The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXV – Looming Shadows

English: NRC Image of Modern Steam Driven Turb...

I don’t care WHAT the instruments say! IT CANNOT POSSIBLY BE DOING THAT! 

Across the world, electrical plant engineers were finding that the average demand on their generating systems had abruptly dropped to almost nothing; all they had to do was cope with the short-term variations. Whatever was supplying the bulk of the power evidently only adjusted to the load slowly – but the power from that mysterious source (if there WAS a source!) seemed to simply… appear… in the generating systems from nowhere at all, in blatant, impossible, violation of well-established physical laws. Where was the energy COMING from?!?!

While the distribution grids, and a certain amount of fuel, were still needed, the ripple effects of not-quite-free power soon hit other industries. While many flourished with the drastic drop in operating costs, producers of coal, oil, natural gas, and other fuels suddenly found the demand dropping drastically, leading many miners and engineers to speculate on finding some other field to get into (or perhaps some other place; if one impossibility was happening around the world… maybe those impossible “advertisements” had something to them).

Frantic research into confirmable cases of “energy from nowhere” did turn up one current, and well-documented, instance; a series of structures had recently appeared in the Sahara – and then in some of the other other desert areas. Those structures… offered all kinds of conveniences, and hummed with power, despite that power having no apparent source. They somehow supplied and purified vast quantities of water, despite there being no apparent method for them to do so. They were ALSO blatantly impossible. Much of that had been being dismissed as some sort of scheme, fraud, or misinterpretation of the data – but then one “Elzeard” had given a presentation, provided advance details on where additional structures would appear – and had NOT looked for money. “Elzeard” had referred questions about the power source and technology behind those structures to one “Charles Dexter Ward” – a youngster in the United States, operating near Atlanta, and one who had recently been involved in the reappearance of a long-extinct species in a “lab accident”. Even without the later, bizarre, reports of his involvement with the EPA and some astronomers, that alone said that the youngster was meddling with radically new technologies.

For those with the internet access and logical skills to see… it was definitely looking like a pattern! Serious queries (and not a few protesters) were soon heading his way.

Elsewhere there had been attempts to trace back who’d been placing those “planet-opening” ads; even if they were a gag someone was putting fabulous amounts of money behind them – and if they were serious, someone was putting fabulous amounts of SOMETHING behind them.

That had led to a lot of new accounts, mostly opened by direct delivery of precious metals and various commodities. Those accounts… were also pouring funding a variety of relief efforts, child education and welfare, and… producing pioneering supplies. Was all of that part of getting ready? It had certainly lent some credibility to the notion that the ads were for real.

Quite a lot of groups hadn’t been taking those advertisements at ALL seriously before. When they combined them with certain ongoing discussions between various astronomers… it made a rather distinct pattern – one that, once again, painted a bull’s-eye around Charles Dexter Ward.

Charles was simply nowhere near as good at hiding things as he thought he was; being up to a dozen projects at once did confuse the “what is he up to?” crowd very nicely, being as random as a pinball held off the “what will he do next” bunch readily enough, and his eccentric methods worked pretty well at confusing people about how he was doing things and what he was – but the public projects themselves weren’t protected by all his smokescreens – and he really didn’t have anything else. What good would they be? Once people started to ask the right questions he pretty much would not lie to them.

Meanwhile, Gothmug was considering… it was obvious enough that the Raksha around the fringes of the Solar System monitored the earth far more closely – and were trading a LOT more with their earthly relatives – than the earthly Raksha generally let on. That wasn’t unexpected given that Earth was one of the prime sources of human beings in the cosmos – but evidently the trans-plutonian Raksha didn’t think it was worthwhile to make even a token effort to hide it. That alone pretty much said that Earth was probably at the center of a web of wyld gates that might well reach all the way to the True Wyld itself… after all, hadn’t one of Charles’s Raksha friends said that he “hadn’t been out that far in quite a while”? That COULD have been the usual Raksha disregard for time and precision – but it might also mean that he simply hadn’t gone out that far for a decade or two.

If it wasn’t for the fact that most of the current Raksha had thrown their lot in with Creation, a new fey invasion might advance unexpectedly quickly! After all, the Raksha probably made sense out of Creations dual metrics rather more easily than most gods, humans, or Exalts did.

It was probably a good thing that wyld pockets tended to be outside of fate anyway, and so were essentially self-repairing when it came to fate errors. If the Sidereals had been messing with them… the universe might have come entirely unglued long ago. Still, as it was, their somewhat indeterminate locations and isolation from Fate certainly made them good hiding places.

Surely they manifested in Malfeas occasionally? Did the Yozi’s just remove them? That would be rather short-sighted of them of course – Wyld energies were good for so MANY things, and access to them might lead to a way to heal themselves or escape – but it might be one of the terms of their surrender. Removing themselves from the Wyld hadn’t really been one of their best ideas; it had left them vulnerable to many things! Had it originally been meant to be strictly temporary to avoid distractions while they worked? Thus the toxicity to the fey yet openness to the Wyld? That would make “house of the Primordials” a more literal description than most would suspect – merely a place to get in out of the wyld “weather” – and then the upstart kids took over and locked them in the basement because they wanted to steal the X-box? Was there anything deeper there than the universes first and biggest dysfunctional family?… It would be kind of angst-confirming if that had somehow become the pattern for all creation.

