Jump to content

[Fiction] Gods Make Love


Recommended Posts

Part I:


Ashnod's home, when you eventually locate it, is upon a mountain in the snow-covered northlands. There are no roads leading to it, no visible signs of civilization anywhere within a ten-kilometer radius. No vehicles parked out front. Smoke billows gently from a chimney into the cold, flowing breeze.

At first glance, it appears to be nothing more than a wooden cabin. Elaborate, yes, but a wooden structure nonetheless. Close examination of the material reveals it to be neither wood nor stone, but something in between. Nova construction, obviously, both in terms of material and architecture. It

appears seamless, more like the material was woven or grown rather than pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.

She answers the door when you arrive, warm air wafting out lazily as she stands there, younger in appearance than most people assume she is, wearing only black denim jeans and a loose white cotton blouse. The outgoing air carries the horizontal quantum tracers from her featureless eyes towards you, her black and red hair seemingly waving to you in the wind. The light from the bolt of energy that cascades down the right half of her body is visible through the white fabric she wears, creating a soft pink glow roughly in the shape of a lightning bolt or luminescent vein until it disappears under the darker fabric of her jeans.



Long braided red hair and pale green almond shaped eyes stand in sharp contrast to the ever-present white of the sparkling snow behind her. Her feet are bare and seem nearly as white as the snow she walked to arrive here. There are no footprints in the cold powder, a trail would have been rude.

"Ashnod," she states simply. Stepping forward she stands within inches of the taller woman, looking

upward into her eyes and smiles. Tears well up in her eyes as she crosses the gap between them slowly, hesitantly, to hug Ashnod tightly. It is may be of some surprise to Ashnod that she is crying softly, her

tears staining the white blouse.

"In a moment when death seemed inevitable," she whispers, "I regretted only that we had not met yet."


The tears catch her off guard. Hesitantly, her arms enfold the smaller woman, and a few more seconds pass before she returns the embrace with the same fervor that Wizard began it with. One hand instinctively reaches up to support the woman's neck, though it is obviously not needed.

"My, this is certainly unexpected," she says softly, not quite a whisper. "I'm honored that you feel so, but had Jager approached me in such a manner when first we met, I might have fled Ibiza in fright."

Another tight squeeze before she continues, just as quietly, "I don't know what you've been involved in, but I'm glad that we did get to see you in the flesh before death found you."

An interesting sight, to be sure. Two beings standing barefoot in the frozen Canadian north, holding each other, neither one of them making any effort to move indoors.


"I'm so sorry," she mumbles, wiping at her eyes with the palm of her hand. "It’s been a very... a long trip. Thank you for inviting me into your home. And for giving me reason to smile."

The tears well gradually more slowly and she wipes them away one by one until at last they stop. There is a smile, a very small one, but seemingly genuine enough. Subterfuge would not appear to be a talent

this being possesses.

"It seems unlikely, though," she notes looking into the twin pools of streaming energy that serve Ashnod as eyes, her smile growing, "that you would have been the one to flee in Ibiza." Then; "I believe it was mentioned before that there are so many things that faze me, one would scarcely know where to begin in listing them. Your unexpected kindness and grace now begins that list."

Shifting forward slightly to balance on the tips of her toes, fingers delicately resting on Ashnod's hips, she draws herself upward. Her lips brush Ashnod's cheek over the surface of the energy glowing within and then draws away. In that moment of contact there is the unmistakable scent of wild cinnamon and then it's gone.

"Thank you."


She blinks, her eyelids visible for that split second, and during that time the energy ceasing to flow from her, though what has already escaped still hangs in the air for a few moments for dissipating.

If the tears and immediate embrace were not enough to throw her off guard, the sudden display of affection, in a very tangible sense towards a stranger, only increase that surprise. For a being known for her wit and wordsmithing, she is now quite obviously at a loss for them.

"You're...you're welcome...?" she says softly, visibly unsure of exactly what she has done to provoke such a reaction. "Rather, it would have been quite poor of me to invite you here and not be kind..."

She hesitantly ushers the smaller woman inside her home, closing the door behind her. Inside, the structure is made of the same woodstone that is on the outside. The utter absence of external sound, no wind against the glass or air passing through cracks is testament to the Nova construction. A fire burns softly in the fireplace, pictures of many sizes atop the mantle above it. This room is uncarpeted, a hardwood floor, interestingly warm to the touch, stretches out across the room and towards a hallway and staircase. A

long sofa and three chairs, one of them a wooden rocker, sit in the center of the room. A completely glass table rests between them. Two bookshelves, stocked to capacity, line the far wall, a window between them. Nothing hangs from the walls. There is music softly playing; looking up one can see the speakers fastened into the four corners of the room. Symphonic movements, orchestra of some kind, though the piece isn't any of the classics.

She makes no other movements once inside, standing next to Wizard. Obviously, still caught of guard.


Books; the rich smell of paper co-mingles with that of inks, subtly changed by oils where precise fingers have touched to make a rich perfume. A log in the fireplace pops sharply as moisture turns to steam and forces the fibers violently apart in a tiny explosion. That sound sparks a faint resonance from a piece of crystal somewhere out of sight, which harmonizes with the poignant strain of the violin crying answer to a cello. Small soft footprints slowly fade from sight as the warmth of the floor joins with the faint moisture left in the wake of Ashnod passing and rises free in tiny puffs. Her chair, it could only be Ashnod's chair, grows slowly cool in her absence. And the fading warmth carries with it that same scent made into a wholly new bouquet by the sharper scent of wood that is not wood and something else. Something that was unique to Ashnod but had no basis in atomic structures.

Another scent, faint and faintly familiar, wafted casually by to evoke a sensation of perplexity within her. Ashnod but not Ashnod; its texture was that of a drier warmth and reminiscent of glass or... Apep? The violin song drew a long clear note, improbably perfect in purity. In that note were hints of age greater than years and perfection unattainable to cunning mixtures of baseline science. It occurred to her that the instrument was transformed by will made manifest in quantum fire and... Yes. The same fingers that gave voice to one instrument also caressed others in the symphony. Loving attention, sometimes tender as for the

violins, other times almost savage as for the drums, these ministrations formed a pattern as unique as a fingerprint. Like a painter with her own way of holding a brush, or writer speaking in many voices but always from the same typewriter. Looked at in another way, the music became light and the room was awash in brilliance of interplaying textures and surfaces. Not secrets things, rather those things unobserved or unnoted in their passing. Some of the inner walls became transparent within that light while others merely reflected new colors but remain opaque. She did not pry.

The tang of electrons dancing in precise patterns lay partly obscured beneath the river of waiting electrical energy. She could sense it only because the waiting power hummed its single note, varying only slightly, while the other more complex device sang an intricate melody. Dancing electrons waiting their turn impatiently to leap into light and race across a world growing daily smaller. That would be an OpNet terminal but... There was no scent of plastic as a baseline manufactured terminal would use for keys or insulation. Something different. Something more. Much like its owner. Was this where she had sat to share an old pain and lessen that of someone that was a stranger to her?

"Yours is a wonderful home, Ashnod," Wizard notes contentedly. Her hand finds Ashnod's own and squeezes softly as she adds, "I like it very much." Her gaze takes in the mantle carefully. Life caught in stillness, moments of clarity recorded in color to be etched in chemical. She could sketch them now, with consideration and creativity she could mold mineral or compound into reasonable likenesses. That would provide no context or insight, however. The windows were plain to see but the context would elude her so she didn't try.

"Would you show me your pictures?" she asked politely.


And now the joining of hands. Again, unexpected. To be touched so casually, as though she were a childhood friend or old lover, gives her pause. For a moment, she considers the grip of the woman: the strength of those fingers and the peculiar way Wizard's encircle her own digits. In the same moment a check of breath and pulse, body heat, posture...much can be done in span of a microsecond when time is at your command.

She walks over to the mantle, neither breaking the grip or reinforcing it; whether Wizard holds onto her is entirely her own decision. Three pictures total, two vertical and one horizontal.

The first picture...older. Before N-Day. The quality of the film and development indicate as much. The original, therefore, and not a reproduction. Two girls, on the cusp of being adult but still young enough to merit that label. The first is Ashnod, that much can be discerned from facial structure, but only that. The posture isn't the same, nor the focus of her eyes (which are visible, and green). Her hair is the natural red it was before her Chrysalis, the same red as Apep's. No bolt of energy down her face. Ashnod looks no older in that photo than she does now. She sits next to another red-haired woman, a bit younger in years but not by much. This woman, on the other hand, is more confident, her silver-grey eyes poised and bright. Neither one of them realized the photo was being taken, and they are standing next to each other looking at something off camera.

"Myself," Ashnod begins, "in 1994. Before I understood what it meant to be transhuman." She looks at herself in the photo. "Scared, and mostly innocent, though blood was already on my hands even then." She hands the image to Wizard. "Next to me is my friend Raven. You might know her as the Nova Sherazahde. Writes a column in the magazine eXistenZialist."

Placing the image back on the mantle, she adds, "One of my earliest teachers, though as she said to me recently, I am the one who is instructing her, now. Fate is often ironic in that sense."

The right image is of her, as she is now, with Apep. Apep is holding a small child, practically an infant. "My daughter, as you doubtlessly can tell, and my grand-daughter. The little one's name is Mafdet." A soft smile as she looks over the photo. "Please don't let anyone on the Forum know that Apep is a mother. I'd hate to see the reaction that would get."

In the middle is a long photo, with several individuals standing shoulder to shoulder. The first is a powerfully built man. Easily recognized. The XWF wrestler Corporal Punishment, though not in costume. Odd, now that you see them together. He does resemble Ashnod and Apep. Next a woman with black hair, dressed in black slacks and black tank-top. A side arm is sheathed on a shoulder strap. A man with a flaming head follows. Blue fire gently raises skyward from his scalp, the rest of him unassuming. Next to him is Ashnod, appearing as she did in the picture with Sherazahde, as yet unaberrated. She is dressed in a black pantsuit with a red blouse; most OpNet images of her have her dressed in that attire. Next to her, Apep. Apep is without scales, and she wears a skin-tight green bodysuit. Strangely enough, she looks a little older than she does now. Beside Apep is a man in a trench-coat, who obviously is trying very hard not to be noticed but fails. He bears a strong resemblance to the blue-flamed one, save for the flames. Finally, a man in black wearing a priest's collar. Very strong looking. Looks out of place.

Starting from left to right, she points out the first of them. "My brother Seth. He's dead, killed in the ring by the wrestler known as Superbeast." She looks over at Wizard. "Obviously, being a Nova is somewhat inherited. My bloodline is the proof of that." A lot more buried under the surface of those words, but she doesn't offer any more than that.

Her finger moves right. "Shannon McLyre. Known publicly as Pandora, of course. She's currently touring the world on her never-ending search for antiquities and curiosities."

"The one with the flames is Magma." Her finger moves over a few individuals to rest on the trench-coated man. "His brother Marshall. Both of them erupted as well. Familial ties..." She smiles sadly. "Both of them are dead, too. I've lost a lot of comrades."

"Myself and Apep," she says, skipping over the two images. "On the end, you have Thomas Thaddeus. Went by the name of Father Thomas. Was a Knight Hospitaliar. Another casualty. He was also the half-brother of Magma and Marshall."

