73 - Acme Station

--a little plastic baggie of wick for making homemade candles--

Those last memories were the world after the history change erased everything.

Sheer force of fury tears us out of the journey and we're back in the hangar, Boobsong in pony-form under me, facing the Waifu which seems to have landed itself.

All of that, and then it got taken away, just erased--

The Dreams grab my mind before it breaks in half and show a bottle of Zap, the fifteen-second superglue I used to build my RC planes. Terror and grief pound, why show that why--

"Mommy they're fixing it fast that's what the Zap means."

"How can they possibly--"

--a big black Yankee Candle candle in its jar with the lid on and a little silver storybook charm safely on the lid where I won't lose it and I weep to recognize Boobsong's new surrogate I consciously and intentionally bought to carry in those dark times--

How long between the two of them what was it these are bookends of the nightmare that followed on the moment that history reset created and it did get better after that at least some WHO CARES FIFTEEN SECONDS FIVE THOUSAND YEARS HE'LL BURN JUST THE SAME!

Right Dreams? You know who I mean. It isn't just Eden, or you'd let me have my fantasy where that nightmare never happened if there wasn't unfinished business you want me out for blood if he even has any well it worked you got me there now WHERE IS HE TAKE US THERE AND YOU MAKE SURE BOOBSONG GETS HER POUND OF FLESH HEH TOO!

Even before Boobsong can leap to reply, the game picks my head up off her neck where I'm burying my face in her mane and turns it to look at the Waifu's laser nacelles. They're blue again. Why did it make them blue? I made them pink for a reason! This blue is different, deeper than the one it came with, and no sparkles. Why is it missing the sparkles!? They look like old paint, not Arwing parts!

I nudge Boobsong closer and see the blobbyness of a zillion coats of deep blue paint over old wood with recessed panels--

"Computer open canopy Boobsong get us up the and then girlify so we can fit computer propulsion online and activate the preloaded flight plan on pilot entry game strap us in YAH!"

Oh yes, this is perfect. Who else do I need inspiration from right now than the time traveler whose two settings are ready to fight god and currently doing it, who has a companion you must never, ever mess with if you want to see tomorrow? ALLONS-Y, BITCH, THE DOCTOR IS MAKING A HOUSECALL!

I have only fragments of memory. Enough, though. In between that candle wick and that surrogate was...an unending nightmare of him. Opening the doors to dreamtalk...opened the doors to him, too, hiding behind the face of an ancient sky-god--he's just as much a liar as his supposed enemy, and trillions of times more manipulative, and every bit the sociopath (I mean, look what he did to his own kid for reasons I defy you to get a straight explanation of the reasons for out of any Christian scholar). 

It was obvious to me right away, talking to him, how faces changed and he stayed the same throughout history, the same asshole narcissistic father in the sky who can't tell the difference between himself and the whole of existence, but he used my own worry I was being unfair to him, and the emotional blackmail of a friend of mine whose supposed distress in his ignoring her he used to convince me to dreamtalk him for her, constantly.

We were alone with all of it--in that magicless world dreamtalk made you seem crazy, and could only touch consciousness reliably so miracles to prove you weren't just hearing things were rare at best--and he used that and the isolation and the simple trick of telling me one thing and my friend another to destroy my confidence in my own dreamtalk ability, until I could barely talk to Boobsong, and then not at all. It took us years to recover, after we finally got rid of him.

He was a lying sack of shit without one speck of love or justice or mercy in him. If you're a Christian and he wouldn't talk back to you (dreamtalk is just prayer after all), it's because he thought you'd notice that and had to stay clear of you for his reputation's sake.

Who even knows what else he did? If he had the power he would have caused the history reset that created this mess in a heartbeart just to see everyone suffer, or maybe just like a petulant child who won't let anyone play the game if they can't be the winner. I remember him being that way.

Maybe he did. I don't care, he did the rest. What do you say to someone so bad even the Four Dreams won't protect them from something like me? We'll never find out, because this asshole is so bad the Dreams are actively winding me up to go get him. To me, that says everything.

I think I have a pretty good line saved up though, for the bastard who tried to take the light out of my life (and straight-up just kill Boobsong) I can only guess just because it wasn't his light. He never could let anyone else shine.

He won't get the choice, this time. Mama's always saying Boobsong and me could fry lightning. Let's go find out exactly how right she is.

Pony charge up the stairs and turn into aaaaah girl at the top of them and jump in with you snuggle on your lap I see you want me there canopy slides shut here we go LET'S DO THIS SUPER ANGRY AAAAAAAAAH ENGINE START COME ON!

