Written & Drawn By
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 246, Monday Memorandum, September 3:
Mister Cresp didn’t think he was dead, even though he floated in a nebula beside a girl who just admitted that her elemental form was destroyed centuries ago. And technically, he wasn’t. Neither was Mallika Singh. But neither had organic forms to return to.
Those forms now decayed, witnessed sorrowfully by loved ones and associates who considered such removal from everyday existence to be death.
“I’m seeing too many things,” complained Cresp, frightened. “All at once. Impossible things. I’m split! A trillion miles away! Over there! Ancients! Aliens! What’s wrong with me? What happened to me?”
Mallika kept a calm vibe despite her glee at Cresp’s company. “No one else has ever made it to this place,” she opined. “No one else has ever been like me before.”
Bewildered, Cresp asked, “How am I like you?”
Mallika slowly reached for him, her smile comforting him in his trauma. But when her fingers barely brushed Cresp’s shoulder the two were thrown apart with a violent crackle leaving an after-scent of sulfur.
The blow knocked Mallika out momentarily.
“That was the first time in so long,” Mallika said when she finally came around. “Haven’t lost consciousness for centuries.” Her words went unheard. Cresp was fragmented, splayed wide apart before her and just beginning to pull himself together.
Mister Cresp’s meticulous reassembly gave Mallika opportunity to consider what had happened. Once himself again, she offered her hypothesis.
“You’re like me except for one major difference,” she guessed. “I’m a macro electron cloud capable of splitting between several locations simultaneously, allowing me to physically appear many places at once, but never in a form more solid than light. I’m a living ghost. But you are a positron cloud…
“…You’re an Antimatter Man.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 247, Tuesday Memorandum, September 4:
Side by side they toured the cosmic starscape. Swinging around planets, spinning off into comet tails and plunging through suns, the strange duo of Mallika Singh and Mister Cresp found peace together.
The tormented Cresp was getting comfy in his positronic state. “This feels a bit like I felt in my original form.” Cresp gazed at the wondrous woman who was only now beginning to take on a visibly stable appearance. She felt beautiful. He instinctively reached for her.
She stopped him: “You are antimatter and I am matter. We must never touch. We’ll annihilate each other.”
Cresp nervously worried, “I keep splitting into other places…”
“We can go anywhere in the universe,” Mallika believed. “Anywhere in space. Anywhere in time. All with only a thought.”
Cresp was incredulous. “Nothing is beyond our reach?”
“Most places are still beyond our reach.”
Cresp’s head tilted sharply. “Even you are out of my reach. How exactly is that being able to go ‘anywhere’?”
“We aren’t immortal,” observed Mallika. “I have noticed a gradual slowing down of my speed over the centuries.”
Cresp was playing catch-up. “What has immortality got to do with it?”
“Most places are forever beyond my reach because there is not enough time for me to reach every available place in the universe.” Mallika thought that would be obvious to someone in Cresp’s condition. “There are quadrillions more places in the universe than I have seconds left in my existence. If I visited a new place every second for the rest of my existence I would still come up far short of visiting everywhere. We can’t discover everything even if we can go anywhere instantly.”
“Unless,” Cresp realized, “we can live forever.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 248, Wednesday Memorandum, September 5:
As Mallika Singh grows comfortable in their ethereal relationship, she opens up to Mister Cresp. “I’m happy that you have become my eternal mate,” she confides as they contemplate the incredible wonder of a nearby exploding supernova.
Cresp didn’t get it. “What is this insatiable urge to mate among humans? Mallika, you remember don’t you? I’m not really – originally, anyway – one of you. Why must you bond in such cryptic fashion? In all my time with your kind I’ve never understood it!”
“Oh, you’re human now,” Mallika felt. “Two primal instincts have driven all civilizations of humanity. The first is the female instinct to nest, to nurture, to settle and raise our young. And the second is the male instinct to seed and create as many offspring as possible. All humans have degrees of both male and female instincts. Can’t you feel yours?”
