Over the last few days, we trekked our way to our next fated encounter. Gadi mentioned something about some book on the outskirts of Colony 25. I haven’t been to this place since I formed that syzygy with Mother, back in Colony 107. The only reason I ever went was to make Zaza deals with the locals. The drug was a favorite of the people in Colony 25. Sometimes I’d meet with the Queens if I got bored enough. Otherwise, that place was kind of fucked.
The Lost Ones joined our crew, at least for now. Power in numbers.
We reached Colony 25. The place had changed since I last saw it. Towers rose higher than before, tipping beyond the clouds, without any perceivable end. Very strange, since the humans here didn’t have much knowledge of technology or anything at all really. Though, the colony was deserted now too. No sounds or people in sight. Something must have happened. I would guess interference by Aeons.
“It feels nice to be free from the prophecy, eh Gadi?” I asked.
He stopped walking, “Oh, we actually haven’t strayed from the prophecy at all yet.”
“What?! How?!”I demanded.
Perplexed, he said, “Well… that’s just how it is. I don’t know.”
Anxiously, I grabbed him by the shirt, “What about when the prophecy changed after we went to Dread’s Domain?”
He didn’t remember. This could be problematic. “You said that Pandora was newly added to the prophecy back then.”
“I don’t remember this. Pandora was always in the prophecy,” he replied.
Pandora looked worried too.
Now it made sense how Gadi felt when he realized the prophecy had changed. The sense that Gadi was our path to a secure future drained. Though, it’s not like he ever let us down so far.
“Back at Xanadu, you called me your friend. Is that true?” Gadi asked me.
With a sense of relief, I said, “Yes! Of course, Gadi.” At least he remembered something. It must have had something to do with how his brain taps into the prophecy. The eerie sense that he, or the prophecy, had orchestrated my decision to enter the Psychonet started to claw its way out of the back of my mind. I couldn’t dwell on it.
I turned to Arezo and said, “I need your help. Vaeda changed my brain with some device. This is what allows her to send me into meetings with her. Now that we are avoiding her trap, maybe you can remove that alteration? Then she can’t get involved with us.”
As reliable as always, she said, “Hm. I can try this. Just hold still.”
She placed her hands on my head. Then, she blew her kiss, and the dust of nanoparticles entered my brain. After a while of holding still with her hands on my head, she finally said, “I got it.”
A flash of light occurred. Nothing really felt different.
Pax exclaimed, “What the fuck?!”
I turned around, saying, “Don’t worry, I think I’m fine now.”
As I turned, I saw it. Gadi’s eyes were crying blood and his body lay lifeless on the floor. Shaking, I muttered, “O-oh God…”
I resisted the sense of loss, hoping to analyze the situation and figure out who did this before I returned again. I hopelessly yelled, “Which of you did this?!” It was obviously futile, but I didn’t know what else to do.
No one answered or even really reacted in an unusual way.
Looking back at Gadi’s corpse, the pain set in and then everything went dark.
My eyes opened to the sights of Colony 25.
Gadi spoke, “Oh, we actually haven’t strayed from the prophecy at all yet.”
My heart sank. We were mere seconds from his death. There was no way I’d solve this. Instead of thinking, I just grabbed Gadi’s hand and ran as fast as I could.
“What’s your deal Guhya??” Gadi asked.
Everyone else ran after us, yelling in confusion.
Suddenly, a rift opened and pulled me into its swirling vortex. Again, I landed on Vaeda’s cold floor.
She stood above me, with one arm on her hip, looking amused, smiling but also condescending with a hint of aggression, “You thought you were clever.”
“Vaeda??” I said, in a panic.
She crossed her arms, “You thought you could just pull the connection out from my grasp.”
I anxiously grabbed her and shook her, “It was you, wasn’t it?! You killed Gadi!”
She pushed me off, “Relax! It was the only way to get back the connection. You must understand. Now, explain yourself.”
I stormed her with all the questions I bottled up, “I should be questioning you! Gadi has a syzygy with you? You are feeding him the prophecy and hoping we will go along with it, just to fall in your trap? Pandora is your experiment??”
