Unity

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Unity

Postby Atavism » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:12 pm

Shìjiè Xiāngliào (Colony II)-

They came without warning, from deep space. They must have done a blind jump, like the old settlers did. Who knows how long they were out in the black, creeping up on us dead silent. We didn't know they were here until we saw their dull green glow bobbing in the dark like will-o-wisps, ducking and darting between the buildings as they swept the street.

I was in the hangar of our little spaceport, one of the only places that is always guarded in our colony, so I got to see them pounce on our dozy picket. One of them approached from the front, trailing a dull red tail of sparks as his vibro-sword lazily dragged through the concrete pad. When the picket turned to meet him two more rushed from the sides, pinning his arms. Three graceful strokes and the vibro-sword had amputated the frame's arms and legs. They carried off the chassis with the pilot still inside. It made me think of ants dismembering a beetle.

I walked to the bay doors and stared out into the eerily silent night. There were no alarms. No gunfire. No screams. I didn't know what to do. I just stared out over the heap of ex-chub parts on the pad and waited.

Maybe ten minutes later a squad of infantry showed up and secured the building. Not our guys, obviously. They wore some sort of grey carapace and full-face helmets. Only their leader, a young woman with striking green eyes, showed her face. She asked me how many people were in the building and if anyone needed medical assistance, then told me to follow a soldier back to town. She was so earnest and polite I didn't know if I should laugh or cry or scream out. In the end I just did what they told me to do.

From the looks of things they had everyone in town gathered up around a big, fat cargo ship they had landed on the quad. They were making a record of everyone's name, along with their family, occupation and a photograph. They were all so polite and professional I began to forget what happened to the picket and wondered if it was some sort of drill. Then mister Jeffries started yelling at one of them and got a rifle butt to the face for his trouble.

The rest of it is kind of a blur now. Just a lot of standing in rows as they tried to sort us out. There was a commotion as one of our pickets got rushed into the ship on a gurney. I remember one woman screaming that she couldn't find her children and the pretty commander comforted her while some guys shot off in a skiff to look around town. She actually thanked them when they brought her kids back. Then the loaded them up all together in the ship. It seemed really important to them to keep families together. It all seemed like it was taking too long, like help should have arrived by then.

After a while the ship was full and they left. I could see the wash of a few other, sleeker, assault ships on the horizon. We never saw them again, any of them. They took nearly half the settlement. In a way, I think it would have been better if they were simple raiders and all those people had gotten shot and blown up. Instead we had nothing. Just this huge terrible presence made by their absence. For weeks afterwards people would still catch themselves asking about someone who had been taken. We just didn't know what to make of it.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 1


We've arrived on Khthon, and it is just as miserable as they said it would be. Entirely lifeless, with a barely breathable atmosphere. Everything we eat is being grown in a warehouse, even the meat is either being grown in some sort of horrid vat or from a box of farmable insects. Whatever, it's not like we're here for the food, anyway.

I've been put in charge of our “agriculture” because the guy they hired backed out at the last minute. I feel like I'm ready for this but my guts are a big knot. We have prepackaged crap for the first year and emergency supplies besides, but if anything goes wrong on my end the expedition will fail.

Everything stinks, by the way. We're keeping everything sealed up while some sci-techs do some more work making sure there isn't anything super deadly that'll seep out of the ground or living in the air that the scout probes didn't catch. The air scrubbers keep it breathable, but now we're moving around a lot more than in the space ships and the habitats are starting to really smell like people. Hope we can unbutton the hatches soon.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 3

This place sucks. My office has a lucite panel that looks out to some mountains on the horizon. When they told me about it they made it sound like a perk, but it just serves to remind me of how terribly dead this whole place is. It's just a bunch of flat grey nothing scoured by swirling grey dust devils.

