This somewhat darker story comes by way of regular reader Typhoon and takes place sometime in the years long after the events of Paradigm Shift, ending with a slight modification to one of the original lead-ins to Creationism. (If you want more detail about what’s going on this April First, check out today’s blog post.)
The practical upshot of the time loop is that there’s no reason this couldn’t actually happen in one of the iterations of the loop. He’s also hit on a few small details which I suspect we’ll all be seeing in the canon version of the current loop iteration… :)
Pardon any grammar and spelling errors - Ty’s not a native English speaker. I’ve touched up a couple of spots, but mostly, this is exactly what he offered up to share. Enjoy!
A gust of wind swept over the forest clearing, ruffling his fur, and a shudder ran across his spine. Despite the blazing summer sun and the lush green around, the place felt dead—like in mid winter—and the ceremonial robes that should have him panting heavily in this weather were barely keeping him warm. Warily he surveyed the scene ahead, unsure what to do now. The alien they were burying had been more then slightly vague about the details of the ceremony he had last witnessed over a century ago. Several helpers had lowered the simple wooden box containing the corpse into the hole and his mate was standing at the end of the hole opposite to the large polished stone bearing the name and date of birth and death. Three similar stones stood on the clearing forming a little row, the dates on them telling the world about life that had lasted little more then a few days each.
His mind reeled back from the thought about just what could cause a family to loose three children just after birth. Something like that was completely unheard of, ever since the Velorian culture had lifted itself out of the dark ages centuries ago. And yet - it had happened and despite knowing the two aliens for years he hadn’t learned about this before the male had asked to be buried next to them just a few days ago. A movement caught his eyes and he watched the female taking something out of her pocket, moving her hand as if she was to drop it into the hole—similar to the flowers she had thrown in there before. She stopped the motion halfway through and stood there staring at the small gem in her hand, its color curiously similar to her tear filled eyes. He feverishly went over the mental script he had of the proceedings but couldn’t remember anything about this. Was this supposed to happen? And how much did she know, anyway? He had been a bit surprised to learn that she was not in fact a human but some kind of shape shifting alien which had been stuck in that particular shape for a long time now. And stuck she had been, unchanging and apparently untouched by time as her mate had grown older - until a few days ago the inevitable happened. He shuddered again and his ears flattened against his head as the wind picked up again, rustling the leaves of the trees around.
The emitter’s sensor array focused on the scene ahead with Tarioshi standing in front of the grave. Her body blocked the visible spectrum, but that didn’t keep T’bia from knowing Tarioshi had the gem holding her spiritual essence ever since she had been confined to her current shape. She had very nearly thrown it into the grave, something that would have failed to surprise the AI considering just how badly the rest of her kind had treated her. T’bia completely failed to feel her usual pride at correctly predicting this and wished there would be some way to help or support her in the decision she had to make. But every strategy she had evaluated - even those that had high chance of short term success - ended up telling her that Tarioshi had to reach that decision on her own.
She cut that line of thinking not for the first time wishing she could be less logical at times like this instead focusing on her loss and compassion for her friend. As the seconds tricked past a warning from her biomonitors told her something peculiar was going on with the priest officiating the ceremony. Her monitors told her clearly his body was overheating but at the same time he was shivering and generally behaving as if snow was piled at last a foot high in the clearing. A quick scan confirmed that similar effects were observable on the Val’Traxans around as well as on Tarioshi herself with her being the least affected. Everyone else had the sense to stay in the shadows or simply was in a shape not as prone to overheating. A small timer reminded her that the meal she was preparing back in the house was about ready and she took steps to delay things a bit.
Suddenly her audio sensors picked up a rustling from the trees that according to her atmospheric sensors was not caused by any discernible air movement. Considering Tari’s background there was a high probability that this was due to the forests spirit — which explained why whatever was affecting the organics around her was completely undetectable to her. A small jolt ran through Tari and she turned around, closing her hand over the gem. She looked at her friends and mates that had stood back and slowly walked over and into Jadyn’s embrace.
Darkness engulfed the wood around the cottage. Veloria’s moon had not yet risen and the next city was too far away to disturb the darkness. The brightest object in sight was the space station of Terac Lun, once been the seat of power for the now defunct commonwealth. Tarioshi slowly watched the station creep across the sky when a slight rustling sound announced the presence of T’bia, the Serin’s AI system and soul of the place. Her presence didn’t surprise Tarioshi. Sometimes she suspected that the AI’s habit of shutting down to relax was little more than just another ploy to appear more like the organics that had constructed her. Nothing happened around the cottage without her observing it - at least if the small starship holding her core was home.