She sets the picture back on the mantle. "The Catalysts. The first cell of Novas Apep and I ever worked with. We were later joined by the Novas Prometheus, Daedelus, and Aloe, but this photo predates his entry in the group."


:And now the joining of hands. Again, unexpected. To be touched so casually, as though she were a childhood friend or old lover, gives her pause. For a moment, she considers the grip of the woman: the strength of those fingers and the peculiar way Wizard's encircle her own digits. In the same moment a check of breath and pulse, body heat, posture...much can be done in span of a microsecond when time is at your command.

A small perturbation in the quantum, a tiny sound as fabric across flesh crosses her awareness and she thinks inexplicably of Maria Sanchez without knowing why. Ashnod has shared something of herself,

something remarkable, but it is too subtle and then gone. Collapsed back into the implicate order without a trace. She wonders curiously what she's missed, whether she was meant to acknowledge it, but the moment

is past. The other woman steps casually and she with her, hand in hand.

At the mantle Wizard's awareness blooms fully, though she carefully restricts it to this moment and these objects. This woman is sharing tiny windows into her life and she would miss nothing for lack of


"My daughter, as you doubtlessly can tell, and my grand-daughter. The little one's name is Mafdet." A soft smile as she looks over the photo. "Please don't let anyone on the Forum know that Apep is a mother. I'd hate to see the reaction that would get."

What beautiful child," she murmurs, applying the sentiment equally to daughter and grand-daughter.

She nods carefully at Ashnod's request and the implication of trust accorded. In the pause as Ashnod replaces the photo and reaches for the next; Wizard wraps that perfect memory of Apep and daughter in a shroud of probability and camouflages it as a faint recollection from childhood. Finally, she ties the memory to the sound of Ashnod's voice as well as the color of Apep's eyes. Not the most certain of keys to use with transhumanists but very secure. No one would draw that knowledge from her without a great deal of effort. She values the trust of this friend enough to insure that.

After the last photo Wizards releases Ashnod's hand and draws a tiny golden chain from under her sweater and then over her head before extending it to Ashnod, carefully held in her cupped hands. A length of tiny serpentine links lay coiled within her grasp and atop it rests a locket.

At the woman's touch it pops open and a swirl of slowly rotating gold infused light hovers above the twin mirrors of the inner surfaces. After a few moments the light resolves itself into the tiny image of a child, a little girl, caught in the act of laughing.

Wizard speaks slowly, "This is Deirdre my daughter. She would have been thirteen this year. She looks from the image to Ashnod, considering, then explains, "She died a month before I became what I am. Sometimes, I can almost... I'm not a big believer in fate."

Carefully, she brings her hands together and light seeps between her fingers for just a moment before fading. Then she replaces the chain around her neck and the locket under her sweater.

Turning away she walks to the bookshelves and runs her finger lightly on the edge of the shelves appearing to read titles.

"What shall we talk about," she asks, studying the books very closely.


Her eyes watch the holograph curiously. A sad smile as she learns of the girl's fate, and a comforting nod follows.

Books. An odd selection. A volume on architecture. Electrical systems. The various things one might need to know to construct a home. Several volumes on molecular biology. Molecular chemistry. Physics. Astrophysics. Quantum physics. Spatial theory. Temporal theory. Anatomical references guides detailing circulatory, nervous, digestive, pulmonary, reproductive, and vascular systems in the standard baseline body. Self-taught, obviously. These references take up an entire shelf of their own. By these tomes she could have the basic knowledge of the various sciences listed within, a solid groundwork for the basis of her own quantum abilities. Certainly not an expert in any field, however.

"Apep chides me frequently for looking to science in not only myself but the entire species," she says softly, walking up behind Wizard. "I might be able to follow some of what Prodigy knows, but certainly not debate him on it. I must admit, however, that her belief that science has little basis in anything we can do is appealing. Science is a language, nothing more, in a certain respect, that binds the universe into a common understanding. But other languages are just as effective if one knows how to speak them. That's where he and Jager are both blinded, I think."

She smiles softly. "I'm amused by the response of "I am hope," to your Transhuman and Gods thread. Perhaps that is cold of me, but the phrases he chose to defend that idea seemed..." She pauses a moment, before finding her words, "Like words that fit into the framework of fiction very well, but once heard in real life, and you understand they were intended to be taken seriously, you cannot do so. Not necessarily comic book, mind you, but something in a novel of fantasy or in cinema."

A soft look over at Wizard, "I suppose part of me invited you here to speak of those things. To give you my response and my ideas to your question of "What are you?" Part of me, however, senses that you have something you wish to tell me. Perhaps something you wish to share with me?"


"Many things," corrects Wizard softly. She seems to prefer a softer speaking voice, somewhat of a change from the voice one would expect from her letters. "Some more eagerly than others. The gift of your thoughts on that particular question are another kindness that cannot be repaid."

"Apep seems to perceive some of the subtle elements that compose the picture, those underlying assumptions that many overlook," she muses running her index finger across the spines of the books resting neatly in their spot, " and then concludes the elements are somehow more important than the picture itself."

In the wake of her touch the books take on a vaporous appearance and then solidify into new sizes, shapes and colors. Where there was a volume of Griffith's "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" now sits "The Quantum and the Lotus : A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet". The Time Life volumes detailing home construction and repair techniques has been replaced by a very old and somewhat thick volume of the "Golden Bough". The volume "Truth Against the World : Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks for an Organic Architecture" remains unchanged but the next three books are by Baum and have the word "OZ" in the title.

"One without the other is unbalanced. There can be no science without magic," she cocks her head to the side and smiles warmly as Ashnod before adding," nor magic without science. Each is incomplete without the other; each equally valid, exemplifying strengths and weaknesses, yet each is equally imperfect to the task of describing the universe meaningfully. We've yet to fuse to the two into a synergistic whole but this is task we must succeed in if we are to survive and prosper as a species. Baseline humanity has the advantage of time of the bliss of ignorance. We will have neither when the choices are to be made."

"Or would you prefer your original books?"


She watches Wizard with an expression that could only be described as humored. Perhaps it was the passion with which the woman spoke her words, or the subtle hint at the texts that have appeared in place of her own.

"My original texts will be fine," she says. "Just because the ones you have transmuted aren't upon the shelf, doesn't mean I have not read them."

She turns her back, walking back towards the center of the room. Once there, she settles into the long sofa, indicating a spot for her guest with a smooth wave of her hand.

"Many things," she muses, quoting her guest's words. "I am very curious what you wish to speak of then, aside from this."


She joins Ashnod on the couch and draws her legs up beneath herself. Wrapping her arms around her sides, she slowly leans into the back of the couch to rest her head and closes her eyes. For time she doesn't

say anything and then the words come.

"Teras. Lash. Beings that count coup with real lives as playing pieces, fabricated monsters like Costa," she recites, eyes closed. The words begin to come faster and her brow creases in concentration as

she continues, "Dead children, political machinations for ephemeral power, trans-human cruelty and baseline arrogance." "Division, despair, desperation, divinity, fallen grace, hatred, anger, suicide, blame. "


There is a long pause before she speaks again. Abruptly she appears to change the subject and begins to tell a story.

"Jager asked me to assist him in tracking down Prodigy. Whom he was afraid was in danger of falling into bad company. Becoming a monster. We were obviously operating in complete ignorance of the man that Prodigy is or we needn't have worried. James Meehan could push the button to initiate Armageddon but no one could force him to do so. His one flaw, if you want to call it that, is his background. For all his intelligence still believes in concepts like breeding."

Wizard continues to speak without opening her eyes, "He didn't need my help; he could have gotten a faster response simply contacting Prodigy directly via the OpNet but he wanted to get to know me better.

I think he wanted to assess me as a threat but it's hard to say. Jager plays his games so deeply he sometimes forgets they are games."

Eyes still closed she continues, "We separated to investigate some anomalies; Jager with Tesseract and Jordan Rossi with me. We were ambushed. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to ensure I was

caught unprepared. They knew things about me that no one should know and used Directive technology, a drug, that left me helpless. When my node spasmed and released all that power uncontrolled we were ripped away and... We ended up elsewhere. Jordi saved my life there. And to save his, I helped him kill someone."

"I killed someone."

Her body seizes and her hands clench tightly into fists until it passes and she can speak again.

"Then I turned my node on itself to release the energy I needed to get him home. To get out of that place. I wasn't afraid to die; only of failure and not getting a chance to... The things I would miss if I didn't get back. At first I thought I cheated the odds."

"I told Jager once that what I do isn't based on chemical compositions or molecular structures. I had to make him understand because he and Tesseract almost got killed by thinking I could do something wondrous. That I was a god. I told him that everything, all the possible and potential things are always out there if you know how to look. That what I do was only to change the reference, to shift between potential and probable. It's not hard and doesn't even take that much energy. I could do that because I could see the probabilities and the potentials whether it was something in front of me of something that only had the potential to be in front of me. A useful side effect of being able to perceive."

"Now that ability to really see the inter-connectedness is gone and I have no one to blame but myself. I'm stuck here in one place and one moment just like everyone else, with only vague memories and occasional flashes of what can be and... I was actually happier. I didn't have to wonder where the line is between destiny and choice. I could look at a flower and not be forced to see the implicit decay. I could just be."

"The power to change the world, to shift things from potential to probable, is still there, though. I just can't see the ramifications anymore." Eyes still closed tightly the small woman shivers and then admits, "I don't know how much of what I remember from before is real and how much is simply out of context. The one thing I do know is that we all make our own reality moment by moment. I do that so much more effectively than anyone else and when I do it, it effects everyone else's eventually." "Something to share? I'm afraid. And there is no one I can talk to about this except you."

"The people I'm closest to would listen thoughtfully and all the while I would know they're trying to figure out if and when they would kill me. Some of them wouldn't even wait to see if the fears were justified. Just the possibility... I think Jager would wait but in the end he would make the same choice. I'm not certain he would be wrong."

"So I came here."


A very long time passes before Ashnod says anything. Just the crackling of the fireplace and the smooth, symphonic movements drifting through the air.

"I was fashioned to be a weapon," she begins, her voice careful and soft. "Both my daughter and myself, before the world at large had an understanding of what Novas truly are."

Another pause, as she watches the fire with folded arms. "Everything in my life, all of my memories, prior to just a few years ago..." She looks down. "All of that could be fabrication. It might be real. I don't know, and I never will know. The programming that I was given was so complete, so real, that I never even knew I had a daughter, not even the memory of my pregnancy, until she found me and confronted me about it. Even now, I get glimpses of things that might have happened, but glimpses only. The more Apep and I dig into this mess, the more we research, the more contradictions seem to come up. Conflicting evidence, seemingly made only to keep the truth from us, continues to surface."

"Sometimes," she says, with a tint of anger in her tone, "I look at the utter complexity of what has been done to us and I marvel at it. The way in which we were manipulated and directed to achieving ends we believed were our own, when in reality, had been in motion long before we ever stumbled on to them."

She looks over to Wizard, directing her voice towards her guest. "We think that's over now. That we have ended it. Cut our proverbial strings and wounded the hands that pulled them. Sometimes, though, I think about this at night and wonder if I'm still being deceived. If we have truly liberated ourselves. It terrifies me that I'll never know for certain. That I'm likely incapable of believing that I'm free because everything that has happened to me and mine might have left me incapable of fully trusting anyone."

