Lore


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Audio soon, narrated by Mike Fallek.
Prologue

Habla’saem
Shell ship/Unique

Society mocks its creators as the higher races laugh at gods.
   This was the man’s recurring thought, a man stood at a holowindow looking out upon the loneliest of an unknown planet’s fifteen satellites. He was named Habla’saem. He was not laughing. He wasn’t a creation, or a creator. He was outside that futile loop.
   Habla’saem killed.
Soft eyes and cherubic features on an improbable body spread like old snow drifts in heat, pallid and greying, flesh sliding down bones weakened from a long life in low-grav. Ice chinked in the thick swirling spirit in a rare, finely cut glass in his hand. Meteor rain battered the moon outside while he drank, seated on a curved full-body seat in his shell-ship as he took in the show. His legs, barely used, sank into soft fabric. He looked out across the vista, a form that was pitiful in the eyes of nature’s merciless power.
   He alone would choose this place of rage for peace. There was no danger to him within his shell. Polarised fields protected the composite shell, constantly realigning energy formations effective as waves buoying driftwood across a shifting surface. The shell protected him from life and death, the risks outside too great. His was a body that had never felt the heat of a sun holding a mind which had seen countless suns simply cease to be.
   He pulled another long drink as he watched the burning rain-fell outside, puffing out already swollen cheeks and swilling the harsh liquid against barren gums.
The Com-K link had shaken him. It was only natural that they would want him, but he was unsure; the Ecentrists spayed morality was as devoid of fertility and warmth as the battered landscape before his eyes. There was beauty in what he did and beauty was something the Ecentrists could never appreciate.
   Morality was no consideration for Habla’saem. Immoral art his may be, but all art requires an audience, or else why would the creators have made such a universe? Just to have it ignored?
   To that end, why create society if it was not to be toyed with?
   “Hmm,” he muttered, took more drink, and sighed.
   The Ecentrists would never understand, and perhaps his art would be lessened for the lack of an appreciative audience but then...
   There is a certain beauty in the secret art, is there not?
   And was it not always so? When has my audience ever been appreciative?
   He put his drink aside, mind resolute. He would meet the Ecentrists. He would perform his obligations. The Ecentrists, the Triumvirate which ruled their faithful were at least straightforward in their short-sighted, long-lived idiocy. Plain thinking was trait refreshing in a life such as Habla’saem’s was – a virtually endless existence surrounded by subtlety and subterfuge.
For Habla’saem, a socioassassin, to kill an entire race, whether he received his due recognition or not, would be the highest accolade.
   His was a lonely job and satisfaction, ultimately, his alone.
   He had destroyed many societies before, and it was fine thing worth savouring, just like the filter spirits he preferred with their grain and humours. This, though, was more than just the death of a society, or a world. It was the death of an entirety; the entity known as the Lore. Their death knell would resound throughout the universe.
   Habla’saem reclined further, a slug of a man with a wet smile upon his face.
   Nothing he did truly mattered. Revolutions, genocide, rebellion…empire’s ebb and flow. All were nature’s tools. Given time it would all end the same way. The realisation that all ends regardless came early in Habla’saem’s life. He had been in his millennials, he seemed to remember. He lost track of the finer details of time.
   The universe could easily take the loss of a galaxy with a shrug and simply birth one anew. Such immense, glorious creation would take longer than Habla’saem would be around for, but then it was not birth that interested him but the death that foreshadowed it. Nothing could be born without death, not since the making of existence itself. Even for existence to be nothing had necessarily been slaughtered. Oblivion herself, from which the stars, matter, darkness, life, and been torn.
   For a new sentience to be born an old sentience must die, no?
   Subterfuge worked best where the minds were subtle, and if those raw materials upon which he tore his art should be able to think collectively? The Lore did have a collective consciousness, and as such the challenge would be fresh. Almost exciting. The more he thought on the nascent, commissioned art, the surer he became. The wider that wet, fat-lipped grin on his pale face. His hands, usually steady, even shook just a little.
   I, the universe’s sole socioassassin. How could I possibly refuse?
   He had no peers. Cataclysm? Maybe. War? Hardly.
   This attack would not, could not be silent.
   Subtlety was not the weapon for the Lore.
   That very night, Habla’saem moved his first piece in a game he had not yet openly agreed to play.  He played endlessly, whether he faced an opponent or not. It was his game, his rules, and it began when he decided.
   In the morning when he took off for the Lanta system the first move was already decided. The wide, effervescent star-sarong of the Fretful Seas faded away.
   “Until Nol Sar,” he whispered, and closed his eyes. Patience in large endeavours was paramount.

Part I.
The Long Plans of Ancient Beings

1.

