Thursday: Ria

I woke up. I showered. Elders liked it when you showered. My people liked a scent on each other. Elders wanted you to have no scent. That’s fine. When with Elders, do things Elders like.

I hadn’t been home in a couple of years. I didn’t need to; the Followers were my home. Wherever there were Followers, I had a clowder. There were Followers everywhere.

I checked my Circlet. Six in the morning. Jon would be asleep until eight. That’s what time he had arranged for us to go out in Thirteen and visit the destroyed Thinker world. Jon wouldn’t get up until eight though, then he would rush around and be late. Jon was reliably late. People thought he was busy; Jon was not busy.

I looked around my room. I enjoyed having my own room. Most of the other Followers had lived in the communes or moved to the apartment building that Libby had let us use. I lived on Basilica. I had done ever since it was given to us by Her. It made me feel closer to Her. Just like protecting Jon.

I looked out of the window. There was a planet below. We were back at Central. We always came back to Central. Jon loved Central, that’s why we put our biggest temple here. Well, biggest until we were given Basilica.

I knew we were supposed to get at least one more supply run done. It would take a day to load up the cargo, assuming Libby could get it all the things on the Bricks needed. Jon said he wanted to explore a star system at the edge of the new Brick expansion area. Now the Thinkers were gone, the Bricks had taken a lot of their territory. Thinkers never shared their star charts, and their space was the biggest of all the Elder races.

Thinker space was the spoils of war, it was rightfully Human territory now. They cut it in half and let Bricks take it as a way of saying sorry for their planet getting smashed. I didn’t much like the way Elders did things, but this seemed fair to me.

The Bricks needed resources and they would have to scan all the stars to find uninhabited planets with resources they could mine. Elders didn’t mine the worlds of Younger races, they protected them. Though, it seems that the Thinkers had ignored them all.

The space Thinkers had was underdeveloped. There were Younger races fighting wars, races dying and races who didn’t even know how to leave their planets.

The Bricks planned on helping all of them, once they fixed their own world. I had no idea what the Humans would do with their worlds. I was glad the Thinkers were gone, but Jon had told me that he thought it was a tragedy.

They started a fight. We beat them; their death was our victory. Elders never understood this. Most Younger races didn’t either. My people did. We weren’t strong in space like a lot of species; we weren’t technically minded like some either, but we knew how to fight and hunt better than any. Only the Elves came close to us, but even then, they relied on tools; we had everything we needed given to us when we were born. I looked at my claws and smiled.

I dressed in my Follower uniform today. I preferred my own clothes, but I wanted to set an example for the initiates. There were only three levels of Follower. Initiate, full Follower and Keeper. David was the Keeper. We all followed him.

Even with no ranks or privileges, they thought of me as more important than most. I was treated with the same respect as the Great Family by other Followers. I assumed it was because Jon liked me. I didn’t mind, but they didn’t need to treat me differently at all.

On the day Jon had arrived to us, I collected him with my little shuttle and when he first faced danger, David had told me to protect him. This was my calling now. My life was in service of his protection.

It had been decided that while Jon travelled with Followers, I would be with him.

Most people didn’t understand me. I still had my own interests, my own life, but nothing as important as making sure I was there when Jon needed me. I always watched everyone around him and was ready to kill anyone who attacked him. Other than his family, everyone was a potential enemy, even Followers may have been infiltrated. We had gained a lot of new members of late. Jon said I was paranoid, Libby said I was careful. David said I was right.

Followers didn’t kill but, we served Aygah. Aygah had seen fit to allow me to be Jon’s protector. I think she chose me because I was willing to kill when others would hesitate. Followers would die for Her, but only I would kill for Her.

Jon understood this.


Thirteen was a good ship but it was no Basilica. Even with the Warp it took us until almost three in the afternoon to arrive at Thinker Prime.

We dropped out of TD-Drive and the Kingdom ship Anglia targeted us. Ba’an frantically pressed buttons to transmit our ID code.

“Anglia, this is Thirteen. We are not hostile. Please respond.”

“I think we can take them. In a fair fight!” Lea said, pretending to shoot it with her fingers. She was funny. That ship could one-shot us into dust. Kingdom ships were for fighting wars, not tiny star ships.

“Thirteen, this is Anglia. Your clearance checks out. You have been pre-authorised for this sector but please do not take deep scans, this area is considered to be classified.”

