The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIX – A Mirror Darkly

A View of Earth from Saturn

Are you SURE that it’s right to meddle this way?

Aikiko was considering… She’d never quite understood the Primordial War. Fights didn’t usually take centuries! Had it been more of… the Exalted identifying the weak targets, developing geomantic assault charms that made Ghost-Eating Technique look like a rock tossed by a child, and going in after them?

Charms that severed portions of a Primordial’s world body like limbs? That tore them apart like a battlefield-range Ghost-Eating Technique? Or – perhaps most likely and most devastating of all – which prevented their subsouls from actually dying OR healing. After all, killing them just led to their immediate recreation – but leaving them dying but never QUITE dead would seriously harm a Primordial. And get them all like that… and the greater entity might as well be dead. Do that… and you could even enslave the First Circles with near impunity. Had the Exalted created the Neverborn intentionally? As a terror-tactic against the stronger primordials? Were they deliberate prisoners, rather than accidental ones? As well as… a vital source of all sorts of things… After all… wasn’t that how the Exalts of the First Age had treated the Yozi’s? How they were STILL treated to some extent?

That… made more sense; she could almost see the Exalted teams going into world-bodies and spending years of covert surveying identifying geomantic weak spots – and then attacking those weak spots – while the Devas searched for intruders and defended them. Sensible tactics, but horribly cruel. Bad enough to shock the others into surrendering… That made sense of the calendar troubles too; how could you keep track of time when each world-body was on it’s own personal system? Had the major conflicts in Creation would have been when some Primordial got it into their world-body’s neural center (whatever that was like) to either take their toys and leave – potentially dissolving creation – or to strike at the mortal populations? No more humans, no more Exalted, right? Had there been battles against the Raksha as a sideshow? They were good at sensing when Creation’s defenses were weak. Was that why there was only one strike recorded against the Dragon Kings? Had they only really gotten in the way once?

No wonder new Primordials never showed up; it was actually safer for them out in the Wyld.

Oh there would be other viewpoints out there… The conflict had been more than big enough for THAT – especially when differing versions of history might all be valid! She was no scholar – but she’d heard at least one version focusing mostly on the Ebon Dragon and the consequences of IT’S schemes, and how he’d apparently more-or-less started the whole conflict. What if, for instance, he knew the effects the Primordials would have on mortal beings in Creation… and kept his mouth shut? That certainly sounded like him! After all, he didn’t have impressive warpings of reality, or massive control of natural forces. Just the darkness, metaphorical and physical. Was he jealous of his siblings’ obvious might? It couldn’t be easy to be just a Dragon’s Shadow! And so the poor little overlooked and ignored nerdish weakling had gotten his revenge – and then had gotten tossed into prison by the OTHER overlooked and ignored nerdish weakling and the baby sister.

Even the official histories of the War said that “the Yozis are insane and nasty and crippled because the Exalted intentionally tortured them and made them that way after they’d surrendered!”. It was hard to put a positive spin on that!

I suspect that most of this sort of thing is because Exalted PC’s must ALWAYS be better than the NPC’s somehow (even if it’s just because Chejop Kejak is going to die soon somehow) – but there’s no game-mechanical way to make the players decent planners and strategists. Ergo, all NPC plans and strategies – past, present, and future – must be lousy enough to make any PC plan short of “I hammer nails into my eyes!” look good by comparison.

Personally I feel that if the players – given the kind of powers and resources that most Exalted characters control – cannot manage to come up with a decent plan, that’s their tough luck.

Sadly, with the passing of Dhengu-Gata, She Who Enables And Brings Wealth, The Bringer Of Purpose To The Inanimate, Creation’s stone and molten depths no longer simply provided their resources to those who needed them; instead resource production resulted in pollution and environmental damage. Dhengu-Gata’s equivalent of the Shadowlands; toxic wastes, polluted barrens, and dying rivers – retaliation or consequence of a victory/crime that even most Exalted had long forgotten – if only that resulting from the destruction of the planned order. A limited mirror in Creation of what had been done to her… Not as outright lethal, but definitely WRONG, at least from the perspective of the universe creators.

Would her efforts to help help fix those problems? She had quite a few of the second and third circles aboard… The greater self had gone, and the memory-reflections had been being steadily drained into their new selves – a kind of reincarnation through the human racemind, using it as a version of Lethe.

