Find attached prologue below.
Apologies for formatting & lack of gore/destruction (that will come!)
It was the twentieth time he called it up. Displayed on a ten by six foot portion of the window encompassing the back of his office, the page in front of him lost none of the enmity implicit in its design. Framed and crudely stitched to a border of charred flesh and bone, a thick layer of skin had been cut, bleeding out the scarlet words of its demented author.
Not e-bedded, lasered, or even printed; such writings had been painstakingly carved by hand into all two hundred eighty six of the accompanying pages comprising what had been simply labelled the “Ebony” tome.
Obvious insanity aside, a lot of effort had been put into this completed work; it was just a shame, or perhaps a blessing, that the majority of it consisted of non-sensical rambling or etchings of runes & symbols that had little resemblance to anything stored in the station’s AI.
This page before him however was different. Perhaps the author had a moment of clarity or decided to attempt an explanation of the superfluous nonsense that had preceded it. Either way the passage had been the main focus of his scrutiny for the last three hours or so, and once again he read it aloud;
“The universe cares not for what labels men cast at its intricacies, yet its entire existence seems dependent on the history that stains their perception.
While we know even less the more we come to understand, our nature forbids us to retreat from the hardship of discovered paths; and it is this ingrained nescience that will consume us.
As we reach further into the night and encounter naught but pain and torment, the Hell betrayed through the physical realization of our oldest night mares; if man’s progress cannot find God, then it will create one.
An imperfect being from an imperfect womb; born from a faith that should never have been divided.”
Finishing the passage he stared idly at the page before eventually letting out a small huff of air. At the bottom was signed “John 2: 19-23”. Indices from old religious texts were hardly uncommon when it came to objects such as this, especially in regards to noted prophets. This one in particular seemed to link with the apostle John, most recognized for writing the Book of Revelations in the pre-awakening Christian bible. The book it referenced in this case however was the “Amaranthine Tapestry”. The AI had not found any literature pertaining to this alleged book, let alone to it having been written by the apostle; though it did find a reference that Amaranthine was a Hebrew word for ‘eternal’. Not much, but it was a start.
While the piece was not the most polished or disturbing of extracts he had studied, his growing, albeit morbid, fascination for the passage stemmed from the wording in particular. So much of it indirectly referenced what they were doing at the station, what they were doing for the human race; and how such insight came to this deranged author perplexed him. What was also troubling was the manner in which it was found.
Previous to the discovery of this tome, the known omniverse only had one iso-etesian sphere, a region created that is immune from the external effects of time; this one. The station experienced a great deal of excitement when the second was detected, quickly turning to confusion when it was found to be contained within a single small asteroid in a backwater system. Internally however, the asteroid shed its somewhat mundane character. Wreathed in flame and corruption the large cluster of internal caverns made a mockery of physics and a lot of time was lost in negotiating the way to its heart. Within, surrounded by etchings akin to those within its pages, was nothing but the Ebony tome.
Returned with haste and quarantined, the tome was eventually cleared of any overt corruption aside from the unending trickle of blood that kept the writing fresh. It was all he could do to secure the book for the Council, poring over its secrets for any further insight on defeating the Enemy. Anticipation gave way to frustration when the Council had spent days debating and referencing its mostly illegible contents, before calling a hiatus to return to other affairs. He, as now, had kept most of his focus on the tome.
A gentle chime issued through his nanosite, stirring him from his reverie before the station’s AI reliably informed that Ahmen was in the reception area. Considering the sensitivity of the topic to be discussed he requested the AI run his visitor through an intensive screening. Although it wouldn’t be apparent for a long while to come, he was about to put a lot of eggs into one basket; something that incurred such a phenomenal amount of risk he was sure it would have made him feel sick if it were still possible.
Dropping the page from the window, the vista presented once again impressed the primal feeling of awe that mankind was still so far from understanding the omniverse. Before him a trinary of distant white stars glittered intensely against an opalescent canvas of soothing turquoise. Framing the bottom hemisphere was the planet Niyra covered in gentle shades of azure and amethyst, with its sister Nyari filling the space with perfect symmetry at the top his view; brushed with more teal than the other he had always thought. Between the two ran an intricate system of transport pylons that in the distance appeared as a thin band of faint gossamer threads, not unlike a spider’s web after rain, being made to sparkle by the stars beyond.
Dozens of other planets also existed beyond his view, varying immensely in composition and environment; placed with much forethought throughout the encompassing goldilocks band of the artificial system created by the Hyperrealists. Dubbed ‘Espoir’ by its human discoverer, it had been immediately apparent they were fundamentally out of their depth as a so-called developed race. For millions of years the system had been inhabited by many races, consisting of and brought in by members of the Hyperrealists as an Ark to their combined culture; an independent pocket of the omniverse and ultimate protection against whatever doom the Deconstructionists may unleash. The doom they were still fighting.
