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On March 1st, 2034 the world was changed by the appearance of the Tetras. At high noon in the UTC+11 time zone (Siberia) strange aliens suddenly popped into existence. They followed the sun, rolling out around the globe. There was panic, delight, confusion, chaos, and there were a few deaths. Overall the Spawning (as it came to be known) was relatively smooth and uneventful. Perhaps it was the way the Tetras kept repeating a recording of Captain Kirk saying, "We come in peace," as they went about exploring our world. By the end of the 24 hours of spawning there were an estimated 100,000,000 new sentient aliens living on earth.
By the minute times are noted for the author's sake.
T+00:00 – Solar Noon / 1337h UTC+12 / 0137UTC
Dmitry’s car slammed on the brakes. He was thrown against the front seats, putting a sudden end to his extended effort to collect all the salt off the hooker’s breast. The bottle of tequila smacked his face a moment after he hit the floor. He picked it up, took a swig, and in his native Russian said, “What the fuck?”
The hooker was paying more attention to the world outside the car than what was being done to her, so she had enough time to brace herself to avoid being thrown around. Now she started to shriek in terror. She grabbed her purse and scrambled for the door. It remained locked until the car stopped a moment later. Still half naked, she bolted down the street, screaming something about monsters.
A bit stunned, Dmitry crawled up onto the seat. “That was not how this was supposed to go down,” he muttered. He was used to narrating his experiences in real time: extreme tourism blogging involved a lot of turning to the camera to make a quip or give an opinion, often while drunk, stoned, or having a sexual encounter. Talking about what he was seeing was automatic. His camera drones had already righted themselves to return to tracking his progress, so he looked around to see what the hooker had been screaming about.
“Is this for real?” He finally saw what caused the car to brake so suddenly. Garishly coloured creatures, clearly not of Earth, were crawling around the roadway. They were too bizarre to be believed.
He pulled aside one of his augmented reality contact lenses to look at unaugmented reality for a moment. “Shit. They’re still there. Go,” he said, waving two drones out of the car. He took manual control of them through the AR interface for long enough to point them at the aliens, and to verify that the third was covering his own actions. Then he dragged himself out to look at them with his own eyes.
“I thought they were VR creatures from some local game,” he said, talking to the cameras, “but they are really here.” He paused for a moment. The colourful creatures looked to be roughly human-sized, but their strange anatomy made it hard to judge. “Where are their heads?” He was unable to comprehend the whole creature in one go, so he found himself looking at one of them piece by piece. “The arms make sense,” he said, “but there are four attached to both ends of the body.” Their arms looked a lot like human arms, and they were attached to human-like torsos. Unlike a human, where the chest connects to hips and legs, these aliens had another chest, like a mirror image, with two more arms. “Which way is up with these things? Where their heads should be there’s an elephant!” Between the shoulders at each end there was a long trunk.
Dmitry watched the aliens wander around for a while, exploring the roadway. The nearest creature was a patchwork of colours and patterns. It climbed over the car in front of him, exposing it’s back to the blogger. In his drunken state it took him a little while to see how their arms worked.
“Shit! Their elbows bend both ways! The back is the same as the front, and the top is the same as the bottom!” It crawled over the car, running it’s trunks over the vehicle, coming closer to Dmitry. “Their bodies are covered in quills like a hedgehog,” he said. “I count eight separate colour patterns – four on each side. Each arm is two colours, one on each side.” He shuddered watching the things’ shoulders extend into ranges impossible for a human to achieve. One alien reached down to the door handle with one of it’s trunks. “The trunk – each trunk – is four patterns, matching the arms on either – on all sides. The trunks are covered in something like hair. There are four wiggly fingers at the end of the trunk, one of each pattern.” It pulled on the handle, causing the door to pop open. This was evidently a surprise, as it leapt up and away from the door. It landed lightly on the roof of another car stopped three metres away.
“That was fast.” Dmitry realized he was whispering. Unconsciously, he took a long pull on the bottle. “Wait, are they saying something?” For the first time he became aware that the aliens were saying something in English, over and over again. “Phone, what is that?”
His phone immediately superimposed a video clip of William Shatner in a golden suit. The audio played in his earplugs, translated to Russian: “We come in peace!”
“I am not going to look at the bottle and shake my head,” Dmitry said, staring at the nearest drone. “I want to, though.”
