Ascension (Excerpt)

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The true nature of reality has eluded the knowledge of man. What is consciousness? What is our place in the universe? What happens at death? Is death even the only option?

Scifi / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Elder's Interrogation

“Everything’s going to be fine, honey, don’t be scared. We’re almost there,” Ryon whispered calmly to Sara. She was apprehensive about space flight, but she knew if she wanted to continue to be with Ryon she had to make the journey. Ryon was thankful of how supportive she’d been when he told her he was chosen by the Arch Assembly as Earth’s representative on the Assembly Council. Unfortunately she wasn’t too pleased when she discovered that meant she and Ryon would have to move to the Arcii system.

“And just think; once we set up the human colony on Jinto you might not ever have to get on a ship again,” Ryon said playfully.

“I hope I won’t,” Sara replied, forcing a smile. “I’m glad you don’t mind it or I’d feel worse about you having to commute.”

“Of course I don’t mind! Besides, Sovriel is right beside Jinto so I’ll be as close as possible. Nothing like the trip we’re finishing now,” Ryon finished comfortingly. The travel time from Earth to the Arcii system, even with Earth’s new FTL technology, was still about eighty-three days, most of which was spent in suspended animation.

“We’ve dropped out of warp and will be arriving at the Arcii system momentarily,” Jack Monroe announced. Ryon had been adamant about getting both Jack and Eve Snyder back for the colonization mission. He wanted Jack simply because he had been there during first contact with Omnal Phacci, and because he trusted him. Jack begged Ryon to try to use his influence to allow Eve to come as well, as they were now something of a couple.

“See? We’re out of warp and we’ll be landing soon,” Ryon said soothingly as he put his arm around Sara, who was shivering slightly even though it was pleasantly warm onboard the Anthark. She nodded and sighed heavily, trying to calm herself. Ryon saw her focus on something behind him, and her jaw dropped. He followed her gaze to see that she was looking out one of the windows, and the sight was extraordinary.

A huge star, twenty-five or thirty times the size of Earth’s sun, sat as the centerpiece in the largest solar system Ryon had ever seen. He guessed by the size and blue tint that the star must be a blue supergiant, although he wasn’t sure how that was possible. He made a mental note that he needed to ask about it. The remainder of the solar system was equally impressive, if not more so. Ryon guessed there were about forty planets orbiting the sun, all nearly identical in size, and all immensely smaller than the star around which they orbited. What stood out most obviously to Ryon, though, were the orbits of the planets. There were only two orbital pathways, with half the planets following one and the other half following the second. The two paths were perpendicular to each other and at first glance appeared to cross on either side of the star. Once he looked closer Ryon realized the two orbital paths didn’t intersect; instead one was slightly shorter and therefore inside the larger path just enough so that no two planets could ever collide. Brightly lit cities were visible on the night side of every planet, and each were perfectly spaced along their paths, giving an obvious impression of artificiality. Having only two orbital paths and a blue supergiant at its core gave the Arcii system an appearance similar to a model for an atom. That this system must be one of the most impressive engineering feats in the history of the galaxy was not a fact lost to Ryon.

“Wow,” Sara said breathlessly, “It’s so beautiful, Ryon.”

“It certainly is,” Ryon said in awe. He hugged his wife a little harder as the Anthark made its way to Jinto, to the site of the first extraterrestrial human colony. Once they landed they were greeted by a group of Relvians led by Omnal Phacci. The Relvians handed out translation dots to all the humans, who they referred to as Terrans, apparently after finding the name ‘Terra’ in the Earth Archives they had requested from the humans before their entry into the Arch Assembly would be allowed. Once the translation dots took, hold Omnal Phacci stood before the crowd and began speaking loudly for all to hear.

“Welcome, Terrans! Congratulations on being the newest species to join the Arch Assembly. In order to help facilitate your transition to life on Jinto, I’ve enlisted the help of several members of my own species; the last species before yours to join the Assembly and your closest colony neighbor. Should you have any questions feel free to ask any of them, or my second in command, Llo Sevado, who I’ll be leaving in charge here. Unfortunately I won’t be able to stay to oversee anything myself. Ryon, I need to take you and Jack Monroe back with me to Sovriel for the time being,” Omnal finished before the crowd of about thirty humans and thirty Relvians.

