052. Final Symbol Crash

‘Who’s this, Quint?’

‘This is Plum. He is the person responsible for the multiversal temporal disruption. He’s an Immovable Editor, and he slowed down our old friend, Spay. He tells me he exploded a metaphorm Dandelion Clock, and that hit all of Reality. He also told me that he comes from a higher level, and before he got shot in the head, he had come here to help get everything back on track.’

‘So, he can fix this?’

‘Well, not know, no. But, here’s the thing, he created this little pocket universe we’re in so that I could snag you from the soup and so we could reinsert you into whatever it is out there.’

‘Where are we really, Quint?’

‘This place? Oh well, let me break that down for you. This used to be known as The Tower Of London. We sent a man called Jon Presley back to a point where you didn’t have to do much to get into The Tower and while he was in there he retrofitted it with Metaphor Tech. It was discovered a few hundred years later by a relative of Beaujolais, who turned it into a Needle; a Needle that will become known as Thirteen’s Needle. Thirteen’s Needle gets turned into The Pinnacle, and when The Pinnacle Fell, the rumour is that it became the original Walking House.’

‘And now?’

‘Well they turned it into a snailshell that Mr Plum used to wear when he was part of the Homeplus Program.’

‘So, he ascended?’

‘He surely did.’

‘Yes, I did. Often, and some of you who work within the system fail to see this – the system creates a mechanism within it, that it then expels, but which it has embedded with the programming necessary to save it.’

‘You, Plum?’

‘And you, Mr Brecht.’

‘Where are you going to drop me?’

‘Oh, we think you’ll recognise it.’

Carter smiled. He sat down on the park bench and he watched the ripples as they spread across the pond, and the folded back across the motion of their own wake. He reached into his pocket and yanked out two dozen things that looked like marbles, and in a pinwheeling motion that was a lot more accurate than anyone watching him would ever have believed, he flung these little objects outwards. They were attuned to him and the distances where they would stop and bed down were programmed in, so it was a bit of cheat. Still, it looked cool. They were Narrative Pins and they would hold the place static within a predetermined time-frame. With everything in place, all his tools powering up … it was time to go to work. He looked at his watch out of habit.

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051. Final Cymbal Crash

Bella Crow is a ribcage where The Nest is grown – the disntegration of her Mappa Mundi exploded into the diagram of an existential cancer that has taken to the wing, and has flown between the turning pages of a Reality Engineering Guide.

Carter Brecht stands looking into a broken mirror across the gulf of a white water rapid. The older damaged version of himself smiles back. Carter has been played.

Coran Andress is an idea in free-fall. An umbilicus of once pulls the other climber scaling the rockface of reality down into the gutterspace, David Arnover and Coran tumbling, tumbling, falling forever.

Oversight, blind, scrabbling around in Overspace trying to deploy a Typing Pull of Headitors. They have lost control.

Viragos push out through reality, confusing the narrative even more, atomising the Reality Engineers, and changing them forever.

The Nest is aswarm, wings, pages, a story in flight. Cuckoos in the heart of every kingdom.

Andy is lying on a floor. Andy is dreaming a testbed. Andy is a reality bomb made of human parts. He sees the face of Cheryl. Cheryl, share all – a cipher for every masker, and all the masks, pinned to the walls like rare butterflies. The symbol of a transformation completed. A reality can be a caterpillar, a narrative can be a cocoon, and a Reality Engineer can be an assistant at the birth.

Seymour knows the mind or the thought, or the universe, is a crooked womb. The midwife he has made friends with is looking at him, and he knows that only because they stand here, will they be protected and not drowned in the collapsing of wave of possibility they have all been riding upon the white horses of. A beach – he sees a beach – a beach full of ampersand. Each grain of And cuffs him to the engine of what they have triggered.

Dobie Fangle breathes in the caesura, in the ellipses, in the empty brackets of an unsolved equation. The Pinnacle falls. The Nest arises. One story washes forward through time as another pushes under like a riptide going in the opposite direction.

