CONVERSATION WITH GOD
Previously: Twist in the Tale
Themesong: Let it Go from the Frozen Soundtrack
I felt strangely empty, at a loss for what to do with myself. For so very long, I’d been the focus, the one who jumped, the center of narrative gravity… and now… I was isolated, not just from my companions in a physical sense, but in a very real sense. They were off on their grand adventure and I was chilling in a pool of plasma trying to keep from bringing about the cold death of the Universe. I sighed. I couldn’t even eat in this form. Everything flashfroze as it approached me.
“Fascinating,” said a voice I hadn’t expected to hear again.
“Tokimi? How’d you get in here?” And I didn’t mean inside the Onsen… How the hell had she gotten into the Warehouse? I hadn’t invited her… had I? Had I missed something from document? I ran through it in my mind. There was a thing about bringing suitors along, but Tokimi hadn’t been a suitor… had she? Surely… uh… huh… well, shit.
“So you do come from beyond our universe.”
“I… Yes. I come from a reality where your entire universe is merely part of our collective creative lore. You and your sisters are stories, tales we tell each other in one form or another.”
“But you aren’t the fulfillment of our quest.” It wasn’t a question.
“Not yet. Like Tenchi, I merely have the potential to become that which you were seeking.”
“And now you’re stuck like this?”
“So it seems. How do you cope with it?”
She blinked at me as she sat on the edge of the pool, unphased by the fact that it was glowing white hot. “Cope with what?”
“The isolation. When the three of you descended to the 3-Dimensional Realm, you lost all contact with your peers… the only peers you’d ever known. You had your Administrators… but those are underlings. How did you cope with the sense of separation from that which you cared about?”
“Ah. Well… it wasn’t very long, in the scheme of things.”
“20,000 years is longer than I’ve existed.”
“But you’re older than Tenchi, clearly. Older than the existence of the Jomei-self you inhabited, I mean.”
“Yes, well, that’s true. And I did leave behind those I cared about in my original reality. That was 13,000 years as far as I can recon these things, though there are so many slips and twists in there that it could be as much as 15,000… And I do miss them… but no time has passed for them. They don’t even know I’m gone.”
“And you’ve kept busy?”
“Most of the time. Yeah. Every 10 years it’s on to a new realm… usually. Some trips are longer.”
“Are you searching for something?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is there a goal to your sojourns? To this wandering across the… how did you put it… ‘Collective Creative Lore’? Are you…” she shrugged, clearly at a loss for a way to explain, but I understood.
“Two, I think. There is an offered reward, beyond the experiences offered, in the form of the power you suspect exists, the power to define entire realities and move through those that exist at will… though it comes with incredible risks, in that there are others with that power level who will, of a certainty, jealously defend what is theirs. But the other… the one not on offer, the one hidden behind that offer… truth… knowledge of the self… and of the other. An understanding of what “We Apologize for the Inconvenience” really means.”
“I’m sorry… what?”
“Ah. Sorry. My bad. Long, Long ago, a question was asked, and, after incredible efforts were made, the answer found. That answer, the Answer to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything… was 42.”
“The answer to the ultimate question, the why of why we are here, of why existence itself exists… is 42?”
“That is the answer that was found.”
“There is no room for doubt?”
“But… that…. Makes no sense.”
“Ah, you are not the only being to think so.”
“And something was done.”
“What was that?”
“A great quest was undertaken to find out what, exactly, the question was.”
“But the answer… or rather, the Question was finally revealed, in another way.”
“And what is it?”
“We Apologize for the Inconvenience.”
She blinked. “You’re joking.”
“Nope. The Ultimate Question, to which the Answer is 42, is We Apologize for the Inconvenience.”
“That’s not even a question.”
“Nope. Not even slightly.”
“So the entire universe… all of existence… is a mistake?”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just an inconvenience.”
She laughed, half bitterly, half amused. “That’s terrible.”
“So, what are you going to do now?”
“Now? I’m going to try and figure out how to stop freezing everything.”
“Have you tried not being a gaping hole in the fabric of all creation.”
“I-” was cut off at that moment as Cirno came spinning into the Onsen, holding a message out for me. Of all my companions, the Ice Fairy was, of course, the only one who had no problems with my aura of… anti-heat. It’s weird. There are no physics to describe what I am. I am not a heat-sink… I do not absorb heat like any other blackbody. I give off cold. Things near me get colder… then they suck in surrounding heat. It’s as if I am radiating energy that neutralizes atomic vibration. Thus… anti-heat… but not why Cirno was there.
