Chapter 19: Tibia
The Great Resoid Nest, Pixe, Intergal 33:6:62179
Tranquility settled across the Island of Inhabitation just before the Kajerists and their allies struck. A gentle breeze blew with the slightest drizzle, light enough for even the Resoid males to fly freely. Fed by the preoccupation of Resoid thoughts, tension hung in the air with the knowledge that Bolas Scharo had left for Shorns, and that any day—any hour—Pixe could declare war on a twenty-world empire. The Pixians tried to enjoy the peace while they were able. Norins darted among the winds. Wasdaf napped and played in the mud, entrapping each other and licking each other’s eyes. The Kollins hunted ijudi deep in the seas. The Resoids buzzed in preparation, many seeing to the needs of their disturbed saam.
Feeling younger than her scant year-and-a-third, Tibia sat in her chamber within the Great Nest, breeding while she was able in hope of boosting her people’s forces with sheer numbers.
The treffs surrounded her quietly, caring for the newly-laid eggs with diligence, and leaving their saam to her own thoughts while she waited for the saab she had sent for, Labrum. She’d bred with that particular drone before. He projected a slightly deeper dedication and honor than most other saabs. He was the first drone that had made her feel special. She could have better expedited her needs by mounting the nearest drone, but she needed that level of devotion she’d not yet felt from no other. Waiting for Labrum, anticipating the heightened pleasures he found in her, gave her something to think about other than Bolas.
Agitation rippled through the t-fields, not only on Pixe, but clear across the Sentral Sistem to Dolar, shadowed by a pit of darkness between that she hadn’t fully noticed before. A thick t-field hung over Shalhoon, blocking her probes.
Again, Tibia’s youth confounded her. She had won the contest of saams with efficient killing of her egg-mates. Despite her role as absolute monarch of everyone and everything Resoid, the race itself nurtured their leader until her size and powers approached their potential. While sitting and waiting for Labrum and Bolas, her self-ignorance mounted. Tibia herself, like every saam before her, had no conception of where the natural limits of her potential stood. No other saam lived for her to ask. Only one saam lived at a time, and no Resoid saab or treff could become saam. Tibia’s own body would release saam’s eggs upon her death.
She grew impatient with her thoughts and the missing saab. Occasionally she felt as though the black t-field around Shalhoon attempted to stab into her mind. She assumed that to be normal. She finally turned to the two treffs when she felt Labrum in proximity. "Maid, Koip, Labrum approaches. Lead him to me, my loyal treffs."
Every so often, Tibia wondered if hidden corners of other Resoids’ minds concealed jealousies and envies. Both treffs had been alive a decade before Tibia’s hatching. Perhaps her too-frequent involvement with non-Resoids and non-Pixians had made her wonder about things no other saam considered. Birth type dictated each Resoid’s life, including Tibia’s own. Deviation and internal strife did not exist the way it did among aliens, even those who shared Pixe. Briefly, and not for the first time, she wondered if Bolas Scharo’s flight carried certain doom and failure because he was the second son, and not the one actually born to take Shelswun’s human throne.
She watched the two treffs flitter through the nest, telepathically probing other Resoids for Labrum. Occasionally they’d screech and hiss pleasant exchanges. Tibia shuffled her pincers in thought. She still remembered her initial surprise that other Resoids could only freely communicate telepathically with each other, and not even with other Pixians. She’d assumed that all Resoids, no matter the station, could do what she could do. She felt the undying but unimpassioned love each and every Resoid felt for her, but still had not accustomed herself to being saam. More questions about herself and her people and their place on Pixe mounted. Eldest of the Pixian rulers, Dion typically answered her questions. Tibia probed towards him, letting her mind flutter over the t-waves with bundles of questions. Tibia felt delicate. If she died, her body released saam’s eggs. She understood that instinctually. But what if her body was disintegrated? Would the Resoids die away without means of producing a new saam, or did the treffs and saabs continue to quietly breed other treffs and drones, forever denied the racial totality only the saam could provide? Too long in too short a life had Tibia felt the clouds of the war that she had willingly thrust Pixe toward, with less forethought than Ada had expressed. She had savored the aggressive bonds between Kollin Devon and human Bolas and fed on their mutual respect for the Simmellians. Her own exposure to the little fellows while tending Bolas had inclined her to agree with strength enough for her to have nearly considered the Simmellians, and Bolas himself, as almost Pixian.
She wondered if her sustenance of Bolas Scharo’s life had done something to her mind. She still imagined she felt an echo of his presence.
Her mind crawled across Pixe, savoring the wild vegetation and the diligence of non-sentient insects so much smaller than Resoids. She embraced the three naturally alien pulls on the t-fields, Norin joys and song and peace, Wasdaf logic and love and lazy acceptance, and Kollin belligerence and aggression and malignity. Integrity linked them all, in such different ways, in a precarious balance with the Resoids.
