White Light, White Heat

And now, for the truth.

The light, something about the light stopped her. Madala paused, midway, as the shine doubled once again. But now it wasn’t white like before. It took a second colour.

Half a world away, Tani saw it too. She stood at her window, entranced by the glowing sky, but her mind was on the image her eyes couldn’t show her. She sensed it the way her people always do. She saw the second one appear, far below.

"Madala?" She whispered to the frozen night. "No, Christopher!"

Jocaster’s eyes bulged in fright. His power was at its furthest zenith, and yet he was not alone. Before him, barely further than his fist, was a second one just like him. The boy’s hair glowed just as his did, and his power was equal, and immense. But for one difference. Where Jocaster shone white, he shone gold.

So quick, he was instantaneous. So controlled he could annihilate Jocaster’s weapon with perfection. And now so very close.

Jocaster’s lips twitched into a smile. He could see himself. That surreal and yellow power had been his mere hours earlier. Very well, he told him, let’s see the truth.

Madala felt a rush of relief to see what she knew was her son. He wasn’t anything like she’d ever dreamed he could ever be. But he was unmistakable. He lived! She sighed. But then she saw what Jocaster chose next.

The elder prince put his wrists together, as he had done the last, and pulled his aner from the massive vortex that trailed him, into a single point. He drew and focussed his power, all the more of it than there had ever been, and in his hands a new sphere glowed, a tiny replica of a mighty star; every bit as strong.

The younger prince seemed not to care. He never broke his stare straight into Jocaster’s eyes. No matter the furnace beneath his face, and no matter the fatal threat to the shaking world. He saw Jocaster for what he was, and felt no fear.

Quite the opposite was true for his mother. She couldn’t understand his choice to remain defenceless to Jocaster’s attack. Her sword still clasped in both her hands, she readied it again, and tried the same on her resolve. Red light, any other day so strong she had to hide it at all costs, flickered so faintly compared to them that neither even noticed. In any case, it was all she was. And so she took, at top speed, a bolt of scarlet lightning in her own form, straight towards her brother’s back.

Jocaster had everything he needed now. His rival’s power was astonishing, but his weapon had the sharper point. The younger man wasn’t so far ahead of him he could overcome that charge. He would do well enough to dodge it, as it ploughed down into the Earth that was.

The fireball spun, perfect in his parting hands. The elder prince looked at him in peace, as he made his kill.

Not far behind him, Madala swung her glowing blade up beyond her head. It was now the pointed arrow of her fatal flight. She saw him now. And she took her aim at her brother’s heart. She had to take him in one strike. Even if, she couldn’t help to think, it meant the chance of killing more than one of Ayana’s sons.

Jocaster threw the fireball at Christopher, point blank. It exploded with such vicious force even its maker couldn’t see. White light burst out, so strong it robbed space of its black. White heat teared out, so fierce it felt like death. Whiteness was all there was. No one knew any more or less. Not even the prince.

"Shit!" Jackson cried, his hard face broken down with loss. His ship was alone in glow. "It’s gone."

"I’m sorry." Said Alexander, torn up just the same.
“Me too.” Said Carl, bawling with him in the blinding glare.
“And so it ends.”

The shockwave ripped Madala from her sword. She saw nothing either. But she knew she was too late.

Her brother felt the cold metal slide against his shoulder. Harmless. He turned to grab it in surprise. He was lost as well, for the first time in his life, all his senses blinded.

Carl breathed deep and snotty breaths. Each one twirled with his miserable lips. Alexander’s tears dribbled down on him as the two hugged in thoughtless grief. Beyond them, perfect silence.

"He tried." Said Carl, with difficulty.
“Aye.” Said Alexander, shaking to control himself. “He did.”

Out the window, between Atarchus and Samean, the shockwave trembled through the shining haze. Carl looked into it, with soaking eyes, and wondered what he saw as it reached the Dragonfly.

"Argh!" Yelled Alexander, as the ship lurched and he flew off his feet. Another emotion possessed his voice. Anger.
“Get up.” Said Carl. “I think I see something.”
“It’s over, Carl!” Said Alexander, before realising. He didn’t want to break the poor boy’s heart.
“Look!” Carl commanded.
“There’s nothing.” Alexander held up his sleeve to protect his eyes. “You’ll go blind peering into that!”

Out of reflex, Carl rubbed his eyes. Every second, the blinding light was turning weaker. So he stared at it again.

