Yukikaze: Boomerang Squadron

By Q42

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Sequel to Homecoming. The human race thought its war with the JAM was over. The Passageway has been closed for years. The aliens haven't shown themselves for nearly half a decade.

In the absence of a common enemy, humanity has split once more into feuding factions. International conflict and political intrigue threaten to plunge the Earth into a new World War.

Even when a surprise attack reveals the JAM's presence on Earth, the powers-that-be refuse to acknowledge the threat they pose, too focused on their own agendas to care.

Now, the Earth's only hope for survival will rest with a small, elite combat unit, tasked with finding and defeating the JAM on Earth:

Boomerang Squadron.

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Prologue: Variables

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Well, that didn't exactly go as planned.

In the vast thoughtspace of the Whole, the voice seemed to echo through the immensity. Spoken by one component, the message was received by many others, which directed their attention to this new, unanticipated situation.

Unexpected events sent shockwaves of distress throughout the Whole. Was the Equation in error? Were there more variables than anticipated? At its core, the probability tree sprouted an unruly tangle of possible outcomes.

Many of the new branches ended in failure.

As one, the components that had tasked themselves with understanding the new permutation experienced recorded input. A Combat Composite was in the process of canceling out an Individual flyer – a common enough operation. The Whole had isolated and cancelled many of the Individuals' units before. The Combat Composites had proven themselves particularly useful for this method of variable elimination – even during their earliest proofs, none had ever been rendered null by an Individual unit.

Until now.

Suddenly, the Individual unit flipped over backward, its forward end now pointing directly back at the Combat Composite, and unleashed entropy-inducing velocity-mass quantities. Successful solution paths were rendered null as the Combat Composite was simplified, its left velocity function canceled.

The pursuit continued, but in the end, the probability tree was pared down until there were only two open paths: success by mutual cancellation, or utter failure. Ultimately, the Individual unit prevailed; exploiting the Combat Composite's greater inertial quantity, it induced the Composite to perform a radical Y-axis-only maneuver, then generated a positive-slope concave curve before the Combat Composite could match its vector change. The recorded input ceased; the Combat Composite had failed.

It wasn't my fault! I tried to take that damn thing out! How was I supposed to know it would be able to pull up faster than I could?

The Whole shuddered, parsing what little useful data the emotionally-charged outburst contained. The Individuals' manner of processing was a grotesque, alien thing to it. Indeed, that was why it had converted so many Individual units into its own components. Unable to fully comprehend the warped, convoluted decision paths of its enemies, the Whole instead used these new components as conversion factors, rendering the actions of other Individuals somewhat more comprehensible.

This particular variable had proven extremely difficult to cancel. It was a composite function, meshing the strange, unpredictable behavior of an Individual with a precise, efficient problem-solving capacity similar to that of the Whole itself. Contrary to all expectations, this single composite function had nullified numerous successful probability paths and cancelled many of the Whole's components. It had even managed to solve many of the false inputs the Whole had used to confuse and cancel out the Individuals, forcing the Whole to employ ever more complicated stratagems. Thanks to this Terran Composite, the Equation of the Optimal Solution had come to seem less a straight, perfect line than a twisting, convoluted path through a maze of chaotic probabilities.

The reappearance of the Composite was unexpected, particularly at this time. If it can indeed detect us, and allows the humans to anticipate our actions, this could cause significant problems. The Equation will have to be altered.

And what if there is no solution? On Earth, we are only a fragment, not the true Whole, nor even a complete processing node. We are still too weak to risk detection by opening a permanent Conduit. We should seek a different Solution; open a Conduit briefly, upload that which has been learned here, then dismantle the physical components on this planet before the humans can destroy us. We could leave this world in peace; there are many other planets that could be converted more easily than this one.

Ah, of course. This is not the first time we have heard this argument from you. The Whole is familiar with your sympathy for the humans, and your regret over losing your original human existence. But never forget, the Whole has already determined the ideal outcome for this star system. The solution need not be resolved – it has already been calculated and given. Our task is to reach that solution by whatever means necessary, not attempt to recalculate the entire Equation from scratch.

