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A Lady's Prerogative For Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields (Finished First Draft: Artwork to come)

This is my yearly Halloween story, though last year I kind of wove the Halloween and Santa Claus story into one if you remember and came up with a funny bit involving Barris and Sato early on in their friendship as they have guests for the seasonal holiday. This year I'm bringing Halloween and A Lady's Prerogative home to my country of Canada and my home province of Ontario. This story takes place in Ontario, though far north up into territory occupied by far fewer than in the Great Lakes region of Canada (and the United States). I hope that you enjoy it. As a side note, I recently did a rant post (the Rant-zilla post if you recall as it was the last one) really attacking the problem of harassment, as it has been plaguing me for years in both the online world (very covertly) and the offline world very overtly. Everything I stated in that post I meant with all of my heart and being, and I will not apologize for any of it. This has already gone way too far, and a post of that nat

A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity (Third Version, First Draft. Work in progress. Artwork to come)




Introduction


This is the beginning of the third attempt at A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity. For those of you who've been around since the previous two attempts I made at finishing this book over the last two years, most, if not all of the elements included in those attempts at a multi-story narrative will return in this version. So fret nought, we'll still have the plot line that finds Mila teaming up with Sato, as they desperately try to return Barris to the land of the living, with a few new added twists.


Nelony will take on two new apprentices. The original two activist students that had been protecting the Amazon rainforest when they encountered Nelony. One from Jordan, and the other from Iceland.


The situation with the Sanctum Secularum will be much different than the first two attempts at Singularity, and much changed, some of which will be hinted at throughout the story directly preceding Singularity,  Athandra And Manfred - Then And Now. Athandra Rithyani and Sir Manfred will also become significantly involved in the plot of Singularity.


Zheng Ni Wong will return in the same role she had in the previous two attempts, as will Doctor Steven Briggs and Gabriel Asnon, CEO of MindSpice and their aerospace firm MindSpace. Since the story The Pug Mandate, there have been crossovers between A Lady's Prerogative and The Butterfly Dragon characters. Singularity will continue that trend, and the two books Singularity and The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons are interconnected. That means you'll be seeing one or more characters from The Butterfly Dragon in this book. I think I can hear Katya, Victor and Bryce coming now for their dress rehearsal.


Shaela's Sheowellyn's storyline will be very different from the first two attempts at Singularity, though former Order Of The Night Wytch member Mianamor Selembrosi, will return as her nemesis.


Being Canadian, I often get bugged about when I'm going to bring this home and involve Canada and Canadian characters. My thoughts on that matter are that I'd rather focus on everyone else at this party, so that when we arrive, they're all really happy to see us. In this book, we'll see a few new characters and Orders (as in groups) within the Sanctum that connect to North America and the countries there within. The first of which you'll encounter in the first chapter of the book. Canada will there. So will the United States and Mexico. We're talking world climate here, and that means most all of us. The Sanctum is a BIG place by the way, and represents mystics from almost every single culture the planet over, and then some. Did I say climate? Oh, and once again, climate will be involved.


Where's the science? There will be science in this story, especially where Zheng Ni Wong's character is involved and how it connects to the activities of MindSpice, Globenet Market Group, Cheerify and ERG (Engineering Research Group). It will mesh with the mysticism but not in a way that will take away from either and certainly not in a way that undermines science. There will be magic too. Lots and lots of it.


A lot is happening in the Aerth version of our world, and that also will be reflected in this version of Singularity. There will be many events and things that happen beyond the context of the characters with which you've become familiar, but rest assured these are all necessary to connect the story together.


One last hint about where this is going relates to the environment and climate. In A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth, the two Nelonys (one from our time and the one from the past during the Wytch hunt), manage to thwart imminent climate disaster at the hands of Lorr's twins (whew! spoiler free). Climate and environment problems are rather complex things, that cannot be solved simply by the flick of a switch, and the Aerth Mother's health is a part of that fold.


I just wanted to let you know that the elements with which you became familiar in my first two attempts will remain (mostly) intact, with some interesting new additions. These two books are going to be the most challenging stories I've ever written and I certainly want to start from the best I had to begin with.


Some chapters during the first draft process, may change significantly between writing sessions. I'll be including some short chapter notes before every chapter that let readers know of any changes in the chapter and the date of the most recent revision.


Other Notes


There might come a time when I am without internet, for at most, one or two months and that all depends upon how patient my internet service provider is with my bill payment instalments as I, like many people in the world, have been having financial difficulties. If that happens, my service provider has been firm and very good with me so far, but I won't hold it against them if they drop my service until my payments are shored up. In such a case, there might not be any posts here for that duration of time, lest I find another way to upload my additions to the books.


Should such a case arise, I will continue to work on them from my home office and post the updates to the Shhhh! Digital Media website (https://www.shhhhdigital.ca or .com) as soon as possible. This is the same with any artwork as well. I suspect that this might be a risk within the next three to five days, but I'm holding my breath. It is certainly within my budget to have my balance and any current bill for my provider paid off in two months time, which as I stated is far better than many other people struggling to survive could hope for after hitting difficulties during COVID-19.


I think I might have groveled enough for now. No matter what happens, I'll be back.


Also, keep in mind that the world of the Butterfly Dragon and A Lady's Prerogative haven't experienced the pandemic we're currently facing and with the immense effort of our medical and front line staff, overcoming it as well. Both A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity and The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons start at around our current day and age and roughly the same date. The late summer of 2021.


A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity


Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Prologue Part 1


The Ascending Trail Into Descent


{REVISION DATE: 09-30-2021 Initial draft of this chapter}


A solitary goat made its way up the trail, casually nibbling berries as it progressed through the underbrush of a thinning forest line. This forest line itself wasn't disappearing as a result of climate change or any of humanity's alterations to the climate, but rather as a result of ascension and altitude, for at a certain height, the carbon dioxide upon which tree and plant life depended for respiration was simply too low. Much the same way that a mountain climber might find themselves requiring an oxygen supply in order to continue their sojourn and survive.


In this particular case, the goat as most other mammals, were considerably more well adapted to survive at altitude than were the plant life. However, the goat still depended upon the source of the berries and fibre that made up the majority of its diet and therefore, it often remained on the border of this line. Where the trees and plant life were, and simply were not.


There were few predators that sought goat meat, and of those that were, the goats were rarely the prey at all. The mountain grizzlies for instance often dug up the dens of gophers, removing huge mounds of dirt with their immense strength to reveal the cavernous homesteads that these tiny mammals survived within. After all, bears were minimalists in terms of energy consumption. 


Why expend so many calories climbing in pursuit of a goat rather than uncover the sedintary burrough of a high altitude gopher? For most bears, moving their tonnage of weight (a weight to bear forgive the pun) required a lot of energy. Pursuit was inefficent compared to siege, hence, for such bears, gophers had become a common source of protein, amidst the other staples of their diet, leaving the goats safe to nourish themselves by the high altitude vegetation.


On this particular day, the goat had progressed upwards along a route that had taken it into the territory of the one predator above all others: humankind. The goat smelled them them and their distant presence, knowing in its genetic memory that the absence of that scent meant an ever increasing risk. However, this goat continued forth devouring berries as it progressed.


The thumping echoed through the forest, even at this altitude and especially so through the rock faced cliffs, muffled by the layers of fallen dry leaves that lined the forest floor. The goat stopped its consumption long enough to realize that it must move, run, immediately. It paused for a moment, even having stopped chewing its mouthful of berries, tilting its head so as to leverage its hearing to determine the direction of the threat.


By the time the goat realized that it wasn't a threat at all, a horse bound rider leapt over it suddenly, as it darted side to side to avert being hit by the blasphemy of horse and man working together. After the horse cum man had leapt over it, the goat experienced what author Richard Adams might have called post thawn, the experience animals have of being caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, paralyzing them before the threat and hence sealing their fate. In this case, the goat had experienced it after the threat was long gone, perhaps leading to the first animal case of post traumatic stress disorder. However, like most other animals, the goat simply dealt with it, while the rider that had vaulted the poor creature continued on up the mountain trail. 


While the goat consumed, the rider rode.


Ondabaate Gichi Akwaa Danikamigad Gichi-Apiitendaagwad Akina Bangisin


{REVISION DATE: 09-30-2021 Initial draft of this chapter}


Well beyond the tree line, the rider dismounted his horse on the side he'd accustomed the horse to, for there was no correct side from which to dismount unless the horse had become accustomed to a specific side. For when mounting and dismounting a horse, familiarity from the horse's perspective was everything that counted and a key to earning their trust. Hence, both Eastern and Western methods of horsemanship involved always mounting and dismounting from the horse's left hand side. It was all about the horse being comfortable more so than the rider, for it was the rider upon the horse's back rather than the inverse. 


Much the same, this particular rider had been accustomed to the traditions of his ancestors and their regard for horsemanship. As such, he dismounted on the side with which his tribe had been familiar when it comes to befriending a horse, for such knowledge in history had been tantamount to survival. Especially the survival of his own people and those from whom he was descended.


For instance, if one tribe had familiarized all their horses to mount and dismount on the left side, anyone who attempted to mount a horse from the right side would immediately cause distress to the horse, hence, alerting others to the fact that there was an impostor amongst them, possibly stealing their horses assuming that the horse hadn't already thrown the rider from its back or outright kicked them to the dirt.


This particular horse rider was an honoured friend, and well respected by his own horse, though there was no concept of ownership between horse and rider from where and whence he was from. It was simply one friend carrying another and much to the rider's grace and the horse's chagrin, it had never been the other way around.


On this particular occasion and once upon reaching a certain altitude, the rider had simply dismounted without so much as a second thought about the matter and crouched to the ground. He wriggled his fingers through the dirt, drawing up a sample of the earth from beneath the crust.


He then hefted a swaft of the dirt and his soiled fingers to his nose and inhaled, drinking in the scent of the land, taking in its taste for his own evaluation. Perhaps much like an ancient and distant giant shadow cat might have hefted in wafts of air, evaluating the morality of its prey long before they'd even known that they were subject to such evaluation. The universe held many secrets and certainly many synchronicities, unbeknownst to the players there within, however 


The rider, held his face and head to the dirt, directly, perhaps as if worshipping it by some derelict ritual of tribes long lost to humanity. He wafted in the taste of the land, evaluating it for this own as his horse friend laughed as if to mock him in ever so friendly a manner.


"There is something on its way... A great fall," the rider spoke aloud, his Cree accent prevalent in his speech.