"What do you think victory looks like here?" Said Carl, his face quite turned.
“Victory? You’re losing it, wee man. You and I only just survived the end of the w…”

But it was fine.

The fading glow exposed the Earth’s immortal orb once more. Alexander was absolutely gobsmacked. Understandably.

Jocaster’s eyes were as wide as Alexander’s. Not at the sight of the world, but of his rival, just as well. The young prince achieved the unthinkable. He annihilated the pinnacle of Jocaster’s power so perfectly the whole Earth wasn’t rendered molten in the process. That fireball was so potent, and the distance so close, that the boy could not have made a hair of error. Not one. Jocaster was just staggered. It, he, made no sense at all. What limit did the young prince have? If any!

Jocaster felt the metal of his sister’s fallen sword, laid bare in his hand. Her handicraft was wanting. He made better blades when he was a child. Then he realised that he was alone. The boy had shot away, to save her.

Turning, the elder prince watched him pick her up. The son rescued his stricken mother. She who had come too close to the fire.

"Christopher!" She said, startled, when she recovered from the shock. "Oh my little Chris!"

Jocaster looked on, as they were barely any distance. He saw the brute simplicity of a mother’s joy and grief. He even smiled, when she did. And then he found his answer.

As his mother squeezed him in a cuddle, Christopher woke up.

Phew. That, bar odds and ends and a healthy edit, was the Child in Time sequence. The dramatic summit is reached. Hope it wasn’t too gruelling, or a disappointment. I’ve still got work to do on it, that I know for sure.

I like to immediately answer my own questions. And so lies the ending above, which may well not be definitive anyway, as I might have another bit left before closing up the act. But! Christopher’s limit is his potential, and the complex relationship he has with his unknown self. The big stuff. And what I mean the most to explore once I’ve got this started.

You know what they say. The end of the beginning is your friend.


The Eye of the World

Good and evil has never been as stark.

The Earth’s eye lit blue. Madala could scarcely look. It was a breathtaking, and hideous sight. Her nerves didn’t like it one bit. She felt that power of her brother’s once again. That power she couldn’t answer. But yet she had to. She pulled herself from a fearful ball, and swung her scarlet blade for one last shot. He was just seconds away. She could do this.

"Act II, I see." Said Alexander, watching the same nightmarish jewel eclipse the world. "Oh well," he sighed with a clear hint of hurt, "so much for that."
Carl said nothing. He grit his teeth while he hoped.

Jocaster’s power flowed so strong its ripples tore the air apart. His hair shone white, fierce and startling, just as he had done before his sister. And all about, his aner lashed at the naked world. People were already dying, in its heat alone.

But for Christopher.

Madala put both her hands together, and gripped her weapon. She charged it with enough of her remaining power to kill almost anything. And then she charged at that murderous light, inside which lay her brother, and her son.

Jocaster told his rival he would die unless he fought. But no words returned. Jocaster said that only the supreme Ana could lead their world. Not the second, but the first. He had no choice but to determine that now.

Ten, a hundred, no one could tell how many times brighter he now surged. But Jocaster went beyond anything ever witnessed by Earth or Andala. The oceans leapt, the ground seethed, and the sky at the eye turned to starry black. His power seemed truly limitless. The only thing between him and scalding the whole Earth into vapour was the boy. By all rights, he could not live. Yet there he was, staring back.

"Holy fuck." Said Jackson, quite convinced he wouldn’t have a commander to return to any more. His right hand rested hard on his fighter’s trigger, to escape at superlight.

Jocaster glared at his newfound nemesis. His power so all encompassing, that he was quite transformed. His hair, his brows, his lashes, all shone white. His aner itself glowed a shade beyond Andala’s blue. Jocaster was barely Ana any more, he was something else. He was the being of legend: the next step, like Ayana.

Alexander put his finger on the button. He had to see this, before he shot away.

"Don’t!" Said Carl.

The contrast between the princes was more than night and day. It was the inferno and the abyss.

"Well?" Said Jocaster, raising his hand to the boy’s stern face, where he clenched his fist. "Fight me!"

And so, at last, he did.

To my frustration, I realised yesterday that I’d quite forgotten about Atarchus and Samean. The story has a fair few moving parts right now, which I suspect I’ll shuffle into better order once I know where it goes. But, awkward as it is, I need to edit Jocaster’s men back in.

