The Parallel

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Qoheleth
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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:08 am

Trees have DNA, don't they?

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:13 am

Chapter 24 - Andrea

"So, girls," said Father Honeycutt to Andrea and me, "have you worked out who gets the processional cross this time?"

We nodded wearily. "It's my turn," I said.

"All right, just checking," said Father. "I know you two sometimes have a problem with that, so..."

"Once, Father," said Andrea. "That was one time."

"Yes, well, when it happens to be the time the bishop's concelebrating, you don't forget it very easily," said Father.

"No, we don't," I said. "Which is why it's never going to happen again. Scout's honor." (As I said it, I couldn't help thinking about the last time I had used that phrase, and I felt a sudden urge to check the vestibule for stinkbugs in case Josh had overridden my request to Anifal. I squelched it, though; acting suspicious in the presence of Father Honeycutt and Andrea was exactly the sort of thing Anifal had warned me against – and, anyway, after the last two times, I was getting sick of doing things on impulse.)

"Well, that's good to know," said Father. "All right, then, what else... Elly, you remember what I said about using a decent amount of water for the ablution?"

I nodded.

"Good," said Father. "And, if a visitor from Immaculate Heart harasses you after Mass about being altar girls, you will say...?"

"The gender roles in the Catholic liturgy are based on the iconography of Christ's mystical marriage to the Church," we chorused. "Furthermore, the role of the acolyte is not that of an alter Christus, but may more accurately be described as an alter Ecclesia, inasmuch as the acolytes represent the Church Triumphant around the throne of the Lamb. Given this, it would appear to actually be more desirable that acolytes be female, and certainly ought not to be a cause of scandal among the faithful."

"Bravi." Father Honeycutt checked his watch. "I suppose I should go count the hosts now," he said. "Back in two shakes of a lamb's tail."

He strode out of the vestibule, shutting the door behind him, and something indefinable changed in Andrea's face; she seemed to relax somehow, the way Abby does when she exits the stage during one of her school plays and shifts back to her own personality. "Beams of Kandrona, I thought the old fool would never leave," she said, and turned to me. "So, Ninno, what happened to you yesterday?"

It caught me completely off guard. Stupid, of course, but I can be like that sometimes. I knew that Andrea was a Controller; I knew that, in this universe, I was one too; and yet, somehow, I had never managed to make the connection and realize that Andrea's Yeerk knew mine. Of course, as soon as we were alone together, she would drop the pretense of being human.

Probably the alternate me had been captured in the first place thanks to her. I couldn't count the number of times that my own Andrea had nagged me to join the Sharing; if I hadn't known better (which, of course, in this universe, I hadn't), I would have been enslaved ages ago.

It took me about two seconds to realize all this – but Andrea's Yeerk wanted an answer in one. To stall for time, I said, brilliantly, "Huh?"

"What happened to you?" Andrea repeated. "You told me on Friday that you'd call me the next day and give me the rhyme to put in the new Sharing brochure. I spent practically all of Saturday glued to the phone, and you never called."

"Oh, that." So that's why the Yeerk me was reading Now We Are Six, I thought. For inspiration. I wondered. "Sorry about that. I just, you know, couldn't think of anything that would impress the Sub-Visser." (I carefully refrained from mentioning Dr. Daught's number, since I had no way of knowing if he had been promoted higher than Three Hundred and Sixty-Seven in this universe.)

"What do you mean, you couldn't think of anything?" said Andrea. "All we need is four rhyming lines about the Sharing that can get stuck in a human's head. What's so hard about that?"

"It's not that simple, Sarem," I said, trying to sound like Abby talking about the travails of the amateur actress (and feeling grateful that I knew Andrea's Controller's name from one of the times we'd infiltrated the Yeerk pool). "You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. If there's not that extra spark of something real about it, something that just happens naturally instead of you forcing it into place, the rhyme's not going to stick in anybody's mind."

Andrea rolled her eyes. "You sound like a human," she said.

"I do not!"

The words came out without me thinking about them: pure survival instinct, I guess. It was only after I'd said them that I realized what a stupid thing it was to do. A real Yeerk wouldn't be terrified that another Yeerk might think she was a human; if I was terrified, obviously it meant I had something to be terrified about. I swallowed quietly, and waited for Andrea to catch on.

Instead of which, she took a step backward and held up her hands nervously. "Relax, Ninno," she said. "I wasn't accusing you of host sympathy or anything. I just meant, you know, this business of 'waiting for inspiration' instead of just doing a job when it's given to you... it's not quite the spirit that built the Empire, is it?"

Host sympathy? I'd never heard that one before. I supposed it was like a British officer "going native" and joining the Zulus – except that, judging from Andrea's reaction, the Yeerks were a little sterner about it than Queen Victoria was. Maybe regular Yeerks were paranoid about people thinking they were getting too human.

I took a deep breath, partly out of relief and partly just to get some oxygen back in my brain. "No," I said. "I guess it isn't. Sorry."

"Oh, no problem," said Andrea quickly. "I just wish you'd told me yesterday that's what you were going to do. Andrea's dad was breathing fire by the end of the afternoon; apparently there was an issue with his column that he wanted to get approval about from his editor, and he wasn't exactly pleased that I kept saying, 'No, Dad, we have to keep the line free, Elly's supposed to call.'" She sighed. "Why he doesn't just get call-waiting, I have no idea."