Ba’an thanked them. Then turned to Jon, “Pre-authorised?” 

“Thirteen saw our destination and called ahead. We weren’t authorised. It contacted Libby and she fixed our clearance,” Lea said smugly.

“Thirteen can do that?” Ba’an asked.

“Libby finally got you that AI upgrade then?” Jon asked.

Libby wasn’t with us, which felt strange. She was distracted today. Jon had asked her to check the gravity wave scans from the newly unlocked Brick space, the old Thinker space. The maps she was calculating were complicated, she had to take some of her avatars off-line to make it work.

Jon was looking for something that wasn’t in range of the initial scans. The gravity information reached a little further into the area. Mercia’s computer could have done the maths fast, it probably already had. Jon didn’t want anyone in Sol alliance to know he was looking for something.

We were making friends with the Brick government now. Jon hoped that when they were all fixed up, they would be happy to help us with these things. After all, the work Jon did was to serve Her plan and Her plan was for the good of everyone. Though Jon never admitted to that. He said he ignored the plan. Jon lied to himself a lot.

I wasn’t sure why Jon suddenly didn’t trust the humans, but I agreed with him. Some things I had seen in David’s secret book had made me feel the same way a while ago.

Lea made an agreeable sound and entered orbit. “Where you want to land?” she asked.

“Is there a team in the old capital city?” he asked.

“Yeah. I’ll set us down there. Weather on the surface isn’t very welcoming, though.”


We exited Thirteen into an electrical storm. There were Sol structures set up all around us. Jon headed for the biggest. I had made sure he had an active shield and gun. Now his arm had a built-in concussion cannon, I was far less worried about him than I had been in the past. There was literally no way he could forget to take a weapon now.

I also liked that he wasn’t bothering to get the arm skin-coated again, showed confidence in a way he usually didn’t. He was confident, he just rarely exposed it. He was quietly in control of most situations.

“Doctor Michaels? President Ty!” shouted a long-haired Elven man from the tent door. “Get in quickly!” he said, the wind and rain beating down on us while the lightning cracked above.

We entered the tent-like structure. Its walls were solid, but its roof was soft, like fabric. I caught a blue glow as we walked in. It was under a shield, which was why the storm was silenced when we entered.

I looked for predators as the door closed. There were Sol security officers. I counted five, all armed with rifles. I couldn’t take five without help. I knew Jon could fight, so would Lea. I had no idea what Ba’an would do. I should know if he was a warrior or not. I would ask Jon.

The Elven man was busy securing the door behind us. “You’re lucky. The lightning can actually hit the surface when the storm gets this bad,” he said. He was tall; his long blonde hair was platted with great care. He wore thick grey trousers and a loose white shirt.

Two men came over. Both human. One was armed, the other had the demeanour of a scientist. Ba’an took the lead. He shook hands and explained that we had come because Jon was curious about the project. He lied and said that Jo had authorised us to visit. No one would question it, and Jon really would have had her blessing if he had asked. He didn’t like the government knowing too much about what threads he was chasing. He trusted Jo, but not her government.

“Is my ship okay out there?” Lea asked the men.

The armed man passed her a data tablet without saying anything. I looked at it as she studied it. Weather reports. Lea read it for a few seconds and then pressed her Circlet “Thirteen, you listening?” she asked.

“Yes,” returned the robotic voice of the ship’s AI.

“You got some bad weather heading your way, keep security system armed and the shield fired up.”

The ship chimed in response.

Telling the ship to activate the shield was smart in bad weather, but arming the security system wasn’t standard practice. I wondered what she had noticed. Was there something I missed, or was she just paranoid? I liked paranoid. Paranoid was smart.

I eyed the security team, making sure I could see them all. Sol were our allies, and we had very high-level clearance but when humans had guns, I watched them as a matter of principle. I was bad with guns, but I was fast. If they were imposters or worse, then by the time they took aim, I would be cutting throats.

“Our project isn’t very far along I’m afraid, and there was a lot of destruction when the city fell but if there is anything specific you want to see, I will happily help you myself,” said the Elven man who had let us in.

When we had landed, I got a good look at the city. It was actually very small, no more than a dozen miles from edge to edge. It was mostly debris, but there were a few of the larger buildings that looked intact.

