Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Gattsu
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Gattsu Cold meat. Fresh cut.

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The beam’s contact with Earth F67X shone like a raging quasar; a beacon for the rest of the system to observe that would likely create many more Ayanda’s for every coffin it didn’t. There was no screaming, no explosion, no sound--only the deafened ringing that accompanied the bleeding ears of nearby soldiers before their brains melted to mush and their bodies sloughed into primordial stew for whatever next iteration of man chaos had planned.

The surrounding stone, concrete, and rebar the current situation inherited from the previous conflict evaporated into the devouring light. And the cleansing fire, a machination on the other side of the universe, scrubbed away life at the microscopic level rewriting it anew. Even Max, who was made of sturdier stuff than most, would succumb to the resplendent pillar’s wrath. The effulgent column’s fury lasted several seconds before it devolved into several shockwaves whose reach spread to unknowable lengths across the surface of the planet.

When the light subsided, and those who weren’t blinded could survey the surroundings, the only thing left behind upon the blasted tarn were equally blasted shadows of those who couldn’t weather its fury. The fallout from the beams impact would be seen upon the planet for the rest of its natural life, but with its withdrawal another entity traced it back to its nexus.

Max found himself in a familiar tomb with his consciousness quickly dissolving to an overwhelming will that shattered his sanity and toppled him over the brink into madness. He was so preoccupied dealing with the present and undoing events of the past that he was blinded to the dangers lurking in the immediate future. The blade he absently held in his hand had awakened when the Catalyst sparked the malign sentience within. This weapon, a “gift” from a demon merged with the multitude of different consciousness dwelling within his psyche, and with it brought a new overmind--a new directive.

Convert. Consume. Control.

A failsafe of a panicked civilization, and a reneging of a deal with another demon. This consciousness transformed Max, merging his technology with his body. His hair burned away and tendrils of chitin sprouted from his flesh. His canister rifle and munitions disassembled and melted into his skin like ingredients into a dish. He screamed into the emptiness of the Fault as biological and mechanical made foul pacts under his skin. In his agonizing howl, his jaw split and muscle and piston replaced the flesh anew. Xelas reacted violently with an entity it swore to imprison for the rest of eternity, and a battle waged at a microscopic level. This was a war the omnipotent arcane project could not possibly win, though. A voice burned into Max’s pained consciousness with the fire of the primeval creative flames of the universe.

BEHOLD. THE DEATH AND REBIRTH OF THE VAL’GARA. I AM SAL’CHAZZAR, LAST VESTIGE OF THE GOD, IDEA.”

Max’s flesh exploded like someone had pulled the pin on a series of grenades that laid under his skin on every square inch of his body. He screamed in pain until only blood gurgled from his mutilated trachea. The voice burned away at his mind, body, and soul with a power he had only sensed once.

SHEPHERD, BRING MY WAYWARD CHILDREN BACK AND BRING ORDER TO THIS ENTROPY.”

Another wave of explosions erupted within him, blasting away muscle and machine alike, and reforging it anew, stronger than before. His body twitched as Xelas’s protective silver membrane that leaked over his flesh bubbled ebony with corruption. ANITA’s warnings became a dinghy’s blinking SOS beacon during the apex of a category 5 hurricane’s wrath. Gennosuke and Forge’s cries were quashed under an ocean of harvested power. Max became a gleaming, convecting, accreting star of bioforce that was forcing the entirety of its volume down into a man-sized vessel. The expectation was impossible, and would force Xelas’s hand.

GO, AND KNOW THAT IN OUR HAVOK, WE ESTABLISH LAW.

Havok, a million different spirits of a billion different races combined in a harvested star mused, that name will suit us nicely.

Xelas pushed back one last time with effort that had only been seen once in its history. Internalizing all of its power and collapsing the bioforce star into what was instant singularity. Forming a supermassive black hole on one side of the multiversal fault, a supermassive white hole formed on the other, expelling a supercluster-sized physical being whose mass and density were infinite, and whose power was limitless. With the expelling of Xelas-comprised energy, a sheet of Bose-Einstein condensate comparable in scale to the Sloan Great Wall, swept across space. The creature’s mere existence was the onset Big Crunch within the Faultiverse, and began an infinite gravitational collapse of the realm’s space-time continuum. The arcane project had only one method it could attempt to purge its corrupted databanks.

Max, Gennosuke, Forge, Xelas, ANITA, Havok, Sal’Chazzar, all these entities were housed within the same supercluster-sized entity, whose body was the singularity and whose reach mobilized its event horizon. The existence of GalaXelas and pairing of his arrival after the galactic engine was sure to attract other greater powers, for if it were ignored its reach would extend across the Fault’s dimensional boundaries and consume the rest of the omniverse within its all-encompassing well. Spaghettification would not be the ultimate fate to await those who perished, instead they would be remade into a newly birthed cataclysm, a new system and a reinvigorated Val’gara.

Observers only had to witness the stars of the Fault, whose deaths were not slow, cancerous withering, but instead instant, violent obliteration. But like Idea to Sal’Chazzar, from the ashes of this universe would a new, better one spring forth in glorious brilliance. The rays its light would scour every corner of the multiverse until all were converted. It would endlessly consume opposition with a hunger that eclipsed the Great Machine that spurred its rebirth, and it would control the entropy of existence into a new, ordered manner in which all things progressed forth.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Alucroas
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Alucroas The Raging Singularity

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A beast of shadow-tinged platinum sprinted across a collapsing fault line, slashing bark, igniting steel, and vaporizing rock and water with yellow bursts of plasma thrust being propelled from the soles of metal clawed feet. It, he, they leaped off a tower of alien skulls forged by unknown tribal enemies, just before its cranial peak smashed into a witch's cauldron, spilling its contents into a super advanced cockpit. The pilot inside transformed into a bloodthirsty monstrosity, tore through his nano-weave harness, punched through the reinforced glass meant to keep him safe from stray debris, and lunged with supernatural speed and velocity at his known nemesis. With the primal madness flowing through his veins, the pilot sliced through nose, controls, stick, hands, arms and torso, causing the craft to lose control and explode in a gory shower of rapidly compressing mayhem as the fault crushed him, his dead enemy, and the section of his world that slipped through the multiversal intersection into dust.

He had to go faster, and the technology that comprised a mere third of his biology could help him achieve this. The plates making up his cybernetic exoskeleton opened, revealing black flesh with a translucent gland tracing its exposed outline. This gland erupted a massive outpouring of red slime that was superdense, spilling into and filling the nearest cosmic cracks, whilst simultaneously acting as temporary insulation to a quantum destabilization, triggered by the existence of a living singularity in another fault.

Fortunately, as the Singularity fractured, splintered, and shattered whole regions of intersected realities, it also released an incalculable amount of energy. From the sapphire scar on his right forelimb and the scarlet scar on the left, draconic heads emerged, their eyes baring the same color arrangement that was further accentuated by the vague gemlines, giving them an aspect of subtle protrusion. The slime that had filled the cracks vibrated at a spiritual frequency unique to the being who released it, and transferred the barely contained energy over to the serpents, who in-turn used it to replicate their numbers at an astonishing rate. Through this exchange, the serpents duplicated the running beast’s function: their exoskeletal plates opened, released red slime that soaked up and contained the energy of a collapsing fault, and used it to increase their own numbers.

Incredible though it seemed this process could not last forever--it was aided by the fact that as the faultline crunched and shrank from the distant Singularity, so too did it reduce the travel time it took for the serpents to reach every crack and fill it. Inevitably, heat expansion took place within the slime, and it was within that moment as well that the determined beast activated its internal ley-lines, as well as those of the red nanoscopic machines filling the slime, hence its unusual color. Reaching out with the lines, and probing passed the cracks, he was able to gather stable readings of space at the quantum level, whereupon he manufactured his own artificial quantum foam to replace that which had been lost; spraying it from the glands underneath his exoskeleton as a sticky substance that merged with the slime and allowed it to act as a spatially elastic bonding agent.

Finally, the dragon who had initiated this repair of the fault raised his tail, the tops, bottoms, and sides that were lined with hundreds of micro-blades ending in a sharply curved point harmonized to the frequency of his newly created space-time, at which point he let out a supreme roar. An ear-piercing shriek contained within a deep, sonorous battle scream, twisted and bent inside a hollow metal chamber resonated inside the shrinking...claustrophobic...compressing...tightening...squeezing...expanding...constricting…crushing...stretching...loosening...releasing back to its right and proper state.

--
I…heard a scream, an inexplicable platinum scream, from a creature emerging through a sawed-out rift in space. How could this be? There was no medium through which to scream in space. No air, no water, no substance, just an empty void with nothing but space. Yet somehow I felt space... Concentrated, dense, space, passing by my face and nearly twisting it to the point of extrusion had it not been for my astrally reinforced carapace, now cracked and fractured by the eerie weight of what I could describe as an emotional gravity.

Perhaps it is just the exhaustion of my most recent efforts, but the more I tried to fathom what I saw, the more I began to feel a foreign sensation of wrath, and with that wrath came fragmented shrapnel stabbing into my subconscious.

I…looked to the lambent suns for an answer. Embedded within the fleshy crater of the Cradle of Life, surely they would have ruptured like they always had during Obathera’s feeding time, but I saw nothing. My curiosity roused, I turned my attention to La’Nibi, tracing my mantid eyes all the way up its four equine legs to its dark-indigo torso, passed the cobalt colored portal in its abdomen, up along the strange tubing that sprouted from its chest and fed back into its shoulders. Craning, I met its neck, mouthless, noseless face, and peered at the three protruding cones that served as its primary means of sight.

I…followed the turning of its head, and saw that it had focused in on Kilamara, one of the other five planets occupying one of eight total craters upon the solar-system sized Cradle. Ascending via telekinesis to a higher viewing point, I bore refined witness to the platinum dragon, the sight of it gradually twinkling and ....dismantling... away as it disappeared into the desert world’s atmosphere. Trailing my eyes down La’Nibi’s back, distracted by the sudden undulation of its tail made entirely of ectoplasmic souls, their arms reaching out in a vain attempt at gripping what I sensed to be a unique ki signature. Slowly, I turned, following the tail up to its five saurian skulls made of normal skeletal tissue, and noticed that they had unraveled since La’Nibi and I’s departure from Cizra Su-lahn.