Cresp silently contemplated the goings-on inside himself as Mallika went on…
“Societies within civilizations vary in empowering one instinct over another. A matrimonial society largely favors the feminine instinct. A hedonistic society will support the male instinct. Most societies are uneven mixtures of both. Compare the ancient simultaneous societies of Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.”
Cresp realized, “That must be why I wanted to rub these genitals against every woman I met! Not that I did, because – I never knew why – so…”
“Were you an asshole?”
Mallika shrugged, “The psychological impact on individuals whose instincts are particularly strong but suppressed manifests in anti-social physical behavior. It wouldn’t be surprising if you were a dick.”
Cresp grasped the irony. “And now, even here with you, carnal satisfaction can’t be achieved.”
Mallika smiled and stars shone through. “We have a universe to distract us.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 249, Thursday Memorandum, September 6:
“I’m beginning to feel it,” The Judge told The Professor that morning. They were still surviving in the technological wilderness of the giant beast called Borderworld.
“Alpha… not… ly… ly… fibbing,” stumbled Doctor Nopoin, still struggling with the complexities of tongue control.
“Great,” conceded The Professor. “Alpha’s not a liar. Only a murderer.”
The Judge suddenly remembered to ask, “Professor. What did you do with the remains of Mister Cresp?”
“Polymarbled,” mumbled the sad genspec. “I’ll carry him with me.”
The Judge and Doctor Nopoin were puzzled.
“Don’t worry,” The Professor assured them, “he’s in my freezer.”
The Judge seemed comforted by the certainty of her own death. “I wonder if Alpha will preserve all of us the same way? You know, just for the record? I’ll have to ask him when he gets back.”
“Why… not…” started Nopoin, hesitating as if searching for words but actually searching for neural pathways to particular tongue-related muscles, before suddenly blurting, to her own surprise, “place ourselves in cryogenic suspension?”
“Freeze myself before I die?” The Professor shuddered. “That’s crazy!”
Nopoin argued, “Might… be… revived.”
“Not a good track record for that throughout history,” The Judge recalled.
“I’m not going to die!” the determined Professor swore. “I won’t let myself become nothing!”
“Nothing is nothing,” shrugged Nopoin. “No hope. No fear.”
“I want to go in my sleep,” prayed The Judge.
“You’re not…asleep…when you go,” corrected Nopoin. “Just in bed.”
“Well thank you for that, Doctor!” the freshly chilled Judge responded. She continues…
“It wakes you up.”
“I get it!” growled The Judge.
But when things quieted for a moment, The Professor sadly admitted…
“I’m starting to feel it too.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 250, Friday Memorandum, September 7:
The Professor was jarred from sleep by the raspy vibration crudely imitating a familiar voice: “Professor? Can you see me?”
The Professor bolted upright to disbelief. “This isn’t right! What are you?”
“Professor it’s Mister Cresp. You can see me. See?”
The Professor wasn’t sure. “I’m hallucinating! Judge! Judge Bulbous!”
“Professor, listen!” plead the apparition. “I’m not staying long, but I wanted you to know that I’m okay. See? Everything’s fine. It’s only me. Don’t be afraid.”
“Cresp? Cresp! But your body was mangled! Alpha murdered you. How can you be here?”
Cresp was saddened by his friend’s pain. “Alpha freed me from that flesh imprisonment. He may have meant to destroy me, but he liberated me instead. I’m free to go anywhere I desire. Even back to visit the nebula I was born in. We’re going there next.”
“Why is she with you?”
“I can only be heard when I’m with my companion E-Cloud. Somehow when we’re together we can communicate with the living. She’s been alone like this for centuries, unable to speak with anyone until I came along.”
“Hello! I am Mallika!”
“She has a lot to say.”
“Cresp, let’s go tell the others! The Doctor should take a look at you!”
