This short story was written for Bounty Tales, a collaborative fiction forum game I ran on the GRcade forums. The total word count is 649, for a minimum target of 400.
An assessment of damage to and continued viability of ecumenorgamism XR72
Dr. O. Phlomni
Xenoarchaeum Regalis are the subject of intense study for several notable features; since the discovery of their native moon, xenoarchaeum regalis have become distributed diffusely throughout the galaxy, displaying remarkably broad extremophilic characteristics and an apparently unique quantum adaption allowing for unshielded survival in subspace, as well as a peculiar tendency to self-organise into complex, extracellura matrices. Most notable, however, is a behaviour restricted to their mutualistic relationship with the fellowly native selemite, a species not unlike the Earth termite. A single selemite colony can number in the millions of selemites, and each selemite can be individually colonised by tens of billions of xenoarchaeum regalis. Under these conditions the selemite colony will begin to display behaviour consonant with higher intelligence - or a "hive mind".
On their native moon, these mutualistic selemite colonies were restricted through competition, limited resources, and the relative small size of the moon itself. However by introducing a single xenoarchaeum regalis-selemite colony to a terraformed but uninhabited planetary body, we are able to encourage over several centuries the growth of colonies of unprecedented, planet-spanning size. As the hive mind intelligence scales with the size of the colony, these ecumenorganisms are postulated by some to be the most intelligent beings in the galaxy, far outclassing any machine AI. Communication and understanding of the hive minds however remains non-trivial, resulting in much ongoing research.
As of writing there are 105 ecumenorgamisms of varying ages, each designated a number for study. Travel to these planets is strictly controlled. However, with current resources, complete enforcement of no-orbit zones around all planets is impossible. This can result in unauthorised interference, and in the case of XR72, disastrous consequences.
The incident on XR72 was not discovered until ten local days had passed, when XR72 itself alerted researches to the event in conversation.
Subspace imaging reveals the passage of two unidentified class D skiffs into orbit of XR72. While the ion trails were heavily degraded by time of discovery, analysis suggests a jump source for both ships in Sector 17 only 1 standard day apart. A third, more recent ion trail was imaged leaving orbit, but interference from a solar storm prevents accurate determination of the jump destination.
Prior to divulgence of the incident, but matching with the time-frame of the second ship's arrival, XR72 began exhibiting erratic behaviour. While in previously established conversation XR72 had been congenial and cooperative with ongoing research, after exposure it expressed what can only be interpreted as anger and resentment towards the researchers. This mind state evolved over the ten days prior to divulgence, along with a marked increase in both frequency and mutual comprehension of conversation. At the time of divulgence, XR72 had begun referring to itself as "Rick" and expressed the desire and intent to, quote, "kill the whole lot of you".
Upon mentioning the arrival of "himself" and "another", the researches pressed XR72 (then only answering to "Rick") for further details - while becoming reluctant to engage in further conversation, XR72 was surprisingly responsive to what the researches described as "goading". In response XR72 expressed the surprising belief that "he" had "arrived" on the planet only ten days previous, and had, amongst other things, "squashed some ants". XR72 then described the arrival of a "hunter" who attempted to kill XR72, but, to quote, "the ants got me back first". Asked about the identity of the "hunter", XR72 became increasingly irate and uncooperative. Subsequent attempts at conversation with XR72 have proven ineffective.
Due to the apparent corruptive influence of the incident on XR72, we have no choice but to recommend immediate termination of XR72 through sustained nuclear bombardment. While individual xenoarchaeum regalis are expected to survive both impact and radiation, the selemite colony should be entirely destroyed, concluding the expression of hive mind phenomena.