Beyond the La’Nibi’s tail I could see the stinging yellow eyes of Raizer coming toward me. The black flesh suit he wore had dethreaded, its fibers, and unzipped its teeth, reshaping itself into an avian shape that revealed my Aptosite comrades feathers underneath. Alongside him was his partner, Braiker - self-proclaimed King of the Forge, and unlike Raizer who was sharp and sleek, Braiker was much rounder and far bulkier. Presently, he lay perfectly flat and compact as he shot through the vacuum: his tail pointed straight forward like the nose of a jet, the super elastic, inflatable tongues that were his digits stretched and hardened like wings for catching undercurrents, the joints of his limbs that were made from interlocked needle-teeth instead of welded metal exhaled hot arcana as a means of heat ventilation. Lastly, I saw his big, round, jutting mouth, agape like that of a skewer-toothed demon who breathed stars, and exhaled teal ether.

I...saw them become engulfed in a vortex of flames as they too disappeared on their quest to be reunited with a beast, whose name bled acidic green upon my conscience, corroding the last vestiges of energy.

Ravenously devoured the Raging Singularity of

Taluge… X
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Liaison
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Liaison Passive Aggressor

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Somewhere, several hundred light years away, a new star would be born…

Location: Prolix

What the second moon of Prolix became was more comparable to an additional sun. The last twenty-four hours had been continuous day with the surface of Zol, now smoldering any surface the hub planet dared to face it.

Deep within the natural satellite’s surface housed massive quantities of Creatirium Cobalt, a celestial element. Once thought to have been destroyed along with the previous plane of existence, it abstrusely appeared hidden under the guise of a moon in the current verse. For a near eternity, this trove of potential remained undiscovered with no impending threat of retrieval.

Though Zol’s exterior was hard, it’s rocky shell was obliterated with ease. Once the crust of the moon had been stripped, it revealed the element made up a whopping eighty-five percent of its mass. In a previous universe, a single SIM card-sized chip of creatirium could autonomously control and power entire civilizations.

Several hours after the initial impact, prolonged exposure to the sentient plasma’s radiation awakened the element’s carnal intelligence. A flash spanning mere picoseconds appeared in the vision of every living entity if they were capable of processing it.

This signaled the ancient computer's cosmic troubleshooting towards all planes of existence. It utilized Panident’s access to the information based realm The Datasphere and funneled it through The Nascent Core, a technological life matrix it housed within. With this, the initial reach of the Datasphere extended beyond its once universally bound domain. The very existence of this quasi-corporeal space created friction with the most basic of universal laws.

Panident was being force-fed ludicrous quantities of information from every corner of the multiverse to the point where its processors began to overload. As a result, many of its bodies spread throughout the galaxy reacted uncharacteristically as it scrambled to adapt to the influx of knowledge. In particular, the body of its closest host began to bubble, expelling the property changing microorganisms through weak points in his skin. This made for quite the scene.

Eal Sermonde awoke from his slumber to the lacerating of his flesh and sharp screams of his fellow train passengers. He came crashing down the aisle with his intestines shooting out like party poppers via the eviction of cells. Once on his back, he realized the microorganisms of Panident burst a hole in the ceiling of the train car. It was accelerating towards the structure that had replaced the moon. Coincidence Eal thought not and before the paramedics could arrive he was already gone, leaving the passengers wondering what they had just seen.

Reeling himself towards the space-bound object, an amber wire, which was mystic in its own nature, sufficiently lugged Eal's cumbersome frame. Despite weighing a metric ton, he beelined without a hitch. This brought the galactic cartographer to his least favorite aspect of space, however…

Suffocating to death.

In his ascension, he felt the direct correlation with the altitude and his body becoming ill. He was scared to take a breath knowing his innards might spill outwards. Ebullism was in full effect. Due to a lack of ambient pressure, his body bloated to the point where he resembled The Michelin Man. As if things couldn't get any worse, the temperature began to skyrocket. Whereas Prolix's space division struggled to get closer, Eal came torpedoing into the white-hot structure. The melting of his mutilated physique exposed his secret for surviving thus far; His resilient crimson skeleton, which was impervious to the trials of space. Not to mention, his existence had been forcefully bound to it, rendering his flesh as more of an accessory, really.

As cinematic as his entrance was, further inspection revealed he would not be the first to venture into the space anomaly. Just at the tip of his perceptual vanishing point, he could make out a silhouette.

"Empress, help me if that is actually someone..."

Only time would tell.
Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Zyamasiel
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One week before GalaXela's release

"We're really not sure what to do with the prisoner, my lord. He's been out cold since the return, it's almost like he's dead. Our only knowledge of life is the fact brain activity is persistent. But, we can't keep him here forever. He's taking up to much space and far too many resources. We have to get rid of him, even if the Overseer won't admit it."

"Fine, fine. Do what you must, Ensign. I don't care. All any of you ever do is bitch and complain, nobody ever comes to me with a real issue, you know. It's always stupid resources and free space." He grumbled and mumbled beneath his breath as he walked away, his footfalls resonating in the barren, metallic hallway. The glimmering light giving his shadow a ferocity it didn't merit.

"Well, you are the Resource Manager, fuckwad!" The other man called after him, his voice seething with unrepressed annoyance. "Fuckin' moron chose the damn job, now he's complaining about it. Lazy fuck," he, too, grumbled under his breath. They both hated their jobs, it seemed, and yet they both did them with the utmost effeciency. For his part, though, he walked to the control cluster - his seven-fingered hands working their magic across the console.

"Tell me to do what I gotta do, fuck it. I'll do what I gotta do. And I'll use his damned keycode to do it." His fingers nimbly danced along, inputting commands and using his boss' codes to do it. As his fingers walked across the keys, a doorway opened in the other room - and then a second, outer, door after that. The whoosh of the vaccuum was the predominant sound, even through the airlocks and the walls. And then, the body laying on the floor was sucked out.

Closing the airlock and the cell doors back, he turned away from the console and smirked. Technically, it was murder - but when the records were recalled he wouldn't be the one to blame for it. In fact, he wouldn't even be around to see the man being blamed punished. His grey eyes closed, and his yellowed teeth disappeared as the shadows enveloped his body. In that instance, he was gone.

-------

Three days later

For some, the derelict nature of the endless expanse of space is a thing of pure fear. The very idea of it sends shivers down their spines, a fear of the void that they couldn't shake from the core of thier being. And for others, space was the ultimate adrenaline rush. A place they could go and use that scariness to induce the adrenal gland reactions that so pushed them beyond their limits. That drove many of them, the idea that they could get a rush. That they could get that high. They worked for years and years trying to push it beyond the natural limitations. Trying to get that greatest, largest high.

Then, you had people like Kishin. She didn't give two fucks about anything, one way or the other. She didn't care about fear, she didn't feel adrenaline. She didn't feel damned near anything, really. Only indifference, only a cold, bleakness inside of her that rivaled only that found outside the walls of her ship. The crew she surrounded herself with, however, longed for the glory of battle. They sought to become known as the greatest, most powerful mercenary force in the whole of the 'Verse. Of course, most of them couldn't lay a finger on her.

Not that she even held a candle to her father. He was basically a God, and that wasn't just something she saw. That was something that was a given fact. People the Multiverse over worshipped him, they longed for his affection and his touch. Not that he ever gave it, not to them and certainly not to her. No, her childhood was one school after another. Training. Working. Growing. She was sent from place to place, Universe to Universe. Trained in fighting, trained in schooling, trained in magic. She was, for all intents and purposes, a weapon. Kishin didn't mind, though. In fact, she loved him for it.

That training allowed her to gather these men and women, allowed her to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. And if someone tried to stop her, if someone too strong tried to stand in front of her. She just brought him up, a single whisper of his name sent most men cowering and running. If that didn't work, well he had a way of showing up to protect her. Even if he barely showed her any love otherwise. He was a great being, a celestial entity whose whispered name still inspired fear and loathing - even if he'd not been seen in nearly ten thousand years.

Her mind wandered as she thought of him, her eyes glazed over in the daydream. Her rump on the captain's seat didn't move, her body didn't move. She simply looked beyond the world in which they traveled. That was why she didn't see it, not until the loud cracking of something striking the hull set off the alarms. The whole ship rocked from the impact, and immediately she roused from her own memories.

"What in the actual fuck did we just hit, John?" Her voice cracked like a whip, as she called out to the man piloting the vessel. He just shrugged and turned around, clearly not knowing himself.

"Captain proximity scans show hull damage on sector four, and a strange object lodged into the side of the ship. It almost seems organic, like...a body...is that even possible?"

"I don't know, Frank. Why don't you get your ass out there and find out?"

She shut down the comm-link before he could reply, and immediately opened another on. "Gerald, get your ass down to hangar 2, we might have a body that needs storage. I'm on my way as well." Her finger slammed down on the off button, and she jumped to her feet. She ran to the elevator system, and immediately started descending levels. When the doors opened, the body was already being brought inside. Mechanical crews were on their way out the door, opting to go ahead and repair the hull in-flight.

She made her way across the hangar floor, toward the object that struck them. It was, in fact, a body. She circled around to look straight on with it. As soon as she saw the face, her own broke out in a smile and then a laugh. The loud, raucous laughter of a crazed, delusional lunatic. The kind of laughter that sent chills down most people's spine. Her hand reached out, touching the frozen forehead of the man laying on the back of the medical bot.

"Hello, father"

His eyes snapped open, and his mind began to spool up like the engines of a plane. He scanned the area around him, and within seconds shadows are wrapping themselves around their owners - lifting them from the ground by their throats. In a matter of fifteen seconds, the entire ship became disabled, while its crew hung helpless in the air. Then, he saw Kishin and his mind registered where he must be, where he must have ended up.

"Oh, hello daughter. Strange...I remember being on the exact opposite side of the Multiverse from you. How'd I end up here?"

