Day 48. 115 pages, 52,283 words.
After struggling in vain with the conceptual model for a little while and winding up with nothing more than an irritatingly insistent sense of oppressive tension across the top of her head, Predericon stepped back out into the ship. She was mildly surprised to find that almost two hours had passed, but it wasn’t unusual. She tended to get deeply immersed in her recollections and attempted representations, and was growing accustomed to losing track of time a bit while she worked. It was one of the main reasons she had put together a shipboard routine for herself.
She made her way to the kitchen, and processed a pair of nutrient bars. Chewing idly, she sat at the laughably-titled communal dining table and skimmed through some of her actual work. At the moment it wasn’t much less abstract than her sculpture. No, it was worse. At least you could put your hands on a sculpture and feel its dimensions, its solidity, its twists and turns.
That was what made it so difficult to work on.
Gyden and the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity)’s computer had estimated that it would be another ten years, give or take, before Lelhmak’s Moon and its unwilling passengers completed a full orbit of the distant star, pulled along by the huge stupid gas giant that they were orbiting. Gyden was determined not to still be around at the conclusion of their first local year, and so she insisted on going out and wandering around. Predericon was focussed on establishing reality in a more experimental way, but the simple fact was either approach – or both – could be an invitation to madness.
Lelhmak’s Moon wasn’t just frozen and deserted. It was also bathing in solar and cosmic radiation the likes of which the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity) had not really been equipped to handle. A certain amount of sleet-through was inevitable at the proximity to stellar void at which they’d been operating, but the Castle produced a vast standing wave of perpendicular physics that bounced most of the radiation back into the gulf. It was actually called Darking albedo in certain circles.
Now, though, the Castle seemed to be gone and there was just emptiness. Emptiness paradoxically full of brutal levels of radiation. They’d managed to shore up their hull and Gyden had retrofitted some EVA suits with plating, but if there had ever been humans on Lelhmak’s Moon, they had almost certainly died in the first week.
The first week. Whether their first week on the surface, or the surface’s first week of existence … ah, well, that was the question, wasn’t it?
Predericon became aware that she’d stopped chewing on her nutrient bar, and was staring at the display of equations and findings while her mind’s eye attempted to juxtapose the data with the spectacle she had seen on Day 1 (Centre / Mind standard).
In the month or so immediately following their arrival, they hadn’t just been bombarded with radiation out of basically nowhere. The temperature of Lelhmak’s Moon had also dropped steadily, but it had levelled out fairly quickly. The prevailing chill of the spatial volume, and the thinness of the atmosphere around the moon, had leeched away any heat that wasn’t nailed down. It had been cold in the outer environmental envelope of Cursèd, but this was worse.
The only heat source, aside from the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity) and a bit of storm-discharge from the gas giant, was a fusion-type star some seven or eight hundred million kilometres away, functionally indistinguishable from the stars scattered through the stellar vault above the Four Realms. It was this star that they were orbiting. As for the rest…
The nearest stars of the stellar void above the Four Realms, actually the near curve of a galaxy called Cursèd’s Playground, were no longer anywhere to be seen. Other stars were visible on what was left of the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity)’s charred sensors, and were even visible to the naked eye, but the Molren couldn’t get a good look at them.
It was as though they’d been transported to another galaxy, elsewhere in the stellar vault altogether, and dropped on a random moon. Indeed, this was the theory under which Gyden was operating, and it made as much sense as anything else. It was also just as impossible as anything else.
The planets were new. The star was new. The galactic arm that was now fuzzily visible on the sensors was new. All of it, new. Brand new. But that made no sense, because if it had all just been made they would only be able to see things two light years away and counting. The whole thing had to have been around for hundreds of thousands, probably millions of years for the light to reach this point. But that was no more possible than their unwitting transportation to some other sector of the Void’s upper reaches.
Gyden was convinced the sensors were returning falsified data. Somehow. Predericon wondered if the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity) had crash-landed on a piece of falsified data.
There seemed to be no simple solution. The most logical conclusion was that they had been altered in some way, their memories wiped and their ship transported with them unconscious on board, to this freezing corner of space where they were now taking part in some sort of double-blind research argument. This, at least, was possible. But what Predericon had seen as Earth, Hell and Cursèd came apart beneath them … that wasn’t part of any psychological experiment she could imagine. It couldn’t be.
She finished her first bar and started munching through her second, mechanically.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while wimmy wam wam wozzle.