Kent could not remember the last time he had a dream.
He dreamt of a ship: one he vaguely remembered from his childhood, imposing and nonsensical - he knew every detail about it.
It was a continuation of a dream he had long ago, he had been here before.
He saw the tear across the deck of the ship where a tower used to be.
He knew every person - each hiding below deck.
And he knew people were missing, but not who
He woke up
He stared up at the ceiling absorbing that dream.
Around him was a heavy silence, what sounded like static in the distance.
He was on a bed
He had his clothes on still - as if someone had just tossed him there.
He saw distant fluorescent tubes, and a ceiling of empty darkness
He jolted up from the hospital bed
The walls around him were particle board, makeshift.
The top of the wall did not reach the ceiling.
The gap was ten... fifteen meters or more
'Too early, no alarm...'
There was a single knock at the open door to his right
More of a slam really, a moment later it came again.
Kent's head throbbed - pulsing in rhythm to the darkness receding from his vision
Another slam on the door
Silence and then
It was then Kent noticed the leg sticking partway into the room
Kent rushed to the door.
He nearly slipped on a hospital gown by the bed
He found a woman on the floor, having some sort of seizure
Her leg jerked. It banged against the door again.
Kent looked both ways down the hallway she was in
All was silent - but down to the right there was another person on the floor
'Shit... where are you, Kent?'
The air seemed fine
He was calling into a void
He felt at her pulse
It was steady, and her breathing seemed fine
'Right, fucking cardboard palace - chemistry...
Should you be breathing though a filter?'
Kent rushed over to the other person down the hall
They too were stable.
Kent was in an abandon building
He supposed he must not have been moved far
'The fuck is happening?'
Kent wandered down the hall
It reminded him more of a hospital, the floors were linoleum.
But the walls were bare wood - free floating.
The ceiling unconnected to the hallway walls; And distant fluorescent lines flickered along a dark expanse above.
There were no signs for exits, nothing was 'up to code'.
There were others lying on the ground - all in the same condition.
In the distance he heard a sound.
A sort of static that grew to a high pitched whine: the sound of a CRT TV
He walked toward that sound
He eventually made out a voice
'Is this the lab?'
"If you are driving, stop driving, turn off your car and lie down."
They Stopped talking
"Stop what you are doing and lie down, we don't -"
Kent opened the door
The room was an office, and had a CRT TV cradled in a boom arm sticking out of the wall.
A channel logo was playing, then suddenly the reporter came back on
"This is a recorded message."
The reporter's face twitched violently to the side and they let out what looked like a silent scream
The reporter fell.
They were caught by some arms racing in from off camera
The screen turned back into the logo
"Some sort of illness is striking millions of people every minute causing seizures.
This illness is everywhere, and we don't know how it spreads, but on the street - people keep falling.
This is happening everywhere - put down any sharp objects and lie down.
If you are driving, stop driving, turn off your car and lie down.
Stop what your doing and lie down, we don't -"
The TV continued to loop
"This is a recorded message."
Kent felt at himself
He felt fine
"Did that happen to me, I fell asleep right?"
His stomach growled
'Okay Kent, what to do, what to do...'
He wondered if he could find some tape
'Food soon, should start crawling.
Maybe carry a pillow...'
Then he thought of what he would find outside
Kent kneeled down and started crawling
If he was going to fall down, it wouldn't be from far
' duct tape and pillows: a perfect helmet.'
Either way Kent had to see outside.
It was so quiet
'Better safe than sorry...'
Kent ran through his options:.
Finding Felix in a place this large while crawling would be less than ideal.
He didn't know where the exits were anyway
'Where did Felix go, or the chemist?'
'You could have a seizure at any moment...'
"How long had that been playing?"
He sat there and considered how long he could have been out for.
There were no clocks on the bare wood walls.
He waited, listening: nothing happened for several long minutes.
He considered going back to sleep, he was still tired
'Maybe it was in a loop for hours...'
'And it seems like you would not be missing much, them being asleep and all...'
'Okay... What could be up?'
Kent started crawling back the way he came
"You got everyone doing this thing except for you..."
Kent considered more
"I didn't see any squigglies on the TV.
So if it's that: it didn't spread through the TV..."