Worse, we found that the crappy grey dust is some sort of super-fine particle that's constantly worming its way into the machines and through our seals. It's not a huge problem, per se, but it is making for a nightmare on Mechanical's end replacing and refurbishing parts. We're still lucky, in a way. If it were abrasive or corrosive we'd be shipping back out by now, instead we're just scrambling to find anything that'll keep it out.

More luck, by the way. We unfroze the pollinators. They're some sort of bright lavendery-bluey butterfly. I would have wanted honeybees, which are much more efficient, but colonies don't do as well in transit and sometimes collapse entirely. Turned out not to matter at all! We're not sure if it is something with the planet's magnetism or gravity or the habitat or what, but these butterflies have started pollinating at nearly 100% efficiency. We couldn't do better if they were robots! We're still trying to isolate the cause of our little GPSerflies, but crop yields are going to be ah-maz-ing!

Yay!


Planet HelioGlam I- Free Colony SOS

We had heard about the abductions on HelioGlam II. Sick stuff. We weren't going to be taken that easily. Our station was fortified and tunneled out for defending against the Authority or whatever goons HelioGlam scrounged up to “enforce law and order.”

We were in the tunnels when we detected their ships entering our sovereign atmosphere. Their approach was just like all the other reports. Assault ships landed on opposite ends of town and discharged packs of war-frames that started sweeping the streets for resistance. Of course, we weren't in the streets, right?

I was listening to the dull rumble of their frames over me, waiting for the patrol to pass so I could pop out and snag the rear chump with my Clank-Catcher. This is important- it is some high power radio salvage hooked into some electrified cable. When I lasso a frame with it it dumps a big EMP along with the shock, right? Knocks a frame right out. No struggling, and certainly no calling for help.

Well, I nabbed the guy, right, and I swear to the Paleo-Christ that the minute he jerked every one of them knew. They all knew. You or me, wouldn't have even had time to cry out they turned so fast, and I know I shut him down. They were all over me. I only just had time to drop the loop and blow the tunnel behind me.

Things got real nasty after that. The situation went from us sniping them from the tunnels to them pinning us in the tunnels. Ended up taking a lot of people, most of our food too. We barely have supplies left to hold off HelioGlam another week.

Please advise.

Stay alert.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 11

Keeping everyone cooped up is starting to cause problems. Nothing major, just little fights breaking out everywhere over stupid stuff. They think they have the dust problem sorted and they're testing the mining frames tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get to start digging soon. Give everyone something to think about before a riot breaks out.

They brought in some samples of the crystals from the dust dunes around here. They are gorgeous! If this pans out we'll be rich just selling them for jewelry, forget the high-energy stuff the sci-techs think they're good for. I've never seen such a color! They make emeralds looks like river rocks.

We've finally opened up the vents. They still have to monkey with the gas ratios and scrub the atmosphere hard, but we've finally got some good fresh airflow and it is starting to smell better. I won't let them open up the agriculture departments quite yet. I want to have seeds from the first generation before we risk any contamination. The sci-techs think I'm paranoid and my staff is grumbling about the smell, but we really can't afford to screw this up.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 15

Everything is growing so fast in here, but that's what it has been designed to do. The butterflies have all died and the plants are budding fruit. I'm sad that they aren't flying around anymore, they added some color to this drab, horrible place. I keep checking the clutches of their little pale eggs as though if I look at them enough they'll hatch. This place stinks of the mulch we've been making to feed their larvae.

The mood outside of my department has lightened up a bit. The first couple of mining expeditions have come back overloaded with crystals. Everyone's very excited about all the money we're going to make.



SSF Anvard- Operational Task Force Interdictor

The young man sat strapped to a metal chair. Somewhere nearby his space combat frame was being inspected for any detail of its manufacture and origin. The defective explosive bolts attached to its cockpit were the first thing they removed, dropping them neatly into an ordinance disposal drum. He spoke only of his pleasure that his rearguard assault ship made good his fleet's escape and his earnest desire to die like he had planned to when his frame ran out of fuel. He was always polite and addressed his captors with a certain unsettling equanimity even as they injected him with a psychoactive medication to induce his cooperation. The initial delirious calm the drug produces was suddenly overtaken by extreme agitation at odds with his previously calm demeanor. He began to shout.

