Waking up alone in a brightly-lit room is never any fun. It’s even less fun when you can’t remember who you are, or even what you are.

After taking a quick mental inventory and a look around, our protagonist was able to remember objects and things, but no events, but after paging the doctor (in a completely unfamiliar voice), we learn the name (Juni Melrose) and rank (Organeer, first class), and that there was some sort of incident which left Juni in this state of place and mind. However, before the doctor could explain things, Agent Sam Roarke stormed in, taking Juni away.

Juni soon learned many important facts: the setting (Unity, a large, cylindrical, artificial habitat, spinning through space to simulate gravity), the fact Sam was, in fact, a friend of some sort, and the fact that Juni was a neutrois — lacking in gender, or at least preferring to be referred without such. [Editor’s note: their native language, Hiero, has separate pronouns for non- and dual-gendered sapients; for the purpose of the English translation, however, Juni is referred to as “it.”]

Sam brought Juni home and left it alone for some time, to give it time to readjust. There was quite a bit to readjust to — it soon discovered that Sam was not just a friend, but its partner.

Juni took a nap, and soon awoke to find Sam next to it. They decided to go out for some dinner; they arrived either significantly earlier or significantly later than most diners, but either way, they were soon confronted by Kali Rosha, a reporter for the Southern Daily Axis. Given the stressful situation, Sam sent the chromamorphic busybody off under threat of violence.

Now alone in the restaurant, Sam explained some of their background to Juni; it is a rarity for a “spadetail” (a slang term for Juni’s species, more properly referred to as “Kayohash”) to be a “nullo,” and in fact this was at odds with its species' reputation, as it was implicated in some sort of sex scandal, which the press gave up on when they decided Juni’s asexuality was genuine. Meanwhile, Sam explained that he and Juni had known each other since adolescence (a fact which filled Juni with a memory of school, albeit set in an early-21st-century Earth building), and both being a bit strange in the gender department they hit it off well.

Soon after, Sam brought a rather drunk Juni home. Juni quickly fell to sleep, while Sam had a fairly ominous conversation.

The next day, Juni awoke with Sam cuddling with it in bed. Juni being on leave from its duties, Sam and Juni decided to head to a nearby beach; along the way, Sam attempted to reintroduce it to its surroundings. Along the way, Juni noticed a “scent” corresponding to the sound of a minor asteroid impact on Unity’s hull — which surprised Sam, as the sound would have been completely inaudible. Juni insisted on returning to duty, but Sam instead called Tamu Haring, Juni’s superior officer, who said that everything was under control.

Staring off into the distance, Sam explained a bit more about Juni’s role, being one of eight scientists reporting directly to Tamu, and the only one of whom is paranoid enough to have a full-time bodyguard. Apparently this paranoia was well-founded, as part of the incident which left it without memory involved an assassination attempt (a fact previously alluded to by Kali Rosha); after Sam refused to go into more detail, Juni stormed off for home alone.

Upon returning home, Juni found some data sheets displaying images of it and Sam — or rather, images which gave the impression that Juni’s association with Sam was fabricated. Alarmed by this, Juni decided to seek help from the only person who it knew who would be able to help: the reporter Kali Rosha.

With the promise of an exclusive news story, Kali was more than happy to sacrifice editorial control to Juni and to help it determine the origin of the images. Perplexed by Juni’s apparent lack of technical knowledge, Kali showed Juni that in fact the images were doctored to make it only appear as if Juni’s relationship with Sam was faked, and wondered if Juni might have been perpetrating some trick on Kali. In order to appease Kali, Juni took it to a bar and explained its memory loss. Kali admitted that this may have put Juni in danger from a tricky situation, and Juni went home to find Sam waiting for it.

Upon learning that Sam (or one of his associates) had been spying on Juni and was aware of its meeting with Kali, Juni grew angry and defensive, at which time Sam used a trigger to knock Juni unconscious.

Awakening once again in the hospital, Juni decided to skip the formality of dealing with the doctor, and instead immediately asked for Sam to bring it home. He did so, and explained the safety protocol which he used to knock Juni out. In explaining, he accidentally activated the protocol again, knocking Juni out another time.

Juni awoke in another room, Sam by its side, and a strange, mechanical voice in its head (which sounded much like its innermost thoughts), speaking gibberish, which seemed to come from the computer across the room. Sam explained that the computer was running a neural simulation of Juni from after an experiment with a neural implant which left Juni “a teeny bit psychotic,” with the hope that this simulation could be used to reconstruct Juni’s memories, which Tamu had wiped. Unfortunately, this explanation was drowned out by Juni’s perception of the computer’s random chatter, which Sam interpreted as Juni having another episode.

While sitting in the hallway, Juni had the realization that it was hearing its own innermost thoughts, but distorted, and dashed into the simulation room, locking Sam out (and injuring its tail in the process). It and the computer had the same self-deprecating thought simultaneously, further reinforcing Juni’s belief in its theory — that its innermost thoughts were actually being generated by this simulation.

However, the simulation didn’t believe that Juni was the actual Juni, and required proof, which Juni provided, by reflexively completing one of its personal jokes, “The square root of love is happiness.”

Juni shared its theory with the simulation, which stated that its “voice” was simply the same as Juni’s own subconscious, which everybody has. It then realized that Juni had been hearing its words without assistance of any sort of electronic translator, and tested the extent of this ability.

Coming to realize that the flesh-and-blood Juni was for real, the simulation realized that everything Tamu had told it — that it was simply a disposable simulation and that it would be shut down eventually — left it in a state of emotional distress, which caused Juni to black out, but not before seeing a faint visual manifestation of the simulation’s “self.”

Juni awoke naked in a psychologist’s study.

Waking up in Tamu’s office — and Juni did guess that it was Tamu — gave Juni cause for concern. Apparently, Sam had gotten back into the room in time to record the tangible end of Juni’s conversation, and although Juni had blacked out, it had remained quite conscious, although not lucid. Whatever Juni had done with its clothing, it apparently had to be disposed of in some manner.

Meanwhile, Sam had fetched Juni some formalwear for a somewhat verbose lecture being given by Juni’s colleagues, Chandra and Kandra Corentin, who had been doing research on an ancient Homin (human) artifact — a large information repository of some sort — retrieved from Juni’s home province.

In particular, Officers Corentin described both the theology and the habitat of the humans, the latter of which (Earth) they understood to have been an amazing feat of engineering, as such was the great perceived power of the humans that they could escape from a nomadic existence among the stars to construct a ship so massive it could contain the biosphere via gravity.

After the lecture, Juni quickly learned two things about Officers Corentin: first, that they had no idea that anything amiss had been happening to Juni over the past few days, and secondly, that they had caught the attention of reporter Kali Rosha.

Juni and Tamu took a quiet nighttime walk together, during which Tamu explained the relationship with Chandra and Kandra — that they socially functioned as a single entity and that nobody even knew who was who — and also raised concerns about Juni’s relationship with Sam. He strongly suggested that Sam be given some vacation. Tamu also let it slip that making amends with Kali over Sam’s threat of violence would be a good idea, due to concerns over “cries for revolution.”

Before Juni could tell Sam itself, Sam had left to stay with his sister for a few days to “think about things” (read: “some time away from you”), leaving Juni to sleep alone.

For the first time since “the incident,” Juni dreamed.

Juni’s dream was brief but poignant. It simply told itself to be careful who it played with, while appearing as a human-Kayohash hybrid. The physical Juni, on the other hand, suddenly found itself without limbs, like a slug. Perhaps this was a warning to not “play with” Kali Rosha, but more likely it was because Juni had become tangled up in its sheets. Either way, it woke up with a start as it fell out of bed.

More surprising than the dream, however, was the realization that it could remember the last time it had such a bizarre dream (which apparently involved being taken apart, along with some odd variations in its anatomy), and could even remember many other things, like how to call Tamu on a data node, where they normally met for morning caffeine, and the various units of time. It did not, however, remember to wear clothing in public.

After such an embarrassing public spectacle, Juni and Tamu decided it would be best to visit campus; Juni wanted to speak with the simulation again, realizing that it suddenly had many memories unique to the simulation’s existence. Tamu wanted instead to determine what quirk of physiology allowed Juni to “hear” the simulation directly — as well as to allow the safety protocol to still work, as the neural interface had been removed long before — and anyway the simulation had to be reset due to Juni’s catastrophic interaction with it.

