Recreational Reality

Annealing Collapse

Part 3: Connection

Reboot Complete

    "Did it work?" Kailan said, looking at the screen.
    "Sure looks like it to me," Dr. Ashana said, looking up at the main view. All the squares were bright, each displaying a different world, including all of the worlds our intrepid adventurers were from.
    "They're back!" Aika said.
    "So it would seem," Nadezhda said, smiling, "congratulations."
    "You know," Fari said, "that screen looks like it's projecting an outside view of the Hashiwa Intrepid. I don't suppose you could send them a message?"
    "Sure, uh," Dr. Ashana said, looking at the controls, "try that one there." She pointed at a control panel that displayed 'Monitor Communications'.
    Fari walked to it, and pressed a few buttons, "Hashiwa Intrepid, come in, do you read me?"
    "Yes," said another's voice through the panel, "Captain, is that you?"
    "It is. What's the last thing you remember?" Fari said.
    "There was this huge energy wave, then all of a sudden, you, Lt. Lishia, and all the newcomers just vanished," the person said, "also, how are you talking with us? We're not picking up any electromagnetic signals."
    "I'm in... what could only be described as another dimension," Fari said, "with the other newcomers and Lishia. Standing orders are to continue scanning for any anomalies and hold your course. Lt. Stevens has the conn."
    "Affirmative, Captain," the person said.
    "If we can contact our worlds, I should notify my people as well," Nadezhda said.
    "Of course!" Dr. Ashana said, "we can all take turns, I'm sure someone out there will be worried about each of us if we've up and disappeared."

Nadezhda walked up to the panel, and radioed her special forces that she, Maria, and James were out and would be back when the time suited them. One authorization code later, and they asked no further questions.

Hajia and Dani called up friends and family, as did Lian and Kira.

Dr. Ashana and Kailan talked with the Dean to inform them that they were studying the phenomena from a more remote station. The Dean replied back to them that Dr. Ashana's car had been towed off the street for apparently being abandoned, but otherwise wished them luck.

Kelva assured his father that he was on a journey into the unknown, and his father merely relayed his pride that Kelva had finally gotten the confidence to explore on his own.

Aika talked with her family, and mentioned likely far too many details about all her new friends.

Jania turned down the offer, as her world was completely solo-play.

    "What about you Harold?" Dr. Ashana said, "don't tell me you have the same excuse as Jania."
    "No, Doctor, I'm sorry but I just work by myself," Harold said, "not much in the way of friends, and my family's long gone." He took a look around, and said, "if you'd pardon me to say it, I'd say everyone here is the closest thing I've had to family in a long time."
    "Of course, Harold," Dr. Ashana said, "I don't know what we would have done without you. But not even a special someone?"
    "To be honest, Doctor," Harold said, "I've just never been interested in such things."

    "I suppose all we have to do now, is find a way back home?" Fari said, "I can take people on the star-skimmer, unless there's some other techno-magical way to get back."
    "Possibly," Kailan said, "I still haven't had the time to properly study these systems."
    Noticing one of the control panels had turned red again, Nadezhda walked up to it, and said, "this panel says, 'Proximity Alert', does that mean someone is nearby?"
    "Let me take a look," Dr. Ashana said, pressing a few buttons. "That's strange, no..." She pressed another and the main view was replaced by a view of the void below them.
Within the inky blackness, motion could be seen. Awakening from a slumber of centuries, the void twisted and bent, rippled across itself. Two sharp red eyes materialized.

    "It's... the universe devourer," Lishia said, staring at the screen in terror.
    "It's still here, staring right at us," Fari said, looking intently at it as well.
    "Now wait a moment," Dr. Ashana said, "these readings indicate it's only about 10 light-years across, way smaller than the records we saw earlier."
    "Did it shrink?" Kailan said.
    "Or is it a child?" Nadezhda said.
    "Either way, it's like one of those stories where people go mad from the revelation," Kira said, "just knowing things like that are real... does things to peoples' sanity."
    "But we know it's real," Harold said, "and we don't have the luxury of going insane. If it's still there, then why hasn't it eaten us?"
    "It can't see us," Nadezhda said, "it's looking right at us, but can't see us."
    "So that's what that meant," Dr. Ashana said, with a moment of realization.
    "What did 'that' mean?" Nadezhda said.
    "The readouts said we are 'Dimensionally Shifted' away from the original universe," Dr. Ashana said, "we're in our own 3-D space, which is offset slightly from the original universe in the fourth spatial dimension. I always thought the fourth dimension was just time, but hey, here's living proof."
    "Living indeed," Lian said, staring at the creature through the viewscreen.
    "So this creature," Nadezhda said, "if it is truly alive, must only be able to perceive the normal three dimensions of space like we can. It must know there is energy here, otherwise it would have left to devour another universe."
    "So it's just sitting there, licking its chops, waiting for us to move close enough?" Lishia said.
    "Not quite," Nadezhda said, "it knows we're here, but it is unable to move to attack us. In effect, despite the scary appearance, we're perfectly safe."
    "I sure hope you're right," Kailan said, looking scared as well.
    "So now is the time to strike," Hajia said, "it'll never see us coming."
    "Exactly," Nadezhda said.