"I've never told that to anyone before," she says softly. "Jager has dug up bits and pieces, despite my warning not to. Apep and I spoke to him briefly in Tokyo about this, and I think we only encouraged him to go deeper. But I told him none of this, none of my feelings on the matter."

"Jager," she shakes her head. "I can't trust him. None of us really can. His holy crusade...he's more dangerous than Avenger ever was...operating upon knowledge of what might happen. Assessing each of us as though we could be the lynch pin to preventing the enslavement of the baseline nation, deciding which of our agendas are too dangerous to the well-being of that nation. That he has declared he'd kill the Nova nation to preserve the "race of his mother." That he requested your help in tracking down Prodigy, that he believed that Prodigy was a risk," another shake of her head. "His moronic 'pre-N-Day Novas are manipulating everything' idea. I'd hazard to guess he thinks what happened to Apep and myself are all connected to it in some fashion or other."

She chuckles, low in her throat but light enough to indicate amusement. "I've probably spoiled your opinion of me now. Revealing this side of me to you."

Another pause. "Because I am who I am, I can influence time, space, matter, and life. Reality itself...imagine what he might think of me if he knew what I was capable of." Her hand reaches out, gently resting upon the smaller woman's knee. "We aren't so different, you and I."



Wizard takes Ashnod's hand from her knee and draws it to her lips. Gently, she kisses Ashnod's palm and then places it back on her knee with her own hand covering it.

"Not in this lifetime," she states simply.

For a very long time she has no reason to speak and simply accepts this moment with this friend. She knows Ashnod has been disconcerted and discomforted, yet she still opened herself to another's pain. And in the sharing of her own she has eased much of what brought Wizard here.

It is almost a surprise to realize that without the loss of her clarity she wouldn't have come here today. Not like this. From that seed of almost-wonder there blossoms a sense of rightness to the moment. A wave of feeling that washes away the tiny tempus of distracters and leaves only the sensation of her hand over Ashnod's. A sense of connection. A stillness of compassion that resonates deeply within her and brushes away the traces of fear that have clung to her.

“Beyond a certain point it becomes impossible to express gratitude with words," she murmurs aloud.

'May I share this with you?'

The question is not asked in sounds but the meaning reaches Ashnod's thoughts. This is not telepathy; there is no sense of intrusion or manipulation. To Wizard's perceptions their energies are so closely

aligned as to require only the simple act of a decision in order overlap momentarily.

Wizard waits patiently without expectation, nurturing this moment without the benefit of being able to order temporal energies, as Ashnod ponders how she can know exactly what the other perceives. In

accepting this she can know exactly what it is to be Wizard or decline and all is as it was.


She looks down, smirking as she does. The energy from her eyes steadily leaks out, ever horizontal, giving the furniture and floor a lazy red aura as it flows.

Then the red in the room increases, and she herself begins to emit the same energy from her body. The density of the glow increases, until it is nearly fluid, and then like fluid it flows from her into the air around her. A halo effect, one might have called it. And then another wave, and then another, and another. A maelstrom of energy around her, and one would expect sound to accompany such a display, but there is none. Just the increase of light and the patterns surrounding her. It stretches outward towards Wizard. Eventually it overlaps her feet, then ankles, until the whole of her is *inside* the anima banner.

'If you will do this,' she begins, the transfer of thought and emotion definitely telepathic in origin, but touching only the surface, not probing or exploring, 'let us do it properly.'


A sensation, nearly indescribable, wafts along her skin as the blood red energy engulfs her feet. In response Wizard curls her toes, digging into the fabric of the sofa they rest on, and shivers softly. This expression of Ashnod alternately warms her to the core yet feels cool upon her skin. Like lying on a beach in the tropics, feet awash in the sun warmed ocean while a breeze kisses bare shoulders. Soothing and so very

inviting, she closes her eyes again and smiles.

Slowly, the power of Ashnod enfolds her, engulfs her completely, touching everywhere in a quiescent manner. She does not intrude and that restraint in itself is very, enticing. It take a moment of effort to stymie the heart's sudden need to beat more quickly and moderate the flood of activity that would bring. To

resist the urge to see this beauty with a deeper vision is more difficult but she resists that temptation also. This moment is for sharing not analyzing. It briefly crosses her thoughts to wonder that she has never experienced a moment like this before. Never before has she allowed another to completely embrace her in perfect vulnerability.

Within her embrace she is buoyed, floating for the moment, then slowly she opens herself. In response, the anima surrounding her washes through her being and she feels completed. A powerful rhythmic beat underlies this moment, drawing her, and she experiences a moment of wondrous fascination at the ease which she answer it. To attune herself to the life of another, to feel herself balanced as if on the edge of a vast precipice, only the tiny reticence preventing her from plunging off.

Opening her eyes she sees only Ashnod, feels only the warmth of her hand and through it the beat of her heart. It is not the same as the pulsing of the power but together they form a greater whole. The scent of

this woman fills her senses as Ashnod's thoughts cross her mind tasting of electricity and trust.

'If you will do this, let us do it properly.'

In answer that tiny modesty vanishes and Wizard plunges from the precipice.


My feet are swollen, my back aching with this burden of this weight and for the thousandth time I curse the gods of latex for lacking oversight on their products. Another day of this torture and I am going to end up on top of a water tower with a rifle! The sudden sensation of warmth spreading beneath me in the chair is a surprise and for a brief moment I look stupidly at my cup wondering how I managed to spill the tea without noticing. Then the sensation of twisting muscle hits me and my face is a grimace of agony gasping in pain. The hot sharp steel jabs in my lower back and then spreads quickly to my swollen belly as I realize what's happening.

"Time to go," states my aunt smoothly, business-like, in the same tone she would use to tell me to sit up straight.

I glance at the clock and start to protest, Uncle Jack will be here soon and then the next contraction begins. I know they're less than a minute apart. Fear is a wolf howling outside my door. Aunt Tuesday is helping me up, making comforting noises while I protest, wanting to wait when the third contraction comes. As she eases me into the car - how did we get outside - I realize the wolf isn't at the door anymore. He's sitting next to me eyeing my belly hungrily and the air won't come no matter how quickly I gulp at it. I am afraid for the life I carry within me. I love her so much!


"So that's how it is," I state flatly.

Disorientation creeps across my mind in future remembrance as I meet the gaze of the others. In

varying shades of understanding or hostility they refuse to budge on this matter and I comprehend perfectly. There is a validation of fear in this room and Rossi refuses to meet my eyes. Even with the OMAN satellites crippled it is going to be touch and go getting out of lunar orbit. Too many dangers to foresee clearly in a moment of crashing chaos as the world smashes free of the fetters from the last half decade and races towards onward. I know Michael will back me and, as he controls the ship, that effectively places them in check. They know this as well. It's a poor way to begin a new life, though and I won't inflict that on them. This is not about need or desire, it's about trust and loyalty. And...

"We all do what we need to do then. Your preparations won't wait," I say before turning and exiting the control center.

Behind me the massive door close, its bulk enough to make a pressure pulse that even a baseline could feel, and I lean heavily against the wall. I do not fear for myself but for another and that makes all the difference in the world. Even if they will not actively assist me I know I can count on each of them to play the part they were born for. Through the walls I can sense the spirit of this craft focusing on me and I smile for his sake though he knows me too well. My taste for subterfuge left me in eruption and I've never felt the need to reacquire it.

"It will be alright," I tell the air.

"Pre-flight preps can take a very long time," he answers back through a hidden speaker.

"The window of opportunity is too small and we both know it. Best to keep to the schedule," I advise feeling a sense of deja vu. "Any further word from your father?"

"Only that last message," he responds. "Godspeed."

There's nothing more to say. We were both hoping he would change his mind but... I would feel better if I knew for certain he was only planning on covering us as we depart but there are some that simply cannot leave the past behind. There is a certain familiarity in that position and I shake my head in response to the thought. It is not about regret or gratitude rather what simply is. What cannot be left behind must be taken with us.

I make my way down the corridor to where I know Blink is going to be waiting for me, having listened in on the conversation which took place at Command and possessing the gift I need most at this moment. I still feel Michael’s upon me, and his thoughts within the electrons dancing through this arc. I can hear the thought he does not voice to me.

"Godspeed to you as well, Michael," I say walking to where I need to be. "Thank you for not arguing."

"Rossi will be concerned when he learns Blink expended power this close to launch," he notes as I stride down the passageway.

"He’s guessed already. Try to act surprised when he confronts you with the others listening."

"Please don't throw me in the briar patch...," jokes the sweetest man who never was.


On the news, the nova Artifex is widely toasted for his uber-human cunning successfully applied to the task of artificially duplicating the properties of Eufiber. The prognostics disagree individually but apparently this means the dawn of a new age. Life in the twenty-first century is looking pretty sharp although I'm still waiting on my jet car.

"All that applause for mimicking the hair off a beachcomber," I laugh to the baby in my arms. She

gurgles sleepily in response and I can feel her tiny body relax as slumber takes her. Leaning down I smell the wisps of red hair on her small head and breathe in a richness that is impossible to describe.

"Life pretty much doesn't suck today," I whisper to her. Silently I apologize to the gods of cheap latex and smile. Life is pretty good.


I survey the destruction of the city as I step through the warp and feel a mild pang of regret that it has to be this way. The clash of titans several kilometers away light up the night sky in senseless destruction as the remaining powers, thrones and dominions vie with each other for supremacy. Counting coup with lives as the counters and they have forgotten what treasure those lives hold. Entire universes passing into emptiness with each death and still they continue this pointless struggle. They are making their choices and it is not my immediate concern until I sense those trying to circle behind me.

"Kansas City lies in ruin," I speak to them with mind and voice, "Best conserve your ammunition. I am no danger to you."

For a moment they hesitate and then I sense the increasing danger as their pain and anger come to the fore. To be other than baseline and no danger is to be a target; a mistake on my part.

"Interfere with me and another mother will be grieve this evening," I tell them and the cold truth is in every word reverberates to through their very bones.

Could I have found a better way? Of course, but I am occupied and searching even as I speak and I already know they die before the dawn. The FBI is about to push the wrong man and there is something I need at this place before that happens. I would rather not make it worse for these people but I continue on my way and listen for the sound of a trigger being pulled. It is quiet. I have no taste for subterfuge and find honesty to be of greater value. I have no taste for death either but I will not leave without knowing for certain.


"Ashes to Ashes, dust to..." quotes a man fronting for a god that’s forsaken me.

The pastor continues and somewhere, on some level, I must be listening but it is meaningless to me. My baby is dead and I haven't shed a single tear since listening to her last rattling breath. I've been telling everyone that I'm fine, yes it's tragic but life goes on. Sometime I can almost believe it. Maybe this empty shell really is as good as it gets. Maybe those moments of happiness were the aberration. What a sick and twisted joke on us all to believe that there is anything better than this empty gray existence. What a sick little joke life plays on us all.

Deep within I can fill the scream building and I know that it is going to burst free but not today. With an effort I try to at least pretend to listen to the droning noise coming from the shadows that surround me. My child is gone and with her my world.


