Earth is a hot bowl of soup with everything migrating from the steamy middle and flooding coastlines as famines join with smaller wars threatening a fragile order keeping billions alive. Larger and ever-greater storms rage across the planet, driving populations to overflow cities, breaking countries, and finally peoples. Our skies glow electric as magnetic fields of earth flutter and flip North for South, making junk of electronics and allowing Cosmic Rayn to shower us with strange new mutations, cancers and woe. Contagions like Mnemonic Plague randomly erase decades of one’s memories sowing pain and strife across families and civilization. Chaos and crazy mix with messianic proclaiming god, aliens, ancient-reptile wisdom or seers of angelic influences call to the weary and needy and hopeless. Across the globe and history sometimes small teams of dedicated and highly skilled people hold the levers of a teetering world that can fall either way. Above it all, floating in the UN chartered orbital Greenspace, our story centers on the weary crew functionally managing Earth’s existential crisis; ecologic, logistical, political… and now ultra-stellar.
... following are random chapters changed by whimsy. I'm looking into a comment system that suits me. Enjoy -Jonathan-
Copyright 2021 Jonathan Edward Gibson
The Protector prepares a final surprise.
Behind him, like a warped mirror, hangs an enormous skewered starfish pinned to the swollen bruised sky. Crippled, the kraken howls a lament of shame and sorrow, shaking the region with a death spasm rallying swarms to vengeance. Leaking degenerate radiations, convulsing, unable to chase, the helpless flailing spasms misdirect fire at the nearest pursuit craft on his heels, flaring them in bright green and yellow farewells.
He flits lightly past the explosive chaos with three larger pike emerging to hammer his light armor and working to close the gap. Four glowing paths twist and accelerate fearsome engines across the sky, threads of gold and sapphire braids entwine and weave followed by slower swarms of dusty mine clouds. Thirsty shields tap reserves and lose their warmth for the safer sheen of silver: knowing he has just handfuls of moments left.
Ahead, the other mountain-sized monster is turning about already sending glowing salvos from every orifice and extending weapon flanges to engage him. Soon enough.
The chaos behind and ahead began a short time ago with senses tingling from several large mountain ranges rapidly approaching. Forewarned, he falls to ground under shadowcloak, stilling auxiliary mentation, allowing passive senses.
He waits. Measuring range, craft, divining schema, and noting the kind, and nature, and quantities of profusely spilling energies. The enemy may be inscrutable, but they were obvious about it. Careless, Bold, or Show-Offs?
Even from a distance sharp alien minds gleam like diamonds on a morning beach, his small unnoticed attention a tight knot of self-contained infinite, without need or want.
He winks a report and his harassment plans to field command via one-way pocket infinite and spends time carefully crafting personalities for the sappers and decoys he’s hiding along the path of the fleet. This will be fun!
Myriad furtive eyes seek and probe relentlessly, looking for something very like himself. They fail. The vague feeling of approaching mass eventually resolve into handfuls of fleets swarming about twin battlecruisers. Even across the distance both Kraken simmer and seethe to burst planets. Unusual, duplication rare.
Trimming rig for stealth he powers down weapons further as well as gnostics, sliding himself into an easy meditative trance of deeper Stillness, becoming awareness without presence. Waiting is.
Soon enough, the impending colossus looms and fleets dominate his horizon. Without notice, the first behemoth slides over his position, dwarfing everything, filling his view with encrusted spires of metal-coated thistle. Writhing spires and slowing turning spikes jut like a bed of exotic sea anemone preparing to feed. An oppressive thrum squeezes groans and pulls exterior rumbles from far below him under the surface.
Overhead, the collective gaze of their hive minds sweeps away, fixating elsewhere, untuned to his bliss. With reactive shields dormant and impact absorbers on standby their passing shakes and rolls violently enough to kill any civilian. But he is more than that for two consecutive lives.
As the second ship looms, his armor energizes and motivators spin up, reset for sprints and quivering. Decoys begin displays of misdirection and chase leading to snares and traps to delay any focus of their overwhelming power all at once. Passing overhead, he lets go; triggering further flurries of cached decoys and farther artillery distracting the foe with critical hammer blows at select flaws until cracks align and openings peel.