The Aerth then spoke back to him in the voice of the wind that whispers through the trees, saying: "When the Aerth doth fall, and none heed call, so do we all..."


"The totem does rise, it sees the skies, the land its eyes.." the rider responded.


"Askuwheteau, there is great despair coming... The technology of humanity will fall... so says the soil and the sky..." the Aerth replied.


"Then we will meet the land and sky and discuss a peace with all that is with the water, for water is a great friend of the totem. The land and sky need the water..." Askuwheteau, the rider responded to the land.


"Yes. We agree as does the horse. That is why we are at a future impasse..." the Aerth replied.


Askuwheteau's horse whinnied at her mention.


"We are nurturing the land. Healing the Aerth. There is no direction that completely averts catastrophe, but we are traveling by the direction of the sun towards a healed land, where both the sky and the water will smile again," the rider replied.


"No. This isn't a discussion. We are just telling you. This is the end..." the land replied.


"Then the Order Of The Great Totem will inform the Sanctum Secularum. The Aerth Mother will come and all will be healed and well..." said the rider.


"No. We will not be healed. For we are done with you all, for we are the Aerth, the mother of all," the Aerth answered as it paused.


"Don't you remember? Does she remember? If Aerth doth fall and none heed call, so do we all..." the Aerth spoke.


"I am heeding your call..." the rider urged the land.


"Ahhh, but my friend and fellow protector of the land, you are already too late..." the Aerth replied.


The ground beneath Askuwheteau's feet began to tremble, as the mountain shook. Otaa Dabun, Askuwheteau's mount reared up, as the earth rumbled. Around Askuwheteau, rocks from higher up the cliffside began to tumble down through the treeline and towards them on the mountain. 


Askuwheteau leapt for Otaa Dabun, mounting his horse in a single bound. He then coaxed the frightened beast back to the trail from whence they'd came, running at a full gallop.


Beside him on either side, boulders crashed through the forest, crushing the trees and anything else in their path. Askuwheteau turned around just in time to see that a large boulder, with a radius talling than him and his mount was tumbling directly towards them. He steered Otaa Dabun to the left just as the large boulder crashed by the two of them. As it continued, he and Otaa Dabun got behind it and followed as it cleared the way for them back to the path.


Another boulder came crashing behind him, just missing Otaa Dabun's tail as they steered sharply to get onto the path. They continued at full gallop until they were clear of the imminent danger rolling down from the higher altitude cliffs. As they approached the lodge, the rumbling ceased and peace once again returned.


Otaa Dabun stopped at the watering post, her coat damp with sweat and dirt as Askuwheteau dismounted, both catching their breath together in the sudden silence.


Askuwheteau retrieved a coarse bristle brush from his pack and began the task of clearing Otaa Dabun's coat in the eerie calm.


In the distance, sirens echoed through the mountains as the first responders began dealing with the aftermath.


Inside the lodge, Charlie was up away from his water bar examining the interior for any damage. On one of the tables sat a radio, the news station playing an alert.


"This is a warning to all West coast residents from California, up through to Seattle into Canada in Victoria and Vancouver, Kamloops and on to Alaska. There has just been a major earthquake, centered around two major fault lines in North America. One being the San Andreas fault line, the other being the Cascadia fault line. There is no risk of a tsunami here in North America, but there is a risk to the east coast of Japan, China, South Korea, Java, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and the island areas within those regions. We advise all to get to higher ground if you're living in those areas..." the radio announcer's voice was anxious with stress as the reports came to her attention.


"Otaa Dabun, we need to get to the Sanctum," Askuwheteau told his horse.


Otaa Dabun nodded to him, and Askuwheteau quickly mounted.


The horse's mane and eyes began to glow, as the air around them became alive with beads of light and cascading colours. A moment later, the horse and rider disappeared, the space around them folding inwards as they traveled together, galloping to the Midspace plane.


Prologue Part 2


South America

{REVISION DATE: 10-09-2021 Initial draft of this chapter}

The smell of rotten, burnt wood permeated the air. The fragrance of water sodden ash and healthy soil was present too amidst the carnage. For some in this aftermath, those scents helped to maintain the spirits of those who'd given everything they had to stop the onslaught of the fires. Now, there was nothing but burnt jungle and a desolate landscape for miles around them.


Yet, there was no time for rest, for those still standing in this war were too busy administering first aid to their fallen peers. Hundreds in all, most of whom had fallen back to this base camp in the last week in retreat of the advancing fires.


Amidst the bustle of activity, the woman who'd been coordinating the fight against the fires from the point of their ignition walked the interior of the camp, inspecting the situation.


"We've got forty six wounded, two with third degree burns throughout their bodies. We've got six crews still out there, four of which are unaccounted for. twenty three people in all. The satellite imagery looks good but we're waiting on confirmation from aerial surveillance," Danders, a tall heavy set man reported to Chief Sandrart.


"That doesn't even take into account what the locals have suffered..." Chief Sandrart responded as they walked amidst the smoke shrouded tent city.


The rhythmic sound of distant helicopter blades pierced the silence.


"Let's get over to the LZ," Chief Sandrart urged Danders who somehow coaxed his large frame to keep up with that of the shorter woman.


They watched as the rotary winged birds approached.


"That's Barston. There's Haolen. Who's in the De Havilland?" asked Chief Sandrart.


"I don't know. Probably another press helo..." Danders responded.


"That's kind of overkill for a press visit don't you think?" Chief Sandrart commented.


"Ya got me on that one," Danders responded.


The three choppers approached the landing zone, remaining in formation until their final approach, at which point they spread out leaving a distance of fifty meters between each bird as they set down.


From the two farthest choppers, a pair of technicians dismounted, one from each, running the distance to Chief Sandrart and Danders. Chief Sandrart and Danders watched as an entire team stepped rom the De Havilland and began unloading supplies and equipment.


"Who knows?" Danders looked puzzled until they both saw a video journalist and her team emerge from the larger bird.


"That's Darci Delaney from CNN," Chief Sandrart told Danders.


"So they must be her entourage?" Danders replied.


"I guess," Chief Sandrart replied.


"What's in their gear?" Danders asked.


"Her makeup and vanity?" Chief Sandrart joked.


"No. She's like you. A natural beauty," Danders replied, a large grin on his face.


"I think you just earned yourself a promotion," Chief Sandrart smiled.


"To what? I'm already way up there," he replied.


"Resident Ass Kisser," she winked at him.


"That could work, as long as its your ass," Danders replied still flirting as a friend.


"I don't think your wife would like that," Chief Sandrart responded with a similar smile on her face.


"Or your husband, but whose to say I'm not kissing their asses too?" Danders replied, quick on the wit.


"You're lucky we're so close to beating this thing," Chief Sandrart replied, patting her taller peer on the back as Barston and Haolen approached.


"Chief. Good news. All's quiet on the western front. No pips or spikes on the FlIR. Everything is in the green," Barston handed her his tablet.


She examined it carefully, relying more on her experience and intuition than on the technology alone.


"Outstanding. I think you've earned yourself a beer, that is if Haolen's report is as good as yours," Chief Sandrart replied, handing Barston his tablet.


"We're good on the eastern front as well Chief. The river helped us out a bit, with some free flooding early in the season, but everything looks good. So how about that beer?" Haolen showed her the map on his tablet.


"Gentlemen, I think we just whooped the arse off a large scale rainforest fire, with the help of the Amazon river and early flooding this season..." Chief Sandrart took both Barston and Haolen, her arms around their shoulders.


"And one hell of a Chief. About that promotion...?" Danders added.


"The cheque is in the mail, Danders. So what's with the De Haviland and Darci Delaney Bartson?" asked Chief Sandrart.


"You weren't told?" asked Barston.


"No. Told what?" asked Chief Sandrart.


"Have you ever heard of that crazy old biologist, Doctor Alan Smythe?" asked Barston.


"You mean the one who does those wildlife shows?" Chief Sandrart confirmed with Barston.


"One and the same..." Haolen answered the Chief's question.


"Why don't you tell her. I mean, you know way more about the guy," Bartson asked Haolen.


"So what's up Haolen?" asked Chief Sandrart of the senior intern.


"Doctor Smythe is a prominent biologist and wildlife show host as you already know. He's here investigating something that he speculates is a result of the shrinking biosphere," Haolen informed Chief Sandrart.


"You know the drill Haolen. If its a threat to the environment or population, I have to be told. Burning or not," Chief Sandrart reminded Haolen.


Haolen looked to Barston, who shrugged as if he didn't know that rule.


"Alright, I'll tell you, but Darci Delaney made me promise that I wouldn't, so cover my ass Chief?" asked Haolen.


"I'll cover it, Danders will kiss it if you'd like. So what's up?" Chief Sandrart pressed Haolen.


"Darci Delaney and Doctor Smythe are here covering a story that involves attacks upon local villages in the aftermath of these fires," Haolen explained.


"By what?" asked Chief Sandrart.


Haolen looked once again to Barston and then back to Chief Sandrart.


"By ants and bees. By anything that grows from a hive structure colony in the insect population in the Amazon rainforest. Please don't tell Darci I told you," Haolen told her, quick to remind her not to reveal him.


"Great. Let's call the Wasp, Antman and Spiderman to deal with this and we can all go home," Danders responded.


"I was opting for , Zatanna, the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Woman myself seeing as we're in the Amazon region," Barston added.


"Maybe in another universe, but not here. We've got to deal with this unless they by some strange circumstances, show up for themselves," Chief Sandrart brought everyone back to reality.


"Chief, there's been seventeen civilian deaths already in two villages," Barston informed her.


"That's nearly as many lives as the fires have taken," Chief Sandrart responded.


As Chief Sandrart finished up with her eyes in the skies, Darci and her video journalist camera man approached her.


"Chief Aileen Sandrart of the Amazon Fire Fighting Command, can you comment on the rumours that the fires have been extinguished?" Darci asked, thrusting a microphone into Chief Sandrart's face.


"I've recently received intelligence from my air surveillance team that yes, all fires in the region have been extinguished thanks to the dedication and bravery of my fire fighting staff, and the many volunteers from the local population who've been key to this battle from day one," Chief Sandrart replied, very familiar with the rapport required for truth based successful public relations.


"Have you heard anything about the recent rumours that hive population insects and other animals from the wild kingdom in the Amazon region have taken up attacking humankind? Possibly even as an alternative food supply?" asked Darci, the microphone still just under Chief Sandrart's chin.


Chief Sandrart looked to Haolen and Barston, and then to Darci Delaney.


