Black Sun: The Dreamers Died Part 1
July 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
Liz felt slightly queasy as they traveled through the tunnel linking the little, nameless world on the fringes of the galaxy to Home. Partly it was the tunnel itself. They had to link minds and focus their will to make it, which as always left Liz feeling uneasy. She didn’t like letting anyone into her thoughts, not even Belan. Furthermore, the way Belan was feeling leaked through the link, like water spraying from a bad junction of pipe or a hose improperly connected. It reminded Liz of summers spent trying to hook up a sprinkler to stay cool in a heat so dry that it squeezed sweat out of you, where even the hot dusty breeze coming off the quarry felt good. Behind her calm, Belan was terrified.
Liz didn’t scare, really. She’d spent years fighting not only her own memories, but every kind of awful thing sapients can do to one another. She’d stopped brain pirates from decapitating victims to crack their skulls open at leisure and clone the tissue for control technology or use the glands for psychoactive compounds, she’d destroyed slavers and dealt with hostile star-nations invading helpless planets. It was all part of the job, part of what she’d signed on for. Creatures that shouldn’t exist, derelict old generational ships being cracked open by pirates who killed the sleeping crew, she’d seen and stopped all and more. So while Belan’s terror concerned her, it didn’t actually reach her.
She worried that it was because she didn’t understand, and that when she did, she might actually feel fear. She didn’t want to feel fear. She caused fear.
Travel through the tunnel was silent. It only made sound on either side, as it displaced air from its terminal points. It was faster than using a ship, and it was unique to the Krimath and Azuri as it had been to the walkers of the spectrum before them, taught to them by their eldest who had in turn learned it from their predecessors.
They flew from the tunnel and into the skies over Biv, the only city on Home, the only remnant of those who had gone before. Liz had met the Eldest, of course. They all met the Eldest, and felt its calming presence and its great inner fire, its perfect mix of opposites. But she didn’t know if the Eldest was of those who made Biv, if the city predated it, or came after it. If anyone knew, no one was talking about it. It didn’t matter. Biv was, and it was where they came back to when they were done trying to save a galaxy that always seemed to need saving.
Belan closed the tunnel with a wave of her hand and gathered the energy she’d been expending holding it open. They’d traveled half-way across the galaxy in minutes through the tunnel and still Belan seemed hurried. The glittering hexagon spires fractured the light that reflected off of them in waves of color, refracting arcs and glints of shifting color, and then Belan shifted herself and descended with great speed. Liz was forced the scrape at the air with giant taloned wings of fire to keep up.
They descended together, landing before an enormous sphere that looked almost like polished chrome, but more perfect in its absolute gloss than any chrome could hope to be. The glassy segments of the glowing being Liz knew as I Who Float On Light turned its many eyes to watch them land, and coiled itself through the air as they did.
“Hello you two.” It thought at them, its thoughts turned to vibrate the air in sound. “Belan, Elizabeth. You are troubled?”
“Floats, I need to speak to the Eldest.” Belan drifted towards her old friend, pulsing lights in the greeting of her crystalline people. “It’s very urgent.”
“The Oldest of us is with Khayyin, the Blue One, and Unpleasant Warder.” Floats shimmered, her natural radiance dimming and pulsing as she contemplated Warder. Unpleasant was not actually part of his name, it was simply how Floats thought of him, and Floats could not bring herself to lie about it. Warder didn’t seem to notice or to care, having been born a machine colony many hundreds of centuries before Floats had been born. It guarded Biv and Home, but it did not exactly belong to either the Krimath or Azuri, having been built by whoever made the city. Its presence had long since been accepted by their orders, but no one could say they liked Warder. Even Elizabeth, who appreciated the mechanism’s cold demeanor, didn’t like it.
“Come, then. We’ll all go.” Belan had yet to put her feet on the ground, and didn’t seem inclined to do so. Floats inclined her many faceted eyes to Liz, who shrugged. The lines of molten fire along her skin crackled with her suppressed agitation, but she followed Belan towards the sphere. Floats followed in their wake.
The sphere itself may have predated Biv. It was made of metal in the same way that Warder was, myriad small machines that linked together. To Liz, it looked like a blob of mercury the size of a mountain. The three of them ascended until they were half-way up the polished surface (although nothing had to polish it) and it parted to admit them. After all, it knew them. It knew every single one of them.
Inside the sphere had long since adapted itself to the Azuri and Krimath, as it had to the walkers of the spectrum before that. It could, and did, change its interior or its exterior, create new chambers, alter itself into any continuous shape. They floated, the blue, red and gold glows from each of them shining back from the silver walls of the hallways it had grown. It murmured briefly to them as they flew, as if trying to reassure them.
They arrived in the vast central chamber of the sphere with little fanfare, and as always Liz felt the moment where the sphere removed gravity. It took no effort to fly in the central chamber, the merest push of will could send you in any direction you chose. The sphere did this out of respect for the Eldest, who never left its embrace. It pulsed in the exact center of the chamber, glowing dimly with yellow-white light, a distended oval with many small black eyes and tendrils of that same yellowish color drifting around it. Its presence was titanic, understated, like a small rock poking out of the soil that you bent a plow on only to discover you couldn’t dig it out with a backhow, that it just kept going and going deeper into the earth. It turned its will towards them, and Liz felt its curiosity. It had existed before language, and so, while it was certainly a thinking being and could teach, it did not speak to them but waited for them to speak to it.
Khayyin also turned, his skin even more the color of ashes than Liz remembered it. He’s getting old. She herself hadn’t physically aged in years. If Khayyin was, it was because he’d chosen to.
“Forgive me, First Teacher, but I have to warn you all. The mission you sent us on revealed more than I expected. I can most easily show you with my will.”
The yellow oval darkened slightly, turning almost orange, and a sense of its assent washed over the room. Belan’s eyes flashed that same color as she made contact with it. And then something Liz had never seen happened.
Both Belan and the Oldest turned red.