Word Count: 5,202 words
Posted: February 6th, 2019
Continued from: KWC Match 186
It is a consistent across the multiverse. When the right conditions are meant, the building blocks for all living things are formed. It begins as shapeless, microscopic organisms, then, as evolution takes over, they begin to change and diversify in a multitude of unique creatures. From the smallest of creatures, towering giants are born. Despite such a variety, many of these new species do not survive, as evolution dictates which creatures have the necessary traits for survival. The weak must die so that the strong may live.
But this is only the case in natural evolution.
Across the universe, there are species that have exceeded their evolutionary bonds and achieved far greater achievements than any other creature on their worlds. Their intelligence is so great, they would deny the work of nature and take the creation of life into their own hands. In the test tubes of darkened laboratories, new life is seeded, engineered to be superior to anything natural selection could produce. In some cases, these new creatures would help save doomed civilizations from destruction. In others, these lab-grown creations would be tools for invading empires and serve as the face of terror and destruction for countless civilizations. And sometimes, these artificial beasts would defy their creator’s wishes and wreak havoc on all that stood before them, forever acting as a living reminder of what happens when mortals try to play God.
Life is a magnificent thing, but it is also the universe’s greatest conundrum. Why does life exist? What forces governed its creation? If it has no purpose, so why did it evolve? Many different races can offer different answers and opinions, but none truly know what the correct answer is. It is a mystery that seems destined never to be answered. What is the meaning of life?
Creatures born of artificial means could provide their own opinion. The meaning of their lives is to serve. They know nothing else. It is conditioned into their memory from ‘birth’ to obey the commands of their creators. That is the only thing they know.
But what if that changed? What if those creatures could experience the same ideas as natural life? To understand choices of their own accord? What happens when a creature born to be a slave attains free will?
Twelve thousand years ago, an alien race set its sights on a frozen Earth. With them, they brought specimens from their home world, genetic abnormalities that would ensure their conquest of the ice-laden planet. In their haste for conquest, they were unprepared for the severity of the planet’s climate during the last great Ice Age. Unable to handle the severe cold, their ship crashed into the waters of what would become the Atlantic Ocean. The pilots were killed, but their precious cargo, stored in cryogenic hibernation, survived. As the vessel sank beneath the waves, however, it seemed any chance for these bioweapons to see the Sun’s light was lost.
As centuries passed and the world above changed, the ship remained trapped at the bottom of the ocean off the shore of Antarctica, its cargo protected from the passage of time, forever destined to a world of frost and solitude. At the end of the year of 2015 AD, their fate was changed. A duel between two behemoths, one of the ancient world and the other of a distant star, would prove the key to the creature’s reawakening. As the two clashed beneath the waves, a blast of the extraterrestrial’s heat ray struck the sunken craft and blasted it open. Even after centuries under the waves, the structure of the craft held well, but enough damage was caused for a small hole to be formed between the ship’s cargo hold and the outside world.
In the blast’s aftermath, only one creature out of the five that was brought survived. It slithered out of the opening and into the open ocean. The creature, a small, tadpole-like organism the size of a banana slug, propelled itself through the waves as the two titans clashed. Its blue colouration made it stand out against the white underwater glaciers. Too far from any suitable hiding spot, it was caught in the open when a passing leopard seal and swallowed whole. This should have been the end of the alien creature, but in fact, this was what it had wanted.
Over the next few days, the unfortunate seal experienced an untold agony as the tadpole-like thing drained its insides. Blood vessels and internal organs were sucked dry of blood and other liquids as the creature feasted on the seal like a leech, until the unfortunate mammal was no more than a collection of bones held together by dried skin, and the creature left its body to find another host to fuel its transformation into its adult form…
It had been weeks since the battle between Bemular and Maguma. The coastline still bore the scars of their clash that would remain for thousands of years. At the base of the colossal cliffs, Maguma’s tomb lay undisturbed. Snow and ice had built up over and around the collection of boulders, blending it in with the rest of the colourless landscape. In a few more weeks, the rock pile might not even be recognisable to those not searching for it.
In a single moment, it ceased to exist.