As an angsty goth Baalgrog… that was actually a rather pleasing idea in some ways! It would fully justify a dark, dismal, and depressing worldview! He could feel a REALLY gloomy poem coming on!

Out in deep space Charles continued being polite and friendly to the Raksha… After all, as long as they were abducting people who more-or-less WANTED to be abducted and either fixed them up with the healing mutations or put his collars on them it wasn’t like the Raksha couldn’t be INCREDIBLE fun with a very minimal effort – and by now they mostly seemed to have learned that being fun it was a MUCH lazier and easier way to keep their servant-snacks from running off than hunting them down all the time.

There were probably a few outliers (and more nearer the actual Wyld, thanks to Hannya influence) who thought that fear and exhaustion from the hunt were better – but (considering just how WEIRD some people seemed to be) they could probably find volunteers for THAT too, even if they probably wouldn’t feel that it was as good. Fortunately, the Raksha had heard enough about Charles to carefully sweep any such individuals under the rug. If Charles had found anything like THAT going on, he’d have wanted to do something. Predation would happen, but there was no need to be MEAN about it! Still… by cosmic standards, Charles hadn’t even moved yet.

The scientists were busy using the Tsunami’s instruments (of which it had a fascinating and wonderful variety) to have a close-up look at the Oort cloud, various comets, and other trans-plutonian objects.

Charles had finally managed to be in more than one place at the same time – although only one of them could be outside Aden (or in an attuned manse, or due to a quirk of the effect, aboard the Tsunami) at one time. Finding a way to make additional avatars where he didn’t have so much power over reality was still proving difficult. Perhaps Solar Circle Sorcery would help…

in Yu-Shan Charles was looking for Yu-Shan’s Devas. There wasn’t much in Dudael’s archives – but given Yu-Shan’s tendency towards geomancy and reality shaping perhaps they were some of the major ancient structures? Hidden in plain sight by simple dormancy? For that matter, could one be the Loom of Fate? After all, the Primordials had gotten along without Sidereals for eons – and there were only five Maidens; yet if the Loom of Fate had needed a maintenance staff during the Age of Glory, presumably the Primordials would have made one. Its structure was certainly weird enough to be more than a VERY important Artifact, and it did have wide ranging effects – which would certainly fit if Yu-Shan had been integral in the shaping of Creation. Had casualty errors been rare things until Yu-Shan got so sick? If they were a symptom of extreme illness that might mean that they’d been gradually getting more common… Perhaps the Sidereals kept some records on that sort of thing?

If not… any places in Yu-Shan that were persistently outside of fate would also be good places to look at! At the least that would indicate SOME kind of mischief – and this was getting to be a race of sorts! They mostly didn’t allow tours at the Loom of Fate though… Could he get the Pattern Spiders he knew to open a back door or set a small destiny? He’d wanted to see if the extra sidereal exaltations were causing problems (and look into the well of souls later) anyway…

It would be an exaggeration to say that the pattern spiders had any blatant emotions other than being overworked – and Charles’s contacts in the College of the Sorcerer had been working double-time lately! Not only had they had to help integrate the new Oracles into (this) Creation’s pattern – twenty new Chosen of Secrets were not easy to handle – they’d been having quite a bit of trouble with the Nocturnals who were already linked to this Creation’s Oracles. They were only supposed to be connected to one at a time, but now they were tied to two at once. It had been creating some issues with the Sidereals’ fates. Now, on the geomancy issue… they weren’t really geomancers themselves, but they HAD noticed some oddities with the Yu-Shan to Creation connections.

The main issue was that the Nocturnals’ strands kept moving and shifting when they weren’t looking. The Bureau of Destiny already had ways of marking threads of interest, but that didn’t really help much when some Nocturnal’s fate strand migrated from the Gull section to the Sword section without warning. They were really badly behaved!

Charles promptly offered to help. He couldn’t stop the Nocturnals strands from shifting of course – they WERE Exalts after all – but a supply of monitoring artifacts to track the threads and help with other tasks might well help the spiders out a lot!

Well, they could certainly use that – and they knew that Charles was good for it.

(Charles) “That’s urgent! You should have said!”

He promptly started churning the stuff out.

The Spiders had put in a supply order with the Bureaucracy. The Bureau normally got stuff to them, but this time they’d had to research the issue themselves – and the Nocturnals were causing a whole lot of crimps in the processes. As for connections to Creation… they’ve noticed a slight uptick in inward causality-flow since the Nocturnals had appeared. It seemed to be growing, too. That generally meant more coincidences and brushes of fate, bad and good alike, in Yu-Shan.