Ryon and Jack exchanged a concerned look; they expected Omnal to take Ryon, but not Jack. In fact Ryon requested specifically that Jack, as his first officer, be allowed to lead the colony while he was away on Sovriel. The rest of the crowd began to disperse and Omnal waved over Ryon and Jack. They said their goodbyes to Sara and Eve before joining Omnal onboard his transport vessel back to Sovriel. Thanks to the advanced warp technology of the Assembly the transport time between planets, especially adjacent planets, was insignificant. They soon landed on Sovriel in the middle of a huge metropolis of amazing technological perfection.

“We’ve got a little bit of a walk before we reach our destination. I thought you might like a brief look at the city surrounding the Assembly Council Station,” Omnal said to both Jack and Ryon.

“I know I would,” Ryon responded, unable to look away from the almost sublime view of the city. “I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask you as well, Omnal, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Omnal said politely as he led the way.

“I was wondering why you brought Jack along with us. I thought he’d be needed back at the colony?” Ryon asked, trying to not be distracted by the strange creatures walking around them.

“Well, unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances have caused the Council elders to deem it necessary to deviate from the standard practices of the Assembly in some way that they have yet to share with me .... but I have my suspicions ....” Omnal trailed off, sounding suddenly bitter. Ryon gave Jack a sideways glance.

“I see .... I didn’t mean to hit a sore subject.”

“It’s alright .... I think today is a day we’ve both been waiting for, Ryon. What other questions do you have?”

Ryon thought for a moment before he picked the question he wanted answered next.

“Could you tell me a little more about the Arcii system? I was fascinated by the engineering precision its creation must have required.”

“Of course. The system is comprised of forty-two planets orbiting a blue supergiant, obviously named Arcii. Sovriel, the capitol planet, houses the Assembly Council, where one member of each species lives together to create the government of the Assembly, as you know. There are roughly a hundred thousand members on the Assembly Council, meaning there are roughly a hundred thousand species in the Assembly. The remaining forty-one planets in the system hold the colonies for each species; around twenty-four hundred colonies per planet.”

“You’re telling me that our galaxy has a hundred thousand planets with life intelligent enough to develop warp-space travel?” Jack asked skeptically.

“Of course not; the number of remaining living species in the galaxy with faster-than-light travel capabilities is much smaller than that. We simply have the last remaining colonies of many, many otherwise extinct species. Remember, the Assembly has existed for nearly a million and a half years. And that’s our years, not yours on Terra.”

“How different are your years from ours?” Ryon asked.

“If I remember correctly, there are about three Terran years in one Galactic Standard Year. The entire Galactic Standard time scale created by the Assembly is different from yours. We use a base ten, simple progression system. One hundred seconds in one minute, one hundred minutes in one hour, one hundred hours in one day, one hundred days in one year, one hundred years in one century, one hundred centuries in one millennia, and one hundred millennium in one magnul. One magnul is equal to one million of our years. Fortunately for Terrans, our second is the same length as yours, so the transition should be simple. We Relvians weren’t so lucky with our home world’s time scale. It took me days .... I mean, uh, years .... to acclimate to the difference.”

Ryon wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not, but he saw Jack snicker out of the corner of his eye.

“I’ve got a potentially sensitive question to ask you, while we’re sharing. I was curious as to the markings on your face; I noticed no other Terrans I’ve seen have them. Are they a mark of your intellect?” Omnal asked curiously.

Jack gave Ryon an uncomfortable look, but Ryon didn’t mind the question. In fact, the tone Omnal used made Ryon feel more like he was being admired, not judged.

“Actually, they’re just natural skin discolorations that I’ve had since birth, there’s nothing particularly special about them.”

“Ah, I see. I hope I wasn’t out of line to ask ....”

“Oh no, it’s fine. I used to be self conscious about them, but now I’m used to it.”

“Well, at least as long as you’re here in the Assembly, you won’t stand out at all. I’ve seen a sample of nearly every species in our ranks, and Terrans are certainly one of the more .... visually pleasing groups. Or at least, I should say, not visually sickening in some way,” Omnal said with a sly grin.

Both Jack and Ryon chuckled, and nearly missed Omnal having stopped in front of a staggeringly tall and wide building.

“Here we are! Gentlemen, welcome to the Assembly Council Station!” Omnal said from the base of the largest building in the city. He led them inside directly to a long and wide hall with lifts on either side, Ryon guessed several hundred in total. There were many other creatures in the hall, all humanoid in nature, using the lifts, some emerging from them and some disappearing into them. Ryon noticed every other creature he saw in the building was wearing the same style of modern robes and tunics in a myriad of different colors and hues. A door to one of the lifts opened as they approached; Omnal went in first and sat down, followed by Ryon and Jack.