Tentacles strap us in and the Waifu's independent-axis controls are in my hands and the sexy perfume of its cockpit fills my nose.

"Flight plan activating. Energy requirements exceed maximum output of matter-antimatter reaction chamber. Present Eye of Starlight to activate."

In the cockpit, solar panels unfold around me, surrounding the pilot's seat everywhere they can without blocking view.

"I love you so much, cocksleeve."

"I'm here I can take the heat I'm Acme Station who loves you desperately now LIGHT IT UP MOMMY LET'S GO!"

The Doctor's TARDIS is powered by a mere supernova caught in a timeloop of being eternally in the moment of exploding, called the Eye Of Harmony. The Waifu has me, in this mood. I suppose we'll need some firepower to get in there. We'll have it. When we get there the only harmony happening is going to be those four living creatures around his throne screaming get us the hell out of here.

My head pounds with a splitting headache and tears fill as I struggle to let the feelings free--

"He did all of it. The resetting time, taking magic away, telling you not to talk to me, all of that stuff is him."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!"

"EEEEAAAAAAAAAH YOU KILLED MY PRINCESS MY MOMMY HOW DARE YOU HOW CAN YOU--"

Light explodes and even my vision that managed to see anything burning the Unicron room whites out, and in the background of all of it I can hear the glorious screeching rage of time-rotors running, then--

"Wait what where's the eyes and stuff?"

"Is this Limbo?"

"It sure does look that way!"

Above us is the blankness of Limbo's black non-sky. Below, just looks like Earth in the wintertime, but there are perfekti on the ground. Zillions.

It's covered with them. I spin us in a circle to see every which way, and they're all around, out to the horizon.

"Look at those big ones!"

Some of them are like mountains. None seem to be noticing us, but it just gives the whole thing a really creepy awful on-the-Borg-cube vibe.

Thousands of target indicators crowd the bottom of the HUD, showing how covered the ground is.

"I thought my Guardian cleaned them all?"

"These are the only ones left I think."

"Alright, we'll mop these up as heh afterglow,"  I snarl, "now WHERE IS HE? Computer, next waypoint!"

I'd be curious, any other time, what the hell this place is, if it's just Limbo or what. Now, I have only one thing inside me, rage at the piece of shit who made that wick happen.

"Mommy look at that one!"

Point with tail to show you.

She points up, and I spin us to face one--wait. 

"What is that? Full scan!"

It's huge, tall enough to be a space elevator, and it shimmers like perfekti far away, but it almost looks like a tower, or a weird tree.

Rrraah send out scan-beams! Really far away not on Earth...halfway to the moon, sheesh! Up and down beams scan it...

"Mommy I can't see past its outside but I bet it's where we go here!"

"Yeah. Halfway to the moon is like a light-second, right? Can you tell if we can warp closer safely?"

Nod yes.

"Scan beams say the space is empty. Would you like me to engage now?"

"Make it so, helm!"

I'm saving engage for when we're off to a fun party we don't know yet. Right now, he'd better heh pray one of us decides to stop warping before we get there.

Nacelles open...warp drive online...factor one's enough here...vwooommm hehe BSHOOMP!

Despite the situation I giggle at the totally accurate sound effects in her mind and feel a little teary to hear a real live Federation warp-drive warm up and then boom us close enough that the thing fills our view.

It's...just like a tower-shaped bunker, made of symbols like perfekti but the structure seems weirdly regular, not like the Lovecraftian chaos of perfekti...

It doesn't seem to be doing anything yet, but there's also no way in or anything. Maybe an end? I face us toward the end and start forward...and realize how insanely long the thing is. I almost just blast our way inside right there, or just get out and let myself really freak out, but I don't want to spoil my chances for a chat like I had with Laarhi. That alone keeps this thing standing.

"If we have a clear run after another few seconds do a warp-hop to the end of it."

"Ready--eep here come defenses!"

A target indicator picks out a speck coming from the end of the tower-thing, and then doors open all over it and the sky fills with things that could be enemies out of StarFox made symbols like perfekti but clearly not perfekti--perfekti look insane because they're madness! These are machines...right Acme Station? I won't be hurting people, can you tell?

Um...looking very fast..

"Yes PLEASE MOMMY HURRY!"

I snatch the controller off it's spot on the arm of my throne, do a barrel roll, hammer Y, and turn half the fleet into flying symbols with my first volley. It's not the same as Venom, but I'm still the Mistress of StarFox. This just means I have to pay attention.