And on Earth, pollution levels were swiftly going down… That was most directly due to Charles and his Deva’s of course – but as The Broken-Winged Crane had demonstrated, with the Primordials causation could echo both forward and backward through time… Coincidence or causation? It was looking more and more like the latter!

Meanwhile, aboard the Tsunami, a bunch of astronomers were discussing relativity… So many of it’s predictions had been observed that it was hard to simply throw it out – but it insisted that Faster-Than-Light travel would allow backwards time travel, violate causality, and create other time-paradoxes…

Wait; Charles had said that Earth was literally the center of the universe – and thus occupied a preferred reference frame. With THAT in play… there WAS a definable “now”, and – given what he’d said about the alternate size of the cosmos – true simultaneity. The rest of the cosmos would look purely relativistic from EARTH – but not necessarily from elsewhere. That eliminated time travel (albeit not time-distortion) and left you free to opt out of the speed-of-light limitation!

Of course that killed most of the cosmological calculations based on there being nothing special about the Earth – but they’d already been told that the history of the cosmos was more-or-less artificial anyway. After all, they were crossing the universe in a TREE, and were apparently being propelled by a child’s imagination… Not to mention that they could still commute back and forth to Earth via some sort of teleportation “Gate”.

Blasted magic!

By now Charles and the Tsunami were dipping so deeply into Creations original metric that they were effectively traversing almost ten-to-the-ninety-seventh-power light years per hop – emerging into the normal cosmos only when there was some interruption in the Old Metric or some mighty essence-disturbance in normal space threw things off enough to call for a bit of recalculation.

At the moment there had been such a disturbance – and Tsunami was slowed enough for a few moments to actually view a magnificent collection of galaxies, including a glorious barred spiral, which left space awash with light and swirling gases. Things were… strange however; they were far enough out from Earth that the rules were changing as more traces of Wyld energies appeared and essence began to dominate matter… Charles was rather pleased; it looked like there would be plenty of space for the more exotic life forms from the borderlands of Old Creation!

Of course, it was also slow enough for whatever was causing the disturbance to try to skim Essence off Tsunami – and they came to a near-halt while Charles and Tsunami probed around.

Very near by intergalactic standards, hidden within an Oort cloud, there was a collection of dull black spheres, stretching essence-strands through the old metric – a net of dull, cloying, energies cast across an entire cluser of galaxies that drained motes from active powers that came too near. Tsunami felt… icky…just being this close to them.

The cloud whirled around the outer reaches of an alien solar system. Gas giants and their myriad moons shimmered there – and shiny, fast moving specks indicated spaceships or fast- moving extraplanetary objects heading inwards while Charles put up wards for Tsunami, himself, and the rest of the passengers…

Gothmug jumped on him mentally when he started probing at the spheres, so he put in through an appropriate no-attunement artifact to serve as a buffer – and asked the rescued starship crew; they might recognize them!

(Daru, the monkey humanoid) “That’s not good. Those are Undying Oblivion Avatar Catchers. Deathlords use those to keep each other out of their territory – they’ll try to snare anything that has any of a bunch of readings, including world-body readings.”

(Charles) “Well that’s a bother!”

(Daru) “If it was up to me… I’d find a way around. From the looks of things, there’s either an offensive going on, or somebody’s claimed this system.”

It looked like the system WAS under attack. There was a large fleet of black ships – several wings of fighters, a healthy amount of corvettes, cruisers, and freighters, and several destroyers. There was even a battleship… The defenders – or at least some of them – had Tarvial markings on them, and seemed to be the only reason why the one obviously-inhabited planet with all the radio traffic hadn’t been taken yet. Other than the Tarvail ships it was a classical ragtag ensemble of traders, mercenaries, and pretty much anyone with some sort of spaceship available. There were defensive satellites throughout the system, but most of the ones in the outer reaches had been neutralized.

That was awfully mean! He’d have to… Hrm… Ah! Mach’s Principle! It was time for a couple of tricky wards!

Green-gold light sparkled around Charles for a few moments as he made some gestures.

Charles put up some wards against gravity and relativistic effects – a carefully-shaped cup (to neutralize tidal effects) wrapped around the planet and it’s defenders – leading roughly a quarter of the universe pulling the area one way and the rest not affecting it. A few more – against gravity, and detection, and being tracked, and particle-collisions, and excess radiation – completed the set.

