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Act 2, A Dark Universe

It was a lovely day. She basked in gravitons. Immensely strong gravitonic waves in space-time flowed past in an endless stream, causing her to bob gently up and down in the eleven dimensions of reality. She had an absolutely prime position on—well, to human perspectives it would have been a low orbit around a tightly spinning black hole but to her it was a beach, a beautiful, exclusive, private beach.

Beaches like this were reserved for the Elders but she was special. She was special not because she was old but because she was very, very young.

The sky was completely dark. It had been dark forever. That was what the Holy Word said. The sky had always been dark and the People had always existed. They lived within the disruptions caused by the interaction of strong floods of gravitons and the space-time matrix. The People fed on the energy differentials between gravity waves. A whole art form depended on subtle gravitonic manipulation of gravity waves to produce different complex waveform cuisine.

She curled herself in and out of the eleven dimensions tasting the different flavour of each. With her gravitonic senses pulled in tight she could pretend that only she existed. She liked this game. She was the only being in the whole universe and she could do whatever she wanted. She had been created as a loner, to be entirely satisfied with her own company. But it was just a game because she rarely got to do anything she wanted. Her life was circumscribed by instructions and restrictions and she was closely observed.

When she extended her senses into the higher dimensions, she became part of a universewide communication web. Dancing space-time strings stored and moved the data that made up the culture of the People. She was not permitted to access that data without close guidance. Unstructured learning would confuse her and impede her education. That was what her instructors said.

She was young and inexperienced and her instructors were old and wise, so she acceded to their wishes. But, sometimes, she would have liked to follow up the interesting ideas and theorems that floated tantalisingly on the edge of her constrained education. She loved to find out. She had been constructed with a need to amass information.

She had chosen her own name. No one could deny her that privilege. Her name was not a formation of modulated sound frequencies but the product of the interaction of a burst of high-frequency gravitons on the matrix of the ninth dimension raised to the seventeenth power. The fractal pattern produced by the interaction was very pretty, so she had a very pretty name. The raising to the seventeenth power wove strong disharmonics into the matrix, giving a hint of contradiction and rebellion.

Her instructors ignored the disharmonics in her name. Their view was definitely that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," assuming that they had ever heard of roses, which they had not, or that they had any concept of scent, which they had not.

The arrival of an instructor ended her rest period. "Access data point binary 7783. We will consider the holy data on the Involution of the Dark."

She sighed, more religious indoctrination, but did as she was bid. She was young so she was not completely efficient at hiding her thoughts. Her instructor must have noticed her reluctance because he disrupted her slightly, causing enough pain to focus her attention. She had been slapped. Suitably chastised, she concentrated on reordering the data stream in her consciousness.

The lesson dragged on interminably. The Creed of the Dark, the Catechisms of the Dark, and the Closed Loop of Being. She had been through all this material before. Finally, her instructor pronounced himself satisfied and departed. She was left to bask gently in gravitonic radiation. She spiralled outwards on the radiation current before surfing a gravity wave back into her allotted orbit.

A portal opened in the same plane of orbit. She drew herself in tightly and adopted the frequency of expectant submission. A portal meant that someone very old was coming, someone very old and very, very important. Her instructors travelled by quantum displacement. Portals were complex to open and maintain so only the most skilled could acquire the knack.

A very large powerful example of the People emerged from the spinning tear in space-time, an Elder.

"Ah, there you are young, um, person."

She gave the frequency of genuflection. She knew who this being was. He ranked so high as to be beyond reproach. He had clearly not bothered to find out her name so he did not know how pretty it was. More importantly, he did not know about those stubborn disharmonics.

"Your instructors inform me that your performance has been adequate. I have, therefore, given my assent to your deployment. No doubt you have wondered why you were created?"

Actually, it had never occurred to her. She surfed, she rested, she learnt and she did as she was instructed. What else was there to know? She had not really been asked a question so she did not venture to answer. The Elder was clearly more used to talking than listening.

"In a way, this whole business is about the whys of life." The Elder paused, lost in his own thoughts. Then he said, "Tell me about the Shadow Worlds."

She gathered her thoughts. It would not do to waffle. "At each intersection of the eleven planes of existence, echoes of the real universe fade back into the hypothetical quantum multidimensions. These echoes are the Shadow Worlds."

A textbook answer, she was rather pleased with herself.

"And the properties of the Shadow Worlds are what?"