"I don't know, Father. We just...found you. You were floating along in the black, and all of the sudden we hit you, and the...."

"YOU HIT ME?", he asked - surprised and a little bit hurt. "Well, I suppose I might have earned that. You know, I was never really ther..."

"With the ship...on accident, you old buffoon. You know I don't give a shit about the past, and love you dearly still, Father. Now, if you don't mind?" Her hand gestured toward her men, who still hung suspended in the air, their feet dangling and their faces turning purple. Shrugging his shoulders, the shadows melded back into the ground where they belonged - and the people they held fell to their knees, gasping for their breath.

"Ladies, Gentleman. I'd like you to meet my father, I'm sure you've all heard of him. His name is Lysander." The last word, the name of the God many worshipped as the end of all life and things in the Multiverse. It sent chills through them, caused them to stop breathing for a second. All except one guy, who was probably born and raised under a rock.

"Who in the actual fuck is Lys..." before he could even finish the question, his own shadow rose up like the blade of a sickle. With a gurgling, blood-filled death rattle the man fell over and the shadow proceeded to trickle into the well that slowly built itself up at his back.

"FATHER!" she screamed, "must you kill anyone who doesn't know you? Just because they don't know you?"

"Yes."

The Day of The Awakening

Lysander, in typical Lysanderian fashion, lounged about. He found nothing worth doing on his daughter's ship, and so he did what he always did and that was nothing. Though, the days were growing longer from the boredom of it all. He needed to get out, he needed to find a way out. Well, not so much a way out as the motivation to just leave. When you've lived for billions of years, and traveled every conceivable highway and byway across the Multiversal lands, you begin to grow weary with existence. Boredom became the most predominant thing he felt, and he found himself rarely feeling the entertainment afforded other people.

There was no power to match him, no power to test him. Long ago, the Eternal Night housed the only true threat to his might - but Grandfather's energy disappeared eons ago, and Lysander wasn't sure what became of him. Now, he closed his eyes and cast out with his senses. Intensifying his search, expanding his mind, he sought out any entertainment. Then, through the veil of reality and the clutches of space and time he found it. He found what he sought. He found a being of such immense power, that for once he could find himself the challenge he truly deserved.

Within the span of a blink, his body propelled itself through Jigoku. He lost himself in the darkness of space, the decaying entropy of existence. Then the light broke, and he ejected in the wake of the monstrosity. He stood upon nothingness, floating in the vastness of space - and let his eyes cast around him. Panident. Taluge-X. GalaXelas. They towered him in size, but only one rivaled him in sheer power. With minimal effort, he began to collect the plethora of shadows - forging the well, as Caldecise pulsed with excitement.

"I hope you guys didn't plan to statt without me."
Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Anshin
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Anshin Shagnasty Superbad

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What do you do when the neighbor’s dog takes a chunk out of some kid’s leg?

Do you grab a shotgun and put a slug in the back of the beast’s head? Or do the deed with your own two hands? Maybe you try to circumvent the guilt by poisoning it? Or are you the kind of coward who does nothing hopes that someone else does the dirty work? In the end it wasn’t the dog’s fault. It was a dumb animal pulled from the wild and domesticated over the course of ten thousand years or so, poorly at that, a confused mess of mixed signals trying desperately to understand a world that was in every sense of the word beyond its comprehension. Maybe if the dog had been a little smaller and a little cuter it would have gotten away with the crime, but Dog did not understand these nuances any more than it understood why it was bad to chew on one person’s leg but not the others.

Dog needs to put down, that much is clear, but what of the owner?

Renard Shurelian was of the opinion that and owner should take part of that responsibility, for not leashing their untamed beast, for not putting the fear of man and god into it. And as the thing what dared to call itself Xelas began its feast along a long since abandoned corner of the Central Finite Curve his attention turned towards its master. If it consumed Earth-F67X then that would be just another version of Earth that among a trillion that had suffered the very same fate, what loss was there, so for the Val’gara and so for all things that stood in its path. Lysander would tend to the hedges and if he failed at that then he would be one in a thousand Lysander’s to have died in the line of duty. More probably. But there was something much more diabolical at play here than a gnawing hunger at the fabric of reality, than the same shit different day of an unspeakable horror trying unravel existence, it was a man who had spent far too long being allowed to nurse his mad quest to reshape reality without anyone telling him to stop.

That in itself needed to stop; “Magnus.” There was no telling where the fallen angel was hiding, it was no doubt perilous and it was no doubt full of traps, but the ethereal serpent slithered on. “Your precious pet is running wild, Magnus, what do you intend to do about it?”
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by apathy
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apathy

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A multiverse apart...

Zlalmaw Zfani
032.18510
88 AU from Terr-S35Y


Crowned around this world sits the Ishkgi ring, a colossal construct used to transfer the planet to an unfamiliar orbit. It acts as an anchor in the K'isti; one of millions used to travel the breadth of the Zlalmaw Gizati, the Eternal Empire.

It is filthy with parasites, stellar worms grown swollen as they leach off of the ring's energy. If ignored, they could eventually misalign the K'isti and cause untold chaos as voyagers find themselves ejected billions of years from their destination, or hurtling into the heart of a star as they fell from the bleed of superluminal travel.

A slurry of translucent protoplasma is exuded from vents along the ring's broad expanse. It propels itself through gravitational flux and undulates towards the nearest stellar worm. It envelops the organic mass, undergoing rapid cellular mutation as it begins the process of harvesting all energies and returning them to the K'isti. Similar slurries are ejected elsewhere to never complete their task; their hindrance nothing more than a bubble. A very particular bubble.

The bubble, an oscillating glome birthed from entropy, ascends and with its entry catalyzed the conversion of existence to a true vacuum. Geometries distort as the Greisman-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit is ruptured with the sudden introduction of dark energy and an unknown force. Reality is violently rent through total protonic reversal then suffused into a grander magnitude of chaos.

10,000,000 AB
The Aggregate of No Dimension


Alone, in perfect self-contentment, exists the Absolute. Perpetuity manifest, the Absolute basks in its lack of imagination. Impeded by egoism, the Absolute was incapable of conceiving of anything other than itself and this reflected in its dominion; an infinitesimally small yet impossibly lustrous bead. It soliloquized in onanistic praise with bursts of low, monotonous tinkling.

"It is fathomless ecstasy! It occupies all, and all is it! One yet all, all yet one! Such splendor!"

Its luster faded as it was submerged into matterless void where billowing masses pulsed from one vague shape to another. It plummeted past effulgent spirals of quintessence and bled into something beyond existence. Neatly condensed, the Absolute is consumed.

7.7.2002
Mt. Takao, Japan Earth-B21X


"Ojii-san! I'm hungry!"

Beads of sweat roll down the gleaming pate of Seijuro Taniguchi as he plods along his scurrying grandson, hand in hand. The boy waves a toy katana as menacingly as he can, giggling with delight. He enjoys hiking with his grandfather; it meant picnics with all the sweets he could eat.

They stop at a series of benches and take a much-needed break. Seijuro dabs at his forehead with a handkerchief and basks in a cool breeze. His grandson runs happily into a field of soft grass, singing with each swing of his mighty blade.

"Delicious sweets! For you and me!"

Seijuro looks through the basket he'd brought and removes a small bundle wrapped in cloth. He opens it and pops a morsel into his mouth. Setting the bundle aside, he produces a watermelon and goes about cutting it.

"Keichii," the old man calls out having lost sight of the boy. There is no reply. "I've got
your favorite candied persimmons." He grows anxious at the continued silence and rises with an aged groan. Reaching the clearing, he rushes with a yell as he sees the thrashing form of his grandson.

"Help! Someone help!" the old man pleads as he swaddles the tiny frame in his arms, flecks of spit soaking into cotton. Seijuro clings to the child as clenched eyes burst open and in them was reflected..

Local Void
Universe-F67X


Engulfed in a field of its own spacetime, the beam had bored through countless AUs at transluminal speeds. Aberrant energies roiled, having dispersed none along its trajectory towards the core of a naked Kerr black hole. Spacetime is cast aside as it tunnels through the singularity, down a multiversal fault and into an adjacent universe along the nexus, B21X.

?

Alone, adrift in the wake of protonic decay is a crown, awash in crimson. Beyond time, the corpses of Titans sit like jewels set in morbid tapestry. Gods old and new had fallen in the 10^100 years since the crown-bearer's awakening. Might and cunning had failed them and with their passing, boredom grew. It reflected on its birth pangs. Having undergone complete subatomic breakdown, what had been Keichii Taniguchi struggled to bind its consciousness to a singular vessel. By way of energies it had yet to come across in its timeless travels, Keichii had been seeded into the subconscious of a multiversal cluster. Trapped within quantum uncertainty. The more of himself he perceived, the greater his capacity to experience and contain grew. Humans often numb to chronic pain but no respite was to be had at the hands of multiversal expansion.

Its omnipresent attention was suddenly aroused at the sensation of something at the edge of its dread awareness. The fluctuation and dilation of Time across infinity was but a stream to play in. It pierced the ken of Its being and perceived an object of its endless desire. Now surging with an azure brilliance, the crown-bearer stirred and with its motions a white hole was birthed into the Faultverse. Electromagnetic waves cascaded forth in a staccato of octaves, towards blight and brilliance.
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You never minded giving us the stars
Then showing us how blind and unaware of You we are
You painted me a picture and showed me how to see
Though I just won't behold it
Unless it pertains to me

—ancient Jarclayvian lyric.


∞ – u6e7bf581a1fa
– Earth


Arties Cimerreau, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, stood with his back to an empty lecture hall for the eighth straight class of the semester and contemplated the blackboard. Few young scholars, it seemed, exhibited an appetite for entropic philosophy at the macro scale, but, as a tenured professor, his course continued to be offered whether or not the seats behind him filled up with warm bodies. Required reading were oldies but goodies like Delia Schwartz-Perlov’s Transdimensional Tunneling in an Eternally Inflating Multiverse which succinctly and playfully begins:

“Eternal inflation and string theory describe a multiverse in which new born universes are created, grow and in turn give birth to other baby universes. For roughly three decades the Coleman-De Luccia formalism has provided a framework to calculate the rates at which 3+1 dimensional baby universes nucleate, one within the other...”

