A bit late of a reply, but better late than never. Also if you didn't read the thing itself: here be the spoilers, beware.
Alright so here is the story told in a mostly nonconvoluted manner:
Earth has entered a technological revolution where artificial technology directly communicates with the brain, something like Elon Musk's Neuralink company/concept
. The particular device used by captain Cheng and Taskforce One is called the Silusid: a device that allows transmitting real-time data about what they are experiencing to each other. The device also allows the user to influence the brain through the release of neurotransmitters and interlinked synapses.
The conglomerate behind Taskforce One, one based on spirituality, saw the potential of the tech and developed it further to allow scans and storage of brain data, which allows a consciousness to be transmitted to another body. This is the crux behind the DNA parabole, their consciousness has become the packet of data that was originally the human gene. As you guessed, for this to work cloning was a necessity. Each new clone possessed the memories of its predecessor and would come into the world better prepared than the last.
The Soulless have taken this technology, but, not hampered by spiritual concerns, experimented and went much further. They did away with their biological remnants and remade themselves in digital space. They see themselves as the next step of evolution.
They also left Earth far more recently, which indicates which direction Earth was going in. But because they had access to the latest tech, they could make up for most of the time. Once arrived, they could easily plant a virus in the Silucids outdated tech and assume control of the system.
That was the human half of the story, the alien half was much harder to implement and where IMO it starts to break down a bit. 2000 words wasn't really a lot to explore the two different concepts and to tie them together.
The POV was based on a book I'm currently reading about social engineering and security specialists. That's where the vector talk comes from: its goal is to break into the monument and reach its inner sanctum in whatever manner is necessary.
Just like in the current hacking scene, breaking into extremely old and outdated technology is often much harder than breaking into the current, or last, gen. You could oversimplicate consciousness down into simply a mix of signals and then divide it into these generations: you have molecules and atoms for the human brain, electrons for the artificial brain and then the more advanced alien data processing using a combination of photons and fuck you plotarmor. Because if I knew the specifics behind the last generation, I wouldn’t be writing. While it is a heavy oversimplification, the concept stands.
So when the alien consciousness, itself an evolution from likely the previously mentioned steps, perceived the human explorers, it used the 2nd generation Silusid tech to gain access. It saw that these primitive humans had the same goal as it did, but also saw the power behind an ever-evolving entity that brute-forced its way through the security measures. It decided to stay on the sidelines and to let the program run its course. Meanwhile, it studied the way this new program worked.
Now when it saw another intrusion, this time a system wholly operating under the more easily cracked 2nd generation, and saw that that they blocked progress, it decided to intervene, leading the story to its conclusion.
The last quarter of the story is the mysterious monument, in many ways the crux in this story. The monument served as a great location to highlight the characteristics of the other three factions and allowed me to jumpstart the plot.
I wanted it to have a consciousness on its own, a presence to counteract the otherwise too advanced POV. It would be far more present and proactive and it would serve as the host of a foreign u/dys-topia that would contrast the evolution of Earth’s society, but I had to cut those parts down due to the word limit. It now serves as a mysterious and deadly obstacle in the outer reaches of space, full of questions, but no answers.
Now I really like this idea of the advancement of generations within sci-fi. You can also see this, apart from hacking, within biology where we, as humans, have lost immunity against outdated pathogens. It’s easy to think that progress is progress and that it is solely good, but I also wanted to highlight that it could open yourself up and that older technology still has its place within the whole ecosystem.
And that was almost half of the word limit. Damn 2000 words really isn’t a lot.