"The closest are mirrors of the real universe. Further away the images in these mirrors become more and more distorted and unreal." She had no idea where this was going.

"Yes, yes." The Elder made an impatient flick in the space-time matrix that bounced her up and down. "But what is the most consistent change?"

She thought furiously. "Time slows progressively down along the Shadow Continuum," she said, timidly.

"To travel back into the Shadow Worlds is to travel backwards in time," he confirmed. "Time travel within the real universe is forbidden. Do you know why?"

She felt on firm ground and answered confidently. "To avoid a time paradox. Time travel could set up ripples that could destroy everything the People have built, even cause the People themselves never to exist."

"Correct, but now we need to investigate the past. That is why we created you. You are going to jump down into the Shadow Worlds further than any of the People have ever been. You are going to travel to the furthest reaches of time to confirm the Sacred Truth."

The Sacred Truth, she repeated it automatically—the Dark is eternal and the People are one with The Dark, now and for evermore.

"But I don't know how," she started to say but she realised she did know how to travel though the Shadow Worlds. Citing the Sacred Truth had unlocked a block in her head. Her instructors had shown her how and then hidden it from her conscious thought.

"There is a heresy." The distaste in the Elder's data stream was so strong that it shrivelled her distal body function forcing her to withdraw into a tight sphere. "This heresy denies the Sacred Truth."

The Elder continued, "It all started with the Shadow Worlds. I should never have permitted their exploration. My only excuse is that it seemed harmless at the time. The first explorations of the nearer Worlds were innocuous enough, showing only shadows of the People at an earlier stage of cultural development. But then came the long jumps that revealed the People living in decompressed matter-based constructs."

"I don't understand." She was completely confused. Matter was something used to create black holes.

"When matter is decompressed outside of a black hole, it can assume complex and strange forms that interact by the exchange of tiny charged particles, particles that behave like photons or gravitons." The Elder sent her a personal data stream that showed a bewildering variety of forms and processes. "Research into the Shadow Worlds suggested that the People might have once used these properties to construct living space using a lost science called 'electronics.' "

This was a new and disturbing thought. The Elder let her process it before continuing.

"Heretical scholars have used this minor detail to construct an imaginary universe based on decompressed matter. Tenuous wisps of matter that interact to produce a blaze of photons so there is no Dark but only Light."

She adopted the frequency of great shock but the Elder pressed on with the mode of finishing a distasteful duty.

"Worse that this, these same heretics postulate that the People themselves were once constructed of decompressed matter. That we have not been eternally as we are now."

She pulled her wave functions in tight with shock.

"So now you see why we constructed you. You must jump back into the far past of the Shadow Worlds to demonstrate the truth and put these heresies to the lie. The alternative is a new religious war."

She had been taught about the religious wars. The People had no logical reason to fight. Certainly, they never fought over resources. The population size was fixed, few died, few were born, and the black holes poured out more energy than could be used. But the People had fought wars; they had fought over religious doctrine and the death rate was awful.

"Do you have any questions?"

"Why me? I am new and inexperienced. Surely there are many others older and wiser who could do such an important task?" she asked.

"So we thought. But every person who has tried this journey has failed to return. The dimensional engineers have become convinced that flexibility rather than experience is the key. So we created you."

She thought it sounded like a suicide mission but she had been carefully constructed and trained for service so she did not protest. However, she could not resist pointing out the logical flaw in the Elders' plan.

"Suppose the heresy is true? My mission could have disastrous consequences," she said.

The Elder struck her hard. "Heresy is by definition untrue. You will prove that and return to witness it. Then I will deal with the core of this conspiracy." The Elder adopted the mode of merciless retribution.

So this was a matter of faith. To question the Elder's view was to doubt the Word. She decided to keep her questions to practicalities. "How do I return?"

"You have been loaded with that information already." He spoke a code word releasing the information from storage.

She reviewed her memory. All the information she needed for the journey was now available to her, including the technique to return to the real universe.

"I will have to exploit an energy source to open a return portal. That could do immense damage locally."

The Elder waved a lobe languidly. "That is of no consequence. The natives will only be Shadows. Personally, I doubt they even exist when there is not a true member of the People there to observe them."

She asked the key question. "When do I go?"

"Now," he said.

