1. Vicar Wexli
psionically drifted through
the ether while his body remained in the shellwatch temple at the
Spearpierce compound. All Guards rotated through shellwatch to
search for distressed shellans and psionic anomalies. This
enabled the Guard to keep a pulse on the shell's psionic health and to
dispatch assistance when needed.
He honed in on a curious development: A shellan has just
entered a pawn shop and wants to sell what looks like a grenade.
It is a grenade. The
store owner is humored by the grenade but can't meet the seller's
asking price. The negotiation fails. The seller pulls the
pin on the grenade and asks, "How much is it worth now?"
3. Vicar Miles,
Wexli's event, "That's a compelling technique," Miles observed.
The store owner withdrawals 1,000 credits from his drawer and hands it
to the seller. The seller takes the credits along with his
grenade. As he exits, he tosses the grenade back inside
and runs away. Nobody pursues. Everyone takes
The patrons hold their breath for a long time before a kid bravely
grenade and announces, "It's a dud!" The shop owner is pissed,
"Get that Jolvian swine!" he shouts. Wexli breathes a sigh of
relief. "I'll go find the prankster," Miles offers. "Yes,"
"Thanks." Miles keeps the prankster under observation and
coordinates his apprehension.
was not a delicacy on Vejhon, but the fishing industry was one industry
operated mostly by non-shellans. Off-shellers thrived in costal
regions and often brought their off-shell traditions with them.
"Why do they come here?" Wexli asked himself. 'Cultured
shellans have no use for sea water,' came the choral response of 500
souls who were unconsciously listening. That happens
when a Guard's thoughts get too loud.
I just caught a Jolvian," Wexli said.
It was perfectly legal for Jolvians to visit Vejhon, but the Jolvians
unique breed of reptile; very attractive with white scales and glowing
7. Jolvians could pixillate their scales to blend into any
background and immobilize their prey with hypnotic subliminal
Jolvians had survived cultural struggles for millinia. For them,
it was a badge of honor to successfully evade the Psionic
entered the Jolvian's mind,
"What's your expedition number?" The Jolvian de-pixillated to
indicate embarassment and resignation. "Don't take it
so hard," Wexli consolled, "How long were you here?" "This was my
last day," the young Jolvian replied. That meant it was his 10th
day visiting illegally. The two governments had worked something
your High Up?" Wexli
asked. The kid made a glottal sound that Wexli recognized.
"I know him!" Wexli replied, "one of the very best!
Technically..." Wexli added, "you passed -- this is your 10th
day. I found you too late." The kid disappeared.
Gone. "Anyone get a pinprick in the shell somewhere?" Wexli asked
out loud. "He's back aboard his ship," came an anonymous
reply. When feedback synched, the source was rarely
questioned. "Thanks," Wexli said.
As the sovereign
custodians of shell health and psionic virtue, the Guard absorbed the
thoughts and affection of adorning
fans into one polar extreme, like many rivers flow into the sea.
Guard protects all who align with them. Some shellans
wear a talisman of their favorite Guard for luck while others wear the
Psionic Guard symbol itself: Two concentric rings with either a
personalized bead or a tiny vial of shell water suspended in the
center. The more expensive talismans make the center ring appear
to float without fasteners.
12. Unlike faith in galactic legends, the Psionic Guard is
composed of live, tangible beings who can help in
times of need -- 'living' Saints who psionically patrol the
shell. Although venerated as demi-Gods among mortals, their
omnipresence causes some of the public to take them for granted:
"Do all-knowing, all-seeing Gods need to be patronized?" The
Guard was tolerant of any belief that respected the sanctity of life
and the liberty and happiness of others.
"It looks like Blue Funnel closed on another system," Miles said, who
was drifting through the financial district at Balipor. The
financial district was an intergalactic duty-free zone with no known
oversight. Anything under Zena could be bartered there.
The Blue Funnel banking conglomerate runs the financial
infrastructure on virtually every shell in the Universe and maintains a
prestigious consulate in the quarter.
14. The absense
of Psionic Guards in
the district gave Blue Funnel carte blanche. It also
provided the Psionic Guard with a plethora of intergalactic
intelligence that could not be gleaned through direct covert
drifted into Miles' event this time.
15. A young
protégé was presenting a
portfolio of a new acquisition to Blue Funnel's CEO. "About,
another septillion credits," the protégé said
proudly. The CEO nodded sternly in approval, "Very good! Do
you have design concepts for their new currency?" The
protégé pressed a button on his PDA and several
holographic candidates appeared above the CEO's desk. He studied
the cultural significance of the artwork, "Lots of water there," he
16. The CEO
touched a button on his desk to minimize the hologram and leaned back
in his chair. Blue Funnel maintained unrequited contempt for the
Psionic Guard, because the Guard restricted their reach to the
quarter. Everywhere else in the Universe, entire governments
be purchased: Not on Vejhon, thanks to the Guard.