“ALI, please take us down to the Main Research Deck,” Omnal said aloud.

“Right away, sir,” Ryon heard a soft, realistic imitation female voice reply.

The lift began to lower and Ryon faced Omnal, his curiosity overwhelming him.

“What’s on the Main Research Deck?”

“It holds all the most important scientific research being conducted by the Assembly, as well as the personal work labs of the Council elders: Aftan Clova, Almafey Trenavi, and Rinwright Larza. The elders have requested a meeting with us. It’s quite unusual, they don’t typically bother involving themselves in the affairs of Species Integration.”

“What do you think it’s about?” Jack asked.

“I’m not sure .... I have an idea, but I’d rather not discuss it in case I’m mistaken,” Omnal answered cryptically. The lift came to a halt and the three exited. Ryon and Jack followed Omnal as he continued down several winding hallways, makings turns here and there, until finally he stopped in front of a set of doors. The soft female voice spoke once again.

“I’ve informed the Council elders of your arrival, they’re waiting,” ALI said.

“Thank you, we’re ready to see them,” Omnal declared.

The doors opened and the three walked in to see the Council elders sitting around a small table in the center of a warmly lit room. Despite the blatant nonhuman appearance of the Council elders it was easy to see that they didn’t look old enough to be considered ‘elders’. Ryon guessed the Assembly must use some way to stop the aging process as well. He also saw there were only two empty seats available at the table.

“Hello Omnal, Terrans .... thank you for joining us,” said the middle elder, who looked exceptionally human, except without a visible nose, ears, or hair, and with skin coloration that Ryon found similar to a Coral snake. “Jack Monroe, you’ll be needed elsewhere, I’m afraid. As the new Head of Species Integration, you’ll need to begin your training right away.”

Omnal, Ryon, and Jack all exchanged confused looks. After a moment of awkward silence Omnal spoke.

“Excuse me, Aftan, but I thought we decided that Ryon would be the new Head of Species Integration?”

“We did .... but we’ve since decided that Ryon’s talents would best be suited elsewhere. ALI, would you please help Jack find his way to the Species Integration Deck?” The elder called Aftan asked aloud.

“Yes sir. Jack, if you would please exit the lab and allow me to guide you back to the lift, I’ll take you where you need to go.”

Jack looked questioningly at Ryon, as if he wasn’t sure he should leave.

“It’s ok, Jack, you can go. I’ll be fine.”

Jack nodded slowly before taking one last look around the room as he left.

“Omnal, Ryon, please have a seat. We have much to discuss,” said the elder seated to the right of Aftan. He was also humanoid, although a bit bulkier looking underneath his clothing, with pointed ears like a bat and a small, beak-like mouth. “I’m Almafey Trenavi, beside me is Aftan Clova, and beside him is Rinwright Larza.”

“Hello Council elders, it’s an honor to meet you,” Ryon said sincerely. He noticed the third elder, Rinwright, hadn’t said a word yet, and seemed to be unhappy at his very presence at this meeting. But then it could be that his species always looks unhappy, Ryon thought.

“No, Ryon, the honor is ours. We’ve studied your archives and the contributions that you’ve made to your species are nothing short of miraculous. You were not only responsible for eradicating disease from your planet, but for creating an option for immortality by way of your Lux cells, and for almost single handedly discovering the secret of warp travel. Most would be satisfied with having done just one of those things, and yet here you are, still trying to do more for you species. You should be commended,” Aftan said humbly.

“Thank you, sir, I appreciate the thought, but I think you might be giving me too much credit. I didn’t do it all alone, I had help along the way,” Ryon mumbled, thinking of Zian.

“Of course you did, no one does anything without some help. But the fact is that no other Terran could have done what you did, with or without help,” Aftan said admiringly. Ryon just smiled in return, unsure what to say.

“I’m sure you and Omnal are both wondering why we called this meeting. Why we made Jack the new Head of Species Integration instead of you. We believe your potential .... contribution .... to the Assembly would be wasted in that position. No offense Omnal, but you haven’t come close to contributing to your species what Ryon has to his. We called this meeting because after examining the Terran archives we have some questions that would be best answered by a Terran .... and to inform you both that after today you’ll be research partners,” Almafey explained.

“Research partners?!” Omnal snapped. “Studying what?”

Rinwright spoke up for the first time at Omnal’s outburst.

