A reliquary in which the religious artifacts are ALIVE




....VIVIQUARY.... A Dragon Science Fantasy Series




Mike Voûte



76th parallel, 600km underground:

They were like waves in the very deepest rock of the Earth's shell. The vibrations were far too slow for us to detect, but if we had, we might have recognized the energy tremouring back and forth for what it was- an ancient language.

Those behind these excited 'voices'- children, for the lack of a better comparison, possessed knowledge and technology far beyond what we might know. It was all very boring, tedious and routine; they could access it at any time.

And it was time they had so much of. For a hundred thousand of our years they had been waiting- in fact, to the young voices, the last 10 of our years seemed to be an instant transition. What they cherished most of all was simple entertainment. This, they found- at the expense of wisdom.

"Ahhh... Yes! Inspiration at last, Varios..."

"You are right, Errol! We have FOUND him!"

Another voice joined in.

"What, Varios? What did you find?"

"Ahhh, Wraite... go back to your studies."

"You found something, elder brood mate... you should inform the council, you know."

"Listen, Wraite... why do you not go and inform Gyros? We can all tell the council together!"

"Yes- that would be fitting! Wait for us, will you? I know your inquisitiveness all too well." The voice excitedly disappeared.

"Ahhh... good. She will take a while. Now where were we, Errol?"

Their new found curiosity was about to go dead wrong...

1. The Find

Near present, Antarctica:

Jake Millar cursed MIOTEK all the way from Toronto to hell... well, Antarctica anyway.

Completely drained and with only his green eyes showing through the frosted goggles of his exposure suit, he dragged the last crate off the behemoth snow cat from Amundsen-Scott in the eternal dark night. Even after a month at the research station, he had still not acclimatized to the elevation. But Amundsen, at least, had a MIOTEK home-base. He was supposed to have had a support team! But of course, they never showed up, did they? The contract was due... he had to do this now, or he would never get paid. So he was here by himself, a day's sled north-east in conditions no one else would set foot in.

"Vostok! I should never have agreed... to bring out these electronics... no matter how much they need them," he miserated between gasps. "Don't these Russians ever stop? Who else would still be out in May?"

Vostok was not Jake's idea of a resort location and the Russian joke of the white beach surrounding a pristine lake was wearing thin. For one thing, the lake was four km deep under the south polar ice and the blowing snow didn't look much like sand. The rustic cabin at East camp was nothing but a quonset hut dragged into position by a snow cat. A quarter-km away throbbed the drill rig, which was scheduled to drill through the bottom of the lake by the end of the year.

Scientists! Jake beat out his thoughts with every step he took. We find water untouched for five-hundred thousand years. Sooo... the first thing we do is tap into it, he stomped into the creaking snow. Then, typically, we only have more questions. Now... we have to drill through the bottom of the lake too! Huhh... and I'm not helping things any by making the job easier.

Jake urgently hoped that the parts he'd just lugged off the transport actually fit on the drillhead tomorrow or he could become one of the 30 or so residents here.

Besides, he figured, everyone's drilling. The neutrino detector project at Amundsun's 'dark sector' had already drilled hundreds of sensors deep under the ice. Jake had brought equipment for that project just last year.

"A few... more holes... not much difference now. We're just... going deeper... a lot deeper," he mouthed as he exhaled heavily into the frosted ski mask sitting askew on his month old beard. "Thank heavens... the wind has calmed... for a half hour!" Jake had puffed several paces past the drill shack now, and was almost at the storage hut. As he wiped the frost off the goggles he raised his head to watch the Aurora Australis blazing in green and reddish ribbons of light. The light pulsed and moved about the sky in waves. What a sight! Can we even fathom the amount of energy playing with our planet, he wondered in awe.

If Jake hadn't been looking up at that moment he might have missed the brief increase in the intensity of light in the sky. White streamers appeared to break off the spectacle into space, trailing outwards towards the stars. Then the ribbons and waves returned. What a sight, Jake repeated to himself and lowering his head, clenching his eyelids shut against the cold.

