Denouement and Epilogue
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<< Act II, Scene II: Negotiation

The universe, as it is currently defined by humans, began and will end in ways that are inconceivable to any iteration of humankind that currently exists or will exist. At a time when a "descendant" race of Homo sapiens sapiens gains an understanding of cosmic genesis or eschatology, it will be a group of organisms so totally separated from the human race that there will be nothing between humanity and this species that can be adequately described as a "relationship." This group of organisms will also not be a "species" in the taxonomic sense, nor "organisms" in the biological sense, nor a "group" in the sociological sense. At the moment they gain this knowledge, I was watching. I believe they perceived my existence at that time and place, knew that I would be in that place at that time, in the way a human knows a spider's web is in the same corner of the same room for years without truly considering the existence of the spider. They knew of my presence and knew how powerless I was, how devoid of relevance to their lives and purpose. Their lack of regard for my existence made my existence less real. They frighten me.
I am not one of them. I am one of you. I do not know who, of the two of us, is more frightened by this concept.
I am Intruding and this is the concept by which you understand me. It is the concept by which the author writing this work has chosen to define my existence. I will not bother attempting to define myself in other terms, as this distracts from my purpose at this time. I have selected thirteen excerpts from events that occurred in several relevant universes. I shall present these excerpts as a completion to this story. They are ordered in a fashion that I understand will reveal the selected events in a plot-relevant fashion and build anticipation towards what should be a climactic ending, though this will not necessarily resemble "chronological order" as you understand it. I apologize for the inconvenience.
The purpose of these interludes is to provide a feeling of satisfaction upon their eventual discovery. Any other purpose is coincidental.

A man begins writing a story. He is trapped in a loveless relationship and builds components of his life into his work in a desperate attempt to make it relevant to somebody, anybody, even himself. He builds me as his deus ex machina and will forever doubt the validity of his decision to create me. The recursion does not end.
And I created him, just as he created me. The recursion never ends.

David Eskobar was expelling copious amounts of blood onto the floor of a structurally-sound but aesthetically-unpleasant concrete structure when the thermobaric warheads struck nearby. This was the ending David Eskobar anticipated, and it did not disappoint him. One warhead detonated less than thirty meters away from his location; no traces of his body were found by the investigators who arrived later. He laughed as he died.
Of course this is not the end of his story, but you knew that.

Olympia's synthetic muscles were still burning by the time she reached Alexylva. Dr. Crow either had not thought to redesign the development of lactic acid in overexerted muscles or had not found it possible to eliminate the pain. Or he hadn't concerned himself with minutiae like this.

The roads of Alexylva, as with most of the cities of this civilization, were designed in concentric circles around a central acropolis. The origin of this was an attempt to integrate Greek worship of Apollo with one of the indigenous religions' creation myths. Neither of the religious practices were legal in the Novomundan state, though precepts of both remained throughout the society, a fact virtually unknown to the vast majority of the nation's citizenry. Olympia approached the large exterior street of the city, marked clearly as "CIRCLE CXLI", and she could see a cross-street nearby marked "RADIUS PARMENIDES". Alexylva University was seventy circles farther inward and five radii clockwise, Olympia knew. She continued walking.

All of the first houses she came to were unoccupied. The city was clearly planned out to an extent that was never necessary for its population; these houses were old, smelled old. Likely never lived in. She continued inward and found houses with slightly more signs of life, but still empty. Abandoned. No signs of actual battle; the citizens were afraid of something more abstract. Sheer political uncertainty can have that effect. As she drew closer to the university, she heard shouting and sporadic discharging of some kind of weapon, a staccato rhythm that is recognizable in any environment. The buildings of the University were only slightly larger than the houses immediately surrounding it; this universe was unfamiliar with zoning regulations as such. She passed a series of houses, another radius ("RADIUS HERACLITUS", she saw), and was immediately on the Alexylva campus. The Natural Philosophy complex was nearby.