    "You want to attack this thing?" Fari said, "the giant light-years-across universe-devouring monstrosity that's apparently made out of the void itself? And defies the laws of physics with its every move?"
    "Yes," Nadezhda said.
    "That's completely bonkers," Fari said, "the reports indicated their weapons did nothing to it. They fought with a galaxy-sized military, far more advanced than any of our worlds, and they lost with barely even a fight. That's suicide."
    "I'm inclined to agree," Kelva said, "how do we know we can even hurt it?"
    "Because," Nadezhda said, smiling, "no matter how much armor you have, and no matter how tough your hide, could you - could anything - resist an attack from the inside?"
    "I... kinda doubt it, actually," Kelva said.
    "My power works in the fourth spatial dimension you have described," Nadezhda said, "when I teleport to a location, I replace all matter there, as I enter from the 'inside'. Nothing can resist that force, not buildings, not people, not even solid rock."
    "That's pretty impressive," Kailan said, "and makes a lot of sense, to me at least."
    "So if we fire upon that thing with everything we've got," Nadezhda said, "we'll hit it from within - and it will be powerless to retaliate."
    "Honestly, it's a crazy plan," Dr. Ashana said, "but it's totally sound with the laws of physics as I understand them."
    "It makes sense," Fari said, "but I'm still skeptical."
    "What other plans do we have?" Nadezhda said, "we can't live with that... thing on our doorstep."

    The group thought about it for a moment, until Dr. Ashana said, "the way I see it, that's our best bet. We have to do something, and if it means killing the thing that killed our ancestor's universe, I'm all for it."
    "Fine," Fari said, "just tell me what you need, Nadezhda."
    "Thank you, it will be an honor to lead this action," Nadezhda said, "I haven't seen a real battle in ages."
    "Jeez, you're letting her lead? Now you're just stroking her ego more," Maria said.
    "Maria, do you have another plan?" Nadezhda said.
    "No," Maria said sulkingly. "Alright fine. I guess I'll just go blast it with some rainbows of truth and light then," Maria said, storming out.
    "She'll be fine," Nadezhda said. "Anyways. Rally all the troops your worlds can bear, and anyone who has access to spaceflight will be especially useful."
    "People in our world can fly in space and blast things," Lian said, "although I'm a bit new at it."
    "Excellent," Nadezhda said, "make whatever preparations are necessary."

    "Patch me through to the Earth Admiralty," Fari said, opening a commlink.

    "Activate the Magistrant Force," said Kira to her world's leaders, "this is a Class-One Emergency, we'll need everyone for this!"

    "I can round up all the musicians I know, just get us a platform to stand on," Jania said.

    "I'll talk to the President," Hajia said, "I've never met her, but I can't imagine she'll turn this opportunity down."

    "I'll contact the Exploratory Forces," Dr. Ashana said, "I'm sure they'll want to help too."

    "My Mom knows the queen!" Aika said.

    "I know a guy in the National Guard," Harold said, "he'll know who to contact."

    "I could contact my father to rally the tribes," Kelva said, "but I doubt our hunters will be of much help."
    "Every effort matters," Nadezhda said, "no world should be left out of this."

    "And I'll rally my special forces," Nadezhda said, "they may not have spaceflight, but they're the best of the best. Everyone should be ready to move out within the next three hours. That should give everyone enough time to prepare."
    "And we'll assist from here with coordination and deploying any advanced tech we can figure out," Kailan said.
    "We better get going," Fari said, "thanks for everything, and hope to see you on the other side."
    "Agreed," Nadezhda said.
    "If you have that fancy teleportation magic system ready, now's a good time," Lishia said.
    "Of course," Dr. Ashana said, sitting in front of a computer, "everyone who's not staying in the control center, sent home now." She pressed a few buttons on the panel, as James, Maria, Lian, Kira, Hajia, Dani, Fari, Lishia, Aika, and Jania were sent back home to prepare.
    "Looks like it's just us five," Dr. Ashana said to Harold, Nadezhda, Kelva, and Kailan.
    "Indeed," Nadezhda said, "let's make it count."
    Harold nodded in agreement.
    "Happy to help," Kelva said.
    "Alright, we'll coordinate the fleets to here, near the center of the worlds," Kailan said, as they planned out the attack.

• • •

Three hours later, a large cluster of ships, planes, and people gathered in the void, near the center of their worlds, and directly 'above' the dark creature. It had been squirming in the void, moving and searching for its prey, but unable to perceive or attack it.