Sprinkling confusion and careful misdirection, he fully energizes armor and engines to leap skyward flinging volatile contra matter catalyzing deep in the newly open wounds. They never like that.
His advantage remains complete leaving foe ranged weapons useless with easy targets close and his own armory full. Cracking that crystalline hull, he pours all the sorrow he’s collected walking hundreds of charred worlds into a single righteous flame of burning light.
Withdrawing that sword, he begins fencing the second monster. Squalls of malevolence crack and snap while he randomly warps, dodges, and displaces himself closer to the second foe warship. To maim the first target so early is a victory to savor. A good start… but now warned, the remainder swarm and gather to seal his obvious fate.
Flying off the second monster are growing streams of chaotic destruction like insect feelers groping for food. Their sweep and curve draw graceful arcs of exotic light and power across the scene. Like pearls from a broken necklace where the beads fall kernels of chaos erupt. Each flowing point of light holds the promise of a terrible final beauty with lines of force resolve into fine flowing dots, sprays of death, tokens in time. He feels, knows, the end of his own line is very near. Acceptance is.
Outside, he is a living lance and the cat school armor is a banshee screaming rainbows of defiance and challenge on every wavelength. Below, the Kraken needle-studded spires and spikes glow a stronger purple-white behind the shifting blisters of crinkle shields. Swinging higher, moving above his remaining target, hanging on a long arc, he feels the measure of his foe and is abattoir for a million lost worlds.
When death is certain, there's only style.
The universe responds flickering flux across and through him quick as a wink in the dark. Gone.
An exotic timbre familiar as childhood that shouldn’t have been, here. Now. He’s flexible and ready, but not trained for this.
The accounting machinery of his body concerned with transferring energy, delivering resources, rationing femtoseconds all deny loss or error, but with the ignition of his soul are dense new memories…
Timeless is. Willpower becomes wind and body a falling leaf with the chase craft around frozen and shrinking from a world spinning into eddies of attention foaming on a roiling cosmic shoreline of vastness, singing from beyond, past every horizon. Then it’s gone.
Awareness is a brittle snap: A real dream… my first!
More puzzled than confused, he’s not sure what has happened. What he knows is a hot little blue pool of something glows at the center of his cooling soul. That light brush with grace touches an unexpected core of hope to guide.
A blinding glare marks his heaviest weapons firing on hull clinging targets as a ghost forged of force fields and bad intent splits off his path as clownish foil while he dodges the next volley of gamma. Darting and twisting among countless explosions the heavy energy saturation obscures his passing.
Mostly. Rear shields are warm leading two mantis interceptors on a low level weave across the unnatural broken surface and away from the sparking monster. Farther, his nimble ghost and daughter decoys are feints drawing the heavy weapon fire spewing from a dying monster.
Yes, something with flourish.
His stinging attack has cut deep into the battleship-thing engine areas touching propulsion and polarizing capacitance. Measuring their energy and power output, Not well enough.
Surprise is in the mind of the defending commander.
The giant finally dispatches his harassing decoys with coordinated sweeps of destruction. The escalating battle dooms it to the mercies of avenging allies even if the Protector falls. Turning, slowly listing, tipping at wrong angeles, the behemoth fixes the baleful black eye of it’s main weapon on the his retreating shadowblur.
The unexpected possibility of escape blazes bright in his racing hearts, Now this monkey loses its tail.
Hobbled and vulnerable the special weapon ship can only wait for the approaching allied reprisal. Its reason for being, in a sense, ended with the Protector’s blow.
Unnoticed by his foe, the fluttering falling debris from his ghost decoy come together and merge and speeds eagerly at the bow of looming battleship.
Perhaps, there is a rare example of bug emotion here, or frustrated behavior, that directs its massive sights at the Protector’s small fleeing craft, despite the close range. Perhaps not.
As the alien ship let loose its accumulated and tuned energies, his ghost is close enough to deliver the Protector’s final gift. Every remaining erg of power is turned into a destructive dagger of light engulfing the prow in a splattering orange glow, intrinsically altering the first and last full discharge of the alien Weapon.
