Chapter VIII: The Arrival

Risona found himself in another surreal dreamscape. He was again seeing with a familiar face, and two figures stood beside to him. Cullen and Lisa were embracing each other, and both were quite surprised to see who remained in front of them. The sounds of a shore were heard in all directions, and everyone seemed to be residing on shoreline with a bright ocean and a boundless bleached infinity in all directions.

"Hello, Gazer," Risona replied. "It's been a while."

"Nice to see you, too, Daedalus," the Gazer replied. "I see you've tried changing your name after your last run in, but the Abomination still recognizes you."

Both Lisa and Cullen gasped. Risona turned to face both nonchalantly and remarked, "It may be shocking, but we should listen to the Gazer for now. I'll explain later."

"Where are we?" Lisa asked.

"This place has several names, Lisa," the Gazer replied. "Some are more poetic than others. There's the Beach of Nothingness, Eternity's Edge, the Dirac Shore, or the eponymous Abyss I gaze into."

"So, that's the Sea of Dirac?" Risona asked, pointing towards the inverted-color ocean. "You've mentioned it before, but I must confess, this is the first time I've seen it from a distance."

"Yes, Daedalus, but you do recall the time you were thrown into it?" the Gazer's skeletal face smirked.

"Not particularly well," Risona answered. "But if you called us all here, you've undoubtedly have something important to tell us."

"Ah, always to the point, Daedalus. That is one thing I like about you," the Gazer continued. "The reason I'm giving you this vision is simple: The Abomination Machine is going to be waking up soon."

"And we have to stop it?" Cullen suggested.

"No. That's quite impossible, I'm afraid. Do you not feel it trying to draw you towards it, and get its missing component back?" the Gazer responded. "Even if something happened to you, the gear's horrid burden would be passed to one of your friends or loved ones. It has done so countless times over the ages."

"Just what is the Abomination Machine, then?" Lisa inquired. "And what does it plan to do when it takes up?"

"The Machine is far older than this world, and technically, doesn't consciously plan to do anything. It simply acts out a program that's built into it," the Gazer explained. "And that program is the systematic annihilation of the dominant forms of sentient species. As you are probably aware, your world has a history of different sapients achieving reaching heights of civilization, and then takes them down."

"How?" Cullen asked. "If it wants to destroy the world, and it woke up several times before, why are we still around?"

"To be honest, that is one thing I am not sure about," the Gazer replied. "Though I have many theories. Personally, I believe it has been toying with the inhabitants of your world for the last several billion years. Perhaps it gained a personality of sorts over the ages. Perhaps it is programmed to wait for several iterations of life to appear before going for complete annihilation. Or perhaps it's been saving all of its energy for a complete planetary sterilization."

"There has to be some way to stop it!" Cullen protested. "What if it just wants to destroy human and Vox civilization, and then go back to sleep like normal?"

"I am quite confident there is no way to stop it," the Gazer added grimly. "That has been the focus of my research for quite a while. However, you three are uniquely qualified to be here."

"And why?" Lisa asked. "And why not the leaders of the Hegemony, Xian, or the Triumvirate?"

"Because they aren't immune to the Withering," the Gazer explained. "You, Cullen, and Daedalus are the only three people in the Triumvirate capable of surviving the upcoming cataclysm. The Deluge is inevitable, but it can be survived."

"Then how will the world end?" Cullen asked. "And how the hell do we survive?"

"The Abomination will open portals to the Sea of Dirac, causing an infinite flow of antimatter particles into your matter-filled world and atmosphere. Before it does so, it will likely toy with any civilizations before it obliterates the world," the Gazer continued. "Your task is simple: You must survive and rebuild."

"That doesn't seem too hard," Lisa continued. "All we need's a bunker with some canned goods, survival gear, and thaumaturgically-created rations, and we're fine!"

"I'm afraid it's not that simple," the Gazer replied. "While you three are immune to the Withering, you are not immune to certain side effects. For instance, while you might survive the Abomination weakening the fabric of time, the creatures it summons could still kill you."

"How are we immune?" Cullen inquired. "If we know why, then we might have a better chance of surviving."

"I was getting to that. All three of you have a strong will, a type of determination and willpower extremely uncommon amongst your kind. Cullen's drive to excel in anything, Lisa's exceptional willpower, and Daedalus' will to survive are all excellent examples," the Gazer explained. "However, due to a certain complex arrangement of multi-planar variables, the best way to survive the Abomination is to be near the center of where it wakes up."

"Maybe I'm a little skeptical, but how the hell will remaining near a world-destroying entity allow for our survival?" Cullen protested. "I'd think getting off this planet might be a good move."

"You're all familiar with hurricanes and a good number of tropical storms. Let's just say the vortex of thaumaturgical energies that the Abomination will summon will level a center area fairly unscathed. It is your task to get to the eye of the storm, and take anyone you can with you. The people on this expedition would be a good bet, but you cannot persuade most of them," the skeletal figure explained. "As for space travel or dimension hopping, I am afraid that is no long term solution. It simply shows the Abomination Machine other worlds it can destroy."

"Gazer, I could tell these two my story. That should answer a lot of their questions," Giovanni Risona added. "The Abomination Machine almost awoke during the Twilight Wars. Let's just say it's been taking a nap since then. Our world's been existing on borrowed time since then."

"Shit!" Cullen exclaimed.

"Don't worry, Cullen. If anyone I know can survive this, it's gotta be you!" Lisa added.

"I would stay to answer more questions, but I must say it's time for you to get moving," the Gazer interjected. "Your ships have arrived at Ultima Thule, and they're going to be loading you onto Amfitracks with the Marines. Your task is to find the Abomination, and I'll contact you then."

"I don't think we'll have to worry about finding it, Doctor," Risona commented. "It will find us. It wants to fix itself. We've got to play it for our advantage, and get in close enough to survive."

"A good strategy, but I do have a bit of advice," the Gazer suggested. "The man you know as Beppo has made a deal with the Abomination. I suggest trying to avoid directly dealing with it whenever it tries contacting you. But, for now, goodbye."

With that, the Shores of Eternity melted away, and the waking world materialized.