tagNonHumanA Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 54

A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 54


*** Meanwhile, out on the west coast...

Remember the little "Goldilocks", the little blonde toy that Monnie keeps for a playmate? This is what starts to happen to her. It also starts out with sadness, but hey, ya get the bad with the good, right?

This one had to be long, just like the last one, I'm afraid. But things are beginning to move along as this picks up speed. If you've followed this, thanks, and I hope it's liked. 0_o


Book of the Forsaken Part 9

Bronn Qums sat in the 'office' that he'd been ordered to appear in -- at the appointed hour and on the appointed day. He had no idea whatsoever why he'd been summoned here, either.

At first, he'd thought that it was about his caseload and he thought that he'd be asked to summarize where he was in each case, so he'd prepared for that, bringing everything that could possibly be required in that event -- and it had been a ton of work to do that, too.

But that wasn't the purpose for this meeting at all. This was more like an interview for some unknown (to him at this point) purpose.

He flicked his long dark hair out of his eyes and sat back in the chair with his arms and ankles crossed, fuming a little at the waste of his time. Then he thought that the posture would be noticed and some inane and stupid body language rule might be applied, which likely told that his posture was indicative of some sort of psychoanalytical signpost which could be interpreted by one of the countless twerps who were employed for just that sort of nonsense - to waste more funding on nothing but the employment of those very same twerps.

He dropped his hands to his lap.

He was there alone. He was the sole living occupant of the room, and he spoke to someone somewhere else, likely right down the hall, he thought. It pissed him off to no end. He was an investigative agent, charged with keeping the peace and running down criminals -- of which there was no shortage in the larger Merren cities. And why was that?

He snorted as silently as he could. Because people like him were kept off the streets and out of their jobs , sitting in offices and answering drivel spewed at them by little boxes disguised as idols of the faith.

Everything was about the faith, he thought, and almost nothing of what really went on had the slightest thing to do with that faith.

He was young and early in his career, certainly, he thought. But he was damn good at it all the same.

"We have a new assignment for you, "the little box whirred from its place on the desk in front of him, "Your caseload is to be transferred to others. It is noted that you brought everything along and that is an indicator that you are thorough, young Qums. You are instructed to leave it in a neat pile on this desk at the end of this meeting for redistribution."

Bronn bit down on his tongue right then, deciding that a silent nod would have to do in the place of the protest which he really wanted to throw up. Many of his cases were nearly at completion, and now some stupid and half-dead snerk was going to finish them and no doubt line his nest with the rewards as the clock ticked down to his or her retirement. Half of the ones that he shared office space with hadn't been outside and on the job in decades.

"You have been chosen for several reasons," he heard the tinny voice drone, "You are very successful and accomplished in bringing results forward in a timely manner. You are young and energetic, being driven no doubt by your youthful enthusiasm and idealism. You are a shining example of what the Merren educational system and policing institutions are able to produce, given the right students at intake time. You-"

"With respect," he said," I am able to produce the results which I do because I am a product of those systems. And as such, I was able to determine fairly early on -- right after I hit the streets and watched as my training mentor was killed in front of me while following the same procedures that I was taught. My surmisal afterward was that what I'd been taught was useless to me and so I formed my own methods, deciding to stay within the law while throwing the rest away."

He waited for the blast, but none came after the long moment of silence.

"We were about to commend you on your ability to reason and deduce patterns in criminal investigations which we interpret as your startling tendencies toward unconventional logic and thought processes, but no matter."

Bronn looked down as he smirked.

It didn't matter, he thought. You could call them on their ability to make fertilizer and they didn't miss a beat. They just made more to cover your arguments.

"In any event," the box rattled, "there is one overriding reason why you were selected -- you have no dependents and no traceable family connections. That is necessary now because for the purpose of this assignment, you are going off-world."

His jaw dropped right then.

"Off-world?" he asked incredulously, and the idol sounded a little smug in its reply.