The machine intelligences that monitored the internet for newsworthy events picked up on the invasion, not only from Dmitry’s channel, but from thousands of other cameras and phones. The situation was so odd that it was generally flagged it as a hoax or hacking. The few newsrooms that noticed went into a spin while trying to figure out what was really going on.
Gold Coast, Australia
T+00:21 – Solar Noon / 1158h UTC+10 / 0158UTC
When the aliens spawned on the Eastern coast of Australia twenty minutes later the world finally started to pay attention.
The Gold Coast was the first population centre to be inundated. Brisbane was overwhelmed two minutes later. There was some panic as tens of thousands of creatures spawned in the busy cities, but very few injuries or deaths.
“I didn’t have time to panic,” Jonah Karasmanis said to his phone, streaming to Facebook.Live. “By the time I knew the weird buggers were coming they were already here.” The AR feed showed the young man standing in the middle of a team of five of the aliens. Two of the creatures used their strange hands and trunks to wave various blobs of metal around his body. “They seem curious and harmless, as far as I can see,” he said.
The phone had the standard 360° cameras and environmental scanning needed to generate a solid augmented reality experience. His glasses added several more cameras and microphones, as well as serving as the main display for the device. The people watching – already in the thousands, and increasing exponentially – could choose their point of view, seeing what Jonah saw, or surveying the area as they wished.
One of the aliens reached out a trunk toward his phone, held in an outstretched hand. Jonah withdrew slightly, then shrugged and extended his arm toward the sinuous limb. The four fingers on the end of the trunk were about the size of a human thumb, but moved more like a tongue, without joints. They extended outward like petals of a flower, flattening out as they did so. The phone noted that there was a small opening in the middle of the lobes, and that it extended deep into the trunk. There was a constant, quiet rushing sound coming from the hole.
“They breathe through the trunks,” Jonah said, excitedly. “I can hear the air rushing in. Woah!” When the lobes were about 15cm from the phone it flew out of his hand toward the trunk. The fingers caught it gently. “Hey, that’s my phone!”
The trunk moved away from Jonah, down and to one side. The creature reached up and handed the phone to one of its hands. Millions of people were treated to their first close up view of a structure that looked familiar and bizarre at the same time. The hand had a human looking thumb on each side of a broad flat palm. The thumbs didn’t have nails, and could bend across the palm on the front and back of the hand. The aliens had index and ring fingers too. They could curl down to either palm as well, and had nails growing out of the end of the digit, like a tiny hoof. They looked like jade.
The middle finger was the strangest. Twice as big as a human finger, it ended in a broad fleshy pad. Jonah’s phone stuck to one side of the pad as if glued there. The other two segments of the big digit had another hoof on each side. These were scratched and scuffed.
"They make fists with the big finger," Jonah said, "and walk on the hoof-nail things."
The alien used the far trunk to pull a metallic blob off of a sort of x-shaped bandoleer it wore across its torso. It spent several seconds moving the blob around the phone in a careful pattern.
"Look's to me like they're scanning it," Jonah said. The wireless connection between his AR glasses and the phone started to degrade. “Shit. I hope my insurance covers ‘broken by aliens’ when they’re done,” he said.
The signal went dark.
Ratung, New England, Papua New Guinea
T+00:26 – Solar Noon / 1203h UTC+10 / 0203UTC
The aliens spawned across a Papua New Guinea that was quite different from the country of only three years before. At first glance the change was not obvious: the population was primarily rural subsistence farmers living among the verdant forests. The fact that there were so few men in those fields could be overlooked easily. After the Rapekiller Plague of 2031 killed 40% of the men and transformed the hormone profiles of another 20% to female, the culture of the nation was radically altered.
Tetras appeared on quiet farms and villages without causing too much of a stir. Most women took their children away from the strange creatures without much ceremony, until the aliens finished exploring the immediate area and wandered off.
Alice sat with her little brother, Kins, going over his schoolwork while they waited for the colourful creatures to go away. The nine year old remembered the time before the bad men went away. She was determined that Kins would not grow up like them.
A shadow passed the window. “Look, Kins! One of the aliens!”
Kins leaned against her, his five year old frame a small weight on her side. He looked at the window. “Are they going go hurt us?”
“I don’t think so.” Their mother Jenella spoke quietly, sitting by the door to their small home with a cutlass across her lap and a scythe beside her, leaned on the wall. She looked again at her phone, to see if there was any change. The news reports were still new, but no one was reporting attacks or bloodshed.
