Unicorn Jelly Fan Fiction Submitted: June 11th 2002 C.E.
The Spiral Dance
The drift didnt last long. Forty seven nanoseconds total. Its existence still troubled her greatly though. As she did automatically after every drift, she ran the math. The number came out the same as it always did. The drift had happened point five percent earlier, and lasted point oh two percent longer than the last time. The math was a stable slope, mapped to ninety seven decimal points for clarification. It was always the same. Two years. No more.
Chou blinked, her eyelashes tinkling across her aged skin. Yes, Ooliliuoe?
Think theres something you should see, the pale orange jelly said, a confused expression smeared across her broad face. Chou nodded, prepared herself, and smoothly unlocked her joints. Her feet clacked as she slid out of her chair. Leaving a trail of chiming footsteps, she followed her assistant out of her shelter.
New webs were already being woven across the entrance to the mine. She dismissively brushed a pushy spider from her arm as they passed through the entrance. Of all the creatures on the plates, she cared the least for the underlife. It would just have to cope with the intrusion. She followed Ooliliuoe and three other jellies onto the platform and waited patiently as it slid into the silicate tube of the mine. They rose quickly through five levels before coming to a stop at a stable gathering point.
A few jellies looked up at their approach. Most continued their business, transporting equipment, guiding the slimes, hollowing the caves. Searching for something they couldnt understand. Something they may have actually found. Chou tinged her way through the tunnels, weaving ever higher, her crystalline skin creaking occasionally with the effort. She would need a roller soon, but hardly saw the point.
Its right up here, Ooliliuoe said, a little pensive as she slid along.
Centerpoint, Chou said quietly as she strode down the last of the corridor and came to a stop. She stood on compressed sand and crystal shards, on the edge of the excavated path. The slimes would smooth out and reinforce the tunnel later if it was deemed necessary. It wouldnt be. They found what they were looking for.
Chou reached out slowly and brushed a bit of dust off the top of the artifact. She slowly slid her fingers across the smooth dome, lightly brushed the serrated panels, gently fingered the seal.
Ooliliuoe, Chou said quietly, her voice stronger than it had been in years.
Yes, Miss Kamzou?
Please excavate it and take it to my chambers. Carefully. I believe this is exactly what we were sent for.
Oh good, Ooliliuoe smiled, turning back to the artifact. As she directed her crew the sound of chimes faded in the distance.
Chou carefully made her way out of the mine. Jellies scuttled out of her path, not used to the fire that burned in the directors stance. She nearly jumped off the lift in her haste, ignoring the webs that clung to her suit. She didnt slow until she reached her chambers, until she had the drawer open, until she had the blade in hand. It was small, and incredibly old, but well built. It would last for ages, provided it was taken care of. It already had.
She carefully set it down beside her glom and activated the panel on her workbench. Complex circuits opened and closed, power flowed through cable and conduit, and the screen before her burst into life. A complex structure appeared, a strange triangular lattice. A third of the structure was marked, shaded a pale red. A fair portion of the remaining structure was marked with a series of notations, symbols, equations. In the center of the structure sat a single blinking triangle buried under marks. Chou smiled and centered the view on the triangle. With the touch of a button, it stopped blinking.
She stepped aside as the jellies slid in with the artifact. At her request it was centered on the floor then abandoned. She thanked them distractedly and sealed the door behind them. As calmly as she could, Chou retrieved the blade and knelt before the artifact. She examined the seal again, and was more certain than ever of what it was. Under the dirt and dust, under the endless ages, was an incredibly simple lock requiring an incredibly unique key.
Chou stared at her dagger, a token of her biological red-life mother. There was no longer any quite like it. There hadnt been in a long time. It was hers and hers alone. She centered herself and cautiously fit it into the cleaned lock. Something inside the artifact clicked, releasing a simple utilitarian hinge.
She gazed into the artifact for a long time before she finally moved with a slow and deliberate pace to remove the contents.
The craft slid at incomprehensible speeds through the fractal lattice of the realm. Air and veil alike parted before it, shifting like oil before gaining a chance to react. The ship was a ghost, cutting a deliberate swath towards a particular plate.
Chou dropped the fields five seconds earlier than necessary and cut the engines ten seconds later. The crack that heralded her arrival did far more than any transmission could. Her unique ship calmly settled in among the many others in the capital lot, dwarfed by the regal council ships and bulky cargo freighters.
I am asking politely, Chou stated. I must speak with the council immediately. I have new information they must know.
Im afraid you cant, Yaran insisted. It was his job to insist such things. He was roughly the same size and shape as a house, and was quite good at insisting things. Without weapons. Insisting anything to the silicate thing on the monitor before him was a different matter though.
