as narrated by Samia “Prismatic” Bassir
Even with our closest friends and family, we live apart from one another. We are separated by barriers of language and experience, by the dreams we pursue and by the memories we try to forget. Every once in a while though we can manage to reach out across those divides and connect with someone else.
It’s an awesome risk we take in daring to make that leap but the benefits are so often worth it. Except for the times when they’re not. Except for when what awaits us on the other side of a leap of faith is a wall that we shatter ourselves against.
“Will you be able to hold together as the gestalt grows?” I asked the Psi-Lord Alpha.
“We shall have to.” he replied.
“Let me know what I can do to help.” Guan said. The young hybrid was laying on a table where we’d established a psychic screen around him.
“You are making this possible. The rest is up to us.” Alpha said.
“We’ve got some more Muta-morphs if you’re ready for them.” the young hero Stormkick said. I could feel a dizzying maelstrom of emotions rippling through her. Fear, anger, delight, hope. Not the usual mix of mid-battle emotions I would have expected, especially not for a first time combatant.
I brushed against her mind gently and absorbed flashes of her thoughts. Thundercrash, her idol. Her father, the root of her anger and fear. She had a lot of growing left to do and she’d already been fractured by some of the connections she’d tried to make.
I smiled. The cracks in her psyche would have terrified me when I first developed my powers. From what I’d seen over the years though I knew she was a perfectly normal teenager. She had her issues, and they wouldn’t be easy ones to resolved but she was still strong enough to tackle them herself.
Her mentor, Covalent, was a different story. His mind was a delight to brush against. A tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders in the recent past and I could feel his strength surging as a result. Love and hope and joy shined so brightly from him I was almost surprised the people around me couldn’t see it.
“He is nice to be in the presence of.” Alpha said to me telepathically.
“My apologies, I didn’t mean for my thoughts to be that loud.” I told them, responding telepathically as well.
“They were not. Yours are one of the quietest ones here. We have simply grown more sensitive than we are used to.” Alpha said.
“Will that be a problem?” I asked. What we were attempting by adding more and more Psi-Lords to Alpha’s gestalt wasn’t something any of the Psi-Lords had experience with. In their society only those who sought to enslave and dominate others were the ones to create gestalt minds. Those gestalts were nothing like what Alpha had become though.
An aggressive gestalt relied on the central persona of the gestalt having the power to crush the resistance of those who were brought into it. This became easier the larger the gestalt grew but only briefly. While an aggressive gestalt was growing it was focused enough to devour all other Psi-Lords in its path. The moment that it paused however the residual personalities would begin rebelling against their enslavement.
For small gestalts, the central Psi-Lord could hold off the other, weakened members and retain the enhanced powers that derived from them. Eventually they would weaken and the gestalt would break. When that happened the central Psi-Lord would be left drained and weakened themselves. Perfect for assimilation by their fellows. The stronger the gestalt the faster that would occur.
What Alpha had done was wholly the opposite of the aggressive sort of gestalt. They had come together through mutual desire. The “Alpha” voice was melodious because it derived not from one central tyrant but from the combined will of the entities that made up Alpha.
Alpha’s gestalt could end as well but if it did it would be because the individual members of it had decided to fracture apart once more. They would probably be stronger for the experience as well, changed by the connection to their fellows.
“How are the aggressive Psi-Lords integrating with the gestalt?” I asked.
“Well enough, so far. We are showing them vistas they were not prepared for though so there is much fear and uncertainty which we must deal with.” Alpha said.
“Perhaps I should not be distracting you?” I offered.
“No, please, continue. In seeing your words reverberating through us, the new ones see the path forward more clearly.” Alpha said.
“I don’t understand? What’s special about what I’m saying?” I asked.
“That you are communicating with us at all. As an equal even.” Alpha replied.
“Are we not equals?” I asked.
“The new ones believed they were superior, greater than any other sapience we might ever encounter.”
“We see you as you are.” Alpha said.
“How is that?” I asked.
“Utterly terrifying.” he replied.
“I’m terrifying?” My gifts were powerful on a personal scale but were less than a candle flame compared to the bonfire of the psychic energy that Alpha was building up.
“You are all terrifying. We look at you and we see the power to move the universe. Each of you contains such incredible energy and you change it at a whim.” Alpha said. Over the telepathic link, he shared with me a vision of how the Psi-Lords saw us.
We had been creatures of nightmare to them. Our minds were broad enough to encompass an uncountable number of ideas where each Psi-Lord was defined by a single concept. To them we were closer to living landscapes than individuals.
Then, through Guan, they’d glimpsed what it meant to be solid. To have physical presence and weight. They’d seen the energy of the atoms inside us. They’d felt the chemical fires of life that burned voraciously in our bodies. Living nuclear bombs was the closest approximation I could make to how they saw us once they’d absorbed that.
I shook my head and exhaled sharply.
“I can see why there is fear.” I said.
“Indeed. Even in the gestalt, even with all of the new strength our fellows add to us, we do not feel entirely safe.” Alpha said.