Not to be discounted was Ribal-Tegmark’s likewise required Exponential Cascade Faults Amongst Desegmented Multiversal Nodes or, as he liked to joke with his equally theoretical students, Yet Another Reason for Existential Dread., which starkly opines:

“Energy state plateau collapse amongst supersymmetric universe clusters portend a cascade event via Kamzi’s Ion-Planck pathways to orthogonal nodes pursuant to shared holographic geometries. Here we will apply set and chaos theories to form and evaluate a predictive model of potential complete energy state collapse to a zero probabilistic baryon environment of the multiverse via individual and multiple cascade instigators.”

The semester before he had two students.

One withdrew and left a note on his desk that read, “Your have driven me to despair. I cannot continue. I have decided to leave University and become a Sunday school teacher. I pray you find hope, yours truly, Emily.” The other student was found washed ashore along the delta of the Eden River.

∞ – u7ce123ce09cd
– Earth


Kell stared at himself in the mirror, lifted up a straight razor, and slit his throat.

Somewhy, he thought it should hurt; that he should feel something; that he, perhaps, deserved to feel pain. Instead, the face that peered back at him was impassive, his two brown eyes flat and lightless and his features set to the same blank expression he’d worn for ages. In it, there was something vaguely sad, as though he wasn’t completely dead within. He was like a house, once full of joy and laughter, long since abandoned. No, not like a house, but like a picture of a house, except he was entirely mediocre and forgettable on the outside. Not painted by a master nor crude enough to merit criticism. Nothing on the inside; rather, no inside at all—that was the commonality.

The only hint of emotion was in the blood that gushed from the gash and cascaded down his neck and over his new t-shirt. Its presence was warm. As he looked at the swollen Rorschach superimposed over a field of white cotton, he harbored light-headed thoughts of life.

Inevitably, such fancies of the impossible drifted away.

A knock struck the door once, twice, a pause, and a third repetition before reaction contorted his face theretoward, dogged by the impulse of his trunk as it proposed to answer; yet, obstructed by an agent his ken forsook in pursuit of the irrelevant, that impulse failed to bring the door nearer much less consummate the gesture lent toward the awaited revelation opposite the planks, splinters, ocher paint dull and flaked, and four beveled rectangles that colluded to coax forth iconography of an ancient vice as a barrier between either redemption or release from the fulfillment of a cause Kell understood no more than he desired. Covered in dessicated cracked imitation nickel plate, like the Harlequin flesh of his deceased fraternal sister, the knob suddenly rattled. He presumed to lurch back in horror, but that, too, failed to transition primal instinct to physical action; much the better, for, he decided, the withheld specter remained none the wiser to his presence.

Maybe, Kell mused, it was, rather than a door, the entrance of a cave that loomed atop a verdant lea of drenched peat and fermented honey illumined by a sliver of light unhindered by the dense cirrus cover.

The door opened, he thought crossly, his trance interrupted by the barrier’s departure. No, that was wrong. It ceased to exist. Instead, there was void. Not light, nor dark, nor an intervening value. How does one ascribe color to absolute emptiness?

Into that bewildering catechism, Kell collapsed. He fell, yet struck no bottom. There was no bottom; instead, the void enveloped him—a chaotic brume of virtual particles that devoured the unguarded edifice of his nascent consciousness.

What is not can death be denied.

. . .
∞ – u6bfa51f3cf04
– Brindle, Ta


Hardly anyone in Brindle knew another soul in the small seaside town. Certainly the proprietors of the port, hostel, and market were essential exceptions; likewise, the autocrats and bureaucrats, roles shared by a coterie of wealthy landowners who, rather than live among the riffraff, possessed estates deep in the wooded hills that wreathed the din of labor and odor of industry mingling in the town’s vertiginous epicenter; and, naturally, the loyal dogs of such who enacted oppression as necessary to secure societal order and their personal comfort. While many passed through Brindle, most were tourists who wished to peer up at the towering colony ship’s remains that still provided shelter for the bulk of the town’s inhabitants. That vessel, the Bannlyst, was part of their history: the tri-column metal anther from which their ancestors pollinated a not-quite-virgin world of Ta. Yet, with fewer pilgrims every year, the Bannlyst, and, as such, all of Brindle, were in severe disrepair.

Entropy was not an issue considered worthy of correction, for the rich reposed in their mansions and the poor retreated to the same virtual worlds that, ages prior, served their forbearers as variegated sanctuaries from the madness of space. For the latter, it was arduous enough to awaken to the light of true reality, then trudge through the banality of work, consumption, and performance of the crucial idles of life.

Not so for a youthful band of ruffians dubbed “the Rats,” a pejorative they wore as though it were a mantle of honor. Rejects of the virtual helmet of oppression, they embraced reality as it was, from its hardships and hungry nights to its beauties and warm summer breezes. Unlike everyone else, they stuck together. They stole to eat and dwelt in the wreckage of ancient buildings. Amongst that sly band of orphaned hoodlums was a particularly ingenious sharp-nosed rodent who went by Kerala and was endowed with more than her fair share of moxie. Her signature garb included goggles and a scarf pilfered from the corpse of one of those elites. Friendless in his estate, none, save his lawyers, knew nor cared of his passing, which involved the failure of his pleasure aircraft and its subsequent crash in the adjacent jungle.

Lately, Kerala occupied a small nest at the very top of one of the Bannlyst’s propulsion towers. Anything but elaborate, it included just a few blankets, some cans of food and other childish oddities, and an ancient long-distance telescope. From within this hideaway, she often gazed down through the reinforced plastic sheet that served as her floor and attempted to make out the bottom of the thousand-meter fuselage. Even the time she dropped a chemical torch down she couldn’t see the bottom.

Tonight was wonderful and atypical, for with her was a friend. A boy half her age named Tooh whom she was instructing on the art of astronomy. As they gazed through the telescope, she noticed something odd about the night sky. At first, it was ordinary, and she enthusiastically recited from an old star chart she devised the names of constellations and heavenly bodies—the Rainbow Nebula, the House of Light, and so forth. In the midst of her exposition, there was a bright flash. A sustained flash that began brilliant ultramarine, but transitioned to a red so deep it dissipated against the backdrop of the night. Perhaps a new type of survey craft? As she blinked back her night vision and again ventured the telescope’s aperture, she noticed something amiss—the stars were there, but the wrong stars. A cloudless, moonless night, and yet not a single star was visible in the night sky where it ought to be. Many were missing, many were new, and several were out of time and place.

“Did’ja see’th dat, Tooh?” she cooed.

“Da light, ja’mean?” he wondered, his voice slurred with mild frustration over his inability to instantly master the stargazing contraption.

She briefly shook her head left to right in jerky articulation and corrected, “Neh, da stahs.”

He pulled away from the eye piece, plopped down on a pillow, and shrugged, “Dey just stahs. Ima freezin. Snug?”

“Sure, com’er’n snug,” she agreed, plucked a patchwork blanket off a hook, pulled him close, and wrapped it around their shoulders. It was a particularly cold night. Many would freeze to death. Even under her pile of stolen blankets she felt a chill. Warmth flooded from her heart when he leaned innocently into her bosom her and sucked his thumb through a hole in his threadbare orange-striped leather glove. Meanwhile, her arm wrapped around Tooh’s shoulders, Kerala stretched her neck and resumed her awed observation of the night sky.

. . .
∞ – u3d5af5fbc47e
– Kah’myros


A bee settled on me, a sentient flower abloom in a field with a billion others of my kind. The local star warmed my face. I was happy, which was the emotional consensus of my demesne. The bee departed. A breeze cooled my petals. All was well.

I felt, then, a peculiar presence. I couldn’t see it, although certainly I owned faculties akin to sight; neither could I smell it, touch it, nor taste it. I merely knew, however tenuously and traumatically briefly, that queer yet unshakable sensation of being the subject of an unseen observer. All such things were, in our experience, predatory. For a moment, collective silence, caused by fear, possessed me and my kin. Then, more swiftly than expected, it—whatever it was—passed us over. Darkness followed on its heels, an unexpected and inexplicable failure of light. It wasn’t the result of a cloud, but a total temporary abatement of our star’s rays. Such was easily discernible from the sudden drop in temperature.

Not soon enough to quell our fears, light and warmth touched again our faces. We whispered quietly amongst one another, an aria of wind and soft caresses as we bent with the currents of air, but arrived at no conclusion as to what transpired. Fear, we decided, as usual, was pointless, for against an unknown there is no defense. We chose, instead, to forget and bask in the joy of moment and day. However, my roots could not forget. I felt, through my siblings and bond to earth, change in the pace of time, the distance between atoms, and the colors of space. The hills and the mountains, in their ancient wisdom, concurred. Something was fundamentally and irrevocably altered in the composition of the universe in which we dwelt.

. . .
∞ – u256f532ae217
– Doné Clar, Ahridihm


Frustrated and weary, Sefosifer stalked on all fours the sandy fringe of Doné Clar’s coast. He had no destination in mind. How could he, as a stranger in a strand land? With everything so new and at times frightening, every turn and change of scenery, no matter how slight, crushed him in under a mountain of indecision and doubt. The nigh-ethereal thinness of the dry air made him feel parched. The odd way the world brightened as its ceiling glowed hot white made him feel exposed. The queer way every grain of sand on the beach inexplicably clung to his footpads and tail as he miserably plodded onward made him feel filthy, grimy, and contemptible.

Worse, more than by the air, the light, and the sky, he was afflicted by his earlier lapse into animalistic savagery.

He scowled at the memory. To think, that plant-wrapped bundle was, in fact, a baby animal and not a novel form of roughage. No, that was an excuse. He knew what it was from the moment he saw it, but let his hunger overwhelm his scruples. Even if only for a short while, he relished the madness—the taste of its hot blood as it trickled down his forked tongue and the mother’s pitched screams of loss as they echoed throughout the forest in the predawn hours.