A success, Espoir was still the haven it always was with the one exception. By the time humans arrived the founding members, the creators as it were, had long gone. In fact according to the Syranix whose station they now occupied, the original Deconstructionists had disappeared also. All that remained was the Enemy, an ongoing and unclaimed remnant that had seemingly been abandoned to leave a bloody legacy for the surviving races. A legacy that had almost consigned humanity to extinction and was now the sole commandment of the Council to erase.
Sighing at the brief touch of melancholy, he reduced the transparency of the window and gave his reflection a quick once-over. Standing 189cm, he maintained the appearance of a healthy male in his mid to late fifties; skin tanned and well worn, framed by short cut silver hair and a trimmed beard. His real age was somewhere in the range of eight times that and even with all the implants, his eyes damn near gave away every single one of them. While cellular re-profiling to a younger age was always an option, he found this to be the most comfortable for his state of mind and, truth be told, to the position he currently held. A second chime issued and he sent a command to unlock the door, turning to face his guest.
“Have something important to discuss Omnitect?” ventured Ahmen rhetorically as he bowed lightly before making his way to a nearby lounge.
His visitor cut a more imposing figure, Ahmen’s standard layout being 197cm, broad frame and jet black hair, this time coupled with a sizeable beard of his own. Looking in his early thirties, what made Ahmen an enigma was that he was one of a only a dozen humans the Omnitect knew of that had witnessed the passing of a millennium. Unlike his own his visitor’s eyes gave away nothing, he thought; only the stylized sapphire retinas of the heavily augmented.
“So have you read the book yet?” queried Ahmen as he sat down.
“A few times.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Gibberish mostly,” the Omnitect let out with a sigh, “complicated gibberish granted, but there’s nothing we can really sink our teeth into at this stage.”
“Quite… however I will be sure to run you through some of the legible sections once the Council has cleared it.”
Ahmen crossed his legs, “Getting that fucking book was a test, I’m sure of it. Coupled with a bit of imagination, the techniques we used to extract the damn thing were brand new. Hell, if it wasn’t for the Density Lens prototype I would doubt it were even possible!”
“Nevertheless,” started the Omnitect as he moved to the front his desk, “I’ll let you know when we have found something pertinent. Given your field experience I have no doubt you’ll be quite insightful in deciphering the catalogue of glyphs when the time comes.”
“Fair enough,” shrugged Ahmen, obviously conceding to obtaining any additional information. Ruffling around in his jacket pocket, Ahmen then produced an antique lighter and accompanying cigarette, “Do you mind?”
The Omnitect offered a return shrug of indifference. He never really understood why Ahmen smoked those ancient things. Apart from being against his psychological profile, his genetics alone nullified any of the toxic high he would receive… that and the stink made it seem too much of a bother than anything else. The lighter however was interesting. Burnished bronze with a lid that snapped open and close with a flick of the wrist, he was sure it also had a design or inscription on its flank, but it was currently obscured by Ahmen’s hand.
“I’ve offered wondered where you got that lighter, looks as though it should be in a museum.”
Ahmen snapped the lid shut and inhaled deeply, “KNR”.
The pause that resulted drew out for at least a minute. KNR was a timeline hardly anyone mentioned, it was the purest example of everything that could and did go wrong when it came to Intervention. It was a timeline where the Enemy had triumphed and not just through force, but through subverting mankind so completely they tore themselves apart with such abandon that the remainder was anything but human. Ahmen was the sole survivor of those operatives present during the final phase of this cataclysm. His reports detailed corruption so absolute that it was at the point of dimensional breakdown and thought no longer rational could shape it beyond nightmare or comprehension. Not even the Syranix talked about it. “It’s a reminder,” he finally added.
The Omnitect was happy to leave it there. He was well aware of the events that had not made it into the official report and the fact Ahmen had returned to sanity at all granted him enormous respect…and trepidation.
He cleared his throat, time to change the subject, “Give me an update on TNI”.
“Run of the mill really.”
His visitor took another long drag, “It is. A few hits and misses as normal, however the events up to the initial breach look nominal.”
“Big one is that the Austin lockdown never happened…and it took the UAC an extra six years to construct the Hydrocon thanks to faulty rad-sinks that weren’t prototyped correctly; most likely due to minor inconsistencies in the Pacific Materials agreement.”
“That was a flow-on from the Remus Accord, correct?”
“Yes, the anomaly was Simon Colston.”
“Dammit, I knew the accident would be an issue,” began the Omnitect as he requested the timeline to be displayed on the window behind, “What of the Lockdown, what do you see there?”
