Mort d' Gaea

Zed was saddened to see Venus go. In his four billion years he’d watched as centuries became millennia, millennia became megs, megs merged into Cys, and soon--in cosmic terms--he would fulfill his charge to share in the death of Earth. It was bloody well time.

Big Red gobbled Venus up in his inexorable ballooning dominance. All quite predictable, right up till Red expanded to fill Earth's daytime sky. Of course Zed had moved to Pangea before that, a small continent hovering on a magnetic flux-field above the magma surface in the umbra of what used to be the blue-green oasis of Earth.

That’s when Gaea showed up.

It had been a couple of Cys since the Earth Galactic Park had visitors. Zed had sent the welcome package to the approaching ship, but Gaea, and her companion Cronus were still running at TD100k. It would take them a while to respond to his TD10k message with more than their identity record. Zed hadn't expected anyone to show up for his demise.

Pangea was ready for visitors. MIs didn’t bother visiting. Machines had no need for personal experience, so these folks must be mostly human. Humans would be comfortable in the flux-field-enclosed biosphere. Quantum tunnels pumped heat out of the system, allowing it to remain suitable for habitation. Zed lived in a modest two-story tree house built amongst a grove of baobabs. The second story reception room opened out to panoramas of jungle on one side, and a forest garden on the other. One wall currently projected the day-side-view: the red-giant sun with a few stars still visible around the edge. Another wall projected an ocean scene, synthesized from data collected when the Earth still had water.

Zed switched to TD1. He picked some flowers to decorate the hall. He wandered up that a way, noting the shuttle slowly landing from his TD1 perspective. The flowers would be dead and dust after he sped back up to TD10k to meet the guests, but a holo would project their uniqueness for the meeting.

Gaea's first appearance was unremarkable: a floating sphere with human facial features, 70cm in diameter, and mostly covered with an integrated buckytube intelligence-flux shield. She positioned herself floating in front of the sea with a view into the garden. Finding Zed, seated on a deep cushioned chair she quickly focused on other things in the room. The image in his message had been the conventional human sphere. His real body was the primitive, hairy, bipedal-form humans had abandoned twelve Cy ago, along with the related animal necessities.

“Greetings Zed Adams,” Gaea looked past him into the lush foliage beyond. “We have come to restore hope for mankind and our birthplace.”

As she spoke, a chorus of human descendants of every variation formed an endless array, displacing the sea screen and beyond. “Our sacred home is sterile. We have reincarnated the gods that they might re-kindle the passion of life for the people,” the quantumnet projected chorus said.

“Ah, hi,” Zed said. As his eyes darted among the holo population individuals came into focus. Forms and fashions he’d never wanted to imagine. Adaptation for environments made sense, but that was too practical for today’s humans. Multifaceted jewel-like forms to amebic blobs caught his eye. “Welcome to what remains of Earth.”

"We are a commissioned troupe, sent to dramatize the death and resurrection of mankind's planet of origin." Gaea's eyes lit up, and a glory of joy shone about her sphere.

"Troupe?" Zed asked. "I thought all art forms were taboo. Have been for more than ten Cy."

"That's still the case, which is why our commissioned status is so important. A few times every Meg some authority, galactic or intergalactic, authorizes a work of art. It keeps the volume down and the quality up. Legend has it that people were creating billions of different works every Meg. Just trying to find something of merit must have been horrific." Her glow gradually faded back to neutral.

She had a wonderful glow; it was easy for Zed to believe she was an actress. "It was. Still, it filled time, and trust me, that can be damned important."

“You have been on Earth a while then?”

"Since the twenty-first century," Zed answered.

"Century?" Gaea glowed from confusion to disbelief. Her eyes glazed over as she sought for memories she'd never had. Then, finding them, her glow migrated back to neutral.

"You have been around almost eighteen Cy; what a marvelous find. There were legends that Earth might still have sentient life." Gaea's glow warmed with delight. "We never hoped that we might encounter someone from prehistoric times."

Zed leaned back and watched Gaea's aura flow back and forth. Her face echoed the emanations with smiles, the lighting in her eyes, and flush tones. He had forgotten how delightful a woman could be. She was an actress selected or programmed for these charms no doubt, but charming none the less.