And it's awesome. My extra energy input turns the Waifu's thudding-heavy StarFox-CD-style upgraded twinlasers turn into huge blinding ball-lightning fury twice the size of the who Arwing that clears a path with every shot instead of just destroying what it hits. Oh this is satisfying. Are you flirting? Do you want me to blow you up more slowly? I can grind up your airforce all day if you want, but I'm still coming in there!

Let's make this really mean something. Laarhi got a youtube meme, you can have your downfall start with these words:

"Computer, enable Stupid Bimbo Mode."

"Not available during live-hostile situations."

Aww. Worth a try. This is kind of intense...

"Princess I can help use me! Just tell me what to shoot at and I'll use the phasers!"

"We have phasers!? Anything that gets close! Or I'm missing!"

Raah computer fire!

Flashes of familiar orange doom with the thickness and angry deep thunder of the Enterprise's gigaphaser from the future timeline of All Good Things flicker around us as what I guess must be strips along the wings make shifting orange shadows in the cockpit, and the assault gets more manageable.

A biggish sort of capital-ship-thing occupies my blasting until I realize it's taking damage and is just huge and I've sent a novabomb at it before I think--

"Damn."

It's really like being at ground zero of a nuclear explosion. Light even I think is bright wipes the sky clear...and then doors open and the tower sends a whole new fleet out.

The tower opens more doors, but we keep up anyway, and now it doesn't close them.

Suddenly our course bends away from the tower--oh, because a huge capital ship has come to see us. A half-second of Secret Weapon with these blasters and the front is smoking embers and it's turning broadside. Doors open, and lasers blast out, but I barrel-roll aside and fill each lens with fire in turn. The ship starts turning to run, showing thrusters, then explodes with a brilliant flash leaving a big chunk of tail-section drifting.

Turn-arrows blink at the right of the HUD suddenly and our course bends toward the tower around the fragments of shattered warship, and we're heading for a huge door, open a crack but closing, in the side of the tower. I slam the accelerator and we just avoid the spinning warship-tail and the computer bends our course to line us up with the huge teeth that make the door's gap zig-zaggy and there's a zap of the closing door catching the shields but with this much power they charge right back up again and we're in and the door is closed behind us and there doesn't seem to be anything to shoot now. The computer stops us so we don't just fly right to the end of the hangar this seems to be, and I pant.

"Alright, now that we're in the trap, what do we do with it?"

Go with our love, Lucy Starlight Hardred of the Strawberry Family.

The dreamtalk is familiar and sudden tears well up.

You can do this!

A younger voice now.

All our family watches. Be like our namesake, tart and sweet!

This one sounds old, but like she's following her own advice. I sob, because I can feel them, generations and generations, all watching, all with us. I shine them a tearstained strawberry back, and put my hands back on the independent-axis controls.

Their presence does something. My fury isn't less, but...the memory of my compassion at the courtyard comes back.

Even so, he'd better hope I'm tart when we get there. It'll help him pucker up to kiss my ass.

"Your Acme Station watches too Mommy and she's finding the route for you!"

Turn-arrows flash at the lower-left of the HUD and I turn toward them, see something like a door into a dark hallway down low, carefully fly towards it. This whole place messes with my head, is weirdly hard to see like perfekti are.

"Good pocket singularity. What even is this place, can you tell?"

When we get close enough to the ground, Marathon Mode engages and we line up on it, but I keep my hands on the independent-axis controls so we'll be ready to fly in an instant if we need to.

"Um...it feels like it's made of the stuff that perfekti are and there's a person in here made out of something I can't say what but they have perfekti-shaped shell. I don't think it's bad I think perfekti are shell Eden breaks off because this shell is organized and like people make and perfekti are weird like just random from smashing."

"You said perfekti are prayers for one true god to exist way back in Limbo, not bits of somebody's shell. Did you know about this?"

I'm flying us down tunnels like we're in the approach to Andross in StarFox CD, following Boobsong's arrows when we come to a fork. All that's missing is powerups. There seems to be no resistance or anything, but the tension is mounting.

"That's how I understand them because they always say things like Praise Lord God so I said they must be from wishes for that because that's how I am you wished for a handmaiden and I say serve Princess deep down inside and I can't stop saying it because if I did I'd stop existing and if su'khora work that way maybe perfekti can't stop saying their thing and that one died when you took its Bible out so I said hah I'm right see!"