The Sol tents were arranged around the eastern edge. There was a makeshift landing area set up where the debris had been cleared. There had been five or six transports dotted around, all larger than Thirteen, even though they were only cargo shuttles. We had headed to the closest tent, the largest one. Jon said that human arrogance always made the biggest building the most important one. He was right. He usually was.

The tent was lit with large floating lamps and there were surprisingly few people. No more than ten science people, and then the security team. There were crystal artefacts all around on tables and a lot of equipment. Some men were covering up things with blankets. I noticed that Jon hadn’t missed that.

The Elf man had introduced himself as ‘Lumi of Rudda.’ Elven names were strange to me. The first part was what you called them, a name that was given to them based on what winds were blowing on their home world when they were born. The second part was the family they aligned themselves with. If they married or changed political stances, it could change. My name was Ria. Because my mother thought it was pretty.

“Lumi, I know you’re busy, and I assure you, I have no desire to take you away from your work. I just want to take a look at the remains of the central library, if that’s okay,” Jon asked.

The Elf looked concerned. “What are you looking for Doctor?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m a historian and it’s just idle curiosity really,” he lied. He was looking for star charts. I knew full well he was looking for star charts.

“I’m afraid it’s quite unsafe, not to mention unsecure. I can’t possibly let you go unless a security team comes with you,” Lumi said.

Lea smiled widely and interrupted him. “The treaty between the Sol Alliance and Brick Cooperative, it respects rank, doesn’t it?” she asked. I was sure she already knew the answer because I saw Ba’an smirk.

“Err, well, yes, why?”

“Oh, how fortunate. I hold the rank of General. I think with the skills, experience and training we have, that we won’t need to bother you for support at this time, but thank you for your concern,” she said. She looked far friendlier than the content the words implied.

She flashed her Circlet screen, showing her credentials, then pointed at the small pin she wore on her flight jacket. The security man leaned in a little to see it. The intricately designed piece of jewellery was a shiny red stone, it was edged with five shiny white rocks, I was told this was a rank insignia.

“Oh,” Lumi said, a little put out by suddenly not being the biggest dog in the room.

“You should wait for the storm to pass,” the security man said. I think he was entertained a little by the exchange.

“The library should be only about five minutes’ walk from here. Even with all the debris. We’ll be there in ten. We’ll be fine,” Jon said, looking at the map on his Circlet screen.

“We won’t have the spare people to come and rescue you should you get in trouble,” Lumi added, as if it was a sudden revelation. A reason to stop us.

Ba’an was next to spar with the man. “You realise, when the war ended, and they destroyed the structure, these two were on the surface?” he said, gesturing to Jon and me. “I think we maybe more qualified than your own people, sir.”

“Oh, so it’s true then?” Lumi replied.

Jon raised an eyebrow. “If you want to show me the report about what happened, I would be happy to verify its contents for you, when we get back.”

Jon had already read the reports that Sol were circulating. It said that Jon led a small strike team into a secret facility and detonated an experimental weapon that killed the entire race of Thinkers and ended the war. Officially, he was recognised as a hero by them.

The strike team he led was actually just he and I. The experimental weapon was an artefact of Aygah and it contained one of Jon’s friends. The only reason he survived was because of the shields Alin had designed for us. They fused technology from Basilica and Thirteen. He wore the same shield now. We all did.

The security man seemed like he knew Lumi was going to argue with us more. “There’s a little ground floater out back. It’s got a basic shield that should keep you safe from the storm. If you do get in trouble, call me directly,” he said, tapping his data tablet to upload his communication code to our Circlets.

“Thank you,” Lea said with a smile that made me wonder if she was seducing the human. Ba’an rolled his eyes at her. She was playing with him.


I liked the little ground floater we got to ride in. It was bouncy and large. Its top was open, but the shield kept us dry. Its blue panels kept it about a hand away from the ground and Jon said it reminded him of a buggy. I had no idea what that was.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked as we rode. We were both in the back of the ‘buggy’ while Lea and Ba’an were up front. Lea drove, or piloted. I wasn’t sure when to use the other word. Still the occasional gap in my Elder-tongue.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We all took some shots at that Lumi guy. You just watched. You don’t have to stay quiet all the time. Your opinion, your input, it’s always as valuable as everyone else’s. You know that, right?” Jon asked, with his extra sincere voice.

“I’m just a warrior. Unless a fight happens, I don’t have anything to add.”

“You’re not a just a warrior. You’re our friend Ria. You don’t have to hide behind your purpose with us.”