    "Is everyone in formation?" Nadezhda said, "call out all groups."

    "Alpha Group ready," Fari said, aboard the Hashiwa Intrepid, and surrounded by the forces of the Earth Exploratory Forces.
    "Am I the only one here who thinks it's strange we have a group of magical video-game rock musicians on top of our hull?" Lishia said, as they looked out of the glass windows into the void below.
    "Nope. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree with you," Fari said.

    "Beta Group, standing by," James said inside the cockpit of a large aircraft, "atmosphere is holding, looks like those forcefield generators are working like a charm."
    "I just hope this thing hates light," Maria said, "because I'm going to light it up like fireworks on August 11th."

    "Gamma group, reporting in," said the Magistrant leader, "and our new recruits are proving more capable than they look."
    "I got this!" Lian said, balancing on a broomstick over the void, while holding a magic tome, "trust me, these spells are harder to remember than cast!"
    "That creature will know the coldness of hell by the time we're done with it!" Kira said, floating on a hoverpad, as many of the other magicians cheered.

    "Delta wing, we're ready for action," Hajia said, from the cockpit of an AWACS aircraft, hovering in the void, surrounded by fighter jets. "Too bad they didn't let me fly one, though."
    "Maybe next time," Dani said, "it's still a great honor to see everything from here."

    "All the other miscellaneous forces report good to go as well," Dr. Ashana said.
    "Can I be the first person to say this is totally ridiculous, and unbelievably awesome to have everyone here?" Kailan said.
    "Yes, as long as you're also the last," Dr. Ashana said, "watch those readings."
    "Yes, Doctor," Kailan said, unsuccessfully suppressing a smile.
    "Creature still in position," Kelva said, "no change so far."
    "Worlds look stable," Harold said, "at least no red text yet."
    "Excellent," Nadezhda said, "then on my mark, hit it with everything we've got."
    "Understood," Dr. Ashana said.
    "Fire!" Nadezhda said, as the combined forces of the worlds let out a fury of fire, light, and magic like the void had never seen. The energy pierced across the inky blackness, illuminating the very space itself, and passing through the dimensional barrier that separated them from normal space 'below'.

The creature suddenly felt something it had not felt in eons, perhaps never before. A great burning fire from within, with no visible source, pain without cause, a destructive force it could not see. It writhed in the void, it knew its attackers were nearby, but it could not find them. It squirmed and searched, never thinking to run away. It had never known fear, or the possibility of death. It was born of the void, and knew nothing of this light.

The barrage continued for what felt like an eternity.

But scarcely an hour later, the creature could take no more, it's form unraveled, the unphysical forces that held it together failed, and it disintegrated back into the void. The nothingness it had been created from, welcomed it back to oblivion.

    "Is it... over?" Nadezhda said, as the screen went dark, no sign of the red eyes, and no warnings from the sensors remaining.
    "Nothing on sensors," Kailan said.
    "I don't see anything out there at all," Kelva said, "except empty space."
    "We can keep scanning, just to be safe," Dr. Ashana said.
    "Couldn't hurt to be sure," Harold said, "after all, it made sure all of our ancestors were gone, down to the last speck of dust."
    "Agreed," Nadezhda said.

They searched across the void, as far as their scanners could tell, but it was over. No trace of the creature could be found.

• • •

Celebrations echoed throughout the worlds. They were saved, and now had full ability to travel and experience each other's ways of life.

A great council was made, five elected from the many worlds to represent the billions that still lived.

And a memorial was enacted, to commemorate the sixteen heroes who had saved their worlds, and to the trillions who had given their lives before. A great marble and metal sculpture, showing two worlds with a halo of many smaller worlds, hovering above.

    "Our people were once of two worlds," Councilor Xinisa said, "Earth and Ionia. The two great worlds that the Galactic Alliance was built upon. They had been so similar in form and thought, true soulmates of species across the stars. They met and built amazing sculptures, cities, and relationships. Their story is all but lost to us today, given how few records we have of before the great catastrophe. However, they never truly died. As the great heroes have told, their physical forms may have perished, but their spirits lived on. And they became us. We were their stories, their fantasies, and their greatest achievement in technology and creativity. They built us to be like them, and when their universe perished, they became us. Their spirits reincarnated into our forms, and lived our lives, and our worlds. We are the people of Earth and Ionia, and we will rebuild. We will honor their legacy, and perhaps even one day surpass it. And so with the commemoration of this great memorial, we hereby formalize the founding of the new Anneal Alliance. May all our worlds grow and live in peace."

• • •

One year later...

