Apex - Prologue

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Author's note: This was a story that the good folks over at @Oorah originally requested last year I write for an issue of Tevun-Krus, their monthly e-zine. It explores evolution and survival of the fittest in a multi-verse situation. Another one of my 'what if' storylines from my 'Alterverse' portfolio, with the usual bloodsword treatment, of course. I hope you enjoy.

The lab was unusually quiet as a handful of white cloaked individuals worked on solitary tasks. So quiet, it was jarring when a soft alert began to sound by the bank of maturation tanks set up along the lab's back wall. Hooded heads came up to look expectantly at the banks even as a newcomer burst into the lab, clearly excited.

"Finally they are ready, Chhon," it exclaimed in a low, gravelly voice, coming to a halt in front of the three meter tall tanks, each shielded and shaded so their contents were only vaguely visible. "Have their neurological networks come online?"

A cloaked figure standing at a control panel close to the tanks, turned to peer at a number of monitors filled with dancing data.

"Their networks are coming online now, professor," the figure replied in a softer, yet still rough voice. "Synchronizing their engram patterns and initializing their personality data transfers," it went on to say as it turned back to the control panel to make a number of adjustments. "Transfer rates are well within your predicted parameters, sir."

"Ha! Outstanding, simply outstanding!" the newcomer declared, rubbing gloved hands together in eager anticipation. "Three decades of work coming to fruition, Chhon. Thirty years! My only regret is that it took so long."

"The Academy of Science will grant you their highest accolade for this, professor," the figure the newcomer named 'Chhon' said as it turned back to the tanks.

"You know I care little for such things, Chhon," the professor immediately retorted. "I only seek knowledge." It held out its hands towards the tanks. "Can you imagine what knowledge these creatures will bring to us? The pinnacle of evolution in each of their alternate time streams, coming to dominate not only our shared home world, but much of their local space as well." It slowly shook it's head in astonishment.

"To think their existence depended so much on a sequence of seemingly random events, each acting to remove our ancestors from the evolutionary canvas to paint a whole new history with a previously unknown palette of genetic and evolutionary colors."

"Your work with the Probability Engine was groundbreaking, professor," Chhon said, looking over at it. "Without your uncovering of the alternate time streams, we wouldn't have known they even existed."

The professor was about to respond when a loud klaxon sounded.

"What?" The professor, along with everyone else in the lab, looked around wildly. "Intruder alert?"

Then the door to the lab was bursting open to let several troopers in dark green armor come through, weapons held high.

"Professor Trahd," one said, a flash of silver on its chest marking it as an officer. "With the authority granted by General Order Five, I hereby arrest you and your co-conspirators for participating in scientific studies deemed harmful to the political and economic well-being of the Therapsid State."

"This is outrageous!" Trahd declared as a pair of troopers locked it's hands behind it with manacles, even as the others in the lab were rounded up. "I've never heard of General Order Five! My research is sanctioned by the Academy of Science."

"Which, as of twenty minutes ago, has been disbanded by the central government," the officer quickly pointed out as Chhon and the other white garbed lab workers were also manacled.

"The Academy has continuously existed for over 10,000 years!" Trahd cried as the troopers began pushing it towards the door. "The central government doesn't have the authority, ..."

"They do, and they have," the officer interrupted to say before looking at an underling. "Get them over to the south detention center for processing. And get the technocrons in here to gather up the research and equipment."

"At once, commander," the addressed figure in green replied before it began speaking into a communications device.

"I have living research subjects," Trahd shouted as the armored figures tried pushing it out the door. "You can't just throw them into a technocron stasis pod."

"Don't worry, professor," the commander said, motioning for the troopers to take it away before turning to look at the bank of maturation tanks. From it's position, it could see the shadowy shapes within the tanks begin to move on their own.

"The central government has plans for your research subjects!"

****

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