The Tower

It was just a dream.

The hive landed seeders in the City. Thousands of thralls poured out as shock troops, ripping the people apart. There were too few Guardians, too many seeders, and no perimeters could be formed. Families were slaughtered in their homes, buildings were burned to the ground, and the seeders did not stop releasing the Darkness.

When the thralls thinned, acolytes and knights came out. They entered building after building to clear locked doors, destroy the few military checkpoints capable of withstanding the thrall. Then the wizards, with their dark magic, came to maintain dominance against the tide of Guardians spilling from the Tower.

It was night, and the usually golden glow of the City was slowly consumed by shadows as the power grid was taken out. Dozens of Guardians were at the power plants, but it didn’t matter. Their Light gutted.

The Tower stood firm, a hundred Guardians fighting to survive. A seeder even landed on top the place we call home, and the Guardians, ancient and experienced Guardians, threw the infestation from the terraces and fed them to their own flames below. The Tower would not crumble to the hive, but it would crumble.

Shaxx, the great warrior of the Crucible, sent out a missive to all Guardians: Return to the City now, or never return. He wasn’t threatening us. There would be nothing to return to if we did not heed his warning.

The hive released abominations the like we had never seen, the like we never knew crawled around the depths of the Moon. There just wasn’t enough time to explore it all, to wipe it clean of this cancer. Maybe they didn’t even come from the Moon, but unknown colonies farther out. My mind could only process they existed. It could not give them shape. Perhaps they did not have one.

The shadows pounded against the city, and the city was reduced to dirt and ash. The Unspeakable advanced upon the Tower, killed a thousand Guardians, but the Guardians would not fall. The Unknown fell before the Light, and the Tower would stand for another precious hour.

Clouds appeared across the City and time and space were distorted. It was traversed as a child walked across the street or a man would take a shuttle to Mars. The vex appeared in the City, under the City, around the City, and the Darkness had never been so present in her streets. The organic robots struck at the few strategic holds allowed to stand, and then they were ash in the wind. Some disappeared as if they never existed, defeated in a battle fought hours ago, yet we only realized at that moment in time it had been lost.

Then the fallen, our enemies since the Traveler stopped speaking to us, breached our unmanned walls, but they did not attack us. They did not strike down the Tower. With four arms, they tore the hive apart. With spears, seeker rifles, and arc power, they halted the vex here and now, for the fallen had no love for the Darkness and knew our fates were linked.

This did not stop the Darkness, though. It only caused it to ebb and flow with more tendrils than we imagined possible, and it went to the base of the Tower with power we could not conceive. They built constructs at the doorstep and used technology so advanced our greatest cryptarchs could not conceive what they saw, and the tower was breached.

The Tower fell. A million Guardians dropped into orbit, from planets far away, to watch. I was there, in orbit, watching. We watched the Tower topple over and crash against the mountains with a great howl. The City was lost. The Tower crumbled. But there were still people, there was still an army of Darkness never before seen, and there was still an armada of Guardians so large it radiated with the Traveler’s Light.

We swooped in and landed in the City. We pushed back the Darkness, dismantled the vex, and burned the hive from the City. People were brought into perimeters fortified by a hundred Guardians, and taken away to old installations around Earth, far from the fighting. Man was scattered, and as we fought in the City, under the Traveler who was dying, he only watched. Not once did that orb burn brilliantly to show us what we faced. But we faced it bravely, and though a thousand Guardians fell, a hundred thousand were behind them.

That day we destroyed the hive and the vex. We put out the fires of our City. We cleared the rubble of the Tower. We rebuilt, though the Traveler did not shine down on us to thank us. He did not give us guidance. He remained silent, and the council which spoke for him was dead. We are the Light. We are the Traveler. It is by our hand the Darkness will fall. The orb in the sky does not care.

But it was only a dream and I woke up.

