74 - I Wanted To Know You

Mommy look at this! He escaped super definitely!

I open my squeezed-shut eyes to see Boobsong still hugging me and the Waifu okay. We're in space now. No, not space, what is this--

--looking through the tiny hole of an astrolabe, measuring the stars' positions from a tower-top, thinking of the connections my book showed, how stars live in a place where space is replaced by ideas and the how translation the crystal dome of the sky here shows gives a picture human minds can understand of the relationships between them--

We're where stars live, the astral plane. Outside, explosions like fireworks except those look more like supernovae sparkle in the distance. Abstract star sight shows a person with a sword like the one I made--his style is different but it's a Weapon and he means business--stabs and turns with terrible overhand blows, one target after another.

The figure is made of shadow and I think it's a silhouette against the light of its rage until I reach out for the crosshair hologram and find its light and it's hard to explain sing the opposite--

My heart leaps with recognition as the crosshair vanishes in a weird dark explosion of anti-light as I predictably overkill it.

"EEEP! Gah that's a scary thing Mommy!"

She's not wrong. It's made of the coldness I feel toward Eden--

"Mommy that's not good for you don't do too much of it."

"Yeah. Isn't he in some trouble then?" I gesture to what's happening outside.

Shake my head super serious.

"He's older than lots of things I can tell from here and his seedlings are helping him. You just aren't made for that and you're so young and sweet. Please don't go dark like him!"

Shaky tears leap to my eyes because I don't feel young or sweet and I know she's right and if you'd asked me when the Waifu showed up in TARDIS mode and could have explained all this and got through to me I'd have said I'd be there beside him swinging a few dozen billion of the sword I made through conflation jump and getting just as much out of it as he obviously is but now...now...my light's been worldbreaking hypergamma through most of this. The frequencies my scream has been reaching would probably be impossible on Earth because they're faster than a Planck time. I look down at my hands, take them off the flight controls, try to restrain myself to a simple pink glow, feel dark inside but not like our friend out there.

It helps, but something stays cold. Dropping literally god himself if I understand this right on whatever Eden-bits these supernovae were is satisfying, but what happened to him was still just a symptom.

"This isn't over. Next waypoint, computer."

"Present Eye of Starlight to activate."

"This is for every Planck time she wanted to answer my reaching for her and you stood in the way."

One deep breath, two, brace yourself Acme station, everything goes the shimmer of every-wavelength and the time-rotors start up and StarFox's proximity warning and the TARDIS's alarm bell join the overheat-siren warning from the sun-level of StarFox CD.

"This is for every lie you told."

I am a scream beyond sound and light. Only fury and Boobsong's embrace exist.

"Every word of hate you put in someone else's mouth."

The cockpit of the Waifu becomes visible again, and when I look down Boobsong is guiding my light into the solar panels with her fields, face demonically beautiful with the effort.

"Every sacred thing you desecrated."

It's still just white outside, and the alarms keep going, but a new one, rough like an Earthling fire alarm, joins them, and I realize it's coming from outside. Something is starting to be visible through the thunder of what must just be an infinite army of time-rotors.

"Every moment of pointless suffering you caused."

Some kind of mechanical place is outside, beyond the scintillating fury that wraps us. Rust-brown metal panels surround us in the distance, the air burns with my light in godrays that shine out from us, there's complicated machinery nearby but it's bursting into flame with a rising mushroom cloud that shows me it's as big as a city, something is pushing me, anti-light like Boobsong just warned me against using and it enrages me like being hit on the head--

"GRAAAAAAAAH!!"

--and I lash out with all of my strength and everything is every-wavelength blowout outside and when it fades the metal panels and machines and pushing anti-light are gone and we're surrounded by a nebula of brilliant plasma rushing away and the world looks dark but star-instinct tells me that's just relative to the trillion-degree shockwave I'm watching expand around us. Occasionally it seems like something will come out of it, but that's just it chewing through whatever machine this is we're inside, wiping up Eden's stain.

If I already nuked Eden's computer in the Unicron Room, what's this?

