Holding the world in the palm of your hand as you stride the cosmos sweeping galaxies from your path can feel amazing. Gods are born in your wake and history changes with each step you take. It is a perspective neither mortals nor celestials are privy to, and yet Jin found is irksome.
“Things looking okay on the macro scale still?” Way asked. She still inhabited the persona of Oblivion’s Daughter but the “telepathic chat channel” she shared with her wife relied on nothing as quaint as the underlying mystical realities of the world she inhabited.
“The world’s still holding together,” Jin said, frowning as she drew in close, her form collapsing from one scaled to the size of a galactic filament to a far more personable scale where the world could fill her hand. “Reorienting its universal coordinates doesn’t seem to have changed anything though.”
“It’s still conjoined with its Earth?” Way asked.
“Yeah, I was careful to preserve that,” Jin said. “I kept the local super cluster intact too.”
“I don’t think this place has any constellation-based metaphysics but that was probably a good idea. Has Kari said anything about how Earth’s holding up? I know we’re running low on time there right?”
“We’re out of time, unfortunately,” Jin said. “There are more breakthroughs showing up.”
“How bad?” Way asked, concern tinging her voice.
Jin knew how easy it was to develop a connection to the people whose worlds you joined. She’d left more shards of herself behind than she could count because she wasn’t willing to vanish from the lives of friends she’d made. With worlds that were in the process of crumbling away though that could be problematic, especially when their existence was linked to other worlds that could be pulled down too.
“It’s limited still,” Jin said. “Kari’s working to channel the Remnants into similar breakthrough points so the Earthlings will have the best chance to get a handle on them.”
“Are they making any progress there?” Way asked.
“Not really. They don’t have the tools they need to start interrogating something this far outside their fundamental physics. The idea of people disappearing into thin air is already fracturing some of the core underlying physical laws they’re built on.”
“Think we have any chance to salvage their original reality?” Way asked.
“Eh, maybe?” Jin said. “I mean, we could force the issue if we really wanted to.”
“Not without claiming both of the worlds though, right?” Way said.
“I mean, we have done it before, and it would prevent a lot of drama,” Jin said.
“We have,” Way agreed.
Jin knew the agreement was merely giving her room to talk herself out it. Which of course where her mind went next.
“But then we’d coloring everything that happens in both worlds, and they’d become our stories, I know, I know.”
“And we’re not at that point yet anyways, are we?” Way said.
“Not yet,” Jin said. “Even if the Earth’s core reality needs to shift a bit, it’s still well within a range where it can stand on its own. I mean at this point it wouldn’t take more than a few tiny tweaks and it’d be fine.”
“We know it’ll get worse than that, but I have some good news to report!” Way said. “Tessa managed to finish the conversion on our local Remnant. It’s not fully instantiated in the High Beyond.”
“She did! That’s fantastic! What did she make it into?” Jin asked, being careful to set the world gently back into the firmament before doing a cosmic dance of joy.
“A new creature. It’s close to what it was but now it’s a ‘Hungry Shadow’. Just a beauty of a horror. Multi-bodied, decentralized intelligence, corruptive possession. It’s chased us out of the High Beyond and is going to be fighting with the Consortium’s forces for a bit.”
“Oh! I am so proud of her!” Jin said, shrinking down even further to get a better look at the High Beyond and the hijinks that were ensuing there.
“It’s an open question if she can do it again of course,” Way said.
“Well, sure, I mean that’s asking a lot of anyone,” Jin said. “I mean, anyone who’s not us. But she did it! That’s so cool! How’s she coming in her new class? Is it holding up?”
“Shockingly well,” Way said. “The world seems fine with the idea of a Void Speaker. It’s letting her do things and then calcifying them as abilities after the fact which is giving her a lot of leeway. Also there’s some cheats she’s gotten to use. She’s managed to get her hands on two of the left over bits of the creators. They’re temporary, and limited, but they’ve let her do a bit of reality rewriting without losing her connection to either world.”
“She’s still pretty weak though right?”
“Very. We’ve moved out of the High Beyond, so there’ll be people we can work with who can help fix that but it’s not a quick process, and I don’t want to rush it too much.”
“I get it. If we cheat for her, she’ll wind up without a real connection to who she’s become. Still, that’s fantastic news. With one Void Speaker in play, more should follow.”
“And even the people without that class should be able to help,” Way said. “The Adventurers seem to be able to develop a resistance to the partial-Remnants corrosions after even an indirect exposure. My team’s currently in the best state there, since we got a full blast to the face from the first Remnant up close, but none of other teams got possessed either when the Remnant grabbed a whole bunch of Consortium soldiers.”
