Written & Drawn By
Nopoin, June 18, The 169th Day Of Twilight Force –
I am being transported over many miles within the blazing plasma that’s swept across The Big Sky and plowed over the Pluto-Charon System.
I am not alone.
Within this broiling plume are dozens of animate beings.
It has long been predicted that the existence of some form of plasma life in the Sun is probable. There were unsubstantiated rumors in the pre-Historiscope past of encounters with such creatures that were accidentally ejected from the Sun in a solar prominence.
It now appears that I am evading two of them.
Neither humanoid nor artintel, these forms are living fire! I am accelerating curiosity extensions even as I flee. I am fascinated and intimidated.
I do not understand. If this final cohesive form I inhabit is smelted, how will my matrix survive?
These beings attack me. That is unreasonable unless assumed to be resulting from trauma induced by their ejection from the Sun.
I calculate ways to evade them; neutralize them; eradicate them; but so long as I struggle within their element, this beam of plasmatic fury, my calculations are death knells. They are catching up with me.
“Death knells”? Incongruous. I cannot “die”.
Cessation is not death. I will – I would – merely desist.
Their heat exceeds my every melting point. Circuits will begin to close in 32…31…30…
They’re huge. The large one nearly got me. The other one is swirling about for another try.
Do they think I’m the cause of this? My… coherence… coherent… co…
Close to disintegration. One last QT… QT…
Professor Flamear Here, Mission Day 170, June 19 2776 – I think…
“I’m in charge, Senator,” Judge Bulbous asserts.
“You think there’s still something that gives you authority?” challenges Senator Pretyman.
“Does it really matter?” Mister Cresp asks, freezing in this sudden winter.
The three of them – and one of the Transgalactics – are here. Pretyman and I have been heading here for a week, tracking the slowly moving signal of Mister Cresp. Coincidentally, Judge Bulbous has arrived with her alien guide, Ansat.
“What matters is that this mission stays on track,” Pretyman insists.
“Agreed,” says Bulbous. “I’m second in command. Alpha is missing. That puts me in charge. Stand down.”
“What is it with you two?” I wonder aloud, waiting to be rescued. The rain of ash and dust is barely held out of our lungs now by our polymarble force-filters. The filter fields generated around us are normally invisible, but it’s so thick here I can see the outlines of some. “Aren’t we getting out of here? Does it matter who gives the order? I know I don’t care. Do you care, Mister Cresp?”
“I could not give a fuck,” Mister Cresp responds unequivocally.
“Well, then,” I go on, “considering the potentially toxic state of our air and the precarious task of navigating out of these wastes remains, which of you will issue the damned order to GO?”
“When last I checked,” says Cresp, “Twilight Force was an American mission – and you two are in the secession. Our TAREX transport abilities are USA property.”
“How conveniently true,” I smile. “And as a representative of the Department Of Defense and top ranking American present, I’ll give the orders around here.”
“You people are weird,” observes Ansat, removing us from the scene.
June 20, Mission Day 171, Deva Ichnida, Rescued And Reunited…
…with Professor Flamear, Mister Cresp, Judge Bulbous and Senator Pretyman. And making the acquaintance of a Transgalactic alien, one “Ansat”.
Ansat possesses transportation tools I can’t understand. Even Pretyman’s given up trying to explain it. But it got me out of an undersea death trap.
As we leave the embattled planetoid to escape remains of the toxic wake of the plasma plume called Hellspawn, I want to know, “Is he coming after us again?”
Everyone knows who “he” is.
Flamear reveals, “Anthony told me he’s never tried to bring anyone back from here.”
“He can’t,” Pretyman claims.
“And he said something weird,” Flamear goes on. “When I asked him if he was stuck there, he said ‘I am here’.”
I have a hunch. “So it’s like Anthony himself is that environment? That we were literally inside a place that creates a pocket reality and takes on a persona?”
“But this is the ‘cornfield’,” Bulbous notes, “where he gets rid of his pests. Only it’s actually just another place – somewhere…”
“Not just any place,” Pretyman asserts. “This is Solsys. It’s just changed somehow.”
I tell them, “I tasted it. It’s true. That was the ocean of Pluto you rescued me from.”
“I think I know why it’s changed,” says Flamear. “People keep telling me I’m a hero – from the past! From a thousand years ago! From everything I can tell, this is the future. We came home alright, but about a thousand years too late!”
That confirms the story of my elder doppelganger. A thousand years.
“Flamear’s right,” I tell them, as the sense of loss hits hard. “We’re once too often out of time.”
June 21 Solstice Day, Mission Day 172, This Is Senator Pretyman…
Everyone’s rested thanks to Ansat’s hospitality. The Transgalactic, his ship, accommodates aliens of many shapes and sizes.
I confront Mrs. Ichnida: “Okay Barracuda Buns, hand over the Data Ring. I figured you out a while back.”
Bulbous’ jaw drops, staring at Ichnida: “You took it from me? I was sure it was Pretyman!”
“Thanks!” I respond.
“Or Nopoin!” she goes on. “Or even Alpha! But you?”
Mrs. Ichnida comes clean: “On Mission Day 37 when Alpha was questioning you and Senator Pretyman about your mutiny plans, I went to your quarters and removed the Data Ring from where you hid it, inside your Mars globe. But I don’t have it now. When Nopoin was invading my body with his nanobots, Nopoin found out I was concealing the Data Ring. As far as I know, Nopoin was the last one who could have it.”
