Split Worlds' Nirvana

Authors: Agent Q, O'Sliggity Slice

Chapter Two: Phoenix Phenomenon

A/N: If any of you readers are confused about anything about SWN, please feel free to ask me if it is about Deviance or the current Variable Earth storyline. My e-mail is , AIM sn is AgentQ168. To ask about BDM elements contained within this story, please ask Mr. Kaye at , AIM sn is LoZPirate.

Between Dreams and Memories, Beyond Dreams and Memories, its characters, settings, and themes are copyright© Daniel Kaye. All rights reserved.

AICPALASTAEN: NIHIL'S ROOM

RAGNALS: You know you still have some time left to stay here?

NIHIL: What's the point? Besides, I want to see the world again.

(Ragnals takes a seat. Nihil continues filling his bags with strange thin glass-like sticks.)

RAGNALS: The world will be very different from how you remembered it as. If I remember correctly, it'll be twenty years since you left that physical world.

NIHIL: Perhaps I can make amends for some things...

RAGNALS: Kid, everyone says that. Octavian most of all, but listen to me here, cause I know the truth. There's rarely a chance for redemption back among the physically alive. Look I'm not trying to dash your hopes, but be realistic.

NIHIL: I know. Whatever I want forgiveness for is twenty years too late. I can deal with that. But what bothers me isn't that.

(Nihil loads a rather large silver handgun and puts it into his jacket's pocket. He takes two of the glass pieces, one red and one light violet, and inserts them into each ear.

Nihil inhales sharply as he feels the effects of the psions, then returns to normal breathing.)

NIHIL: What I don't understand is why Octavian allowed me to go back so soon. I heard that some have to stay here for more than a hundred years.

RAGNALS: He offered you a chance to reach Nirvana. I wouldn't worry too much about it since you'll be going to a higher world.

NIHIL: You're right...So how long have you waited for this moment?

RAGNALS: To tell you the truth, I never planned on going to Nirvana originally. My hopes were to reach Utopia, but forty years ago I was denied that when Ciel accused me of deserting the rest of my team.

NIHIL: Octavian often spoke about You, Ciel, and Dantes. Was that team the one that was sent into the Collective to sabotage the Antithesis project?

RAGNALS: Yeah, but only Ciel and I survived that. Oh well, that's too bad.

NIHIL: So why are you coming with me?

(Ragnals scratches his head, shrugs, and grins at Nihil before continuing-)

RAGNALS: I have my second chance, and I figure my chances are better working with you to accomplish my tasks. But let's just say that my real reason is because we're comrades, and we work together in a foreign world.

NIHIL: I wouldn't consider Earth a foreign world.

RAGNALS: There's more Earths than that one you were born, lived, and died in.

NIHIL: If I am correct, there's a Constant Earth, where I was from, and a Variable Earth, where we're going. From what I am told, Variable Earth isn't too much different from the world I'm used to.

RAGNALS: Let's hope so. Well, no more time to waste, it's time we leave.

(Ragnals picks up his own jacket, checks his pistols, and also inserts two psions into each ear.)

NIHIL: So you've gotten everything you need?

RAGNALS: Yes. Oh, by the way, we don't need to tell Cassius or Octavian, we can just go through the portal.

NIHIL: Fine with me.

(They walk out of Nihil's room and go down the hall, making a right turn into a locked room. Nihil breaks open the lock, and they walk inside.

The room is unimpressive. The only decoration is the small black cube held up by a small table in the center. Nihil and Ragnals approach it.)

RAGNALS: You first.

(Nihil touches the black cube. His body darkens and becomes less solid until he is just a shadow, and then disappears into the cube. Ragnals does the same, and a similar effect happens. After both are gone, the door to the room closes, and locks itself.)

(IN TRANSITION BETWEEN WORLDS)

(Nihil and Ragnals hover in a void similar in appearance to the Collective, but it is a true void. There is only darkness, but both men can see each other.)

NIHIL: How long do you suppose this will take?

RAGNALS: I've heard that it's instantaneous, but it feels as though it takes hours while in transition.

NIHIL: Oh. Well, wake me up when it's over.

(Nihil indeed floats away and 'lies' down to sleep. Ragnals shrugs and stares at the vividly flashing colors in the portal.)

RAGNALS: (thinking) Forty years I've waited. Now to make sure Nihil does his job right.

