Black Lotus, Part 11

“Ah,” the Black Lotus said. “So you concede that, as dire as your eternal punishment is, it is not as bad as it could be.”

“That was never a matter for debate,” Çrom protested. “I was made this way by an Infinite. If you think there aren’t infinite ways it can be made worse, you haven’t been paying attention,” he scowled at her. “And you have been paying attention,” he concluded accusingly. Lotus responded with a slow, reptilian blink. “So what’s with the line of questioning?”

“I endeavour to ask the questions nobody else has,” Lotus replied simply. “And if I cannot do that, then at least I will ask the questions that have not been asked by me. Because I will ask them better.”

“That makes no – what – wait, is that … are you quoting Müllick at me now?”

“The man was a pompous buffoon, but his only real mistake was in believing any other species could hope to operate on the Molran level,” Lotus said.

“That, and collaborating with the Kikelore Think Tank.”

Lotus acknowledged this with a brief grimace. “Those who are granted immortality should consider not only the brief mortals who would trade places with them in a heartbeat, but also the eternally suffering who would do the same,” she rallied.

“I suppose it depends on the type of immortality you’re given,” Çrom admitted, feeling helplessly ungrateful and churlish in the light of Lotus’s fervour.

“And the fact remains that there are good and bad forms of immortality,” Lotus pressed her advantage, “and the immortality you have been given is among the better forms one might hope for – despite having come from the dread Ghåålus Himself,” she pointed a crooked, grimy-nailed finger at him. “Is it not?”

“I guess,” Çrom allowed, after a few more moments’ dubious scowling. “The dread Ghåålus wasn’t all that interested in tormenting me with one of the bottom-shelf varieties.”

“There were already plenty of those to provide amusement,” Lotus suggested. “In the various Hells.”

“Right. Not much point in making it actively nasty. Just living will do enough, after a certain point,” Çrom shrugged. “Always room to downgrade me if I misbehave or get too boring.”

“You are not concerned that this will constitute misbehaviour?”

“Not overly. But you know, no stone unturned and all that,” Çrom spread his hands. “I suppose the dread Ghåålus did go all out to give me the deluxe package.”

“Deluxe, but not Din deluxe,” Lotus said with a smile.

“Well, there’s always something better, isn’t there?” Çrom philosophised. “Maybe the immortality I was saddled with wasn’t as good as an immortality that allowed me to live happy and undamaged without dying and experiencing the horror of that death on a semi-regular basis … did my esteemed associate in the Greater ‘Urbs seem happy?”

“Extremely,” Lotus said. “His mansion was grotesquely well-stocked. I imagine that Judgement Day is going to come far too soon and be a distinct disappointment to him.”

“Maybe I should drop by and make friends,” Çrom remarked.

Lotus blinked. “You haven’t acquainted yourself with other eternals?”

“God no,” Çrom shuddered at the thought. “It’s – the idea’s like – well, have you made friends with any of the other Danes who’ve migrated to this area?”

Lotus shook her head. “I moved to get away from the big drunk bastards.”

Çrom pointed. “Exactly.”

Lotus laughed and shook her head again. “Still,” she went on, “this leads us to a quite obvious solution to your little eternity issue.”

“What?” Çrom blurted.

“Your punishment ends on Judgement Day,” Lotus pointed out. “Why not simply … get there faster? It seems that even though stasis is fatal, before your inevitable death you do still manage to skip through a few centuries, yes?”

Çrom didn’t mention his strong suspicion at this point, which was that any attempt to cheat his way to the finish line would probably result in dreadful consequences. Consequences he didn’t even want to think about, but quite possibly involving some of those bottom-shelf varieties of immortality they’d been circling around. At least trying and failing to permanently kill himself would only result in another death for him to endure. If you could say only of something like that.

“I’ve thought about jumping through time in a series of stasis chambers,” he said truthfully. “Minimise the number of deaths I have to go through before the end. Sorry to say, it just doesn’t work out logistically. Stasis is generally unpleasant for human physiology, for one thing, and for another … dying after six hundred years on ice starts with a nice recap of six hundred years of nightmarish pain, condensed into however long it takes my death to fit itself into my memory.”

“But a successful stretch in stasis, followed by revival, then killing yourself before starting a new stretch…” Lotus suggested, then shook her head. “Convoluted.”

“Very. Not impossible, but also not really sustainable,” Çrom agreed. “Hard to find a place where I can put an entire-urverse’s-history’s-worth of stasis devices where they’ll last long enough, for that matter. And sooner or later I wind up being dug out of a dead city’s potato cellar by a bunch of enthusiastic archaeologists in the middle of a stasis technology drought.”

“So you have considered it,” Lotus said, “but not actually followed through.”

“Tried it,” Çrom said, “but am yet to find a way of taking it further. Not bad for the occasional shortcut,” he added encouragingly. “Not a final solution. And I’ve tried the Time Destroyers, and even a couple of actual time travellers of various stripes,” he went on before Lotus could respond, “just to save on stasis chamber spare parts and storage rental, which … even if you pay for long-term, gets really prohibitive around the trillion-year mark.”

“None of them wanted to annoy Limbo or the dread Ghåålus,” Lotus guessed.

“Bingo.”

“Very well, then,” she said, and leaned forward. Çrom felt his pulse give a silly little jitter. “Now,” she went on in a low purr, “to the matter of your death.”

“Wasn’t that the matter we’ve been talking about for the past couple of hours?” Çrom chuckled uncertainly.