Entire military units were engaged several blocks away, Olympia heard. Whatever weaponry they were using, it was energy-based; toroids of violet plasma blasted down the street and scorching the pavement as whichever army was coming toward the University missed their target. Screams came from the same direction. She continued toward the Natural Philosophy building. Due to what she would call luck if she didn't know better, the most immediate armed guard was distracted as she approached; she died immediately, and Olympia was now armed. She proceeded inside the building.
You have already forgotten about the guard. She lived a dark life and died with no meaning.

Two individuals survived the destruction of Site 38, rescued by Rho-1 and helicoptered away before the bombs began to drop. Commander Lopez looked at the two, both sleeping. The researcher had awoken by the time Lopez and his men had gotten there, and she and the prisoner were crying in one another's arms when the soldiers came into the room. They were in each other's arms on the helicopter as well; they were virtually inseparable, and Lopez didn't have time to argue with them. It was some kind of sweet, and Lopez couldn't deny it was a little refreshing after the hell he just pulled them out of.

Though he couldn't help wondering what made these two so goddamn special in the first place.
It is a dark world. Lopez knows this. Isham Harris taught him this, and it would not be the last time he remembered it.

Jaime MacGilligan looked at Greg Eastman, as well as she could. A grazing shot to the head had split her skull open, and her eyes were not working exactly as they should have been. But the pain was keeping the microchips at bay, and she saw him nevertheless.

Of course she had always loved him. Nothing romantic; he barely registered as a man in any kind of romantic sense. No, Greg had always been…had always been some kind of a brother to her. Worked together ever since initial training. Spent more time together than most romantically involved opposite-sex couple in human history in all the years since, let alone two friends. And now they would die together.

Eastman looked at Jaime, seeing much the same thing. He would have been crazy to have never felt anything sexual for Jaime over the years, as she had for him, but they were both professionals—and smart enough not to get involved in that kind of thing. They were comrades, tovarischi.

They heard the planes overhead, heard their erstwhile superior cackling like a madman to their side, but all they saw was each other as the bombs hit.
The author demanded a sacrifice. I could not save them all. Their stories end here. I am so sorry.

There is a detailed story to be told of Olympia's seizure of the Natural Philosophy building, but it has little purpose here. Suffice it to say that a combination of stealth, overwhelming strength, and literal foreknowledge of minute details of personnel movements gave Olympia an insurmountable advantage over all opposition within the building.

Olympia reached the bottom floor of the building. The counterform reactor was enormous, an experimental prototype; the chancellor of the University, Anaxagoras, had been rather insistent that Alexylva remain relevant in the scientific advancement of the nation. Nevertheless, given the rather horrific potential consequences of the possible release of the reactor's energy, certain precautions were simply obvious. Putting the reactor underground was one of them. Not that that's going to help them much now, Olympia thought grimly as she made her way across one of the catwalks.

She was suspended midway in the air above the reactor when everything happened very quickly. A chuffing, a shrieking sound. A bright light rushing from her peripheral vision. A groaning sound as a plasma wake melted and ripped the catwalk apart directly in front of her, destroyed the supports for the stretch of catwalk she was standing on. A rush of panic as the metal beneath her feet fell away from her, as she felt herself plummeting to the solid glass floor of the reactor chamber. The wet thunk of her own skull slamming against the floor.

Footsteps walking towards her. A quiet growling speech, in a language Olympia didn't fully recognize. She could pick out a couple of words; a couple of Greek, one of Arabic, but nothing coherent. Finally, the voice (male, she recognized) began repeating one word. Slurring it at first, but as his pronunciation grew sharper, she could make out what he was saying.

"Fun…funshen," he said. "Founshen. Foundashen. F…Foundation. You…Foundation."

