Author: John McLaughlin

Proceedings of the 31st Conference on Pre-Symbiotic Human Societies, New Ashen University

“The containment hood is breached! Hello? Yes, that’s correct. There’s been a breach. Lock down the floor! I said–”

The panicked voice cut out suddenly and a static buzz settled over the room like dust. The auditorium was drenched in chill blue light from some l-orbs hovering in the canopy.

Tonight’s speaker–a modified female with hair of violet-green stripes–clicked her digipen and the holographic rendering of the research scientists retracted into the main screen. “These recently discovered video files, along with others, have served as the basis for a new research program here at the University.

“By our estimate, these records date to within five years of the first Symbiosis event. As one would expect, the individuals shown in this video were terrified of the microbe. Pre-adapted humans would have suffered a horrific death by the Caeruleum agent.” She waved the digipen laterally, inviting the next slide onscreen.

This slide depicted a hypothetical model of Symbiosis, the divine and hallowed union of human and microbe. Legend has it that a scientist at Omega base–the same location from the video records–had discovered the Sacred Strain. This strain number 7 had been the first to non-lethally colonize humans. Although considered a central story in the religious Epic, these events were now being studied via historical and scientific methods.

Zora Sithe-Yawlix cradled her glass of whiskey between thumb and forefinger, inspecting its amber tones as waves of orchestral concerto lapped against the mezzanine steps. The Gotha bar was always crowded on these nights.

Martel had acquired her vector from across the room and was already burrowing through the throngs of powerbrokers in her direction.

“Ah, Professor,” he said, scurrying up to the bar. His height barely permitted him to rest an arm. “I enjoyed your seminar.”

She made space for him to order a drink.

“Although forgive me, I seem to be unclear on one point…” He used the pause to greedily retrieve a Scotch from the bartender. “Which is the matter of the Symbiosis itself.”

“Oh, you’re in good company there,” she began. “As you know, the exact chronology of events remains obscure–despite the historic progress we’ve recently made.”

Martel raised a finger in protest but she continued, “Though we do believe, based on sequencing data, that the original mutation for co-adaptation arose in just one individual. With the adaptive advantage that Caeruleum provided its human host, overcoming even that narrow population bottleneck was not difficult.”

A grin crept across Martel’s face.

“You’ve anticipated my exact question, Professor. Does Caeruleum gift us with mind-reading abilities as well?” He laughed a bit too zealously at his own joke and took a sip of Scotch.

Zora had hardly noticed. She was imagining how the early days must have felt to those scientists–the world’s vanguard against an incomprehensible plague.

“Sadly, our unadapted ancestors could not see the world-historic implications.”

Martel betrayed a confused expression. “And exactly what is it,” he began, with just a hint of trepidation, “that they didn’t understand?”

She tabled the whiskey and met eyes with her interlocutor; crystalline blue blossoms danced circles around her iris.

“That humanity is something to be transcended.”