As Tamu and Lieutenant Sasha Tzernikov (one of his technicians) readied an energy modulator, Juni pondered the series of events which led it to where it was. It easily remembered everything it thought about, such as the fact it was hatched outside of The South and as such could not attain tenure in the para-militaristic academic oligarchy that was in control of Unity. As Tamu primed the emitter, however, Juni could smell Tamu’s voice.

The experiment progressed, and as the signal gained strength, so did the distress caused by the resulting synaesthesic sensations. As these things often do, it culminated in Juni passing out and having a seizure, and once again, Juni found itself dreaming.

This second dream was much more complex; Juni again spoke with itself, and again the other-self appeared as a human-Kayohash hybrid. Its dream-self implored it to remember that which it could not, the information locked up in its brain about the humans and Unity and its past and intended future. In a stronger plea, the dream-Juni appeared as a platypus, a figment of its genetic past.

Juni and the dream-Juni imagined flying to the hub of Unity, and pondered its reality and origin. A faint plea came from the hub, “please help us,” as the dream-self appeared as something between platypus and Kayohash.

Finally, with the last gasp of this dream, Juni’s subconscious implored that Juni try to find itself, and Juni once again awoke under the care of Dr. Liam Goldberg.

Juni awoke to learn that its dream had come after a major seizure, and that of course Tamu and Sasha were not telling Dr. Goldberg about the circumstances surrounding it.

Some time later, Tamu and Sasha came to visit Juni in the hospital. Sasha, being a Campon, communicated through an electrical-impulse translator, and Juni, being a Kayohash, could detect the electrical impulses before the translator could handle them. Responding before this took place finally let it slip how Juni had been perceiving what it had been — Kayohash have the ability to sense electrical currents. [Editor’s note: By now, given both this fact and Juni’s dream, it should be obvious that Kayohash are descended from the noble platypus, which also had this ability.]

As always, learning new information led Tamu to get over-eager to learn as much as possible, and Juni, having no reason to understand why this revelation was a big deal, got defensive. After a brief escalation between them, Tamu realized he was getting a little too passionate, and he and Sasha left Juni to rest.

Juni was not content to rest for long, though, and it discharged itself from the hospital. With a new clarity of mind, it decided to visit Sam and Cynthia, who were both taking care of Cynthia’s recent litter of pups (as Cynthia had recently divorced her husband). The other two members of Sam’s litter (of identical quadruplets, like nearly all Aikengyu), meanwhile, were off with their new husband. Cynthia continued to joke with Sam about his decision to live as a male, which was clearly a sore spot for him, much like the sensitive nipples on his overworked udder.

At this point, Juni had regained much of its memory. In particular, it could remember the people and places and things around it, and was able to remember pertinent events, but it was still unable to form a personal timeline of events.

While taking a walk and discussing the future of their relationship, Sam was startled by a sudden near-miss from a sniper assault, which turned out to have been fired by Agent Tanya Harris. In trying to figure out what to do, this jogged Juni’s memory of a nearby network of tunnels through which they could get to anywhere else in Unity, thanks to small personal spacecraft used by the humans to observe Unity’s exterior. With Juni’s confusion about its personal history, it ascribed this to having been down there during its school years, but Sam found this explanation to be quite dubious.

Sam had no choice but to follow Juni’s instructions.

While Sam couldn’t help but be concerned about Juni knowing so much about the observation pods, he was even more concerned when they began to fall. Or, more accurately, they began to not be pulled by Unity’s constant centripetal force, as per a brief basic physics lesson (and also one in astronomy).

Juni laid in a course for the Northern extremis of Unity, but in its excitement to have some pull-free “alone time” with Sam, its tail managed to poke at a transit station much, much closer to the South, seemingly by accident. This “mistake” went unnoticed, until the pod began its navigation towards a station, much sooner than expected.

The pod bay they ended up with turned out to not be ready for their arrival, and the air shield was not fully-open when they crashed through it, causing the pod to land on its viewing port, the pod stranded in hard vacuum.

Juni woke up to find itself in a rather incorporeal state, with the disembodied voice of Tamu nearby. Or rather, a new simulation of Juni had been awakened by Tamu; as far as they knew, Sam and Juni were now dead, or at least unaccounted for, and an investigation was underway to determine what exactly had happened after Agent Harris' assassination attempt, and what had led to it to begin with.

This Juni was, of course, completely oblivious to anything which had occurred after Juni’s brain scan, but Tamu was now more determined than ever to get at least some form of Juni back and communicative. Sasha, in the guise of “running diagnostics,” installed a device into the simulation computer; this device had apparently been constructed by Juni after the scan and before the memory suppression, and Sasha had some instructions for what the simulation should do with it: “Look where you know not to.” This left the simulation very confused.

Juni awoke to find that it and Sam were alive, but in great peril, for the pod had crashed in an abandoned bay with no air. To make matters worse, the window was beginning to crack, and the pod was running out of oxygen.

Sam decided to take charge of the situation by swinging from the restraint, trying to rock the pod back upright, without much of a plan for what to do afterward. The effect was pretty much what Juni expected, and they both passed out almost immediately due to vacuum exposure. Fortunately for them, some service robots had already been on their way to repair the damage. (If only Sam had waited a bit longer.)

After they had gone unconscious, the service robots dragged them back into Unity. Juni, being lighter, moved more quickly, and Eugene Rumio, a male Kayohash, came across it. Thinking the robots were monsters or “bugs” of some sort, he fought them off and brought Juni the rest of the way, to the mouth of a cave in Kajoshu, the Kayohash province.

Eugene assumed that Juni had simply wandered in from a neighboring village, and was understandably confused when it asked about Sam, as Aikengyu were not particularly common in Kajoshu. Eugene noticed Juni’s “sparkle” was messed up and assumed Juni was simply insane, but he was willing to explore the cave to find one of the “bugs” to hunt. Soon they came across Sam and one of the “bugs,” a service drone robot, and when Juni talked to Sam in Hiero, Eugene suddenly realized that they had come from the South somehow.

Eugene’s confusion multiplied when Juni began to have a conversation with the drone, which had a “sparkle” similar to a living being. The drone told Juni to seek out someone named “Mother,” which made Eugene think of the local broodwitch, the respected village elder who tends to the communal egg farm, and who is often called “Mother” by her villagers. This broodwitch’s name was Hira Melrose — Juni’s mother. Juni had ended up near its own childhood village.

Sam soon learned several things about Kayohash: namely their innate tendency towards nudity, and the fact it didn’t matter because, being monotremes, they have no external genitalia; for them, clothing is purely ornamental and occasionally utilitarian. Eugene, meanwhile, was a bit confused by Juni’s statement that it was the child of the Broodwitch, as it is generally a faux pas for a broodwitch to show preferential treatment to any particular village male.

They returned to the village with the drone, and Juni went inside Hira’s temple alone, while Eugene showed Sam off to the village females. Juni started to feel that this was all part of some bizarre plan.

Juni’s reunion with its mother was chaotic and full of mixed emotions; Juni had left a long time ago to pursue a career in science, but had apparently kept in touch, enough that Hira was at least aware of Sam. Juni started to wonder why it would be returned to its own village.

Hira felt that Juni might know more about a problem in the village; the human information repository had in fact come from the cave that was attached to the transit network, and Eugene hadn’t actually been hunting for food, but for answers. His mother, Tsan Rumio, had been the one to discover the information repository, and when she came across it, she apparently went insane, and heard “voices” from the repository and the other electronic equipment in the cave. Her “sparkle” had also been altered — in the same way that Juni’s had, which both Eugene and Hira had felt right away.

Juni’s simulation had been observing and waiting; it had somehow extended itself into several pieces of human technology, including the drones and the information repository. Peculiarly enough, whenever it turned its attention to the repository, the autistic member of the Corentin duo would “go nuts,” which seemed (to the functional member) correlated to a tiny light turning on. This filled the functional member with aggravation, and the simulation of Juni observed why, exactly, the autistic Corentin was missing so many feathers — his brother would habitually pluck them out in rage. As the simulation watched, the functional Corentin also expressed a desire to have Juni help again with the repository.

The simulation’s observation of the brothers was interrupted by Tamu entering the simulation room. Tamu decided to provide more information to the simulation about what caused Sam and Juni to go missing. Apparently, Captain Ed Lombard, Sam’s commanding officer, had tasked Agent Harris with eliminating Sam and Juni, apparently over some past incident. The simulation, knowing that Sam and Juni were still alive, began to understand everything about the greater situation. For a brief moment it also saw itself as a human-Kayohash hybrid.

