Chapter 2: Maintenance

Life is so wonderful.

Miracle didn’t have any real sense of how long it had been doing this. That didn’t matter; it could continue for eternity. By virtue of these woods, it had discovered the value of what humans called ‘play.’ If it ever paused to ponder people again, Miracle would probably boggle over why they didn’t spend more of their short lives playing.

The puzzle hadn’t changed much since Miracle started; at least, the question was certainly identical. What’s missing? There were limitless answers, or so it hoped. Miracle never wanted to stop exploring them.

The current project was interrupted by a rustling from the southwest. That was unusual. Nothing would come near Miracle unless it had given instructions. It considered, then decided this could be such an instance.

Miracle glanced to the side and saw its creation scurry towards it. It was a tiny, long-eared mammal, a member of one of the few classical clades remaining in these woods. Miracle hadn’t spent much time altering them, or several species of birds; their apparent normalcy would help them watch for trespassers. Perhaps that’s why this specimen had come.

While Miracle hadn’t changed much about this species, it still felt affection for the project. It extended an appendage towards the approaching spy and shaped it to make a comfortable accommodation for the little beast. Once the rabbit scampered into the extremity, Miracle requested access to its memories.

No organism could control another’s base elements unless the subject submitted to that control. All of Miracle’s creations were very submissive towards it, so Miracle had no problems accessing the rabbit’s sparks of memory.

A battle. The term was human, though they sometimes relaxed its meaning to apply to the eat-or-be-eaten struggle between predator and prey. Regardless, this was the literal kind of battle. Violence without regard to survival for at least one participant. Detestable, but Miracle had to admit it was sometimes necessary.

It happened in daylight, which would normally mean it was no concern of Miracle’s. Going further back, however, revealed that the rabbit had first discovered one participant sleeping on a rock within the shade - Miracle’s shade. Courageous, desperate. Unacceptable.

Humans were still strange to Miracle; they were one of the few species with undesigned sentience, and that made them prone to illogical whims. Their impulsiveness had inspired Miracle to make this place its home. It had made efforts to ensure people would avoid this place, but many of those efforts would be undone if that female shared her story of survival with others.

Anything for the sake of appearances.

It was a familiar mantra, but Miracle hadn’t needed such wisdom in a long time. It indulged in several seconds of fond remembrance; that mantra had enabled all of this. Yes, appearances were essential for dealing with humans.

Miracle had cultivated a healthy fear of these woods, but it now seemed like the image might require active maintenance. The rabbit had seen members of those nomads to the west, it seemed like their hunters had won the battle. It knew of their existence, had tolerated their subsistence off the breedable species for generations.

The girl’s story couldn’t do much damage there, but if she left them for the cities, there  could be trouble. If Miracle was to act, it would need to do something soon. Wouldn’t it?

The right spy could follow her unnoticed, even if she ventured to a city. This could be an opportunity. Miracle knew of no species with as much individuality as the human race. There were some behaviors that could be predicted when it came to groups, but individuals? What does a juvenile female do with the story of surviving a night in the so-called Dawnless Woods? How do other humans react to such a story, and what effect does the source have on that reaction?

Miracle liked these questions. It was officially curious.

It dismissed the furry spy and prepared for a prolonged vigil over the girl. What was best to travel with her? A bird seemed obvious; the big ones travelled fast and far. Would there be problems with identification? Miracle doubted it, birds had remarkable vision. Risk of discovery? Miracle tried to think back to its time in Midway, back before it transformed; he’d seen sparrows, pigeons, crows, ravens, and even some raptors in the city. Surely any one of those would work.

Seven pairs of tiny talons perched on various parts of Miracle, jarring it from the plot. It had been thinking of avian spies, but had not summoned  any. What else happened?

It was unusual for two reports in such a short timeframe, and even more unusual for the spies to cooperate like this. Miracle almost dreaded what it was about to see as the sparrows surrendered their memories in unison.

The event was three-quarters of a day old.

A camp had been made in the extreme south of the woods. From the different sparrows’ perspectives, it identified six fires and roughly thirty soldiers. Miracle was impressed they’d found the wood to make even this meager amount of light; the trees were too thick and hardy to leave kindling. These people weren’t amateurs.

Still, the audacity! Fire, in Miracle’s territory, without its permission! Its emotions were dull compared to regular organisms, but Miracle felt something akin to anger.

One of the men approached another. “He passed, captain.”

The officer growled and scratched his head upon hearing the report. “Curse this place. Curse the girl for bringing us here.”