(Nihil turns around and sits back up after a few minutes.)

NIHIL: Hey Ragnals?

RAGNALS: Yeah?

NIHIL: Do you happen to know what my first task is?

RAGNALS: Eh, well...

(Ragnals pauses to consider what to say. He decides to tell Nihil before arriving among the living.)

RAGNALS: You know, Octavian ordered me to tell you this only after we landed on Variable Earth, but I suppose it can't hurt. Your first task is to gain sixteen allies over the course of two weeks.

NIHIL: That's it?

RAGNALS: Not quite. I didn't hear everything, but Octavian and Cassius mentioned something about one person having information about the second task who you must make as an ally.

(Nihil laughs. He leans back against nothing and closes his eyes.)

NIHIL: You know, I thought it would've been something more challenging. I know Octavian, and so do you. We both know that he wouldn't tell me outright my first task. Much less through you...

(Ragnals shakes his head.)

RAGNALS: Have it your way then. Oh, by the way, we're here. I think.

(Nihil sits up and stares in the direction Ragnals is pointing at. Indeed there is an opening that emits a bright white light, although it is too small for even a hand to pass through.)

RAGNALS: Ready?

NIHIL: I guess, unless there's something important I need to know, like paradoxes. Remember what Cassius warned us about?

RAGNALS: There won't be any paradoxes. In theory, that is nearly impossible since we never existed on Variable Earth. Basically, we're being born...Again.

NIHIL: Like the mythical phoenix...

RAGNALS: Say something?

(Nihil shakes his head. No.

Ragnals turns away to face the opening and puts his hand through it. Immediately his body loses definition and in less than a second he disappears from the altered reality. Nihil follows him; in the process he feels his body vanishing, and sees only intense white light.)

VARIABLE EARTH: DENORES

(Strong smells of alcohol, drunken laughter and singing, and the occasional fights are considered normal in the Flatrock Inn. Or it may be that everyone is intoxicated out of their wits, for no one pays any attention when four strangers, all dressed in a bizarre fashion, step inside.

The one leading the group sports a pair of goggles which serve no particular purpose, holding in his mouth an unlit cigarette. Closely following him is a younger man wearing a grey suit. If only a pair of shades and black gloves came with the suit, the people might have taken him for a member of the Jotunheim Secret Police that was lately becoming more common. Lagging behind the two are a weathered tanned man in full regalia of the Zaqa'ari royal guard, and someone in a long brown robe.

The group makes its way to the landlord of the inn, and the leader whispers a few words with him. The landlord beckons them to follow him into a storage room.)

GEIST: So here's the deal, Vince, I'll give you joint ownership of my ship if you can guarantee that my crew and I'll have free shelter, and if you can make reparations to my ship and have it ready to fly in four days. And keep it hidden in your big storage facility or whatever you call that garage you keep smugglers' ships in.

VINCE: Four days isn't a lot of time. How bout we say ten days, I'll give you all free food, drinks, and rooms, and when the ship is fixed, I'll let you guys take your pick at my ship upgrades for a third off.

CYE: We don't have ten days to waste! In case you're blind, there're vicious monsters out there!

VINCE: So I've noticed. The harpies don't usually land anywhere close to the city limits, otherwise they get shot through with bullets.

GEIST: I said four days...

KADAR: Hey guys, four days or ten days, what's the rush?

CYE: We can't waste any time warning Ramse about Pious!

(Vince shifts in place, noticeably.)

VINCE: Might you want o reconsider how loudly you say that?

CYE: What?

(Vince leans forward. The group huddles to hear him whisper.)

VINCE: softly Well, there's rumors going around that Jotunheim and its allies are going to war with Tantalus and its allies. Basically what's going down is a war between the east and west sides of the Aquamagne.

CYE: But Ramse would never declare war on Jotunheim, especially since he has so many friends in the Senate.

VINCE: Don't take my word for it, cause I only hear rumors, but what I hear is that President Milenkov, or as you might call him Ramse, was on a business mission to the small town south of Tantalus, Venor.

CYE: True...

VINCE: He also took his elite bodyguards; I think they're called the Felgat? Judging by your outfit, I suppose you're also one of his bodyguards. Mmm...

CYE: What?

VINCE: Oh nothing.

(Cye gets what Vince is implying and in his embarrassment grabs Vince by his collar.)

