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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Greetings, Bearers!

Here’s the next part.  And hopefully I’ll have another release coming up in the next month for you to enjoy!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

 

The trio of newcomers walked among the pillars, following the form of the young woman who led them on. The Librarian watched with puzzled curiosity at the place where the Keeper’s dark robe met the shimmering blue texture of the floor, gliding across without interruption, as if the young woman were indeed a specter, floating across the vast chamber. The Paladin continued to look left and right, her soldierly instincts refusing to permit her more than a moment of relaxation or diversion in an alien environment. She did not relax the grip on her rifle.
“So you are saying,” the Monitor began, “that it was your science that gave birth to the Vortex?”
“I am saying precisely that, Monitor,” the Keeper replied. “Oh, to be sure I was not the first to theoretically conceive it, but it was I who put forth the specifics regarding its development. It was with my formulae and designs that it came into being, that we constructed the portal that gives access to the Vortex, the very same one used by later generations of your Time Lords and Ladies when they cause the children of Gallifrey to stare into its heart.”
The Monitor split off from the others for a moment, evading a pillar in his path “But… but why erase your record if you hold such a significant place in our history?” he asked.
“Because she demanded it be destroyed,” the Librarian answered.
“What!?”
“It’s true,” Merriana agreed. “I wanted to undo what I had done. And I demanded as such to the leaders of our day in a public hearing.” She looked back at the Monitor. “That thing you and nearly all other Gallifreyans worship as the pinnacle of progress for our people had become a monster which had to be eliminated for the good of our beloved planet, as well as for a great many other species that span this and other universes.”
The Paladin leaned in toward the monitor. “She had looked into the Vortex herself just after its completion,” she explained. “And she saw everything.”
“Everything? You mean you went mad, yes?”
“No,” the Keeper replied, raising a hand. “The Paladin is right; I saw everything in an instant. I saw the past, the future, the present. I saw societies rise and fall, individuals as they were born, lived, and died. I saw wars fought. Battles won. Battles lost. Enslavement. Liberation. I saw the creation and the desolation of planets, solar systems, entire galaxies. I saw it all from the panoramic view of a god, and also from the limited, personal views of a billion different aliens on a billion different worlds. To put it bluntly, I saw time and space as they were, before any being ever set foot in the Vortex.
“And then I saw it all collapse into chaos. I saw the lives of many who would never exist because of temporal interference. I saw civilizations that should have come to a close prolonged instead through the changing of events, changed with the best of intentions but resulting in good societies becoming corrupted and evil permitted to fester in a manner that would not have happened had those civilizations been left as they were to change or end. I saw individuals look upon death as an opponent to be cheated, and as such went to great lengths to avoid it, even at the expense of mistreating others through cavalier means and altering their futures in a damning, irreparable way. I saw unintended paradoxes take place. I saw time travelers flaunt their abilities as if they were deities to be worshiped—or devils to be feared.”
Her head dropped as she continued to talk in a sullen tone. “I don’t know how long I had gazed into it,” she continued. “Couldn’t have been more than a few moments, as I had managed to be alone with the Vortex for a brief time. An hour at most. But when I came to, a number of my colleagues were standing over me. They said I had been standing there, oblivious to anything around me as if I had been in a trance, speaking to the Vortex. They said I spoke about things unfamiliar, things alien. Phrases mentioning technologies and sciences unfamiliar to them, along with references that made little sense. A few contested that I even talked in what sounded like different languages at certain times. Then, I collapsed.”
The Monitor looked at his two traveling companions. “Forgive my perceived skepticism, Keeper, but what you described very well could be considered madness,” he answered. “The Vortex has induced madness upon many a Gallifreyan, and the symptoms have been quite diverse in their manifestations.”
“Your skepticism if forgiven, Monitor,” the Keeper replied. “Were I in your position, I would look upon myself with the same sort of supposition. But madness occludes the mind, makes it foggy, unclear, difficult to think clearly. I, on the other hand, was then, and now, as lucid in my thoughts as ever I had been in my entire life.”
“And she said as much,” the Librarian added. “Not long after that, she told her colleagues—including Pelegas Transel—of what she had seen, and she begged them, pled with them to cease from their work and dismantle the Vortex. But Pelegas was the only one who would give ear to her warnings.”
“And only half-heartedly, at first,” Merriana added. “He retained some apprehension about it. I sympathized with him; I really did. His passion was science realized, and this was beyond anything that he or others had ever fathomed as a reality. What you take for granted in your time was nothing more than fantasy and speculation in ours.”
“And nothing you said would dissuade them? Not even after what they had seen happen to you?”
The young face looked back at the Monitor with a sly smile. “Quite the lot we scientific types are, yes?” she answered. “Almost as bad as politicians in our stubbornness. But at least scientists are a bit better about abstaining from hypocrisy.”
The Monitor scowled at her as she resumed her forward direction. “I went to the leaders of our day, explained what had happened to me and what I had seen. Unfortunately, most of my colleagues caught wind of my plan and got to them first, undermining my attempts. And for them, I am sad to say, it worked.”
“They wouldn’t let her near the Vortex after that,” the Librarian said. “Feared she might attempt sabotage. Tried having you placed under arrest as well, didn’t they?”
“They did try that, but as it was I had committed no crime, and was showing no signs of actual insanity, so they couldn’t have me imprisoned or hospitalized,” she replied, then added with a chuckle, “but oh how they watched me for several days in hopes that I might act rashly and end up in custody!”
“So what did you do after that?” the Monitor inquired.
“Quit, didn’t you?” the Paladin asked. “That’s what our record of your life says.”
“Not before scavenging several items from our laboratory and going out on a little excavation of my own,” she answered. “My exposure to the Vortex opened my eyes to many things, including secrets on our own home planet, things that much of our populace remained highly ignorant about.”
“Such as?”
The Keeper flashed another smile at the inquisitive man. “Perhaps it’s far better that I show you firsthand,” she answered.