    James was trying on a frilly shirt, with some flowing pants, and said, "I'm not sure pink is really my color, to be honest."
    "Oh, it looks good on you," Hajia said, looking at him in front of the mirror.
    "I have a nice blue dress you could try on instead?" Dani said.
    "Not sure that's what I had in mind," James said. Then pausing for a moment, he said, "but you only live once."
    "Cool!" Dani said, "and then we can watch my entire collection of Delwani Jane movies, it's about this woman who goes on adventures around the world in exotic locations. She's one of my favorite actresses, for sure."
    "Sounds like fun," James said, walking back into the changing room, "wouldn't miss it for the world."

• • •

    "Fred, I still can't believe we managed to bring you back," Maria said to a man, as the two of them sat on a metal bench in Luna Station, "I mean, restoring people during the collapse is one thing, but people who had died years earlier?"
    "The power of backups, I suppose?" Fred said, as he held Maria's hand, "I promise not to leave you again, Maria, my dear."
    "You better not," Maria said, "even if it was for a good cause. Rebellion against Nadezhda makes my day any day."
    "She did help save the universe though," Fred said, "so I suppose we could give her a second chance?"
    "Only if she can give you one too," Maria said, staring out at the bright surface of the moon, the Earth visible above in the lunar sky.
    "Of course," Nadezhda said, appearing directly behind them, "as long as you don't screw it up this time."
    "You really know how to wreck a moment, don't you?" Maria said, turning around and looking rather miffed.
    "Yes," Nadezhda said, disappearing.

• • •

Back at the rock pillar, a man held a guitar. He had wavy and long jet-black hair, and wore an outfit with far too many spikes. He saw two figures approaching from the grassy field below.
    "Who dares to challenge Rock-Modan?" he said.
    "I do! Jania of the Twelve Chords!" Jania said, striking a pose with her guitar.
    "And so do I! Kelva of the third tribe!" Kelva said, putting on star-shaped sunglasses, as he held a bright blue electric guitar.
    "And this time you're not getting away so easily," Jania said.
    "Oh shit!" Rock-Modan said, "two-player mode!"

• • •

I sat at my desk again, waiting for a case to show up. Times could have been better, but at least the rent was paid for the next century or so. After all, one doesn't save the universe without garnering some top clients. That being said, it was getting rather dull, so something to stretch the old muscles would be nice, for a change of pace. I didn't get into detective work for the money, and I sure wasn't leaving anytime soon.

But then I saw her, she walked in like she was worth a million bucks, dressed in a military outfit that would impress even the Shah himself.

    "I have a case for you," she said, "but it's going to be difficult."
    "Seriously lady," my new assistant said, "we eat difficult for lunch."
    "Alright Aika," I said, "let's hear her out." I sat up in my chair. She made a good enough assistant, and the new sunglasses helped sell her look. But she still had more color than anyone in my world.
    "Well, it all started at 17:30 last night," the military lady said, "when I was all alone in the cargo bay..."

• • •

Kira drove up on a hover-cycle to the Yavan Atmospheric Observatory, the cloudy sky casting a gray light over the forested hill.

    "Can you believe it, they want rain again today?" she said.
    "Yeah, I guess they were worried about a drought," Lian said, "and the hovball match isn't until tomorrow."
    "Alright, I just wish people wanted more snow, it's more fun that way," Kira said. "Ready?"
    "You bet!" Lian said, as he hopped onto the back seat of the hover-cycle, and the two of them flew off into the sky.

• • •

    "Report is in, Captain," Lishia said, handing Fari an electronic tablet.
    "Hmm, nothing to ten-thousand light-years?" Fari said, "there's really nothing else out there, is there?"
    "I'd say we just haven't found it yet," Lishia said, "but yeah, sure seems like it. I guess we really are alone in the universe."
    "At least there's plenty of room to build," Fari said, "even if there's nothing left to discover."
    "Sorry about that, Captain," Lishia said.
    "It's alright, I've been working too hard anyways," Fari said, "what about a vacation? I hear the Empire of Earth has some amazing tidepools, and I happen to know the Empress personally."

• • •

    "So, how's it like working with Ashana?" a lab assistant said to Kailan in the control room.
    "Oh, she's amazing as usual," Kailan said, "although now that we've figured out how to manipulate matter, I wonder if I could be a bit taller. You know, not as tall as her, of course, but maybe less towering over me, you know?"
    "Oh yeah, makes sense," the assistant said, "Ashana is pretty tall."
    "Ahem," Dr. Ashana said, "that's Dr. Ashana to you."
    "So sorry, Doctor," the assistant said, "here's the reports on the construction of New Ionia, they say the energy requirements are on page three."
    "Excellent!" Dr. Ashana said, sipping her coffee.

• • •

And in this space, the Anneal Alliance built many worlds, each with their own story to tell.
These stories intermixed and intertwined, a product and combination of their many environments.
The people within learned about who they were in their past lives, who they became, and who they wanted to be.

So in time, the stories of their ancestors became reality.

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Published on Recreational Reality by Metafictional Press. First Version 2018 June 30, Latest Version 2018 June 30.