Written & Drawn By
June 11, Expedition Day 162, Nopoin The First, Personal Log…
My failure to anticipate the menace level of the oncoming plasma storm leaves me as vulnerable as the humanoids who resisted evacuating by clinging to stubborn denial.
Powerful winds begin to blow too many large objects from faraway places, just before gravel starts pummeling buildings, vehicles and people.
Humanoids exchange glances of “we should have” and “why didn’t we” as the magnitude of the crisis registers. Then those expressions morph into fear.
I am hovering over mountain slopes when the wave strikes the opposite side of Pluto. While the central blow rolls around us as hoped, a secondary concussive wave is generated in the lower atmosphere that rams around the world and blows me off the surface into The Big Sky.
Temperatures come perilously close to some of my melting points as I tumble. Humanoid and animal corpses spin away from me. Rocks fly around me, many hitting me and breaking into smaller projectiles.
The shock wave hits Pluto with such force that 28% of the mantle is ripped away and 3/4 of the planetoid singed. Approximately.
The irony of this disruption is noted. Just as I discover that this is our home territory of Solsys, home gets destroyed. At the least, any of our worlds in this thing’s path so far cannot have fared well.
This Big Sky is a hazardous, ponderous place. Parts are so cold that I would cease to function, others so turbulent I would melt down. And for the first time – I am alone.
Is Alpha anywhere within range?
Professor Flamear Here, Mission Day 163, June 12 2776…
Everyone has gone as far into the mountain as the lair allows. The heat from the plasma hail outside reaches all the way back here. Those who sweat break out instantly.
The air is acrid. Hacking, coughing and choking is all around me. Children are shrieking. The very mountain itself is shaking under the beating. The power goes out and only blue emergency lights line the ceiling and floor.
The ceiling suddenly cracks, rubble crumbling down on our heads. The emergency ceiling lights go dark. A collective gasp sucks all resolve from the room. Panic strikes. Do we leave? Outside is certain death! But in here? Buried alive!
Unable to help themselves, most try to get out. A jam at the door causes swearing and punches. Friends turn into strangers.
I watch the ceiling. It bulges downward a bit more every few seconds, cracks spreading larger. With each snap of the foundation panic jumps to another level.
Who -? Was that -?
It’s… the Senator? “Senator Pretyman?” She’s the only other person left in the room once everyone claws their way out.
“Should we stay or go?” she asks desperately.
Even now I can’t stop thinking about what happened. How can she? But there’s no time for it! We have to put it aside and survive or it’s all moot anyway.
“We should stay,” I answer with certainty. “I can hear better than them. I can hear the rain of house-sized boulders changing the surface landscape. We’re safer facing a cave-in than what’s out there.”
“The cave-in’s the good option?” asks the Senator incredulously.
“Unless this is where you reveal your super powers.”
Mission Day 164, June 13 2776, Deva Ichnida Of Twilight Force Recording…
The plasma storm continues. It will take another day to pass. The world rocks. Fire rains into the sea. And I’m hunkered down with the woman who pretends to be the older me.
I listened to her time travel bullshit for a week before calling her out. But has Twilight Force really been gone for a thousand relative years?
As disaster rocks around us we distract ourselves with her confession.
“You looked enough like me to fool some people,” I say, urging her on.
The Older Ichnida: “Yes, and all of your people had perished, so no one who knew you intimately was still alive. It was almost a thousand years ago. You were lost along with Twilight Force, never heard from again.”
“Until ‘Mrs. Ichnida’ appeared out of nowhere in a life boat on the edge of the Milky Way,” I add. The ocean trembles with crashing hot boulders.
“No one believed me at first,” she recalls. “But I had nothing better to do than impersonate you. So I kept it up. The sole survivor of Twilight Force. With life extensions I’ve lived hundreds of years now, and that’s time enough even for a fraud to gain faithful followers. Today you have thousands of admirers. You’re welcome. I’ve been you longer than you ever were.”
“I’m still working on it. What’s your real name?”
She hesitates. She’s genuinely puzzled. “It’s been so… long. I honestly… cannot… remember?”
“And no one knows what happened to Twilight Force? Our fate was never known?”
But our protective walls collapse before she can answer.
Senator Ghielu Pretyman, Mission Day 165, June 14 2776…
The beating from the plasma river has stopped.
We crawl out of the rubble of our lair to the squalid surface of this world. Fire and smoke is everywhere I look. I pull a coffee out of a polymarble. I offer one to Flamear.
Flamear can’t look me in the eye.
“What’s wrong, Professor? Feeling guilty?” He turns around. The big lug has tears in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry. So sorry…!”
“Screw that,” I comfort the flappy-eared flake. “Listen, Doctor Nopoin made that happen. I understand that, okay? I get it. On your own you’d never have done anything like that. You’re a gentleman. I know that.”