A face no longer shrouded in blackness stared back at them.

Two eyes dotted with inky pools for pupils peered at them, housed within the rounded face of a Gallifreyan female that barely passed as that of an adult.  A weave of thick, black hair that glinted in the surrounding light  spilled over her shoulders as the hood fell away.  The Monitor held his breath for a moment, peering at the stranger with a stunned expression, as the revelation of her visage surpassed his expectation in appearance.  He couldn’t help but feel somewhat captivated by her unexpected beauty, and found it difficult at first to take his eyes away from her.

“We’ve kept your memory alive for so long, Merriana,” the Librarian began, taking a step toward her.  The Paladin lowered her rifle as a relieved smile spread across her face.  “Preserved it from generation to generation on Gallifrey.  We, the Coven of the Keeper, remember you for who you really are.”

The Monitor blinked, regaining his senses.  She had been staring back at him with a demure, almost bashful smile, causing him to forget for a moment the entire predicament.  “You mean this woman—this child—is the Keeper?” he asked in disbelief. 

“I must admit, it’s not the name I chose for myself, but I am the one known by that designation, yes,” she replied, nodding.  

“Impossible!” the Monitor snorted.  “Even granting the possibility that the Keeper does exist—which I do not yet grant, mind you!—you, my child, look nothing like her depictions!  The Keeper is a monster!  A hag found in stories and fables told to our children in order to preserve integrity in their daily lives!  For someone like you to—”

“Heart of gold, in goodness be bold,”

“—be compared with such a myth—”

“Hold fast to the right and the true,”

“—is… I’m sorry?”

“Lest your soul be sold, and a tattle be told, and the Keeper one night comes for you,” Merriana finished.  “That’s the way the rhyme goes, yes?”

The Monitor furrowed his brow.  “Of course!” he exclaimed.  “Nearly every Gallifreyan child hears it in their earliest years!  Why wouldn’t you know it?”

“My lord,” the Paladin offered, “may I remind you that she is Time-Locked?”

“And in the Void as well?” the Librarian added.  “Merriana is the Keeper, my lord Monitor.  And as you can plainly see, she is not a myth, but lives and breathes as we do.”

