Today we return from our Hiatus, awkwardly on a Tuesday.
You can read today's story HERE!
Summary: A Quay kills a lot of people and then gets killed by the final person it kills.
Who exactly are the Quay? Sure, we've met them before, but from the outside. You can't really know someone till you learn whats going on inside, for all you know their outer shell isn't a true reflection of the interior. We've only seen the Quay's shell, their exoskeleton, and its thicker than a person's. Its not the same. You can try to make the Quay into people all you want, but they will never bow to your wishes. They will never submit. They aren't people, they are something else entirely and don't want to be lumped in with people anyways. But who are they? We may only catch a glimpse, but perhaps that is enough.
Keeping Score is another change for WARS fiction, in that is incredibly tiny. Its only a three page PDF, and the story is quick, concise, and condensed. Its also our first real look at the Quay, as their previous appearance was through the eyes of Earthers. This is a full blown first person narration by a Quay, giving us their perspective on events finally. We've been waiting for this, and yet it doesn't give us what we'd expect. Where the Earthers and Shi got essays, the Quay find themselves much terser. But this isn't a problem, because this is a story befitting of a Quay, not because they don't have a rich culture, but because a Quay doesn't need to sit around musing about the fall of stars to have a fulfilling day.
Out of all the cultures in WARS, the Quay have always been outliers. One got the distinct impression their design by John Howe, that vivid image of what a Quay is and could be, was more important than half the thought about what their culture was. If you see a Shi, you don't intuitively understand that they are galaxy hopping god-wannabes. When you see a Quay, you know who they are, you understand intuitively. Their mere silhouette invokes strange fears and urges; tusks that gore and legs that skitter like spiders. They are not simply aliens, they are something large and brutal out of the back of your subconscious. The ur-Quay. In many ways, their inner dialogue is unnecessary, as long as we understand their image. Their image is enough.
But that image also pushes us to other troubling points. They Quay are not merely monsters, they are not just the nightmares of our dreams. They are marked with symbols and tattoos, they wear masks and have culture, even from the image they are something else that lingers outside us, something we don't wish to acknowledge.
The Quay have always been a remnant of colonialism. From the moment they were abandoned by the culture who claimed to be raising them up from dust, but instead drove them into slavery, they were a dark mirror of the sins of the western world on so much of humanity. That their culture has hallmarks of tribal lifestyle is no mere co-incidence, the Quay haunt the narrative like ghosts of forgotten peoples. They aren't just the fear of spiders creeping in, but the fear that everything we've done to wrong foreign peoples for our own gain will come back to hurt us. If this sounds like reaching too far, consider that the Quay are only in our solar system via an act of terrorism. They targeted their oppressors quite specifically, and quite boldly, and attempted to wipe them off the map for their sins.
Part of the brilliance of the Quay then, is that it allows people to see through their eyes the wrongs they have suffered, and pose their actions far in the realm of fantasy as right or wrong. Where actions taken by humans are derided instantly for similar justifications, the Quay are inherently sympathetic to so many who would never dare take the side of an oppressed people standing up violently to their oppressors in reality. Its a strange dichotomy, and one that is the kind of wonderful thing Science fiction is so capable of achieving.
The Quay become a lens through which violence against oppressive systems can be seen as justified, and that alone is worthy of being fascinated by them.
But we still haven't covered whats going on in their heads.
This story has a Quay kill quite a lot of people, thirsting for a challenge, keeping score, looking to kill more. Where the story defies the expectation of what it should be lies in how the Quay here treats its victims. It doesn't kill like the generic proud warrior guy race so many science fiction properties have. The Quay doesn't give up its advantage to have a fair fight, it openly uses its advantages and doesn't make dumb decisions that would get it killed for the sake of driving the story along. When it finally comes up against a worthy foe, they kill each other. The Quay doesn't think “ah, what a worthy way to die!” it just.... Dies. Yet, the Quay is clearly a warrior, and it clearly runs on some sort of internal code, but that code is not one we're familiar with. Once again the Quay is defined by its otherness, even when we reach inside its head into its very thoughts, the Quay is not our friend. The Quay is not instantly recognizable as someone you know (at least I hope not). Its something else. Whatever it was mean to be.
Notably, both times we've seen they Quay they have also focused on adaptability. They wish to learn in order to increase their success at their goals. There is no lollygagging, or refusal to admit an opponent has an advantage, the Quay are in complete acceptance of their own failings, and instantly wish to learn how to overcome or ignore those faults. Its no wonder they survived the Shi, they're the most ingenious bugs around- and the most deadly. While the Quay in this story dies at the end, it was clearly far more physically capable than any human. A bit worrying if you ran into one in a back alley.
Though all though, though the death of the narrator at the end, through the hints at colonialism, through the pain and gore and suffering, through the violence and kill counts, we must ask one final question: how did we get this story? Disregarding that this story comes from the future, the Quay who tells us the tale is dead. The Quay isn't being recorded inside its thoughts, and it isn't telling the story to anyone else, it dies with the words in its brain cells. Perhaps then, for a species so intent on counting the dead, and remembering them, the memory of their ancestors goes far deeper than the the sealed image of the blink of an eye. Perhaps, though all the cold hard realism of the future, the Quay are the ones who have forgotten our spirits least of all.