The Future War Cult warns against this dream. They’ve heard it a dozen times. Today I join them. I will pledge my guns and grenades to their cause, because when this day comes I will be there, and we will push back the Darkness.

futurewarcult

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This Little Ghost of Mine

This little Light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little Light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine.
Let it shine.

-Children’s song from before the Golden Age

The Traveler overlooking the Last City.

The Traveler overlooking the Last City.

The Tower was supposed to be a place of comfort. It was a magnificent structure in the last City, hiding under the protection of an unconscious, crippled Traveler, his enormous white, spherical body broken as it hovered over the final place humanity could live safely in numbers. When I finished killing the fallen on the Moon, emptying Venus of the vex, or hindering cabal movement on Mars, it was supposed to be the home that gave me refuge from the horrors of Darkness I witnessed every day.

It didn’t.

I remember when I was younger I’d use a nightlight. You always thought there was something under your bed. A shoe moved in your closet, but in your mind it was a monster waiting for you to fall asleep. Now that I’m alive again, now that I’ve descended into the Hives of the Moon, that I’ve witnessed Darkness, I don’t give a damn how old I am, I’m using a nightlight.

My Ghost hovered next to the bed, giving a blue glow. “Would you like me to sing you to sleep, Kess?” The synthesized voice came from the blue eye which stared at me.

“You’re an ass.”

Ghost was open. There was the blue orb which was his core, the Light of the Traveler. then triangles which revolved around it. When he wasn’t lighting the way, the Light contracted and he looked like a solid, floating machine, with a giant eye. His eye was watching me. “I do not eat. I do not digest. I do not defecate. Your statement is untrue. Would you like a song?”

I turned away from him and from the city out the window. I could hear ships swoosh by, even at that late hour. The Tower never slept. The bed felt too soft, next to a cockpit seat. It felt too open, with too much room to move. All of it made me restless. “No song. I just want to sleep.”

The silence lasted maybe half an hour. I watched the ceiling, thoughts of battle running across the dark space. Fighting the vex as they defended the Nexus. Killing the giant hydra which kept guard of countless secrets, algorithms, and plans for the future and the past. To think it was possible, that these machines could be planning in our presence for their past and future goals, and that they can sidestep through time with a little effort. The struggle felt so hopeless.

Then Ghost said, “Why didn’t you go?”

“Go?”

“When the other Guardians invited you out. Why didn’t you go?”

There were five of them. Some of them I went out and fought beside, others were idle in the Tower and wanted a good time so they tagged along. As I laid in bed, they would be drinking, dancing, singing, getting some. “Didn’t feel like it.”

“You never feel like it. Why not?”

“There’s a war to fight. If I’m here, I’m resting and resupplying. I’ll get drunk when the Darkness is gone. When all is Light.”

“What if there is no end to the Darkness? There is Light in dancing and singing. There is a Light in making love and partaking in drink. Muzzle flash isn’t the only kind of light.”

I laughed. “I don’t think they’re making love. I’d be surprised if tomorrow they remembered each other’s name.”

The room felt empty. It was empty. There was nothing in it, aside from a few weapons and an extra helmet I wasn’t quite ready to dismantle for parts. This apartment wasn’t my home. I was not to find the light in simple pleasures on Earth. I said, “Ghost, prep the ship. Taking a quick shower, then I’ll be there.” There was definitely a little bit of the Light in a shower. And with that, I would recharge and blaze brightly in the solar system, so that everyone can see the Darkness will not gut our lives without a brilliant fight.

Hide it in the Tower, no!
I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it in a Tower, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
This Little Light of mine.

Once upon a time on little Mercury

Changing how I write these. First, pretending I created a male. Second, first person. Third, this is how I’ll continue in the future.

Once upon a time there was a planet called Mercury. It was the closest planet to the sun, the smallest planet in the solar system. Before I died, I remember looking up at it as a child. My grandpa had a telescope. He said, “Kess, when I was your age, I looked at Mercury with my grandpa. And you know what he told me?”