I didn’t like it when Jon wanted me to be more like an Elder. He thought he was being kind, but I wasn’t an Elder, that may not matter to him but it would have mattered to the humans in that tent. If I had have argued with the man in the same way the others had, I would have been causing more problems, not solving anything. I knew my place in the universe. I was not an equal to Elders in the eyes of Sol people. Bricks and Elves, maybe, but humans assumed I was stupid. I didn’t know what Vampires were like, not really. I had only met Ba’an and a couple of Initiates of his species. So far, I liked them.

The city we slowly drove through, was just as wrecked as Forge had been when the sky fell. This wasn’t the same type of damage though. This wasn’t smashed from above or toppled when the gravity generators failed. This was blown up from the street level. When the Thinkers knew they were going to die without the temple that gave them life, they broke as much as they could. They wanted to leave nothing of value for those who remained. They were spiteful and selfish.

Jon said they were scared and misunderstood. He felt guilt because he had been the one who ultimately killed them all. He wouldn’t take pride in his victory, no matter how much I tried to explain it to him.

He had even submitted himself for trial to the Brick government. They read his report and told him he was a hero. He then went to the Vampire government who thought long and hard and then told him he was a hero too. He wanted someone to punish him, but no one saw the crime in his actions. No one other than him.

“Why did they build this?” I asked as we stopped next to what was once a large library. Now a half-destroyed shell with rubble all around.

“The library?” Jon asked as he checked his shield.

“No, the city. If they didn’t need this sort of place, why build it?” I asked.

Jon explained that the Thinkers needed places to do commerce and to train their people how to live in the types of worlds that the rest of the Elders had. The star-ports they needed required hotels, and shops and loading docks. They had just swelled into small cities over the years. When they died, they lashed out at them in anger because they hated that they ever had to exist.

Jon was good at explaining things.

“You sure this place is safe to go into?” Lea asked.

Ba’an was about to say something when the silent electrical storm above lashed out and a blue tendril of energy lit the street not far from us.

“Never mind, let’s get in there!” she said, checking her shield was charged and scurrying into the husk of the building.


The inside of the building was far more intact than I had expected from the state of the outside. Though, its data tablets and crystal storage devices had been shot at, repeatedly. There was even a hole in the back wall where an explosion had taken out a staircase, rain was streaming in like a small river. It was sad to see so much senseless destruction.

“Well, shit,” Lea said as she inspected it.

“Jon, I don’t think there’s a lot here to find,” Ba’an added.

“We’re not here for the books, guys,” Jon said. “You think I brought you all this way and just decided to take a look in a random library, on the off chance that there might be something here of interest?”

“Err, yeah… actually, I think we all did,” Lea said.

“I did not!” I said proudly. Jon had told me to speak more. So, I did.

“Well, why don’t you enlighten us Jon, why are we here?” Ba’an asked. He often seemed grumpy to me. Jon said he was new to the type of life we all led; he would get better at it once he had acclimatised and learned to enjoy it.

Jon, Lea and I were not like other people. Libby was like us too, but most people wanted structure and planning in their lives. We wanted something else, something that we didn’t have words for. I think we just wanted adventures.

“This building, it’s not part of the city. Well, it is, now. But originally, it was part of the base we set up when we first found this planet. We had our first bunker here,” Jon said.

“Jon, that was literally a millennia ago, and in a different version of reality!” Ba’an was unconvinced.

Jon smiled widely. “No. It was a millennia ago and in a different reality… was.

Ba’an shrugged at him. Lea made an “oh!” face that told me she understood.

“On one hand all of history existed and it’s just a memory. But, when we found a facility on Earth that was left over from The Event. It was just two months old, an artefact from an earlier iteration,” he said, wild-eyed.

“Yes, but this whole planet is one of these artefacts, isn’t it?” Ba’an said, sounding a tiny bit grumpier than before. 

We exchanged glances, wondering how long it would take him to work this out.

He said “ohhhhh” a few moments later when he realised.

If the whole planet was an artefact, then the bunker Jon had come to visit was not from a millennia ago, it was less than a year ago.

We went to the back of the library where there was an exposed crack in the wall that let us into the basement of the building, where there were storage boxes filled with crystals and data tablets. It was dark. Everyone else used their Circlet as a torch. My eyes were better than theirs in low light.

