The Chaos Marches
Chapter 15.5, Meanwhile, Tom...
When last we saw Tom, he had fallen through a portal he had conjured for himself in the twilight chaos on the "high side" of Last Valley. Just before he fell, his immediate impression was that he had succeeded, because he saw the "Zephyr," and he had been meaning to open a portal to that ship, on the other side of the valley.
After he falls through, however, the "Zephyr" promptly vanishes. Looking around, Tom sees he is on a plot of rocky land, with some scrubby grass, a very close horizon, and a VERY odd sky. The sky twinkles and wavers in every color, including grey and black and brown. A quick examination shows that the "horizon" is the edge of an island in the air.
Tom is in Chaos' Rim, and there's probably a bit of land here because he was expecting such a thing. The "Zephyr" may also have been no more than a bit of expectation. Either that, or he's screwed up in time. He's screwed up, certainly.
The next thing he notices is a whole cluster of little islands-in-the-sky like his own, only these come in various sizes and have buildings on them, connected with bridges and things. Sort of a Moorish zero-G version of Venice. With dragons flying about. Lots of them. It is, in fact, the realm of the Lilim.
Tom begins thinking very hard and very, very carefully. It would appear that (1) he is in the heart of enemy territory, and (2) that territory is in a much more fluid grade of Chaos' Rim than the twilight he just left. This is a tremendous opportunity. Also a tremendous danger, of course, but it is VERY much in Tom's interest to concentrate on opportunity when expectation becomes reality so easily.
The first thing Tom does is finish willing himself well. Next, he wills full psi-point capacity back into himself and his ring-battery. Then he starts to implement some plans he began dreaming up some time ago.
He begins creating birds, parakeets, ten to twenty of them, perhaps more, in all colors -- green, blue, white, yellow, pink (there are pink budgies by Tom's day). He uses his ectoplastics skill as a guide, but he's using Chaos' Rim as a power source. He is careful not to make them too intelligent, not wanting to repeat his mistake with Puck. (Recall this is the telepath who interviews horses and asks rats for directions when exploring dungeons; he's seen the insides of lots of avian minds. As for the bodies, he has experience being an eagle.)
So what does he want the birds for? Agents. Each bird is charged with the following missions:
There. Tom then sends an exponentially-multiplying flock of invisible budgies into the city of the Lilim, there to seek out Marginalia and send them home. As he understands the situation, this will not only rescue Marginalia, but reverse the geographical trends and increase Lanthil at the expense of Lilishtan or whatever this place should be called.
If the budgies can't sent them home, they can at least mark them for later retrieval efforts. Tom is confident of his ability to dowse for tracers left by his own creatures. And he (and they) are quite sure they won't run out of psi, because they can always imagine all the free icons they need. (Okay, so the budgies don't think about free icons per se. They just don't consider getting tired.)
Tom has probably just established the Lanthil national bird.
However, this won't prevent the Lilim from continuing their hunts.
After a lot of thought, carefully couched in provisional terms, Tom starts creating again. This time, he creates a disembodied intellect, a partial copy of his own mind. He wants an AI, but he lacks the time and training, so he settles for this dispassionate mind-print. It is intelligent, it has large chunks of his memory and many of his skills, and it is obedient TO HIM. It also has awareness and imagination (and therefore a PSY attribute). The "program" Tom gives it runs:
You'll notice there is no stop condition to the acceleration and multiplication. This is deliberate. It is Tom's intention to make Chaos' Rim uninhabitable to the Lilim.
Tom thinks of it as the Exponential Curse.
Tom has not tried to kill any Lilim, because he believes this to be impossible in Chaos' Rim. He also has no illusions about being able to exterminate the Lilim, since he has, he is pretty sure, already met their future selves besieging the Black Mage, haunting the Chaos Marches, and, perhaps, on the brink of invading Old Faerie.
But if they are permanently bedeviled (if you'll excuse the expression) by the Exponential Curse, even in the ordered realm, so much the better. The Curse won't be able to exponentiate outside Chaos' Rim, but whatever trouble it can give them is a gain to our side.
Meanwhile, it looks like his building of the curse is working. A sort of glassy sphere appears, with luck an area of reduced scale, or more precisely the interface thereto. Within it, a second even more distorted glassy sphere appears and then another. Oh, goody.
Hmmm.. it seems like there's a good deal of activity within the inner sphere. It's hard to tell what given the lenticular effects of three scale bondaries, but it does seem like a LOT of activity, rather as if something were swirling around inside. The impression becomes more distinct as the inner sphere itself appears to start spinning. Then the middle one. Yes, something is definitely gyring and gimballing here in the wabe. Slowly, the outer shell begins to spin. Hmm... How does a scaling interface spin? Bad thought. Most obvious sequels to it are not things you would go around thinking out here on the rim.
Think lovelier thoughts, Tom.Aw, hell, there just isn't any way that thing should be spinning and it really is beginning to. You can feel the breeze it is whipping up. Breeze? Guess that means there is air here that he's breathing. Either that or the breeze is actually a distortion in the fabric of the...
Lovelier thoughts, Tom.Right. Just a little breeze. Well, actually at that force its more like a little spherical dust devil. Dust devil, ether devil, chaos storm--
Think lovely...Oh, to hell with lovelier thoughts. Dive for cover!
Kerflooey! Fwoosh! Boom!Don't you hate it when that happens? Just like monkeying with glamour.
A huge disney-dust rainbow comet flashes past Tom as he ducks and rolls behind a conveniently placed ridge on the floating island. It's followed by a divot, sort of a Paul-Bunyan-sized divot and a howling wind. Do winds howl like beasts?
Lovelier thoughts, Tom...Yes, yes, a lovely little breeze just like those cute little dust devils back in the Chyoxan, or was it Lapidian desert on Hreme. Dirt falls on Tom. the ground in front of his nose reflects the colors of what must be a lovely disney-dust storm.
Tom hazards a look over his shoulder. Yep, just what you might expect... a huge spherical, whirling dervish of a disney-dust storm. It fountains prettily in random directions, sort of like solar prominences as painted by Tinkerbell.
Think lovelier thoughts, Tom.What he actually thinks, with some numb corner of his mind, is the trouble with intelligent instruments. They get ideas of their own. I wonder what this idea is?
With mental shields at the ready, Tom reaches out for the first (and slowest) disembodied intelligence (not that he sees it, unless that iridescent sun is it), and inquires what's going on.
It appears that the intelligence is inside the innermost sphere, which if things went anywhere near to plan is at >1000x scaled time. You can get the barest touch of it. It sounds like truly mad gibbering, but who knows, maybe that's just an artifact of the >1000x scaling.
Looking about, Tom wouldn't be surprised if this... thing... were to attract attention. Fwooshooey!! Pfwatt! Especially if it keeps on throwing disney-dust bombs. Bits of grass and sod whip around, maintaining the dust devil appearance of this thing.
Tom suspects the nested intellects of the curse are creating something. The titan divot suggests landscape. He trusts they know what they're doing. After all, in a way they are Family. (This is a reason to think they know what they're doing?...)
He's out of here! He thinks himself to Another Part of the Rim. A place with no Lilim and no disney-dust-devils.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.