LNH/HCC: Looniverse Chronicles #5 {HCC50}

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 27 18:07:49 PST 2014

[LNH/HCC] Looniverse Chronicles #5 : 'The Last Perfect Day'  {HCC50}
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                        LOONIVERSE O CHRONICLES
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                    Written by  \--5--/  Saxon Brenton
                    for the High Concept Challenge #50
                         "The Last Perfect Day"
                         starring The Consultant
Okay, okay.  Kid Review is correct.  By rights 'The Dead Zone' could 
very well have been published in _Looniverse Chronicles_ rather than 
_Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2_ #59, if it had even occurred to me at 
the time.  Here's something else that could be posted in either title.
     The pre-dawn twilight was chilly, but there was a hint of rosy 
light on the horizon that promised a warm day.  That promise would 
be realised in the most absolute way possible.  Already the moon was 
glowing red.
     There was a groaning, wheezing noise, and where once there had 
been a desolate sand dune, there was now a desolate sand dune with a 
refrigerator perched incongruously atop it.  The door opened and the 
Consultant stepped out.
     She was wearing a overcoat-like garment against the chill.  It 
was a subtly alien style of clothing, and being worn over the other, 
equally subtly alien ensemble that she wore as her normal, knockabout 
adventuring gear.  The overall combination was...  Well, no doubt it 
was in fashion somewhere in the looniverse.
     She licked a finger and held it up to test the wind.  There was 
night breeze blowing off towards the dawn - but that would make sense 
considering the way convectional currents worked.  She nodded to herself 
and walked a few hundred metres to where the imposing stone form of the 
Sphinx sat.
    The Consultant stared up at the rocky figure, which was still more 
or less whole after all these billennia.  "Well, hello again," she said. 
Then with typical insouciance she sat down with her back up against the 
enormous figure and watched the moon while she waited for a reply.
    The Sphinx seemed to breath out in a languid sigh.  =( You have 
returned, Time Baron. )=  The thought came like a whispery scratch in 
the Consultant's mind.
    "Yes indeed," she said.  And then more pointedly, "One last time."
    =( Mmm, )= was the non-committal reply.  =( I wonder why you keep 
returning here. )=
    "Because you keep escaping, obviously."
    =( Not regularly as clockwork, every hundred million years, I do 
not, )= the Sphinx countered with both amusement and exasperation.
    "Ah, well, you know how it is.  Just because you persistently thwart 
someone's evil plans doesn't mean you have to be unpleasant about it," 
she replied off-handedly.  "You're an immortal.  I imagine you enjoy the 
occasional visit for company."
    =( That is true.  There have been entire geological ages when I have 
had nothing to do but watch the movement of tectonic plates. )=
    The Consultant smiled fondly.  "I remember.  Especially the time 
when continental drift took you up into the Artic and built up that 
mountain range underneath you.  What were those things that were 
worshipping you as a god evolved from, by the way?  I never found out."
    =( The Aldith?  They weren't descended from Earthly life.  They were 
from off-dimension. )=
    "Ah.  Very Lovecraftian.  Still, I guess that explains things.  
Anyway, I brought a little something to celebrate."  She dug into the 
voluminous pockets of her coat and brought forth two mugs and a rather 
dusty wine bottle.  She wiped the label and inspected the faded text.  
"Alder.ram gold.  1701 of the Ninth dynasty.  A good year, I suppose.  
One of the last before it got blown up by those idiots with the 
artificial moon."  She ostentatiously placed one of the mugs on the 
group beside her, before filling the other and raising it in toast.  
"To times long past."
    =( To times long past, )= agree the Sphinx amiably.  =( And to the 
ending of things. )=
    "Not the end of all things.  Just the ending of an epoch," the 
Consultant said calmly, still watching the moon smolder like an ember.
    =( I doubt the people still living here agree. )=
    "There are still people living on Earth?"
    =( Yes.  A few thousand.  They had a sentimental attachment to their 
world, and elected to stay even after it became obvious that the sun's 
red giant phase would soon be obliterating the inner solar system. )=
    The Consultant wasn't sure how she felt about that.  Their lives 
were their own, but it grated against her philosophy of 'If I doubt, 
live.'  "Probably some grand gesture that they haven't really thought 
through," she grumbled.
     =( Perhaps.  Then there are also a few intellects who have been 
tied to the planet, and who can't leave...  And few visitors who are 
invulnerable and view the chance to have a once-thriving world 
incinerated out from underneath them as a voyeuristic thrill... )=
     "And then there's you."
     =( And then there is me.  Will you stand up, please? )=
     The Consultant frowned in puzzlement, but did as she was asked. 
What followed was a slow grinding sound of rocks straining against each 
other, and the Sphinx stood up - as it had only a comparatively few 
times in the past - a regarded the Consultant face on.
     "Okay, so how did you manage that, *this time*?"