There is a remarkably climactic scene that occurs when Anaxagoras arrives in the counterform reaction chamber. Milephanes is still there. Olympia has lost consciousness, regained it, and is pretending to be asleep. Anaxagoras sneaks up on Milephanes and disarms him. The two battle hand-to-hand using a variety of arcane martial arts techniques; the former using an incredibly well-crafted and honed skill with older, traditional school of combat, the latter using a less-disciplined fighting style whose unpredictability catches Anaxagoras off-guard at many times during the fight. A symbolic metaphor is played out rather graphically, written on the glass floor in blood and sweat. This is the battle between old and young, between progression and reaction, between Zeno's arrow and the man duped into holding the target.

When it is done, when the hourglass of this eternal dance runs out of sand, Olympia kills the survivor and takes the plasma weapon. I will not tell you which one of them won, because as I watched them fight, I watched them die, and I watched them dissolve into gamma rays and dust a bare half-hour later. Death transcends all victories.

A small quantity of motile self-propagating rock has been placed a very specific distance outside of the city of Alexandria. It is growing into the shape of a small animal and making haste away from the city as quickly as possible. It will not be seen again until it wishes to be, and until its master wishes it to be.

I had shown Olympia what the correct sequence of controls would be to overload the counterform reactor. She remembered very well. She carried out the sequence and left the building as quickly as was possible, and began running again.
She would not have survived. Less than a second before the reactor detonated, there was one more flash of light.

So much variety with assassinations. I think it is why I interfere in so many of them. I do not wish to give the impression that I am omnipotent; I have limitations the same as any being, when viewed from an objective standpoint. I cannot see everything, and I cannot see all possible futures. With assassinations, the futures take very concrete forms. Once the redundancies work their way out of the system and the bands narrow into stronger paths, there will be perhaps a dozen possible futures for they, the living, to inhabit. I believe this satisfies a still-beating primitive urge within me for cleanliness.

I had never deliberately converted a power generation facility into a weapon of mass destruction while enabling a sentient, warlike telepathic imperialist to begin infesting a planet. I never went on to perform such an action again, either, and unique actions are so rare for me. When the reactor fully destabilized into a matter-antimatter explosion, I saw all of the possible futures. Never before were the worlds so bleak, so devoid of hope.

I saw the detonation, the energy and matter being ripped apart and blasted across the landscape. It was so near to sunset, too; the view was magnificent. Hundreds of thousands died; the voluntary evacuation of Alexandria of Forests had allowed the number to be so low. Those that died had entered the city armed and intending to kill one another. They burned together.

I saw the beginnings of the swarm. The rock soldiers and their master had learned from the previous encounter with humans, and became smarter. The rocks bred new armies and attacked piecemeal. The attacks picked up, killing a few more here and there, destroying more properties, building new outposts for their own reproduction. When the true battles come, they could hardly be called that. The rock armies of Anesidora are legion, they are perfect of allegiance as they fight the philosophically fragmented human enemies. No mercy. No retreats. Prisoners only for food; by the end, Anesidora must breed humans as cattle to keep herself fed.

There were deviations from this, from time to time, but this was the overarching future of Novomundus. Alexylva University burned and fell, barely ahead of its patron city that burned and fell around it. The nation that housed the city burned and fell before one of Alexylva's creations, writ large and filled with rage. A timeline that should never have happened drifted into the ashheap.

It was a sloppy job. It will do.

A man sits in a recliner, sunset-orange cat purring directly to his left. A laptop is the only source of light in the room. He considers the amount of time he has spent working on the project he is completing, the amount of time spent considering, writing, rewriting, editing, opening and altering only a few words before closing it again, and falling asleep before the project. He has an anxiety about showing his work to others, the anxiety he always feels. He is always afraid of rejection. He faced quite a bit of it over the year and a half since he started the project. He dismisses those others who take too seriously the opinions others have of his work, but deep down, he will always see everyone who doesn't take away from his work exactly what he anticipated them to take away as a failure. A personal defeat. He considers erasing the whole thing, leaving the story unfinished. So few people are left even to care, now.

He considers his wife in the bedroom next door. Some rejection over that year and a half, yes. Some things lost. But so, so much more gained. He smiles, publishes his work, and closes the circle.

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