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[Fiction] Veto on Eden


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Three months ago…

The sun was rising, throwing sharp shadows across the strange jungle. The golden-orange quality of the light was different from home, the traveller noted. So were the leaves on the trees here, a curious blue-green in colour rather than the dark green common in the rainforests he was used to. He took a deep breath of the air: tasting it, analysing it, finding that the results pleased him. It was slightly richer in oxygen than his home’s air, but sweet and clean. No factories had ever belched dangerous emissions into the atmosphere here. No nova-derived microbes had ever had to be used to clean up the sparkling turquoise oceans. From where he stood on the air over the bluish canopy, the traveller could hear a chorus of noises; screeches and twitterings, howlings and whoops from the jungle below, and smiled. It appeared the local ecosystem supported a wide range of life. Looking around, the traveller took stock of the terrain.

To the north were golden-tinged mountains, blazing their greetings to the day. South lay the glittering expanse of an inland sea, too large to be a lake: one of three on this large landmass that the traveller had spotted on his approach. Large winged shapes lazily flapped from the canopy a mile to the west, altering their course towards the strange golden glow in the sky with the wary interest of predators. As they swooped and dove around one another, the traveller made out their features. Large birds, but with teeth and jaws reminiscent of prehistoric avians. Their plumage was bright colours underneath, scarlets and purples mixing in whorls of colour. The tops of their wings and bodies, however, were a dull blue-green, almost identical to the forest canopy. Interesting. The large bird-creatures, each one about half man size, would be formidable predators here, the more so because they seemed to hunt as packs.

Not desiring a confrontation, the traveller decided to move onwards. The strange creatures screeched in alarm as the glowing golden form streaked away to the south, faster than any winged animal could follow. The flying man arced out over the turquoise water of the sea, his azure eyes taking on some of the water’s tint as he peered down at the surface. He saw life in the shallow depths, and dropped down low to get a closer look. Strange-looking fish, as beautiful in colour and variety as those back home, played around coral reefs whose colours ranged from silvery grey to bright yellow, crimson and blue. No great naturalist himself, the traveller mused that the appearance of the coral would probably seem all-too alien to an expert from Earth. To his eyes, however, it appeared little different. Floating just above the surface, he put one golden glowing hand into the water and cupped some, raising it to his mouth to sample before spitting it back out: It was salt water, as he suspected. How exactly it differed from his home-world’s salt water was a question for someone with a more analytical sense of taste, but to his admittedly impressive senses it seemed no different. He let himself drift upwards, away from the surface of the water, his thoughts turning inwards.

There was more to see, more to explore, the traveller realised. Though it had taken him time enough to find such a compatible planet, even with the ability to step between star systems, he realised he could not rush into bringing others here until he had explored the dangers of the world a little more fully. There may be dangers lurking here that, whilst no threat to him, would be fatal to others. What if there was already indigenous intelligent life? He must take his time and explore more fully. Test the food supply, find clean water, find out which animals would be safe to eat for those that could and would eat them. Study the weather patterns and seasons. From the looks of it, it never snowed in this part of the world, and the overall planet was hotter than Earth, but there might be monsoons and hurricanes.

Eden isn’t the right name, Procyon thought with a wry smile as he rose into the dawn sky, itself seeming bluer that the sky at home, tinged with indigo. Eden in the tales was a paradise, but also a kindergarten for those who needed looking after. This world was no kindergarten, that much was apparent. But it was a paradise nonetheless. A flock of startlingly brilliant butterflies (or at least butterfly-like insects, he corrected himself), fluttered past the radiantly glowing nova with their wings shedding scarlet dust, and Procyon grinned, imagining Li’s face when she saw them.

The others too, he mused. Ptesan-Wi and Wakinyan would be in Seventh Heaven here, Mithril would flip out, Samhra and Sing… Flicker and Neil… Violet… Sean… Hell, I’d bring Revenant here just to see if the grumpy bugger would try and play it cool and unimpressed. He chuckled inwardly, rising higher into the sky and looking around, his vision effortlessly stretching for miles.

Olympus? No, too vain. Hmm. Names were never my strong point. Maybe I should let everyone decide on a name. He smiled at that thought. Yes. I think so. This place isn’t mine to name.

I’ll exercise veto on “Eden”, though.

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36 Hours before “Wrecking Crew”

The sun was setting, throwing sharp shadows across the strange landscape. This far west, the jungle was gone, a broad savannah taking its place, only broken up here and there by rocky outcroppings. The purple grass waved in the breezes coming in off the western ocean, which glinted iridescently in the near distance. Daytime creatures sought sanctuary as the sun sank, ending their efforts towards hunting, grazing or procreation as a more basic instinct for shelter took precedence. A small flock of quadrupeds grazed peacefully on the side of a hill, still in the light of the sun’s rays. Abruptly they scattered, moving with a loping, awkward run as their tranquil pasture was disturbed.