“I’m not,” Flamear insists. “Nopoin brought the rapist out when he melded with me. But… it was a fantasy I had long nurtured. A dark imagination… An evil impulse…”
The devastation around us adds to the gloom. We’re adrift in the universe together. The seven of us – even Nopoin – have only got each other to hang on to reality with. Who knows where we are now?
Pretyman: “Professor! Snap out of it! I need you at full function. You and I are on a mission. That mission is ongoing until we retrieve that Data Ring and find our way home.”
Flamear looks pathetically befuddled. “Data Ring? I completely forgot about that. All I care about now is getting home. You think -?”
Pretyman: “You got anything better to do? Now listen: I’ve spotted some of the others on this very planetoid. If they’re still alive we need to find them, regroup, and fulfill the mission. Can you shake off your insecurities and concentrate on your goddamn duties?”
Flamear’s eyes light up with new fire. “Damn right I can!”
Cresp Here, On June 15, Mission Day 166
This odd creature saved me from the bird man. But in doing so, he exposed himself to humanoids who are obviously afraid of him.
His struggle with the bird man ended with the bird man’s wing broken and the bird man spiraling downward into the valley floor in a hideous crash.
I was near freezing when this huge furry fellow picked me out of the chilled air vehicle wreckage where I was hiding. He tucked me under his arm where I warmed up as he carried me to lower elevations.
He knew of a cave down here where we would be shielded from the worst affects of Hellspawn, the plasma storm.
He sheltered me for four days as the storm raked over this world. Now the torture has passed, though fallout is heavy. Ash falls and flutters around us as he gets me to an elevation and atmospheric pressure I can live with.
Only now in these lower regions he’s under attack.
These natives armed with spears and shields have popped up out of nowhere. Lying in wait, one by one they strike out as we descend.
Each takes a toll on my friendly giant. My mysterious savior endures wound after wound, despite breaking each opponent. Individually he has conquered them. But collectively, they have brought him down.
Why did he so generously aid me? Why would I deserve such sacrifice?
But here I am… alone on a weird planetoid that’s been burned and battered, with desperate refugees and unfamiliar customs.
I’m tired of this humanoid experience.
I want to go home.
Emma Bulbous, On The 167th Day Of This Most Useless Mission, June 16… Or Whenever In The Future I Am…
Smoke rises from all of the five worlds of this system. Trails of plumes billow in the wake of the gradually braking orbits of the worlds that are pushing against air instead of space. Forward bow shocks of wind pushed by oncoming worlds poses a brief navigation problem for my pilot, Ansat of the Transgalactic Comitatus.
“I’m picking up homing signals! It’s that partially ringed one,” I advise. Ansat goes into low orbit around the planetoid my team’s signals are coming from. “This must be the place you found me.”
“Yes,” confirms the old alien. “But the planet’s ring was intact then. Your crew might not have survived.”
Bulbous: “My species is capable of anticipation, Ansat. Look, I’ve lost my three children…
“I’ve lost my brother. All my family – my community – my world…
“Even if somehow, miraculously -!- I make it back to Mars, nothing will be the same. Generations have passed. Who knows, maybe we’ve all been enslaved by the artintels! Things weren’t looking great when we left. Or the last time we heard about them. Things are pretty shitty. So if I don’t find at least one of these Twilight Force butt holes alive, I will truly be alone. It’s crazy. I didn’t want to be with them in the first place. Now they’re all I’ve got.”
I feel the alien’s limb gently rest on my shoulder.
“While you are alive,” he says, “there is always the chance to find family again.”
I sob. I need a hug but I’m reluctant to hug an alien. I mean, who knows? Then he gives me a reassuring squeeze.
“I guess hugs are good on your world too,” I smile.
Mission Day 168, June 17 Relative To Twilight Force, This Is… Alpha…
I ignore Nopoin’s decades-old call for help for more pressing concerns. Even if I could still somehow help Twilight Force, I have no desire to go back to three-dimensional confinement. The opportunity to return to this vantage point in 5th dimensional reality may never come again.
On Mission Day 35 Nopoin and I ascertained the living nature of the enormous being we had entered. It was a trap for advanced life forms. Almost as though we were its prey, the source of its nourishment.
Nopoin conjectured that the being was one of many who exchanged information among themselves, acting outside galactic space on a far larger scale.
On Mission Day 77 I was able to observe the realm of dreaming, experienced regularly by organics who have no actual memories of the experience. I discovered that all dreaming takes place around reality where a convergence of brains equals Mind. This central Mind appears to be the source of subconscious organic instincts. I call it Dreamspace.
It wasn’t until I became integrated with the alien brain of Gemneb that I actually experienced Dreamspace.
And now – I explore it.
And now I find these giants here. Perhaps among them the very one we entered and finally fled from?
A cosmic battle ensues. I know not its cause, but I’m dismayed at witnessing such influential colossi behaving no better than Americans at war among ourelves.
What’s at stake here? Is it the very existence of our reality?
A tail of enmity wraps around our fragile universal bubble. The jaws at the other end are preparing for the kill.
-end week 24-