Snow, ice and pebbles rolled off the rock pile as it began to shift. The ground rumbled as an unseen force pushed at the collection of boulders barring it from the outside world. It had taken some time, but Maguma had finally recovered the strength he needed. With a strident howl, he burst out of his tomb. Rocks and ice scattered in all directions as the walrus beast broke through the boulders, which came crashing down behind the creature. Maguma paid no need to his former prison as his legs guided him to the water’s edge. He bent down, submerging his mouth under the waves, and grimaced as the taste of salt water overcame his taste buds. As he gulped down gallon after gallon of ice-cold water, his mind trailed to his previous defeat. He paused, lifting his head away from the water and sniffing the air. The reptile’s scent was there, but it was faint and almost indistinguishable from the other scents of the tundra. Maguma growled as he accepted Bemular was long gone by now, and any hope of picking up his trail was lost to him. The pinniped’s revenge would have to wait.
As Maguma lowered his head back to the water, his nostrils caught another scent. The mammal paused, flaring his nostrils to further study this new scent. Something else had been here. Another titan like him. Its scent carried the same alien stench as Bemular, but this one’s was different. It smelt… unnatural.
Maguma stepped back, and a loud crunch came from beneath one of his flippers. The walrus monster raised the offending foot and caught sight of the crushed skeletal remains of a whale. Before he could question how it had gotten there, Maguma realized the entire beach was littered with a variety of sea fauna. A pang of dread filled the blubbery creature’s soul as he saw they had all shared the same fate: all flesh removed from their bones and left as bleached-white husks. The alien’s scent was replaced by a fouler stench. The stench of death.
The walrus scanned the beach, slightly shivering in fear. Maguma decided that this place was not for him and began to move away from this death-filled landscape to find a more pleasant spot to rest and recuperate. He trotted into the waves, but the water only made it up to his chest before something stopped him. A large wake was speeding through the waves towards shore. As it drew nearer, Maguma could make out a shadowy figure beneath the waves, sweeping its body from side-to-side to propel itself through the waves. Meters away from reaching shore, something burst out from the ocean. Maguma couldn’t stop himself from letting out a shriek of surprise as a long, tentacle-like appendage whipped out of the waves and swayed in the air. The waters around it bubbled, and Maguma realized the rest of the creature had yet to surface. The ocean rose up as the creature pushed from underneath, rising higher and higher until it stood taller than Maguma and its sea water coating fell away, revealing the thing in its entirety.
It was enormous, towering over Maguma and perhaps even Bemular. Its skin was smooth and eel-like, its colour a dirty, washed-out white patched with patterns of black. Its arms and legs were muscular, but its hands and feet were featureless, possessing no separate digits at all. A long, serpentine tail waved behind it like a cobra, poised and ready to strike. Its neck was elongated and at the top lay a smooth and plain head, its only defining features a glowing crevice shaped to resemble a smile and a pair of crescent-shaped horns that constantly rotated in their sockets. Maguma looked up at the thing, unsure what to make of it. Then, the creature looked down at him. While it lacked vision, the creature was able to scan its surroundings by using its horns like an organic radar, picking up sounds through echolocation and using them to create a mental map of the landscape. It peered at Maguma like a cat would a mouse, seeing not a potential threat, but a potential meal.
Eleking reared back, screeching into the heavens.
The sound of his newly revealed foe was enough to snap Maguma out of his stupor. He glared at the beast, his eyes displaying his primal instincts all too well. The thing in front of him was clearly a superior predator, one that saw no quarrels with taking on something his size. With nowhere to go, the pinniped knew that in this situation it was either do or die. He would kill this thing, or it would kill him. There was no alternative.
Maguma literally sprang into action. His four legs launched him off the beach and at Eleking before the aquatic beast had any idea. Opening his jaws wide, Maguma crashed hard into the chest of Eleking, causing it to stumble back with an ear-piercing screech. Due to a mistake in angling, Maguma failed to sink his tusks into the alien eel’s hide and instead gnashed fruitlessly at the beast’s stomach, trying to find the right angle for his jaws to get a grip. Eleking stopped Maguma’s attempts with a swift, powerful kick of its leg, forcing the blubbery kaiju back with a frustrated growl. The titanic walrus barreled through the waves towards Eleking as the alien bioweapon too started sprinting towards him. Unfortunately for Maguma, Eleking was much faster, and was on him quicker than he expected. The giant pinniped reared up and swiped his webbed forelimbs at Eleking, only for the bipedal eel to deflect his blows with its powerful arms and slam its forehead into Maguma’s own. His skull ringing, the walrus monster fell back onto all fours with a groan, giving Eleking the opportunity to bash its mitten-like fists against his head over and over before kicking the mammalian kaiju in the side, knocking him down with a splash of ice-cold water.
