“Samdru, what’s that?” Our team leader, Instructor First Rank Ranan Dumogga Batar, gestured to a display of an odd reading taken from the ground beneath our feet. Odd, for we had just scanned this area before landing, no signs of anything worth looking at below ground but our finding. Just moments ago, we dispatched courier drones to a Kai’Siri outpost in the next system following the funeral of our friend and teammate young Khamudraht Vaasa, dead on his twentieth birthday, or so we thought…
Seemingly destroyed, caught in a flash of Dunar radiation with no apparent remains, not even ashes to spread across the stars in mourning.
Ignoring the Instructor’s casual and improper use of my dimunitive, I look where he points, at a display showing an odd formation six meters below us — Fossils? Odd. Why didn’t they show up before? — The more I look, the stranger things get. That’s a human skeleton, in strata indicated at over 50 million years of age. That’s impossible, as our earliest human ancestors were transplanted from Sacred Terra only 200,000 years ago.
What on Sirug’s majestic glaciers is a human skeleton doing here at that date?? I get a chill down my spine as I look, and punch in a command to the ground scanner. I have a bad feeling about what I’ll find, perhaps just my grief over young Khamud’s sudden death only an hour ago, but I must find out. I order the scanner to match biometric data against the members of our team.
Numbers flash across the screen, and stop where I was afraid they would. The bones are the fossilized remains of Khamudraht Vaasa, dated along with the strata now at 55 million years or so. I let that sink in. For a moment, both the Instructor First Rank and I are speechless, then after several more tests of alternative hypotheses we conclude that Khamud must have been somehow shifted in time by the relics, and suddenly killed on this landmass in the distant past before he traveled too far on foot, or perhaps displaced just under it, tens of millions of years ago.
My heart sinks with despair. So young, so handsome and full of life. And now gone…I barely knew him. Then I think of what this implies…
“Instructor First Rank…” My voice quavers, “…the relics…If they can do that, they must be powerful weapons… They could be put to our service, even end the war with our enemies, end the stalemate of this conflict. We could win this!” Ranan touches my shoulder as I stare at the readings, but I ignore the familiarity, even welcome it. He ranks above me, after all, and is not an unhandsome older man.
In a moment of nationalistic pride that I’d come to regret the rest of my days afterward, I whisper, “We must use them, to overwhelm the Giants and cement our place in galactic affairs!” Ranan looked on at the relics, held in their Dunar field containers, slowly rotating in and out of spacetime, to us almost as intangible as ghosts and potentially giving us the powers of the gods themselves…
He nods, and begins giving orders to the rest of our team.
The others have so far been kept unawares of our plans for these relics as weapons, as we’ve convinced them that young Khamud was killed by ancient security systems. In a way, that’s true. We haven’t told them about the fossils we found — in an oddly fortunate turn of events, our funding has permitted us only one groundscanner system, and by tradition, only the Instructor First Rank and I as his assistant researcher have full access to its data.
Oh, others may use the device, but the data on Khamudraht’s multimillion-year old remains is kept quantum-encrypted as classified information, our eyes only.
Only the two of us know the secret of his demise. We oversee the loading of the relics onto the shuttle for our craft in orbit. Once docked, we set coordinates and starfold to an outpost three systems out, a frontier military base where our discoveries will be kept and studied. They are now state secrets.
It is difficult to keep the true nature of the relics from the others, and they cannot help but suspect that we are doing just that. None of us are stupid, and their insistent curiosity, so much a part of their scientific outlook, is not helping with keeping things quiet.
We Kai’Siri are an aggressive lot, though our social evolution has permitted us to outstrip that and survive as an interstellar species. Still, tensions run high, and we strain even our culture’s evolved safety mechanisms at keeping relations civil.
There is resentment, and jealousy…I fear now that I was too unskilled at hiding my feelings for Khamud when he lived, nor now for the Instructor. The others have noticed, and that may bring shame upon my family line.
I must take steps to ensure the secret of these relics, which Ranan has called ‘hypershards,’ even if I must eliminate others to do it.
I think a prayer to my family’s household gods that it does not come to that. We Kai’Siri are a civilized people! Please, let it not!
What have I gotten into?
To be continued…
This was the narrative from a dream I remember from a few years ago, much embellished from the original dream, and I was forced to clarify details that were kind of fuzzy in the dream itself. I think elements of it may have come from reading some of Robert Price’s excellent Weird Tale fiction in anthologies published by Chaosium a few years back. Look those up and read them if you can find them online. On with the piece… ~ Troythulu
Once, there stood the citadel of Mighty Oeveruuk, seat of civilization throughout the breadth of the galaxy, with its non-Euclidean stone towers and fractal glass minarets standing high above the clouds themselves and announcing the power of its Lords over all.