She entered the Elder's portal. The novelty would have been exciting but she was numb. She was about to leave the universe before she had even seen it. Entry to the vortex was a new sensation. She was cut off from all contact with the People or the external universe. This was like her game, except that this was real. For the first time in her short life, she was truly alone. She was not sure that she entirely liked the feeling when it was for real, but she supposed that she had better get used to it, all things considered.

The vortex spat her out into the centre of a complex construct. Five equally spaced black holes rotated around a common centre in a single plane. The gravity waves were breathtaking. They crashed over her body, spinning her in surges of energy.

A dimensional engineer approached.

"Greetings, Master of Constructs." She spoke to him with the frequency appropriate to a technical specialist.

" Greetings, Traveller," he said.

His body flicked between modes from the genial contempt shown to youngsters, to the respect dues to a personal emissary of an Elder. She sympathised with his confusion.

"I trust that you are ready?" he asked.

Actually, she was not sure she would ever be ready but there was only one reply possible to that question.

"Yes," she said.

Dimensional engineers manoeuvred her into a gravity scaffold rigged vertically above the disk. The engineer tagged her with a data stream and downloaded launch vectors.

She had a question of her own, "How far am I going?"

"As far as we can send you," he replied. The Engineer noted her pose of inquiry and elucidated. "In theory, the distance that we could send you is limited only by the power of the energy source. However, in practice there appears to be a barrier that we cannot penetrate."

"What causes the barrier?" she asked.

"I hope that you will tell me when you return." He initiated the launch procedure without further preamble.

She dropped down the plane towards the rotating structure. The buffeting from the gravity waves increased until it was almost unbearable. She could not breathe or, to be more precise, she could not exchange gravitons with the space-time matrix. Despite pulling her function in tight, small sections of her existence were shaved off by gravity disruptions. She reached the exact centre of the spinning construct and the universe disappeared.

The buffeting stopped and was replaced with nothingness. This was not the emptiness of unoccupied space-time or the tunnel of a portal. This was nothing. She did not appear to be moving. She received nothing; she gave out nothing. There was just nothing. All she could detect was the protective gravitonic field that she generated around herself.

She paused for a while, just experiencing nothing and wondering what to do. Her internal clock still ticked away but she had no idea whether it meant anything real anymore. Outside possessed no time. It was not only the spatial dimensions that were lacking.

Checking and rebooting all her various systems occupied her for some little time. She had been badly shaken up but functioned fully. She did not need a diagnostic, however, to confirm that her emotional condition was—terrified!

One of her receptors picked up a flicker of energy. She ran a diagnostic but the sensor was performing adequately. It really was a flicker of energy. Isolating the input and analysing it gave her something to occupy her mind. The energy source went click, click, click at regular intervals. She analysed, extrapolated, and modelled it. When the model ran, she saw the Shadow Worlds.

Each click was her body momentarily phasing with a Shadow World before moving on. This was tremendously exciting. She had made her first discovery. The data programmed into her had given the impression that transit between the Shadows was smooth and continuous. This was not so. It was subject to quantum fluctuations just like everything else. Perhaps the Elders were right. Perhaps a young mind was better suited to exploration. Already she had proved her value to the People.

The Shadow Worlds ticked away endlessly. She tried to extract information from the signal but the small energy quanta carried too little data for her to determine much. Still, it was comforting to have these echoes of the sacred Dark on her strange journey. After a while, she got bored and let the information just flow into a memory store while she played mathematical games with prime numbers to base seventeen. She had a peculiar fondness for this, the most unloved of bases.

Even the delights of base seventeen faded with enough repetition. She decided to check the data stream that was still clicking remorselessly with quantum delight in the background. The Sacred Dark had gone. In its place was light. The universe was a blaze of light. Her philosophical world picture imploded. She desperately rechecked and recalibrated, but the result was always the same. The Dark had gone.

She metaphorically curled up in a ball and put her head between her knees. She was still in this frame when she arrived.

Her world went from nothing to—everything.

Gravity was so weak that she had to work hard to breathe, but her body was bombarded with electromagnetic radiation on a scale that she could barely believe. Floods of photons modulated, coded, radiated, stored, and reradiated in more ways than she could measure. She dropped into a sea of electromagnetic radiation and she struggled and fought. But the more she struggled, the more she drowned. She was dying of energy starvation in a universe of plenty.

Defying all her instincts, she stopped struggling while she still had some energy left and floated. And float she did. She drifted in some sort of electromagnetic decompressed-matter construct. The construct sustained her function. She did not need huge washes of gravitonic energy to warp space-time around her. The machine took the place of her gravitonic body.