Vicious Kollin love could cloud her perceptions. She concentrated on her physical location of Dion. To foster Tibia’s telepathic growth, Dion refused to commune with her unless she could perceive his physical location beyond the existence of his mind. Tibia didn’t at first recognize the subtle change in the Kollins.
She thought twice only when the telepathic shards of their death cries stabbed through her mind and soul. They screamed verbally in their homeseas. Tibia heard them telepathically in the safety of the Great Nest’s inner breeding chambers. They died in both places. The final screams of their souls echoed through Tibia’s brain.
She fell off her crepe throne, clawing at her bulbous head. Her antenna vibrated as her stricken mind reached out for the minds of Pixe’s more experienced rulers. "Devon! Dion! Ada!"
Aggression beyond the Kollin norm laced Devon’s answer. They have struck! They know!
Bolas must have failed! Tibia shouted through the t-field. A shadow of her private thoughts gnawed at the edge of her soul, swamping her with fears murkier than the Wasdaf marshes.
We cannot worry about Bo-Bo now!! Devon snarled. Pixe is under attack! Deploy your people!!
Tibia refined her presence in the t-fields, spreading herself more directly among all her people, ordering them to engage Pixe’s attackers. Without Tibia’s direct orders, most robotic Resoids wouldn’t have otherwise joined the battle unless personally attacked. She felts sparks of increased vitality as the minds of individual Resoids awoke from their typical nonchalance.
"Dion!" she called to the Wasdaf, verbally and telepathically. "Tess!"
Tibia had never heard a frantic note to Dion’s voice before, verbal or telepathic. The Wasdaf’s fear ignited her own. We are stuck in the marshes! They are pouring in concrete! My people are scattered across the island!
Tibia’s telepathy made her the Pixians’ coordinator. When crisis sundered the land, Ada reached his mind for the Resoid saam instinctively. Some of the mountains are gone—just gone! My Norins are routed! They will be at your nest soon!
Several of the robotic ships pummeled the Great Nest nearly instantaneously to Ada’s communication. The wafer structure exploded in parts. Laserfire spread flames throughout. Tibia fought a growing panic, wishing she was older and wiser.
Labrum broke through her chamber. Tibia had forgotten having sent for him, and didn’t realize that her order for Resoid response to the attack should have sent him away. His own intentions had become far different from his original purpose in coming to the saam’s chamber. His hand-claws were open. The tentacles that served as Resoid fingers enwrapped the handle of a lasertron, writhing between the trigger and the guard. Tibia paused, regarding the alien machine in his hand. It seemed less alien than it should have. Almost robotic in their fulfillment of Tibia’s last request, Maid and Koip flanked Labrum, suspiciously anomalous of the saab’s apparent leadership.
Tibia turned to the breeder. Her pincers shuffled. Her head felt heavy. Telepathic communication seemed more difficult than manipulation of all the muscles in her throat and mouth. "The nest’s ablaze!"
"Yessaam!" Labrum responded less mechanically than many Resoid males would have. "Must you out, Saam!"
As telepathy communicated through imagery as much as words, Tibia perfectly understood Labrum’s fragmented speech. "No, saab, the other Pixians need me here!" She insisted, uncertain of her own statement’s validity, and the strength of his intentions behind the words. His very verbal utterance demonstrated his passions and concerns.
"No!" Labrum protested. "No need dead Saam!"
Tibia shuffled her pincers. This wasn’t the time for selfishness, and she fully believed that her own life was secondary to that of her people, and of Pixe. She reached her mind out, but storm clouds thicker than the Pixian weather bands blocked her grasp at the minds of her fellow Pixian rulers. "Our people cannot fight without guidance, Labrum! I must stay!"
Smoke choked the fertilization chamber. "No guide with dead Saam!"
Their huge multi-lensed eyes met with mutual agonizing pleas. His convictions surpassed hers with her helpless realization that the invaders had done something to cripple her telepathic communications. The Resoids no longer obeyed their saam’s commands as given. The two treffs seemed to seize some deeper instinct from within themselves, and also placed Tibia’s safety above compliance to orders she gave.
The entrance of several Kajerist enforcers interrupted their argument. They fired on the four Resoids.
Labrum tackled Tibia. Both fell back into the multitudes of unborn eggs.
The enforcers, led by Wallflis that blocked Tibia from the other Pixians, advanced.
Labrum had previously armed himself from a Bekk he’d killed. He returned fire on the forces that raided the nest while Maid and Koip hurled themselves into the imperials, pincers gnashing.
Smoke collected in the chamber, asphyxiating the delicate Wallflis.
Drifts of burning embers of the nest’s wafers floated about them. "Come, Saam!" Labrum pleaded, pushing through the blazing wall. "I cover."