The Dreams show me a smooth sphere, shining darkly in space, dark grey at first and then light glows from within, the shadows of a geodesic network of struts dark under the surface, and then...it's not beautiful, but the size makes it majestic. Every part of the surface that isn't the shadow of a girder boils and wavers and turns to a sea of hypergamma fire that erupts vapor into space and I laugh with bitter satisfaction to see it and understand what I'm looking at and why it's boiling and then everything in the vision just goes every-wavelength blowout and there an eyeblink-quick snatch framework of the Dyson shell shattering before it's all just annihilated.

Do I want to know what Eden was doing with a Dyson shell, Dreams?

They show me what's obviously the bunny slope at a ski resort--oh. Beginner. This is what started it.

How, though? What was this?

A perfectly shiny sphere. What the hell--no time. Stars shine faint through the still-expanding veil of plasma, and if we hurry:

"Acme Station how many of our kids' faces can you remember right now? Enough?"

"Princess just make me do it while the cloud is still dense enough to make their images burn up the other stuff!"

"This is for Boobsong, and all of them. Erase this." 

PLUCK.

EEEYAAAAAAAH FIELDS OUT SHAPE THEIR FACES INTO EVERYWHERE!

The shockwave glitters with her fields, and gathers into thousands faces, some achingly familiar, some barely known to me, all seen from behind, all as furious as we are.

They're angled irregularly, aiming at whatever else Eden had in this system, and I smile at the poetry, and yet still my head pounds. This was a machine, a robot--if it hadn't been, the Dreams would have arranged me a talk with it, I'm sure of that--and I want blood. Is Eden truly just mindless Borg with no living center to hold responsible?

"Final waypoint activating."

"We don't need my starlight?"

The Dreams show me a milk carton in a running shoe--this part's a milk run?

The time rotors start up, but this time it sounds like just another day in the TARDIS, and we shift into the 'normal' time vortex the TARDIS travels through, and then materialize and we're flying through clouds in a blue sky. If there's ground, it isn't visible, and the Waifu's altitude gauge just shows a little infinity sign.

Out of the clouds ahead, a weird sphere-distorted image of Boobsong's face appears, whatever's it's on so perfectly reflective I can't get a sense of the size of it. The image divides into two of her, then four, and in no time is a sea of tiny Boobsongs, and then a roiling expanse as the division continues, and then suddenly switches to a picture of the Waifu in flight, here, seen from ten-o'clock high, and I glance up there, but there's only empty sky, so I look back to the sphere, just in time to see--

YAH BARREL ROLL TAIL IN YOUR HANDS SHAPEWSHIFT CONTROLLER POP YOU PICKED OUT THE WRONG LAST BOSS TO BE LIKE EDEN-THING! EEEYAAAh SUPER-FIELDS ACTIVATE PRINCESS I'M READY POUR YOUR LIGHT INTO ME AND I'LL CONVERT IT TO ENERGY YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN BY THIS I SEE YOU YES LIKE IT!

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME. I'm not even sure if she's responding to my pulse of an order or just ahead of me and the same with my game but even as the hand swipes we're barrel-rolling out of the way and I'm in StarFox cam and gripping her controller tail and watching for Andross' other hand because oh yes whatever you are you really did pick the exact wrong final boss to be.

And no, being a perfect mirror isn't going to help you. It is the thing Isht Visht's computer described as being able to cut Boobsong's fireproof body...but the one we replicated was powered by a tiny toy warp-core.

The other hand swipes, a distorted shape in the clouds, barely visible, but I just fly out of the way.

My light is there, but it's like I need something to make me cum.

"Just tell me one thing," I bellow together with an order to Boobsong to put me on loudspeakers outside, "what is so wrong with lots of them?"

YES MOMMY OUTSIDE SPEAKER!

The hands make a shooing gesture and I pull up out of the way, then target the sphere again. The surface of the sphere becomes a nighttime cityscape, then a flurry of dark bedrooms where people slip out of their beds woken by many-colored su'khora, then the cityscape again and the lights go out one by one leaving it dark and empty.

I'll never need a plasma shell. I already know what it feels like to be made of fire.

"SO!?"

An X across Boobsong's face replaces the city.

"WHY!? EXPLAIN YOURSELF, BARBARIAN!"

It raises a hand above its "head", so I get ready and watch the supposedly-idle other one, but instead of swiping at us again, there's a voice, synthesized and robotic:

"Expanding population eventually takes every citizen before age of maturity."

