Day 33. 112 pages, 53,104 words.
It was widely agreed that, with the exception of the aki’Drednanth who killed with their minds – and this was a disputed fact so it didn’t really count – there were few sentient beings more dangerous than a Fergunakil alpha. The great shark commanded a school of hundreds, often thousands, and had at its cartilaginous fingertips a raw computing power that rivalled many large-scale synthetic intelligence installations. It was fuelled by an electricity-scorched psychosis capable of terrorising every other Fergunakil in its school, and was the absolute pinnacle of hundreds of millions of years of predatory evolution. Whether male or female, a Fergunakil alpha was smart, and ruthless, and tough, and murderously aggressive.
There was, however, a creature more dangerous. And that was a Fergunakil alpha that had been overthrown, but was still alive.
Almost invariably, the only way a school’s alpha could be replaced by fresh blood was by combat. Awful, threshing, physical and cyber-combat that left the victor almost as shredded as the defeated. An alpha not only had to survive the battle, but also the aftermath – when other Fergunak, proscribed from the contest and yet permitted to prey upon the injured, would churn the bloodied water and feast on anything weak or foolish enough to leave itself exposed. The overwhelming majority of challenges resulted in challenger and defender alike being slain, after which the school remained leaderless until such time as another approach produced an alpha. The Fergunak were an ancient and, despite appearances, highly-developed species, and did not depend entirely on the natural order to decide their societies’ structure.
Of the remaining few cases, the overwhelming majority of challenges resulted in the victor living and the defeated being devoured, whether the incumbent alpha continued its reign or the new challenger took over. In every case, as far back as Fergunakil memory extended – and that was an unknown but presumably vast stretch of time, given the mechanical nature of their minds – if a defending alpha was victorious, the would-be usurper was killed, and eaten.
Sometimes, however, vanishingly rarely, the new challenger would be victorious, but unable to kill the former ruler of the school. Torn, half-eaten, its cybernetic implants mangled and its connection to the school’s gridnet scrambled beyond madness, the old alpha was cast out. And yet, by dint of sheer, awful resolve and toughness, it lived. The new alpha failed to kill it, the scavenging school-members failed to kill it, and the Ocean Goddesses Themselves spat it back into the soft belly of the world.
This was the creature more dangerous than an alpha.
Deadflesh was one such scarred and ancient monster. Overthrown as alpha of the Thousand Cold Fathoms school, he was left drifting in tatters after two marauding beta males had dragged him from the crimson waters of his defeat. He’d killed them both with tooth and raw circuitry and tough, eye-gouging fingers, but had been assumed dead by the rest of the school when his gridnet link flared and vanished in a supernova of white signal. And so he had drifted, for days and then weeks, while his hideously-injured body had rotted and wasted away.
He had lived, though, and had gradually recovered at least some semblance of his bodily functions. He never worked quite properly again, but he could hunt, and feed, and above all, he could think. And very little in the great dry galaxy was as terrible as a thinking Fergunakil.
Painstakingly, unaided and in mind-burning agony, he rebuilt his own cybernetic enhancements almost from scratch. And then he set about finding more of his own kind.
He wasn’t thinking about Fergunak. He had decided that mere Fergunak were lesser beings, unworthy. They were missing something, something important. He hunted on the edges of schools, sometimes eating, sometimes maiming, sometimes dragging away specimens to experiment on. Several schools set out to put an end to him once and for all. They failed. One such school ceased to exist altogether, under circumstances the Fergunak refused to talk about.
Deadflesh became the Fergunakil equivalent of a folk hero, admired and hated in equal measure. It was the closest the great sharks came to the concept of religion, the elemental Goddess-forces of their homeworld notwithstanding. He continued to kill, and continued to linger, and he travelled the length and breadth of Six Species space, and one by one he gathered more of the most dreadful Fergunak in the galaxy around him.
If the Glorious Flawed were a school – which they weren’t – and if they had an alpha – which they didn’t – it would be Deadflesh.
I could take him, sounds like a pussy to me. Zombies are easy, I’ve seen all the variants and can kill any type.
I saw him gathering other similarly overthrown alphas coming. I was hoping that the words Gloriously Flawed were going to start with an H though.
It took me way too long to figure out what that meant. I’d say “don’t worry, I wouldn’t spoil a plot point/twist that big on the blog” … but then I realised I’d already spoiled at least two, that are at least as big. To anyone paying enough attention.
There is paying attention, and then there is attention to minutea that qualifies you for a sanitarium. But if the it’s what I think, yeah, they are sorta big.
Agreed. Although to be fair to Hatboy, he said “enough attention” which doesn’t imply that it would be right to pay that level of attention. Hatboy certainly has a great deal of pride, deserved, in his work, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that in his heart of hearts he would understand if we missed some of the spoilers.
You don’t have to face him as his hopes that people are catching all his inside jokes slowly die with each pub quiz. I have to watch that dream flicker a little dimmer everytime. It’s brutal.
I can only imagine. And yet, do you study harder, to boost his feelings the next time? Hmm…. XD
And this is why I don’t try to take his quizzes. I just tell him I would have done “rather well” and he, being a good friend, believes me. And I like to think I’m doing my part. LOL
If he hadn’t written three books for editing before the pub quiz for the published book happens. I would do better. I blame him.
Good, I can feel your anger! He is defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike him down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!
The quiz for Book 8 will not have any multiple choice. If you want points, you’re going to have to write words.
Oh absolutely. I didn’t mean that you should have caught these ones. Just that they’re here. So there’s technically precedent for Deadflesh and the Glorious Flawed to possibly be connected to the Hacticos (let’s not tiptoe around it, this has been a thing in the books for a while now). But no, they’re not the Hacticos themselves.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, since you most certainly don’t belong in a sanitarium, but these were pretty obscurely-placed spoilers so I’m at least fairly sure they’re not the ones you think (although of course I don’t always know what you’re thinking, and I’m a happier man for it). They’re not in The First Feast or Black Honey Wings, anyway. Although yeah, those stories sort of have some info in them too. I’m probably going to throw all of those into a book of short stories and release them, with a bit of minor editing. They’re canon, and the facts are straight, but they could probably use a polish.
Add this one, and call it two and a half big spoilers. Although I guess I left this one as ambiguous as the books themselves.
If the “H” is what I think it is, that never occured to me. But I gotta say, it’s a cool thought. My theory for H is a bit different, though.
I would love to see School Deadflesh in the next book.
And what two big plot spoilers?
You won’t be disappointed. This character study was by way of a sneak peek. The Glorious Flawed aren’t a huge part of the story, but they’re in it. I’ll say no more, except that they were around approximately 500 years before the main Final Fall of Man storyline.
Well I’m not going to tell you! I wasn’t saying it like I was sad you missed them – just that they are sort of here on the blog, and it’s going to be hilarious when they are revealed in the books and then y’all come back here and go OH SON OF A BITCH ALL THAT TIME AGO SERIOUSLY?