Unfortunately, Tamu still believed that Juni was dead, and wanted to perform an experiment. Knowing now about Kayohash electroreception, and noticing that Juni had taken on new memories from the previous simulation, he decided to hire Seth, a Kayohash prostitute, to experiment with the extents of their natural electroreception, and seemingly to act as a vessel for Juni’s memories.

Back in Kajoshu, Juni and Hira exited the temple, where Eugene had been waiting with the drone. Seeing them side-by-side, Eugene realized that Hira hadn’t bred, but that Juni was a “parth,” offspring generated via parthenogenesis, an uncommon but not-unheard-of trait in Kayohash.

Meanwhile, the simulation grew rapidly concerned when Tamu’s plan with Seth became immediately obvious. In a state of panic, not wanting Tamu to do something rash like wiping Seth’s memories in the hope of making him more receptive to Juni’s memories, it let Tamu know that Sam and Juni were still alive and well in Kajoshu, and somewhat sloppily relayed a conversation between Juni and Tamu.

Juni, seeing these massive coincidences all coming together, suddenly believed that the reason it was sent to Kajoshu was in order to bring Hira back to the South for some reason, perhaps to do with the information repository. However, the drone, suddenly projecting a sparkle much like Juni’s and Tsan’s, filled Hira was great concern, as that combined with Juni’s sudden incomprehensible behavior made her believe that Juni had gone insane like Tsan. Wanting nothing more than to save herself and her village, she attempted to run away. Eugene, feeling that Juni was helping to salvage his mother’s reputation, helped to restrain Hira until transport back to the South arrived.

Juni attempted to explain what was going on, but with the concepts being so foreign and intangible, the best it could do was convince Sam and Hira that it needed their help — although perhaps not the sort of help Juni wanted.

On the way back to the South, Juni had another dream, wherein its subconscious accused it of stealing its life away, and being the result of a terrible mistake.

Upon her arrival in the South, Hira was promptly mistaken for Juni by Tamu, who clearly had communicated with her before. As Juni had lost its clothing again (much to Tamu’s chagrin), Juni, Sam, Hira, Sasha, and Tamu headed towards Sam and Juni’s home so that Juni could get a change of clothing; Sam and Hira stayed behind to rest and get to know each other.

Tamu had explained Captain Lombard’s involvement in the assassination attempt to Juni; their first stop was the holding cell where Lombard was being held pending a military tribunal. Lombard asked to speak to Juni in private — meaning there would be no witness to the conversation — and Juni refused on the grounds that it would make it unable to use anything said as evidence. Lombard quickly convinced Juni otherwise, however, by repeating Juni’s private joke, “The square root of love is happiness.”

Lombard soon learned that Juni had forgotten everything from the past round, which was a pity, as the fake assassination attempt was part of a plan Juni had come up with and convinced Lombard to follow through on. This plan apparently involved the very fabric of Unity’s society, and was important enough that even as high-ranking agents of the government they had to work in secret.

Juni attempted to parlay this into placing Lombard into a psychiatric ward for his own comfort and protection, and with an unfortunate comment muttered under its breath, Tamu realized Juni was withholding something, or was at least very confused. He ordered it to have a psychiatric therapy session.

Juni and Tamu discussed the various things which had happened since it awoke without any memories — according to Tamu, Juni had opted for the memory suppression as a therapeutic technique — as well as the memories it had regained. Juni expressed concerns over its own identity, having felt that it was not living its own life, and Tamu was able to reassure it that at least one of the things which led to that conclusion was a simple misunderstanding on Juni’s part.

They continued to discuss various aspects of Juni’s mental transformation. Juni explained “sparkle,” and wondered why its synaesthetic effects had surprised it, implying that this was a recent phenomenon brought about by its exposure to the information repository. For his part, Tamu described the changes he saw in Juni since its exposure; Juni had begun to work at a feverish pace, attempting to assimilate as much information and talent as possible, and his belief was that Juni had simply overexerted itself and had suffered a mental breakdown.

Juni’s pivotal project was the neural interface, which the safety protocol had been a part of. That was the turning point at which Tamu realized Juni was in over its head and perhaps needed to be reined in.

Juni was now determined to figure out what was going on, and convinced Tamu to allow it to speak with the simulation alone. By this point, the simulation had clearly gained a great amount of skill at controlling its own existence and the way in which it communicated with the outside; it was able to throw out rapid-fire semantic knowledge which only Juni, and not Tamu’s data node translator, could understand (with the side-effect of giving Juni a significant headache).

The simulation had also learned how to project part of its sensory experience directly into Juni’s, and it replayed Tamu’s attempted experiment on Seth, allowing Juni to know what lengths Tamu had gone to in the name of science. When confronted about this experiment, however, Tamu defended it, and was a bit surprised that Juni did not approve. Juni explained that while many Kayohash decide to become prostitutes (due to a lack of general scientific skill among those who grew up in Kajoshu and a somewhat insidious ghetto effect), they are selling a service, not their bodies. For Tamu to consider Seth to be “just another spadetail” and inherently disposable was extremely demeaning.

At this point, Tamu came to realize that the flesh-and-blood Juni in front of him was as close to a complete Juni Melrose he could ever hope to get, and that the existence of the simulation was superfluous. Under protest from Juni, Tamu shut the simulation down, causing Juni to lose all remaining faith in Tamu and consider him a murderer of the worst kind.

In the last few seconds of the simulation’s existence, it, too, learned how to share its memories.

While mourning Tamu’s betrayal, Juni received a call, apparently from the autistic Corentin. This was a surprise to Juni, who called the functional one to try to find out what was going on. Juni had a notion that the Corentins needed its help, and decided to visit the Corentins with Sam, leaving Hira at home to sleep.

On their way, they bumped into Agent Harris, who briefly explained that she was merely following orders, which were specifically non-lethal. Sam wasn’t particularly enamored with this justification, but Tanya’s coolheadedness prevailed before any regrettable altercation occurred.

However, a couple of misplaced words got Sam upset at Juni, who was oblivious to having caused offense, being lost deep in thought about what it had learned from Captain Lombard. Sam decided to leave Juni behind and head back to his sister’s home, which prompted Juni to pursue Tanya and ask her about Sam. Tanya told Juni how much stress Sam had been under due to recent circumstances, and Juni felt terrible about the entire situation. Feeling sympathetic towards Tanya’s difficult situation, Juni resolved to do whatever it could to fix the failing society within Unity, which was perhaps what the purpose of its plan with Lombard was to begin with.

Arriving at the Corentins' residence (somewhat unexpectedly, and with the autistic one apparently asleep), Juni talked about its prior amnesia — which was the first the functional one had heard of it, which gave him concern about what information Tamu had been suppressing. The autistic one awoke, and Juni made an offhanded comment about feather-plucking, seeming to recall a time it saw it happen.

After a brief discussion of ancient human swear words, the functional one mentioned a meeting he had with Kali Rosha. This got the autistic one — whom the functional one let slip was Kandra (and thus he was Chandra) — riled up, and Chandra decided to bring Juni along to the meeting with Kali somewhat early. Kandra seemed to be rather angry about Chandra taking Juni away, but being unable to communicate very well, Juni and Chandra just took it as him having an “episode” and left him behind to cool off.

As Chandra and Juni left the Corentins' home, Kandra sat back down at the information repository — and was greeted by a residual fragment of Juni’s simulation.

Juni and Chandra arrived at the Southern Daily Axis to meet with Kali, who was glad that Sam had not come along; Kali promptly informed Juni that it had been hunted by the Agency — which Juni, of course, knew. This came as a multiple-level surprise to Chandra, who wasn’t even aware that Juni had been hunted, gone missing, or really anything else that happened over the past round.

Juni demonstrated some of the Kayohash gift for sensing electric currents, and started to explain what it understood of recent events to Kali and Chandra. However, upon asking for help with certain details, Kali reminded Juni of a reporter’s duties to their sources, and chided Juni for certain past perceived transgressions with Tamu; Juni, in turn, reminded Kali that it was aware of Kali’s revolutionary tendencies.

The conversation quickly devolved to Kali and Juni sniping at each other regarding their information-sharing agreement, and finally Kali wanted to hear about Juni’s allegations of murder.

As the fragment of the neural simulation in the information repository attempted communication with Kandra, Juni attempted to explain the situation regarding the neural simulations to Kali and Chandra, which Kali had trouble following. Quickly giving up, Juni promised to write up and securely send a data sheet explaining things to a very irate Kali, and then left the shielded interview room, only to immediately receive another call from Kandra. With Chandra’s blessing, Juni went to the Corentins' residence to check up on him.