He reached the room he was in, and stopped
'Could be a virus, bacteria...'
After a brief inspection he found that both the bed would fit though the door, and was on wheels
Kent inspected the woman who was still twitching by that door
"Back to square one - what do you know?
I woke up in this room..."
A mechanical watch with shattered glass, broken from the fall
He asked, politely
"Okay - perfect - how long has it been?"
Across his room was a station for a person, computer and all.
Comparing the times between the watch and computer, Kent saw hours had already passed
He sat there, absorbing that
'As you do to unconscious people you are asking for information...'
Kent continued down the hallway, crawling
"Now, million dollar question, am I going to have a seizure like these nice folks?"
Felix was nowhere to be found, but the Chemist....
The Chemist was right around the first corner he encountered
Still crawling, Kent dragged and heaved the Chemist to, and then on to the bed
It was a struggle, the Chemist was small but portly
'If you fall and break your hip like your grandmother, Kent: I am going to be so mad at you!'
Kent found it rolled next to where the chemist had been - thankfully intact
Kent stood up
Hunching over the bed, keeping it to brace his fall if it should happen.
With the Chemist in tow, Kent found his way out of the building.
And into a city on fire
'Time to go outside...'
The Lux was not a human, it was more than the sum of two humans.
It was also the space between.
Synchronistic thoughts and ideas unspoken but known in harmony.
Merged together: Lenny and Jochek were but voices in the mind of this new entity.
And the Lux was in the link.
Which was disconnecting from itself.
Thoughts and memories, ideas - hopes... were selectively spreading apart.
Growing isolated into compressed islands, surrounded by both a blindingly white light, and what the Lux presumed to be Al-tok.
A gathering mass of void, hardened by some sort of dark despair.
It was a storm of sorts, a rushing sensation - not wind, but gravity, pelted them from all sides
The Lux steadied themselves
The Lux felt a ripping sensation - from their center
Even the Lux themselves were breaking apart.
A zippering sensation down the center of their being
'We can still get there.'
The Lux let themselves relax further apart
'Lenny would find a way.'
It was like a storm receding in the distance.
The ideas, the dreams were funneling away from the Lux
'They are spreading apart.'
They thought so
'They are coalescing.'
'We need to pick one, quickly!'
The islands of thoughts and memories grew distant from each other.
The lux were unsure if they could span the distance.
Physical distance was not a factor - it was mental distance - each island of thought was unconnected to every other island of thought.
The distance grew great enough that they were sure they could not find two islands close enough together
'We were close, I think any of these will do.'
Jochek was already on it.
The ripping sensation continued down the core of their being
Their hearts separated and were immediately filled with Algera
Lenny finally recognized what that white light actually was, he had tasted Algera before
He, along with Jochek, were assaulted by several small infinities.
As they traveled instantaneously from the beginning to end of a much larger infinity
They did not know how much time this took.
The Lux had not fully dissolved, and realizing something was wrong:
Their hearts drew together
Half of them knew
"We're going to have to split!"
Pressed together, their hearts rung dry, dripping Algera into the aether
'The link is broken, flooded with Algera - we should get out of here.'
The disconnecting link was almost complete.
Their options thinning.
Every island of thoughts and ideas isolated from every other island of thoughts and ideas
'Well, first we find bodies...'
The Lux saw one of those options, a coach driver a few miles away in a small Romanian town
'We just have to use one then, get them close to someone else, physical link.'
'Old, but has horses...'
They fought their way into the old man
What would normally have been easy they were repelled by.
Still, it was two against one
His struggle subsided, then Lenny of the Lux took control
Lenny felt the coach driver fall into a void.
He couldn't tell which, the blinding white, or the absent dark
A physical link, a touch to the arm on the first person Lenny saw and a short moment later Jochek joined him.
It was the a portly man that was his fare, who had been slumped over in coach unconscious.
Jochek looked down at their new body
'That is the link, we road with him years ago: same horses.'
"Could have waited to find someone more fit?"
Jochek checked their jean pocket for a phone, and found none, nor did he find keys.
Lenny found a phone, but no keys either
"These are temporary, I'm not putting any work into this one."
'Onward to Ada, us two.'
A short time later - after finding everyone around them unconscious, the Lux road in silence toward their destination.