Suddenly, there was a low-pitched thud behind him he could feel in his feet. As Jake turned around to look, the rig screeched and erupted with a sizzling roar. Fiery arcs of electricity bolted from the rig-tower steel into the ground in all directions. The super-heated air lit the snow around him in an intense blue-white light, stopping his motions in the strobe-like flash. Tendrils of spark reached out, almost touching him as he started to back away quickly. His suit began to smoulder around his arms and Jake could feel the heat penetrate the heavy material of the exposure suit. Then, as quickly as it began, the fireworks ceased. The drill rig was in flames, men running in all directions. Insanely curious, Jake reversed his steps trying to get a better angle of the rig through the smoke.

What the hell am I doing? Jake asked himself, pulling off his mask. Fatigue and cold all but forgotten, he stupidly seemed to be running in the opposite direction as the fleeing men.

On the way, he bumped into the drillmaster, who appeared to be thumping his head with an empty bottle of vodka. The man was wandering in shell-shocked circles holding his hands to his ears.

"Jake, my friend! You making it here, finally. It not so good time, maybe..."

"Farna! What the hell happened?" Jake stopped him; holding his arm and taking the bottle.

“Hours of... nothing- and more nothing," the man slurred. "It not the whooska... I know you are thinking! All of sudden- Boom! We hit something... hard. We try to steer drill 'round. It all completely sticking. We try pulling back on drill... blow generator or something! I not believe it! Sparking on console, sparking on us... We run out quickly like jackrabbit."

"That was no generator failure, Farna." Jake scratched at his head, always itchy from the hood. "The rig was hit by clear-sky lightning... or something. I've never seen anything like it!"

"Da, my friend... lightning... Is possible. We hear story of boat at sea... Da. So... rig is taking some time to repair, I think."

"Never mind the rig!" Jake needed to find out if the failure had jeopardized the whole reason for his being there. If the drillhead was ruined, he would have to come back again. "Do you think we can raise the casing?"

"Ahh... Da, the casing- it still together. We try... when flaming fire gone."

"That doesn't seem to take long at this temperature," Jake pointed Farna's attention back to the shack. "See? Not even much smoke anymore. Come on, Farna. We'd better go back and put out what's burning- see what still works."

Jake was actually surprised when he entered the drill shack and found very little damage. The generator was still running, but it appeared every single light bulb was blown. In the light of his flashlight, Jake could see that for all the fireworks, very little of the mechanics had sustained damage. But the electronics... it appeared the accident had Jake in mind.

"Aw, shit," Jake muttered, "all that obsolete crap is still ticking... but the computer's fried! Damn good thing I didn't put in the new drill head circuit board yet." All the sophisticated drill logging gear was as dead as a gecko on the highway, he grumbled inwardly. Looking over at the drill master, he queried, "Farna, you were drilling close to the edge of the lake weren't you? Did we hit bottom a little early? Maybe drilled into a body of bedrock under the lake?"

Farna was poking about, putting in a light bulb here and there. Then he bent down over a console in the far corner of the hut. "No Jake, we not so deep yet. Not quite at lake. No. But... see this. Fibre-scope still working. Interesting. It like crystal, far under ice. Yes... body... we drill into it."

Jake was stumbling over Farna's language. "Can't be. A body of mineral in the middle of the ice? The sonar scans didn't show any solid echoes. You must be mistaken."

"No, my friend, not piece of rock. Body. Bones, skin... is dead, I hope."

There was silence then and Jake rushed over to the monitor. Butting heads over the screen, Jake whistled softly. "What the hell IS that?"

Nothing in Jake's life could have prepared him for what they were now looking at. Farna lowered the fibre-probe carefully through the hole left by the retracted and broken drill head. As he expertly rotated the probe like a periscope, the monitor showed the unbelievable. Glittering like crystal, interlaced with silvery metal was a long bone, neatly cross-sectioned by the drill. Fibrous filaments filled the space where the marrow should have been and a metallic socket appeared to join this bone with another larger one buried in the ice.