I was nine. I shook my head, though he told me this story a dozen times. There was something about hearing of miracles that made my heart beat faster. He continued, “When he was your age, Mercury was a dead planet. There was no life on it. The Traveler wasn’t here yet, not when he was your age.”

No life on Mercury. No Traveler. We were colonizing Jupiter at the time, and here grandpa was telling me we once only lived on earth, in an age without miracles. People died before a hundred. I would live to three hundred, if the Darkness hadn’t appeared with its vast armies.

But at that time, when I looked up with my grandpa at the heavens and viewed Mercury, it was a garden planet. I wanted to go there for vacation when I was older. Was even saving up for it after academy. Then they appeared.

News reports told of a robot army, though they were nothing like the exo created long ago by man. The Guardians, soldiers sent by the Traveler, could not stop them, and soon Mercury went dark. They said it was being hollowed out, that the material was being turned into something both organic and machine. The Darkness was already approaching. Saturn was cut off, but we could still see it in the sky. Jupiter was evacuating. But what they did to Mercury?

When the news anchors appeared on that fateful day, the worlds paused. Each planet which remained in the Light was a still, dim flame. “It has been confirmed, the planet Mercury has been made into a machine by this unknown threat. We will keep you updated, but as of now, there is only speculation as to the purpose of this giant construct.”

She kept talking. Guardians were going. Why has the Traveler abandoned us? Is this the end of our Golden Age? When the invaders came in from the outskirts of our solar system we should have realized the age was tarnished.

There were murmurs in the tavern I sat in. It started so quiet. Then pleas and phone calls to loved ones. We had not heard from Mercury for months, but everyone wanted to try once more. Within the hour, Guardians took off to Mercury. A day later there was a small explosion in the night sky. It was followed by reports of victory, that Mercury had been destroyed, and this new threat was delivered a major defeat. We had to blow up a world we once inhabited, and then dared to call it a victory.

We had funerals the next two weeks for the dozens of Guardians who never returned from the planet. No one returned from the machine planet.

A few years later, when everyone was rushing for protection in the final defenses of Earth, when the Darkness cut off all planets and even clawed into the Moon, that’s when I died.

“Kess, you okay there?” Dart jumped off his Sparrow, and the speeder bike dematerialized. “Looks like you’re spacing out a little.”

We stopped outside the mouth of a cave on Venus. It led to the Nexus. Centuries later, we believe this is what turned Mercury into a machine. We were just beginning to resettle Venus, and now that threat was all too real once again. “Do you remember the tales of Mercury?”

Dart laughed, “Getting nostalgic? I remember us sending the vex back to hell. I think. May have been dead already.”

I remembered losing what we once called home. I remembered being helpless as I drove to the useless fortifications. I remembered dying.

But I wasn’t helpless anymore. I was a Light in the Darkness. “For Mercury,” I said, before dropping down into the Darkness, guns lighting the way.

Embrace the magic of the world

I see more and more that magic is simply science in a time that doesn’t understand it. This bothers me. When did we disband magic as the whimsy, unpredictable, difficult to control, and beautiful work of art that it should be? When did we done lab coats, throw magic into a sterile white room, and start to write thesis papers on it to make it normal?

There are so many real forces in the world which we understand about as well as a grocer understands nuclear physics. There are always new and exciting things on the horizon, but all we seem to take away from it is, “Tomorrow, we’ll explain that, too.” And we apply this to magic in our fantasy worlds.

This isn’t a long post, it’s not even really angry or a rant. It’s a sorrowful plea. Keep the whimsy in your magic. Keep the joy and happiness. Keep the unpredictability and imaginative workings. Leave the labcoat at home and create imperfect walls of glass, brick, rock, wood, or some other strange and unclean element. Just keep it fun and unexplained. Keep us marveling at the unknown going forward. It’s all I ask.

Fix Me

Why don’t you fix me?
I can’t help myself.
Why don’t you fix me?
You know I’m fading still.