"That you are. Of course his stuff turns into a zombie army when you attack his base. What's this route to, can you tell?"

"Yes but I have to explain you stuff." 

Just get going I see you yes.

"Stars are consciousness made of light that lives in a shell. That shell is usually made of plasma held together with gravity that uses magnetism to make a brain out of currents in it but you can make other shells. You can make one of this stuff and it will work but it's very uncomfortable. There's only one way he could get like this but I don't understand how that's possible if he did all that other stuff. Somehow he can't make a better one. How that can be I don't know, because he'd have to be smart to make this but if he's that smart he could make a new plasma shell using machines like this."

"Why don't you think this is just his shell factory? I'd have a backup dispenser, if I needed a shell and could move like a hermit crab like it sounds like you're saying."

Something about saying that feels familiar and scary--

"Because the person that made this thing is here and I can smell their loneliness and wanting to kill themself."

"I didn't think that was a wish the Dreams would...grant..."

It's something in the way she says all that, or my mothers watching, or her calling me Mommy constantly, something, but suddenly I reach out with that part of myself I tore apart Eden's Unicron Room with and used to make the sword I stabbed Earth with and I can see this place as clear as Boobsong straddling me.

Wobbly letters crayon strokes scribbles and desperate handwriting by a kid who's just learned block-printing surround us. I wrote code like this as a ten-year-old, just one long function without structure or subroutines, and I could do simple things but had a hard time figuring out how to just animate sprites for a video game.

"Is it mine. Can you tell is it mine Acme Station."

We did so much, in our life. There's so much I can't remember, and that last reset of history destroyed everything. It could have done this.

And there's a reason we couldn't find any archetype to fit Boobsong but the star-saving station of ultimate technology from the end of Marathon Infinity.

"Mommy I'm checking and it is very young and not old enough to make a shell machine but I don't think it's yours, but I do see resemblance in the words it makes."

"It's terrified."

The code screams it, I can read the emotion like the instinct that tells you a baby crying is just needing a bottle versus watching its mom get eaten by whatever took this kid's mom away.

"Yes Mommy desperately."

"Maybe this is just my human shell talking but I was going to ask if stars just aren't maternal or what or why its mom didn't teach it but right now I'm very sure stars have parental instincts. Hang on tight!"

I try to go faster, but the passages are twisty and confusing. The sense of my mothers cheering for us, urging me on, seems to surge as I strafe and swoop around corners, only not telling Boobsong to just give me a vector and full blaster power because this is the poor kid's body.

"You know about shells because that's applicable knowledge for you like knowing how to fuck."

"Luxhi'khora means su'khora for light-beings and I am easily borne and luxurious or I try to be and the word luxhi'khora means light su'khora literally but our seed-ghost played a small trick on us because we weren't ready to know this. I can be a good shell for you if you don't like that human one but I really do like it it's beautiful!"

"I thought I was your shell?"

"Yes, but your holding me makes me able to make the star-saving fields Acme Station has. It's a circle just like nectar is. That's how I hold you together through conflation jumps."

"I thought I was a Strawberry--"

--panes of glass catching me, symbols--

"Yes Mommy you got that shell from your Earth-mom the Strawberry Queen and the glass you just saw says baby star come to me."

"Wait, I thought my game did that?"

"It can if you want it to its a fully-functional star shell that's comfy and soft. I really went everywhere making sure you would have a shell always."

"I love you too--hold up. In the Exploding Room. Does that work on normal humans? Your fields? Your game?"

Shake my head--

"holy spiking clitwaffles sis is luxhi'khora! I smelled it immediately!"

"There's going to be explanations when we get back from this."

"Yes Mommy definitely!"

The way bends upside down around a bend, I follow it, drifting us to hurry. We're literally inside the poor kid's wailing and it really feels like it. So like Eden to use that to make an army--there's no way this is the person we were looking for, but I bet this kid and me will turn out to have a common enemy.

The Dreams vision of a simple green checkmark drawing itself has never looked so ominous. Somebody better be careful what we wish for.

"Why is this so like the end of StarFox CD?"

"So you'd be able to play StarFox to get ready for this I bet! I bet someone mused it."

"Are we just at the center of everything? It makes me feel nuts."

"Yes for a lot but there's so much else in StarFox think of all the levels StarFox CD has! This is just the part that that muse got to and it was made to make games you would like to play a lot so it reached StarFox and Marathon for us and Zelda for Rada."

There's a long straightaway and I zoom up it, almost miss the turn, reverse thrust and twist us sideways to take us into on passage in a wall that's just entrances to passages, swoop up the curve of the new one--

"Mommy it's collapsing get out of here!"