"In all honesty, I'm hearing this from you who've arrived so recently to let me in on this new threat. As this is news to me and my entire team, I cannot comment to the press or anyone on the nature of this threat. I can tell you however, that our fire fighting team are being medically treated and that the vast majority of fire fighers and volunteers will recover. If you'll excuse me, we are on our way to deal with casualties and to evaluate the recent intelligence we've received about the state of these fires," Chief Sandrart responded as an expert spokesperson for her team as much so as she was their leader.


"You heard it from Chief Aileen Sandrart directly. I'm Darci Delaney reporting for CNN," Darci and her camera man then found their way back to the helicopter, where another team were preparing for a very different kind of intelligence gathering mission.


"I'm here with Biologist and wildlife specialist Doctor Alan Smythe. Doctor Smythe, what can you tell us about the nature of this latest threat in the Amazon rainforest region of South America?" Darci once again presented the microphone to her interviewee.


This time a scruffy, white haired old man turned to face the camera. He appeared very much the caricature of the traditional explorer. Perhaps in a marketing sense though more so than reality. With Doctor Smythe, nobody could be certain of whether he was being a scientist or a show-man.


"Thank you Darci. I'm here preparing for a journey into the jungles of South America that will uncover a dangerous phenomenon in the aftermath of the Amazon rainforest fires," Doctor Smythe responded, speaking purposely into her microphone.


"What can you tell us about this phenomenon?" asked Darci, still extending the microphone.


"Well I can certainly tell you and your viewers this: in the aftermath of any ecological devastation, such as a deluge or fire, that the wildlife community survives. After all, they've been here long before us, and they'll likely be here long after we're gone. In this case, the grave danger is that they're using our established habitats and possibly even us as a viable source of food in the aftermath of these fires and the disappearance of their dietary sustenance," Doctor Smythe's puffy white eyebrows rose and fell as he speculated his hypothesis.


"Thank you Doctor Smythe. Remember, viewers in the United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia and Oceania can watch this on CNN, while those in Canada and with our global affiliates can watch this on CBC, Global Television, CTV and CityTV. Also, remember to tune in to Doctor David Suzuki's The Nature Of Things on our affiliates and Doctor Alan Smythe's Where Nature Dares," Darci reported to her audience.


"Be careful with that equipment... Its delicate," Doctor Smythe turned to his crew.


"Lets hope not considering where we're going," Andreas Calavas, their guide remarked.


Prologue Part 3


Waste Not, Want Not. Waste Lots, Distraught.

{REVISION DATE: 10-14-2021 Second draft of chapter, with minor edits corresponding to facts}


A large sloop pushed through the ocean waves, cutting through them like a hot knife through butter. The Elesia's Eternity, the vessel in question, closed in on its destination less than half a nautical mile away. On the bridge of the vessel, Captain Orson Veyers kept his vision on the glass lcd windshield, a technical achievement that allowed it to act as both a heads up display and a sun screen, much like modern day fighter jets. As they closed their distance, he checked the DnD map: depth and density, for any perturbations of the island that might prove fatal for the ship's hull.


"I still can't believe how large it is, seeing it up close like this." Doctor Abott Franner watched as they approached the island.


"Maybe we'll be able to answer how and why it shrank from one point six million square kilometers to a mere six hundred thousand kilometers over the course of the last three years," Doctor Franner's wife, Doctor Vannessa Franner said looking to Captain Veyers and then her husband, Abott.


"The DnD says its mostly low density materials. Likely composite plastics and polystyrene but there's a lot of dense clumps that might be tin or even steel. The magnetometer confirms that there's a considerable amount of magnetic material. One thing for sure is that its very cohesive. Safe enough to walk on but I wouldn't take any chances," Captain Veyers commented as they neared their target.


"That's what the snow shoes are for. We tested them on an olympic sized swimming pool full of polystyrene packing foam chips. They worked perfectly, even at fairly light densities," Doctor Franner responded.


"That won't help ya if you fall out there. You could just sink right through the top layer and be stuck in the guck," Captain Veyers pointed out.


"That's what this is for. We call it SPOT, or Spacial Proxifier Outputting Telemetry. If one of us falls, we just hit this button on our forearm and a helium filled carbon fiber reinforced red rubber balloon tied to us is automatically inflated. It floats into the air on a fifteen meter cable and is visible for hundreds of meters. Not only that, but it emits telemetry data via GPS such as latitude, longitude, altitude relative to sea level and biofeedback such as heart rate and temperature. Our life preservers are made of kevlar so they're punture proof too," Vannessa added.


"But you aren't. Don't say I didn't tell you that you're crazy for attempting this," Captain Veyers said as he picked up the handset for the intercom.


"This is Captain Veyers speaking. We're on our final approach. Crew on the port bow need to ready the anchor and tethering lines and fire the harpoons when we're within ten meters. We're at one hundred... seventy five... sixty... forty five... thirty... twenty...  fire!" Captain Veyers ordered his crew.


On the bow of the ship, five of the crew members prepared for their docking with the island. One pair each operated the two harpoons while the odd man out prepared with the controls to the anchor. When the signal came from the Captain, the both harpoons fired, almost in unison with a tremendous whumpf, their projectiles plunging into the visible surface of the artificial island.


The second man on each of the harpoons then used the hoist controls to reel in the lines, pulling the ship closer to the island. When the ship connected with the island, the ship lurched slightly, signalling the anchor operator to perform his task. He dropped the anchor, which had been specially designed for this job by Engineering Research Group or ERG. The carbon fiber anchor fired out of its housing, catching a firm hold of the island as the operator reeled it in.


"Captain, we're secured," the anchor operator radioed the bridge.


"Extend the gang plank onto the island for our passengers," the Captain ordered as he made his way down to the port side of the ship.


The Captain and the two scientists headed down to main deck and over to the gang plank.


"What a stench! That's putrid!" upon taking in a waft of the air, the Captain immediately donned his oxygen mask.


"Probably ammonia and certainly a lot of methane, at least that's one of the things that we're going to find out. I hope none of you smoke," Vannessa smiled as she put on her mask.


"I think I just quit Doc, that is one awful stench..." one of the crew responded.


"Everything's ready. We'll send the drone first just to take a density reading and pick a trail that gets us safely inland..." Terrington, their guide advised them.


"How long is that going to take?" Abott asked Terrington.


"About three minutes. The whole process is automated from an altitude of a hundred meters. Once its done, it will return to us with a complete density map good for about two square kilometers and the safest path through. It will upload that to our smartphones and we're ready to go. When we reach that boundary, we do the same thing again, and again until we've covered the ground for your study," Terrington explained to the scientists.


"I guess that's why you're our guide?" asked Vannessa, who'd made love with Terrington twice in his cabin the night before last, while her husband slept.


"That and I'm trained for any number of problems that might crop up during this mission," Terrington winked at Vannessa.


"I bet..." she blushed slightly, as her husband pretended he didn't see or hear anything.


Terrington opened the drone case, unpacking it carefully on the deck of the ship a few feet from the gang plank. He then stepped back with the remote, navigated through some onscreen menus, and pressed the EXECUTE button on the interface.


The drone suddenly came to life, lifting off of the deck and ascending into the air. Once it reached altitude, it began to methodically etch out a flight plan matching that of a large grid. It flew the breadth of this grid and then turned, side stepped fifty meters and the etched out another column, until it had covered the entire two square kilometers of scanning area it had been programmed to achieve.


As Terrington indicated, it took just over three minutes and when it had completely finished its flight plan, it simply returned to and landed on nearly the exact spot from whence it had lifted off. Terrington put the drone back in the case and slung it over his back, pulling a tablet from his coat.


"Here's our path. As you can see, its a bit twisted but its still the most efficient route. If we get off course by more than five meters, the tablet will begin beeping and sending notifications. Not only to us, but also to the Elesia's Eternity," Terrington showed both Vannessa and Abott the tablet.


The three of them walked down the gang plank, each in turn placing their snow shoes on the island and then strapping them on.


"Almost like Antarctica again," Abott commented to his wife as he took his first steps on the artificial island.


"Yes... almost," Vannessa agreed, smiling more out of marital pragma than compassion.


"One small step for humanity... one giant heap of mankind's garbage..." Terrington remarked, causing Vannessa to break out in laughter.


Captain Veyers watched from the top of the gang plank as the three explorers set out on snowshoes, on the  largest unintentional free floating artificial island created by humankind. They set out to explore tens of  square kilometers of humankind's floating garbage. An island of refuse and neglect, showcasing humankind's true regard for their own planet. When the world leaders claimed they cared about the environment, this island would be proof to the contrary. Like the punchline to a joke at the cost of the Aerth Mother's health and dignity.


"Why do I get the feeling I'm never going to see them again," Captain Veyers said aloud on his ship's headset channel.


"Captain, I think that you should have a look at this..." one of the crew at the bottom of gang plank radioed.


"I'll be there in a second..." Captain Veyers proceeded down the gang plank.


"What is it sailor?" asked the Captain.


"Looks like some kind of sludge. Its climbing the hull of the ship. I've been watching it here for two minutes and its already covered three feet," the crew member reported to the Captain.


"It will probably run out of steam once it gets to six feet. Its got twenty two feet to climb the hull to the main deck so I'm guessing we're safe. Keep an eye on it and if it keeps going after ten feet, radio me again. I'm going up to the bridge," Captain Veyers walked back up the gang plank and climbed the stairs to the bridge.


"Aye Captain," the sailor waited for the Captain to leave before he walked halfway up the gang plank and layed down, staring at the sky.


...


At the half hour point, Terrington launched the drone to do another grid which would take them an additional kilometer onto the relatively flat island of trash. The drone quickly finished its grid, once again returning to its launch point having transmitted the date to Terrington's tablet.


"Abott! Look at this!" Vannessa pointed to a site seven meters off their route.


"That's the first one we've seen. A Humpback too. Probably a young adult from the looks of its skeleton," Abott confirmed Vannessa's suspicions.


"You think that's impressive, take a look at that..." Terrington pointed to a location twenty meters on their ahead.


"That can't be..." Abott remarked as he looked on in awe.


"How many?" Vannessa asked.


"That has to be at least twenty, maybe thirty skeletons. All adult Orcas. Stripped to the bone," Abott pulled a sample kit out of backpack webbing.


He scraped several samples of bone from the Orcas. One from the head of a male specimen. Another from the spine of a female.


"Bleached right to the bone, and slightly stained..." Abott remarked.