The crash of the OpNet brought more than it's share of chaos but now stupidity and ignorance breeds aggression in the masses. Knowledge and learning have become the new sign of a devil's pact and the fury of the righteous has finally been aroused in the mob. Combined that social mindset with the isolation imposed by the current conditions of privation, the loss of communication, and the very meaning of the word chaos is being constantly redefined. It is fortunate that I do not require computer access or use of the public library.

I stand in the center of the ruins and wait. This is how it has been for me these last few decades; feeling the pull to be somewhere and traveling without knowing precisely where I am going or what I am to do there when I arrive. Only knowing I need to be there and that it's important. Prodigy once asked me who was guiding me; did I believe it was a higher power? I replied that I would let him know after I met god. This last decade hasn't been kind to him and I think he would have given up if not for a slim hope offered. So tragic that a man of such intellect hasn’t grasped the essential truth; this is only a transition stage not an end result.

Over the thunder of power being displayed and the resulting clash in the quantum fields I hear a dim

sound like the whimper of a kitten and know that someone is trapped in the rubble to my right. What was

probably a very comfortable brownstone condo before being redecorated with a misplaced smart missile that

missed its man shaped target. I am almost able to rationalize not getting involved before I stop pretending there is a choice and move to seek the life buried so deeply under rock and steel.

It takes me two hours of very nearly swimming through the rubble before I find the boy buried within. I bend the probabilities to me, such a small use of quantum and unlikely to be detected against the backdrop of the resounding conflicts, and the air hardens around us in response. Protecting my bundle I commence to the swim outward at a much more rapid pace than I entered. Cresting the rubble like a dolphin, I shock a group of people that have collected during my labors. Immediately they fall back, either running in terror or making the signs and calling on the protection of their gods. It is too near dawn, the clock is ticking and I am unsure of what to do now. I am so very tired.

Putting that thought from my mind I inspect the unconscious boy, looking about ten, carefully for signs of injury. Immediately the tiny pulse of quantum beneath his shirt reveals itself to me and I tear it open to see with my eyes what I already know must be there. A very familiar locket I gave to someone long ago. Why would they have...? Resting my palm against the boy's forehead I can sense the slight quaver of a node near exhausted of power. He's nova and more than that, he is hope to me. I have a clue.


Staring down the barrel of the gun I feel a sense of relief that exceeds my expectations. It is a savage joy to know that this is finally done, that I trudged on dutifully and did what was expected of me. Time itself seems to slow down as the finger squeezes the trigger and rage fills me that this close to the end life would try and cheat me one more time. To dangle the one thing before me that I have wanted and then to drag it out. The scream I have been holding locked away for the last month claws out of my throat and I want to know;


The world is utterly still. The figures before me transform from shadows to people, then from people to light, and then... I know why.


Never moving my hand from his forehead I gather my energies and politely ask the universe for a favor. It obliges me and the boy's injury becomes less than life threatening. The process itself is somewhat complex and I have long since given up on explaining it as she was the only one that seemed to grasp the essentials. In a few moments he stirs and I hear the remaining onlookers gasp as he tries to sit up abruptly. A little more power, a little less for me to use later, and I share the big picture with them. It always has the same effects; a rippling calmness flows outward and for just a moment everyone intuitively grasps their place in the world. Violence is unknown and anger inappropriate.

"What is your name, sweetie?"

"Mot," he replies looking into my eyes with a shy smile.

I smile back and tell him, "I'm looking for a friend, Mot. Can you tell me where she is?"

I hold the locket, its chain still around his neck, up where he can see and his face brightens.


Wizard sees only Ashnod, feels only the warmth of her hand and through it the beat of her heart.

In thoughts like the sounds of wind chimes she asks, 'Should we stop?'


'Strange definition and expression of gratitude,' comes the speechless reply. Wizard's own words, "Beyond a certain point it becomes impossible to express gratitude with words," echo on the fringes of Ashnod's thoughts.

'Honestly not what I had anticipated.' More impressions than speech, actually, a sensation that this is what she is feeling at that moment and those are the words best suited to describing those feelings.

'Slices of life, images caught in time, like the recording of a memory. Jumbled, as though played at random, without any linear sense and delivered deliberately in such a fashion...why did you choose such a method, I wonder...'

'Before you reveal more to me, you must answer, why are you showing me this?'



Her thoughts shape the concept in musical notes very suggestive of chimes randomly responding to the vagary of wind. There is a pause in the sharing of thoughts as she ponders her answer. Despite the lack of intellectual discourse, Ashnod continues to sense an undercurrent of emotions carried from the smaller woman to her own mind. A slight tang of indecision mixed with a rich odor of nostalgia as well as a trace of... Not alarm or fear exactly but with poignancy reminiscent of that. And beneath that lay a torrent of something like compassion but deeper.

'For the reason that you are willing,' she responds hesitantly at first then more strongly, ‘It is in you that I trust when distrust is the rule and deception a way of life. Because it is my choice whether to share this and yours to say yes or no. In choosing to share this I am giving you my life in a very real sense.'

'Who else would I choose?'

'Who else would I share this with,' the thought comes again, laughter coloring her thoughts. 'Jager? I have some hope for him becoming more than he is but I already know where he is going. He thinks his nature precludes my knowing but... I can hear ice crack as the sun warms it even through these windows,' she notes gesturing with her free hand, 'and yet he thinks I can't read his face or know his heart. I don't resort to subterfuge but I am not unfamiliar with the ways of those that do. He believes himself to be a master of that

art. And there is much in this recent matter with Avenger that remains hidden. He had an opportunity...'

Wizard gives a quick shake of her head, obviously unaccustomed to telepathy, and her red braid darts from shoulder to shoulder like a snake.

'You have never used that against me. Quite the opposite, which is another reason among too many to count that I trust you and call you my friend.'

The chimes of her thoughts strike an off note as she swerves away from articulating something. She pauses again and the taste of not-fear is stronger for a moment as she gathers her thoughts to continue.

'I am not skilled at obfuscating things. Actually, I'm very bad at it,' she admits sheepishly. 'Behind me stretches a path of immutable possibilities from the past to converge on the Now. All the possible permutations and possibilities that lead to this moment in time. Into the future stretches a myriad of pathways that branch, cross, intertwine and finally separate as they end, or worse than end, Others continue onward until the possibilities become irrelevant as their potentials fade away into non-existence. There isn't a moment in all of that infinity appealing enough to lie to myself. Or deceive someone important to me.'

'I am willing... I would choose to show this to you, because you were willing to experience this without knowing what I was offering. You told me about some of your pains and yet you still opened yourself to me. How could I do any less?'

'I would have you see me, through those moments that bring me here, that I could better convey what it is that I feel for... What it means when I say I am grateful. No illusions to be made pretense or cause misunderstandings. Masks are for children and those that act like them. I don't want that between us.'

Wizard's thoughts chime more clearly as she explains, 'I don't choose these images, not consciously. They are merely the moments that bring me to this place in this time. They are the crucible of my life as they have come to me. I don't know whether I am human or not; but I would give you the opportunity to decide for yourself.'

'There is one more reason why.'

For moment she pauses and bites her lower lip for a moment before continuing.

'It's the most important reason. I have no right to ask you but, would you trust me just a short while longer? I... In the last hour you've seen me at my very worst. I don't think it will make sense unless you know the rest.'



The anima continues to wash over Wizard, the cascading crimson tides illuminating the whole room in a silent, red glow. Tides, such an accurate description...the energy moves with the force of that type of wave, though it crashes harmlessly into the air instead of eroding it.

Ashnod says nothing, nothing at all, as Wizard relays her feelings, her explanations. Not until she has finished.

'So trusting,' she muses silently. 'Perhaps if you knew more about me, you might not be so open with yourself. I don't know...'

A faint smile, more of a slight curling upwards of her lips than any type of grin.

'I'm intrigued,' she begins, 'and flattered, that you hold me in such high regard. That you wish me to bear witness to your life, and by extrapolation of that, carry some part of you with me.'

A slight tilting of her head, though the smile doesn't fade just yet.

'I admit some trepidation at this,' she continues, 'for it is no small request you ask of me. To carry another, even if just in memory or by the sharing of events, is no small burden.'

Her hand tightens on Wizard's.

'But no tale should remain but half-told. So please, by all means, share what you will with me.'


'No, not small at all,' agrees Wizard. 'It's a strange world we live in. Where effect can precede cause and a burden can set one free. Like life being found within the circumstances of death. Inexplicable and wondrous all at the same time.'

Lambent green eyes meet the blood red pools of Ashnod's gaze evenly. She feels the weight slide from her heart and she is almost ready.

'I will try to tell this in a more linear fashion,' she begins. 'I'm going to fail at points but that will be my failure to convey. We were speaking of eruption...'


Reality tries to wrap me, trap me and bind me but it's too late. The pungent aroma of cordite mixes with the coppery taste of blood is in my mouth. A woman freezes in mid scream as the stink of another's sweat chokes her. The gun pointing at my chest will spit hot metal and acrid smoke. I see it as if it has already happened. All of this stands revealed to me in place where seems to be no duration, only a continuous now. This is the lie my eyes tell me but I know it for what it is now.

A sound like the trumpet of doom screams in my head and part of me wants to curl up and accept this death. The part that saw her baby die and raged against a reality where such a thing could happen. There is another part now, one I’ve hid from myself for too long, that reaches for the sound eagerly to seize it in a grip of steel. This is the essence of reality I hold. It is a beautiful shimmering serpent twisting in my grip straining with all it's might to rear back and bite me. It fails.

There’s nothing left for me to lose. I will not let it go.

Reality fractures into pieces without number, a shattered mirror, and I am impressed that its beauty is not lost in the glittering chiming storm that surrounds me now. It is even lovelier, I think as the pieces swirl and dart intricate patterns of subtle complexity. No stately progression to this, only an infinite dance of universes. Then a possibility seizes me, thrills me with the very audacity of it.

Could I?

I reach out and touch a fragment as it passes, a cyclone of light and sound explodes in my mind and I witness reality unlike my own. Within I find a dim echo of a mind similar to my own but in other circumstances. I would examine this further. Circumstances, however, deny me the opportunity for introspection and exploration. This pregnant moment is about to give birth whether I will it or not. It would appear that I am not infinite after all.


I command and the storm of universes wheel in response to my wish. Reality is amended to include a carapace of metal wrapping me in soft embrace. Judging from the look in my attacker's eyes it is a fearsome and impressive sight. The bullets are equally impressed with it, or at least the armor appears unimpressed by these bits of smoldering metal shrieking as they ricochet off. The guns droops slowly downward until it drops clattering. It is no longer irrelevant.


The pools of light that were men are a problem to be solved and nothing more. I desire removal, conceptualize the tool and the storm wheels again. In my hand is a weapon of exponentially greater power than the one that threatened me only moments ago. I...

I hesitate.

These men, these animals, are patterns of color and sounds like the chiming fragments that swirl around me. It occurs to me that they are part of something greater; something that my mind expanded as it is cannot quite comprehend. I must be part of this greater whole as well. Can I be certain of all the countless reactions this action will instigate? No. With that realization my weapon vanishes back into the potential it came from in a wash of sky blue and the smell of evergreens. I note the place that produced it though as I might have a use for it another time. Even though I refuse to react as a creature of instinct there is a payment to be exacted here and the measure will be made in full. That decision brings to me options, pathways rather, in startlingly large number. I choose one.

Pain; theirs not mine. I have known despair in a handful of dust and share the experience with my attackers.