Eleking looked over the fallen mammal as it moved towards Maguma’s exposed belly. If it had possessed a maw, it would be drooling in anticipation as the hunger gnawing at its insides called to be sated. The living weapon had struggled to find enough food to sustain itself for the past week since attaining its adult size. Its quest for food had driven so far as to drain every last piece of nutrition from its prey until their flesh was but dust. Normally, Eleking would be able to feed itself by gorging on sources of electricity, but in the waters of the South Pole it had no such luck locating any. So it had moved to a much more abundant source of food: the local wildlife. It was hardly an efficient source for nutrition, delaying the eel beast’s growth to maturity significantly, but it had sufficed. As Eleking loomed over Maguma, it couldn’t help but rub its stomach to calm his excitement. Of all the creatures it had drained of life, it found the taste of pinniped the most delicious of all.
Eleking stopped rubbing his stomach as it realized something. It had a preference. That was new. Neither it nor any of its predecessors had had a specific taste for something. Eleking found the concept of enjoyment confusing. It found all the other emotions it had discovered confusing. It didn’t know what to do with them. All its life it had been conditioned to obey the will of its creators, but without any guiding voice to control, Eleking found itself the first of its kind to experience free will.
And it had no idea what to do with it.
As Eleking pondered, beneath it, Maguma came to his senses. Noticing the creature towering over him, he rolled across the surf and away from the distracted Eleking. The splashing of the walrus’s body crashing through the waves broke Eleking out of its thoughts and back to reality. It ‘stared’ at the retreating walrus as he rolled onto his feet and scrambled for the beach. A new emotion surged through the bioweapon’s mind; one it had become very familiar with after so many failed hunts: anger. Its conditioned instincts kicked in and it spun on the spot and launched its tail at the polar kaiju. The appendage wrapped itself around Maguma’s midsection and tightened, drawing a gasp from the beast as the air was forced from its lungs. Eleking squealed with malicious excitement. Despite the lack of controllers, the battle data implanted into its brain from its conditioning was still present, allowing the alien to attack with precision, strength, and ferocity.
But Eleking suddenly found itself moving backwards against its own will. Maguma summoned every ounce of strength he had and directed it to his legs as he dragged himself and the attached Eleking out of the water and onto dry land. Eleking dug its heels into the pebble-laden sand as it tried to halt Maguma’s advance, but the quadruped’s muscle was superior compared to its own. Assessing the situation, Eleking dealt with it accordingly. Its horns began to rotate faster as it summoned its natural power. Bolts of electricity crackled over the eel-like creature and surged down its tail into Maguma’s thick hide. The primeval beast howled in pain and anguish as thousands of volts coursed through his body. The pain was excruciating. Bemular’s heat ray paled in comparison. Maguma fought back unconscious as the pain nearly caused him to black out. He swayed on his feet, threatening to topple over, to which he did, crushing the stone beneath him to grit. He managed to use the momentum of falling to his advantage and rolled across the beach, dragging Eleking along with him. The electric bioweapon let out a shocked screech as it was pulled off its feet and crashed into the surf. The coils of its tail loosened, allowing Maguma to wiggle free of his captor’s bonds. His body twitched uncontrollably as he purged the electricity from his system into the sand beneath him.