Deep down, a primal part of him wanted to be a predator—a monstrous dragon of the watery abyss he and his kind, from ancient times, were known. That is what Sefosifer refused to think about, and, for the hundredth time, guilt formed an uncomfortable knot in his bowels. He paused and shook his head, as though that act would shake the concern from his mind. It didn’t work. Punishment was what he he needed, he resolved. Pain, a remedy so easy to come by. He need only open his eyes just a little wider. Instantly, harsh, unfiltered light from the incensed atmosphere poured painfully into his pupils and overloaded his nerves. He flinched, shook his head, and did it again, and again, and again.

Eventually, the pain subsided and the activity no longer lent itself to his cause. Although his vision was still somewhat indistinct, he was able to make out shapes now just as well as when the world was dark. To his left, the ocean he longed for but was cursed to abstain; to his right, the forest, before him, the beach, although there was something strange just ahead. A flat piece of wood nailed to a post, much like the masts he saw in shipwrecks on the sea floor. It was marked with symbols that called to mind those etched on the monument of Mentes, although these were different. They seemed far less ancient.

Knowledge, Sefosifer decided, was a good occupation. He moved slightly inland, into a declivity of bushes and tall grass, and there, concealed, tried to make sense of the inscriptions. For what felt like ages he sat and turned the symbols over in his mind. There was obviously a context to them, perhaps tied to the shape of the slab of wood, or its prominent and orderly display, or the change in color and uniformity of the line of ground beneath it that ran from the sandy coast and into the forest.

More time passed, yet he saw no luck in his quest to decipher the sign’s message. The Lett was now high in the sky, the atmosphere melted to a translucent veil, yet all he could conclude was that it was the name of something. What that name referred to was beyond his ken. Then he saw people approach the sign, make strange noises and gestures, and proceed onward along the path and into the forest.

With a flick of his tongue, he decided to follow them.

The path was decidedly easier to walk along and the shade the trees provided made it easier for his unaccustomed eyes to see.

As he continued his leisurely chase, Sefosifer became bolder, drew nearer, and when they stopped in a patch of light to talk he nearly bumped into them. They pointed up at the sky, which, inexplicably, turned pitch-black; no Lett, but instead the light of a myriad of stars, pierced the still-gaseous world canopy. Then, after a moment, a mantle of burning radiance crashed down on them. The Lett, auspiciously, returned. Blind and horrified, he dashed into the forest, a scream caught in his throat and senses whelmed. There, he shivered until his sight was restored. When he looked up, it was night again. An unfamiliar night that exposed nothing through the solid metalloid atmosphere.

What sorcery, he pondered, could vanquish and, moments later, restore the Lett?

. . .
∞ – u1b0a365f61d6
– La Cantina, Eqiko-4, Su-laria Galaxy


Boomslang shuffled through the pressure chamber of the bar, his claw lazily scraping the metal wall as if to remind himself he still existed. On the opposite side hung a handful of dubious looking pressure suits for those who required such. He didn’t, so he just waited for the airlock to cycle and practically tripped outside when the hatch gave way beneath his weight. He was certainly not at his best, as even a synthe could use stims and he was completely intoxicated. Still, even in his current state, he felt better off than at any point in his past where he was a cog in the Cizran bureaucracy, even though their idea of giving him his freedom meant, by way of their circuitous legal system, that he was technically the property of another synthe. Out here on the fringe, none of that mattered. Unless he ran into a member of the Av’sti, and then his paperwork better be in order.

Once they went intergalactic, he wouldn’t even need that anymore.

After an ungainly recovery, he turned around and took in the interstellar hanger. Exposed to vacuum, it perched high atop one of the space elevators that protruded from one of Eqiko-4’s many summits. Next to the entryway slumped Kukull. It was the only one they ever interacted with, so that is what they called the basically friendly pile of animated rocks that was presently well on its way through the concrete light craft docking platform.

“Kukull,” Boomslang barked, “you’re gonna get us another fine! C’mon, don’t we feed you enough? A metric ton of shalam every time we set down. That stuff ain’t cheap!”

As usual, Kukull shrugged. It never did have much to say. Instead, it stuffed a jagged slab of gray into its face and gazed lazily up at the stars. Without atmosphere to dim them, monitor to interpret them, or glass to smudge them, they were brilliant. For whatever reason, Kukull loved to look at them. Almost as much as it loved eating. Almost impossible in its lethargy, its jaw ground down its meal in a noisy slow churn.

“Bah,” Boomslang exclaimed as he plopped down next to his travel buddy. The hole made was deep enough for the small synthe to swing its legs down in into without hitting anything. “Looks like another cut and run,” he further groused, not that anyone was listening.

Then, without precedence, there was a vibrant flash. Boomslang covered his eyes reflectively. Kukull just stared, dumbfounded and unconcerned. Even that momentary exposure to too much light made Boomslang want to vomit, one of the empathy coroutines added to his model to make them better interrogators. He couldn’t imagine how the pile of rocks felt. Probably nothing, he realized in retrospect. For a moment, Boomslang figured it was just one of the light towers looping around from an observation platform. Those things always annoyed him, especially when his senses were on the fritz from too large a cocktail of pleasure nanites. Then Kukull pointed upward.

Boomslang’s mouth dropped open in shock.

Not a single star in the sky was in the right place. And far off in the distance he saw a rift. A pulsing white gash in the fabric of space that corresponded to no known anomalies and beyond which he partially glimpsed through the veil the half-hewn silhouettes of beings beyond enormity. He was prepared to snark about the quality of his chems when, auspiciously, the rift snapped shut.

“Eti,” Boomslang boomed into his subvocal communication relay, “we have a situation!”

“Whaaaat issss iiiiit, Tobbbbb?” Eti slurred back.

“Just get out here,” Boomslang shot back irritably, “And don’t call me Tob,”

A minute later, Eti Naris, Epit'li, and Kirri—the latter cavalier as always—stumbled out of the cantina. Almost instantly, two of the three realized what was wrong. They didn’t immediately say anything until Kirri accused, “You dragged us out here for what? I don’t see anything and I was just about to win a galactic freighter load in that game of Black Aces.”

“You were down more than your share of our quarterly haul,” Eti absentmindedly contradicted, changed course, and, forgoing the subvocals, demanded of his spaceship’s artificial intelligence, “Ruzgar, verify our position on Eqiko-1 with starchart Su-laria.”

“According to my scan, we are no longer in the Su-laria galaxy,” the Tabris Ruzgar reported jovially into all their comms.

“What!! Then where did you take us when I instructed your autopilot toward La Cantina, Eqiko-4?”

“Precisely where you requested. La Cantina, Eqiko-4, Su-laria Galaxy,” the Tabris Ruzgar answered, ever eager to accommodate.

“And where are we now?” Eti challenged.

A pause.

Then, pleasant and upbeat as always, “Well, I guess I don’t know! This is definitely Eqiko-4 and this is definitely not the Su-laria Galaxy. What an unexpected turn of events! Isn’t it exciting? I mean, okay, so it seems a little off-putting, but look at it this way: the Cizran astronomers back on Cizra Su-lahn must be going mad!”

∞ – u6651aedef050
– the ‘Rancor’, Fides, Gnaritas System


Aboard the stardestroyer Rancor, Kaito Stone was exhausted and not even near relief. A recent graduate of Fides Military School for Conscripted Youth and on his first assignment as an Airman Basic, the daunting task of relocating hundreds of pallets of ammunition from loading bay, to depot, and to each ammunition types’ respective armament installation confronted him. All blank charges, as he was too green to be trusted with more, were to be used in the day’s inevitable military exercise. Every crate opened, every slug counted, every form completed, and every signature approved by the Staff Sergeant—those were the interval periods in his existence. The rest was pure drudgery. Only a third of the way in and he dripped sweat from places he didn’t know pores existed.

The lights dimmed and the e-lights activated.

<< Black Alert – Repeat, Black Alert >> blared and cycled every ten seconds to the obnoxious prelude of a klaxon.

Kaito paused, crate in hand. Even in partial-g, it was heavy and cumbersome. Situation assessed, he set the crate back on the pallet, secured it, activated the half-loaded power dolly, and sought out the Staff Sergeant. Of course, the Sergeant’s office was vacant, stacks of papers scattered haphazardly on the floor around a collapsed wall desk. Nonplussed but determined, Kaito picked up some familiar forms and proceeded by rote to the first relevant combat station.

As soon as he entered, he was accosted.

“You have that ammo for us, A.B.?”

Once he observed the tech sergeant’s rank, Kaito stood his ground, back straight, eyes forward, and distinctly enunciated, “All I have are blank charges, Sir. I have not been apprised of the situation, Sir.”

“Nobody has, A.B. It’s a clusterfuck, that’s what this is. Go get us some real fucking ammo.”

An order. He lacked the security clearance to access to the live ammo stored in the depot. An order impossible to complete. The black alert sounded again, which provoked a series of expletives throughout the battle station. The situation demanded he unquestioningly obey.

How did that saying go?

Adapt. Serve. Survive – be an ASS.

Kaito observed, from his hesitance, he was about to receive a stream of profanity straight up his own ass, and intercepted,

“Tech Sergeant, Sir, request a clearance authorization badge to secure live munitions, Sir.”

He saved himself from being read the riot act and earned a nod of approval. No verbal reply was given; instead, a badge was thrown his way, and the sergeant accosted someone else. Kaito secured the badge, pulled a sharpie from his pocket, wrote blanks in large block letters on one of the crates on the dolly, then high-tailed it to the depot.

Mid-step down the a-frame corridor, he couldn’t move. Everything stopped except his rapid train of perception, which careened forward at an ever-accelerated rate. He saw motes of dust bond eternally in bands of light, felt the vibration of the klaxon’s horn pause midway through his marrow, realized his blood was still in his veins, and then—then everything returned to normalcy. Except his nose, which profusely leaked blood from when he crashed face-first into a bulkhead. Dazed, he picked himself up. He couldn’t recall that event, yet it transpired. He glanced around. At some point, the e-lights ceased their rhythmic undulation in the directional stripes along the walls. The alert no longer threatened a calamitous unknown. The badge—where was the badge?