“People were the technologists then,” she said.

“Era of the green Earth, before the Diaspora. Time when the seed of man found passion in the womb of woman rather than the distant desperation of space,” said the chorus.

“Did you speed up megaTD’s just to experience the Earth’s last moments?” Gaea asked.

“Fat chance. Time dilation didn’t develop for millennia. Until then TD1 was the only way to live.”

"That's unthinkable." Gaea's aura phased towards ultraviolet, a combination of disbelief and disgust. "At TD1, nothing happens. It would take forever to just move between star systems. Intergalactic travel would be unthinkable."

Gaea's eyes glazed again. Her combination of innocence and range of expression intrigued Zed. She encountered the unbelievable, embraced it, and translated it to joy-filled understanding. Her emanation tracked every step of the process with a strangely satisfying flow.

"Life at TD1, what a truly strange thought. It's like some horrible magic force, dragging a person into a viscous void of deathly slow motion," she said, almost to herself.

Gaea's intense delight brought a flush to Zed's face. It had been Megs--no Cys--since he had considered a woman's attention, or been considered by a woman.

Gaea let her gaze sweep over Zed. No doubt she was sharing her view with a galaxy of vicarious participants through the quantumnet.

"This is really you, then? I mean your body. I assumed…" She fell silent.

"Yup, take it or leave it. I couldn't see bio-re-engineering mine when spheres became a fad. OK, that's not fair, it is a far more efficient form, much better for space operations. But damn it, I like the old form. I suppose I was just too old and ornery to make the change." Zed also missed those wonderful curves that made women so delightfully different.

"Everybody made the transition over twelve Cy ago. You would have been alive then."

"Hell, I was long past wishing I was dead by then," Zed answered. "You want to know what TD1 is like, try it for a thousand years, or a few million. It can get damned boring. If you can live forever, TD1 is the last way you want to live. But cut off my appendages and turn me into a meatball? No thanks."

Gaea's aura shifted from violet through a sympathetic blue into an angry/insulted scarlet.

"Now, just a second," Zed said. "I've learned to live with the more modern styles, even appreciate them. You, for example, are a very personable young lady. I'd even go so far as to say attractive, which is a term I've not used for many Cy."

"Attractive for a meatball." Gaea's aura migrated from scarlet towards pink.

She liked something about his response, but Zed was uncomfortable trying to read too much into an aura, particularly one of an actress.

"You are eighteen Cy old?” she asked, her aura fluctuating back and forth, mostly towards neutral.

"I suppose, if you put it that way; sounds better than four and a half billion years, which is what I signed up for."

"Signed up for?" Her aura returned to neutral curiosity.

"Well, humans learned how to manage the genome. We eliminated things that you never heard of, like disease, disabilities, and aging. Death became optional in most cases. Even in the first Meg we had the ability to create clones and transfer all of our memories into the new forms. Individuals need never die; and of course, space travel became practical at sub-light speeds. Boring as hell--the first interstellar team killed two of their complement before they got to their destination. Time dilation, living a hundred or thousand years as if it were one year, was a natural step. The old joke went like this: 'there’s good news and bad news about time travel; the bad news is: it's a one way trip; the good news is: that you can go as fast as you like.'"

"And you signed up for … what?"

"Oh, yes. We had a lottery at the university. The winner would get the resources and support to stay on Earth until it ended. We figured that to be four billion or more years. I was a grad-student. At the time, I thought I won the lottery. After a few million years, I was pretty sure I'd lost it. The MI were supportive of many human endeavors and bought into this commitment. Since then I've been unable to kill myself, or get killed, and of course totally unable to die by any natural means."

Gaea's aura went into a deep blue, edging towards black.

"You've been here for eighteen Cy, living at TD1. That's inhuman."

"No, not all at TD1, thank God. The first thousand years I didn't have any choice. But with dilation, I had many choices, and I've tried most of them. Before this ball of magma soup melted down, we had continents that floated on the underlying magma. They slid around the globe bumping into each other, making mountains and other impressive side effects. They move fairly slowly, a few inches per year. At TD10M you can have a pretty exciting ride, sitting on a flux buffer, playing bumper-cars with tectonic plates. I tried that in the eleventh Cy, after everyone had left. I've done some of the last few Cy at TD200M. You can actually feel the galaxy spin, see the stars dance about; it's a glorious sight. It would have been something to watch Andromeda and the Milky Way do their delicate dance, swirling around in each other's spiral arms, and finally melt into each other like passionate lovers." Zed felt his face heating up; he was glad he didn't have an aura. "But all of that action was back in the second Cy. Back then I hadn't really tried high TD rates.”