This citadel had been in decline for some time, though its rulers, the Spacelords, had kept it running, consulting the Wise Ones for tidings of the future, but these latest tidings were not to their liking…
The Maker of the End of Worlds, the horrid Manticora, was on it’s way to Oeveruuk, to conclude the cycle of decline the Spacelords had presided over, to end this once-mighty civilization of the stars. The Wise Ones advised the building of a weapon, constructed of alien stone and eldritch crystal, that would use bolts of twisted space to save the citadel, stabbing the sky to save their fallen world.
But while the weapon was being built, one of their number betrayed his fellows and sabotaged the project. Why the turning of the coat? None know with any surety, as all on this world died when the End arrived, though it is suspected that the traitor was tempted with power by the Manticora, sweet lies of life elsewhere, and worse, a game of revenge against the others, for they laughed behind his back, or so he thought, worms of resentment eating at his mind as bitterness and suspicion claimed what remained of his once great intellect.
The die was cast, the bargain, if and once made, was sealed, and so was the fate of Mighty Oeveruuk. The day arrived when the Manticora came to claim its prize, the routine death of yet another world, its mane of metal serpents writhing as it descended from the sky, enormous crimson wings spread wide to catch the solar wind.
The weapon, in desperation, was used…but its bolts of twisted, roiling space were out of focus, weakened and useless, amusing the Manticora as they splashed and slid off of its nickel-iron scales, grown from eating far too many asteroids in between meals, just before the weapon was flattened by an idle paw swipe, its tower and crystaline rings quickly shattered by the casual swing of a sting-tipped tail.
The Betrayer, his name is lost to time now, was of all people the most surprized. If his reward were to live, the joke was on him, for he was first to die. Without so much as time for a look of shock on his face, he was flattened by a paw the size of a league-spire for his efforts.
The sky darkened, and winds howled as wing-driven cyclones did their work, scrubbing the doomed world clear of all the taint of civilization. When the Manticora looked upon its handiwork, it saw that all was worthy, all had ended. All was good. All was dead.
Oeveruuk’s sun dulled, reddened, begun to shed its outer layers, and the tiny dead speck of a world once orbiting it spiralled outward, lifeless and scorched, into the chilly darkness of the vacuum in a universe neither knowing nor caring of those who once called it…home.
I am Samdrumani Amhadiraan Natalanaana Paruul, and I am a proud Kai’Siri woman, for today, after months of digging at the gravesites of dead civilizations, my teammates and I have made a most unusual find on our most recent excavation. We are, my team and I, archaeologists from the esteemed Madutraada University, main campus, on the homeworld of my species, mighty Sirug, city-continent Avatrumuulat.
We have found an anomaly, a very old one, too old, indeed, older than the origin of my people on our adopted planet, the capital of the Galactic Exarchate of Sagmaruun. But I get ahead of myself, and shall related things as best I can for posterity’s sake. Should anyone recover this journal, they will know that this finding will shake the galaxy, and end our bitter war with the Giants of Tokmolos. I shall start from the beginning, at least, the interesting parts.
We had been at dig site after dig site on this dying world, its resident biosphere already on its last gasp as its stellar primary began to brighten too much and boil away the oceans, its stellar wind stripping the once breathable atmosphere to dangerous thinness and exposing the ruins of the surface to lethal levels of stellar radiation. We must all wear protective suits since our stay here, only the simplest forms of life, the hardiest microbes analogous to extremophiles living on my homeworld, remaining. Of those, only species far beneath the crust and its dead mantle will continue, for a time, at least.
We were at a newly identified location on this planet’s northern hemisphere, where the icecaps once covered the pole some million years ago, before the planet’s sun began to die. We had gotten some very strange readings from a site that looked barren, no surface structures, yet our readings indicated that something was emitting Dunar radiation, something far below the ground, something that could only be technological. At arrival, we zeroed in on the readings, locating our spot, and set down, garbed in our suits.
After months of fruitless digging, spurred on only by what was left of our funding and the readings of our instruments, we were about to give up, pack our equipment, and head back to Kai’Siri space, when we found it, or rather, them. It was our group’s assistant excavator, Khamudraht Vaasa, a brilliant young man barely out of his teens who uncovered them, alien artifacts in a set of three, all broadcasting a Dunar signature that was off the scale from all previous discoveries.
