Friday, February 8, 2013


Bobby Derie

Past the purple nebula it came, where a cluster of six dying stars shone their ruddy light through sedate clouds whose differing electrical potential can give birth to cosmic lightning, the ion trails of which persist for millenniums in slow diffusion, so that the strange light shadows a forest of ghostly smoke-signals, each remembering some ancient eruption of power, each greater in magnitude than the entire energy-usage of most civilizations.

For a few light-years it followed the broken remnants of a near-light speed spacecraft, slowly disintegrating into cosmic rays as it hurtles through the void, massive with its accumulated velocity. The insides as impenetrable a mystery as beyond the event horizon of a black hole, time so warped relative to its space that perhaps only centuries have passed within since it left its birth crèche. On one pale world, the long-suffering astronomers were rewarded when the forward shielding finally collapsed, giving partial view of the half-decayed pilot still strapped to its seat; an entire new discipline was born from the data they captured before the craft continued its journey past the range of their telescopes.

It arrived at last at a bare outcrop of stone, a quasi-moon cast when the planet it half-circles was first being born, the half-molten rock cast up from some furious eruption or dire impact, yet caught in the inexorable interplay of gravity, to forlornly circle its parent body. The quasi-moon was hot when it erupted, and the liquid mineral core cooled slowly beneath the crust as it spun through the heavens, crystallizing from a dozen seed points. At some point, the body had been strangely irradiated—perhaps nuclear testing, or some massive solar flare from the nearby star—which stripped away some of the outer crust, and laid bare the strange-colored unpolished gemstones, rippled rainbows and shadows caught within their radioactive facets.

It was not alone, and considered the other omnipotents.

There was a humanoid of easy grace, a hollow skin of unfathomably exotic stuff holding captive a nuclear fire, crafted in gentle curves and pendulous breasts, almost faceless. At first it believed that perhaps this power source was her, but on reflection It thought it more likely the intellect was contained within those few millimeters of skin. And there was a childlike titan with trifold symmetry, contained in a bubble of air that it no longer needed to breath; the nanite aura surrounding it had already begun reshaping the quasi-moon, etching bare rock into the semblance of a street beneath his bare feet, crafting gems into figurines of dead corporate presidents of the republic. Perhaps there was a third, on the edge of It’s perception, for in orbit of the quasi-moon was a mobile point of non-perception, an alien datapoint only visible for its distinct absence; weighing the possibilities It considered that if the third had not wished to be known, even this gap would not have been apparent, and thus classified it as probably non-hostile.

Silently, they regarded the giant.

Even at this distance, it stretched beyond sight, and sent strange echoes in other wavebands. Its scars alone could have engulfed continents; the broken and shattered remnants of planets trailed in its wake. The very presence of the giant in this system had terminally disrupted the equilibrium. Moons, asteroids, and dwarf planets pulled from their orbits; the upper layers of gas giants stripped to form a strange tail as it passed too close; planetary electromagnetic fields collapsed, shifted, and realigned as nature tried to balance the incursion of the giant’s own massive EM presence. The native life in the system probably collapsed after the first few decades as the giant’s coronus began to affect their worlds. It vaguely wondered if any of them had lived to stare at the sky and wonder at the death it heralded for them.

The first signal of the final stage was the sudden expansion of the datagap—the Third extending itself, presumably. Almost in response the woman-skin rippled and flowed, instruments erupting and forming until she looked caught within a matrix of burnished chrome. The titan only stared at the interface point, where the vast bulk of the giant brushed the other surface of the alien sun; his aura spawned smaller swarms that continued the xenoscaping without his conscious volition or direction.

This was what they had come to witness. To see if the giant had come here to die…or to feed.


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