She let up her defensive posture. Unexpectedly, she was compliant, “Fine. Let’s talk about it.” After taking a large breath, she began, “I won’t lie to you. It is true that our goals currently don’t align. But I am ethical. You are starting to get paranoid. The prophecy is absolutely necessary at a time like this. You see, you’ve already strayed away, and the effects are already spiraling out of control.”
I still couldn’t relax, “What?! How?!”
She continued, “Control is everything in this world. It is the only way to reach one’s goals. The further you stray from your destiny, the more control we lose and the more unpredictable this situation becomes.”
Chills went down my spine, “What is spiraling out of control??”
She spread her hands through the air and a holographic screen appeared. It displayed images of the fog. “Something you’ve done between your visit to Dread’s Domain and now has caused a deviation from my visions of the future. A new species of Sige fog has evolved. I’m still investigating this situation, but it’s pretty bad. The new species of nanobot has some sort of hive sentience. They are spreading across the world and altering people’s brains… permanently. The fog creature is rapidly reproducing by rematerializing other matter into more copies of itself. This is about as much as I know right now.”
I just stared, in shock. I felt responsible for a catastrophe.
She continued, “The more that you delineate from your foreseen future, the more that events like these become possible. At least when you stay on track, every detail is fairly predictable. There are no monstrous surprises.”
“What did I do to stray from the prophecy?” I asked.
She answered, “I can’t be sure yet, but my prime guess is that it has to do with Echo. She seems to have no regard for the prophecy.”
“She wasn’t even in the prophecy until recently though!” I yelled.
“Exactly. When I sent her back in time, we had an agreed upon plan. Instead, her love for you drove her closer to you and further from the future I envisioned.”
“What about Gadi? What have you done to him?? Are you leading us into a trap??”
She crossed her arms again, “Gadi’s life has meaning because I filled his head with the prophecy. If I hadn’t, he’d just have permanent amnesia, sitting to decay with no essence of life. This is the best outcome for him. Connecting to the Psychonet may have been my mistake in that regard and I am sorry for how it affected him. All we can do now is to push forward to a better reality.”
Her attitude grew scolding, “As for whether I’m trapping you, I told you I’ll be honest with you. We need to cooperate in situations like these. You don’t seem to understand the gravity of straying from your destiny. I intend to stray eventually, yes. But only when I am fully informed and have a strategic course of action as to avoid disastrous outcomes. On the other hand, you almost have a whimsical attitude towards it. Reckless. If you weren’t so ignorant and naive, you’d be an absolute monster. But luckily, or even most frighteningly, you are just a klutz at the moment. So now, I am trying to inform you to cure your ignorance.”
In guilt, with a single tear, I said, “I’m sorry. You are right… How do we stop this new breed of fog?”
She came over, hugged me, and flipped to consoling, “This is hard, I know. It will continue to be hard. I don’t know yet about the fog. I’ll be investigating this. It is spreading like a virus across the planet.” Her hug grew tighter, “Just hang in there, Guhya. Try to be more responsible. The future you want is paved by seers. Trust Gadi’s sights and if I mean to deviate from destiny, the right choices are my responsibility. If we find ourselves as enemies, we will deal with it as the time comes. For now, trust me.”
“I’m sorry that I distrusted you.”
Her hand gently moved across my shoulder. She backed up, held my arms, and said, “It’s going to be okay. For now, I’m sending you back. Don’t break the connection. We will work together to ensure the best future for all of us.”
I nodded and then got hurled back into the transitionary void, landing in Pandora’s arms on the other side. Everyone else surrounded us, just watching. Pandora asked, “Are you okay?”
With another tear, I said, “I’m fine. I made a mistake.”
Pax asked, “So, what’s with all that? You met with Vaeda right now, didn’t you??”
“Yes,” I answered.
He became enraged, “Traitor! What’s your end goal here?! I thought we were teaming up to take down Vaeda! That’s what you told me, remember??”