“You’re OK?” the AI’s voice asked softly from behind.
“I couldn’t sleep.” she replied. “I still haven’t got used to the thought that he is gone after all these years.”
“You want to talk about it?”
Tarioshi paused for a few moments. “I don’t think I want to.” she replied finally. “Not now.”
“Well. I suppose I’ve got something you can read instead.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked and turned around to face the Mefiritan who was holding a datapad.
“Lenard left a few letters for you.” T’bia explained handing her the pad. “He asked me to give them to you after his death - when I feel the time is right.”
Tarioshi stared at the dark pad. “When did he do that?”
“Shortly after little Linda died.” T’bia replied. “He averaged about two per week since then so ‘a few’ may be somewhat of an understatement.”
Tarioshi hugged the skunk in front of her. “Thank you.”
“Thank Len. He wrote them. ” T’bia replied with a smile. “I’ll take a nap again. Tell Aerin if you need something.”
“I will.” Tarioshi promised.
If you read this it probably means that I am dead. How or when I died I do not know but the events of the last several days have finally made me realize that even the amazing technology around us has its limitations and cannot keep anyone from dying eventually. If it couldn’t save our child it certainly won’t be able to save me when my time is up. I knew that all along but the greatly increased lifespan I will likely enjoy pushed it far away. I’m not even 25 now but suddenly it doesn’t seem that far away any more. And one thing I realize is that one day you will be standing at my grave next to Lisa and will need something to get you through the bottom and climb upwards again. Just like we did for each other after Lisa’s death… Just as you did when we first met. I still remember that day. I hope I will never forget it. You simply popped up out of thin air and plopped down next to me. Before I even knew what was going on you managed to filch my dinner, get grease on my laptop and talked me into tutoring you on CS despite my best efforts to dissuade you. I don’t remember even getting a whole sentence out during that meeting and it certainly didn’t go anything like I dreamed it up on the rare occasion I thought about meeting women. But in hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. I don’t care what others say about it. You helped me out of the isolation I had worked myself into and without you I’d probably be some lonely geek burning myself out for some IT giant. It took me a while to get used to the fact that a woman was actually paying attention to me. I sure took some sweet time to get your message and I’m glad you had the patience to wait for me to catch on and finally say something I can never repeat often enough.
I love you Tarioshi.
And whatever happens next I am happy to have you at my side.
Jadyn yawned as he stepped into the cottage living room and probed the air. The air was fresh, the scent of summer and dew in the morning matching the sunlight that flooded the room. He could smell the various members of his family in the air but Tarioshi’s scent was particularly strong this morning which meant she had spent some time in here and had just recently departed. ”Bee?” he asked walking towards the kitchen. ”You’re up early.” a voice from behind him announced. ”It’s going to be a busy day.” Jadyn replied, yawning again. “May as well get an early start and get breakfast ready. How is Tarioshi?”
“She spent most of the night in the living room.” T’bia replied. “Said she couldn’t sleep.”
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I don’t think she’d want to talk at that time. Besides, I gave her Len’s letters.”
“How did she take it?”
“What do you expect? But I think it helped which was exactly what he had in mind when he wrote them.”
Jadyn nodded. “When do you think she’ll wake up?”
“Just now.” T’bia replied. “Which is surprisingly early.”
Jadyn barely managed to get breakfast started before Tarioshi came walking in still in the human shape she had been in ever since the council of her kind had sentenced her to it for the duration on Lenards life. A quick glance at her aura told him nothing had changed and she still was human. There was however an edge that had gone missing for months now, ever since Lenards health had taken a turn for the worse. She seemed more focused and determined and there was an edge of anger.
“Morning love.” Jadyn greeted her. “How do you feel?”
“What do you expect?” she asked.
“Well to be honest I expected more fur around now.” Jadyn replied.
“They’re not going to let me off that easily.” Tarioshi replied bitterly. “None of those that sentenced me can possibly be alive now but the council still exists and I’m sure they’re just waiting for the chance to gloat and throw a dose of ‘Told you so’ at me.”
“Do you regret it?” Jadyn asked.
Tarioshi stood there a moment frozen in mid motion while reaching into a cupboard. “No. Not a moment.” she replied. “I just wish they had told me right from the start that the sentence also meant we’d loose our children.”
