The Changing Now
This story is actually the intertwining of a series of stories. It will eventually come along with an analysis piece, as have the others. While it’s readable without the other stories it might not make a lot of sense, so here are the earlier pieces. The Lost Builder, The Itinerant Storyteller, The Fractal Now, The Brutal Builder and The Travelling Storyteller.
It doesn’t think but it experiences. It experiences doubt. It asks for assistance from one who exists beyond now. The advice is simple:
It understands, though it does not comprehend. It searches endless moments, sends parts that defend to countless vistas, burns everything wrong, everything that could be infected, and yet the infection spreads.
It looks back.
In orbit around a desert world a ship matching no known description hurtles towards an interstellar gateway, one engine aflame. Now hundreds of parts that defend are in pursuit, sending trails of incandescent plasma and swarms of missiles to knock the enemy from the sky. The rest of the moment is burning.
It looks back.
Now the strange ship is sat on the ground next to a grand Citadel. The Citadel pattern has been laid down in trillions of vistas of moments, using parts that move and think and claim. The Citadel is aflame. A shipment of water rains down through the innards of the tower. Magnetic eddies swirl around many vital components of the Citadel’s tattered defence grid. The rocket secured in launch silo 3 is in ruins. A part that should move isn’t.
It looks back
A part that thinks is on the floor, frantically sharing information it should not have. A humanoid machine has somehow broken free from its phase-field restraints and torn the heart from the Citadel. Three people are huddled around the still body of an old man, a large black umbrella shielding them from a rain of both water and sparks.
It looks back.
The part that thinks is killing an old man, as they are ordered to. A green haired woman screams as she looks on, and the machine, restrained, controlled yet dangerous, screams a desperate query into the void. All is in order, aside from two unauthorised personnel about to enter the same room. One carries an umbrella. The other looks scared.
It looks back.
The machine strides through the city unopposed, the green haired woman is sat in the crook of its arm. The part that thinks is waiting, its orders are given. A trap is ready. The strange ship has just dropped a landing ramp, and two people are walking down the ramp. One looks scared. The other carries a briefcase.
A moment in the fractal pattern of moments fails to match. There is no moment where the briefcase becomes an umbrella. In one moment is is one, in the next it is different. This is clearly impossible, and yet it occurs.
Something that is not adrenaline is coursing through it. It scrutinises vast vistas, reaching through the flicker book of moments that comprise its experience. In one branch of moments the man carries a briefcase that is also a portable antiphase generator. In another they carry an umbrella that shields them from the destruction of the water shipment. The branches should not intersect, but they do.
It changes the vista, changes the orders being given to the part that thinks. Now the machine is trapped in the moment it enters the city, the ship is fired on in the moment it exits the interstellar gateway. Twenty utterly improbable branches of moments are convergent, details move from one to another, causality twists under its watchful gaze. Now the ship is escaping unscathed with the machine, the green haired girl and the old man.
It changes the vista, changes the orders being given to the part that thinks, changes the trajectory of the part that moves. A kiloton of metal and weaponry screams into the city at twenty kilometres a second. The crater is immense, glowing white hot. There are no survivors. There is no trace of the machine’s destruction either.
It looks back.
The strange ship is hauling the machine out of a cliff-face with some heavy duty cables. The one that is scared is talking to the green haired girl and the old man. The one with the briefcase is staring directly at Its monitor drone, sparkling blue eyes reaching through space and boring through the moments. He knows that It is interfering.
It is recoiling, not in horror, because it has no concept of the word, but as part of a complex self-defence mechanism. This infection of moments is incredibly severe. It must defend itself at all costs.
It changes the vista.
The machine is striding through the city unopposed, a trap is ready.
A part that thinks is killing an old man, the green haired woman is screaming.
The ship is sat on the ground, the citadel is aflame.
In orbit around a desert world a ship matching no known description hurtles towards an interstellar gateway, one engine aflame. Hundreds of parts that defend are in pursuit, sending trails of incandescent plasma and swarms of missiles to knock the enemy from the sky. The rest of the moment is burning. Three small, complex tracking drones cling to the ship’s hull.
The strange ship is reaching the gateway. In the next moment the gateway annihilates itself in a reaction that twists space through an uncountable number of moments. The parts that defend are swept away by its detonation. The planet below staggers under the intense blast. The gateways of a million other worlds are collapsing too, each one devastating all nearby. Many parts that think are dying, many parts that move are utterly obliterated. The cost is unimaginable.
A thousand moments go by under its watchful gaze but it only ever experiences one. Now.
Now… It is prepared.