Though I didn’t lose the feeling of my connection to Daniel, I couldn’t connect to him. In much the same way, I couldn’t contact my implant.
At the same time, I could feel presences in the darkness, and, as my senses adjusted, I could see stars. At least I assumed they were stars. If I were to stick to pure description without assigning meaning, I saw pinpricks of light in the darkness.
They seemed likely to be stars but it all depended on where I was. If this were some kind of afterlife, it might be souls, but I felt more certain by the moment that it wasn’t an afterlife.
The feeling of bigness reminded me of the in-between space where the Cosmic Ghosts had shown me how to control energy. I’d sensed the Cosmic Ghosts themselves there as well as Rachel, Lee, and Kee.
Finding Lee and Kee there made sense given that the Cosmic Ghosts were in some way related to the Artificers—which gave me an obvious candidate for where I was. If the Cosmic Ghosts had a place that was outside of reality where they communicated across interstellar space instantaneously, the Artificers might too.
In fact, it might even be another location in the same place.
That was great because if I was correct, it explained everything. It was not all that great because the most powerful faction of Artificers would destroy Earth and everything on it if it would help them destroy Lee. Also, they had a history of destroying younger races out of fear that those races would someday equal or surpass them.
If you thought that through, you might guess that their paranoia could bring about their own destruction by causing the younger races to join together.
It seemed that way to me, anyway, but they’d never asked my advice on the matter.
If I was correct, though, I was now in an excellent position to critique the flaws in their logic directly to their disembodied consciousnesses.
There were issues with that idea. First among them being the fact that they were capable of casually destroying planets or worse. The second issue was that I wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop them.
If I was now on some kind of Artificer-exclusive cosmic internet, I needed to leave before they realized that I was here in the first place. Concentrating, I tried to connect to that part of me that pulled in energy and turn it off. In theory, that could pop me back into our universe.
Like all too many good theoretical ideas, it didn’t change anything. Maybe connecting my consciousness to this place cost energy, but to leave I had to do something else?
I tried imagining that I was back in the room I’d left and reached outward with my mind to “pull” myself there.
That worked as well as it would have before Cosmic Ghosts taught me how to feel my extradimensional muscles—which is to say not at all. I floated in a sea of darkness, wracking my brain for a hint of what to try next.
Remembering what it felt like to transition from reality into this space, I tried to recreate the feeling of making the change. If I could reproduce that while trying to transfer over, maybe I could reverse engineer it.
It didn’t work, but as I tried, I felt a presence. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was, but it was moving closer. It asked, “Who’s there? What are you doing here? Identify yourself.”
Knowing that there were two factions of the Artificers and that the Live faction was small and hidden, but wouldn’t hurt me, while the Destroy faction had seized control of their society, and had a more ominous name, I didn’t reply.
“I felt you before,” it said. “Hiding doesn’t get you anything. I will find you.”
I didn’t know for sure, but going by that, my gut instinct said it was a member of Destroy, the group that left technology scattered around the universe in the hopes that it would destroy the species that found it.
Even though the birthing chambers only came indirectly from the Artificers, it certainly put the True in perspective.
Another presence came closer. This one felt smaller than the first, but as with people, I couldn’t assume that meant it was less powerful.
“What’s going on?” It stopped moving, but I could feel that it was doing something. Sending out feelers? Using a kind of radar?
“There’s something here,” said the first, larger presence. “I’ve felt it before. It passed the battlefield. The one where Lee used the Galaxy Core weapon. I told you about it.”
“You said you sensed Lee.” The smaller presence said in a harsh whisper.
“I sensed Lee and something else. I thought it might be a child.”
The smaller presence stopped moving. “That’s ridiculous. We’ve lost the ability to reproduce.”
“It appears that the Live faction hasn’t.”