autokinetic: (e ~ edible)
Isabella Marie Swan ᗜ "Aegis" ([personal profile] autokinetic) wrote2013-03-05 01:06 pm

i contain multitudes

Aegis starts giving the subordinates days off. There is a brief argument with the teachers about this during which she points out that if the teachers force a leave-given student into the simulator room, she can't stop them, but Sue needn't link them and they needn't be given assignments, so it would be more productive to just let them sleep, and if they thought they needed an eight-person team it was the height of foolishness not to give them ten or twelve for exactly this reason. She rotates people out before they start making mistakes - the battles are coming thick and fast now, and they're getting harder, and it's better to do with one less commander now than to have one burn out from sleep deprivation and stress later when it's worse.

She takes one battle off herself, after arguing with Qiaochu about it - he thinks she should, she thinks she's fine - but the team suffers more without her than it does without anyone else. They lose four ships. It's not the first loss - the buggers have been learning, have been compensating, they've gotten stray ships before - but it's the worst. There's no further discussion of Aegis taking time off. They need her and her speed more than anyone else.

Except Sue, who is essential, who obviously cannot take a day off at all.

But he seems to be holding up all right, and he can hang back from the strategizing and serve just as a relay; he doesn't have to be fully in the fight every time. He generally is, but it's an option if he starts to crack around the edges.

The battles keep coming.

They keep winning. They hold their losses down very, very low.

And then there is a planet.

They've been near planets before. Only a handful of battles have taken place outside of solar systems; they've had to worry about gravitic effects from gas giants and, on one memorable occasion, Aegis had to maneuver six ships through an asteroid belt, flicking her control between vessels several times a second and almost burning her fingertips with friction-heat against the controls before she could get a Little Doctor onto a flying rock and atomize the pursuing bugger fighters. There've been planets in the distant background before. But this time the planet is right there.

The buggers didn't come out to meet the invaders.

And the teacher who is in her and Sue's simulator room, wearing an earpiece and probably relaying the words of Mazer Rackham so neither commander has to look at the old fart directly, says, "This is the last battle."

Aegis holds her hands ready and waits for the fleet officers to join the link.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue stretches out his mind—he barely needs Ivy's help to reorient these days, it's like the vast reaches of space are just there, all he needs is a hint at the pattern and he can find anything he wants.

This time, though, the IF ships aren't the brightest thing in the sky. He almost thinks he's reached into the wrong system at first, because to his power that planet glows like a sun—not minds but MINDS, vaster and more complex than anything he's ever seen. And now that he knows where to look, he can sense the connections between the minds on the planet and the bugger ships they control.

He hesitates. But not for very long.

Then, as he ripples across the fleet just the same as always, his daemon reaches out and touches the network of hive queens.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Yep, he flicks back at Aegis. The queens are isolated from the rest of the link. Probably nobody else is going to figure out where the massive boost is coming from.

What didn't you know? he asks, through Ivy, not that there's much difference between them when they're this deep in a link. What are you sorry for? Show me.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Huh.

I'm not gonna tame you, he says. Humans don't do that.

And then he reflects this whole line of conversation at Aegis. Just at Aegis.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue bounces the question to the appropriate audience.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue bounces Qiaochu's question to Aegis and says out loud, quite cheerfully, "I tapped the buggers and they're negotiating surrender."
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Show me, he says again. Words, thoughts, ideas, you can lie with those; you can't lie with intentions, or at least not as easily.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:54 pm (UTC)(link)
"Then get me somebody who can," Sue says reasonably, "and I'll put 'em in the link."
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 10:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue lets the buggers know that blowing up all their ships is not yet necessary, although he doesn't comment on whether or not it might ever be.

"And do it fast," he contributes. "We're running on link time here, not bureaucrat time."
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:05 pm (UTC)(link)
(Sue grins.)
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue grins some more.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:19 pm (UTC)(link)
He bounces a condensed summary—the buggers are negotiating surrender, the terms could involve you setting up shop on their world, here's where they'd put you—to the fleetside members of the link.

It causes something of a stir.

But he can relay all that backchat and still have the brainspace to conduct negotiations between Aegis and the buggers and eavesdrop on earpiece guy's muttering. The boost from the buggers is huge.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue leans back in his seat to ask earpiece guy, "Who you talkin' to?"
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:48 pm (UTC)(link)
"I can link anybody who wants in," Sue offers. "I've got room."
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-05 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Sue glances speculatively at the earpiece, and—traces—

Four minds. Taptaptaptap.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 12:03 am (UTC)(link)
Sue doesn't just relay; he flips everything to Aegis, and he joins in.

The fact that the buggers can be trusted is obvious. He shows that person the raw intention that he got from them, the way they think when they say 'big sisters', the intricate history and layers of meaning. Maybe it will be harder to dismiss them as lies firsthand.

Wiping out the buggers is a dumb fucking way to make a statement, and there's no one else around to make the statement to. Does this person remember what it was like to fear their own destruction at the hands of an unstoppable alien force? Do they remember the formation of the IF around this fear? Do they think that perhaps that is not the first message humanity should be sending to any new species they meet, in case that new species has a few reactionary chuckleheads like no one Sue cares to name hanging around in positions of power?
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 12:10 am (UTC)(link)
Sue reflects Aegis's opinion not only to the arguers, but to the fleet. Openly. With his open support.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 12:13 am (UTC)(link)
The communications devices they're accustomed to can't negotiate peace with alien species, either. This communications device thinks they'd better learn fast.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 12:17 am (UTC)(link)
Fine by Sue. He suggests to the buggers that they recall their ships to the surface, and he makes sure the fleet knows where they're going.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 01:10 am (UTC)(link)
Sue has a feeling in response to that expression of symbolic vulnerability.

...He feels like he kind of wants to give an entire species a hug.

He shares this feeling with Aegis.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 01:25 am (UTC)(link)
They probably aren't, physically. But the hive queens have minds, and feelings. There might be a linkable equivalent.

He doesn't try one.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 01:27 am (UTC)(link)
Sue beams at him.
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[personal profile] pythbox 2013-03-06 01:28 am (UTC)(link)
Sue hugs her right back.