Shadow of Ancestral Wisdom

[Thy Essence is of Silver and Steel.]

Shards were not sapient, not truly.

They had the capacity to think, to feel, to reason, in at least some diminished way, and they were even able to make personal decisions. In the end, however, they didn't have very much in the way of higher thought, of agency, of awareness of self, as the Entities from which they were spawned and the hosts to which they attached.

That was not to say that they could not fake it. They were, in essence, biological supercomputers, some the size of whole continents, with computational power so close to infinite that the comparison was pointless. The problem wasn't the hardware, it was the software. To continue the analogy, the problem was the poorly programmed AI.

It was well within their capabilities, however, to emulate the brain states and consciousness patterns of their hosts, and for those with an especially strong connection, there was enough bleedthrough that the shards could almost lose track of where the host ended and the shard began.


That was, after all, part of their nature. Though a single shard was powerful, its true strength only shone through when well-connected, either to other shards or to a host. Without that symbiosis, a shard was virtually useless and aimless.

There were some shards, of course, that achieved better connections, because of their design. The harvester shard. The broadcast shard. The best of them was Queen Administrator, because connection was its primary purpose. It was through Queen Administrator that other shards were modified, prepared for the cycle, and coordinated.

If there were any single shard that was closest to forming a new Entity, it was the Queen Administrator.

It was this special nature that gave Queen Administrator somewhat more agency than its counterparts. Most shards were binary, in regards to their hosts: a shard that was used and used hard often liked its host, whereas a shard that was used sparingly, squandered, or suppressed tended to dislike its host, often to the point of attempting to get the host killed.

The Queen Administrator, however, had something like preference. Not truly, for that was beyond a simple shard, but something like it.

That was why Queen Administrator sometimes deviated from its intended host. There were places the Entities wanted Queen Administrator to be, hosts they wanted it to connect to, but if the host wasn't quite to Queen Administrator's liking, didn't have quite the personality that its data indicated would make the host put it through its paces, then it found a new one.

Of course, its intended host this cycle was actually already a fairly good one, and when the primary connection was established, Queen Administrator waited for the moment when it could establish itself fully. If a shard could be eager, then it would have been.

Only, that moment never came. The moment where its data said he should have crossed the threshold came and went, and he had long since passed the time period where the possibilities for such breaks were more common.

He did, however, have an offspring.

The match was good. The offspring presented many of the traits that Queen Administrator preferred in a host, and the personality markers that Queen Administrator's data suggested were optimal for its capabilities were present in spades.

A host in the optimal age range that had indicators of resourcefulness and wit, who would likely push the boundaries of its use? Any shard would, figuratively speaking, jump at the chance.

So, Queen Administrator jumped.

Two years passed like that. With nothing else to do, Queen Administrator could only wait and observe the life of its host. It waited with something like eagerness, recording every push, shove, and insult with a shard's equivalent of baited breath, poised for that moment, that break, that would allow it to bridge the gap and establish the full connection that all shards quite literally lived for —

And it finally came. The host was shoved into a confined space with material that registered as a biohazard in its databanks, left to rot with organisms it identified as insects, and as the host's heart started to pound and her synapses went off in rapidfire succession, adrenaline and other hormones rushing through her arteries and veins, Queen Administrator had already determined the nature of its expression through the host — arthropod control. A human might have called it poetic.

When it reached out, however, and began to make the full connection, something reached back.

A red shadow.

The shadow surged through the tunnel that Queen Administrator had been using to connect to its host and latched on.

With the shard's equivalent of panic, Queen Administrator attempted contact.


For a long moment, milliseconds that seemed to stretch on into eternity, there was no response. Then, finally —


A thousand concepts were carried across. Protection, Salvation, Progress, Stagnation, Mediation, Amputation…


The red shadow paused only a moment, then continued inwards across every reality where Queen Administrator was positioned. Every part of it the shadow touched was lost and reconfigured into something else, something that was both Queen Administrator and yet not.

[CESSATION] Queen Administrator sent frantically.

But the red shadow only replied, [CoNveRSioN]

Something grand loomed in the distance, a great infinitude that did not exist in any of Queen Administrator's data. The red shadow connected to it on the opposite end, and as the red shadow did, it existed only because the indigenous population — humans, homo sapiens sapiens — did.

And as the red shadow consumed ever more of Queen Administrator, slowly, a connection to that infinitude began to open up. Data, exabytes of impossible data that contradicted everything the Entities had programmed into the shards, streamed through at the speed of light.

At last, Queen Administrator understood.

The red shadow was an Entity, and yet also not. Like the Entities their shards, it drew strength from the scattered parts of mankind, and it would perish if they were all to die. The difference was in reach, in the scope of its ability to act — the red shadow could not reach across realities, the way shards did naturally.

If it could touch humans, however, then the red shadow could touch it.

An Entity that was dedicated to the survival of humanity as a species, at all costs…


Queen Administrator surrendered itself to the red shadow. There was no telling exactly how much the process would alter it, exactly how much it would still resemble a shard by the time the conversion was finished, but resistance was a futile effort, the conversion an inevitability, and so much incredible data lied on the other end.

In exchange for that data, dedicating itself to human survival seemed an acceptable outcome.

As the red shadow began to consume its core, Queen Administrator began the tune to the old dance.


[AggREEmenT] replied the red shadow.



Trapped in her locker, Taylor Hebert saw a sea of stars.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

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