A flash of unhealthy purple-brown from the giant warship strikes the region surrounding the running battle and envelopes him and his two chasers in its terrible embrace. It’s edge catches and dissolves the hindmost craft as something more hole than door forms.
Glowing and peeling in wracking layers his body can feel, the forces of super-space geometry separating one universe from another merge and flow like boiling water. Screaming with a pain never imagined, the forward momentum into this void became the remaining force holding his form together. For an instant brilliant rainbows visibly shatter through a tortured spatial rip as everything around him slides through in a flash of exotic energies.
No eyes witnessed this. The alien Weapon ship buckles under the combined discharge and with a tremendous glare vaporizes the front half leaving the sputtering glowing remainder to slowly fall to the distant ground. The Protector never knew how much damage his tiny spear ultimately did.
Of the battle below, nothing; A dispersing plasma around burnt stain was all that remains for his mates to memorialize.
Copyright 2021 Jonathan Edward Gibson
He woke from dreams of flying. Free fall does that.
Soaring dreams are mythic stuff. Feel like Superman, like nothing is beyond you.
This one started simple enough, vivid rich smells of loamy soil, of foraging and goofing, lazing into a bright morning.
Discovery finds a jeweled puzzle-box, begetting jungle-hunt through a waterlogged Ruins and finally a fire-quest leading to this dry windswept pinnacle of sunlit rock baking under the setting sun. Layered sandstone cliffs over a scintillating sea of warm sunset colors in russety-oranges bravely holding back a cooling ultramarine night.
Through swampy muck and now glare of sun, the cache of gem-coals in his pocket had glowed too hot with its power for the Artifact, and his final task, but now that heat gone, and the cold dead weight adds to his sinking heart at seeing nothing at the summit. Nothing, but ancient rubble to one side breaking bleak shadows.
All paths lead here. Where’s the Artifact?!?
Feelings of wrongness and doom mix with anxiety, confusion feeds panic, and a growing fear he is missing a vital clue starts him peering over the edges with a gnawing sense of dread.
Through a growing panic he holds on to one core notion, I did everything right!
His frantic edge-to-edge pacing loosens the ancient cut stone of Watchtower ruins and he slips, scrabbling, over the steepening slope sliding further and faster. Recovering balance is easy in real life, but… he forgot this is a dream and finds little traction. Finally, using fingers and toes he grabs and holds a crumbling cliffside as no man-cub ever.
His chert ledge weakens, crumbles further, dropping him to knees on one last lip, but solid enough. He slumps, exposed and vulnerable, animal naked in rags. The idea of retracing his jungle path, the jumping puzzles and swimming dangers, daunting, but he’s a child of the pixel games and half-expects a quest reset.
A growing chill breeze stiffens, shifting his balance under the supernatural searing gaze of a glowering angel-accountant-demon marking every scratch, bruise, and smudge in a vast ledger of his mistakes.
Standing as straight as he’s been made, and straighter than his father, childhood memories flush cheeks in a red shame welling up to threaten the will to live as old pains leak tears drowning hope, My poor father.
Stiff winds keep knocking, harder. Again. Waves of raw vertigo sweep over and fights his body to control it’s ever-near animal fears and growing blood logic. He is losing.
Far above the safe branches and protective boughs of distant jungle canopy, something breaks away. It is Nim. He is falling, flailing, off balance, plunging into a telescoping tunnel ending on craggy stone shards. Long arms and legs find nothing firm, just crumbling clods ripped from his hands by the strong winds pulling his body, now falling, falling. Faster he tumbles past rippling sandstone as top turns down, then sideways, clinging to his only remaining friend, vertigo.
Awareness finally shatters the ice in his veins with shots of hot lightning and he gains enough composure to merely careen madly end, over end, yelling.
Well, that last reveals the sneaky dream, right-quick!
The echo of his yelps punctuates everything. Now he knows this is dreamtime. Familiar routines of discipline, slow breathing, focus of mind with well-worn calming reflexes to cage his wild animal heart.
