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Enter The Architect

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The Architect stared at the vibrating mass of subatomic particles, their minuscule quanta popping in and out of existence as the very fabric of space gave way to the trans-dimensional forces that siphoned through them in an elegant entanglement of matter and energy. It was beautiful. It was robust. It was the model for a new and improved atomic building block. In a few short millennia, the creator of the universe planned to wipe out existence and replace it with a new and improved version of the cosmos. This new structure would replace molecules with a single, expansible, replicable packet of matter capable of duplication and self organization. How naïve he felt now as he looked back at his original assumptions for creation: indivisible atoms and molecules of fixed quantity that could reconfigure themselves into only 115 possible elements, indestructible and rigid. Matter, anti-matter, dark-matter, quarks, leptons, electrons, photons… how complicated and unnecessary… he was somewhat embarrassed that it had taken him seven days to create it all!

 

He would miss life-forms the most, but with this new tool he could create ‘intelligent matter’, infinitely expansible, every growing, and capable forming complicated, multi-dimensional structures, mobile life-like entities, computational entities fused with logic-pathways and information conduits. This new universe, his latest obsession, would be a life-form in itself, all built from one basic building block.

 

He set the particle aside, popping it out of existence as effortlessly as he had brought it into existence, for it was not for this universe.

 

The Architect gazed across creation, admiring it in spite of its shortcomings with all of its busy life-forms in their endless quest to elevate themselves. From the most fragile milti-cells twitching in the primordial soup to the advanced crystalline life-forms on the frozen planets of Anrise, Dulluth, and Bit, all of them quested to be something more, to be greater, to expand beyond their basic origins and reach out across the galaxies. In each and every one of them, The Architect built in an everlasting desire, a drive to be like him. Some would perish. Others would conquer and assimilate. Battles would be fought, worlds would be destroyed, and it was all in a subconscious pursuit of divinity. It was the meaning of life.

 

He watched a small star go nova; its brilliant flash of light wouldn’t be seen by some of the life forms before their own extinction. It destroyed the Centrax system and he thought it a shame because the Sintinites lived there and they were just on the verge of perfecting inter-galactic travel. They had known their fate and had almost escaped it.

 

It was just then that The Architect became aware of a presence which he had not felt for millennia. He knew immediately what it was; he called it “the object.†The last time he had encountered it was before he had introduced life-forms into the cosmos. He had been overseeing the creation of the first stars, prompting their formation so as to facilitate the fusion reactions required to generate the higher forms of matter. It had simply appeared in his space and an immediate and eternal fear washed over him as it plotted its way through the heavens. This was not congruent with The Plan. In fact, it had the potential to unravel the vary underpinnings of The Plan and this troubled him deeply. He tried to destroy it, he tried to probe it, to feel within its surfaces and analyze its very structure, but he had absolutely no power over it. The object remained in the heavens for 6.23 million years, immovable, whispering in a bizarre incomprehensible code, before vanishing as mysteriously as it had appeared.

 

The Architect had hoped that it was an aphorism, some unintentional by-product of creation, a result of a sloppy clean-up job. But it was not to be. There it was; colossal confusion incarnate.

 

Then they started. The voices whispering, again, echoing across space and time. It was a beckoning beacon of terror. And then The Architect watched in horror as tiny flashes of light erupted from distant worlds as intergalactic transport vessels burned through the atmospheres of their home worlds, catapulting themselves from their spheres of origin. All of them set course for the object, some arriving only moments later (they were the lucky ones who had discovered hyperspace), others putting themselves into deep freeze in preparation for their thousand year pilgrimages. It was calling to them, tempting them with something so irresistible that they would risk everything to behold it.

 

The Architect had to find out what it was. He would create an avatar, as he had done on some worlds to steer the courses of their histories, and probe the object from within. A man he would create, a human male, and an earth animal too… and another, another of awesome power to destroy those who might obstruct The Plan…

 

* * *

 

The animal first, a dog. His paws touched cold metal. And then he felt an overwhelming pain in his gut - hunger. Neurons traded signals, sparking thought and instinct across synaptic abysses. Then sight. No color. Shades of gray.

