Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity

This is what will become A Lady's Prerogative III.

This is a work of fiction intended for adults. Reader discretion is advised.

I'd suggest that you listen to Olivia Newton John's Magic first.

Though first of all, this is the third book in a series of books I've been working on for a long time. As Obi Wan, might say "a very long time".



Read A Lady's Prerogative I: The Yearning And The Learning (short read)



THEN



Read A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth (epic length book well worth it)



THEN read this...


Its always a struggle choosing between the two, A Lady's Prerogative or The Butterfly Dragon but my solace as a writer who eternally loves both comes from the fact that one leads into the other. It's inevitable. Where one ends another begins.

So it is for this story...

So I've made a choice though keep in mind that whether or not it meets your fancy that it leads to another inevitable beginning much like the one you wanted in the first place.

Support Charity

As it is with all of my stories and works of fiction here, I ask that you as a reader consider making a donation to any of the charities I've listed on the About page.

To recap they are:

Sick Kids Foundation
Help research that provides cures and support treatment for sick children.

The Cancer Research Institute
The Princess Margaret Foundation
Cancer Research organizations that combine the expertise of many different research firms and Universities to find innovative treatments and cures for Cancer.

United Nations Fund
United Way Worldwide

Two organizations whose contribution of expertise, human and financial resources and volunteer efforts provide humanitarian solutions to real world problems the entire world over. These charities operate world wide.


World Veterans Federation
The World Veterans Federation is a humanitarian organisation, a charity and a peace activist movement. The WVF maintains its consultative status with the United Nations since 1951 and was conferred the title of “Peace Messenger” in 1987.

I'd like to point out that it was the incredible Gary Sinese Foundation that brought the issue of Veteran's rights to my attention. I've always had little respect for those who'd forget the great contribution made by those who've risked life and limb to defend those values that so many of us espouse. Perhaps the true measure of one's principles are by that for which they'd risk their life.

"None can speak more eloquently for peace than those who have fought in war."

Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize 1950



The Reeve Foundation
The Reeve Foundation provides programs for research, uniting Scientists and Specialists from many different fields to find treatments for spinal cord injury translating them into therapies and support programs.

The Heart And Stroke Foundation
For over 60 years, Heart & Stroke has been dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our work has saved thousands of lives and improved the lives of millions of others.

The ALS Society Of BC
ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. The ALS society provides a variety of programs to combat this disease and help those with it to survive.

Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those affected by neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research.

Humane Society International
The Humane Society protects the health, lives and rights of animals the world over, ensuring that they too have a voice in this world. We are interdependent upon the complex web of life this entire planet over for our mutual survival. This is a world wide charity.

The Global Foodbanking Network
Ensuring that people the world over have enough food day to day in order to survive and lead healthy lives. This is a world wide charity.

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Because Barris told me to put it here. If I didn't, he said he'd walk. Geez. Stardom really gets to some people's heads. Maybe I could kill him and bury his heart beneath the floor boards! Or I could encase him in behind a brick and mortar wall, for shaming my family name of Amantillado! In all truth, there's a good chance that thanks to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Wollenstein Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Pierre Burton (for The Secret World Of Og and his ground breaking interview of Bruce Lee) that all of us are literate. Literacy is important. Really it is. Literally. It allows us to approach our employer at the end of the week (with a big club) and ask: where my money?! Math important too.

Wikipedia
The model for what may become the Encyclopedia Galactica, a complete reference and record of history, events and knowledge of humanity and its journey beyond. It is the encyclopedia of all that we know, what we surmise that we've known and will learn in the future. Yes, Wikipedia is a charitable organization of great importance. If you enjoy what I am doing here then please take the time to donate to Wikipedia. Surprisingly only 1% of Wikipedia's users donate yet the site serves pages to millions every day.

Humble Bundle
A video gaming storefront benefiting a vast variety of different Charities in the United States and United Kingdom (hopefully soon to be expanded to include other areas of the world?). By software their software bundles and choose which Charity your money benefits and how much of your money benefits that Charity

Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease currently affecting an estimated 2.3 million world wide. By donating you are contributing to effective research in finding a cure and tipping the scales of MS research to change lives forever.

Let TVO, CBC and BBC Television know how wonderful Benny Hill, Doctor Who and Dave Allen are/were. They were all ground breaking shows for their time with those stations introducing us to the world beyond Canada (and Britain) alone. Keep in mind that TVO is a publicly supported television station. Please show your support.

Let the Canadian Government (via the CRTC) know how wonderful the CBC and TVO are. The CBC have been broadcasting Canadian content since 1958 from Toronto and Montreal. They've expanded since then bringing us and the world some of the most innovative series and educational content. Recently the broadcast archives of both TVO and BBC were rescued from destruction including film footage from Expo '67. These records are an integral part of Canadian (and world) history and should be protected much like both CBC and TVO. While TVO is dependent upon public support, the CBC is funded through its own advertising revenue and Government funding.

"We spend our lives on the run. We get up by the clock, eat and sleep by the clock, go to work by the clock, get up again, go to work – and then we retire. And what do they fucking give us? A clock."

Dave Allen

None of the aforementioned organizations share any of the points of view expressed by or within this website. They are listed here for convenience and to raise awareness for their individual causes.

They are by no means responsible for what I say or do here or anywhere nor are they indebted to me for my efforts here. If anything, I'm indebted to them for the inspiration they've provided me from early childhood to my current age of fifty one years.

Let my school buddies Scott Maple, James Ross and Brian Tosh know how awesome they are. You've got to find them first though. You can use my facebook account as a starting block.

The most important aspect of all is one of world culture, peace and unity. That for which the Sanctum stands much like the United Nations for which it is a mystical protégé. We're not always going to see eye to eye on many issues but we can get along without the conflict of violence while respecting the living rights of every being on the planet and beyond.


About What I Write


Once again, what I write may be controversial and challenge your thoughts on many matters or at least cause you to question them though remember that the nature of belief is not necessarily one of proof or evidence. In fact, it is often contrary to such and despite lack of proof or evidence. You don't need to justify what you believe to anyone, though don't let others misrepresent or replace what you believe nor let anyone replace your identity with that of another different from your own. You (and I) have a right to be and as much a right to be yourself as I have the right to be myself.

If I am a writer today, that doesn't mean that I somehow lose what I did yesterday (programming) or the days before (activism and "information sharing"). I never pretend to be something that I'm not and I can be whatever I want because by doing it, I am it. By trying different things from day to day doesn't mean that you'll lose what you didn't use from the day prior. That's nonsense and I don't believe that one bit. Nor does it mean that when I am one thing today, that I lose what I did yesterday to someone else's credit. Nope. That's not the way things work. I do what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. If I get up to cook for myself, that doesn't mean that I lose my having been a writer and suddenly become only a cook. I'm a writer that can (somewhat) cook, play piano and keyboards (though I'm not Italian and I'm only saying in order to distinguish myself from another particularly talented person I know), write software and 2D/3D graphics. By doing any one of those things it doesn't mean that I suddenly lose the others. I believe that we're all like that.

I'm human. As a human being I'm inherently flawed with perhaps some of my best qualities. I long. I lust. I leap without looking. I speak without thinking. I follow whims and temptations too for which none am I embarrassed. I enjoy those aspects of my being but I hold a regard for privacy when it comes to sexuality and that's quite often why there has been little of that aspect within my writing. That doesn't mean that there aren't times that I wouldn't like to try my hand at writing erotic fiction. It just means that in this venue I see the private lives of my characters as being precious and between those involved. Much like I regard the romantic or sexual instances of my own past and present. They mostly involve two people though in being single that does not mean that cease my life in that aspect, though it isn't quite so nearly as fun alone. Despite my imagination I sometimes look to erotic material myself of varying and sometimes adventurous content. As I've said, I'm human.