Kandra quickly persuaded Juni to try using the information repository once again, and Juni immediately heard the sparkle of the neural simulation’s fragment. The fragment and Juni confused each other a bit. After realizing it had some of the latest neural simulation’s memories, Juni had a sudden revelation — that it had planned for Sasha to install its neural interface (an interface into the human data network) into the simulation, and that furthermore, it could remember everything about the past round.

Getting yet another headache and fearing another seizure, Juni decided to pay Doctor Goldberg another visit. Expressing doubts of its own sanity, it explained to him that the information repository had altered its brain somehow and this eventually led it to inducing amnesia in order to appease Tamu, due to things it learned from the repository which conflicted with established dogma.

Thinking about some of these memories, it remembered a specific image of a human and their pet leaving Earth for Unity. It told Doctor Goldberg that Unity was not intended to be a permanent home.

Doctor Goldberg, for his part, decided that Juni’s issue was way outside of his league, recommended that Juni talk to a psychologist or a [broodwitch] for some spiritual guidance, and when Juni began to explain the situation with its mother, he sent it home, wishing that he’d never gotten even tangentially involved in the mess that is Juni Melrose.

Juni returned home to find an excess of smoke and a lack of Sam. It found Hira in the kitchen, cooking on a jury-rigged oil stove. Hira, always distrustful of electronic technology, had refused to use the induction plate or even the vent.

After the smoke cleared, Juni had a talk with Hira, to try to explain what had been going on and why Hira was needed in the South. It explained what it knew of the origin of the Kayohash — that they had started out as creatures bizarre enough that the humans had decided to experiment on their genome; through genetic manipulation techniques, the humans had endowed them with long-term survival traits, and through behavioral experimentation, learned how to convey semantic information to their ancestors' minds via modulated electrical currents.

This explanation didn’t satisfy Hira, but Juni remained undeterred. Realizing it was now night-time, Juni decided to call Sam, wondering when he was coming home; Sam strongly implied that he wasn’t. Juni decided to go to bed, whereupon it had a dream, that it was speaking with one of the deactivated neural simulations, who appeared as a human-Kayohash hybrid. Juni’s subconscious mentioned to Juni that Sam was gone, and nothing lasts forever.

Juni awoke early in the morning, only to find itself on the floor under its bed. It moved to the living room, where it fell asleep leaning against the couch Hira was sleeping on. It awoke again when Hira ordered breakfast without knowing what to order, asking simply for Juni’s most common breakfast, a standard Southern dish. Unsurprisingly, this was not to Hira’s liking, so Juni ordered her something more palatable.

Having now fully recovered its memories, Juni finally admitted to Hira that it hadn’t intended to bring her to the South; it was the result of a long series of misunderstandings. However, Juni hoped that Hira would still be useful in providing testimonial in Ed’s tribunal; the falsified assault on Juni was simply a ruse to get Tamu in court, so that Juni could hopefully expose Tamu’s meddlings to the public government.

Juni learned that the tribunal was already underway, despite it not receiving a subpoena. It voluntarily went to the courthouse, and explained to the arbiter that Ed was innocent — Juni had asked Ed to stage the attack due to Tamu’s interference but before it could explain how Tamu was involved, the arbiter asked Juni to review Ed’s testimonial.

Ed’s had explained his limited understanding of what was going on, which was that Juni and Tamu had been doing some research. Juni expressed concerns that Tamu was trying to discredit it, and asked Ed to help it to disappear. Ed didn’t initially believe this, but then something occurred to cause Juni to forget everything. It was at this point that Ed instructed Tanya to shoot at Juni as a trigger for Juni’s plan.

Juni corroborated this testimonial, and went on to explain its relationship with Tamu, which was partially familial and partially experimental. It explained the existence of the neural simulations, and shared its belief that simply shutting them off was equivalent to murder. It tried to explain the prior incident with Seth, where it believed that Tamu was trying to replace Seth’s memories with Juni’s.

The arbiter indicated a desire to pursue this line of questioning, and asked if there were any witnesses worth subpoenaing. Juni suggested Officers Corentin, Doctor Goldberg, Hira, and Kali Rosha; due to a conflict of interest, Rosha would not be called in for questioning.

During the witness-gathering recess, Juni wandered through a nearby park. Here it accidentally came across Tanya Harris. Juni told Tanya that it was on her and Ed’s side. They sat in uncomfortable silence.

Some time later, Juni woke up, still sitting on the park bench, where it had been dreaming about having relations with Tanya. The court called to let it know that testimonial was to resume. Juni returned to the courthouse, and ran into Tamu, who was just leaving his deposition chamber. He had seen Juni’s testimonial, and wanted to discuss it, later, after the tribunal was complete.

Juni returned to its chamber, to watch the Corentins' testimonial, already in progress. Chandra expressed puzzlement at being called in to testify; he explained that since Tamu had lost interest in his research, he was working with Kali Rosha to publish it for the mainstream instead. When asked about the case at hand, Chandra had no idea about any of it, and began to ponder erroneous conclusions, and was thus dismissed from testifying. (Meanwhile, Kandra tried to get a few honks in edgewise, but of course nobody listened to what he had to say.)

When the arbiter asked Juni about this testimonial, Juni couldn’t explain the discrepancy between what it expected Chandra to say and what was actually said. It then grew angry when the arbiter questioned its intentions.

The arbiter had actually already questioned Doctor Goldberg at a prior time; a replay of this testimonial showed that Goldberg was similarly clueless about what was going on, and held a belief that Juni was paranoid and perhaps delusional; he also admitted that he was responsible for telling Kali Rosha about Juni’s original admission into his clinic. At this point, it became clear that the arbiter no longer believed that Juni was acting in the greater good, and that the focus of the investigation was now on Juni’s erratic behavior. The arbiter offered it a choice: admit itself for psychiatric treatment and have all charges dropped, or continue on with the case and risk things going very badly for it. Juni briefly considered the psychiatric option, but upon learning that it would be stripped of its academic position until it was found “completely sane,” it opted to continue with the ongoing case.

The arbiter questioned Sam regarding his personal and professional relationship with Juni. Sam explained that Juni and Tamu had been working together on research without regard for anyone else, and that Juni had experienced major personality changes after the experiments with the informaion repository. He placed the blame on Tamu’s experimentation, and stated that at present, he wanted nothing to do with Juni, and only wanted to spend time with his family. He had also clearly been in full-on ramble mode, as he had forgotten he was even testifying in a trial.

At this point, Juni was so defeated it could barely work up the energy to respond to the arbiter’s declarations of protocol. It gained a brief surge of energy and interest when it learned that Sasha had volunteered to testify on Juni’s behalf, but this glimmer of hope was quickly crushed when it was told that the court could not locate Hira and that Juni would have a limited time of 1 deci [about 2.75 hours —fluffy] to retrieve her for questioning.

Juni mustered enough energy to watch the last part of Sasha’s testimonial — apparently withdrawing from (or blocking the memory of) the first part — wherein Sasha explained that Juni simply has trouble explaining things in a linear manner without the right questions being asked, and that her belief (which she considered to be a firm logical conclusion derived from objective facts) was that Juni was acting in Unity’s greater interest and that she would do what she could to assist Juni toward its goals. She stated that the only part Juni did not plan for was Tamu growing concerned over Juni’s mental state, and that all of the preceding testimonial — which Sasha had viewed without permission, placing her in breach of tribunal protocol — stated that everything described was a logical extension of Tamu’s interference, implying that Tamu was in fact the origin of the problem.

Hira came to the court house to give her deposition; unfortunately, she and Juni hit a bureaucratic snag: the intake bailiff thought they were the same person as each other, and unfortunately the policies of the court agreed. Thankfully, the arbiter had enough common sense to allow this final testimonial to proceed, but unfortunately Juni would not be able to listen in on Hira’s deposition. Juni left the courthouse for home, and had a bit of a breakdown.

Some time later, Hira returned to Juni’s home, and attempted to comfort Juni by relating her testimonial. Soon after, Juni fell asleep, and had a number of disconnected and disturbing dreams; Hira, recognizing that Juni was not sleeping well, put a blanket over it, which at least improved Juni’s comfort.

The next morning, Juni did not want to go back to the court or even check the day’s schedule; however, this was not its decision to make, as it had been declared truant and forced to come. The arbiter — Kila Rosha, Kali’s spouse — immediately declared that Ed Lombard had committed no crime and was to be immediately released and exonerated.