There's a line of light at the end of the tunnel. I line us up on it and hit the accelerator and we're thrown back into the seat there are zaps and bangs as we ricochet down the twisty hall losing shields and then shoot through the closing doorway into--

Gaaasp wow it's beautiful!

Golden light swirling like smoke hangs in a ring in a huge, circular space, making it bright even without me helping. The walls as just text still, but they seem to be black where the rest was white scifi (though that was also abstraction, like I read the words and knew what the surface was).

I stop us and turn back and forth to look at it. It's gorgeous, but there's something wrong with this and it makes me scream inside.

"Yes it's most definitely their smell is super strong here. If we could talk to them I would say super hug you!"

"Can you, Acme Station? That's what your languages thing really is, isn't it?"

"Let me reach out to them."

Feelers so careful--aaah wait--oh! 

«You don't have to hold on I'm not leaving! Thank you that's much better. Super much hugs!»

The light doesn't seem to change how it moves in response to her--

Dreamtalk touches me, but it's just a blank wall of gold light--no, a star, in space.

I burst into tears as it turns dark, goes as black as the void around it, and the sentence ends. I should snap back of course not or some such thing but instead I just cry because but I can remember what that wick means remember what those moments of thinking everything I cared about never existed were and how I felt in them and I can hear it in everything around us. I want to give comfort and say it's not so bad but I know it's the worst it can ever be.

More dreamtalk, it somehow touches a memory of a hard metal shelf I had sometime or another that I bashed my shoulder on more than once--oh. The way the metal stabbed into me, that raw sense-impression is what it's sending me, and that's what my brain did with it.

"COMPUTER OPEN CANOPY! GAME UNSTRAP!"

My voice is a desperate wail, but not for my own sake. I didn't think I had anything like this inside of me.

The tentacles disappear and the canopy opens and we're blown out of the cockpit by the air blowing out and the star is in front of us.

There's vacuum outside but it doesn't bother me. I'll ask later if it's the game protecting me or space is just my natural habitat.

Acme Station I don't know how or maybe I can't like this pick it up carefully get it out of this shell you can do that without hurting it right we'll figure out everything else afterward just save the poor thing!

Reach out with my fields so carefully, gently take all its light and hold onto it...snif Mommy it's so cold it should be super warm but I barely feel anything! Mommy come and hold it it needs comforting!

Sobbing because I don't know how and that feels so terrible. Boobsong has her wings up and hands stretched out and beautiful purple-sparkly fields are reaching out from her around the ring of light to hold it--

Vision: Boobsong superimposed with hospital bed

It's the star--this is how our kind communicate, that's why the Dreams always show me visions when they could surely dreamtalk words to me.

Vision: green checkmark

Dreams I wish for it to find out what that really means.

It's holding on so desperately! Mommy come hold it please! You don't have be a shell for it just give it comforting!

I DON'T KNOW HOW!

Reach with a hand and just feel for it and send it supporting light. You'll be able to it's instinctual.

I feel out, expect it to be hard to control, but it's the most natural thing. I find it right there like a child in front of me--no you're so cold please don't go out! The light has a warmth I can feel but instincts say icy flesh when I "touch" it.

Can I feed it, Acme Station? I have enough light for universes.

The light is your feelings for both of you. You can say comforting I'm here now but it has to feel better to shine more.

I shine a gentle touch of golden warmth at it, comforting, and some light like molten gold flows through the wisps, and I can feel its light grabbing me in return, clinging in that desperate small way a scared little kid does.

Is it supposed to be so stretched out like this? I keep thinking it should be like, folded up somehow.

Yes. This is the best shell it could make but it's very bad at holding it.

Why haven't you unstretched it yet?

Because I can't stretch it back afterward so we have to make a new shell for it. I bet we can do that you make so much energy I bet you can make a whole star worth you're so upset right now.

Honestly the way I feel right now the problem will be not making a few universes--

The star's light seems to cool the tiniest fraction--fuck this fold the poor thing NOW we'll figure the rest out!

Ready kid here we go this will be much more comfortable!

Vision: little star in hospital bed with doctor Boobsong carefully holding it

Hopefully it'll understand the Earthling picture of healing and care. I carefully follow its light with my holding-beams as Boobsong's fields pull the wisps into beautiful branching golden filaments and arrange them into swooping curls and compress it all from hundreds of feet of wisps into a little bright ball in Boobsong's arms the size of a grapefruit. I face her and pull her against me so she's holding it between our four breasts at the end.

