When was this? Sheridan has shepherded David into the space and it felt like it was going to collapse. The floors weren’t buckling, and the walls weren’t bending, but you could feel something happening, something in the tight knot where your heart dreamed heartbreak into a myocardial infarction.
Sheridan noted Tendrel Plaint and his oversized chicken companion and he briefly wondered what kind of perceptual filtration was necessary to cruise over that narrative speed-bump.
Carter Brecht was guiding Coran Andress around by the elbow, and the man looked ill. White as snow, or perhaps a sheet of newspaper. What was written beneath this frail surface? He realised that he knew so little watching this of what went into making an Immaculate Author. He figured that they were made rather than being born and being groomed into what they became – because that opened the door to so many errors, didn’t it? Reality Engineers turned, didn’t they?
He’d breadcrumbed this whole thing so that Ardenti In Mundo turned up here. It had been easy. Most people failed at manipulation because thought that it was all about getting people to do things that they didn’t want to do, whereas it was all about finding that thing they wanted to do which would serve your purpose and leveraging that. The interesting things about groups and organisations was that the myth of the key individual was mostly a story device – if you failed with one you might succeed with another – machines were cogs and had mny working parts that might providean in into the organisational structure.
He watched Quint Essential moving around with the arrogance that he and his kind often fell prey to. Was there no connection between what had happened with their Engineer Station being attacked and what was happening with their Immaculate Author now? Why would Belwether, who they had handled, be any kind of problem now?
Their short-sightedness baffled him, given the nature of what they were. Perhaps they did not expect something or someone to come back to a place where he had been defeated? No, that had to happen all the time. Did they not expect some other iteration to come back and correct whatever error had occurred? That, he believed would be more than half the traffic in time travellers, and weren’t those who wished to hack reality just slightly more advanced time travellers?
He sometimes found himself a little confused about where he was in his own story – as if he had flicked forward a few pages. Burn Outs Bar, Eschaton, here? Maybe. What was he calling himself now? He wondered if, after having deposited a slightly altered version of Ardenti In Mundo to the scene he should, he should go and test Carter Brecht and see if he was tracking. He knew that Reality Engineers could juggle multiple timelines and realities in their minds – a stream of ribbons all flowing in the same direction. Might not an individual swim against the current, amongst those brightly coloured lines, and remain invisible?
He found himself threading through the crowd here, smiling at this intricate tapestry of collapse, and he wondered – would this be as it were if it were not for the people working to unravel it as much as the people working to enlarge it? Were the embroiderers really so self-determined or were they reliant upon the urge forced on them by those working to damage their masterpiece? He suddenly realised that he was pitching himself as a necessary evil and he let out a laugh.
Carter turned around at that moment, recognising the sound, but not quite able to place where from. It would be thrown into the hamster wheel of his continual analysis devices and something would get spat out the other end.
The man upended a salt shaker near the bar, which he supposed was something to do with tequila, and he used his finger to write four letters in the salt: S-P-A-Y. Yes, he had remembered, that was what he was calling himself now.
Coran Andress reached out his hand to shake the proferred hand of David Arnover. Ardenti In Mundo, suddenly struck with a vision of what might happen if the two men touched, interposed himself.
How does one translate what it is like to be at the center of an explosion? How does one explain when that explosion has no obvious ball of flame, but is something that is detonating deep within the engines of the very fabrics and dimensions that hold everything together?
Reality flies apart. Doesn’t just buckle – but splits and breaks like a mirror someone fired a bullet at.
Carter Brecht suddenly realising something is very wrong. Sheridan looking his counterpart, his Dying Element, in the eyes. Ardenti In Mundo nothing more than an explosion. Coran Andress a cut-up dream of shrapnel narrative. David Arnover a disembodied eye, trying to hold onto a sense of I. Quint Essential holding onto himself purely because he is everywhere already, but wondering what this meant.
Spay, a distance away, smiled, as he felt the eddies of a reality bomb washing over him.