The thing about his laiyeen, or “knights” as I originally conceived them, is that they are good men. Not perfect, never that!, but independent spirits from their master. Jocaster turned a corner some time ago, and their loyalties are up for grabs. I opted to keep them with the Dragonfly, instead of dropping off at Andala, for just that reason. And then forgot it.

They’re still around. Likely outside the ship, where I should have put them as soon as Madala went there. The Kinnerin household craft has no shield, you know. So Carl and Alexander need all the help they can get. Hair trigger to escape quite withstanding.


The Princes Met

You live a lifetime, every day your story all the same. Until that one time when everything is different. Jocaster’s day has come. He meets his equal.

"Christopher!" Gasped his mother, from afar. She smiled in terrible relief, full aware this was just the beginning. Madala spun to her brother, but he was already off into the distance.

Jocaster flew to him, straight as a dart. The world, still standing despite his mighty effort, grew ever larger as he approached. Great storms still raged around his aim, tearing echoes of the shot. But nothing remained of the fireball itself. Literally, it was annihilated, with perfection.

The only power greater than what created that weapon, was that it took to destroy.

"Sweet bejesus!" Said Alexander.
“He did it!” Said Carl.
“My god, if he didn’t.”

In all his fighting days, Jocaster had seen every shade and hue of power. Aner so sharp it was irresistible, and so bright it was the only thing he could dream to see. Every time, he assailed them all, one by one. And every time he overcame the lot. Man by man, piece by piece, he learned them, mastered them, and surpassed.

But this time?

Not far above the world, the princes met. The stratosphere curved around them, ragged by great storms, its wounds, lashing out to space. Facing the Earth, Jocaster the heir, the child of the king, the prime, and the most absolute Ana of all. Looking back at him, Christopher Kinnerin, but a boy.

Jocaster stopped right before his new rival. He stared into his soul, as fascinated as he was angry. For all that the child must have done, he didn’t give a hint of it as he lingered.

"You found your power." He said, eyes twitching and breathing deep.
There was no reply.
“Such power! Before today no one had this. Not I. None!”
The boy stood still, watching him with a flawless stare, not reacting to his words.
“In all my life, I never saw a mind learn so fast.”
Jocaster’s breath flowed across his cheeks. He could smell it, but he couldn’t understand him.
“What did she make you?” Jocaster smiled, in sharp disharmony to his ferocious eyes. “Let’s find out.”

White light tore from the rarefied air around them, as if it had always been waiting for the occasion. It spun around the pair of them like a whirlwind, but it lit them as strong as lightning. Jocaster grinned while his young opponent merely gazed, emotionless. The elder prince was unused to unimpressed rivals, and begun to surge his power.

Far above, looking down on the shining eye of India’s typhoon, Madala wiped the tears from her face, as she wondered what to do. Her body was weak, her muscles quite exhausted from her failed encounter. Yet there in the distance lay her son, not to mention the world, in lethal danger. Her lips trembled as she fought her cry. She had just one advantage: her brother had his back turned.

"You see me. But you do not hear me?" Said Jocaster, his hair beginning to spark with pure white aner. The two of them were so close that his rival’s twitched, too; purely in reaction.

Jocaster switched back to his own language. He told the boy that Andala has just one king, and that this would be the survivor.

Strange hues became entwined in all the power strewn around them. Green and red, the colours of aurora, from the stratosphere’s own air. And then Jocaster stopped holding back, and lit the devastating inferno of his core aner. The light was overwhelming. The heat was indescribable. So stood the two of them, still cheek by jowl, one now as bright and powerful as the Sun itself and the other perfectly passive, as though he had no idea.

Jocaster stared at him good and hard, given that the slim space between the two of them was so energised with leaping haze there was only so much they could see. He could detect no response in his counterpart. Not a quiver, not a tremble, in fact he seemed to be absolutely free from fear. The boy could see him, all right, and stared back just as intense. Jocaster couldn’t understand it. He threw more and more into his power. So much the world began to stir again, this time too close to save.


Child in Time

Whatever does the end look like?

And so it came to this.

The fireball streaked toward him. The youngster, who didn’t know quite what he was. No thought could have brought him to this lethal spot. He didn’t even know how he did it. That part of him was quite superfluous out here. Willing or not, he was all there was between the fireball and its stormy target; in any case. He saw it now, a bullet made of worldwide fate; and yet, made by someone like him, too.

It tore through the final stretch of space, just above the planet. Circled in aurora, glowing like a comet, doom was here, made of neon.

In the instant before it hit him, he threw his all between his hands. Eyes closed tight.