When I am done they are bloody and injured just short of what would cause their deaths before being discovered by a chance passerby hours from now. The woman they injured is a problematic issue. As my hands touch hers the colors, the sounds, of her life explode in my mind. I see no options here. The person she was died today even though her heart still beats. With all that I have learned today I can see nothing better for her than this. Gently, very gently, I return her body to the cold pavement and then ponder. Is there nothing to be done? No, there is no path leading to a better outcome than that which I've seen already. It can be prolonged but there is a payment to be made whether I will it or not. It is a humbling experience to know I can take a life with little more than a wish but not return it as easily. I can feel the tears running down my face as I realize that I have learned an important truth here.

I reach out again into the infinite dance of universes and ask politely for a very small favor. It responds and I use the blanket created to wrap her tightly and keep her warm. Then I am gone.


'I was wrong,' she states to Ashnod simply. 'I looked at that single life and saw, judged, the outcomes to be very unappealing. It took me a very long time to realize that we are each touching and affecting each other. Interacting like particles in a quantum physics experiment, there is always a level of uncertainty as to the precise outcome and no such thing as the invisible unobtrusive observer. The act of observation affects that which is observed.'

Wizard's eyes drop downward as she admits, 'It was with great relief that I found she lived. Her life did contain terrible experiences but in living it she touched so many people... I was wrong. I was still thinking like a baseline.'

The emotions

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Part II


I am humored by a passage I read a few years ago, in a story by a baseline author named Warren Ellis. In it, the protagonist wakes up to find out his assistant is naked and in his bed with him. Terrified beyond words, and having no memory of how they ended up there, he contemplates how he can get out of the bed without waking her. In the end, he decides, the answer is obvious. Simply chew off your own arm, and then flee for your life.

Wizard's still form is pinning my right arm beneath her, and I am contemplating ways I can get up without waking her. Granted, nothing remotely similar as what happened to Ellis's character happened to us, but I nonetheless feel the need to avoid waking Wizard if at all possible. Truth be told, I have no idea how to do this. I have any number things I could attempt, ranging from the distortion of my physical form, to holding time still around her, to changing the elasticity of the sofa cushions...I think that any use of quantum would rouse her, though. Or give her the necessary nudging required to, anyway.

I am thankful that the mental link is severed, at least for now. I need to gather my thoughts on exactly what has happened here over the last few hours. I invited this Nova into my home, a complete stranger save for a few posts on a faceless Forum and a few letters via the OpNet, and now she is resting next to me.

She loves me. Who knows why, or how this came to pass, but it has.

And I...

I don't know...

I had not thought of her in such a fashion before, but...what she feels for me is real, unless she is deceiving herself. I have felt it myself, through her own perceptions...

Long have I sought an equal. Someone who complemented me, would challenge me and at the same time, be challenged by me. Could it not be this one?

I don't know...

So much I don't know...unlike her, I have never used my temporal capacity to see possible futures, possible paths. Never desired that manner of foresight...I wonder if to her, this has already happened and she already knows where this will end up. Or can make an accurate guess, at the very least.

"I don't have to tell you what this looks like," a voice at my left tells me.

I turn my head to see my daughter, half her body still nestled in the shadow-substance she transmits through, in the corner of my home. The face she is giving me is priceless; the arch of her eyebrows, the wry grin, and the particular curve of her finger as she points at me.



Drifting lightly in the twilight overlap between the realm of dreams and the waking world, I found myself wondering what she was feeling. Or thinking. Unnoticed during the time I'd lain in her arms, the bridge between us has withdrawn like the tide. I would have thought that its absence would wake me.

Perhaps it had touched me softly with its passing. I seemed to remember stirring at something. Strange that I wouldn't remember it more clearly, but then we were still together. Her arms had been my pillow and my blanket, even as her presence had comforted me with sound and scent.

It was only that amazing bridge that burned me as it cooled, a manifestation of her anima and power, that had retracted. There were other things that linked us.

Scents, sounds and textures that mingled and overlapped. The warmth of her skin joining with mine and sending the very air into tiny dancing patterns like an infinite number of playful children enjoying the summer warmth. It had was like... As if I been so cold for so very long that I'd forgotten what warmth was. Until it had wrapped me in tenderness and held tightly. Next to the sharing of our thoughts it was the most intimate moment I've known.

I knew that if I'd looked in a very certain way I would have seen that aura of joined warmth and soft dancing air surround us like gentle golden light and my lips had curved in sleeping contentment. I didn't actually try to look though. That would have required leaving the place between dream and waking. It was enough to know it would have been there.

I heard the words before I even sense the new presence.

"I don't have to tell you what this looks like."

A woman's voice, a laughing undertone to it, and I feel Ashnod shift slightly as she turns her head. From my reclined position I can't quite do the same so I settle for tilting my head back. It's either that or sit up and I have the uncomfortable mental image of falling off the sofa if I move too quickly. I think I know who this.

Yes, even seeing her upside down I know who this is. In a dislocated manner I see her as Ashnod did in memory at the moment she realized she had a daughter. As well as the word picture Jager had drawn when he described her and what he didn't say. Seeing her in person, rather than through the eyes of Ashnod's memory, or a filtered description I suddenly understood Jager's silly reticence. She's very pretty, more so than I.

"Hello," I say softly.

I am suddenly aware of exactly what this looks like and feel somewhat relieved that she's smiling. I'm also aware that I'm looking at her upside down.

"You would be Apep?" I add phrasing it as a question. "I'm Elizabeth, sometimes called Wizard."

I am not embarrassed. Really. It's just that this just isn't the manner I would have chosen to meet her, in the physical world, for the first time. And I am going to have to sit up, which means leaving this very nice place next to Ashnod, or look silly. I think I wouldn't mind the silly part, it is a very nice spot and warm in ways that have nothing to do with heat, but this is Apep and I don't want to embarrass Ashnod...and I am not embarrassed. A little late in moderating the capillary responses, yes. That would explain the heat I feel rising to my cheeks even as I speak with her. That Apep would miss it seems unlikely as her grin appears to widen fractionally larger. Oh, Ashnod....

"It's very nice to meet you," I say sitting up and shifting my body down the couch to sit next to Ashnod's knees. It is distantly gratifying that I manage not to fall off the couch doing so.



I can't help but smirk as Wizard sits up, and the flush of her cheeks makes it so much better. Seeing my mother like this...the opportunity to poke fun is just too great. I know nothing happened between them, at least nothing that people would pay big bucks on the OpNet to see. I can tell that just by the state of their clothing and the lack of pheromones in the air. But Ashnod doesn't know that I know this, and I play around with the idea of torturing her a bit longer.

I step from the corner of the room and out of the shadows. The dark is reluctant to release me; it tugs gently at my body as I leave as though begging me to remain there. I don't think they realize just how long I've been here, half within the shadows, half just outside them. Watching the two of them sleep was so boring, but I somehow couldn't help myself. I mean...that's my MOM for crying out loud, holding some hippie chick. And the hippie chick is Wizard. That's Wizard? I imagined her differently. I don't know what I expected her to look like, but that's not it.

The smirk is still there, I think it's probably wider, as introductions are made.

"So, you're Wizard," I say, not needing an answer.

Ashnod is sitting up now. Just for grins, I give the two of them a good looking over (and make certain they know I'm giving them a good once over) as though pondering them as a couple, then smile and nod as though approving. Truth be told, I've never envisioned her with anyone. Except Raoul, but I'm glad she never took any interest in him. She's been alone as long as I've know her. But she deserves this for all the flack she's given me about my many relationships, and I think she's getting off easy. Maybe I'll make a comment about this in the future, if she ever brings up Leviathan again.


Ashnod looks up at Apep, making completely unnecessary introductions. "Apep, Wizard," she gestures as she speaks, "Wizard, Apep."

"Obviously," Apep continues to smirk, walking lightly and without sound to the rocking chair, and settling into it. She wears thin, almost transparent but not quite black clothing, the style a harem dancer might appear in. She is without the cloak she normally carries with her, though the familiar clacking of gold bracelets is heard as she sits into the rocker. "Nice to meet you," she nods to Ashnod's guest.

An uncomfortable silence follows, the style where no one really knows what to say to break the ice after a slightly embarrassing introduction.

Finally, Ashnod breaks it.

"Is anyone hungry?"




I'm going to hear about this later. She's never going to let me live this down. That's all my mind tells me in the moment that Wizard picks herself up and I manage to sit up. Strangely enough, I'm not as embarrassed as I should be. In fact, I'm not at all embarrassed.

Smiling at this fact, I rise to my feet and walk towards the kitchen, recalling everything I have in the way of food stocked here. I have guests after all, and it would be quite poor of me to not be hospitable.



"Famished," I answer and it's true.

Rising to follow her into the kitchen, I pause to turn and look back at Apep. Still sitting in the rocker grinning, one brow arched slightly and laughter dancing in her strangely beautiful eyes. Her presence brings the scent of unknown spices with it and a hint of something that reminds me of glass or sand. Not fragile or dusty, more as if she brought with her the fragrance of somewhere far away and hidden. She carries herself with a lithe unconscious grace that nags at me with subtle familiarity though I can't immediately place it.

Then it dawns on me. That bouquet of exotic antiquity which surrounds her and the grin; if you were to subtract the reptilian features but keep the expression and the dancing lambent eyes it's the very look I think my aunt would have given me under the circumstances. Her appraisal of her mother and I, found sleeping in each other's arms followed by the nod indicating acceptance. The inevitable teasing that would follow if that look in her eyes was any indication. A sudden affection blossoms, a liking for this sensuously lovely being that reminds me so strongly of someone else.

"Thank you," I tell her softly, not entirely certain why. For accepting my presence here perhaps. For the reminding me of Tuesday and making me smile. Then the memory of that stark knowing appraisal of her mother and I returns and I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen. Hoping she hasn't noticed the blush rising and yet utterly certain that she has. I am usually so much more focused than this.


Ashnod is beginning to pull supplies and implements from the cupboards. She's still smiling, at nothing in particular it seems, and there is a beauty to her motions that I hadn't noticed before. Each movement accomplishing her purpose with a smooth graceful economy of effort.

We begin to work.

It occurs to me that I, and I suspect Ashnod as well, could do this much more quickly in another way. This is much more fun though. My elbow nudges the bowl in her direction a beat before she reaches for it. She spins the top off the jar and pours a measure of honey into my bowl of flour. She's right, the sweetness will add to the flavor of the bread. I move the implements to the left, clearing the space as she reaches for the cutting board.

"Taste," I request, holding the spoon where her lips can reach without stopping her own efforts. There is a soft sound behind me, but when I glance nothing is there. The look on Ashnod's face when I turn back tells me it's acceptable but still not quite right.


Glancing in a certain way I see the problem. There's enough sugar but it's not mixed properly. I remix it and hold the spoon up without saying anything. She turns anyway and takes a taste. I know it's right this time.

A sensation of warmth fills me, not unpleasantly. I hold the knife out without looking and she takes it, replacing it with the spoon I need. I wonder what she needs the knife for but I'm occupied with a stubborn dough. I'm trying to convince it that it needs to be kneaded and it's being argumentative.

Arranging the berries I notice Ashnod looking at me and I know what she's thinking.

"They're just strawberries, " I offer. She continues to look at me and I confess. "You didn't have strawberries."