Why cant I, Chou asked coldly, her voice trilling like a thousand whistling blades.
Theyre in session, Yaran replied automatically.
Thank you, Chou smirked as she closed the circuit. Are you coming, Ooliliuoe?
Wouldnt miss it for anything, the jelly happily replied.
Chou set the locks quickly before commandeering a vehicle from a terrified elven scientist. She guided the car through the city with the same mad grace she flew her ship. Trajectories flew through her mind like the wind, calculated to the micron. Two inches was more than enough room to pass someone.
Ooliliuoe enjoyed the ride. The first few had been terrifying, but shed learned to trust her silicate employer. There hadnt been any serious accidents in years. At least two years, perhaps even three. A hat abruptly slammed into Ooliliuoes face, nearly burying her completely. She let out a little nervous laughter as she pulled the hat off and took a look. It was a good hat. Chou might like it when she stopped.
The car spun twice on the last curve before skidding to a stop sideways, perfectly aligned with a parking space. Chou was halfway to the building, a happily behatted jelly scurrying in her wake, before any of the cowering pedestrians stood up again.
They slid past dozens of guards, most dismissed with a glance, some with a carefully chosen word or two. They all knew who Chou was, what she had done, and what she could do. They all knew why she had no home, and why her name had taken new meaning. The butterfly had finally hatched, and a monster had emerged.
The delay was minimal. Few dared oppose her or deny her wishes. Orders were orders, but Chou was reality. In the end it was the guards who opened the doors to the chambers, allowing her entrance at last.
Is there none among you with concern for the people, Chou demanded as she strode onto the council floor. The varied conversations that had filled the room quickly stilled, a vibrant silence filling the void.
Miss Kazemahou, Girniay began.
You know who I am, Chou stated. This is good. I had thought you forgot. Why was I denied from entering?
You know why, Girniay shot back, half rising from his seat. We are not at your beck and call, Miss Kazemahou. The council does not exist to satisfy your every demented whim.
A forty seven percent population growth rate is demented?
A boiled ocean is demented!
The miscalculation was minor. The salts should have repressed the reaction.
Chou didnt say anything. A scut-scut danced in her mind, changing direction under the guidance of her young fingers, and those of her sister. So many years. So much time. Five hundred-
I have information you must hear, Chou declared. Math raced in her mind. The slope wasnt smooth. Point seven percent earlier, and almost an entire second in duration. One year, nine months speculative, possibly stress induced, more data needed, file to node seven, retrieve log file nineteen.
I believe I know how to stop the Storm.
Youve led us down this path before, Talare frowned.
I have irrefutable proof, Chou replied. I require access to the Makineri Institute Technology division for research.
Girniay snorted. This is what you barged in here for?
You would not answer your calls.
Girniay stared at her, his eyes cold though a single tear of sweat dripped down his brow. Denied.
You would throw away the future over a matter of pride?
I would work to save the lives of all those at the institute! You are not the genius you wish to be, Chou Kazemahou. Your efforts are callous and sloppy, with little to no regard for the safety of those around you. Come to us with results, and our answers may be different, but do your research somewhere else!
Silence settled over the room as the council members returned to their seats. No one spoke as Chou ran her eyes over the room. One by one she took them in, memorizing them in perfect detail, their dead eyes, their cold faces, their pandered bodies. She watched them twitch under her gaze, waiting for her to sprout wings and fire shards from her eyes, reducing them all to a bloody paste, food for her billions of maggot babies.
Very well, Chou stated calmly as she turned and strode out of the chamber. Ooliliuoe glanced after Chou briefly before turning back to the council.
Satisfied, Ooliliuoe turned and slid out of the chambers as well.
Thats it, Ooliliuoe asked as she climbed back into the car.
No, thats far from it, Chou stated. We have work to do.
The ship was easy to find, and easier to procure. Money had never been an issue for Chou. Not for a long time. She bought the ship for a third of the price and the trade of her former vessel. The upgrades were harder to procure, but not by much. She and Ooliliuoe transferred their valuables personally. Some of their belongings they couldnt trust to strangers, others were things strangers wouldnt go near.
The list Chou devised from what she knew was both ornate and abstract. A few of the things on it were even impossible. Chou didnt let it stop her. Impossible things had always been a part of her life. It was always uncharted territory.
The ship quickly gathered both supplies and stories, fearful and amazed gossip whispered by worker and pedestrian alike. Half felt she was declaring war on the Gryrnu Union itself. Ninety four unified plates versus a single old crystal woman. More or less a fair fight in the eyes of the observers.