Jake shook himself away from the screen. "Farna... I don't believe we hit this. Those metallic things- like they were machined or something."

"Like from space ship, maybe?" Farna was already convinced.

"Huh," Jake growled. "It could easily be the only thing that would explain this. This thing's been down there a very long time, that's for sure. How did we actually decide where to drill anyway?"

"Ah, well, you know..." Farna rubbed his nose. "A bit this way, a bit that way... I just start where I like. It just seem like right place."

"Or," started Jake thoughtfully, "was it exactly the wrong place..."

"Da... perhaps too true, my friend. Now we need fill paperwork. So... you make call?" Farna handed Jake the sat-phone handset.

"And what would you like me to tell them?" Jake placed the phone back on the console. What indeed? We just found an alien skeleton? Made of diamond? That just blew up the drill rig in a burst of electric fire??? "Perhaps we'll call tomorrow..."

The handset began to ring before he could finish. Obviously, the pillar of blue fire had not gone unnoticed... even 200 kilometres away at Admundsen-Scott.

It took almost a half hour for Jake to undress and hang up all his gear. Whatever they had hit had not shown on any sonar or lidar scan. Go figure... of all the places to drill, in a complete fluke they had hit this! From the image on the fibre-scope, what they had drilled into was incredible... remains that appeared more machine than creature- made of diamond, no less. And then, why the special-effects show? He had been on the phone for an hour, trying to explain what happened again and then again to someone else. One thing was certain- soon the place would be crawling with government-guys. Probably MIOTEK too. Somehow, they would arrange a cover-up... Jake just knew it.

That's why he and Farna would have a quick peek at the core sample first thing in the morning...

After a quick snack and larger than usual night-cap, Jake crawled into bed and clicked on the TV set. When he had finally found a satellite feed for a news channel in English, there was a late breaking story on.

Another earthquake? 43,000 dead this time. Man, he thought, poor people. Jees, what the hell was going on? What was that now? Three this year? Hurricanes, floods, tidal waves... Jake felt a twinge of embarrassment at the foolish conclusion that came to his mind- almost like the world is trying to rid itself of it's people.

2. The Beings

Near present,

76th parallel, Deep below the Earth's surface:

They had no name for their race since they knew of no others. We might translate what they considered themselves to be as simply... 'Beings'.

Time passed for them as it always had, regardless of events and circumstance about and above them. And now that we know the young voices are there...

"Errol, you should have waited. Now we are in deep trouble- when the council finds out..."

"Wraite, you should not have been involved at all!"

"You are being very emotional, Errol, friend of my elder sibling..."

"Really? I do not think my emotions are at fault, little Wraite."

"Ahhh, Errol," Varios' voice began to protect his little sister. "My sibling is probably correct. Curiosity is a relatively new emotion for us. All these emotions are difficult for us."

"Varios, my companion, I admit curiosity overcame better judgement..." the young voice of Errol paused, barely able to cover the fact that he was very proud of his achievement.

"But look what we have accomplished! Those old ones of the council obviously did not search very thoroughly; long-lost brother Tannis, found at last. And, it was WE who found him! You were brilliant- you retrieved the data easily enough. Why did our leaders never think to check the anterior pole? The matter stream would be pulled there."

"Yes, yes... well reasoned. But, Errol, those 'old ones' are not going to be happy when they find out who influenced the surface life to explore there."

"How could WE have known the ship's drive would fault, Varios? The surface dwellers have drilled before and there has never been a problem."

"Well, Errol, it happened! And, the council will soon find the cause. Can you think of a good excuse? Perhaps you have more essence than I."

"More essence than you? Unlikely, Varios. We all are lacking essence... Thus, I am sure the council will be lenient. My father would have been... Anyway, between you and I, this event has been immensely entertaining."

"Yes... I miss my parents too, Errol." Varios' voice carried an undertone of sadness that carried over to all the younglings in the group. "They always made light of error... told me it was the random factor that made life interesting. Perhaps you see this in the correct way, Errol, my brood-mate. This was indeed the most entertainment I have had since we entered this system. Let us hope the punishment we are about to receive was worth it."