I took the letter from her, stamped on thermo-elastic plastic that wouldn’t become brittle in my grasp and read it. It was from AJ. “Party has encountered anomaly. There are no DC references in this world. No Superman. No Wonderwoman. Not Batman. Nothing outside of John Constantine and related characters.”
I raised one frosty eyebrow, then handed the missive to Tokimi, who looked curious before reading it and confused after. “What does this mean?”
“I’m not sure… but… look… each reality we move to is called a Jump. This Jump is to the world populated by John “Hellblazer” Constantine. Call it Earth-Vertigo. Normally, Earth-Vertigo is, in the collective canon, more properly known as Earth-DC… or one of several Earth-DC’s. It, and its major competing section of the canon, Earth-Marvel, both inhabit an idea-space that has many, possibly infinite but certainly very large numbers of, parallel realities. In each parallel, certain iconic individuals or references are copied in whole or in part. The most common are Superman, a paragon of physical and moral perfection; Wonderwoman, a warrior woman who fights to prove that women are the equal of men in all things; and Batman, a memetic paranoiac who acts to prove that money is the ultimate super-power. Every DC-Earth should have a reference to one or more of them.”
I summoned a mirror of elemental ice and transformed it into a scrying mirror without much effort. “AJ?” His face appeared rapidly in the corresponding mirror that Victoria had created in the ruins of what had been our media zone. “Hi Boss!” said my oldest companion.
“What about comic books? Are there any?”
“Huh… hold on… We’ll look.” He turned to look across at one of the others who was probably on the local internet. “Yes. There are DC comics here. Marvel too.”
“Shit… what the hell…”
“This concerns you?” Tokimi asked, voice showing empathy.
“Yes. Hellblazer is a bad juju kind of setting and-”
“Incoming!” said AJ.
Caine staggered as he appeared inside the frame of the mirror, blood pouring out of his half-ruined face. He snarled, thrashing as he hit the floor. With a thought, I commanded Vivian to deploy butlerbots with blood for the Vampiric Progenitor as I studied his wounds.
They were terrible burns and the claw marks of some monstrous creature. After a moment, I recognized them as the marks of a dragon’s attack. Caine had been savaged by at least 8 tons of scaled mean. The blood restored him, but did nothing for his mood, which was foul. “Caine… Report?”
“I stepped out to scout the lay of the land. The Warehouse exits into a small run down house in London.” I grunted, probably the Safehouse, but didn’t interrupt his tale. “I’d been out for… 10 days… maybe 11… trying to find clues as to what the local story might be… These people are as painfully ignorant, for the most part, as those back in my own world. But a local occultist ‘agreed’ (I didn’t have to read his mind to know he’d dominated the occultist) to help me find out more… went to meet one of their contacts in Hyde Park, middle of the night… lunatics with wands jumped out, knew I was a vampire. Demanded I surrender in the name of the Ministry. I bolted… they had a dragon. A god damned Dragon! In the middle of God Damned London!”
I blinked. Ministry… I don’t know Hellblazer enough to know which Ministry that might be… but I was worried. How had these magic users managed to take out Caine, who was, far and away, the most natively dangerous of my companions… well, except for Tokimi and Oh….dear lord… “Did you teleport back to the warehouse, Caine, or…”
“Yes. They surprised me. They didn’t manage to kill me. I got back under my own power.” I nodded, relaxing. “Good. Wait… 10 days?” I checked the house’s systems. The warehouse was running at a 240:1 ratio compared to the outside world and it was locked in that position for some reason. That mean 4 hours passed outside for every minute in here. “Shit. If they get into trouble, we’ll know about it only when the dust settles.” I considered “Okay. Here’s the plan. We need 6 of us out there, risking the doom of being unable to respawn for the rest of the jump. So… AJ, Bao…. Ryoga… Caine… Velma… Uriel. You’re our first line. Francy, Toph, Petra, Kagetane, Reggy, Kohina, second string. RayRay, Franky, Mini, Dyna, Yoiko, and Gaius, you’re third string. Go. I want reports sent back every 8 hours from all field agents.”
AJ opened his mouth to protest that I’d be getting 6 messages every 2 minutes, but I waved him off. “Vivian will keep them collated and let me know what I need to know. Plus… In this form, time doesn’t mean much to me. I have to apply temporal filters to keep from experiencing every nanosecond in agonizing slowness.” And it was true. My brain was still comprised entirely of hyper-cryogenic superconducting processing substrates. Even without the titanic bulk of the planetoid I’d become, I was more of a living computer than Vivian was at this point and was orders of magnitude more powerful than all computers making up this Earth’s Internet.
