Nova: The Next Generation
The Shi'Ar Conflict
Written By: Timelord 9.13.09
Chapter Two: Quantum Realm Solace
As evening fell on Nu-Xandar, Sylvia could see Tranta's last rays glancing off the Torus as she boarded the mag-lev train to the alien sector of Nu-Orienta City. As always when night fell, her gaze was drawn to the sky. The Orienta Shard shone as the brightest heavenly body. No matter how many times she visited the shard, she never grew tired of it. Soon it would be her new home for the foreseeable future. Sylvia closed her eyes and imagined it parked in its Libration Point between Nu-Xandar and Tranta, spinning slowly and keeping protective vigil over the fledgling planet, Nu-Xandar. The academy beckoned and tomorrow she would answer its call, take up residence on the Orienta Shard, and begin her new life as a Nova Cadet. Tonight though, was her last night of freedom and she planned to enjoy it to the fullest. Her father had been particularly tough on her over the past week and she needed time to relax and unwind.
She caught site of her reflection in the window of the mag-lev. Raven haired, dark brown eyes, shapely athletic body barely covered in her sexiest shear white micro-mini dress with a plunging neckline highlighting her perfect breasts; she was satisfied that she had made the right selection of attire for the night's activities.
The mag-lev stopped at the station and Sylvia's spirits rose upon seeing her cousin, Proculus, waiting for her with their mutual friends, Augustus and Celena. Proculus was tall with curly brown hair and brown eyes. He was clean shaven with an athletic body and handsome features inherited from his mother, Queen Adora. Augustus and Celena were black-skinned with dark eyes and curly black hair. They stood close and couldn't keep their eyes off each other. Lately, they had become more than friends.
Smiling broadly, Sylvia was the first off the train, giving Proculus a quick kiss on the cheek in greeting and hugging Augustus and Celena. Some of the other passengers stared at Proculus and Sylvia as they passed by; recognizing two of Nu-Xandar's celebrities, The Prince of Xandar and The Countess of Sura. Those that recognized them gave the sign of fealty. However, recognition was the last thing Sylvia wanted. Her only desire was for an evening of anonymous fun with her friends. She wanted to at least temporarily forget about her miserable day and the changes in her life that tomorrow would bring. The four friends blended into the crowd, joking and making small talk as they meandered toward their destination, the Mercurio Pleasure Club.
Nu-Xandar's new Capital, Nu-Orienta City, was bustling and growing rapidly as Nu-Xandar's influence and power grew throughout Andromeda. Business, industry, and residential districts were under construction everywhere. The layout of the city mirrored the traditional Xandarian model as exemplified by the Orienta Shard's Orienta City. The Xandarians tended to keep to themselves; and the alien cultures formed their own district. The Xandarians mostly turned a blind eye to the activities in the so-called alien sector; though many visited the area for recreational opportunities officially frowned upon by proper Xandarian culture. Club Mercurio was officially frowned upon by proper Xandarian culture.
Club Mercurio was the newest, largest, and most popular of the pleasure clubs. Ten stories tall and gleaming in artificial illumination, it stood out in stark contrast to all the new construction surrounding it. It offered all the sensual delights of a galaxy class spa, able to provide services to please all known species which might partake of its amenities. As such, the line at the door was quite long.
Sylvia gave Proculus a questioning look. "Wasn't your friend, Aristus, supposed to meet us here?"
Proculus nodded. "He's already inside."
Sylvia looked at the line. "We'll be hours getting in if we have to wait in line and I have to be home by midnight. I know you don't like to do this but what say for once we give up our futile attempt at anonymity and use our celebrity to get in quicker?"
Proculus grimaced in mock disapproval, then smiled. "All right. Just this once though and just because you're going away tomorrow."
They made their way to the celebrity entrance where they were immediately recognized as four members of Xandarian royal society and granted entrance into the club. The party atmosphere of the club was intoxicating – no doubt helped by the deafening music and the cloud of endorph vapor that constantly fell from above. The four friends were escorted to a VIP table where they ordered shots of synthahol and vials of concentrated endorph-vapor. Sylvia had not visited the club for several weeks and looked around to see what was new as the dÃ©cor was constantly changing and as new amenities were constantly being added. She spied Aristus leaving the dance floor and approaching their table. The handsome blonde-haired blue-eyed young man went straight to Proculus, greeting him with a passionate kiss. Aristus was Proculus' newest lover. Sylvia smiled and wondered how long this "relationship" would last; as most of Proculus' relationships lasted little more than a month.
The shots and vapors arrived; and Proculus stood, raising his glass to make a toast. "To my dearest cousin Sylvia, Countess of Sura – and tomorrow bearer of a new title: Nova Corps Cadet First Class. All Xandar takes pride in your accomplishment; and on a personal note – both we and all the regular patrons of this club will miss you terribly." Everyone at the table laughed and downed their shots. Proculus waved for another round to be brought to their table before taking his seat next to Sylvia.