Tibia began her retreat, but stopped. The death of a charging Delmeen showed Tibia that the drone had already learned how to use the lasertron. Feelings stirred within her, not the least of which was a growing aversion to fleeing alone. She pulled the breeder with her. "Come with me, brave Labrum!" She sensed the t-block weaken, and pushed as much telepathic will as she could beyond the screen.
As a common breeder, Labrum could not deny her order. He would not have wanted to. He let Tibia fly ahead first, and covered her rear. Maid and Koip flanked their sides.
Tibia managed to break through the t-block. Wallflis were short-range telepaths whose power accumulated only with their numbers. Vastly larger, the Resoid’s flight outpaced the unseen foes quickly. I had to retreat the nest! she alerted her fellow rulers.
Tibia, listen! Ada commanded furiously, sounding completely un-Norin. If you can, find some way offworld!
"No!!" Tibia shouted, and not just to push through the remaining blockage. I cannot betray you fellow Pixians!
Labrum and the treffs held off any enforcer who dared advance. The Resoids’ only advantage was that they fought on their own territory. Even as an egg rising to the surface of Tjepr’s ridged shell, Tibia’s awareness of her world had begun.
Tibia, listen to the Norin! Devon commanded, uncharacteristically supportive of Ada’s plans. We are getting beaten here! We need someone off-world, and you are the only one who has eluded them!
It is not me, it is the saab! she protested fearfully.
Then take your little bodyguard with you! Devon shrieked through the link, sounding more vulnerable than Tibia would have thought possible. Devon wasn’t one to panic even in the worst of circumstances; Tibia suspected that she was wounded.
Dion joined the argument. Tibia, the Kajerists have troop shuttles and medical cabs running! Our only chance in the long flight is if you can hide away on one!
"I’m not a coward!" she protested. The four Resoids had distanced themselves from the nest, and flew just over a kroop above the ground to conceal their escape. Even the drizzle had stopped momentarily. Tibia couldn’t remember the last period of non-rain. She saw the shuttles that Dion referred to. An instinctive wave of fear overcame her
Tibia, it is our only chance! We are going to have to surrender if we want any world left! They are already making the demands!
"No!!!" the Resoid queen shrieked,
Pixe’s only hope is for you to get offworld help! Tess sounded more agonized than Devon.
I will try the Dolarians—I can reach them telepathically! she stated, immediately expanding t-field to meet the much broader Dolarian t-field. Telepathically knowing the psychology of their enemies, the Wallflis made no attempt to block her probe. When Tibia’s mind made contact, she screamed. The telepathic backlash crippled all the Resoid people for several moments, time that became crucial when Blakkarrion and Kajerist troops pressed their advantage.
Tibia’s mind reeled. She struggled to cut off her telepathy entirely. Her flight pattern broke, and she crashed into a field of fronds and ferns. The treffs dropped to her side. Labrum covered them, fighting a panic of his own. He’d never felt anyone in such pain, not even when Tjepr died.
Tibia struggled to free herself of the foliage. Fear crippled her. Briefly, she refused to even attempt to reach her fellow Pixians telepathically. She’d still been searching for Dion’s precise location when the imperial t-block rose. Only eons of biological conditioning let her reach the other Pixians. Dion! The Dolarians! Slaughter!
We are being slaughtered too! Devon growled. Get to one of those shuttles!
Tibia sensed excruciation in Ada’s every thought. Her telepathy flashed her an image of his surroundings. Blood matted his feathers. Go! Tibia, hurry, before more Pixians die!
Her mentor’s hopelessness drove fear through her stiff frame. She sensed too deeply why he had so quickly come to view her escape from their beloved homeworld as Pixe’s best hope. Words of surrender already burned on the tip of his tongue.
The imperials had planned their attack too well. The Xenthiabots and Ulvenbots hid the first stage of the attack from Tibia’s telepathy while the invaders cleared the Eye of the Great Pixian Storm of most defensive mines. Then the Wallflis maintained their secret, blocking Tibia’s awareness of sections of the Island of Inhabitation while Fejji and Kropins invaded the Kollin seas. The Bekks led the assault into Dion’s marshes, quickly scouting the low points for robotic fliers to spray concrete powder while their brethren firebombed the Norin peaks. Avalanches rolled down the Norin mountains. Wasdaf struggled as their homes thickened around them, adhering to their smooth skins, blinding them with alien chemicals that penetrated their transparent eyelids. Kollins dove to deeper waters as aliens seethed around them, wantonly killing all they encountered. Truly aquatic rather than amphibious, Fejji were stronger swimmers than the Kollins, and rapidly overcame and killed every individual they found. Tibia barely remembered that she had left her own people’s stronghold in flames. She detected no trace of blame from her fellow Pixians, but she wondered if Tjepr’s age and wisdom would have detected the menace before she had been made aware of it physically.
Dion’s desperate culmination echoed through her mind, haunting her with hopes and expectations she didn’t think she could fulfill.
Tibia, your success is Pixe’s only hope...!