“It is known that of the fourth waveform, green is the central character, and in this regard it is remarked that green then must therefor Signify, such that certain villages will greet its coming with the singing of songs and the ringing of bells, while the uncontacted tribes will continue to think their red and purple thoughts that grow tumescent like fruiting bodies swelling in the void until the new sun Rises from the earth with its martial sight glowing green into the hearts of Wise Ones to whom it is known that of the fourth waveform...”

The young man continued this mantra, seemingly endless in repetition but constantly varying and warping until it resembled something closer to glossolalia than a genuine passage. His softly glowing green eyes stared wide as though at nothing, although if this were an effect of the chant or the drugs that loosed it from his lips his interrogators could not say. After the first hour his voice became hoarse and he could no longer recite, though his mouth continued on in spite of his strangled yelps. After the second hour the drug should have been totally out of his system but he continued anyway, possibly driven mad by the experience. His interrogators attempted to sedate him but to no effect, and he eventually expired.

The initial autopsy listed cause of death due to catastrophic aneurysm surrounding an unusual mineral growth within the brain with further analysis pending.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 17

We found something big when one of our miners fell through a sink hole at dig site three. We're not sure what to make of it yet, but we've ceased operations there until the company can get some archaeologists in to examine things further. It kind of hurts not knowing what's down there, but we're too scared we'll tear it all up if we go in with our clunky mining frames.

Not sure if it is the excitement and the smell in here, or if this is a serious thing, but I think my little bug friends are acting weird. The other day I could have sworn I saw a worm surface and lay itself flat in front of some scavenger beetles like it was offering itself up for sacrifice. Maybe it was just an unlucky worm? I'm going to have to do a study.

Things are going great over here. Too, great, really. I think my staff would be killing each other from being cooped up together for so long if they weren't so tired from tending to this super-surplus we've got going on. A blessing in disguise? Everybody else is in a super-good mood and getting along fine though, which is kind of disappointing in its own right. I would have liked some saucy gossip to take my mind off farming for a bit.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 20

The next wave of my butterflies has finally hatched and its work, work, work. You'd think that an organism that is designed only to eat would be better at it, but we're scrambling to make sure everything is just right for our little caterpillar farm so they'll keep fattening themselves up. If everything lines up like it should the coming out of their cocoons just after the flowering plants open up.

The archaeologists have arrived and are starting to work the dig, apparently. No time for me to pay it any attention. Wish I could, I guess they're letting small groups of staff come down with them now that they've got the initial cave-in site secured and recorded. Oh well, grubs and creeping vines are cooler anyway, right? Ha!


SSF Anvard- Operational Task Force Interdictor


The SSF Anvard and its sister ship, the Paravel, had tracked the raiders to deep space, well into the system's Oort cloud. The ring appeared so unexpectedly that neither ship would be able to decelerate in time to engage their quarry, so instead they released frame squadrons and lighter support-supply craft like chaff as they burned past the ring. The dark lit up like a meteor shower as the smaller craft braked hard to match the ring's velocity.

The transit gate was comprised of skeletal sections held together by long-legged frames resembling water-skimmers that constantly twitched and shifted to maintain their relation to one another in space. The cargo hauler and the remaining assault ship had docked together in the nominal center of the gate.

As the frames drew near, the ring twisted inside out like the final spasm of a dying snake. The water-skimmer frames locked their legs tightly, assembling the segments into a continuous circle. There was a sudden burst of light, and it was gone save for a thin band of debris left by its sacrificed transmitter arrays.

