Fantastic Tales – Ch 25: “Mazes of the Mind”

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as narrated by White Clouds “Psi-Lord Alpha”

    I have never felt complete. Among my people that is said to be an aberration. To feel defective is to be defective. Even as one of the defective, it was something that I believed.

    “I don’t think that’s right.” Guan said. He was not speaking about me directly but I felt his words ripple through me.

    We were not close enough for me to know his thoughts directly. I didn’t dare touch his mind in that way. All I could see were the thoughts he spoke aloud and the ones he meant to share with us.

    “What other choice is there? If you don’t fix the generator, the shelters will be destroyed.” Princess said. I was even farther from her, but through Guan I heard the words she spoke as well.

    “The material creature seeks to trick us!” Bitter Chocolate said.

    “He is close enough, we could attack!” Flush of Victory said. There was a murmur of agreement behind that, but none of my people stepped forward to make the first move to do so. We were all terrified of the material creatures, especially the ones with minds as developed as Guan and Princess.

    Though we had been called to the material plane, as Psi-Lords we remained connected to each other. We had felt our more aggressive brethren’s assault on the creatures of this realm. We also knew of the deal they had struck with the humans who drew us here. The nets the humans had cast into the psychic realm had been broad. The humans wanted only the aggressive and destructive Psi-Lords, but they’d captured so many of us, both the aggressive and the cooperative. As one we had been enslaved by their machines.

    Not all of us had resisted the machines and the changes they wrought in us. The aggressive among us had welcomed the slavery. It directed them to do no more than they would have anyways and unleashed their power on a whole new world.

    Then there were the failures like me.

    I had always known I was different and, in the bonds of my slavery, I learned what that meant. Where my focused and ruthless brothers were able to capture and usurp control of the host bodies we were unleashed on, I was nearly killed in the attempt. I didn’t have the will to destroy, I lacked the strength to dominate as a Psi-Lord should.

    In failure, I was pulled back to the machine that had summoned us. I couldn’t fulfill my function so I was weaponized in another way. Thousands of us, failures all, were packed into tiny devices that barely held back the ravages of the physical plane. When the device failed, as we felt it do once already, we were left exposed and dying with only the nearest minds to try to take shelter in.

    “I know none of us want this.” Bitter Chocolate said. “But we know what happened to the last set of failures. They were all aggressives and even still they couldn’t survive. What possible hope do we have if we don’t strike now?”

    I wondered that myself but something in Guan’s words gave me pause. I couldn’t see a path for us to survive, but I was defective. I knew I couldn’t see a lot of things.

    “Hold for a moment and listen.” I said and began reaching out to the other Psi-Lords that were imprisoned with me. They could pull me to pieces that way or they could lend their voices to my own.

    “We have to fix the generators, but that doesn’t mean the Psi-Lords have to perish.” Guan said.

    “They cannot survive on this plane.” Princess said. She knew us. I reached out of our prison, extending the smallest of hands through the bars to touch her mind.

    She was a new being but the knowledge in her was old. I could still taste the Psi-Lord it had once been a part of. He had been one of the strongest, a fierce, greedy, terrible beast of an entity, and she had him torn apart and devoured him. There was a reason that the Psi-Lord’s never invaded Earth. It was because we were afraid the Earthlings would notice us if we did.

    “They can if they’re sheltered.” Guan said.

    “You said the device they are in will be deactivated if you fix the generator.” Princess said.

    “It will, but they can be sheltered in more than a mechanical device. They’re being sheltered in the Muta-morphs aren’t they?” Guan asked.

    “Yes. But these were too weak to take a host. If they lose the device, they will seek to overwhelm us. You won’t be able to finish the adjustments in that case.” Princess said.

    “Maybe not. Perhaps all they need is a willing host.” Guan said.

    “You can’t risk that.” Princess argued.

    “I have to. I can’t kill them, and I can’t let the shelters be destroyed.” Guan said.

    “What if you are overwhelmed?” Princess asked.

    “Then I will need you to do me a favor.” Guan said.

    “What?” Princess asked.

    “Stop the creature I become.” Guan said. I felt the decision finalize in his mind. He placed his tools down and disconnected the power to the device that sheltered us. Panic swept through the ranks of the Psi-Lords and at the same time Guan opened his mind and drew us in.

    There was hesitation on our part. None of us had memories of something like this happening. We had no idea what sort of terrifying traps the Earthling was laying for us. Balanced against that was the certainty of what the material plane was going to do to us. Like every living thing, fear of certain death overwhelmed the fear of the unknown and we came to a unanimous decision to take the shelter that was offered to us.

    “Quickly! Before he devours us!” Bitter Chocolate yelled. “We must destroy him!”

    In his fear, Bitter drew on the rest of us, seeking to pull us into a more powerful gestalt. Instinctively the rest of us fought back against him.

    “I am not going to devour you.” Guan said, appearing in our midst, a projection within his own mind.

    “Don’t believe him! We are power, wisdom and knowledge, we are everything the Earthlings crave!” Bitter yelled, madly scrambling at the bonds that joined us.