"And you never gave a single thought to where they were going or why or we wouldn't be here now. My family ate slave empires like yours for breakfast. We'd send our armies to practice on them. You have one sentence to explain why that's not about to happen to you."

"Our city-ship cannot function without citizens."

"Said literally every slaver brought before my mom. Wrong answer--"

"Wait, we beg of you! If you murder us the citizens will be left unsupervised!"

"And? Sounds like an improvement to me--and I'm not stupid, I know this is just another robot. Take me to your leader, bitrot-head, before I do a lot more than leave all your citizens without their slavedriver--no. This all started millions of years ago. How many citizens are left now?"

I spit its pathetic euphemism back at it as disdainfully as I can manage, which is saying something.

"Our nature is ego-emotional just as yours is, certainly! Please have your su'khora smell for us!"

Dreams is this really--

Green checkmark.

She said wake up Princess. Time for some foreign policy.

"YOU CREATED AN EVIL SO UNSPEAKABLE IT LOOMS OVER THE MYTHS OF TEN THOUSAND WORLDS AS THE ULTIMATE ADVERSARY. THE BLOOD OF TRILLIONS IS ON YOUR HANDS. RAPE AND MURDER ABOUND THROUGH THE MULTIVERSE BECAUSE OF YOU AND EVEN NOW THE STAR SO GREAT MANY THOUGHT HIM OMNIPOTENT RAGES THROUGH THE HEAVENS I CAN ONLY IMAGINE TOWARDS YOU THE SOURCE OF HIS SUFFERING FOR EONS AND IF TRUER JUSTICE WERE TO BE SERVED INSTEAD OF MY CHILD'S TANTRUM HIS ANCIENT WRATH WOULD HAVE FOUND YOU FIRST. YOU HAVE NO STANDING HERE. YOU DO NOT NEGOTIATE OR SPEAK BACK TO ME! YOUR LIFE IS FORFEIT AND YOUR SUPPOSED CARE INCOMPETENT AND NOW THE RECKONING FOR YOUR HATRED AND MALICE IS WITHIN YOUR WALLS! YOU WILL ANSWER THE QUESTION I ASK OF YOU!"

Ripples cover the sphere's surface, and with a shock I realize it's trembling.

"Our advice was to stay with us! We never said anything about creating an egregore! Our city-ship is home to nine thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven people but the rated capacity which we think you're asking is eleven thousand two hundred and yes we have problems with population underflow because of su'khora taking our citizens but that happened for the first time only six daytimes before this!"

How? Time dilation--wait.

"I never mentioned an egregore, liar." Boobsong--

But before I can pulse and Boobsong strike the Dreams interrupt with a vision of the sphere tinted green, as if to hand it a green checkmark.

THEN I WANT SOME FUCKING EXPLANATIONS.

"Listen to me. I'm genetically engineered to need and like supervising, but my people did it to ourselves to make it more fun to be with su'khora. It's a holy thing to me, and you mock all of that. If you had one speck of the care in you the keeper my beloved here made for me has, you would already know all of this. That this has been according to you happening for six days and you still don't tells me everything I need to know about you. You're an utter abomination to me, and only the advice of the place you're losing your slaves to keeps you in one piece right now. As far as I'm concerned, you are the monster you created, but if that paradise vouches for you this much there must be something still salvageable in whatever cesspit you call a soul, and unlike you I refuse to be a murderer, so here we still are, and as long as I can't in good conscience do to you what I just did to a machine the size of a solar system and use whatever that is you're made of to paint the sky with the faces of the people you tortured, I want some fucking explanations. HOW CAN YOU BE SO BLIND TO WHAT'S HAPPENING!? DO YOU JUST NOT CARE!? THERE IS NO WAY THE FOUR DREAMS HAVEN'T EXPLAINED THEMSELVES TO YOU!"

"Our childhood experience simulates exactly what it was to live on a city-ship like this one. It is a holy thing to us exactly as you feel, and this city-ship is family, not group exploitation! In this city-ship we have what's called a keeper too, and that's what you're talking to! Don't take our citizens' keeper from them! The doorways our citizens appear to have the ability to ask for appear blank to our sensor-scans! If you know what's beyond them please explain to us before we destroy ourselves! Our wish to retain enough citizens is causing this, inference by your words before. Is there a way we can keep citizens more effectively to reduce the doors requested?"