“I think they are pretty,” the boy said. The three listened to the alien climb quickly up the wooden walls and onto the corrugated steel roof. Several other creatures joined it and moved around up there for a short time. They descended on the sea side of the house.
Jenella went to the window and looked outside. **description to be added** “It looks like they are moving West,” she said. The colourful creatures had reached the North Coast Road, then turned left. She opened the door and stepped outside. “Today you can leave your books in the house,” she told her children. “Come, help me in the garden, and stay nearby.”
The children followed their mother out. Other families were emerging, watching the aliens moving away though the village.
Their neighbour Bron walked over to Jenella, carrying one young child and leading three more. “What should we do?” she asked. She was a nervous woman, without the years to be so calm in a crisis.
“We work, and keep the children close,” Jenella said.
T+00:30 – Solar Noon / 1307h UTC+11 / 0207UTC
Now that the aliens had the world’s attention, humans worked with machine intelligences to pour over the video and sensor information collected about them. The discussion quickly settled on the term “spawning” for the way the aliens were appearing. The rushing sound and flash of purple light reminded many of the special effects used to introduce new characters to the popular VR game, ShadowRun.
As the aliens were appearing across Sydney, daytime news producer Jennifer Smith found herself unexpectedly on camera for the first time. "It looks like they are appearing at local solar noon, Mohammed.” Her fat, pale face was blotchy with excitement – no time for makeup! – but her sharp voice was calm and strong. "It's like the Earth is turning under them and they teleport in when that part of the planet is closest to the sun."
Mohammed Al Hussein, the daytime anchor for Australian Broadcast Corporation News (ABCN) was a bit flustered himself, but his voice remained the rich, cultured calm that got him behind the desk. “Solar noon? So not twelve on the clock, but when the sun is highest in the sky?”
“Exactly,” Jennifer said. “This means the aliens will be appearing across Australia over the next three hours. People have time to prepare."
"That means that UCANZ will be the first and last place they arrive, right?"
"I hadn't thought of that, Mo," Jennifer said. "The noon line was between Australia and New Zealand when this all started."
“Thank you, Jennifer Smith.” The focus switched back to Mohammed and the studio. He turned to address the main camera. “To date the aliens have not harmed anyone directly, but have also made no attempt to communicate with individuals or governments. They tend to operate in teams of three to six, and use tools to examine their surroundings. Stay away from them and you should be safe. Download our countdown timer to find out how long you have to prepare.” On augmented reality interfaces and screens around the world, people selected the offered widget.
T+00:35 / 0212h UTC+0 / 0212UTC
“We have ten hours to prepare this country,” King Henry said, “but India will begin to see the aliens in three hours, at 11:48AM local time.” He had been roused a few minutes before, and was still in his bedclothes, his iconic ginger hair a mad tangle of spikes. Queen Meghan stood silently behind her husband in a royal blue kimono, as regal and striking as ever.
Surrounding them in the virtual meeting space were three of the most powerful leaders in the New Commonwealth. Beatrice Ferguson, recently elected PM of the UK, was as unkempt as the royals, in a fluffy robe and rubbing sleep from her eyes. Canadian PM Pierce Lapham was still in black-tie formalwear. Physically, he was at a fundraiser. The Indian PM, Yogi Adityanath, was also smartly dressed in a grey three piece suit.
Lapham was the first to speak. “What news from China? We have samples on the way to the Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility in Sudbury by suborbital transport,” he said. A globe appeared in the air, showing the suborbital craft’s path from Australia to the north shore of Lake Huron. “We will have top researchers working on the aliens in about two hours.”
Adityanath had muted himself while talking to people the other leaders could not see. He waved the invisible people away and turned back to the other leaders. “China has gone dark," he said. "Your lab will take too long. The creatures are about to overrun the most densely populated region of the planet. The panic... It is chaos already.”
Ferguson nodded. “UCANZ are sharing their research now, but it is strictly observational. They have extended their open immigration policy to include the aliens.” The United Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand were officially neutral on the world stage.“Japan is in an uproar.” She shrugged. “The Chinese are doing something to maintain order but it is not clear what.”
“They are filtering all news of the aliens.” The quiet, aristocratic voice came from a small man who emerged from a shadowy place at the border of the virtual space. The shadows somehow draped around him, obscuring his features. No one questioned his sources. They all knew this was the man codenamed Parsifal: the Head of the Integrated New Commonwealth Intelligence Services (INCIS).