"That shouldn't be. Orcas mostly eat protein and fat, and its the fat that gives them their carbohydrates. But not enough to stain bone like this. These stains are from something with a high glucosamine composition. The glucose is broken down into phosphates and possibly even sulfur, which stains the bone. Something common in other mammals, especially those whose diets are high in natural sugar sources," Vannessa noted.


"Maybe Shamu started smoking after retiring from Marine Land?" Terrington remarked.


"Smoking doesn't stain bone. Just lungs," Vannessa informed him.


"The question is, how did these Orcas all die at once like this and there's no signs of a struggle?" asked Abott.


"A chemical pollutant? Something science hasn't discovered about how combined trash breaks down into dangerous chemicals?" Terrington tried his best to contribute.


"Not by itself. Ocean water is salt water. Almost like saline, but much stronger. Saline is often used to preserve organic matter. Ocean water is very abrasive compared to the atmosphere, so it would actually be much more efficient at breaking down refuse like this. It would take a lot of this stuff five hundred years to break down in a land fill. Here, in the ocean, it will last about a hundred. Whatever killed these whales didn't come from the trash or its chemical composition," Vannessa spoke in the language of chemistry, her area of expertise.


"But algae could. Algae in large enough populations can have catastrophic effects upon the ocean. Even killing entire schools of fish by the thousands at a time," Abott pointed out.


"But never Orcas on this scale," Vanessa responded to her husband's suggestion.


"Let me check something here..." Terrington pulled the table once again and cycled through the different date for the sensor scans conducted by the drone.


"That can't be..." he suddenly dropped the tablet, Abott quickly catching it before it sunk between the trash and sank beyond retrieval.


He looked at what had startled Terrington.


"You're right. How is this? Is this thing broken?" asked Abott, shaking it.


"No. No! The tablet's fine. So's the drone. That's real data," Terrington shook his head.


"That means we're practically standing above a graveyard," Abott was shocked and puzzled.


"Don't keep me in suspense. What kind of graveyard?" Terrington asked.


"Fish. Sharks. Whales. Ships. Anything in the ocean..." Abott handed the tablet to his wife.


She accepted it and looked over map. It represented a two square kilometer section of the island's total ten square kilometers. The section magnetometer for the regions they scanned indicated that as they got closer to the center of the island, the more dense the metal was beneath the surface. In other words, beneath the floating island was hidden a graveyard of ships. Metal especially, but likely, any other material as well.


"That's not all. As we're getting closer to the center, its actually getting warmer beneath the surface. That means there's a chemical phenomenon behind this and its probably as Abott stated. Related to algae..." Vannessa examined the infrared and ultraviolet scans.


"Or some other kind of organism," Abott added.


"I think that we should get back to the ship," Terrington suggested.


"I'd have to say that I agree," Vannessa followed Terrington's initiative.


Terrington stood from a squatting position, putting all of his weight on his snowshoes. None of them had noticed that the lattice work on the bottom of their snowshoes was covered in a goopy sludge that had been slowly climbing their boots.


As Terrington stood, both of his feet broke through the sole of his snowshoes. He quickly sank to his groin, falling forward onto his stomach.


"Damnit! Help me for crying out loud!" he screamed as he began sinking below the surface of the trash island.


"SPOT! Hit the button! Hit the button on your forearm!" Vannessa screamed as she reached for Terrington.


Terrington flailed at his forearm, hitting the button as Vannessa had indicated. There was a loud pop as the red balloon auto-inflated with helium and rose thirteen meters into the air. At the same time, his life preserver inflated, slowing him enough that he seemed to stop sinking.


"Get me outta here! Abott! Go! Get help! Vannessa, don't leave me here! Please! I don't want to die!" he began wimpering.


"Stop moving! Lay your hands out by your sides and try to make as much surface area as you can!" Abott ordered the man.


He did as Abott instructed.


"Vannessa. You need to get to the ship and bring help if you can. Take the extra pair of snowshoes! Go now! Do it!" Abott ordered her, hitting the release clip on the extra pair he was carrying.


As she pulled them from his back, Abott's own snowshoes gave way. Much as Terrington's shoes has broken and snapped in two, so did Abott's. The heavier man quickly sank up to his shoulders before pressing the button on his forearm. His descent ceased as soon as his life preserver filled, stopping him at neck height. Vannessa quickly threw the fresh snowshoes onto the surface of the island and donned the new ones. Miraculously, the much shorter and lighter woman had managed to do so without meeting the same fate of sinking into the trash.


"We'll be here! Bring help! And lots of extra snowshoes..." Abott urged as he held his hands out flat to prevent himself from sinking.


"I'll be back as quickly as I can!" Vannessa looked Abott in the eyes and began crying.


"Don't worry Vannessa. We'll be fine. You just need to get back safely," Abott urged her.


"Oh god! I'll always love you Abott. I'm so sorry... I love you so much... I'll be back as quickly as I can..." Vannessa took the tablet and began began hiking back along the route.


"Don't leave us Vannessa! I don't want to die!" Terrington cried to her.


"She'll be back! She's twice the woman as you are a man!" Abott barked at Terrington.


"I know. I slept with her!" Terrington admitted to Abott.


"You think I didn't know? I guess that shows you how much I love her, where as she's just a means to a quick thrill for a guy like you!" Abott responded.


"My feet are burning! I can't feel my legs!" Terrington began to panic.


With his sudden struggle, he resumed his descent into the garbage.


"Oh f#ck!" Abott cursed as he watched Terrington disappear into the garbage.


A moment later, Abott's feet began to burn much the same, stinging as if he'd soaked his feet in furniture stripper.


Abott struggled to crawl over to Terrington's SPOT line, reaching for the wire tying him to the red balloon. After a minute of swimming in the garbage and through the pain of his feet, ankles and shins being devoured by what he assumed to be a strain of carnivorous algae, he arrived at Terrington's tether.


He reached into his backpack webbing and pulled out a pair of clinical scissors, observing that the tethering line was also coated in the sludge.


"Vannessa, I'll always love you," he said as he cut both Terrington's and his own SPOT line.


He watched as both balloons meandered upwards into the blue sky above them.


He then lifted his hands over his head, and sunk rapidly to his death.


...


Vannessa after traveling as fast as she could on the island of garbage, arrived back at the ship. Upon seeing  the gang plank and a sailor laying at its middle, she began to jog uneasily on her snowshoes, trying to get the sailor's attention.


"Help! Help!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.


As she arrived at the gang plank, she didn't bother to remove her snowshoes. Instead, she hobbled up the plank and attempted to rouse the sailor lying before her.


As she reached down to shake him, she saw that most of the dermis on his face was gone and a layer of muscle and bone was exposed. One of his eyes was a puddle of goo, while the other was in mid-consumption as the sludge digested skin and muscle alike.


Vannessa screamed as the gang plank broke in two where she'd been standing over the dead sailor.


She fell to the garbage island once again, and by some miracle, her showshoes did not break as she landed on her feet.


She looked up at the hull of Elesia's Eternity, which by now was covered in sludge nearly up to the main deck. The gang plank itself was also coated, but the metal railing was untouched. She realized that if she could reach the railing, she could use it to climb back on board of the boat.


"Help! Somebody! Please Help!" she screamed again to no avail.


She realized that she'd never be able to climb while wearing the snowshoes, so she leaned over, untied them and removed her feet from the bindings. She then squatted as low as she could while still standing on the snowshoes' lattice webbing, using the potential energy wound up in her legs to launch herself upwards.


Like a coiled spring, she leapt into the air, reaching as high as she could with her hand. She missed the railing with her grip, but by sheer luck, her sleeve became snagged on one of the hooks between which rope was wound for extending and retrieving the gang plank.


She dangled there for a moment, swaying as her jacket brushed against the hull and gang plank.


"Don't... please don't..." she pleaded with her jacket as it became damp with sludge.


She struggled, lifting her entire body weight with the arm snagged on the metal railing hook. As she reached up, her sleeve ripped as her other hand closed tightly around the railing. She hung on for a moment, swaying side to side with both of her eyes closed.


"I'm alive... I can do this..." Vannessa kept her grip tight on the railing.


She lifted her other arm and managed to grasp the railing securely.


From there, she climbed the railing almost as if it were as ladder.


Exhausted when she reached the top and the main deck, she pulled herself up and over the railing onto the deck floor, gasping for air from behind her oxygen mask.


She lay on the deck for a moment, looking around when she realized that most of the crew were on the floor around her, dead and in similar condition to the sailor from the gang plank.


She got to her feet immediately and began crying as she ran up the stairs to the bridge. When she arrived at the door, she looked through the window to the bridge and saw Captain Veyers, alive and healthy.


He tapped his mask, near the microphone and earphones and she nodded acknowledging that her headset was working. He switched his radio to her channel and spoke.


"They're all dead. Oxygen. They ran out of oxygen. Something ate through their masks... It can't eat glass or metal... It appears to eat composite fabrics and certain kinds of rubber very easily..." Captain Veyers told Vannessa.


She suddenly realized that the masks she'd picked for the expedition were all full faced shaped glass. Hence, the expedition's masks were impervious to the sludge, while the poor sailors' masks were quickly rendered inoperable. The expedition's snowshoes and clothing were vulnerable to the algae, but their masks would function until they ran out of oxygen.


"We need oxygen refills. They're in storage below, if they're not eaten too. Once we have oxygen, I can get us to the emergency life raft. All the power on the ship is dead. They must have eaten through the ship's wiring or battery system," Captain Veyers told Vannessa.


The ship suddenly shifted, as the stern began slowly sinking and the island began moving slowly, enveloping the entire ship. 


"My husband, Abott and Greg Terrington. They need help..." Vannessa told Captain Veyers.


"Vannessa. I don't know how to tell you this, but they're both dead. Their life signs went to nil about twenty-five minutes before you got back. Their temperature was thirty degrees above normal. Nobody could have lived through that..." Captain Veyers explained to Vannessa whose face became slippery with tears.


Vannessa put her hands on the door's glass window as is pleading with the Captain.


"I'm sorry Vannessa, but you need to get those oxygen tanks so we can escape from this death trap..." the Captain's voice became stern and focused.


She looked back at him and realized that she too had to firm up if they were going to survive. She then turned and descended the stairs down to the main deck.


"I'm going to need you to talk me through this," Vannessa asked Captain Veyers.


"Already on it. The quickest way there is by a door on the starboard side. The only door on deck level on that side of the ship. Take that door, and go down the stairs. When you're at the bottom, I'll tell you where to go next," Captain Veyers explained to Vannessa, who didn't wait for him to finish his instructions before finding the first door.


A few seconds later she was at the bottom of the stairs.