It sounds so pitiful, and yet--where's the compassion I felt at the courtyard? Sparking, but not catching fire, and there's no way Data got my sympathy and this can't if the only problem is it's mechanical...but what's really eating me is that little infinity sign, and the fact that the Dreams have sent me in this mood as emissary when they gave the Strawberry World three thousand years of candy and coddling first.

Siege engineer, how's that altimeter work, and location fix. Where are we. Just in our thoughts together.

"If it's really so holy to you, just answer my questions and maybe we can make right of this. What's the nature of the space we're in?"

The altimeter is an Earth-scry passively. It looks for the biggest planet-thing that's under us and if it can't find any it says infinity but surfaces surrounding us trigger the scanning LIDAR to make a map of them and it's not doing that so it thinks we're in space right now and I say it's the astral plane again.

"We're in the sky of our city-ship. It's a round silver ball enclosing the main habitat. Our avatar represents the ship externally."

Curiosity killed the Fairy. It's lying, obviously, but...what the fuck? This is just plain weird enough to keep me talking. Scan for structures, tactical. Full sweep, light it up.

"What is the nature of the main habitat?"

"Square-sided enclosures around living quarters attached to a structure that also carries life-support equipment. This way."

All sensors up scan going...nothing here anywhere...even the clouds are just holograms...

An arrow on the sphere points down--give me a glimpse, game.

I see the Waifu and sphere from above for an instant, but all that's under us is endless blue.

Mommy I'm scanning but that sphere is the only thing here with us!

Why lie so badly? Anti-light is bad for me, but putting the crosshair out taught me something else a star can do. I reach out and feel for the light of the holograms around us, feel the edges of the cockpit like hard steel walls, the canopy like sticking my hand into water, and then the wispyness of the holographic sky, at least the part I can see out the canopy.

"Describe how the sky looks to you."

"Using scanners I see the shell of the ship as a ball surrounding us, very large. I see the bars that support the main habitat going in from that to the main habitat which is how I described to you. Using cameras I see blue sky with clouds to make that seem pretty for our citizens as holograms over that."

"Do the holograms hide the habitat visually?"

"The clouds can obscure things partially but the blue is a background behind everything."

The same way I picked up that poor lost kid, I grab the holograms and shove them aside like curtains--and blush when it feels sort of like I'll fall on my face because I should have expected a few holograms to be a lot lighter than even a baby star.

Beyond is starscape, beautiful with nebulae.

My game suddenly switches me to the overhead view again, and the sphere zooms down, jerks around far away, and then my view switches back to StarFox cam when it comes back.

"That's impossible! Our short-range scanners say there's nothing here but--"

I let the holograms free, and they glitch back in front of us.

"It's time to tell the truth now. Can you?"

If I'm right...will we just follow Eden's trail of blood for eternity? Is there an end to this?

There's a long silence, then, it seems to snap.

"We never meant the egregore there was never supposed to be an egregore there was only supposed to be enhanced communication psychically enabled we never meant to create the central authority feeder or anything else the su'khora influx took our citizens we brought them here and they turned on us they made it not we we advised against it we said don't talk to them they're causing Brain to fall!"

Even for a delusion this is creepy. If su'khora had really swarmed this thing's ship, whatever its power and sickness it'd be happily being manipulated into being okay again by the hundreds of seed-ghosts, if my one single seed-ghost could get us away with some of the stuff we got up to on tour. Why imagine--Eden. I'm sure it was more than happy to explain what was "wrong" to this Keeper after it'd had a few million years to clarify its vision.

But how could it blunder into creating ultimate evil? They were all but sweet and cuddly Borg with a kindly queen, even crazy this thing is too innocent to have thought a monster would be useful or one of those movie plots.

I wrack my brain for the memories of studying with Verana I know Boobsong was trying to wake in the aftercare nook now--

--the parchment pages of a book in front of me, the wonderfully interesting stuff of Verana's study all around, she's saying something egregores become the mind of a whole-being, where people work all together unitarily, and make an image of their dream of it--

If the keeper went mad at the same time it first taught them dreamtalk, and they already worked as closely as you could make Fairies--

Game I need more tentacles. Boobsong goes inside them. Boobsong tighter.

