036. Immovable Editor

Time was stuttering in a hang-frame. The narrative ceased to unspool, and a figure stepped into the room from somewhere that was not immediately visible. He touched each of the people in the scene on their elbows and unstuck them from the freeze.

Quint Essential, Carter Brecht, and their visitor stood in silence for a moment.

‘An unexpected visitor who somehow managed to step right through all my security measures, and pause reality. it seems.’

‘Yes, Mr Essential. Forgive me, I need a second to adjust my perceptual filters to accommodate for the speed of narrative unspool.’

‘Any idea who he is, Carter?’

‘It’s like a variation on a theme – his garb; if I didn’t know any better I might say that he was an Immaculate Author.’

‘Immovable Editor.’

‘Sorry? Never heard of one of those.’

‘Why would you Engineer, there is more to all of this game than we ever told you. And given that this game is far from over – it is not something that is likely to be revealed yet. Call me Tartarus Unk, if you must call me anything. I am, like you, but a pawn.  You know that editors walk in the shadow of owners, and boards of directors. You have what you call Oversight, and so do we, and they have told  me that i must come down here and tell you to let this chapter play out. Let Coran Andress do what Coran Andress must.’

‘The fragmentation serves a purpose?’

‘Doesn’t everything? Isn’t everything a kind of narrative device affecting the way that the story is told and experience?’

‘Will this reality and others being affected by it survive without us doing something to help put him back together?’

‘Let me tell you a story. There was once just us, the storytellers, and we all told them, and they were received happily by an audience who understood that they were stories. They were just words, and when they were spoken and heard, they were alive; and when they were unspoken they were nothing. But there was a listener there – a man with a pen and with paper, and he wrote it down.
‘They called him Iblis, a man who was only know for slaying a great storyteller, and here he was, the inventor of a Mirror Technology, first seed of The Metaphor Tech on our level of reality, and we fell into the mirror.’

‘He’s just repeating the pattern?’

‘We all do. He fell, and the mirror broke, and it must break further. There is something in the collapse of reality around its creator that gives birth to something new.’

‘But we fought to protect this. We fought against that creature from the Unscripted Realms, and now you tell us we must let it all be taken apart from within by its creator?’

‘Not taken apart. Instead, try to think of it as a reboot within to reinvigorate the architecture without.’

‘Great. And will everyone survive?’

‘Has everyone survived thus far? Do all the characters in a story ever survive? Does it matter? I know you have studied this world’s Harlequinade – are all these identities not mere masks?’

‘And how do we know you are not just a well-spoken distraction?’

‘You don’t, of course, Mr Essential.’

A figure assembled behind Mr Unk, aimed his rifle, and fired.

A big bang.

A hanging frozen red wave.

A bullet with a name on it. Murray smiled, and then he evaporated.

‘Oh,’ said Quint.

‘Huh,’ said Carter.

‘Immovable but not invincible.’

‘Apparently so.’

‘Didn’t expect that.’

‘That’s going to have repercussions.’

‘Did you see the guy behind the guy?’

‘No. You recognise him?’

‘You would have to. If you want to know what he looked like, go and find a mirror.’

‘Oh, hmm. That must be a futureself, seeing as I don’t recall anything about hiring an assassin to kill this guy. I don’t know why I would be motivated to do such a thing – for a Reality Engineer to think that bullets are the answer is more than a little odd.

‘And so, time seems still hung. How are we to proceed?’

‘Observe more closely, Mr Brecht – the engines are moving, though they are slow to power up. As we don’t yet know what future you is doing behind the scenes, and we have no clue what Mr Unk was all about, I suggest we proceed as we had already decided. Adn go hunting for those we suspected beforehand.’

‘Sounds as good an idea as any I have.’

‘Would you like some tea while we wait for reality to recommence?’

‘You think you can make tea with this going on?’

‘I have few odd reality wombs dotted around, which one might step into, and have that always necessary cup of tea.’


035. Pack The Essentials

‘I am going to have to have my Mormon friend over there do your family tree at some point, Carter.’

‘And why would that be Quint?’

‘Well, apart from us Essentials, you yourself seem to pop up all over the damned place. If one were to sit down and try and diagram your timeline they’d get a bloody headache.’

‘No doubt. Big difference is, I’m bouncing around and you are just rolling along not getting any older as far as I can tell.’

‘Oh, I get older. I just don’t age.’

‘I don’t understand the difference.’

‘I am sure in your own way you do.’

‘Yes, maybe. Anyway, I know since you put together the Quantum Elements that you have been dealing with super-positional realities, and we wondering if you might have some kind of insight that would help us to deal with an Immaculate Author who has suffered a total identity collapse and fragmentation, and it seems to have polluted the whole reality.’

‘Wow, that seems like a tall order. I take it we are talking about Coran Andress, or whatever he is calling himself.’

‘How did you know?’

‘Come on Carter, why are you even asking that? You know who I am and what I can do, or you wouldn’t be here; besides he’s a Reality Lynchpin.’

‘Ah, OK, good, we have it established – we both know a lot of shit – look, I don’t like having to ask outside of my own group, which should have the expertise to handle this, but we are reeling after an attack –‘

‘I heard about that …’

‘And we need some help.’

‘OK, well you have Sheridan on the ground I think, and he would be a great source of ideas. Otherwise, I have some people up here that I can re-task, and set to thinking about ways to help with this. I also, because of the nature of what I am, can’t get anywhere near this situation physically, but I have what I am calling the QEDs, or Quint Essential Dopplegangers, one of which I can send down there to plug into the flows and see if it can decipher what is happening with subtext governing this space. What the QED then does is create a Mathspace Adjunct, and within that MA it will be able to run simulations and will be able to plot out for us some possible courses of action.’

‘That sounds good. I hope it goes without saying that i appreciate what you are doing.’

‘It does, but Carter, you have to remember that with something like this you aren’t asking for some selfish thing – you are actually trying to save a section of reality, and I am all down for that, obviously.’


‘Do you ever find it hard keeping it all in order when you try to gauge from the other person whereabouts they are in terms of their chronology regarding you? Like, have we met before – did they do something bad to me, or me to them? Are we the friends we were, or enemies, or friends again? How do you keep it all straight?’


‘I can never tell if you are being humorous.’

‘Would it be funny if you could?’

‘Maybe not. I can’t tell when I am supposed to laugh any more, since the whole thing got so damned ridiculous.’

‘I never thought about that – how ridiculous the whole thing seemed to be getting …’

‘What are you getting at?’

‘I am wondering whether we still have tabs on Munchausen, because this smacks of his brand of insanity.’

‘Shouldn’t be that hard to uncover his kind of interference, should it?’

‘Well, we haven’t uncovered it thus far, have we? But with a pattern to look for we might be able to dig in at all levels and route the bastard out.’

‘Can you ship us a couple of your encounter suits and I’ll shoot some of my guys down to you immediately.’

‘Sounds good.’