The Time of Fire and Madness had finally come, and the whole world strained underneath it.
Strange lights fell from the night sky, started strange fires, and then leapt away again. Many summoned them, but not one of the Serpents responded. Flesh rebelled against its masters, and the stars trembled in their matrix.
The wonderful city of Avadeiga was dying. The crops had all burnt up, and the animals had begun rotting while they were still alive. When the graneries were opened only a fetid must was found inside. Some fled to what would become the Madlands. Others began an open rebellion (after all, the regium did not go hungry).
Amid this chaos, the wonderful theurges peered forward and saw a time when the fields would grow again. It was no so far away.
But the wonderful logicians pointed out that it was still too far. They would be dead and forgotten before sanity returned here, or anywhere. Anything that preserved them over those long years would be subject to the same corruption.
And the wonderful mathematicians had an idea. If the forests would be incinerated, then they must become seeds. Numerous and subtle and redundant. A million points from which the forest could someday regrow. A book could be reduced, and so could a man. With all of their power and wisdom, could they not reduce a city in the same way?
And so a messenger was sent to the granaries, to summon back the wonderful biomancers.
Fresh leylines were placed. The entire city was wired with a three-dimensional grid. It was split up into cubes, each one 10' by 10' by 10. Each cube would be reduced and encoded. And when the time was right, the code could be used to reconstruct the original.
The code itself would be written in the germline of an organism. The organism could multiply and grow, and as it did, it would create more copies of the code. The people of Avadeiga would be saved a thousand times over.
For the organism, they chose an ooze.
An ooze can survive in the cracks inside a rock, subsisting on the small amounts of moisture and organics that filter down. You can set an ooze on fire, but unless you are careful to burn every last bit, some bit of jelly will escape and regrow.
All the apocalypses piled on top of each other would not be enough to extierpate the last ooze.
And so each germline (there were about 40,000) encoded a 10' cube of the city--another sector on the hard drive that backed up a everyone.
If you gather enough gelatinous cubes in one place, you can observe this behavior. They'll congregate, exchange names ("234-68-3"), assemble into the shape of the original city, and test for quorum.
If quorum is reached, the cubes will form a continuous chrysalix (a chrysalis made from multiple primary organisms) and begin differentiating into the people, buildings, books, and plants of Lost Avadeiga.
If quorum is not reached, the cubes will reconvene at the next equinox.
The cubes behave like regular oozes in most respects, but when they are engaging in these programmed behaviors, they are entirely systematic. They can respond to certain command-phrases, and can speak a certain number of fixed statements. The most famous ululation of the cubes is "ZOOG!", which is their SYN-ACK initiator.
The voice is that of Avadeiga's Principle Biomancer, Yevanon, whose voice has been inscribed on the germline of every gelatinous cube, in order to be poorly reproduced on the vibrating facets of the cubes.
Carnosus and the Vudra
Gelatinous cubes have reached quorum at least once before, many centuries ago. The result was the Madlander city of Carnosus, a shifting labyrinth of self-assembling cubes.
While the inhabitants originally hunted for more cubes to rebuild their city, subsequent generations cared little for their parents' struggles. New houses were built where the old ones were not, and the lost generation was forgotten. The sages of Avadeiga had completed their resurrection, but it was woefully incomplete.
Instead, the future generations turned their attentions towards mastery of the oozes that birthed their city, and abandoned the idea of a fully resurrected Avadeiga. The result were the vudra and the sludge vampires (an exiled clan of the vudra).
Mutant Cubes and Weaponized Cubespawn
Any system composed of cooperating subunits is subject to exploitation when on of the subunits chooses it's own success over the success of the system.
Cancer is a clear example of this. A cell (and soon, a group of cells) exploits the body's systems in order to acquire more blood, more food, and more growth. Local success, systemic failure.
Some gelatinous cubes are known to be mutants, and are capable of spawning flawed copies of Avadeigans when advantageous. In most cases this amounts to nothing more than spawning a confused, aggressive version of one of Avadeiga's inhabitants. Once the cubespawn has served its purpose (usually by killing the cube's enemies) both will be reabsorbed.
Cubespawn usually die quickly if left on their own. The same mutations that allow them to be spawned without quorum also tend to inject fatal defects into their own germlines--missing eyes or digestive systems.
At the same time, cubespawn should be viewed as rational humans in their own right. They knew that their doomed city would be cubed off and encoded in a gelatinous matrix. Is it any wonder that they assume that the cube is their ally in these fights?
There are also gelatinous cubes that are far more intelligent than the others. Their primary mode of conversation is to carry around a skeleton and use it for pantomime.
|by Scott Harshbarger|