023. Hera

The crew were shutdown – quite a thing to behold, an entire agency station’s crew unconscious; not something you expected to see everyday, if ever. She felt for them, her brothers; wondered what it would be like were the same thing to happen to her and her sisters.

She had decloaked and was walking the floors totally visible; well, she was behind a holo-projection which allowed her to maintain the illusion that there were only men in the agency. Couldn’t have Bellwether knowing too much, could they? And speaking of that man, where in the hell was he? Shouldn’t the gloating have ceased and whatever came next be commencing?

She would try communicating with this man first, see what his demands were, if he had any; and stop him if he just intended to take over, which she suspected was not the case.

When he materialised she recognised him … Kind of. She had once been stationed here and had been required to memorise the faces of every member of the crew, and this one was reminiscent of not one but two. She was eidetic, and tacked onto that human framework was the kind of intuitive neural learning net that enhanced her data-processing abilities to a ridiculously high level of speed and accuracy.

Who though? A rogue, but not exactly. One of theirs, but not exactly. She double-tapped the arch in her left eye orbit and toggled through the different reality filters available to her. Not one but two … Enough of both of them left to register. Surely Bellwether would know that they could find this out about him? But then she remembered:the man didn’t expect anyone to be awake to see his intrusion.

Zaire and Bolus, what had brought them to this state? Another toggle through the register of different filters and she had her answer … This being was kicking out heavy particles of unscripted; almost like it was sporulating. The thing was infecting reality, ideas coded into the matter that was flaking off it into the room, and this thing was sick with the idea.

It was, she knew instinctively, the idea that had done all this damage to the crew. Would her training be enough to stave off any kind of attack that this thing might mount against her? She wasn’t sure. She was supposed to be sure about everything to do with is creature and how to handle it, but she could feel reality boiling. Waves of sickness rolled through the space, and the machinery of localspace physics sputtered like a dying candle.

‘You think,’ he said ‘that I know nothing of you discreet bitches, barnacled onto this place in your bubble universes. The truth of me is larger than you can comprehend. I am Zaire and I am Bolus, but how many versions are there fused into this vessel? For how many realities am I the nexus? How many versions of me were Virago?’

She swallowed nervously.

‘For people that travel through multiple realities, this agency is sometimes astoundingly blind. I wonder at that. How blind men are supposed to be able to police something they do not truly see? The lie of them;the lie of this place. I am the cleansing truth, come to tear it down.’

She came out of hiding in a swift movement of attack. He was ready for her.