Author's Notes: This
story takes place in the storyline from the Genesis/Mega Drive
I don't actually count this as part of my personal Ecco the Dolphin timeline. However, based on an interview with series creator Ed Annunziata (available at the Ecco fansite Dark Sea) and a little knowledge of natural history, I think it makes some sense, at least. Besides, AUs are fun.
Disclaimer: Ecco and his world belong to Appaloosa Interactive.
They are like us, but only in small ways.
They have come to feed and conquer – we have come to observe.
They are as one – but their oneness is focused on a single being. Our oneness pervades us all, and we are not vulnerable to the destruction of our center.
They are invasive, non-native. Invasive species are not welcome on an infant life-planet.
We will weed out the invasive life-forms.
The Vortex Queen had succeeded. She had escaped from the Singers, escaped from their hero, the dolphin empowered by what the Singers called the Asterite, and she was in a time before his kind, before intelligence swam with the Singers and spun with the Asterite.
In fact, compared to the wildly expansive ecosystem of the time the Vortex Queen had come from, there was very little life in this distant past. It was, however, enough to sustain the Queen and her drones, and had for some years. The dolphin of the Asterite, the great enemy of the Vortex, had not appeared, and on this day all of Vortexkind on Earth, linked together by their Queen, felt calm. The Queen had decided that the dolphin would not show up, that her plan to invade the Earth's past had worked; she was not foolish enough to think that none of her number would starve again, but she was confident that she, the mind and soul of the hive, would be safe forevermore.
We have gathered. We will need all our number on this world to be sure we can perform the weeding. We, the Monitors, are ready.
But we will first see if the weeds can be reasoned with.
On the edge of her consciousness, though a drone, the Queen felt something familiar and disturbing. Her mind focused on this drone, seeing through its eyes, hearing through its ears, senses alien to any Earth creature but the Asterite locked onto something the drone saw in front of it.
It was small. It was brown. It had a very asymmetrical shape. And it had a mind without a brain.
-We fell your presence, invasive lifeforms,- said the shapeless being, speaking through energy of thought. -We feel all of you. We feel your intellect, and we feel its center.-
The Queen did not respond. The Vortex had never had any real need for language. Each hive was as a single creature thinking in unison, and so speech between drones was not needed, and although the Queens could sense each other's minds they only used such contact for forming temporary alliances against more powerful hives. The Queen felt that the shapeless thing understood this, and she did not like that.
-We are the Monitors of this planet. It is an infant world, and the Masters decree that it will remain untouched until they see fit, growing as it will. We ask that you leave.-
The Queen did not respond, but the shapeless thing continued as if she had. It could feel the thoughts of the hive.
-The Masters would understand your situation. They would be able to provide a home and food for you.-
The drone attacked the shapeless thing and ate it. Despite this, the Queen felt its voice again.
-We have received your answer and understand it. It is regrettable to drive a species to extinction, but invasive species leave us no choice.-
And with that, communication cut off, the source of the messages not traceable. For the first time in many of Earth's years, the Queen was actively wary. She summoned her drones to the hive's center, and they formed a perimeter around it, the Queen commanding them as a fish commands its tail.
The weeds think they are prepared for us.
No weed is prepared for us.
The drones waited, waited, each single mind nothing but an extension of their Queen's, any personal thoughts drowned out by her psychic might, fearing no more for their lives than a Singer's fin fears for its, and within the day the Vortex hive saw its enemy approaching. It was a gigantic mass of the asymmetrical beings who called themself the Monitors – a mass that extended out of the hive's sensory range.
The drones waited until the Monitors were within a hundred drone body lengths, then attacked as one, a single being fighting for its life. And the Monitors, the repulsive lopsided brown masses, fought back.
The drones were armed with the deadliest close-quarter weapons the Queen had thought of; gigantic gleaming claws, sacs of deadly poison, sharp serrated teeth like those in her own mouth. The drones clawed and bit and spit though hundreds of the individual Monitors in minutes, carving a hole into the mass. The Queen still could not sense their mind, but she and her claws felt confident.
Then, in an instant, the mass moved forward and surrounded the fighting drones, and the hive felt a massive electric shock and the loss of two hundred and thirty-seven drones. The Queen hissed in pain and surprise – the loss of one drone was like a mark left by a play-bite, but so many all at once caused her pain like a Singer losing his tail.
The Monitors advanced into the hive, its defenses on the northwest side completely destroyed. Other drones rushed to defend their Queen, but wherever two Monitors could get around a drone, there was no hope for it, and the Monitors filled the halls of the hive with their mass. The Queen, sensing impending defeat, attempted to detach from the hive – but before the process had really started, the Monitors had reached her chamber.
The remaining drones were suddenly very, very alone, fins cut away from their mind. With their simple brains no longer linked, they panicked and scattered, some in small groups, some alone. The Monitors chased them, caught and killed many, but even confused and scattered, the Vortex species survived...
Some parts of the weed escaped the original culling. Without the unified mind, they were harder to trace, and some populations escaped our notice long enough to integrate into this infant ecosystem. At this point, removing them would be harmful.
The Masters are annoyed, but there is nothing to be done at this point. Now life here is branching out very quickly, and the Masters have ordered the shift from our We to an I, the excess losing the bond and becoming of this planet. And so it shall be so.
In an underwater cave, the Earth's first spark of sapience lit up. It was confused by the sudden sensation of being alive, but its mind was quickly occupied by questions of what its component parts were and where it was. Like a baby Singer seeing its snout for the first time, its first moments were occupied by finding out what it was, but unlike a Singer, what it would look back on as its first moments lasted millennia.
As the infant intelligence explored its body, a revolution of life was occurring all around it. The Earth changed in an instant, life seeking out any available niche in its oceans; the descendants of the scattered and broken Vortex hive were among the most successful groups of species, and would remain so for as long as life existed on Earth.