Jadyn went over to embrace the Kitsune. “We’ve been trough this.” he told her gently. “No Kitsune ever tried to have children like this. On an alien world too. They may not have known.”
“And why didn’t we ever hear back about it when Traize went back?” Tari retorted. “Anyway, we’re going to find out soon.”
“How so?” Jadyn asked.
“I’ve got six weeks to present myself in front of the council again to hear if I will regain my gifts.” Tarioshi replied.
“How can you possibly know that?” Jadyn asked.
“I just know.” Tarioshi replied. “And of course that means they know what is going on and they could have told me about certain things anytime. They merely chose not to.” she added bitterly.
“Direct communication between Terra and Veloria. Quite a feat.” T’bia’s voice chipped in. “That is of course assuming they didn’t find some way to get it onto a relay.”
Tari turned towards the skunk.
“Can you get me there?”
“Six weeks is tricky with the quarantine in place.” T’bia noted. “But I think it’s possible. It’ll be a close run but I can do it. We just have to be really careful, stay slow and off the normal route. Unless of course someone can get a permit.”
“Impossible.” Jadyn snorted. “I don’t really have contacts into the United Parliament and after what happened on Terra the laws are now very strictly enforced.”
“I thought that may be the case.” T’bia replied. “I’d better cancel your appointments for the next two months. Shadow can keep the shop running without you and you’re gonna be busy. Think Telara and Melichanni want to come too?”
“That was a rhetorical question, wasn’t it?”
“It always seems to happen right in the middle of something.” - Tarioshi remembered that quote from way back in what seemed like another life when she still had her gifts and Jadyn had taken her for a tour away from Terra. She had donned the disguise of a Val’Traxan since that species was the same as Jadyn’s, at that time extremely exotic and close to her normal appearance which meant the body was comfortable for her. It wasn’t until she had committed to using that disguise before Jadyn had felt obliged to tell her about the rather extreme heat females of that particular species go through. And just as these things happen Melichanni went into heat during their journey and Val’Traxans had a bit of trouble focusing when the air was laden with those particular hormones.
That left Tari more or less in charge of the ship. That wasn’t much of a challenge since once they had left Velorian space T’bia had taken over just as the ships original designers had intended her to. It was just that the Velorians were dead set against allowing AIs to control Spaceships any more, after a few incidents with out of control AIs that had turned out to be pirated and badly adapted copies of Val’Traxan tech. T’bia was one of the few without a hardwired kill switch nowadays and that was only because she had citizenship before that whole trouble started. With a sigh, Tarioshi watched the plasma swirl outside which told her the ship was doing a displacement travel. Since there wasn’t anything to do she got out her pad and read another of Lens letters.
Today I got my diploma from the Val’Traxan academy meaning I’m now not only a qualified Space Technician but also firm enough on bio tech to service and maintain Val’Traxans systems - including AIs. It seems strange nowadays considering I started of my career as a humble CS bachelor student on a planet that would have considered this stuff little more then dreams. Or possibly nightmares. I’m glad we decided to live on Veloria, not Terra. Of course the kind of stuff I learned and trained with means I won’t be allowed to do more then casual visits on Terra - if I get a travel permit. At last not before humanity manages to get past the FTL barrier which considering just how far behind we are is not likely to happen in my lifetime.
“Tarioshi?” T’bias voice interrupted her.
“Yes?” she replied looking up at the Skunk.
“Sorry to interrupt you, but something came up and I want your opinion on it - since you’re the only one with her head straight on at the moment.”
“What is it?” Tari asked curiously.
“I dropped out of Displacement to make sure there aren’t any sensor beacons around that could spot us. My data on the surveillance net around Tera isn’t all that complete. As luck had it I spotted something really wild.”
“What is that?” Tarioshi asked looking at the picture T’bia projected image.
“A spatial hyperspace anomaly.” T’bia replied. “We know very little about them, they’re the devil to spot, impossible to predict and extremely rare. In all of the recorded history of both Val’Traxan and United Planets space travel nobody has ever been close enough to one to observe like this.”
“You want to stay and get a closer look?” Tarioshi guessed.
“It won’t take long - maybe an hour or two - and this is unique opportunity. What I’m seeing runs contrary to any theory on those things and it hasn’t really started yet.”
“Two hours?” Tarisoshi asked.