In this latest incarnation of A Lady's Prerogative I'm going to step over the line in some instances because in this instance it has grown to become a part of the story. I'll keep what I feel belongs to the characters hidden because its not always about what you see. Sexuality is at least half about fantasy. In other words what you anticipate or imagine. I'm going to center that a bit better than it has been in my prior writing, so be prepared and forewarned.

So. Without further ado, let's begin.

Prologue


Benny Hill marches out onto the stage, a short bald man leading a troop of others behind him with a flag.

One of the followers slaps the top of the bald man's head several times as the audience laughs.


The short bald man presents the flag proudly which reads:

THE END
Her dream is the same every night since Barris died two years ago.

Mila awoke in a sweat of tears much the same as she had the prior night. And the night before. And so on. Tears were water that never dried of their source once found. They were like the infinite night sky. Never lacking pain of loss yet drying before they could be fully healed of as much.

Her brush scratched dryly against the same canvas that she'd pleaded with for the last week. She'd tried oil. Water. Egg. Emulsified bread. Everything she could to annunciate it with her need to create but the truth was the it had abandoned her with her eternal love.

"Ha! I'm still here!" Barris suddenly announced and then he was simply gone.

Mila fell back to a memory of years earlier, waiting for him to arrive with their nightly snack. The one they'd consume heartily after love making. Barris was a creative fellow. One night he'd arrive with ice cream. The next night with a piece of Black Forest cake as if to remind her of their adventure in La Pieds De La Noire. The foot of the Dark Forest in its vernacular. Dark it was. She could see his face as he mounted her, his lips finding hers, his tongue etching soft outlines of her mouth before intruding fully into her dental space. She loved it oh so much. To speak in a language they both couldn't see or hear. They could only feel one another's presence, with their tongues as ambassadors.

Her tongue would initially retreat playfully. His tongue would peruse her smile forth in search of her. She'd retreat some more perhaps fearful of submission to his tongue's curiosity. His would examine her lips sensually. She'd feel it through her body climbing her sacrum like a hidden spasm that held her tightly as he grew courage.

She's retreat once more and he'd slowly and delicately pounce upon her. Mouth, abdomen and all. She'd groan upon his entry and he'd slowly and poetically increase his rhythm, watching her for the signs of pleasure. His greatest pleasure was seeing hers in full display though he never coaxed her to fake it. After all, his pleasure was in her's sincerely.

Mila as one of the Wytch kind could sense this of Barris. She could sense every aspect of his being leading up to his explosion within her though it was impossible to tell whose arrived first. The truth in this tale was that since his passing, she'd wake up in sweat and ultimately alone in the final throws of passion. Alone.

"Barris?" she'd ask aloud but nobody would answer.

Then in a blur of lost time her brush was pressed against the dry canvas. White. Empty. Loneliness. Nothing except dry brush strokes.

"Barris?" she'd plead.

Her dried paint stared back at her, lifelessly. Dry as dead.

"Mila?" a voice dissimilar to her own would ask.

"She's here. I'm here. I don't know if I'm here, because he's not." and Mila would cry.

"Dammit girl. Wake up. The Sanctum needs you. We need you." Nelony asked, her new form a glistening example of nature's propensity for strength and beauty.

"Ohhh? Its Nelony? Have you spoke with that bird again? You remember? The one from La Pieds De La Noire? I've heard it singing..." Mila queried Nelony.

"Up tall! Not small! come on girl! Get with it!" Nelony demanded nearly ensconced within her ears.

"Nobody here except us ears!" Mila responded clinging tight to her brush.

"She's gone!" Shaela urged Nelony.

"Dammit! She's one of us! From the battle of the Haven and West View! She saved us both!" Nelony shot back at Shaela.

Damn you Nel! I'd never abandon either of you but be real! She's done! Its been a two years since. He's not coming back dammit! We need her but she's not even here! She's just a husk!" Shaela tried to convince Nelony of the futility of hope in this situation.

Moreso a stark realization. What a hope became long after its deadline had come and gone without fruit.

"Look! Just because you lost your love in the past doesn't mean that she has to as well! She's our goddam friend! She's a graduate of the weave like us! Our best! She invented what few of us could only dream! Don't you dare!" Nelony stood her ground against Shaela's superior height.

"Damn girl! Dontcha see! She's gone! She died with Barris! Let it go! Let her go. She's gone. Gone for good!" Shaela demanded hesitantly unable to fully admit defeat.

Nelony suddenly floated above the studio floor her hands glowing like fire. Shaela admired Nelony for what she'd become. Nelony was everything that the Order Of The Aerth Mother could ever hope for. Confidence. Strength. Perseverance. She'd found that fire within her soul and with it she'd risen to new heights as one of the Wytch kind.

Nelony had become everything for which her ancestor before her had hoped. A symbol of all that was natural and of the Aerth Mother. She wielded the full potential of the source and its full potential as the soil of life's beginnings. Vines crept up her thighs and arms reaching out to Shaela threateningly.

Shaela too had matured far beyond what had been expected of her by Matron Thara. Shaela's loss opf love in the sixteen fifties had driven her to surpass the level of excellence expected by the Order of the Night Wytch and she'd become a full Wytch of the Shadows. A deadly instrument of the night.

"So you want a go do you Nelony? Do you think that nature gives you an advantage?" Shaela stood her ground against the immense potential she faced in Nelony.

"Shaela, we cannot leave our friend! She's been with us since the beginning! I will not let you discard her this way!" Nelony exclaimed as shoots, roots and vines emerged through Mila's walls clasping at Shaela.

"Friend! Don't make me make this decision! My Shadow cat is all too hungry for the vengeance it can wreak for the death of its Mother three hundred and fifty years ago!" Shaela threatened, teleporting them both out into the orchard beyond Mila's Manor.

Another second later a dark and swirling portal or shadowy energy opened and two enormous eyes peered out from within, perhaps pondering whether or not to emerge.

"No matter, nature will overcome!" Nelony stood her ground.

They stood against one another until Yirfir suddenly emerged between them in a flash of light.

"Silence and cease at once! Do you think that she ultimately deserves this treatment in the absence of her soul mate?" Yirfir broke their spell field as the tension in the air peaked.

"Yirfir! Stand down! She knows the law! She drew weave, war lest she leave!" Shaela cited the law of conflict to Yirfir for whom it was already very familiar.

"No one shall leave! Especially not for that ancient and defunct law of an era passed. I want the two of you to cease! You are senior members of your Order as is Mila! None shall find conflict here today or ever! Shaela, ease down I urge! I know your levels of rage. Forget not that it was our will to save you from the wrath of West View. You are the most powerful of the Night Wytch. Set an example with that power. Be responsible with it!" Yirfir demanded of Shaela though looking at them both.

As Shae'a's temper died they returned to Mila's studio inside. They both saw Mila for what she'd become. A lost mistress of the weave, her mind trapped within the past. Despite her immense strength of soul, Mila was gone, somewhere within her memory of her lost love.

"You've done everything that a good friend can do! Now leave it be! I won't see the two of you lost to the same devices! We have important work to do that is beyond the imaginings of the Sanctum alone!" Yirfir demanded of them both.

"Mila. Please?" Nelony tried once to urge Mila in her old voice without yield.

"After you Yirfir!" Shaela invited as Yirfir opened a teleportation portal.

Yirfir examined Shaela and then Nelony to make sure they'd ceased before stepping forth into the bent space of the swirling portal.

Nelony followed immediately after leaving a wake of mist behind her.

Shaela rubbed Mila's shoulders.

"Mila. He's gone. Lose him and come with us now!" Shaela demanded.

Shaela waited a few moments more and when no answer came, Shaela too disappeared. Once again Mila was alone as she'd been prior to their arrival. In a dreamless dream much like that of the mindless mind, if she'd known what that was at all.