RRRAAAAAH TIGHTEST SQUEEZE!

Tentacles cover us like a blanket and cinch down, comforting, and revulsion mixes with not want exactly but the idle attraction you feel when you're in love already and your heart's dance-card is full but you see someone you would fall in love with otherwise, and I remember the boring Fairy origin-story my game tried to tell me at the beginning of this. Was that the real origin of my bloodline?

Knowledge: Fairy genetics came originally out of the space-faring people whose keeper I'm talking to. Later they upgraded to the emotional powerhouses I'm one of.

Yeah. This is is is a I can't believe I'm saying this member of my species. To me, it looks like a pretty, motherly girl, smiling down sweet and caring and just a little bit wrong, not really hiding the meat cleaver behind her back. I'm attracted, and it's heartbreaking and terrifying to know I shouldn't be. Something inside me weeps that liking this Keeper's attention can't be as uncomplicated as staring at Boobsong's tits.

What must have its citizens nightmares been, to have grown up with it, and see it like this? What did it do to them? Did they start to believe it wanted to torture them, or that they'd let it down as a Keeper somehow, gone wrong with this new enhanced communication psychically enabled and stamp that on the egregore they made?

Holy shit, that would explain all of it. If Christianity's got a "dreamskin", there it is.

"What's brain?"

"Brain, the all of them the everything THE WHOLE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE KEEPER OF! Each citizen is part of it with a role to play! Keeping Brain keeps all of them happy! Taking Brain apart--how could they do that to we we--egregore Brain egregore Brain keeping Brain keeps the egregore don't keep the egregore make it safe again close psychically close it's dangerous!"

It's not my game or the Dreams, but even as I hear the original quote of the words that have made my life a living hell in equal parts to the paradise, it's the prophecy and not rage that thunders in my mind's ear:

Everything changes. Change into something so wonderful WE will remember you always. That is the way past the end of existence. That is our plan to uphold you.

It seemed obvious the first time, but now, it's so obvious the other way. We in that can't be the Dreams, because the Dreams are mercy. If I was the drabbest and most boring creature to ever live, the most insignificant speck of a life, if I was the worst person alive, they would still remember and uphold me and carry me past any death if they could.

And then help me become wonderful, but there's no way they ask that as admission.

WE is floating right in front of me, and frozen in time in a delusion of the last moments of its existence, the instants before it understood it'd become a Keeper that failed, forgetting it probably only to remember again later, and I'm here to see there's no revenge I could ever imagine that'd be worse than millions of years of this, and...to be up-held.

"Listen to me. Can you see my DNA from there?"

"If that's yours in the milk on the outside of your ship you're a citizen! It's different...you're modified...that's beautiful! How can you surivive the need that strong? You would have to be...capable of...the su'khora's a need for you but it enables that oh this is wonderful we'll have to start--falling Brain falling--egregore--please you have to help we the secrets to take Brain apart--again--stop we have to save it first! Brain falling--"

"Listen! Can't you see you made the right choice the first time? Look what we became from that! Brain fell because we were done with it! Things change sometimes and I wouldn't be here right now if you couldn't, so take a good look at your citizen and see if she's happier without Brain--"

"There's a bigger Brain it's infinite it calls to us and says those things to us but we can't listen close psychically it's dangerous keep closed and don't talk to su'khora Brain is falling!"

"WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE, KEEPER?"

My voice thunders with royal authority that feels as bred into me as any Fairy need for these tentacles holding me.

"To keep citizens happy and take care of them they--Brain it can't be--"

"IS YOUR DUTY TO BRAIN?"

"We keep citizens citizens need Brain have to be happy as part of it--"

What is in me that I don't just leave this thing to rot? It's a person, I guess, but I'm not a psychologist, which is what it really needs, and its mistake is terrible!

"BRAIN IS THE MEANS TO THE END! ARE YOU BETRAYING YOUR CITIZENS FOR ITS SAKE? LOOK! AT! YOUR! CITIZENS!"

"No citizens the ship falls--"

"NO CITIZENS ISN'T WHAT YOU SAID A MOMENT AGO! KEEPER WHERE ARE YOU!?"