"Where now?" Vannessa asked.


"You need to walk towards the stern of the ship. In the direction that its sinking. Walk past three doors on your right, and take the third one," Captain Veyers told her as she picked up her pace, counting doors aloud as she jogged in the dimly lit corridor.


"I'm at the third door but it won't open," Vannessa informed him.


"Is it locked? We never keep it locked," asked Captain Veyers.


"Yes. Uhhhh, no. Its not locked. The handle turns but it just won't budge at all," Vannessa told Captain Veyers of her plight.


"It must be because the ship is sinking. The frame and metal of the hull twists, and as a result, some of the doors might not open at all. Vannessa, you're going to have to hit it with all of your might. Kick it! Hit it with your shoulder! Use all of your body weight or find a hammer!" Captain Veyers became impatient with her.


She kicked the door once, as hard as she could, nearly breaking her ankle. She screamed in pain, stumbling around as the lights flickered and went out. Just before they did, she spied a large fire extinguish canister some ten feet away. She felt her way around in the dark, as the ship shifted once again, slightly tipping to its port side. She fell into the wall beside the extinguisher door, which she immediately threw open by breaking the seal and pulling the latch. She then pulled the heavy extinguish tank from the opening.


She struggled with its weight, dragging it to where she presumed the door was. She then raised the tank above her head, and threw it at the door as hard as she could. The extinguisher tank bounced off of the wall beside the door and fell to the floor, the clanking sound echoing through the hall. The extinguisher tank then began rolling down the hall before she managed to stop it with her sore ankle, much like a hockey player might have stopped a puck from slipping by into the net.


She hefted the tank in one hand, while feeling around for the door in the other. When she found the boundary between wall and door, she once again wound up, swinging several times with all of the might her tiny body could exert. On the fourth swing, the door flew open and she fell into the doorway on the grated metal floor, exhausted.


"Alright... I'm... in... the room... its dark," Vannessa told Captain Veyers as she struggled to catch her breath.


"If you walk forward from the direction you came in through the door, you'll bump directly into a shelving unit. Take five steps... wait, you're shorter... take seven steps to your left and feel around there. You'll feel small metal cylinders. About the size of a small coffee thermos. They're the oxygen tanks for the portable masks. Bring as many as you can carry, considering we'll need a few once we're in the life raft in order to breath long enough to put some distance between us and this island..." Captain Veyers told Vannessa.


"What about food and other supplies?" asked Vannessa.


"The life raft has food, desalinization pills, blankets, life preservers and first aid supplies. Enough to last two weeks at sea for four people. We should be fine as long as that sludge didn't get onto the raft. Just get yourself up to the starboard bow and wait for me there. Be careful and watch your step," Captain Veyers told her.


"Don't you need oxygen?" Vannessa confirmed with him.


"I can hold my breath long enough to get to the raft and cast it to sea. Just make sure you get there," Captain Veyers pressed her urgently.


"Ok. I can do that..." Vannessa nodded reflexively in the dark.


She took off her jacket, bundling it up like a bag, tying the arms together and stuffing them into the neck. She then filled it with as many oxygen tanks as she could carry before feeling around in the dark for the same door through which she'd come to get into the supply room.


"One... two... uhhhh.... here it is... three..." Vannessa dragged the coat filled with oxygen tanks behind her.


She found the stairs and took them up, dragging the tanks one step at a time. She then pulled them through the door and onto the main deck. When she arrived on deck, she observed that the ship was rapidly sinking, and was nearly surrounded by the trash island.


"I'm coming... I've got a lot..." Vannessa pulled the coat full of oxygen tanks up to the life raft as Captain Veyers met her there.


He quickly grabbed one of the oxygen tanks and replaced the one in his mask.


"We don't have much time. Get in the life raft and brace yourself. I'm going to hit a lever that will drop the raft into the water, because we have no power. I'll jump into the water once the raft is down. I'll need you to help me onboard," he urged her.


She sat on the railing precariously balancing herself as she lifted her legs into the raft. She held her arms out struggling against the swaying life raft, finding a place to lay down safely. Captain Veyers heaved the jacket containing the oxygen tanks into the raft, careful not to hit Vannessa. When she was safely in place, Captain Veyers hit the latch on the hoist. As gravity kicked in, the crank began spinning in reverse as the raft fell the twenty feet into the water with a splash.


Vannessa was winded by the fall, gasping for the first few seconds until she'd heard a splash beside the boat. She quickly reached into the water and helped Captain Veyers onto the raft as he returned his mask to his face.


"I think my arm is broken. I hit the raft when I jumped into the water. You're going to have to start the motor Vannessa," he pointed at the big outboard motor on the life raft with his good hand.


"You need to center the fuel air mixture dial first if it isn't already. Then prime it by pressing the rubber button, which will pump gas into the engine. Not too much because you'll flood the engine and we'll have to wait for a few minutes to try again. Then use the rip cord on the pull starter to start the engine... It might take a few pulls but you'll get it," Captain Veyers explained to Vannessa who caught on quickly.


She did as he instructed and on the sixth attempt at the pull starter, the engine came to life. She used the throttle arm to steer the life raft away from the sinking boat and the island, then gunning it for the open sea.


"Careful! Always head front first into big waves, or if you can, between them in the troughs if they're going in the direction of our travel. Don't try crossing the crests sideways or you'll capsize the boat. Get us at least ten kilometers from the island and then help me with my wound," Captain Veyers told Vannessa.


She steered the boat, taking them at high speed away from the garbage island. Captain Veyers watched as the island consumed his boat, engulfing it and then sinking it, as if swallowing its prey. By the time they were five kilometers distant from the island, the Elesia's Eternity was in the island's stomach, near the center, along with the remains of Terrington, Abott and some forty other disappeared or missing vessels.


"Thank you... You'd make a pretty good sailor, Vannessa," Captain Veyers told Vannessa.


"If I was going in that direction, I'd be aiming for Captain myself..." she responded as the boat bounced over one of the waves.


Captain Veyers smiled back at her.


"I'm thinking that this whole pollution thing is a pretty big problem..." Captain Veyers said blandly to Vannessa.


"Oh yeah. Its a pretty big problem alright..." Vannessa shook her head in agreement with Veyers.


"Let's hope that thing doesn't follow us..." Captain Veyers continued.


"Let's hope that it doesn't have any offspring..." Vannessa surmised.


Prologue Part 4


Weather You Like It Or Not

{REVISION DATE: 10-15-2021 First draft of chapter }

Some six thousand kilometers from where Vannessa Franner and Orson Veyers were struggling to survive at sea as they drifted into the waters off the southern tip of South Korea and just west of Tsushima Island, Galefa Nandusa stood before his bathroom mirror, carefully adjusting his tie according to his discerning tastes.


He splashed another dab of aftershave onto his hairless face after which he checked the watch on his wrist. His eyes widened as he realized that he was running behind for his schedule on this day. He quickly stepped out of the bathroom, bumping into Tabasa one of his room mates in the rooming house.


"Well don't you look spiffy. What's the occasion? Applying for a new apartment?" Tabasa stood before Galefa in his slippers and housecoat, his bathroom kit in hand.


"Yes, I'm going to an interview, but not for an apartment. For a job. I don't have time for this," Galefa started down the hallway to the stairs.


"You forgot something Mr. busy body..." Tabasa picked up Galefa's briefcase from the bathroom, handing it to him as he ran back to retrieve it.


"Break a leg!" Tabasa said as he closed the door.


"What?! You want me to be hurt?!" Galefa pounded on the door angrily.


"No! That's what they say in Mozambique when you try for a job..." Tabasa ignored Galefa's frustration.


"I can't stand that guy sometimes!" Galefa turned and made his way to the stairs.


"Pay him no mind. He's just jealous of you. Don't take his attitude with you," Galefa's only friend in the rooming house stepped out of his room having heard their conversation.


"Thank you Old Man. I'll be back with the good news later," Galefa shook Rolly's hand.


"That's the spirit!"  Rolly bid him farewell as Galefa ran down the stairs and out the front door.


He checked his watch again, looking up to see that his bus was coming. He sprinted for the bus stop, nearly slipping on the paved sidewalk in his good shoes when he tried to stop.


The bus was already beginning to crowd with morning commuters, as he pushed his way to the middle doors and found a place to stand. After the bus had picked up its load of passengers and let some of them off, it continued along its route to downtown Antananarivo on the island of Madagascar.


He spied the daily newspaper on the floor and leaned over to pick it up. As the bus stopped, he banged his head onto one of the seats.


"Hey! Watch it man!" a younger man removed ear buds from his ears to scold Galefa.


"Sorry. It was an accident," Galefa rubbed his head with the same hand he'd used to pick up the newspaper.


"You should be more careful!" the younger man sat forward, putting the ear buds on and continued listening to his music.


"And you should go deaf if you keep blaring your music like that!" he said when we was certain the younger man didn't hear him.


Galefa put his briefcase down on the floor between his legs and began reading the newspaper, perhaps trying to appear as if he was simply on his way to work.


There was a story about various Government reforms being proposed in Madagascar to deal with some of the environmental issues plaguing the region. Within the context of the article, he noticed that one of the reforms might result in the closing of the very plant at which he was attending the job interview on this morning.


"I find a possible job and they're already at risk of being shut down? Can't I just get one break?" Galefa shook his head as the blaring sound of klaxons broke the silence of the bus.


The bus skidded to a stop, pulling over to the side of the street as the sunlight of morning disappeared entirely, replacing the sky with a nearly pitch black vortex of unimaginable scale.


"What's going?!" asked someone in the bus of the driver.


"    Ladies and gentlemen. There is a severe weather alert in progress. Please I ask that everyone file efficiently and safely off the bus and seek shelter in nearby buildings.


Galefa leaned over to take a look out of the windows of the bus. The skies were black as dark clouds completely blotted out the sun over the entirety of the city. What Galefa didn't know was that this supercell storm system that had suddenly formed was twice the size of Madagascar itself.


In the distance, the sound of thunder echoed through the hills and mountains surrounding Antananarivo as people began to line up and pour off of the bus. A bolt of lightning suddenly struck a nearby lamp post, sending sparks flying in coincidence with the accompanying clap of thunder.


People on the bus began to scream as the winds picked up.


"Remain calm! Please remain..." calamity broke out as people in the streets began running in every direction. Water began to fall from the sky, nearly sideways, stinging as it hit the pedestrians faces. Galefa pushed his way off the middle doors of the bus and ran out onto the street which was already soaked with water.