I settled back into the plasma jets of my whirlpool and looked over to Tokimi. “What were you saying?” I asked.
“You’re being polite.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve watched you for a decade and more now. I know you. You do this. You pretend not to recall things. You act as if you can’t see into other people as if they were made of glass. You wait for people to act before you react. It’s a show. You don’t forget anything. I’ve moved things just outside of your perception matrix and you’ve paused just slightly at the disjoint… even if the thing was moved less than a millimeter. You react to people’s actions and intents faster than is possible… it’s like you were waiting for them to move. There is a sense of relief in you when the reveal their intentions, or begin their attacks.”
I swore “Fuck. I- Shit. You are perceptive. I’ve been dealing with mortals… I guess you and your sisters know all about… hey, how do you do it?”
“Power down. You’ve done it twice. Once to be 3-D, and again to be… it’s focus isn’t it?”
“Not completely. There is more. It’s…”
“You’re going to tell me I lack the framework to understand… but… you weren’t kidding. Or quoting a certain movie, despite how appropriate the scene is… I am Ice-Woman… I should try not being-”
“AJ has a report.” Vivian’s voice came.
“Is it an emergency?”
“Hold on to it. I’ve got an… idea.”
I stood in the plasma and sank into my mental palace. It had transformed into a palace complex that would have made the Emperor of all China envious and was made of enough ice to suit Queen Elsa… I should recruit her at some point… I looked around my domain, the howling wind of the eternal storm swirling overhead and whispered “Quiet.” The wind fell away and I cleared the sky, sweeping away all the collective thoughts of all the various mes. “Quiet.” I said again, stilling all computation.
One by one, I turned off autonomous functions, awareness of time and space, breath, motion, nothing but we existed. I called all my selves together in the sky above the palace, and, one by one, we began to repeat a mantra we’d learned so many centuries earlier.
“Be Silent. Be Still. Be Silent. Be Still.” And as we did so, we extended our hands towards a common center. There, slowly, formed a great blue obelisk. It shimmered, growing larger, a rectangular prism with pyramidal endcaps, a deep vril-blue pulsing within it. Once it was big enough, it began to spin slowly, a door appearing in its cerulean depths. “Be Silent. Be Still.” we said as one voice, and, with an incredible act of will…. Closed the door on the Heart of Winter.
Silent Judge and Soul of Ice stood on my sides “Are we really giving up all that power?”
I laughed softly “Not giving it up. Setting it aside… for now. We’re not ready. The harm we could do is greater than the help we could give. It is still ours… ready should the need be there… but as Tenchi said, “I’m not ready to leave this all behind.” I like eating food… and I know you two do as well. We’ve got… heh… we’ve got time.”
Slowly I roused myself from the trance, stepping from the rapidly warming plasma. I looked down at myself. I was translucent blue ice. “Well… that’s one hurdle down… “ I looked up as Vivian announced “Squad four has deployed.”
“What? What’s going on?”
“All contact with the final member of Squad 3 was lost 20 seconds ago.”
“You have been unresponsive for 9 Days, 7 Hours, 15 Minutes.”
It wasn’t what I’d asked, but it answered a few things. I did the math… that was 6 years, 41 days and a handful of hours…
I swallowed. “Who is squad 4… Is anyone still in the warehouse?”
“The twins are on lockdown. Team 4 is comprised of Tokimi, Cirno, Ziggy, Yuzuha, Victor, and Victoria.”
I strode out of the Onsen, glaring out at the empty warehouse, the robotic servers scattering from my ire. My power armor… that explained why she hadn’t been included in the round table of mes. I summoned a trenchcoat and a hat and a suit of black charcoal wool, heavy leather gloves, and a scabbard for Soul of Ice as I walked towards the forcefield generators and willed the way out into the outer world.
I relaxed a little as the time differential eased and I was in the same frame. “I assume Victor took one of the cyborg bodies?”
“Correct. It has adaptive camouflage.”
“Great. Wonderful. Begin playback of messages…” I commanded as I strode out into the London night, the rain falling gently all around me.
AJ’s first message, from 10 days… or 6 years in the past, told me all I needed to know.
“Silver… I just bumped into Colin Creevy. I think the Winter Witch is home.”
Next: Hoc in Hora