The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVL – Swimming in Light

And to continue with Aikiko in the wider universe…

Aikiko considered… assorted bits of interstellar behemoths would obviously be useful in drive-artificing; they would normally travel in strange and bizarre ways. So… she had a project!

Would it be possible to communicate or negotiate with some of them? After all… it was likely that they’d never even notice contributing a bit to an artifact, they didn’t seem to be fighting each other, and they’d presumably been stuck in this pocket long enough to REALLY want to get out. Was there enough intelligence there to work with?

(Aikiko) “So… what’s with the central gate? Where do the things that get “taken” wind up?

Considering the Primordials involved, it might well be Beyond! But it was still good to ask.

(Older Gray) “It apparently – at least usually – goes to Malfeas. We suspect that Isidoros and Oramus have been collecting their own ingredients for something since the reshaping gave them a chance to set up their reflections of Isidoros / collection points across the cosmos. From what we have… it was impossible for any aspect of Oramus to remain free – so of course some did. It was to be expected that he would have a perfect defense against total confinement. After all, if he could exist before existence… then remaining free despite imprisonment is a small feat.

(Aikiko, slowly) “Thus, at the center of this sargasso… there is an aspect of Isidoros, and one that is even stronger than usual, that acts as a massive one-way gate to Malfeas.”

(Older Gray) “Indeed. We have been… VERY reluctant to take that route out.

Aikiko found it hard to blame them for that. After all, they worshiped one of the Yozis’ prime betrayers.

Still… “Cosmic Knights”. She hadn’t been expecting THAT one! It made sense in it’s own weird way, just like most of the cosmos did – but so often things made sense in ways that made your brain hurt! If the Mask of Winters ever found out… it would be nice to see his face! Surely he had not expected that particular ancient project to spawn a thousand new near-exalted heroes!

And that was a bit of an inspiration. She’d been focusing mostly on getting OUT of Skoll. If she really could gain full control of him… he’d be a MAJOR edge! Just the life support and superstrength alone, not to mention the armor and the artifact-emulation. Few Exalts, even among the elders, could boast the extent of THAT emulation.

It wasn’t long after that that she had Skoll cloaked and the Mental Invisibility Technique running – which should, hopefully, avoid attracting the notice of Isidoros – and was off to have a look at some Behemoths. Surely at their scale she could pretend to be unimportant and harmless!

Skoll was quite amenable at the moment; the only apparent route to capturing the Sun or finding the Mask of Winters seemed to be to help the Jadefolk build an artifact. That was not within his areas of competence, so directions were needed – and Aikiko was piloting right now.

The Fusion Shark was a mere thirty-two miles long, but it was glowing in x-ray frequencies. The Nebular Man-o-War was mostly immaterial, but it was at least light-months across, and it’s force tendrils extended for even further. The Neutron ammonite was only ten miles across, but was EXTREMELY solid. There was a cloud of Transmutation Mites, a Photonic Storm, and some sort of magnetic field entity that was REALLY hard to make out…

The Mountain Folk (Space Folk? Searchers?) needed… a fusion-ignition node from the Fusion Sharks stomach. It looked like the thing was… basically a living fusion rocket; it was mostly made of fields of force, it’s stomach was a fusion reactor, it propelled itself by tapping a stream of plasma off it’s stomach, and it consumed comets and such for fuel. The “Gill” structures were magnetic-seperation systems that channeled other materials to appropriate organs. Given that it lived in space, it simple radiated waste energies and stray photons from the fusion reactions. It wasn’t a Death Star, but it could project lasers through it’s “teeth” powerful enough to chop comets – up to twenty miles or so across – into chunks for easy ingestion. That was certainly enough to obliterate cities, and maybe enough to take out continents! A beam that cold cut through thirty miles of rock and ice… could easily cut through a planet’s crust.

Evidently the Behemoths got remade to suit their new environment during the reshaping. A head-on attack would not be the best approach, even with Skoll! Sneaking up might get her to it without problems – but getting that node would mean either killing it or passing through the stomach. Even with the Skoll and a Behemoth Cloak… too much of that probably wouldn’t be survivable without soak-based perfect defenses. Dodging wasn’t going to help much here; she’d be pretty much swimming in the stuff! But fighting it… it was capable of surviving it’s own energies indefinitely – which mean that it was probably largely indestructible.

Well, if there were any EASY options, the Mountain Folk would have come up with something long ago.

The things stomach actually ran around the 150L level; it was running a higher-efficiency reaction than the core of a giant star. While it couldn’t maintain it for long, it could pulse the temperature up to about 200L – the total-conversion level – for brief periods to meet greater energy demands.

The rest of the list wasn’t too easy either… They also needed a Quagma Tendril from the Neutron Ammonite, and a bit of the spacemap in the mind of the Nebular Man-of-War. They… intended to use the Quagma Tendril – which was pretty close to being solidified wyld energy – and the ignition node to control it’s breakdown so as to change the structure of reality around their city. They’d use the spacemap concept to keep track of the changes. If they could work that trick… they could jump outside the universe entirely, and thus bypass any barrier – including the black holes around this place.