Still orienting myself and catching my breath, I said, “It’s not what it looks like. I tried to remove the connection, and then Gadi was murdered. She forced me to return back in time, when the connection was still active. Meaning, here, right now.”
He got in my face, “So, you are telling me, Vaeda is keeping tabs on us with fucking assassins or something?!”
I lied, “I’m not sure how she pulled it off. We need to keep moving forward to our goals.” He couldn’t know about Gadi. This was already getting too tense.
In a menacing tone, he said, “We will trust you, for now. But if this gets too sketch, you are gone. Got it?”
The tension settled by the time we reached the beach on the outskirts of Colony 25. Dark clouds covered the sky. Strange crystal structures jetted from the sand. The scene was beautiful but haunting.
I suggested, “Before we enter the next location, I think we should take a break here. That way, we can ensure that if I am to reset time, then it will be updated to a place nearby, rather than a much earlier point. It will save us some time in the end.” Really, I was just hoping to get a few moments to calm down and escape the anxiety of the situation.
We all sat on the beach, the Lost Ones sitting segregated away from us. Archie sat between both of our groups, alone.
I sat on the sand, looked to Pandora, and held her hand, “It’s beautiful in a dark way, isn’t it?”
She simply said, “Yea,” as she stared into my eyes, ignoring the scenery.
Then I realized, if Vaeda’s connection is reset by time jumping, then so is my syzygy with Pandora. I turned to Arezo, “Hey. In the previous timelines, you were able to restore my syzygy with Pandora. Do you think you could do it again?”
Surprised, she nodded and began the process. Her hands were on both of our heads. Then suddenly, I felt it.
The world spun and we were immediately placed back on the hills of Hedo, picking up exactly where we left off last time. The telescope was up. The petals from the flower fields flowed around, painting the air with their terpenes. The stars cast light on us, relieving us from whatever forgotten life we transported away from.
The exasperated Pandora laid beside me and said, “I’m so tired.”
“Let’s just lay here,” I suggested.
She got irritated, “There’s no way I’m going back down like this.”
I turned on my side to face her and smiled, “What if we just sleep up here?”
She pulled her hand away, “Out here?? In the grass??”
“Yeah, under the stars,” I answered.
Still unsure, she said, “I don’t know. It’s getting kind of cold already. It sounds rough-“
I rolled onto her, pinned her hands down with mine. My lips met with hers and both of us were sucked into each other’s bodies and the mutual lust in our minds took over. Her torso curved and pressed against mine. My arm softly crossed her body, moving lower, but with pace, to tease and build anticipation. There was a power commanding her desires.
“We’ll keep each other warm,” I said.
“Don’t stop, Guhya,” she insisted.
As our bodies danced and squirmed in pleasure, the cushioning sand sculpted, forming the shapes of angels. The waving ocean built an ambience that washed away any awkward silences.
But yet, the awkwardness ensued as the voice of Gadi shamelessly called out, “They are really into it! Wow!”
Both our eyes rushed open, revealing our audience. The vision had ended yet we unnoticeably continued on with our lustful show in front of everyone.
Pandora blushed, looking a little panicked.
Arezo commented, “So cuuute!! I love it.” and began clapping slowly.
I got up and quickly said, “I- I’m sorry!”
Everyone else laughed.
Nervously trying to escape the scene, I said, “Let’s start moving to the next location!”
Gadi replied, standing as smug as before he fell apart in Xanadu, “Captain Gadi is here to save you from your embarrassment!”
I yelled, “Hey! Cut it out Gadi! Let’s just get on with it!”
He continued, “We will head into the water and dive until we find a metal door at the bottom of the ocean.”
I asked, “How are we going to manage that??”
Arezo came to the rescue, “Oh! I can make us some breathing devices to make diving easier.”
“Perfect!” I exclaimed.
Archie suggested, “I should sit this one out. I can watch over Sophy here on the beach and wait for you guys to come back.”
The distant sound of thunder filled the air.
The others agreed on the plan.