Well, and a perfect privacy ward for himself… He’d probably need that all the time now!

The planet and it’s small fleet of defenders jumped past the speed of light in a fraction of a second – and continued to accelerate. He’d have to park it somewhere safe! Maybe with Tarvail?

That led to various “What the!?!?” cries from the astronomers – and a certain amount of shock on the planet as the sun abruptly vanished, to be replaced by a blue glow over half the planet (and NOT the half that had been in sunlight), while the rest of the sky went to profound blackness… Even with the defense failing, they hadn’t been expecting THAT.

Charles tried to get in touch with someone on the planet to reassure them while Malinda helped pick out a path… Bringing a planet along made it REALLY hard to steer!

Behind them the Abyssal Fleet was scrambling fighters and lighter warships to scout the system for powerful threats; SOMETHING had just snatched their prey from them!

Fortunately, Tsunami had seen no reason at all to stick around instead of accompanying the planet. Charles was so impulsive! It would only have taken a minute or so to ASK first, and the defense could have held out for hours more!

The Undying Oblivion Avatar Catchers lashed out through the Old Metric with coils of Soulsteel – seeking the source of the disturbance. Gothmug threw up indestructible barriers and tried to trap the spheres in his elsewhere-box traps – but it was a lot harder than usual! The things seemed to be designed to resist geomantic powers!

Fortunately, throwing in some Thaumaturgy and a few spirit charms helped. They caught most of them while Tsunami slipped away. He’d have to take them somewhere safe and look at them later!

Getting into touch with the person who’d been organizing the defense of.. .Kyeki-II?… turned out to be relatively easy.

(Charles) “Hello!”

The fellow on the star-trek style screen was a leopard beastman; a tag in the local variant of Tarvialian Tradespeak identified him as “Commander Zetai”.

(Zetai) “Okay, who is this? And do you know what just happened? I just lost contact with the remaining defense systems on Kyeki I and III – and all of the attacking ships in orbit just dropped off our sensors!”

(Charles) “Uhm… I’m Aden or Charles, and is everyone all right down there? Or do you need some help? And I didn’t bring them! They weren’t being nice at all!

(Zetai, blinking.) “We’ve got some damage from planetary bombardments on the surface, and I think we’ve also lost access to our satellites… what do you mean, bring them? Not that we wanted them here anyway.”

(Charles) “Well, I’m moving you and your defenders to somewhere better! It will take a little bit though… The satellites are probably just having problems with static; the electromagnetic flux will be kind of high for a bit. I think I got everyone friendly in the area though! Malinda was pretty sure!”

Daru quietly fainted – although the staff made sure that he didn’t hurt himself falling.

(Zetai) “On the fly!? That’s risky! And who’s Malinda?”

(Charles) “She helps with the divination! And it was a bit risky I suppose, but you WERE under attack, and that’s pretty dangerous too!”

(Zetai) “Wait. I think I know who you are… is your full name Charles Dexter Ward?”

(Charles, with considerable surprise) “Huh! I didn’t think anyone much would know me this far out… That’s me!”

(Zetai) “Can you teleport magazines, too?”

(Charles) “You mean periodicals?”

(Zetai) “There’s this… periodical… you need to look at.”

Malinda checked it first, but magazines seemed unlikely to be booby-traps…

(Charles) “And you’re not being teleported really… just accelerated at an effective rate of about 800 times the velocity of light per second; a good thing that that puts you in a warp which doesn’t interact with intergalactic particles! But OK!”

It was… a mass media news magazine, full of lovely pictures and fluffy articles. One of those articles was about lobbying in Tarvial’s Senate. One of their Lunars, an “Undying Steer”, was trying to get Charles recognized as one of their gods. Huh! That ghost in the Underworld Communications Manse had mentioned him, and Righteous Hala had as well.

(Charles) “Oh! Well, that’s a coincidence! Running across a planet where somebody knew me wouldn’t make any sense at all without the Narrative Imperative, but that is one of the more powerful basic forces!”

(Zetai) “I’m not much for theories… I thought it was just another attempt to get a favored god some more worshipers. He really seemed to believe in you, though. Said if the Senate approved the bill, we’d be able to get lots of artifacts.”

