Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(51)

By: John Michael Hileman


I looked at each of them. “Right then. Let’s get this over with.” I gritted my teeth and placed the cell to my head.

--All was still.

In the distance-- a faint heart beat.

Darkness-- in all directions.

Emptiness penetrating my very being.

There was a sound, but I could not tell from where. It grew in intensity. Growing louder. Drowning out the rhythm of my heart.

Sensory input ENGULFED me, like a carnival ride out of control! Terror welled up. If it didn’t stop, I would be destroyed! Overpowering! Intensity increasing! Beyond my ability-to process. Must see beyond! Beyond the madness! I MUST access the program! My mind reached out into the maelstrom. And I heard a voice scream, “STOP!”

Darkness enveloped me.

Was that my voice? It sounded like me.

I heard it again, way off in the distance. “List program.”

The program began to scroll before me, or was it through me? I perceived it on many levels, all things at once: letters on a screen, smells, sounds, events... No dimension, yet all dimensions at the same time. I explored it like a thought, and it revealed its code to me as thought. In it I saw the creation of Vrin, and the end of Robert Helm.

A flash and a memory.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Constance.”

A little girl came up behind her dad, sitting amid a pile of papers on his bed. He turned, and she hugged him. She put her cheek on his. “How long are you going to work?” She pouted.

“Daddy is very busy, honey.”

Another flash.

The man screamed as he floated in an empty void. Erratic smells and sounds. Nothing made sense.

Another memory.

The little girl, lying in bed, her father placing a book on the night stand.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Constance.”

“How come we don't have a secret handshake?” She looked up at him with big blue eyes.

He gave her a tender smile. “We do. I just haven't shown you yet.”

Another flash, another scream, and another memory.

“Honey! You forgot your briefcase!”

The man ran back up the walkway, reaching for the case. But his wife held it from him. Playfully she grabbed his tie and pulled him in close. “You look sexy in your new suit.”

He gave her a quick kiss and a half smile. “Sorry about the meeting tonight.”

“You are a great man, Robert. And great men must make great sacrifices.” She straightened his tie. “And don’t forget, we're in this thing together.”

He gave her another kiss. “You always say that. I don't deserve you.”

“I know.” She winked.

“Daddy?”

The man crouched down. “What is it, honey?”

“You're gonna be at my party tomorrow, right?”

He smiled. “I haven't missed one yet.”

She squeezed his neck, then looked up at her mother with an expectant look. The woman rolled her eyes, then obediently turned around. Grinning with satisfaction, the little girl clinched her hand into a fist, then swooped her pinkie like a J. Her dad did the same. Gently she pressed her tiny fist against her father’s and whispered, “tap, tap, tap.”

Another flash.

Robert Helm writhed in pain, as sensation after sensation flooded into his mind. But he held on to the memories. He could not let them go.

A light flashed in the rearview mirror. Robert reached up to adjust it. “Constance, put that flashlight down, honey. You can't flash that while I'm driving. It blinds me.”

Rain pounded against the windshield.

“Robert! Look out!” his wife screamed. A large animal was standing in the road. Frantically, he twisted the wheel. The car careened out of control.

Darkness-- and a single heartbeat. The heartbeat began to fade, until it was so faint, I could barely hear it.

Somewhere off in the distance, the young girl's voice echoed. “Daddy? Are you awake? Daddy--? Daddy! Wake up, Daddy! Daaaaaadddddddy!”

All was silent.

The void surrounded me again, and in it, the mounting anger of Robert Helm, as fierce and dangerous as a cornered animal. And it was here-- that Gaza was born. The program probed him, and he was its teacher. But with each mistake there was pain. I watched as he created the strands, and then Vrin from them. I saw mountains rise, and rivers begin to flow.

Then I watched as he created the first inhabitant of Vrin, his wife. But she had no soul, and it only caused him pain to look at her. So he made a man, and sent the two off into Vrin.

I rose with him high above Vrin, and watched as he increased the speed of the simulation. A year was as a second, and the population of Vrin increased. Cities were built, civilizations formed. In silent amazement, I watched.

