“I think we should assume Iysuno’s grandfather was right, and the Clyreans had scattered after an attack by the VReoria. And if that’s true we need to be extra cautious as we approach that area of the Universe.” The Muse of Mischief suggested to the group.
Once again they were gathered around the large table in the guest house on Misko. They were planning how to approach Clyrea X9.
“We should drop out of jump farther away than we normally would and approach slowly, while we scan the area.” Zri said.
“Why don’t we approach from all sides?” Agent Brzko suggested. “We’ve got five ships, let’s space them out and come at the area from all sides. We’re more likely to find any cloaked VReoria that way. And with jump drives we should still be close enough to each other in case of trouble.”
“Good strategy Brzko.” M said. It seemed that everyone agreed. “If everyone is ready we should go.”
All five of the ships dropped out of jump at the same time, equal distances from the planet – a distance that put Clyrea X9 just at the edge of their scanner range.
The Muse of Mischief was on Zri’s ship and Agent Brzko was on Ferocity’s. She reached out to him with her mind, “Do you see it Brzko?”
“Yes M, it looks like a big dust cloud off in the distance.”
M activated hear earcom link and video screen on the bridge of Zri’s ship.. “Begin long range scanning.”
“Confirmed.” Ferocity replied.
“Affirmative.” Lelelu replied.
“Affirmative.” The Empress replied.
“Confirmed.” Xiix projected.
“Check your scan data and begin approaching Clyrea.” She said via earcom link, taking a seat in the commander’s chair. She noticed Zri standing nearby and jumped up.
“Oh, sorry Zri. Please,” She motioned to the seat.
He laughed. “No, I insist M. It might be my ship, but you’re leading the mission.” She sat back down and he took the secondary seat next to her. She adjusted the front video screen to show the view from the other ships.
“It still looks like a giant dust cloud from here.” She said.
“Yes, it does. It almost looks like a storm. Look at how you can see the dust, or whatever it is moving there on the left.”
“I wonder if that’s where the rings intersect. ShyUst, can the scanners detect anything solid in the dust cloud yet?”
“No, Muse of Mischief, we are still not able to detect a mass.” She and Zri continued to watch the cloud get larger as they slowly progressed toward it. Again she adjusted the front video screen to display the other ships for the benefit of Xiix. He needed a visual connection to non-telepaths to be heard.
“Is anyone detecting any activity in the area, anything unusual that would suggest we are not alone?”
Everyone responded with a negative so she changed back to watching the target dust cloud.
“Hey Brzko what’s up, everything OK over there on Ferocity’s ship” She projected.
“Yes, we’re fine. When we get there I think one of the ships should land on the surface while the others stay in orbit.”
“And something tells me you’d like to be the one to land, right?”
Zri looked at her with concern, he could tell she was communicating telepathically with Brzko. She gave him a brief smile to reassure him that everything was OK.
“It makes sense for Ferocity and I to land. His ship is sentient and if we run into trouble it may react faster than the other ships in an effort to protect itself.”
“I understand. We’ll be there in a few hours, I assume Ferocity concurs.”
M turned to Zri. “So, Brzko thinks a ship should attempt to land once we’re all in position. And of course he’d like it to be Ferocity’s ship.”
“That makes sense since Ferocity’s ship is sentient.” Zri agreed.
“Exactly what he said.”
They all slowly watched the cloud that presumably surrounded Clyrea X9 come into view over the next hour. No activity was detected in the area, maybe they really had eliminated the VReoria from this Universe.
The cloud was gold and brown with streaks of bright red. It looked like an emission nebula, bright and glowing. Their scans were not able to detect any significant solid mass beneath the clouds.
The ships were evenly spaced in position around the cloud, continuing to scan what they presumed was the surface as well as what may be approaching from space. Brzko made a visit to Zri’s ship.
“Are you sure you still want to take the ship down? None of our scans can penetrate the clouds, we can’t tell what the surface is like.” Zri said. “We can’t even confirm that there is a surface.”