I'm not sure what it was about that last comment that made me suddenly see her – the Yeerk, I mean – as a person. That's one of the problems with fighting a war: you get so used to thinking about the other side as "the enemy" that you forget that they have souls, too (which is easy to forget, anyway, when you're dealing with brain-controlling super-slugs). Of course, we always drew a distinction between the leaders of the Yeerk invasion, like Visser Seven, and the regular "civilian" Yeerks – after all, we didn't want to turn into Sherman burning down Atlanta or something – but I'm not sure I'd ever realized, before then, just who those "civilian" Yeerks were. You don't think of alien invaders, somehow, as having real lives: as being friends with each other, and working on assignments, and getting annoyed by little inconveniences like not having call-waiting. But, suddenly, it dawned on me that, yeah, of course they did – and that, from their perspective, I, as an "Andalite bandit", was the hostile creature from outer space. It wasn't much of an epiphany – if I had been really intelligent, it would have occurred to me eons before – but, coming when and how it did, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I felt myself stupidly (and dangerously) getting ready to cry.

"Ninno?" said Andrea, noticing the weird look on my face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I managed to say. "Nothing, it's just..." I couldn't think of anything else to say, and I didn't trust my voice much further anyway, so I just finished with another, "Nothing."

Andrea stepped forward, looking concerned. "Ninno," she said softly, "it's me. Sarem Eight-Nine-Zero. We've known each other almost a local year, and I knew your host I don't know how long before that. You can trust me, okay?"

And that just made things ten times worse. Ever since I learned that Andrea was a Controller, I'd been thinking of her Yeerk as this evil creature who'd enslaved my best friend – but now, when she said that thing about how long she'd known me, I realized that that was wrong. If she was infested when she was four, and I didn't meet her until we were both in second grade, then... then her Yeerk was my best friend.

Oh, sweet Jesus, I thought, why did You have to make my life so complicated?

I knew I would burst out in tears if I thought about all this a second longer, so I forced my mind onto a different subject. Poems, that was it. She wanted a poem for the Sharing – a Now-We-Are-Six kind of poem.

I remembered the last verse of "Binker", and played with it in my mind to see if I couldn't make a Sharing thing out of it. A lifetime spent playing word games with Josh came to my aid, and in about twenty seconds I had put together something that didn't stink too badly.

"Okay, how about this?" I said. "'Well, I really like the Boy Scouts, but they make you sleep in tents, / And I like to play arcade games, but they cost you fifty cents, / And I like to be at arts fairs till they've finished with their songs, / But the Sharing's free, and comfy, and it lasts your whole life long.'"

Andrea thought about it for a minute. She didn't look particularly impressed, but at least she didn't seem to recognize it (which didn't surprise me, since her parents aren't schmaltzy types like my dad, so they wouldn't have read Now We Are Six to her enough times for her to have it basically memorized). "Might work, sure," she said. "Call up the Sub-Visser this afternoon, and run it by him."

"Okay," I said.

"And Ninno?" Andrea added, touching me on the arm. "Get some extra dulot tonight, all right?"

I later found out, from Chester, that dulot is what Yeerks do instead of sleeping. At the time, though, I had no idea what she was talking about – and I couldn't exactly ask her, so I just nodded and promised I would.

At this point, Father Honeycutt came back into the vestibule. "Sorry I took so long, girls," he said. "You about ready to go?"

Andrea glanced at me, and, when I nodded slightly, said, "Yeah, I think so."

"All right, then," said Father. "Elly, take the cross; Andrea, take the book to give to our beloved lector, Mr. Walbert; and let's get this show on the road."

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:36 am

Chapter 25 - Homily

Despite what Father Honeycutt said, Mr. Walbert is not, in fact, one of our more beloved lectors – at least, not by me. I'm sure his wife always tells him after Mass what a wonderful job he did, but personally I've always been amazed by how dull he can make the Old Testament sound. He'll read some passage from Isaiah about the king being restored in splendor and wolves and sheep making up and becoming friends again, and it'll sound like the annual financial report at Johnson & Johnson or something.

That, combined with my pre-Mass revelation and the fact that Andrea was in charge of the lectionary, meant that I paid hardly any attention to the service until Father got up for the gospel reading and homily. We were in Year C, so he read something out of Luke (I forget what, though I think it had something to do with girding loins), but he didn't preach on it. Instead, he turned back to the epistle. (That's pretty typical for Father Honeycutt. He always says that we have three readings for a reason, and he doesn't think much of priests who focus on the Gospel to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible. He's even written homilies around responsorial psalms once or twice.)

"You all heard today's epistle when Daniel read it just now," he said. "But I'd like to read part of it again, all the same – in the original Douay translation, if you don't mind, since Hebrews 11 isn't one of the NAB's proudest moments."

We all chuckled, and a couple of the older people in the front rows nodded and made go-ahead gestures. So Father reached under his chasuble, pulled out his loyal pocket New Testament (it was an ordination present from his mother, he says, and he never goes anywhere without it), and flipped through it until he found the passage.

"'By faith he that is called Abraham obeyed,'" he read aloud, "'to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he abode in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in cottages with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise. For he looked for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.'"

He closed the book again, slipped it back into his cassock, and stared out over the congregation. "I don't know about you good people, but Abraham always rather intimidated me," he said. "Here's a man who lives in one of the great cities of Mesopotamia, whose family clearly has some money and prestige associated with it, and one day God appears to him and says, 'Get up and leave everything,' and he does it. Meanwhile, I consider myself to be doing well if the Bishop sends me to St. Agnes's to cover for Father Kennedy on short notice and I don't use more than three swear words."

Personally, I don't believe Father Honeycutt's ever sworn in his life, but it made a nice little bit of humor.

