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Phantasy Star IV

The Beast Between Worlds
By Joel Fagin [ 03-02-02 ]

The Beast Between Worlds

Shifting tides of dark firmament... distant flickering essence of living dimensions... power sleeting in random ebbs in a pure form beyond radiation... helix-like dimensions, as random as electrical sparks, circling themselves in mobius patterns and evaporating as they spin....

And an essence, a probing force of will, feeling its way through the dark chaos, testing the slight tugs and pulls brought upon this place by gravity from elsewhere. To feel the subtle currents of fish in the force of a rapid would be easier, but this essence is powerful indeed.

It spreads like an invisible stain, flowing outwards from a centre point....

(... A space where there can be no space, an area where there are no dimensions. It is a prison, stubbornly held against the chaos by will and by power....)

... Until, with a rush like a wave retreating from the sand, it shrinks back into itself. It draws back into the prison, back into the beast, and she comes to herself once more with a rush of memory and identity, both lost when she had spread herself in search....

The beast between worlds opened her eyes.

It was time, again.

She shifted amidst the confining walls, bringing her focus to bear on the hole, the tiny chink in her prison battered into the enfolding dimensions over millennia of rage. It would stay for a very short time, nestled as it was in the delicate Lagrange point of the planets which held her captive, but that was irrelevant. Time did not exist here, except by her own effort. She needed time to perform actions, so she used her flagging power to create instants and moments when she could work.

She did so, now.

The three planets that held her moved and she felt the hole shift and flex in response as the star systemís gravity changed.

If only she could reach that star, collapse it into a dark point and direct its powerful mass to tunnel into her prison. She would have no problem overcoming its formidable gravity, escaping from the depths of a singularity like not even light could.

But it was beyond her. Only the second planet was ever in her reach, and then only when the conjunction of the three produced a Lagrange point somewhere she could use it.

She reached out to the second planet.

Crippled and weak, itís technology lost and misunderstood. Her chances were good, but even so she would not use direct methods. She had learnt the folly of that.

There was an instant of directed power, and then there were two. She remained in her prison, forcing time upon it, watching and waiting, and he, her Black Cancer, her Dark Force, was on the planet Palma, fueled with her power.

She let time flow and watched until the Lagrange point collapsed in the tides of shifting gravity, cutting her from her creation. She was pleased, her creation had done well so far. His puppet was in power. A weak, paranoid man who could be easily goaded into destroying one of the planets. The third, she thought. The man feared Laconia, and there was nothing else of worth there. It would serve as a good example to the rebellious elements in the other two. Her creation had done very well indeed. Now she would wait, and perhaps, in another thousand turns of the green planet, she would be free.

Away from the cyclic rhythms of stars and planets, there is no measurement of time, except the effort it takes to force it to pass.

Time passed.

The gate opened again, and the beast between worlds looked out on to the three planets.

They had prospered since her last attack. Technology was rife, the first planet ďterraformedĒ until it was the equal of the second. The third planet was a little warmer, with cold crystal seas during the summer months.

The gate shuddered unexpectedly early. There was some other gravity interfering, perhaps an asteroid. She did not have much time, and she had to deploy her creation where it would do the most harm.

The beast felt along the filament wires and radiation transmissions of the three worlds and found a nexus, a technological bubble in space holding thousands of frozen souls.

And one active sentience unlike any she had ever seen.

A computer intelligence, she realised quickly, a simulation of an organic neural net. Controlling everything, and programmed to ease the inhabitants off of the first planet so the frozen people could take it. A reasonable compromise. They would improve the lot of the entire system with their alien technology, and would only take one planet, and not the best, for their purposes. How fair. How reasonable for a desperate people with no home of their own.

Here was a technology that could destroy planets.

The beast between worlds engineered a new type of body for her Dark Force. Immobile, barely functional organically, but with the capacity to send roots into the delicate systems of the alien ship, to insinuate itself into the neural net, and to corrupt it piece by piece until it was lost to unreasoning insanity.

She focused her power, and then there were two.

