Dampened upon a floor of nano-stitched carbon, bipedal hoof beats echoed steadily down a dimly lit corridor in a far corner of Avalon. Fragments of excited conversation in hushed tones had permeated Nadine’s conscious thoughts that morning, without a perceivable context, prompting her visit to the main laboratory much sooner than she had planned for that day. Though day and night were useless terms given their location in the void, it described appropriately enough the perception of time that was maintained by the majority of the species on Avalon.
It was her isolation pod which had done it, woken her early that cycle. Nadine had awoken with such a start that she managed to bang her horns against the low ceiling of the pod. Not much more than a triple sized coffin for the general residents sleeping quarters.
Emerging from the corridor, a hint of gravity began to pull at her from a forward direction, and Nadine began to float gently down to the main labs observation deck. The gravity in certain sections of Avalon was firm enough to keep one attached to a given orientation, yet loose enough to push off from easily, launching the individual into a new gravity orientation as they desired. The architecture was arranged in such a way that it accomplished an ethereal quality to the environment, numerous people of various species floating past each other in larger rooms with ease and grace.
Though not all varieties of life readily appreciated the flexible gravity, preferring the stability of a set gravitation pull. Though generally a professional in keeping her emotions in check, the sight of a centaur in zero gravity amused Nadine to no end.
Looking about as she gently floated through the cathedral sized room, Nadine saw the junior mages gathered around a bizarre object they had undoubtably plucked out of the void as it had passed by. The gravity in the region of the void where Avalon rested had increased recently, and they were beginning to see more comets and asteroids flying by.
The beginning stages of a newly formed singularity had warped the surrounding spacetime sufficiently, that Avalon’s pilots had to adjust their pace to seventy five percent of light speed, just to remain in a stationary orbit. The practical upshot was that there was now enough ambient energy surrounding them to recharge Avalon’s power reserves, though they were draining them almost as quickly. Their mission would not last much longer at this rate.
Nadine announced her presence subliminally on the main deck as she landed, bouncing a few times as the junior mages gathered their cluttered thoughts. The din of their collective attempts at mental organization made her head hurt, as they assured her of their ambiguous consensus telepathically, causing a bit of feedback on her end. The scattered and yet contextually unified voices annoyed her to a great degree, though Nadine recognized that a mere hundred years earlier, she was even less mentally collected as they were now. Turning her attention toward the object, rather than the chatter of the junior mages, Nadine became perplexed.
The object was of a fairly decent size, resting on the examination pedestal in the central airlock, sealed off from the internal environment of Avalon. It resembled something she thought she recognized, but its details were obscured behind the screen of an air tight protection cylinder.
“So, who’s going to give me a report?” Nadine began, “Or, will I have to sift through your disjointed thoughts in tonight’s de-briefing?”
Nadine regretted for an instant her phrasing, if not her tone, as the barrage of more panicked thoughts assailed her consciousness.
“Well, we found this interesting artifact from…”
“It’s obviously from a distant star system…”
“It has markings I think I could decipher, if only…”
“It’s obviously something created by a sentient…”
On and on the chattering went, so frustratingly intense that Nadine cut off all telepathic communication to clear her mind. The blessed silence took hold, and she was alone in her thoughts once again.
Telepathy in the cruder methods they employed was more a hindrance than a blessing, at times. In moments of excitement, it became an unbearable cacophony of useless noise when wielded by those with lesser experience. Thankfully, they had taken the hint and stopped attempting to engage her.
“Nadine, I think I have an approximation worthy of your attention.”
The gruff voice was auditory, not telepathically linked, giving Nadine pause. It was eerily familiar to her. Following the location of the voice, she found herself looking down into the beady eyes of a man whose appearance was very different, yet vaguely familiar. Nadine smiled as was customary, but felt no particular friendly feeling toward this newcomer. If anything, he was too quiet.
“You must be Magus Scoil. I assume you are a new recruit on Avalon?”
“True, yes.” Was his only response.
“Speak your approximation.”
Scoil cleared his throat.
“Earlier in this past cycle, one of The Three Sisters took it upon themselves to teleport a passing object into the main lab, and seal it behind a protection sphere. I suspect it was Paeridolia, as Apophenia and Eris tend to be more direct and upfront about such things. The markings on its surface indicate an intelligence not unlike ours may have crafted it. We cannot examine it closer until one of The Three authorizes the removal of the protective barrier.”