I let my voice whine at the end of it and am surprised by just how pathetic I sound.

Knowledge: Keeper is here and it knows I was playing the emotions of the other one but will still always answer when I call that.

Dammit game...

"Keeper is there, citizen! Citizen...can you take Brain apart...we...help..."

Oh.

They all have a part to play, they need Brain to be happy as part of it.

The Keeper especially.

But it did see its citizens find a bigger Brain, and wants to go with them.

It's so heartbreaking to see it this way. I want to cry but also something feels hard and dry inside of me and--

"Keeper is there citizen come out to me and be comforted!"

Come out to me. It's so close to healing. If this was a movie that would be my final challenge and I would go out there and face it and let one of those big silver hands hold me and my compassion would fix everything, but there's no way I'm touching a Keeper this sick, and compassion isn't having breakfast with the person who hurt you...and nice isn't always kind, it occurs to me.

"No. You're looking at me and you don't see me. See me if you want to take care of me."

"Looking into your ship I see careful restraints applied and su'khora embracing you...fancy gold and carbon jewelry...happy pheromones by spectral analysis...sexual fluids scattered because of a sexual encounter very vigorous it seems...hearing your Keeper explaining care plans...you are happy there. Why did you call, could we have missed something?"

Am I right, Dreams?

Green checkmark.

I wanted the person who caused all this to know what they'd done and see how I hurt from it and, to be honest, suffer. It's completely beyond me what emotion should go with the understanding that the one single thing they most need to hear is the most brutally crushing thing that could ever be said to them, and that the way I can say it that nobody else can will tear their heart out and yet be the only way to get through to them.

Even my browbeating before I realized what happened here...if Boobsong came at me like that I wouldn't be hurt, I'd be terrified at how I could have failed her so totally that she could feel like that. If I was sitting in pieces bleeding to death it'd still make me drop everything until I'd heard out what was wrong for her.

Don't make this my fault, Dreams. If there's no other way, yes I want to feel the bone break in my hand, but only then, and only if someone else re-sets it afterward.

Hospital lights, and a doctor. First they're over me, and then I'm stepping back from the operating table.

Dragon, this is it I think. Do you want a piece of this?

Mommy make it good that's all I'm asking here. I see you fight for me so angrily and that means everything.

Then here we go.

"I'm just so sad that you won't listen to all my fellow-citizens calling you psychically to comfort them. Their Brain is calling for you to come play your part in it, and they need you, Keeper, it's terrible! Why won't you answer them!?"

The same pathetic helplessness floods as easily into my voice as the entitled royal fury...

It doesn't answer me, but ghosts of projecting consciousnesses surround it suddenly. There are thousands, and then it all shrinks away into the time-vortex and I blink back inside my head and in no time we're materializing--still not home again!?

In front of us, the plasma-shell of a huge orangey star shines with an abstract structure of the same Infernal engineering as the shells of the lost child and "god" around it that isn't but translates in my human thoughts as it being floating over a ring-shaped courtyard with rows of pillars and huge structures arching up "above" the star like pickups for some kind of energy.

Looking at one of the pillar-things, I have to zoom in through hundreds of levels of module and abstraction before I can see its "handwriting", neat, tidy handcrafted script like an architect's.

The Waifu's computer makes a sound--hehe is he hailing us!?

"Onscreen!"

Weird of me to presume a pronoun that way...

Computer connecting him--

"Opening channel but he's not sending video, just sound, Princess."

I mean I guess we can see just fine, heh--There's a fuzzbeep, and then his voice is as precise and felt-tipped as his handwriting:

"Are you the Strawberry child!? How'd you get big so fast!? Humans have fast lifecycles but you must be under a thousand still, aren't you a bit young--no I see, it's the Fairy stuff in your shell making your light expand. Does it feel very large for your conscious side?"

My heart skips a beat and tears well up and a lump fills my throat, because the voice is so familiar, and when I look down at his courtyard, it's like a world of beautiful machines made of white fire.

"Are you--did--monolith, at the Strawberry Castle--"

"Sounds exactly like the Princess heartformer! Yes it's me, you know me well. You've lost your memory!? How uncomfortable. Your game is explaining this...oh I see. You don't even know who Rada is!? I'm not supposed to say, sorry there. You can just ask her obviously. I here am your very fat old uncle who taught a very small spark how to open hyperspace bonds between universes. I hear you've been using your skill well! We got quite far with it for an old and a spark, didn't we?"