“They don’t matter. You were my friend. I want you to have peace with my absence.”
“But you’re alive!”
“Professor, we have so many places to go. We have to get going.”
Cresp’s mysterious partner seemed very pleased as the duo faded from view. “Goodbye Professor! Wonderful meeting you!”
“Sure. Yeah. Come back and haunt me anytime.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 251 Memorandum, September 8:
The Senator hugged her lost mates. “We were about to give up. We’ve been searching for weeks.”
A low hum rumbled the air. Gamesman nodded, “I know that sound. There’s a swarm of anti-organic bee drones coming. You’ve been targeted as a disease. It’s good you haven’t gone farther into the branches. There’s one way we might still make it into space if we’re fast and lucky.”
The Senator noticed an absence. “Where’s Cresp?”
The Judge, smoothing things over for the time being, said, “It’s been difficult here. Mister Cresp is no longer with us.”
The Professor disagreed? “Wouldn’t be sure about that.”
The bees grew louder. Gamesman guided people out one-by-one through thin, changing passages.
The swarm was upon them. “I’ll hold off as many as I can!” shouted Alpha. Extending his arms Alpha whirled propeller-like, chopping bees at fantastic speed.
Gamesman took everyone to the tip of a fresh extension, where Alpha caught up. He explained, “Now we just blow through this thin layer of fresh insulation. Space is on the other side. But Mrs. Ichnida? Where’s that ship you promised we’d have when we got here?”
Ichnida turned to Alpha. “Right here.”
Was it the alien brain sharing Alpha’s Ai that was frightened and offended? “You offered me up as transportation?”
Ichnida was in no mood for games. “The State Department is – was fully aware of your abilities. Alpha has a one-time gambit of transforming into a permanent TAREX-drive space transport with a crew capacity of ten. It will take him seven hours and we’ll have to get him out there first.”
The Judge advocated on behalf of a stunned Alpha. “But then he’ll always be a ship? That’s a lot to expect from anyone. Isn’t there another way?”
Gamesman grew impatient. “The bees will reach this extension in 13 hours.” He pressed his palm against the wall. It quickly started to buckle. “Run to the airlock wall line!”
All did, except Alpha. The wall blew and Alpha went into space.
When Alpha’s transformation was complete, all went aboard and bid farewell to Borderworld.
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 252 Memorandum, September 9:
The TAREX-ship Alpha extended carbonite sails for casual egress from Big Sky territory while Twilight Force planned its next move.
The Professor couldn’t rest. “We’re actually inside the murderer of Mister Cresp. Am I the only one not okay with that?”
The Senator had to tell Gamesman, “I’m glad you came with us. If everyone and everything back there is trying to kill you, home or not, you had to go.”
Gamesman smiled. “Didn’t mind the killing game. My score was pretty high compared to theirs. But that place. Borderworld. Inhabited by desperate refugees from every respectable place within 20 light years. A population of outcasts, paranoids and betrayers. The scum of the local universe raised me. But something inside me always knew that someday I’d get out. It took two decades to reach that tip of Borderworld from the center where I was born.”
The Professor felt claustrophobic. He leaned in, whispering to The Judge. “Mister Cresp visited me. But he’s not alive any more.”
“A ghost?” The Judge chuckled quietly. “Professor, you’re stressed.”
“Like a ghost,” the Professor testified, getting louder, “but weirder. And he was with a girl. Like a phantom couple. I swear it happened. He wanted me to know he was okay with it. But his body was destroyed by Alpha. With that alien brain embedded, who knows why Alpha does anything? And now we’re at his mercy.”
“That alien was my friend,” The Judge assured Professor Flamear.
“So,” the Professor speculated, “Maybe Alpha killed Gemneb for his brain?”
Alpha, the ship himself, spoke up: “You do realize I’m all around you, don’t you? If you intend to stay aboard me for any duration you’ll have to curb the personal jabs…
“…And please bathe.”
end week 36-
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