The way collapsed, but the beast was pleased indeed.

The worlds spun around their orbits a hundred times, and then...

... one of them stopped.

Even in the depths of her prison, the beast between worlds felt the rush of the antimatter reaction, felt the gravity from the second planet fragment, felt the imprisoning net of the Algol system rupture irrevocably.

And she smiled. Alone in the darkness, she smiled a smile which would chill a black hole.

Time passed. The way opened.

Oh, yes....

This time, it opened wide. Not wide enough, not yet. It would need a final shove to open all the way. She needed power. She needed fear, anger and hate. She needed a dying planet and a desperate people, and then the way could be opened completely.

The technology of the computer sentient was still functioning, regulating the planet under the control of a caretaker android. It took less time than a moment for her to find the heart of the systems and send her creation to crawl in between the wires like the cancer he is, corrupting every signal to her purposes.

Motavia started to die, but slowly.

Years passed.

The beast between worlds noticed them only after her Dark Force had died, lost to steel and fire as he hung from the computers, anchored by his own corrupting tendrils.

She watched them.

She had learned to fear the races of the Algol system. Weak, spineless and powerless for the most part, but push the wrong ones too far and their will would harden under the pressure like diamond, until nothing, not even her corrupting Dark Force could break them.

But their world was dying, and she was at the height of her power. Just a little longer, and she would break free. They could do nothing. They were nothing. Even the psychic, loaded with the skills and memories of generations, was of no consequence.

When the third planet ceased to be a power base, when the fear left that world with the second death of Dark Force, she knew they were a threat. She could not conceive how they could possibly harm her beyond this irritating interference, but she was too close to her freedom to risk anything.

She engineered a new form for her favourite creation: mobile, and armed with a scythe-like arm of broken crystal. Knowing they could only be a true threat if they obtained the Prism, she sent her creation to guard it, and left it there among the empowering fear of Motaviaís population.

When Dark Force died a third time, toppling from a cliff to be broken on the rocks below, and her assault on the fourth planet, Rykros, failed, the beast between worlds accepted the possibility of defeat. It would only be for another thousand years, probably less now that the second planet had been destroyed, but to be so close and have to wait again was intolerable.

Light beckoned from through the rent in her prison.

It would be good to extinguish it.

Power drew inwards and focused.

Yes....

Seven hundred people died in a wash of formless radiation. Thousands of tons of earth sank into darkness, before being ejected in an explosion larger than any the star system had seen since Palma was destroyed. But there was no shockwave. The blast punched upwards silently, shredding the overhead clouds, and then shrank into itself, spiraling back into the earth amidst static filled dust clouds which rolled across the land discharging randomly into the scorched earth.

She was free.

She was free.

But before the gate had stabilised, before she could move to glorious freedom, they came through from the other way, their weapons carving through her lethal creations in her world between worlds.

They were there to stop her.

Her!

She laughed soundlessly in the vacuum. Let them come.

Let the deaths start with them.

The beast between worlds looked down on them.

There was one, only one, who was a threat. The rest were chaff, to be swept away by her fire-laden winds, but he...

... he had a sword full of souls.

She had not expected this. She had no idea what such determined, righteous souls could do to her, but their combined power was extraordinary. They were not bound by any law of physics, not even her own that she maintained in her dark world. Each dead hero was, in their time, a force that could threaten her most powerful creation, and mostly had. Combined by the rigid magic of the sword, and fueled not by vengeance, but by justice, they could threaten even her.

And worse....

They had had centuries to plan this moment. They knew they had a chance, they knew what to do, and the beast had no idea what it might be.

So be it, she decided as they attacked.

Kill him first.

Her fire came like a flood, but funneled into a point, swinging a tornado like blaze towards the Swordbearer. The psychicís weak magic absorbed much of the flame, but it sufficiently broke through towards the Swordbearer....

As the souls acted to save him, she felt their thoughts and knew a terrible truth. The psychic was inside the sword, not just once, but four times. Four generations with the skills and memories of this systemís most powerful magician, driven by the combined will of all the souls who had ever fought her.

The flame spun around the swordís blade, evaporating in a flash of spell-fire. The other fighters, the chaff, brought their own magic and weapons to bear, but the beast was intent. He was the threat.

The beast pummeled the Swordbearer with every form of energy; most not visible to his eyes, but visible enough to the sword. There was one she never used; her newly formed gate was too delicate to risk it.

The Swordbearer was on his knees, beaten down by unrelenting power, when the beast felt the gate shiver. Just a little at first, barely enough time for her to realise its import before....

The beast felt the crush of the magical gravity directed at her, and felt heavier fluctuations ripple across the distant gate in response. The holding force of her prison, used by the psychic, was now destabilising her gateway to freedom.

No!

The beast turned to the new threat, and unleashed a torrent of white light against his barriers. The Swordbearer rose to his feet behind her and ran at her, sword arcing.

The beast swung back, physically striking the Swordbearer away from her in desperation. The psychic had backed away, but was forming a new spell. The beast felt the patterns of power around her shift, knew it was another gravity spell, and saw that this man was intelligent enough to be a major threat.

He was aiming for the gate.

The beast leapt forward, towards her freedom. If these fools wished to collapse her prison, it would not be with her inside.

Algol, a bright point at the end of the dark tunnel beckoned for her to consume it.

And the Swordbearer rose before her, his sword tracing a white arc in the sunlight.

The Sword of Souls split her skin and cleaved a cold passage into her. She screamed as their names and their memories came to her. All of those who had fought her unknowingly, the legacy of her war against Algol.

They savoured the moment, each of them coming from across the centuries for this final justice. And then they said, with one voice that trailed whispers, a mantra that filled her dark world between worlds....

This is justice....

And the souls swarmed from the sword, bringing light to her dark center, overwhelming her from within where she couldnít fight them without destroying herself...

... as with a cancer.

And in her pseudo real world that held her still, she felt the burning of magic, the cold damage from weapons. Inconsequential things, except for the souls within who were tearing at her substance, keeping her weak from outside attack.

No....

It cannot end this way.

The beast screamed in her airless world, a great, angry and tragic scream. Her power was faltering. All of the years she had forced on this place had drained her, and the rest was wasted on futile attacks on the souls, or being cut from her by their attacks.

She cannot die.

She knows this.

But her prison was a last desperate survival attempt in the great battle against the Light. It was a hiding place the Light could not go, formed by the beastís own power. Unable to follow, the Light had made sure that she could not get out.

The pocket world between worlds, sustained by the beastís own power was weakening as her power left her.

She felt the heroes leave, warned by the souls, as the dimensions of her prison began to fail. When she willed it with her power, this place had four dimensions. The fourth was now fading. The third would follow.

Temporal paradoxes began spawning in the darkness, affecting the creatures she had created to fend off the heroes. Her pocket universe could not handle them as well as the primary universe. The beast between worlds felt the pressure building, overflowing into the other three dimensions, and then....

No time passed. There was none.

The third dimension collapsed.

The souls left, a mist between moments.

The second dimension vanished.

The first. ******

Chaz, clawing at the lip of the crater as the world roared and shook around him, never noticed the silvery mist leap from the pit and funnel like quicksilver into his sword.

But he felt the cold metal become warm again, and knew.

Shifting tides of dark firmament... distant flickering essence of living dimensions... power sleeting in random ebbs in a pure form beyond radiation... helix-like dimensions, as random as electrical sparks, circling themselves in mobius patterns and evaporating as they spin....

And, drifting in the tides of non-space, a dimensionless point of darkness, a singularity, which will one day...

(... except that days have no meaning here, between worlds...)

... explode in a cataclysmic and spontaneous creation of energy that will rock even this place with its ferocity. As it explodes, it will carve out a niche in space/time where the collapsed dimensions can expand again, far beyond their original limited, imprisoning scope, to form a new universe in an event referred to by the scientists of one planet, now long dead...

... as a Big Bang....



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