Șolomanță, a palace that held many incredibly dangerous things.
Things more frightening than an atomic bomb: secret things.
Almost chief among them was The Way Out
'Fastest just to take the carriage...'
'Should we use different bodies?'
'No, speed - we need to get there now.'
'Think she is alright?'
The Lux drove on in silence.
In the Romanian country side there was a ravine not on any map.
Earth riven in a jagged scar on the scale of legend.
A castle built into the cliff-face, flush and without entrance, at least visibly.
The main entrance was a hatchway that opened up top.
Though an unknown road, winding along the lip of the ravine, the Lux reached their destination
'She was as disconnected as you can get...
Martha was greeted to a scene of chaos.
Deckhands of all shapes and sizes, and
It was, manning a rope at the side of the ship
'Is that a fish?'
Outside the storm darkened, slowly in patches it was replace with a void
Gerald looked around
He located the captain's voice through a radio on his hip
"Gerald, what happened!"
He pressed the button on the radio
"Come on, she's at the helm."
"I picked up Miss Crisp, and Flanagan was there."
They reached the entrance to the tower in the center
Gerald turned to Martha
"Did he do this?
The link is breaking."
As they ran down the hall he clicked the button
"What exactly was your plan there?"
Gerald took his finger's and whistled
"Flanagan is unconscious, and she wasn't much better."
Sonny stepped in from a corner room
A short wiry red haired woman in a white coat, Martha guessed she was in her 40's
Sonny nodded and whistled herself
It was a signal to two large tarantulas, about the same size as her, covered in fur
"Trouble in the bubble: one unconscious."
They crawled out from the room on the side wall and ceiling.
Martha instinctively flinched.
The spiders followed Sonny, ignoring Martha as they passed
Gerald was already at the elevator door, waving at her
'Oh fuck: fucking spiders!'
The elevator doors opened
'Keep it together...'
"What was your plan?"
"Well. We were going to distract it, and poke it, and drain it."
"Of the Algera."
The elevator doors closed and Gerald pressed a button
"Drain it into where?"
"It was supposed to be my heart, me, but..."
Gerald watched her patiently
"Do you know how much that thing has eaten?
That would have...
Is that what happened to Flanagan?"
"Him and everyone else, but me."
Gerald moved from comprehension to shock
Gerald examined his hand
He took a breath
Not me, or anyone out there.
The ship is properly encapsulated."
I'll let the captain explain."
"I know what I did.
Now everyone has these powers."
The elevator button dinged, and the doors opened
Alacira and a team of men were busy at control panels along the side of the room.
The crew were a rhythmic hum of activity.
In front were several large windows revealing a shrinking storm.
And a growing void
Gerald explained what happened to the captain
Alacira lowered her head
A look of defeat, yet fighting for the best loss
Alacira turned back to the control panels, she pressed a button and a red light flashed
Her voice echoed throughout the ship, tinny though the speakers
"Are we sure that's what happened?"
Alacira lifted a covered button and pressed it
Impossible to miss blaring beeps sounded
The people previously at the controls scattered as Gerald took the helm
"Emergency plan x everyone!"
She turned and strolled out of the room, Martha following
Behind closed doors, The captain poured herself a drink
"Gerald, just get us down anywhere if you can, I'm going to talk to miss Crisp in my quarters."
Why don't you tell me why you did what you did."
"To bring down a corrupt..."
Why did you do it, not the manifesto."
"To free them."
Alacira took another drink
"To free them..."
She coughed lightly
"You know enough to be dangerous."
Martha started at that
"Do you know why most people are kept ignorant, asleep?
So they don't do stupid shit like that.
Knowledge itself is dangerous.
Do you think this power is more powerful than a gun?
The powers of creation in the mind of a toddler - that is what you did!
You just gave everyone, children, toddler's even apparently in your recklessness, a power more dangerous than a gun.
Now everyone has a gun glued to their foot - or worse.
You have given every terrible person the power to amplify their vitriol."
"No, good people will fight back."
Alacira sighed and poured herself another drink
"Good people fight fairly - it's what makes them good and why good loses.
Evil cheats - every chance it gets - it will always gain ground."