Miracle understood that these men never wanted to come here, but it would have hoped they’d refuse to. It was already considering ways it might reinstill the proper fear into Miracle’s human neighbors.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting…” the soldier considered. “...well, this. What makes her so important, sir? Why is it so vital that she die?”

“Will knowing that help you kill her?” The captain countered.

“No. I don’t think so.”

“I feel the same way, and that’s why I didn’t ask my superior the same question. Orders are orders, soldier. The less you know about her, the less sorry you’ll feel when she’s dead at your feet.”

“Oh, I’m not concerned about mercy,” the soldier clarified. “I just wonder how she could be worth the risk.”

“The general didn’t specifically say to chase her into the Dawnless Woods,” the captain confessed. “But he did say ‘at any cost.’ Are the others angry? Because it’s my interpretation that brought us in here. If they want to resent someone, make sure they know to resent me.”

“No.” the soldier shrugged. “We may not be proselytes - we would have run ahead like the others, if we were - but we aren’t conscripts either. We’ll follow, captain, even if it means we’ll never see the sun again.”

The captain gave a somber smile. “Good man.”

These were the sorts of behaviors that baffled Miracle. What could justify such blind loyalty? It was bad enough they’d be willing to murder just because they were told to. How could they also willingly march to their deaths for the sake of such a heinous instruction?

It made sense for Miracle’s creations to do so; when such things were necessary, it could specifically design them to fulfill that purpose. Miracle never endowed such creatures with sentience, though, and that’s why these humans made no sense. How could one individual praise another for abandoning their own best interests?

Miracle would need years of study to solve the human puzzle, so those questions would have to wait. At present, it needed to address its image problem. All of Miracle’s best profits had come from deceiving humans; it’s how Miracle had made this place its home. If they needed Miracle to occasionally reinforce the Dawnless Woods’ reputation, it would tolerate the tedium.

It wouldn’t be difficult. If they never left the forest, those they’d left behind would know they were last seen venturing into Miracle’s Dawnless Woods. They’d say the same thing would happen to any others who tried in the future. Perfect.

“Are there any problems with the proselytes’ trail?”

“No, sir. They were very thorough. The girl is trying to hide, but they spread traces on the wind. The trail won’t disperse for weeks.”

“Good. We’ll take a night’s rest, we’ve earned it. On the slim chance the proselytes fail, we’ll march quadruple-time tomorrow. That should close a good part of the gap.”

Miracle considered its knowledge. It was time to make a plan.

From the clothing and light skin color, they seemed to be northerners. What were they doing in the south? The answer likely had to do with human politics, and was thereby incomprehensible. At least it meant this incident was multi-national, and word of their demise was certain to spread.

They were chasing the girl that the rabbit had seen, the one the nomads saved. Miracle had decided to follow her instead of eliminating her, but perhaps death was more efficient. While the clan had been benign for generations, they could also probably use a good scare. Miracle could make profit on three fronts if it attacked when all three parties were in one location.

What should it use? The force would need to be enough to eliminate thirty-odd airspeaker soldiers, an airspeaker girl, and a few of the nomads’ hunters. Miracle loathed the idea of losing any of its creations, so it should choose carefully.

A particular project came to mind. It was the result of an experiment without a hypothesis, a creature that combined the hardy nature of an enormous grazer with the clever, exploitive nature of parasites. All of this was made more potent by the presence of a hive mind; several creatures acted as one.

The result seemed mundane, but Miracle was still proud. It would hunt for a day, then laze about for half a year. It was a true apex predator, and Miracle didn’t expect this number of humans to best it. Even if enemies united to try.

Miracle ordered its spies to find the beast. As they left, it almost lamented its isolation for a moment. Even Miracle wouldn’t have a name if it weren’t for humans. They were too dangerous to keep company with, but the species excelled at assigning labels.

Perhaps it would keep spies around to watch the clan after the massacre. They’d surely conjure the perfect name for the terror that slaughtered their kin.

-CUT-

1.) Are things too boring and/or confusing from this mystery thing's perspective?

2.) Were its musings/plots entertaining?

3.) Any trouble with Miracle's eloquence? (were hard words too hard?)

Meta-critique:

A.) Since we've changed the prologue of Book 1, you might not know who Miracle is. That's supposed to be okay. Is it okay? Was it too jarring to enter a mythical being's thoughts when you know nothing about their past?

B.) Were you able to connect things to Chapter 1? Feel like you have a grasp on the sequence of events?

The End

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