Operations changed to salvage and analysis of the debris field as the frigates slowed and turned to retrieve their squadrons. Orders were carried out in grim silence as the crews thought about the cargo ship full of civilians that was just lost.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 24


My staff were the only people who hadn't seen the dig. I just couldn't give them the leave time. Everybody. I mean everybody kept suggesting we go see it, or offered to take us or something. They seemed disappointed that we said no.

I was in the garden the other day, deep under some ferns and out of site. I was observing two beetles helping another beetle right itself, which is not how they are supposed to behave. Some guys cycled through the decontamination lock and made a bee line for my assistant. They jammed a bag over her head and dragged her back out. I was paralyzed. Eventually I got my legs to work and shook as I called the expedition commander. She just nodded and assured me she'd take care of it. She cut the line without moving from her desk.

I spent the night hiding in my room and crying. My assistant was back the next day and chipper as can be. When I asked her about what happened she acknowledged it with something like, “that must have been very distressing to see,” and an apology for worrying me.

She had brown eyes before but now they were bright green. The butterflies came out of their cocoons bright green. Something has happened and I don't know what. Is it the dust? The crystals? It all relates to the dig somehow.

I hope this makes it out. I know the mail is supposed to be automatic and tamper-proof and maybe they didn't even think about blocking it but who knows? I just need you to know that whatever it is, it was here from day one and it can get through your seals. Do not land on this planet. Do not let anyone leave. Just blast everything from space if you have to.

I know it is just a matter of time before they take me and I'm so scared.


Journal Entry: Planet Khthon- Entry 25

It is nothing like I had feared and so much more than I could have hoped for.


"Unity" continues in part 2!
Last edited by Atavism on Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unity

Postby skrob » Mon Jun 08, 2015 8:46 am

So that's horrifying.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:23 am

skrob wrote:So that's horrifying.


:mrgreen:
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Re: Unity

Postby spacemonkey » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:35 pm

Avatism, this is a fantastic little piece of fiction.
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Re: Unity

Postby zeekhotep » Mon Jun 08, 2015 5:55 pm

I like this. A gate that can transport itself (most of itself) is a cool idea for a villainous aggressor force.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:20 pm

spacemonkey wrote:Avatism, this is a fantastic little piece of fiction.


Thank you, very much.


zeekhotep wrote:I like this. A gate that can transport itself (most of itself) is a cool idea for a villainous aggressor force.


Thanks! I feel like I was kind of cheating a bit. I always thought that interstellar warfare would be kind of a non-starter due to the mass restrictions on gating and the fact that the gates themselves would be pretty easy to fortify into battlestations. In my mind forces would have to do inaccurate, one-way jumps and sneak up, and fielding a major fleet might require building its up over multiple jumps to deep space before an attack. I wanted to use that idea in this piece, but these guys weren't conquering, they just grab and dash, and I didn't have a way for them to get home.

Actually building a gate in deep space might be practical in a real military operation, but again that isn't how I wanted them to operate. So a gate that can gate itself seemed like the best solution without changing the transit paradigm, and I figured it having to leave stuff behind and needing a refit when it ported home seemed like a 'realistic' consequence of the technologies.
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Re: Unity

Postby VitorFaria » Tue Jun 09, 2015 6:46 pm

This is both horrifying and seductive at the same time, almost like Brave new world meets Dune, with mechs.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Tue Jun 09, 2015 7:22 pm

VitorFaria wrote:This is both horrifying and seductive at the same time, almost like Brave new world meets Dune, with mechs.


Thank you. I was hoping to end up on that edge where horrifying can still be attractive, and it is very gratifying to hear that I succeeded.
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Re: Unity

Postby skrob » Tue Jun 09, 2015 7:35 pm

I feel a deep need to make a counter-company. Thoguh with my severely limited supply of legos it'll be one dude most like.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:11 pm

skrob wrote:I feel a deep need to make a counter-company. Thoguh with my severely limited supply of legos it'll be one dude most like.


