We gave them that nickname because of the star system they came from. They were also the first.
Their arrival seemed to come out of the blue, but then again, how could you possibly prepare for the world to be upended like that?
The ship was just shy of five kilometres wide, and according to our best measurements at the time, perfectly spherical , down to the micrometre.
The ship descended impossibly slowly, a dark moon setting on the horizon. An anti-sunset. When they landed, the base stretched down to the depths of the ocean floor. It instantly became the largest structure the world had ever seen — Alpha One. Its impossibly clean edges give the illusion of two dimensionality; less a solid object and more a black hole punched through the canvas of sky.
Of course I wasn’t there for its arrival. No one living today was. I’m told the world watched anxiously, fearing its own imminent end.
After an edgy first few days after the descent, the world government still could not successfully communicate with the ship and its occupants, so we did what we always do — we launched destruction directly at it. A hundred or so missiles, in an assortment of sizes, from all angles, blasted from warships, subs and aircraft.
Not one hit.
About 50 or so metres from impact, each missile dissolved slowly in the air — each unpicked like a ball of thread, falling from the sky in small chunks. We learnt that Alpha’s used nanobots as part of their existence, and they could be deployed defensively. Too small to appear to the naked eye, let alone on scanners, Alpha One had deployed them to simply disassemble the missiles in mid-flight. Then, in the largest single display of power ever witnessed, the Alpha’s turned off the entire world’s power all at the same time, for exactly 1.34 seconds. And then they did it again, for the same amount of time. Then once more. Just to show it was neither an accident, nor an attack.
In an instant, we knew we were completely, and utterly, unfathomably, outmatched. After no signs of a counter attack, military ships withdrew, and we now had uneasy but unmovable new neighbours sharing our planet.
And then the first flotilla of Ogs replaced the military.
Ogs, short for Omega’s, were the self-named super fans of the Alphas. After witnessing what became known as the Pulse, they realised that we were witness to a truly awesome new dominant force on our planet. They felt compelled to be as near to them as possible, so gathered boats, ships and floating structures and set up as close to Alpha One as they dared get.
Packed into a tight grid, vast shanty towns were erected across the stationary decks, with ropes and bridges and structures erected to make the Omega’s stay as permanent as possible. Allotments, micro farms, water towers, solar panels and breweries kept the population fed, and soon the settlement became known as Omega City. The curious and fanatical amassed, with more boats added every week until the permanent population grew to thousands, with millions visiting to take tours and simply see the sphere up close.
The residents painted signs, projected images, music and sound onto the side of Alpha One, day and night. It became a place of reflection, tourism, and zealous religious worship of the Alphas. That music quickly became the object of attention for the Alphas.
You see, Alphas did not make any noise — they communicated through technological implants in their brains and had long lost the ability to make sounds. Expression for them was via raw thoughts, visual pictures. They simply had no cultural place for sounds, or music.
This is why they showed interest in the music of the Omegas. To them, music was intriguing, novel, wonderful. As small groups of Alphas ventured out of their ship and to Omega City, they would stop and listen to the drums and bands playing day and night, animatedly twirling their tentacle arms in excitement, beckoning others to gather and watch.
Alpha’s seemed to enjoy their interactions with Ogs, too. There was a sense that the music delighted these demi-gods. After each performance the Alphas would gift the Ogs trinkets, precious metals, food they had learned to make from scanning our brains, as well as capsules of chemicals that would release pleasurable endorphins in humans.
Then, some Ogs were invited inside the vast city ship.
The Alphas only ever invited in those that showed the most amount of enthusiasm for them — no sceptics or nervous humans ever got to go inside — there were rumours that they could scan our bodies and rejected those that weren’t calm, comfortable and committed. But there were plenty of enthusiastic volunteers. The zealous stepped forwards, and the world watched on as hundreds disappeared into Alpha One.
The trips inside became longer and longer, until one day, the first Og never came out. It wasn’t that Ogs weren’t allowed to come out — most Ogs spent a few days at a time inside before going back to their flotillas — but after the first permanent resettlement into the ship, more followed. It didn’t take a civilization as advanced as the Alphas long to work out how to keep their new guests alive and happy, offering feasts of synthesised food enhanced with endorphin inducing chemicals. Entry into Alpha One quickly became a ticket out of the near permanent suffering most people were enduring on Earth.
The Alphas may have been colonising our planet, but they weren’t destroying it — it was already crumbling when they arrived, but it didn’t matter to them. They had two sets of breathing organs, could get breathable oxygen from any source, and had sufficient technology to endure any climate based disaster. Their food could be synthesised from raw chemicals found in abundance on Earth, even in the collapsing ecosystems. Nanobots in their bloodstream could counter any disease or infection Earth threw at them. As their population grew on Earth, new semi submerged sub-colonies appeared across our oceans, avoiding the heat, storms and crop failures of our changing climate. As the human population dwindled and withered, the Alpha population boomed.
The population of Omega City also stabilised. Those musically talented enough now lived inside the ship, and recruitment of people stopped. Many people lost their faith in the Alphas, and simply returned to the harsh realities of living in global catastrophe. Now, the only Ogs were the ones living inside Alpha One and amongst the colonies that were sprouting up across the world.
Then the breeding programme began.
Alphas, through a mix of selective breeding and genetic manipulation, bred Ogs that were more and more musically capable, Not just in terms of aptitude, but in their physiology. Genetic lines were chosen to play types of instrument. Wind instrument players were given larger lungs, double the number of fingers, which were also grown longer, and more dextrous. Violinists’ were given elongated arms, with double-jointed elbows, with cartilage ridges to better secure their instruments. Percussionists no longer had to use sticks, as their fingers were made to be as hard as wood, and more responsive to the skins of the drums.