“Meeting with the Disjoined was enough? That’s an encouraging sign too. We should watch to see how far they can push that. If the Adventurers in general could fight the Remnants as they begin to emerge into the world, they might be able to stabilize everything on your end of things.”
“I think the big holdup there is going to be the distraction the Consortium’s forces are causing,” Way said. “The initial invasion seems to have fallen apart due to a change of leadership and conflicting orders, but the troops are still there and the Consortium has got lots more they can send in. If the current leader gets booted for someone who knows what they’re doing, the war will shift back again real fast, and no one’s going to have the bandwidth to look into all the weird things that are happening on the edges of the world where the Remnants are nibbling at things trying to get in.”
“We could fix that couldn’t we?” Jin asked
“I mean technically we could erase the Consortium entirely,” Way said. “They’re already a part of this world though, so…”
“So removing them would be a bit blunt,” Jin said. “Fair enough. Can the Adventurers win it in the long term do you think?”
“For certain values of ‘win’, definitely,” Way said. “I’m guessing a complete eradication of the Consortium won’t be easy to achieve, but reducing them to a hostile faction, rather than a world-ending one, should be doable.”
“There just needs to be time to get that done, I take it?” Jin asked.
She felt Way’s surprise. When they spoke, far more than words were conveyed, and Way knew her well enough to understand the idea Jin had and the offer she was making.
“Are you sure you want to do that? It’s such a pain to coordinate when the worlds are out of synch like that,” Way asked.
“Yeah, I’ll give you a year spun into the space of day over on the Earth,” Jin said, reaching out to the world her wife was on once more.
“We don’t need that long!” Way shouted before Jin can whip the timestreams between the two world into whirling at vastly different rates. “Make it a month. If we don’t have the Consortium problem resolved in a month, you can spin things faster for a bit, but things should be very different here by then.”
“A month then,” Jin agreed. “And if you need me…”
“I always need you,” Way said.
“I love you too,” Jin said.
“See you in a month then!” Way said and went silent, though her light continued to gleam in golden radiance on Jin’s finger.
With a flick of her wrist, Jin sent the Fallen Kingdoms and the constellation of demi-planes and alternate universes tied to it racing into a future while the Earth they were joined to encompassed the passing of each of their days in less than a single hour.
Brendan was nodding off when the world on the other side of the monitor changed. It was like a burst of noise louder than being front row at a concert slammed into his head, but there were another feeling that accompanied it that was even worse.
“Melli!” The screen in front of him was showing only a blur of colors and he couldn’t hear anything from the speakers except a monotone buzz. “Melli, what happened? Are you still there?”
He knew she was.
A part of him could almost reach out and touch her, but even his instincts knew what the cost of that would be.
With a long breath, he put his hand down from reaching towards the screen.
Mellisandra was okay. If she’d died, he would have been swept up into Broken Horizons. So, she was, by definition, okay. He kept repeating that to himself. He even believed it. But his heart didn’t want to hear it.
She was missing. A day ago, or two, or whatever the official count was, he hadn’t even imagined she was real. She was an avatar. No more than a queen on a chessboard.
Hearing her speak though? Fighting with her? Being a part of her world, even if it was immeasurably far away?
He raised his hand again, gathering up his courage.
He wasn’t going to let her go. Even if it meant leaving his own life forever. Even if he was just a ghost standing beside her.
Except she didn’t want him to give up everything he had.
She wanted to come and see his world.
And if he left, he wouldn’t be able to keep coordinating things with the other players he knew. The best and most useful help he could be to her was right where he was.
The courage he’d been looking for sparked up in a different form than he’d intended.
He didn’t know what had happened. He could feel Mellisandra still, could sense a connection that went beyond graphics on a screen, and so he was going to believe in that. The bond that existed between them was real, even if he had no tangible proof and everything in the world said it wasn’t. It was real, and so was she, and she needed him to fight for her where her magics couldn’t reach.
Brendan turned to his laptop where he had roughly ten bajillion tabs open, and at least half as many Discord channels pinging for his attention.
It took three seconds to see that he wasn’t alone. Something had happened with the game. Players were still disappearing, but everyone reported the weird screen glitch at the same time and no one had disappeared at the moment when their connection to the game went strange. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a global disconnect and logging off still wasn’t safe.
But none of that mattered as much as what Brendan found next.
There were messages.
Hundreds of messages.
All from Mellisandra.
The chat log was a blur on the screen but the email queue was available in an offline app and it was bursting with unread notes. The timestamps on them were messed up, but that was fine.
She was out there, and that was all that mattered.