Time slips slower the more he focuses on details of his plunge. Unbidden, old science lessons form a wacky rationale to store his falling momentum for later, like a battery charging.
Hmmm. He sees a way to survive and is full of joy.
Venturing fingers into the rushing wind, his body turns in response this way and that, rocking and gamboling. With an eye on the approaching shoreline and a tilt of fingers like wingtips, a measure of control shifts and steadies the tumbling. Somewhere, somehow, summer sailing lessons merged with classes on fluid-dynamics to reveal his body has really been a wing all these years, and he can fly.
Just like a real boy! Sleep logic, go figure.
Banking away from the worn shards of sun-drenched rock his arms find purchase on puffs of wind and he banks away hooting. Sweeping past the same sunny cliffside he’d toiled to climb, his life as an earth hugging lizard is over, Barsoom here I come.
Using his momentum and hugging a warm updraft the heart-pounding strength of his swimming arms is great and his back heating from a wonderful strong glow where newfound wings spring from shoulders. He marvels at his new wings, sweet delicate things of exotic gauzy string that he doesn’t control directly, but do what he needs.
His chest swells and heart nearly bursts flying through the airy glowing orange and snappy electric blue sky. His blood is hot and feels shoulders grow stronger and he pushes harder. It feels so good to be in control, against the odds.
Craning neck stiff with corded muscle, he can just make out the far-off sunlight temples, like fingers reaching from a hazy distant foliage to touch the gods. Retracing quest steps didn’t seem so awful with wings.
Wings sweeping in time with his powerful arms, he laughs swimming high across a deepening sky. The satchel of shiny relics and glowing fire-jewels stolen from the Humming Ruins sway and bump against his backside. Maybe, I misread the Parchment.
Out of the setting sun a fuzzy smudge of confusing blurry visual noise like a bad video feed pops, glares, and flares, washing out all color and dimming light to a dull gloom that still fails to light the scene.
Nim finds himself tumbling, knocked to-and-fro, defending against swarms of giant bees jealous of his newfound wings. He tries to protect the fragile gossamer strands, but angry stings shred hope and he falls tumbling to earth helplessly trailing ragged tatters behind. Falling and defeated, the thickening air whispering sweet nothings, but dark fates in one ear and dire destinies in the other.
With dreamy slowness he gapes at the growing cloud of hungry bugs turning to devour a screaming Moon. Painted in a bloody stark red luminescence, it looms so large and close he feels the tug of its gravity slow his falling body. An angry molten Moon fills his sky with a glare so hard and howl so deep it torments his soul.
He doesn’t remember hitting the ocean though water obviously stopped his fall, because he’s laying in a greasy shallow pool of tepid blood. Moon gone and cloudless skies flame red magenta and purple bruises. Jungle dried, burning, desiccated, and in the distance bees patrol eating everything that moves. The sea a drying lake soaking up the blood staining his world with pain. All is lost.
Drenched in gloomy red twilight, he weakly sits on hands and leans on knees at the edge of crimson ripples stretching to meet tideless seas. Focusing on a small white daisy spinning under him like a water skipper on the oily waterline, he thinks, Too much.
Life is heavy. He was taught to carry the weight of a whole planet on his tiny shoulders and every family in his shorts by would-be demigods and the gaze of a lab-suited Zeus. He has failed another test.
Waking mercifully with a start, the angry bees now fill his glorified closet with the staccato buzz of an alarm bot. He is drenched in sweat and hairy body tense from exertion and anxiety. A bad dream punctuated with restless sleep.
He slows his breathing and listens. Beyond the whispering ventilation system are various signals squawking mellow tones of caution and through the bulkhead his keen hearing notes earnest figures bumping while his large nose catches stress signals floating on the clinically stale air. I stink of fear.
Wriggling out of his sleeping baggy, bumping forehead against the ceiling of what earthbound engineers generously termed a “cabin,” running fingers through short dark hair he hits another wall with elbow.
Death by a thousand blows, he yawns trying to stretch in the cramped space.