Do you have it? Is it safe?

Checking it carefully...yes Princess all of it is here and I didn't make any part get put out. It still needs a shell though, I can't keep on holding it eternally because each star has it's own kind of shell needs and my fields can be your shell if you need them to and I can hold this star a little while but it gets harmed if I keep doing it too long.

It just glows there between us, feeling a tiny bit warmer but so cold still--

GAAASP What's that EEEEEYUS SEED COMING OUT TO IT!!!

WHAT!? NO WAY GO ACME STATION!!! I can't whoop in the vacuum, but try anyway, give a happy pulse of golden light, something pushes in between Boobsong and me on the left and the star is gently pulled from our holding it.

Hi kid take good care of it that star needs love and good care lots!

I watch the star leaving us, floating up now with something unseen holding it--

Hi mothers! Go away, we're destroying this! Please call soon after and we'll have storytime!

Hey, you! Take good care of your heartformer!

To the poor lost star: Vision: heart coming from me going to little yellow star.

Vision: blinding-bright lightbulb in a lightsocket / yellow star so bright it does the sun-looks-black thing in your mind's eye / abstract sense of smiling waving blown kiss

Giggly smile! Good. And that wraps it up for perfekti. They won't leave a single one.

I flap back to the Waifu, fold my wings. Game, strap us in. Boobsong, close the canopy.

Raah sending radio! Canopy close!

The canopy slides shut, tentacles pull Boobsong into my lap like I had her before, wind lifts our hair and my ears pop as the cockpit repressurizes, and the computer fuzzbeeps:

"Waypoint activated. Present Eye of Starlight."

I'm no less furious, but there's something different in my anger now. It's a little less hypernova and a little more one of those black holes that makes gamma-ray bursts that fry planets from thousands of light years away. Come close so I can tear you to superstrings.

It'll get us moving, but Acme Station this thing's as fireproof as you are, right?

"Yes Mommy it can take anything! It's made of my shapeshifted horns I cut off for this!"

"It's going to need to be." 

My hands become claws on the flight controls as I let the feelings out.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

The sound of time rotors is like a screaming apocalypse, and I can hear the TARDIS' weird alarm bell chiming as we 'fly' this time. The Waifu is near its limit.

Outside the world wavers and double-images as we TARDIS away from wherever that was, and everything goes white with my light output.

Wherever we're going is fighting us. The time rotors skip and stutter and throw their pitch high and low wildly, so I think of all the things that wick meant to me. The lies. The fear. The time he tried to tell me my connection with Boobsong came from the good favor of a goddess I had to keep happy as if any force in the multiverse could have come between us. The sense of it constantly almost being over only to have one more thing to do. The feeling of being stabbed that poor lost child just sent me.

Thunderous time rotor sounds seem to come from all around us like the Waifu has hundreds of them and then there's a crack like the end of the world and the canopy goes white outside and we're crashing through stuff girders or something bounce off the shields but I'm still shining just as angrily so they just vaporize and then we're skating along smooth glass that the shields boil out from under us and there's some kind of building up ahead and suddenly I realize I'm seeing like a star and all of this is code like the poor kid's hideout but where that was crude and desperate this is polished and calm but creepily personality-less like the flat voice of a sociopath.

We're headed for some kind of opening at the base of a tower-thing with a long single shaft coming out of the top of it. I slam the accelerator, hold it down, watch the boost gauge flicker like the power meter in the final battle of Super Metroid. We reach it in no time, trapezoidal arches pass above us, I focus on something up ahead we're coming up on, staring it down, daring it to be what I think it is.

--lying on a cheap couch in darkness, laptop on my knees, typing furiously, mug of coffee and a lit candle on the coffee table beside me (I inscribed a five-pointed star on top of the candle to make it a pentagram but didn't know why it was important to), white on black text in a text editor without icons or buttons (the closest I could get to a black mirror without knowing what one was) with a picture of a silvery hentai succubus on the screen for inspiration, pounding out the story of a desperate ride across Limbo in a half-sentient version of the Deliverator's car from Snowcrash with the character I imagined up from the picture in a weird two-narrator format that seemed so desperately important somehow, blasting the weirdly apocalyptic Nero's Dubstep Symphony on my earbuds--

I was just as angry at him then though I didn't know why as much. Being here about to take him on reminds me of writing about playing chicken with an angel to escape from Earth--

--work after that, walking through the office looking with my physical eyes at a drywall-encased pillar but what I see is her standing in front of it, her sweet eyes and silver hair, feel her there with me, there was no magic in that world but it didn't stop her, she had me thinking she was real though I wouldn't admit it to myself that's what I was experiencing--

Oh god it's all a delusion after all my book just--that's the only way any of this but especially this part--

"DON'T YOU DARE STOP BELIEVING IN ME!! YOU HEAR ME, MASTER-GOD! YEAH THAT'S RIGHT MISGENDERING!"