She has a beautiful smile. I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I haven't felt before. Not a bad feeling, though.

The bottle of vanilla spits a drop at me and I can feel it running down my cheek. Unfortunately, my hands are covered in something soft and sticky. I feel myself being turned and then the damp cloth wipes the drop away. Her thumb brushes at the moisture on my skin before she turns back to work.


It takes me a moment or two before I remember what I was doing. There is a whisper of sound to my right and I turn to see the burner on the oven has been turned down and the pot is slowing to a simmer. Ashnod is still busy with her own preparations.

"I wouldn't have burned it," I say to no one in particular. From the living room I hear a sound like someone smothering a chuckle.

I'm impressed despite myself that we've accomplished so much in so little time. And truthfully, more than a little sorry it's over. Looking at the mess to clean up it occurs to me that the quicker way is appropriate at time.

"A small change," I suggest. "You serve and I'll clean up."

After she's out of the kitchen with the first tray I ask the universe for a very small favor, which it obliges thoughtfully, then start putting things back where they belong. Now I can help carry the rest of the trays.




I think I do well for myself, saying as little as I did. The temptation is still on the tips of my tongue as they vanish into the kitchen, and for a moment, I almost follow them.

It's more amusing to listen to them from afar, actually. The rhythm of their motions, almost choreographed, makes me believe they have been doing things like this for quite a while. I understand that this isn't true, of course, something like Thomas's Synergy is taking place in there even if quantum isn't present. It's still cute. Wizard saying things like "Taste," in the middle of nowhere doesn't help.

The power I sense from Wizard is equal to ours. I hate to think in terms of power like that, but she shines like a beacon, as much as Ashnod does and as much as I imagine I would to others. It's a far cry from what it was like being in Jager's presence, or even, more recently, Avenger's. It definitely feels that I am closer to her than to either of them, anyway. I like that. Less masks to wear. I don't have to use kid gloves because we all understand where the other stands. Equals, I guess.

In that way, I guess it's natural for my mom to gravitate towards someone like Wizard. It's the same attraction I sometimes feel towards Geryon. Maybe not. It seems about right, though. Just expressed in different means.






The look she gives me when the strawberries manifest is just about as good as the one Apep gave me only moments earlier. No, it was never agreed that this meal must be prepared without the use of quantum, but her apparent guilt that it had a factor in it is priceless. Honestly, I didn't care one way or the other. I hadn't even realized that we weren't supposed to be using our abilities until she looked at me like a child with one hand caught in the cookie jar.

My daughter is chuckling in the other room. Inside, I am chuckling as well. I am entertained, in a ten-second span, of an OpNet sitcom based on our lives and this moment being the big "event" used to gain ratings during the sweeps. I visualize perfectly the opening credits, the applause and catcalls as Apep appears, and imagine several lines of dialogue to make the scene even more amusing to the audience at home. The moment passes quickly when I realize how ludicrous the idea is. Perhaps I am more embarrassed than I initially believed.

That's okay. It's not a bad feeling.



The three of them eat in silence. Midway through the meal, Ashnod sets down her plate.

"I wanted to ask you about this," she begins, facing Wizard. "I'm very curious as to exactly what happened with the whole Prodigy affair since you mentioned it. What did Jager do during that to spoil your opinion of him so badly?"



How is it that Ashnod always manages to see directly to the heart of matters so quickly? The rueful smile is already blossoming on my face as I consider the many reasons that this is not an issue that I would have chosen to discuss at the moment. It borders on areas of awareness and perception that seem to cause her some discomfort. And too, I am ~very~ aware of Apep's presence in the room listening. There are very simple answers I could give, yet each of them would indirectly conceal something. I can honestly say that it never occurs to me to question whether I trust Ashnod and how completely. That choice was made two days ago and, truthfully, was never even a choice. Only a recognition of reality. Would I not trust myself?

Truth then. As if there were another option.


From her position at Ashnod's feet, the woman called Wizard turns to look upward into Ashnod's glowing eyes before speaking.

"You know how to use a sword," she remarks laughing. "A surgeon's technique seeking the heart of the matter."

Wizard's head turns back to look at the coffee table and the remnants of their repast before carefully selecting a silver utensil. Holding it at eye level she examines it thoroughly, regarding each minute turning of it's mirrored surface. Then she reaches out to tap the edge of the table surface three times, each gentle strike causing the glass to resonate in an unlikely manner, sounding almost bell-like. At the third tap the remainder of the meal transforms to cool mist and rolls languidly from the surface revealing gathering shadows and dim flashes of color within the surface of the glass.

"Linearity is not always a true reflection but it is difficult to tell a story," she continues not losing her smile, "unless you have a beginning. This is a beginning."

Within the surface of the glass shadows deepen and become images without sound. The view is shifting both in perspective and content; though there is a certain repetitive pattern to the images.

Confrontation, violence and more often than not death. Combat on a grand scale in ballrooms and alleys, sunlit parks and dark twisting canyons, open plains and shiny metal passages almost too narrow for a large man to walk. Images of men and woman wielding the fires of heaven to make war as gods. Images of novas battling in deadly serious combat with uncertain goals.

Stretching forth her arms, Wizard grips the edges of the table on either side and as her expression of concentration deepens the images slow to a dream-like pace. Within the recurring patterns a certain face appears and reappears as if in time to the unheard ticking of an invisible clock. Initially, it is the face of an Adonis, albeit one with a bald pate. With the impossible perfection attainable only in myths and by novas, this Adonis is constantly in the center of the visions as if his very presence draws the eyes of the unseen observer at all times. As the images shift, liquidly transforming from one scene to another, the Adonis grows more haggard and intense. His initial boyish charm becomes obscured by the growing harshness of his expression. The beauty of his face marred by the pain of life.

"You were almost familiar with the predecessor of that face," Wizard comments without looking away from the images within the surface of the glass. "I believe you said you were looking forward to eating his little friends," she paraphrases without mockery. "He is known only as the General to these people. Revolutionary, freedom fighter and conscience to the gods. No more real than an idle daydream. No less real than tomorrow."

The images accelerate again and Wizard's brow creases with as she bends forces against probability. The ghostly images increase in depth until there is an almost surreal quality of substance to the scene, as if they are looking through a window into another reality. Still there is no sound but the pattern continues; confrontation, violence and death. The man she names the General dominates the images as he grows in power; aberrations spreading like weeds in a pristine garden as he pays the price of power with the coin of taint. At his words and gestures, god-like nova are driven into righteous fury and leap into bloody battle to attain his objectives. His enemies fall before him in growing numbers. In a final confrontation he turns on the unseen observer and, snarling with rage, attacks.

The scene becomes a chaos of furious blows and twisting motion until, jarringly, the scene freezes. From their window the three look down into the scene as the General breathes his last rattling breath and dies. Slim white hands with long delicate fingers reach downward from a being unseen to pick the fallen god up and cradle him as drops of moisture fall onto the face of the cooling flesh. A face that appears noble and peaceful, as if in death he had found...

With startling speed Wizard's left hand lashes downward, striking the center of the glass and smashing it. The image, their window of strange unreality, hangs suspended in place even without the glass that crashes to the floor in splinters but it is changed. The face is now only that of a dead man; where there appeared nobility and peace, now is only the empty gaze of eyes left lifeless and staring. The image rushes upward towards them until the scene becomes centered on a single drop of moisture on that ruined face grown impossibly large. Within the surface of the water is the faint reflection of the man cradling the cooling flesh. A familiar face; fine Teutonic features twisted in grief and wreathed in long golden hair.


"No rationalizations," Wizard declares, her left hand bunched tightly into a fist and held above the frozen image. A drop of crimson liquid winds its way slowly downward along the white skin of her arm. "This is Jager's world, not merely where he's from but also the one he carries inside him. This is the place that colors his perceptions of what is and his dealings with all of us. A world of titans where the lesser evil is to kill the one you love to preserve the memory of what you thought they were."

Closing her eyes, she breathes deeply and the shattered table blurs momentarily, as if a multitude of reflections were suddenly transposed, each over another. Each similar yet somehow different. In the space of a heartbeat or two the flickering reflections vanish leaving only the single table now whole and undamaged.

Wizard's eyes remained closed as she draws her left fist to her breast and slowly tilts her head to the side until it rests against Ashnod's knee. "It is less that Jager spoiled my opinion of him than that he substantiated what I initially suspected. I believed I was being too critical, but in light of all that has happened... With Jager; realization is a slow process limited to three dimensional perception and intellect. His nature, his alien origin, precludes my perceiving him directly unless he chooses to open himself. A rare occurrence and even then I see only what he chooses to share of his experiences. Jager sees and plans for only the confrontations, feels the need to win as though each battle were the final apocalypse, and for him requires that someone else lose. He believes in the Zero Sum game. To be fair: I know he hopes for a better world but the very act of planning for the worst case he fulfills his own expectations. "

"And his definition of hope is something I find very distasteful."





How to explain this without speaking of things that undermine the concept of linearity? It is not a question of whether she could understand, rather in putting it in terms that are accessible. It occurs to me that to the contrasts of Science and Magic, I can also add the contrasts of Linear and Holographic realities. Ah...



Wizard lifts her head and turns to look at Ashnod saying, "I, guessed, before that you knew how to use a blade. Was I right?"

"I am told that In any endeavor requiring proficiency in skill there are three approaches; mechanic, surgeon and artist. When one masters all the permutations of their craft, understands all three approaches, then one advances from being an expert to being a maestro. To reach that level one must become one with their craft; to live it, breath it and see the world from that particular perspective."

"Jager's background has taught him to be a mechanic in manipulation and subterfuge. By knowing this," she states tapping the glass of the restored table, "There is a pattern of manipulation to be seen in his dealings with everyone. Jager looks at both of you and sees only a broken world that gave him pain, an intellectual puzzle to be overcome, or an opponent to be beaten. He looks at me and sees something that doesn't fit that world, therefore ascribes some pretty ivory tower sainthood to me. He's wrong on both matters and his failure of perception borders on being grievous. No, I don't believe he does it deliberately at all times but it ~is~ how he lives his life. In deception and shadows, his motives based in fear hidden by subterfuge."

"You wanted specifics, though."

"He didn't need me to assist him in finding Prodigy or in his search for Atwight's 'Hidden Masters'. He chose me to assess my abilities and to gain an idea of what I'm capable of. He manipulated me from the first by telling me that he thought of Prodigy as a friend and had a friend's concern for his well being and his future. In truth, he never knew Prodigy except from the OpNet forums. Prodigy was a resource to deny a potential enemy. And Jager believes that he was on the verge of becoming what he calls a 'terminal threat'. That enlisting him into the search would serve the purpose of keeping him from siding with a potential enemy as well as ensuring he remained occupied. Apparently, Prodigy's threat level is directly proportional to his level of ennui. If you ever meet Prodigy you'll see what a specious argument that is within the first few minutes. Prodigy could kill a man, or even a billion men, without regret but only for a reason and he makes no bones about it. His ego doesn't allow him to be subordinate to anyone or to be forced into actions against his will. He is like Lucifer of Dante's Inferno, happily accepting an eternity of torment as opposed to serving in heaven against his will. I often disagree with him but he is honest with himself. I say that it was a fools errand, without even touching on the implications of Jager asserting his right to judge the matter himself. I thought it was a matter of friendship until it was too late for it to be anything other than a confrontation."