Why must you always oppose me? :lol:

I thought about making a white and orange guy that was part of some ancient oppositional force, but I thought it might be too Green Lantern-ey and having people who knew about this before or some sort of diametrically opposed color force was too solid and grounding for what I was going for.
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Re: Unity

Postby CmdrRook » Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:40 am

What would a situational alliance between the Unification Force and another faction look like, if at all possible?
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:00 am

CmdrRook wrote:What would a situational alliance between the Unification Force and another faction look like, if at all possible?


That's hard to say. The part I wrote is where they are experiencing a period of "growth." I suppose it would have to be far enough in the future, with the GHF being successful enough to be a legitimate faction with the military power necessary to negotiate in good faith from a position of security. Their ally would have to be in a similar situation, so that the GHF would gain more from a deal than a takeover. Finally, it'd have to a situation where the GHF was either directly threatened or the possibility of a meaningful threat in the future was apparent.

If all of those things were to occur, it would probably look like any other alliance. The GHF would ask for a liaison, with the preference of converting one of their allies staff to their side. I doubt anyone would accept that condition, so they'd have to send one over. Their ally would not need to furnish a liaison of their own, and they would be unwise to do so. The GHF would also push hard for the right to proselytize among their allies forces/civilian population. Access to the Khthon home system would be absolutely forbidden unless the planet was under direct threat.

The liaison would suggest strategy with a high regard for mutual benefit and would really be a joy to work with, but mixing forces would be difficult due to the GHF's extreme synergy. Working with them would be like being in a choreographed musical number that you missed all the rehearsals to.

In a more immediate scenario, without all that backstory stuff, it would probably look like any other shaky truce under fire. Some meaningful nods and a bunch of emphatic hand gestures indicating the need to work together against an overpowering force. Whether or not you need to watch your back is at the discretion of the individuals an the larger situation, but I'd assume your safe due to your willingness to collaborate and the tactical situation probably not being conducive to snatching. They might ask if you want to come with them very nicely though.

I'm trying to imagine what that would look like though. I think most of the time if they are around they're also probably there for you, and if another party showed up they'd just cut and run rather than try to slug it out through the unexpected hostilities. I suppose if they showed up in a system undergoing a free colonist rebellion the Governor might be willing to cut a deal and work with them, but he'd have to be some sort of Space Hitler level of evil and the situation would very likely blow up in his face as they slowly took over his stuff too.

Maybe a GHF ship crashed or something, and they only had a small force in need of help. Then they'd just work with locals as they need to survive, and they'd be very nice.

I guess the main point I'm circling around is that they aren't drones like the Borg that just chant on about assimilation. They are rational and they still retain their identity and personality, mostly...
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Re: Unity

Postby Blorf » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:33 am

One possibility would be a faction or race where unification is not a threat or possibility. This might be biological, (natural immunity,) situational, (uninhabitable atmospheric conditions,) or a technological advance, (vaccination or filtering,) each of which have very different political implications. If GHF can't reasonably consider unification, other options would need to be explored.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:20 pm

Blorf wrote:One possibility would be a faction or race where unification is not a threat or possibility. This might be biological, (natural immunity,) situational, (uninhabitable atmospheric conditions,) or a technological advance, (vaccination or filtering,) each of which have very different political implications. If GHF can't reasonably consider unification, other options would need to be explored.


That's a very good point. I hadn't really thought about what would happen if someone couldn't be integrated.

Thinking about it more, diplomacy will probably become necessary after a certain point. Raids on small colonies with little miiltary power in poorly policed ares of the Union is one thing, but there's a certain scale where they'd be recognized as a wider threat that requires intervention, and they'd need to avoid that pretty badly. They'd probably go legit and bill themselves as a spiritual movement, maybe they'd even be "persuaded" to release all of the people they've kidnapped back to their homes. :mrgreen:
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Re: Unity

Postby darksyntax » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:29 am

Great little teaser for a bigger story/world. A bit of a Dead Space vibe with some Pitch Black tension.
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Re: Unity

Postby eduty » Sun Jun 14, 2015 2:55 pm

Nice bit of fiction. Did you put a lot of thoughts into their tactics and technology? It's marvelous! The snatch and grabs, the gate made of frames. They're not your typical big space bad where they're more powerful or advanced. They appear to have the same level of tech, they're just smarter with it and subtle as sin.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:15 pm

darksyntax wrote:Great little teaser for a bigger story/world. A bit of a Dead Space vibe with some Pitch Black tension.