Fix Me, Icon For Hire

Gears ground together, poorly lubricated and having accumulated much dirt in the grimy underbelly of Torzikov. The once beautiful brass finish of his plated body was now tarnished from the soot and extreme heat being so close to a lava river. His left eye died long ago, the blue illumination which he perceived through now a blackened, useless orb. Several occasions caused him to want to pluck it out, but while his strength failed due to leaky fluid veins, the mount for his eye was as strong as ever.

He struggled through the compact tenements to his master’s workshop. He never understood why she remained down in the pits, or why she refused to fix or dismantle him for parts. With AI still intact by some strange, machine god miracle, he asked several times. Every time, though, he was dismissed to fetch parts, or she left the room never to bring up the subject again. There was some glimmer in her eye, he thought, when she looked at him. It was equal parts fondness, hatred, and pity.

The workshop took up the entire bottom two floors of a building. Each building lifted up into the black sky, becoming the foundation for the city proper some hundred feet up. Structural supports would creak under the strain of holding up the nobility, the people of means, and he knew master could go up there at any time. She had a pass, there were petitions from hopeful patrons so that she would make them great works of comfort and beauty. Every time, she turned them away in a lavish way. But a no was a no, and every business suitor would send a dejected follow up letter. Some were wrathful, others mournful. A few became arrogant that she could not be as talented as the myths surrounding her, and others told her she was a lava drowned fool without a sense of the finer things.

A bell above the door rang when he entered. If that didn’t give him away, surely the whirling sounds of his ill-maintained parts would. A gear snagged, and clanked in a repetitive cadence. Master said, “Put the parts on table three.” She didn’t look up from her welding, the bright blue flame hypnotizing to the one good eye of the clockwork man.

When he put the box down, the gear was still snagging. He could feel it grinding down the brass. Soon his right arm would have severely limited functionality. A quick thunk to his arm, and the gear stopped snagging, spinning as it was meant to. But he was aware of his body, and he knew the gear wouldn’t last much longer.

Again he looked to his master as she worked on some modern marvel, no doubt. It would help the people down below and give them a new life, one with as much ease as the gentry up above. Or so he hoped.

He said, “I have delivered the box.” The voice was a metallic sound, faded from his younger days ten years, three months, and fourteen days ago. Four years, five months, and two days ago she stopped promising a new voice box.

She looked up for a moment, and even through her goggles he could make out her eyes. They were beautiful, and exquisite masterpiece no doubt put there by her own master, her own creator. However, after near forty years, her creator continued to maintain her, or gave her the ability to maintain herself. If only she cared that much about her clockwork servant. The pump for his lubricants felt strange, a pull on it like something was wrong. However, a quick internal diagnostics showed nothing to be the matter.

She said, “I saw. Did you need something?” The blue flame of her torch guttered and died.

Something came over the brass man at that moment. He blurted out, “Fix me.”

The words pulled again on the valves and pumps in his chest. Was his AI giving him new sensations? It had been a while before he absorbed new information, and rarely did he ever bring in emotional stimuli.

She gave out a quick snort of laughter. “No,” she said, then took her ignitor and clicked it a few times in front of the nozzel of her torch until it caught and sparked a blue flame.

“Please. I am fading. I am blind. My liquids are near empty, my gears worn and chipped, and even my AI is acting strangely.” He approached her, moving his arms clumsily. Though the gear caught again, it was not making movement in his right arm easy as the machine tried to find the right movement again.

This gave her pause. Then she turned off the torch and put it down, lifting up her goggles. It was difficult to notice, but there were thick soot lines which showed how dirty her face actually was. “What do you mean your AI is acting strangely?” She approached him and started to look into his eyes, though spending the greatest amount of time on his left. “Your eyes dilate.”

“What? What does it mean, master? What does it mean that it feels like the pumps and valves in my chest are being tugged on most painfully. I should not feel pain.”

She dug around for a screwdriver and opened up his chest plate. All his workings were working just fine, if aged and leaky, but they were all in place. “This is excellent. This is great news.” She kissed his cheek and steam blew out of the back of his head. Never had her lips pressed against him. “On the table with you. I need to make a phone call.”