(Charles, thoughtfully) “Huh! I suppose that would work in it’s way! At least minor ones, and it would draw my attention more anyway… Anyway, I take it that Tarvail is actually very widely distributed and linked via the Wyld Zones? Otherwise I wouldn’t find your planets so many galaxies apart… Well, I’m going that way anyway; want to be dropped off a lot closer to your realms core worlds?”

What with the Lunar involvement and their preferred means of interstellar transport that would make sense! Tarvial would be more of a web than a discreet sector.

(Zetai) “Think you could drop us off closer to Tarvial System? Not right next to it – it’d raise too many questions. But being closer never hurts!”

(Charles) “Well…. I suspect that moving your planet a good chunk of the way across the univese will cause a lot of questions anyway! But closer is easy!”

(Zetai) “Oh, I’m going to have headaches and paperwork galore for this. Better than being part of some Abyssal’s track shoes, though.”

(Charles) “They aren’t very nice at ALL. And you can always just blame me… That way you don’t have to do very much paperwork!”

(Zetai) “Yeah, but then they’ll ask me where you are and why you didn’t use the Wyld jump points, and I’ll have to explain you’re flying around in what our clairvoyant is pretty sure was a tree… I mean, there are few gods that have interstellar ships. There’s Astravinia the Lightrunner, and Richof Haldane, and Hersetstina the Reaver… can’t think of many other than that, and they usually look more like, well, ships.”

(Charles) “Well, I’m taking the scenic route! And I’ll probably be back in Yu-Shan, and the Tsunami does take the form of a tree!”

Huh! They thought that Gramps was a god? He might be of course… but given his job it was no surprise that he traveled the universe a lot!

(Zetai) “Oh… right. Out on a pleasure cruise?”

(Charles) “Well, some business! But I wanted to get a good look at more of the universe while I was at it and see how it’s doing!”

(Zetai) “Right… we’ll have to rebuild, and we might need some help with that – part of why I wanted to be closer to the core, makes it easier to get supplies. Won’t pry into your business, except to record where you’re headed for the Patrol.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, by the Empirical Galaxy, through the Wall of Chaos, and out of the universe most likely! It’s an errand! What needs rebuilding?”

(Zetai) “The settlements of Gray Run and Nakara got hit pretty hard… with the blasts they took, I’d be surprised if anything was still standing. They also took out a lot of our anti-air defenses – blasted drop ships and their concussion cannons.”

(Charles) “Do you have a good map and some plans of what’s supposed to be there?”

(Zetai) “We can mop up the remaining attackers on the surface – thank the gods, no Abyssals as far as I know – but like I said before, supplies are an issue. And yeah, we have maps. Though our own gods will be watching, most likely.”

(Charles) “Well, if you want I can fix some things up for you and clean up any radioactivity and such!”

(Zetai) “Right… I’ll let the chaplain of Kyeki-hari know. She’s our planetary goddess.”

(Charles) “And what supplies do you need?”

Hm… there were a couple of cities on fire, but otherwise it was a lovely habitable world with seas of green and many, many islands. The largest continent was about the size of Europe.

(Zetai) “Mostly munitions and rocket fuel; the invasion took out a lot of our stock. With what happened at Gray Run and Nakara, food, medical supplies, clothes, and water, too.”

Charles promptly extinguished the fires, did some general repairs, and provided supplies… He wasn’t not really much on munitions, but the rest of it was easy enough. The people were grateful – and, due to depictions of him in that magazine, he’d have had a hard time escaping notice if he’d tried – and he didn’t really. After all, these people were used to magic!

In Yu-Shan, on the outer reaches of the loom, a major thread was shifting – the rough equivalent of a small town in Old Creation. Admittedly it wasn’t a particularly large disturbance, especially since it seemed to be entirely natural – but it would require some file updating and might get an inspection team scheduled…

Back on the bridge, Daru was waking up again, to find an Inukami with a medical kit fussing over him…

(Charles) “And are you doing all right?”

(Daru, scratching his head with a foot) “That was… I don’t know what to say!”

(Charles) “Uhm… It’s just moving a few things around. It’s fairly simple!”

(Daru) “Yeah, but that was a planet. I mean, I’d heard some applied theory that planetary apportation might be possible, but to see it in action like THAT… You’ve got divine skill, kid!”

(Charles) “Well, they were in trouble! It would be mean not to take them somewhere safer!”