“Ascension .... now Omnal, let us ask our questions and things will become clear,” he said calmly. Omnal instantly fell silent, an eager look on his face. Ryon wondered what Rinwright meant by ‘Ascension’.

“Before we go any further, I’d like to remind you that you’re both high ranking members of the most advanced civilization in the galaxy and we expect your behavior to reflect that. Anything we discuss with you in the privacy of this room will remain within this room, understood?” Aftan said in a nearly threatening tone.

Ryon and Omnal nodded nervously simultaneously.

“We just have a few questions, Ryon, and don’t think of this as an interrogation. Think of it as a discussion between peers. We just want to find answers, alright?”

“Alright, go ahead. I’ll answer as best I can,” Ryon assured the elder.

“Good,” said Aftan. “The first question we’d like to ask is about religion.”

“Religion?” Ryon blurted, surprised.

“Yes, religion. According to the Terran archives, there were an estimated four thousand different primary religions, each with many subgroups, throughout your species’ recorded history. Does that sound accurate?” Aftan asked.

Ryon thought for a moment before answering.

“I’d say that’s probably right. It’s certainly in the right area. Why do you ask?”

“Ryon .... how many religions would you guess exist in the rest of our galaxy?” Almafey asked.

“It must be millions at least, I’d assume,” Ryon answered, starting to feel confused about why they’d ask such a question.

“It might surprise you to learn, then, that currently there are no other active known religions in the galaxy. There have only been six other religions in the recorded history of our galaxy, all of which have been long extinct, and no two of which came from the same planet. Can you think of why that would be, Ryon? Why no where else in the galaxy in the last million years except Terra has a single religion existed, for any other species at any technological level? And on the one planet where religion does exist, there are thousands upon thousands more than have ever existed elsewhere?”

Ryon didn’t know what to think. Were humans so inferior that they alone held on to the idea of a supreme being?

“I .... I don’t know. I honestly have no idea,” Ryon sputtered out.

The elders exchanged blank looks.

“Let’s try another one, Ryon,” Aftan said patiently. “From your archives we can tell that many Terrans are fascinated by the idea of ‘UFO’s. Vessels foreign to Terra that are piloted by, well .... beings like us, perhaps. The Arch Assembly prides itself on being able to monitor the evolution of civilizations without disturbing them, including letting those civilizations become aware of us in any way. Yet your history, and even your present, is riddled with stories of these sightings. Of course, it’s important to note that not every species of intelligent life in our galaxy chooses to join the Assembly, so the possibility exists that these sightings could be authentic. Our question to you is just that; do you think they’re authentic?”

Ryon was caught off guard by this question as well. He hoped at some point the subject of UFOs would be brought up, but he expected to be the one asking the questions.

“I really don’t know that either. To be honest though, I think they might be. There are too many consistencies between a lot of stories for me think it’s all a coincidence. And considering some of the things I’ve learned quite recently .... yes, I’d say there’s a good chance they’re authentic.”

“That’s what we feared. One last thing you can clear up before we move on, if you don’t mind,” Almafey requested.

“Certainly, I will if I can,” Ryon said hesitantly.

“This one should be easy. We came across an unusual occurrence while reviewing your archives: a word that our translation nanorobots couldn’t decipher. The only time that happens is when a word exists for an idea that doesn’t exist in any other language. Usually there are at least partial translations, but it’s quite rare to come across a word that fully stumps the translators. We’ve found what we believe to be the English translation of the word and were hoping you could pronounce it for us so the translators can learn it,” Aftan explained. He held up a small solid piece of glass with the word ‘hallucinate’ printed in bright letters.

“Hallucinate?” Ryon pronounced out loud. As soon as he said it the three elders and Omnal repeated the pronunciation.

“And what is the definition of ‘hallucinate’, Ryon?” Aftan asked.

“It means to perceive things around you that aren’t actually there, usually as a side effect of some sort of drug or traumatic experience,” Ryon explained.

The three elders exchanged a meaningful look.

“So you’re saying that by introducing a foreign substance into the Terran body you can activate visions of otherwise imperceptible reality?” Almafey asked, sounding confused.

“No, not exactly. What you see when you hallucinate isn’t imperceptible reality. Hallucinations are images created by your brain and then superimposed onto what your brain is showing you as surrounding reality,” Ryon corrected.

“I think this is a good point to move on to our next topic, don’t you agree?” Rinwright spat suddenly to Aftan and Almafey.

“Yes, Rinwright, be patient. Would you care to explain it to them? You always seem to enjoy it so,” Almafey joked. Rinwright made a snide face at him before facing Ryon and Omnal.