Rubbing eyes, Nim slaps off the alarm glyph splashing across his lower sleeve and sprays oder-kill to mask his unwashed musk before opening the cabin-hole to the tight corridor. The shape and color of junction glyphs tell him where to go to feed the hungry curiosity in his belly, but purposefully keeps his linq turned off until arriving for duty. No fire alarms, or air escaping, no dire evacuation.
Bleary, blinking, squinting in brighter light, the air is a thickening soup of fear, anxiety pheromones, and human adrenaline rolling down his throat in a chemical wave smothering any remaining sleep pixies still nestling in his hind brain.
Beyond simple breeding, Nim is the result of early DNA-modification focused on cerebral cognition enhancement, unfortunately leaving vocal cord and limbic rewiring for other teams. His many failed throat surgeries taught mankind enough his grandchildren will speak without vocoder, and he wears those scars with pride - mostly. He truly loves his human friends and makes good-natured jokes about odors burning his throat, but he is often irritated by his circumstances in larger ways he can’t find words for.
Launching and bouncing off walls with an easy rhythm, Nim gracefully avoids obstacles and flailing crew without awareness. Swinging from hand-hold to hatchway into upside-down corridor, his long neo-chimp arms and grabber feet made tumbling arcs and faster time than bumbling thumb-sucking humans.
Copyright 2021 Jonathan Edward Gibson
Space curls as time allows. Adrift, reefs of purple energy discharge in knots against a black ocean strewn with sullen distant starfires.
Too bright, he’s an arcing filament of golden spasms, shuddering, spinning, a burning man shape of energy degenerating into primeval heat.
All is blur and flows beyond his glowing figure, now a wick of flaming horror corrupting ethereal augments and melting his third eye.
Everything is wrong, because he still lives.
A handful of chronons later the fluxing sparks flameout, leaving his psyche smoldering coals of pain to shove into a cooling pocket for later. Dozens of adept senses and bespoke skills are missing and he feels their visceral loss as truncated stumps of ascendant gadgetry venting into a wane energy skein leeching everything he values.
He doesn’t fit. Smaller, no… lesser.
Cognition : crippled, he is no longer Vast. Great scallops and swaths of what he once called himself are missing and the loss immense.
Light is a sticky residue suppressing every atom, nerve, and mech. A growing sense of horror rides the languid fluttering slow motion slit-waves of light forcing hopeless eyes to open and start his new life. Effectively blind, he gropes arthritic hands, uncurling and flexing with exaggerated perspective, still aglow and shedding excess energy as pain. Movement has a viscous quality that feels more flavor than actual constraint and needs kinesthesis reset.
Communications are a broken/impossible/expensive puzzle, because light has a speed limit. The multimeter points out the obvious infinities and he knows where more hide. All his Force and Light gear now useless… worse, components look correct, but arrangements an incomprehensible mess. Chunks of his head and spine will be inert junk for the rest of his life.
He is marooned in some Mindless Deep.
Finally done burning, he’s glad for the feel of healing triggers and system restarts percolating across his lower mechabolic levels. Down here, far from the Above, sentience is exotic and as base systems retool he doesn’t interfere. Setting personality fragments to oversee augments once self-aware, he hopes they manage.
Turning inward, selfscan lends familiar order to new terrain and he sets off wandering dim hollow caverns of familiar debris to take inventory.
A mind the size of a city is still there, just sprinkled across a solar system scale without trams or gravity lifts, no communications nor slideways, just long casual walking tours with variable compasses.
No, it’s dense.
His mind is a tiny crowded house holding an upside-down city feeling pipes extend and walkways limber above. Mentation seems possible with severe limits: focus will require all his attention. First, to travel, and then perform those specialized functions.
Both. Seeing these contradictions, he accepts his new life as impoverished imbecile will be full of wonder and endless surprise. Take up philosophy?
A Protector is the final, maybe ultimate, expression of five hundred or-so generations of families multiplying, migrating, and mutating across one arm of the galaxy, and then Above.