He went to lay on the table, waiting, his chest exposed, still aching. His master picked up the phone, a new invention of the past few years, newer than he was, and she said, excitedly, “Doctor Hostoff, please. Yes, I’ll wait.” There was impatient tapping of her foot. “Dimitri, it’s Alexandria. You won’t believe it. He’s feeling emotions.” Another pause. “Of course I’m talking about our brass man. He is feeling emotional pain. We did it. I’ll bring him right up in the morning. Need to polish him up first, make him serviceable.” A pause. “Of course it was worth it, and Dimitri, don’t question my methods. AI isn’t a human. We can treat them as we please. I’ll see you in the morning. Be waiting at the university.”

The clockwork man understood. He was being used, a tool to his master. In the early days she said she loved him. But that was many years ago, he thought, as she approached him with glee, and started to work on repairing his countless broken parts. It felt like his chest sprung a lubricant leak, yet he never looked so shiny.

Oculus

A – Z April: O

“What does it do?” Hebn looked at the strange monocle without touching it, letting it sit on the platform.

Elebar shook his head, “If I knew I would be using it already.” He retrieved a bag full of strange gadgets and started to scan it. Or at least Hebn always assumed that there was some scanning involved. His illiteracy kept him from truly understanding.

The circle set for the glass was made of gold, but nothing like Hebn had seen before. It shimmered in light, changing colors. It could be the lightest of greens, then deepen until it became blue, lightening again into lavender. It was beautiful. The glass itself was thick, difficult to see through, and a teal. It was imperfect, though, and even the darkened sight on the other side of the lens looked distorted. Elebar said something about glass isn’t a true solid and drips with time. This item could be centuries old, and it was showing. Once, it likely was a perfect piece of glass. Elebar continued talking past that, but Hebn realized he didn’t need to pay attention any longer.

The chamber they were in was unique as well, made out of strange metals that most structures were once made from, a strong and black material which lasted at least centuries. No one really knew when the last civilization ceased to exist, throwing the rest of the world into darkness, yet still their structures lasted while Hebn’s people had to repair and tear down their wooden homes regularly. Especially with that termite colony so close. He cursed under his breath, knowing Shev would expect him to fix that rotting wood problem on the west side of the house.

There were etchings throughout the walls, another common occurance. It was said that once there were wires that inset into the metal. Information could be sent through them, and in a few structures it still worked. However, this one had been stripped clean by scavengers, no doubt gutting the wires for the copper that was usually inside. Elebar would always curse scavengers as the information far outweighed the copper. However, information couldn’t build weapons and armor. It couldn’t create plows or shovels.

Hebn reached out to the monocle, curious what the material felt like, but his hand was slapped. Elebar said, “Don’t touch that, you oaf. Go back and make sure our equipment is out and ready. Set up a base. This is what you’re paid for, not to sully the artifacts of the past. Now off with you.” He shooed Hebn, and the man trudged off to the supplies.

“Bastard,” he muttered under his breath, along with other, more vulgar words based on the private parts. “I bet he screws that thin the moment my back turned.” Setting up base wasn’t difficult, just time consuming. There was a small tent without sides which went up, despite them setting up inside the several story building. Then there were three tables, and each one had different equipment gently placed upon it. Sometimes, for fun, he liked to slam down a few of the pieces, but every time they continued to work. Which was good, because otherwise Hebn would likely lose his job.

Once finished he sat. He thought about his wife as his hand idly went down his pants. Of what she would do to him if he brought home enough money to move into the old buildings, the metal ones without rotting wood and termites. They would send their kids off to play and she’d do those things he asked for, which she promised, yet never fulfilled. It would be glorious. His kids would be educated. They’d be able to read and snoop around the old cities, finding ancient toys which they could sell at market for goods. Or maybe not, since it’d probably make them dicks like Elebar. They could be rich and illiterate, kind people helping the city. That’s what they’d do.