"Well, at least we will fix one of your problems. Our commission is to save the Earth from the imminent destruction that faces our common home, and restore it to its blue-green glory. Cronus is a solar engineer, and I'm a planetary bio-engineer. Our experience to share with the universe is a passion as well: lovers struggling to save and revitalize our doomed home planet. The passion has drained from the populace, and we shall restore it."

"You mean Earth?" Zed's muscles tensed up. Four point five billion years he had been waiting to die, along with this all-too-familiar planet.

"Of course Earth. The home of mankind, and MI-kind as well."

"Did it dawn on you that maybe the natural cycle of the universe was the ultimate destruction of Earth? Maybe planets this close to a star are condemned to be swallowed as the red giant grows, or to be annihilated--six Cys later--when the helium flash blasts off the last remnants of hydrogen fission and it shrinks back into the white dwarf of old age?"

"It doesn't have to be that way. Cronus can tame the sun, siphon off the last hydrogen, and help it gently into the white dwarf stage. We can bring the Earth in closer, restore the continents and oceans, and replant the spark of life for many Cys to follow."

"Stars and planets die, even this one. It is the way the universe builds complex atoms and then recycles them. Surely you understand that," What in hell were they thinking out there in some remote bureaucracy?

"But we would be saving you too." Gaea's aura careened from her blue-green compassion to a red-orange. She shut her eyes for a moment. "Ahh, you don't want to live. If we save Earth and you are committed to staying alive here, then you are imprisoned here for unlimited Cys. It is wonderfully tragic, but I don't feel good about it."

"You don't feel good about it," Zed stood. Part of him wanted to strangle that glorious ball in front of him, but she didn't have a neck. "You, and maybe even a galaxy of bored, meddling bureaucrats won't feel good. I assure you I will feel much worse. I'm not sure you can do it. I won't let you do it, not if I can find a way to stop you."

Gaea was silent for a while. "I'm afraid we can do it. As Isaac Shakespeare once said, a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. We have that magic. There are things here Cronus and I need to consider. I must leave you now."

"That's Arthur Clark. Who-the-hell is Isaac Shakespeare? Can't your historians get any of this stuff straight?" Zed found himself yelling into the simulated ocean as Gaea disappeared and the chorus dissolved.

The ocean projection in front of Zed shifted into a scene of a spacecraft control deck. The overhead dome was dominated by the giant red sun. Gaea and a second spherical person were front stage. The holo chorus stretched away in the background, reaching beyond the bulkhead of the ship.

"The quantumnet broadcast of Gaea and Cronus,” the MI voice said.

"Where have you been?" Cronus asked, an orange aura barely showing itself amidst the solar glow. "You should have notified the local authorities of our commission--they should be overjoyed at the salvation of Earth--and then come back here to help set things in motion."

"Your anger does not befit an engineer," Gaea answered.

"I was worried about you. You know our love is destined; how can I not worry?"

"Rather we were created to love each other, and establish Earth as a symbol of hope and love for the universe, just as our namesakes from mythology once did. As for your question; we don't have local authorities to deal with. We have just one resident, in fact. Unfortunately, he is not at all pleased with our mission."

"Earth is the home of our father's fathers," the chorus chanted. "We are the multitude whose roots stretch back to the now-molten Earth, even as we reach to the edges of the universe. Can one man stand between us and the renewal of our homeland? We have lost the light of love in the darkness of space. Can one man condemn us to eternal indifference?"

Cronus turned in profile, to address the virtual crowd. "I am Cronus, created to bring about the salvation of Earth. I bring the power of gods, and no man will stand against me."

"Cronus," the chorus said. "What fate awaits the man who would defy the destiny of the gods?"