But perhaps we must! If the Equation needs to be reevaluated, let's do it! And if we were wrong before, let's make changes to it and alter our approach.

The Whole has given this fragmentary node a task to perform. Until we can safely open another Conduit and establish communication with the rest of the Whole, we cannot presume to recalculate the Equation ourselves. The Whole is greater than any component, and it was the Whole that gave us our task before the Conduit was collapsed.

Don't get too upset over last night's failure. This could be a blessing in disguise. That this composite life-form managed to defeat so many of our units, despite our advancements in technology and strategy, shows that there is still room for continued evolution. We will find a way to meet this challenge, and the Whole will become even stronger as a result.

We are making a mistake by remaining here. If we attempt to overcome the humans, and they retaliate by destroying us, then all the data gathered here will be destroyed with us. The Whole will have learned nothing, and every human component here – every one of us! – will be obliterated.

And if we fail, then the Whole will simply delete us as useless components. At least by trying to serve the Whole, we have a hope of survival. Don't forget, Julia: the Whole reformatted us as components of itself. It made us what we are, and it can unmake us just as easily. Only by helping to convert this world into a new processing node can we prove our usefulness to the Whole and avoid deletion.

So that's it, then? Only by exterminating our own species can we hope to preserve our lives?

The human race is not our species any more, Julia. We are components of the Whole now. We must do what is best for it, and for ourselves.

There must be some other way….

And why must there? Another asked. Just kill 'em all, or make them kill themselves. Either way, once the human race is gone, this planet will be ours for the taking. Hell, at least the Whole will do something productive with it.

You sound so eager to kill humans. It's hard to believe that you were one yourself, once.

Hey, I don't owe those apes any favors. I risked my ass to save them, time and again, and what did I get to show for it? Nothing. Not even a goddamn pension. Now I'm part of the Whole – and so are you, love. Deal with it.

Unlike you, I never asked to be this way!

ENOUGH.

The mighty collective voice of the Whole brought an end to its Individual components' bickering.

GIVEN: THE INDIVUALS ARE AWARE OF OUR PRESENCE ON THIS PLANET.

GIVEN: THE COMPOSITE LIFE-FORM IS THE SINGLE GREATEST THREAT TO COMPLETION OF OUR GIVEN TASK.

GIVEN: THE INDIVUALS ARE UNABLE TO UNITE AS A SINGLE WHOLE.

GIVEN: EFFORTS ARE ALREADY UNDERWAY TO DECREASE THE WHOLE'S PERCEIVED THREAT LEVEL AMONG THE INDIVIDUALS.

GIVEN: EFFORTS ARE ALREADY UNDERWAY TO DIVIDE THE INDIVIDUALS FURTHER.

PROBABLE OUTCOME: DUE TO DISUNITY AMONG THE INDIVIDUALS, THEY WILL BE UNABLE TO FULLY CONCENTRATE THEIR DEFENSIVE CAPABILITIES AS AFTER OUR FIRST ENCOUNTER. THE COMPOSITE LIFE-FORM WILL MOST LIKELY BE USED AS A COMPONENT OF A SMALL SEARCH-AND-DESTROY UNIT.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: PHYSICAL DESTRUCTION OF THE COMPOSITE LIFE-FORM IS STILL POSSIBLE. INFILTRATION OF THE SEARCH-AND-DESTROY UNIT IS POSSIBLE. ESCALATING THE PERCEIVED DANGER LEVEL OF OTHER THREATS IS POSSIBLE.

What say we do all three?

ACCEPTABLE.

Throughout its vast thoughtspace, the Whole marshaled its forces. While still in embryo here on the Individuals' home planet, this partial processing node still possessed vast physical and computational resources. Already, the small but powerful fragment of the Whole was computing how best to undermine the Individuals' defensive capabilities, sow disunity among them, and cancel any factors that might threaten its survival.

Particularly the composite life-form called Yukikaze ….

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