 

He was a dog.

 

As his monochromatic sight adjusted to the dim ambiance of the corridor he was in, he saw a massive steel artificial standing before him, a brightly glowing gem fixed on its forehead.

 

The animal’s fight instincts triggered and he rushed toward the robot, snarling, and snapping, attempting to preserve his late existence. The artificial emitted some sort of energy burst which rippled through the vessel’s nervous system causing him so slink away shrieking into the shadows.

 

Pain was in interesting sensation, genius almost - a guaranteed motivator of self-preservation - and The Architect was always humbled when he could feel it as a life-form felt it.

 

So far, so good, The Architect thought, as he retreated, quivering into the shadows.

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Lights passed as The Architect trekked through shadows on scrawny legs, a rasping cough splattering drool on the floor in front of him. Despite the horrid condition of the dog he assumed, his senses were still keen, though hunger played with his vision. As the room he fled from vanished, The Architect was suddenly overcome by a feeling of isolation, the darkness surrounding him feeling as though it was growing to eternal bounds. It was an unsettling feeling, yet at the same time exhilarating. Was it a result of this body's senses combined with his own inability to truly understand the world in which he entered? He had little time to ponder this, as the sudden feeling went as quickly as it came, the sound of footsteps causing his ragged ears to twitch as light blurred into his sight. His present form having solicited an aggressive confrontation in his last encounter, The Architect decided to change to a more welcoming shape. The dog's patched coat receded into its flesh as it stood on its hind legs, claws diminishing into nails as fibers formed clothing over his skin. The pains of hunger were replaced by subtle hints of irritation across his sides, colors blazing into his eyes as his very perception of the world changed. He stepped out into the light, greeting the one he heard.

 

"Hey there, stranger," he said, raising his right palm. "What brings you here?"

 

"That's my line," Max said, cracking a grin. He had folded his armor in shortly after beginning his own exploration, so he appeared just as casual as the man that now faced him. "Never imagined I'd meet another relaxed guy in a place like this."

 

The two exchanged laughs, though this was a shared act. The Architect could feel the history behind Max's eyes, and Max immediately had suspicions towards this out of place fellow who wandered in from out of nowhere. That, and its hard to trust random middle-aged men that smell funny.

 

"Sure is some place," The Architect said, looking around. "Just wound up here myself, still trying to get a feel for the place."

 

"Same here, can already tell it'll be real easy to get lost," Max said. "Doors, doors, and more doors, and always something new on the other side."

 

It was awkward trying to ease out answers when both sides were attempting to do so.

 

"Nasty folks back where I came from," The Architect said, hoping a straighter insert would help move things along. "The room, I mean. Folks are fine where I live, ha."

 

"I believe ya, I had some rough run-ins on my way here, too," Max said with an agreeing nod. "What's the world coming to when plants are the ones trying to take a bite out of you?"

 

This went on for a good while, ten, maybe twenty minutes, before both began feeling edgy, though not enough so to be incapable of hiding it. By the end of it all The Architect learned that there were rooms both large and small containing either giant carnivorous roses or rocky pustules that spewed blue magma while Max found out about the presence of genuinely threatening entities and mysterious corridors; that and his acquaintance had some weird obsession with strawberry pudding.

 

"Well, I won't keep you anymore, best we both be on our way," The Architect said, looking over in the direction Max came from.

 

"All right, be careful out there," Max said, giving a casual wave as he resumed walking, listening intently as the middle-aged fellow exited from behind. They never even exchanged names, though this was something The Architect didn't have to worry about.