(Daru) “Yeah… I just hope you can keep it safe until we get to Tarvial itself. But if you can do that… a planetary forcefield would be no problem either.”

(Charles) “It would be simple enough… but maybe I should add some more geomantic support for it? I’ll have to ask Kyeki-hari about it!”

(Daru, weakly) “It’s always good to ask the gods before meddling with their worlds like that! I’m not sure how she’d feel about you butting in – although, if it were me, I’d be pretty happy not to be soulsteel – or whatever they do with gods.”

Huh! He’d have to explain to Kyeki-Hari about where he was taking her planet.

(Charles) “Something unpleasant I’m sure!”

There were several more rescues of distressed starships over the next few days – and Tsunami was getting rather lively, as hobbits brought party trays, the astronomers interviewed newcomers the “aliens” turned it back on the astronomers by asking them to explain some of the Earth delicacies, and Charles cheerily explained to the astronomers that pretty much all life in the universe save the Raksha originated on Earth about thirty thousand years ago – although relativistic effects had made some inhabited worlds far older than that!

They could certainly believe that. There was no rational reason for aliens to look like monkeys, or plants – or for that matter fire-breathing dragons.

The dragon woman was actually very nice, and was apparently a celebrity in the Satries Confederation – but the cheer of the party was interrupted when Tsunami abruptly lurched hard enough to spill everyone’s drinks – and Tsunami reported a sharp pain on her port side!

Charles checked – while letting the healing effects get to work, and adding more protections, and trying to isolate whatever it was… A ship, with no markings of nationality, was stuck nose first on that side of the ship. There was no signal coming from it, although there were faint life signs within. Weird! Why hadn’t the Tsunami sensed that as an attack in time to erect a defense? Ah! It had… been along their trajectory and they’d effectively run into IT. Still… that was almost absurd! Someone had to have at least perfect piloting and navigation – as the Tsunami did – to arrange THAT.

He modified some constructs that he’d made to act as remotely-linked space probes (adding a humanoid form really wasn’t very complicated), sent them in to have a look, and isolated the ship in an elsewhere-box. It was hard to be too careful with Deathlords and Abyssal types!

The ship was cramped, but otherwise very nice inside; there was even a minibar. In the pilot’s seat, there was a a figure in a void suit. The helmet was down, and the visor was opaque from this side. The pilot read as unconscious – but the current earth-style atmosphere was apparently suitable, so the probe-golem opened up the helmet to check the essence-signature and provide some first aid.

The woman inside had a rather withered and haggard face, with pale skin and thin hair that fell out with a touch. Only the pointed ears and violet skin tone differentiated her from a normal human. Her essence-signature was faint, and well-hidden, but she was at least an Abyssal Half-Caste.

That didn’t necessarily make them a bad person… but it was definite grounds for caution! Direct contact was OUT, more wards to prevent probing or transmitting effects back along the golem’s link, and some isolation-wards it was – along, of course, with proper medical attention.

The first thing she did after waking up was… turn on Essence senses.

(Woman) “Fascinating. I seem to be Elsewhere… and is this a construct? The craftsmanship is splendid, even if there is too much living Essence for my comfort.”

(Charles/Golem) “Well, hello! Some precautions seemed sensible, given your nature. I hope that you are not offended! Provisions have been made to refresh you and heal any injuries you might have!”

(Woman) “Hmm… I took a nastier bump than anticipated there. I do hope I did not do too much damage to your ship… spirit-ship? It shares some characteristics with them, and it would be a shame if it were unable to travel at the moment. I wasn’t sure I would be able to stop you any other way… but I needed to speak with you.”

(Charles/Golem) “The damage was not significant, and is already repaired… What do you need to talk about?”

(Skimmer) “Ah yes! Let us get… what is the phrase, down to business? I am the Skimmer Between the Dimming Lights. I believe you have access to some… unusual energy types and Wyld Magic?”

Ah, very pretentious name! Probably a full Abyssal Exalt… What was it with full Exalts and the over-elaborate names?

(Charles/Golem) “Well yes!”

(Skimmer) “Then I wasn’t off base in my aim… There is an urgent matter my liege wishes to discuss with you. His palace sits several hundred light years from here; he would be most disappointed if you declined.”