"Anyone who prevents the salvation of Earth shall be banished to planet-less space, to live the eons in the cold void," Cronus said. "The cold void, is a fitting end for he who would condemn the once-warm Earth to obliteration."

"Your curse runs cold in our veins. No man will thwart the renewal of Earth, and the rekindling of love."

Cronus turned to Gaea, and looked into her eyes. "The restoration of love will be found through the lovers on Earth reborn. Gaea and her lover shall refresh the human soul."

"Keep an eye on them," Zed said to the ever-present MI. "Let me know if anything interesting comes up." The screen flowed back into an ocean. "Is our charter as a galactic park still valid?"

"Yes," the MI said, "Technically, you are still the managing director. But all of that material is eight Cys or older. In a universe where they can't separate Asimov from Shakespeare it is doubtful they will recognize a two-billion-year-old charter."

"Send in a formal protest in any case. As I recall, it was forbidden to disturb the natural processes for any of the solar planets. Direct it to the formal notice address, but then also to the current galactic authorities, whoever-the-hell that might be. And with due pomp and process, notify our friends that it has come to the attention of the Solar Park Service that their commission is in violation of whatever the old regs say, and insist that they cease and desist immediately."

Zed descended to his personal area and dropped back to TD1 for a night's sleep, an old human habit he was reluctant to abandon.

As he came back up to speed, he was not surprised to find Gaea waiting for him in the reception hall.

"This is ridiculous," she displayed a brilliant glory. "Cronus and I have our life's work set out. Our very existence commissioned and constructed to serve this noble function. We must restore a sense of love in the universe, a homecoming for mankind. Cys-old bureaucracies can't stand in our way. Don't you see the course of destiny?"

Zed contemplated her for a moment. By every galactic standard, she was perfect; her response, her timing, her demeanor. "Bravo!" he said. "Your mission, however noble, and your art are well represented."

"You mock me."

"Hardly; in eighteen Cys I’ve gained some appreciation for a good show. You are the personification of this mission, as dunderheaded as it might be. I’m sorry to disappoint you, Gaea. But I must do everything I can to stop it."

Again, her aura mellowed towards the pink. "Cronus will not allow it you know. We are personifications, accurate to an extent that only the MIs understand. As Mother Earth, I must embrace all aspects of life, even the death that you seek. But Cronus is like the sun itself, a burning drive towards a certain end."

"Mother Earth?" Zed could not help but smile. "Let me introduce you to your ward, if I may. Would you join me at TD1, and we can take a walk in the garden."

"TD1? But our audience cannot follow the events at that speed. And what could we possibly discover in an eternity of hours which could not be found as we breeze through time?"

"We won't be there forever. A few of these 'hours' you fear, at most. The quantumnet can cache our activities; forward them for time-compressed viewing. As to what you may discover … perhaps what it means to be mother here on Earth."

Gaea was quiet for a moment, timid gray edging towards yellow, then orange. She rotated down, looked upwards and said, "Yes, I will experience this aspect of your life."

They strolled out along the garden path, Zed walking, Gaea floating.

"It's so much like a still picture," Gaea said.

But even as she spoke, a butterfly fluttered by to settle down on a flower. She glowed with joy.

Zed reached down to pick one of the flowers. "A simple daisy -- their heads turn to follow the sun from morning to night. Then they look back towards morning and await its return. They die back each year, but return each spring. I should like to give this to you, but you have neither hand nor pocket to hold it."

"Perhaps to touch the Earth, a floating, well, meatball has some disadvantages," Gaea said.

"Here," Zed reached down and picked a wild rose. "Smell this." He held it to her face.

Her eyes sparkled and her smile blossomed. "It smells wonderful. But it would disintegrate if we tried to bring it back to normal speed."

"Yes. This is essential--all of life has its time. We have extended the time of man to match that of the stars, but still we must die. We must be allowed to die." He looked into her eyes.

Her aura shifted pink towards blue. "Perhaps…."

They traveled along further, toward a green pond, lily pads floating on top. The air was a-buzz with wings. Bees seeking out flowers on knee-deep buttonwoods, dragonflies skimming the pond surface, Two large indigo dragonflies swirling about them joined as they flew by.

"This is also part of Mother Earth. This is the history of the love you want to find for the universe."

