Day 54. 123 pages, 55,523 words.
There still wasn’t a reasonably established answer to this question, however, so the three Molren sat and discussed the various hypotheses that came closest to fitting the evidence.
The presence of a single Flesh-Eater, Gyden insisted and both Predericon and – grudgingly – Lelhmak concurred, didn’t necessarily imply the presence of the Elevator. Still, it was a fair indication, and the presence of the Flesh-Eater or the Flesh-Eater and its home platform changed the basic equation they’d been working with.
Not enough to actually force a conclusion, of course.
“So if we’ve been relocated, then at least something from the volume immediately surrounding us was also moved,” Predericon said.
“And if the Four Realms were swallowed up by a spatial anomaly and reconstituted into a ballworld solar system like the ones in Cursèd’s Playground,” Gyden replied, “then at least we might not be alone in this new environment.”
“And the sensors still can’t tell us if we’re even still in the Void,” Lelhmak added, “or how big this ‘new environment’ might be.”
“No,” Predericon admitted. “The heavy-spectrum scanners and essential physics contrast engine burned out during the … just before the crash,” she said.
“Burned out, like they never even existed in the first place,” Gyden put in, just in case Old Man Lelhmak didn’t remember this conversation from his previous revival, and wanted to berate them some more.
“I get it,” Lelhmak grumbled. “So we’re left with really nothing much better than the naked eye. And our eyes, and what’s left of the sensors, tell us that we’re in a solar system in the stellar-vacuum style, considerably larger than the volume of the Four Realms. And that the solar system is part of a galaxy that’s even larger still. And that the Castle is gone.”
“Yes,” Predericon said, as if they hadn’t gone over this hundreds of times before. “And we are unable to pick up any comms traffic. We have either been transported a huge distance and the sensors are unable to find any reference point, or we have been left behind in a fundamentally altered sphere of near Castle space, and the sensors are not equipped to accurately scan it,” Gyden shifted in her seat. “Or,” Predericon concluded in the interests of fairness, “the Cursèd megaengineering site underwent a dramatic and unannounced state-change, and everything we’re seeing on sensors and out in the sky is a simulated backdrop to account for the new configuration,” for whatever reason, she prevented herself from adding. Things were speculative enough without adding motive as a variable.
“Why choose?” Lelhmak actually seemed to be in his element now. “We’re stuck down here with nothing but our eyes and a completely beshitted sensor array. Any of those options, or none of them, or all of them might be true.”
“All of them?” Gyden echoed sceptically.
“Until more information comes along,” Lelhmak spread all four hands. “Don’t forget, we were playing around in the Pinians’ back yard. Cursèd was the construction site of a Firstmade God. This might just be a test case, a new layout run-through, simulation on a cosmic scale. Just because the Four Realms have been stable for millennia, doesn’t mean they’re always going to be. And just because we’ve got machines and technology and logic and empirical evidence, doesn’t mean the Firstmades have to give a crap.”
“And just because ‘the Ghååla did it’ is an unsatisfying scientific conclusion-” Predericon paraphrased one of Old Man Lelhmak’s favourite weed-out-the-time-wasters axioms.
“-Doesn’t mean the Ghååla didn’t do it,” Lelhmak concluded, and scowled at her. “Sycophant.”
“Fossil,” Predericon replied blandly.
“Alright,” Gyden cut through the exchange and pointed at Lelhmak. “But you just said we need more information. And also that we can’t risk going looking for the Elevator because we might find her and that would be awful.”
“I didn’t say we needed more information,” Lelhmak replied. “I said ‘until more information comes along’,” he paused. “Which, now I come to consider our situation, may not have been the most reassuring choice of phrasing,” he admitted.
“Is there some way we can find out more about what happened from the Flesh-Eater?” Predericon asked. “Without undue risk of exposing ourselves to the Elevator,” she added, when Lelhmak opened his mouth in exasperation. He closed his mouth, and looked thoughtful. “Its head seemed to be packed with zirgox interface fibre-fluid,” she pressed her advantage. “It’s possible we could interface with it using the computer-to-computer handshake protocols.”
Lelhmak opened his mouth again, then stopped. A smile of disturbingly uncharacteristic rapture spread across his face.
“We can look into its eye,” he said, “and find the last thing it saw reflected there. Akmet, that’s the stupidest, most brilliant thing I’ve heard since you thawed me out.”