“I don’t know if I would say that,” Merriana interrupted.  “After all, I have had to make lifestyle changes, as there are limitations to my existence in this place.”

“And speaking of that, exactly how and why are you in the Void like this, my child?” the Monitor inquired.  

“I was banished here, sir.”

“Banished?  For what reason?”

“Because I tried to undo what I had done,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.  “I had done something horrible, something terrible upon Gallifrey.  And when I tried to undo what I had done, others prevented me from my attempt to make penance for my transgression.”

“Child,” the Monitor said, moving beside her, “you can’t be more than a year into adulthood.  Surely there is nothing you’ve done that cannot be fixed.  I can’t imagine any Gallifreyan authority taking such a drastic action as exile into the Void for a single individual such as yourself!  What evil could you have done that earned you this terrible sentence?”

“She changed the course of the planet’s development, my lord,” the Paladin remarked.  “So villainous and repulsive did they find her that she was removed from the pages of Gallifrey’s history.  Search for her records high and low on our planet, and you’ll find no trace of her existence, save for the Coven.”

“Indeed,” the Librarian agreed.  “Our founder, Pelegas Transel, was there the day sweet Merriana was banished.  He recorded everything that happened that day, hid it away even after the authorities gathered together after the exile and ordered that none should ever talk or write of this matter ever again under penalty of sharing the same fate.  He passed it on to his disciples, who in turn copied the things recorded and spread them among our people, thus giving birth to the Coven of the Keeper.  He preserved the truth even when those who did away with it invented the distorted fables and rhymes told even today that make our beloved Keeper into some kind of monster, which she plainly is not.”

The Monitor circled his traveling companions, exchanging looks with them and Merriana as he answered.  “Forgive my skepticism, madam,” he began, “but while I’ve seen great good and great evil manifested at the level of the individual, I find it hard to believe that you pose any sort of threat level worth the sentence of exile.  And as for the two of you, for you to follow the words of Pelegas Transel is even more incredulous!  Pelegas Transel was one of the first to go mad upon gazing into the Time Vortex!”

“Not true, my lord,” the Paladin answered in a timid voice. 

“What do you mean?”

“Pelegas Transel did not go mad when he looked into the Time Vortex, my lord.”

“Ah, Pelegas,” Merriana sighed.  “A good friend, he was.  Always lent an ear when I needed to talk and the rest of the planet thought I’d lost my mind.”

“Are you both daft!?” the Monitor scowled, ignoring the stranger’s comment.  “It’s as plain a truth as can be found in the annals of the Citadel! Pelegas Transel was among those responsible for the initial construction of the Vortex, and went mad after gazing into it unsupervised! This is taught to every child in the introduction to Gallifreyan history!”

“Pelegas was as sane and level-headed a fellow as ever there was,” Merriana announced.  “If the three of you will accompany me, I can explain everything to you along the way.”

“Nonsense!” the Monitor bellowed.  “I want an explanation now!  No more talk of fantastic conspiracies about our history; this is not why I came!  Now tell me, my child: how is it that you claim to know so much about one of our earliest historical figures and speak of him as if he were your peer when you obviously have no means to travel about where you wish?”

“I claim to know, sir, because I was there,” Merriana replied, her voice carrying a hardened edge. “And I speak in such a way because I take responsibility for the filching of his good name, as he came to my defense when I renounced what I had done with regard to the Time Vortex.”

“What do you mean by what you had done!?  You telling me that you had a hand in the construction of the Vortex, child?”

The raven-haired woman glared at the Time Lord. “First of all,” she began, her voice now raised and without fatigue, “I am not a child, Monitor.  Or should I call you by your proper name, Vallas Risidor, son of Telos?”

The Monitor’s face changed from anger to shock.  “How could you—?”

“Oh yes, Vallas.  I’ve watched you from the time of your youth.  I know you are on your third regeneration, and have been secretly hoping that you will be given political favors from those in power once Gallifrey is restored.  I know you were married twice, have a son and a daughter from your second marriage, and that you’re considering a third marriage with Time Lady Bethine.”