“I don’t think there’s any other way for us to find out what’s down there.” Brzko answered.
“Brzko, I don’t like it. I think we need to find another way to see what’s down there.” M said disapprovingly. “Zri, do we have any drones with us, anything that we could physically send to the surface?”
Zri considered her question. “Actually yes. I’ve got a hive drone in the cargo hold. Give us a few minutes to prep it. ShyUst,” He called as he looked toward his first officer.
“On my way commander.” ShyUst left the bridge with a quick jog.
“OK, so we’ll send the drones down and at least try to get an image of the surface before anyone goes down then.” M said, looking at Brzko.
“OK.” He said reluctantly. “Let’s see what the drones find.”
Once the drones were prepped, all of the ships tied into the image feed. ShyUst released the drone from the cargo hold. Zri piloted the drone from the bridge of his ship, taking it directly down through the clouds. At first the image was just a blur, it was in the thickness of the cloud. Then it began to clear and there was indeed something below the cloud. Looking straight down the image the drone transmitted looked like a soft white clouds. The images disappeared.
“What happened?” M asked.
Zri looked at ShyUst, knowing that he was scanning for the drone. He looked up and shook his head. “It’s no longer in orbit commander. It seems to have been repelled from the atmosphere, and it’s been crushed. It’s not worth retrieving.”
“Iysuno mentioned that the unusual effect of the dual rings could make it difficult to get through the atmosphere.” Brzko said. “I still think the sentient ship is the way to go.”
“I still don’t like it Brzko. At least make sure that Ferocity is ready to transport here if there’s any trouble.” M said.
“Will do.” He swept her back in one of his infamous Hollywood style kisses. “I’ll see you soon my love.” He said releasing her, and then he was gone.
ShyUst adjusted the front video panel to display Ferocity’s ship. They stood silently watching it approach the cloud.
“Are you ready Ferocity? Is your ship ready?” Brzko projected.
“Yes. We are both ready. The ship will take immediate action to keep itself safe should it need to.”
“And your transporter is ready to transport you to Zri’s ship.”
“Confirmed, it’s programmed, I would need only hit one button.”
“OK, then let’s make our first attempt.”
The ship began to slowly descend. Their view was completely blocked by the clouds as they descended. Just as the clouds began to thin the ship began to shake. The surface of the planet came into view. There were dome like structures that seemed to be on individual cliffs, floating in clouds. Ferocity’s ship began to emit a high pitched whine, it could not take anymore of the odd pressure and reversed course. It began to ascend. As it reached the top of the cloud the shake and whine ceased.
“What happened?” Brzko asked.
Ferocity remained silent for a moment. He was communicating telepathically with his ship.
“Pressure.” He answered with his earcom link engaged for the benefit of everyone. “A crushing pressure, the ship could not withstand it. We would have been crushed.”
“We’ll find another way.” M said, also via earcom link. Brzko transported himself to Zri’s ship again while Ferocity guided his ship to a comfortable distance..
Brzko looked up at her. She could see his disappointment. “M, I know you’re going to object but I’m going to use an aperture to get to the surface.”
“I don’t object Brzko. Iysuno’s description makes it seem like only some beings can get through the effect of the dual rings. And I wonder if that means only a Clyrean. I know you’ll be careful. If you can, send me images of what you’re seeing.”
“I will. I’m going to attempt to get to the dome we saw.” Brzko began sending M his current vision via their telepathic link. She closed her eyes and saw herself.
Brzko opened an aperture and focused on the floating dome, instantly he was there. M could see what he saw – randomly spaced floating surfaces seemingly suspended in clouds. She could see rings above him.
“Those rings don’t look real Brzko.”
“The look like part of a machine. And…”
It suddenly became very bright. “Brzko, what’s wrong?”
“There’s some kind of energy building up, it’s like lightning. I can hear something under the dome.”
“Brzko, either get back here or wait for me.” She opened her eyes and looked at Zri.
“He made it to the surface there’s sound coming from under the dome. I’m going down, I can’t let him go alone.”