"Yes. You are needed to find the cause of a set of troubling circumstances and expenses. This will take you far from your usual sort of investigations. We have reason to believe that there has been and continues to be criminal activity on a far-flung and unimportant world. But those activities threaten that world and it is believed that there is an attempt being made to shape that world so that we might be convinced to return there to extract resources.

It was decided some time ago that our efforts there be curtailed, since the world is inhabited. Efforts of this nature there would contravene The Balance. As well, this world has suffered for some time from the importation of Red demons from many places, so that the natural inhabitants there would be decimated eventually. This is a blatant disregard of The Laws of The Balance and cannot be tolerated.

We had a ranger there for a time, but he is lost to us and it is believed that he no longer lives, since we cannot establish thought communications with him.

Most troubling of all are the expenses brought forward by a certain minister in our own government though they are well-buried to be sure. Our investigations have revealed that we are forced to pay exorbitant invoices sent by the Xer military for the lease of a sophisticated and unidentifiable war craft, weapons, and the wages of its crew, though thank The Balance that it is only one pilot. The cost for that pilot's service is high, nonetheless. The minister pays the invoices, but makes up the loss by skimming from other accounts.

You might imagine the howls that would be forthcoming were it known that part of the funding for the Friends of the Balance group is paying for the operation of a heavy warship which runs as a rogue across the empire on missions which only that minister thinks up and is not answerable for -- since he had not been seen for months now.

This activity has gone undetected and unchecked for a long period of time due in large part to the way that it was kept hidden from us by a pair of highly-placed officials believed to be in the pockets of that minister. As it happened, one of them passed from heart failure due to advanced age and when we noticed the undocumented expense being charged to other accounts, severe pressure was brought to bear on the surviving official.

The interrogation was very fruitful and now we wish to accumulate what is required to bring the rest of this to light. You will now be the agent for this.

Bronn was incredulous. "Just what am I expected to do there, exactly? I can do the investigation single-handedly, I guess, though it would take longer with no help. But then what? I have no jurisdiction in that place -- wherever it is."

"You do now," the little cube rattled, "As of this date, you are relieved of all regular activity to prepare for this. As well, you are granted broad and sweeping powers so that your efforts cannot be thwarted at any level. Some of those powers are in the form of personal abilities which we will bestow on you. More questions?"

"Am I supposed to just step up to this wayward government minister and wave a set of wrist restraints at him and ask that he come along nicely?"

The volume from the idol surprised him as it seemed to roar at him then, "You are supposed to do what you are sent to do, Qums. See that you accumulate enough investigation to merit the cost of this. See to it that you lay it all out so that the prosecutors can smile at the indictment that will be handed down. The arrest and how it comes about is none of your concern at this point, understood?"

He nodded slowly before he sat up and leaned forward, "How long is this projected to last? Is there an end date as yet or a time limit?"

"It is open-ended," the little box whirred in an airy tone.

"But I have do have a relationship," he said, and the idol ran his objection over instantly.

"We are aware of your relationship with the Watcher Jerrthi. It has been ongoing for four planetary cycles now and though we are cognizant of the attraction and the reasons for it, knowing that both of you are Grotto Dwellers and as such are a little rare, we have observed only stasis there, and you have been selected nonetheless. You had your chance to pair properly, Qums, but our need is great and it is for the greater good."

"So, because we haven't paired yet officially, you're sending me on a one-way assignment? You would have done this even if Jerrthi and I were a documented pair, wouldn't you? The greater good and all that, right?"

The idol was silent then, waiting.

"Why me?" he asked in annoyance, "Surely my fine training doesn't prepare me for something of this nature. There must be others who-"

"We require an agent who can think on his feet and you are able to do this -- as you have told us yourself a little earlier. You were selected in secret. It was thought that the activities of any of the regular investigative agents in an arena such as this would be noted and the individual or individuals would be warned and then act pre-emptively. As it happens, we were correct.