"Jager... made a point to himself by alienating Rossi who, in his world, would become the General. When I asked why he didn't tell Rossi the truth and let him make his own decision, Jager simply didn't understand the question. That level of trust and honesty is simply not a part of his worldview. It was an unacceptable risk. I know when he faced off against another nova guarding a facility in Montana, he made some sort of deal that would occupy James Meehan somehow though I don't know the specifics. What he told me borders on the absurd but I don't know how much is truth and how much is merely conjecture on his part. I do know that he brokered some sort of arrangement that involved Delomier whom Prodigy loathes with a passion."

"Then there was Kera."

"I...," she begins then stops, frowning. For a long moment she pauses before continuing, "Once those events were in motion there was only one possible conclusion. One died, one more is presumed dead and two were harmed, so a self admitted psychotic could get his thrill fix while they all played at being comic book heroes. I am gravely disappointed with all five of them for acting with less thought and responsibility than baseline children. Only Kera is exempt because she -was- a child. Five novas held a fraction of the universe within the palm of their hands and gave not the slightest thought to the consequences of their actions. But you asked about Jager; he blinded himself to what he did not want to see and a child died as the result."

"There is more but perhaps later, please?" Wizard asks looking to Ashnod and, incidentally, away from Apep. "Not now."




Did she ask about Jager to change the subject about the two of them? Maybe. Ashnod's never really been able to put him out of her thoughts. I guess I haven't either, especially with his nearly always present presence on the boards.

Am I really bothered by this? Not really. I could figure as much about him as this woman has just told us on my own. It would help if he was honest about what he is. Both him and Avenger could benefit from that, I think.

Not really knowing Prodigy all that well, in fact having never met him, I can't say if Jager knew what he was doing on that little escapade or not. The whole thing with Jordan is far more interesting. Him being a big time General or something. What did she mean by Jager hurting him in some way? She said alienated...I don't know in what way she meant that.


Apep speaks up first, still rocking softly in the chair.

"What happened with Jordan? You said Jager 'made a point of alienating' him?"




Apep's question is ... disconcerting. On many levels. There is a dynamic here between Ashnod and Apep, mother and daughter, that is not readily discernable and that concerns me. The familial relationship is obvious, Ashnod's kindness in sharing her own memories provided that context, yet... There is something more at work here. Not quite a partnership, or perhaps simply not one like I've encountered before. I find myself encircled within gossamer strands of something, the nature of which, I do not completely understand.

Is there a place for another within this circle?

Perception beyond three dimensions and temporal illusions would provide me insight into this matter, but I am find myself reluctant. It was different with Ashnod. She accepted and allowed herself to share what it is to be me and in turn shared of herself. Apep is unaware. In some ways her perceptions are closer to my own on a physical level, but she's not been given the choice. Were I to take that step it would be from uncertainty not love. Apep, of inner light and the raging heart, deserves better from me.

She is my equal. That much is obvious merely from being in her presence.

And she's asked a question of me.




For a long moment Elizabeth merely looks at Apep, her expression thoughtful and head still resting against Ashnod. Then, blinking once, she smiles.

"Well, now is later I suppose."

"Jager is...," Elizabeth pauses, lips pursed while apparently searching for the right word. "Cutoff? Isolated? Perhaps insulated would be the more correct term. Yes, he exists insulated from the quantum field of this universe in all but the most basic forms. It is as if he exists slightly out of synch with the rest of this universe. Which, given his background is most reasonable. I'm not entirely certain how old he really is but I know that he's dwelled for a decade or two in at least three other... He calls them paradigms. Potential realities. Parallel worlds. Timelines, though I loath that term. It engenders the perception that somehow entire realms of existence, whole universes, are merely shadows some more substantial reality."

"Sorry," she apologizes to Apep. "I'm digressing, though it is a relevant one. With his background there is a tendency to see things in larger than life terms. Almost of mythic proportions, while at the same time devaluing the preciousness of those same things. Of a singular nature, he views the universes through the lens of his own experiences, through his past. And in that past on the deepest of levels within his mind, Jordan Rossi ~is~ the General. The one whom he loved dearly and still feels as if he betrayed him by not altering the events which led to the moment when he killed him. Below the levels of rationalizations and illusions, that same voice that now tells him there are many equally valid if divergent truths, there is the belief that there was another way."

"In meeting Rossi here, in this world, and believing that each universe is somehow fundamentally a reflection of a 'true' reality..." she searches again, this time for a way to explain a concept. "Jager believes in destiny on a fundamental level. Jordan Rossi is his General and the love he failed twice. Firstly when his General succumbed to madness from unfocused Taint, and secondly when he felt forced to kill him. By preventing what he sees as a tragedy, Jager atones for that betrayal and proves his freedom from predestination at the same time. And all he has to do is prevent events from repeating the form he is familiar with. As if these 'Generals' were reflections of a single being."

Elizabeth lifts her head and looks again to Ashnod saying, "I think that's where his need to be a 'white knight' stems from. Like Don Quixote, he tilts at phantom opponents, secure in the knowledge that they exist because in his memory they were real. He has seen them. Either Rossi is a younger incarnation of his General, or the pain of his past is an illusion. He can't seem to release that baggage. How far he would go to retain that baggage is unclear."

Turning back to Apep, Elizabeth continues by stating, "Jordan was attracted to Jager. That much was obvious merely from reading his posts to the forums ~before~ they met. Afterwards... Jordi had a crush and he had it bad. When our trip to Prodigy's sanctum crossed Rossi's path it was a foregone conclusion that Jager needed not only to make a decision but to take an action. He is, after all, a warrior first and foremost. It's a pity that his nature is so insulated, or I would have seen the obvious much sooner than I did. Jager needed to take an action to affirm his denial of the choice he had made before so, presented with the fact of Rossi's attraction, he made a different choice."

"He chose me."

"Truthfully," she admits, "It is a little embarrassing. I've never actually felt naive before, not since I erupted anyway. It's so very easy to become accustomed to being constantly aware of what's happening and the interplay of factors that you become dependent on it. And when that's suddenly missing... and too, it was a very long time since..." Elizabeth rubs her eyes with the palms of hands and then pulls them away abruptly. Stares at them in surprise.

"A moment please," she mutters rising to her feet and speeding towards the kitchen.




The problem with having a perfect memory is remembering everything perfectly. Until you get distracted. It isn't until I feel the sticky moisture against my face that realization sinks in. I knew the glass had cut me but it didn't really penetrate, wasn't important, until I inadvertently wiped it across my face. Retreating into the kitchen I turn the faucet on and watch the blood rinse away in ribbons of scarlet as I curse myself. It's not embarrassment, recounting the entire incident with Jager felt worse when I realized how little he actually cared to know me, but to do this in front of both of them...

Examining my wet hand carefully, I see the cut is deep and that my hands are shaking. I heal quickly but not quickly enough to undo this moment. It takes only a little power to create the bandage and begin wrapping the wound but the trembling is more difficult to still. It is moments like this that I envy Apep and Tuesday. Poised and graceful in any situation. My talent, unfortunately, runs to the more extreme situations. Under pressure I am focused and resourceful but placed in simple conversation and I can't seem to do anything right. Infiltrating a mercenary company on their own ship, too easy to bother thinking about. Outfoxing an enraged NV member, simplicity. Just a question of seeing the correct alignment of factors.

I've made such a mess of this.

With my hand bandaged I can take a moment wash the last of the blood down the drain. And take to still the reaction I'm having and ponder why I'm so upset at the moment. Jager? No, that was foolish and I should have known better but it was a learning experience. No, it's acting like an idiot and not paying attention.


In the kitchen the small woman slowly winds a flesh colored strip of clothe around her hand and finished, stands very still. The wound is covered, the blood washed away, and she does not move. She is waiting.




There is an answer. It is the question that is eluding me. When the question is clarified, the answer which has waited will become clear. It is actually of no small comfort to feel the answer, to taste it in the molecules of the air and in the sound of my heartbeat. It is here waiting, has always been here, and will continue to wait. I need only find the correct question.

I feel so strange in this moment without any idea why. Twenty feet away sits Ashnod, the only person that has any idea of who I am which is a very good thing, yet I am not sitting with her. Why am I here? That question returns to my mind again and again, each time distracting me and each time dismissed. It is not important.

The memory of a conversation with a child comes to mind and there is some small feeling of relevance. For this reason it is considered carefully. Talking with a little boy named Joules that had chanced on the forums, yes, that was it. The details of where, when and why are briefly considered then fade away as irrelevant. We spoke via rainbows of light, my thoughts passing to him as written words appearing in an electronic device, and that is wondrous in itself. Not significant but very wondrous. There is meaning on many on many levels but the answer remains elusive so I wait.

It will come.

Enchanters were spoken of; those miraculous few that understand with cunning clarity the workings of the inner worlds of the mind or the outer world of reality. It was said, by me, that enchanters know many small secrets which is how they are able to fashion the artifacts of their craft. That wizards were different in that they knew a singular secret. That being the knowledge that there is no discernable difference between the inner world of the mind and the outer worlds beyond the mind. This is the essence of magic which is sometimes called simply 'change'. Therein lies the answer if only the key of the question can be found.

Why am I here?

Wrong question.

Why do my hands tremble and my heart pound?

Wrong question.

What is bothering me?

Wrong question.

Why does Apep trouble me so?

Wrong question.

Why do I love Ashnod?

Wrong question.

Who is looking for me?

Wrong question.

Why am I not with Ashnod now?

And the answer which has waited patiently blooms like a flower in my awareness brings a smile to my face with the very absurdity of it. Why indeed. Knowing the answer now, having found the correct question I make ready to do a small bit of magic as I rejoin her.


Holding a jade tea set atop a tray of carved bamboo between her hands, Elizabeth enters the living room and sets her burden carefully on the coffee table. Kneeling on the floor next to Ashnod, she carefully prepares three cups while smiling first at Ashnod and then Apep.

"I needed to take care of something," she explains filling three cups with a dark finely ground powder. "Before it became a larger problem." Without looking away from her preparations she continues, "While I was in the kitchen a much simpler explanation to your question occurred to me, Apep. Jason ne' Jager fears that future he carries within his memories. Aware of Jordi's growing attraction to him, and one might think his own attraction as well, he took steps to insure the matter took a different course than that of his memories. To that end he rejected Jordi's by ignoring his attraction and by demonstrating he was attracted to another. Myself.

"It was important enough," she explains while setting the measuring implement down and picking up the small jade teapot, "That after I refused him initially, he opened himself to me. I think the intent was to allow me to see that sincerity of his desire. He actually was sincere but there wasn't a sharing or interaction so it's difficult to say what he did and did not show me."


After carefully pouring steaming water slowly into each of the three cups she picks up another implement of bamboo and begins to whisk the mixture of the first cup precisely.

"One would think," she adds smiling at Apep, "That a consummate tactician such as Jason would see the inherent fallacy of his actions. Were his intent to actually change anything then this would seem a very... silly... course of action. It is actually possible that his actions would precipitate the very events he seems to want avoided. Silly."

The first cup completed, she sets it carefully on the table within reach of Apep and pauses while she studies her reptilian eyes and smiling face carefully.