     Mentally the Sphinx chuckled.  =( Ever since the local life forms 
learnt enough about astronomy to realise that one day their homestar 
would run out of fuel and die, they have made the mistake of thinking 
that it would be a slow affair, with the sun gradually expanding and 
roasting the planet.  Most of them were not fourth wall aware enough to 
realise that the drama of the situation demanded that it be a sudden and 
singular catastrophic event.  That those remaining behind would be able 
to watch the colours as the solar flares created once in a lifetime 
aurora display, then fade into darkness forever. )=
     "I remember Sagan referring to it as the last perfect day, but I 
think he only ever meant it as a poetic description."  She let out an 
irritated breath.  "So I take it that it's dramatically appropriate that 
you be released just now."
     =( Not dramatically appropriate.  Just drama.  There doesn't need 
to be a story behind it.  The planet is dying.  Or more accurately, it 
is being killed.  It is old and desiccated, but there is enough vitality 
left that as it dies its life force spasms, letting off random bursts of 
drama.  It's just something that happens. )=
     The Consultant wondered how many other bound things would be 
released under these same conditions?  A lot of them really would be 
ended, once and for all, simply because by their natures they wouldn't 
be able to stand the light and would be destroyed.  But there would be 
at least some that would be freed to go ravening across the worlds.
     The Sphinx continued to sit on its haunches, watching the 
approaching sunrise.  =( It will be dawn soon.  You should leave now. )=
     The Sphinx gave the Time Baron an arch look.  =( Do you really plan 
to stay beyond the sunrise?  )= it asked, referring to the way the 
terminator between night and day was racing up upon them, causing the 
sand and rock to - quite literally - vanish in the heat haze.  =( I know 
that you're an adrenalin addict, Consultant, but normally you get your 
thrills from running up and down corridors.  Do you really want one last 
chase scene?  Do you want me to try and keep you from your vehicle, 
maybe like *this*!? )= the Sphinx demanded, suddenly bringing down a 
massive paw to block the way back across the dune.
     =( Or maybe crush you under a titanic paw, like *this*? )= it 
demanded, bringing down another limb on the sands with a mighty thump. 
The Consultant only barely managed to leap away.
     "I don't want a chase, I want to talk."
     The Sphinx seemed to shrug.  =( The time for talking is almost 
over.  If nothing else, soon there will no longer be any atmosphere. )=
     "And you plan to just stay here and die with this world?"
     =( Die?  I'm not going to die.  This old limestone body will be 
burnt away by the glare and hard radiation of the sun, my imprisonment 
on this planet will be ended, and I will continue on my way. )=   It 
glanced longingly out into space, past where the moon was an incendiary 
spark in the sky.
     "And will you try to conquer any more worlds?"
     =( Oh, probably.  I'm severely out of practice, of course.  But, 
yes, I think so... )=
     The Consultant sighed.  "Very well.  Will you walk me back?" she 
asked, but she had already turned and was walking back to the fridge.
     =( You will want to hurry.  The dawn is almost upon us, )= observed 
the Sphinx.
     The Consultant stopped, the door to her travel machine half open.  
She looked at the Sphinx with irritation.  "You know, being stuck out 
of doors in the light of a red giant is hardly going to be a problem. 
My space-time machine has a forcefield that protects it against the 
cold of space and the heat of hard radiation.  And I have a personal 
forcefield that does the same thing, you know, in case I want to go 
swimming in one of the lakes of liquid methane on Titan or need to 
escape across a river of lava."
     =( Well, why didn't you say so?  I needn't have worried about 
hurrying you back to your vehicle. )=
     "Because if I'd said so earlier then you may have realised that I 
put just such a forcefield on you when I was leaning against you 
earlier," said the Consultant before jumping inside and dematerialising.
     The significance of this hit the Sphinx just as dawn broke, and the 
landscape around it because to burn away.  But the limestone body of the 
Sphinx was now protected, and it did not burn away.  And the Sphinx 
screamed in outrage as it realised that rather than roaming free as 
intangible being, that it would spend another few billion years trapped 
in a shell of matter confined to the gravity well of a slowly cooling 
star, without even the prospects of an Aldith to wander by to pay it 
     Written for the 50th High Concept Challenge: An anniversary 
celebration.  Which I set, by the way, so this story isn't eligible in 
the voting.
     Looking at it, it turns out that this story isn't so much about 
anniversaries, as it starts out with one and then goes haring off in 
another direction.  Oh well.
     The Consultant created by Brian Wilcox.
     The only previous confrontation between the Sphinx and the 
Consultant is what I showed in _Cover Gallery_ #18i. 
Saxon Brenton    University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
      saxonbrenton at uts.edu.au      saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex
world of jet-powered apes and time-travel." - Superman, JLA Classified #3


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