"It is far more beautiful than I imagined. We have the memories of TD1, and compressed experiences. But here is the moist smell of warm mud, honeysuckle on the breeze, the drone of love on wings…."

Gaea rotated down, a small clod of dirt levitated up to her level. It gradually transformed into a pink butterfly as she smiled at it. "Through the MIs, I have the power to transform matter into life."

The butterfly fluttered about her sphere, then off over the pond.

A sudden rush of wings darted down from the canopy. The butterfly disappeared.

"That is part of life as well," Zed said.

"Yes. He would have been lonely if I had not created a mate. Yet there is joy, even in that brief moment of life. How can I not want to save it?"

"It is all saved already. Everything here exists on a million planets, living out the daily cycle of birth, love and death. Nothing here is unique; we have exported every gene and variation beyond the galaxy. The joy is there for anyone who slows down to look for it. It is all the more valuable because it is truly temporal."

Zed moved closer to Gaea. He could feel his own sense of nature awakening, and this too he wanted to share with her.

Gaea glowed with a pink background, her eyes downcast. Then suddenly she pulled back. "This isn't where I should be."

"You are Mother Earth. Where else should you be?"

"No, I mean here with you. Cronus and I must become lovers. That love is designed to bring new joy to the universe. Not this beauty here, not my…" She stopped. "We must go back."

"Of course, if you insist. But please come back with me again. Excursions here at TD1 take no time from your normal time experiences, and can help you experience the real nature of Earth."

They returned to speed, and the reception hall. Cronus was there, simmering orange-red.

"Where in Hades have you been? Our experience timing has been caching; the audience might not ever catch up," Cronus said. Behind him, the chorus now stretched into the virtual sea.

"I have been immersing myself in my role. I can't be Gaea without touching the planet and its life. It is beautiful; you should experience it."

"You are what is beautiful. My role is to experience you, and renew the life of the sun, not to get mired in the dirt of the Earth. And it matters not what some bureaucrat says from fifty thousand light years away, we will save this system as is our destiny."

"You got a response to my protest?" Zed asked.

"The ancient knot of paper seeks to bind the hands of the gods themselves," the chorus said. "Petitions from one man have tipped Themis' scale, spilling our desperate petitions like a hopeless flood into an uncaring molten sun."

"Apparently the galactic bureaucracy is bound by the rules of so many Cys ago, and will take another Cy to change it,” the MI said. "By then the sun will have completed its helium flash and Earth's continued existence will be moot."

"Come sweet death," Zed said. He danced a bit about the room, only to turn and find a red-orange ball glowering at him. One turn further revealed a pink-blue Gaea. She seemed to be crying. "Gaea? Isn't this wonderful?"

"It is what you wanted, and I want that for you. But there is so much more out in that garden," Gaea answered, "with you."

"Enough of this foolishness," Cronus said. "We have our duty to perform--our destiny to fulfill--I will not be thwarted by the drivel of some remote bureaucrat. These eyes shall not see the Earth destroyed. I was created a god, the god to rule the sun, and all that it controls. I shall be that god; they shall not stop me. Gaea, come! We shall abandon this cursed place. Do not expect to see us here again. I have spoken your fate for meddling in the affairs of gods: eternal void should you succeed, and an eternity of bounteous Earth if you fail."

Gaea looked to Zed, her eyes wide. "He can--"

Then they both disappeared.

"Can he really proceed without authority?" Zed asked the MI.

"Yes, he has the power to do it. I've researched the creation of these two. They are as close to being the personification of the Greek gods as can be established. He has substantial power, not in himself, but the equipment that supports them in their ship."

"Can I stop them?"

"You can try to destroy the ship. It is unlikely they would expect it, but the ship has significant power to resist."

"That would destroy Gaea as well?"


"Then I shall not."

"Cronus's role and affections are badly cast."

"What do you mean?"

"Cronus in Greek mythology is the father of the sun god, Helios, so there is some logic there. But he is the son of Gaea and Uranus, not Gaea's lover. Once again their historians have failed in their research."

"Why didn't the MIs correct that, at least when they constructed the pair?"

"Human error is the essence of human destiny. No doubt this pair was created exactly to the flawed human request."

