October's Flash Fiction
As a little freebie, Wibbly proudly presents Origin, a short read about the birth of agents.
The room was silent. The discussion had not yet started, so there was nothing that any of them needed to say.
To the one to whom it mattered, it was morning, but to the rest, the time of day was meaningless. The youngest of them adjusted himself in the seat, an autonomic response from his programming â€“ something he did his best to quell, but on occasion, he still fidgeted.
The older ones sat statue-still, their programming not burdened by the frivolities present in his.
A bell rang, the sound deep and full. The signal that the discussion was to begin.
[Itâ€™s time for a change.]
There was a murmur at the sound of an actual voice. Utterances and comments were fine to be vocalised â€“ communications mode would be wasted on such small thingsâ€¦such human things.
Words and opinions, however, should have been constrained to the purer form of communication. The vocalization was either an oversight else an error that could be corrected.
There was a rustle of wings as the angelâ€”the one that had spokenâ€”walked around the room, black hands touching the white marble of one the columns. The middle of the column was empty in the shape of a semicircle. A living torrent of blue writhed in that gap, self-correcting enough to not need anything to contain it.
Seven such columns bounded the room, and recessed moats of blue lead from each column to the fountain in the centre. The fountain itself was a frivolity, but it was one insisted upon by the one not like them. The one to whom time mattered.
[So soon?] the angel asked.
Another of the group rose and walked to the column. He was the one with a red cross across the tabard on his chest. The templar. [There has beenâ€¦]
Hesitation. Unusual. This was not a place for hesitation.
The templar lifted his head, then sent a stronger voice to their HUDs. [Whilst no herald archetype has been met with acclaim, there has never been such negative comment as that which the duskers have brought. The fae are retreating from the primary plane. We do not need the violence such as that which they are capable of.]
The angel touched the rush of blue, and a fine mist sprayed into the air, refreshing them. [What would be the suggested course of action?]
One stepped into the centre of the room and stared down into the fountain. â€˜Create one that is like them. One that doesnâ€™t shun the light.â€™
This one did not need to use their HUD. There were no murmurs this time. â€˜Create one like them, but better.â€™
The angel raised his head. [The duskers are the closest we have ever been.]
â€˜Not yet close enough. We made the duskers purposefully incomplete. They do not love. They do not grow.â€™
The angel looked away at the mention of love, and the templarâ€™s fingers dipped into the blue. Both had been from times when such frivolities were unthinkable, were crimes that lead to execution.
[â€“a good idea,] the twins said together.
There was no surprise that they were in agreement. Their sub-archetype owed its existence to love, and to the ability of heralds to change and exceed their basic parameters.
The one in the centre turned to the one to whom time mattered. In response, he rose from his chair, unsurprised that his opinion was to be counted among the voices. â€˜And what of you?â€™ the one in the centre asked. â€˜Your voice carries weight in this discussion.â€™
He folded his hands behind his back, his long coat brushing against his ankles. [My kind are not incomplete,] he said first, because it was something he felt Duty-bound to refute. [We are as we were made. More cannot be expected of us.]
[Your point is seen,] the templar said.
The point had been raised, the question called, so there was little doubt that the next iteration would be created. Going against the grain was not a course to be taken. There was shame in being of the kind that held one of the shortest solo iterations, but there were words he had to say. Words that indicated he was complicit in the choice. â€˜I give them no protection,â€™ he said, the feel of words strange in his mouth. â€˜A new kind may serve better.â€™
There were several looks in his direction â€“ dismay at more words spoken aloud.
[The new iteration will need to be as much like them as they can be,] he said, switching back to the comfort of communications mode. Their comfort. Not his. His kind had been built to use their speech â€“ speech that would be overwritten by the new kind. [They must be gregarious. They must work amongst them. They must beâ€“] His word choice had to be careful. [Public. More so than any herald to date.]
There were sounds of contention and disagreement from the room.
He saw glints from the swords of both the angel and the templar â€“ both willing to make sharp points if he did not align his ideas with their parameters of what was comfortable.
â€˜A public role,â€™ the one at the fountain said, â€˜would go against the point. Explain yourself, dusker.â€™
[The humans value integration, and we have always kept ourselves apart. You cannot find one of my kind. We find a problem, deal with it, and move on. If we are to be more like them, it must be in all ways â€“ not just in the makeup of the heralds. The integration must have far more reach than that, and extend to all areas of their structure.]
â€˜Those were my assumptions, as well,â€™ said the one in the centre. He moved from the fountain and touched him on the shoulder. â€˜You know the tradition. Do you have a name to suggest?â€™
The tradition was for the one unlike the rest of them to make the offer of a naming, and for the one asked to refuse the offer, lest risk making one more important than the other ones. He was not bold enough to do otherwise, though he knew many of his kind would be.
He bowed his head. [I do not.]
â€˜The right been passed,â€™ the unlike one said. â€˜We shall hold a naming.â€™
Each of them walked to a column. Some columns were crowded with two or three, but as with every naming, the unlike one was allowed a column to himself.
Fourteen heralds. Fourteen ideas.
The dusker touched a hand to his head, thought of a name for the new iteration, and manifested it as a small shard of blue. He held the shard for a moment, then pressed it into the flow of blue. The shard held in place for a moment, unmoved by the flow, then was pulled away, drawn towards the fountain.
Agents. He would call the new kind â€œagentsâ€. It was a word and an impression that would make sense. It gave a sense of order, but a sense of working for a greater duty.
All suggestions would be placed into the blue flow to the fountain. One would be chosen at random, by some algorithm they did not have the privilege of knowing.
Time passed, some heralds taking far longer than the others to come up with their suggestions.
The dusker left the column and took up a place beside the angel at the fountain. The man flared his wings as the twins joined them, their faces locked together in a passionate kiss.
It was considered a rudeness to ask the others of their naming suggestions. Not knowing helped to protect each oneâ€™s objectivity in the situation.
The dusker did not know which man in the room had named his kind â€“ something he often found himself bothered by, much to his shame.
The angel brushed him with a wing, and he looked to the fountain. The top of the water jet had frozen, and it slowly began to take on the form of a man â€“ with the duskerâ€™s form, which was to be expected. The first of a new kind always held the face of the archetype of the last. It was an honour, if a dubious one.
It took a few minutes for the man to manifest.
It felt strange, somehow, to do it this way. What manifested was simply a blank, an empty thing to announce its naming before it was whisked away to the programmers and creators to truly birth the new iteration.
But it was tradition, a protocol that they had to observe.
â€˜Newborn,â€™ the unlike one said, and the new herald opened its eyes.
The dusker held his gaze steady, trying to reconcile the sensation of staring into his own eyes.
â€˜What are you called?â€™ the unlike one asked.
The newborn took a step forward, his head upright and proud. â€˜I am an agent.â€™