The fraud of selling debt and recapitalizing on credit worked
everywhere except here. Vejhon's notes could be exchanged for
currency, which was unheard of elsewhere. Off-shell, Blue
Funnel had a different name to suit each world's financial
illusion. "As long as the public believes
that their money is controlled by the government -- it keeps prying
eyes away from us!" the CEO said. The deception works by
printing "Federal Reserve Note" on each IOU. Smoke and
mirrors, "And that's how you control EVERYTHING!" the CEO veiled a thin
smile toward his protégé.
"They 'owe' us for every one of these we print!" He snatched his
keepsake collector's note from his desk and waved it like a magic wand
18. "We can't possibly be the only shell that opted out of this abysmal
scheme," Wexli moaned in disgust. "Nothing unusual going on
here," Miles added. "Oh my!" Miles amended, "Guess what the kid
is?" Miles had a boyish manner when he got excited.
Wex was fast: The kid had to be something fabulous or Miles wouldn't
have got excited. "SGK?" Wexli guessed. "Yep!"
Miles said, punching Wex in the arm psionically. A Seven Gates
Kid, "it's one of ours." The possessive pronoun was normal; SGK's
were perceived as objects, rather than shellan.
19. SGK's are financial savants owned by the Seven Gates
Corporation; although it wasn't illegal for a corporation to adopt
a child, Seven Gates was the only company that
did. SGK's were savagely protective of Vejhon's fiscal
the Psionic Guard left them to their own devices; unvested, but well
Bless them!" Wexli said. It was now confirmed that Seven Gates
Blue Funnel, "Finally!" The best litmus test of an SGK was to
try arguing with one.
20. Wexli squinted his eyes curiously, "What's he posing
as?" What Miles heard was, "How did he get in?" Miles
shrugged and said, "Money." "OK," Wexli conceded
quizzically. It was logical. Blue Funnel spoke fluent
money. That was the best answer.
place on Vejhon is off-limits to a Psionic Guard, to include the
President's office at
Balipor. A Guard may traverse industrial concerns and military
facilities at will. They avoid bedrooms
out of respect for marital privacy and the financial
district per The Director's orders. The Psionic Guard Director
was the quintessential God since Guards were already deified as
Guards never transgress customs and courtesies
unless they have good
reason, and when such reason arises, a Psionic Guard is his own
warrant. The mere presence of a Psionic Guard automatically
confers control to the
Guard; which compels them to avoid unnecessary public mingling.
They 'see' and 'feel' quite well from wherever they are; shellwatch
being the most revered example.
"by the Guards," to
underscore earnestness, and for the pedestrian utility of
Their monogram is the same symbol used by mathematicians and physicists
to identify an, "absolute;" like the amulet worn by devout
24. For being an
absolute, not everyone
who is capable of becoming a Psionic Guard,
chooses to become one; but nobody believes that, because it's a sin to
intentionally fall short of one's highest potential. Peer
pressure in a psionic environment can be beneficial and detrimental.
felt a direct kinship to the Light Race that had hewn out
the many caverns within Sunova. He would often trek to the
library and wonder why the Light Race needed a library. The
cavern was disc-shaped and terraced with a mysterious unfinished alcove
at the far end. "Was it a statement of imperfection?" he wondered
-- it was the only blemish within Sunova. There were loose pieces
of the collapsed matter in the alcove, virtually impossible for most
biologicals to move.
could not begin to imagine the power requirements necessary to hollow
out these chambers. Modern spectrometer equipment did not have an
sensitive enough to know exactly how the caverns were made; collapsed
matter contained no gastric
bubbles. The entire cavern network was geometrically
faultless except for the library, and its unfinished condition looked
Glyphs on the walls suggested that the Light Race used their
minds to create the caverns. The rock is so
dense that the air separates into a thin fog on the floor, but not
thick enough to hide the floor. There was a water well in one
chamber, affectionately called 'The Joker' because there was no end to
its depth. An intricate grill prevented measurement and Daniel
ordered that no measurements be made. The
breathable air emanated from the library and was ventilated throughout
Sunova. It was in this mystical
space where Daniel most often fell asleep. Nobody else would
because the Joker and the unfinished alcove was spooky.
Daniel became conscious at the bottom of a great chasm roughly 20
meters square. He felt that his mind and body was in pain.
His exhaustion led him to believe that his physical body had already
died, yet he lay on the dull grey floor of this chasm unable to stir
soul, "Why is my mind unable to move?" he complained. He thought
his soul should at least separate from his corporeal body so that his
spiritual matter could escape the physical pain. "I'm stuck!"
