103 - Tribunal, 1.3

A continuation of the Tribunal storyline. Kind of broad-strokes-ing it because it’s been three years since I wrote that and so I might have screwed up some details, but wanted to conclude this so Concord had some changes leading up to Phase Two.

“This is it?” Adam asked as he pointed at the tiny sliver of crystal on the conference table. While it lacked in size, Adam could certainly feel a presence within in. “Radiance said it looked like a dragon and then a person and- Ow!”

Valor had step forward to slap Adam’s hand before he could touch the crystal. It had just been meant as a deterrence but since the Trio were in their Agent forms and Adam showed up as himself, even the lightest tap left a significant sting in Adam’s hand.

“We’ve changed it to its inert form,” Truth said in his usual condescending manner. “It is too much of a danger to be let roam freely.”

“Uh huh,” Adam responded. Radiance had caught him up with everything involving the fear entity she’s been through this week and Adam had been expecting more than the tiny gemstone. “So the Concordance made it?”

“Yes,” Truth said with confidence, but even without his heightened empathy Adam could tell Valor and Compassion were less certain about that.

“Can I talk to it?”

“No,” Truth answered immediately. “It is damaged and incomplete outside of the Dark Nebula. On this planet it is confused, and its limited programming would make it a danger to others.”

“What do you want to do with it?”

“These units were never meant to leave the Dark Nebula. It should be returned for Reintegration.”

Adam frowned at that. “What does Reintegration mean?”

While Adam couldn’t see Truth’s eyes behind his helmet, he could tell the other boy was rolling his eyes. “The Concordance will fix the damage to its programming and then put it back where it belongs in the Training Programming.”

It sounded very simple, but Adam didn’t trust the Trio. They had done everything they could today to keep Adam in the dark about the entity and what they meant to do with it. He was certain that there was more than what they were telling him, but he wasn’t going to learn it here.

“I’m going to talk to it first.”

Truth stepped forward to stop him, but Adam was already holding out his hand to touch the crystal. He could feel the presence within the crystal, cold and distant. Adam reached out with his empathy and touched it.

The world darkened and then flared back to life. Behind Adam roared a blazing sun with tendrils of multi-colored light flowing in and out of it. He’d been to this place before, some sort of mental construct Solaris had called his Emotional Core. Adam always expected the light from the Core to be blinding, but here physical limitations like sight didn’t matter.

Adam looked around and soon saw a figure just outside the light of the Core. It was humanoid and as Adam approached it, he soon realized it was a shadowy reflection of himself. Summer had told him the entity did things like this, assuming the shape of whoever it was connected to.

“Hi,” Adam said with an awkward wave. The entity gave a curious tilt of its head that creeped Adam out slightly. It was odd seeing yourself but not yourself reflected back at you.

“You are afraid of our reaction to your greeting, why is that?” the Entity said both in Adam’s voice and not-Adam’s voice.

“I don’t know,” Adam said, realizing he wasn’t going to be able to hide anything from this being. “I do that all the time.”

“You are an Agent of the Concordance, you should not Fear.”

“I don’t think I’m ever not going to be at least sort of afraid of things.”

The entity seemed to consider this. “Why are you here? Should we not be being returned to the Concordance for Reintegration?”

“I just wanted to talk to you first, find out if you even wanted that.”

“What other options are there? The other Shard deemed that we were sufficiently damaged to Emotional Matrix Cascade and time away from my station. Reintegration with the Universal Concordance is the only method to reset our programming.”

“Wait, wait, wait, I have so many questions. This sounds like they want to-“ Adam started to ask, but another thought suddenly jumped to the front of the line. “Wait, what do you mean OTHER Shard?”

“Unlike the Gamma-class Guardian Shards that you are familiar with, I am a Tau-class Training Shard whose purpose is to shape new Hosts into better Agents of the Concordance. It is likely had you ever left Earth that your Shard would have directed you to the Dark Nebula for Orientation where you would have learned these things.”

Adam had no idea how to deal with this revelation. The Core behind him was rapidly shifting through different hues, throwing wild shadows of himself and the Entity all around them. After a few moments a thought struck Adam and the light flashed White and held steady.

“Why did you leave the Dark Nebula?” The entity-Tau-seemed pensive at the question. “Solaris used to be able to show me thoughts directly. Can you show me?”

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“I’m going to talk to it first,” Amari said.

Truth moved to stop him, but Amari had already been standing right next to the inert shard and it only took him a moment to make contact. Amari’s eyes glossed over with a sheen of white light as his consciousness linked with the shard’s.

“Oh hell,” Compassion said over the Trio’s telepathic link, “G4 is not going to like this. How long does-“

Amari’s body erupted with energy. The Trio quickly fell into defensive positions, Valor in the lead with Compassion and Honesty flanking behind her half a step to allow their strongest barrier to protect the whole team. But an attack never came, at least not a physical one. Amari had assumed his Agent form, the malformed marking of his full assimilation with his Shard replacing the usual ranking bands of a normal Concordance agent always causing the Trio’s partner Shard to assume a confusing combination of deference and revulsion towards Amari.