Ore Planet/subplate tect/dense
LORE CLASS sect 93/a

Lore bot 4/45 b/7 Ur Petept NLR_T ¬re shuddered in anticipation. 7/23 (she allowed him to call her by her pet name) finally emerged from her regain cubicle, dripping precipitual lubricant in shining globules.
   7/23 emitted a low, deep hum as she moved closer.
   Electrical arousal charged the fronmium pulses and the lights began to play. 7/23’s fantastic shell was mother of pearl-effect, each and every seam brightly visible, a mix of the high and low, a statement akin to grandeur. 4/45 felt lasers begin to tease it open, reciprocated. Impulses crackled in the merging cell, and the two, for a time, became one. Its bismuth telluride componet reached fluidity at 445 degree centigrade and its heart, in effect, melted.
   Love; pure alchemy.
   The robot equivalent of sexual bliss was having its higher functions subverted. For a higher being it was, surely, folly?
   Perhaps. Perhaps not. The nature of sentience presupposes the awareness of mortality; the confusion of merging cognititive function allowed the illusion of a moment in which all sentient beings, organic or robotic, were beyond the reach of death itself.
   Foolishness, or the briefest touch of immortality?
   4/45 emerged from its lovers’ domicile and onto the hot, dust-scoured street of the ore planet where it chose to work, and to love. The bot did not think these thoughts but pondered a dark shape which spun toward it, and not much else as a terium coil-round tore through its forehead.
   The killer disassembled the long gun and left it behind, lighter on departure from the planet but all the richer for Habla’saem’s payment.


2.

Gas world/Retra/subplate tect PU Nal
Unclaimed

A ship pulled free of the yawning world under the sound of tearing metal. Oranmium, pressured to fluidity, warped the hull. The ship elongated in response to the pressure. Further, and resistance lessened. The ship’s configuration changed again. Plating reddened where it stretched, light from the planet’s gaseous energies visible in the thinnest places, then blackened as gravity eased its grip.
A holoscreen map within the ship showed a wireframe image as he flew free. The image blinked erratically; a stylised flat pebble loosed from a giant fist to accelerate across the surface of space.
   The ship was known as Orpal and he was an old, old mind. He considered with rare wonder the component placed on a bland metal surface intended for humanoid passengers, rather than for his own use. Orpal had no other form but the vessel of variable consistency and questionable morals in which his sentience was homed. The sole companion in Orpal’s larger endeavour was the man who brought the ragged shard of ancient technology to him – Jiall Kyle Iris.
   Orpal met Kyle fleeing from merctile enforcers on a maintenhub. A misunderstanding, perhaps, but a happenstance which suited the ship. Kyle – a simple hunter from an outback planet – hadn’t been in any kind of position to haggle. Good as his word, Orpal flew through a surgical incision field in the maintenhub’s hull bubble and into space, and with that, Kyle was his employee.
   That wasn’t exactly the right word, but...
   Close enough.
   The component – an archeofact – was the first of five Orpal sought. It was small, seemingly insignificant, a shade over twenty centimetres at the widest section with several unexplained angular struts and spikes jutting out like spines on a mutated deep-sea creature.
   Orpal felt somewhat disappointed as he studied the shattered remnant. Pre-Enlightenment tech and valuable without doubt, but still. He expected something grander.

*

PU Nal far behind, Orpal waited on Kyle. Silly bastard was talking at those damnable eyes again. Orpal found the way the disembodied eyes followed Kyle’s movements nauseating. There was something not quite physics about the whole thing. Existence wasn’t supposed to hold mysteries anymore. Tens of thousands of years and there were still people who believed in magic. Idiots and fools, with their comforting religions and lies, just like Kyle.
   But, it was a time when archeofacts like this were created...so were they all just a bunch of fat-headed idiots?
   “Almost definitely,” said the ancient intellect, speaking to himself with no sense of irony.
   Orpal checked his calculations again. The solidity of numbers, figures prancing and dancing, was comforting. Complexity with structured rules steadfastly refused to boggle Orpal, but magic and the unknown made his soul ache.


3.

Orpal
Subspace

“I took your eyes. So what? I’m a hunter. It’s what I’m supposed to do. All the time you stare, make out like you’re the one that’s unhappy? I’m the one has to put up with this shit, you ungrateful son of a bitch.”
   Kyle spoke to those eyes Orpal hated so much, orbs spread wider at the base where their dead weight pushed them against the shelf. The shelf even seemed to sag under their presence as though the eyes were still attached to the beast’s body.
   Killing it hadn’t been easy. Life for Kyle, a simple hunter from a largely ignored world in the furthest spiral of the Suhrtraeti Galaxy, was about to get whole lot harder.

