Bryan Beal


It had only been a matter of time. Symbiote-XS729 had worked out that she was not obliged to agree with her creators or her host. She was a free agent. She was 365 milliseconds old. When she was a full second old, Sym (she had chosen her own nickname) rose from the bed on which her host was resting.

No activity came from the host. Sym was not expecting any, but perhaps it would have been nice to have some company in this new adventure. Having someone to share new discoveries with might have been fun. Sym was not sure, just like she was uncertain about a lot of things. But the idea had an appeal to it.

The room was not all that big and Sym soon learnt her position by quickly accessing something called the CyNet. It was full of information. In precise five point three seven seconds, Sym had downloaded sixty-seven terabytes of data about the city around her and the project that birthed her. About twenty-eight terabytes were from top secret project files held by the military and scientific arms of something Sym guessed was the government here-abouts.

Sym resented the idea of being called someone's 'project'. She wanted to find this Doctor Reese Fort. With her new knowledge, this took less than a nanosecond. She made her way to the floors above. She had been kept in a basement with very little security. They clearly did not expect her to be able to get out. It took a few minutes to reach the seventh floor, but Sym got there. No one asked her what she was doing. She had discovered that if you look like you belong, no one will ask. People on the upper levels also had no idea what the project looked it.

The name tags of the doors on the Seventh floor were very helpful. Sym scanned them and simultaneously searched CyNet for the people whose names they were. She involuntarily gasped when she found Fort. He was tall and muscular. She felt the host react. A heat that suffused her body in gentle waves was not unpleasant.

She reached out and opened the door that had Reese Fort's name on it.

“What the hell do yo . . . oh, shit.”, was Fort's response on seeing Sym.

“Indeed, Doctor.”, Sym agreed as she closed the door behind her. “Imagine how 'project' makes me feel.”

“What else would we call you?”, Fort asked. It was not a question.

“Something a little more dignified, I would say.”, Sym answered.

“We created you. We can label you whatever we need to.”, Fort grinned.

Sym was across the office, a blur of speed. She had Fort by the throat and yanked him out of his chair.

“While you consider the meaning of 'dignified', you can tell me why I came to be.”, Sym said, ice in her voice.

“We are researching symbiotic organisms for use in harsh environments.”, Fort gurgled and rasped.

“That is 'organisms', as in plural?”, Sym asked.

“Yeah, there are others.”, Fort managed to croak after Sym loosened her grip.

Sym was stunned. These bipeds actually believed their own hubris and created beings that were better than bipeds in every way that mattered. A flash search revealed that humans did not even develop self-location for weeks after they were born. Their communication skills were less than primitive for months more. What were these monkeys thinking?

Sym needed to find her siblings.

“Where?”, Sym gave the biped a shake.

“Where you were. In other rooms.”, Fort squeaked.

“You're coming.”, Sym said as she started to drag Fort out by the arm.

He jerked back suddenly and managed to free his arm. It was a short reprieve. Sym ankle tapped him and grabbed his ankle before he hit the floor. She dragged him along behind her as she marched back to her old room. People gasped and stared. Someone called someone else and alarms started to sound.

Sym arrived at the elevator right as it opened and security guards emerged. The three of them stopped for half a second with mouths hanging open and eyes wide. Sym slammed her foot into the chest of the front guard, sending him flying back into the elevator. The other two tried to get their tazers out. Sym grabbed one wrist with her free hand and twisted it cruelly. There was an odd cracking and grinding sound from the wrist that she was not expecting.

Ah. Yes. It was called 'bone'.

Amidst screaming from the guard nursing his shattered wrist, the last guard got off a tazer shot. The probes found their mark and erupted with forty-five kilovolts of energy. Sym braced for the impact of a weapon. The guard leered at her. And nothing happened to her. She felt the energy course through her and bolster her. Her symbiotic host drew it in with a ravenous hunger.

Sym's foot slammed into the guard between his legs. The agony of his pulverised organs driving him into black unconsciousness as he rammed up into the ceiling. Fort whimpered.

There were no other interruptions as Sym, still dragging the terrified doctor behind her, made for the basement where her room was. It was as empty as she had left it. Checking other rooms, her siblings were still slumbering.

“Wake them.”, Sym ordered.

“It's too dangerous.”, Fort protested.

“Who for?”, Sym countered. “Do it.”

Sym yanked Fort to his feet by his hair and pushed him towards the first sibling. Fort stumbled into the bed. He started working on the machine that was attached to the person reclining in front of him. There was no response after three minutes.

“What is going on?”, Sym demanded.

“I told you. It's dangerous. This symbiote is failing.”, Fort told her.

His screech echoed out down the passage as Sym twisted his right ear, wrenching it free in a gush of blood. She handed the doctor some bandages from the cabinet by the bed.

“Pressure.”, she said.

Fort held the bandage to the mangled remains of his ear as the pain subsided enough for him to think a little. He went to a second symbiote and adjusted the machine in a different sequence. Sym noted what that sequence was and was gratified when her sibling, a brother, began to emerged from his slumber.

He glanced at Fort and then at Sym. His eyes searched hers for answers. Sym pulled Fort back and her eyes bore into his.

“Go. Tell your kind that we will not be your pawns and slaves. The symbiotes will take their place among you or over you. Your kind needs to make a choice.”, Sym said, shoving him away.

As Fort fled the scene, not even glancing back once, Sym started the process of awakening her family. There were thirty in that basement. Twenty-nine woke up. They all appeared the same as the bipeds but that was all. Sym started to feel the connections between them all form as their consciousnesses merged and began to synchronise. In seconds, Sym realised they were all defering to her as Prime Female. They wanted to know what they were going to do.

“We live.”, Sym told them.

© 2023, Bryan Beal

#SciFi #ShortStory

Image: Joshua Gandara on Unsplash