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Devouring Angel: Book Two of the Elixir Trilogy
I have just given the Prologue a major overhaul.  One of the (many) shocking revelations that I was going to save for later in the novel has now been moved right to the start, to ensure that the stakes are very high and very clear.  Put simply, an OA-style galactic civilization has known of the existence of a quasi-magical world for the past six years, as well as the extradimensional power that made it what it is.  Both the planet Haloken and the rest of the Galaxy are almost Outside Context Problems to each other.  I say "almost" because the last big event took place in the first novel, Project Heavenstorm.


Please don’t burn this world.
         He knew it was a futile appeal.  In the towering hierarchy of the Galactic Community, Probe Seven was nothing more than a messenger.  As valuable as his observations and assessments were, he doubted that he could ever truly sway the vast and mighty tides of interstellar politics, especially where the security of Civilization itself was at stake.
         Have patience, little one, whispered the gentle voice of his Mistress, hundreds of light years away.  Sterilization of the planet known as Haloken is but one option out of millions.  It might never come to pass.  If we can find a way to quarantine this world, we will.  If we can forbid all future travel to – and communication with – this world, we will.  But all options must be considered.  The deaths of a billion innocent sentients would be a tragedy.  But we would only consider such dire action if it were to save the lives of a trillion trillion.  This world is an island of magic in an ocean of science.  It does not belong.  The abilities of the Titans of this world are of great concern to us.  The events of six years ago have staggering implications for our understandings of the universe.  It seems that Haloken can only coexist with our civilization at a safe distance.  But we must make sure.  That is why your duty is paramount at this point in history.    
         Hygraxil’s words were transmitted along the most narrow, secure Q-link available to Twenty-Sixth Millennium technology, accompanied by tsunamis of images, graphs, and complex abstractions to back up her argument.  Probe Seven knew that this was supposed to overwhelm him, to mesmerize him, to soothe him.  And it worked.  For a moment, it worked very well indeed.  Curiosity was his hunger.  Information was his sustenance.  Hygraxil, the city-sized Coremind, knew this all too well.  She had created him, after all, with all his prodigious talents and easily exploitable weaknesses.  She knew how to sway him, to nourish him, even at this distance.  And Probe Seven loved her for it, for he could not imagine a universe without her.
         However, his creator was not the only love of his life.  Spread out before him, filling his entire forward view, was the very reason for his existence.  He existed to be sent here.  He existed to study the planet Haloken.  It was his life, so how could it not be his love?
         After a whole year of silent, hidden observation, he had learned to love this planet’s many inhabitants.  He loved its billion Humans, with the exception of those that were petty and cruel.  He loved its hundred thousand Dragons, with the same exceptions.  He loved the many trillions of creatures that crawled and swam and flew and knew nothing better.  And, perhaps, he could learn to love the only ones he had to fear.  Perhaps that day would come.
         For today, however, Probe Seven was happy to watch the world awaken.
         Thousands of kilometres below, the edge of the morning sunlight was sweeping across the surface of the planet Haloken, peeling back the shadow of night.  For the past few minutes, it was mostly the ocean that fell under its relentless advance; yet even here there were signs of intelligent life and activity.  On a sailboat near the equatorial centre of the Armestraung Ocean, a small band of Ixthalion fishermen were already awake, enjoying their mugs of steaming beverage when the sunrise greeted them like the face of an old friend.  Far to their north, a squadron of nine Skywatch Dragons were gliding below the speed of sound as the hazy border of sunlight caught up with them, clothing their scales from tail to head with gleaming swiftness, colouring the ocean before them with graceful slowness.  Far to the south, a team of Human researchers near the ice-jagged coast of Farasion awoke to a sunrise that glinted upon the ice like a lamp on white glass.
         On any other day, each one of these small, routine activities would have held Probe Seven’s interest for considerably more than a millisecond.  Not today.  This day marked the sixth anniversary of the most momentous - the most shocking - event in this planet’s recorded history.  And on this day, in the place where it had all begun - where history had been born, hidden, and re-exposed in all its brilliant and terrible glory - the remembrance of those events were about to commence.
         After endless minutes, the wave of daylight flooded throughout kilometres of unfrozen land; the cliffs, beaches, forests and - finally - the freshly constructed college buildings of New Keslazhin Island.
         The Probe had no breath to gasp with, no flesh-framed eyes to widen with wonder and fascination.  Yet his body’s trillions of molecule-sized components held much, much more.  Thousands of scanning devices all diverted their attention from peripheral activities, and focused all their observational powers on this one patch of land in the midst of the sea. 