Merriana glanced at her two disciples, who looked on with a mix of admiration and surprise.  “Shall I continue with other, more sordid details of your life?  Perhaps say something about the failed negotiations with the Sontarans during the Andromeda dispute?  Would you like to share with your colleagues here exactly whose fault it was that those negotiations failed?”

“No!” the Monitor exclaimed, “No!  That’s—that’s enough!  Please!  I’m sorry… Forgive me my insolence!” he looked at the Librarian and the Paladin, looked away again upon seeing  their inquisitive expressions.  “You’ve said enough, Merriana.  I will challenge you no more on this.”

The young Gallifreyan woman’s face relaxed.  “Thank you,” she answered in a low tone.  “I take no pleasure in arguments, Monitor.  I did that many a millennium before you were born.  Now, as I said, please follow me, and I will be happy to explain more.”

The Keeper turned toward the direction from which she had initially come.  “And as for your other question about my having a hand in the construction of the Time Vortex, Monitor, that too is not quite correct.”

“How so?” the Monitor murmured.

“Because I am the reason for the existence of the Time Vortex.”   

 

Greetings, Bearers!

Before I begin, I just wanted to give a shout out to those of you who took advantage of the free offer of Alternate Endings.  I hope you enjoy what you read, and hope to hear from you soon about it!  Let me know what you think!

And now, for the next part of my fanfic.  Enjoy!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

From the pillars, from the ceiling, from the floor, from the darkness beyond, from everywhere and yet from nowhere they came: screams.  Screams of mourning, of fright, of joy and delight. Of lust and hate.  Of desperation and madness. Screams of infants and of elderly. Of men and women.  Of voices both familiar and alien.  They rolled through the vast expanse of the chamber and crashed upon the Gallifreyan trio, drowning them in a cacophonous roar, awakened from the slumber of a monstrous nightmare.

The three dropped to their knees, clapping their hands against their ears in a futile effort to prevent the horrifying cries from piercing their minds.  Searing pain burned within their heads, filling their vision with dizzying stars. The Paladin’s rifle clattered against the currents of blue flowing through the solid floor; she went to reach for it, but the disembodied wailing chorus prevented her from retracting her hand from her ear for more than a sliver of a moment.

Then, as suddenly it had started, it ceased.

The Librarian was the first to release his ears.  He rose, blinking away the scattering pinpoints of imaginary light that occluded areas of his vision.  “What was that?” he gasped.

“You tell me, old man,” the Monitor grunted, shaking his head as if waking from a deep sleep.  He buried his face behind his fingers, groaning.  “Aren’t you the one who arranged this excursion to meet your imaginary Keeper?”

“Like hearing the echoes of the damned,” the Paladin murmured, retrieving her weapon.  She began to look about. “I’ve no desire to hear that ever again, Librarian.”

“Nor I, child.”

“Count that for all three of us,” the Monitor added.  “My headache has increased a hundredfold.”

“My lord!” The Paladin hissed, raising her weapon.

The Librarian gave the female Gallifreyan an unsure look, then followed her gaze, his face shifting from perplexed to amazed.  The Monitor lowered his hands from his aching forehead, turning to look upon whatever had gained the attention of the soldier and the elder Time Lord.

A form in the darkness.

Distant, shrouded in some sort of robe, it walked toward them—no, not walking; it’s movement suggested floating, as if it had no feet.  Beyond the general shape of a hooded head and robed shoulders, no other features could be made out, and even as it slowed, reducing its distance to little more than half a dozen steps away from the Gallifreyans and their TARDIS, they could discern no other details.

The Paladin glanced back at the other two, making sure they remained behind her.  “Identify yourself!” she ordered, keeping the rifle trained upon the newcomer.

The mysterious figure did not move.  It’s face—if indeed it had one—remained obscured in a thick mask of unnatural blackness.

“I repeat, identify yourself!” The Paladin snapped.

“Please,” the Librarian began, taking a step forward.  The Paladin sidestepped in his direction, careful to prevent him from advancing beyond her.  “Please, we seek the Keeper!” he pleaded.  “Are you the Keeper?”