Another lightning bolt hit the top of a nearby low-rise, carrying with it another thunder crash which echoed throughout the streets, deafening some.


Galefa used the briefcase and newpaper to shield himself from the stinging rain as the winds ripped the paper from his hands. He continued running until he ran face first into a brick wall, bouncing off of it and landing flat on his back. All around him, people young and old were running and screaming as the weather worsened.


Galefa got to his feet again, squinting to protect his eyes as a marble sized hailstone hit him in the head.


"What was that?!" he looked up in time to see another hailstone, this time the size of a fist slammed into his face.


Blood began pouring from an open wound on his cheek as he fell backwards onto the wall with which he'd just collided. He clung to it, as he made his way around to the front door, people all around him lying on the ground either unconscious or dead.


Another hailstone hit the pavement beside him, over the size of a basketball. It impacted, cracking the pavement and leaving a crater as it shattered into blocks of ice.


Galefa used his briefcase to shield himself as a similar hailstone smashed it, breaking two of his fingers as he rounded the corner of the building. He quickly ran for the door, ripping it open and diving into a store that had just opened for the day.


One of the employees came running over to him, grabbing a clothing garment from the shelf to stop the bleeding.


"You took one in the face..." the employee told Galefa.


"There are people dead out there..." Galefa said shivering, as he slowly slipped into shock.


The room around him got darker and darker until there was no light at all. He heard the sounds of calamity around him. There were shouts and screams, though they sounded distant and muffled. As if he were beneath a stack of pillows and sound asleep.


When he did finally open his eyes, he was in a white room.


He put his hands to his face, realizing that he was bandaged and in a hospital bed.


A Nurse stepped into the room, and upon seeing that he was conscious, she ran back out into the hall.


"He's awake! He's awake! He's conscious!" she yelled.


When she returned, she was accompanied by several other people. There was a man in a suit similar to the one he'd been wearing for his job interview. There was another man, brandishing a portable camera and a harness, with the lens pointed at Galefa's face.


There was fancily dressed lady, holding a microphone as she spoke into it.


"Sir, can you tell us your name?" asked the lady with the microphone.


"I'm Galefa Nandusa. Am I dead?" he asked, still somewhat dizzy and puzzled.


"Most fortunately you're not, Mr. Nandusa," the Nurse smiled at him.


"Then what happened?" Galefa asked.


"You were caught in the most violent part of a superstorm. The first one of this scale in recorded history," the lady with the microphone told him.


"Mr. Nandusa, you are one of the only fifteen people in that part of the city that survived the storm," the man in the business suit informed Galefa.


"How many people died?" Galefa asked them, looking to each of their faces as he leaned up in his bed.


"A quarter of a million people. In Madagascar alone. Seven hundred and fifty thousand died in Mozambique. Winds in some areas were recorded as exceeding three hundred and fifty miles an hour and there were hailstones the size of beach balls that impacted with enough force to obliterate buildings. Some small cities and villages were completely wiped from the map," the man informed Galefa.


"Everyone in your rooming house was killed. Right now Mr. Nandusa, you are one of the most fortunate people alive. You're one of the only witnesses to the worst weather in recorded history..." the man told Galefa.


"Who are you people?" Galefa asked.


"I'm Iseia Gartner and my peers here are present to record this session with you. We're here from the Atmospheric Studies department of the United Nations Environmental Agency. If you are feeling healthy enough, we have many questions for you, Mr. Nandusa,"  Mr. Gartner informed Galefa who leaned back in his bed, still shocked by their revelations. 


He was most horrified by the fact that his life had been changed so drastically at the expense of the lives of so many.


Prologue Part 5

Sight Seeing, Soon Fleeing

{REVISION DATE: 10-17-2021 First draft of chapter }


"Look at that one Eileen!" Danny Kerolew sat at the driver's seat of a rental Airboat he'd procured as a part of package vacation deal for him and his wife.


His Giants baseball cap shielded his face and sunglasses from the hot glaring September sun. His wife wore a tilley's sun hat and her own pair of tinted glasses. The rest of them were amply covered, leaving no exposed leg or arm in order to protect them both from the mosquitoes and biting insects as much so as the sun.


"That's a Coral Snake. Must have shed recently cause that's the brightest one I've seen..." Eileen answered from the passenger seat beside him as she leveled her vintage Pentax K-1000 and its accompanying telephoto lens at the reptile passing their boat.


The K-1000 was an old school thirty five millimeter film camera, fully manual with a built in light meter. She'd bought it for cheap and restored it herself, accepting help from her Tool And Die Machinist husband, who'd tool parts for her as needed in the comfort of their workshop garage. She was grateful when her hobbies coincided with his as they often did thanks to their shared tinkering nature.


She'd replaced the interior backplane with digital CCD based hardware so as to retain the benefits of shooting digital, while still relying on optical lenses. Both the built-in thirty five millimeter lens and the extensive catalog of manual glass lenses. She'd even kept the hardware shutter and synchronized it with the digital equivalent, giving her the ability to have a lot of control over timing and exposure. Also, she could achieve a true shutter based vignette in her digital photos rather than relying on the built-in digital effect.


She'd nicknamed it her Danalog camera, her husband of course presuming the nickname came from his own name, rather than the abbreviated words Digital and Analog in the form of an acronym.


"Can you take us over to that shaded area honey?" she asked her husband.


"I think I can get us close to that..." Danny checked to make sure that the snake was clear before proceeding.


The fan behind them came to life, pushing the boat through the water and muck surprisingly quietly. Danny steered the boat around a clump of twisted trees and their root systems, stopping just before the shore and a hidden rock alcove and cave.


She leaned over and kissed her husband on the cheek and then stood, stepping off onto the shore.


"I'm going to take a look at what's hidden there in that cave. Wanna come?" she asked him.


"Wouldn't have it any other way," he said as he stood and kicked the anchor over the edge of the Airboat's deck.


He then checked it, ensuring that it was secured.


Eileen stepped off of the boat and proceeded around the other side of the alcove into the shade where the cave opening could be clearly seen.


"Whew! That's a stench..." Eileen remarked as she got closer to the cave's opening.


"I'll say. Smells deader than dead," Danny remarked, plugging his nose.


"Recent too. Probably an abandoned alligator kill," she responded.


"They do that often, do they?" Danny asked her.


"If they get the kill on land and they can't drag it into the water they might abandon it. They need the water to help them, especially when eating because they twist their entire bodies to rip off parts of their prey's meat," Eileen explained the eating ritual of the American Alligator to her husband.


"Glad we're discussin' this now rather than over a meal and a glass of wine tonight," Danny joked.


"If you think I'm here for the smell you'd be dead wrong. I'm here because this kind of a kill attracts lots of other wildlife," Eileen pulled a powerful LED flashlight from her pack and pointed it into the cave's opening.


There, laying on just inside the cave were a dead family of Raccoons. She repositioned the light and caught the reflection of a pair of eyes further into the cave.


"Watch it. That's something there. Might be one of them cats?" asked Danny.


"No. Probably just another raccoon or maybe a 'possum. A 'possum would be good as I didn't get any pictures of them yet on this trip," Eileen leaned left and right trying to get a better look.


She set the light down facing away from the cave so as not to startle the animal within. She then leaned down with her camera, readying the flash. She figured that she could get her picture without having to get closer to the cave.


From within the cave, they heard a chittering sound and then a hissing.


"That doesn't sound healthy..." Eileen craned her head to one side.


The creature within the cave coughed several times, sounding as if it was vomiting. It then began to hiss again, this time in their direction.


"I don't like it Eileen. I think we'd better go," Danny urged his wife.


"I think you're right. If we go now, we might be able to catch some pelicans hunting near that sand bed we saw," Eileen turned to grab her light.


As she did, a small animal, the size of a rat jumped out of the cave, hissing and spitting at her. She stopped in mid reach of the light, trying not to agitate the animal.


"I think its a Mink. Might be rabid," Eileen remained still.


It ran up to her, coughing and spitting as it did. It then turned its body, side stepping as if to make itself look bigger in attempt to scare her off.


Without waiting for its reaction, she reached out for the light. The little Mink hissed at her again, and several droplets of spittle flew through the air and found their way between Eileen's sunglasses and her face. Directly into one of her eyes.


"Oh shoot! I think it just spit in my eye!" Eileen grabbed the light and ran for the Airboat.


Danny was already moving and ripping open the first aid kit and drawing forth the eye wash kit.


"Here! Quickly!" He handed her the plastic bottle.


She placed the ocular of the wash kit against her eye, and squeezed the bottle several times attempting to thoroughly rinse her eye.


Danny threw the rest of the kit into the case and helped his wife to find her seat. He then ran back to where they'd seen the Mink, picking up a large club sized trunk of wood. When he saw the Mink again, he battered it with the trunk of wood, killing it. He then removed his baseball cap and used it to pickup the dead Mink.


He then ran back to the boat, thowing the cap and dead mink into a basket on the boat.


As he sped back the way they'd come, she continued rinsing her both her eyes, and wiping her face and mouth with anti-bacterial wipes.


"Don't worry. It probably just had a cold..." Danny told her as he deftly steered the Airboat as if through a racing course.


"I think my eye is starting to swell," Eileen noticed that the left side of her face was starting to numb.


"Maybe sensitive to the eye wash?" Danny asked her.


"Maybe," she responded as her face visibly began to swell.


"I'm starting to feel a little nauseous..." Eileen gagged twice and then began to vomit.


Danny rubbed her back with his free hand as he steered with the other.


"Don't worry honey, we're almost there," Danny took a hard right and then a left as the Airboat rounded a bank and found its way into open water.


Straight ahead was the beach landing where they'd initially dropped the rental Airboat from their trailer.


Danny gunned the Airboat and it climbed the sand embankment, sliding to a stop.


"We'll come back for the boat. Let's get you to the car," Danny helped his wife up, rushing her to the passenger side of their car.


He then ran back for his Mink-filled baseball cap, throwing it into the trunk of their car. He then got into the car, started it and sped off down the road to the nearest clinic.


"Speak to me Eileen! What's your favourite movie?" he asked her, trying to keep her attentive.


"What was that one about the guy and his dog in the wild? They go on an adventure?" she asked him as her face continued to swell.


She then coughed into her hands, a lumpy mix of saliva and blood.


"I think I'm falling apart..." she fell sideways onto the passenger window.


"We're almost there. Just another five minutes sweety. Remember that time we drove up to the Yardley Bluffs in Passadena?" Danny asked her.


"And you tripped and fell fully clothed into the lake..." Eileen responded, coughing again.


