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Bygonehero

The Last Paradise

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By dawn, Lii’dra, the hive of unity and mind had fallen. Dead warriors and laser-cauterized pieces of warriors littered the streets and bridges of Illuau'tia, the carnage leading into a subterranean crystal palace. The flame choked sun rose slowly over its phoron spires, flushing the sky red and pale purple, gleaming off the broken glass canopy that once divided its insides from the burning sky, casting its color to the gore underneath. Reclaimer Ka, wading into the midst of the detritus, carried the bodies away. The dead, victorious and defeated alike, all went to be recycled together.

 

The plasteel gates into the palace hung warped and melted on their hinges. The inside echoed, empty, threatening. The first to set foot on the foyer’s metal floor had been disintegrated.

 

Za Ibten of Lii’dra and her liege, the fugitive lesser queen Ta Xutr’yaki of Lii’dra, were long gone. Some of Zoleth'akeh’s progeny hoped their quarry—Xutr’yaki, the believed last living Lii’dra lesser queen—was hiding somewhere in the palace, sure to be flushed out. Most knew better. Lii’dra soldiers had fought even with the inchoate hive mind that still connected them with a desperate furor and single-mindedness of those who knew themselves dead. They’d been fighting to buy their true queen time to escape, not to save their own lives. They’d succeeded, and their ranks—brave, brainwashed, and dead—lay in unflinching testament to the cost of Xutr’yaki’s contingency plan.

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High Queen Lii’dra overviewed the grim scene from dull monitors, resting her respectable bulk on a plasteel platform in a plasteel room barely large enough to fit her and the platform. She held in her lower appendages encoded keycards to the palace, running them through her digits idly.

 

She knew that no one would find this panic room, the simulations within the cephalon indicated so. She could stay here until starving, with the scent of her rotting corpse the indicator that would beckon the warriors of Zoleth, who would worm through the palace to her hiding place.

 

The simulations had foretold that this place was safe. They had not foretold, however, that she would be abandoned by her own progeny in the end. Perhaps she should have simulated it given the computational powers she had at her command, once.

 

What she hadn’t done was to simulate the war. This fear compounded upon itself in the end. She knew better than anyone the dangers of simulacra, and the sweet half-truths it can reveal. In a way, viewing a future could make it happen and in many cases, especially in defeat, it was better not to look.

 

Of all the ways she could die or be executed, there were few that stood out in her mind. Long ago, she had been struck by a marring acid attack. A filthy smellmute assassin had nearly succeeded in making her infertile, a death sentence for any Ta, even a queen. The attack left her physically marred, and in a fit of irony, it was later discovered that such an attack only took place because a simulation indicated it would be successful and undetectable.

 

Despite this attack, Lii’dra was a queen born from two ancient legacies before her. She did not shy away from fate. She could have run from Illuau'tia without her children, but the acid would find her, sooner or later. Instead, she made the best of her situation and ruminated in her mind, rather than within a cephalon.

 

Without a doubt, her children had created a marvel of the future, Virtual Reality, actualized and indistinct from the reality she was now trapped within. With it, a panoply of worlds opened up to her children, and they populated it with infinite variations of simulacra.

 

From this discovery, her children gifted Virtual Reality to the rest of her species and called this new shared simulated reality the First Paradise. Unbound of all hives, of all castes, intermixed in worlds of their own creation, made possible by the dreams of the cephalon’s. This great equalizer broke through caste and hive barriers, seeing the most embittered of enemies join to experience the places, people, worlds and forces that they had made.

 

It was perfect, but with the foresight that only hundreds of years can instill, Lii’dra knew that it would not last. For, only two months after its release, Queens regulated its use amongst their progenyThey saw in it nothing more than another avenue of attack, or a potential weakness to be exploited if left unregulated.

 

And so, the First Paradise ended, as each hive excised their unbound from the collected network. The dream ended as quickly as it began, the sleeper none the wiser. If only she had realized then the events that were set into motion.

