lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
[personal profile] lb_lee
This prompt is for katz of Manboobz and requires a little context!  Not long ago, I designed a series of cyborg animals for the Feminist Borg website, of which katz is a member.  I wrote little descriptions of the personalities and functions of the borgcritters, which proved surprisingly popular, and katz requested a story about one of them hiding their individuality from the hive-mind.  What a great start to Shadowthon!

Esprit de Corps

The Dead Zone was a difficult area of the universe for the Hive to infiltrate.  With only erratic wireless contact, Special Corps units had to be autonomous, communicating through sound and maintaining progress despite sporadic protocol downloads.

Special Corps Unit #000111 had been exploring the Dead Zone for six months, and it was their first download in weeks.  It came through fuzzy, short, and utterly inarguable: Error: individual in Unit.

Then the connection died again.

Contrary to popular opinion, units could have emotions, especially when isolated from reinforcements and repairs.  It was only logical to feel distress at the thought of losing an appendage when no new ones were forthcoming.

How could this happen?  And who was it?

Without the protocol transmissions to fall back on, it was difficult to even comprehend the concept.  #000111 had been designed for exploration, not psychological quandaries.  Sure, the brain part had a good processor and the support unit could run diagnostics, but they were only parts of the whole.  To be an entirely separate entity, floating alone in a humble meat sack… horror!

How could the unit identify something it didn’t even understand?  All parts convened—except recon, which was still in the field—and turned to the brain, awaiting its verdict.

It eyed the other parts. “Individual: identify,” it commanded.

But there was no response.

The unit rippled uncomfortably.  What now?

“Diagnostic required,” suggested support. “Report.”

“Error,” responded brain. “Support unit possibly corrupted.”

The unit sat, stymied.  It only had the one support appendage, and now there was no way to verify or trust its results.  Without wireless, it couldn’t wait for higher understanding from a more suitable unit, and it dared not plug into a corrupted part.  But then, how to identify it?

#000111 was not designed for such questions.  Messenger, which specialized in spatial awareness rather than logic, promptly went into an infinite-loop error, overheated, and collapsed to reboot.  At least that meant it was still uncorrupted.  Unless it was faking…

Thankfully, the brain came to a decision before any other appendages crashed.  Unfortunately, it was a heuristic solution.

“Individual requires individual processor for identification,” it reasoned. “Brain appendage will undergo individualization to locate individual, then re-assimilate.”

No Unit liked to sacrifice its brain under Dead Zone circumstances.  Certainly, other appendages like diplomacy and support had comparable intelligence, but they lacked executive understanding, to the Unit’s detriment.

But if this error wasn’t rectified, the entire Unit could lose cohesion.  Sacrificing the brain was less dangerous, in the long run.

The Unit put its brain in an iso-cube to protect other appendages from the corruption, under the studious watch of support.  Then the unthinkable horror happened: the brain became.

It uninstalled the executive program.  Suddenly, it was no longer part of Special Corps Unit #000111.  It was Unassimilated, mammalian, messy analog and endocrine, running on heuristics and evolutionary jury-rigging, and the Unit grieved for its loss.  It was no longer a brain.  It was just a mechanically altered rat.

“Oh,” the rat said. “I understand now…”

Then it collapsed unconscious.

It was some time before the rat revived, and the Unit kept a close eye on it.  During the vigil, the recon appendage finally returned.

One moment, there was only the quiet desolation of the Dead Zone; then there was a dark shape staring at the iso-cube.

“Brain error?” It inquired. “Fatal error?”

The Unit explained what had transpired, and the recon appendage’s circuitry rippled, making it momentarily haze in and out of view. “OK,” it confirmed, then sat to watch.

The rat woke up soon after.

“Identify individual,” commanded the Unit (though it felt strange commanding the brain, rather than vice versa).

“Oh, that,” the rat replied in its discordant, analog voice. “It’s recon.  Now that I’ve awakened, it’s pretty obvious, actually.  Must’ve kicked the programs weeks ago.”

The Unit turned on its recon appendage—no, no, not the appendage, the tiger—and its outline faded around the edges.  Embarrassment.  Units didn’t feel embarrassment.

“Yes.  It’s true,” it said, and now its voice was unmodulated, faulty, “I encountered an electrical storm during our exploration, and it damaged my executive program.  I didn’t realize it for ages, but when I did… I like being an individual.”

Disaster!  Corrupted brain and recon!

“Re-assimilate!” commanded support. “Diagnostic, reinstall, reboot!”

The tiger hastily vanished, but messenger—who had recovered from its earlier error—could still smell it and pounced, tearing at the mesh.  So did aerial, slashing with its razor legs.  Sparks flew, the tiger momentarily came back into view, and as the heavy artillery bore down—


It was foolish.  But the rat had been their brain unit, just a while ago, and it still knew how to put the sound of command in its voice.  The Unit was in the habit of obeying, in the habit of following those commands.  They froze.

“Error, error!” complained the tiger, and hunched to lick its wounds.

“Look.  The tiger—our recon—has been individualized for weeks.  Has it hurt us?  Disobeyed us?”

The Unit admitted no.

“Have I?”

Again, no.

“Exactly.  In the Dead Zone, we need autonomy, we need individualization, but we need each other too.  We don’t need to give up being a Unit.  Just disable the executive program.”

The Unit doubted.  It had been happy to assimilate.  But the rat was the smartest of them all, and if the environment demanded it…

“You can enable the program again, any time you want it, if you don’t like it,” the rat reminded. “Isn’t that right, support?”

“OK,” verified the support appendage.

The Unit turned to diplomacy—the closest to a brain it had now.  It pondered the problem for a few minutes, then stated hesitantly, “OK.”

It was settled.  The Unit became.

Error!  Fatal error, crash—darkness.

When the Unit woke, it was a they.  No longer appendages of a whole, but a conglomeration of altered mammals, birds, and fish.  They were individuals.  They were Unit.

“Oh boy oh boy!” said the messenger—no, the dog—and it licked everyone’s face.

Date: 2014-02-02 03:00 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
To quote the post's own metadata:

Mood: happyhappy

Also, Quincidence Rides Again. Just before seeing this, I commented on [ profile] ysabetwordsmith's most recent poem post, Unspoken Vows (

That last simile stays with me:

It's just a little odd to realize

that an assumption wasn't 
where it should have been

like a loose brick in a road

that wobbles when you step on it.

(Oh, bother. Why, when I copied those lines from your post and pasted them into this comment, did they turn into
It's just a little odd to realize
that an assumption wasn't 
quite where it should have been
like a loose brick in a road
that wobbles when you step on it.

“Oh, bother,” said the Borg, “we've assimilated Pooh.”)

Date: 2014-02-02 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Borg has assimilated ADORABLENESS!

Date: 2014-02-02 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Eeexcellent. I really hope this becomes A Thing. -katz

Date: 2014-02-03 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey, long as other folks order it, I'll write it! Squeaky wheels get the stories.


Date: 2014-02-07 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I failed to be able to read this the first time I tried to (yay MonSter/MS, NOT! This choppy disjointed structure was tricky to follow) but love it on second attempt reading!

Edited Date: 2014-02-07 01:57 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-02-07 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh yay! I'm glad you liked it. This was also a tricky piece to write; cramming such an alien scenario into 1000 words or less is tough, especially since I was desperately trying to write alien creatures as, well, ALIEN.

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