Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 08


Occo didn’t go far to set up her own camp. Just far enough from the Envacht Lu encampment to get away from them and find a location that didn’t remind her of her now-vanished home cloister.

She settled on the far slope of a rocky, barren crag which had a meadow large enough to land her flyer.

“Why are we stopping here?” Bresk demanded. “The whole planet’s a pile of effluvium. Let’s just go back to the ship and leave the system altogether.”

Occo was tempted to order the miserable literally-a-creature (hers, sadly) to shut itself down but refrained. There were actually some good reasons the familiar should understand her plans, even if that triggered off another flood of complaints.

“We can’t. Once we get to the ship I want to depart the system as quickly as possible in case there are any spy craft lurking on one of the moons. But now that the Envacht Lu has established their paramountcy in the system I can’t get clearance from their traffic control unless I give them the wormhole coordinates we’ll be using.”

“So? We’re just returning to Redlych, right? I have those coordinates right here in my data bank.” Briefly, it manifested a virtual display above its mantle crest.

“We are not returning to Redlych. We’re going somewhere we’ve never been. Finding the coordinates we need to get there via sanctioned wormholes will require working through a good chunk of the night.”

“Ridiculous. You may be hopelessly inept at mathematics but I’m not. Give me a few medims and I’ll have them worked out for you.”

“Not for this location. We’ll need to search the Gray Archives and piece together the information. I know it can be reached by using the sanctioned wormhole grid, but I have no idea what route we’d need to take. You know what the Gray Archives are like.”

Bresk issued a very loud fart. “Whatever’s the antonym of well-organized and coherent. Humans have a clever expression for it: mare’s nest. The modern meaning of the phrase is ‘a place, condition, or situation of great disorder or confusion’ but the original meaning might be more appropriate to whatever madness you’re contemplating now. It seems a ‘mare’ was a type of large animal on the humans’ home world which didn’t make nests to begin with. So it meant going in search of a nonexistent thing, just as you’d expect of the blithering fool you’re turning into.”

“Why are you suddenly plaguing me with Human references? They’re the most ridiculous sentient species in the known galaxy. Well, leaving aside the Vitunpelay — but in theological terms even the Vitunpelay are rational compared to Humans.”

“Exactly. Who better to cite when I’ve been dragged against my will –”

“You’re a familiar. By definition, you have no will.”

“Fine. Against my virtual will into a maelstrom of unreason. Which I’m sure is where you’re thinking of taking us next. Bound to be, if we’ve got to muck around in the Gray Archives. So where are we going?”

“The moon — I can’t remember the name — orbiting Vlax Broche.”

The Vlax Broche? The seventh planet in the Hrea system?”

“Is there any other?”

“Not that I know of. I was just grasping at any faint hope that might remain that we weren’t plunging into complete folly. You do know that the Repository of the Old Ones is guarded by the Nedru Concord Skein of Creeds?”

By now, Occo had emerged from the flyer onto the relative expanse of the meadow. The sun was setting. Between that and the high altitude, the heat was tolerable. And the weather looked to be decent, although on Flaak that was always unpredictable. But she thought they’d be able to work out here instead of in the cramped confines of the flyer. She ordered the flyer’s computer to manifest itself.

“The Nedru haven’t been challenged in so long that I think they’ll be sluggish,” she said, watching the virtual screen emerge before her. “We’ll need to move fast, though.”

“Move fast to do what?”

“Steal the Warlock Variation Drive.”

Bresk fell silent. The familiar’s mantle flared for a moment, exposing the drones nestled within. The tiny cyborgs peered out at Occo as if they were observing a great wonder for the first time. That was just an illusion, since their eyes were always big and round. Still, they were awfully cute.

Completely brainless, of course. Too bad familiars couldn’t be designed the same way.

Bresk’s mantle flared in and out a few times. That was its way of hyperventilating.

The blessed silence ended all too soon. “There must have been a mutation somewhere as you were gestating which stunted the portion of your brain that gauges risks. Luckily for your species, you won’t live long enough to pass it on to future generations. Unluckily for your familiar, you probably will live long enough to take me down with you.”

“I have a plan.”

“Of course you do. That’s part of the risk-gauging impairment. You think that if you have a plan that it will work — which are actually two completely different propositions. Like thinking that because you can jump off a cliff intact you can land the same way. Humans have a term for this too, being the most insane species in existence. Well, leaving aside the Vitunpelay. They call it the Evel Knievel Syndrome, after their god of folly. It’s worth noting, though, that Evel Knievel is said to have the divine power to heal all its broken bones — a power which you notably do not possess.”

“Shut up.” Occo keyed the initial search parameters into her forearm comp. The virtual screen began taking shape and displaying what little coherence the Gray Archives possessed.

“I can’t shut up. You programmed me to caution you when you were on the verge of doing something foolish. It’s my bounden duty — my sacred calling, you could almost say — as your familiar. Stealing the Warlock Variation Drive qualifies as foolish. I should say, trying to steal the Warlock Variation Drive qualifies as foolish.”

“I told you, I have a plan.” She began accessing the data in the Gray Archives; as always, a tedious process.

“Even worse, if the plan succeeds. Trying to use the Warlock Variation Drive qualifies as dementia. Or are you unaware of the reason for the word ‘variation’ in the title?”

Occo decide that ignoring Bresk was her best course of action. There was always the chance the familiar would cease and desist.

Faint chance, of course.

“I interpret your silence as an indication of ignorance. Let me enlighten you, then. The Warlock Drive held in the Repository of the Old Ones, as opposed to the other three known or rumored to exist, is called the ‘Variation’ version because its workings are not only unpredictable — that’s true of all of them — but change as the Drive unfolds. I say ‘unfolds’ because, assuming that you are ignorant of this matter also, the Drive does not actually work like an engine. Insofar as anyone has ever been able to discern its mechanism — using the term ‘mechanism’ oh so very very loosely — the Drive is actually not a ‘drive’ at all but a device which develops alternative modes of existence. At apparent random. Whatever its logic might be, it is said to be indecipherable.”

Occo couldn’t bear the jabber any longer. “Shut. Up. You know what I think of the Nedru Concord’s gospel. The reason they believe functioning artifacts of the Old Ones cannot be analyzed is because they believe the Old Ones used technology based on scientific knowledge beyond our ken. Whereas –”

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot. My creator and mistress subscribes to the — happily now extinct — creed of the Naccor Jute, among whose many whimsical notions is the idea that the Old Ones used actual magic.”