Ahmen shifted to get a better view as the image unravelled across its entire length, “A few issues potentially. Oraculum won’t get its research nor will the two churches be excommunicated. This will lead to more clandestine violence as they continue to try their hand. The UAC Mars project remains effectively set in stone however.”
The Omnitect clicked his tongue as the intersecting webs around the Lockdown were highlighted, “Bullshit.”
His nanosite linked with the display processor and he started to run through various scenarios. “Apologies my friend,” he continued as the formulas evolved in front of him, “I’ve observed a few times where this has played out and only one has been acceptable to say the least. Look here.”
Ahmen stood up and walked to the Omnitect as he highlighted four effectors. “It’s the potential cascade through to Professor Tokugawa that has me worried, I want you to clear the full resolution of this data across for me to study…there’s still a lot that could go wrong.”
“Certainly. Anything for the meantime?”
“Expose the churches, messily. I want them to know they’re in trouble; it might get them to do something desperate. Give it a five month window.”
The Omnitect paused his work and leant back against the desk, “How about the kids?”
“Ancestry looks pretty good actually,” shrugged Ahmen, “only anomaly here is Dodd, the line ended at his grandparents.”
“Could be an early psyche effect on Sanders, clear that one across to me too. Anyone else?”
“Not out of the ordinary, Novak’s maternal grandparents moved interstate ten years early and there’s a high chance that Tardier could be born a male.”
“Really? I don’t recall that ever happening…”
“It hasn’t,” Ahmen chuckled as threw the butt into the disposal unit, “I don’t think the flow on will be that bad… however I’m sure I’ll be giving you access to that data too…”
“Done,” said Ahmen as he turned and activated an interface on the side of the desk, beginning the process.
Lost in thought the Omnitect watched as the full quotient of data began to slowly graft itself onto the already complicated image. There were few who could process & analyse the timeline summarised here from countless packets of data; even less that could predict the effects of Intervention. While the procedure could be taught given a significantly large amount of time, it was innate skill and intuition that made it all work. After all, with the medium they worked with time had a tendency to change even as you considered it, the act of planning alone potentially re-scaping the path you were to alter. It required something special, something soulful even; nothing that technology would ever replace… however it could help.
The Omnitect requested the AI grant him access to the Syranix Commune. The Commune was in essence the psionic ego that covered the species like an ethereal blanket; giving them access to thoughts, memories and an empathy beyond the reach of most other races. For the Omnitect and the privileged few allowed join, albeit temporarily, it gave them increased mental power, stability and a reflective experience available to their more evolved partners. While there were implants and programs available that offered mental partitioning and various expansion capabilities, they were bereft of any true discernment; handy in a pinch, but lacking in wisdom.
The Omnitect felt his consciousness expand as Commune was joined, become intuitively aware of the Syranix inhabitants on the station just as they welcomed him. Attention quickly returned to the timeline, his nanosite opening dozens of synchronised timescapes within his mind as he observed the flow on effect from the Lockdown non-event.
Ahmen returned to the lounge and lit another cigarette, confident it would take his host a fair amount of time to ascertain the best course of action. Within the timeline however, the Omnitect was already coming to an early conclusion that given its current state, an event of at least half the magnitude was needed within that year to alleviate the negative flow on to the Tokugawa Project. The real issue was when and how to create one.
As his enhanced mentality worked through the many scenarios and the scent of Ahmen’s third cigarette faded from the air, a part of his mind slowly became enamoured not only at the enormity of it all, but also at the smallest of instances where influence carried on relatively unnoticed as the centuries passed. A seemingly limitless amount of constantly growing decisions and actions, weaving together the countless shifting threads in an infinitely detailed and unending…tapestry. Oh shit.
The Omnitect immediately extricated himself from the Commune, removing the TNI timeline from the window as he did so. Ahmen snapped out of his own data mining exercise as he sensed the psionic stress of the Omnitect’s withdrawal. Looking to the window he found the image replaced by another timeline, one that looked close to its origination point.
“What do you know of DRX?” asked his host quietly.
Ahmen flicked the lid on his lighter absently, “Has just been initiated, still collecting data on it to be honest."
As he finished his reply warning icons began to flash across his vision as he ‘felt’ the Omnitect overriding his security protocols, extracting all the DRX data from the central core. A null-zone was then erected around the office, isolating it from all external sensors, whether technical or psionic.
Ahmen stood bolt-upright, “What are you doing?!”
The Omnitect ignored him and started generating formulas around the turn of the 20th century before adding, “ How do you see this one playing out?”
“It’s too early to tell dammit, now what the hell…”
“Majors,” the Omnitect interrupted.