No response.

“We demand your identity, alien!” the Monitor announced, his quantum screwdriver in hand.  “We do not wish to employ hostile methods, but we will defend ourselves if the situation requires it.”

The hooded being held its ground without words.

“We beg you for assistance, friend,” the Librarian pleaded.  “We have come a great distance to seek the Keeper.  We’re Gallifreyans, like she. Please… if you are she, or if you know her whereabouts, we beg you for assistance in locating her.”

At the Librarian’s mention of their planet of origin, the figure’s head moved—slightly.  After another moment of silence, a voice came from within the concealing blackness of the hood: warm, low, feminine, somewhat fatigued.

“Gallifreyans?” she asked.

“Yes! Yes, that’s right!” the Librarian answered with excitement.

“From Gallifrey?  In the constellation of Kasterborous?”

“Yes! From home!”

“Home,” the voice moaned.  The hooded head turned downward, the shoulders relaxing.  “I’ve not heard that word spoken to me in the span of a million lifetimes.”

The Monitor stepped beside the Paladin, holding his screwdriver parallel to the aimed rifle.  “Who are you?” he demanded.  “Our sentry ordered your identification, yet you have not yet provided it!”

The head raised again. “Who am I?” it—she—asked, then added with a laugh.  “It’s been so long since I’ve uttered my own name, I don’t even know that I know it anymore.”

The form began to move to the right of the guarded trio, passing behind a shimmering column for a brief moment.  “I did know it at one time,” she continued, “along with knowing everything else.  I could tell you everything about myself: about where I lived as a child, where I received my education, what my parents and siblings were like, what meals I enjoyed on warm nights when the moons of Gallifrey paraded across the black theater of stars like actors in a play taking center stage.  And now…”

The figure paused, facing the travelers.  “Now I know everything.  I know the past.  I know the future.  I know reality and surreality in this and a million other dimensions conceived of by few and seen by fewer still.  I’ve seen the rise and fall of civilizations great and small on worlds in this universe and in others, about which nothing will ever be known by the vast populace of the worlds with which you’re acquainted.  I’ve followed the lives of the famous, the infamous, the mundane and the unknown, from an innumerable multitude of aliens, some of whom I doubt you’ll ever know about.  I’ve seen secrets made, secrets kept, secrets broken.  I know things about this universe hidden to the most intelligent and inquisitive minds.  And all this I learned in the fraction of a moment.

“But my name… my name has been lost to me.  In this place—in the Void—time is a meaningless word.  A hundred millennia may have come and gone on Gallifrey; perhaps it already has—”

“Far more than that,” the Librarian interrupted, “if you’ll pardon my interruption.”

The hooded figure turned in the direction of the hairless, aged man.  “Indeed!” she replied, a sudden hint of age-tinged fatigue filling her words.  “And yet, though I grasp your clarification with my intellect and believe it, I still feel as if I have just arrived in this place, that I am a newcomer to this massive, lifeless infinity.”

The robed newcomer raised an arm and exposed an upward-pointed finger.  “Perhaps this calls for a rethinking of the concept of eternity, yes?” she asked. “For so long, sentient societies of every sort have had a concept of eternity as a stretch of boundless, unmeasurable time.  But I posit that eternity in fact is a complete absence of time; a reality without it, much like a vacuum is devoid of air.”

The hand dropped.  “What do you think?” she asked.

The trio of visible faces exchanged glances with each other.  The Librarian took a second look at the Monitor, waving off the furious visage of the younger Gallifreyan.  “I think,” he began, “that you need to become reacquainted with yourself, Merriana.”

The robed figure jerked, flinching as if dodging something thrown at her head, then resumed her upright stance.  The hands reached for the hood and pulled it away.

“Merriana…” she whispered.  “I am Merriana.”

Greetings, Bearers!

As part of this week’s “Read an Ebook” week promotion from Smashwords, I’m offering my short story collection Alternate Endings for free from March 2nd-March 8th.  Take advantage of this opportunity and pick up a copy for yourself if you haven’t done so already!  Read it, and let me know what you think of it!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean