2.24 Waves of Doubt

Ni’a found that they desperately wanted to infodump to Abacus about everything they’d experienced, but they could also feel everything that was off-kilter about their home since they’d returned, and they could not waste any more time away from dealing with that. It was an emergency. They weren’t even sure they could actually put things right without Phage’s help.

But Phage was not here. And Phage Pember was just a tiny shadow of even Ni’a.

So they extracted themselves from the confrontation in the center of the room, and retreated to their bed and tuned everyone out. This time, they chose to lie face down, arms splayed out, maybe to make some sort of a point.

The chaos of the nanite blocks scattering about the floor from Candril’s attentions was a wonderful punctuation to their mood.

They actually giggled once in reaction to it. A little hiccup of a laugh. And they smirked into their blankets, knowing no one else could see.

Then they took a deep breath and focused on their home, the Sunspot, and started to feel about for its painful spots, to figure out where all the wounds were.

Of course, the real problem were the waves of cause and effect flying about the whole vessel in a chaotic pattern that had been there from the start. But they could never be quelled and, besides, they were part of what made the Sunspot special to Ni’a. They were part of Ni’a themself. If the fibrillation wasn’t there, neither would they be.

It was in learning how to dance with the waves, to eb and flow with their wild, unpredictable tides, and to find ways to shield the stress fractures in the system from the worst gyrations, that anybody had any hope of seeing the Sunspot make it to the next big collection of reworkable mass, and maybe, possibly spawn another ship. Or, to do whatever else the populace might collectively decide to do someday.

So they took what they had learned in the crucible of nearly three days spent in the perpetual spinning crisis of the Terra Supreme and tried to apply it here.

But Phage had already set right the major physical effects that their meltdown had had on Memorial day. The waves were now tearing through the social structure of the ship, and no telling when they’d vibrate out into other systems. The collision of the trams had been an example of that, mostly contained and currently under repairs now, but its worst damage was to the morale of the Crew and the populace. And exerting an influence on the minds of billions, because the Crew were absolutely part of this, while still preserving their autonomy and consent took an extremely delicate touch, which Phage Pember was not doing well at all.

We need to restore you to full strength, Ni’a let it know.

I don’t want it, was the response.

Of course not. It could not have left Phage’s sanction if it had.

Return to the Pembers and keep them safe.

Thank you.

Thank you.

What they were about to do would be deemed impossible in every way by human scholars, scientists, and philosophers. Even those who had met Phage personally, and seen the Sunspot recover from worse while in its presence, still argued about it. It is even more difficult to describe without the equations those people use. But what was happening aboard the Sunspot that morning, although an effect of a chronic condition, was not nearly as bad as the acute storm that had beset the Terra Supreme upon the birth of Bashiketa and their counterpart, Thomas.

Ni’a decided they would be able to achieve it by spending an hour or so at a time directly engaged with the chaos, training their own subconscious to handle it, and then taking care of their body while disengaged. They’d play how often they’d have to re-engage by ear and by feel. They sensed that they could not afford to be unconscious for so long anymore. Phage had told them not to risk it, in any case.

They trusted its judgment, and they hoped to trust their own.

It almost worked. 

It would have been better if Phage Pember had consented.

People noticed something.

It was just barely enough.

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