Carter Brecht is the deus ex machina in his own story. What is the machine? What is the machinery? What was it that passed through The Smooth Exit? What died that they needed to ease the passing of? A reality? A narrative? The end of the Reality Engineers as they had been known up until that point? It is hard to say but he knows that something is ending. That something is beginning. He knows nothing. There is nothing to be known. When a story ends, does the world stop? Or do we just move into a different room, and start circulating through a party with different guests?

Andy. And. And he. Hand E. End, Ha. Head. You peer through the text, and you see the subtext – you are a Reality Engineer, so you have learned to read anything that needs to be read, and Andy is an interesting metaphorm if there ever were one. He is sand – time. Andy is a Hand Of Glory, opening a doorway into something new. Andy is an Ampersand – a continuation of something. He is a Head Null – a Scratch Head; a nobody, an idea that leads nowhere.

And the end of the story is not a tune ended. The drummer has ceased the normal rhythm, and they have unscrewed the high hat and they have flung it out towards the centre of the stage. The edge hits and there is a moment before more of it lowers, and it spins through the celebration of it’s noise. An ending, like a black hole, where time and light are sucked into the crushing vortex of the dilated eye of this sector of the universe. But it is not en ending – it is encoded on the event horizon, waiting for the super-translation protocol that can shoot it as a lossless verse to start something new through the singing throat of a wormhole, that is spinning up to set something brand new into rotation.

Carter hears a noise and for the first time in his entire career he wonders if it is the music of the spheres that he has heard so much about. He will survive this, and whatever it is that has been done to reality by his older self, he will right it. He will write it – he clutches his hack-rig tight as the world falls apart around them. He has been through something like this before – they usually are outside the triggered site when they do a reboot, and he mentally kicks himself for violating protocol. He throws a bubble around himself, and starts to unspool isolate protocols to protect everyone he can.

What can have happened to the older version of himself to bring to a place where he would think that it was OK to do something like this? He is finding it hard to comprehend. He is finding it hard to fathom what was going on in himself that he would do something so uncharacteristic as trusting an iteration of himself without knowing a little bit more about the thing he was planning to do.

Quint Essential standing next to him.

And then there was a hang-door.

‘This way, my friend. This is Ferrals, a Quantum Element. We were monitorng the whole thing, but we weren’t able to get here in time. There was some kind of multiversal temporal interference. I’ll tell you more after you step through.’

He did as he was bidden.

‘They’ll be safe?’

‘Yeah, your edits should hold.’

A room built on the edge of everything, or one everything.

‘You have to wonder, don’t you, whether all these damned isolates have a bad effect on the integrity of the main structure.’

‘Sorry, Quint, the thing I am actually preocuppied with at the moment, is we were all so worried about Spay throwing a spanner in the works, that we didn’t bank on a future version of myself coming in and queering the pitch. What does it mean?’

‘That things don’t always follow the script. Not even the script of a Reality Engineer.’

‘Unless that’s exactly what it did.’

‘Another Reality Engineer somewhere behind the scenes?’

‘What else? A Rogue Elephant.’

050. Smooth Exit

The machinery of rebirth, when it is a natural occurrence, is as simple as dying and waking up as someone else – people have been doing it for millennia.

Add in the complication of it being an Immaculate Author, and combine with that the aim of doing more of a restore point kind of action, and things start to get a little bit more difficult.

Carter Brecht was carrying a matter-clamp around with a tame singularity in it. The singularity had been hacked and programmed with the spatiotemporal signature map that they wanted to super-impose over the Immaculate Author’s current Existential Integrity Drive, and use it to kickstart a backwards reaching re-write.

Seymour was in a chrono-synchronous alternative dimensional pocket with Quint Essential and a Midwife, Quantum Elements moving around a featureless room. Who would have thought it would come to this? There had to be someone else writing this script, didn’t there? Carter would not have planned for it to have to end like this. That there were so many people now aware of Reality Engineers and their role in the forward momentum of existence was a problem.

Bella Crow stood there with Wren, and with Thomas. Gank and Spay haunted the background. The wordsword Excalibur had been thrust deep into the heart of the Stone Of Tara.