The chasm walls stretched upward for miles
into a pinprick of light no bigger than an optic
fiber, "Why am I here? Why am I imprisoned? What have I
"Am I dying spiritually?" There was
a fearful exhaustion about this condition --
like being too tired to answer the door when death
in his field of vision, he saw two handsome angels gradually descend
and pick him up, one at each arm. He couldn't feel their
touch. One angel was blond and the other one had jet black hair
but both of them reflected God's glory in their gaunt, youthful
faces. Daniel wanted to ask, but couldn't. His thoughts
went unanswered. He couldn't speak. He
could only go to wherever they were taking him.
was gifted at interpreting dreams and experienced waking
dreams too, but this one was far from the usual subjects -- the pain in
his body was real. It should have awakened him, but the flight to
the chasm's opening was soothing. It made him focus less on the
angels deposited Daniel on the outside of the chasm and flew
away toward an illuminated ball of fire that must have been the Throne
of God in the distance. It was the distance that struck Daniel
the most: "Two angels rescue me from a deep chasm... and
leave me so far away."
not time yet," he reasoned, and his soul felt that God
awoke in the alien library. "It's not time..." he
mumbled, fighting the confusion of consciousness. "Where am I
really?" he wondered.
had fallen asleep
while reading a book, but not this book, "... or was it?" It
didn't seem like the same one. The veil here
was razor thin and everyone experienced heightened
36. Many years ago, Daniel piloted the
simulator to the moment when Sunova was still a star. He watched
star transition from super nova to its current hyper density and found
nothing. He scrutinized each frame, hoping to find the exact
nanosecond, but the caverns mysteriously
took shape like crop circles in the night. He could see the
caverns appear, but 'who' and 'what'
was open to a symbol that caught Daniel's
attention, a large triangle. At the bottom left angle was
the shape of a terran man and woman. At the top was a DNA
helix. The bottom right angle had a ring with 10 spokes.
Above the triangle was a ball of light, and inside each triangle angle
was a darkened dot.
closed the book. He needed to return to his
"Pigmentation is soft and pourous," #6 commented, "possesses neural
relays and absorbs sunlight like we do." I-20 injected, Its CPU
registers sensation before it actually
happens -- it supports sentience... Consciousness." There
was a respectful pause -- the symbol for
'consciousness' was similar to 'Conscious,' which calls
is built into the construct..." #5 observed. "... Except the
construct won't know it," I-20 injected,
"synapse sparks potential but none of it is hardwired."
Adressing #8's concern: "In less than 0.2 Sections," I-20
million instructions can reduce to 6 million and the remainder can
upgrade!" "Automated chaos -- isn't that just great!" #8
remarked, feigning joy. He wasn't alone -- the others had the
same concern. "If it fails -- we start over," I-20 reassured
them, as if the only issue surrounding an
breach is the container. I-20's enthusiasm was
contageously reassuring, "Even the
hydrogen in Zena will end someday," he eulogized prematurely.
protocol?" #4 injected while observing the function of
half-units. The recombinant process was unique to
biologicals. "The construct has to validate before cellular
division initializes," I-20 commented. Machines are simply
The DNA had a
lot of redundant safety precautions built in. You can never be
doing is very similar," I-20 said, "I need all 10 of you to
validate this helix. The helix needs 20,000 validations
division takes place and every new cell is encoded. No code -- No
animation." "The bio-CPU is designed
for photonic matter," #4 observed. "For Light Race infusion,"
I-20 confirmed. Unlike machines, photon-infused biologicals are
sifted through chaos until they transcend their limitations; a
tempering process. "Distillation," # 4 observed.
44. "Long range potentials?" #7 asked, as if reading from a
build around the construct," I-20 answered, "we have to
a suitable environment for it... if we wish to
Segment 1 in our life cycles." All
chaotic processes contain innumerable and unpredictable
potentials. Over a thousand years, the matriculation would seem
like nuclear fission. "Matriculate?" #2 questioned. "The
Ellipsis," I-20 clarified "Yes, yes," #2 agreed, although it
seemed more tangential than parallel to Elliptical conventions.
"Accountability?" #2 asked. "Although epigenomic memory transfers
from progenitor to
posterity, resposibility is still shaped from one
generation to the next," I-20 answered.
Machine cartographers had been
dispatched 1,000 years ago to chart space in all directions.
Cryptic data was still being received from unrecognizable spacial
paradigms. Some cartographers never return, while some get
annexed by foreign machine worlds. Even annexed machines
sometimes attempt to comply with their original orders, transmitting
indecipherable data through untranslatable filters.
48. #2 and #8 sampled 100
quaddrillion yottabytes of data to
deduce 18 potential candidates within 100,000 light years of Zena.
18 possibilities, 15 were eliminated rather quickly.
3 candidates had negligible atmospheric, gravity and density
dissolved two of the three remaining candidates and presented an
that matched the helix's degradation over time. The helix had to
be incubated there -- the match was perfect.