“Let me you ask you both a question. What would you say are the most basic components of reality?”

Ryon looked questioningly at Omnal, who shrugged. He thought for a moment before deciding on an answer that seemed almost too obvious to him.

“Space and time?” he answered.

“You, like every other person I’ve asked before, have answered correctly, but incompletely.”

“Incompletely? What do you mean? What else is there?” Omnal chimed.

Rinwright sighed heavily. There was an eerie silence in the chamber before he answered.

“There is a third fundamental component of reality. The reason why nearly every instance of intelligence in the galaxy has overlooked this third component is because of how intwined we are with it. The third component of reality can best be thought of as an informational reflection of space; a recording of pure data that represents everything that happens within space. Every spin on every electron, every petal on every flower, every planet around every sun. This background data exists for all of it, constantly updating itself to be current with space at the current time. We call this background data ‘Rim’. Rim exists completely overlapped and intertwined with space-time, such that all three are inseparable components of existence; the total of reality. One cannot exist without the other two, and two cannot exist without the third. It’s the reason why mathematics is often called the universal language. That’s quite literally what it is. Everything that exists in physical space, on any scale of size, can be quantized so it can be represented mathematically. Rim can be thought of as what this math represents; the data that represents the entire universe, while space is the solid existence of that mathematical representation.”

“Ok .... and why is that important? What does that have to do with what you asked me earlier?” Ryon questioned.

“What do you know about consciousness, Ryon?” Aftan asked suddenly.

“Consciousness? What do you mean?”

“Where do you think consciousness originates? From where does sentience stem? What allows us to be able to communicate with a separate being, to have an idea of an individual, of self?” Rinwright implored.

“In our brains .... doesn’t it?” Omnal guessed.

“It does, and it doesn’t. As a member of a sentient species develops from infancy to adulthood, our brains are constantly taking in large amounts of sensory data. Our brains then compile that data down into the most important parts deemed necessary for us to be aware of before presenting a unified picture of surrounding reality to our ‘consciousness’. We can see where all the information is processed in the brain; where it’s taken from electric signals delivered by sensory nerves and translated into cohesive images, but we have no idea where the actual consciousness exists. The reason for that is that it doesn’t exist in the brain. It can’t exist in the brain; consciousness, on its most basic level, is just information. The brain processes it, yes, but the bulk of the information itself is recorded elsewhere. Consciousness exists where almost no one knows how to look: in the Rim that exists overlapped with our brains. We have a sense of self because our bodies and our brains do it for us. The entire meaning of life, everywhere it exists, is to develop consciousness. Haven’t you noticed that nearly every species of sentient creature is humanoid in shape? That’s because it’s the best body design to consciously interact with physical space. Every planet with life is attempting to evolve a single species to the point where a brain held by an individual of that species is strong enough to create a sensory experience powerful enough to be recorded in Rim so deeply that eventually the Rim is dense enough to manifest in a single point within physical space, like a singularity, within the brain. When Rim is dense enough to manifest in physical space within a brain it can interact with that brain, giving the sensation of self, of control. It’s not an instantaneous event because the density of Rim must be so great, and the speed at which sensory experience records to Rim isn’t very high, comparatively. That’s why every sentient being has fuzzy or incomplete memories of the beginning of their lives. That represents the earliest point in an individual’s life that they experience true consciousness; true existence as their self. It’s the first point they have enough previously recorded experience to allow for a self to exist at all. Every sentient creature you’ve ever met, Terran or otherwise, has one of these Rim singularities within their minds that is their true consciousness.”

“Wait .... if that’s true, why can’t I remember every experience I’ve ever had as it actually was? The amount of consciousness that I have seems like it should be much higher if Rim has recorded everything I’ve ever experienced,” Ryon said skeptically.

“That’s because only a fraction of your consciousness exists within physical space. Only a small part of your total consciousness is needed to operate a physical body via a brain, and while that small bit of consciousness exists within physical space it’s only able to access what’s stored in space, within your brain. Your brain doesn’t actually record that much, and what it does record is often skewed in some way. But in Rim .... in pure data .... everything is there.”

“Alright .... say I do believe you about all this. What does it have to do with the questions you asked me earlier? About religion, and hallucinations, and UFOs?”