Well, that would be handy!

Hrm… She’d still be taking damage – but between Skoll and the Behemoth cloak it wouldn’t be very fast. Checking with the the Mountain Folk… they were willing to lend her some fully-charged healing chalices, and some lesser healing items if she thought that that would let her survive (she WAS a Solar; they were known for surviving practically anything – and while she wasn’t entirely sure, she wasn’t admitting that to THEM). She couldn’t get through to Aden at the moment – even if she WAS still partially there (Drat Oramus anyway. How could she still be THERE and still functioning there and yet be unable to get through? Would the aides in Aden be able to funnel through some healing if she started showing signs of injury THERE? Or would she show signs of injury at all?)

Well, her own aides had some healing thaumaturgy – as limited as that was – and there were some mutations she could take on that would help. Between Adenic Thaumaturgy and the cloak and her Ox-Body techniques she could take quite a bit of damage. If she could accelerate her swimming/flying enough… it might work. She could just dive in with the food and head for the stomach. She might even gain a little time just by hiding in a thick enough layer of ice, and the Durability of Oak Meditation would help for awhile…

So… Twelve to fifteen minutes. Maybe up to twenty with a little luck and some wards and a layer of ice and such. Her personal motes would probably be better spent on speed charms and thaumaturgy than on defense, and she could get some more speed-boosting artifacts set up from Skoll…

By the Incarnae… this just might work!

The ice exploded into vapor as it passed through the laser-tooth bursts – but the outer layer of wards deflected that nicely, leaving her hurtling down a glowing tunnel towards a truly massive magnetic field. Other lasers and energy beams were playing over her… It was obviously very rare for a chunk of solid matter to get this far!

Oddly enough… they seemed to be… analytical? Interesting! She attempted to spoof them – pretending to be a big hunk of soulsteel!

Skoll was abruptly wrenched to one side – and was funneled down a side-passage at high acceleration. He was headed towards an organ that… the Mountain Folk had completely failed to identify from the outside. It looked like… reflective energy fields, a LOT of essence, judging from the effects powering up – it “digested” artifacts that could be broken down, and ejected any truly indestructible stuff.

Botheration! That wasn’t what she needed at all! And nothing to hang onto; it was all made of fields of force… Time to power up!

Aikiko – and Skoll – abruptly blazed with sunlight, as Aikiko activated her athletics charms and began kicking off the walls to head back towards the stomach. Fortunately, few things actively resisted once past the teeth…

Huh. She was intentionally diving into a superheated, high-pressure, fusion plasma hotter than the core of the sun. Somehow that didn’t sound like a very sensible thing to do…

Weeeeelllll… that was where the thing she needed was, so while it still wasn’t sensible, she still needed to go there.

As she passed through the essence-containment, the pressure shot up to to a couple of million tons per square inch, the temperature went up to 100,000,000 degrees or so, and radiation levels went WAY above “lethal in fractions of a second”. The outer levels of wards were peeling away, as were the ablative layers. The essence-flux was boiling as matter, energy, and essence blurred.

Time to pick up the pace!

Scanning for the nearest ignition node with her investigation excellency… it looked like the nearest one was about two miles away; they were apparently clustered around the intake area to start the incoming gases fusing…

The area started to glow glow radiantly, and warm. As the brilliance increased, the Coatl set up wards. Since they – unlike Aikiko – had no direct link to the outside, mere wards could protect them for some time – but not forever.

(Skoll) “External environment exceeds filtering capacity. Dimensional interface will heat until pilot or system limits are reached and escape protocol must be engaged. Time estimate… eighteen minutes, sixteen seconds.

The ignition node… was about twenty feet tall, and looked fairly fragile, although it obviously wasn’t. At peak, spheres of iridescent energy formed and shot off into the incoming plasma – blazing like minature stars as the plasma was drawn into them and the fusion-cascade begins. As an active part of a living creature it couldn’t be truly indestructible – but it was certainly incredibly tough. Fortunately… as long as most of the damage was only to the support structure and energy-feeds, the Mountain Folk wouldn’t have much trouble fixing it…

Combining Skoll’s massive strength, Sledgehammer Fist Punch, Upgraded Smashfists (that also halved the soak of inanimate targets), and a few more enhancements actually got Aikiko up to the point where she was inflicting damage on the support structure of the Ignition Node despite it’s ability to withstand essence-effects and the constant damage of the stomach for lengthy periods.

It took… rather too long to cut it free – although it was easy enough to store thereafter. Another one budded from the wall moments later… Evidently the conditions of the stomach eventually wore them out.

At the rate this was going she had less than ten minutes of survival time left, and the constant low-level essence radiation burn was REALLY getting annoying. She needed to get out, FAST.

