Monday, August 29, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - What GRELs and little Girls are made of

“Professor, are you saying you actually want to meet GRELs?” Lyta asked incredulously. She sat on the bar of the dilapidated restaurant, letting her legs dangle. Vovelle, for his part, sprawled on a chair and watched the smoke curl upward from his mouth to the peeled-paint ceiling. They were so close to the GREL quarter, on the border of the entertainment strip, that Lyta could practically feel the purple-skinned bastards bearing down on her through the walls.

“Yeah, absolutely! They’re fascinating!” Vovelle replied with a glint in his eye inspired by intellectual passion and heightened by narcotic stimulus.

“Yeah, but they're also programmed killing machines. I mean, savannah tigers are fascinating too, but I wouldn't want to walk into a den of them,” Lyta said. She reflected that she’d probably rather walk into a tiger den than south a quarter-klick.

“GRELs are programmed, yes, but where some see limitations in their design, I see focus, I see strength. What makes them different from beasts is self awareness.” He spoke with the intensity of a true believer.

Lyta wasn’t buying it. “Uh-huh. Look, Prof, they're stronger than us, smarter than us, and more skilled than us. Sooner or later, they're gonna realize that. You think the war's really ever gonna be over? For them? They came to Terra Nova to wipe out every man, woman, and child.”

The smoke curled up as Vovelle took another puff. “They came to do what they were designed to, but designs can change,” he countered.

Lyta leaned forward. “Yeah? Who's gonna change the design? The CEF?”

“The GRELS themselves!”

“Machines can't reprogram themselves.”

Vovelle shook his head slowly. “They're not machines, they're people, just different. Genetically enhanced, yes, but self aware.”

Lyta didn’t reply, so Vovelle pressed on. “GRELs are here, we need to deal with them. We could kill them all, but besides being ethically abhorrent, it has practical downsides. Namely, they’d take a lot of humans with them. Which leaves two main realistic options: Segregation or integration.”

“Yeah, what are those?” Lyta asked dubiously, unsure why the first option was so impractical.

“Well Col. Arthur is for segregation. But that frame of mind is limited because he figures when humans and GRELs come together there has to be a winner and looser.”

Lyta was inclined to agree with him. “And you think he's wrong about that?”

Vovelle nodded emphatically. “Absolutely. We can be more. We have to be more together. It’s the mathematic of life. There’s greater wealth in diversity. Thinking that way necessarily leads to the dominance of one race. There’s a GREL out there called Proust who thinks the same way as Arthur, he just wants humans in ghettos and GRELs in charge. Integration is the way to go.”

“Uh-huh. And what about Bakov’s guy, the one you want to meet?” Lyta found herself asking in spite of her revulsion for the topic.

“Well, he’s really trippy,” Vovelle said with obvious admiration. “He calls himself Sebastopol. He sees that GRELs have it in them, through self improvement and discipline, to embrace their strength but also move beyond their limitations. He’s broken his programming and that of others. He’s all about balance of spirit, body and mind and being at one with yourself, once anyone does that, then you and your whole cosmos become totally copasetic.”

Lyta tried to picture an enclave of “copasetic” GRELs and failed utterly. “And how does he say they're supposed to do that? Understand themselves and all the shit you're talking about?”

“Through meditation largely, through suppression of anger and disharmony and embracing compassion and feelings.”

“Meditation? Seriously?” Any respect she might have had for Sebastopol’s methods vanished in an instant.

“Yeah. Groovy, right?” Vovelle’s eyes gleamed.

“…That's one word for it.” Lyta muttered.

“They call it the Perfect Form Movement.”

“And that… works? Meditation? On GRELs?”

Vovelle nodded. “From what I've heard, but I want to meet him, I want to see it for myself.”

Lyta stared down at the professor, wondering how stoned he truly was. “You sure that this guy's legit?”

“I want to believe it. I know that isn't scientific, but I need to believe that the GRELs can better themselves. Not only for them, and for Port Arthur and Terra Nova. But for humanity.”