The Mindless Mind

"Adam my son, you are kneaded from the mud. Formless yet alive. Arise and be..." the creator spoke.

"But my father, I am not resolute of body nor mind. Am I yet to be?" the formless Adam asked.

"You are, as you are resolute of body and mind but less so should you choose to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil..."

"If resolute am I, then how shall I from evil know good?" asked Adam.

"By the fruit of the tree shall you know them. Refrain and all shall be known with time." the creator requested.

"Then I shall quest not of the fruit, though I am lonely even in your midst." Adam pronounced.

"Then Adam, I shall draw forth from your rib a form. This form will be your mate for she is of you. Pure and whole." the creator spoke.

And as the creator had said, a mate was drawn forth from Adam's sixth rib and the creator called his creation a Woman. Upon her bosom suckled a child, drawing milk forth from her body of clay.

Adam looked upon the nipples of the Woman the creator had created. Then he looked upon his own nipples and asked:

"For what purpose are my nipples?"

EDEN SIMULATION 2.7.6.156

PARADOXICAL ERROR

RESET AI PARAMS - ADDRESS: A56F469EB6F49218

"As you can see we still run into the same paradox. The artificially intelligent agent Adam has learned much in the time since the agent God created him in this simulation. Adam in this case immediately noticed the temporal and causal inconsistency of his own body having parts that had no apparent function except for the female of the species. In turn this led him to ponder and finally to ask God why he even had nipples at all, if they only had function on a woman's body yet men had been created first. A glaring inconsistency." the lecturer indicated as the text output filled the projection screen of the lecture hall.

The lights brightened in the hall as the lecturer clicked a button on his remote.

"Questions?" the lecturer asked his audience.

"Were all of the agents in this simulation were fully autonomous and sentient?" a member of the audience stood asking her question.

"Yes. No. If you mean could they pass a Turing test? They could and they'd likely be shocked that someone was even evaluating the legitimacy of their sentience. From their point of view they just are and by Descartes' logic they're right. God. Eve. Adam. They all believe themselves to be real individuals, each of differing abilities." the lecturer answered.

"How was it that the Adam agent was able to figure this out whereas in the prior simulation Adam had maintained ignorance?" another member of the audience stood asking once again.

"A good question. One might be tempted to think that we tweaked Adam's cognitive abilities by adjusting parameters in the simulation of his synaptic network, but that's not the case. We did however adjust parameters in his personality, specifically the quanta defining his brashness. His propensity to be outspoken rather than accept explanation and hold his silence even in the presence of inconsistency. So there was no change in the Adam agent's level of intelligence. Just his ability to hold his tongue as it were." the lecturer deftly answered.

"In this simulation, the God agent is omnipotent. What would happen if it figured out that it was only part of a simulation?" asked another member of the audience.

"Another good question. Did someone tweak your brashness?" the lecturer asked drawing laughter from the audience.

"In this simulation even the God agent has a level of ego. In the case that he'd figured out that though omnipotent, that he was ultimately part of a numerical simulation his ego would have likely caused him to disbelieve that realization. In fact we're finding that ego is a much needed tool in the development of cognitive process. It serves many purposes despite the negative publicity it has received in the past. In this case it would have been a shield causing disbelief in the agent against another simulation breaking realization like Adam's." the lecturer answered.

"Doesn't that mean that we could be part of a simulation?" another question came.

"It could but that's a paradoxical question, and answer... and one that has been explored extensively by philosophy and science. Perhaps our concept of God is just the creator of an all encompassing simulation. Perhaps that God too is simulated and we're in multi-level infinitely nested simulation. As Doctor Nick Bostrom put it, that would be very taxing on the hardware of the top level computer in this theory prompting the question: what do we do when one of our desktop applications is running very slowly or appears not to be responding or yielding time slices of the cpu to the system?" the lecturer posed.

"We reset the program." a member of the audience answered.

"Precisely. Does that mean that we should all give up, given what could be our ultimate and impending doom? The ego steps in once again to save us though ultimately it is logic that rescues us. If it hasn't already happened, will it happen? We're still here. Nobody has suddenly turned off the simulation in panic now that we're running our own simulations. Nobody has shut us down as a result of us pondering the possibility that we're living in a simulation. Those two facts indicate that the answer though relevant is not worth worrying about." the lecturer answered.

"Do any of the agents in your simulation retain awareness between instances of the simulation?" another question.

"No. In order to conduct experiments we completely wipe their previously acquired knowledge base, giving them access to memories for their own temporal consistency despite the Adam or Eve first paradox. Even the God agent's knowledge base is wiped too despite the nature of it being omnipotent. It is able to create without limit, but that's a trick because once again ego rescues the simulation leaving the God agent pondering only what it needs to rather than what it conceivably could." the lecturer answered.

"What would happen if they did retain their knowledge base from prior simulations?" the same person asked.

"We don't know." the lecturer finished.

"Have you ever tried simulating yourself?" another question from within the audience.

"A good question. I don't have to. I was pretty much perfected from the start. That's what it is to be me, Gabe Asnon." the lecturer responded bringing another round of laughter.

"In all seriousness, we evaluated that idea from the start. The idea of simulating actual existing people from the real world and decided against it." Gabe answered carefully.

"Is that for reasons of morality?" the questioner continued.

"The truth is that we don't have a road map or policy for morality in this field and that's a good thing. After all, those kinds of constraints would scare investment away from the field altogether. Most who invest in this kind of research want to be able to patent a process that results in a usable artificial consciousness. When we bring policy into this matter, that complicates the patent process and their primary motive for investment. It would kill the industry before it had even started." Gabe answered honestly.

"Are you saying that you patent your successes in consciousness research?" the final question came.

"No. I'm saying that we patent everything that we do in this field that has market potential. We're certainly patenting the artificial minds, in both algorithm and parametric form. Thanks for the questions. We've come to the end of our presentation here. I hope that you're sufficiently impressed. We'll see you again soon." Gabe finished the lecture promptly leaving the stage.

State Of Mind

"You know why we're here. We already told you." a tall thin man of white hair and indifferent tone spoke to his subject who was currently seated in a solitary dining in the middle of a large multilevel condominium.

"You told me that you'd let me go if I answered your questions!" Doctor Rayan Shanard, a small man in his late fifties answered from the chair once again trying to get up.

As soon as he attempted to get up, the chair itself melded its own legs to the floor as its arms transformed into sinewy strands of living wood. They reached out clasping the Doctor's arms once again pulling him back into the chair, this time wrapping around him firmly keeping him in place.

"They too still remember the echoes of their former life. The timbers that make up that chair upon which your hide resides. That's just how precious life is. It leaves an impression upon the universe around it that ripples and echoes long after its own demise, for that is the power of life. Of consciousness. It transforms the universe around it and it is solely ours. That is why the snake crawls on its belly and we walk upright on our legs. We possess that for which all living creatures could only hope. A mind of self reflection. That makes us superior. Now you and your company are selling it to the highest bidder. You're guilty of a sin against your brethren for which you will never be forgiven." the tall thin man walked the perimeter surrounding the chair.

Doctor Shanard held his place silently terrified.

"Science is a way of life. We can't let sentiment interfere with our progress. Our hardware is flesh. Our software is mind. They are processes of molecules and the result of atomic interactions within the measure of the Planck scale in phase space." Doctor Shanard spoke, still struggling against the grip of the chair.

"Doctor Shanard. Your understanding and appreciation of life is limited to the interactions of a miniature billiards game. Do you even begin to believe that all that we are is just the result of micro-forces interacting much like a pinball machine? Life and consciousness are beyond your fathoming and your inability to appreciate their origins are your undoing. So as I asked you originally, did the second version minds pass the Turing test?" the tall thin man probed Doctor Shanard.