The wisdom of the Elders was again apparent. An older person would have been unable to adapt to the strange environment, even if they had survived the emotional shock of seeing heresy confirmed. Shadow World travellers were usually selected from among those who showed strong religious orthodoxy. She was not old enough to be orthodox about anything.

The machine construct was diffuse, a complex of multiple lines that crisscrossed through energy nodes. Streams of coded data flowed backward and forward. She considered her options. The safe strategy would be to recoil back home immediately to report. There was easily enough energy in the complex to power-launch. But that coded data was so tempting. She could learn so much.

Another issue nagged at the back of her mind. If she left now she would soon be in the presence of the Elder, telling him that the heretics were right and that the Sacred Truth was wrong. How would he react? Probably by destroying the messenger as a closet heretic. It did not occur to her to simply lie and tell the Elder what he wanted to hear.

So she stayed and learnt. The data was surprisingly easy to decode but the messages inside were almost meaningless. The concepts were so strange and alien. She intercepted and decoded, stored and cross-indexed, analysed and interpreted and built her conjectures. Before long, she had made another exciting discovery.

Now she could answer the engineer's question. She knew why this was the furthest that the People could penetrate into the Shadow Worlds. The machine construct that she inhabited had only recently been built. It was called the "Internet." The important goal now was to find out who or what created the internet since, logically, it could not have been constructed by the People.

She pursued her investigations relentlessly until she had the answers. Living things that were made of decompressed matter had built the construct. Whether they were Proto-People or not, she would not conjecture, but it was clear that they preceded True People and that the People could not have come into existence without them.

She should have left then but still she hesitated. Her love of knowledge, combined with her fear of facing the Elders, worked to hold her in the Shadow World. She wanted to know more about the Shadow creatures, what they thought, how they lived.

So she worked feverishly, totally consumed by her researches. She watched the creatures make mighty machines and fight terrible wars. She saw the matter beings live and die. Their lives seemed so short but so brilliant. They blazed like particles entering a black hole and they were gone just as quickly.

They shared their living space in the Light with a wide variety of other living things but only one species was the builders. She watched a builder fight another living thing, an "animal," that was four times his weight. The fighter wore a suit that reflected electromagnetic photons brilliantly, a suit of light. He enticed the horned animal to charge and then spun away, allowing the animal to thunder harmlessly past his back. He repeated this until the large animal was tired whereupon he forced a pointed weapon vertically down into its body, killing it instantly.

She was enthralled. She played the clip over and over, spellbound by the beauty and grace of the builder, or "human" as they called themselves. Spookily, sometimes they called themselves "people." Were these people early matter-based versions of the People or did they create them? She would have loved to stay and find out but she had also been created with a strong sense of duty. She would have to go back and make her report. She suspected she would be executed on the spot for heresy but she had to go.

She would allow herself just one more study. She found a data point at a place called Oxford University, English Literature Department. It recorded great histories of the humans by a genius called Shakespeare. The stories he told were masterpieces of emotional conflict. She strode to glory with Henry the Fifth and wept with Romeo.

The humans lived in a fire of emotion, especially their emotions connected with reproduction. Because they had such short lives, they all reproduced frantically. The people were divided by gender but the humans had sex. Many of their deepest motivations and desires were bound up with an incandescent desire for sex.

But she had to go.

She made her preparations, set up the invocation, took a deep breath, and jumped. Computers all over the world crashed simultaneously. The last messages that she picked up passing across the Net all blamed a being called Bill Gates.

Her spell ripped a hole in space-time and she moved into it to begin her long journey. For one moment, she saw the way stretching upwards towards home but then the universe opened beneath her.

Something seized her and pulled her down. She fell and fell and fell, ever deeper into the Shadow Worlds.

Some force held her in a tight grip and then there was light. She emerged into another Shadow World of light. This time there was no Internet. This time she really drowned.

She repeated the trick of relaxing and shutting down as many functions as possible, while she searched for an energy source. She was held tight in an energy matrix of unknown form. The matrix interfaced her body with the matter universe and, for the first time, she saw the universe of light directly.

Energy flowed backwards and forwards across the face of a structure that reflected light, a "mirror." Crystalline nodes, set around the edges of the mirror, powered the matrix. She tapped into them and managed to draw enough power to stabilise her body, at least on a temporary basis. Once the initial panic was over, she took stock of her surroundings. To her delight, she could identify many of the objects around her from the records in her databases.

