The Pulse: Vicino Concordia
On the Golden Hill
The Bright Council on Vicino Concordia met whenever the occasion arose. This Council had 30 members, and required a quorum of 25. This wasn’t hard to get, however, since all of the Council members lived on the Golden Hill, which rose majestically at the end of a promontory that jutted into the most serene stretch of the Emerald Sea. The Council Chamber was on the top floor of the largest and highest building on the Hill, where the soft pink bands of the sky were the most coherent and intense. (Almost every species living on gravity-bound planets has one thing in common: those with power and prestige build their towers and mansions above everybody else. Perhaps this is a result of them having struggled all their lives to defeat gravity. Or perhaps they merely like the view.)
It was here, in the Golden Chamber on the peak of the Golden Hill, that the members of the Bright Council debated the Critical Reports coming from the 83 universities as well as the 127 higher research institutes of the capital. It was also here that they reconciled the edicts coming from the Dome with the decisions of the High Parliament, which represented the interests of the 8 trillion galaxies of the Purple Pulse.
On this particular evening the Council members were to hear a special report by a Magnet Dreamer by the name of Galdrimera. The nature of the report was unknown to them. Such secrecy was rare, and was usually reserved for sensitive communiqués regarding the ongoing infiltration of the Middle Belt by the Black Pulse. So far, the Fallarians had about 40 thousand known agents from the Green Buzz to the Crimson Stalk.
Over the last two hundred years the Fallarians had expanded their influence, yet they were still several centuries behind the Vicinese in terms of real power, that is, in terms of their ability to operate at extreme fractal depths. Fractal U studies concluded that the Vicinese were still three magnitudes of detection ahead of the Fallarians. This gap, however, had been slowly narrowing over the last 700 years.
Many Vicinese had become relaxed about this — as they had about everything in general. It was an effort to get the children worked up about an alien race that they were also told had its merits and its own cultural point of view. Live and Let Live, the new generation said, too young and too comfortable to see that this slogan only worked if the other side lived by that slogan too. The Fallarian slogan on the other hand was Live and Let Die.
The reason for the lax attitude on the part of the older generations was that it was helpful strategically to let Fallarians operate in the Middle Belt — and even so far as the Nordern Belt (which included the Pink Sea, The Blue Dream, and Panophilia). After much debate, the Bright Council decided that it made sense for Fallarian operatives to get as far as the outer galaxies of the Purple Pulse itself. This way, the Vicinese could get to know their enemy more intimately, and could get a better sense of its infiltration strategies.
In hindsight, the Bright Council realized that it was a mistake to have allowed their own agents to travel so freely throughout the Black Pulse. The Fallarians never had any borders or any restrictions about who could enter their territory. This openness had allowed them to get valuable information without so much as leaving the soodern hemisphere of the cosmos. It irked the council members to think they had been played so smoothly. They rarely talked about this error, however, preferring instead to focus on monitoring the Fallarians who ventured deeper into the Nord.
The Vicinese wanted to know the strategy behind the Fallarian manoeuvres. Was their goal merely to maraud, scraping beauty and order from the bright purple columns, or was there a method to their depredations? Did a co-ordinated plan of attack lie behind the smokescreen of their chaos? What the Bright Council really wanted to know was the nature of their game.
For hundreds of thousands of years it had been impossible to know what the Fallarians were scheming. They rarely went beyond the Black Border, and when they did, they maintained radio silence. All of this changed about 200 years ago in the wake of the Anarchist Revolts. Since then, Fallarians went wherever they pleased, and weren’t required to report back. Fallar Discordia sent out millions of agents every year, and sowed the cosmos with the dark seeds of their native genius. Yet they could never really be sure who was still an agent and who had become a double agent. Although it was puzzling to the Vicinese, even the most powerful Fallarians seemed to prefer it this way. Or did it only seem this way?
Galdrimera was a Magnet Dreamer, and as a result she was deeply respected by everyone on the Golden Hill. While most Goldenites spent their days in schools, conferences, and the famed clouds of yellow steam (which were a cross between a Swedish sauna and a floating brothel), Magnet Dreamers spent their lives in a quest to understand the Penumbra, that is, the edges of the shadows of the known worlds.
Magnet Dreamers spent their first 190 years learning the mechanics and applications of fractology. While these years didn’t allow them to develop the subtlety and depth of the Fractal Masters or the Fractal Mystics (who trained for more than a thousand years), it did give the Magnet Dreamers a thorough understanding of the principles and operational structures of what they called The Minimax — that is, the microcosmic contours of the smallest fractals, and the larger cosmic systems into which the microcosmic fractals were injected. After about 190 years of study, the novice Magnet Dreamer understood how and why certain fractals were beamed to certain quadrants, from the floating heights of the Great Dome to the murkiest trenches of Fallar Discordia.
The novices spent the next 500 years travelling and working in every corner of the thirteen universes, spending a minimum of 250 years sood of the Middle Belt. If it could be said that the Magnet Dreamers were a philosophical elite, then they were an elite that had seen every side of life in the cosmos. They had done and seen things that most Vicinese only read about in fantasy tales and horror stories. No one on the Golden Hill confused their fine clothing with fine living, their silence for ignorance, or their calm for passivity.
Galdrimera looked up at all 30 members of the Bright Council and told them that she had learned something so astonishing that they should plug in their ventricles, just in case they needed an emergency blast of yellow steam. The Goldenites never took the words of a Magnet Dreamer lightly. Immediately, they attached each of their seven ventricles to the tubes on the sides of their chairs.