CYE: I'll have you know that I'm one of Ramse's best. The only reason I didn't go with the rest of the team to Venor was because I was ordered to investigate the arcane energies gathering in Zaqa'ari and Tal Eleno.

(Vince attempts to free himself, unsuccessfully, from Cye's grasp.)

VINCE: Okay I get it. You're good.

(Cye slowly releases his grip on Vince. Vince backs off and brushes himself.)

CYE: Don't insult me like that again, or you'll see exactly how good I am.

(Vince gulps visibly and audibly. At this, Cye and Geist burst out laughing.)

GEIST: You didn't really think we'd hurt you, right?

CYE: Yeah, you're the one person we can trust in a tight spot.

(Vince smiles, and he too starts laughing.)

KADAR: Can someone explain to me here what just happened?

GEIST: You weren't with us at Kriist, when we were reclaiming rebel territories back under the government of Tantalus.

CYE: If it wasn't for Vince, we would've never had a chance...

CONSTANT EARTH: CORE CITY

BLITZ: (thinking) ...never had a chance to get answers.

(One person sits in a cozy bar in heavily industrialized Core City. He is Blitz Thorman. By day, he is the successful CEO of the biggest company in categorizing and collecting ancient artifacts; by night, he smuggles these artifacts to be put on display.

Blitz has lived this double life ever since he took over his father's business when he was nineteen. That was seven years ago. In those seven years, a total of two hundred sixteen artifacts have been reported missing. The supposed thieves were never caught. That is, until today, when evidence was traced back to Blitz.)

BLITZ: (thinking) I had everything I wanted. A ten-million-dollar estate, stocks worth billions, even my own TV show.

(Blitz rises from his seat to leave. His first few steps are shaky, but he soon recovers and continues walking aimlessly in the streets.

The city is gloomy, dark, and polluted with the sounds of machines and the exhaust the machines release. As Blitz walks, it begins to rain. Heavy drops of poisonous water fall on the eroded concrete.)

BLITZ: (thinking) My court appearance is scheduled in five days. Screw that. I'd be damned if I was doing something wrong. Those assholes at my company certainly had no use for those artifacts. Hell, at least by smuggling them out they would have been set on display in a museum. But no, the company policy states that all items labeled as historically significant must remain in the company vault. Company my ass. Everything in this world's bound by rules, laws, the whole shit load of them. Where's that thing they used to call privacy?

(Blitz continues walking, lost in his thoughts, when a hoverbike speeds past him, missing him by inches.)

BIKER: Keep yer blood off da streets, jacka!

BLITZ: (thinking) Exhaust. Funny, I don't think I ever felt sickened by it before. Damn this modernization! All there is now is pollution. Everything tastes bitter, just like the smoke. The air I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat, everything's bitter! ...Or is it just because my world is falling? Maybe it's not just my world. Maybe this whole world's going to hell.

(Blitz walks into the front lobby of the Gold Glitter Motel. He gets his keys from the desk, and steps into the elevator.)

BLITZ: (thinking) They confiscated my house. The vultures. Left nothing behind for me but two hundred dollars. Those backstabbing, conniving snakes! If it wasn't for me, none of them would have ever had half the money they have now. But I guess that's the state of the world we live in now. What, with three world wars, six years of nuclear winter, and the Great Plague, we still don't realize that we're destroying ourselves. What the Hell.

(The elevator stops on the sixteenth floor, and Blitz exits. He walks down two rooms to stop at his own.)

BLITZ: (thinking) Now the world has become one where those who try to make us remember what it means to be human are arrested. The good are tried as criminals, and the fugitives prosper.

(Blitz turns the key and opens the door. Inside. The room is completely bare except for a small, hard bed.)

BLITZ: (thinking) Only thirty-six dollars left. That'll get me through three more days, then I'm on the streets. Damn sharks. Tried to take everything from me, but they failed.

(Blitz takes out a small, black, leather-bound book. He sets it on his bed.)

BLITZ: (thinking) The company said that those artifacts we collected were useless and kept only for classification, and then they were to be sealed away to prevent damages to them. You didn't think I was that stupid, did you? I know those relics served a purpose. I hope that whatever it was you wanted to use them for, those museum curators would prevent by setting them on public display.

(Blitz sits down on the bed. He picks up the book and examines it.)