3. World Ship

It was inevitable. When the Beings first began to occupy our universe it was a simple scientific fact- one could only add so much new matter to a universe.

After all, the material they imported was tied back to its origin by a quantum 'thread'... a kind of message that described it into existence, carried through space in the very forces between the particles of the ether. The Beings knew this thread would eventually catch up to what they had brought with them and then- what once was, would be no more.

But exactly how much was allowable before the balance was overturned, and how long it would take?

While their scientists argued over the facts for thousands of our millennia, those of a religious sect calling themselves 'Recrudescence' knew it made no difference... soon, disaster would deal the final reckoning. Recrudescence: an outbreak of doom- they were determined to be ready. And indeed, nothing happened for a very long time.

The Being's own universe had been limited in only four dimensions, yet here, they were free to create technology in a full ten. The Beings found they could wield and store power of stellar magnitudes, even move the very star systems at will. They richly became barons of galaxies and travelled between them as we might commute into town for work. So wondrous was their everyday, that our own existence would be as a bacterium on the doorknob of a palace.

And so, over the generations, 'Thread' became merely a principle of life. Limits were placed on what could be brought from their home universe, and the principles of Thread required most of it to be returned. The limits were promptly broken... and still, nothing happened. This universe's irresistible banquet of energy drew their species here in droves.

And then finally, over the aeons, the principles of Thread were completely ignored. Even their home universe became something of a myth; they considered themselves above what they once were. The Beings flourished, completely oblivious to the fine tendrils of doom that had already reached out from their universe and now, finally, were nearing their target.

All the while, the 'Church of Recrudescence' was being prepared- a massive space vehicle based on a relic exploratory ship dating back to a time when their species first arrived in our universe.

As large as a planet, imbued with the best technology available, it was the work of a generation of their kind. Amidst ridicule and exile, the clerics of Recrudescence readied the ship in a hidden star system, salvaging as much of the old data of their ancestors as possible. Amidst their number were some of the most prominent scientists of their kind, now fallen from grace for their belief in something so mundane as balance. They gave away everything they owned; they spent time on nothing else. Ironically, they knew they themselves could not be saved.

When disaster did arrive, and it did so quickly and without warning, the clerics scrambled through the final preparations and tearfully sent the ship on its way, for it was only their children who could be saved.

Unlike their parents, the young ones were born of the material of the universe around them and the Thread had little attraction to them.

Wisely, their transport too was surrounded by material of this universe. So small a 'footprint' had they, that the tendrils of Thread would be very slow to find them.

And outrun the Thread they did. As everything else around them imploded into quantum void, the very force of it set galaxies far and wide into motion. Just ahead of the blast front, the world-ship the young Beings travelled in followed a pre-programmed, zig-zag path once travelled by their ancestors. With each jump out of a gate system, they out-distanced the quantum message more and more, until the threat was far behind. Yet they couldn't tarry long, for the Thread might still find them. It was a race they couldn't afford to lose.

In deep stasis, Errol, his brood-mates and several thousand others rested far below the ship's hull, well protected under layers of impact absorbing mineral. Stasis held them practically timeless as they travelled. Still, a million light-years made for a long journey- or, would have were it not for the Dreaming.

Dreaming is what they reverently called their state of mind in stasis; inside the bubble of warped space surrounding their huge, dragon-like bodies. To us, Errol's form would appear almost mechanical in nature; a hybrid of genetics and vast technology. Errol would think nothing of it, but the youngling Beings were a combination of matter from our universe and that of a completely separate universe... the one to which they were now travelling.

Like his young companions, Errol's heritage guaranteed him a place on the ship, for his father had been chief designer of the relic ship's refit. In fact, his great-great grandfather had been on that very ship when it had first set out to discover the new universe. Errol had been barely a century of our years old, a mere hatchling, when the ship was being built. Together with Varios, Wraite and Gyros, they had played in the control room of the slowly evolving ship while their parents worked nearby. The elder siblings worked with the parents, always given the real tasks that Errol could only wish to be part of.