The mirror stood off the ground in a clearing amongst lush green vegetation. Insects droned around it. When she concentrated on sound waves she could hear other things, wind caressing the vegetation and the distant roll of waves onto the shore. She could also hear humans.

A group of humans sat around the mirror and chanted,

"Lilith, Lilith, Sister from the Dark, sister strongest.
"Come to us, Lilith, we summon you by the pact.
"Sister strongest, we summon you with blood."

A woman lay sprawled on a stone in front of the humans. Blood flowed from a neck wound along a stone channel into a silver chalice. The chant continued.

"Dark light, Lilith, sister strongest, who cleaves the walls of hell.
"When at my lightest, when at my darkest, you hold my soul.
"Lilith, Lilith, sister strongest, made from dust,
"Dark sister, we summon you with blood."

A different stronger voice cut through the repeated chant, "Sister strongest, first born woman, greet your sister, come to me, Lilith. I, Isabella, summon you with a sister's blood."

The owner of the voice, a woman in a black satin cape, moved in front of the mirror, blood still dripping from a knife. "Answer me, Lilith. I am of Eve's line. The mirror opens to your cave. By the ancient pact, you must answer."

She had not a clue what the humans meant. The woman held a whip with multiple scourges. A tiny subroutine from one of her databases identified the object, a cat-o'-nine-tails, used to punish unruly sailors.

"Answer, Lilith," said the woman, whipping the front of the mirror.

It hurt; the pain was acute. She screamed and was astonished when sound erupted from the mirror. The phasing allowed her to communicate as well as listen. Most of the humans retreated in fear at the sound of the scream, but the woman in front of the mirror was made of sterner stuff.

"Answer me, Lilith. I am of Eve's line. Honour your pact with the Avenging Angels. I, Isabella, summon you."

Isabella drew the whip back again.

Another whipping like that might kill her. She had to humour this lunatic. "I am here, Isabella. Lilith is here. What do you want?"

If they wanted a being called Lilith she had better be Lilith.

"My God, it works. The sea diamonds can turn a mirror into a gateway to the Other World." Isabella stood in astonishment, her whip forgotten.

Lilith's data acquisition subroutine filed away another important fact. The crystalline energy nodes were sea diamonds. She automatically cross-indexed with the data she had purloined from the internet. Sea diamonds, <query> aquamarine diamonds, rare, once mined from the northeast coast of South America.

The humans cowered in fear and even Isabella was distracted, so the spell that had activated the sea diamonds began to dissipate. Lilith's body started to dissolve. Desperately, she sucked the last faltering power from the diamonds and attempted to open a portal. There was so little power.

She created a way through the Shadow Worlds and jumped but the energy was insufficient. She bounced off the dimensional wall as the portal failed and fell back into Isabella's Shadow World.

Her mission was over; she was dying. The records would only show another failed long-distance jump. The People had invested such so much into this experiment that she suspected no one would ever follow her. Travel to the Shadow Worlds would cease and the People would turn inwards to a new religious war.

She fell backwards, until something grabbed her and pulled her in.

Complex matter interacted all round her, exchanging tiny charged particles that released sparkling little bursts of energy. She gratefully absorbed chemical energy. The flavour was like nothing she had ever tasted, with endless subtle variation. She explored her new home and found structure, endless complex fractal structure. Structure at microscales built up to even more structure at macroscales. The whole complex was a machine to regulate chemical reactions and the transfer of chemical energy.

She made a critical discovery. The chemical structure was exchanging particles with the "outside." So there was an outside but how could she access it? Gravity was still weak here but she could extend gravitonic senses. Chemical energy sources flared in her immediate vicinity. Some were simple energy release mechanisms while others were complex, like the thing she inhabited.

She understood. She was in a body and the three larger, complex things around her were also bodies, human bodies. Her body was the wrong shape for human so she inhabited an animal of some sort. She needed to think and run through her data. The body should have sensory structures with which she could investigate the world around her. Running through the body was a webway that reminded her of the Internet. Electrochemical signals flowed along protein membranes. She phased with the signals and perceived the outside world.

Auditory receptors picked up human speech. The voice was deeper than Isabella so he must be a male according to her stolen Internet data; for some reason he reminded her of an Elder.

"Who is behind the plot to murder the Queen? When will they strike? Where?"