A strange creature crested the hill, unlike any other inhabitant of this world. It walked easily and gracefully on two legs, standing tall above the waving grass. In one limb it grasped a rudimentary spear composed of rock lashed to a pole, and a cloak of some scaly hide adorned it’s otherwise naked form. It’s sparkling blue eyes narrowed against the orange light of the setting sun, and it brought one limb up, sheltering it’s gaze as it swept it’s eyes over the landscape ahead. The creature was mostly furless and scale-less, appearing to have a soft pale hide darkened by exposure to the elements. Here and there a scar shone pink-white against the browned skin, and the only natural covering the creature seemed to have was thick brown fur on its head and face, with a sparser scattering adorning it’s torso and limbs. The strange creature stared at the shimmering strip of light that denoted the ocean, then let out a whoop of exultation, a near-primal sound of joy that startled nearby wildlife still further.

He had done it! Procyon laughed as he trotted down the hillside towards the water. Nearly 90 days since he had embarked upon this voyage of discovery, the nova had crossed from the easternmost edge of the continent to the westernmost. Even better, he had done it without un-dorming! Though even dormed, the nova admittedly possessed greater strength, speed and stamina than most human beings, in addition to the resistance to elements, illness and poison that had undoubtedly helped.

Damn, but it had been good to challenge himself this way. Along the way he had come close to death from the teeth, claws and poisons of predators, had endured hunger and pain, and had triumphed over all adversity. He had kept moving at a punishing pace, not stopping his progress save to eat and sleep. There had been three days lost when he had been forced to wait up in a tree whilst a strange porcine creature the size of a rhinoceros tried to starve him out. Then there were the two days he had lost a couple of weeks later, recovering from stomach cramps caused by eating an innocuous-looking green fruit. He marked that fruit well, for a normal human being would have likely found it fatal. Procyon had feared he would have to un-dorm to survive his trek on both occasions, but had persevered to stand here today, on the edge of this alien ocean, light-years from home.

The dormant nova slowed to a walk as he stepped onto the silvery sand, feeling it soft on his callused feet. The sea smelled like salt water and fresh breezes, and he felt tears coming to his humanlike eyes at the sight of that turquoise expanse before him. He thrust his rude spear into the sand and cast off the hide cloak that had been his only shelter on many nights. The challenge he had set for himself was over, and though he had advantages no human had, Procyon knew that the task had not been easy. He walked naked to the water’s edge, feeling the waves around his ankles, the wind on his face, and the sand beneath his bare feet. He closed his eyes briefly, feeling the rightness of this moment. Here on the water’s edge he was balanced, poised between the elements. There was an almost ritual quality to the moment, and the Terat felt a transcendent state of exaltation, a sensation rivalled only by Chrysalis.

Air, water, earth and… the thought hung there, going unfinished as he reached into himself and turned on his node, the pure hot flame of quantum power surging down his spine, coalescing in his belly, then exploding with the force of a star within him. In a heartbeat, his frail near-mortal flesh was transformed, the scars of his recent travails disappearing, the tanned skin turning golden, shot through with patterned highlights of dim radiance. Brown hair shot through with silver lightened to pure metallic gold. As the transformation sped up, the thin lines and whorls on Procyon’s skin brightened as though somewhere inside the naked man-shape was a solar furnace, wakening to its full terrible glory. Muscle and sinew, already powerful by baseline standards, became inhuman flesh capable of crushing granite and rending steel. Sweet ecstasy coursed through the nova’s frame: the power denied these past three months, the perfect understanding of the cosmos and his place in it, that terrible certainty that made one a god… or a monster. The mortal fragment of him that had been eating, sleeping, dreaming and surviving over the last three months quailed for a split second and was gone, absorbed in the rush of quantum consciousness, his experiences becoming part of the greater whole in a reunion that was over in a single white hot moment.

“Fire.” The reborn godling finished quietly, his voice soft, yet of such pure pitch that it could have been heard through a storm. The seawater around his ankles steamed from the heat of his awakening, motes of brilliant white and gold danced in his hazy golden aura. His lips twitched as his sheer delight in the moment threatened to overtake him. Incandescently sparkling blue orbs, bearing more resemblance to gems lit by inner fire than eyes, looked upwards to the purpling vault of the sky, and Procyon laughed for the sheer joy of it, his laughter ringing across the land and sea, carrying through the air. A slight pulse of his node, little more than a reflex, and the still laughing Nova soared upwards, his hands outstretched as though to embrace the sky. He tumbled like a wind-blown leaf through the air as he ascended, turning huge lazy loops as though experiencing flight again for the first time.

To think I almost took this for granted before! Procyon thought to himself with some humour. Not quite, but almost. Dorming isn’t “a useless tie to baseline obsolescence” as some Terats would have us believe: it is a vital part and parcel of appreciating our true nature. I can’t believe I was so blind. He turned a long, looping circle in the air, hanging there suspended between the heavens and the earth below. I won’t be that blind again.

Looking downwards to keep his home for the last 90 days in view, Procyon sent himself rocketing upwards into orbit, seeing the landmass shrink below him, here and there obscured by clouds as he ascended higher and higher. Before long, the shining blue haze of the atmosphere was below him, and he turned his gaze upwards and outwards. Two moons, one large and one small, orbited this world, and Procyon was struck by a moment of unreality.