"But I suppose that's why God didn't pick me to be the father of the Chosen People," he continued. "You need someone special for that role – someone whose faith can serve as a model for all the generations after him. And, whatever his other faults, Abraham had that. Leaving the comforts of Ur to wander in the wilderness; being willing to sacrifice Isaac; not turning in his résumé when God introduced the idea of circumcision – oh, definitely Abraham had faith." (More laughter.)

"But where do you get that kind of faith? That's the question that matters to those of us who aspire to be saints – to rest, as Christ put it, in Abraham's bosom. And that's the question St. Paul answers for us today. 'For he looked for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.' And, a little later on, talking about those who followed in Abraham's footsteps, he describes them as 'confessing that they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth; for they that say these things do signify that they seek a country'.

"You see the point? If you think you've found your city, or your country – your home, in other words – then you don't have any need for faith. That was the substance of the devil's charge against Job: his faith wasn't real, because it was based on contentment with the things of this world. It wasn't until those words had been forced out of his mouth – 'Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him' – that he could definitely be called a man of faith.

"Now, to those of us who have achieved a bit of comfort in this life, that sounds rather unfair. Why should you have to lose everything in order to be counted among the faithful? But what we tend to forget is that, eventually, all of us will lose everything. A day is coming for each of us, sooner or later – sooner, probably, in my case; hopefully later, in most of yours – when everything that we've accumulated will slip from our fingers, and only one thing in the universe will matter: Did we love God? Did we trust Him? Did we do what He asked of us, painful or arduous though it might be? Or did we let all that slide in a hopeless attempt to find happiness and contentment that we knew we couldn't keep?" (Probably it was just my imagination, but I could have sworn his eyes flickered to me as he said that last bit.)

"Which brings us back to St. Paul, and his city with foundations. Generally speaking, the foundations of this world's cities are things like rivers, or trade routes, or oases – the things that bring material prosperity to large numbers of people. And that's all very well, so long as you remember that it's not going to last. Oases dry up; trades routes shift over time; and even the largest river can be diverted or lose its source. And then what becomes of your great city? Look to the ruins of Nineveh for your answer.

"No, if you want a city that truly has foundations – a city that no drought can wither, and no earthquake can shatter – a city that will last as long as your soul is going to – then none of this world's cities are going to satisfy you. You have to turn your eyes elsewhere; you have to look, as the Apostle says, for a city 'whose builder and maker is God'.

“You all know what that city is. In one sense, as baptized members of the Church, we live in it already; in another sense, we’re still waiting to catch a glimpse of it. It’s a city of saints and heroes, of jasper and gold, built on the apostles and guarded by the patriarchs; it’s a city that no one can reach except the ones who overcome – who persevere to the end in the will of the Father.

"It's not an easy thing to find. The road to it might lead you through poverty, suffering, loneliness, or any other kind of misfortune short of actual sin. Or, of course, it might not: on occasion, the search for the Eternal City has brought people long life, prosperity, and international influence. There's no way to say for certain until you've actually made it.

"But, whatever happens, know this much: when you're on that quest – as I hope everyone here will be when he or she walks out of this building today – what's important is the end. And when you reach that end, you'll see that everything you went through to get there doesn't matter a jot next to the end itself. The white stone, the morning star, the throne of Christ: that's what we're meant for, and everything else is just so much noise. So, whatever your situation in life might be right now, have faith, and remember that the goal is still ahead."

And he folded up his homily text, came down from the pulpit, and sat down in his chair behind the altar.
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It wasn't one of his great homilies, maybe (not like the one he preached at my confirmation, where it was like Isaiah himself was speaking through his mouth), but it got under my skin for some reason. I wasn't sure why. After all, I knew all that about this world not being permanent, right? I knew that you could only find true happiness in heaven, and that faith meant not minding if your life on Earth was rotten; it was one of Father's favorite themes. So why was it bugging me so much that he had picked this Sunday to say it?

It was probably only about two minutes that I brooded on that, but it seemed like half an hour, at least. Eventually, though, Father took pity on me, and stood up and got the liturgy moving again. "Now let us rise and join together in our profession of faith…"
Last edited by Qoheleth on Sat Feb 05, 2011 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Visser 5 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 4:39 pm

She is 'bugged' by it cuz she knows that she will be 'leaving this world' in the next few days to find HER earth.
;)
Vote for me! I will fix everything, giving everyone health care, food, a home with high speed internet and a good paying job, & kill everyone who makes more then $1 million per year &give their money to the poorest 10%.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:47 pm

Chapter 26 - Fugue

Later that afternoon, after I'd changed into the outfit I'd agreed on with Anifal, I was sitting on my bed stroking Lapkin and trying to sort through all the different thoughts that were nagging at me. Double-solitaire games, turtle instincts, unidentified decisions, Andrea, Sarem, and Abraham all whirled around in my head, refusing to fit together. It was like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces had nothing but bumps on them.

I tried to figure out when this whole thing had started. Was it just a side effect of crossing between the two universes? No, because I hadn't felt any sense of an impending decision on Apollo. In fact, I couldn't remember having any inkling of this feeling until I'd woken up on Saturday morning. Had something happened while I was asleep?

Maybe you've been infected by a hostile memetic parasite, I thought to myself, only half-joking. I'm sure Richard could give you all kinds of precedents for…

But I never finished the thought. A sudden, searing jolt of pain shot through my body, and every other thought was blasted from my brain.

It only lasted for a moment, and then it was gone. Gone as though it had never happened. But, in that moment, I must have let out some kind of scream, because Lapkin looked up at me in that quick, attentive way cats do when you startle them, and Josh called from his bedroom: "Elly, what was that?"