Chou ignored them as she single mindedly gathered her list. Food, clothing, basic sundries, chemicals, equipment. There was a little difficulty convincing the workers to load the biostatic wave cannon, but it was settled with minimal adjustment of the betting.
It was two months before they were ready to depart. There was no fanfare as they departed, merely the sullen trading of bets as she vanished without a fight.
Chou guided the ship slowly away from the plate, then dipped and released the flight systems. The return craft would be more than enough to get Ooliliuoe back to the GU region when the time came. If needed it would be big enough for two.
She reactivated the engines at terminal velocity and disappeared in a flash, rocketing from veil to veil across the lattice, far far from the GU.
Chou looked up tiredly. Yes, Ooliliuoe?
You alright? Youve been in here for a few days.
Chou blinked, glanced down at her work, and set down her pencil. Im failing again, Ooliliuoe.
No youre not, Ooliliuoe said happily. Youre just stumped. Whats wrong?
Chou glanced at her friend briefly, a light smile creasing her crystal lips. We arent real, she stated calmly.
In the truest sense of the word, we are fabrications. Everything around us is a mathematical dream. Chou crossed to her workbench and pulled out her duplications of the artifact contents. The math works out the same each and every time. Fifty eight times ago, with access to the Makineri Institute, I proved what I had suspected ninety times ago. Time is cyclical, and each time the humans appear. It will happen again.
OOooOOooOO is the key, of course, Chou said, her voice fading.
Chou, Ooliliuoe asked as she brushed a pseudopod against her friends leg. Chou blinked, then frowned sadly.
Im failing again, Ooliliuoe. I have no access to the MIT and no time to perform these experiments on my own. I have nowhere else to turn. I will have to record what I know and hope I do better next time.
Miss Kamzou, what is it?
Chou looked down at her friend and smiled sadly. Im fading, Ooliliuoe. My mind will be gone in seven months, provided the rate doesnt shift further. I would estimate I have another three months at best before I am gone.
Yes, Chou said as she replaced the duplicate materials. I have enough time for a few minor experiments, and the resealing, then I will be done.
I dont want you to go.
Ooliliuoe. Im five hundred and thirty seven years old. It was only a matter of time. Would it make you feel better to know Ill be back?
Not while Im alive.
Youll be back too. Come see, Chou smiled as she once more retrieved the documents. She carefully spread them out on the low desk, then moved out of the way. Ooliliuoe stretched, her body squeezed into a tilting spire, and peered at the pages.
These were in the casket, Chou explained. Theyre a journal of sorts, a series of messages I wrote to myself across the temporal loop. A Chou built the casket from the tritons up, weaving an alloy strong enough to survive the storm and everything else. She put her notes into the casket and threw it into the storm. It became the foundation for the first new worldplate after the storm.
You found it. It was unlocked with my dagger, and contained the dagger of my previous counterpart. When my time comes, Ill take her dagger and replace it with my own. The next Chou will do the same.
To get this information to myself, so each Chou in each Storm permutation, could work a little further towards correcting what was done to this realm.
By duplicating the signal.
Chou smiled as she retrieved another duplication from the pile. The one that put humans here. The one that contained this.
Carefully she placed a chip into the console and activated its contents. A series of images, voices, and random sounds rang out of the console. It was a golden disk. It was on a device called Voyager made somewhere called Nasa. There were three disks in the casket, each older than the last, all identical save for age. Each Chou that finds one, saves it. They are greetings from Earth.
I dont understand any of this.
Chou sighed. Chou thirty eight was verified by Chou seventy one. Both studied the memories of OOooOOooOO, read the sand to see what happened to the plates. Each time humans appear, its in a spherical region of their world. They arrive with pieces of buildings, vehicles, and land. These spheres dont shove or replace parts of this universe. Theyre converted from parts of this universe. Each permutation, each temporal cycle changed this realm into something closer to where that signal came from.
They sent a signal. They sent a pulse that made copies, pictures, of their world. Total detail down to their atomic structure. That signal was a message. They were saying hi. It hit us. It changed us. This universe is like a living thing, like a computer. When it received the signal there was a reaction. The signal gave this universe structure. It took the signal and recreated the contents. They were supposed to be pictures. Sample images of Earths history. This realm made them real. The humans woke up, then died, then the realm picked up the signal again, and the cycle began again. The worldplates formed from this realms reaction to the information in the signal. You, and all crystal life, were invented because of the signal. Humans were created here because of the signal. A tratonic recreation and variation of an atomic realm. It isnt over yet.
All of it. We were always here.
