Like many care-givers, Roz turned out to be a terrible patient. Not only did she seem to have a natural resistance to the gharolan, but her parasite seemed to have gotten the word that extinction was on the menu, and by the time the whine of the Impossible Blade droned in their ears, a greenish fluid was invading Roz’ veins.
Takir produced his outpicturings of Roz’ body systems. All was not well. As the impossible light generated by the quantum singularity in the Blade burned, it began replacing Roz’ iron-based platelets with a copper-based system. It was going to try and accelerate the process of its birth.
The Tech, sure-handed and understated, began cutting away at Roz. Her Nagaina Parasite had avoided her brain – probably that softly burning clear light in her brain in the nervous system view (that coincidentally looked quite a bit like an Erulian) that must be the Godspeck had kept it away.
Takir manipulated the many systems, balancing things, trying to put things back together as the Tech took them apart. The Parasite had invaded her body tissues instead of her nervous system. It was everywhere. The Impossible Blade danced through her body like ruin, taking inspiration from Roz’ own symphony of unmaking inside of Takir.
Hasver’s blue light burned away his strength. The light that burns through stone, that burns through failure, that burns away lies and shadow, that reveals flaws, dooms, and sometimes even the truth, sang through Roz’ flesh, guiding the Tech’s terrible surgeries (sometimes it is necessary to cut away the illness to save the host). Without it, she would have failed sooner. Her infection was different (all infections, all falls are unique – that is the problem with the Truth).
The Parasite had achieved a limited separate consciousness. It was trying to finish what it began. Even as it was cut away, it unleashed mutagens into Roz’ flesh. It was frantic, like any thing must be when it is being cut out of the world. Hasver brightened the light, and his voice was terrible as he commanded it to RELEASE. RELEASE HER! RELEASE!
Roz spasmed. Again and again. The tech cut with fluid precision. Takir raced to keep her body going, but was falling behind bit by bit, like a sprinter faced with a marathon. Even with the doubling and redoubling of his powers, there was only so much the body could withstand before it….
The Erulian Tech said the most awful of things, stopping suddenly, the light of the Blade going out. “Oh, no.”
The parasite had died. And in its death, injected its own systemic fluids directly into Roz’ spinal cord, into her brain. Hasver watched the predictable apotheosis of his fears. The light in his staff was going out.
There may have been conversation, but all Takir remembered later was scooping one of her arms over his shoulder, and Hasver taking the other, looking more ghastly and pale than the man ever had.
With the accustomed WHAP they appeared in the room with the creche, which seemed to be just as they had left it; glowing a cheerful leprechaun green. Into the gloop she went, and it accepted her with a slow cappilary welcome. The lid shut, there was a pause. A trembling, a breadth of silence.
Shadows moved behind the circuit boards in the walls. The sounds of the machine changed. Became labored. A quick search revealed all was well, only that it was running on an internal (emergency) power cell, instead of the broadcast power it had been running on previously.
The ripple came, running through everything. Roz hit the edges of the creche so hard the outer synth walls cracked. The thrashing began. Then there was the massive explosion that echoed in the Pit like thunder.
Hasver applied the staff to the battery, and the green glow burned tourmaline, then azure. Images of Roz’ torture projected on the ceiling like a child’s flip-drawing. The circulation of the regenerative fluid became unlabored.
Hasver blinked at the staff, looked paler than he ever had before. He regarded Takir as he deresolved. Evidently, he had been a hard-light projection the whole time. And the power had been cut off.
Takir was alone. Shambo had remained behind with the Tech.
Takir made his way through the devastation of the Erulian’s home. Shambo was in the wrecked remains of the Respite. Multiphase high-order blocks from the Tech’s refuge lay glowing in ordinary space on the floor. Shambo was smiling in the flickering light of some jerry-rigged gas burners. The Tech had been swept away by the explosion.
There were holes throughout the complex wherever there was no Erulian private space, as though a shotgun full of singularities had been fired out from the Mainframe – which was just an egg void now, powdered with black obsidian-like refuse.
Takir thought it, and the dust came to life, making a darkly glittering bridge toward the violet forcefield covering the sheared entrance to the Chapel.
inside he found the Devotee and Hasver arguing … with Hasver.
Out of the dimensions of the Naves came one, two, then three Hasvers, all arguing over doubt, self-indulgence, self-deception, the Truth, the End, failure. The Devotee’s voice urged him again and again to make a Choice.
Finally, he did. The one full of doubt and grim determination grabbed the staff where it hung before the devotee. It’s radiant flash smote the other Hasvers, and more Hasvers yet approaching from a great distance back into whatever darkness they emerged from.
The Devotee confirmed Hasver’s belief that the Master had been complicit in the Network’s corruption and the Gaian’s seizing of the Network weapons. She had seen this even as Hasver had when Hasver’s power was too much for the Master, or perhaps betrayed him when he most needed it.
The Network had been successfully damaged in the process – thanks to the work done earlier by hardlight Hasver and the Devotee. Its corruption would now take longer to spread. It was also likely that the network damage could be followed toward the Gaian Artificer.
The Devotee offered with some amusement to transport them to the surface once Roz recovered.
They spent some time talking and observing the devastation. They made their way back through the Transmat. (The Devotee had offered to repurpose it to move them toward the Artificer, but….)
The creche popped open, and Roz rose from the paltry remnants of the gloop – now a dead grey, transmogrified.
She turned her green face, opening her long jaw as the tentacles that had replaced her hair squirmed. Towering over them at over 2m in height, she asked in an oddly girlish voice, “How many mouths do mothers have?”