"Nothing," I called back. "Just… just a bug. It startled me for a second. I'm fine." But my voice was shaking, because now I was scared.

The next jolt of pain came about five seconds later. It might have actually been a little worse than the first one, but I was expecting it this time, and I managed to keep myself from screaming. Just barely, though. I'm not a sissy when it comes to pain (I used to be, but that was before the Morph Force), but this was different from anything I'd ever felt. Imagine if every cell in your body simultaneously caught fire, and you'll have some idea of what it was like.

I clung tighter to Lapkin; he mewed in protest, but I barely noticed. What was the matter with me? Was there some sort of virus in my brain, that had first messed up my ability to think straight and was now playing havoc with my pain sensors? Was I having some kind of allergy to the matter in this universe? Was I – then came another burst of pain, and suddenly the reasons didn't seem so important anymore.

It went on like this for almost half an hour. At several points, I almost broke down and called to the parallel Josh to call a doctor, or come and hold my hand, or something – but I didn't dare risk it. In the state I was in, I couldn't trust myself not to let him know who I really was – and there are worse things than having every cell in your body set on fire, and falling into Visser Three's clutches was about five of them. (Not that I thought the parallel Josh was a Controller, after his comments about the Sharing the other day, but, in the Morph Force, paranoia is a survival skill.)

I can't remember when I caught on to what was happening. It was obvious in retrospect, but forming logical thoughts isn't easy under those kinds of circumstances – and, even in retrospect, I'm still not sure why it happened. I mean, I hadn't been feeling anything else that the other me felt, and hosts don't usually feel their Controllers' starvation pains, anyway. But I guess there's something about being a trans-dimensional traveler that makes the rules go a little haywire where you're concerned.

So there I was, lying on my bed with my cat curled up next to me, and sharing in the agony of a Yeerk that was dying inside another me's skull about a mile away. I suppose I'm the only person that's ever happened to.

Lucky me.
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After about half an hour, the memories started. I'd been expecting this; Yeerks lose telepathic control during their deaths the way we lose muscle control, and they start pouring their own memories, along with those of their old hosts, into whatever brain they happen to be attached to at the moment. It was kind of a relief, actually; some of the memories were so vivid that they left no room in my brain for the starvation pangs, and I went from feeling like one of the locust victims in Revelation 9 to drifting dreamily through a series of half-remembered scenes, some touching, some scary, some just plain weird.

For instance, there was the one where I saw how Taxxons reproduce. Apparently, my double's Controller had infested a Taxxon at some point in her life, and she (actually, she was a he at that point) had been assigned to help create some new Taxxon hosts. That was one of the scary memories.

But there were some good memories, too. In fact, there were a bunch of good memories – lots more than I would have expected, considering the source. There were memories of her early youth, of swimming around soaking up Kandrona and not being afraid; there were memories of infesting her first Gedd, when she got to see the world through real eyes for the first time; there were memories of riding something called a limner across the grasslands of some neutral race's main continent, and feeling genuinely happy for the first time since her promotion to human-Controller status. (Funny, how all Yeerks seem to want the chance to infest humans, and then, when they get it, they go around terrified of what high-profile targets they've suddenly become. There's a moral there, I guess.)

And then there were the memories that I just couldn't make head or tail of. There was the one where her Taxxon host was licking a path along the floor of his burrow so another Taxxon could walk on it; I couldn't figure that one out at all. And there was the one showing the Yeerk's pride when she finally succeeded in "breaking" my double; I knew how I ought to feel about that, but, seeing it from the Yeerk's point of view, I could barely help being impressed. (I'd never realized how willful I could have been, under the right circumstances.)

I didn't see many memories from her Gedd host. The ones I did see were kind of sad, after my own experiences as a Gedd; I remembered loping along the surface of Apollo, with the rain tingling against my skin and the smell of vegetation in my nostrils, and I felt sorry for the old, tired animal that had never seen anything but the inside of a Yeerk farming combine. I suppose Richard feels the same way when he watches documentaries about industrial cattle farms.

And I didn't see any of my double's memories. That was natural, of course, since it was my double's brain that she was using, but it disappointed me just a little. I had kind of wanted to know what had happened to me between the day I didn't meet Elfangor and the day Ninno took me over. Still, that's life, sometimes.
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It was in the middle of an early-youth memory that the end came. I was clicking out a message to one of my spawn-mates, talking about all the great things I would do once I had a host, when suddenly the whole world seemed to go faint and misty, and a series of random, irrational images swam past me almost faster than I could register them.

I saw Visser One holding a baby that had the face of the late Visser Three, and looking down in alarm as it squirmed and wailed in thought-speak.

I saw Josh and me playing last night's double-solitaire game, except that Josh was beating the pants off me because every card in both our decks was the eight of diamonds.

I saw two aliens I'd never seen before – one that looked like a wise old hedgehog, and one that didn't seem to have any features except a giant eye – sitting next to each other on thrones in an ancient stone hall, and discussing how you play chess with a fifth knight that doesn't belong to either side.

I saw the four of us watching Cleopatra as a family, and Octavian shouting from the screen, "Ninno is dead! Ninno Five-Six-Three of the Klaath Niar pool lives no more!"

I saw stars…

I saw turtles…

I saw green…

I saw yellow…

Then my brain simply turned out the lights, and for a while I saw nothing at all – not even blackness.
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When I came to, a few minutes later, the world looked fuzzier than I remembered. It took me a second to realize that I had knocked my glasses off; I groped on the floor, found something that felt like them, and slipped them on.

My bedroom was just the way I remembered it. Lapkin had moved up to the head of my bed, and was looking down at me with concern, but nothing else had changed. Yet, somehow, everything was different.

