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.
2018/04/22: I really need to get back to this
Oops, it's been a while since I've posted a comic. Sorry about that. I've been pretty busy with lots of things.
For a few examples:
- I've been doing a lot of work with the augmented reality startup
- I've been working on a new website CMS (that I hope to move my website over to soon! because holy cow do I hate dealing with Movable Type anymore)
- Been doing some game development (I don't think I mentioned CATcher here yet, that one's a lot of fun)
In any case, I really appreciate your ongoing support. Even if you can't help fund my Patreon or buy my items for sale, just knowing that there are people out there who are interested in my work does a lot to keep me going. Spreading the word would mean so much to me.
2018/02/22: Oh gosh I'm busy lately
Between working on like three games at the same time, having to support some folks on long-running projects, and working on reviewing, modifying and enhancing my keyboard, not to mention having way too many music projects that I'm Not Getting Done, I'm kiiiiinda too busy to work on comics. I do, however, have a 6-page manga-style zine comic that I did for my drawing group; I can't post it publicly yet but rumor has it that patrons might have early access to it...
Oh also! My games and I will be at Emerald City Comicon 2018 at the Indie Games Showcase! It is on the second floor North gallery. If you're going to be at ECCC, stop on by! My current scheduled booth times are:
- Thursday, March 1, 2—8 PM
- Friday, March 2, 5—8 PM
- Saturday, March 3, 8—11 PM
Anyway! Sorry for the lack of updates, but it's all for good reasons, I promise.
2017/11/09: Oh yeah I have comics to make
I do want to get back to both Lewi and Unity at some point though! Your patience is appreciated.
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- 995 total comics published (including 87 sketchbook pages, not counting 20 guest arts)