Great. “So we figure Nopoin has the Data Ring?”
Flamear has tracked Nopoin’s movement. “Nopoin headed in the same direction at the same speed the plasma stream was moving.”
Swept away in it. Damn. “How far away is it now?”
Mister Cresp speaks up bluntly. “Senator, your quest for the Data Ring is moot. The secrets it held have long since been unleashed. The results of perpetual power are all around us. This Awesome Airway is a result of it.”
Bulbous chuckles. “‘Awesome Airway’? I like Ultimate Atmosphere better.”
“I came up with ‘The Halcyon Heavens’…” offers Cresp. Is he kidding?
I’ve asked around: “Natives just call it El Cielo Grande… Le Grand Ciel… The Big Sky.”
It makes sense. The real quest for perpetual power started a thousand years ago. Despite our failure, someone undoubtedly succeeded in the last millennium.
Our whole existence – is moot.
Cresp, June 22, Mission Day 173 –
I suggest a plan of action: “Our task now is to get out of here. Get back into space. We use TAREX to blow ourselves through this Big Sky, even if it’s back into the 5th Dimension.”
And I get instant rebuttal from Senator Pretyman: “What’s the point? If we aren’t careful we’re liable to blow ourselves so far into the future that we’ll be the only living creatures left.”
Pretyman tries a motivational approach: “Our descendants must be here somewhere. Let’s find them. Think about it! American legends in their midst.”
Sadness overcomes Bulbous again: “I don’t have descendants. My children were killed.”
Professor Flamear considers practicals: “We have trouble understanding one generation to another. How are we going to fit in after 55 or 60 generations have passed?”
Pretyman is annoyed: “I don’t mean genetic descendants. I mean patriotic descendants. People who live by American ideals.”
I can’t stand it: “Ha! You still want to be President. Everything we wanted, striven for or conquered is moot. We’re relics out of time.”
Flamear is reluctant: “Going back out there could be suicide. What if Anthony grabs us up again?”
Mrs. Ichnida seems confused: “I promised Anthony that I’d return. To make sure he didn’t end up alone. I told him I was his friend.”
“So you lied to a killer psychopath,” Pretyman summarizes. “Whoopee.”
I have to get back out there. The 5th Dimension is the crossroads. It’s the only way to get home.
“There’s no more America,” I proclaim. “There’s no more Earth. Even if it somehow still orbits the Sun, in this sky? This air? Would take 200 years to get there!”
“Mister Cresp,” says Pretyman, “I don’t know how old you are, but-“
“My years are not the same as yours.”
Emma, June 23, Day 174…
Why don’t we wind our clocks way, way ahead to reflect our true dilemma? Would the pain be too great? But no. Not for now. June 23. Something regular. Something to cling to.
Today is our self-imposed deadline for deciding what to do about our situation.
“I want to thank Ansat for helping to bring us back together,” I begin, drawing applause for the alien who doesn’t know what to make of it. “Now we’ll decide our next move. Who has a proposal?”
Cresp is concerned. “We have to get out of this vicinity in the next hour. I can see everyone’s force filters. They weren’t built to hold out this level of toxicity. When you can see the outlines, the filters are breaking down.”
“I propose,” says our alien benefactor Ansat,“that you return with me to Rogue Galaxy, where you will be inducted into the Transgalactic Comitatus, to represent your lost world of the past.”
“Forever exploring? It’s a miracle that we found Solsys again!” I remind Ansat and everyone from Solsys. “Ironically, it was Anthony that knew how to connect us with our home, when the Transgalactics were incapable. This is a massive universe. Do we really want to return to 5th Dimensional space and one literally rogue galaxy? After all, out of place in time or not, these worlds of Solsys are still our home. Going with Ansat means goodbye forever to our past.”
“We’ve already said that goodbye,” Mrs. Ichnida grimly replies. “The only past we have to hold on to now is one another.”
An inventory of expressions gives me the answer.
“Okay Ansat,” I nod, “The verdict is in. Let’s get out of here.”
June 24, Mission Day 175, Alpha Aboard Exigency…
This need to sleep is so demanding. My craving for it suggests addiction. I am in a unique position to observe my dreams with a conscious analytical intelligence that never rests. The frustrating thing is, dreams defy conscious analysis.
I can’t dream the rest of my existence away while hurtling through this 5th Dimension in the Exigency.
Yet here I am with the same problem. Outside of galactic space, from this vantage point, there is no way to discern the location of our home.
My crew is long dead. For every hour I spent out here a year passed for them in there. I failed them. Our mission failed the world.
Were I not part organic now, I wouldn’t know this pang pulling at my systems and inhibiting me with uncertainty. I face a universe void of all intimate familiarity. California is gone. Solsys is gone. And now Twilight Force is gone.
These are merely facts. Yet somehow they are more than facts. They are arrows, bullets, missiles attacking my sense of peace. Is nothing lasting in this universe?
Wait. Yes. Of course. Of course there is.
It’s right there before me. Dreamspace. The meeting ground of Mind. That is a timeless, exempt place. All brains from all times interact there. That’s where I can find them.
How do I find them in such uncharted territory? And what if I do? How can I serve them now, as a wraith of the future? I’ve learned nothing that can help them.
But can they help me?
-end week 25-