"It's over," I whispered.

And it was.
Last edited by Qoheleth on Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Sat May 14, 2011 7:13 am

Chapter 27 - Conflict

I fell back on my bed with a sigh, closed my eyes again, and didn't move for a long time. It was silly, but it seemed dangerous to move – as though I might trigger the starvation pangs again if I twitched or rolled over. I felt Lapkin nuzzling at my head, and it made me want to giggle, but I still didn't move.

I'm not really sure what after that. I know I was there for about half an hour, but I must have drifted off to sleep at some point, because the next thing I remember is Anifal's voice in my mind, saying, <Elly, are you all right?>

I sat up, blinked a few times, and looked up at my window. A nuthatch was sitting on the sill, staring at me anxiously. (At least, I'm pretty sure it was anxious. It's hard to tell body language in a songbird, but then I've had a lot of practice.)

I smiled. "Hi, Anifal," I said. "Yeah, I'm fine."

<Good,> said Anifal. <Your double's Controller is dead; her fugue ended about thirty minutes ago. Everything is ready for you to come to the clearing and acquire the Ssstram ship.>

I sighed. "Okay, thanks," I said. "Go ahead and head back. I'll be along in a few minutes."

<As you wish,> said Anifal. <Incidentally, did you experience any discomfort while the Yeerk was dying?>

I blinked. "Um… yeah, actually, I did," I said. "How did you know?"

<I didn't,> said Anifal. <But Chester wished me to ask. Apparently the Yeerk fugue has been known to have odd effects on space and time in its immediate vicinity, and he suspected that the ontological overlap between yourself and your duplicate might cause you to serve as a secondary nexus for such phenomena.>

"Oh." You could have warned me, Chester, I thought. "Well, yeah, it was pretty rough for a while. But I guess I made it through okay."

<I see,> said Anifal softly. <And that is why you need a few minutes?>

I nodded. I hadn't really thought about it, but it seemed likely enough.

<Very well,> said Anifal. <Remember to tell your parents when you leave the house, so that your double doesn't provoke curiosity when she returns. Also, you may wish to take the easterly route through the woods: since the battle at the logging mill never occurred in this universe, the old hawk is still patrolling the western side.>

"Tell Daddy I'm leaving, and keep to the east," I said. "Got it."

<May strength and freedom be ever yours,> said Anifal. <Farewell.>

He turned around, spread his wings, and flew off towards the woods.
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I sighed, and picked up Lapkin again. As he nuzzled into my shoulder, I thought about Anifal's goodbye. Strength and freedom, I mused. Does that mean you have to be strong to be free? Or is it the other way around?

Oh, well, it wasn't really important now. What I had to do was get myself psyched up to go downstairs and tell Daddy I was going to take a short walk down the road. (Well, actually I was going to ask if I could take a walk down the road, but, since Daddy hardly ever told me no unless it was something really important, that was almost the same thing.) Then all I had to do was walk down the road until I was out of sight of the house, scurry far enough into the woods to be covered by the trees, and morph to chickadee and fly to the clearing. Then it would be back to our own universe. Back to Visser Seven and the Morph Force – back to last-minute escapes from death, torture, or getting stuck in earthworm morph – back to parents I had to lie to every day, and a brother I wasn't sure I knew anymore. Back home.

Stop it, Elly, I told myself. It's not a question of whether you're having fun. Your planet needs you. And anyway, what else are you going to do? Just stay here and keep pretending to be your double?

Well, no. Of course I wasn't asking to do that.

Not really, anyway.

I mean, okay, maybe I'd thought about it once or twice, but…

I bit my lip. No, it was time to start being honest with myself. I was a big girl, I could handle the truth – and the truth was that, ever since that first night in this universe, I'd been secretly wishing that I could spend the rest of my life here, in a living replica of my pre-Morph-Force life. I just hadn't let myself admit it, since I knew it wasn't the right thing to want.

But that wasn't fair. Why shouldn't I want my old life back? Wasn't it a good thing to be an ordinary girl who doesn't go out and kill people on a regular basis? Even Josh had said sometimes that he wished Elfangor had landed on someone else's back road.

But that was different, wasn't it? Josh hadn't had any choice. It was okay for him to daydream about being a civilian again, since there wasn't any risk of it leading him to abandon the Morph Force. For him, it was a fantasy; for me, it was a temptation.

Because, really, it would be amazingly easy for me to do. All I would have to do would be to not move for about an hour: that would be how long it would take Josh to realize that I wasn't following Anifal back to the clearing, and send someone else to check up on me – or, actually, he'd probably come himself. And then I'd tell him that I'd decided not to go back.

That was the only part that scared me. Not that Josh would be mad, or would force me to go back (he's always said that anyone can quit the Morph Force at any time), but somehow I couldn't imagine saying to Josh that I didn't want to be in the same universe with him anymore. Because I knew that, as hard and military as he'd gotten, he still loved me; I'd seen him take risks for me in battle that he never would have taken for Richard or Anifal, or even Abby. If he lost me – and, worse yet, if I told him that I wanted to be lost – it would kill him. And I didn't want to do that to him, because I loved him, too.

But I was pretty sure I could get through that somehow. I'd hate myself for it, but eventually it would be over. And Josh would fly away, and he'd have someone else morph the Ssstram ship, and he'd take the duplicate Elly back to fill my place. And I'd be left alone in a parallel universe.