“And yet you’re still willing to help us?” I asked.
“Yes. It is by overcoming our fear that we have reached our current state. We are not the failures we once thought we were. We are afraid, but we are stronger than our fear. We can be what we want to be.” Alpha said.
“You know why we are trusting you I presume?” I asked them.
“Yes. Guan. We are dependent on him. If he were to perish we would have to seek a new host, but we would be shattered in the process. We can only hold the gestalt while we are bound together within his mind.” Alpha said.
“And so, if came to that, we would destroy Guan.” I said.
“You are a terrible species of monsters, but also a surprisingly kind one.” Alpha observed.
“We can be monsters, the worst of monsters in fact, but why would you call us kind?” I asked.
“You can destroy us but you do not. You seek friendship even when there is danger. We…that concept is new to us. No Psi-Lord before us has ever thought as your people have since you were first touch by sapience.” Alpha said.
“Some of us think like that. And some of us wish we could think like that more.” I said.
“There too you exceed us. You believe you can change yourselves without being destroyed by it. This is a new concept to us as well. It is in fact the central lesson which we are teaching the newcomers.” Alpha said.
“How many are choosing to remain apart from the gestalt?” I asked.
“None so far. It is not the way we are. In the past we have sought to avoid being destroyed by others and to consume that which was offered to us. What we are now does not pull in the newcomers by force, instead we offer them our knowledge and strength. It is irresistible to ones who still follow the old path. They seek to take from us and instead join us to receive the knowledge and awareness that shows them what they can truly be.” Alpha said.
Our conversation was cut off by tremendous roaring only a few feet away from us.
My powers lashed out as fast as I could think of them and snared the alligator Hybrid that had teleported into our encampment and was lunging at Guan and Alpha.
My psychic powers aren’t potent enough to pierce the screens that protect the War Beast but the alligator Muta-Morph wasn’t protected quite as well as the indestructible city killing monster.
“We’re under attack!” I heard one of the soldiers around the encampment scream.
I bore down with my powers, seeking to completely freeze the alligator hybrid before he could advance any further.
“Destroyer, we wear the flesh now too! We shall rend you and destroy the abomination on the table!” the alligator hybrid growled as its movements slowed to a crawl.
“We need an antidote spray in here!” I called out. Guan and the rest of his family had been treated with the stabilizer that prevented the antidote from returning them to their animal form. Doctor Simone, their physician, didn’t believe it was necessary to stabilize them but also wasn’t even vaguely interested in taking chances that she was wrong about that.
I heard the soldiers scrambling to bring their weapons to bear at the same time as I felt the alligator slip from my mental grasp by teleporting away.
I wondered for a moment how it was able to do that. We had special shields in place that were supposed to prevent teleportation directly near Guan. Apparently they didn’t cover whatever form of teleportation the alligator hybrid used though.
I began to look around for where the Muta-morph would attack from next. Since he was a teleporter I should have guessed that it would be directly behind me. My first clue came in the form of powerful claws puncturing my shoulders and the feel of the alligator’s hot breath on my neck as his fangs descended on my head. All it would take would be an instant for the monster to tear me to pieces.
I am not the sort of person that you can allow even an instant to think though. The sense of pain in my shoulders and the danger to my head produced a reflexive response. Psychic knives as numerous as porcupine quills erupted from my body and I shifted to an intangible ghost form.
The alligator hybrid howled in agony as the psy-knives lit up every pain receptor in his body. For a moment the gestalt that was in control of the beast was too disoriented by the sensation to focus on anything. I could feel their reflexes kicking in though to shunt them away from the pain so that they could have time to recover.
That was not going to happen.
“No. You don’t get to run away from this.” I told the Psi-Lords in control of the hybrid before psychically tearing my way into their gestalt.
The central Psi-Lord screamed.
“You’re all mine!” I told him as I began ripping the lesser Psi-Lords out of the gestalt and feeding them to Alpha.
The central Psi-Lord tried to regain control of the alligator but against my immaterial form all it was able to do was inflict pain on itself as it hit the spikes I still wore.
“You didn’t think we were going to leave Guan and Alpha unguarded did you?” I asked as I got down to the last of the Psi-Lords in the gestalt. “Foolish creature, learn the error of your ways!”
The central Psi-Lord’s final scream was one of pure disbelief.
“We stand by our assertion. You are terrifying.” Alpha said telepathically.
“I believe we all are.” I replied as I struggled to bring my surging emotions back under control.
The soldiers arrived with the antidote spray arrived seconds later and took the unconscious alligator hybrid away for treatment. One of the soldiers remained behind though, talking on a secure headset before turning to us.
“We’re going to need to move you. The War Beast has broken through the defensive lines. We weren’t able to hold him in the South End and he’s coming right this way.” the soldier said.
“Let him come.” Alpha said. “We are ready.”
From Guan’s body an enormous golden light arose and coalesced into an ever shifting humanoid form that towered over the buildings around us.
Psi-Lord Omega was ready for battle.