    “I think I know how to show you the truth.” Guan said.

    I hadn’t known that he had forged a bond with us. Unlike Bitter though, Guan didn’t pull us in. The mental bond he had with us took nothing and asked nothing. Instead it fed us. It gave us access to his power, it gave us access to him.

    Through his power I saw the Earth. I felt the solidity of the material world. It was transcendent. To be solid. Even when we sheltered within a mind, no Psi-Lord ever experienced the physical world so directly. The thought of moving something like a body became even more unbelievable to me in the process. What sort of godlike power did the material beings possess to be able to change something so unchanging?

    I shared what I was seeing with the other Psi-Lords and they shared their experience with me. Bitter had been trying to force us into a gestalt but he was the most overwhelmed of all of us. The sheer scale of what a material creature could do effortlessly was beyond our ability to fathom. We huddled together and gave our voices to one another not at the behest of a tyrant, but willingly, seeking comfort in unity.

    At the height of our collective strength we peered out across Guan’s mind and saw that the path lay open to us. The tearing fangs and rending talons of his defenses were held at bay. There was a safe path to walk to the center of his mind. We could strike forward and seize the core of it for ourselves.

    “Wait.” I said and a thousand voices echoed me. “Look around us.”

    We did. Guan’s mind was vast, unlike anything a Psi-Lord could ever be, and yet we saw familiar elements wherever we looked.

    New thoughts formed as he experienced us. It was like watching the birth of new Psi-Lords except each thought was ephemeral turning from active thought to memory and then back to thought to combine and merge with other thoughts that were born anew each moment.

    “It is chaos. Inside the material creatures…they are a storm of insanity!” we said, terrified and awed at the spectacle around us. We had been frightened by the Earthlings before but we hadn’t been frightened enough.

    “I’m sorry. I’ll try to focus.” Guan said. A wave rippled across his mind and the images before us settled into a single vision. A cave, deep under the Earth, lit by a single flame. Guan sat on one side of the flame. We sat on the other.

    “This is the most peaceful place I can imagine.” he said, with his eyes closed. He was focusing on this, actively trying to not probe too deeply. He couldn’t forget us but in quieting his mind he could shield us from its terrible power.

    “What do you want from us. Is this to be our new prison” we asked, knowing that if it was we wouldn’t be able to fight our way free. Our choice would be to accept the incarceration or destroy ourselves battling to escape.

    “No. I don’t want you in my head for any longer than you need to be there actually. This is just temporary until we can figure out how to return you to your home.” Guan said.

    “We can never return home.” we told him. “We are tainted by the physical realm. We would be a toxin to our home.”

    “Then we’ll have to figure out how to detoxify you.” he said.

    We held our voice and responded with silence. What he spoke of wasn’t possible, but then the Earthlings were not like us. We were defective so how could we know what they could do?

    “What I need to do now though is to finish fixing the generator. I won’t be able to keep this focus while I do so. Will you be ok with that?” Guan asked.

    “Yes. We will find somewhere to hide while you work.” we said.

    “Ok.” Guan said to us. Light and a kaleidoscope of images returned to his mind as he opened his eyes and spoke aloud to Princess. “It worked. They’re ok. I can finish the repair.”

    We saw the idea for the first step he would need to take appear in his mind. Something about it fascinated me. I watched as it bubbled upwards through his consciousness.

    It wasn’t complete.

    He didn’t know exactly what he was going to do. No, even more than that, he didn’t know what he could do. He didn’t know himself! Not entirely! He was defective like I was!

    I broke off from the gestalt. That someone so powerful could be incomplete threatened to tear me apart. I was a Psi-Lord. We are knowledge itself. We are defined by what we know. I had known all my life that to question what you were, to not know who you were, was the deepest of failures. Power only came from singularity of vision. That was central to what we were.

    Or so I had believed.

    Faced with Guan’s thoughts, that belief shattered. I knew that meant that I would shatter as well, but somehow my dissolution didn’t come. My shape, my definition, I looked at them and saw myself as I never had before. I wasn’t defined. I was wild and chaotic. I did not have the will to destroy or the power to conquer, but I was not a failure. I was different, and I could change. There was power in that which I could only barely begin to understand.

    I watched as the Guan’s idea rose, struggling through different forms looking to find the right shape to fit the problem that was before him.

    Psi-Lord’s are stronger in unity that we are apart. To join with another is to risk destruction though. If the other takes instead of giving, you can be consumed, so it is only with care or in extreme situations that we join together. No amount of care would be sufficient for what I conceived as I watched Guan’s idea. No situation would be dire enough to warrant what I intended to try. Guan’s thought burned with the raw fires of creation. I knew that to touch them meant extinction, but I had “known” many things that were not actually so. Instead of knowledge I turned to the future. There was a path that led forward, a future that I wanted to grab onto, a future severed from what had been.

    With that future held tightly to me, I reached out and touched Guan’s thought as it struggled to find the way forward.

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