Thanks! I'm pondering a second part, but I'm not entirely sure what shape I would like it to take yet.


eduty wrote:Nice bit of fiction. Did you put a lot of thoughts into their tactics and technology? It's marvelous! The snatch and grabs, the gate made of frames. They're not your typical big space bad where they're more powerful or advanced. They appear to have the same level of tech, they're just smarter with it and subtle as sin.


Thank you. Some of their tech and tactics were based on things I had already been thinking about in the MF0 universe, like the need to avoid established transit gates. Other elements were more thematic or based off of the builds. I liked the idea of them sneaking in and sweeping a colony because it made them creepy, and I had a strong visual of those green pieces silently floating around in the dark. The self-gating gate was kind of cheating, like I said before, and the idea came from the way some ants will use their bodies to build structures for the rest of the colony to travel. The gate was also the only thing I wanted to seem like it was significantly out of place or different, because where did they get all of this stuff, anyway?
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Re: Unity

Postby Blorf » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:30 am

You might not have thought this deep, but are they actually content and polite or does the process act as an inhibitor between emotion and expression of emotion?

The latter seems more likely as a content people generally don't need to abduct and grow even if they don't find it morally wrong. Which means a unified member may experience hate, sadness, ambition the same as anyone else—but they are unable to express it. That would be maddening and nobody would know.

If you do write a second part, the discovery of this difference would be terrifying. It would absolutely give people grounds to seek out and oppose or destroy.
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Re: Unity

Postby VitorFaria » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:52 am

Blorf wrote:You might not have thought this deep, but are they actually content and polite or does the process act as an inhibitor between emotion and expression of emotion?

The latter seems more likely as a content people generally don't need to abduct and grow even if they don't find it morally wrong. Which means a unified member may experience hate, sadness, ambition the same as anyone else—but they are unable to express it. That would be maddening and nobody would know.

If you do write a second part, the discovery of this difference would be terrifying. It would absolutely give people grounds to seek out and oppose or destroy.


In my opinion, the impression that they are actually content while acting this way is way creepier, like they are constantly over the effect of something that guides their actions and reinforces them subconsciously with that mental state.
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Re: Unity

Postby Atavism » Mon Jun 15, 2015 11:22 am

Which is worse, something that can totally consume someone's mind and bend them to their purpose, or something that just hijacks the body and leaves the mind aware of what's happening...

This actually reminds me of a novel I read. It was a cyberpunk deal that featured a techno-trancendential cult that put people's brains into cyborg bodies so they could live forever, the twist was that they used the brain for processing and data storage, and the person was aware but unable to do anything. They just slowly went insane inside the box while the body tried to recruit new members for the robot army.

I guess my answer is that to know is more horrifying, though the perfection of the other's takeover is more creepy. Neither of these adequately describe what Unity is.

The idea here is that Unity connects and coordinates its subjects in a way that makes them compassionate and other-minded. There is a concern for their fellows that makes individuals happy to self sacrifice, be it a suicide rear guard or a worm turning itself over to its predators. It also makes them very considerate.

The big hurdle for writing more will be really defining and nuancing what precisely Unity is and what it represents. It is kind of a balancing act of making it strong enough to be what it is and do what it will do, without making it a tyrant hive mind or exotic space zombiism. I'm trying to finesse the narrative so that under different circumstances, with a different worldview, it could be seen as good.
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