All were bred to have larger ears, perfect pitch, an intuitive sense of rhythm. After a few choked to death, they bred a second feeding hole into their stomach to prevent accidental death, covered with a fleshy flap when not eating. Legs became obsolete as Ogs were moved around on hovering plinths so they could more easily move around Alpha One. Any muscle not related to playing an instrument gradually withered and eventually didn’t grow at all, or grew as a useless stump, unused but seen as unimportant to remove entirely. It didn’t matter that Ogs became masses of soft fat, all that was needed were their mouths and fingers. Ogs didn’t even need to go to the toilet. They simply relieved themselves where they lay, and were cleaned immediately by small robotic helpers created to tend to any Og needs that Alphas didn’t want to deal with.
Then the Alphas realised they didn’t need metallic instruments at all. Shortly after birth, instruments made from organic cartilage and bone were fused into the bodies. Ogs then became the instruments, playing tunes on their own bodies. Speech was deemed wasteful, so mouths were grafted directly onto the mouthpiece of their body instruments, with additional breathing holes to supplement the larger lungs meant they could hold notes for hours. Eyes shrank, noses closed up, skeletal strength degraded, motor function unrelated to musicality faded.
Most Alphas loved their Ogs. They were purchased to bring joy to their homes, to fill them with wonder. They showered their Ogs with their version of love, draped them in cloth, gifts, and pampered them. They manicured them, styling grown out hair into elaborate platts that were tied around the body to match the fashion of the day. Others tattooed the skin of their Ogs with intricate patterns. They made them comfortable and gave them free reign of their living space, with some even sharing sleeping space with their Ogs. They held competitions to compete with their Ogs, showing off their musical talents in different musical genres. Thousands of Alphas came to watch, and the shows were streamed directly into the minds of thousands more. Ogs were bought as gifts for the Alphas offspring, who sometimes were clumsy with the far physically weaker Ogs, crushing a finger, or arm, or lung.
Not all Ogs were this unlucky. For those bought by wealthier Alpha families, they bought sets of nanobots that would enter the bloodstream of their Ogs, keeping their internal functions operating healthily, allowing them to live well beyond normal human life expectancy. The oldest Og ever known lived to be 203.
Some Ogs were not loved. Some were beaten and even killed if they could not please their masters. As trends and expectations changed, some Ogs that could not deliver on the imagined promise of Og ownership quietly dumped their Ogs into the remains of Omega City. There, a small but thriving black market emerged, with cages of Omegas, unable to speak, or walk or breathe. Their poorer Alpha owners could pick up cheaper Ogs, some not bred to the high standards of the more expensive Og variants.
Others were bred too far, over engineered. A sub-species of drum kit Og didn’t have the bone and muscle strength to support the weight of their bodily instruments, and their backs would often break. Others were bred so the breathing holes were too small (large ones being deemed unsightly) and would suffocate in older age, or after over-exerting themselves. These Ogs were disposed of quickly and quietly, often being replaced with a newer one within the week. Many reported seeing corpses of Ogs floating near Omega City, having drifted from where they were dumped from Alpha One.
I don’t know why I travelled to Omega City. The elders objected after the recent loss of so many to plague. But I was young, and felt compelled to see first hand the newer creatures I had heard so many stories about, but never seen. I had to see it, if only for a moment. It felt like a calling. To see these creatures that had made a survivalist bet, and seemed to be winning.
It took months to get to the Omega City. The rusted hash of boats at first seemed like a marvel to me, but the closer I got, the more I saw the filth of it. A corrupt, subservient monument to an oppressive force, filled with empty promises.
Once docked, I was directed to a tanker ship and descended into its bowels. There, in the dim light, were thousands of cages, stacked twenty metres high, garbled musical notes filling the cavernous space, a cacophony of squeaky disjointed sounds. The first thing that hit me was the heat — thousands of bodies packed into a metal box heated by the sun created a wall of thick air. The smell of sweat and bodily fluids hit me next. I heaved, then vomited. Then again.
Each cage was too small to stand in for a normal human, many of the Ogs’ flesh was pressed against the metal mesh, bulbous fat protruding through. There were streams of piss and shit flowing through the alleyways, occasionally brushed along by a sallow faced, frail attendant.
As I wandered through the uncountable number of narrow paths, many had descended into madness, playing notes on a loop as they rocked back and forth, unable to stand, or move. Some sat frozen in place, staring through tiny eyes into an unknowable void. I wandered further, though I should have left.
At a dead end, one Og rattled its cage and squeaked out a melancholic flurry of notes. I paused, turned and met its small, wet eyes and gazed upon its mutated body, huge, ebbing purple lung sacks and noticed sores on its underside. No mouth to speak of, it continued to blow flurried trills, showing me desperately that it was capable of impressing, worthy of love. At the edges where the body had become fused to the instrument, there was red and glossy scar tissue, dried blood on some. I did not know much about music, but could tell this was not the music to move the soul. This Og would never be bought by an Alpha, even the poorer ones looking for a bargain. As tears streaked down its reddened cheeks, I wondered how much humanity was left in this creature. Did it know that it was doomed?
I should have felt pity.
I should have been moved by the tragedy of the Ogs, and this poor creature’s plight. I should have wanted to tear down this whole place, to try and do something to stop this happening. I should have felt injustice, sadness, fury.
Instead I felt disgust.
Authors note: This is a story about wolves, and domesticated dogs.