"You know; you've been disconcerting me since you arrived. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I realized how much you remind me of someone else I know. She is isn't as exotically beautiful as you are but she has an amused expression that you reminded me of."

Looking away, she reaches for the second cup and adds, "She, in turn, was often a constant reminder to me of what my daughter Deirdre would have been like if she hadn't died. I avoided her for years because of that. It's only been very recently that I could see her again and not dwell on that. It was something that I usually don't think about, hadn't thought about, until I met you. It's a very good thing to finally think about that and realize that it was only a problem because... I didn't want to thinking about it. Life amazes me constantly."

Her hands continue the precise motions of preparing the second cup while continuing to smile at Ashnod. Then, rising, she comes to the couch and extends the cup to Ashnod with both hands and offers it to her smiling.

"As do you," she adds, her smile warming.


Elsewhere in this remarkable house, the warm rays of the sun enter and track a slowly winding path across room. In time, as the sun moves across the sky, the light falls across a small shiny object swinging lazily on a golden chain hung from a drawer. As reflected light flashes brightly from it's surface, casting pulses of sunlight through the room in random motions, it continues to swing.



My mind retains the words spoken from her tongue: Jager's obsessions, her own involvement, what happened to Jordan Rossi, but it is little more than background noise. I am aware of it, following it, can even converse about it if needs be, but that is not where my thoughts are focused.

I am very much aware of her head upon my knee the entire time she relates the events of the Prodigy encounter to us. A constant presence, a light pressure upon the muscles, little more than that but...she touches me as though we are old lovers. Familiar and comfortable with me, enough so that such casual yet intimate contact, even in front of and upon the first meeting of my daughter, seems natural to her.

That isn't concerning me as much as how natural I find it to be. I'm concerned that it doesn't bother me, or at the very least, make me feel uneasy. That I have to make cognizant effort to not return these gestures with my own.

Love...to think of that word in this context is to make it seem like an alien concept. Foreign to me. Yet, I have loved, and despite my long absence from the mating game, always knew it would find me again. But has it been so long that to feel it again, to know the utter titillation that forces the hair on my neck to stand on end and my flesh to goosepimple at the merest thought sharing the company of that other...is to experience it as though it were my first time?

As Wizard moves into the kitchen, Apep arches her eyebrow at me again. She says nothing, doesn't truly need to. The question is obvious enough.

I shrug with only my expression and without shoulders. She smirks in response. It's obvious, then. I wonder how obvious. Must focus myself, and become part of this conversation. Not some distant participant.

No sooner has that thought crossed my thoughts then she returns from the kitchen carrying an elaborate jade tea set that seems...appropriate to her. More about Jordan and Jager...I nod attentively as I listen, still silent and giving no offerings about those two. Something about Apep reminding her of another.

I'm doing it again. Thinking about things other than the conversation at hand. I promised myself I wouldn't do this. None of this interests me. Not entirely accurate. It does, but only in a passing sense. It's just not what I want to be thinking about right now.

A teacup is being handed to me. It takes me longer than I'd like to admit to realize this is happening.

I had been watching the soft glow of those green eyes the whole time.




"Life constantly amazes me...as do you."

Is...that...flirting? Are they flirting? I do very good not to drop my fancy little teacup and giggle. There are some things in life I think we aren't meant to see, and witnessing your mom and her apparent girlfriend go through the pre-relationship courting is definitely not one of them.

Ashnod's expression while Wizard was in the kitchen is all I really need to know that it's probably a good idea to excuse myself right now. Despite my curiosity at who I remind Wizard of, if I have to squirm through one more awkward moment someone's going to lose their head. Probably me, but who's counting?

I watch their fingers brush briefly as mom takes the teacup, and that's all I can stand for now. I'll grill her for the details later, and put her through the ringer at the soonest possible moment.

I've got enough to think about now for the moment, both from what I've seen here and what I've been told as well.

The tea is really good though. Pity I won't be getting more of it soon.



Apep finishes off the provided tea, and sets her cup gently back down upon the tray. Rising to her feet, she turns to Wizard.

"It was good to meet you." Smiling, she walks back to the corner of the room where the shadows are the thickest. "One day, you'll have to show me the person that I make you think of."

A last, mischievous glance in Ashnod's direction, and she melts into the darkness.




The two of us again.

The tea has not even touched my lips.

The cup is set down upon the tray.

I barely acknowledge the fact that I have done this, yet it is already three seconds into the past.

Nine seconds into the past the shadows caressed my daughter's form as they consumed her.

Ten minutes, twenty-seven seconds into the past, Elizabeth came out of the kitchen and began speaking to us about Jager's method of dealing with the unwanted affection of Jordan Rossi.

Twenty-four minutes, twenty-one seconds ago, my table is shattered in a pool of mists by an unexpected fist of anger. Exactly two hundred seconds later, the damage is forgotten and the table reconstructed.

Thirty-eight minutes, eleven seconds ago, she held a spoon to my lips and asked me to taste. I knew that she was going to ask me to do this before it ever happened…perhaps it was at the exact moment the thought came to her. Nonetheless, the moment of complete unison occurred. Synergy, as it has become commonly phrased.

Forty-six minutes, fifty-nine seconds ago, Apep said, "I don't have to tell you what this looks like." I had been holding Elizabeth against me. My fingers upon the back of her neck, hers resting upon my shoulder, her breath against my neck, and my forehead leaning against the top of her head. I had been sleeping thirty-eight seconds before this.

Ten hours, forty-one minutes, fifteen seconds before this, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.

Ten hours, forty-one minutes, sixteen seconds before this, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.

Ten hours, forty-one minutes, seventeen seconds before this, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.

How peculiar is that, that I can remember the exact second, even more minute measurements if asked, moment in time that this Nova spoke those words to me?

It is now. Existing concurrently, in past, present, and future, our lips are touching. No words passed since Apep's departure seventeen seconds ago. Synergy again. We simply knew that this was coming and met the eventuality without hesitation. The shadows rippled twice, stabilized, we were alone, the teacup was set down, and our lips met.

Two seconds into the past our lips met for the first time. They are still together, now, in the present.

Ten hours, forty-one minutes, twenty seconds before this, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.

I have not said those words to her just yet.

My fingers have removed the binding from her hair. The braid is released, and I slowly unfurl it from the weave. My fingers in turn weave into the liberated locks there.

Our lips are still together.






Still together.

Her fingers are now in my hair as well. This soothes and inflames at the same time.

Sixteen seconds into the past, this kiss began.

Ten hours, forty-one minutes, thirty-three seconds before this, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.

I am aware of the red glow of my anima as it surrounds us again. The room is again bathed in the crimson light. As we hold each other, I'm certain this looks like it is emanating from our union rather than me in particular.

Her fingers grip my hair tightly.

Her eyes…those brilliant green orbs of illumination and serenity…flare brightly.

And we are gone.


Below the caldera of volcanic mountain, the inhabitants of the city below are running for their life. The mountain came to life with a sudden, furious scream that might have been uttered from Haphaestus himself as his hammer descended from high above his head to strike the forge. Most of them will not make it. The city is already being consumed in a geological rage they have no way of comprehending, much less out racing.

Inside the caldera amidst the hurtling magma and flaring heat, two goddesses, not at all responsible for the disaster, are dancing.



We spiral within the lava.

The light within lava is much brighter than the light you see captured upon film.

End upon end upon end, we spiral.

The heat upon our bodies is exquisite.


Almost hot enough to cause pain.

If we would allow it to, that is.

The feel of it against our skin, as it passes through fingers, along our cheeks, tickling the space between our lips and noses as we kiss.

Molten rock.

The primordial stuff of creation.

Revered and worshipped.

Feared and cursed.

Destroying a city that may one day become a legend far below us.

Merely a pretty backdrop.


Across the plains of a land that in other possibilities might have been named Oklahoma, a tribe of warriors, wearing dried leather clothing and bone armor, races across the countryside upon four-legged steeds, try to out race the swirling column of air throwing sediment and flora kilometers in every direction. Unlike their counterparts in Pompeii, this tribe will survive to relay the experience to their wives and children in an extravagant story told three-hours, fifty-two minutes later around the fire they have gathered around. And unlike previous storms of this nature, they will tell quite truthfully that this one had a menacing red eye in its center, watching them the whole time.

Inside the Finger of God, as it will ironically be named in folklore some two hundred, seventy-six years into the future, two goddesses, not at all responsible for the disaster, are dancing.



We spiral within the tornado.

Around us, the walls of air spin madly, but here at the center, we hover in perfect calm.

Relatively speaking, of course.

My anima continues to shine, the intensity of its light increasing as the quantum surges through me.

Our hair is tossed about, our clothing snapping madly as flags do on a blustery day, but we are only dimly aware of this.

The air around us is cool as only the air of a storm is.

Our lips have not separated.


Across a portion of the ocean floor that has never been seen by exploratory vessels, a red ball of coruscating energy sends the extremely light-sensitive creatures fleeing in all directions. A few draw closer, intrigued by the strange and possibly appetizing creatures at the sphere's center. None of them find the courage to move into the crimson barrier, and simply swim around it.

Watching the two creatures inside slowly move around and around.




The light of the sun has never touched this earth.

We slow, yet do not stop.

An unending spiral.

Our lips have yet to part.

Like the lava, the caress of this element is exotic.

Painful even, if we'd allow it to be that way.

Like the lava, it is liquid.

Unlike the lava, the viscosity is different.

Like the lava, it would be deadly to any surface dwelling creature.

Unlike the lava, the pressure here would kill them first.

My skin is tingling.




The appearance of a red star in the sky goes for the most part unnoticed. The invention of the astronomical telescope is still in its infancy, and the light of the star can only be perceived by the best of human eyes, and only then far from the candles and torches of the cities.

Those that do see it take it as an omen.

Ill things lay waiting in the future.

But for whom?



The earth is below us when our spiral, our spira mirabillis, finally reaches its conclusion.

Even then, we continue to circle lazily.

Not truly stopping.

Like the last vibrations of a spinning coin desperate for one last rotation before it falls.

We don't fall.

Eleven hours, twenty-six minutes, twenty-eight seconds ago, Elizabeth told me that she loved me.



The earth is below us.

This is not our earth.

This is a possible earth.

A possibility.

Perhaps we have will have counterparts on this world.

Perhaps, like us, they will have meandered through the endless garden of forking paths, and found at the end, each other.

All the possible presents.

The possible futures.

Endless possibilities that have led us to this exact moment in time.

I'd like to think this those counterparts exist.

Perhaps now, above our earth, they dance as we are.

Perhaps now, my counterpart is looking at her counterpart as I am now.

I dearly hope so.

I hope my counterpart is like me.

That right now, eleven hours, twenty-eight minutes, and one second after Elizabeth told me that she loved me, she will pull away from Elizabeth's counterpart's lips and say,

"And I, too, love you."


“Now I must tear you apart to the middle of the center of your secret heart.

One more thing for you to fear.

The sky is heaving and the sea is calm, as beautiful as the atom bomb.

Close my eyes, you disappear.

Now everything you think is real so only think the things you should.

Everyone I hate’s okay. Everything is bad and good.

No one’s nice in paradise this is how the Gods Make Love.

Every touch means too much, this is how the Gods Make Love.”

-Too Much Joy, “Gods Make Love”

/End of Gods Make Love/

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...