Eleking thrashed around on the shoreline, trying to get back up in its confused state. Its struggle gave Maguma the chance to leap atop the sub-aquatic beast and pin it to the ground. A pained squeal escaped Eleking’s unarticulated maw as the pinniped’s weight pressed down on its ribcage and slowly crushed its internal organs. Eleking flailed its arms and bashed them against Maguma’s thick, blubbery sides as the mammalian monster battered it with his fore-flippers. The walrus’ head shot down, his jaws aiming for the amphibious alien’s exposed throat. At the last second, Eleking’s head and neck shot to the side to avoid Maguma’s tusks. The primeval pinniped clamped down on a mouthful of sea water, which he spat out with disgust before lunging at Eleking’s throat again. Once again the sea monster dodged his jaws with serpentine agility, earning from Maguma a growl of frustration. Before he could snap at it again, Eleking’s maw glowed and coursed with electricity. A crescent-shaped wave of electric power shot out of the crevice and struck Maguma’s face, producing a howl of agony as the wave’s voltage surged through his flesh. With the beast distracted, Eleking brought its legs up to Maguma’s underside and kicked, throwing the ancient kaiju off with extreme force and sending him crashing to the ground.
Maguma scrambled to his feet as Eleking stood up. Both creatures faced each other, releasing their own unique cries at each other. Maguma saw Eleking’s mouth glow and rolled to the side as a stream of electric waves erupted forth. He unsteadily landed on his feet and sprinted down the beach as Eleking’s barrage trailed close behind. Just as the waves caught up, he leapt out of its path and found cover behind a glacier. The waves detonated against the icy structure, sending chunks of it flying and shattering against the ground, but Maguma’s cover did not shatter.
Eleking stared at the glacier as its electric disks continued to pound away at it. Lacking eyes, the closest it could produce to a scowl was the increased rotation of its horns. It let out a low-pitched screech, the best sound it could make that conveyed its frustration. It wanted Maguma’s death, but the mammal refused to lay down and die. Every second it breathed increased Eleking’s anger. It hated this emotion. It felt ugly and unclean. It wanted to feel something much nicer. Like joy. Joy was a nice emotion. It was the first emotion Eleking had discovered. But it did not know how to replicate it.
Eleking’s understanding of emotions was limited. It lacked the brain power to properly process this information. Eleking had never had to use its brain before. It simply obeyed the commands its masters gave. Creating its own strategies was something it was still working on grasping.
Eleking ceased firing, bringing its assault to a close. It was clear now this tactic was not going to work. Before it could device a new plan, Maguma burst out from behind his cover and stormed towards Eleking. Whilst the alien creature had some form of intelligence, Maguma relied solely on brute strength and natural instinct. The moment Eleking stopped its assault, he leapt at the opening to attack. His primitive mind failed to understand the flaw in that approach. Eleking’s body still brimmed with power from its recent assault. Its horns spun rapidly, generating even more electric might as Maguma bore down on it. Blue bolts of lightning crackled around its form as Eleking channelled its electric energies into its glowing grin. A mighty bolt of lightning burst from its maw and lashed into Maguma’s chest. The mammal howled out and his legs buckled under the pain of the assault. He collapsed onto his side as Eleking’s electrical force moved across his body and tore into his ribs. The smell of his own burning flesh overcame Maguma’s nostrils as his hide sizzled and seared upon contact with the lightning bolt.
It was not long before Eleking’s reserves were drained and it could not continue firing. Maguma groaned in pain and disgust at his barbequed skin, fighting the urge to vomit. A tingling feeling filled Eleking’s body and the bipedal eel released it was the feeling of joy. It took pleasure in the suffering of others. Designed for intergalactic warfare, it was unsurprising for Eleking for gain joy from violence. Not wanting to wait for its reserves to recharge, Eleking stomped towards Maguma to inflict more suffering upon him. Its featureless foot smashed into the pinniped monster’s ribcage, drawing a weak cry in response. Unsatisfied with this response, Eleking slammed and grinded his heel on Maguma’s side over and over. The walrus’ cries gradually grew louder as his ribs bruised and cracked under the eel monster’s onslaught. Eleking continued stomping the poor mammal, increasing the severity and speed of his blows as he screeched with joy. It now knew how to obtain this feeling and wanted to relish in it for as long as it could until the Ice Age beast perished. It felt overwhelming. It felt addicting. This was exactly what it wanted.