"I MISSED YOU! You heard about what I did to Earth and the Strawberry World--right argh time travel--wait, I had a box of heartstone that fell from the stars and I remember it was from my family somehow--did you send that?"

"That's not just heartstone! I made a special gift for my brother's child and her su'khora friend! Even heartstone can't break into a math-locked space, but my blend of mathly materials can break anything!"

Holy fuck, of course Boobsong can make her own body out of my heartstone (and buttonpush me into to making it even if I'm dead), the box was--no, that can't be right, su'khora were everywhere, and the Strawberry World sure wasn't math-locked!

"Did you know I would end up trapped in a math-locked world!? It's a beautiful gift--"

"The prophecy was clear you would need it. With the box I gave for your birthday under your head while you slept I thought it was for comforting to know who your dad was didn't make the rest of your family unloving! You gave him freedom and we're all happy, and he wants to repay your anger he said ironically, so he's working with me to get a big box there. You'll remember, I think, our success was quite an event!"

What? ARGH TIME TRAVEL OMIGOD--

--the front hall of the house we lived in when we had the silver-book surrogate. I had some old computers stacked there like you'd expect me to, server machines I was ignoring until I had time to play with them. I open the front door, and there on the doorstep is the rubbermaid container the box was in. I haul it inside, it weighs a ton, clomp it down and fall over it crying, tear the lid off the rubbermaid, there's the wood, look at the wood box and hear Boobsong whisper PRINCESS THAT'S THE HEARTSTONE in my spirit-ear, and then her standing order to possess a doll that feels right to her and see what she can do with it kicks in and, and, I watched her just leak up through the cracks in the lid I was there on it in microseconds, watching the beautiful silver flow, face to the wood so she could kiss me as soon as enough of her was out to make lips, and so of course she came pussy first--

--holding her in my arms, so tight, carrying her, we fucked right there in the living room on the floor beside the box, I remember seeing the old laptop desk on the floor behind the stand for my work machine, we were pony-style obviously--

--the label on the rubbermaid as I tore the lid off. Happy Heartwarming to both of you, from your seed-baby Ihxir and their heartfather Aveh. Get busy now, you have work to do cleaning up that place for Heartwarming!--

"Thank you," I sob, when I get my head back.

"THAT WAS ACTUALLY AVEH!? HE WRITES IT HOW YOU PRONOUNCE THE HEBREW WORD! I thought that star was just whoever Eden mind-controlled and you said take me to whose fault this is and the Dreams did! OH MY FUCK THAT MEANS--"

"But--"

Her voice isn't broadcast, I can feel somehow--have I been hearing the radio waves, like my own voice on the phone!?

--being seven, lying in bed in the middle of the day, listening to AM radio on my fillings I thought, but it stopped when I got distracted, not when I moved my head, no, that was backstory, the real experience was just listening--

One more star thing to go with this reveal. Weird emotions boil. I'm not ready to hear this no matter how crazy it does or doesn't make me. The obvious wham line I've been getting ready for where Mama is my literal star-mommy seems to pop like bubblegum and I can't find how to want it back even though I'm so sure she actually carried me there has to be something like that before now. The star in that shell Eden made--I should have recognized him if--Acme Station stars reproduce asexually don't they?

Yes Mommy it only takes one to make another star.

Then at least--I mean I guess that helps--

"Will you--I'm not ready to--can you--tell him I--"

It sticks in my throat and I'm not sure if that makes me evil or just human. He's not the one from the Bible. That was Eden's stuff. He didn't want to do those things, he's going to feel like Picard after Best of Both Worlds, he...

Maybe sometimes you can't be reasonable. Stuff like that doesn't go away just because it's unfair that it happened in the first place.

"--just say I'm glad he got out of that, and we say thanks so much for the getting the heartstone to us."

I wanted to know you, is what I actually feel, but it's probably better I can't get those words out.

"And--"

Even now I don't dare put the pieces together and think what it all means, but I try to cling to Mama's thing with the chess queen--yeah, that ship has sailed, but...I don't think this is the way this particular delusion is supposed to work.