The floor vibrated, a loud shearing from some other part of the ship
"This ship is breaking apart because the Link is falling apart.
Everyone is waking up, and the dream is ending.
And that's not the worst of it."
Alacira stood up, and walked out into the bridge.
She saw beyond the glass a void - encompassing the ship.
She saw emptiness for the first time clearly.
It wasn't a color, it was the lack of color, the lack of space
"Shit, come on."
"Gerald, we have anything?"
"Aye - we can park the ship in the Navigator, most of the crew too."
Alacira surveyed the ship through the glass
"Everyone below 0.1/aps."
She turned and walked to the elevator in the back.
Gerald and Martha followed
"The bubble then, for the rest - we should fit in there."
"Flanagan is with Sonny."
The elevator doors opened and they stepped inside
"She comes too, how bad is he?"
Alacira turned to Martha
"The worst part about what you did."
"This is what happens to someone experienced who was blindsided.
He was built for this: through years of training.
It still fried his brain.
Even with ways to channel that Algera - that was too much - even for him.
And you gave that to everyone...
You have erased hopes, memories and dreams and overwrote those precious things with power.
Power that will be twisted, abused, stolen and consolidated again into something echoing what we had before.
You haven't made people better by giving them this power - you've just given the chance for new scum to rise to the top."
"He wanted to put all of that into me."
The elevator doors opened
Alacira set the pace between brisk and velocious
"That would have killed you."
"Regardless - we'll see the..."
"Over 0.1... Gerald - what about the waypoints?"
Alacira frowned but nodded, then started walking
"We're ejecting that part of the ship."
Gerald pulled out a small mirror as they started walking again
Out on the deck of the ship, before it was bustling: now quiet
"We won't be able to recollect all of those."
Martha saw the red haired Sonny in the bubble next to Flanagan - who was still laying down.
She didn't see the spiders anywhere
They entered the bubble
Before Martha passed the membrane she heard footsteps behind her
Martha waited halfway in the bubble, and turned around
That fish-man was running toward the bubble raising his arm
"I snagged this one - it was the last one for her."
He hand human arms, but a catfish's head: sticking straight up, not angled like a human at all
He brushed passed her and into the bubble
It was getting crowded in there.
Gerald had taken the seat, and Sonny was over Flanagan in the back.
And there were the spiders, above her - clinging to the ceiling.
Long strings of web hung down from them - as sonny had fashioned those streams of silk into nets.
Large glowing sacks of spider silk were next to Sonny
She scooped out with the net some of the Algera inside Flanagan
The process was like using a bucket on a sinking canoe.
Flanagan remained solid - so far as Martha could see.
But she saw Sonny push her hands and wave the net deeply inside him
She turned away
The fish-man was showing his watch to Alacira, which was emitting a beep every few moments
'Is that a watch?'
He had is head turned to the side - so that one of his eyes, was looking at the captain
'More like a geiger counter, not a watch.'
The fish-man kneeled down next to Gerald, settling in
'God how awful to not be able to look straight forward.'
Gerald picked up the radio at his side and replied
"Count is down to three."
Wilbert made a gurgling noise: an affirmation, Sonny followed suit with some high pitched chittering
"I have Sonny and Wilbert here."
Martha caught movement at the corner of her eye
The navigator was running up to them, out of breath.
His face was partially carved out, from where the acid from that alien had splattered him.
He had only one eye - he was wearing an eye patch
He stepped into the bubble
"Count's at one."
"Counts at zero!"
Gerald pushed the button on the radio
"Right then, Gerald?"
Gerald looked outside at the tower in the center of the ship, and sighed
Gerald pulled down on a lever, and pushed a button.
Outside the ship shook
With a horrible metal's cry of shearing - the tower shaped like a wing broke off.
The tower floated away lazily until it touched the barrier against the void
It was ripped into the void by some turbulence
It turned to dust - and then to nothing as it passed the outer shield of the ship
"Breaking off the tower now!"
Sonny nodded, looking at the spiders above
A moment later Sonny had passed out small belts of silk with two sticky ends
She petted them as she chittered and clicked at them
"This might be a rough ride everyone.
Sonny get us some seat belts."
Alacira nodded to Gerald
Gerald detached the ship - and it too was flung into the void