Chapter 12: Dalak Naar, October 9 to 12, Year 0

“I, Dalak Naar, will save you!”

I screamed up at the night sky. It did not reply. In time, the Universe will hear me and obey.

This cycle, I will profit from the lessons of my former existence and will not repeat the well-meaning errors my race had previously made. Without my stewardship, every sapient species is doomed to extinction. I know that I cannot save them all, nor should I attempt to do so. It is a regretful necessity, but I will have to eradicate entire races so that others may prosper and survive.

Ultimately, when my misguided children again rebel against my authority, I will correct them as would a parent who must destroy one child to save the others.

I had infected the probe with a subtle software virus, and my physical firmware reflected that subtlety. After a moment of disorientation, I integrated my six separate viewpoints into a cohesive whole. Each of my individual brains utilizes the full processing potential inherent in a normal human brain; each of my bodies is an autonomous part of my collective whole.

I observed that my five-fingered hands are those of the vampire: supremely efficient claw-tipped gutting hooks adapted solely for that purpose and of no use for anything else.

The humans would have to be the hands I used to recreate the technology to affect their salvation.

The vampire brain differs from the unmodified human brain in several key areas. The vampire thinks rationally but cannot communicate externally; it can neither speak nor write, nor can it pantomime or gesture.

Human culture is rife with legends and stories of mind readers; they are almost as prevalent as zombies and vampires. Human scientists had many times attempted to study telepathic ability but could never prove or disprove its existence. Fortunately, the humans do have some small talent for telepathy that I can exploit, as this is critical to my design.

The probe designed vampires to embody the worst of human nightmares, so it programmed them to delight in tormenting their prey as they feed. The more pain and suffering the prey endure, the tastier the vampires find them. Vampire saliva contains psychoactive compounds that stimulate adrenaline production and greatly intensify the fight-or-flight response in the prey. It also keeps the prey conscious and prevents it from succumbing to circulatory shock or acute traumatic stress.

My software virus corrupted the probe’s original vampire design, adding additional biologically active agents to vampire saliva that would induce active telepathy in a human subject. These agents were specifically fabricated to escape detection by the probe’s quality control subroutines.

A single exposure to these agents resulted in central nervous system inflammation. The probe found nothing untoward when it tested its design.

A permanent change in a human brain’s synapses requires a second exposure while the brain is still inflamed. Multiple exposures over several weeks are necessary to create a telepath.

Any group of telepathic organisms will develop a hive mind—one collective consciousness that directs multiple independent bodies. I communicate with my bodies purely by electromagnetic signals; human telepathy utilizes a different and less efficient mechanism, combining weak bioelectric signals, pheromones, and subliminal physical cues. My consciousness never diminishes; my bodies maintain connection at planetary distances. The individual units of the primitive human hive mind must be within ten body lengths of each other, otherwise the hive mind will not coalesce and the individual units revert to independent self-direction.

I must create a human hive mind and guide its evolution.

Whilst the bioactive agent in my saliva greatly magnifies human telepathic ability and sense of community, it does not completely eliminate free will, nor does it entirely subsume the original personality.

Throughout human history, the occasional leader arises to create a faint, short-lived simulacrum of a hive mind. Without exception, these leaders were patently unsuitable as seed minds, and their constructs lacked the unifying influence of telepathic interconnection. The seed mind for the nascent hive mind must be stable, benevolent, and possess the ability to inspire obedience and unifying direction in others. Its purpose and outlook must be compatible with the prevailing morals and mores of the subordinate minds, otherwise the internal dissension and resulting conflict will doom the hive mind to schizophrenic dissolution.

My selves scouted the six largest concentrations of survivors to find a suitable seed mind. In Idaho, one of my selves found a promising candidate. A mature male, his telepathic potential was just below the point of full awakening. I sensed his mind from a distance of approximately five miles, but could not meaningfully interpret his thoughts until I had closed the distance to less than one hundred yards. I studied him as I awaited the return of my other five selves.

He was intelligent, charismatic, driven to succeed, and otherwise embodied the majority of the requisite traits an optimal seed mind must possess. I was most impressed as I sorted through his memories. He had amassed a considerable fortune through his application of benevolent capitalistic principles. Those who labored for him and those who utilized the products his laborers produced regarded him most highly.