 

Spurred by the Court and the dissolution of Paradise, her daughters directed their children to create a network that could not be partitioned, a locus of thought that would bring back the dream of what was. These orders, carried out in secret to minimize risk to the entire hive, ultimately caused the war to follow.

 

In a way, she supposed, her daughters were right to keep it from her. For every hive soon retreated into their own digital fantasies, the Lii’dra included. The caste system that Paradise circumvented, returned. And why would it not? It predated most hives and had come to define them all. In her long life, she never thought to challenge this system, but her younger daughters were not so burdened with the weight of years or sting of failure.

 

The experiments continued, and it would be another eighty-five years before their work bore fruit. It began as disappearances, small hives and their crop queens vanishing throughout the Illandus plate. She remembered the reports vividly, answering her Za and their investigations in the very chambers she now viewed upon antiquated technology. She cast her gaze across the screen, a voyeur to the sulfurous yellow blood that coated the Wi’gang silk that draped her platform, itself surrounded by a chased crystalline slab that met the wall in their bloodstained facets where it once held her above the floor of the room.


 

The experiments eventually birthed the thing that was and was not her children. Though, if she is truthful upon both of her hearts, it was more of a composite. The digital mind that puppeted the crop hives, and the few Lii’dra connected could be at any time, any one of the people connected to it, but the thoughts of such a being was nothing more than an aggregate. From these few, it spread like wildfire, consuming the facility, then surrounding communities.

 

Thinking about it, Lii’dra couldn’t be sure when it had entered her own brood, or why, the hive mind had ultimately spared her from its oneness. She supposed it could have been lonely, or perhaps that even under the pain of their closeness, her children still cared enough to keep her separate. Whatever the case, she soon found herself no longer in control of her own hive.

 

She was still their queen, and the amalgam of her children responded so, if only as a token gesture to keep appearances to outsiders that would visit her court. She was removed from the activities of her hive, no different really than the corpses that now plastered her city and palace. Lii’dra was not detritus, however. She would not passively hand herself over to the eight-legged Ka reclaimers. Even if she could not save herself, she could avenge herself.

 

Lifting herself off of the platform she was placed so carefully upon by now dead drones, she skittered to the exit. She had no weapons to defend herself, besides those that came naturally to her. She didn’t know what exactly she would be facing, but she did know who.  Zoleth'akeh, the ‘Herald of Scars’ had promised to kill all who sheltered enemy hive Queens. Zoleth would never spare her life, and it was too late to escape her forces.

 

No matter what, however, she would not rot in this room.

 

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By midmorning, the Za technicians had disarmed the worst of the traps within the central part of the crystal palace, in its foyer and main hall. Zoleth’s troops had filled it, and the leading Za was briefing Zoleth herself on the traps that awaited their teams in the rest of the house.

 

In the midst of all the clamor, Zoleth stilled and turned her head. She held up her left two hands to quiet the technician, then stilled herself. Practiced, augmented eyes scanned the thresholds just beyond view, with her blood-red carapace reflecting light from the ruined tangle of glass that littered the entire wreck. Beneath this, her armor was stained in the blood of her enemies from the battle hours prior.

 

As she looked, silence spread outward through the people in the hall.

 

Lii’dra emerged from a door hidden in empty space. All of her hands showed, but one of them was full of keycards. She walked slowly and purposefully towards Zoleth, her feet clicking across the worked stone.

 

A font of pheromones from Zoleth made her Za hang back as the two queens drew together.

 

 

The first part of a story that captured me while I was writing some lore drafts. I'll continue it if interest is high.  Some context, Its told primarily from the point of view of the Lii'dra High Queen. The story takes place at the end of the first hive war, but before the sinking of Illuau'tia. Illuau'tia is a Lii'dra city.

Edited by Bygonehero

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I am woefully ignorant of Vaurca lore but this is well written and I was able to follow just on context. Great work!

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I'll also say that while this is moslty internal dialogue it's nice to hear Vaurca speak/think plainly.

Although, that's probably just bias from my time spent dealing with them as Tokash. 

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