Lyta narrowed her eyes. “You want to believe that the GRELs can break their programming… for the good of humanity? I don't follow.”

“The problem isn't what the GRELs are, it is what we made them into. Do you know that on their way here the NEC captured Caprice so easily that they’d grossly overestimated their casualty rates?”

Lyta blinked at the abrupt change in topic, partly trying to figure out what Vovelle was getting at, and partly glad that she lived on Terra Nova, not Caprice. “So?”

“Not enough GRELs died when they took Caprice. The Earthers figured they would die in battle. They didn’t have enough food for all the survivors. So how did they solve their military oversight? They killed them. They slaughtered entire battalions of GRELs. They simply spaced them: Mass execution, man.” Vovelle said gravely.

Lyta shrugged with indifference. She knew the professor was expecting the news would shock her, but it didn’t. “I can't say I'm broken up inside over it, given that if they'd continued to live, they would have come to TN and probably taken over the entire planet.”

“Very sensible of you.” The professor said coolly, with obvious disapproval of his would-be pupil. “But what does that says something about OUR souls? That’s more than an affront to GRELs; that’s declaring war on life itself. It doesn’t matter how GRELs came into this world, they’re here now and they’re alive. All life, all life Lyta, deserves respect. Without that respect, what makes us the fucking superior life form?”

“You WERE here, on-planet, right? You saw what they did. What good is being the superior life form if we’re extinct?” Lyta spat back, unwilling to suffer the righteous indignation of a man defending the things that slaughtered her family. Twice!

Vovelle may have been a flake, he may have been stoned, but he was also a teacher and he knew there was more than once way to get a message across. “Lyta, the GREL is designed to be focused, right? Focused on killing.”

Lyta nodded. “Yeah.”

“But if you can replace the object of that focus without diluting the focus itself, simply translate ‘kill’ for ‘farm’ then you get a superior farmer instead of a superior soldier.”

“And that's what your boy Sebastopol’s trying to do?”

“Yes, him and others. Jan Mayen's got ten thousand GRELs farming out in the Seneschal plateau.”

“Yeah. I know.” Lyta conceded. She tried to picture a contingent of GREL farmers and failed. She wondered whether they were actually farming out in the desert, or whether that was Jan-class propaganda.

“Better than just putting them into ghettos. Have you been into the GREL quarter just south of here? We treat our animals better than that.”

The idea of visiting the GREL quarter filled Lyta with fear and revulsion so deep she had to count to ten to keep from throwing up. “No. Not planning to, either. I know when I'm outgunned.”

“Well, when you go and meet with Bakov for me, then you'll see. You'll see with your eyes and maybe feel something with that genetically unaltered heart of yours.”

Lyta blinked, shunted out of her own thoughts by something in Vovelle’s tone. “…Wait. What?”

“You’re gonna go see Bakov. The guy in the mask and I made a deal. You go meet him, get the intel and so on.”

Lyta stared at the professor with hard eyes. “Yeah. Yeah, I know that. But Bakov's not a GREL.”

“Bakov’s a disciple of Sebastopol. After this little incident at Rosies, Bakov’s not coming up to the strip anymore. It would put his master at too much at risk.”

Lyta’s brow furrowed, and she tried to figure out what game Vovelle was playing at. “You're saying Sebastopol’s here, in Port Arthur? Not off in the desert somewhere like Mayen?”

“Yes, he's here, now in Port Arthur.” Artoor beamed.

Lyta spoke slowly, trying to figure out where she’d missed some vital piece of information. “So… let me get this straight. You were gonna walk, without even an escort, straight into the heart of the GREL quarter, where — you said it yourself — a lot of the GRELs are NOT following your man, are pent up and pissed off and world-class killing machines... And you were doing this willingly?”

“Well, yeah, I was.” Professor Vovelle said casually.

“You sure you're right in the head?”

“No, not really. I guess I'm glad you guys are going for me.” He said with a grin as he stubbed out the last embers of his blunt.

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