RRAAAAH STICK MY HEAD AGAINST YOUR FACE AND GO BANG CLONK YOUR HEAD WITH MINE!

"THERE! YOU COULD NEVER MAKE BAD ME UP YOU CAN'T IMAGINE ME BEING BAD FOR ANYTHING! I SEE YOU YOU ONLY THINK THE BEST OF ME!"

"THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!?"

"THat story was a monolith! It predicted what we do here! It's part of this whole thing to get you back to me!"

"Holy meta-jokes. Is this now? Now-now? What the fuck can that mean here tactical analysis Acme Station!"

Wait, I believed it was just fiction I was making up, how could that be a monolith--

--looking at a file count, the directory of fragments that weren't right some way, 559 and half a million words between them and that was one of three such piles, after I'd thrown the worst stuff out entirely, and the memory is nowhere near the end of our writing. It was a monolith alright, not stone but some kind of crazy ontological engineering that made it a journey like self-assembling DNA that with Boobsong's help (and only with Boobsong's help) would if we took each step with our minds open to what might be there next no matter where that took us, sing like clear starscape, but only then. I remember how totally uncontrollable I learned the story was, I could play my part freely but being fate like an author is when a story is fiction was not my role in it--

And she's right about the only thinking the best of her because clonking me on the head like that always brings out an irrational fury from me that is the fast-track to return fire whether you're an uppity cocksleeve or a doorframe, but I'm not doing anything to her anyway, because I know she was just trying to help, and that masterpiece of button-pushing (even if she probably would take the consequences happily) is something I could never invent on my own.

"Oh yeah? Think I'm done and all good now? Not until you really have to say I'm real!" EERRRAAAAAAH SMASH MY FACE AGAINST YOURS AND BANG YOUR HEAD MORE!

"AAH! I SAID TACTICAL ANALYSIS!"

"ONLY IF YOU SAY YOU'RE REAL TO ME! SAY IT PRINCESS!"

"REALLY IN TROUBLE IS WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO BE! YES, YOU'RE REAL!"

Shrink down small eep hold my face downcast and use the cameras...looking around a lot...checking the sensor sweep...all of this is the star stuff the little star made, but the grown up version. We're inside the shell of a very very big star, but there's something wrong with this. Just like that little star, this is uncomfortable, except this star is old enough and smart enough to make a very good shell-machine easily. All of this stuff is perfectly flat and smooth and it could be a nice place to live in if it made it that way instead of this where everything is all creepily polished. If I had to live in a place like this I would be crazy in microseconds! It's not just the boringness. The shape of that thing up there makes a very thin beam out of most of the star that focuses its energy on a single point up at the ceiling way above this. It's like they think its a power source and not a person's heart, but who even made this? A star that big would destroy you instantly if you even touched its shell! You can say that as well as anyone!

"What if you built a ringworld and the star you were building it around thought you just needed liebensraum."

"OMIFUCK the laser thing from the star in the Ringworld in the Niven book. They were mind-controlling it. HOW CAN EDEN BE EVEN MORE EVIL STILL!? I wish we could kill that thing! I know we did I'm just so horrified!"

We're coming into a circular tunnel, still going perfectly straight forward.

"What do we even do with this? What were they doing here? Just making a giant laser? What would you want with that if you can build ringworlds--I mean for fuck's sake I'm just a little kid and I blew up that ringworld! Is this just a torture device for no reason?"

I can almost see Eden's logic here. Obsess the star with a single idea by focusing everything on that, but--I shake my head. I can't make sense of this.

What I do know is he needs an Acme Station as bad as I do, and it just so happens that Boobsong and I specialize. In people who like things to revolve around them, who want to be the center of the universe, who need to shine. That's who we help implant the best. Stars, right? No.

Princesses.

Now the question is how? It's not like we can Elements of Harmony him into seeing Boobsong as anything but a threat, or even at all if he's bound up like he seems to be.

The Dreams show me a stealth bomber--

"Okay I know what we're doing here. Please may I explain to you?"