We have already lost seven regular agents to this. That is why we sought for a superlative agent from a different bureau who would not be known to whomever is acting to screen this from us."

Bronn Qums sank back into the chair, somehow already knowing the answer to his last question. "Do I have the right to refuse the assignment?"

There was a silence in the office then before the idol ground out its reply and prepared to shut off.

"No. You have one-quarter cycle to prepare and you may use any resources which you see fit. Your clearance is hereby elevated and you are now a High Merren agent. You answer only to us from this point forward. Your point of ingress will be the port of Lozenjellis. We suggest that you begin your preparations immediately.

Oh, and Agent, we do recognize your emotional investment in the Watcher Jerrthi and we regret the upheaval that we cause for you both. There will be allowances made for brief messages between you as you undertake this mission.

You are dismissed."

With the silence of the office and the weight of what had just been laid on him bearing heavily on his mind now, Bronn slowly sat up and got to his feet, absolutely stunned at what had transpired here. He walked out in a daze.

As he closed the door behind him, a panel on the desktop slid sideways and the files, documents, memory cartridges and everything pertaining to Bronn Qums's caseload disappeared down a chute as though it had never been there in the first place.


He walked into his living unit three weeks later, needing a drink and a long rest. His head hurt from trying to digest everything that he and others had tried to cram it with. But the quiet rest of sitting and sipping only brought out more questions in him, so he sighed and walked to his personal terminal to begin.

He accessed everything known about the world where he was headed; sifting quickly before he bore in on Lozenjellis. He wanted to know about its inhabitants, for one thing. He started at the photos of humans of many sorts and decided that he'd better be able to fit in. Along with his 'High Agent' status, one of the powers given to him was a shape which could be changed rapidly to suit events and circumstances. He peered from one type of human to the next.

Since there was a sizable population of various sorts of humans known to the Merren as Eastern Asiatic Human, that was what he selected, since their overall appearance appealed to him as well. He looked at that middle word and then re-accessed a series of maps of Earth that he'd been looking at earlier. Reading the sidebar, he determined that many of the names had been gleaned from human maps .

Well Lozenjellis was situated in ... North America, he read. Why would a group of people -- a segment of the population be known as Asiatic? Then he nodded to himself. It must have been a point of prior origin.

With that decided at least, he accessed what he could find of one of that group's sub-cultures. He resumed his decision process for which group to pattern himself after. As he looked, he absorbed several of the prevalent languages in use there presently.

He rubbed his eyes after a few more minutes. This wasn't getting him the rest that he'd come home for, though it did a bit toward keeping his heart and mind away from his troubles for a while. Staying with the cultural angle and with the sub-group selected and it's prevalent languages (as was known to be in use in the greater Lozenjellis area at the time of the last Merren anthropological study which now provided him this study material), Bronn grazed over the type's history on the islands where they were from, originally.

He'd done it again, he told himself as he realized that he wasn't resting. He was still studying.

He accessed the human arts archives in the Merren systems and began to scan their sizable film catalog and the titles flashed past his tired eyes in a blur. Merren can gather visual data and process it very quickly and with his new abilities, he seemed to be able to do that even faster.

That was why his eyes shifted to the visual select icon to stop the scrolling to move back a little slower.

He's seen a word in a title which had given him an idea. Locating the particular film, he selected it for download and then got out of everything for the two minutes that it would take him to watch the film at Merren speed. Then he watched it again at a normal speed.

He got himself another drink and re-accessed the Merren anthropological systems, looking for material relating to that one word. He frowned, seeing that it would be a challenge to separate fiction from legend and legend from the very sparse list of known facts.

Before the great Merren Unification long ago, Grotto Dwellers had lived in, well, grottos situated in the steaming jungles which ran in a rough line along the planet's always-hot equatorial zone. The jungles themselves provided most of what was needed, but those demons were not the only predators there and though both genders are known for their speed and tenacity, there was always a substantial size difference between the sexes and the need to rear and protect their young had mandated that this type of demon stay near to their unique type of caverns. Most of the things and individuals which went there to hunt them never saw the light of the twin suns again.