Sylvia turned and hugged Proculus. "I'm going to miss you more than anyone."
Proculus' eyes glistened. "I don't think we've ever gone more than a few days without seeing each other since we were children. I don't know if I can stand to be without my best friend for the eight months you're precluded from having visitors."
It was Sylvia's turn to fight back tears. "Well, maybe you can make another exception to your rule about not using your Princely status to manipulate things and come see me. Maybe a surprise inspection of your troops would be in order?"
Proculus nodded. "Maybe it would. In any case, you may expect me to abuse my rank to get both myself and your parents front row seats at your graduation ceremony. But enough of this sadness I say. Let's celebrate." Popping the lid off his endorph-vapor vial, Proculus inhaled deeply before passing it to Aristus. Celena, Augustus, and Sylvia shared the other vial; and soon all sadness was replaced with euphoria.
The shots and vials continued to flow; with everyone becoming more relaxed and disinhibited. Removing their shirts, Proculus and Aristus went to the dance floor; and Celena and Augustus began to snuggle up. Despite the effects of all the nanite-bonded chemicals; Sylvia began to feel more and more like a fifth wheel. Like Proculus, her relationships tended to be short-lived; and she currently had no steady lover. She started as she looked out over the dance floor, catching site of Him.
Celena noticed Sylvia's reaction. "What is it Syl?"
Sylvia shrugged. "Nothing. I just thought I saw Him again."
Celena smirked. "Him again? The drop-dead handsome young man with the curly black hair that you get glimpses of, have dreams about, and get all wet about; and that none of the rest of us have ever caught sight of in all the time we've known you?"
Sylvia laughed. "Don't start. I know what I saw and I think He was heading for The Maze."
Augustus smiled salaciously as Sylvia got up from the table and steadied herself, still slightly dizzy from the vapors and shots. "Well, good hunting then."
Sylvia made her way through the throngs of milling and dancing people; occasionally catching brief sight of her quarry, only to have Him disappear in the crowd. When she arrived at the entrance to The Maze, He was nowhere to be seen. She was determined to finally meet Him and, willing her clothes into her personal tesseract, strode headlong into The Maze. The Maze was literally a large, darkened, maze-like structure with an aphrodisiac-laced atmosphere. It was where people came to experience anonymous sensual pleasures with others; the extremely dim lighting making the identity of other participants difficult to ascertain. One entered The Maze unclothed and experienced the Maze through touch rather than sight.
The Maze was filled to capacity and pitch dark as usual. No problem for Sylvia as she could "see" in any spectrum she desired. She decided to hedge her bets and use her night vision to find Him in the crowd of bodies caressing and pleasuring each other. The aphrodisiac-laced atmosphere of The Maze began to affect her; slowing her progress as she willingly partook of the sensual pleasures surrounding her – caressing and being caressed; kissing and being kissed – though she eschewed all invitations for more intimate contact as she searched for Him. She spied Him – back turned to her so she couldn't be sure; but he had the right body and the long, black, curled hair – it had to be Him. She approached Him and put her arms around Him. He turned. It was not Him. It was, however, a very handsome man; and Sylvia could no longer deny her aphrodisiac enhanced desires. She kissed him deeply. His mouth tasted of synthahol and his skin of salt from sexual heat. She burned with desire for the pleasures of his body as he held her against his rock hard chest. She felt a woman's soft body press against her from behind and begin to caress her breasts. Twisting her head, she found herself in the embrace of a beautiful young blonde woman. She kissed the woman deeply as the man kissed and caressed her breasts, her abdomen, her thighs – and began intimate exploration with his tongue. Running her hands through his hair and pressing his head into her; her breathing became heavy and she moaned in pleasure with each stroke of his skilled tongue. Sylvia abandoned her night vision and surrendered herself to the anonymous sensual pleasures of the maze. The tensions of the day dissipated in erotic bliss as she and her two lovers melted together – each bringing the other to multiple heights of passion and release over the next few hours. Finally sexually satiated, they retreated to a corner of the maze where they could rest and recover in the comfort of each other's arms.
Eyes at half-mast and feeling physically spent from the combined effects of the previous days of combat training and this night's regimen of synthahol, endorph-vapor, aphrodisiacs, and sex; Sylvia found it hard to keep a smile off her face as she now felt more relaxed and carefree than she had in days. "Mmmmm – thanks you two. That was just what I needed."
The woman smiled. "The pleasure was all ours Contessa."
Sylvia smiled back wickedly as she realized she had been recognized. "Don't you believe it."
Taking her leave from The Maze, Sylvia made her way into the spa, intending to shower, rest a short time, then catch up with her friends to report that once again He had eluded her. As she passed by a large zero-g group sex room, she caught sight of Celena and Augustus preparing to enter along with about thirty other couples.