The floor was wet, the rain from the hole in the wall on the ground floor let it trickle in.

“I can see now why you always wear boots, Jon,” Ba’an said, glad that he had followed everyone else’s fashion tips.

“Jon, you sure there’s a bunker down here? Maybe there’s something in these weird crystals the Thinkers liked so much,” Lea said as she poked a box of well organised data crystals. Each crystal was the size of an apple and perfectly round.

“I wasn’t sure until now. Actually, I was worried I was wrong, until I got down here,” he said, in his often used, distracted tone.

“Did you notice something the rest of us didn’t?” Ba’an asked.

“Yep,” he replied, glancing at me and letting out just a hint of smugness.

“Jon, there’s water up to my ankles and I can’t see shit. What did you possibly see that confirms there’s a bunker here?” Lea asked

I looked at the water at my feet. I didn’t like water, never had. Jon never seemed to care about things like that. As far as I knew, he had no fears. Though he once told me he didn’t like fish. I never saw him eat fish either. Maybe he was talking about food.

From what I knew about his planet, it rained a lot. That was a good point. How long ago was it that this building was destroyed? How fast was this basement filling with water? I suddenly realised what Jon knew. He was smart. He had noticed it instantly.

“Oh, come on Lea, you are seriously telling me you can’t see the obvious sign of a bunker?” Jon said. He liked to poke Lea like this. Sometimes she saw things even he didn’t, if she was pushed, just a little. Jon said she was smarter than most people he knew but the booze made her head fuzzy. Still, she smelled less like she had been drinking today.

“The water,” I said.

“The water!” Jon said with a grin, pointing at me with excitement.

“What about it?” Ba’an asked. He had been looking all around the basement, searching for clues that he was already standing in.

“This area of the planet is constantly under heavy rain. Well, why isn’t this basement under water?” Jon asked.

“Oh,” Lea said, “That is a good point.”

“So, we need to find where it’s draining away and that’s the entrance?” Ba’an asked.

“Brilliant plan. Though, given that the water pump is obviously still active and has power, that means the rest of the bunker does too…” Jon stopped talking and grinned at me, like he was making sure I was paying attention. “I could just ask Aygah herself to open it for us!”

The moment he stopped talking, a low rumbling filled the basement. The water was flushed as a platform lit in the middle of the room. The platform was lifting slowly out of the floor as the water ran down the crevice that it had exposed.

Did he really call on Aygah to open it? I knew he was once her lover, her husband, but did he really have the power to call her down on a whim? Why didn’t he do it the last time we were in trouble? We both almost died. He told me she wouldn’t visit again. Was she with us? Was she going to appear?

I felt myself freeze up. A hand touched my shoulder. I flinched; it was Jon. “Relax, I was messing with you. It’s a neural lock, like on Thirteen.”

I felt a wave of calm hit me. At the same time, some part of me was disappointed that it was just a game. I wanted nothing more than to meet Her. It was my greatest dream in all the universe. Still, I got to spend time with Her Champion; I was closer than most who shared this dream.

“A neural lock?” Ba’an asked. “I thought that sort of technology only existed in previous realities,” Ba’an said as the platform revealed itself to be a staircase leading down into darkness.

“Yeah, and this bunker is from that reality too. We invented neural actuation locks because they didn’t require keys, passwords, or DNA. Just the right image in your brain. We were at war, and we were good at staying alive,” Jon said with a typical shrug. Only Jon could talk about artefacts from previous realities, like they were spare socks.

“Come on, how did you know it was here?” Lea asked. I wondered too, but I had assumed it was his divinity, his purpose.

“The Thinker temple was here. This was made at the same time. It was once the base at the end of a very long tunnel. We used it to keep dangerous things away from our main operation. We eventually realised that a tunnel was also a way for people to sneak in. We sealed it up with rocks. We kept the base though. Anyway, the temple was still there, and this was technically connected. It had to be here. That seems to be how all this works,” Jon explained as he peered down the staircase, waiting for the water to be sucked away by whatever was down there.

“And you knew it was in the library, how?” Ba’an grilled.

“Well, I looked at a map. And drew a line of exactly five thousand miles due east from the ascension chamber. The map said it was under this library.” Jon was rolling his eyes at having to explain himself. He hated it when people asked him how his knowledge was gained.

“Wait,” Lea began. “This tunnel is five thousand miles long?” she asked.