But while a lone female could manage some rather remarkable techniques as she battled alone to protect herself and her young while her male was elsewhere hunting for them all, they worked far better as a team and on their own turf -- right in the dark grottoes where the rivers of steaming water ran to the great sea near the equator.

When Merren was coming together on the long and bloody road to a single world government, there had been many rulers and other who'd had aspirations to power and sought to come out on top. Perhaps the single common warrior type to find some quiet and covert work were the Grotto Dwellers later on, individuals of both genders -- some of them quite legendary in their exploits.

It was one of the few things which pieces of Merren history shared with the families of a similar type of warrior on Earth, far back during the feudal period of Japan's history.

With this in his own familial lineage, though far back, Bronn had found this common element and had his way to hide in plain sight on Earth, if needed.

He was exhausted when he decided to sleep, but he felt a little better. He'd found a way to move through the seas of humans in that city in a human-like form and also a way to confuse any Merren that he might find there. For a little while, anyway.

He hoped.

The next morning, he washed his body and looked at himself in the reflective surfaces of the room. As what he was, he supposed that he was quite ordinary and probably unremarkable. Just a young Merren male of the utilitarian classes -- the 'doers' of the society. But he'd shown promise at an early age and so he'd been selected and sent for enforcement training and that had led to investigative training and now here he was, half a decade into a career as a glorified cop.

He smirked at his reflection then. He didn't consider himself remarkable to any degree whatsoever and he didn't think that he was terribly attractive as a male. But he'd made out alright, he grinned to himself.

It led him to think of Jerrthi again and that slowed him down with a sudden pang of regret. She was the one female that he could have seen himself with for the duration. But after their last evenings together, it became very strained between them and so it had ended at her request.

It all saddened them both because from his side of it, he'd wanted to do this right and pair with her officially long ago, but she'd always held back. As what they were, it was hard enough to even find a partner who was the same kind, though it had always been possible to pair with any other of the many sorts of Merren people.

It was just that they never wanted to, that was all. Grotto Dwellers were getting rare now and their numbers were dwindling, so it was a special thing to have found another to be in love with.

The end had been a tearful one for them both. He knew that he would likely never see her again, but he knew her schedule and that she'd be up and getting ready for work, so he called.

She looked at the image in her communicator and nodded a little cautiously, "Bronn, is there an issue? I have to go to work."

"No issue," he smiled, "and I am sorry to disturb you, Jerrthi. I wanted to express my sadness about us. It's not fair. I keep thinking that we should have become official before. It might have saved us this."

Jerrthi burst into tears then.

"It would have saved nothing," she sobbed, "They'd have done this to us regardless, Bronn , even if we lived together and had young by now. They chose you and our love be dammed. I know the way that they work. My family has handed them my brothers and they died in the service of the Balance. If we had paired, they'd still take you from me and I would be a mother to young who had no father anymore. It is what I wanted to avoid.

I work for them too, Bronn. I know what they do. I watch it every day.

They made you a High Demon, didn't they?"

Bronn nodded, a little surprised that she knew this since he hadn't told anyone at all.

"They did that because the one that they're sending you for is a High Merren himself and cannot be touched by low lives like the rest of us."

She snorted angrily then, "There are only allowed to be so many High Merrens," she said, "an easily bestowed honor on one who they know can never return.

I was reluctant to begin with you officially for just this possibility. I have no wish to be in a lifelong relationship with a male and make the required emotional attachments when there is a risk that he would be taken from me in the course of his employment. I recognize the need for your occupation, but we all know that the system serves itself and I will not take a male only to have to see him pass in the service of a society which does not deserve that male's sacrifice -- especially since he would be my male and it is the same as making my own sacrifice for them. I have sacrificed enough to them. Now they want you and it does not matter what we need or want. I love you, Bronn. I have loved you for a long time.

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