“A Question of Ethics”
By = Tristan A. Arts
Words - 3619
Note: This is loosely based on an episode of “Angel,” so that's why I'm posting it here instead of attempting to publish it for money. The Zatorshnok are entirely my own creation, though. The story was actually inspired by my wondering what the Zatorshnok would say of the ethical dilemma presented in the episode.
NOTE 2: Zatorshnok is pronounced zah-torsh-nok.Zatorshnok log entry for 08/12/2489
Entry by: Annik Xandol 88456
I am making this log with the intent of having it filed with the Earth government, given the events that I and my two siblings witnessed and participated in. If, after reading this entry, the government of Earth wishes to take punitive actions against these three units, we will willingly submit ourselves to whatever punishment is deemed appropriate. We do, however, believe that we were acting in the best interests of justice, at least as we understand the concept. As to why this report is not being filed with the government of Nova Terra, where the incident took place, that will be made clear eventually.
For the sake of any readers who are unfamiliar with the Zatorshnok Collective, I will relate the relevant overview here for your elucidation. Many thousands of years ago, the sophonts of Zator Alpha were a dying people, being killed by a virulent plague that left few survivors. Their numbers dropped down to a mere 28 individuals, far too few to repopulate the species. These remaining individuals, all scientists who had developed a cure too late to save anyone but themselves, make one last effort to preserve the Zator culture, knowledge, and heritage. Part of this process was to digitize the minds of the remaining scientists, to be downloaded into devices known as “flesh blanks,” a hybrid of biological and technological systems. Nanites amidst the biological components could keep those components alive, young, and healthy for hundreds of years, barring catastrophic damage. With built-in subspace backup units, the death of any one unit is but an inconvenience for the mind inside.
Even with these new bodies, twenty-eight units were not enough to rebuild an entire civilization. So the 28 Primes, as they are called, uploaded themselves to massive quantum supercomputers, and began churning out copies of themselves by the hundreds. Though there have been occasional new Primes added, for a current running total of 58 Primes, all motile units – regardless of the species of the flesh blank, are copies of one of the Primes.
Due to the feeding of new information back into the Primes from their motile units, the consciousnesses of the Primes grew in size. Now, only massive Matrioshka Brains set up around stars have the data storage and processing power necessary to hold even a few Primes. As units share data and experiences with their Primes, so do the Primes share these things with one another. Thus was the Zatorshnok Collective born.
More importantly, to today's log, is that somewhere along the line, the Primes became corrupted from their original templates, resulting in a change of thought patterns. We used to be a vibrant, passionate people with all the varied emotions of biological sophonts, but many now liken us to humorless machines. We have been working on restoring the complexity of emotions we once had, by studying other sophont species, and we have made some progress in correcting the errors, but we still retain a unique perspective and still struggle to interact meaningfully with other sophonts.
My name is Annik Xandol. I was the result of an experiment performed back in 2304 AD to create new Zator children from DNA replicated from models, as were my two siblings, Yen Xandol and Pokiv Xandol. Because the original Zator species had three sexes, I am sperm-maker, Yen is egg-maker, and Povik is unifier-carrier. Because we were the first batch of a series of these experiments, we are genetically related to one another and not expected to breed. The Collective is still building up a decent breeding population, slowly but surely.
I say we were the first run of that experiment, but truthfully these units are one of thousands of genetically identical units; the original Annik, Yen, and Povik are now Primes 29, 30, and 31, and in truth I am Annik Xandol 88456. I am stationed on Nova Terra with Yen Xandol 99734 and Povik Xandol 77765.
Physically, the Zator – like my own flesh blank – are humanoid, with blue scaly skin, yellow eyes, and hands with two opposable thumbs apiece. Males, like myself, have six small, black horns on our heads. Females, like Yen, have a hard, black shell of horn over the top of their craniums. And the unifiers, like Povik, are merely bald with no horns.
With those necessities completed, I shall now move on to the rest of my story.( Read the rest of the story. )A note about how I thought up the Zatorshnok:
As a mid-continuum multiple collective, there are more things in my head than just the usual 9 Faces. Faces are fully sentient in their own right, but I think most of them (if not all of them) started out as things I call Soul Shards. They're bits of me that float around inside my mind and surface on occasion, making me feel different. These are different from Masks, because Masks are thought-forms I choose to shift into. Neither Shards nor Masks are sentient on their own, as far as I know.
The Zatorshnok mindset is basically lifted lock, stock, and barrel from one of the Soul Shards that occasionally makes itself known. It is a complex thought pattern, that I'm not sure I've done justice to in this story. It's a bit like detached curiosity with a feeling like everyone else is completely alien from me, more so than the Ah'Koi Bahnis mindset. That Shard's sense of ethics and emotional reactions to things are unusual.
Though there are similarities to the Vulcans, I'm not sure how well the two species would get along. Zatorshnok may seem logical and cold, but their logic is tempered by their unusual emotional reactions. The Zatorshnok do not actually suppress their emotions, it's just that their emotions don't work the same way as human emotions.
To be honest, the Zatorshnok mindset is complex enough that I'm not even sure *I* understand it. And I haven't figured out how to really explain it.