Zri reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. “Be careful Muse of Mischief. We’ll be here waiting for you.”
“OK Zri, keep everyone safe.” She left Zri’s ship and arrived on the dome’s platform, next to Brzko. The lightning jumped from Brzko to her and back. There was a loud grinding sound.
“What is that sound?” She asked Brzko.
“I think it’s where the rings intersect. Look.” He pointed to an opening in the dome, just at the edge of their sight. Just as she turned to see what he was pointing at, a short being with red hair stepped out and walked toward them. “Welcome, welcome. I am Hekwagter Gatekeeper. We weren’t sure you’d be able to find us. Oh! Where are my manners. I know you have questions. Please come inside.” He turned and walked toward the dome.
Neither M nor Brzko moved from where they were.
When he realized they weren’t following him, he turned back. “Oh of course, of course. You are just as skeptical as the others.”
“The others?” M asked.
“Yes Muse of Mischief, the other Clyreans.”
“Where are the others?”
“Oh well, scattered throughout every universe.”
“Is this where they used to live?”
“No, no. No one ever lived here. Well, Hekwagters do. But we’re just Gatekeepers. This is Clyrea X9, it is technically not a planet. It is a World Engine.”
“What is the purpose of a World Engine?” Brzko asked.
“Very good question Agent Brzko!” Hekwagter said, turning toward him. “A World Engine is a machine. It provides a permanent transfer point between universes – for beings that don’t have the ability to travel between them on their own.”
“So if Clyrea X9 isn’t actually a planet, where are Clyreans from?” M asked.
This seemed to confuse the Hekwagter Gatekeeper, he looked off in the distance as though he was searching his own mind for the answer. He regained his focus. “I either do not know or am not authorized to answer that question.”
Both M and Brzko wanted to pursue this line of questioning but knew that it would not get them the answers they were looking for. M tried to take them in another direction.
“Do you know where we can find any other Clyreans? We’d like to speak to them.”
“Oh yes. Of course. There is two visiting here now. I think they have been waiting for you. Clyreans always seem to know when there are others around.” Hekwagter Gatekeeper turned toward the doorway. He stopped in front of it and seemed to be speaking with someone. He turned and looked at them, and then stepped back.
Someone stepped out, it was a tall dark being. It looked like a black human. He said something else to Hekwagter Gatekeeper and then turned toward the M and Brzko. While looking at them he extended his right arm and reached into the doorway. His hand was taken by a smaller, fair skinned being. She stepped out and turned toward the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko with a smile. They began to approach.
“Greetings and salutations. I am Agent Qmkos and this is the Muse of Banter.” He extended his right hand toward them, “The Muse of Mischief, it is an honor to meet you, Agent Brzko, a pleasure.” The Muse of Banter also extended a greeting. She had light hair and skin; she was wearing heels with a long dress, slit all the way up one side – and a black wool beret. She looked very similar to the Muse of Mischief. Agent Qmkos also wore a black wool beret. And like Agent Brzko, he wore a long black jacket over black slacks and a button up shirt with a vest. He also had dark skin.
“Are you Clyrean?” M asked.
“Yes, Clyrean, just as you two are.” Agent Qmkos said.
“I’m sorry, we don’t mean to stare, we’ve just never met anyone similar to us.” Brzko said.
“Mhmm, mhmmm, we understand.” the Muse of Banter said. “You probably won’t see another Clyrean anywhere but here.”
Agent Qmkos looked from the Muse of Banter to M and Brzko, picking up where she left off. “You see Clyreans are too powerful, too complicated to be comfortable in close proximity to each other, but the world engine seems to absorb the friction.”
“Do all Clyreans look like us? I mean our skin color…” Brzko asked, holding up his hand looking at the back of it.
“Yes, all of the males have dark skin and the females have light skin. It’s how we’re created.” Agent Qmkos answered.
“Created?” M asked.