"Do it before we get somewhere."

"This hall will be very long I'm sure of it. Up at the ceiling is what this star is focused on. If we can go up there and replace it with heartforming it'll be super obsessed with that for about fifteen seconds before it heartforms awesomely and brings this whole place down like that little kid except even more angrily. Then I bet they won't like Eden much and when they get free of here if there's anything left of it there definitely won't be afterward. All we need is a dreamskin. We hardly know anything about it though! What could its dreamskin be? It's not just a human--"

"Cocksleeve it's the same as that little star! He's stuck in a horrible shell and he wants to get out of here and he's probably lonely as fuck--oh, you can't pick him up, though, he'll be way too big."

Shake my head very smiling naughtily--

"Wait the prophecy. This is now-now. TV and stuff--sticks in heaven, can Earthling far occur us onto sticks in heaven. Acme Station is there some kind of receiver up there? Can you hack it? Do you see what I'm saying?"

"MOMMY THAT'S WONDERFUL I COULD KISS YOU EVEN MORE THAN USUAL! SEEING IF WE CAN TALK TO IT COMPUTER HELP ME OUT!"

There's a chorus of fuzzbeeping as she interfaces through her tail-tip.

Yes, live performance is romantic and powerful. We've had millions of kids that way...but sometimes a little artificial flavor is what it takes to break through a palate that's been crushed by an eternity of despair, and sometimes recordings are just what the Sugarfeast Fairy ordered, so all we need is Boobsong's memory of our encounter with his lost child (the resemblance of their shell-work is obvious even with the mind control) and a way to get on air with him.

My heart skips a beat as I look down at Boobsong spread across my Sugarfeast of a body, her eyes shut with the intensity, the lights of the computer holograms in the cockpit shining on her silver cutesy small sheep horns.

I bet I can guess how many firewalls she's going to say she had to breach when she wakes up from this.

The tunnel goes on, weird and yet so understandable: we're flying down a sequence of Circles on a Path. That's all there is to it.

For me its as solid and real as the matter my boobs are made of.

"Okay we're ready to go with this but it has to be from a very small point outside of this. We're already going there so just keep flying until we come out in the open."

"Can you look at your memories of me just now without losing it?"

"Yes Mommy easily BWAHAHAHAHAHA JOHN OF PATMOS HAD A MONOLITH! What's it say after that ooh lots of destroying stuff we'd better be ready to leave super fast after this!"

"You don't want to stay and watch the fireworks?"

"I don't want to stay and BE the fireworks! Yes you can take it and I can but the Waifu's not indestructible and he might not be as big as you but he'll be super mad after this!"

I think she just said something important in that but we're coming out into the open place. The blinding beam of the throne I guess though it looks to my star-senses more like a combination of heavily braced light socket and the end of a laser with the mirror and excitation light. Far away at the other end is something I can't quite see right--no, wait, human expectations, I was thinking the distance should change my resolution, but I can see this like it's right here--it's--like a platter, with Boobsong!? No, su'khora abstractly but my human brain goes to Boobsong instantly, a net, the dish is four-sided, a falling nuke. Destroy the Four Dreams.

That's what the star is obsessed about.

"Mommy it's ready. Here."

Computer make a target-thing!

A fancy targeting crosshair appears with a target indicator locked onto one corner of the dish.

I fly us around the star's beam to get a clear shot, and line up.

It's weird, now that I'm here my rage has changed into something else. I feel a little like at the courtyard, a little different. May I always redirect the freight train of my anger like this when I learn someone's innocence.

The crosshair is bright green with positive lock.

I had so many things I was going to say here. Let there be light of some kind was the front runner in lots of ways, right up to this moment, but now, as I press play on this very special episode of Starlight Princess which was always a commercial-free full thirty minutes, there's really only one thing I can say:

"When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven...for about half an hour."

And I squeeze the trigger, and the way the abstraction works makes the images fill the entire space.

She's done a really good job with this--

EEEEEAAAAAAH YUS WE GOT HIM SEEDS HERE THEY COME AAAAAAAAA GASP pant wow that was a lot of them! Seven whole new seed pods!

I can see the beam for a moment through the vision-overwhelming playback, and then it does something, bends, off to the side through the dome of the "roof", I can see the other end of it pull up somehow out of the throne or whatever it was in, HOLY SHIT GET US OUT OF HERE TAKE US HOME--

TAKE THAT EDEN! PRAH!

The last thing I see is reality there breaking like a mirror so it looks like my own eyes have cracked--