“By the Ancients, what are you doing?” Elebar’s bottom lip was quivering when he finally walked back to the camp, pointing at the man sitting there, hand down his pants.

Hebn looked down and blushed, “I was just….” He thought for a moment. “I thought there was a lump and I needed to check it. My cousin died that way, they say. Had a third nut the size of a grape fruit and it turned into a ganderbash. Burst right out and he bled to death.” Hebn wasn’t smart, but he was a great liar.

Elebar narrowed his eyes, “If you weren’t so ill bred, I’d assume you were lying to me. Ganderdash plant eggs in one’s scrotum? How peculiar.” The arrogant ass went to check on the gear, muttering to himself. Hebn took his hand out of his pants and started to wander the building until he came to the monocle again. He didn’t think he was going that way, but often times the twists and turns could lead one in circles.

It was on a pedestal. He didn’t know much about what was sitting there, but he knew enough that when the old ones put stuff in the center of a room it was either immensely beautiful or immensely important. This looked like it had the makings of both.

Writing went up and down the pillars, from the look of it a language that read vertically. There were a few which red horizontal, both being very common. Yet they meant nothing to him. He wasn’t even sure if the great Elebar could read it, as the letters had been well-worn, nearly flat against the pillar. No doubt it said what the item did, but Hebn only had one way of finding out.

Hebn looked over his shoulder once, then went back to the monocle and picked it up. It was very light, as if it wasn’t even there, which is what he expected. It didn’t look like it had too much weight to it.

Then he looked through it, putting it closer to his face, until cold metal touched his warm flesh. When he tried to pull it away, he couldn’t. Then his eye socket started to grasp at the golden ring, bringing it into his skull. He started to panic, his breaths becoming short. The screams echoed around the room as he dropped to his knees trying to pry the metal out of him.

The screams were not that of pain, but shock and disbelief, of having touched forbidden knowledge and realizing, too late, he didn’t want that knowledge. Within a minute it had settled, no longer moving about. But he knew it was there.

Elebar rushed into the room, “You fool, what are you making that….” He slowed and looked at the pillar. “Where is the artifact? Where did it go?”

Hebn slowly turned to look at the man, awaiting the scolding, and possibly murder, at what happened to the precious artifact.

“Well, you slow-witted fool, where is it?” The scowl never looked when the two men came face to face. Habn even stood up. “What happened around your eye? There are markings, like a bruise. Did someone hit you?”

“Yes.” Hebn blinked. Why wasn’t it obvious? Then he realized, it wasn’t like he was looking through that glass. It felt normal on his eye. The only difference was his right eye was gaining information, data fed straight into his brain to tell him what he was seeing. “Yes, of course, there was a beast and it hit me, then took the artifact. We must go after it. It was a hideous beast.”

“How could you let it get away? Why do I pay you? You’re our muscle, fool. We need to get after it.” Elebar took off, shouting for the beast to stop. But Hebn was that thieving beast, though he knew not want it all meant. All he knew was everything in the room made sense and he could see it as if it were new, when there was furniture and people in strange outfits. Items would blink in order to show what worked and what didn’t, and with that he walked to a switch hidden behind thick ivy, and flipped it. Light was restored to the room. Hebn gasped in amazement and explored while Elebar went after a phantom.

Warp Speed

I’m currently watching Star Trek. The show is actually pretty incredible. Despite the immensely limited special effects, budgets, and so on, they do a fairly good job invoking the imagination to create a riveting story.

Travel through space consists of warp speed, or being able to travel faster than light, no doubt created through the concept that if we can travel several times faster than sound we can travel faster than light.

In Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card said warp speed is just bad science. We have stated that we cannot travel faster than light through any sort of propulsion. You have to use warp holes, dimension rifts, etc. But you cannot travel faster than light because a theory says so. At this point, warp speed is used for Star Trek and spoofs, not for serious science fiction.

Why is there something against warp speed or propulsion traveling faster than light? Why does there have to be an alternate way to do it?