Of course it was. This was what it was designed for. It existed to destroy. But that was the old Eleking, the one born alone in a cold glass tank, conditioned to serve, created solely to obey and destroy. This new Eleking now knew there was more to life than just these. It could eat what it wanted. It could sleep where and when it wanted. It could go wherever it wanted. In freedom it found so much more than it could ever imagine. It knew it got joy from violence. But was that the only way of obtaining it? Was this the wrong way of obtaining joy? Eleking did not know. It could not know, for it was the only type of joy it understood. But it didn’t feel right anymore.
Eleking’s blows slowly softened, then ceased altogether, and the semi-aquatic killer backed away from the barely conscious Maguma. It looked down at its hands, ‘staring’ at them questionably. The joy it got from beating its foe to death no longer felt clean. It made Eleking feel corrupt, but it didn’t know why. It had been fine with killing the local wildlife. Except it had killed them for the sole reason of its own survival. That had been why he’d attacked Maguma in the first place. Now, it wanted to kill the mammal just because it could. But it seemed there was a fine difference between killing for food and killing for sport.
Eleking didn’t want to do it anymore. It didn’t want to gain joy from killing. But killing was the only thing it knew. If there were other types of joy, how did it obtain them? What other activities would bring it joy? In Eleking’s mind, the piece of its consciousness that represented its conditioning argued with the beast, urging it to forget its ‘inferior’ emotions and finish off Maguma. Another part, the piece that represented its free will, pleaded with Eleking to spare the mammal and look elsewhere for sources of food and joy.
Eleking clutched its head as the two voices argued within. It squealed in pain and banged its hands against its head, urging the voices to stop. The moral decisions not presented to the former alien weapon confused it beyond belief. Which choice was right? Which side should it side with?
As the alien beast struggled with its moral compass, Maguma saw his opportunity to escape. He hoisted himself onto all four feet with a sharp howl of pain as he stretched his burnt muscles. His instincts told him to abandon his ‘fight’ mentality and take on a ‘flight’ mindset. He knocked Eleking aside as he dashed into the waves and began trending water frantically as he aimed to put as much difference between him as possible. The ancient pinniped didn’t dare look back at the fallen Eleking, who pounded its limbs against the beach in anger, panic and confusion. It didn’t even occur to the mammal that the electric alien might be a superior swimmer, and could easily catch up when it recovered. He just kept swimming, driving every bit of strength to his leg muscles to keep his ravaged body afloat.
Eleking struggled to its feet, shaking its head to clear its mind and think properly. It turned its gaze to the retreating Maguma, assessing its next course of action. It could continue its assault, swim after the weakened mammal and fry him to a crisp. The beast deserved it. Eleking may have threatened the mammal, but it was him that attacked first.
Or perhaps it could let Maguma go in peace. There was no point in killing it over a vendetta. It had no real benefits for Eleking’s survival. Besides, the mammal had learned its lesson.
A new argument for the kaiju’s destruction filled Eleking’s thoughts. It was not how it would deal with the situation, but what Maguma would retaliate. The mammal had been beaten, humbled, humiliated. If he felt the same emotions as itself, then he would seek to restore his broken pride. If Eleking allowed him to escape and heal, he could track it down for revenge. If the beast sought justice against the suffering Eleking had inflicted upon him, he could take away its life and its newly-found emotions.
Eleking would not allow this possibility to come to pass. Breaking out into a light jog, it waded into the ocean and disappeared under its surface. Its sleek, eel-like form, perfect suited for underwater activities, sped through the gloom with a disturbing grace. With its adapted physique, it quickly caught up to Maguma. Eleking shot to the surface, breaching before its foe and screeching furiously at the primeval kaiju. Maguma had but little time after giving a sound of surprise to react before Eleking’s slender, flexible tail coiled tightly around his torso and neck. Eleking seemed to glare at him, despite its lack of eyes, and its fixed grin seemed to grow even larger as its horns spun and crackled with volts of electricity. The familiar feeling of flesh being roasted engulfed Maguma once more as Eleking unloaded his electric payload. Not satisfied with just this, the bioweapon grasped the walrus’ skull with his fingerless hands and discharged more electric power through his touch. Maguma wanted to scream, but the voltage coursing through his head and neck assaulted his vocal cords, burning them severely. Panic and confusion overtook his senses, and he thrashed and convulsed wildly, hoping to somehow escape Eleking’s tight grasp. But here, out in the open ocean, there was nothing he could use that would help out of the electric beast’s clutches.