Their parents had always been so busy! Errol's Dreaming dwelt briefly on a glittering crystal generator he had spent so long making. He had brought it to his mother and father trembling with excitement. It had actually worked! But his parents only looked up briefly from the panel they were working on and had shushed him away.

Of course Errol now knew the reason. They had honestly tried to be part of their youngling's growth, but it just could not be. Errol realized much later that his parent's love took a more subtle form... their future. As such, it was clear that Errol's father had ensured his youngling's curiosity would be sated in Dreaming. Their learning was available anytime they were ready.

And, Errol had excelled at the techniques of Dreaming early on; it was a simple matter of multi-tasking. He knew the basic principles. His body could completely shut down in stasis, but his mind- the only way to keep memories from deteriorating over the vast periods of time was to continually 'refresh' them. Refreshing took enormous computational power and was simply not possible in the lethargy of stasis- it had to be done externally. That was made possible by the ship's Link.

Errol accessed the Link much like a computer would the internet- a stream of data collected from any number of points, converging in Errol's stasis pod like the results of an internet search. The data took whatever path was available, sometimes reflecting from the upper atmosphere, sometimes via other parties, but always from a Being's mind to special parts in the brains of life-forms on the surface.

Errol's mind, for example, was divided into pieces of 'essence', each one assigned completely at random to several surface life-forms. Perhaps it would be science or art, sometimes emotion or principles. Each life received an upload of this 'essence' at birth and upon dying, downloaded this essence again.

Only a biological device could possibly pack memory densely enough to store all the knowledge of aeons of time, and this widespread division of the Being's minds over some millions of life-forms served perfectly. They would carry it, enhance it and randomize it in the passage of their lives.

Along with this essence, the surface life also carried a message to any intelligence who might chance upon the ship; a message of kindred spirit. The history, the route of the ship and the aspirations of the Beings were stored in the biological computer code as remarks along with each cell's operating system. Redundancy made it certain that the message could not be missed. It was no mean feat... such an amount of information stored in such a tiny space.

These life-forms originally served mostly as sensors and caretakers of the world-ship. But over time, life on the surface began to evolve to an extent where it built on the essence they carried. To the Beings, this was good- for it enhanced the essence they carried and they aided the life-form's evolution wherever possible, albeit very slowly. Via the Link and the ship's 'Node', they could monitor and even gently manipulate the conditions of life on the surface.

Errol still did not fully understand the semi-liquid metal 'Node' he communicated through. He wished his father could have shown him what was undoubtedly their proudest achievement... rather than peruse the data banks and calculations by himself.

He knew the Node once was the relic ship's drive core, designed to generate vast electrical currents. On its ancient journey, most of the matter it had contained had been expelled as energy, so it had taken almost an entire star system to replenish. Errol wryly calculated how little mass was left now... they would have barely enough. Certainly the elders on the ship had other ways to maintain their velocity?

Not only did the Node provide the ship's drive, the outer layer of eutectic iron was designed to be a massive computing device. Self-aware and logical, it directed all activities of the ship. The Being's Link flowed via numerous crystalline control fibres to a variegated crystal resonator at the very centre of the ship. It was through this that the Beings interacted with the ship, those Linked on the surface and each other in stasis.

Perhaps a technological masterpiece to us, the ship to most Beings was merely a vehicle. More to the point, besides transportation, it would provide them with a source of randomness. Randomness was the very force that drove their intelligence to refresh, to think and to live; even while idle. In an artistic spirit, they had even terraformed the surface to what they believed Haven should look like.

Haven... the Utopia of their kind... their destination, their believed beginning. It was now their only hope after the disaster they were fleeing from... they were the last survivors.


Find out how Humans discover the Beings! Email the author for the rest of the story... click on the contact link, or email kvoute@dccnet.com.

Viviquary / 'viv-e-,kwer-e / n defn:

VIVIQUARY The World is Not

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