"Great. We will have many more Cys to enlighten them I fear. I will head back into TD1 for some rest." Zed struck a napoleon-like stance to boldly address the now absent chorus, "To escape from future despair, too fast approaching."

Zed was awakened quietly by the MI voice.

"She's here. In the garden."

"Huh, who?"

"Gaea. She returned from the ship and is walking in the garden in TD1."

Zed jumped up and headed into the garden. It was dark, but with shadows from a simulation of moonlight. Gaea's glow, a mournful blue shone from near the pond. Zed approached slowly.

"Good evening," Zed said.

"Oh, I didn't mean to disturb you."

"You don't disturb me. You know I enjoy your company, even if I don't have an emotional aura."

Gaea floated close.

"Yes. Can you … hold me? The old human way?" Her eyes were red with tears. Tears and no hands to brush them away or hold them back.

Zed reached around her. It seemed strange to hug something, no someone, who could not hug back. But it was so right for some reason. "What happened? Why are you back here? Why are you crying?"

"He won't listen. He is in a rage. He will save the sun, the Earth and be damned what I might say or do."

"But you want to save it too, don't you?"

"Yes. I would save it even more because you are here. But when I follow that feeling, I know I must act to stop salvation, for it is your ultimate condemnation."

"You tried, then, to let the Earth die?"

"Yes, but he will not listen. He says I have let you turn my head and confuse our destiny. He will not be persuaded. But my fate is worse than that."

"How? You were created for this destiny."

"Yes, but I cannot love him."

"How can that be? You are programmed?"

"Yes, and it tears me apart. But we do have free will. He is full of raging fire, like the sun he personifies. He is blind to the words or needs of others. He does not have love in him, and I cannot love him. And…."


"And, I love someone else." Gaea slowly rotated up to look in his eyes.

Zed leaned into her lips, and kissed her.

"You could be here with me. I know love can't last forever; this is part of my experience," Zed finally said. "But for a while it would make a difference."

"I want to. But as you said, I have been programmed. My destiny--"

Zed put his hand gently to her mouth. "Your destiny is with me. Cronus is not Gaea's husband--he is her son. If there is any historical consistency to your programming, you two can never be lovers. He will be driven by power, not salvation, to kill his father and seize control of the universe. That much seems to be in the nature of this Cronus as well."

"Mother," Gaea's eyes glazed over. "Yes, you are right. We must never be lovers, it would be an abomination." Gaea turned back towards the hall and sped up.

Zed hurried after but wasn't able to synchronize with her speed. He arrived in the hall as the ocean screen phased into the star-ship scene.

“Take me to the ship,” Zed said. At his TD10k awareness, the TD1 multi-hour transfer to the orbiting craft occurred in a flash.

"You filthy vixen, you reject the love and power of a god. You are unworthy of my anger." Flames darted out of Cronus’ eyes, singeing Gaea as her field deflected its deadly potential.

“Leave her alone you damned bastard.” Zed bound out from the doorway. “Earth and your pretense of love are doomed.”

Cronus’ burning gaze turned to Zed. “You want death? I’m only too pleased to grant this boon.” Flames shot out, enveloping Zed.

His skin blackened as pain shot through his body. Death, yes. Then his skin restored, even as the burning pain sank deeper into his core. Zed slumped to the floor in agony.

“He shall not die,” the MI said. “His commitment has precedence.”

“His death is prohibited, but pain and agony shall be his fate,” the chorus said.

Cronus' eyes again burst forth in flame directed towards Zed.

“TD1,” Zed said in desperation.

A glowing ball of flame slowly grew from the strangely quiescent Cronus and drifted towards Zed. He blacked out then found breath again. Pain slowly drained out of Zed’s body. Gaea and the chorus formed a frozen mosaic in the background.

“What happened?” Zed asked.

“Most of the healing took place while you were at TD10k,” the MI said. “You should be able to stand in a few minutes.”

“But the fireball?” Zed looked towards the flaming orb.

“It will be where you are in an hour or so, four-tenths of a second at TD10k.”

Zed took a deep breath.

Pain still held firmly onto every inch.

He pushed himself up on one arm. He stood, staggered and found his footing.

He limped to the side, out of the path of the fireball.