Only I wouldn't really be alone. Sure, I'd still have to keep my morphing power a secret, and I'd have to find some way to deal with Andrea/Sarem and the Sharing, but the real barrier between me and everyone else I knew would be gone. I wouldn't have to tell Daddy I was going to Abby's house when I was really going to the Moon in a stolen Bug fighter. I could go back to chatting Father Honeycutt's ear off in the confessional, instead of having to carefully equivocate my way through each sentence. I'd be free.

<May strength and freedom be ever yours.>

But I'm not strong, Anifal. I've always known that. I'm the girl who's still afraid to go to the beach because I was stung once by a jellyfish. I'm the Morph Force's resident crybaby. I'm…

<You are one of the galaxy's greatest warriors.>

When had Anifal said that? Oh, right, on Apollo – the same place he had told us the story about Elfangor living on Earth. <He swore that he had been a fool and a coward – that no sentient being could rest while the Yeerks remained at large.>

But that's just not fair. I don't want to be a great warrior; I just want to go to bed at night and know that the world will still be there in the morning. What's wrong with that?

"Look to the ruins of Nineveh, Elly. You can't find the city with foundations unless you persevere to the end."

I groaned, and buried my face in Lapkin's fur. "Oh, Lapkin baby," I said, "what am I supposed to do?"

I hadn't expected an answer; it was just one of those things you say to cats when you can't talk to people. So you can imagine how I felt when I heard a voice in my head – not a thought-speak voice, just a voice. I think you know what you ought to do, young wanderer Eldora, it said.

I froze for about half a minute; then, very slowly, I picked up Lapkin and held him in front of me. Outwardly, he looked like the same cat he'd always been, but his eyes were different: wiser, somehow. And slightly amused, as well.

"Lapkin?" I whispered.

The cat lips smiled. No, not Lapkin, said the voice. My true name would mean nothing to you. You may call me simply "Ellimist".
Last edited by Qoheleth on Tue May 08, 2012 7:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:54 am

Chapter 28: Wild Card

For once in my life, I asked the sensible question. "What's an Ellimist?"

I am a member of the most ancient race in the galaxy, said the voice, as the thing that looked like Lapkin climbed off my lap and sat down on the blanket beside me. At one time, many millions of years ago, we were as you are: we dwelt on a planetary surface, and had bodies of gross matter. But then a great crisis arose, one that threatened our very existence as a species, and our only hope of survival lay in transcending our material forms and becoming beings of a higher plane. This we did, and now we neither breed nor die, but spend our existence in the joyous contemplation of the cosmos and all its creatures.

"Uh-huh," I said. Something in the tone of the voice made me think that wasn't the whole story, but I wasn't really interested in probing further. "So what are you doing here? And what have you done with my cat?"

The Ellimist looked amused. To answer the latter question first, I have done nothing with your cat, it said. Your counterpart's cat, I have abstracted to a state of being that has no parallel in your experience. Suffice it to say that he is in no danger, and that, when I have departed from this dimensional plane, he will be returned instantaneously to your side.

I barely heard the last sentence. As soon as the Ellimist had said the words "your counterpart", my blood had run cold; I hadn't realized, until just then, that a being of a higher plane might be able to tell that I wasn't from his universe.

As to what I am doing here, the Ellimist continued, that requires some further explanation. You must understand, first, that we Ellimists are not alone in the realms beyond the senses; there are other, less benign creatures who share our mode of existence, and much of our strength is spent trying to protect the lesser beings of the universe from them.

I wanted to ask who he was calling a lesser being, but I kept quiet. If I was millions of years old and could twist the space-time continuum like a wet dishcloth, I'd probably act a little high-and-mighty myself.

Most of these, in one way or another, said the Ellimist, owe allegiance to the oldest and most terrible of them all: an ancient entity of inexhaustible malevolence, who goes by the name of Crayak. It is with him, accordingly, that we deal most often – so often that our dealings have come to resemble a vast game of strategy, with elaborate rules born of mutual distrust and fear of each other's power.

For countless eons, these rules have satisfied both my people and Crayak and his followers. Neither has found them so burdensome that they have felt forced to rebel against what we might call the referee – an action that would surely have catastrophic consequences for the opposing party, as well as for reality as a whole. It is a state of affairs that took hundreds of millennia to arrange, and neither Crayak nor I desire to see it upset. And that is why your presence in this universe causes us such concern.


"My presence?" I repeated. "How can I cause you any problems? I'd never even heard of you until about five minutes ago."

No, said the Ellimist. But you present us with a problem, all the same. The "rules" of our "game" presuppose this universe to be a closed system; if sentient beings begin to enter it from other universes, the equilibrium is significantly disturbed. It would be as if two of your human chess masters suddenly found a fifth knight on their board, neither white nor black.

The comparison rang a bell in my mind. I'd almost forgotten about my delirium at the end of Ninno's fugue; I'd figured that none of the images I'd seen meant anything, so there was no point in remembering them. But, if this Ellimist and Crayak had been watching me at the time, maybe Ninno's last telepathic spasm had given me a kind of glimpse into their world. I'd had weirder things happen to me.

"Are you the hedgehog or the eye?" I blurted out.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized what a stupid way it was to ask the question. But evidently the Ellimist understood it anyway, because he answered instantly, The hedgehog.

I nodded. "Good. I didn't much like the other guy."

Few beings do, said the Ellimist. Whether that is the reason for his hatred of all living things, or a result thereof, I cannot say. In any event, you may rest assured that he does not like you, either.

Well, that wasn't surprising, of course, but it wasn't exactly comforting, either. "Um… okay, right. So does that mean he's going to try and… you know, kill me?" I tried to say it casually, but it's kind of hard to do that with that kind of question.

No, said the Ellimist. At least, not necessarily. What he will do, if you remain – and what I and my people will do, as well – is to exploit the ambiguity that you represent.