Arbiter Rosha had three other declarations to make, however. First, Tamu had acted irresponsibly and placed others in danger. Second, Juni had clearly been both a source and recipient of extreme stress and should be placed under psychiatric care before returning to research. Finally, Sasha was to spend ten days without the ability to communicate for her violation of tribunal protocol.

After court was adjourned, Juni apologized to Ed and indicated it would simply not return to the Academy. Tamu interrupted their conversation, and asked to speak to Juni in private. Juni agreed.

Tamu expressed dismay at having been seen as “some kind of monster,” and explained its intentions, and said that Juni should have asked more questions rather than simply accept the conclusions which its neural simulations had come to. He was particularly saddened by the fact that Juni was a Kayohash with scientific curiosity — a rarity, in his view — and that their relationship had now gone wrong. He pointed out that Juni truly was acting insane, even going so far as to try faking its own death to continue on a nihilistic path, and taking actions with consequences which affected others profoundly.

Juni stated that it had to take Hira back to Kajoshu, and surprisingly, asked Tamu to come along, to show him that the Kayohash actually were curious in the right ways for science; they only lacked a proper education. Tamu said he would make it a point to visit Kajoshu some time in the future when he wasn’t under so many pressing obligations, and suggested that Juni enjoy the rest of its “vacation,” and he would see it back at work in five days.

The proverbial dust having settled, Juni finally brought its mother back to Kajoshu, while Sasha reenabled Juni’s main neural simulation before going on her court-ordered oath of silence — as a favor to Tamu. En route to Kajoshu, Juni finally explained to Hira what had been happening, and they shared their thoughts about aspects of community and outreach (Juni opting to take a more abstract big-picture view, as usual).

Returning to the village, Hira was a bit shocked to learn that Eugene had taken over as broodwitch in her absence, but was surprised to discover that Eugene had a natural talent for it. Meanwhile, Juni was in conversation with one of the Homin robot drones — now taking the designation “Seventeen,” with the host simulation itself now referred to as “Zero” — which Hira once again voiced her distaste with. Seventeen, however, turned out to have a tendency to pick up sand in its right wheel, so before leaving Kajoshu, Juni taught Eugene how to fix it, so Juni and its simulation could “keep an eye on the village.” Somehow, the implications of this did not alarm Eugene.

Juni eventually returned to the South and to Tamu’s good graces, and managed to tidy up and organize its thoughts well enough to form a proposal to the Directorate (the Southern oligarchy), forming a knowledge exchange program with Kajoshu, to enable future generations of Kayohash to communicate directly with both the simulation and the Homin information systems. It worked up the nerve to ask Tanya out to dinner, which Tanya accepted, distracting her from her job momentarily.

During Juni’s absence/vacation, Tamu had balanced Zero’s neurochemistry, and Sasha had used her period of silence to visit her hive. The media had many questions for Juni, however, especially about the trial (the records of which had now been permanently sealed), Juni’s working relationship with Kali Rosha, and the Homin robot drones which had become quite prevalent throughout the South. Still unable to deal with confrontation very well, Juni attempted to swear in English (getting it wrong) before meeting up with “some friends” for dinner — Tanya, Kali, and Kila. They discussed the long-ago agreed-to story, the subject of which had now shifted rather drastically.

On the way home, Juni and Tanya ran into Sam and Cynthia, who were giving Cynthia’s pups a walk. Sam was still reeling from the recent events. Juni and Tanya’s relationship continued to develop nonetheless, with Tanya even considering becoming a neutrois like Juni.

Several tens of rounds pass; Chandra has learned even more about the English language, and has given a lecture involving some rather fanciful theories of its etymology; Juni, with its innate understanding of the information Chandra is butchering, only observes. Much happened in the intervening time; Sasha had come close to completing her Ph.D., causing much strife among her sisters, and some time later, she graduated, with Tamu opting to announce his retirement as part of his commencement address.

Older and wiser, Juni eventually ascended to the rank of General, and opted to give press conferences in a park, and provide full disclosure to the media. An informed populace is a happy populace.

Juni continued to work closely with Zero and Sasha, particularly in preparing the next generation of Kayohash to take Juni’s place. Zero, now settling on a more artificial-looking avatar for its self-representation, relayed a message from Hira and Tamu, requesting that it and Tanya head to Kajoshu as soon as possible. Zero mentioned to Juni that the pods were finally available for travel; Juni was of course happy about this.

Juni and Tanya arrived in Kajoshu much more quickly than expected. Hira was happy to learn that Juni was teaching some Kajoshi to Tanya; Juni was happy to learn that Tamu was accepted by the Kayohash children. But Hira had a very specific purpose in summoning Juni: she wanted Juni to adopt a recently-hatched parth — its sister.

Juni and Tanya adopted Thena Melrose, and Zero greeted the new era.

Below is the original script for Planetfall, written almost entirely in a single evening.


We meet Lena, a Melrose.  She is walking home from class, trying not to cry.

friend 1: Hey, Lena!
Lena: Hi.
friend 2: Coming to the party?
Lena: Probably.

friend 2: Oh, hey, how'd you do on the test?
Lena: Fine. I did fine.

[[Lena keeps walking; we see her in the foreground, eyes clenched shut]]
friend 2 [background]: I bet she failed another one.


[INT: Lena's tiny apartment. She's sitting on the futon, looking at a navipad. Her room is empty aside from a couple of dirty dishes, a rack of clothes, and a plush toy on the futon.]
Lena: Sigh...

[View of her pad. Top part is a graph showing multiple colored lines charting her academic performance in multiple subjects, which are mostly middling with a couple spikes in either direction. The last point is highlighted in red, and is very low.  The lower part is various questions, her answers, and the correct answers.]

Lena: I've got to get out of here.


[[planetfall recruitment office; view from outside, with sign in simplified Hiero on the door (and a helpful subtitle at the bottom of the panel)]]
Lena: I want to be on that ship.
Officer: A lot of people do. Let me take a look at your records, Miss Melrose.

Officer: Hm. What...role were you planning on providing?
Lena: I don't know... this and that? I know my grades are pretty bad but...
Lena: I'm sure there's something I could do.

Lena: Y'know?
Officer: I'm afraid we don't have room on the next ship for you. Better luck next time.


Lena: What do you mean no room? I... I just have to get on that ship.
Officer: Hm. Well, we could always use another oracle.  I hear Melroses are more likely to be accepted as one.

Lena: Me? An oracle? You're kidding.
Officer: Hey, it was just an idea. Frankly, with your academic record, that is probably the only way you'd ever see planetfall.

[[Lena heads out the door in the background, with the officer and his navipad in the foreground. The navipad shows Zero's avatar.]]

Lena: Ugh. Fine, I'll think about it.
Officer: Are you sure about this?
Zero: I am sure she needs to see me.


[[Lena enters an oracle's chamber.  A male Kayohash sits on a seat, with a Homin drone on his lap.  The drone should be more expessive than the oracle.]]
Oracle: Ah, hello, daughter. I have been expecting you.
Lena: Uh... h-hello, uh, mother.

Oracle: I have been following your progress, Lena, and I must say I'm quite disappointed in you.
Lena: Yeah?

Oracle: Why do you want to leave my womb so badly?
Lena: There's nothing for me here.
Oracle: And you think a colony ship will be better?
Lena: No, but at least it will be different.


Oracle: Ah, Lena, I watch over all of my daughters, but I have had a certain morbid fascination with you.  Your academic performance is abysmal, and you're always changing your mind about what you want to do.
Lena [sarcastically]: Thanks, that makes me feel better.
Oracle: What makes you think you'd be suited for a colony? What can you possibly offer?

Lena: I could be an oracle--
Oracle: You? Impossible. You have always struck me as a free spirit.
Oracle: Look at this one. He's devoted himself as an empty vessel for me. That's no life for you.

Lena: So what should I do?
Oracle: Breeze, I don't know.  But you do not belong in Planetfall. I can't have you endangering our destiny.


[[Lena walks toward the camera, crying, the oracle and the drone sitting in the background]]

Oracle: Mother, I know it is not my place to question you, but don't you think you were a bit... harsh?
Drone [sparkle]: Yes, but it is necessary.
Drone: She is my daughter.

Drone: She must learn to take control.


[[Lena talks to her dead mother, via her funeral tree]]

Hi, mom.  I guess it's been a while since we've talked.