Relics. Relics billions of years old, relics predating the evolution of life on Sirug. This was an impossibility. There had to be something wrong with our method of dating the findings, but after recalibrating our instruments over and again, the readings checked out. Young Vaasa was killed instantly. Or so it seemed. Probably some sort of security failsafe built into the relics, or a malfunction, whatever. It was a pulse of Dunar radiation that went off as soon as the digging was complete. He was closest to it, instantly disintegrated. After an impromptu funeral, sending a starfold courier drone with the news to the nearest Kai’Siri outpost system, we looked closer…
They were shining spheres, well, not quite spheres, but constantly shifting back and forth between sphereishness, to things altogether different, as the radiation died down and we examined them closer, in relative safety given the local conditions. Made of some kind of bizarre alien crystal, they seemed to rotate in and out of spacetime dimensions higher than the usual four, barely tangible to our sort of matter. We were forced to hold them using instruments employing Dunar fields to grasp them at all, much less in safety, once recovering them from their casing, a sort of stasis box.
It was then we made our next discovery. Instruments showed fossils below us, probably the ancient remains of native life, or so we thought, until we made sense of the scan we were getting — it was a fossilized human skeleton, dated at fifty-five million years old, and it matched the measurements of Khamudraht Vaasa, our comrade who only hours before had been seemingly destroyed…
To be continued…
This is a story I came up with in the late 1990s and I’ve printed it elsewhere once before, in a long-defunct newsletter lost to the winds of change. It’s a time-travel story with a twist, and was inspired by the fantasy fiction of Isaac Asimov, from his collection, “Magic.” ~ Troythulu
Casper Fendelman, an ordinary fellow was doing yardwork in the front lawn of his ordinary home one day, and noticed what seemed rather out of place in his ordinary neighborhood, right next to his favorite lawnchair, an odd little thing that looked all the world like a spaceship in miniature, straight out of 1950s SciFi movies.
This was rather disturbing, so he tried to figure out how to get rid of it without anyone noticing it, thinking it a prank played by the local children, probably ordered by mail out of a comic book advertisement before being placed on his lawn. But as he was turning over ideas for disposing of it in his mind, he couldn’t help but notice a rather strange figure, an octopoid no larger than his pet poodle, exit the craft and stride over to him on its tentacles as he gaped.
It pulled out some odd-looking device and fumbled with it for a second before the small widget it held emitted speech “…s a representative of your species to engage in first contact with mine, with my transparaconfabulatronic reality-bending technology, I’m hereby empowered to grant you a wish, but only one. You may not wish for more wishes, nor may you wish for more of me to grant them. Make your choice.”
At first Casper was suspicious, but looked over the small ‘alien’ to make sure it wasn’t just a remote-controlled toy and that kids were trying to pull one over on him, but he got the idea of humoring them just in case, and on the spur of the moment, thought up a wish…
“Alright, Mister…What’s your name?” “My name’s—-” It came out sounding like a cat trying to bark combined with a frog on steroids trying to croak the instrumentals to Beethoven’s 9th symphony while having a bad acid trip. As he heard it, Casper felt like he was in a Philip K. Dick novel, and seemed to be hearing colors and smelling sounds. He immediately and forever despaired of ever managing all that with his human vocal equipment. “…but you can call me Fred.” “Well, um, Fred, I wish to go back in time to my past to relive my youth.”
The alien hesitated, then warned Casper of the possible consequences of meddling in his own past, but still thinking he was just playing along with a children’s prank, Casper was insistent. The alien pressed a small indentation in the device he (she? it? they?) held and said, “Very well. Done.”
What happened next was, to say the least, rather surprising. Casper was suddenly in his past self’s body, in full control of it, and with foreknowledge of the future in hand he immediately set to work correcting the mistakes of his youth, while reliving his triumphs. He began to get a bit worried, as this all seemed too real to be a children’s trick. What the heck had they put in his coffee? Was he dreaming? No, what was going on around him made too much sense, and his brain’s reality-testing algorithms were in full working order. That, and while he could control his own actions, he was limited to that, not the global changes in the environment or physics possible with lucid dreaming.
