The shadows are oppressive tonight. The spiders move with caution – one eye on the bundling of the prey, seven alert for danger… The air itself portends the coming of the Spores.
At times like these - with Polly’s big party on Sunday, and two days later my departure for Queensland - when change is afoot, when time wrinkles - cracks will sometimes open into the country of the Spores.
Disruption serves them well. In periods of flux they mount their challenges. In their deepest nature they are opportunistic and willset upon their victims with the smooth reliability of German engineering...
Compare the bull-sharks that loiter in the drowned cars that lie scattered, half buried in sand, between Morton and Stradbroke Islands. At the changing of the tides, water flows at fantastic speeds through this narrow channel, and the sharks lie in wait, their black eyes cold and expressionless - to lurch out and seize whatever flashes by.
The tide is changing tonight … Who felt it first? She? I? Does it matter? Polly is five today. When she falls asleep and we slump before the television, then the current quickens …
From time to time, the Ørn will sense trouble brewing in a distant system, and request our assistance.
Tonight, the vast mineral intelligence of Elixesse Quaternary lies on the brink of annihilation. The roughly earth-sized planet orbits the K4 supergiant Elixesse, and such is its peril that The Ørn has urged me to abandon my negotiations with the ever-obstinate Dilobites and leave immediately.
In rough translation, the Dilobites refer to themselves as Those Who Would Gorge Upon The Universe. As their moniker suggests, they are a wolfish, squamous race - though not without cunning and an advanced physics-to-technology ratio.
I have sat through many long, tedious sessions with these gastropods, and I am certain that if it were not for my time-displacement field and the balloon that floats at my shoulder emanating lethal potential, they would have attempted to destroy me on first contact.
When I announced my imminent departure, their stubborn demeanour shifted to one of relief.
I warned them that the Terran system and its surrounding volume is held in indefinite escrow for the future use of humanity - when and if it chooses to redefine itself as a space-faring civilisation.
Mastocrease, their charge d’affaires, burbled humorously at this possibility. “Before that happens, you will despoil your planet and die starving in its festering corpse.”
The conference pod was filled with the loathsome, glutinous sounds of Dilobite laughter. Not for the first time, I explained that Earth’s property was defended - down to the last tumbling pebble in the Kuiper Belt.
I harboured no doubt that with our departure they would begin mining operations – so blind is the arrogance of Those Who Would Gorge Upon The Universe. Before we left, I made certain their every act would be recorded. Their doom was inevitable, but perhaps the data will be of use when the next set of invaders seek to pillage the birthright of humanity.
With the miraculous technologies available to The Ørn, our journey of 1.3 gigaparsecs would take less than a week. I make no claims to full understanding, but I believe its propulsion system involves the rapid-fire creation and destruction of micro-universes in a virtual cascade of folded dimensions.
The Ørn used the time to brief us on our mission.
The entity we were to encounter was without name. It was an inorganic intelligence that occupied – or rather, comprised – Elixesse Quaternary. Over the mega-years, harnessing the energy of its molten core and the radiation of Elixesse, this ‘being’ had redistributed the constituents of the planet into a matrix of exceeding complexity - achieving a vast, but somewhat naïve sentience.
Veins of copper, sheathed in sodium, web its interior like the circulatory system of a human being. Deviously blended alloys are layered from crust to core, indexed with zircon and emerald, moist with the condensation of iodine… Heat sinks of glossy hematite breach the rocky surface like towering weather vanes… Mysterious dodecahedrons of refined osmium rise and fall from bottomless shafts, seemingly impervious to gravity… Sublime star-like forms - like dandelion clocks of braided tin, uranium and mica - travel with obscure purpose through the deep molten regions: mineral synapses contributing to the planetary consciousness, A mind of native wisdom, says The Ørn. A singularity of innocence. A galactic citizen of immeasurable beauty under dire and imminent threat.
“In order to communicate - explained the Ørn - you must learn a language of breath. Short breaths and long. Deep breaths and shallow.”
With limitless patience, The Ørn instructed us. Expire. Inspire. Expire. Inspire.
The deck was perfused with the sounds of breathing
And soon, I slept.
To wake. To Polly. Standing on the end of the bed in her pink pajamas, declaring she was five.