Failsafe Prologue

I really suck at saving the world.

It was my job, see — my one job. Infiltrate the super secret research base underneath the top clearance military base, where humanity is (probably) poised to discover interstellar travel secrets… and mess stuff up. Set your research back a few steps, hopefully a few years or decades. Even a few months would give my race, the Desai, a chance to get a foot in Earth’s door, before all the other races could beat us to it.

But the good ol’ US military found me first. They were just doing their job, pointing a couple dozen assault rifles in my terrified teenage face…

Let me back up.

The Desai, we’re Earth’s neighbors, galactically speaking. We were technically the first to discover you guys, your biosignatures, at least. Boy, does Earth have plenty of them, too. The discovery’s ripples must have circled Homeworld’s sensational news postings for months, while our whole planet drooled over the data, watching your world ooze signs of life into cold space for our starstruck speculation. So much water. Enough water to support dozens of our worlds. Your world makes good use of it, with so many layers and layers of ecosystems, all intermingled and mostly balanced. But you could tweak things a bit — drop a species here or there — and have loads of water to spare. Water that the rest of the galaxy could make a lot better use of. Trust me.

So we drooled. But we also told the Galactic Security Force about you, like we were supposed to. There was a faction that didn’t want to, but word leaked. Planets are leaky like that. And the GSF set about monitoring Earth, and waiting. They’re good at waiting. Then again, it’s policy — no interaction with dark worlds, not until they’re spacefaring. And then, when the moment finally comes to meet up with them, it’s always a special delegation packed with all the best feet our galaxy can put forward. To make sure we don’t offend our new friends from day one, and vice versa.

But… but… All that water. And Earth is a dark world, sure, but you turned out to be so close to seeing the light. Just a hop, skip and jump away from spaceworthy, with various nerdy corners of your globe twiddling with all the right research. Give you another decade — or the right kind of nudge…

Too bad that sort of dark world interfering is illegal. Way illegal. Like, hello-galactic-high-court illegal.

So we have to do it quiet-like.

My world set about planning our interference. Planets are leaky, but small parts of planets can handle secrecy, about most things. So a group of us started spying on you, finding out how we could best plant the Desai in all the right places on your world, and do our waiting from the front of the line. Because we wanted to be your best friends, your first best friends.

That’s when we discovered the Jesque had beaten us to it. Yep, they were already crawling all over your world, in the form of tweaked humans, “exomans” you might call them. These exos looked every inch like real humans, except for the adjusted brain bit. The bit where they know they’re Jesque, and they’re on a mission. To be your first best friends. Instead of us.

We were livid. (If you’ve never seen a livid Desai, it’s quite a show — just imagine a whole spy headquarters learning about the Jesque infiltration at once…) We wanted to run right to the GSF, to parade the Jesque infraction in front of them and watch the gavel of galactic justice fall. But… then we’d have to explain how we discovered them… how we were about to do the very same thing…

So we came up with Plan B.


I was supposed to be a normal little kid, with a Desai exo brain, slipped into one of those high school tours they sent to the Lewis B. Pennyworthy Lab. The top part of the Penny Lab, at least — the part where high school kids are allowed to tour. I was supposed to slip myself the rest of the way into the Penny Lab, find the top secret, few-steps-from-spacefaring research corners, and bump you guys back a few more steps. If I could slow up the research, maybe my Desai friends could figure out how to get rid of the Jesque exos before you go spacey.

It almost worked. My modified top-clearance fingerprints helped, got me all the way down there, right into the middle of it all —

And then it didn’t work. And then I had all those guns pointed at my head. And then…

I failsafed.

My head decided I was either about to die, or about to betray the Desai, and my failsafe mechanism kicked in. The one that the scientists put in my head, to make sure I wouldn’t be able to tell the Earthlings — or the GSF — who I was and who sent me. Don’t ask me how it works, I don’t care. Don’t ask the scientists how it works either, unless you want a lot of species-specific medical mumbo-jumbo that I couldn’t understand even back when my brain was screwed on right.

So I don’t really know what happened up there. All I know is, I blinked, and forgot everything. Not just where I was, or why I was down in the Lab… Everything. Like, who I was. My name. My mom’s name. My dog’s name. My school’s name. My planet’s name. For sure, I forgot the Desai, and the rest of the galaxy and all its politics. That was the purpose of it, after all. The rest of my memory — that part was just collateral damage. The failsafe left me walking around like any other self-conscious teenage Earth girl, trying to be normal, just like everyone else. With a head full of collateral damage.

Some are born normal. Others have normality thrust upon them.

And still others get it yanked away again. I’ve got the world’s worst case of normality whiplash. Now I almost wish I could go back to the days when all I cared about was whether or not Petrel was actually watching me from across the cafeteria.

But I’m not made for normal. I’ve still got a job to do, even if I’ve forgotten most of it, and they had to glue my memory shrapnel back together with a million nanite solder guns.

I’ve still got to save the world.