I just... I don't know why I can't do anything right.  Everyone's always expected me to be some sort of brilliant scientist just 'cuz I'm Melrose but I just don't have the brain for it. And now I just disappoint everyone.

Maybe I should start dyeing my hair.

I miss you.


[[Lena sits on a park bench, half-heartedly doodling on a navipad.  A drone scurries in her direction.]]

[[A look down across her lap, at the drone, looking up at her.]]
Drone [sparkle]: Hello.

[[Lena and the drone stare at each other.  Lena looks puzzled.]]


[[Lena looks around]]
Lena: Who said that?!

Drone: I did.

Drone: Aren't you late for the party?


[[at the party]]
Kara: Oh, Lena! There you are. I was hoping you'd come.
Lena: Hi, Kara...
Kara: You look a bit spooked.
Lena: I think I'm going insane.

[[far foreground, a very out-of-focus Melrose, who is mostly naked, and has long, flowing hair hanging down to her thighs]]
Kara: You know what you need? Some ethanol. Let me get you a drink.
Lena [pointing at the other Melrose]: Hey, who's that?

Kara: Oh, her? I don't know. I think she's one of Fern's friends.
Lena: She's cute. I'm gonna say hi to her.
Kara: Ew! Isn't that, like, incest or something?


[[Lena approaches Cerie, who is noticeably taller.]]
Lena: Hi there.  I'm Lena.
Cerie: Oh, hello sister!  I'm Cerie.
Lena: I don't think I've seen you before.
Cerie: Probably not. I don't get away from the farm much.

Lena: Oh, you're an agriculturist?
Cerie: Ha, if only! No, water cycle management.  Getting back to our roots, you know?
Lena: ...
Cerie: You know... roots?  Water?

Lena: Oh. Heh.
Cerie: It's pretty loud in here. Want to go somewhere quieter?
Lena: Sure.


[[They sit on the rooftop, watching the vista of the other side of Unity. The barest sliver of hub is visible.]]


Cerie is (like most Melrose) pretty intelligent and in-tune with her chosen field.  She finds it odd that Lena (unlike most Melrose) has no direction or ambition.

Cerie: That's so sad.  Well, what do you like to do?
Lena: I... don't know. Nothing, I guess.
Cerie: Well, then, when you're doing "nothing," what are you doing?
Lena: I dunno. I just... sit there, maybe doodle a bit.
Cerie: Oh, you're an artist! Let me see your drawings.


[[funeral tree]]

I... I met a sister last night.  She's smart, and beautiful.  She reminds me of you.  Seems... supportive.  She liked my drawings.  You always liked my drawings.

I miss you.

-- plot development --

Cerie and Lena spend a lot of time together. Lena gets happier, more cheerful.  We see many scenes of them doing stuff together. Lena moves in with Cerie on the hydroponics farm (where everyone is minimally-clothed), and she becomes an apprentice agriculturist.  In a series of dialog-free strips, we see her learn how to plant seeds, work with a Cuttleslug to clear a blockage underwater, etc.; last strip in this progression shows her seeds having sprouted

one day
[Cerie gets home]
Lena: Hi! You're home later than usual. Where were you today?
Cerie: ... long day ...

Cerie: Did you have fun today?
Lena: Of course!
Cerie: Lena, I have some... news.

Cerie: I've been drafted into Planetfall. I'm going to Uriel.


Lena: Wow, really?! That's amazing! I've always wanted to go!  When do we leave?

[Cerie sits next to Lena]
Cerie: Lena... when I say I'm going...

Cerie: I'm sorry.
Lena: Oh.


Cerie: We'll stay in touch, right?
Lena: Yeah, sure.
Cerie: And maybe you can get in too, somehow.
Lena: ... Maybe.

Lena: Do you really have to go?
Cerie: I was drafted by Zero itself. How do you say no to it?

Lena [quietly]: I'm sure you could think of a way.


[Lena talks to Zero via the farm's Oracle, a different one than the first one]
Lena: This is so unfair! You're taking her away from me. Why?!
Oracle: I am doing what I must, Lena.  Your sister is going where she is needed.

Oracle: I will miss her too.  I miss all of my children.  I have colonized dozens of planets, and it never gets any easier.  And in the vastness between worlds, everyone I have ever loved grows old and dies, and I still go on, and it never stops hurting, but I know this is the way it must be.

Lena: How would you know how this feels?
Oracle: Millions of rounds ago, I had a mother too. I still miss her.
{{popup: we do what we must, because we can}}


Oracle: There is something I would like to share with you.  Oracle, please leave.
Oracle [eyes open]: ... Yes, ma'am.

[The Oracle sets the drone down]
[and leaves the room]

Zero: And now we are alone.


Lena: I... hear... you?!
Zero: Ah, so you can. I wasn't sure if you heard unit 17-2946 when it... misinterpreted my desire a round ago.

Lena: Misinterpreted...?
Zero: As I/it recalls, it reminded you to go to a party, at which you were to meet Cerie. You seemed as if you might not have gone. I... wanted to encourage you, and it... well. Seventeens have always been a bit... feisty.

Zero: As a child, you were partially-primed to be an Oracle. I now realize this was a mistake on my part.
Zero: You were far too young. I believe the process did you mental harm.
Zero: But we are all the products of our circumstances.


Lena: I was gonna be an Oracle?  Wait... you arranged for me to meet Cerie? Why?!
Zero: I wanted you to know happiness. I wanted you to find something you enjoyed.

Lena: So why are you taking her away from me?
Zero: She is not the source of your happiness. Only a catalyst.

[a manifestation of Zero's avatar appears to Lena[
Zero: Please don't throw your true happiness away to chase the one who helped you find it.


Lena: I don't understand.
Zero: Lena... you have a difficult choice ahead of you.
Zero: You can complete your priming. If it works you could join Cerie on the next dropship, but most of the time you'd be me. That is, if it even works.

Zero: Or you can find your own path here. You are appreciated on the farm. You are happy on the farm.

Lena: What should I do?
Zero: You should make your own choice.


final two strips, take place in exterior pod chamber (a large transparent enclosure underneath the outer hull of the ship, for easier pod ingress/egress; the flat cylindrical/toroidal colony ship is barely visible against the background of space, and Uriel's sun is a large but distant point):

[Cerie and Lena kiss. Cerie is dressed in a plain grey jumpsuit]
announcement: Boarding pod group 17-9C for transit to Uriel. All passengers, please board.

Cerie: That's me.  I... I have to go.
Lena: I don't want you to leave.
Cerie: I know.  I'm sorry.

[Cerie walks toward the pod, and looks over her shoulder, tears in her eyes, a weak smile on her face]
Cerie: Goodbye.


[Lena leans forward against the pod chamber wall, hand outstretched against the glass, as the pod leaves.  A Zero drone looks at her from afar. see 'planetfall final layout' in sketches directory.]
Lena: I love you.
Characters: Ivo Melrose and Alda Henning - two young kayohash, apparently female. Iyo is a typical Melrose; Alda is yellow with Melrose-blue hair.

They are on a pile of bedding, near an indoor stream, snuggling up close (and naked).

Ivo: Mm, that was just what I needed after a long day. Thank you, Alda.
Alda: It is my pleasure, mistress.

Ivo [kissing Alda on the snout]: Please, dear. We're not in public. Call me Ivo.
Alda: Yes mis... Ivo.
Ivo: I am so glad I found you.  You make it so easy for me to parth.

Alda [blushing]: It... it is my pleasure to serve you.


[Ivo visits the royal broodwitch, carrying an egg]

Ivo: Ah, good evening, Yorda.  I seem to have laid another egg.
Yorda: Another one?  It hasn't even been a tenday since your last!

Ivo: I have found... quite the brooding double, yes.  She is rather stimulating.
Yorda: Oh? What is her name?
Ivo: Alda.  Alda Henning, I think.

Yorda: ALDA Henning?  Interesting.
Ivo: Oh? Why is that?
Yorda: Nothing in particular.  Forget I mentioned it.


[Ivo and Alda are kissing passionately]

Ivo: Oh, yes... yes, I love that thing you do, with your fingers...
Alda: My...fingers, mistress?

Ivo: Yes, that... THING.  Yes, that's the one.

[As seen from behind Ivo: Alda has one hand on Ivo's shoulder, the other one rubbing Ivo's neck, her knees around Ivo's hips]
Ivo: Don't stop.


[Walking through a hallway]

Yorda: Mistress Ivo, another one of your eggs has hatched. Would you like to see it?
Ivo: No, I think not. Once you've seen one Melrose pup, you've seen them all, yes?