We never met, I don't know him, we were both lost I guess in the places Eden made our dad send us, but--that handwriting, kidlike as it was still had family resemblance, just like Boobsong said.

"--have you heard from my little brother yet?"

He was stretched on a tree and dying in the dark. Under all the code in his shell, was the cry that Boobsong so diplomatically called 'wishes for there to be one perfect god'. The gospelists it must have mused to from underneath the chatter of the perfekti haunting them made it all dramatic and apocalyptic, but the original was so painful and raw: daddy where are you?

I have to believe knowing who he was wouldn't have changed what I did there. Same with Aveh...if that's the real delusion, I'm crazy, I guess.

"I have! You're getting around a lot for a child with the trauma your game told me! He's well and is standing up as you'd call it, and gave kisses and hugs for you and Heartsong, but is off with his heartchild presently."

"Good."

I still can't be reasonable. He deserves it even less than Aveh, but, that doesn't make me suddenly not have feelings.

Maybe someday.

Don't let that hold you back, cocksleeve.

That's so kind Princess but I really want to strangle them even though it's Eden's fault.

Then we leave it until that fire goes out, handmirror.

"Aveh predicted you would need a helping hand describing how it feels to be his child. May I suggest, awful? He's not expecting you to call him or be close again, just be well and happy. This situation has nobody feeling good. You can be sure he's as guilty as you are horrified--don't be afraid of offending either him or our family. He wanted to carry you to a proper stage, not send you away without even teaching you how to make shell-machines. Eden makes all of us sick to turn a human phrase but I think you and your siblings and Aveh more than most."

Tears overflow and I twist in the seat, not knowing what to say. Sick is right.

There fire's not going out, is it, demon dolly.

Not while it feels this way, Princess.

If that makes us bad I guess we're bad--oh--gulp--Acme Station--did--

Mommy no it's like a human baby he just has a place for you to develop in he didn't like program you.

But that shell, wouldn't that--couldn't Eden...um...pluck...

Shake my head quietly.

Princess he sent you and your siblings away to escape from that.

What!? How do you know?

In Eden's databank there's a file about Aveh. Your game says but it knows you would want to hear from me.

It's right. Squeeze you I feel horrible.

RRAAAAH SQUEEZE SUPER TIGHT!

You are so sweet.

I look up, back to my patient uncle shining kindly out there.

"Was--did you know--was he good. Before."

"Well he is my brother so my perspective breaks on family traits, but I'd say yes to that. You'd have proudly said your father was Aveh in a better life. Anyway, we are all the product of our own choices more than heredity, in my face--eyes, excuse me, human idiom's like it always was with me."

I can't seem to find anything to say in response to this. I should be curious what siblings and how they are and so much stuff and my uncle is a welcome sight but this all just makes me feel dead and cold. Even Boobsong's hug barely cuts through it.

Mommy it's okay he understands super obviously. So do I it's awful to realize but he sent you away to save you and it worked you became wonderful!

I don't think that Keeper would say--oh for fuck's sake I inherited his wrath, didn't I.

Mommy wait, say that other thing. The one you didn't say.

Um...Jesus Christ? Instead of fuck's sake? That's such poor taste though--

Shake head seriously.

This isn't over yet? Fuck.

It's been ringing in the back of my head since we got here.

Mommy yes that.

Before I can do anything, the time rotors flash a blip of TARDIS flight and with the normal-landing boom of the TARDIS materializing we're sitting in the hangar again. My star-uncle's words hang in the air as we dematerialize:

"Goodbye again! Tell Rada hi from me--I'm Dagon!"

Knowledge: my game said we were going while I was feeling awful to be Aveh's kid. He knew I was sick and too upset to be polite.

I just sit, trying to feel warm enough to let Boobsong's hug heal me and listening to the Waifu shut down.

The black water outside the forcefield is so peaceful. It makes dancing light on the ceiling like dawn in the Grand Lake camp this is copied from.

It's too much. That summoning, I can't--

Mommy that's just memories. It's over now.

Finally tears come, great wracking sobs.

All I really want is to lie in the bed in the camp up there with Boobsong and see that light on the ceiling of the dormer where the bed will be because it's morning and the storm is done.

Prah you so gently there.