“Of course they are,” the Queen muttered. She frequently spoke out about China’s treatment of it’s people.
“Do we know how they are teleporting in?” Ferguson asked. “They seem to be able to get into locked facilities as well as open spaces.”
“Yes, can we stop them?” Adityanath asked, leaning forward.
“Not yet.” Parsifal said. “There is no evidence of aggression on their part, however. So far they have damaged some property, but no humans have been harmed.” He chuckled quietly, a dry, hollow sound. “Perhaps they really do come in peace.”
“We have been spreading the word,” Adityanath said, “but –"
“Dammit!” King Henry slammed his fist into his thigh, cutting Adityanath off with a display of his infamous temper. “Not good enough.” The Queen laid a hand on his shoulder, calming him. He reached up across his chest to put his hand over hers. “We need to protect our people.”
“Whether it is enough or not, Your Majesty, it is all we can do,” Parsifal said. He waited a moment for the King to nod, then continued. “We should prepare for the chaos this invasion will trigger among world powers. First, the multinational corporations…”
T+00:40 / 2034-02-28 2117h UTC-5 / 0217UTC
The Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility – BURF – was in chaos. The Director had sounded the alarm and mustered all hands at nine o’clock. “We are tasked with figuring out how to stop the aliens’ spawning, how to defend against them, and how to communicate with them, in that order.” The Director was a large man of mixed heritage. He was tall and broad and dark like black coffee, but his hair was straight and his eyelids folded. His exotic features tended to range among anger, brooding, and menace. This night he looked a little surprised.
Most of the scientists were ready to work fairly quickly, despite the time of day. The public reason for BURF was to study the Boeing Biodome: a gigantic underground cavern that provided a full closed ecosystem for over forty thousand people. The secret purpose of BURF was an advanced skunkworks, doing research and development in many domains.
The Sudbury Biodome was the first of it’s kind, and the template for the Luna Alpha Colony, already the home to eighty thousand people. Most of the staff lived with their families in the Biodome, and worked in the separately excavated BURF. The commute was a short journey through a five kilometre tunnel that connected BURF to the Biodome.
Dr. Miranda Bishop was a small, pretty blonde. She was smiling when she addressed her research teams a few minutes later. They were not smiling. Dr. Bishop’s happiness was usually caused by someone else’s suffering, or anticipation of the same. “Two dead alien bodies are incoming for the biosciences teams.” She called up a countdown timer showing just under two hours before the bodies would arrive. “Dr. Mowbray,” she continued, “your team has thirty minutes to develop a detailed autopsy plan.” Dr. Bishop saw the pattern of heat radiating from the big blonde woman’s body shift. Adrenaline altered her blood flow to feed her limbs for flight. She heard the team’s breathing deepen and their hearts beating faster. The faintest scent of fear wafted from them as well. Miranda was pleased. Fear was such a reliable motivator. Dr. Mowbray took her team of seven out of the conference room immediately, not even taking the time to answer.
Dr. Bishop turned her attention to another scientist. Dr. Brenn was a tall, swarthy man with a fringe of wiry grey hair and a stained labcoat. “Dr. Brenn, your team will decode their genetics.”
“We don’t even know if they have…” He trailed off, staring at her unwavering smile.
“If they reproduce they have something that works like genes,” said Dr. Bishop.
He started to respond, but she has already turned toward another researcher. Frustrated at the belittling dismissal, Dr. Brenn almost spoke up. After a long breath he turned around and lead his team out.
Dr. Bishop followed him out with the tiny eye buds on the back of her neck while she continued giving instructions. She was satisfied that Brenn would step up his game now that he felt he had something to prove. She refocused her attention on manipulating the next scientist into better results.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
T+00:55 / 2034-02-28 1832h UTC-8 / 0232UTC
“C’mon, Pip, we need a scientific name for these things.” The demand came from Dr. Belle Tonga, head of xenobiology at UCLA. “CNN and Fox both have that as their first question and we’re on in five minutes.”
Dr. Sean Piper was a short, husky man with olive skin and short-cropped hair. “Of course that’s what they care about,” Sean muttered. Before Belle could respond, he held up a hand. “No, the public needs a name for these things. We need something catchy and vaguely accurate.”
Belle played back the video from Gold Coast, Australia, while idly moving a virtual model of the aliens around. “Perhaps something about the number of limbs?” the scientist muttered.