BLITZ: (thinking) If you knew I had this book, you'd send your...my agents after me. Hell, I know you know I have this book with me. It's only a matter of time. Three days? Four? Five at most. I know you guys. You'll come for me right before my court appearance-make it all look like an accident. I know. You guys did it to twelve of my employees behind my back. Then you execs did it to six of my managers who displayed a certain interest over our finds. So what was so important about those pieces of ancient history?

(Blitz opens the book now and starts talking to the book.)

BLITZ: What makes you so special? Why were you, of all items collected, selected to be put in the maximum security vault and watched by at least five guards at all times?

(Blitz flips through pages, skimming the texts to find anything interesting.)

BLITZ: (thinking) Ah, written in Enochian I suppose. Judging by its looks, this book must have been written centuries, perhaps millennia, before Dee and Kelley were even born. Most interesting. I should've read this before. Now which artifacts does this book list?

(Blitz flips through more pages until he stops on one page that is written in slightly stylized Enochian script.)

BLITZ: History of the two great towers: Babel and Zeno. I think I remember having seen a map locating the Tower of Babel, but I've never heard of Zeno. Let's read.

VARIABLE EARTH: RUINS OF ZAQA'ARI

(Nihil and Ragnals materialize in a deserted city. Hot sand blows around them; not a living thing is in sight.)

RAGNALS: Of all the places we could have been, here!

NIHIL: Is there any explanation for this?

(Ragnals paces around a bit, thinking.)

RAGNALS: I never paid attention to Aicpalastaen's explanations about going back to a material world, but I have a theory.

NIHIL: Yeah?

RAGNALS: You were the one who was meant to reincarnate. I came along for the ride. So this place must have a significant place in your life.

(Nihil looks around him. He smells the air. It smells thick and poisonous, as if something evil passed through recently.)

NIHIL: I don't remember anyplace like this.

RAGNALS: You sure? The place feels...heavy.

NIHIL: I know.

RAGNALS: Perhaps this place has changed since you last visited? Couldn't the place have been hit by a disaster?

NIHIL: It may be, but this place was always a desert. If some disaster caused this to happen, I don't see how even those mud huts can still survive.

(Ragnals looks at what Nihil is talking about. Sure enough, the numerous small dwellings along the perimeter of Zaqa'ari remain untouched.)

RAGNALS: We should search for survivors then.

NIHIL: The palace?

RAGNALS: I was thinking we should check these smaller house first and work our way to the center.

NIHIL: Agreed.

(The two split up to search opposite sides of the city. Ragnals takes the north side, and Nihil takes the south side.)

VARIABLE EARTH: RUINS OF ZAQA'ARI-FIVE MINUTES LATER

(Nihil and Ragnals meet up at the gates of the palace. Neither has found anyone. Most bothering is the fact that no bodies are present.)

NIHIL: You feel that?

RAGNALS: Whatever did this to the city is strongest here.

NIHIL: But what can do this? If there were bodies littered around this city, it might be disease, famine, or such. But no bodies. It's as if everyone disappeared into thin air, just like on Roanoke.

RAGNALS: Let's find out.

(Nihil and Ragnals enter the palace. They are soon surrounded by thick golden mist, the same mist that consumed all but two inhabitants of Zaqa'ari.

This mist seems to have no effect on Nihil and Ragnals, however. The powers behind the mist realize this, and the mist recedes to form a 14-foot-tall monster with spikes bristling from its back, rabid red eyes, and sharp teeth and claws.)

NIHIL: Woah.

(The monster hears Nihils short statement and immediately pounces on Nihil. Nihil survives, however, by the enhanced reflexes granted by one of his psion crystals.)

RAGNALS: Keep him busy, and I'll take him down.

(Ragnals pulls out his two semi-automatic pistols and fires rounds into the beast, which seems to achieve nothing more than divert its attention to Ragnals.)

RAGNALS: Oh crap.

(The monster charges at Ragnals, who, also utilizing his psions, jumps away before the creature strikes.)

NIHIL: The hell is this thing?

RAGNALS: In all honesty, I don't know. But I think it's safe to say we're not on the same planet anymore.

(The beast circles Nihil and lunges, claws extended to the max. Nihil jumps out of the way again. By this time, the beast is really frustrated so it lashes out recklessly.

Nihil and Ragnals see this and use the creature's mistakes against it. Nihil continues to run away from the beast while Ragnals charges his psions into his pistols.