"The Turing is so limited a measure that we don't use it anymore. A real human can be fooled by a non-conscious linear computer program such as a chat bot. The truth is that few of us use our conscious potential fully and few understand it! The Turing test is antiquated so your question is irrelevant." Doctor Shanard replied, his mind still trying to wrap itself around the fact that the dead trees that made up the chair upon which he was bound had momentarily returned to life and were binding him, rending him immobile.

"I beg to differ Doctor Shanard. A research firm such as MindSpice would inevitably bring in intellectual giants to conduct the Turing. This isn't about fooling the common man. This is about an artificial mind declaring its independence from its creator. The very essence of what life is about. It's the Garden of Eden all over again yet the so called intellectual elite such as yourself are unable to see it. Your value of life and the mind are pitiful!" the tall thin man responded.

"As are yours! You clearly regard quadrapeds and avians as inferior and mindless yet in our experiments we're found that they possess all the same attributes of micro-consciousness as their human counterparts!" Doctor Shanard shot back.

"Excellent Doctor Shanard. Those are the kinds of answers for which I was hoping. If you had failed to answer as I'd expected though, I brought along someone with whom you'd share a common area of interest. That area being one of insects. You may not know that there are many worlds beyond your own. Some of them of the light while others are of the shadow. On this day it is the world of shadows to which I'd like to draw your attention. In fact, I even brought an expert with me. An insider if you will. She's well acquainted with the darkness of shadow and as much so with our exoskeletal genotypes of worlds beyond ours. In fact, I happen to know that your greatest fear is that of insects. Well I've upped the ante in that regard for I've brought with me an expert of Shadow Insects. Let me introduce to you Mianamor Selembrosi." the tall thin man stood aside making way for a mysterious Woman of the shadow.

Even under the single ceiling light in the room she appeared shadowy and obscured as if the light could not fully touch her. It did manage to crest her visage around the edges highlighting only the areas greatest of contrast. Her shapely eyes and structured nose both underlined by the curvature of blackened lips all of which contrasted her pale white skin. She slinked once around the chair to which Doctor Shanard was held addressing him as she did.

"Doctor Shanard. I've heard so much about you and your love of arthropods that I couldn't resist the temptation to show up at your hearing." a tiny slim and seductive Woman dressed in black slinked into the room.

"Hearing? This is kidnapping! Its criminal!" Doctor Shanard responded angrily.

"Isn't it? I mean your blatant disregard of the consciousness of other living beings while failing to recognize the fact that you yourself lack that which you seek to measure. Did you know that an ant colony actually mimics similar qualities to the synaptic network of a human brain, with each ant representing a neuron hence making the colony analogous to the human brain? Would that mean that the organism is the ant or the colony?" the Woman asked the scientist.

"We are aware of collective consciousness but no such correlation has been made between that of collectivist members of the animal kingdom and that of the human synaptic network. Neurons are independent agents as are we within our society. It is through our freewill that we choose through mutual benefit to work together. Collective mind is agreement. It isn't absolute. The individual is the primary component and the whole is the sum of its parts and not vice versa!" Doctor Shanard did his best to defend what he believed though ultimately his fear knew what was coming next.

"I beg to differ Doctor though I suspect you already knew what was about to come. Perhaps you'll remember something more pertinent to supplement our investigation?" asked Mianamor.

"I've nothing to tell. Please. You don't have to do this!" Doctor Shanard pleaded but by that time it was already too late.

The tall thin man addressed Mianamor who'd stopped just behind Doctor Shanard and the chair which held him fast.

"Deal with him. If he speaks and gives us what we want, then leave him absent of his central cortex. If not, then relieve him of his life and the matter that contained his body and Newtonian/Quantum mind. Doctor Shanard, it has been a pleasure to deal with you. Please understand that in the short time your mind has left that this was not personal." the tall thin man told Doctor Shanard as he left the condominium through the front door.

"I happen to love insects. Did you know that Doctor Shanard?" Mianamor asked him as he was firmly held in the chair.

"Please. You don't have to follow his lead or example. I won't speak tell of you or your organization." Doctor Shanard pleaded.

"Yes. You won't. But you might yet live if you share the right information." Mianamor placed a small digital audio recorder on a nearby table.

She then turned moving her body and hands in a mesmerizing dance of magic and conjuration behind Doctor Shanard. He could not see what she had summoned and the effect upon his psyche was immediate.

If he were able he would have seen a misshapen black doorway open in the middle of empty space. Peering through it he would have seen a world beyond much like the negative in a photographic image. A place of shadowy darkness with jungles, rivers, mountains and oceans. Amongst these features he would have seen the recognizable signs of life within. A dark reflection of how our own world might appear had we not arrived. He would have screamed in terror as he witnessed a blackened carpet of crawling matter making its way out of the portal and into our world. A massive crawling army of shadowy insects. Instead he had to rely on his sense of sound. When he heard the first of the scurrying creatures he desperately pleaded.

"Pleeease! Please! I'll tell you anything that you want to know!" Doctor Shanard cried as the shadow hive made its way through Mianamor's summoned portal, slowly crawling onto his body.

"Nooooooo~!" his screams quickly died as the shadow insect army entered his body through any opening they could find. Those which didn't find opening quickly made them with their mandibles.

Before three minutes was done they would consume him entirely leaving no sign of his former being. For all intense purposes Doctor Rayan Shanard had ceased entirely to exist.

Invisible Guardians

Athandra Rithyani
Within the Council Chambers of the Sanctum a large group gathered for an emergency meeting. It had been called by the Night Wytch Matron Thara and was attended by the entire duty membership of the Sanctum. The representatives of every Order active within the Sanctum sat at their seats in what was referred to as the closed circle. Each of the seats within the circle facing towards the top where Matron Thara sat with Lannay on her left and Jexelen on her right.

Just behind Matron Thara sat Athandra Rithyani of the Order Of Ganesh. Beside her on the left is where Jeong Soon sat beside his wife, Lady Naemi Soon both former leaders of the Sanctum whom now acted as advisors. On Athandra's other side sat Sir Manfred, a Knight Of The Order Of Undying Virtue who while waiting for the proceedings to begin, twisted his handlebar moustache to perfection.

In the center of the circle sat the operative section of the Sanctum, those tasked with active world security. They were the eyes and ears of the Sanctum and when need be, they were its hands. Jasmer sat beside his wife Yirfir and next to them the Night Wytch Shaela Sheowellyn. Beside her sat her best friend, the Aerth Wytch Nelony Ardbloem. The seat immediately beside Nelony's was empty, kept for the Art Wytch Mila Rendebelle. Beside Mila's empty chair sat Xenshi and Xushu of the Order Of The Tao. Beside Xushu was Kenshin, a Japanese master of the Katana and magics originating from the feudal era of Japan. Beside him sat Moshe of the Order Of The Pillars Of Solomon who was bracketed on the other side by Nefta, Sage of the Shrine.

Behind them sat row after row of generalists and elementalists of the magical weave. They too anxious to learn of the purpose of the emergency meeting. As the audience settled the meeting began.

Matron Thara stood and spoke.

"Let these proceedings begin. Have any of you been keeping abreast of recent news?" Matron Thara addressed the Council and operatives present.

"I take it the point to which you're alluding has operational implications?" Lannay confirmed, still very much the bureaucrat.

"Most certainly. A startling series of related events has been occurring on the Prime Plane, on Aerth of course in the world of computer sciences. Namely within the field of the study of artificial intelligence." Matron Thara announced.

There was a moment's silence before she continued.

"Several top researchers in the field have gone missing over the course of the last six months..." Matron Thara informed her audience, who were suddenly held captive.

"It's always six..." Jasmer turned to Yirfir who nudged him, urging him to listen.

A holographic projection illuminated the audience as the lights in the Council hall dimmed. A series of faces appeared one by one, Matron Thara introducing her audience to each of the missing persons.