“Because of Ascension. Ascension is the idea that a sentient being might be able to disconnect its fully formed consciousness from its body within space, allowing it to exist only within Rim. Such a being would experience reality uninhibited by a body or by a brain .... he would experience it as pure Rim. He would be able to sense everything being recorded in the Rim around him and therefore sense everything happening in physical space; to completely relive any memory he had as if he were actually there again; to move through Rim and space uninhibited by the restrictions of physics. Who knows of what else he might be capable and what other ways he might influence reality. We refer to beings like this as Rimmers: beings that exist as pure Rim. We believe Ascension may be the ultimate goal of all life. Very little is known about what we’ve told you, and we’re constantly on the look out for new sources of information. The Assembly has been searching for clues to Ascension for nearly its entire existence, and never have we discovered anything as obviously relevant to Ascension as we have in Terra. Don’t you find it odd that Terra has so many religions in its history that reference an individual ‘ascending to a higher place’? Of men and women speaking with supernatural beings, beings they believed to be Gods, but who may have only been a higher form of Terran? Or of some other species, even? Don’t you find it odd that Terra alone in our galaxy has substances capable of interacting with consciousness to form what you call hallucinations? We don’t believe we’re the first to ask these questions. As we said, there are other forms of intelligent life that exist in our galaxy; species that wished to remain separate from us. Before now we had no reason to suspect them of knowing about Ascension or Rim, but if your UFO sightings and abductions are indeed real, they may have a found an interest in Terrans related to Ascension .... and it could put us all in grave danger if they discover the secret to Ascension before we do.”

“So that’s why you want me .... you think there might be something special about Terrans that’ll help you figure out Ascension before any one else does,” Ryon said flatly.

“We have our reasons for wanting your help, Ryon,” Aftan said ominously.

“And now it’s time for you to return to Jinto until 55:00, unless you have any questions,” Almafey added.

“I have one. If the purpose of all life is to reach a point where Ascension is possible, what’s the purpose of Ascension? There must be some reason why Ascension is the ultimate goal of all life,” Ryon asked.

“That, Ryon, is the greatest question of them all,” Rinwright answered mysteriously. “The universe is about balance and stability, so it seems likely that Ascension, and by extension life itself, is meant to balance some opposing force, but we have yet to determine what that force could be.”

Once Rinwright finished speaking he, Aftan, and Almafey stood.

“And now if you’ll excuse us we have other matters that need attention. Thank you for your time Ryon, Omnal,” Aftan said, nodding to each politely.

“Thank you as well, sir,” Ryon said as he and Omnal stood to leave.

“Oh wait, Ryon, I have just one last question,” Rinwright said before leaving the table. “Have you personally ever encountered anything on Terra that would make you think anything we’ve told you today has any merit?”

Nothing except a bodiless voice that calls itself Zian.

“No .... nothing at all.”

Rinwright nodded slowly, never taking his eyes off Ryon.

“We’ll see you at 55:00,” he said calmly, turning his back on Ryon and Omnal. Once the elders left the lab Ryon and Omnal made their exit as well. Omnal was quiet on the way to the lifts, where he gave Ryon directions to return to the interplanetary transport. They said their goodbyes and Ryon boarded the lift alone. He sat in silence, trying to absorb all the information he just received.

A lot to take in, isn’t it?

“Zian? What the hell are you doing here?” Ryon asked without thinking.

Here? I can be anywhere, Ryon.

“So it’s true then, you’re a .... a Rimmer?”

I am.

“How many of you are there?”

At one point there were seven of us in our galaxy. I believe I’m the last.

“What happened to the others?” Ryon asked, confused as to how a being of pure Rim could cease to exist.

Who knows? I suppose they moved on from the galaxy; perhaps they got bored. Or perhaps they’ve gotten lost amongst the infinite Rim of the universe. It’s very possible, even for a Rimmer, to lose your way through infinity.

“I see. And .... what were you before you Ascended?” Ryon asked, not sure he wanted to know.

That’s a story for another day, I’m afraid.

“Ok .... so this is why you brought me here. You want me to help the Assembly discover the secret to Ascension before anyone else does,” Ryon guessed.

Not quite. I brought you here so the Assembly could help you discover the secret to Ascension, not the other way around.

“But if you’re a Rimmer then you must have already discovered Ascension yourself. Why can’t you just tell me how to do it?”

No one can be told how to Ascend, Ryon. It doesn’t work like that. And even if I could, I wouldn’t tell you .... not yet at least. You can’t make the mistake of Ascending early, unprepared .... as we did. That’s why I need your help. My abilities as a Rimmer are limited .... we must make sure that yours won’t be.

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