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Peace Peddler

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Summary

What future, humanity? The shocking answer lies in a perilous test of wills between artificial intelligence and the humans who remain on Earth after the centuries-old catastrophic event called Cloudburst. Sand Flea has been chosen by the elders to deliver peace between future-primitive Tellurians and the endosouls hiding in digital boule clusters from the threats of the physical world. With blind innocence, she miscalculates the magnitude of her mission, and her faith in those she trusted most is tested to the breaking point. In a world of colliding utopias, only the purest souls will determine the fate of the human race. "Peace Peddler" is intended to be the "spoiler free" Part 1 to the sequel of the foundational Aur Child, also available here in Inkitt. If you like this glimpse into the beginnings of the second story, you'll love the deep, twisting original story here: https://www.inkitt.com/stories/scifi/904017 Will you Meddle?

Genre:
Scifi / Fantasy
Author:
I.S. Lee
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
18
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Leap of Faith

I came to the endoworld to be with Digambar Dharmavaram before I learned she had given her body away to another woman. Not that that would have stopped me; I’m proud of her sacrifice. To leave my own body was sacrilege, the elders would say, but then no one I knew - that is, no Tellurian - had ever looked at me with such sincerity. Diga and I had become sisters almost as instantly as she departed my world. I cried for her many nights, and seized at any opportunity - as one who chooses to live on the street must do - to get where I wanted. Much easier, I learned, to abandon my home village of Gjoa than to find passage with Elder Gallia-Tiul to the northlands, to find the endosoul compound of Yellow Reserve, and to find Diga very much a different person than the one I had so briefly known. Being on Earth - or not - changes people like that. I know, because I’ve changed too.

Toes curled over the ledge, knees coiled, heart racing, she jumped. A blur of fear beneath her feet swirled with a snatching emptiness in her gut. Racing already, still accelerating, yet no scream in her descent, the wind swept around her face, deafening her from without as the crashing waves of human pulse deafened her from within. Regret and horror in flood. Birds in flight far below, now rose towards her. Paralyzed in freefall, watching without outside reaction, Sand Flea doubted she could do anything to help herself.

A loose pebble to the world, she tumbled through space. Seeing up, down, up again. A rust brown cliff, a horizon in haze, the bottomless unknown below. Briefly, the jagged precipice from whence she leapt to escape her worries caught her attention, unmoving and uncaring. She heard Diga’s words repeating in her head, “You give it all up by jumping...” Still, Sand Flea had wavered at the edge, oscillating between distrust and desperation. “And take back control when you reach the top.”

That last grounded moment shrank away now to nothing more than a speck on high. How to focus forward, she thought, as there was no seeable bottom? Waves of panic and peace washed over her as she struggled to make sense of where she was headed. Falling uncontrollably, for sure, yet with nothing to fix onto as a point of impact, the threat slowly resolved itself into something immeasurable and out of context. Beyond her.

Well, everything was out of context in the endoworld, she thought. Everything was beyond her. Why should this be any different?

Digambar swooped towards her, crossing paths, gobs of sweet air rushing into her mouth, her cheeks billowing like twin spinnakers. “I imagined this theater to shake away the dullness of Reserve life,” she screamed over the roar of air rushing between them.

But this was Reserve life. All of it, every theater, was just another fabrication of the virtual, the endoworld, the place where humans escaped Earth to endure a muted eternity in trade for their physical form.

For the first time, Sand Flea could recognize the thrill. She smiled and immediately, light-headedness turned to uncontrollable giggles. Contagious giggles too, as Diga began to laugh, her coffee-hued face turning round with glee. She reached out her hand and they touched; first only fingers, but then hands and arms and legs entwined and they tumbled over and over, intoxicated with laughter from that exotic, downward delirium.

Now the fantasy of it all materialized for Sand Flea. The weightlessness, the freedom from hard things stopping her progress. She relaxed her embrace with Digambar and looked around at the wonders coursing by. Every moment a spectacle, every breath a glory.

Sand Flea felt as though she could float forever on the currents of air, her laughter echoing in the vast emptiness around her. She and Digambar seemed to be the only living things in this strange place, and the longer they floated, the more ethereal it all became.

The air began to shimmer and swirl around them, and the colors of the sky deepened and pulsed. They were caught in a whirling vortex of light and sound, and Sand Flea felt her body begin to tingle all over.

Suddenly, she was aware of other presences around them, beings of light and energy that seemed to be made of the very fabric of the endoworld itself. They were speaking to her, but she could not understand their language. She imagined her body, held in status in another room of yellow Reserve. Unresponsive, unable to understand the words being spoken. She was dead, but also alive, floating in this strange place with Digambar. No up or down. No left or right. No forwards or backwards. Only the sense of soaring, with the rush of air through her hair. It was disorienting and exhilarating all at once, and could, if she wanted, go on forever.

The cliff’s edge was a distant memory, and the sky was nothing more than a hazy pink blur. To be weightless and free... wonderful. She laughed and whooped with Digambar as they raced on, relishing in the sensations. She felt alive in a way she never had before. Alive, even in the muted endoworld. Eventually, she began to notice the theater around her again. The rose-purple blur resolved itself into the sky, and she could see the ground far below.

What she had earlier mistook for birds were now close enough to appear as lacewing creatures. They were like nothing she had ever seen before, strange and beautiful and alien. They glittered in the wavering dusk light, their wings flapping lazily as they kept pace with the soaring humans. When their sweep strokes transitioned, the gossamer wings appeared to be made of the very fabric of the endoworld itself, twinkling, winking, and she could feel their energy pulsing around her.

“What are these things?” she called to Digambar.

The woman laughed. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Linus must have made them.”

“Linus created this theater for you?” Sand Flea asked.

“Yes. He makes the best theaters.”

Another kudos for Linus, Sand Flea thought. The artificial intelligence, although just a boy, was full of surprises.

The longer she flew with the creatures, the more she felt herself attuned to their strange magic, primal and full of life and light and power. Her own power swelled up within her as she flew alongside them, until she felt herself crackling with energy. Were they even smiling at her? The creatures seemed to urge them onwards, and they followed them eagerly, drawn in by their strange gravity. She imagined flying forever with them; the thought filled her with a wild joy.

They seemed to understand her joy, and they began to fly faster, leading her on a wild chase through the skies. She followed them, her own arms-come-wings beating hard as she soared after them to a strange place where the edges of the theater’s fabric seemed to bend and twist. She could see the stars shining bright overhead, and she felt like she could reach out and touch them.

Suddenly, the creatures began to change. Their wings morphed and stretched, growing larger and larger until they were enormous. Their bodies contorted and writhed, taking on new shapes. And their eyes... their eyes burned with a fierce light that was almost too much to bear.

Sand Flea felt her own body changing too. She could feel her limbs stretching and her body growing. The world around her seemed to be shrinking, until it was nothing more than a tiny speck in the distance. She was changing, transforming into something new and wonderful. She spied a flat outcrop that might serve well as an aerie. Her talons extended forward, wings arched for braking, she touched down upon the clifftop and folded the loose appendages against her back. Digambar landed behind her and followed her steps until they both found themselves in their preferred avatars, as girl and woman again.

“That was, well, beautiful, Diga,” the girl said. She twirled around in a fit of delight. “Thank you for sharing this place with me!”

“It was my pleasure, little sister. And listen, I know I’m preoccupied so often that I can’t be with you as much as we would want to be. But anytime you need to let go, feel free to return here. Just ask Linus to show you the way.”

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