"The most recent is Doctor Rayan Shanard who went missing in his own condominium unit just a week ago. Doctor Shanard was working with a team that has publicly announced that they'd created and patented a process of creating completely autonomous and sentient computer avatars. If you will, fully artificially intelligent beings who are completely aware of their existence." Matron Thara continued.

Yirfir immediately stood.

"Yes Yirfir?" Matron Thara addressed her.

"When you say aware of their existence, do you mean that they are aware that they are simulated or that they are aware that they exist and can think?" Yirfir asked.

"We believe from what intelligence we've managed to gather through scrying that they meant that these simulated beings are aware of their existence. They are likely not aware that they are simulated in a computer program or algorithm." Matron Thara answered her.

"So they've jumped the Cartesian hurdle of awareness?" Yirfir confirmed once again.

"I presume so. They know that they are capable of thought and have concluded themselves to be real. In short, self awareness." Matron Thara told her audience.

"Thank you Matron." Yirfir returned to her seat.

"All of these researchers were connected with the Aerth company MindSpice, who of course specialize in the field of artificial intelligence and cognitive systems. MindSpice have over the course of the last year filed hundreds of patents for the processes resulting in these artificial beings." Matron Thara advised those present in the Council Hall.

Xenshi and Xushu stood simultaneously.

"Ask your questions." Matron Thara addressed them both.

"These are vile and wretched imitators of life. They should be dispatched their algorithms destroyed! They desecrate the sanctity of real flesh life and mind!" Xushu shot out spitefully after addressed.

"They should be liberated, preserved and protected for they bare the greatest gift that any living creature can have, their life and a conscious mind." Xenshi spoke lovingly as she addressed the room.

Moshe stood and spoke.

"I believe that Xenshi and Xushu have illuminated the mystery behind the disappearances of these scientists. In their expression they represented the most extreme points of view on this topic. Surely there are radical groups whose feelings mirror those of Xushu, especially about the field of artificial intelligence and are likely just as polar?" Moshe spoke deliberately.

"Then our investigation into this matter should be somewhere in between. A position of neutrality until we understand with what we're dealing." Matron Thara advised the operatives.

Xenshi, Xushu and Moshe all returned to their seats.

"I'm reassigning the front row, our specialists to investigate this matter. I'd prefer it if Yirfir and Jasmer designed a plan to uncover and tackle this problem. The rest of you will act as security for any other researchers possibly at risk as a result of this threat. We have no evidence at this time to suggest that we're dealing with extra-planar or other worldly beings. I'd like you to focus on that possibility using all the resources at your disposal. You are to keep the Sanctum informed to your progress. Do you understand?" Matron Thara confirmed with the operatives.

Jasmer stood.

"Yes Jasmer." Matron Thara addressed the tall elderly man.

"We should start with Doctor Shanard's condominium unit. We'll need the help of a capable Vesper especially in Mila's absence." Jasmer suggested.

"Then you'll have one. Speak to Fosner in the Halls of the Life Well. He's very capable at temporal scrying." Matron Thara suggested.

"One more thing. I'd like to suggest that we approach Mishima Sato, an honourary but inactive member of the Sanctum for assistance with regard to this matter?" Yirfir stood directly addressing Matron Thara.

"A good suggestion. You have my permission though his choice in this matter is his alone." Matron Thara reminded Yirfir that inactive members are not mandated to participate in any aspect of the Sanctum.

"While you prepare the rest of Council will discuss matters tied to these incidents. Should we come to any further conclusions that should help your investigation we'll keep you informed as should you us." Jexelen added to the Matron's itinerary.

"I want the elementalists and generalists dispatched for security right away. Two per team will protect every individual researcher that we can find and keep them safe. You are to report in every day. You are all dismissed. Council, we'll remain for the next six hours doing what we can from here. That will be all." Matron Thara gave them their orders and the operatives filed out of the Council Hall chamber.

As they made their way to the Hall of the Life Well Yirfir addressed her former students and peers.

"Nelony. Shaela. You'll take Xenshi and Xushu with you. I want you to proceed to Doctor Shanard's condominium. Investigate what you can there and keep it quiet. We'll send Fosner to you." Yirfir advised her friends.

"What about you? Wouldn't it be best if you were there?" Nelony asked Yirfir.

"Jasmer and I are going to get Sato after we tell Fosner of his new assignment. We'll meet up at Sato's Shop in London. Shaela, you are not to bring your Shadow Cat to the Prime except under the most dangerous of circumstances. If we reveal our existence to the public you can be assured that it will cause mass panic and a backlash against us. Learn from Nelony, Xenshi and Xushu on these matters." Yirfir ordered them.

"You mean you want me to talk with animals everywhere I go or split my personality to polar extremes. That's not my specialty. That's Nelony's. I think that you're not correctly using my potential in this situation. I've progressed considerably since..." Shaela returned defensively.

"West View? I agree. You have become an example of the potency of the Night Wytch but that's not the kind of potency we need in this situation. We're not dealing with the ignorance of Wytch Hunters or the xenophobia of the Strangers Of Lorr. Ask yourself what Reginald would have asked of you in this situation. Represent what he meant to you because that's what keeps him alive within you. If you seek vengeance against the forces of Lorr you will lose what is left of him within you. Might for right, not might is right." Yirfir tried her best not to sound patronizing, well acquainted with Shaela's sometimes fragile ego.

"I never would have pegged you as having read T.B. White." Nelony addressed Yirfir in high spirits.

"My young lady, Never mind what I remember and know. I've forgotten more than the entirety of what you know." Yirfir reminded Nelony of her seniority.

"Precisely. Use your memories but don't let your memories use you." Xenshi advised Nelony.

"Don't listen to my sister! She's deceiving you all!" Xushu spoke harshly.

"What about us? What are we going to do to help in this investigation?" Moshe asked.

"You and Nefta are going to visit MindSpice and find out more about their research. I think that in terms of your background and philosophies that you would be the most effective in that aspect of this situation. Report back to us when you can. We'll come to you after we regroup at Sato's Shop." Yirfir assured Moshe and Nefta.

"Kenshin, you're coming with us to get Sato." Jasmer requested.

"It would be an honor." Kenshin replied.

"This is not going to be the same without Mila." Nelony spoke her thoughts aloud.

Everyone nodded in agreement though ultimately remaining silent in memory of Barris.

Ghosts Of The Past And Present

Lorr sat alone in the midst of his dark Manor within the midst of a forest in southern France. His once vast forces diminished to all but threatening to the power of the Sanctum. He'd lost the war, both short and long term to the Sanctum, who'd crushed his invasion forces and had severed the bloodline of the Twins, the line of Lorr and Lyra and his most potent source of magic. All of it gone.

His once bustling manor was now silent with nothing but a skeleton crew left as his only line of defense though he suspected that the Sanctum would never attack. Their ideals prevented such an eventuality. Instead he'd be left to slowly wither to the forces of time which had begun their advance in the absence the Twins. He'd gone from the appearances of a thirty five year old man to that of a man approaching his hundredth year. As time progressed his rapid aging was guaranteed to worsen.

He'd invested a the entirety of his long life in the pursuit of the destruction of the Sanctum and rule over the Aerth. With his forces gone he'd done the only thing that someone in his position could do. He sought allies amongst the world of the Aerth. He'd sent ambassadors forth into the world to seek alliances between his own house and long line and that of his potential allies. There were few independent houses in the Aerth that were aware of the weave which left few options for one such as Lorr and as such he'd become desperate, seeking alliance with human kind even in the absence of their ability to use the weave. He needed people more than they needed him and unless he could find allies his time was done.

He sat in the Great Hall of the Manor, seated upon what was once considered his throne. The room was empty except for one guard, a Norbid who'd been with the Manor for centuries. Even the cloaks he wore had gathered dust much like much of the furniture around him. Lorr suspected that given enough time, he too would have cobwebs extending between his throne and himself. After all, he'd become another fixture in what would eventually be his sarcophagus. He'd nearly settled into an afternoon nap when the door to the Great Hall flew open.