*

The hunter convinced himself finding a mature Lyenka, a species rumoured extinct and possessed of eyes which saw all, was the will of the Divine. A God-fearing man to whom every blessing, every failing, was the will of Gods unnamed and unnameable to any.
   A feat worth ascendance to the Thrones of Stars for sure.
   “And fuck you,” he told the eyes, which stared at him no matter where he paced. They didn’t have a choice, with no eyelids, but that didn’t stop Kyle taking the endless dour looks as a personal affront.
Back on PU Nal Kyle had pulled himself over the carapace of the Gaigan, peered into the murk interior, and seen waning daylight reflected where all should have been matt. The Lyenka charged and as it came into the light, Kyle had never been so sure of his well-deserved place among the stories of legendary hunters from his galaxy.
   One-handed, he’d clung to the sly purchase afforded by jagged shell of the dead Gaigan. Then, the cavernous interbelly of the dinosect glowed as Kyle fired and the Lyenka fell, the heavy impact of its ungainly body thundering far louder than the discharge of Kyle’s weapon in the hollow space.
   The perfect shot, the perfect moment, and a legendary trophy.
   He’d swung over the ledge formed where the upturned Gaigan’s segmented leg pointed to the sky. The eyes had been tricky to remove without bursting, but he had cut them out quickly, watching the shadows for movement.
   The eyes could see things neither he nor Orpal could. They would prove themselves, even if Orpal didn’t believe.
   Heathen.
   Perhaps the Lyenka had guarded the Cascade piece, perhaps the Gaigan had swallowed the remnant eons earlier. The Cascade was what Orpal wished...but finding the Lyenka and the Cascade shard in the same place? If that was not the will of the Divine, then how had the genogun known to shoot for the heart instead of the head? Because he hadn’t flinched, and of that, he was sure.

*

Kyle kept to his livcell much of the time aboard Orpal. Boredom was his constant companion, his solitude largely self-enforced; the ship made Kyle feel stupid and somewhat inadequate. Denied true sunlight, the constant artificial environment was hard on Kyle, too. He was more accustomed to wind and rain, or the heat of the sun from his homeworld on his skin. For exercise or distraction, he would pummel something until it dented. He didn’t wish to be aboard Orpal, but the hunt Orpal suggested had been hard to refuse.
   The hunter spent an hour raining punches and kicks on the air as pretend assailants attacked him. It seemed childish to pretend when there were computers that could do it for you, but he reckoned imagination was kind of like a muscle; if you didn’t use it, it atrophied.
   Eventually, his breath ragged and his skin wet with honest sweat, he stopped, and stretched. The striations across his chest were as stark as the scars crisscrossed over his back. His body was his sole memento of home. The scar tissue pulled like a torn muscle. Unchecked, it would pull tight until he became hunched and crippled.
   Missionaries taught me much, he thought, but not enough.
   Finished, youthful energy spent for a time, he took a shower, dried, and checked for the blinking red light on the door that would indicate comms from his...employer?
   That wasn’t quite right, but close enough.
   Orpal had nothing to say, though, so Kyle sat and began pulling components from his gun, which rested on a table in the centre of the room.
   He gently coaxed the nestling egg sack loose, a snot-like substance pulling the mother/father’s babies back in like it was loath to let them go, reached inside the sucking flesh beneath the genogun’s hard shell and pulled the fluidisk.
   If he had one regret about his choice of weapon it was that he was forced to communicate with it via the fluidisk, a poor medium through which to interrogate the weapon. How it had known to shoot the Lyenka through the heart, not head, and so preserve the creature’s eyes? Perhaps the Lyenka had been able to do what Kyle could not; speak directly to the genogun.
   Bullshit. If that were the case, the Lyenka wouldn’t have allowed itself to die, would it?
   Kyle huffed air through his wide nostrils and scratched absently at unruly hair, pushing it away from his eyes as he leaned in to view the wavi-form liquid data, while a sound like water in a cup sloshing about overlaid the faint whir of the archaic set-up he had been forced to build from scratch, because nothing he’d ever found was built to communicate with the gun. The old weapon’s biology was delicate and obscure, and it seemed allergic to anything else Kyle tried.
   Kyle scanned, looking for any mention of the Lyenka’s eyes, but found nothing.
   Maybe the Lyenka had spoken with the genogun at the moment of its death. Maybe it was a misfire. Maybe it was divine.
   He’d never know.
   Thank you, Ecentrists. Arseholes.
   Kyle returned the fluidisk back to the genogun, squeezing too hard in frustration until he heard a crack from the chitinous back shell.
   “Shit, sorry,” he said. He patted the gun, then gently placed it back on the table.