“Yes, we are specifically created for each other – we’re created in pairs and then placed with pretend parents. We are naturally drawn to our partners once we’re mature. Clyreans do not raise their own offspring. And most, but no all, usually make their way here at some point.” Agent Qmkos said as he used his left hand to gesture toward all of the other domes that could be seen from where they were standing.
“What’s the purpose of the domes?” M asked.
“They are noplaces. Protected areas that lead to other universes. This one here leads to a young universe where most of the planets have very little gravity. We call it No-grav. That one over there leads to a universe where the timeline is broken – we call it Fractured-time, and that one over there leads to a universe where every planet seems to be ruled by some evil force.”
“Is this the only way to travel in multiverse?” Brzko asked.
“No, but it’s the safest way and the World Engine is the only place that has multiple portals. There are fractures that lead to other specific universes. Like the ones that the VReoria are using to stay hidden from this universe.” The Muse of Banter said.
“You know about the VReoria?” M asked.
“Yes, they’re always trying to capture one of us. Hey we heard about you destroying two of their specimen ships and rescuing all of the beings. Very impressive.” She said looking M up and down.
“Do you know what universe the VReoria hide in?” Agent Brko asked, looking at Agent Qmkos.
“No not for sure. They’ve been spotted in what we call the Furverse, but we’ve never seen them there.”
“Furverse? Let me guess, the beings there are all covered in fur?” M asked.
“Yeah, mostly.” The Muse of Banter said. “None of the universes have actual names. The inhabitants always think their in THE UNIVERSE, but little do they know… Anyway, Qmkos and I use a naming system that work for us. Other Clyreans probably call them something else.”
“So do all Clyreans move around through Multiverse?” Brzko asked.
“No, no, not at all. Some of them stay in one universe. But some do like to be on the move, like us. We rarely stay in any place for too long.” The Muse of Banter said.
“Can other beings be taken through the portals, into a different universe?” M asked.
“Hmmmm, yes and no. Technically yes, you can each take one non-Clyrean with you, just like you would when you travel using an aperture. But each dome is home to a Hekwagter Gatekeeper, and they can be a little, mmmm persnickety.” The Muse of Banter said, placing her hand on her hip to emphasize the point. “Maybe that’s not the right word. You see, they’re AI’s – you know artificial intelligence – and sometimes they can be a little unpredictable. Never dangerous, more like illogically logical.” She looked over at Agent Qmkos to see if he had anything to add. He didn’t, so Brzko asked another question.
“So we could, technically, use the portals to return some of the beings we rescued from the VReoria to their home universe?”
“Yes, but because universes don’t have names it would take a lot of exploring to find the right one. By the time you find the place you’re looking for, they would have settled into a new life. Besides, you two have more important things to do.” Agent Qmkos said, looking from Brzko to M.
“We do?” M asked.
“Uhhhh yeah.” The Muse of Banter said with serious attitude, as if M should have already known that. “It wasn’t a coincidence that you met the father of your namesake.”
“Emperor Bartala?” M asked. But before she could finish her thought her earcom link came to life.
It was faint and broken, but they could hear Zri, “….Muse…. Boost… Can you… Status…“
Ignoring their new friends for a minute, M looked at Brzko to see if he had also heard the transmission. He had. She attempted to respond to Zri. “Zri, we are OK. Please hold your position until further notice.”
She looked back toward Agent Qmkos and the Muse of Banter.
“And that’s our cue to leave. You have much to do, we ALL have much to do. We’re going to check out a place we call Water-verse.” They turned and headed back in the direction they came from although the door was now closed. They walked arm in arm, much as the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko often did. They disappeared. But before M and Brzko could even contemplate their next action, the Muse of Banter appeared before them again.
“OK, one more thing.” She said quietly, leaning toward them. “That little Dragon is part of your future too, protect her.” And with that she was gone.
M and Brzko looked at each other. M opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find the words. Instead she pictured the bridge of Zri’s ship, shared it with Brzko, and they left Clyrea X9 with a few answers, but more questions than they had when they’d arrived.