When Amari spoke, his voice was full of quiet authority and condemnation. “Was it you three or your shard that decided this entity needed to die because they aren’t what the Concordance wanted them to be?”

The trio spoke at once, but there was not the usual unity when they did so. Instead of one message said with three voices, it was three voices all trying their best to justify their actions. “They’re aliens, it’s different…” “Not our decision…” “You really shouldn’t have spoken to the entity, it’s deceptive…”

“No,” Amari said, not shouting but his voice still drowning out the Trio’s words. “No, you don’t get to lie about this anymore. They are not just some training device. They’re a Shard, just like Solaris and just like yours. But instead of linking with one person, they linked with a lot of different people over a really long time in the Dark Nebula and so it changed, a little bit at a time. And the Concordance would reset them whenever they started to start to develop their own personality. But then some comet tore through the Nebula and took them with it and they were left alone for a thousand years or more until they woke up a couple a couple of weeks ago.”

“Then you can see being away from the Concordance for so long has damaged it,” Truth said.

“They only thing I saw was someone who was alone for a really long time and only ever knew how to interact with others based on a script so that when they met people and the script didn’t work any long, they made mistakes.”

“Proof that they are damaged.”

“Proof that they’re just like everyone else. I know from personal experience that the Concordance doesn’t value individuality, but I am not going to let you wipe their away because they want their training device back.”

“Don’t.” It was Valor who spoke and Amari could feel the annoyance radiating off Truth that someone else was speaking. “Replaced them a long time ago.”

“Perfect,” Amari said with wicked smile, “then the Concordance won’t miss them.”

“It won’t survive for long without a Host,” Compassion said.

“I know,” Amari said.

The Trio were confused by Amari’s statement, until Valor noticed the crystal was missing from the table and informed the others via their link.

“What have you done?” the Trio asked in unison, their Shard-Solaris Gamma-Four-firmly in control.

“Finally talking to me yourself, Four?” Amari said with a smile. “Tau and I talked about it. I didn’t have a partner Shard—that’s why you haven’t liked me all this time—and Tau needed a Host. Seemed like the perfect solution.”

The Trio seethed with discordance. This situation was the Senior Agent’s decision, but this decision would not serve the Concordance’s needs. The Hosts’ feelings clouded with Shard’s decisions. With a bit of clashing, eventually Love and Courage prevailed.

“This decision will stand for now,” the Trio said, their unison breaking down slightly even with Gamma-Four in the driver’s seat, “but if any harm befalls the Shard at your hands, there will be a reckoning.”

Amari started to answer, but the Trio were already gone.

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Once the Trio had left, Adam let his Agent Form collapse back to himself, but that meant he had to deal with the fallout like a human being. Adam was keyed up, relieved that the situation ended without a fight, but his nerves still expecting one. All he had was the silence of the conference room to calm him.

“Agent, are you alright? Your heart rate is still elevated even though the conflict is over.”

The silence of the conference room and a new partner. Adam was unused to the presence of the Shard in the back of his head, but it was oddly comforting to hear it again.

“I’m fine,” Adam answered silently. “This is normal.”

Tau emitted a feeling of curiosity. “Humans are unusual.”

“Maybe. I guess you’ve known a lot of aliens in your life.”

“More than we can remember.” The Shard’s telepathic message was toneless, but Adam still felt a ting of melancholy in it. “What happens now?”

“I don’t know,” Adam said with a shrug. “I guess I need to tell my parents about you. We’re supposed to see my Aunt Sara tomorrow night, so I am going to have to get used to having a voice in the back of my head again before then.”

Tau silently processed this. “We are afraid.”

“I know,” Adam said, having felt the emotion radiating from the Shard for the past few minutes but not wanting to press it. “I kind of remember going through this with Sol, so I’ll do what I can to help but it’s going to be a lot of new stuff for the both of us.”

“You are also afraid, but there is also a feeling of excitement. Is this also normal for humans.”

“Yeah, sometimes. New things can be scary but once you’ve gotten over the fear, it can be exciting to imagine all the possibilities that thing could be.”

“We would like to be excited as well.”

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And with that, the Tribunal is concluded. Adam has a new partner but this time he’s the “veteran” and Tau is the rookie. Can imagine this leads Adam to take some time to stop doing heroics and instead focusing on showing Tau what being your own person is like. That isn’t to say Concord is gone forever, but this is going to led to a bit of a change with priorities with Adam.

Or, to put it another way, in Phase One Leo played big brother to Adam to help him become a better person. In Phase Two, Adam is going to pass that forward to Tau.