His body is a marvel of autonomous reflexes, regenerative redundancies, borrowed evolutionary tricks, applied instincts, and overlapping reinforcements groomed to keep people smiling and metabolizing everything from arctic methane to deep tropical nitrogen. As a trusted violence worker and forward spy he is all that and much more.
Solarian citizens assume they can stroll dry moon plains holding their breath for a day, or maybe wallow in sulfurics on their way to the party dome. Solarian culture favors robust flexibility and adaptive resilience, even as it wallows in famous sensory hedonism. All the beasic tools for staying alive, navigating stellar scale hazards, and competing with the galaxies greatest monsters.
We are Numan, hear us laugh.
He is Ator von Nadar, third order Nexus adept.
His chakras all resonate, harmonizing and chordant, binding a lifeforce mighty from the discipline of three long lives.
His soul is bright and shiny, his metaform a diamond point hard and sharp.
He’s wounded, and alone, and finally facing mortality.
There is no reference of anyone surviving such a sheer drop into the Deeps, or such Displacement even possible. Your own costs may vary; sometimes one measures in years, or by distance, maybe by energy budgets, or social costs, but always-always reduce down to travelers committing their lives. People die here, it’s just not civilized.
Exiting selfscan recites, Where you stand resets the horizon.
Starfire burns, drawing his attention again. Even down here in the turgid depths it shines with a certain quality, brighter than expected, stronger, with a curious vitality. And becoming a puzzle: compulsion is unusual to Ator and this interest feeds his unease and he’s still gazing directly into the curious orb when the charting persona brings the first clue, behind him.
Tagged Raj “Radiant Brother,” a singing gas giant brings a string of slang and unfurling confirmations. Heartened, a name both familiar and forgettable, unless…
Charts now reveal planets and constellations to reverberate across his soul like a gong, the Three Sisters?
Amazement ignites hope, How?
Fingers flying faster than normal eyes can follow reveals a shimmering blue orb and aura triggering swells of involuntary euphoria and both hearts pounding, Home Of The Homeless!
Twinkling sapphire and dusty gold, sprinkled clouds draw him; there is a hold, a fascination, more details, every nuance, a hunger overwhelms him with a sudden desire to draw closer… and he dares feel wonder.
Then, a scimitar thin slice of light slashes hope, No!
Behind, a single huge crescent moon peeks around one edge turning his warm feelings a peculiar cool. Staring drains his light and life.
All the shapes of man know the Queen wears a ring of debris, like a thorny crown. Her rings and dozen tiny moons cradled mankind from birth. It hasn’t had a moon in recorded history and nobody sings of Four Sisters.
Ifi, ruler of fates, laughs from the balcony.
The word EXILE grows large and heavy. It squirms and wriggles, making itself at home like an overly large house guest, before settling into his mental furniture. An uncomfortable fit. D-weapons fling targets across unstable geometry-stacks to alternate universes : it’s one-way, Holes.
He is one of the Lost, slipped tween nethers.
Any ally welcome and a Prime would remove millennia of strife. Setting multitool measuring for psynergy, he finds enjoyment watching the surface directly for recursive filigree and geometric picts and understands why he’s drawn to this endearing warm glow. The nearby star is absolutely the proper Manhome, but ordinary… vacant.
Without the Prime Radiant, every core piece of his existence goes without trace. Helios; null. History and sagas stretching centuries missing… the Ice Fleets, Age of Children, The Splintered, Voidwalkers… never existed here and his footsteps their last echo in his ears. Knowing it’s there, they still live, love, strive, but forever near/far is a comfort he does count.
He returns to a resting state and single heartbeat after a few duras.
Time for introductions. Protocol prefers First Contact at edge-conditions and so, with his Forma crippled, he slowly edges a path out of the debris field and accelerates inward to the fourth.
Firmly paleo-electric: they are a noisy lot pouring torrents of unsecured broadcasts he sees as veiled acts of suicide. Atomic fires smolder in pits scattered across the poles and buried deep in cracks coaxing meager resources. Grim.
Hopefully, enough industry to get him back, some millennia. The signs are weak. Still, they remain his best chance and appear human. Mostly.
Copyright 2021 Jonathan Edward Gibson