David Arnover sat there with Coran Andress – they were staring at each other, or so it appeared. In truth they were staring at something no one might really see. When you start a story and you break pieces of yourself off to become other things, and you give them enough life that they take on a life of their own, what do you think will come from trying to forge a single person from two different people? Spay?

How does it end? How does it begin? For some an event might be one thing and for others it might be something entirely different.

Someone coughed loudly behind Carter. Carter turned and saw himself, looking like he was trying out for a part in a Clint Eastwood biopic, and stood slightly back from him was a very confused looking individual.

‘Hello me,’ said Carter to Older Carter.

‘Hello you,’ said Older Carter to Carter ‘Man, I had not realised how good I used to look.’

‘What are you doing here? Why the hell do you look so bad? Who is this with you? Are you not aware of the danger of Multiple Iteration Triggered Collapse?’

‘Yes, I am more than aware of the danger. I’m an isolated element. I got myself severed from narrative continuity, so I’m a low impact player here. This guy with me is an Edit Mechanism – everyone, meet Andy.’

‘What kind of Edit Mechanism?’

‘A reset button, which is what you’re looking for.’

‘And how do you know all that if you’re severed?’

‘I didn’t ditch the SNC, Carter.’

‘Snack?’

‘Oh, OK, not calling it that yet – Super-positional Neural Computer – that little mimic neural bundle packed in around your anterior cingulate cortex.’

‘Great, so why do I need a reset button instead of just doing what I had intended to do with Coran Andress and David Arnover?’

‘Well, OK, so, I am a little bit further along the learning curve, than you. You can call it Tulpa Divergence, Narrative Incompatability Syndrome, or my favourite: Impossible Mirror Egg Rewind.’

‘You’re just spewing word-salad at me – what the hell does it even mean?’

‘What it means is that your solution doesn’t work. I have seen what it does – it causes narrative echoes, ghost timelines, narrative collapses. It triggered The Reality Wars. It ended the stories.’

‘And this Andy won’t cause that same problem?’

‘No.’

‘And how do you know this?’

‘Because I have seen the way he works.’

‘He looks like he could barely work a phone, so what am I going to see him do?

‘It isn’t what he does, it is what he is. He barely understands what we are and where he is, and what is going to happen with him.’

‘Does it kill him? Because I am not sure about that.’

‘Oh, no, he has a reboot existence programmed into him. Ever heard of Dobie Fangle?’

‘It rings a bell. Isn’t he a Rogue Elephant?’

‘Yeah – Trigger Diaries. He programmed this dude here then plugged him into a reality I was monitoring, and it triggered a reboot while I was there.’

‘And it worked?’

‘Would I be coming here to sell this to you as a solution if it didn’t?’

‘I don’t know, do I?’

‘Well, whatever you do I am still here and kicking, right? If I tell you wrong, then I wouldn’t be here would I?’

‘Do you think I am not listening to everything you say? You told me you were an isolated element. I have whole team of people carefully aligned and waiting for me to give the go-ahead on the plan we have had in place forever.’

‘Forever, oh, it’s been a lot less time than that – don’t forget, I know how you play the game. You can ride the wave of a reboot anyway, can’t you? If I fuck it up, you can rewind it, can’t you?’

‘I suppose I can.’

‘And that whole line of bullshit we spin the non-Reality Engineers about alignment and timing is just that, right? BS. We can make reality jump through hoops.’

‘Did you – I mean, did I – go rogue?’

‘Oh, we were always a little roguish, weren’t we?’

Carter smiled, ‘OK, so tell me, what the hell do we have to do to activate this guy?’

Older Carter had been carrying a box under his arm for the whole time, he set it down and he let Carter see it.

‘A pizza?’

‘Yup.’

‘You’re kidding me?’

‘If you needed a delivery system that could be smuggled through the strictest of inspections, wouldn’t you use the best metaphor tech? If you were going to replicate The Slice in metaphorm, would you not love the idea of turning it into a pizza?’

‘What flavour?’

‘I knew you’d get it,’ said Older Carter, smiling ‘It’s Hawaiian.’

‘Guaranteed that hardly anyone would want any.’

‘Except Andy.’

‘Andy, have a slice.’

Andy grabbed up a slice of pizza and took a bite.