I stared. "I don't get it."

The Ellimist sighed inside my head. It is difficult to explain without telling you too much, he said. Perhaps you will understand best if you think in terms of wheelchair rugby. Each player has a point value based on the extent of his motor control; the greater his capacity to affect the outcome of the game, the more points he receives. And no team can use more than eight points' worth of its players at any time.

I started to see. "And that's what it's like with you and Crayak? The more powerful someone is, the more careful you guys have to be with him?"

Yes and no, said the Ellimist. It is not power, as you understand it, that is the pivotal factor; it is a different characteristic, of which your race has no conception. Suffice it to say that, when a sentient being is conceived, a new thread is woven into the fabric of the universe – and some threads are woven more deeply than others, and require greater delicacy to rearrange.

I got a sudden picture of Richard, playing one of his MORPHHOGs or whatever they're called – you know, those week-long video games where everyone's a different character – and having a screen pop up that said, "VISSER SEVEN – +500 DESTINY POINTS. UNPLAYABLE AT THIS TIME." It was all I could do to stifle a giggle.

Your thread, however, the Ellimist continued, is not woven into this universe at all. From a plintconarhythmic standpoint, it is as though you did not exist. Yet you can, in all likelihood, affect the universe to a sizable extent. It is as though one of the healthiest of wheelchair-rugby players was accidentally given a point value of 0.

I nodded. "Yeah, that could be awkward."

Exceedingly so, said the Ellimist. Of course, if you were to return to your universe with the rest of the Morph Force, all would be well. Any distortions caused by your brief stay here could be easily dealt with. But we cannot force you to leave. We do not interfere in the affairs of sentient beings. All we can do is show you the consequences of your choice.

He said something else, too, but I don't think it was to me. Very faintly, like a tickle at the edge of my mind, I thought I could just make out the words, Curse the Ssstram.

I wondered, later, what that was about. Had he and Crayak run into the Ssstram before? Had their weird time-distortion tricks messed up the game somehow? Maybe they'd become such a nuisance that both sides had agreed to wipe them from this universe completely, and reshuffle the Yeerks who invaded them back into the Hork-Bajir/Taxxon side of the War. Or maybe I was just imagining things.

Anyway, I didn't think much about it then. The other thing the Ellimist had said was taking up too much of my attention. "Show me?" I repeated. "What do you mean, show me?"

The Ellimist smiled, showing all of Lapkin's teeth. That is why I am here, he said. One of the advantages of our state of existence is the ability to remove mortal beings from their surroundings and place them in ephemeral worlds of our own construction. I have been sent to show you this world as it will be if you stay.

"But… but I thought you said you didn't know what the world would be like if I stayed," I said. "Wasn't that the point, that I introduced too much uncertainty?"

Yes, said the Ellimist. But there is such a thing as probability. The most knowledgeable among us have calculated three possible futures; based on our own tactics and what we know of Crayak's, there is a 97.3% likelihood that one of these three will be the true future. I am to show you each of them in turn.

"Oh," I said, a little dazed. "Okay."

You accept?

I blinked. "You mean I can refuse?"

Certainly, said the Ellimist. Did you think we would force you to see such things as your likely future holds? We are not completely abandoned, young wanderer Eldora.

The way he said it made me shiver. Did I really want to see this? Did I really want to stay here at all, if it would make things that bad? Maybe I should just excuse myself, morph to chickadee, and get the heck down to the clearing ASAP.

Then I realized that freaking me out might have been just what the Ellimist was trying to do. If he and the other Ellimists had been watching me as long as he said, they must have figured out by now that I tended to think with my emotions – and it was pretty clear that playing stimulus-response games with beings like me was second nature to them. Probably the entire race was watching me right now, waiting to see if I caved.

Well, once I'd thought of that, there wasn't much choice. "Okay," I said. "I'm ready. Yeah, I accept."

Good, said the Ellimist. Here is the first possibility.

The next second, my bedroom was gone. Just like that: no warning, no hint, no nothing. It was like someone had flipped a switch; one second, the two of us were sitting on a small brass bed with Hello-Kitty-themed walls around us, and the next second we were… somewhere different.

Very, very different.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by capnnerefir » Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:58 pm

I've read up to chapter 5 so far. Here are some thoughts I have.

I got the impression (from some of the earlier stuff, like the tree ships and the Ssstram) that there was something I missed. Is it just implied that there have been past adventures, or is there an actual story I might like to go back and read?

I find the thought of asking what Anifel would do for a Klondike bar hilarious. Oh, those silly Andalites and their food.

I forgot all about the Varanx; that was in book 2, wasn't it? A very interesting idea for the plot.

Morphing Gedds was clever; i was having trouble figuring out how they'd go about navigating the Yeerk homeworld. I'm looking forward to seeing your depiction of it.

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:16 pm

No, the past adventures haven't been written down. They're just there to provide scope for the imagination. (Of course, if you or someone else wanted to write them down yourself, that would be perfectly acceptable...)

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Re: The Parallel

Post by Qoheleth » Fri Sep 30, 2011 2:26 pm

Chapter 29 - First Vision

"What… how did we get here?" I said.

We are not here, said the Ellimist. I am where I have been for a hundred magnennia, and you are still in your counterpart's bedroom. This is merely a projection, imposed upon your senses so that you may observe the various futures that may await you.

I had to take his word for it; it was his idea, after all. But it sure looked to me like the two of us were standing in the middle of a tropical swamp, and it took all my credulity to believe otherwise.