He searched his pockets, all twenty of them. Nothing. He retraced his steps. Nothing. An officer passed him in the passageway, her pace unhurried and unconcerned, and frowned at him suspiciously, as though he were a lunatic. After that, Kaito reconciled himself to fate and muttered,

“Well, fuck.”

∞ – u
– Glaceria, Val’Gara Space

[ A continuation of The Sorceress’ Nemesis ]

Kor knew not how long she lingered imprisoned in the endlessly vast labyrinth of her aethenium, alert to any receipt of her plea. Therein, it became to her, albeit gradually and stalled by her reluctance to rely on instinct after what she accepted was a disaster of preparation, apparent that the threat imposed on her life relaxed its imminence, perhaps as a consequence of her rambled exposition of the acts of treason wrought by the assemblage of usurpers she described as the fish, the ghoul, the demon, the gunslinger, and so forth, although other explanations were likely more viable. With few certain ways to be sure of her safety from within the confines of the library, immense though it was, and wary of the possibility of a trap, she contrived to craft a proxy that would become her eyes in the weird world beyond her door—for she was not ready to abandon her pet just yet.

She, for the hundredth time, ascended a steel petaled spiral that climaxed at a crystal sphere and, there at, relieved it of its silk mantle. Unlike before, this time she clung to a small bit of vellum. At first the device presented itself as merely glass, but she activated it with a binding word and with the established mental yoke directed its sight to Val’Gara space. As in the last several ventures, all that manifested in its pellucid compass was an indecipherable and malevolent darkness. No doubt what remained of her barrier was turned against her and its fissures reinforced by her foe.

That she was determined to change.

From her eye she plucked a single lash. Wrapped in the vellum, she released that small piece of her above the orb. As it fell, she called out, “Ignica os teton!” Ensorcelled in fire, soon only cinders descended—not onto a surface, but into an interior. As the dying light whorled within, Kor placed one had over her sinister eye, on the back of which was painted the same mark as scrawled on the now-fulminated reagent, and closed the other.

Rather than merely her aethenium, her perception extended over the moon Glaceria, which she beheld through the eyes of a conjured Aljisivian Condor. Much of her barrier remained in place around the icy sphere, but an extensive jagged cavity was inundated by that sinister organism and, for the time being, her jailer. Midgarðsormr, her dauntless mount, lay prone, drowned by the archfiend’s dark nectar. Struck by the horror of it all, Kor averted her gaze, which shifted from the frozen moon to anticipated darkness beyond. Yet, instead of void, she beheld the millions of the dark general’s army as they deposited the spoils of their conquests. In the midst of that space, formerly occupied by their god-star, Sal’Chazzar, brewed instead another, albeit smaller, celestial body. Its green light cast an ominous pallor over the scene. As it swelled, fed by the regurgitations of countless dreadnaughts, she felt the space contort around her and the distant stars twinkled as though their light spilled into an ever-cavernous abyss.

Suddenly, her condor twitched. A black limb had stealthily extended from the moon’s surface and ensnared her surrogate. Then, trasmundanely joined to her enemy, she heard its voice speak into her mind,

<< Look upon our mighty works and tremble! Relinquish self. Enjoin to unity with the all-mind. >>

“Never!” she shouted back in defiance even as despair welled up in her core.

<< Already it is begun. Behold your beast of burden … >>

The grim mist dissipated and she was forced to observe Midgarðsormr, Lord of Worms, contorted in an aberration that metastasized its former glory to a mélange of primal madness.

“Stop!” she pleaded, “He is all I have!”

<< Why? >> an acrid condescension oozed back.

“Barter. I can offer you knowledge. I can tell you who despoiled your home, where they dwell, and how to defeat them. I can tutor you in the arcane arts. You have seen what my knowledge is capable of, despite the frailty of my form. Imagine the strength of such spells when channeled through you overwhelming greatness!” Its silent skepticism crept coldly into her, so she pushed harder and faster, “Observe the creatures in the pools of Gathix and how, through my ministrations, they have attained greater utility than the crude evolution blindly wrought by time. Look upon these worlds and ask yourself, ‘who held them in orbit in our absence?’ It was I whose spellcraft gravitationally bound the tatters of your home and gave you something to which you might return. Did not my barrier intrigue and frustrate you, if only for a moment? All I ask in return for such knowledge is my life and my companion.”

<< The key. >>

Confusion gripped her, but then she felt it manifest in her mind’s-eye. The door to her aethenium, a barrier that was beyond even this being. It wanted in. It wanted the knowledge to enter and, more than that, the knowledge contained within.

“That is a place of learning. Once inside, you will be unable to harm anyone. Even you.”

In answer, the obscuration withdrew from Glaceria and settled into an orbit around the moon. Then, in a threat that openly mocked her position, it decreed,

<< Mend your companion. If you succeed, your offer is accepted and your life is your own. >>

It proved a difficult labor, but she was up to the challenge. Under Tsathoskr’s watchful ire, she purged Midgarðsormr of the virus’ incomplete infestation and reversed its detriments. Once awakened, with a portion of the mana channeled from its considerable consumption of ice, she further solidified her value in her tenuous truce and enveloped all of Val’Gara space in a veil of imperceptible night. None from without would behold the satellites in orbit within. Then, all but satisfied in the integrity of their agreement, she did the hardest thing of all, and opened the door to the aethenium.

Kor kept her promise. She poured her lifetime of knowledge into Tsathoskr.

Tsathoskr, in return, allowed her to live and remain, as she wanted, a pathetic creature with only one friend in the whole of the verse—her pet worm.

Once his education concluded, he, for a while, departed. She in darkness lingered and considered flight. Midway into her dilemma, he resurfaced in an uncharacteristically dramatic display. Scintillating portals pierced the deceitful fog her enchantment brewed around Val’Gara space, such that it likened to a film of smoke rings. From those unprecedented apertures emanated beams of ultramundane energy, utterly alien to her and, she observed, even as on them she sensed Tsathoskr’s taint, distinctly not Val’Garan.

The portals widened, space seemed to contort in dimensionally inconceivable ways, distant starlight penetrated the guise, planetoids in nearby space warped away before her eyes, and then, as a beam lanced through Glaceria, she saw it—she saw Earth-f67x.

. . .

The Multiversal Fault

. . .


[ A continuation of Unsolicited Invasion ]

Unleashed from damnation, Tecrolys surged down a thread of the Spider Queen’s web to a stray wisp that dangled lazily from her handiwork. There, awe-struck, he peered through a sea of at least a trillion cataclysm to glean some semblance of place. The act was autonomic, for he knew, through the psi-link, his precise place in the multiverse. Above him lurked the Spider Queen, higher still hung Brobdingnag, and all around them swam the whole of the Val’Gara—all bathed in the light of their newly-awakened god-star. Thus juxtaposed, he, a vaguely feline fog of dense black smoke, was as visible as he was important. It hardly mattered, for his every cell pulsed with the roar of the psi-link. Not even while bathed in Sal’Chazzar’s light, an ages-old experience, was the intensity so grand. Within such complete unity, his individuality attenuated to the will of the collective and, at last, was utterly vanquished.

He was not unique in that regard.

He—all of them—felt their amassed presences; Idea’s mighty sons—Brobdingnag, TerraCrusher, Leviathans, Sentinels, Behemoths, Dreadnaughts, and more; the Heralds of Idea’s will—SMD’P, Tsathoskr, the ‘Collective’, Megalodon, Thane, the ‘Slut’, Caorthannach, Amphiprioninae, Anathema, Disciple, and others; the worlds Idea created—Gathix and Glaceria; the tools Idea left them—the other ‘Collective’, Belial’s Toybox, and the Conqueror’s Eye; and the nigh innumerable cataclysm—drones, assimilators, guardians, demolishers, devesators, wraiths, devourers, brainscramblers, witchdoctors, skitterers, riflemutants, corpsefeeders, clickings, bloodlances, billies, nudibranch, scourgebearers, and more too variegated to enumerate.

Personal agendas and opinions faded into the instinct of the whole. They were one, all of them, and it was with animalistic pride that Tecrolys, for the first time, felt the power surge from him to the whole of his brethren and bequeath upon them the ability to make brittle and even shatter, through the collisions of dimensions in superposition, the very fabric of space-time.

Earth-F67X, a cold temptress, hung in the sky like a sapphire. She had spurned the Val’Gara once, but would not do so again. Their vengeance, however, was delayed, for the cataclysm were hungry and set on a greater prize. A vast rift in space just beyond the orbit of Neptune, a gateway to the Faultverse, revealed to them a well of bioforce larger than any other before encountered. Individually weak, the cataclysm were ravenous, and the combined will of so many overwhelmed the psi-link and compelled the Val’Gara’s undecided leadership to an accord. First all would consume, then convert and control.

Earth space and Val’Gara space temporarily danced, although their contrary trajectories and velocities steadily increased separation. Amongst the Val’Gara were chunks of Soran, rent from the planet to accommodate the Heralds thereon whence the portals spawned by Tsathoskr merged the far-flung spaces.

As they poured into the Faultverse as one, the Val’Gara civilization was like a universe unto itself, insulated from the wiles of the space they penetrated by the synergy of dominant traits—time, space, and the veracity of reality would, for each and all, remain stable so long as the Heralds who lent such strength survived. It was then that Beramode—if he was present—would, perhaps, behold a former plaything in Brobdingnag, glibly acquired in its hour of greatest despair and isolation and eventually abandoned due to it's sullen and truculent manner. Now, amongst it's own, it was no longer weak, but of a strength that eclipsed that of most gods.

. . .


It was Keichii’s fault.

The child’s rampage of destruction left a macabre froth of annihilated universes in his callow wake and compelled Ender to act.

Throughout the Faultverse, an aurora, first quite tenuous, undulated over all the cosmic microwave background’s local analog. A diaphanous celadon sheen, the wave defied explanation as it, with vibrant hue and confidence increased, danced dulcet on night’s all but starless mantle and, in fact, obliviated what lie beyond its reflective film. It was beautiful, even as dead planets, holes black and white, and fissures to other dimensions disintegrated at its gentle caress.