The exits… were primarily the drive-torch; which was about four miles away across the center, about ten along the walls. There are some secondary plasma taps for other purposes though – presumably going to organs that needed superheated plasma or fresh fusion plasma.

She had Skoll shift his artifact array from smashing to facilitating rapid travel and headed for the drive-torch. With any luck, it would be fast enough – perhaps even fast enough to let her time her exit for when it wasn’t using full thrust…

She still had more than a minute left as she approached the torch-feed. The creature was only thrusting casually at the moment – mostly just chasing bits of water ice in nearby orbits. It probably didn’t like being trapped of course, but it probably wasn’t suffering much. Of course… the primary walls were VERY close to being indestructible – and might indeed be so while actively supported. The exit area… was a hundred feet across, and was filled with iron atom nuclei moving at cosmic-ray speeds – so close to light speed that their mass was increased by a notable factor. The pressure inside Skoll was rapidly increasing, as the pressure outside exceeded normal methods of calculation.

This was going to hurt.

As the Fusion Shark shifted orbit, the floor vanishes to vent a stream of iron nuclei moving at almost light speed – and Aikiko and Skoll were swept along for the ride – at tens of thousands of gravities of acceleration. Thank the Incarnae – no, thank Charles – that the Behemoth cloak could limit any source of damage and that the Coatl had their own defenses.

Aikiko went hurtling into space at near the speed of light, out of healing supplies, seriously injured, and heading for the shell of black holes which bordered the place.

Still not ideal.

(Aikiko) “How long to bring down the velocity with a flight system?”

(Skoll) “About thirteen weeks at five gravities”.

THAT wasn’t going to work. Could the Mountain Folk pick her up? Steer towards an asteroid or something? The impact would be nasty, but the fast-healing mutations would patch her up in time… Well, she could boost her acceleration with Travel Thaumaturgy, telekinesis would add more acceleration without injuring anyone, and she might be able to do something with warding…

Ward against gravity? It WAS a black hole up ahead.

That took some tinkering to avoid going near the speed of light the other way – but reducing the efficiency of the Ward got it down to something manageable eventually – and once her speed was something reasonable, the Jadeborn could pick her up. They did want to know what kind of Thaumaturgy that was… normally you couldn’t ward against gravity!

(Aikiko) “My friend set it up – the one who’s good with Artifacts and Manses!”

(Mountain Folk) “It’s an impressive trick! Even more than it would have been in Old Creation, where the best you could have done would be zero gravity.”

(Aikiko) “It saved my life!”

(Mountain Folk) “Well, it’s an impressive resource, even if it doesn’t do anything else… with an appropriate ward, you could move a planet!”

(Aikiko) “I think he’s done that…”

The Mountain Folk felt that they’d definitely missed some developments out there in the greater universe. Being trapped here… was a serious problem! That’s why they ALL needed to get out! They were pretty grateful though. They hadn’t managed to figure out a way to get one of those Fusion Nodes, and they’d been working on it for decades.

(Aikiko) “I’m just glad I got it out… I’m not sure even I could survive another trip in there.”

Perhaps fortunately, the Fusion Shark would never notice. After all, on it’s scale… those nodes were smaller than an eyelash, and were constantly being destroyed and replaced anyway.

Meanwhile… Charles’s new priesthood had concluded that he was the most HYPERACTIVE deity in known history; he intervened at an incredible rate if there was some actual emergency…

Charles, of course, was betting that a several-thousand year old Deathlord had LOTS of other enemies, and quite a few other projects – and probably preferred to plan well ahead (or he very likely wouldn’t have lasted this long) – which meant that it might be months, or maybe even some years, before he launched any personal assaults – and to his mind… that was practically forever, even if the Deathlord considered it the blink of an eye.

Which gave him time to build more manses and send bodyguards to all vulnerable positions and Tenders/Overseers in Yu-Shan – no matter how much consternation that would cause the Occupation/Bureaucracy. He had a writ for it!

Ahlat was taking an interest as well; he’d gotten such GOOD mileage out of “promise them stuff later”, Monotheism, and “Prophecy” routines that it was more than a bit disconcerting to see someone bringing forth waters in the desert, a child leading the way into new worlds, an entity that seemed almost all-benevolent answering prayers en mass, the Raksha being tamed to live with mortals…

When had there EVER been anyone who was willing to say “It’s a GOOD promise! I don’t care who made it, I’m keeping it!” Was he planning to fulfill the entire earthly paradise routine? That could really foul up his operations! On the other hand, if the boy – or whatever he was – could be convinced to SUPPORT his operations… it might make him almost invincible!

The amount of Sidereal and Lunar interference that he was having to chop through was almost absurd though! Was the child some manipulation of theirs?


One Response

  1. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVL – Swimming in Light: Aikiko jumps the Fusion Shark, gathering components, Ahlat takes a hand. […]

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