Zed lurched towards Cronus, stumbling into his bulk and falling away.

Cronus started to turn with his face frozen in rage.

“How can I stop his solar re-engineering?”

“The system is intent-controlled by Cronus,” the MI answered.

“Can I break something?”

“The quantum phasing unit is most vulnerable, but he can have it fixed in time to complete his task.”


“The third cabinet door.”

A rush of energy surged in Zed. He staggered to the third door, pulled it open.

A spiny crystal sphere pulsed with diverse colors at the tips, converging to a white glow in its center.

Zed searched for any connections, wires, switches … nothing.

"Are there tools to disconnect it?"

"No, it is intent-controlled as well."

Zed reached for it. He pulled his hand back as it contacted the sharp spines.

He reached behind, scratching his arm.


Zed grabbed the orb. Delicate spines slipped though his palm. Waves of pain washed up his arm.

He curled his fingers, breaking spines and slicing flesh. Pulling his hand back the sphere ripped from its mounting and laser linkages.

Zed turned, grasping his right wrist with his left hand.

Pain pulsed in his hand that clasped the now darkened crystal.

Cronus faced him, still turning. His face still frozen.

Angry bile filled Zed’s mouth. He raised the crystal and launched it at Cronus, crystal splinters breaking off in his palm. Blood spurted from his hand as the ball traveled towards its mark.

Cronus suddenly animated. “TD1, you primitive peon. A coward’s refuge from--”

The crystal struck Cronus' face, spines lodging in his eyes. “Aieee! Damn you to a death of fire, you who would blind the sun and steal the love of the Earth. MI, banish this cretin from my ship and back to the filth of his earthly prison. TD10k for us all.”

Zed was back in the reception hall in a TD10k instant. Dried blood on his arm and hand, even now healing as he watched. For a moment he stared at his scared palm, and then turned to the projecting screen. "I wonder if he speaks sign language," Zed said, and extended a rude gesture towards the larger than life sphere of Cronus.

“You shall be my wife; destiny shall not be denied.” Cronus' blood encrusted sockets gaped in the direction of Gaea’s voice. In the background, a new crystal could be seen growing in the spot where Zed’s blood had long since died up.

"Look inside yourself, Cronus. You will find we cannot be the lovers you have anticipated. Look to the true history of Cronus and Gaea, and to your blind rage and lust for power."

"What fate brings man to seek his mother as his lover?" the chorus asked. "Forbid that our sacred Earth, and hope of love, should be polluted with abomination so great. What now can restore our forsaken need?"

Cronus’ aura flashed from red to purple, violet then black.

"MOTHER!" He said. Flaming prominences surged from the sun's surface behind him. "That filthy mortal. I will give him what he wants, all right." Cronus turned, and directed a rapid manipulation of the controls. "You want the sun to blow, you can have the sun blow. Why settle for just a little helium flash, with a bit of redirected matter, we can make this star supernova. Watch this! You may have her love, but you shall not have her."

Suddenly a woman appeared in front of the screen. A real woman, naked, two legs, two arms, two of everything God meant women to have. "Quick. TD1," she said.

“In fulfillment of Cronus intent, this ship, with Cronus is banished to the planet-less void of space,” the MI said over the quantumnet link.

“It is his damnation. He is the evil that would destroy the Earth and rob us of love,” the chorus said.

The background behind Cronus faded into an empty void with distant light of pinpoint galaxies.

"Alas, Earth is lost. The curse of abused power has fallen upon Cronus, who, as he foretold, shall not see the devastation he has wrought. He shall live forever in the void of his own hubris. We must search in history for our passion renewed." The chorus faded back into the pinpoints of light from which they came.

A very confused Zed dropped to minimum speed.

The woman ran to Zed and embraced him.

"Gaea?" Zed asked as he wrapped his arms around this totally huggable and responsive being.

"Yes. I had the power of mother Earth, to be what I want to be. This is the body of mother-earth, sensuous flesh, equipped for passion and life. I want to be here, like this, with you. We can restore vitality of the universe."

"But Cronus has triggered a supernova, we only have--"

Gaea put her hand up to gently cover his mouth.

"We only have centuries to live," she said.

Then she replaced her hand with her lips.

The universe quivered with anticipation.