Alexander watched from high above, his home, his world, and now his son, gone in the blinding burst of light. He gripped Carl’s shoulders, and whispered.

"No."

Jocaster’s eyes opened wide to the sight of his glory. The white surge that whipped his hair back didn’t seem to harm him. All he felt was its warm glow. The knowledge of a job well done.

Madala simply cried. Everything was over now. Her life murdered in his hell.

The entire sky where they stood was rendered fire, for a few breaths. The whole cosmos hid behind his power. The same was true aboard the Dragonfly, high enough above the world to live, but swallowed in its entrails. Alexander sobbed just like his wife, the magnitude of loss every bit apparent.

Seconds passed. As long as years. The glow so great it took as long to fade.

Carl slithered from his grieving uncle’s grasp. Looking over the top of his shielding arm, he stared into the glare as best he could. Determined to see it out.

Jocaster kept his eyes on the epicentre just the same. He wondered what a melted world, torn through its middle and strewn apart, might feel to look at.

And yet.

No one expected the sight they saw, serene and still through the dying glow. They saw the old blue world. Alive and well.

Jocaster couldn’t comprehend it. He gasped, his eyes still wide in excitement but his brows pulled down in failure. In all this time he’d fought above the human world, he had kept his temper. He was here for vengeance, and until this very moment it flowed in abundance.

But no more. Now his veins crept with furious anger, his cheeks glowed red not with his Ana power but with simple blood. He was alight in his emotions. As he alone knew exactly what it took to destroy what he had made.

Between him and Earth, stood his living, literal, true equal. The only one who had a hope, and the first authentic rival he had met in his life.

Bet you could see that coming for as long as the people on the surface saw the fireball! I surely win no points for plot twists. I’m not a fan of that stuff anyway. Archetypes are the stories worth telling, if you ask me. Alpha is the stuff of legends, by design and intent.

So prepare for round two. As shall I.


Destroyer of Worlds

Just to think, it takes this much power to stir him.

Yet there was something about the fireball. Something almost familiar about the way it seemed to him. Christopher’s eyes were as dazzled by it as everyone else. But he could see more than only that. With his waken mind torn up in terror, another part of him was free.

Carl heard the strangest sound behind him. A shimmer, almost, and his ears felt the sudden wave of heat. He turned, and for a moment he saw the damnedest sight of his life, beyond even the lethal point heading Earthward outside. He saw his best friend standing calm inside a heat haze.

"Whut?"

Christopher’s eyes glimmered as he looked back at him from within the whirl. And then he closed them. Carl soon wished he had too.

"Argh!"
“Shite! What was that?” Alexander staggered.
“He’s gone.” Said Carl, his arms wrapped around his head, doing nothing to fade the afterimage burned for a moment in his eyes.
“He’s…” Alexander faltered, as the telltale flash dawned on him. “He’s my Ana son.”

Beyond the ship, the new boy shot like lightning. Instinct was all he had, and it took him to the fireball’s path. The orb fell quickly, but he was quicker still. If only just.

The clouds over India encircled the greatest of all storms. More than a hurricane, the atmosphere itself bulged into a dome as the fireball approached. So much heat, and so much movement, the air stirred into a vortex like the aner that drove all this. From above, ground zero to be was a giant bullseye, and the fireball was the perfect centre shot.

If he’d waited a single second longer, he never would have caught it.

Not far above the stratosphere, he stopped where he had to, and looked beyond. All India lay out to the circular horizon below, the ring of storm clouds piled up as high as the Himalayas, jagged to the black.

He spun to face his adversary. He placed his hands before his chest, wrist by wrist, and took a deep breath. Like it could be the last in his life.

Half a world away, Jocaster looked down at his creation, which lit the Earth like an eyeball staring back at him. He anticipated the moment of his supreme accomplishment, with a grin. His heart raced, and he hadn’t even noticed the third Ana in the sky, for the overwhelming brightness of his own power, condensed and gifted to the helpless world.

The last seconds before impact, Jocaster said something to his grieving sister who watched with him, and just as to himself. In their own language, he muttered an ancient human proverb he had heard along the way. It seemed especially just: I am become death, destroyer of worlds.

Oppenheimer picked the perfect moment for his famous line. It stuck in my mind since the day that I saw it, as an epigraph in a physics book. What untold power we unleashed that day. And, in turn, what might brighter wizards ever do to us? Bares little thinking about. But rather a world entire of feeling.

Alpha’s peak awaits.