And then, something I did not expect, an error in the code. The simulations stopped obeying the program. And began rewriting it. Cities changed. Great structures were built. I watched as my beloved city of Oonaj grew and changed. The Eiffel, the Great Pyramid, the White House, all appeared in a flurry of human activity.

Then suddenly, everything stopped.

Gaza searched the code, and followed the strings-- but he could not unravel the mystery. This was not the Vrin he had created. These people were not the simulants he had prepared for this world. The ones he’d created all looked the same. But these each possessed a unique physical appearance.

I watched as Gaza retreated high into the mountains to build his fortress, then sped forward as the history of Vrin washed over me like a controlled river. I requested information, and it came out of the rushing torrent for me to analyze. I wanted to know if there was an event where Gaza had tried to effect time again. There was one, but it hadn't worked. He could no longer alter Vrin at that level.

Again I sped forward. I desired to know by what means Gaza would destroy Vrin, but the computer did not understand the inquiry. So I changed the search criteria and requested options for shutting Vrin down. The computer ran the request, but did not give a result. According to the computer, a similar request had been made before, and rather than show me the result, it ran the logged event.

I saw Gaza in his fortress, in the same room I had been in. Only now, in the center of the room, was a circle of stones. Gaza stood in the midst of the rocks. Methodically he began to build a structure out of the web, a large metal platform with a hole in its center.

He ran to the side of the platform, and looked off the edge at a hovering monitor. It showed a cross section of a three dimensional wire diagram, a schematic of Vrin-- but I could not see all of it from my position. By the force of my will, I merged into the information on the monitor and instantly every path and every circuit was knowable to me. At once I understood it. I knew every implication of the structure Gaza was creating, and I knew why he was creating it around The Circle of Ghosts. The Circle was the key. It could save Vrin. Or it could destroy it.

Everything I had previously understood about Vrin flip-flopped in my mind. The magic leaking into Vrin from The Circle was not separate and foreign, as I had thought. Everything in Vrin was made from it. The computer was molding and shaping the energy according to the will of the ten coma patients; creating, in essence, a bottle. What Arganis called magic, was nothing more than unused energy. And The Circle was nothing more than the opening to the bottle. --But now it was letting more than energy in. It had let Kric’tu in. There was life outside the bottle, life which now had access to Vrin.

Gaza could have made his device with only one function, to explode and destroy Vrin, but curiously, he had not. There was a second use: the device could also implode and seal the opening, but not before sucking all of the untamed energy from Vrin. He intended to save Vrin, if he could find his wife and daughter.

But that was impossible now. Or was it? Gaza knew Kric’tu had killed the woman and child, but he said it was a lie. Could his real wife and daughter be alive and well in Vrin? If they were, and if he found them, then he would save Vrin. But if they weren’t, I would have to close The Circle myself.

I knew what I had to do.

I couldn’t close my eyes, because I had no eyes. So I wiped the imagery from my mind and began making the vocal harmonic for travel as Arganis had taught me. It was faint, but enough. The void filled with a ghostlike mist. I continued with the note until three glowing figures materialized within the fog. Activating the energy with the harmonic, separated the energy being controlled by the computer, from the untamed energy.

I asked the energy to bring me toward the three figures, and it responded to my desire, just as the threads had done when I was Sam’ Dejal. The figures grew closer, but, which one was me? I sensed a current in the energy and let it take hold of me. It brought me closer, and closer, until...

Air rushed into my lungs and I dropped the event cell. Arganis grabbed me and helped me to a chair. “Get him a drink, Gadson!” Footsteps trailed off as I opened my eyes. Arganis was wearing a broad smile. “You have journeyed to an undiscovered country, my friend!”

“I have to get to The Circle.” My voice was weak.

“What did you see?”

“Gaza, in The Circle, building a structure. We must get to him before he completes it.”

Arganis opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again.

“I’m sorry but your questions will have to wait.”

“I understand. We will help in any way we can.”

“Thank you, Arganis. You are a faithful friend.”

The wizard’s features beamed with pride.