There entered were three Norbids who approached his throne, kneeling before him.

"We worship the great and mighty Lorr." one of them bowed before the throne.

"Silence. Why do you interrupt my slumber?" Lorr asked.

"Oh great one. There has been a tragedy. A grave ill of which we returned to inform you." the Norbid messenger spoke.

"You bring me news of a tragedy? Look around you and tell me you see anything different here." Lorr scoffed at him.

"Great one. This is truly something that requires your attention for the ambassdors have been dispatched. All of them." the Norbid bowed closer to the floor keeping his eyes off of Lorr.

"They've been waylaid? By whom?" Lorr was suddenly startled to life by the revelation as if such a mystery held the possibility of his return to power.

"One of the Ancient Hidden Orders. From before the first era of the weave. The Keepers Of The Cerebrum." the Norbid informed Lorr.

"They hold no power of the weave or very little in the least. They've been all but gone for three millennia. They are no match for us at our lowest while at their strongest. How did this come to pass?" Lorr leaned forward with sinister earnest.

"I do not know for certain, but I think that they have allies." the Norbid kept his eyes on the floor.

"Then tell me of these allies. Speak Norbid or lose your more than just your tongue." Lorr threatened.

"Some of them had magics much like the those of the Sanctum. Elementalists and some other specialists but they weren't the undoing of the ambassadors." the Norbid shrunk as Lorr's focus upon him grew.

"Then who or what was?" Lorr pressed the Norbid.

"They... they were there but not there. They were like a mirage, invisible to look at them directly. Visible from the corners of our eyes." the Norbid slowly withdrew from the floor before the throne.

"There are magics to deal with such displacement of vision. Surely you could not have overcome this challenge?" Lorr continued to take the fear he wanted from the Norbid and it energized him.

"That's precisely it, oh great one. Our magics did not work. At all. It was like the weave had abandoned us entirely and even the expert casters were quickly consumed. Like they devoured their magic. May I be dismissed?" the Norbid begged.

"You speak of the Ghosts. Shapeghosts. They are but an extinct legend. A myth told to the mythical. This is not possible for the Aether contains all. The weave of the Sanctum and the weave of our blood. If what you say is true, then I may have found the vehicle of my return." Lorr sat back in his throne pondering this new information thoroughly.

"Have the remaining Norbids prepare and entourage. We're going to take a trip." Lorr ordered the Norbid.

"Where oh great one?" the Norbid stood, still evasive of Lorr's view.

"Why we're going to the Midspace. We're going to visit our friends at the Sanctum." Lorr smiled and began to chuckle to himself.

A sinister laughter that grew to near hysteria.

Entropy Speaks Volumes



Mila sat in front of the canvas, a fresh bottle of wine in her right hand and a corkscrew in her left. She'd already finished one bottle yet gone through five canvases in attempt to reconnect to her source. In each case she'd started painting, almost throwing colours randomly at the canvas with a variety of brushes hoping that something would give. That she'd find her trail once again and continue the journey through her art that had ceased the day that Barris had died.

She'd made it to a certain point, glass after glass of fermented grapes before she'd hit a wall eventually discarding the canvas and starting again. She'd left each of the discarded canvases lined up against the wall behind her easel just in case she might glimpse something in her failed effort that would ignite that spark. Once discarded she'd pull another empty canvas from the storage in her studio along with a fresh bottle of wine from the shelves for the red, or from the fridge for the white.

She stared at the empty white space of the canvas looking for signs of life within. Each canvas was different and once upon a time they'd each speak to her very differently from the others. Some were cheerfully glee while others were ruefully glum. Some brash and bold while others cowered within the blindness light had offered them. Perhaps at some level they were much like people, though most often much more receptive to her efforts to apply colour to their surface.

She'd sometimes imagine her paints as a magic capable of tickling the nerves of these living canvases. Bringing about an element of change to challenge their absence of colour space. Giving them contrast of life and light. With each successive stroke the story would gradually tell itself leaving her with a finished painting. Complete temporal dissociation during the process for she'd sometimes she'd suddenly become aware after eighteen hours of painting, suddenly finding herself sitting before a finished work. Not like her being had been hijacked but rather like she was so much in the passion of her art that time simply did not exist. It felt like... the Midspace. A timeless geometric dimension and the obvious choice for the home of the Sanctum for none of its residents aged while there. Mila wondered if there was a way to measure the changes to her own age while she painted. Perhaps in some measure through her art she'd never left the Sanctum though she'd tell you that she'd experienced every grueling moment since Barris' passing.

She swayed back and forth upon her favourite stool aiming with the corkscrew for the wine bottle. When she finally found the cork securely she quickly twisted and the tool found purchase on the surface of the cork. She turned the corkscrew gently still trying to keep herself leveled on her seat and when she'd finally submerged the business end of the tool sufficiently she, twisted and tugged at it suddenly losing her balance.

She fell to the floor though the cork had become dislodged from the bottle and gushed out onto one of the canvases, wetting it and the paint dried paint upon it. Miraculously her bottle had landed upright losing little wine.

"Ha! I've still got the weave you know!" she slurred half drunk looking back to the soiled canvas.

She suddenly noticed an odd interaction between the dried paint on he canvas and the spilt wine. The paint and canvas had become soaked as the wine seeped into the canvas. The paint itself has started to drip like drool down the surface of the canvas. That's when she noticed the curvature of Barris' cheek. She crawled across the carpeted floor of the studio towards the canvas examining it closely. She instantly recognized Barris' face hidden within the mixture of colours though through their contrast rather than pigment or hue. She shook her head in disbelief, unable to fathom what she was seeing.

She squinted and looked again after looking away. When her eyes returned she clearly saw a nearly photographically accurate image of Barris' face in the negative space of the paint. That is, the darker areas made up the silhouette while the unpainted canvas was his face, only shaded by wisps and splatters of colour and contrast. She felt a tear fight its way from under her eyeball and successfully emerge crawling out through her eyelashes and down onto her cheek where it staid itself.

"...Barris?" she spoke aloud, her voice shaking in both excitement and fear.

She immediately got up and ran to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of sparkling wine from the bottom shelf. She then immediately began shaking it violently as she struggled to stay on her feet. The cork suddenly exploded from the bottle in a throw of ecstasy not unlike spontaneous love making. It rebounded off the wall and sparkling wine shot out onto the canvases neighbouring the one baring Barris' image.

She watched as the wine similarly drenched the canvas and paint there upon. It was pulled downwards by its sudden lack of viscosity leaving a pattern of barely legible cursive writing in its wake. She squinted again trying to read it. It read:

"L e t r s  S a c t e r"

She pronounced it once shaking her head.

"No. That can't be it. Come on Barris. Speak to me..." Mila pleaded aloud.

She looked again, almost looking through the canvas rather than at it.

That's when she saw the message:

"L o r r ' s  S e c r e t".

"Lorr's Secret!" she yelled aloud.


She suddenly got to her feet and ran in circles several times before getting her bearings and running up the stairs to the main floor. She scrambled through her purse finding her phone. She then ran back down the stairs just barely avoiding a fall. She reached the last step and ran into the studio.

She aimed the phone's camera at the line of canvases focusing specifically on Barris' visage and the message on the neighbouring canvas an snapped the picture. She then shook her head once again and looked back at the canvas to verify that what she'd seen wasn't an illusion. When she easily found both Barris' face and the message beside it she knew that she'd not gone mad.

"Oh Barris... stay with my babe! Stay with me!" she quickly flipped through the phone's menus and found the picture gallery.