“That’s a good point,” Pip said. “Tetrapods or hexapods?”
“Tetra,” she said immediately. “The trunks aren’t arms. Hey, what do we call the symmetry these things have?”
“Then do you call bi-lateral on three planes?” she mused. “Tri-bi-lateral?”
“They’re symmetrical on three axes, right?” Sean asked. “Terrestrial life is sometimes symmetrical on one axis, or maybe two for some plants? These things are tri-axial.”
“Triaxial Tetrapods?” Belle asked. “That sounds…”
She trailed off as CALIA said, “The news drones are here. Please remember university policy on contact with the press.” Several drones flew into the lab, settling on a lab bench on tall tripods, bringing them to eye level.
As soon as the scientists allowed the drones to push images to their AR glasses the cameras were replaced with six reporters from local and international channels. A beautiful woman, tanned and sharp featured looked at the other reporters and said, “I’m first. You can follow up.” Her accent was pure BBC. As a reporter, Yalda Hakim was not a household name. Among reporters she was almost a legend for her investigative reporting and documentaries. If she wanted to come out of semi-retirement and ask the first questions they were not going to argue.
“Doctors,” she said, turning to the scientists, “I will want to know what to call them, how dangerous they are, and how we can defend ourselves. After that you will be asked questions by my colleagues as well. Understood?”
Belle smiled. “This isn’t my first rodeo, ma’am,” she said. “I do the ‘science’ on half the alien movies and games in this town.”
Pip stared at Belle for a moment. Normally Belle’s face was a weary, somewhat lined mask of puzzlement. With cameras on her she lit up and drew all attention.
“Good, Dr. Tonga. We will…”
“Oh, call me Doc Belle. That’s how my subscribers know me.”
“Got it. We go live on all stations in five, four, three, two…”
Pip recovered his composure while the reporters made their fifteen second introductions. It was easy to forget that Belle was a celebrity scientist when you worked with her every day.
“…with Dr. Belle Tonga and Dr. Sean Pipin. Doc Belle, before we get into it, what do we call these things?”
“There’s no consensus yet,” Belle said smoothly, “but we’ve been calling them triplanar tetrapods because their bodies are symmetrical along three planes – something not found on earth – and because they have four arms.”
“Tetra means ‘four’, correct?” Yalda asked.
“How dangerous are these Tetras?”
Belle smiled at the abbreviated name. That’s gonna stick, she thought. “Well, Yalda…”
Eventually Sean answered a few questions from the other reporters, but there was no question who would be racking up views.
T+01:16 – Solar Noon / 1153h UTC+9 / 0253UTC
The Japanese, as a whole, went into a paroxysm of activity once they understood the news out of Australia. The military and police mobilized Mechs – soldiers wearing armoured robotic exoskeletons up to three metres tall – to protect critical infrastructure. Across the country four billion civil defense drones were activated to form an intelligent meshed sensor network that blanketed the country horizontally, and in cities, vertically. At any moment a quarter of the drones were recharging while the rest were in the air.
The existence of this drone network came as a surprise to most of the world – including the Japanese people – but it was an understandable surprise. For foreigners watching the Japanese people prepare for the coming invasion, it was the people of Japan who seemed alien. Most people stayed off the streets and out of the way, as the government requested, but there were still hundreds of thousands who poured out into the streets, desperate to meet the aliens. Some armed themselves with ancient weapons, prepared to defend the country from the demonic betenticled horrors. Others prepared gifts for the tiny kaiju, to welcome them. It was the ‘we want to have sex with these things’ segment of the culture that caught the attention of the world, however. Just minutes after their appearance several teams of Tetras had been guided into studios for the purpose of seduction.
For their part, the Tetras did not appear to understand what the actresses were doing or why. They explored their surroundings and the people around them with no apparent hesitation or fear. Tentacle porn was taken to a whole new level.
T+???? – Solar Noon / ?h UTC+? / ?UTC
T+???? – Solar Noon / ?h UTC+? / ?UTC
T+02:40 – Autopsy / 2034-02-28 2317h UTC-5 / 0417UTC
“Good.” Miranda was already connected to the Virtual Augmented Isolation Laboratory. Physically she was inside the PAIL: the ‘physical’ side of the lab. The PAIL and VAIL were identically structured. When the real humans walked around in PAIL, androids and waldos exactly mimicked their actions in VAIL.
T+04:41 – Solar Noon / 1148h UTC+5:30 / 0618UTC'
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