Actually, it wasn't quite a swamp. The part I was standing on felt pretty solid, and there was long grass and stuff growing on it. But the Ellimist – or his Lapkin-shaped prosopon – was sitting right on top of the murky water, with little blue fish swimming around beneath his paws. I was pretty sure he was just showing off, and I tried to keep my eyes from bugging out, but I'm not sure I succeeded.

I looked around to see if I could figure out what continent we were on. The local plants didn't help me much (botany's not one of my best subjects), but then I saw some fish in the river that I thought I recognized from one of our first missions.

"Are those piranhas?" I said.

The Ellimist nodded.

"Then this is South America?"

This is the Pantanal, said the Ellimist.

"The what?"

An immense lowland area surrounding the Paraguay River and several of its tributaries, said the Ellimist. At present, it varies seasonally between drought and flooding, but in this future, due to a slight change in the Earth's climate, it is an island-studded marshland all the year round.

"Global warming, you mean," I said, wondering whether Al Gore had ever expected to be vindicated by a super-powered alien.

No, said the Ellimist. It had nothing to do with carbon-dioxide emissions or Malenkovich cycles. My co-racialists and I altered the atmosphere directly.

I blinked. "You did? Why?"

Instead of answering, the Ellimist gestured with a paw towards the water. It looked like he was pointing at the piranhas; they'd found something at the bottom of the river, and they were all clustering around it and doing their skeletonize-a-cow-in-five-minutes thing. I leaned forward, being careful not to fall in (which was pretty stupid, since I wasn't really there, but, like I said, that was hard to remember), and tried to see if I could figure out what it was they were eating.

It was big, whatever it was. There must have been at least six dozen piranhas down there, but they still couldn't cover it entirely; I saw a little bit of green tail poking out, for instance, and one of the scaly, three-toed foot was just visible. At first, I thought it might be a crocodile of some kind – but then the piranhas finished with the head and swam a little ways downwards, and I got a clear view of the three horns and the long, toothy beak.

I felt suddenly sick to my stomach. I suppose I've seen hundreds of dead Hork-Bajir in my life, but I don't think I'll ever really get used to it – and there was something especially horrible about the way the piranhas were feeding on this one. I mean, I know that there have to be scavengers in the world, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The bed of the Paraguay is littered with such corpses, said the Ellimist, for all the world as though he was narrating a nature special. They are the remains of those Controllers who, having subjugated all the other peoples of Earth, attempted to claim the Pantanal as well. They would likely have succeeded, if the inhospitable terrain and the continual rains had not impeded their efforts; as it was, the few hundred humans dwelling on these small islands managed to fend off their attackers, and the Visserarchy has never thought it worthwhile to offer them a second challenge.

He turned and gave me a meaningful look, but I hadn't quite recovered from seeing the Hork-Bajir skull yet, and it took me a few seconds to get it. When I did, I felt a shiver go down my spine. "You mean… it's a preserve? You and the other Ellimists tweaked the weather to make the Yeerks lose, so that… so that there would still be free humans somewhere?"

It was all that we could do, said the Ellimist. I cannot, of course, tell you the details – that would compromise your freedom of action, should you choose to remain in this universe – but what you are seeing is the result of Crayak's deft use of you, at certain key moments, to demoralize the Earthly resistance.

"Oh," I said quietly.

The Ellimist didn't say anything; he just stared at me with those big, green eyes of Lapkin's, and, for a minute or two, the only sound was the noise of the piranhas munching on the dead Hork-Bajir. Then even that stopped; the piranhas ran out of meat and swam away, leaving just these pale Hork-Bajir bones gleaming up out of the water at me. It made me uncomfortable to look at it, and I raised my head and stared vaguely down the shore of the island.

I swear the Ellimist was waiting for me to do that. The instant I looked up, the grass rustled, and a girl about my age came down to the riverside and started filling a small urn with water.

She was a few inches taller than I was, but I doubt she was any heavier; her rough, brown wrap hung loose on her body, and her arms were so thin I could almost see the bone. Except for that, she looked basically like an ordinary Hispanic girl, except that her skin was maybe a little darker than most of the Hispanics I see in America. I was trying to remember if Paraguay was close enough to the Equator that that made sense, when for some reason the girl turned and looked up at me.

Yeah, I know: she wasn't looking at me, because I wasn't there; she was looking up at the sky, or at the next island to the west, or just staring off into space the way we all do sometimes. But the point is that her eyes met mine.

I'd never seen human eyes look like that before. Even in the Yeerk pool, which I'd always thought of as the ultimate in dehumanization, there's always been that little gleam of hope that keeps the hosts screaming pointlessly at the guards. This girl didn't have that. She was more alive than most of the Controllers I've seen, but it was life the way a ground squirrel is alive: huddling out of sight as much as you can, always being afraid that something bigger and more powerful is going to get you – and not minding. That was the horrible thing. This girl was living like a mouse waiting for the hawk, and I don't think it ever crossed her mind that she could live any other way.

I wondered, later on, how long before that scene the Yeerk attack on the Pantanal had taken place – whether the girl had actually been conceived and born in that animal fear. I wondered whether the Ellimist actually knew that much about the cosmos and all its creatures, if he thought that this was any way to preserve humanity. I wondered what the matter was with the Yeerks, that they felt like they had to do this sort of thing to other races. I wondered why I had been born.

At the time, though, I didn't bother to wonder about anything. I just let out a little moan, turned to the Ellimist, and said, "Can we go somewhere else now, please?"

No, said the Ellimist, with the faintest touch of amusement in his tone. But I can project you into a different possible future – though I warn you that you may not like it any better.

I waved a hand. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just do it."

And, just like that, he did.