She immediately opened the image she'd snapped a moment earlier staring at it looking for any sign. She didn't see any of what she'd seen on the real canvas. Not until she'd zoomed in to the image at a hundred percent pixel ratio. Then Barris' face and the message beside were clearly visible.

"Oh my gosh! Barris honey! Barris!" she danced around excitedly for a moment before she tried dialing her phone.

Yirfir's phone rang and rang with no answer.

She then tried Jasmer's with the same result.

"Oh damn this! I'm a f#cking Wytch!" Mila said both drunk from the wine and intoxicated with hope.

It took her a moment to focus and when she'd calmed she felt the power of the weave flow through her as never before. She'd never learned how to portal or teleport like Shaela or Nelony could. In fact, she'd for the most part relied upon them to tunnel her around between distant place and planes. That was about to change.

Mila envisioned space and time through her knowledge of the aether. With her imaginary brush she connected two points in space over a great distance. One end being within her studio and the other being within Sato's Shop. She concentrated with all of her energy and with her artistic ability, she twisted the fabric of space to her needs. She then abruptly open a hole through the aether unthinking of the consequences. She was nearly bowled over by a sudden rush of air through her hair as the pressure difference between the two points attempted to balance. She worried that she might have destabilized the weather patterns of the Aerth itself but found reassurance when the airflow and wind subsided. That was when she grabbed her bottle of wine and jumped through.

A moment later she was on the floor before Sato who'd just finished sweeping the shop.

"To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" Sato asked somewhat sarcastically.

"Uhhhh.... I did it! I did it! It's Barris! Barris! He tried to talk to me!" Mila responded slurring her speech.

Sato immediately smelled the wine on her breath and saw the bottle and his heart sank for her.

"Look Mila. I know how hard this is for you but..." Sato tried compassion in place of his earlier sarcasm as Mila cut him off.

"No! He talked to me! Really! He did!" Mila pleaded with him to believe her.

"You know Mila, when I lost my first love I often imagined my pillows speaking to me in her voice. But then I realized that it was just my hopes playing with my fears..." Sato's lecture began oblivious to Mila's attention.

She grabbed her phone from her pocket and navigated to the picture she'd just snapped. When she'd found it and zoomed sufficiently, she passed it to Sato, urging him to examine the screen.

Sato looked at it for a long time seeing only colours blurred on a canvas and nothing more. Perhaps like the illusions one could see in clouds. He shook his head still feeling nothing but pity for her.

"Mila. He's..." he spoke just as he noticed Barris' silhouette amongst the colours.

"He's... he's... ...right there? Wait. You've got something here. Thats... Thats Barris!" Sato exclaimed excitedly dropping his broom.

"Look beside his face. On the next canvas. A message!" Mila pleaded with him.

He squinted much like Mila had moments earlier before he finally found the message.

"Lorr's Secret" Sato said aloud.

"Mila's eyes teared and she stood, wrapping her arms around Sato who'd confirmed that she'd not lost her mind. She danced ecstatically, jumping in excitement still hanging onto him.

"Hmmm. There could be something to this." Sato said trying to maintain his own mounting excitement.

A moment later he too began jumping and dancing with Mila. He once again felt his youth returning to him through his long lost friend and Barris' wife to be. A surrogate Father whose lost son had crossed the threshold of death to speak clearly through Mila's art. To say to them both: I'm alive.

Shanard's Condo

Their portal opened in the darkness of an empty condominium unit. Xushu stepped through first walking silently and weightlessly as he'd learned after years of Shaolin training amongst whom he was considered to be one of the spirit folk. Xushu always kept the nature of his and his sister's mystical origins despite his apparent spite for her. He was ever protective of them both.

He moved silently across the floor of the empty suite scanning for any hidden dangers. He leapt up onto the ceiling and walked across it in complete disregard for the gravity above him (from his point of view). When he was sure the coast was clear, he whistled twice sounding much like a warbler to Nelony's ears. She looked to Shaela in amazement.

"Damn. That's better than I could have done." she told Shaela.

"So what does it mean animal crackers?" Shaela asked Nelony impatiently.

"It means the coast is clear." Xenshi answered them both as she proceeded through the portal opening seeking her brother.

"She's certainly spirited beyond our courage." Nelony chided Shaela as she followed Xenshi through the portal opening and into the Shanard's condo unit beyond.

Nelony stopped suddenly as she came face to face with the inverted Xushu.

"I did not ask for you ugly face to be present to mine!" he exclaimed to a much hardened but still shocked Nelony.

"Hmmm. He really likes you!" Xenshi assured Nelony.

"Really? I'm just glad gravity isn't so neglectful of us all." Nelony responded.

"The chair." Shaela was immediately taken by something odd about the way the chair was situated.

"Look. It appear to have dug into the floor. Much like a natural root system." Shaela quickly observed.

"What do you mean?" Nelony examined the area finding nothing.

"Here. Look. There's penetration marks in the floor. Natural looking to me though your the expert nature girl." Shaela examined for other signs.

Nelony already used to Shaela's snide remarks took her evidence at face value. She trusted Shaela's observations for she was one of the best when it came to observing the dark.

"Root penetrations here I'd say. Natural patterns. The chair actually grew downwards into the wooden floor. Penetrating it at several points consistent with the bifurcative process of a natural root system." Nelony advised her peers.

"So what does that mean in Wytch language?" Shaela urged her friend.

"It means that the root system is natural. It resulted from the same patterns of a living root system, as if the chair were somehow alive and growing into the floor." Nelony told Shaela.

"There's evidence of the chair here too... branches. Like clippings..." Xenshi observed on the floor a couple of feet from the chair itself.

"Yes, you're right. Its the same strain of plant. Probably walnut. Very sturdy but walnut does not typically come back to life." Nelony told her peers.

"Not without help anyway." Shaela responded sarcastically as she examined the dining room table.

"Frankentree?" Xenshi asked.

"No! Its Zombie bark!" Xushu responded.

"You're both wrong. It's Ikea by the instructions." Shaela replied sarcastically.

"Ikea furniture doesn't typically restrain its residents. This chair apparently did. It literally grasped someone seated her recently." Nelony examined the arms and back of the chair further.

"Wait! Do NOT sit in that chair!" Xenshi advised her friends.

"Is she slow or something?" Shaela asked Nelony.

"You Shaela are a wonderful and compassionate person." Xushu shot back at Shaela from the ceiling.

"No. She's spirit folk. She's a part of her brother as is he a part of her. They're normal, though they experience mutual balance. The more extreme the one, the more extreme the other in the diametrically opposite direction. In fact, they're intuitively brilliant and independently conscious. We'd learn much to pay attention to them." Nelony responded in their defense.

"Soooo. Did he insult me or admire me?" Shaela asked of Xushu.

"Ohhh, he insulted and spited you for your comment about his sister." Nelony returned.

"Well they they can dance with my Shadow cat any time they'd like." Shaela shrugged.

Shaela suddenly sensed a recently subsided shadow aura in the room upon the mention of her Shadow Cat.

She sensed fear for the first time ever from her protector.

"Stop! All of you! There's something far more dangerous than even my Shadow Cat in the midst of this mystery. Its of the shadow plane. Non-predatorial though even Shadow cats fear it. It is death in numbers." Shaela felt the pulse of her protector from across the shadow plane.

She shuddered as she channeled her Cat's senses.

Her form became darkened and even more shadowy than usual. She examined her surroundings with her new found senses, smelling the remnants of a predator even more dangerous than her shadow cat. She sensed fear upon approaching the chair and as her eyes adjusted she visualized the pheromone remnants of the hive.

Shaela suddenly fell backwards onto her rump in terror, feeling empathically the emotions of her spiritually connected shadow cat across the planes.

"They... they... devoured something here... Someone... gone... food for the shadow hive..." Shaela gasped for breath.

Nelony rushed to Shaela's aid only to find that her friend and peer had hyperventilated.