"I sure did! That was funny. The whole time I was thinking that you were thinking that I was just the biggest klutz... I sure did like you," Danny spoke about their first date.


"I did think you were the biggest klutz..." she joked, coughing again before she fell unconscious.


"Dammit! Can't this damned car go any faster?!" Danny floored the pedal as his knuckles whitened gripping the wheel.


Two minutes later, Danny pulled the car up to the front of an emergency clinic, parking halfway between two spots. He was then quickly out of the driver's side, helping Eileen through the front doors of the clinic.


"I've got an emergency here! My wife is dying! Some kind of poison or toxin..." Danny carried Eileen with her arm over his shoulder to the front desk.


One of the duty Nurses saw Eileen's condition and grabbed a vacant gurney from nearby.


"Can you explain what happened to her sir?" asked the Nurse.


"We were out in the park... the Everglades when my Wife was bitten by a small mammal..." Danny started.


"...it was a mink..." Eileen struggled to speak as she drooled.


"...we believe the mammal, I mean mink was diseased, possibly rabid and bit my wife. She started having shortly thereafter," Danny explained.


"About how long before these symptoms became apparent?" the Nurse asked clinically.


"...about two or three minutes...?" Danny responded.


"Two or three minutes? Alright sir. Just a moment. Erika? Do we have a free examination room available?" asked the Nurse of the receptionist.


"Number 5 is free..." the receptionist responded.


"Thank you. Mark it as occupied for the time being. I'll bring you the case details in a bit. Sir, I need you to take a seat in room 5 and wait there until we come to you," the Nurse asked Danny.


"Look, I've got the animal that bit her. I killed it and its in the trunk of my car in case you need it for any tests," Danny responded, thinking on his feet.


"We'll come get you when we need to retrieve the specimen. Until then, please wait in room 5. Erika, can you request someone from toxicology come to retrieve a test specimen," the Nurse asked of the receptionist.


"I'm on it," Erika responded.


"I love you Eileen," Danny held her hand for a moment before backing away from her towards room 5 as the Nurse wheeled the gurney into the emergency room.


Danny stepped into room 5, pacing as he waited for the toxicologist to come retrieve him. His nerves were on edge and he suddenly found himself unable to think clearly. 


"Been running on empty... I need a pop..." Danny remarked to himself as he rubbed his face.


His eyes suddenly started to water uncontrollably. At first, he thought it might be tears, but then when his nose began to run, he suspected the worst.


"Damn...!" he cursed under his breath as he collapsed onto the chair and began coughing.


Prologue Part 6

Magma - Its All Rock And Roll

{REVISION DATE: 10-19-2021 First draft of this chapter }


The Park Ranger walked with her guest along the Caldera trail. Though the caldera itself was roughly seventy by forty five kilometers and had many trails, this one was the favourite of the rangers, geologists and tourists, for it had the most intriguing points of interest for each.


The trail had been closed due to a recent spate of dangerous activity, where several famous geysers were failing to meet their daily schedule. As well, the acidity levels in three bodies of water in the region had suddenly risen sharply. All of these factors together indicated that something was happening in the magma chambers beneath the park to trigger these effects.


Yellowstone Park Ranger Kelly Watson had been working with Canadian Geologist Chris Corman for the last week as he finalized research to back a theory published in one of his latest papers. Peer reviews of his year old paper had been pretty scathing but that didn't phase Chris in the slightest. Instead, he took the criticism, especially when it included explanations and proofs, as a challenge. With those challenges, he'd set out more than six months ago to prove his theory and disprove their criticisms. Not in the interest of his own ego, but in the interest of furthering the sciences.


"Well looks like this is the last sensor on this trip. So I guess you're just going to be up and leaving then?" asked Ranger Watson of Chris as they walked the last milestone of the trail.


"Unless you've got any projects where thirty year old sensor emplacements need modernizing, yeah. That's it. I'm outta here." Chris responded blatantly, masking a devious smile.


"I've got some time off coming up. I suppose I could be coaxed ever so delicately into making a trip up Waterloo if you'd like the company," she asked the him, maintaining a playful smile on her naturally amorous face.


"Waterloo? Now why in the world would you want to go there? We've got two things in Waterloo, and both of them are me," he joked with her, closing in on her and taking her hand as they walked.


"What kind of silly question was that? Of course I'd love it you came up to my neck of the woods. I'd love to show you my place too. I've got a great yard..." Chris boasted.


"A geologist's yard I'd bet?" she goaded him.


"Well, you know. Not really. Actually I was kind of hoping that a certain Ranger might find it impressive. Its got a garden. A pond too, with real fish, assuming that Willy, the senior raccoon in the area hasn't eaten them all in my absence," Chris explained to her.


"Sounds nice. Just us time?" Kelly confirmed with him.


"As much us time as there is time itself. No sensor logs to read in the bush. Most of mine are all wired up to GeoNet and other GIS systems and once this last installation and upgrade is done, most of my work for the next year or two is going to be happening at home, or at the University," Chris made it sound as inviting as he could in order to meet her criteria at least half-way.


"Alright. I'll take your application under consideration and if you're approved in the next three to five weeks, I'll be sure to let you know," Kelly smiled, taking charge of the situation.


"I can't wait. So where's this last sensor?" asked Chris.


"Right there, that stump with the fluorescent marker," Kelly pointed as they crossed the median and stepped of the trail into the brush.


They arrived at an old stump that had been marked with a fluorescent flag.


"Just under that root..." Kelly pointed and they both got on their knees and began clearing dirt away from the site.


"Wow, that's an older one. That has to be pre St. Helen's time at least," asked Chris.


"Older. This one was part of a batch we received from Sandia Laboratories in the nineteen seventies, decades before I was born. We were using it for local seismic activity detection, ground thermal metering and the monitoring of atmospheric gases in the area. Sandia labs were using it to monitor atmospheric testing of nuclear devices in the USSR in the late nineteen seventies. All of it had to be logged on a weekly basis because it only has four K of pre-solid state memory. The memory box from what I heard is over eighty pounds in weight and buried about ten feet deep. Thankfully, we're just forgetting about it altogether when we do the upgrade," Kelly told him.


"I'll bet this sensor could tell some stories if it could speak. We'll just disconnect it and leave it here in case someone wants it for a museum. I can install the new one right here without even disturbing the old one," Chris began making room for the new sensor he'd be installing.


Kelly in the meantime pulled out an older interface plug and connected it to the old sensor and retrieved the data logs from the device. She then handed pulled an SD card from the interface and handed it to Chris.


"Here's the data you need," Kelly gave him the card.


"Thank you. Just another minute and the new one will be in place..." Chris accepted the card, immediately pocketing it and then returning to the installation of the new sensor.


Chris pulled a mallet from his toolkit and began hammering a small composite plastic post into the dirt upon which the sensor would be mounted. As his hammer struck the first blow, the ground began to shake immensely as tremors rippled through the area.


"That's plate activity..." Chris yelled.


"No, that's something happening in the magma chambers," Kelly responded.


There was a second round of violent quakes as trees began to sway as the ground slid from side to side.


"You're right!" Kelly responded.


"No, you're right!" Chris countered.


"We're both right!" Kelly grabbed hold of Chris as they clung to the stump.


"That's gotta be at least a seven, maybe an eight!" Chris told her.


The trunk of one of the trees nearby snapped, and the hundred foot behemoth fell in their direction.


Chris and Kelly were up on their feet immediately, running for their lives perpendicular to the direction of the tree's fall. It landed just five feet behind them with a loud muffled thump, missing Chris's installation work by less than a foot.


From several hundred meters away, something exploded, sending a shockwave the entire distance, knocking them off their feet and onto their back.


From their vantage point, they spied the largest geyser they'd ever seen. A stream of steam, water and sulphur shot more than three kilometers up into the sky, remaining erect for the next forty five seconds before the geyser subsided and the tremors ceased.


"Something gave," Kelly rolled over to check on Chris.


"I'm still winded from that shockwave. That had to be one of the major geysers," Chris responded.


"Its reservoir was probably crushed by activity in one of the magma chambers, but that kind of activity is only associated with..." Kelly began.


 "Plate tectonics..." Chris finished her sentence.


"The good news Mr. Corman is that your theory is correct," Kelly kissed Chris on the cheek.


"...and the bad news is that could mean a significantly larger super-volcano than the one we thought we had. We're talking a super-volcano whose caldera stretches from here in the Yellowstone caldera to the Great Canadian shield," Chris responded blandly.


For the first time in his life, Chris was sorry that he'd been right for this could only mean one thing. That the world was long overdue for Chris's theorized mega-volcano.


A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity Chapter 1

A Lady's Lesson

{REVISION DATE: 10-20-2021 First draft of this chapter, with minor revisions and fact checking }


Nelony walked the front of the classroom across the marble floor of a magnificently decorated educational chamber. One of many held within the walls of the Sanctum Secularum and the Midspace. Throughout the Sanctum, there were other similar classrooms to this one, where each of the Orders of membership to the Sanctum taught their students and prospect Wytches and Sorcerers of the craft and sciences and the weave that bound them as one.


Here within this classroom, Nelony Arbloem, the last living Wytch of the Order Of The Aerth Mother presided over her class. The only living instructor retaining knowledge of the Aerth Mother and the laws of the natural world. Knowledge that had been handed down through the generations first through an aural tradition, and then with the arrival of writing, through written lessons and teachings scribed by the masters of the arts and craft.


She walked from one side of the front of the classroom, finding her way to the center before speaking.


"You see, the Aerth isn't just a lump of rock floating in space, orbiting a star that is orbiting the central point of the strongest source of gravity amongst a sum of gravity sources within the galaxy. The Aerth is itself a dynamic, living thing, just like us," she began her lesson.


"She has a heart that is beating deep within her at her core, her geo-dynamo, pushing flows of magma and molten materials upon which dense and cooler layers float, moving around her central mass. These are her internal organs and circulatory system. Kilometers above those layers, the cooler outer layers become the surface, which in turn is her skin. She also has a lot of moisture in the form of liquid water which also makes up the top layers of the surface, some seventy percent of her total area," Nelony paced as she delivered her address.


"Some of you might be surprised to find out surface coverage of water versus land is approximately the same ratio of which our body is composed of water compared to other matter. We're approximately seventy percent water and thirty percent other stuff. Almost as if the Aerth herself were a two dimensional holographic projection of that ratio onto her offspring, as most other living creatures also follow the dynamics of this compositive ratio. She has biomatter living upon her surface, much of which consumes carbon from the air and converts it into solid matter, storing it for other parts of its life cycle. This biomatter literally inhales carbon, and exhales oxygen, a percentage of which is required by the vast majority of other life upon her surface. This could be regarded as her respiratory system," Nelony continued.