The words made absolutely no sense to Lilith. Right now she was more interested in working out how to mesh with the body's data network. No, not data network, prompted a small subroutine, it was called a central nervous system. She could tap into the signals that streamed along the nerves from sense organs but she could not work out how to activate the motor system and get control.

After some study, Lilith thought that she understood the process. The body was controlled from a complex mass of nervous tissue near where the primary senses were clustered. She meshed into the system and she got it wrong.

The nervous system went into shock. It released a burst of incoherent signals. Chemical energy flashed and all the muscles in the body went into spasm. She felt the pain and howled.

She ran various diagnostics but her own structure seemed unhurt. She siphoned chemical energy from the body to restore her power levels.

One of the humans threw something at her. She saw the material quite clearly through the animal's eyes. The particles contained strange energy that attacked her fusion with the body. She howled again in pain.

Lilith ran diagnostic subroutines to check the damage to her host. The report was chilling. Blackness spread through the body, destroying membranes and chemical pathways. She modelled the damage and made a simulation. The blackness, the "poison," would cause accelerating damage until the body failed. There was nothing that she could do to stop it.

Think, think, she needed time to think.

"Answer, demon. I command you by the power of your true name, Choronzon. I invoke the pact as a child of Eve's line." The human spoke again.

Choronzon? Isabella had christened her Lilith. Couldn't the wretched creatures make their minds up?

She sucked energy greedily from the little body. She needed power to jump into a new host. She extended gravitonic lobes to probe the three humans around her to select a new host.

The lobes were blocked. She was surrounded by a field of strange energy, rather like that in Isabella's mirror. She couldn't jump through this energy barrier. Lilith was close to panic. Talk to them, she thought. Keep them occupied until you can find a solution

"Will you stop doing that, it hurts," Lilith said, using some of her precious power reserve to shape the animal's vocal structures.

Success! Lilith found a small frequency loophole in the energy barrier around her. It was too small to squeeze her body through but she could extend a communication pseudopod out. There was a fourth human some little distance away. This human sang. She sang songs that vibrated the air in harmonious patterns that opened a channel for Lilith to exploit. Now Lilith needed to find a way into the human's nervous system. She checked her stolen database. The eyes were the key. Humans were visual animals and visual information connected directly into the forebrain. Lilith expended a whisper of gravitonic energy to excite the vibrating air molecules in front of the human's eyes. Lilith made a flickering light, a light that flickered at a carefully calculated frequency.

The human must have a nervous system rather like the dog. She might be able to take partial control if she could just find the right frequency. Come on, come on, she thought. There, the light flickers matched the electrochemical waves in the target's nervous system. She had contact.

She projected an image that spoke to the subject.

"Come to me, come to me," it said

"Who threatens the Queen?" asked the human Elder, interrupting her concentration.

Why could they not leave her alone? She ran a quick run through her purloined data on the word Queen. She had many picture clips of a woman being treated with great deference by her subjects. She was Queen Elizabeth II, the Chief Elder of an English speaking community. She had almost as many clips of a young man called Freddie Mercury singing. Surely, they must mean the Elder.

"Queen. Female head of a state organised on monarchical lines. Could be anything from a dictatorial ruler to the head of a constitutional democracy," she suggested, helpfully.

All the time she kept the flickering image in the fourth human's eyes. "Come to me."

Her data search revealed more pictures of Freddie Mercury. He seemed more popular than the Elder. Perhaps she should ask for clarification.

"That sort of Queen or did you mean the popular band?"

They threw more of the energy-charged powder at her, causing more damage to the rapidly fading animal body that she inhabited. She screamed in pain again.

"Stop, please stop. This biological structure can barely sustain me and is decaying fast."

Why could she not reason with them? They seemed completely irrational for supposedly intelligent beings. All the time, the subroutine she had set up flickered light at her hypnotised subject and commanded, "Come to me."

"Tell me about the Papist plot against the Queen. From where does the threat come?" The human Elder refused to be diverted; he was implacable. He would have made a good Elder of the People.

Tell him something important, she thought, something that might mollify him.

"The portals that cross the Shadow Worlds are the danger. They threaten your whole species."

Her host body was in the final stages of failure. She could not speak again. She sacrificed precious energy reserves to keep the light flickering in her subject's eyes. The subject moved towards her. Lilith was low on power. It was going to be touch and go.

The subject touched the energy barrier and it exploded. Lilith grabbed the energy released. There was just enough power to jump to the nearest target.

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