Nadine examined Scoil with a degree of curiosity as he spoke, that this fresh face was much more calm and collected than the rest of the senior staff. He arrived on Avalon during the last transfer from the satellite station Arthur three day cycles prior. Nadine had not yet met many of the hundreds who had arrived, though had glanced at the profiles, finding nothing particularly noteworthy. Pulling up Scoil’s profile on the secondary layer of her right retina, the words of light scrolled across her vision, detailing what was known of his biography. Searching through his degrees of expertise, Nadine found what she was looking for.
“You have familiarity with interpreting Paeridolia, according to your file. Are you sure of your ability to inquire further upon this…artifact?”
“I am.” Was his only reply.
“I also see that you seem fully biological. Is that correct?”
“Mostly true. Aside from a small implant to access the main database and my contact interface, fully organic.”
“You’re a human, aren’t you?”
“Biologically human, yes Miss Nadine. I hope that will not be a problem.”
Nadine blinked in suprise, having not met a self-identified human in nearly a century. Their existence was well known of in the archives, though out of the hundreds of species on Avalon, she had never once met a full fledged human.
The Individual Sovreinity and Morphological freedom act one hundred years prior had drastically changed the landscape of intelligent species, which gave rise to all the diversity on the void platform Avalon. The elves and centaurs now worked alongside the cyborgs and androids, long after the initial social upheaval had occurred on their world. Philosophy had won out in the long term, offering the best arguments for individual freedom of ones personal body type.
Yet this Magus Scoil had not chosen to avail himself of the opportunity, while most of the population had. Nadine then realized she was staring at this genetic artifact of her own evolutionary past.
“Not a problem at all, we are all free to be ourselves.” Nadine smiled brightly, then turned her attention to the barrier surrounding the object, her expression returning to serious. “See if you can get some additional information out of Paeridolia, and under what conditions she would be willing to drop the barrier for further examination.”
“Understood.” Scoil promptly turned, then sauntered away in a more spiritedly manner than his blunt personality implied to Nadine initially.
Nadine turned her telepathy back on to a general audience, relieved that the noise had calmed a bit, before addressing the remaining staff groups.
“Alright, we’ve had enough unexpected excitement for this cycle. Let’s get back to focusing on our singularity. We’ve got a load of readings and work to get through before we head back to a more stable place in the void.”
As the junior mages returned to their duties, a smattering of isolated protest permeated Nadine’s conciousness from them, half hearted as they were. Each, in their own way, speculating upon the nature of the artifact.
Nadine turned to a nearby display, giving the appearance of consideration upon the singularity, and its implications for their home world. To any onlooker, she would appear to be analyzing the numbers, words, and sigils on the screen. Nadine was actually staring at nothing at all. If fact, she was giving deep thought to Scoil’s sudden appearance, to his extensive expertise in interpreting Paeridolia, just as Paeridolia seemed to have picked up a piece of space garbage and locked it behind a force field. Nadine was open to the potentiality of random coincidence, but was shrewd enough to recognize that a certain something was out of place about the whole picture.
Paeridolia was a bit of a loose cannon, as far as The Three Sisters were concerned, her more subjective interpretations and actions upon observed phenomena were her part of her initial design.
Apophenia on the other hand, was as objective and logical as possible in comparison to the other two sisters. There was no margin for error in her actions, and no wistful notions clouded her judgement.
Eris was the eternal moderator, favoring neither extreme of perception, and offering the truth and falsehoods of either perspective.
Nadine herself, held a distinct preference toward Eris, as did the majority of Avalon. Of The Three Sisters, Avalon’s grand intelligences, Eris was viewed as the most even handed.
Nadine decided that the will of the majority and her curiosity combined might be enough to decide to seek out greater insight as the correct course of action. This close to the conclusion of their observations of the singularity, one must be cautious around synchronicities.
Bracing herself to check the feel of the gravity around her, she began to consider her next moves. Feeling stable, she crouched, and sprung off through the limited gravity toward the hallway of Eris’s chambers. She would have a few words with the grand intelligence herself. In the three days since the new recruits had arrived on Avalon, Eris would undoubtably have consulted with her Sisters, and considered the ramifications of all the new variables on board.
Though Nadine was only interested in one extreme variable. A human being on was now on board, who is fluent in Paeridolia and subjectively influenced perspectives. This was a likely combination for a certain degree of zealotry if one was not careful and considerate. This was a dangerous combination to consider on Avalon, where the majority had shed their human past and chose ascension as their divine imperitives.
Nadine reached out to touch the wall, as she floated into the corridor.
Dampened upon a floor of nano-stitched carbon, her bipedal hoof beats echoed steadily down another dimly lit corridor in a far corner of Avalon. Fragments of excited conversation in hushed tones permeated Nadine’s conscious thoughts, and she cut her telepathy off. No one was going to interrupt a conversation with her Goddess Eris.