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.


The Daring Fireball

The end, silent and brilliant, falls upon the age old Earth. It was a good run, while it lasted.

That daring fireball’s murderous light fell downward, to the dawn. Between day and night, Mother India awoke to a second sun.

No one had ever seen anything like it. Fully half the world was twice as bright. Night lit blue as day across Africa. In Europe the southeast horizon glowed with instant twilight. In Edinburgh, Alexander’s father clutched his pipe, startled at the brightness in the deepest winter’s night.

"Bloody Murrayfield." Said Jasper, up late with his jazz. He popped the pipe in the other corner of his lips, and blew a fresh haze of bubbles.

Onward it fell, every second getting brighter. The heat in Bangalore was already fierce, as noon came hours early. The seas began to stir around Sri Lanka. And something started to move deep within the planet. Theia had come again.

Countless millions knew nothing, but to fear. They could not tell what burning light that was. One old lady in London was ahead of them, as she too stood before the terror in her eastern window.

"Jocaster!" Tani snarled, dismayed with him every bit as amazed.

But the most fearsome sight was that which lay before the Dragonfly. Alexander, Christopher and Carl had the definitive view of the world’s end. The natural crescent of solar daylight paled as the fireball’s flicker turned night away. The whole planet glowed with a second sun, and soon they would be united.

"Right, well," observed Alexander, his face lit quite the same, "we’re all fucked now."
“How much damage will that thing do?” Said Carl, ashen and trembling.
“A hell of a lot, I’m afraid, wee man.”
“Like world war three?”
“Like boil the oceans, for all I know.”
“I should have let him die!” Carl said, tears in his eyes.
“Come off it.” Said Alexander, holding him by the shoulder. “There’s simply nothing we can do.”

Behind him, his son said nothing. Christopher couldn’t even think, the feelings in his blood ran too strong. He stared, paralysed by the sight of the bullet that would end the Earth and humanity. He knew its maker. He had even been his pawn.

Never had the world feared a thing so mighty, or so small.

Yes, I know, the name’s a nod of course. I write this in Mr. Gruber’s very own invention, no less. A damn sight more useful to the world, I’ll say, than the neon dawn of my apocalypse.

Believe it or not, I was on an even bigger detour today than last, as I delved into the possible physics behind the quantum substrate. Might Jocaster’s almighty fireball be a quark soup? It’s something hot, at least, if it really will cleave the world in two. The more I know, the better my nonsense!