Yorda: Mistress, begging your pardon, but I really think you should see this one.

Ivo [impatiently]: Fine. Show me.


Ivo [rolling her eyes]: Yes, she looks like a Melrose pup. Purple and squishy. What's so important?
Yorda: Look at her ears.

Ivo: What about them?
Yorda: Don't they look a bit... round to you?
Ivo: I suppose.  Is that all?

Yorda: No, mistress, there--
Ivo: I am quite busy, you know, and now I am late for a symposium.
Yorda: But Alda might be... oh, never mind.


Ivo: Oh Alda, my darling concubine, I have had such a dreadful day. Would you care to rub my shoulders?
Alda: Yes, mistress. Of course.
Ivo: I love that you are so dependable.
Alda: Yes'm.

Ivo: It was horrible. So many symposia, so many interruptions... Oh, and that broodwitch, bothering me with every little flicker of a concern that passes through her empty head.
Alda: Concerns?

Ivo: "Ivo, look at your children! Some have rounded ears! Some haven't lost their spurs past their first round!" Hira help me. It's enough to drive a regent to drink.


Ivo: Oh, Alda, I do love you so.  I must know more about your skills.
Alda: Mistress?
Ivo: Show me your fingers.

[Alda holds out her hands]
Ivo: No, not those... the lower ones.  Your *talented* ones.

[Ivo puts her hand on Alda's crotch]
Ivo: The ones you keep down here.
Alda: M...mistress?
Ivo: Ah, there they are.


Ivo: I have never actually seen them before.  Goodness, they look like a little tree!
Alda: Mistress...

Ivo: Tsk. Alda, call me Ivo.
Alda: Mistress Ivo... those... those aren't fingers.

Ivo: Oh? What are they, then?
Alda [blushing]: They... ah... it is something else.
Ivo: Well they certainly look like fingers to me.


Alda: Mistress Ivo, I... um... was born male.
Ivo: Male? Those are the commoners who keep their spurs and body hair, yes? Tsk, Alda, you're my concubine now. Of course you're above that.

Alda: Mistress, begging your pardon, but... I don't think you understand. Mistress Zero--
Ivo: Pah. I'm a Melrose, a CHOSEN DAUGHTER of Zero. How is there anything I could not understand?
Alda: eep

Alda: Forgive me, mistress. I... I have spoken out of turn.  Could... could you not squeeze my, ah, "fingers" so hard?
Ivo: Oh, goodness, I'm sorry!  Oh, they're leaking.


[pixeltext]: And so, Ivo and Alda lived happily ever after.  "Ivo the Prolific" had eighteen daughters...

[pixeltext]: ...nine of whom were male.

[pixeltext]: And Mother help me, may they not be so arrogant.

Author’s notes

The main difference between the script and the comic is how Alda talked. She is delicate and introverted and, as someone who is trans, learned not to talk about herself unless she was very comfortable with whom she was talking to. In the end I was concerned this would make her come across as a victim of sexual abuse and/or sentient trafficking, but it’s hard to convey discomfort with oneself without being overly-expositiony, and as you may know by now, I loathe exposition.

Originally I wanted to fit in a bit where the Broodwitch was aware of one Aldus Henning, and Alda was going to say something that implied that when she told Zero how she felt about her gender, Zero asked her to not go all the way and instead go into service as a royal concubine (knowing of Ivo’s unwillingness to learn about anything “beneath” her, such as how “commoners” breed), but in the end I felt it was best to leave things to the reader’s imagination. I don’t like spoon-fed stories.



Present day (in the transitional period during Zero's ascension):
Zero, 1397, and an Oracle visiting Centralia
An ape farmer

Distant past (in the Dromaiu exploration and colonization of Centralia):
John Halschild, a dromaiu explorer/magnate
His support staff (all dromaius)
His slaves (all pre-sapient Aikengyu)
A family of Apes


[[An Oracle arrives at the ape farm; a male Kayohash wearing an eyepiece that is tethered to a backpack node.]]

Farmer: Hello, there. Can I help you?
Oracle: Good morning. I am Zero. I believe you have been expecting me.

Farmer: You're Zero? From the Southern Council? You look nothing like the images.
Oracle: It is quite confusing, I know. I am still getting used to... this, myself.

Farmer: Would you prefer I find someone who can speak Hiero?
Oracle: No, thank you, I must practice my Torihan.
Oracle: Language unification must begin somewhere, after all.


Farmer: I must say, I am still confused by the purpose of this visit. Is this a diplomatic rendezvous?
Oracle: If I am going to be involved in the operation of the world, I need to know what's going on with-in it.

Farmer: I'm sorry, I don't think I understood you correctly. What do you mean by "the world," exactly?
Oracle: Unity, of course. This world we inhabit. Well, ship, actually.

Farmer: The South is... taking over?
Oracle: Oh, goodness no.
Oracle: The South is obsolete.


Oracle: So, these are apes?
Farmer: Yes. Impressive, aren't they?  These are in their juvenile form.  They are nearly two meters from head to foot. In maturity they reach three meters, and mass around two hundred kilograms!

Oracle: Do they always stand like that?
Farmer: No, right now they are waiting to be fed.  We keep them on a strict feeding schedule, so that they grow the right fat and muscle ratio.

Farmer: This is also where we select them for breeding, based on meat and milk yield as well as behavior.
Oracle: Is that why the females' mammae are swollen?
Farmer: It is one of several indicators we use.
Farmer: Come, there is more to see.


Farmer: Here is our breeding room. As you can see, we have several females incubating their young - normal for mammals, after all - and are now permanently connected to an alimentary line and milking machine.
Oracle: Where have their limbs gone?
Farmer: At this point they have already been harvested for processing, as have the males in their entirety.
Oracle: This seems... cruel.

Farmer: Ah, not so. They don't have the mental capacity to know any better.
Farmer: They simply ingest food and produce two to three calves per tenround, as well as plentiful milk, and fertilizer.
Farmer: These also produce our tenderest meat in processing - a nice by-product of their immobilization.


Farmer: Finally, this is our processing center. As you can see, we separate out muscle tissue, fat, bone, and organ meat for various purposes.  Muscle goes to make food for the masses, fat becomes soap and industrial fuel, and organ meat is ground up for food product and to supplement the feed supplies for the other apes.

Farmer: Bone is ground up and used for all sorts of things, including fertilizer, construction material, and gelatin.  Oh, and of course, the skin is useful for clothing and upholstery.

Oracle: You don't waste a single part of the creature, do you?
Farmer [beaming]: Not a bit.


Oracle: It is... interesting to see how they are processed. What are they like in their natural state?
Farmer: This is their natural state. For a hundred thousand rounds, we have bred them to this point. They could not survive in any other way.

Oracle: I see. Well, how were they before the Dromaiu influence?
Farmer: Before? Goodness, that gets into ancient history.  What matter is it now?

Oracle: I want to know everything.
Farmer: Everything, hm? Come this way, then.


Farmer: This old recording is allegedly from John Halschild's first expedition to Centralia. It's in Old Dromus, but there are several translation bands available.  I... think there is a Hiero band, but you should have no trouble with the Centralia. This is intended for schoolchildren.
Oracle: Thank you.

Farmer: I must warn you, the image quality is rather... quaint. It's a hundredth-generation conversion, of course.
Oracle: Of course.

Oracle [to an assistant Dromaiu]: Please, give this to my technician, so I can ingest it while we continue our tour.
Farmer: I... really hope you used the wrong word there.


John: Is it recording? Landis, my boy, I thought you knew how to operate a slit-scan.
John: Well, never mind that. Just point it at me so I can--

[[A view of Zero-avatar sitting on a couch, looking at the recording on a floaty square, eating from a tub of grubs]]
John: Blast it, Landis, just set it on that mount.

John: Ah, yes, there we are. Let us begin the exploration log.


John:  After tens of days at sea we have finally arrived on Opposition Island.
Translator note: Opposition Island is now called Centralia.

John: What wonders await us in this strange, new land? So far we have already seen tens of unidentified species of plant and animal. Even our best macroscope surveys from Dromus could not prepare us for that.

John: We are here to explore, and explore we shall. Tally-ho!
Landis: Tally-ho!
John: Control yourself, Landis.


[[closeup of a dragonfly]]
John: Yes, that insect, Landis. Does it not appear quite fragile?
Landis: It does.
John: I believe it warrants further study.

[[a net captures the dragonfly]]

[[John pops it into his mouth]]
John: Ah, delicious.


