The smaller presence rattled off a reply. “Impossible. We all agreed that there were enough of us and then we rewrote ourselves so that there wouldn’t be more. We’d all know it if they changed it back—if it’s even doable—which I doubt.”
Though there was no air to breathe, I heard the larger presence sigh, “Nevertheless, there was a child.”
“Impossible—” the smaller presence began.
“I know. That’s why I didn’t tell anyone then. I knew everyone would get anxious and then angry. I think we need to think before we act. It seems like it should be connected to the futures we’ve seen, but we haven’t seen any future where there are children.”
Something made a clacking noise and the smaller presence said, “There were the first futures anyone saw, the ones where we expanded too far and devolved into different creatures—”
Interrupting, the larger presence said, “Which we prevented by changing ourselves.”
“Except for the Cosmic Ghosts.” The smaller one spat it out quickly as if expecting to be interrupted again.
“They took their own path, but one that still keeps them stable.”
The smaller one replied to that, but I missed it. I’d begun to consider the larger problem of how to get out of here again. Meanwhile, their discussion only became louder. If I wanted to get away, taking advantage of their distraction seemed like a good idea.
Having made that decision, I was left in the same spot I’d been in before Big Thing and Small Thing showed up—not knowing where I was, how I’d gotten there, or how to contact anyone for help.
A gut feeling told me that if I tried to “talk,” I’d attract both of their attention and maybe even more Artificers that I wasn’t currently sensing. I ruled out talking for the moment.
Considering the place a little further, I remembered my speculation that it might be a different location in the same “plane” that the Cosmic Ghosts used to communicate. It seemed possible.
Related to that, I thought about the ansibles used in interstellar society. Much like this place, they enabled instantaneous communication. Knowing that Artificer technology threaded its way through Galactic tech, it wasn’t a huge leap to guess that there might be a way to do private messages. The best idea I could come up with was to think at someone rather than talk.
It wasn’t a deep insight, but it was better than nothing. It left me with a direction to go. With that decided, I only had to figure out who to call for help. It didn’t take long before I decided to think at Lee.
Trying to put myself into the same mental state I’d used while learning from the Cosmic Ghosts, I thought at Lee, “Help? I somehow managed to get myself into the Artificer version of the Information Superhighway and I can’t find an exit. I can’t find much of anything except for two guys that think I’m a child Artificer, one of whom happens to have been at that battlefield that we flew through on the way to K’Tepolu.”
Then I waited for a reply. When I didn’t get one, I started thinking, “SOS. Stuck in a place that isn’t in the actual universe I’m from. Hiding from two Destroy faction members. Send help!”
I stopped and waited, this time checking in on Big Thing and Small Thing again. They appeared to be talking about the Cosmic Ghosts.
“… The Ghosts are basically our kind—”
“No. The list of their deviations is too long to count—”
A quiet voice spoke in my head, “Nick.”
I knew that voice. I’d last heard it in the Ghosts’ version of this place, but before that it had been on the planet Hideaway. “Kee?”
“Yes. Lee got your message, but between the two of us, we decided that I’d be much more likely to handle your problem without having to fight anybody. Well, I decided that. Lee wanted to come, but you know him. Before meeting up with me he ran into a former friend of ours named Halas who brought in Bakanan—a member of the Destroy faction who we never liked. I think Lee might have touched off a supernova during a fight with them.”
She had a point. Even though Lee was a good teacher when it came to fighting, I’d trust Kee more when it came to something technical. Teaching me how to use Artificer resources qualified—though I did have one other thing on my mind.
“One of the guys out there thought I was a child from your species. I know I appear that way, but why?”