(Charles/Golem, doubtfully) “Uhm… At current pseudovelocities… we traversed roughly ten to ninety-fifth power light years while you were saying that. Crossing ten to the hundredth power light years in a reasonable length of time calls for a great deal of speed! Do you have some coordinates? A representative can be sent fairly readily to a specified location.”

(Skimmer) “My liege tries to keep the exact location of his palace secret; he would rather not have every competitor in this region of space after him. Though I can understand your reluctance; it is only prudent. Perhaps we can compromise? I can hold a construct in my ship… and you likely will be able to fix it.”

(Charles/Golem, with some surprise) “Oh, that’s already done; you can’t leave things broken!”

(Skimmer) “Truly prompt and helpful… it’s hard to believe you’re the same person who killed two of my colleagues so quickly.” (She smiled; the effect on the wrinkled skin was… rather disconcerting), “Whatever happened to their shards, I wonder?”

(Charles/Golem) “I’ve been asked to keep that a secret!”

(Skimmer) “Ah, of course…”

Of course, there were only a few places with the resources and ability to trap such shards – and it was obvious that they were trapped; otherwise they’d have come back! It was just a matter of WHERE – and if “Charles” wasn’t just a front, he was FAR too nice for Malfeas!

She took a notebook and pen out of her void suit pocket and make notes.

(Skimmer) “Well, thank you for your cooperation and understanding… normally these tasks require more violence. Now, I trust the construct will be ready once I’m free to go? I’ll have to evaluate it before I allow it on the ship…”

(Charles/Golem) “Oh, we can just use this one! It’s ready now!”

(Skimmer, blinking) “Am I free to go?”

(Charles/Golem) “I’ll return you and your ship back to normal space roughly where you arrived….”

After all… that in itself had already given away most of the location. “A few hundred light years” wasn’t much of the universe…

The elsewhere box quietly dissolved – leaving her, her ship, and the construct back about where they’d come aboard – and leaving her to wonder why Charles was BOTHERING with physical travel instead of gates! Was he REALLY simply crossing the cosmos simply for the sightseeing? Who had the power to WASTE on that sort of thing? Ah well! Time to report back to her liege… and, in the future, to make contact through that construct.

She tried conversing about Charles’s daily life… What did he do? What did he like to eat? She might be an Abyssal, but she was very civil – and an adept pilot, too.

Charles saw no point in denying that – mostly – he fixed things, or that he liked peanut butter – but promptly inquired as to what SHE did.

(Skimmer) “Well… courier duty, mostly. It was the same way before… this. Before the Exaltation, I mean.”

(Charles/Golem) “Huh! I’d heard that peoples lives usually changed a lot when they exalted! How did it happen?”

(Skimmer) “Have you ever seen a dehydrator pistol? I would suspect not, since they don’t have those where you were from.”

(Charles/Golem, thoughtfully) “Uhm… various settings, blue glowing end on it?”

(Skimmer, with some surprise) “Hmm, you have… we must talk about where you got that information after my liege has finished his business with you. Someone shot me with one of those while I was on a dangerous delivery. Now, while that normally isn’t fatal… being shot in the head is a different matter. And while all the fluids in my head were turning into dust, HE contacted me and… well, I’m moving around and solid, anyway.”

(Charles/Golem) “Huh! That’s a little different from what I’d heard… I was told that it was supposed to be more dramatic than that! As for where I saw the pistol… Megamind had one, in the movie!”

(Skimmer, making more notes) “Hmm. Interesting. Who is this ‘Megamind’?”

Charles proceeded to show her the movie…. There wasn’t much laughter there, just watching blankly. It was almost like she’d traded her ability to laugh for something… At least she didn’t point at Megamind and say “That’s the boss!”. It was no surprise that most of the cultural references – the one room schoolhouse, and so on – missed out completely, but oh well!

(Charles/Golem) “Anyway… It’s an entertainment thing, mostly done on computers!”

(Skimmer) “Ah. I see that some things have not changed; living people do enjoy their comedies. It was supposed to be a comedy, right?”

(Charles/Golem) “Well yes!”

(Skimmer) “Ah, here we are… now, I’m going to have to temporarily blind you for this next leg of the journey. I would use a blindfold, but I can’t take my chances.”

At the moment, outside… just looked like the general blankness of deep space.

