Isolation: Part 10

Having recognized that, it became a different problem. What kind of exercise did it resemble? The exercises fell into different categories, but they all revolved around manipulating energy that I gathered and then using it for offense, defense, communication, and travel.

So far, I wasn’t doing any of them effectively. I was working on the building blocks that would eventually allow me to do something with them when I had enough energy to play with—which wouldn’t be any time soon.

The most practical thing I’d been able to do with them so far was making things based on Abominator technology stop working. I’d also learned how to use it for communication, but only with Artificers and their near relatives, the Cosmic Ghosts. 

With that, I’d also accidentally put myself in a situation in which I almost got caught by members of the Destroy faction of Artificers. 

Had they found me, they’d almost certainly have killed me, destroyed Earth, and followed it up by destroying all of humanity and maybe our galaxy just to be sure.

All of which meant that Kee and Lee both had regularly told me to do the exercises and not to experiment with them.

Experimentation literally had the potential to end the world.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an exercise and if I’d learned anything from training with Lee, I’d learned that improvising was better than doing nothing—except when it killed you.

Sometimes though, you had no choice. 

Going on my gut feeling that it felt closest to how I felt while using the Artificer Superhighway, my nickname for the network of pocket dimensions the Artificers used to communicate, I let myself connect with the stream.

It worked.

My awareness of League HQ and the people around me faded into to the background. Trails of energy filled the foreground of my awareness, the trails leading downward toward something that felt big.

Random bursts of energy ran down the lines, making one bigger for another until the energy disappeared into the roiling mass of energy below.

Was it somehow the Earth? That seemed unlikely when I had another candidate. The trails of fire reminded me of the “galaxy core device” that I’d seen pictured in the book we’d found, a device that Lee had brought to Earth.

Magnus was interested in it, which almost certainly wasn’t a good thing. It would be irrelevant if it weren’t for the hints we’d encountered that Magnus might also have a bit of Artificer in his background.

That made it bad news because I felt another presence down there. In a better world, that presence would be Lee, the person who’d stolen the device from the Destroy faction and brought it here.

I doubted that Lee would be trying to contact the machine right now and in person—which left everyone else in the world except one person.

Regardless, I stood in nothingness, staring at a spot where the nothingness seemed to be a little thicker than everywhere else. In fact, I could see a little bit of a glow there and a brief flicker before the glow disappeared.

Feeling came easier than seeing in that place. I felt power gather and then rush out of the glow. I couldn’t say where I fell on the spectrum, but that being could do everything that I was trying to learn. If I had to guess, it could pull in more power than I could.

Not sure whether or not I should intervene or even how I could, I tried to pull in power, but slowly, not all at once. As I did, I continued to watch the other being to see if it noticed, preparing to fade out of this place.

It didn’t. The focus of its energies appeared to be the nearest strand. As I pulled in energy, the world around me appeared to gain detail, the strands becoming brighter with more of a glow than I’d noticed.

Similarly, the being took on more detail. It had shimmery, scaled skin and little mouths near the spots on the outside where I’d seen it glow.

Several of the mouths were trying to suck at the glowing strand, maybe even trying to bite into it. On a gut level, that didn’t seem to be a good thing. If it were the device Lee talked about, it had helped him kill members of his own kind permanently which was no small thing.

If that thing were Magnus, I didn’t want him to either siphon power from it or take control.

I had to do something if that were the case and I couldn’t think of what else it could be. The Artificers I’d sensed when I’d been unlucky enough to stumble into the wrong pocket dimension had been much larger than this thing.

I concentrated on floating toward it, but also on being quiet as I did it—if that meant anything here. The energy strands hissed without a break, but there weren’t any other noises.

I floated as close as I dared stopping behind another strand and steeling myself for the next dumb thing I was about to try. I pulled in more energy, as much as I could, feeling it dance and burn inside me. I had a gut feeling it could damage me if I kept it inside too long.

This was fine because I intended to release it anyway. I aimed it in the direction of Maybe Magnus and let it out in a spray more akin to a garden hose than a laser. I’d done what I could to direct it, holding a metaphorical thumb over the end of the hose, but even though most of the energy hit its target, I lost some to random spray that hit everywhere around the target.

That’s not to say that the device was in any danger. Those strands were meant to stand up to multi-dimensional titans of power. My garden hose did nothing to that.

The Maybe Magnus blob? It didn’t disintegrate, but it didn’t have a good time either. It screamed. When my blast didn’t stop, it moved, scrambling to get to the other side of the strand it had been investigating. 

As it did, I understood why it was screaming. My attack had left rents in the shimmery skin. Some of the little mouths had lost teeth and lips along with them.

Already shielded by the nearest strand to me, I decided to disappear before the counterattack, pushing myself out of this space and back toward reality.

3 thoughts on “Isolation: Part 10”

  1. Perfect cliff-hanger. Will Nick get away? Will something follow him back to “the real world”? Only time and Jim will tell.

  2. Hey folks… I have to do a not-very-fun-thing tomorrow—get a colonoscopy. That means that I have to have a “clean” colon tomorrow with the side effect that I may be too distracted to finish the next update tonight.

    I will certainly finish tomorrow though as by then everything I have to take tonight should be out of my system.

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