Celena waved from the crowd. "Come join us in here."
Sylvia waved back. "I will as soon as I've showered and freshened up."
Sylvia made her way to the shower room and stepped under the stinging spray, basking in the heat of the hot flowing water and letting it wash away the last of her week's tensions. She closed her eyes and thought of Him, frustrated that she had once again failed to meet Him and thinking it strange how she longed for a man she had only glimpsed in dreams and crowds and shadows. As she indulged her deep longing for Him, she realized she could no longer hear or feel the shower; or hear the bustle and noise of the multitude of others enjoying the amenities of the club. Her eyes snapped open and she found herself in a white void.
He stood before her – a handsome young man with curly black hair and deep, black eyes wearing white form-fitting clothes that showed off a perfect body – just like in her dreams and her brief glimpses of Him. He was the most handsome man she had ever beheld and she immediately felt desire for Him. She also noticed for the first time that He bore a striking resemblance to a depiction she had seen before. She was dumbstruck into silence as she considered the implications.
He beheld her for a long minute before finally speaking. "You should not be here."
She found her voice. "What? Who are you? Where is this?"
He shook His head. "You are not ready to be here. You must go back now."
Sylvia was both un-nerved and irritated. "Fine. How do I do that?"
"The same way you arrived – by wanting it desperately enough. Now go. I will invite you to visit again when you are ready." He turned his back on her and made to leave.
Sylvia was angry now and began to build a gravimetric pulse. "Don't you give me curtly cryptic answers and turn your back on me you son of a schmaug! You will properly address my questions!"
He wheeled back around to face Sylvia, seething in anger, energy arcing across his body and flashing in his eyes. "Precocious child! Do not even think of summoning your power here! You know not what you do. The consequences could be devastating to all you hold dear!"
They paused a moment – eyes locked, each taking the measure of the other. They both stood down; but continued to stare at each other warily.
He shook his head, breaking the tension. "I had hoped you would not inherit your father's stubbornness and obstinacy; but I see my hopes were in vain."
Sylvia was surprised. "You know my father?"
He smiled. "Yes – I know him well and I love him dearly; though he does not know me."
Sylvia was feeling irritated again. "Straight answers seem to elude you sir; so let me ask you directly once more – just who the fark are you? Why do I see you in my dreams? Why were you at the pleasure club tonight? Why have you brought me here?"
"You should not be here and it is too soon for you to know the answers to all those questions." He broke eye contact and smirked as He looked her up and down. "And you are out of uniform."
Sylvia had not noticed that she was still nude until he pointed it out. Refusing to be daunted, she set her jaw and clenched her fists, readying for a fight. "Are you going to answer my questions or not?"
He looked exasperated. "I don't suppose you will leave without an altercation if I don't answer your questions?"
She stared at Him in response.
He shook His head. "I thought not. Ask your questions."
She considered her options. "The first logical question is: Where am I?"
He smirked. "You could use your powers to figure that out – but to answer your question; you are within what you would understand to be a pocket dimension or a tesseract – though I prefer the term quantum realm."
She reached out tentatively with her powers to gather information. "This place resembles the Worldmind's tesseract. How did I get here?"
He sighed. "By wanting to be here. Your innate powers allow your consciousness to travel to this realm."
She was beginning to understand. "Are you a quantum entity like the Worldmind?"
He laughed. "Sweet Sylvia, I am the Xandarian Worldmind."
It was Sylvia's turn to smirk. "I've met the Worldmind; and you look, act, and talk nothing like him. Also, the Worldmind and my father are well-acquainted; but you claimed that my father does not know you. I have no idea how I got here; but I assure you I did not bring myself here. You sir, are a liar."
He laughed, "Your impudence is most amusing – do keep it up," He said as He morphed into the familiar figure of the Worldmind Avatar. With the Worldmind's voice – albeit in a mocking tone – he said, "Nova Corps Cadet First Class Sylvia Rider-Dru, it is critical that you pay attention at this time." Then keeping the appearance of the Worldmind Avatar, but switching back to His voice, "I have spoken nothing but the truth to you since you arrived in this realm."
Sylvia had lingering doubts. "I remain unconvinced of your identity. If you are the Worldmind, you must comply with the lawful commands of a duly authorized corporeal Xandarian. As the Countess of Sura, I have repeatedly given you orders and you have demonstrated a level of independence exceeding that explicitly programmed into the Worldmind."
He seemed to find Sylvia's observation amusing. "The Worldmind you and the rest of Xandar know is but a small part of me – the part that can be accessed and controlled by your technology. I am so much greater than that. The part of the Worldmind you know must obey your lawful commands as it is linked to your technology. I am not so constrained. In fact, I purposely keep the Worldmind unaware of my existence. He is new to existence as a facet of the greater quantum entity. Given more time, he will come to learn what he is. As of now, he is constrained by his own childish ignorance – much like you."
