Prompt: An advance in technology limits the evolutionary potential of the human species.
Each of the eight was the first of their generation to see anything other than their domes. The domes weren’t bad homes, just limiting. For the humans, only 1400 could live inside comfortably. Luckily, the women had somehow gotten into the habit of only having twins and only having them when they were needed.
For the Horntype, only 700 hundred could fit in a dome the same size. They were much larger, slower, and dimmer, but they were smart enough to know they were trapped, and less accepting of it than the humans. They plotted, building a narrative of escape that spanned three generations under the impenetrable clear dome. Their plan existed only in whispers and in a tongue only they could understand. Those that had captured them never bothered to learn about their second language, the one in their mind with messages that could go dormant and hibernate until a compatible mind appeared.
For the Aquatique, only 1,000. Their dome was filled with water, which meant they could easily swim to the top of it and see the edges of the other domes. They also saw the body of the ship, a ship as big as any of their home planets. There was no way out. Even if there was, it had its own gravity to reclaim you.
For the Doh-ten, only 1200
For the Ranshecks, only 2000
Each species had been claimed in these numbers, scooped from their homes by gentle but exacting light, and placed in the domes. From there they were given no further information. There they resided, for a full five generations in some cases. The Horntypes stored their invisible plan. The Aquatique mapped as best they could. The humans grew fat and happy with all the free food growing from the perfect soil in the dome.
Eventually their captors returned, after all the original memories of them had withered and died at least once. They didn’t show their faces; they did everything through robotic avatars with flexible blue and white faces they used to match whatever expressions were called for by the species they interacted with.
One hundred robots came into the human dome, silently and in darkness, and claimed one adolescent: a male. He was the one who always ran around the edge of the dome, keeping himself free of the obesity that plagued his parents and people. His body was a sculpture, even compared to the sleek robots, and that was why he was chosen.
The rubbery blue mask over his eyes and down his throat was only pulled away once all the robots were safely tucked in hidden compartments. The young male jumped to his feet. He’d never seen any other place. This one seemed worse than the dome, but anything new was an improvement to him. Wihtout thinking, he began to run around the chamber’s curved sides. He’d always had this thought, that, at some point, the walls would have to become something else. They couldn’t stand as long as he could run.
The other seven eventually woke as well, and rose. They were greeted by a blank oblong chamber with a roof looking out onto a gas giant and ten million stars. They heard the human male as he ran by, paying little attention to the others. They were caged as well. They didn’t matter. Only the things that could go outside mattered to him.
The walls were blank, but not for long. Tiny spots of green appeared and grew. The trail followed the human, sprouting grass as he ran. Trees after that. Flora belonging to the other seven sprung up beneath them. Grasses and tubers of red, purple, yellow, and brown joined in until the chamber was a collage of alien forests. From there, unseen nozzles emitted a white fog.
Some tried to avoid breathing it, or absorbing it through their skin, but there were no corners to hide in. The gas hit them, and then it hit their minds. Their captors used it to deliver the information they’d hidden so long. It came to them in shocking painful flashes, like buckets of ice water thrown on their earliest swaddled memories.
They were the raw material for building the perfect soldiers. Each of them had positive qualities, but the perfect combination had to be found. First, they had to rid each species of its non-coding material and the genetic remains of retroviruses from their diseased histories. That took generations of stalling therapy. Though it was impossible to see in so few generations, they had been stalled. Natural selection and even most of their random mutations had been capped by the silent invisible therapy. They could’ve spent an eternity in those domes, always being and being born, but never growing, shrinking, or changing.
Once the clay was cleansed of grit, it was time blend the colors and see what they could produce. There was another flash and all the robots returned. This time they brought weapons: blades, electric prods, razor nets… The eight did everything they could to defend themselves. The Horntype had only his central horn to charge them with. The Aquatique had only the weak slap of her tail.
The human ignored them and kept running, but something was off. His feet were changing. Webbing appeared between his toes, and he tripped over his own feet. He stared in horror, with eyes adjusting in size, as his body became something else. It happened to all of them. The fog was the key, passing genetic material back and forth between them. While they fought, the unblinking eyes of the machines analyzed the data. Soon they would find the perfect combination, the perfect creature to breed into a swarm that could overtake the stars for their masters.
The human couldn’t run. He couldn’t even call himself a human anymore. He wanted to fight, but he had no idea how to use the undulating form his body had taken. They would’ve all succumbed eventually, and the machines and their rulers would have their precious data, if not for the plan of the Horntype. The messages they’d stored in their kin, every bit of information they’d gleaned, passed through the fog as well and made a new home, alive and fiery, in the eight of them.
The knowledge shined like lighthouses in the fog, straight from their eyes. They couldn’t do anything because they were scared, confused, and alone, except they weren’t alone at all. They were closer than any two species were ever meant to be. They had to embrace it. The best vessel was the most flexible: the human.
They all called out with their bodies and minds, wills moving through the fog in the biochemical words of the Horntype. The human had to accept. He didn’t want it. He wanted to run. Only now did he realize that he wanted to do it fruitlessly. He wanted to struggle against a wall for all time. Yet, that ability had been taken. His family couldn’t adapt. They couldn’t mutate. Their existence was obedience as long as they were in the dome.
If he wanted his natural struggle, the impossible one with no overseer, he needed to cooperate. He hissed, hearing his lungs compartmentalize and change even as he did. Fine. Just this once. The human would be understanding. He let it all in. He let them all give their best. He took the orange horn of the Horntype and charged with it. He took the slimy coating of the Aquatique and used it to escape the robot’s grasp.
He took the hidden muscular powers of the Ontoggen. Combined with the others, he burst through the wall and into the sterile ship. The fog poured out. The instant jungle went with it, a tide of plants across the ship’s interior. The eight came forth, wreaking havoc on the ship’s systems. They had no idea what it would look like in a few hours, who would have what body and what memories, but they would all know they were free.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by logantrundle during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!