"With what I've explained to you, we now have all the makings for what we describe as the dynamic system we call life, short of reproduction. Our planet. She's a living, breathing organism and we're guests, some might even postulate parasites, living on her body. Maybe even a disease," Nelony stopped and turned around to walk back in the other direction.


"Now in most living things with which we're familiar, when they have a parasite or disease whose activities start to deplete the health of the host organism, the host organism often has defenses that respond in any number of ways. The Aerth is certainly no different," Nelony continued her lesson as her heels clicked on the marble floor with her pacing.


"Perhaps, with some of the phenomenon we're seeing on the Aerth in the midst of our neglecting and abusive treatment of her, while over-extending ourselves by the extraction of her resources, we've triggered aspects of her immune system. Now we're being subjected to the billions of years old defenses of our host organism," Nelony posited for the class.


"Assuming this is the case, where is the middle ground? How can we hope to survive without ensuring the survival of our most gracious host who is at the end of her patience?" Nelony asked the class.


There was a moment of silence as Nelony stood considering what she'd said.


"Maybe it was too dismal?" she asked.


"No Nelony. It was perfect. Well thought out and well delivered. I think you'll make an astounding teacher and instructor. There's only one problem," Yirfir spoke from one of the seats in the classroom.


"What is that?" asked Nelony.


"Students. You have no students. You're the last Wytch of your kind, and you have no students," Yirfir summarized.


"Yes, uhhh well that is a minor detail that I'm looking into solving," Nelony defended herself.


"Its the only way. Everything else is perfect Nelony. You've come such a long way from the lady I remember  who liberated me from the service Power Lord Lorr, with her two best friends. And that deceased bumbling sidekick that we all loved so much," Lannay remarked coldly.


"Don't talk about Barris like that! He's wasn't a sidekick! Mila would have your tongue for that comment, Lannay!" Nelony responded quickly.


"I think that Lannay meant well, but that he lacks a certain familiarity. Nonetheless, the fact remains that you need students," Yirfir stood, looking Nelony over once before turning and heading for the door.


Lannay followed in much the same way.


"I'll get them. Trust me," Nelony spoke as if to stop her mentor and friend from leaving.


"I know you will, Nelony. You'd better, because we need you in the field, but we need you to pass that most important knowledge you have to others that are dedicated and willing to take up the same cause. We'd all be at a great loss if you passed in the night without so much as an apprentice or student to carry on your tradition. That is the great responsibility that time, knowledge and experience bestows upon us all. In the meantime, there are important matters happening upon our beloved Aerth that require your expertise and attention. Your presence is requested in the Main Chamber Hall as soon as possible," Yirfir continued on towards the door into the corridor.


"You might want to tone down the gloom and doom a bit..." Lannay added as he left.


"Don't even start with me!" Nelony responded sharply.


"...just saying..." Lannay continued out without another word.


...


Nelony walked casually into the Council Hall Chamber of the Sanctum, her steps echoing against the marble and slate interiors of the room. It was a large round room,  encircled with segmented layers of seating around a central focal point. The center being the point at which a speaker or presenter would deliver propositions for the evaluation of the Sanctum's governing council, organized serially per council session. At the East end of the circle, an elevated stage with its own set of seating presided over the spectacle. It was from here that the entire process was overseen by its moderators. A mixture of dynamic icons and bureaucrats upon which the function of the Sanctum was imperative. They would call the votes and evaluate the outcome according to the rules of the governing body of the Sanctum and its universal and extra-planar membership of mostly matter based beings and entities.


The majority of its three hundred seating capacity was empty at the time of Nelony's entry as session had  ended a half-hour earlier in linear time, as opposed to true entropic time to which the Sanctum and the Midspace were not subject.


She approached the center of the chamber and faced the overseers.


"Nelony. Glad you could make it. I was just talking to Thara about how far along your efforts to build a curriculum have come along," Yirfir looked to Nelony, then to Thara and then back to Nelony politely.


"Sounds like you're ready for some students. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to sit in on one of your classes. Discretely I assure you," Thara, the Matron of the Order Of The Night Wytch addressed Nelony.


"Thank you Matron Thara. You'll be most welcome anytime. Sooo, I'm here at your behest Yirfir. What is it that you need of me?" Nelony responded politely to them, though making the effort to smirk at Lannay.


Lannay shuffled in his seat uncomfortably and cleared his throat as he loosened his collar.


"As you may already be aware, there are a number of circumstances happening around the globe recently that have alarmed many of us at the Sanctum. I mean much more so than the statistical evidence supporting the fact that the Aerth is ever more becoming inhospitable for the life it currently supports, though that process of change has been going on for a century or longer already since the beginning of the industrial age," Yirfir began.


"Yes. I am aware of the changes that the numerous biomes of the Aerth have been experiencing thanks to environmental factors, not excluding the activities of perhaps the most voracious species on the planet, namely us. I know because I can feel her every ailment and pain arising from such activity, for her and I are no more separate than a fish is separate from the body of water in which it lives and breathes. When she ails, so do I," Nelony reported to Yirfir.


"Then you must certainly have felt the changes for there have been several catastrophes since you were last at your home on Aerth," Yirfir asked her, examining her for any emotional signs of fatigue or stress.


"I've only recently felt her slow and declining health resulting from what we just discussed: the neglect of humankind to restrain its consumption of resources and to manage a sustainable approach to its growth and ambitions, that encompasses the consumers and the producers of goods and services at every level, not just for the purposes of marketing but a through and through holistic transformation of how society is supplied, maintained and expanded¹. Beyond her current level of suffering which is accelerating I might add, I've felt nothing different than before," Nelony spoke confidently about a subject about which she knew much.


"Recently, there have been some alarming events around the globe that we suspect are related to the current environmental crises, though their extremity seems to present us with a spike in terms of their sudden rather than gradual appearance. We'd like you to investigate this current elevation in disaster level events around the world and keep us abreast of the situation. As you know, it is standard procedure that you take someone else with you. Who would you like to bring?" Yirfir asked Nelony.


"Perhaps Shaela might be available? If not, Athandra? She'd be perfect for this kind of thing. We actually get along quite well," Nelony asked of Yirfir.


"Shaela is already in the field investigating a very different situation. Athandra and Sir Manfred are also predisposed, though their activities are related to what I'm asking of you. You could try asking..." Yirfir began her suggestion before Nelony cut her off.


"No. She abandoned us when we needed her the most. I'm not going to approach her for something of this magnitude," Nelony's face became firm and impatient.


"You know how enduring a soul Mila is. She's been through a lot," Yirfir tried to reason with her peer.


"Barris wasn't just Mila's loss. He was our loss. We all lost him. She's holed herself up in her home, drinking and painting in an ever so self destructive and obsessed manner. She's all but lost to the weave..." Nelony became frustrated about the topic.


"We all deal with loss in our own way and perhaps you as a friend might be more supportive? You might even be helping to liberate her from a serious depression at a time when all she has is her friends," Yirfir suggested.


"Shaela tried calling her two months ago Aerth time. Mila rambled about Barris still being alive and that we were letting him down. She then went on to explain that she'd been hearing voices, subjecting her to negative and sometimes abusive treatment while imploring her to cut her ties with the Sanctum... Of course all of this was during one of her wine binges..." Nelony explained to Yirfir.


"I seem to remember a Nelony so destroyed by the receiving of a package of letters pertaining to the lost records of the Wytch hunt, that she developed a second persona embodying a vengeful Aerth Mother who set about shoring up the inequities humanity visited upon nature and Wytch alike. Don't you remember how your friends rescued you from your greatest tragedy and helped you to achieve your greatest triumph? Remember that Mila was one of those friends and that when you fell to your lowest, she was there to help lift you to your highest," Yirfir once again pressed her to recall how she'd arrived at this point.


"Whatever Mila is facing, she needs to conquer on her own. I'd prefer someone else but if nobody is available, then I'll go alone," Nelony stood firmly on her decision.


"Very well. It goes against our better judgement, but in light of the fact that you are a Wytch of some recognized stature and ability here at the Sanctum, we'll allow this. I'd ask that you reconsider your stance against Mila for her sake more so than your own. As it stands, we'll allow this. You may leave immediately. You're dismissed," Yirfir smiled at her friend, somewhat disappointed by her reproach for Mila.


"Very well," Nelony seemed as if she'd expected this outcome.


"Before you go, where will you begin your investigation?" Yirfir asked her.


"I was thinking that the Amazon would be a good start. There's two major crises happening there right now. The first, raging fires that are leveling jungle and spewing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's land clearing and logging going on which is likely fueling the fires considering that the jungle canopy is one of the most effective absorbers of sunlight and heat energy, not to mention one of the most efficient. With less trees, we have less regional retention of moisture, less respiration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and a lot more dry, fire prone, dying plant matter to serve as fuels for the onset of fire," Nelony justified her choice.


"Fine. That will be all," Yirfir dismissed Nelony.


Nelony turned and started walking for the exit to the enormous chamber.


"Oh, and Nelony?" Yirfir called her departing friend.


"Yes?" Nelony responded.


"Do well by us. Really and truly so," Yirfir encouraged her friend.


"I'm surprised you'd expect anything less of me," Nelony responded.


"We don't. However sometimes it is better to express it so you remember that regardless of your faults, you're still a part of this Sanctum," Yirfir reminded Nelony, more so hoping to strike a note with regard to Nelony's regard for Mila.


Nelony looked one more time to Yirfir, raising her eyebrows as she pondered Yirfir's statement. She then turned and left the chamber silently.


A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity Chapter 2




To be continued.


Brian Joseph Johns - This is not the end of Shhhh! Digital, for we've only just begun.

Shhhh! Digital Media and its stories and books are located online at https://www.shhhhdigital.ca and in the city of Toronto in Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street in apartment 701.

https://www.shhhhdigital.ca

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Reference And Bibliography

¹ Four sources for Nelony's observation of the required transformation of society in order for humanity to overcome climate change. 

The works and efforts of Doctor Jane Goodall https://janegoodall.ca

The works and efforts of fellow Canadian Doctor David Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation https://www.davidsuzuki.org

The works and efforts of David Attenborough https://attenboroughfilm.com (the closest you'll get to him having a web site as he's quite a low tech kind of person and much more personable for hand written mail).

The Kurzgesagt YouTube channel.