“We’ll still be on time.” T’bia assured her.
“OK. I’ll go and wake the others. ” Tari agreed “I hope Jadyn isn’t too distracted.”
“Mel’s heat should be wearing off by now.” T’bia noted. “If you don’t mind I’ll be very busy …”
“Jay, we’ve got a temporal wave coming our way.”
“How bad?” he asked, sitting back down. He had watched the anomaly unfold with T’bia excitedly commenting on her sensor readings while the others, especially the Vixen with the distracting hormones, were having breakfast.
“It seems pretty weak. If we bump up the shields we should be fine.”
He nodded. “Maybe we can take some ‘time’ to surf?”
“I’d prefer not,” T’bia commented. “An environment suit is too bulky for that, and you might get caught in the undertow with it. Who knows where you might wash up?”
“Point. Unless we do bodysurfing…” She bonked him lightly between the ears. A small buzzer sounded as the main display went off, followed by most of the other control interfaces. T’bia flickered briefly, glancing around.
“What in the good name of the Goddess Herself is going on? Jay, we’re losing main power.”
“Get on your emitter before we lose you too. What are the sensors saying?”
“The temporal wave appears to be interfering with power transfer systems, as though… I don’t know. As though the power had never existed, it seems. All biological components are okay, but the electronic systems are shutting down.” Her image went out as the cockpit opened, letting her walk in with her emitter active. “I hope this thing holds.”
“It’s stood up to worse than this, and it’s all biological. What about the others?”
“They’re coming up here.” She sat down at the pilot console, opening it and making a few adjustments. The surface lit up again as she finished and started entering in data. Manually. “Thrusters are the only thing we’ve got left. AI control. Transfer full control to mobile emitter. Shut down ship-based processing. Route power to drive systems.”
“What about FTL?”
“Too much interference around us to make a stable Displacement field, and I don’t really want to see if we can make another Flashpoint channel collapse. Once in my operational lifetime is enough.” She flinched as her program was isolated from the ship, but continued working. The door opened again, the other three entering and taking seats.
“What’s happening?” Telara asked.
“Temporal wave, says Miss Information here, and it’s somehow disrupting power.” Jadyn opened his panel, finding the relay T’bia had tapped and reconfiguring the sensors to use the same pathway. The panel lit up, buzzing quietly. He checked the scans, finding the wave closing quickly. “We can’t avoid it, so we’d better get the shields back up.”
“Got it,” Mel replied, hammering at a console. Outside, the blue haze flickered on and stabilized. “They may not last through the whole wave.”
The sensors buzzed one last time, and a timer blinked to life. “Everybody buckle down.” Jadyn fastened his restraint, watching the sensor readout as the timer ticked away. Five seconds, four, three, two, one… The ship tremored around them and a spectrum of colors passed outside - a spectrum so pure, he was certain he had never seen a single one of the colors before. The shields pulsed madly, defending against the disturbance, flaring with light before failing.
“Warning: Power feedback. Sssystetetetetems overlololoaaaading,” Aerin announced, letting a blast of feedback through the cabin before shutting down.
“Where’d it all come back from?” T’bia frowned, resetting the navigation interface. “It’s as though all that was lost came back, all at once… I wish I was still linked in.”
“Uh, no, I don’t think you do.” Jadyn glanced down at his panel, running his paw over it and noticing a heat buildup. Issuing a shutdown command did nothing except make it brighter, and a distinct blistering was appearing on the surface. “Bee…? I think this is going to -“
The panel exploded. A harsh wind whipped around him, tearing at his flesh as reality was drawn away. For a moment he suspected that it had somehow blown a hole through the hull, but there was no vacuum surrounding him… There was less than a vacuum - it was simply nothing at all. It felt, after a moment, that the panel had drawn him inside somehow as the sparks danced over his body, and he could feel fur and flesh being seared before the acrid odor met his nose.
The pain caught up with him as he drifted through darkness, and suddenly he felt as though there were far too many different dimensions working on him all at once. Sensations ran through being compressed, expanded, flattened, stretched, run over, picked up, dropped, beaten, shaken, stirred, processed, labeled, mailed, misdirected, crumpled, ironed, stepped on, ground up, and tossed to the four winds in the matter of a few seconds as light was recreated for what seemed like the first time. Colors zipped around him as he was tossed about on currents of power he had never imagined possible, and right before he felt himself ready to vomit, he blacked out.