Week 27: A.T. al Fine [Unedited]

Inner Corridor

Operatic soundtracks were built for times like this. As if the composer had posted up a spot along the very same backdrop which was set to be provided via musical accompaniment, the eerie overtone of airy voices simply fit.

Burdlit and his contingent were about to venture into the unknown for the purposes of preventing the unthinkable (from happening). In name only, his impact of leadership waned as he silently sulked off by himself a little ways out from the rest. Nobody betrayed the betrayer.

Least of all the softening sounds of the decrescendo which delicately played to the highs of violins while a semi-aggressive viola staccato kept up the pace of the movement. Burdlit's overture featured the long strokes of cello bows as the foreboding undertone and a stubborn bass pizzicato which answered the sharp call of deviousness with a flat, pointed resiliency.

Half listening and half focusing on the impressive Deew growth which formed beds of carpeted foliage, walls of sturdy trunks, and waves of overhead forested drapery, Burdlit took a mental note of how quickly Inner Corridor had been transformed into a cave of greenery as the once woody attacker began to sprout - having long since taken root. The fact that this occurrence happened to be holding onto his attention span was not a coincidence made of scientific fascination because he already knew the deal, but the operational general also knew the time. And that was about the only thing which was capable of running out right now. He wished that he had more of it for the purposes of thinking things through fully rather than contemplating his next move under a concealed yet seething fit of wrath that Dio Qze could not afford.

If Janette had just pacified the Deew earlier, the fate of the planet would not have even been an issue. Burdlit's attention could have been turned more completely to catching up to and eliminating the Space Force spy. He doubted that the botanist and the intruder were in league, but her priorities did not seem to be aligned with the main purpose of stopping the biological weapon - as per the original job posting. Could Galaxy Bloc actually have been capable of pulling a fast one on the slick talker? The possibilities of its prospects were most intriguing, but this development was also quite disappointing.

The Carriveaua had always been the dominant in this partnership with the unincorporated planets, guiding them down an endless path of dead ends and confusion as they sought to try and solve the Deew dilemma while keeping everything a secret from the overprotective Space Force. Even with what felt like the scientists only spinning their wheels, the biological weapons' threat had remained conveniently contained, so the business relationship continued to move forward. Each operational general's status was confirmed as legitimate, and Burdlit honestly liked to be looked up to as a leader or looked upon as a godsend by the Human filth. Harbingers always preferred to pose as saviors.

"Inner Corridor is a hub-like overlay unit which features eight directionally situated (for each corner of the globe), spherical wedges that help to reinforce the extended containment array around Dio Qze's core," the soldier with the slate computer refreshed the military-minded contingent's scientific knowledge. She pointed at the schematics on the device's screen when pointing out, "We're stuck here. There's no way of knowing if any of the other seven sectors have been compromised, but we've gotta assume that they haven't been and worry about containing the Deew within this one."

"Isn't there some sort of fail-safe that our topside units can engage while the biological weapon sits in this dormant state?" One of the others asked.

The soldier with the slate computer nodded, "Yeah, very perceptive. Piped into the sprinkler system is an emollient mixture that we were given courtesy of the Carriveaua which can damage the Deew on contact. There's enough of the stuff stored up that it could create a pretty good stream across all eight sectors, but the programmed protocols are savvy and flexible enough to send more of the dispersant the way of the affected areas."

This revelation was met with a concerned and frustrated chorus of, "Then, why aren't we doing that? We're losing time. This is a serious situation, and to be honest, we've been lucky to last this long. Yeah, the Deew was shredding our counterparts like - like nothing."

"It either means that nobody made it out of this communicative dead zone to be able to warn the outside...," the soldier with the slate computer played the voice of reason.

Or the outside did not care - Burdlit thought.

She continued, "..., or they've tried to activate the dispersant but the biological weapon might've damaged the systems during its rampage."

Yeah right - Burdlit also thought. He was starting to think that Humans really were not all that bright at the end of the day. The soldiers had signed on to become disposable pawns as a part of Galaxy Bloc's armed forces and now could not even fathom the idea that they were actually being disposed of. There was no denying his feelings for those of this contingent as the operational general had grown quite fond of them during his time on the planet - a pseudo home away from home, but being gullible was going to get them all killed.

And yet, some of the Humans on the unincorporated planets were trying to be smart. Their smart-as-ed antics, at Burdlit's expense, were going to net them destruction at the leafy hands of the Deew and subjugation at the webbed feet of the Carriveaua...as hostages. Yes, the Space Force was absolutely right about a predatory force swooping in and trying to undercut the megapower by exploiting the weak unincorporated planet link in their chain. Interestingly, it was not the New Alliance who had decided to make that first move.