You remember the sand, Chou said quietly as she turned off the console. The mind was always here. Everything was OOooOOooOO, but its changing. Every permutation, every cycle, it splits further. Maybe the same thing happened on Earth. I dont know. All crystal life split from OOooOOooOO at some point, taking on its own pattern. Ecologies, life cycles, breeding rates. Each cycle there are more types of crystal life. Eventually it will all be blended together, or the signal will stop and the humans wont be created anymore. Eventually equilibrium will be achieved again.
Faster if I can duplicate the signal. According to the documents, its a photonic quantum tesseract. They forgot to document how to duplicate it, or even read it for that matter. They dont seem to have been very intelligent.
Then whyd they come here?
They didnt. They sent a three dimensional picture of themselves that was brought to life here.
The universe read the signal like schematics and made it real.
Chou opened her mouth to reply, waited a moment, then closed it.
Did I win, Ooliliuoe asked.
Chou sighed. I think it was a natural reaction. If it was, and if I can duplicate the signal, then I can alter reality. I can make the storm disappear, remove the human dependence on vlax. I will be able to do anything, including end the signals effect on this realm.
Or you grow legs.
Eww. Can you do it?
Chou sighed again. No. Not yet. I need to know more. A different Chou needs to know more. Theres nothing more I can do this cycle.
So what now?
Chou glanced at the orange jelly, then at the console. Now you go home. Ive kept you away too long, and its all quite boring from now on.
Nope. Im not leaving you to die.
Im going to die anyway, Ooliliuoe. There are things I need to do first. Things you might not come back from.
Then I dont come back. Ill be back anyway.
Chou smiled. I need to contract the services of the Storm Fliers.
Ah. Uh. Ok, sounds fun.
You shouldnt come.
I dont care. Im not letting you die alone.
Then set course.
Right. Going now. You sure you dont want to.
Chou glanced at her friend, her smile both chiding and amused.
Right, Ooliliuoe said as she slid out to guide the ship.
Chou smiled as she resumed her work. Two more minor experiments, some minor checks, then the recording and the sealing of the casket. There was still time.
The Storm swelled before them. The ship moved like a building, but falling at the same rate as the debris cloud, their shields were more than enough to keep them safe. That safety was the foundation for the Fliers, for their unique way of life.
I dont see them, Ooliliuoe said as she stared up at the wall of rock. Her epidermis rippled with a nervous shiver. Absently Chou rested her hand on Ooliliuoes back, settling the twitching.
They will come, Chou stated. Pirates never pass up an opportunity for a prize like this.
This isnt a good idea.
Its the only way, Chou said. I want you to take the ship now.
Im not leaving you!
Chou sighed. Its not a joke.
No, it isnt, a voice said behind them. Ooliliuoe spun in a manner unique to jellies, a motion no red life would ever want to duplicate. Rather than bother turning all the way around, she simply threw her face onto the opposite side of her body.
That is, the man began.
My friend, Chou stated.
And you are.
Yes. You were human before?
Once. I have need of your services. I offer this ship as a downpayment.
Indeed, the man smirked as he stepped off the wall hed been perched on. His suit billowed briefly before he settled gently to the deck. And what services are those?
Safe transport into and out of the Storm.
Indeed. What do you want with our Storm?
Your Storm, Chou said, emphasizing the words, Is going to devour this universe. Nothing will stop it. You can ride your rocks until the end. It wont matter. Deny me and you forfit what I have to offer. Both this ship, with its supplies, and the information I can give you. You live a hard life, scavenging the corpses of the plates. I can make those lives easier in return for a simple favor.
Simple favors are seldom simple, the man frowned. What are you doing here?
Guaranteeing the future.
Not good enough. Give me a real reason.
Hunting for the witch doll I lost when I was seven.
Your Storm will not be harmed. Your life will be improved. Future generations that you and your children will never meet will live easier lives.
What do I care about them if Ill never meet them?
Theyll be you.
Now you have my interest.
Time loops. Eventually, after the Storm finishes its work beyond your ability to survive it, time will repeat, and you will appear again. That you will have an easier life with my help today.
He wont have to see his mother killed in the street.
The man frowned.
He wont have to run away from the school. He wont have to survive on the streets, or be chased off the edge of the plate by a scizzortiger.
He wont be rescued by Gaboi.
Perhaps that Fowir wont need Gaboi as much.
The man frowned a bit more. Id ask how you know that, but Ive heard enough about you. What about her?
Shes safe or no deal.
And the information?
High density alloy. Virtually impervious.
Youll be dead before your armor is. Malleable enough to tether whole plates together.
Deal. Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded.