When the wish expired (as all good things must) Fred appeared before Casper to let him know and send him back. Casper was fully convinced now, and insisted that this was the best thing that had happened to him, all errors of the past fixed, and when he returned to his time, all would be well in the world. No longer would he be Casper the nobody! But Fred’s saturnine expression (as best an octopoid without a face could manage that) worried him as the alien said…
“I warned you about changing your own past in your earlier self’s body, but you were insistent and not thinking any of this real, not taking it seriously enough. As I tried to tell you before, you were in your own past, but you didn’t simply ‘possess’ your past self — you exchanged bodies with yourself, so that while you were in the past, your past self whose mistakes you were so concerned with fixing was in your present body…” Casper’s blood froze in his veins as Fred continued, “…doing the things he would now as he did then…”
“…and while doing it, having the time of your life!“
This entry was inspired by a chat with my GURPS GM, on logic and Doctor Who, and I decided to mix that with fantasy fiction involving a dreamscape. ~Troythulu
Where the hell am I? One moment I was slicing open the last of a group of wamps that were eyeing Marie as an option on their dinner menu, the next I’m standing in a field of red grass with two suns overhead.
I’ll not belabor the point of just how profoundly wrong this is, so I start looking around, only to find myself alone, no sign of Marie or wamps.
The first thing I do is make plans to find out who did this and make them pay. My ‘spidey sense’ goes off. Someone is behind me, so I do the sensible thing and look.
Some old guy all by himself, wearing robes and carrying a book. My first thoughts immediately involve wizards, and my doing unpleasant things to them for bringing me here alone and endangering my charge. My blades are oddly sheathed. That’s weird, but my hands instantly go to their hilts anyway, drawing them again in one fluid motion.
“You won’t be needing those, young man. Unless you do something very clever with my corpse, I may just come back, no haunting needed, no head absolutely necessary. I’m not responsible for your being here.”
I ask where “here” is.
“Gallifrey. You’re very, very far from home.”
Then things get weird, as if not already. Something big and scaley, with wings, silently flies overhead, momentarily blotting out both suns. It looks like a Japanese Tatsu except for the wings, eight of them, or maybe nine. Hard to tell when they melt into and out of each other.
Gallifrey. Never heard of it. What dimension is it in?
“It’s a planet, located in the constellation of Kasterborous. It’s the homeworld of my people, and you may know me as the Philosopher.”
It just struck me…I’m not saying anything out loud, not by moving my lips, but I hear my own voice as if I were, and apparently so does he. The weirdness just got cranked up a few notches, but I roll with it. I’m intrigued, so I decide to kill him only after he presents a threat.
Well, Philosopher, I’m pressed for time and really need to get back home.
The silent speech again. The old man smiles, and I suddenly notice how much he looks like old statues of Aristotle, bearded and balding. Wait. How do I know about that? I file this away in my mental curiosity cabinet for later.
“Time? Oh, we’ve that in abundance here. My people walk in Eternity, so perhaps I might be of some help.”
Game change. I file this fellow into a slot of my mind’s ‘not to kill’ folder.
“So, walk with me for a bit. You seem to be rather bright for a human, and as you chose not to simply kill me despite several opportunities, capable of some rationality. What do you know of logic?”
I mention the history of logic on Earth, from the pre-Socratics onward, to symbolic logic, to that used in computers. Wait. How do I know this, anyway?
It suddenly occurs to me, that this situation is strikingly like a dream. Marie’s told me about hers, and the way events follow each other here is similar. Odd, very odd. I never dream, at least not prior to now, so what gives? This could be some kind of illusion, but then it hits me… This dream, if it is one, seems to make too much sense even for not making sense.
Mindbleed. Except that none of this involves Angelique’s personality or interests. Someone else then? But who? Or what? The pieces fall into place as I chat with this…whoever and whatever he is. I recognize this scenario as fiction, based on a television series that ended in 1989, but I play along. We walk through fields of red, toward what looks like a domed city, but then, things start melting away, the Philosopher beginning to fade, and as he does, his voice echoes in my mind as the real world reasserts itself with a vengeance…
“It’s easy to think of logic as proceeding simply from premises to conclusion through a linear chain of reasoning, but the truth is that logic, any useful, versatile logic, is actually a sort of wibbly-wobbly, philosophy-wossophy…stuff…of thought. Remember that as you search for your….”
Blast. Missed his very last parting words, but at least I’m back where I was, the ground strewn with dead and disintegrating wamps, Marie happily disassembling and cleaning her pistol.
“Sergei,” she asks, “what’s wrong? You’ve been standing there for five minutes now, and Angel wants us to join her and mister Ashur at a restaurant for dinner. We should go…There’ll be Indian food!”
That brings things into perspective. But that…quasi-dream?..lingers in my thoughts despite my attempts to dismiss it. So I settle instead for a distraction, giving one of my least grim smiles as I help with the “cleanup” and ready for our night out.
I must find out what happened and why, with that dreamscape, and who or what is responsible.
Angel won’t appreciate someone else being linked to her shinobi familiar, but for now, an evening on the town is in order.
I could use a break from destroying nasties, and this one is much needed.