(Charles/Golem, who was thinking about other things) “Hmmm… Want to test something? It’s a neurological mirror amulet, designed to compensate for mental structural changes! ”

There was a moment of mutual blankness

(Skimmer, sighing) “Right. Now, stand still, and if you could revoke any defenses against Crippling you have set up? I assure you the only ill effect you will experience will, in fact, be blindness.”

(Charles/Golem) “Uhm… It’s a construct. I don’t think that Crippling effects work at all… Perhaps… (and the constructs hands reached up, unscrewed the eyes, and hold them out). Will that do?”

(Skimmer) “Ah, very nicely indeed. I would rather not mar such a fine item anyway; I’ll take those for the duration.”

And there was much shrieking, howling, and other nasty stuff as she activated the interstellar travel Charm… For while the ship was fast (and Charles had made it faster), she needed to jump to the Underworld for the next leg!

Charles shared the remaining sensory data – including the multispectrum analysis, radiation and essence pickups, magnetic scans, and all the rest – the construct-core WAS a space-probe after all – with Galileo for analysis – but it was quite familiar really! The void, just what Aikiko had gone into through the underworld gate! Location… sort of indefinable.

The trip didn’t end in Coruscant, but in another system entirely – with five barren rock worlds. Of course, ghosts didn’t need to breathe, and could live just about anywhere in Underworld-space. While barren, the worlds teemed with faint pyre flames, and smelled faintly of incense. The star was a dim red light in the black – not that Charles could “see” that at the moment, but there was FAR more than enough data to reconstruct what the probe would normally be “seeing”.

Hm. Skimmer probably wasn’t much of a scientist or artificer – or perhaps she was just very literal-minded; she’d been told to make sure that “Charles” didn’t see where “he” was going – and so she had!

They landed on one of the less-inhabited worlds. It was… white. Other than the pyre-flames, there was no light or dark, just white. Sound traveled slowly here, and was damped even more than in the rest of the Underworld. Faint whispers tickled at the construct’s senses, unnerving and desperate – or would have been if Charles was really paying attention; at the moment he was letting one of his manse-presences and some subprocesses in his own Synergistic Overmind pay attention.

Landing procedures toook some time, with extensive security checks.

Meanwhile… Tarvial was slowly getting closer and closer – And some of the astronomers were wanting to visit an alien world! After all, Charles was more or less towing one along.

Unnerving as it was that this obliging child was moving an inhabited planet across distances too great for any human to really comprehend on a whim.

Still, Charles saw no reason why that shouldn’t be OK… He asked the astronauts and local governmental officials on the planet about visa procedures…

They’d need passports. They weren’t entirely sure how to handle this one, since there was no official passport for Earth – but they had MUCH bigger concerns with ensuring everyone was taken care of and that the few invaders who’d made it to the surface were captured or otherwise neutralized. They decided that – as long as the astronomers had passports from their countries of origin – they could come down. They insisted on extensive health checks though, to ensure that they didn’t have diseases that might cause trouble.

Fortunately, they’d passed through Aden – so no one had anything at all.

They were treated as a VIP delegation, with careful security. No one wanted to upset the person who was currently shuttling their planet across the universe. Still… they were weirdly generic! Like a sort of average of all the normal (tiger, monkey, bird, etc…) people with all their distinguishing features stripped away! Just blandness! It was… really disappointing! The locals had been expecting mass psychic powers, or laser hands, or something. Humans lived at the metaphysical center of the universe; they should be exotic! Instead… two eyes, two arms, two legs-just like nearly everyone else. And even the more exotic variants, like the four-eyed four-limbed golden beings, still have the same number of appendages on each limb as humans.

Charles cheerily explained that humans were the baseline, and everyone else is more or less derived from them! It was things from further out, closer to the Wyld, who got exotic!

A lot of people… weren’t sure if that made it better or worse. Anti-Wyld sentiment, while not exactly high, did exist – mostly toward the more outre mutations. They did often make it hard to live in civil society. Four arms was one thing… falling apart was quite another.


3 Responses

  1. This seems to be cut off somewhat.

    • So it was; the last sentence and a half got cut off somehow. Well, they’re back in now. Thank you for pointing that out so I could fix it!

  2. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIX – A Mirror Darkly: Aikiko on the Primordial War, Astronomers and FTL, the migration of Kyeki-II, An Abyssal boards the Tsunami. […]

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