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
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
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
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?”
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.
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!”
>> 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.
. . .
. . .[ 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
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.