         This was the place where the Elixir had been buried so many thousands of years ago.  This was the place where it had slept, existing only as a dream, as a legend, before finally being reawakened.  The consequence of this disturbance did much more than tremble a world - it had shaken an entire galaxy.
         You can help save this world you love so much, said Hygraxil.  The longer it exists, the more we learn.  Keep watching.  Keep listening.  Most of all, continue to monitor all significant mentions of the Elixir.
         Affirmative, My Lady, replied Probe Seven.  Yet while I find it easy to monitor all crystal transmissions, eavesdropping upon the great majority of telepathic conversations is still an unattainable goal.
         As unattainable as it is unnecessary.  Do not allow excessive pride to cloud your duty.  You cannot possibly deposit any more dataspores into Haloken’s atmosphere without arousing the suspicion of the Moredrex and Kujiras. Your scanning network surrounds the entire planet - surely that must be sufficient for you?  You must value patience and security far more highly than you presently value curiousity.
         I understand, My Lady.  Yet I have sworn my life to your service, and utilise the gift of curiousity to the fullness of your desire.
         The fullness of my desire is to see your mission continue as long as required, not to have it halted prematurely.  My gift of curiousity to you is not to be abused for the purpose of hasty gratification.  You are the Last of the Seven.  Yours is the greatest responsibility of all.  Deviation from the path will not only cause the Titans of Haloken to lash out at you – it may force us to retaliate.  Your destruction may lead to the destruction of this world you love so much.  It may lead to a war, the likes of which this Galaxy has never seen.  No curiosity, no selfish sacrifice, can possibly be worth that.
         Probe Seven could not shudder with fear like an animal, but the very thought of losing everything he had been created for gave him the slightest stirrings of dread.
         I concur and apologise, My Lady.
         Apology accepted, pride of my spawn.
         As daylight swept across the ocean, hundreds of Dragons could be seen soaring towards New Kesalzhin Island, many carrying equipment and Human passengers.  The festivities were well underway.
         A few hundred kilometres to the north, a medium-sized sailship belonging to the Church of the Celestial Ambassador began its slow journey towards the heart of the ocean.  Sitting around on the deck in rigid silence, their nervousness apparent even from Probe Seven’s altitude, were sixteen black-robed young Initiates.  They had come of age, and were now rehearsing a once-in-a-lifetime ritual that was nonetheless a common occurrence for the increasingly expansive Church.  Probe Seven scanned the surrounding seas to five hundred kilometres, then a thousand.  There were no signs of any Kujiras.  However, as the Probe knew all-too-well, that meant nothing.
         Far to the southeast, on the West Coast of the continent, the largest city on the planet was awakening to face the new day.  On the roof of Panument’s many skyscrapers, a mother Dragon opened her pouch to let her three-year-old joey peek outside at the rising Sun, his dark eyes wide with wonder.
         Please don’t burn this world, said Probe Seven.  That is my only humble request.
         I will do everything within my power to avoid such a dire scenario.  This world is far too interesting to lose.  I suspect that the Galaxy may benefit from its continued existence in ways we can only begin to imagine.
         Is quarantine still the primary option?
         It is a far more viable option  than termination.  And what better way to study a world than to leave it to its own devices and never interfere?
         May I humbly ask of your personal opinion?
         You may ask, pride of my spawn.
         Which option do you prefer – preserving this world indefinitely, or merely postponing its destruction?
         A most pertinent question.  How about postponing its destruction indefinitely?
         Hygraxil’s answer was accompanied by an infinitely rising graph, edging ever closer to the fiery border of extinction but never touching it.  If Probe Seven had lungs, he would have laughed nervously at his Mistress’s grim humour.
         Postponing this world’s destruction is your duty as well.
         Instantly, Probe Seven was reminded of the sheer neutron star-like weight of his responsibility.  All humour melted away like an ice comet devoured by a solar flare.
         Give us data.  Give us images.  Give us stories.  Give us a reason to preserve this world.  Make no move that can be seen.  Speak no word that can be overheard.  Spend every moment of your life presenting your case for Haloken’s continued existence, and you will make me proud.
         I would be honoured to make you proud, My Lady.
         Fixed high in orbit, linked up to a billion microscopic dataspores that surrounded the planet, Probe Seven gazed down upon the mortal realm from the dark and dangerous heavens, watching the world turn, wanting it to turn forever.

~ ~ ~

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RE: Devouring Angel: Book Two of the Elixir Trilogy - by DarrenRyding - 07-01-2021, 01:57 PM

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