“Why …”

Unassuming, unaccusing, morose, a voice boomed throughout the structure of spacetime, cascaded frigidly against the forms of those present, and with them shared its awed dismay at the havoc so utterly and senselessly wrought. Its source, from that inquiry, became evident: not the Faultverse’s now-inaccessible skene, but a vision perfected at its exact center. There flickered holographic simulacrum of a trillion species’ idealized self-perceptions, majestic terrain, achievements in philosophy and science too tersely depicted to capture, and all the intangibles hallmarked by inherent good. To behold it was to peer into a pool of pure joy and watch the constantly expressive surface billow with time’s ceaseless passage and elucidate, with each reflection and ripple, the undeniable poetry of the great and incomparable Verse.

Then, acutely lachrymose, it whispered, “Of course …”

The curvature of spacetime abruptly altered as its holographic geometry collapsed to a lower energy state. Gravity intensified until quarks hissed sub-planck waves. Orthogonal universes rotated, mirror universes tarnished, and neighboring universes recoiled—all toward unattainable remoteness. Even the Verse itself became an unreadable story, a cryptic memory, a faint premonition of love lost to the ravages of a time-crippled mind—reduced, for all intents and purposes, to existential cessation.

Then an invisible palm of dark matter, as massive as the large quasar group written of in a reality now beyond reach, dashed across the mouth of the preeminent white hole.
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Apollo sighed. He should have felt relieved that Autun was here to help them, but he couldn’t shed the feeling of dread that pitted in his stomach. Standing up from his table in the stark room, he nodded in the direction of the nudist. The desperation of the situation excused Autun’s wardrobe (or lack thereof) faux pas. There was nothing he could do, despite his deep pockets. The turn of events were beyond any mere human’s control.

“I suppose this means we’re at your mercy. Better, I suppose, than being blindsided by it all.”

Autun smiled, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, “Keep everyone planetside. You’ll avoid a lot of trouble this way,” he said, and in that same twinkle disappeared.

Though he appreciated the art that developed from it, Apollo never really considered himself a man of faith. So when he had to put his faith in a being he had only just met to avoid a dire catastrophe, he was admittedly uncomfortable. His shoulders jolted when one of his aides called him out of his apprehension. The aide a pretty, young, synthetic nodded at him. Its soft features and blonde hair belied rigid programming that did not suffer impromptu deviation from schedule.

“You’re due to your five thirty address to the public,” it punctiliously reminded him.

Apollo stared at it for a moment, doing his best to gather his thoughts. “Yes… Yes, of course,” He rasped, nodding. “Is everything ready?”

The aide nodded quietly.

An hour later

“Earlier today, some unverified information was released to the public, in which we are conducting a full and thorough investigation to ascertain the legitimacy of such claims. As of this moment, we have been unable to prove the veracity of such claims. We take matters like this very seriously and will continue to conduct our investigation, in which the national aeronautics and space administration has pledged full cooperation.”

Apollo stood outside the plaza of the Discorporate Building, listening to General Heinzemann. The complex was rife with memories. Spirits from the past. Apollo recalled delivering the grand news of his presidency, how the people cheered leaning from the upper balustrades behind him. He remembered the speech he delivered when he bailed out the financially stagnant and failed North American government. He remembered announcing the evolution of Earth to Earth F67X, and their integration into the United Earth Confederation. He had one more dialog to deliver to the public since the impending catastrophe had been leaked—a reassurance.

“We would like everyone to please be patient as the investigation continues, and we assure you that everyone’s mutual safety is of the utmost concern. And now, we have a few words from President Amon.”

Heinzemann passed Apollo as the politician approached the pedestal, gripping its lacquered corners. As the setting anti-sun’s crepuscular rays filtered through the various office complexes and edifices, Apollo squinted. He blinked back the light as his contacts polarized, and saw the sea of people who stood before him, fear buried under their stark expressions. A thousand faces stared back at him in anticipation of his words. The president cleared his throat and spoke,

“We have experienced our share of hardship. Twenty years ago, a trail of devastation was carved through the gut of our nation. Many of us still feel that loss to this very day. Then, not even a handful of years ago, an attack on this tower claimed the lives of many citizens, first responders, and family members.

While these experiences still hurt us and haunt us, they’ve also tempered us. We’ve grown closer, and learned to lean on one another.” Apollo took a moment, scanning the crowd and uncharacteristically demurely admitted, “I, myself, have learned much, as well.”

“I’ve learned that the people of Earth—from the Zaibatsu’s of East Asia to the Royal European Union, from the South American Federation to the South-West Asia Group—are one people.

I’ve learned that our power comes from each other. I’ve learned that we can never be buried. Not by terrorist attacks, foreign invasions, or least of all misinformation.”

Apollo raised his arms, “I’ve learned that, as long as we trust one another, protect one another, and care for one another that we will be well.

I am a part of ‘we’, and I’m not afraid to lead by example. So know this when I tell you all… that noth-”

As Apollo delivered his final assurances to his audience, he could see the lens of a sun dog’s parhelic circle. The center of it detonated in a distant, silent, amber conflagration. Wispy clouds of volcanic orange and blinding alabaster fulminated from its center mass as the holocaust spread. President Amon cut himself off for a moment as his mouth hung slack. The blinding rays of light scoured through the city streets as a tredecillion other distant plumes of flame intervened through the universe, joining the sun’s dirge.

Power to the block went out, but the star’s vivid coruscation kept the streets ablaze. For once, the people and their politicians were aligned in their outrage. Apollo’s last thoughts broke his stately demeanor to betrayed fury and outright horror.

“He lied! He fucking lied!”

Darkness

***


The Shattered Realm, formerly known as the anti-plane

A thousand eons had passed since the inception of the Shattered Realm. This universe, born from conflict, sat wholly abandoned since the Fault’s death throes consumed it. Longer still past had the escalating concatenation of hubris and bravado occurred. The blighted and forsaken universe was a medal of shame for those who retreated defeated so long ago. However, even from the desolate carcass of the Shattered Realm, purpose could be found anew.

The shattered husk of the Milky Way, or what remained of its constituents, would endure another displeasure upon its ravaged corpse. Events occurring within a contiguous universe “bent” space into what could be conceived as a supercluster sized white hole far outside the galaxy, dwelling within the blackness of space. As this swell in space grew, its apergent-inspired trajectory dismantled the Local Group and sent its components racing across the Virgo Supercluster where they were sure to cause untold devastation some time millions of years into the future. Not the Milky Way, though. There were special plans for this galaxy. A careful balance of gravitational forces, psychic energy, and bioforce manipulation kept the Milky Way in place, unmarred and unbothered.

Within the spiral galaxy, the solar system sat, spinning abound a dead star. The Sun, a victim long since ravaged by an ancient catastrophe. Earth, or anti-earth as it was called in this case, orbited as a frozen tundra. Searching past its frozen oceans, its blasted geography, or the fragments of its shattered moon that buried deep within it's cold dead mantle, the hoary rind of a city stood like a cenotaph marking a casket. The debris, moon rocks, and shattered remnants of the Appalachian buried the outer suburbs in a cairn.

At the epicenter of this city, unperturbed by time, or nature, or outside forces stood a stage without an audience. The empty courtyard was cleaner than the rest of the devastated city. The dereliction of the rest of the city shrouded the malice that was present here long ago.

A Sun rose once again on this world, warming its long-dead cockles. Not the dead neutron star that sat at the center of the system, but a red ocular marred with a pit of black floated over the midnight sky, lighting the world in a hue of cardinal. Below this lens, a dripping silver smile emerged and a nondescript mannequin-like figure bursting from its protoplasmic membrane.

To speak his name was to invite him in.

Upon the rubble’s surface a black miasma of shadows leaked out of the wound heralding the sign of something sinister, and taking shape is what appeared to be a man. Wreathed in burning darkness he stepped down the hillock of blasted stone and upon the crumbled champaign that sat buried between ranges of concrete and rebar.

The cold being in the burning cloak knowingly smiled upon his accursed creation. They had called upon the wrong god.

***


Universe UI32

Apollo sighed. He should have felt relieved that Keichii was here to help them, but he couldn’t shed the feeling of dread that pitted in his stomach. He stood up from his table in the bleach-white interrogation room and nodded with resigned acceptance. There was nothing he could do and though his influence on the planet was deep, the universe bore no respect for politics nor clout.

“Things could be worse, I suppose. We could be without you,” he rasped, with a nod.

Keichii bowed shallowly, “I implore you to keep our people here. It is the only way I can save them,” he said, wisping away.

Apollo was a man of devout faith, and when the teenage japanese boy showed up the first time, many years ago to save their world from an encroaching asteroid he took it as a sign of God’s favor. So if putting his faith in this emissary was nigh natural for him, then why did he have such a bad feeling about this? A test, to be sure. One of his aides interrupted his ruminations with a call. The aide, a middle-aged, somewhat haggard looking woman who perpetually had several strands of grey hair springing to freedom from her otherwise tightly bound ponytail, waved him down.

“Mr. Amon! Mr. Amon! Your five thirty public address is now! It’s five thirty!” She quailed.

President Amon blinked a few times as he rubbed his stubble, beginning to make his way out of the room and down the hall. “Yes, of course.”

The hurried shuffle of his secretary following behind echoed through the hallway. “Is everything ready?”

“Yes, but we have to hurry.” She said, picking up pace as the two passed by wide bay windows that overlooked a courtyard in the complex.

Apollo stopped by the window as he looked outside. The benches, trees, and shrubbery all awash in coral light. The world outside his office, inundated in an otherworldly hue that not even the deepest sunset could match. The president of Earth UI32 looked up and beheld the scarlet Sun.

“...What is that?”

Darkness

***


The Faultiverse, Val’gara

The bead that was Earth became a pinprick of light in the distance as Brobdingnag folded space and jumped Val’garan civilization nearly two astronomical units to the awaiting reality-tear, just past Neptune. Anathema linked with the surrounding hive for the first time in a very long time. A flurry of events and emotions flooded into the herald.