“Yeah. Back in the early days, with Blade engineers, we could accomplish some impressive things in a few days. It was literally magic, functionally speaking.”

Lea whistled, impressed at the engineering. The Follower books had taught me that the older iterations had magic. The books said that they used technology, magic, and energy beyond the scope of our understanding.

“Okay, let’s go get my data and get out of here!” Jon proclaimed with a clap of his hands. He started marching down the stairs. I followed him without a thought, but I saw Ba’an and Lea looked at each-other nervously before I heard them follow.


We came to the bottom of the staircase after almost ten full minutes of walking. The steps had started glowing after a few seconds and while we couldn’t see much, our footing was assured.

As we stepped off of the last step the room’s walls glowed. Each one emitting dim white light. The edges of each panel leaking brightly.

The room was reasonably sized; it had a few desks with computer screens built into the walls above them. There was a grey, smoked glass divider at one end of the room that I couldn’t see past. The ceiling and floor were covered in the same white panels as the walls, but the ones above glowed brighter.

“It’s been a while!” Jon said happily as he took stock of it all.

While I stuck close to Jon, Ba’an and Lea walked around the room looking at all the strange things on the wall screens. “What is all this?” Lea asked, noticing the writing on the readouts.

Jon ignored the question and walked to the far end of the room, past the glass divider. I followed, as I always did.

I stopped my stride when we entered the room. The place was large, like a ship hanger, and there were three rows of desks to my right that ran the length of the hanger. There was a little area at the far end that looked to be communal seating, complete with tables. The left side of the room contained assortments of devices and parts all laid out on tables that had glowing white tops to better highlight the trinkets. The light was coming from long glowing tubes suspended to the ceiling by silver chains.

I heard movement behind us as Lea flowed. “…Circlet scanner says that this language isn’t on file but…” she stopped talking when she saw the room. “Okay. Did not expect this.”

Ba’an came in a moment later and just looked around, mouth agog.

Jon was less impressed by the sight. He walked over to the trinket tables and started inspecting them with his Circlet scanner.

“What is all this?” I asked.

Jon glanced up at me and back to his Circlet. “Back in the first iteration, there were some technologies that we encountered which we had very little understanding of. Things the Humans had made, things the other races had made, some stuff we literally found floating in space; which we never quite worked out. There were even some things Blades made which scared the shit out of us. The resistance groups brought what it could find here, in hopes we could figure out enough of it to maybe help win the war.”

The three of us stood close to Jon and looked at his scans. I could see that his Circlet was set to vault. This was something he had set up that meant the scans it took would not be uploaded to the network. It would sync with Doors when he got back to Central. Jon was careful with data. He understood its power.

“I assume you all know well enough to not touch any of this stuff?” he asked with a commanding glance at Lea.

“What are you looking for?” she asked, surveying the odd things.

The table Jon was scanning held pieces of circuits. All looked burned. Most etched into stones and crystals.

“Was this the technology that became the Coffin?” I asked, recognising the configuration.

“Yes. Good eye,” he said. “It was called mounting. We could place a computer on any surface. Blades could even mount inside solid objects. Between their atoms I’m told. It was the only way to put enough compute into the Coffin without true AI cores like we have now,” he explained.

“Where did this come from?” Ba’an asked.

“Mounting? It was invented by a race at the rim of a galaxy called Bode.”

“What!” Lea exclaimed. “You guys left the fucking galaxy! Do you know how big the gaps between galaxies are?”

Jon smiled and pocketed a pink crystal that sported green circuits across its surface. Other than the etching it looked natural and raw. “Lea, we may not have had AI cores back in then, but we sure as shit had better engines than we do now!”

Lea didn’t reply, she just waved her hand, expecting more information from him.

Jon grinned. “We had explorer ships that were a similar design to Basilica, except Basilica would be able to land in the small cargo hold of one of them. They didn’t just rip a little hole in the fabric of space like Basilica’s engine does. They left permanent scars across space time. The veins of damage they left allowed other, smaller ships to travel far faster than they should be able to. We built a sort of network of fast travel pipes… I think pipe is the right word, tunnel maybe?”

I almost felt the moment that Jon lost interest in the topic. He pocketed a small red crystal about the size of an eye. It had silver etching on it.

He walked to the next table. This one held shards of metal that looked like pieces of projectiles. Bullets maybe? I had not seen many types of bullets.

