outside. I claw at the nothingness to stay apart from the swirling luminous greyness.
My Other-sight zooms in on the threatening, thick liquid until I make out the individual creatures swarming in this soup. They oscillate before me; tiny, hairy, light-grey circles, spinning madly in disarray. They probably have a clinical name like LVX-923 but I decide to call it ‘Sludge’.
They’ve suffered a hefty setback from ‘my’ child’s destructive cries. Huge patches of Sludge are dead; trillions of tiny bodies. Happy information that I file away. I watch the carcasses collect in corrals made up of the living. They are using a covering of fine long hairs to propel dead neighbours from the mass, ejecting them from the colony through a sieve-like arrangement, into the Mother’s waste stream.
Busy with their clean-up, the Sludge seems largely ignorant of my hugely reluctant advance. Despite the inconvenient timing of being face to face with our enemy, I ponder some of the half-truths and outright lies we’d been told about them. Unbidden conclusions choose now to click together before me.
From what I can make out the Sludge send Parasites to enslave our bodies. Once inside us, the Parasites are commanded to either procreate or make more Sludge. At some point, the concentration of Sludge reached a critical level of intelligence where they were able to unlock our brain’s latent telepathic abilities.
Seems perfectly logical in summation.
The creatures’ evil nature is our fault. It was our greed for power and immortality that cause them to behave this way. We hardwired them with rules they continue obeying perfectly. Originally designed for maximum efficiency, I cannot denigrate them for fulfilling their purpose. When their eggs escaped the lab, evolution’s dice was rolled, and mankind came up snake eyes. Too bad, so sad.
To gauge the level of menace below me I gingerly stretch forth my probe. It is sucked into the whirling grey planet of Sludge at high velocity. I am powerless to slow it and the shockingly cold fuzz of the group mind hits me hard and fast.
The central core are replicating at a furious rate. They concentrate on reproduction to replace their dead at the expense of all other concerns. No wonder they are ignoring me. Besieged and ham-strung by their own compulsive imperatives I see that they are barely in control of their oversized army. Focused on growth they are only regulated by the available food supply; and now they have reached a point where food delivery logistics has found its limit.
I am heartened by these revelations. Like locusts they have risen during times of plenty and now are ready to fall. They are not quite the all-powerful, psychic beast I feared enslavement under. However, these factoids do not change my situation or make me feel any safer. They are clever and adaptable. They might have another trick or two up their collective sleeves.
The billion chattering organisms suddenly double their number by splitting in two. Their mental activity increases and fresh data seeps through the realigned Baby-Orbs. Each information packet is drawn to the dominant, central mass; that glowing ball of heightened awareness.
Their renewed strength pulls me closer to their grey sun of hyper-intelligence. It writhes with pseudo-limbs that reach and tuck back within its core. I cross an event horizon and I greatly fear complete dissemination.
There’s only one exit from this place; the hole where their dead are being discarded. I figure if I’m going to die I may as well die running away. Resolving to damage whatever I can first, I reverse my thrust and plunge towards their outer skin like a meteorite. I focus intently on where the bodies are being filtered out and speed directly into the cold depths of the disrupted mind. Gouging a path into the dead cells is remarkably easy as the living part to let me through.
Some of the dying Sludge are still connected to their tendril. Appropriating their Sorters I rapidly search these millions of threads to find the one cell I want. And there it is! The link to the baby girl I’d saved.
I dive for that dying lifeline, hoping my luck can’t get any worse. From past experience I know Bad Luck will deliver one more last kick in the nuts when I need it least. Actually, it would be hard to envisage worse circumstances than being trapped in the group-mind of megalomaniac stone-cold destroyers of mankind, but I’ve been let down in this manner before.
Diving deep into their pool of consciousness wets me with freezing thoughts even as I blast along that fading tendril’s narrowing passageway. I squeeze past a lesser mind’s end-thoughts and steal its final message in parting.
‘Kill the Empty-one. Replace the dead Meat. Repair the Melding links. Increase digestion. Sacrifice all. Let us consume more!’
That sounds ominous. I leap the gap even as it dissolves from the main trunk, and feel the blackness close upon me...