The Herald saw the omniversal basement shattered by a mad being, and the Val’garan will fractured with their god’s multiversal dispensation. The memories assailed him relentlessly, instantaneously, but also transiently. Colossus created a peacekeeper, and the spawn of Anathema revolted against a smattered front. The unthinkable, previously linked Val’gara killing other Val’gara, a breakdown of their way of life. The images devolved with the sight of Colossus, their home, bereft of life. The multiverse spat upon Colossus a final time when an improbable gestation resulted in an uncanny birth, and its crowing infant, Caorthannach, rent the corpse of their home.

Anathema witnessed a mélange of memories as the Val’gara auto-cannibalized their civilization. These scenes gave perspective to what the Val’gara were with their psi-link, and what they were without. The images should have filled the Herald with despair, but instead, he felt powerful. Anathema roared out with a trillion other battlecries as the Val’garan swarm blitzed forth to the object of their desire: a circle of pitch surrounded by a radiant accretion disc.

The flotilla’s internal compass pointed to their Polaris—a metaphysical celestial body that flared in their mind’s eye with intermittent verdant lucency. Sal’Chazzar, cogent of the need of their children, wavered as a trillion captive races waged internal war upon each other. Their lamentations frothed in violent revolution, yet even scarce vestiges of the dead god’s authoritative will could suppress them… for now. The Val’garan flotilla passed through the nebula revitalized as they approached their destination.

The euphoria that surged over Anathema wiped from his mind the taint of the species’ past sins. The unity that accompanied that psi-link eradicated any frustrations about Jack’s weakness. Despite the silence of space, the psi-link was ablaze with activity. From the elephantine war-bellow of Gattusk in the vanguard to the annoyed grunts of the billies on the fringe, the Herald joined his brethren as a statistic in an unyielding and unending swarm of starving, rabid creatures, who ventured forth to feast, each bubble of subspace a bubble in a flowing river of hungry mass.

The creatures entered the accretion disks light, passing blindly through the ergosphere into the darkness that lies beyond where they would exodus to their promised land.

***


Universe T767

5:20

Five minutes.

A haggard old Apollo Amon thought as he stole a glance from his wristwatch. As he crawled on elbows and knees through a dingy ventilation shaft, his joints cracked. If only he’d the chance to do this twenty years ago. But the Remnants entrusted him with this task: to save the world, perhaps even all worlds. The haggard wastelanders put their faith in him, but more importantly he put his faith in the science behind their plan.

In five minutes I’ll lose my only chance.

Apollo had many tense moments through his lifetime in politics, but the stakes of this moment culminating forty years of preparation were beyond anything he could have ever dreamed. Were things different, he’d scoff at the irony of the situation. A seventy-five year old with bad hips crawling through a ventilation shaft purposed to save the universe. His knees ached as he plowed the briefcase onward ahead of him. An uncomfortable thirty foot crawl through consistently cramped spaces led him to the vent that overhung an interrogation room he found entirely familiar. Before long, he was there, just moments before the group filtered into the room.

The party below spent a few moments talking before another appeared whose reputation, through whatever austere inculcations of the past, required everyone present to greet him by name. As everyone in the room deferred to Lysander, the aged Apollo saw himself and swallowed a lump in his throat, clicking open the briefcase as silently as he could. The fact that everyone below groveled led credence to his mantra.

He’s not me, and this will be better for everyone.

He repeated his aphorism over and over again, as the machine in front of him adjusted in a series metallic clicks. Sweat trickled down Apollo’s temples and forehead alternating his glance from his watch to the whirring machine as its wheels and pinions unfurled the rest of the apparatus. Below he could hear their conversation and a continuity that paralleled his own, many years ago.

“We owe you a great deal, Lysander. A debt that we will repay in-”

“-Pabst and ham hocks.” Lysander interrupted, prompting an eye roll from the Apollo above.

“You know my price, and they better be better than last time. Make sure everyone sits tight. This shit’s complicated stuff—saving worlds’n all.”

“Of course. After my speech to the public, we’ll throw a celebration in your honor.”

Maybe I should just allow the Fault to rupture. Apollo thought to himself.

With a few final clicks the machine was ready. Apollo looked down, his veins running icy.

To a better world. To new life. Then flipped a copper switch.

Darkness.

***


Universe QXU8

Here, at the edge of the rising action of his life, Asclepius thought back to the teachings of his father. At the time, the man seemed hellbent. The only time he would truly show passion towards anything was when he discussed physics, and ranted about this ‘cycle’. The boy spent many of his early days cowering behind his mother, Trina. However, in time he saw wisdom in his father’s words, credited by the ranter’s Nostradamus-like predictions of events that happened far after his death.

Nostalgia was a powerful tool. Maybe it was Apollo’s rhetoric gleaned from his years in the political schema that convinced Asclepius, or maybe it was fate that made him take it seriously. The universe had a cruel sense of humor. His profession dictated he was to save lives, not end them. Irony would have the last laugh this day. Asclepius didn’t share in the sense of amusement; deathbed promises do strange things to human rationale.

As Asclepius passed through the checkpoints he raised his badge to the security guard. The guard nodded,

“Thank you, Dr. Amon.”

He nodded, and paced towards the west wing. He’d gone over the scenario a thousand times over, and yet his hands trembled like palsy. This would be his end, but in doing so he’d save the world from becoming like his father. He’d seen enough in his lifetime to understand the veracity of his father’s claims. Dr. Amon checked his watch, a leather-strapped hand-me-down that looked like it was no less than a thousand years old, but somehow still functioned.

5:20

He had less than five minutes before the meeting.

Asclepius entered the stark interrogation chamber and surveyed his surroundings. Two guards one that the doctor didn’t recognize, and Apollo remained in the chamber. The president took a moment to regard the doctor,

“I’m glad you’re here, and while hopefully your services won't be needed. Our guest can be a bit.. Unpredictable.”

Asclepius nodded once, meeting the younger version of his father always pretzeled his insides. It was strange seeing a version of him without a liquor bottle in his hand and a five o’clock shadow. A few seconds past and with a violent distortion a man appeared. Still dressed in his kevlar body armor, Forge looked at the assembled diplomats and guards as if he were regarding ants scuttling about an anthill.

“What.” He growled.

Asclepius surreptitiously positioned himself next to an individual on the security detail, a non-operative. His vision bounced from the vent, to his watch, and then the guard next to him. One minute, the doctor thought to himself, wringing his sweaty palms. His attention snapped back into the present as he head Forge’s assent to help Apollo and Earth, prompting an unburdened sigh from Amon.

“Everyone needs to remain planetbound for the duration of the event. No teleporting, no travel, no-”

Burying his anxiety, Asclepius interrupted Forge’s demands when he shouldered the unsuspecting guard and drew his hip-holstered firearm, but was only able to raise it to the vent before he could feel his wrist being crushed by one of the operatives present in the room. The doctor wildly squeezed the trigger, lighting the ceiling up as he was almost instantly overpowered and smashed into the wall. The shocked shouts from Apollo were distant murmurs as pain flashed through Asclepius’s body and his ears rang, but the last thing he could see before he blacked out was the pooling accumulation of red that puddled on the ceiling.

I did it, he thought, he was right. He was right..

Darkness

***


GalaXelas

The presence of Val’garan entities empowered Sal’Chazzar with purpose and focus amidst the mental storm that eddied within. Amplifying their abilities, spacetime curved, bubbling and warping to the point of nearly creating a pocket dimension of its own. Gone was the Val’gara, the supermassive black hole, and the accretion disk. All that remained was an apparitional nebula of condensate, shrouding the wormhole within an off-white ectoplasmic mist.

As ominous as a maritime yellow flag, a faint crimson diffused through the mist, illuminating its bowels. The aurora, like vessels upon the Atlantic Graveyard, entered into the nebula and disappeared completely.

In actuality, even GalaXelas didn’t understand the aurora Ender used to cow the rest of the Faultiverse, and instead opted to store it away, using the nebula as a battery. The arcane project experienced a breakdown parallel to the Faultiverse itself as it’s will was eroded away by countless other gnashing teeth and screaming consciousness within the infinite myriad of the Val’gara. As the supercomputer allocated more and more resources to retain its identity and primary function, it relegated other tasks, some which would affect all of creation.

As Ender bent and twisted the structure of the multiverse, splitting away coterminous plains to seclude the Faultiverse, one such reality acted upon its own accord. In a macrocosmic metaphor for granular convection this universe, despite all the shaking, oriented itself in an exact distance and exact angle to the Faultiverse like it was magnetically guided, directed by intelligence or unexplained attraction to the center of reality. These universes, the Faultiverse and the other verse, inevitably, invariably became juxtaposed. This became the lone access and its toll, passing through gravitational flux even light could not escape.

Between two universes, bridged over the subtended chaos of pre-scalar field entropy, was an Einstein-Rosenberg bridge, hardly hospitable, with its crushing reality warping tidal forces. A conduit between universes wherein its nexus sat solid mass that pulled two universes together. A black hole existed in one and another astronomical object formed within the other. The primary black hole’s accretion disk radiated a flaring red iris upon its blackened pupil. A chain of hypernovae exploded heralding infinite levels of energy that erupted, following the mold of Hawking’s Radiation from the center mass, osmosed polluted Twardzik Thought Radiation of a very dark realm. The particles of the energy/gas clouds alighted in a prismatic array as the gamma-ray bursters carried with them not electromagnetic radiation, but instead raw bioforce—energy to feed Sal’Chazzar’s starving children.

The alluvion transuded from the poles of the supermassive black hole metastasizing within the space of the Faultiverse as new space that would supplant the current void, beset with its own realities. The oblivion of the Shattered Realm hungered with the advent of its godhead, alternate universes experiencing armageddon exsiccated, and with alarming celerity vanished as their collective energy was used to pay Ender’s orange-faced energy tax. Truly, Ender had built the wall, and universes UI32, T767, QXU8, and endless others paid for it.
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