Casual Play Astrogation

Rho Wells Malakai 67j (Arctostaphy)

Almost the instant you pop back from between-space, you feel something reach into you– a presence, powerful and inquisitive. Your brow wrinkles a little, lips part, and then it's gone, feels like a phantom in the passing, like a shadow that was never really there.

And then you hear it. You hear it like a voice resonating through your mind.

Curious one, it says. Most who come here come seeking knowledge or guidance. You do not. You come seeking an experience, seeking a story, something novel. There's a pause. It is refreshing.

A world comes into view as the ship shifts toward it. Huge, gray-pink, it seems less like a sphere and more like something straining against its own gravity, something living.

You know me as Rho Wells Malakai 67j, but my true name is something much less complex, much more full of meaning. Mhyrrr is what I call myself, as I am still as an embryo within an egg, a mind dreaming, waiting to be born. In the language of those that came before me, the name reflects all of this and more, so much more.

The voice is powerful, sweeps through you like the timbre of an ancient, benevolent god. Thoughts twist and brew within you, never form into words, but the world, the mind within the world seems to understand, seems to siphon all of the meaning from the unspoken concepts still fighting to coalesce into coherence.

I have been conscious since before the birth of your world, and many species from many different star systems have come to visit me during my long gestation. I have seen empires sprout from single planets, spread across the galaxy and beyond, then atrophy and die, disappear utterly until only the barest traces remain, disconnected and empty of meaning for anyone but me. Your species is no more or less unique among those that have plied the heavens than you as an individual are among your own kind. You are as much an embryo within an egg as I. We are all gestating, and only those who have ascended to birth know the lessons and the experiences that are still yet to come for us.

A cascade of images follows, comes as fast as water from a fire hose. You choke on the stream, try to take it all in, fight to understand. Faces, forms of life, countless different variations, and so many that don't make sense, don't seem possible. Ships, civilizations, ways of being, cultures that aren't cultures and societies so advanced or so complex your mind can't grasp all of the details. It's a battle just to stay conscious, to keep your mind from collapsing in on itself. The planet maintains the stream of information until everything starts to fade to black at the edges of your eyes– and then it ends suddenly, snaps off, leaves you reeling.

That is just a glimpse of the wonders I have seen. The universe is vast, far more vast than you may ever be capable of comprehending, and it grows stranger, more complex with each passing moment. Keep your sense of curiosity, and never let your awareness become so focused that the world around you becomes flat and colorless. There is so much still to be seen, to be known. Go now, and seek it. Seek the secrets that wait to be discovered.

You're not sure whether it's Mhyrrr or you that spins up the ship's phasedrive. It feels like both, like neither, but either way, in a moment, you're back in between-space, bound to your next destination.


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