Ahmen stared hard while his host nonchalantly cast scenarios across the image. “You can see for yourself,” he eventually sighed, “the Global Financial Crisis happened a year earlier for one…”
“And nothing. The rest of it looks fine, a solid foundation.”
The Omnitect remained silent as he ran the full gamete of preliminary scenarios that were used to establish the viability of an accessible timeline. He could feel Ahmen’s irritation as time passed, however it appeared his guest was correct. Not only did prospects look good, it was one of the best. “Agreed,” he said, leaning back against the desk, “I want you to give this one your full attention.”
“DRX?!” exclaimed Ahmen, “That doesn’t make any sense; we have timelines at far more critical stages, hell you were just looking at one!”
“You want to know what’s in the book, Ahmen?” levelled the Omnitect as he turned to face his guest, “This is.”
“Not specifically, no,” lied the Omnitect, “but it does reference in depth events that mirror what we are seeing here in DRX.”
“The author is aware of multiple timelines?”
“Most of them are when it comes to artefacts like this,” lying again as he began tapping his fingers on the desk, “however we were fortunate this one is a little more succinct.”
“So what does it mean?”
“This is where we hit confidential again my friend,” sighed the Omnitect, “but it is also why we need you to manage the operation of this one personally.”
“Could be a trap…”
“That’s why you’re on it,” he nodded, “Just humour me for a second though, and think about the manner in which the Tome was found. No demons, no undead or corrupted, no psionic echoes of any kind. The asteroid was basically all bark; apart from the intricate physics, the environment wasn’t innately hostile.”
Ahmen did indeed give it some thought. Whilst it was extremely dangerous within the asteroid’s interior, the Omnitect was correct in his analysis of the environ’s intentions. It was largely passive in that it did not pose any danger if it were left alone; giving even more credibility to his own opinion that the whole thing was a test. “You’re the boss,” he began as he crossed his arms, “but I think there’s still something else going on here. You and I know that coincidence is hardly that; however you’re the best at interpreting this stuff, so how do you suggest we go forward?”
The timeline in front of them zoomed in to focus on the start of the 21st century.
“Right here”, said the Omnitect as he rounded on his guest, “You said the first of the Financial Crises is happening right now? This coincides perfectly at the fourteenth prefix juncture; the practical ideation stage of nano-technology. First objective is to ensure the process continues unhindered as resource could be an issue.”
“This will be your top priority. Tie up your affairs as soon as possible and delegate the rest. I should have some scenarios built for you in the next few hours.”
“The best that is available. Have them ready as soon as you have structured the Intervention.”
The Omnitect returned to work on the timeline, ignoring the near visible haze of frustration emanating from Ahmen as his visitor turned to leave. Waiting until he approached the door, the Omnitect spoke again.
“Ahmen, when it comes to DRX, I want everything to be led by you, personally. No clones, no SIs…”
His visitor gazed at him long and hard, “What’s in the book, David?”
“This could be our best chance my friend. I’m not going to risk contaminating the Interventions by leaking any findings that could potentially compromise us. Know that the Council will release any information once it has been sanitised.” He paused and turned to his visitor, “This seems like a somewhat rash turn of events to say the least, but when have we ever acted without due cause? I trust that what we are doing now is the best course of action… do you trust me?”
“Don’t bait me with that crap, we’re too old for it,” another pause before, “Yes I do trust you. But expect me to do some investigations of my own.”
“Do whatever you have to, Ahmen; I need to have you focussed.”
The Omnitect disengaged the null-zone around the office as his visitor exited, proceeding then to stare at the door for a long time after his departure. He was sure Ahmen would indeed make enquiries but was confident that all precautions had been taken and all processes were legitimate, which by any measure they were; bar one. Turning back around to window, the Omnitect suspended the timeline and refreshed the pages of the Ebony Tome, requesting this time the penultimate page be displayed.
There right in front of him was one phrase, inscribed over and over again, the skin a deep red and nearly torn asunder as the words threatened to consume any remaining space.
DRX is the key.
The Council had debated loud and long about this phrase considering the initiation of the DRX timeline had only just occurred before the asteroid was found. It was horribly specific, totally against the mould of similar artefacts and for all intents and purposes, aimed straight at them. The implications had shaken the Council so much that when the hiatus had been called, no recommendations had been made on how to proceed with DRX; but the Omnitect was willing to risk a hell of a lot with an Intervention to find out why this particular timeline seemed so important.
This decision was not without a lot of forethought, despite being, in truth, totally against his normal behaviour. There was one reason however that pushed him to do it. One reason that only became shockingly apparent during his meeting with Ahmen, like the first pieces of a puzzle setting into place. Something that the Council could never know, something that he could not reveal to anyone, not yet. Something that stirred from the faintest parts of a long memory, that by staring at the page was now turning his very soul to ice.
The handwriting was his.