We are already prepared. This casket will come with us. The return craft we will depart in. Everything else is yours.
You will receive the information when we leave.
We will both leave safely, correct?
Alright already, Fowir sighed. You act like were scoundrels.
Okay, there is that, he smirked as he watched several more fliers descend on the deck. The suit of each flier billowed in the wind, acting like wings. It was just falling with style, but it was quite effective.
En mass they swarmed the deck. Some gathered supplies and leapt free, gliding for a distance before disappearing into the Storm. Others worked to guide the ship towards a slowly parting gap in the debris. More fliers could be seen perched on the rocks around the gap, using their strange magic of rope and wind to open a path large enough for the ship. With a snap the return craft disengaged and began to freefall beside the main ship.
Itll be here when we get back, Fowir smirked. You ready?
Yes, Chou stated.
Fowir fired a grapple from his wrist, the cable coiling free from somewhere on his back. Another flier caught the line somewhere in the debris field and lashed it firm.
Hold on tight, the man said as he attached the end of the grapple to the casket and took Chous hand. Wearing Ooliliuoe like a gauntlet, Chou stepped off the deck and into the air. The wind took her immediately, billowing her clothes and her hair, shrieking off her crystal skin. Slowly she brought Uni to her neck, ready for the-
She blinked. She was lying down on something rough, Ooliliuoe staring down at her with blatant concern.
I am fine, Chou stated as she stood up, her joints creaking. It felt like part of her back was cracked.
Yeah right, Fowir frowned. You get dead and we dont get our prize. You okay?
I am fine, Chou snarled. I was merely disoriented.
How far in do you need to go?
All the way. I must place the casket in the sand.
No one comes outta there.
I am aware of that.
Then you know Im not going to let you get that far. Like I said, if youre dead, we dont get paid. Besides, we cant have a legend like you dying, now can we? New plan.
Youre the genius. Youre also the, what do they tell the kids? The giant butterfly that destroys cities? We wouldnt be talking if you were anyone else.
You take us close enough and we can throw the casket in.
We need a bubble, he said as he floated away towards an adjacent structure. Each was tethered together, shielded with scrap from the slowly drifting rocks. Pebbles regularly rang against the sides of the building. She remembered the sound, the echoing against the side of-
She frowned, creasing her face. She refused to lose her grip. There was so little left that she had to do. She watched as a higher structure, a strange metal sphere, split from its mount and toppled towards them. She watched as it drifted to a stop and turned fully towards them. She remembered the machine well, her hair standing on end, the charge building, cutting and cutting and cutting and-
Im fine, Chou sighed as she shook her head and climbed into the craft. The weapon system had been removed, along with most of the automatic programming and navigation. The machine was purely manual, a highly armored transport vehicle for inner circle salvage.
Slowly the beast turned and trudged away. It wove peacefully through the eternally tumbling debris, through the weblike Flier structures, past the scattered remains of millions of lives. There were very few skeletons. The Fliers gathered and disposed of each one they found, the first and most reverent of salvages. They were the victims of the crash like everyone else, regardless of some opinions.
They drifted to a stop after quite a while. The ringing on the hull was incessant, yet softer and focused on the underside more than the roof. The bubble wasnt being bombarded anymore, but rather was bombarding the mild mannered pebbles and sand as they tried to hover. Fowir activated the levitation systems, bringing the ringing to a softer level.
We dont have a lot of time here, he said. You want to get on with your little funeral, or whatever?
Chou calmly stood and moved to the hatch. A constant stream of sand and stone drifted past in both directions. A short distance away the wall became solid, opaque and dark as the grave. Chou checked the casket one last time, and certain that it was the same one, shoved it off the edge. The storm buoyed it up very briefly, the sand acting like a million hands waving goodbye. Despite herself, Chou waved back as she watched it disappear into the shadows.
Touching, Fowir, smirked.
Chou glanced at her hand briefly before resuming her seat.
It was, Ooliliuoe smiled.
Chou quietly activated the controls of the return craft. It was small and fast, just enough to carry them back to the GU. The Fliers were paid, satisfied, and honorable enough. They were free to go and welcome to return anytime with more toys.
Chou glanced back at the Storm. It would take them all eventually. She hadnt figured out a way to stop it. It wasnt her job anymore though. The future would be what it would be. Shed done all she could to make sure it happened.
Look, Ooliliuoe said, tapping the glass.
What, Chou asked as she glanced past. Oh. Hello, mother.
Ooliliuoe glanced at her curiously, but didnt say anything as Chou fired the engines, looped around the eternally tumbling Basilisk, and aimed them towards home.
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