The beast pounces on Nihil, and Ragnals sees his chance. He pulls the triggers and two yellow bolts explode from his guns. They strike the monster on its abdomen, leaving two gaping holes.

The monster is surprised and it staggers a few steps before falling and evaporating into mist.)

RAGNALS: Good way to come back to life, eh Nihil?

NIHIL: Question now is, if this thing is the cause of whatever happened here, why didn't it leave bodies?

RAGNALS: Ate them, most likely.

(Nihil scans the room for any signs of the strange mist. Seeing none, he shrugs and walks further inside the palace.)

VARIABLE EARTH: ZAQA'ARI PALACE TREASURY

NIHIL: That monster, it came from the mist.

RAGNALS: I know.

NIHIL: Did you sense he energies it emitted?

RAGNALS: What energies? If you mean psions, then you must be crazy.

NIHIL: Not psions...

(Ragnals arches an eyebrow after Nihil says this. After giving it only a few seconds thought, Ragnals responds-)

RAGNALS: Certainly not symbiotes!

NIHIL: Not that either.

(Nihil and Ragnals continue to walk through the debris piled on the floor of the treasury. As they walk, they continue speaking.)

RAGNALS: Do you know what it was, then?

NIHIL: You come from the same world I do, right?

RAGNALS: Earth.

NIHIL: Then we both know about the occult.

RAGNALS: Heard of it, never believed in it, never seen it work. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't exist. But from what you're saying, I take it you're saying that this creature was summoned through magic?

NIHIL: My theory.

RAGNALS: I guess it could work in this world, wherever this is.

(They now search in silence. Although they both seem hard at work and extremely conscientious of the task at hand, in truth, neither of the two knows what he is looking for.)

NIHIL: There's no trace of any human life anymore. Shall we keep searching?

RAGNALS: Forget it. We probably won't find anything here. Let's go.

(Ragnals and Nihil climb back up the cracked staircase and exit the palace. Unknown to them, however, is the fact that all along, the bodies they searched for were scattered around the city. It was only an illusion played by the mist that prevented them from seeing hundreds of lifeless people.)

VARIABLE EARTH: DENORES, VINCE'S HOUSE

(Geist, Cye, Kadar, Hamaan, and Vince sit around a large round table in the living room, telling stories. The fireplace in the corner gives off a warm glow so the lights are off.

Vince's house is surprisingly large, given that the owner is a bartender. Then again, he's not only a bartender but also a dealer in the marketing of airships.)

GEIST: So now you all know the reason we're all friends.

KADAR: I got most of it, but I lost you by the time you started talking about the octopus in the engine room and how Engels tried to set it on fire with a cigarette or something.

GEIST: You idiot! The octopus latched onto my leg when I had to make an emergency landing on a $hitty little island a few miles off Halberd Island. And the engine room part...I'll repeat this only once! Engels once lit up a cigarette in the engine room and almost blew us all to pieces. Speaking of the fool, where is he? And where's the other fool Marcks?

(Vince, who moments ago left to get more drinks, comes back with two bottles of wine.)

VINCE: Amazing what they'd do to get inside my newest addition.

CYE: You made them clean your whole hangar top to bottom using only a rag.

(Vince chuckles, sets down the drinks, pours them into five glasses, and sits.)

VINCE: Something like that.

HAMAAN: Excuse me, I don't mean to be judgmental, but isn't that a bit cruel?

VINCE: Nah, compared to what I've seen them capable of doing, this'll be a piece o' cake for them.

GEIST: Hell man, don't remind me. I still have nightmares from that time those two tore up most of the lower deck to find the last case of beer I hid from them.

CYE: That was really fun, guys! It was particularly pleasing to tear apart those moldy planks.

(With all the alcohol soaking in Geist's brain, somehow Cye's statement registers.)

GEIST: Wait a minute, kid. You were in this too?

CYE: How else would we get you to change those planks? Plus I wanted in on the beer.

GEIST: You idiot!

(Geist jumps out of his seat and begins chasing Cye. Both are slightly intoxicated, so they trip over the furniture.)

VINCE: (thinking) Oh dear, I better tell the maids they're doing overtime...

A/N: W00t! And you probably thought I disappeared from the face of the Earth. Ah, but am I glad spring break's finally begun. Now I can hopefully get more progress done. In case you're wondering, chapter 3 is coming along. It may be up in about four or five days. Anyway, take care now. Bye.