The conductor would have pinched the fingers of the baton-less hand together at this point to indicate that not even a pin drop was warranted here. So quiet, the low rumble of the timpani seemed to ignite the faithful oboe to a super exposed portion of the concert. Coming to its aid was the warmth of french horns which surrounded the wantonly aggressive bells from various forms of percussion. The anxiousness of melody for the contingent's planning created a feeling of fluffiness and hope against Burdlit's brooding harmony.

"The biological weapon has three different phases," the soldier with the slate computer explained. "The alpha phase, which just got finished kicking our as-es, takes a great toll on the Deew's energy reserves - thus this break in the action seems like its nap time. We've got about how long until it reaches the beta phase, Operational General?"

"Probably about an hour," Burdlit turned his head only slightly as far as it could go to side when speaking over his right shoulder.

"That leaves us an hour to do what though?" An anxious soldier tried to cut to the chase.

Not to be rushed although cognizant of the urgency, the soldier with the slate computer chose to offer direction over admonishment, "Well, there's two things, and they both happen to be related. We've gotta try to activate the dispersant from this side."

Another soldier questioned, "Is that shi- even safe?"

"I'd rather take my chances with it than the biological weapon," the soldier with the slate computer made a very good point.

"True. Yeah. Hmm," led a secondary chorus which consisted of sighs and other forms of nonverbal agreement like affirmative hand gestures and head nods.

In controlling the conversation, the soldier with the slate computer added, "Now pay attention here. If the dispersant isn't an option or we're too late to take advantage of its defoliating properties, the duct system will wind up being our one and only way out."

The conductor's hand turned palm-side up here as it requested a subtle crescendo from the focused orchestra. The Deew had a part in the eloquent composition as well.

A question was raised, "What if we're too late and the biological weapon wakes up?"

"You want to think of the Deew in terms of the stages that a Human goes through," the soldier with the slate computer described. "Infancy: Flailing about aimlessly, unaware of its true strength and capabilities.

Puberty: Coming into its own, belligerent in what our scientists believe is its most dangerous phase. After a good sleep and low on energy, the Deew will seek to feed like any other organism, and we're the low species on the totem pole as far as it'll be concerned - which it won't be.

Even if we fail, topside will be afforded one more chance to stop this thing as it rests one last time before reaching the final phase. Adulthood: Believed to be unstoppable, what to expect...nobody knows."

With even more aggressive motions from the flailing baton hand of the conductor's gyrating body, this exaggerated dance atop the podium was meant to pull the entire symphony out of its lull from a series of dainty measures which were supposed to keep the audience off guard until the cymbal crash and the choir could once again shout with a certain grace which would send shivers up and down a listener's spine. But this was far from the celestial variety. The skies did not open up, and only darkness rang out from the bottom which seemed to somehow fall out from below.

Plants had ears too, whether via the functional growing kind or their auditory version which provided an intriguing response when listening to music. And this shrewd plant managed to overhear the plans of the contingent - the same contingent that it had allowed to survive its introductory onslaught in hopes that they would divulge a potential hint for escaping Inner Corridor. Sleeping with one eye open in order to retain awareness among the surroundings during slumber, the Deew awoke to its own thunderous fortissimo.

The vocalists belted out a haunting sonata of long, billowy tones that matched the desperation in the biological weapon's quest for survival to its newfound hunger for seeking out an alternate carbon-based component to subsidize its advanced photosynthesis. Shrill strings and harsh percussion teamed with blaring woodwind instruments to balance out a majestic clash of brass. As heart-pounding as the first time that a child heard an older sibling performing in an orchestra and imagined the grand possibilities from the enormous fires of interpersonal creativity that the experience lit, a powerful climax was finally reached.

So how would the audience respond to the inspiration: Seek to spend eternity expanding their creative horizons or sulk within the powerlessness from a moment of ephemerality? Ultimately, was it the moment that mattered or the response?

"You said that we had an hour! Not good.... Da--it, where's it gonna come from?" Were some of the various, concerned replies from the contingent which sought desperately to power up their laser rifles to rapid, maximum blast under the strain of basically standing in between a pair of tectonic plates while they rumbled off a Dio Qze-quake which shook the entire planet.

The soldier with the slate computer put the device away in favor of her own laser rifle and yelled, "Move out!"

With a shrug of ambivalence, "Whoops," Burdlit used his nano-chamo skin to fade away to invisibility in hopes that the Deew would not be able to locate him once completely blended into the surroundings.

These were the types of things that a composer envisioned when arranging a jarring piece for an original score. But the potential masterpiece was only halfway completed. How would it end? Upbeat? Or downtrodden? Whose tune would wind up shining through the brightest? The Enforcer's chamber music theme? The botanist's driving piano solo? The operational general's forceful yet hidden part from this segment?

Or would the biological weapon's dissonance claim the suite? That was enough for the night though, so the composer made sure to save the work, upload it to the backup FTP space, and email it to a personal email for the redundancy purposes of the paranoid. This project would surely be picked up again sometime next week.

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