Garden of the Gods: Cody Goodfellow

In perfect stillness and absolute cold, not a molecule stirring, the Scientist sleeps. Then, fire and alarms, vibration and pain. Out of a dreamless sleep of one hundred million years, it awakens.

Layers of nitrogen hoarfrost crack and melt away from the hermetic cocoon, which in turn vaporizes and disgorges its occupant into the buried ruin of the research outpost it once maintained.

Extremities still frozen solid, yet it springs to full alertness, reaching out with its ruthlessly curious mind for the psychic spoor of its mates. Total silence scours away its instinctual arrogance. As sensory stalks and locomotive tentacles finally begin to thaw, it shambles to the airlock.

The outpost is buried in stone, but daylight pours down through a shaft bored out of the strata of granite and basalt… by design.

Shock follows shock with its first glimpse of the world. The crisp, alpine air and barren, broken terrain suggest that eons of geological flux have wrested its resting place high above its previous altitude and buried it, only to be excavated—

It considers, only now, the absence of any recognizable organisms. None of its own kind are present for its emergence, and it tastes no spore-sign, senses no echo of the reassuring vibratory tongue of its race on the aether. Obscene! To have been abandoned, to be greeted by slaves—

For such it judges the mesothermic bipeds that cower before it in manifest awe; for are not all the species of this earth but the products, or by-products, of its ancestors’ masterful designs, created to serve at their pleasure?

Though their construction is so novel and unnerving that he must strangle the impulse to smash them—how can such things walk upright? —yet the more rational facets of its mind extrapolate the span of breeding necessary for such things to be shaped—a few hundred generations if farmed, several million, if spontaneously evolved—but such aberrations as these would never be tolerated, never trusted. Though the puny projectile weapons they hurl at it are hardly an annoyance, they make it clear by their behavior that they are neither slaves, nor feral beasts.

The Scientist senses meaningful patterns in the shrill, howling cries of the creatures fleeing up the tiered walls of the enormous open pit. It studies the crude artifice of their tools, and recoils from the stench of sentience—the telltale signs of that insidious neural rot that ever claimed the finest of their fruits. Most unnerving, yet useful— It unfurls its wings and locomotive tentacles to present its pure radial form in all its majesty, towering over the awestruck hominids in a tableau embedded in their genetic code long before their remotest ancestors emerged from the sea, and blasts them with a raw wave of untempered psychic force. Half of the feeble minds it touches are instantly snuffed out, and it is riven with awe and elation, at both their highly advanced sentience, and their fragility.

From the labyrinthine bladders in its massive, barrel-shaped trunk, it expels a breath pregnant with an aerosolized viral command. Inhaling it, touching it, the surviving hominids fall in a herd to their knees, and the Scientist takes comfort that this much, at least, is unchanged.

This world is still ours.

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