“Would these pipes still exist? Do you know where to find them?” Lea asked, flowing Jon quickly.

“I honestly don’t know how far Aygah’s powers extend. When she alters reality, she changes a lot of things. Maybe it affects only our galaxy, maybe not even all of it. Or maybe it affects all the close by ones… maybe even all of creation. I don’t know. If I ever see her again, I’ll ask!” Jon replied. He sighed and moved to another table.

This new table contained small glassy rods that lay in a sweet-smelling water. Each rod was in its own little bowl and had some strange writing on plaques labelling them.

“To be clear, you’re saying there may be a magic pipe that will take me to another galaxy? She would have brought them to our universe?”

“Sort of. They would be there unless she removed them, I think. She may have left them there. It’s not like anyone other than me would know where to find them anyway.”

Jon was carefully scanning the table’s contents.

“Hey, Jon!” Ba’an called. He was sitting at one of the desks at the other side of the hanger. “This computer terminal seems to be trying to access my Circlet, should I let it?” he asked, waving his Circlet screen in the air.

Jon though about this for a moment, then he nodded to himself. “Turn off your network access first, then let it in. Probably trying to download the language files. They were set up to do that.”

Ba’an gave us a thumb up and turned back to the boxy terminal screen.

Jon put his hand into the sweet water and pulled out one of the glass rods. He slipped it into the chest pocket on this jacket. He scanned a few more and took them too.

Lea tired of trying to pump Jon for more information about pipes and went to see what Ba’an was doing.

“Why don’t you take all the rods?” I asked. I had assumed they contained data. Lots of species stored data in crystals. It was fairly common and had a very high data density. Thinkers had used it as their standard method of storage.

“Because some contain data that I don’t want to allow back into the universe,” he said.

I understood this. “How do you know which ones are safe?”

“I read the labels,” he said, pointing at the strange writing on the plaques.

“That’s the same language as the control screen on the coffin, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It’s called French. It was the language that Aygah spoke. She removed it from this iteration, along with most other old Earth languages. Left us with Elder-tongue, which is just a very old dialect of something called English.”

“Why? Learning languages isn’t hard. A Circlet could translate this easy enough, so why remove it?” I asked, suddenly realising that questioning Her plan may be blasphemy.

“She unified the languages, so that we had a little less in the way of barriers when we all met, the Elder races, that is. She chose early modern English because she said it was poetic. She liked it. The fact that this is in French isn’t to make it a secret; she just never tampered with it. It’s just how it was when she pulled it out of its original iteration.”

Jon didn’t seem upset at my questions. This would mean it wasn’t blasphemy. I hoped. I had one more question. “What is stored on them?”

Jon shared a lot of knowledge with me, but I had expected him to refuse to tell me that the crystals contained. He thought for a moment. “This one is marked as history,” he said, pointing at the first bowl. “Physics,” he said, pointing at the next. “Biology, cartography, electronics, and well, it goes on like that.”

He explained that the bowls and the liquid were not to protect the crystals. The bowls connected to a central computer by chips that were on the undersides of them. They were essentially access ports. He had taken the rods that contained history, cartography, engineering, and electronics. He had left weapon systems, biology, physics, and a bunch more, including the one that seemed the most poignant to me, temporal science.

“Does that one tell you how to travel in time?” I asked.

“No. Time travel isn’t possible. Not even for Aygah. Not in the way you think. That one contains a lot of good stuff. A whole school of science that we never learned. I want to take it, but if I do, one day, someone could invent the Coffin again. I can’t risk it,” he said.

“And Biology?” I asked.

“It has genetic profiles, among other things. Someone could clone a new Blade with it.”

“We need to destroy that one, don’t we?” I asked.

Jon nodded. “Don’t worry about it. This place won’t be here for much longer,” he said.

He inspected a few more of the tables, pocketing the odd small trinket or device. Most I didn’t really understand. He was very selective, though.

When he was done, we went over to the terminal where Lea and Ba’an were sitting, looking very interested in its contents.

“What you found?” he asked, peering over their shoulders.

There was a video playing. It was in strangely muted colours, but it was clear and clean looking. It showed a video of a room with people working on something, a device.

“Oh, yeah. That,” Jon said with a hint of melancholy.

The video showed the room I was once in, the ascension chamber. It looked like it was still being built. Ba’an pressed buttons to change angle. There were cameras at all sorts of odd angles. He finally found the one he had been looking for.