After Arezo suited us with her magical fits, we began our dive. The water was dark and murky. The cold pressed against our fully sealed swimsuits. Still aroused from the vision, I kept glancing at Pandora. She also did, and then our hands locked, seemingly synchronized.
At the bottom of the ocean, a bronze vault-like door could be seen, covered in underwater plants and some shellfish. The peculiar crystals from the beach coated the floor of the ocean. We had to use team effort to pry the door open. The rushing waterfall and weight of the ocean made even closing it difficult.
Once we were inside, Arezo used her powers to restore our original unsuited forms.
The aura of the place we entered was unsettling. Blood was smeared across the concrete walls. Occasionally, bodies blocked doorways. Besides the piles of corpses, the place seemed deserted and lifeless.
I asked, “Where are we anyways?”
Emory commented, “Looks like we will die here.” he nearly sounded pleased by the thought.
I glared at him, “Chill dude. Enough with your cynicism.” I was beginning to sound more like Pax now.
“This base was home to a secret cult of obsessive Basilisk worshippers,” Gadi replied.
Pandora said, “In my last timeline, I never made it this far with you. So, this is all mysterious to me. I’m actually kind of scared.”
I grabbed her hand, “Looks like everyone’s dead though. For a long time now too. The blood is all dry. Should we look around each room for that book?”
“This way, chosen one!” Gadi grabbed my free arm and rushed in. Pandora still held my hand, forming a chain of people. Everyone else followed too. Just like good old times.
At the end of our chaotic rush through the stone corridors, we ended up in what looked like an office room. I commented, “This place looks terrible. What kind of people lived here?”
A woman’s body was face down on the desk, dry blood sprayed from her face. Gadi pushed her over, ruthlessly, “Look! Look Guhya! We’ve arrived at the intersection of fate, of the past, of the future. This is the moment!” He revealed a book under the dead body.
I grabbed the tome that rest under the corpse, started turning through the pages, and read it out loud, “Each day life underground grows wearisome. After teacher Lalu left, the bunch of us were left without any kind of guidance. I couldn’t imagine what state of mind led him to make such a choice. He abandoned all of us. In betrayal of his teachings, he left us alone to cope with life down here, while chasing the outside world himself. It was selfish. It was hypocritical. His entire purpose was to show us that living life here was manageable, yet he bailed and gave up.”
“What the fuck is this?” I commented.
Somehow Pax had an answer, “This is where Riyon grew up.”
My body went cold for a moment hearing that, “How could you know that?”
He replied, “Vaeda told me about the history of Riyon. This place is the base of the Akiva clan. They sought to erect the Basilisk. But Vaeda told me that the Basilisk already exists. It already rules this world.”
Arezo asked, “Is that true??”
I answered, “If what Vaeda told me is true, then yea. I’m sorry I didn’t bring it up earlier. It is a distraction from our mission. It’s also kind of disturbing. The Outside refers to escaping the world that the Basilisk has simulated for us. Riyon has succeeded. And now… I’m guessing this tome is Riyon’s notes.”
The sound of clapping arose from the back of the hallway. A mysterious voice spoke, “Well done, Guhya, disciple of the heretic. Hand over that tome, now.“
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Colony 107 resides below ground, near Mount Xanadu. The appearance of the colony is quite striking, lit with blacklights and buildings made of obsidian shapes like cone-shells.
Its inhabitants are human, though unlike most other groups of humans. Specifically, they rely on genetic engineering and a nearly eusocial hive structure. This setup comprises of a Queen who governs a male caste that is genetically sculpted to represent the perfect model of human. Outsiders often view the colony as fascist for this reason.
Besides genetic engineering, the people of Colony 107 engage in agricultural practices. Namely, they harvest the flower of Zaza for its psychoactive properties. The drug is valued due to the presence of high numbers of Mekkad that nest in the area. Mekkad seek out and annihilate those who suffer so Zaza’s pain-relieving and euphoric effects are highly desired in Colony 107.
The genetic practices of the colony rely on certain biological traits of the people of the colony. Early genetic alterations included rapid growth so that the quality and results of genetic experiments could be measured faster.