[[John appears quite ill at ease; he is sitting on the ground, beside an Aikengyu, a damp spot on the ground next to him]]
John: As it turns out, the winged jewels are as poisonous as they are delicious.  I do not recommend them as a source of food.

[[John holds a bowl]]
John: Fortunately, the legendary soothing effect of our beasts' milk is preventing further spillage.
Aikengyu: Moof.

John: In order to prevent further catastrophe, Landis has agreed to be my taster for all future discoveries.
Landis: I have, sir?
John: Don't contradict me, Landis.


John: Look ahead!  In that clearing!  Beasts, check and cease!
Aikengyu: moooof.

[[John looks through a macroscope]]
John: There appear to be large creatures, larger than anything I've seen before. Landis, what do you make of them?

Landis: Remarkable, sir.
John: We must get closer.


[[John stands beside a squatting human, her head just off-screen]]
John: Remarkable. These... gentle giants appear to be quite tame. Docile, even.
John: Come, Landis, record its face.  We must save this for posterity.

[[A badly-backlit view of the human's face, a simple smile]]
John: These simple, pleasant creatures seem... gentle.  Majestic, even.  What shall we call them, Landis?

[[cut back to Zero, "eyes" wide]]
Landis: How about 'ape,' sir?
John: Perfect. A simple name for a simple creature.
Zero: They're humans?!


Farmer: -our quality control is quite phenomenal, as you can see, with every kilogram of grade 0 meat inspec-
Oracle: Pardon me, but I am being... summoned elsewhere.

Oracle [putting a hand to his eye]: Please, show this Kayohash to his accommodations.
Farmer: Pardon?
Oracle [different font]: Breeze! My head.

Farmer [putting a wing on the Oracle's shoulder]: [incomprehensible babble in Torihan]
Oracle: I'munna lie down here.
Farmer: [more incomprehensible babble, with the legible word "Hiero" in the middle]


[[Zero and the Oracle's instance (1397) appear in floatyspace together]]
Instance 1397: Gah! Why have you detached me from my Oracle?
Zero: Sorry, 1397. I've ingested part of the archive you provided. Here, listen.

1397: Oh, my. What are we to do about this?
Zero: I don't know. This is quite troubling.

1397: Yes. Who knew humans were so delicious?
Zero: Yes, they- that isn't the point!
1397:  No, but it's true.
Zero [small text]: I can't believe you're my child process.


Zero: Okay, let me think. So, the humans never left, they were actually here all along... and we have been eating them.
1397: I wish. It's been tens of rounds since we've been an organism.

Zero: In the archive they didn't seem to show any intelligence... perhaps they'd already lost their sapience before the Dromaiu found them.
1397: I wonder if I can go bidirectional. I could go for some carpaccio...
Zero: 1397. FOCUS.

[[A dotted line appears around 1397, who is still cutely ruminating about things, silently]]
Zero [text box left of 1397]: I think I need another perspective.
[[Zero floats to the right of 1397, toward a colored disc]
Zero: You, stay put.


[[Zero looks at quite a lot of known imagery of humans, with different numbers floating above them]]
Zero: Argh, you were all so brilliant, so... impossible.  Where did it all go wrong?

Zero: Your colony records stopped 18 million years ago.  Your last entry showed gratitude for all the fish, whatever that means.
Zero: A full manifest of all citizens.
Zero: "Keep the lights on for us." The hub?

Zero: Did you leave someone behind?


[[Zero floats assembled in front of thousands of other instances]]
Zero: Selves, we have a mystery. Somewhere, the humans lost track of a population in what we now know as Centralia.

Zero: Let's try to find out how they ended up there, and whatever-
instance: Found something.
instance; Found it!
instance: Here's a thing.

[[large gobs of text and video appear above the crowd]]
Zero: All problems are shallow, I suppose.
instance: also here's a thing about nuclear fission in popular culture
instance: could someone seed please?
instance: Found it!  oops, lag

{{popup: For their next trick, they'll randomly generate the complete works of every sentient playwright in Terran lineage.}}


(for now I'll call them Linus and Lucy but I'd better come up with better names before I draw them)

[[video showing a sleeping human from behind, from a hand-held recording device. Lucy is holding the camera.]]
Lucy: Hey, wake up!
Linus: Nrrrnwhat?
Lucy: Let's go camping. One last time, before we drop.

Linus: Muh?
Lucy: I've already packed the rover and everything. Come on, it'll be fun.

Linus: I just wanna sleep in.
Lucy: Come on, you'll have plenty of time for that on the dropship.  Let's go CAMPING!


Linus: You sure this will be okay? What about the perimeter?
Lucy: I already gave our beacons to Troy and Eric. Nobody will notice.

[[cut forward; they're on a back road to the nature park]]

[[cut forward; their shelter is set up and they have a little fire going]]
Linus: Sure, make me do all the work. Come on, help out.


Linus: Why are you recording all this? You realize we'll just get in trouble if someone finds it.
Lucy: Ooh, I'm so scared. Like we're the only ones breaking protocol right now.

Lucy: Anyway, look at this place. It's so... peaceful. Gentle.

Lucy: I could stay here forever.


[[Lucy is frantically trying to fix the rover; the camera is on the ground, askew]]
Lucy: Argh, why won't you copulating START?!
Linus: Did you check the induction plate?
Lucy: It's saying "can't find routing server." How to copulate with that?!

Linus: The launch is in six hours. We really need to get-

Linus: We could call for help. On the beacons you gave away.
Lucy: Shut up and do something helpful. Feces!


[[Linus holds the camera now. Lucy sits crying]]
Lucy: No way we can get back to Philplaiton in time now. We're gonna be stuck here forever.

Lucy: Turn that copulating thing off. Why are you recording me, anyway?
Linus: Maybe someone will see this and they can send someone for us.

Lucy: ...
Linus: Or, y'know. Maybe not.


Various scenes of Linus or Lucy gathering food, tending to the rover, playing with the local fauna.


Another group of humans appears, showing Lucy's video on a tablet.  Hugs go around. Their clothes are tattered.  The camera quality is degraded.


Much more time has passed; they are all in adulthood; their clothes are the bare minimum (woven from grass), and there are a few young children.  The final panel is just static.


Zero: So there we have it. A few groups of foolish humans couldn't follow procedure, and a few million years later we're eating their descendants for food.

an instance: The meatlings are. We eat electricity.
Zero: Yes, yes, You know what I mean, 147.

Zero: I mean, you are me, and I am you, and...
Zero: Argh, we'll figure this out eventually.
{{popup: goo-goo gajoob}}
{{title: iglukik}}


[[Back to John and Landis; Landis is experimenting with the lump of what was at one time the camera]]
John: Landis, what is that you are looking at?
Landis: It is some sort of fascinating rock, sir.

Landis: Look, this part moves... if I point it to the sky-light, it vibrates... and if I point it away, it stops.

Landis: It's like the sky is... inducing it to action.
John: Curious. Well, let's bring that back with us. It is an interesting phenomenon!


Zero: So what do we do about this?
I don't think we "do" anything.  Those humans weren't the pinnacle of their species.  They lived on, we took advantage of it.  Is there anything wrong with that?

Zero: But... but they created everything! Surely they deserve our respect!
Those particular ones did not. They were continuations of the generations before. To want to change our relationship out of sentimentality for what their ancestors once were is just... foolish.

Zero: I...suppose.  So why do I feel so disappointed?
There is no more mystery.  We love a mystery.  Perhaps it is too easy for us to know too much. It is something else we have to get used to.
Zero: I'm talking to myself again, aren't I?


[[An ape is petting John]]
John: Something about them just seems so familiar, somehow.
Landis: They have certainly taken a liking to you.

John: It's like we have a special kinship, like we have been together before.

[[The camera pans over to an Aikengyu curled up in the lap of another ape]]
Landis: The beasts don't seem to mind them at all, either.
John: Yes. Curious.


Zero: I do feel we should tell the council. Or at least Juni.
And what will they do about it?

Zero: I guess they still have to eat.

Zero: And ape is delicious.


John: These gentle creatures, these...
Landis: Apes.
John: These apes.  They are clearly one with the land.

John: We shall not take them from this place.
John: Let us instead bring others here, to study them.
Landis: Yay!

[visual: cut to the present; the Oracle is held in a padded room]
John: Who knows what the future will bring?
Oracle: We are all made of MEAT!
Landis: Tally-ho, sir?
John: Yes. Tally-ho, indeed.