“Jon, is this a video of from… I mean?” Ba’an had difficulty believing what he was seeing. An actual video from the first iteration.

“Yeah, it is,” he said. He leaned over and tapped the control on the desk. It flipped to an elder man in a cloak who was pointing at the walls animatedly. It took me a moment to realise that the man had a metal arm. He turned to the camera, looking at something on the other wall. His face was gaunt and old. His eyes lacked the spark of youth, his build was different, but it was him. It was Jon.

Ba’an paused the video playback. “Jon….” he said, not knowing how to articulate his thoughts.

Jon wiped away a single tear from his cheek as he looked at the still video image. “That was a long time ago guys. I was very different back then. It was not a good time in my life, my memory.”

We all looked on, captivated. “You are recording this, Ba’an?” he asked.

Ba’an grunted and showed his Circlet.

“Okay, well, let me show you something worth recording then.”

he spun the video forward for a few seconds and then played it in real time.

The same angle as before showed. The old man, Jon was leaning against a pile of bricks and reading a large handheld data screen of some kind. It looked chunky and old to me.

A new cloaked figure entered the frame and the video flickered for a moment. The figure put down her hood. I could see a face that was not like anything I had seen before. The skin was dark and etched in purple lines. Her cloak opened a little as she walked. She wore shorts and a cropped top, there was a light coming from her skins etching. Her hair was long but pulled tight into a pony. Her eyes glowed white. She looked like Kay.

The realisation hit me like a truck. I opened my mouth to speak but had no words. I felt myself begin to cry. I was looking at Her, at Aygah. This was something no one other than Jon had ever seen. It was Aygah before she was ascended, but this was her. A video of the Goddess herself.

She laughed as they spoke. There was no sound on the video, but I didn’t care. I watched as She threw back her cloak and stood next to Jon, she kissed him on the cheek and he smiled. He threw the data screen over his shoulder and pulled her in close. They kissed passionately. They both looked up as they heard something. A young woman entered the frame for a second. She looked like a human teenager. She waved her hands, seemingly objecting to the display of affection. Aygah and old Jon laughed with each other.

The video stopped. Jon had pressed a button to close the file.

He wiped away regretful tears and smiled. He wasn’t sad or angry; he was just wrapped in a very old memory. “And that, my dear friends, is all you get to see. I can’t risk you getting footage of any of the technology.”

“Was that Jo?” Lea asked.

“Yeah, it was. About a month before she was killed. Whatever Aygah had to do to bring her back, Jo can’t remember any of that life,” Jon said. “I hope you have a good recording; I want to show her… and Libby.”

“Can’t we just take the file with us?” Ba’an asked.

“No. Nothing else can leave here. I have the star charts I wanted and a few little souvenirs. We have to get out of here now.”

We headed out the way we came in.

“Why didn’t the Thinkers torch this place with the rest of the planet?” Lea asked as we climbed the stairs.

“I doubt they even knew it was here. With all the reality tinkering that went on to create them, I’m not convinced the Thinkers were entirely stable.”

We climbed into the main room of the library. There were small drones flitting about all over the place. They were scanner units from the base camp.

The humans research team was looking for what we had found. They were using us to uncover Thinker secrets for them.

“This can’t be good. They must have seen where we went,” Ba’an said sternly.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Jon said. We strolled out of the building and made our way back the way we had come.

“You sure we don’t need to worry about them finding all that stuff?” Lea asked. As we got into the floating buggy. Ignoring the drones.

There was a massive lightning strike behind us as we drove our buggy away. The strike had so much power that it actually shook the ground and lit the night for almost five seconds. Lea turned the little floating buggy to see what had happened. The library had been levelled. The rock that it was constricted from was actually glistening, sparking. It had been turned to glass with the heat in some places. It almost looked like it had been hit from orbit by a ship cannon.

Lea looked suspiciously at Jon for a moment. She turned the buggy and headed towards our landing site.

“Jon… how did you do that?” Ba’an asked.

“I did nothing.”

“Oh, the storm just happened to strike the secret base the moment we left, did it?” Lea barked.

“Yeah, strange that. Almost like an act of God,” Jon replied, looking at me as he spoke.

“In Her, we trust!” I said with a wide smile on my face and a sense of warmth in my heart.

In Her we trust.

Chapter 5