“Of course,” the Black Lotus said, and smiled again. “Only now, I know much more than I did when we started out. And your death is much closer at hand.”

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

This entry was posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Black Lotus, Part 11

  1. So is Judgement Day an absolute certainty in your urverse, anyway?

    • stchucky says:

      Yep. All the top scientists agree on the urverse having a clock, and the time travellers agree.

      I mean there are a few lunatics who insist that their ignorant opinions are as valid as the educated opinions of 99.99% of all scientists’ … but aren’t there always?

      • I’d love to read more about that sometime!

        Not the ignorant lunatic bit because yeah, kinda tired of that lately, but the scientific and time travelling research/investigation seems cool.

      • stchucky says:

        Thanks, and yes – let’s maybe not dwell too much on depressing anti-intellectual crap, I’ll try not to get too heavy-handed in my sermonising.

        But I genuinely love the whole concept of extreme time. My favourite part of The Time Machine is where the time traveller goes forward about as far as he can go, to the distant future where the sun is a red giant and England has become a bleached and sluggish beach with a strange thing flopping in the water. Some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes are the ones where they go “to the end of the universe” and find crazy shit going on there in the final unravelling days. And of course I can spend hours crawling down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading about the ultimate fate of the universe in the year 1×102500, iron stars, and the expansion of everything beyond the point of visibility. All of that.

        So you can expect plenty more of that sort of thing, on the blog as well as in my books! Obviously once the Time Destroyers and time travellers referenced in this part get more airtime of their own, you’re gonna see some serious shit, as Doc Brown notably said.

        Furthermore, and just out of interest, I have a full and complete timeline of major events in my files, encompassing not just the First, Second and Third Ages, but the Fourth through to the Tenth … and a little bit beyond. Because of course there are ten Ages. Sort of. Oh, and I’ve also got a digital work in progress of the full “family tree” of the Pinian incarnations, mapped against the main events of my books. Just so I remember what each of them was called at any given time.

        I’m not sure whether I’ll ever write out the full history (the First Age and the Second Age are done already, but I have started a re-write of the First Age to update it based on new data), or just put it on the blog for free. Or on the aki’Pedia for free. I don’t know if it’s precisely cash-worthy.

        Maybe I’ll wait until I’m mad popular like George RR Martin, then when I run out of steam halfway through my most eagerly-anticipated series I will divert and publish the history of the urverse volumes 1 – 10. There’s a plan.

      • “Thanks, and yes – let’s maybe not dwell too much on depressing anti-intellectual crap, I’ll try not to get too heavy-handed in my sermonising.”

        Oh no worries, you write as you will, it was a throwaway comment on my part.

        “But I genuinely love the whole concept of extreme time. My favourite part of The Time Machine is where the time traveller goes forward about as far as he can go, to the distant future where the sun is a red giant and England has become a bleached and sluggish beach with a strange thing flopping in the water. Some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes are the ones where they go “to the end of the universe” and find crazy shit going on there in the final unravelling days. And of course I can spend hours crawling down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading about the ultimate fate of the universe in the year 1×102500, iron stars, and the expansion of everything beyond the point of visibility. All of that.”

        Hee! Not sure how fantastical some of that is, but yeah. Cool stuff. (note: I know how fantastical the Dr. Who and Wells stuff is, I was referring to the rest).

        “So you can expect plenty more of that sort of thing, on the blog as well as in my books! Obviously once the Time Destroyers and time travellers referenced in this part get more airtime of their own, you’re gonna see some serious shit, as Doc Brown notably said.”

        Yeah I do want airtime for them. So much airtime!

        “Furthermore, and just out of interest, I have a full and complete timeline of major events in my files, encompassing not just the First, Second and Third Ages, but the Fourth through to the Tenth … and a little bit beyond. Because of course there are ten Ages. Sort of. Oh, and I’ve also got a digital work in progress of the full “family tree” of the Pinian incarnations, mapped against the main events of my books. Just so I remember what each of them was called at any given time.”

        Nice! Yeah it seems to me that’s necessary if you want to hold it all together without excessively going through the same thought processes over and over.

        “I’m not sure whether I’ll ever write out the full history (the First Age and the Second Age are done already, but I have started a re-write of the First Age to update it based on new data), or just put it on the blog for free. Or on the aki’Pedia for free. I don’t know if it’s precisely cash-worthy.”

        I have no idea either.

        “Maybe I’ll wait until I’m mad popular like George RR Martin, then when I run out of steam halfway through my most eagerly-anticipated series I will divert and publish the history of the urverse volumes 1 – 10. There’s a plan.”

        In a just world you’d already be there. But actually this makes a lot of sense, and I’m actually not resentful when authors do this sort of approach. As long as they’re writing SOMETHING good.

        I mean in his case, it’s not rocket science and he really could just get on with the story he started, but sure. In your case it’s BEYOND rocket science and I need my fucking Diagram.

      • stchucky says:

        Hee, much love, chief. And obviously I agree. And I snipe at Martin (like he notices!) but the fact remains, I will buy and read his side-project stuff.

        There were some short stories that he published that I’m pretty sure (as discussed) were just decades-old unpublished scrap works that had probably been rejected before he was a Big Deal. And I read one or two of them and then went “nah, these were rejected for a reason, publishing them now was a dick move.”

        But I may have just not been in a good mood. As usual.

      • Oh behave! GRRM make a dick move? He would never!

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