Hm… from what they had to say and his maps.. It looked like there were some places that were not being affected! The pinnacle of the Sky Dome, which covers the city/world-body, the Algedonic Palace, one of the few pieces of Primordial architecture left in the city, a spot deep beneath the Central Metropolitan Zone, a few miles east of the Jade Pleasure Dome, the Charnel Yards, the Primal Forge… Hrm! Yu-Shan herself provided Creation for Gaia to work in (at least in some ways). Had her Deva’s provided other facilities? Or had her “Devas” acted something like conceptual poles? Ambition/Growth, Pleasure/Reproduction, Creativity/Concentration, Fear/ Death, Intellect/Artifice? Gaia providing the physical structure of Creation and Yu-Shan creating the drives of it’s inhabitants – or perhaps the definition of life? That might explain the sterile rigidity of her original structure… The Definition was never the thing itself!

If he threw in the Loom of Fate… to reconcile each individuals narrative into the Tapestry of Existence? According to some the drive for sleep – to rest, to recreate the self to meet new challenges – was as fundamental as the desire to eat… There was the one he had no clues about – but it was near the central nexus of Yu-Shan.

On the other hand… all the geomantic essence of Yu-Shan was supposed to flow into the Central Reservoir – and Yu-Shan had stored the Games of Divinity there. Had she… Consumed them? And was the constant presence of the Incarnae a bit like an intestinal blockage in a human?

He’d have to check (after the pattern spiders were well supplied anyway) – but then theories always sounded good until they ran into more facts, and he had little to no information on the Devas of Yu-Shan or anything she had constructed before going to sleep.

It wasn’t long before Charles turned up at the Dome of the Perfect Lotus with some fairly hefty boxes. He might as well get inside the easy way!

(Lion, sizing him up as usual. You couldn’t be having some imposter sneaking in after all!) “Hello, Charles. Who’s that for?”

(Charles) “It’s for the Pattern Spiders! Two thousand thread-tracers, five hundred automatic detanglers, one thousand snag-scanners… (the list went on)”.

(Lion) “Oh? Well, that’s good… nice to see you making more donations to the Bureau. I’ll make sure they receive these after the usual security checks.”

(Charles) “Can we check with them directly? They said it was kind of urgent!”

The lion knew that security was strict of course – but he also knew that if the Pattern Spiders were placing direct priority orders for artifacts, something BIG was up.

(Lion) “Hrm… Well, let me check with them, okay?”

(Charles, cheerfully) “OK!”

(Lion, after getting permission from the Pattern Spiders – and checking the artifacts) “Okay! I’m going to be with you at all times, though… sorry, kid, it’s procedure.”

So it was into the weird, non-Euclidean space that was the interior of the Most Perfect Lotus of Heavenly Design – where Charles delivered his pile of stuff and turned on his various senses and had a good look about. If what he suspected was true, a massive, and very subtle, Unnatural Mental Influence effect had to be involved. It would probably be coming in through the fate-strands tied to the Exaltations – thus bypassing the relevant defenses just like Pattern Bite did!

And there was the that gibberish voice again! Just like it was back when he was making and analyzing that Nocturnal manse… Louder this time! As well as…. rather distracting and desperate-sounding.

Uhrm… but just HIS knowing shouldn’t hurt anything – as far as HE could see anyway. He asked the Pattern Spiders about the voice before trying to look deeper though!

They… weren’t aware of any voices; just the normal vibrations, echoes, and other sounds of the Loom’s functions. If it was a little girl, they suggested speaking with a Nocturnal.

That was no help! This voice was vaguely masculine!

Hm… he COULD simply answer – but analysis and translation effects seemed in order first!

It took a few minutes of deciphering, even with a synergistic overmind as a part of his own consciousness – but it was VERY garbled Old Realm, in the divine dialect.

(Voice) “No… not yet… not yet… must stay hidden.”

(Charles, answering on the same level) “Well, I wasn’t planning on TELLING anyone! Mostly I was just fixing Yu-Shan at the moment! She’s very sick!”

(Voice) “Must stay hidden… is prime directive.”

(Charles) “Until Yu-Shan wakes up?”

(Voice) “What is Yu-Shan? A Primordial? A city? A treasure? A trap? A prison? I can’t see… Must stay hidden…”

Huh… either there were cognitive limitations there or something had been hiding for a VERY long time!

Well, maybe it just wanted to produce that impression.

He had a look although avoiding being obvious about it…

It was indeed Unnatural Mental Influence and Shaping – the UMI to make the affected entities appear to be out of fate and Shaping on the Nocturnal strands to make them a LOT more mobile than most fate strands – even most Exalts. Whatever it was – and it was hiding desperately – was originating in the loom itself. The pattern stuck to its strands, and didn’t deviate from them… Even he couldn’t tell who was generating it – Nox, Deva, some consciousness of the loom itself – without active probes – and maybe not even then.

Still, that was definitely something to think about!

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One Response

  1. […] The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXV – Looming Shadows: The Energy Industry, Investigating Advertisements, Searching for Yu-Shan’s Devas, Presents for the Pattern Spiders, Hidden Voices. […]

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