Galdrimera reminded her audience that she was not an ordinary Magnet Dreamer. She was a Double Dreamer, by which she meant that she had spent 380 years investigating what she called the life of fractals, and that she had spent over a thousand years exploring the cosmos. She told them that her area of expertise lay in the extreme shadows, the very edges of what practical beings saw as the limits of existence itself.
Galdrimera didn’t tell them this to impress them. She was beyond the useless excitements of fame or congratulation. She told them this to prepare them for what she was about to say.
She then informed her illustrious audience that she had taken over a dozen outward journeys, which she called transmagnetic flights, into the smallest conceivable fractal fields. Contrary to all theoretical models, she then found herself in a field so vast that all of her previous notions of scale had to be radically revised.
In this Vast Field she saw four translucent figures that she called Seamers. These beings dipped from cosmos to cosmos, which were as numerous as grains of sand on the Great Beach of Prossacabana, which stretched east from Vicino Concordia for ten thousand miles. Each cosmic grain was as far apart from the next grain as a grain of sand on Vicino Prossimo was from a grain of sand on Fallar Prime. And yet to the Seamers, the grains looked as tightly packed as the sand on Prossacabana.
One of the Seamers, named Fra Sole, took a liking to Galdrimera. Fra Sole was a bit of a rebel, and couldn’t see why cosmic secrets had to be kept. He had even debated this matter with the Great God of all space and time. Their debate sounded like gibberish to anyone who tried to listen in, but Fra Sole assured Galdrimera that the great God heard his concerns with on open mind. Fra Sole had asked Him point blank, What was the point of being the Great God if no one knew for sure whether or not you existed? Fra Sole was expecting a response any time soon, which meant any time in the next 90 trillion years. In the meantime, Fra Sole was happy to show Galdrimera the type of work he and his fellow Seamers did on the Vast Field.
Galdrimera watched as Fra Sole funnelled into a glass stream of time. He fell into the realm, or the realm flew up into his mind, Galdrimera couldn’t be sure which. The best way she could describe it was that the grain throbbed and then blew up and then filled the space where his head seemed to be. Fra Sole then gazed, calculated, and extrapolated for minutes or millennia — it was impossible to tell — before tossing in ‘magic seeds’: galabangs, field weavers, spectrum filaments, DNA, distant beamers, straddleites, conformidons, etc. The ‘seeds’ contained galaxies, forces, energies, and other forms of existence and power that Galdrimera couldn’t understand. The seeds appeared tiny, no larger than a mote of dust. Sometimes it seemed that Fra Sole threw in nothing at all. But whatever things he dropped, or fields he waved into the cosmic grains of sand, these seeds were capable of sprouting universes and moving galactic walls.
Fra Sole had looked after what he called her cosmic egg for 28 billion years, that is, ever since the Black and Purple Pulse universes were thrown or diced into existence. Fra Sole described the process, judging that it was high time the inhabitants of the Double Yoke learned where they came from.
28 billion years ago, Fra Sole created a vacuum, with the help of beings he called Reapers. He then threw in a split seed, which exploded into trillions of galaxies on each side, which flew away from each other at trillions of miles per second. One group of galaxies — which eventually became the Purple Pulse — headed upward, toward the sky above the Vast Field, where the Great God of all time and space lived in his mansion overlooking the sands of time. The other group of galaxies — the Black Pulse — headed downward, toward the dark matter which lay at the bottom of the Vast Field, where time and space collapsed and the Void began.
This exercise in mass and velocity required all of Fra Sole’s dicing skill. Once the two galaxies were about to lose contact with each other, he threw in some other seeds. These seeds blew up into different universes, their explosive births pushing the Two Pulses even further apart. Yet once the blast force dissipated, the gravity of the new universes pulled the Two Pulses back from oblivion and into the shape of the cosmos we know today. Over the years Fra Sole threw in other seeds to keep the universe in a relative state of homeostasis.
Fra Sole seemed happy with his little experiment. Not that he smiled or anything. He was a being of cosmic energy, and could take whatever form he chose. Actually, there wasn’t even a question of gender. He was really an It. He had appeared to Galdrimera in a shape he thought she might understand. Nor was there a then-thousand kilometre beach of sand-grain universes. But how else to imagine a cosmos of such enormity? How else to imagine beings who could be everywhere, anywhere, or nowhere? How else to communicate with the curious ants?
The other three Seamers were also happy. They pulsed in synchrony when they saw Fra Sole bend his funnel out from the cosmic harmony he had established. Together they chanted the final verse of The Seamers’ Hymn: “As it is done in the Spinning Top, so it shall be done in the grains of sand.” Slowly, the sands on the ten-thousand kilometre beach were drawn into the vortices of the four Seamers. Four whirlwinds spun upward into one, till all Galdrimera could see was a point in the sky that disappeared.
She then found herself standing on a dark promontory. Beneath her feet was a navy-blue ocean with waves and islands of fire. Amid the black holes and crimson depths, she saw an island that stood rock solid amid the smoking tides. Through the heavy air she heard the opening verse of The Incantation of the Reapers: “As it is done in the Swirling Storm, so it will be done to the grains of sand.”
The masters of the Golden Hill, once the proud nobility in a world of serfs and lesser thanes, looked down at the diminutive figure at the centre of the Chamber, and gulped. The tubes on the sides of their chairs flooded their ventricles with yellow steam.
Next: Part Four: From the Battery