She let the insult slide and held her breath for a second before her next question. "You bear a striking resemblance to ancient depictions of the Xandarian God of War, Gamill. Are you Gamill? Are you a god?"
He seemed to ponder the question for a moment before deciding to answer it. He morphed back into the form of the handsome young man. "I am Gamill." He morphed into the familiar form of the lovely black-skinned goddess of fortune, Frammi. "I am also Frammi." He morphed into the familiar form of the red-headed goddess of love, Ishta. "I am Ishta." He rapidly morphed into the entire Xandarian pantheon of gods and goddesses before coming full circle to the form of the Xandarian Worldmind and then, once again, Gamill. "I am all the rest. We are all facets of the greater quantum entity."
She was stunned, having never truly believed in the existence of the gods. "So, you are a god."
He shrugged. "What is a god? Is a god not merely a being with vastly greater mental and physical abilities than you possess yourself? Would not primitive beings believe you were a god?"
"If being tiresome and obtuse in answering simple questions are godly traits; I would say you are at least worthy of consideration of the title" Sylvia observed dryly. "Why appear to me in the form of Gamill?"
He responded to her sarcasm with a barb of His own. "At last – an intelligent question. The populace of Xandar sees the Worldmind with whom they are familiar as a formal, wizened old man as that is their subconscious conception of how a god should look and act. You, on the other hand, see me as a peer; as this is your subconscious conception of how your perfect peer should look and act. In fact, you see me as the War God, Gamill, as you are a true warrior. One day when your powers are fully developed we will be peers. Right now, you are no more than an adept."
Sylvia was starting to be convinced. She felt solace here in this realm as if she belonged here; and as she used her powers to tentatively scan the physical properties of her surroundings, she realized that this entity was speaking truly. One question nagged at her consciousness. "Why have I seen you in my dreams and caught glimpses of you since I was a child? Why reveal yourself to me now?"
He nodded, appearing to be pleased with her question. "As a quantum entity, I am everywhere on Xandar at once. With your developing powers, you can see me anywhere you like if you concentrate. Though you don't consciously realize it, you have attempted to contact me intermittently since the very moment of your conception. I have rebuffed each of your attempts as you are not ready to be here. You brought yourself here uninvited and have refused to leave despite my numerous reasonable requests. I did not 'reveal' myself to you. You intruded."
She refused to let one nagging question remain unanswered. "Why not reveal yourself to all of Xandar?"
He frowned. "It is not yet time to do such a thing. One day, over the course of time, all Xandarians will be able to ascend to this realm to become part of the greater quantum entity. You are the beginning of that evolution of your species and you already know how some have reacted. You have experienced their fear of your unique gifts. Some would seek to accelerate the evolution of your species and some would seek to retard it if the outcome was widely known. Nothing must be done to influence the natural evolution of your species. So, for now, the gods must remain quaint and fanciful ideas in the minds of all Xandarians, revealing themselves only to those unique individuals with special gifts who may advance the evolution of your species in accordance with the plans of the greater quantum entity. You are such an individual as others have been over the millennia. Through you and your unique gifts, I have a physical gateway into your corporeal world that I otherwise would not have. I cannot directly intervene in your corporeal world except through you – and you cannot speak of my existence to anyone else. You now know why. It could adversely affect the evolution of your species."
Sylvia smirked. "If I told anyone else I was conversing with the gods, they would think I was insane. You have nothing to fear. Your secret is safe with me."
He seemed satisfied. "There is hope for you yet, sweet Sylvia."
"So am I invited back here to learn from you how to wield my developing powers? Am I ready yet O wise one?" she asked with a hint of sarcasm. "By the way, what do you call yourself?"
He paused before answering. "I answer to many names as you now know – and I cannot stop you from returning any time you wish. However, you are welcome back in my realm; and I will help you learn to control your powers."
She stopped to consider all she had learned. "I'm not comfortable referring to you as Gamill or any of the other gods – and clearly you are something over and above the Worldmind. How about if I call you 'The Overmind?' Would that be acceptable?"
He nodded. "Yes, but go now back to your pleasures of the flesh. You should enjoy them while you still can. Some day such pleasures will exist for you only as memories."
Sylvia blinked and found herself back in the shower room; only a few seconds having passed since she 'left.' She quickly dried herself and made her way to the zero-gee room to find Augustus and Celena. Based on what she had learned of the Quantum Realm, she decided to heed the Overmind's advice regarding enjoying the pleasures of the flesh while she still could. It would put her getting home past her mother's midnight curfew; but she would deal with that later.
Come back next week for Part 3 of The Shi'ar Conflict to follow Sylvia on her first adventure as a Nova Corps Cadet.