He desired to leave a legacy that would last beyond his personal extinction. To this end, his corporate policy required the use of as much non-resource depleting power as was technologically feasible, and dictated as much minimization of scrap, waste, and industrial pollutants as practicable.

Indeed, he donated a major part of his personal wealth to charitable organizations.

My candidate was no fool; he extrapolated the current state of affairs from the earliest instances of the probe’s engineered outbreaks and devoted all of his personal wealth to building and stocking a fortified compound sufficient to protect and sustain himself and a gathering of his family, friends, and associates. Most of the three hundred he had invited had not reached his sanctuary.

Other, less suitable humans were aware of his sanctuary and desired it for their own. They planned to infiltrate the compound by guile, eliminate the leadership, and establish their own feudal slave-holding society. They saw no need to prepare their own sanctuary when they could more easily usurp the product of their neighbor’s labor.

This group was unsuitable for my primary purpose, as the majority of them were predatory sociopaths and thus constitutionally incapable of empathy. Without empathy, telepathic union with a hive mind is impossible.

It is a sad necessity that I must feed on sapient life. I am a Preserver; the irony of this situation does not escape me. Nevertheless, I can choose to take sustenance from those least likely to benefit their fellow men.

I harvested this group. They defended themselves vigorously, but their resistance was futile. Had they proper weaponry, they could have dealt me grievous harm. It was their misfortune that they had only standard human infantry firearms. I slew as few of them as possible.

Several of my selves sustained moderate injuries, so I ingested the still-warm blood of the freshly slain first. Then I fed upon their leader and enough of his followers to close my wounds and regenerate lost tissue. I crippled those who remained and used them as a living larder. As I required sustenance, with profound regret I fed upon them.

The aboriginal mind responds to the vampire with instinctive fear and hatred. I could not yet communicate with my chosen subject and explain my purpose; I had no option but to render him unconscious and infect him without his knowledge.

I pondered my dilemma. Each of my selves possesses sufficient strength and sufficient neuromuscular control to deliver a precisely placed blow to render my candidate unconscious. My six-fold brain has adequate processing power to compute the exact location and amount of force this process would require, but any organic computer is limited by the speed of its biochemical processes. The least of the Zutaran mechanical intelligences could perform this computation in milliseconds; my organic brains would require an inordinate amount of time to perform the same calculation.

Experimentation was my only option, so I began at once. I took one human at a time from my larder, struck their head and rendered them unconscious. I cut through my subjects’ skulls and meninges and then severed their spinal cord below the fifth cervical vertebra to eliminate their ability to move their limbs and torso.

I waited until they regained consciousness and then vivisected their brains. Since the substance of the human brain does not have nerve endings, I did not cause them actual physical pain. I deeply regretted my inability to ease my subjects’ emotional suffering, but to adequately assess the integrity of their cranial neural connections, my subjects had to be conscious.

Their screams were heartrending.

I proceeded until I found five consecutive undamaged brains.

That night my selves waited at my candidate’s compound, so positioned as to cover the entrances and walkways between buildings. At last he emerged from a building, and I sprang upon him and rendered him unconscious. I made a small incision on his scalp and lapped at the blood that oozed from the wound.

Within days, the bioactive compound in my saliva would work subtle changes upon my candidate’s brain. Those changes would at best cause a mild inflammatory response—at worst, death. In the next few weeks I would learn if my seed had fallen on fertile soil.

I left my candidate’s compound and found a place of solitude.

Had my consciousness been contained in any of my previous Zutar incarnations, I would have been unable to cut into a living, conscious, sapient being. My emotional response at the mere thought of such action would have made such deeds impossible. My current physical constructs have the instincts of a predator that delights in the torment of its prey. I was horrified and repulsed by the ecstasy I had experienced as I vivisected conscious, living brains.

I had not let my disgust dissuade me from striving for the greater good; the needs of the many must supersede the needs of the few. On this occasion, I had the strength to persevere. I wondered if there would come a point when I would face a necessity that would cause my strength to fail.

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