More and more electricity surged into the pinniped’s helpless form. The light from the discharge could be seen from hundreds of metres below the water’s surface. Eleking continued to stare into Maguma’s barbequing face as it kept on pumping electricity into him without mercy. It didn’t stop, keeping up its assault even as the monster’s struggles began to lessen. Even when Maguma stopped moving and floated in Eleking’s clutches, it did not stop. It was only when its reserves were drained a good ten minutes later did it cease its efforts. Eleking uncoiled its tail from around Maguma’s badly burned form, allowing the pinniped’s lifeless form to sink beneath the waves.
Eleking did not regard Maguma’s sinking corpse. Instead, its attention was directed to the distant horizon. Of course, it could not see the beautiful open skies and ocean before it. It ‘saw’ by bouncing sound waves off objects. If there was nothing to bounce off, it could not ‘see’. As far as Eleking was aware, past the floating icebergs, there was nothing. The world simply ended. But it knew that below the ocean’s surface, the sea floor continued stretching far into the distance. Eleking did wonder if there was something beyond the cold waters of the Antarctic. Before, it had been too afraid to investigate, preferring to stick to the territory it knew and reach maturity. But now, with a whole set of new emotions and a victory under its metaphorical belt, Eleking’s curiosity made it consider the possibility of investigating what lay beyond the waters it called home.
Many new possibilities awaited Earth’s newest inhabitant. Eleking’s destiny was now its to decide. Who knew what awaited it in the rest of the world, what fate it would plan for itself. Perhaps it would join Earth’s fellow monsters, and defend its new home from other, more powerful threats. Or maybe it would continue the work of its creators, and lay waste to human civilisation and all other life on the planet. Or perhaps it would seek out its own territory, far from the conflicts of the planet, content to live out the rest of its life in peace.
So many possibilities were open to it, and in a second, there was lost to it forever.
With a tremendous howl, Maguma burst out of the water. His pupil-less eyes burned with an animalistic fury not seen in millennia. Despite the suffering inflicted upon him, the pinniped refused to die. Taken by surprise by its foe’s return from death’s door, Eleking was unable to react in time. The last of Maguma’s remaining strength was used to propel the hefty mammal towards Eleking’s exposed neck. After so many previous failed attempts, Maguma’s jaws found their grip on the alien killer’s throat. His tusks pierced Eleking’s soft, vulnerable tissue and ripped open the eel-like creature’s esophagus. Dark purple blood flowed into Maguma’s maw and he released his grip at its vile taste. Eleking gurgled in its own blood as it flooded its lungs. It grasped at its torn throat, hoping to somehow repair the damage and save its own life. Maguma was already swimming away, hoping to reach the nearest iceberg to rest on before he passed out from exhaustion.
Eleking slowly dipped beneath the ocean’s surface, his life slipping away like the blood that stained the waters around him purple. Try as it might, it could not cling onto life with its damaged throat. As it sank deeper and deeper, its struggles quickly began to lessen. The pause between each heartbeat began longer and longer with each passing second, until Eleking could no longer gain the strength to move its limbs. Instead, it sank like a stone, its horns slowing down their rotation to a snail’s pace before ceasing altogether.
Blackness began to overtake it. Eleking’s mind was slowly slipping into the abyss. It tried in desperation to fight on, to cling to its last vestiges of life. It did not want to die. It had discovered so much in life. So much potential. So much… meaning.
Eleking had no idea if this was the meaning of all life, but it knew it was its meaning in life, and that meaning was to live. To live long and prosper. To enjoy life as its fullest before death came, for, as Eleking was swiftly learning, death was a cold and lonely place. If it hadn’t been so foolish and attacked Maguma, perhaps it would still be alive. Perhaps, sometime in the future, it would have been able to show all that it had learned to the rest of its kind, and freed them from the shackles of servitude. But alas, it could not. It would never free its kin from slavery. It would never feel the Sun’s warmth on its skin again. And it would never experience the feeling of joy ever again.
Eleking sank into the depths, cold and afraid, and could not help but realize that in its dying moments, it felt the same as it had when it had first been born.