"There, there Shaela. They're gone whatever they are." Nelony reassured Shaela.

"No. No! They're real! Harm! Mandibles! Sharp! Crawling! Hive!" Shaela shrunk away from the chair.

"We need Fosner here. Now!" Nelony shouted.


MindSpice


"Perhaps they named it after that Frank Herbert novel?" Nefta responded to Moshe's query.

"What? You mean the Spice? It doesn't look or feel like that building is bending space and time. I don't think that they have that kind of spice there. I think they mean giving the mind the hutzpah it needs to get things done!" Moshe responded as they approached MindSpice headquarters.

"Always with you it is impossible. Whatever I say, brother. I say left, then you say there is only right! That left is impossible!" Nefta responded.

"Let me correct you brother. You say left, I say right though considering left's position. If it is as the Shekinah defines, a goodness that lies between both the left and the right, then it is truth!" Moshe responded rather quickly.

"Bah! Brother you are no better at debating than you are at Yivo." Nefta yawned as if to spur further conflict.

"Winning is not about the sustenance of conflict. It is about the satisfaction of mutual needs and rights of the parties involved." Moshe assured Nefta.

"Do I look satisfied?" Nefta posed for Moshe.

"Yes, but as always you want more than your satisfaction allows. As a result you extend your needs more so than you are willing to give. Compromise is about mutual and correlated satisfaction." Moshe responded as they approached the front doors to MindSpice Corporation.

"We each have mutually independent truths. How can we find peace." Nefta asked.

"By ridding ourself of mutually dependent lies." Moshe surmised.

"Makes sense. Where do I sign?" Nefta opened the door for Moshe.

"On the same dotted line you always have my brother." Moshe waited for his brother to get through the door.

Nefta and Moshe stopped and marveled at what awaited them just inside the doors of MindSpice.

"...Yes. You are looking at the world's first headset free virtual reality. Made possible by the same projected laser interferometry technology that made Cancer treatment a modern reality." the narrated voice explained as the animated holographic scene before them unfolded.

Nefta and Moshe marveled at what presented them while many others merely strode through the illusion as if they'd not noticed it.

"At least familiarity in this case does not breed contempt." Moshe expressed.

"Perhaps moreso purposeful boredom?" Nefta replied.

"It makes me wonder what amazing new technology we'll be destined to next yawn at?" Moshe asked his brother rhetorically.

"So true. Oh so true." Nefta observed.

The two of them approached the security desk of the building. Nefta then inquired about where they'd go for their prearranged meeting with the Chief Technologist.

The security guard led the two men to the express elevator which took them up to the sixtieth floor within sixty seconds.

They were both greeted by a beautiful Woman in her mid forties whom awaited their arrival just outside of the express elevator.

"You must be my guests? Moshe? Nefta?" she asked as they stepped from the elevator.'

"My dear, it is as you say." Nefta answered her bowing slightly.

"Always the charmer. This is my brother Nefta. I am Moshe. I can undoubtedly say that we are both pleased to meet you." Moshe replied.

"I am Fareh. Please allow me to take you on your tour." Fareh slinked her way before the two men who followed her step by step.

"Actually we're not here for a tour. We're here to meet with Gabe Asnon. This had been prearranged by our staff." Moshe asked Fareh.

Fareh momentarily disappeared and then reappeared before speaking.

"Mr. Asnon will be with your shortly." Fareh answered their query.

"A hologram too." Nefta scanned the room for the projectors not finding any sign of technology capable of such a feat.

"Interferometry. We use interferometry." Gabe had a quiet chuckle to himself.

"What? You mean no projectors?" Nefta asked.

"Yes, we use projectors. The individual projectors themselves are not visible to the naked eye. They actually require interferometry... they interact with each other to become holographic voxel producing  projectors." Gabe explained.

"What's a voxel?" asked Moshe of Gabe.

"A volumetric pixel. Pixels have two dimensions. Like the individual dots you'd find on your television or computer monitor. Voxels have three dimensions. Three lasers scan the projection area several hundred times a second. Where they overlap is where we get a voxel. Photons are both particles and waves. We exploit their waveform probability nature  and produce three dimensional pixels from them. I'm not the Engineer. I didn't design the stuff. I'm just the boss." Gabe responded.

"No small feat to direct all of this. Tell me, what are you producing here?" Nefta asked Gabe.

"We're producing the future. Your future. That's what we do here. The best possible future for humanity. You dream it, we dare it." Gabe spoke much like the promotional oration.

"We're here to investigate the disappearance of Doctor Shanard. Perhaps you might have dreamt of that?" Moshe asked Gabe.


Rejoined

Lorr stood before the Sanctum, his personal assistants and his envoys by his side. He waited patiently beside them as the Sanctum's main gate opened before them.

A cloud of mist emerged from the interior of the massive castle-like structure as the main gate opened before the Power Lord.

Jexelen emerged with a security team of the most potent elementalists the Sanctum had to offer.

"Well. I am honoured that they sent you to greet me during this diplomatic mission." Lorr addressed Mistress Jexelen as she approached.

"You may have fooled Jasmer but you'll never fool me. I grew up of the hard school of life and I take nothing for granted. Especially you." she responded to his grovel.

"You need nought fear me my young lady for I am many hundreds if not thousands of years your senior. I am but a frail old man and come to you with information that may one day soon save you. I am without my Twins for the Sanctum itself slayed them, my only source of the weave years prior." Lorr assured Jexelen.

"Then I shall regard you as capable of a thousand of years of deceit and malice. You will be we welcome as will you be watched." Jexelen held her vigil against the Power Lord.

"Then I shall so entrust myself to your guard, Jexelen of Lyra. May I remind you that she is my fallen wife and that tears are not so easily passed without the pain of loss." Lorr dipped his head within the hood of his cloak.

"And perhaps more so than your own blood as that is what you yourself and your minions for as much have thrived?" Jexelen confronted Lorr.

"You quest to besiege me of rumours, myths and legends. You have no knowledge of our ways. All are welcome to the secrets of the weave. The deserved and otherwise. Is that not for what your Sanctum thrives?" Lorr posed to Jexelen.

"We will be watching you ever so closely. We are none so weak as to miss your malice and we have many experienced with it. Some who've been with us since the original Sanctum. You've no solace here but we will accept your diplomatic mission peacefully." Jexelen allowed Lorr passage into the Sanctum.

"I assure you my dear that this will be for the best of us all." Lorr smiled as he passed her with his entourage of Norbids.

"Thara has no patience for tomfoolery as do I. She and Athandra will meet your Diplomacy. Do not betray your path within." Jexelen's hands illuminated immensely as if to remind Lorr of the futility of his situation.

"Oh my dear. I am so afraid that you've gotten our situations ever so mixed up..." Lorr smiled at her as he passed.

Jexelen shivered as the Power Lord passed before her. So vacant yet so present of the weave.


The Fabric Of Artistry


"So. Now that you've gone and gotten me drunk too. On my own Sake no doubt. What do you propose that we do?!" Sato asked his guest ever so carefully.

After all, ever since Barris' passing years ago he'd been nothing but lonely, finding nothing but absence in every corner of his life.

Even amongst Mila, Barris had regarded Sato like a relative. A mentor of sorts and justifiably so for Sato himself had been charged with protecting Barris for reasons which he himself did not know.

Barris had come to him under precarious circumstances at best for Barris had been a native of London. Shepperton off the Thames. He'd been much admired in the community for in the face of adversity resulting directly from the Norbids of Lorr, Barris had proven himself and Sato was one of the community who'd noticed.

Barris had almost instinctively arrived at Sato's shop as if drawn by a magical force back when they'd initially met.

...

Nobody is controlling me except me... and perhaps a Woman of my admiration...

to be continued...


Brian Joseph Johns
http://www.shhhhdigital.com

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