20 years ago, I thought the idea of a habitable alien world a possibility, backed up by nothing more solid than “it has to exist somewhere, we can’t be the only ones.” Now I’m here, I’ve walked on one, contested with and been part of it’s ecosystem. And here’s two moons, hanging there like something from a sci-fi movie. If there is any experience that validates all the trouble and strife my eruption caused to me and others, it’s this one. His expression was sober for a moment, faces from the past flashing through his memory as he distantly regretted not being able to share this with some of those he had liked and loved. The moment passed, and a small smile crept back onto the Sun King’s face. Bet the tides here are crazy. Maybe I should have spent more time on the beach? He looked back wistfully at the planet below his bare feet.

Another time. I have people waiting for me, and I’ve been gone far too long already. He tapped into his node, charging his quantum matrix with more power as he prepared to FTL travel to the first galactic landmark in his mental map: a trinary star system about 40 light years away. He could feel it in his awareness of the universe: a beacon home. It’s going to be a long journey Procyon told himself ruefully, then abruptly disappeared in a streaking Doppler of golden lights.

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At roughly the same time as Wrecking Crew begins

The Sun. Of all the stars in the universe, the inhabitants of the third planet of the Sol system only acknowledge one in such a way: their own. It’s yellow radiance gives life to that small green-blue world, and is tapped as a source of energy by that planet’s sentient inhabitants.

Some inhabitants tap it more directly, without need or want of machines.

A small glowing mote floating a few hundred thousand miles from Mercury’s surface resolves into the shape of a glowing golden man, curled up in the fetal position, his eyes closed as he coasts along on the solar currents. He floats in the vacuum, fully exposed to solar radiation capable of inducing temperatures of 1000 degrees Celsius in any matter it touches. He appears asleep, and is in fact in a state similar to meditation. Glowing lines of brilliant light form patterns on his golden skin, and a hazy corona of light bathes his naked limbs as the Sun’s rays recharge his quantum matrix, restoring and reviving his inhuman biology. Obviously no ordinary man: this is Procyon, a Nova, resting from his travels.

His eyes open, their shimmering prismatic depths blazing with sapphire light as he stretches out from his curled up posture. He had been in his meditative state for a few hours, needing the Sun’s rays to aid in replenishing the stores of energy he depleted with his long trans-stellar journeying. Not needing sleep, Procyon nevertheless approached a reasonable facsimile of such, keeping enough awareness to maintain his position in space. Now he is restored, and it is time to go home.

A need for awareness of his environment being almost second nature to him, Procyon elects to ‘port into space over Earth, to listen in on the news and be prepared for what may be waiting for him. He hopes war hasn’t broken out, or that his friends haven’t been attacked by those who wish him ill. A pang of worry sparks in his consciousness, a feeling of unease at what could have happened in the time he has been gone. Somewhat hastily, he fixes on a location and streaks into what he wryly thinks of as “hyperspace”, emerging into upper orbit around his home world.

The sight of the blue planet turning beneath him makes Procyon smile, even as he allows his hearing to adjust to communication wavelengths, picking up satellite OpNet transmissions and newscasts. The Nova’s enhanced brain has little difficulty in sorting through the Babel of languages, frequencies and information, processing it with ease as he slowly drifts in space. Abruptly his eyes widen in shock.

Wakinyan, dead? Killed by some sort of orbital weapon? Procyon’s mind flashes to reports he heard from Ibiza, fire from the sky that obliterated Novas. Many had a theory as to who could be responsible: Utopia, the Directive, the Chinese government. And now that weapon had struck again. Procyon clenches his fists, wanting to scream his fury into the uncaring vacuum.

Wakinyan… Procyon mourns his student and friend, his mind flawlessly recalling details of the Thunderbird even as he searches the “airwaves” for more information, listening in on the OpNet signals. Wakinyan in flight… Struck down at Wounded Knee. The look on Waki’s face when Procyon and Ptesan-Wi cajoled him into living as a woman… Ptesan-Wi in protective custody, courtesy of the WCK.

I should not have left. I should have been here… A few days earlier, and I may have been in time What must Ptesan-Wi be going through? The sorrow roars up from Procyon’s darker half, sparking wrath which threatens to overwhelm him as it once did, many years before. He struggles to contain himself, almost surprised at how hard it is. Then his scanning picks up something which snaps him back to sanity.

Revenant? Leading an attack on the satellite? Right NOW? Procyon’s eyes flare with eager light, all mindless wrath forgotten. He turns his attention outwards, looking for a WCK communicator in orbit, trying to pick up any signals that might denote a struggle taking place up here. As he does so, he holds himself ready, preparing to teleport at a moment’s notice.

Maybe destroying the weapon isn’t the best way to get justice his rational mind supplies, and Procyon smiles, a darkly humorous expression that bodes ill for someone on the planet below.

Maybe not…

[Continued in Wrecking Crew]

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