 

"Seems we both achieved little, Max," The Architect whispered to himself shortly after the door closed behind him. The lacking conversation almost felt insulting, like some subtle motion of defiance. The Architect laughed to himself, knowing that this couldn't have been the case. Unless this Max was also a deity in disguise, the chances of him discerning The Architect's true identity was essentially non-existent. Or perhaps the Unknown Garden was toying with him, exerting a pressure he might have not been imagining after all. "Maybe we both need to vent... this condition may compel me to do so."

 

The Architect's body changed once more, fibers tightening into metal as lacking limbs became engorged with muscle. His face blazed with inexplicable light, a metal mask quickly concealing the glorious rays as a sword blazed into his hand. He could feel the Garden bearing down on him, dulling what omnipotence he could muster, making him ignorant to the transformation his recent encounter also underwent.

 

"I've felt this before, I know it," Max said as the last pieces of his Grabeth Armor unfolded onto him, his Shriek buzzing in his hand, his back turned to where his opponent would soon arrive. He stopped, having reached the far end of the icy chamber he entered. "I'm just itching for a fight... I have been asleep for two years, ha!"

 

Max turned just as the door he came from opened, a metal-clad warrior stepping through silently. Weapons already drawn, it now came down to who would make the first move.

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A long, disconcerting moment elapsed as the two armor-clad warriors faced each other. Searing beams of light emitted from the eye-holes in The Architect's mask like rays from twin stars.

 

The bounty hunter grinned behind his protective Grabeth face shield, waiting for the crusader in front of him to make the first move.

 

Max scanned The Architect, reading his soon-to-be opponent as a speed reader extracts vital information from a detailed manuscript, filtering out useless details and distilling only crucial facts. His eyes darted over The Architect’s form for a few more imperceptible moments before fixing on a rather exquisite fur satchel slung over the warrior’s shoulder.

 

Is that chinchilla? Max asked, motioning to The Architect's satchel with the Shriek as he gripped it by the hub with a clawed glove, blades extended and protruding between his spidered fingers.

 

…Actually, yeah! said the Architect in a booming voice that reverberated through the chamber as if emitted through a heavenly megaphone, impressed by the bounty hunter’s taste in fine hand-bags.

 

…because, it definitely looks like chinchilla… at least from here.

 

Well, you definitely know your furs because it's 100% chinchilla! No one has ever noticed before…

 

Not that I collect man-purses or anything… I mean, um, if I DID have a hand-bag collection of my own, I’d definitely like to have that one in it… speaking purely hypothetically that is… because, um, I definitely DON’T have one from every continent on every planet in every star-system I’ve ever visited…

 

It’s not a man-purse, it’s a satchel…

 

The two stood staring at each other for another awkward series of moments before Max’s eyes made their way back to The Architect’s face.

 

Cool mask.

 

Thanks.

 

Really intimidating. It sort of looks like one of those old gladiator masks. I am totally almost crapping myself right now, ha!

 

Really? Because that’s totally what I was going for!

 

Well, you nailed it dude. It’s totally Lindsay Lohan, ha!

 

Lindsay Lohan?

 

Yeah, it’s earth slang for “scary.â€

 

Oh. Hah, hah, hah, The Architect boomed. He had always appreciated Max’s sense of humor. Scanning the depths of his knowledge of all things, he recalled a time when Max was 10 and he had replaced the plasma cells in his father’s SZX-100D pulse-stun blaster with purple paint-ball magazines. The irritated patriarch still brought back the bounty but not before having to explain to the local law-enforcement authority why his subdued captives looked like they had just returned from a mud wrestling competition in the Zookle sludge pits.

 

So, you wanna go see what’s through that door over there? Max gestured to a large circular-shaped door surrounded by inlaid gold glyphs and unfamiliar markings.

 

The Architect examined the glyphs but they were not in any language he possessed knowledge of. The eerie feeling of isolation he had felt as a canine once more washed over him, dark incomprehensible whispers penetrating their way into his consciousness. He pondered for a moment whether he should simply boil the life-form's blood with his will and leave him in a liquefied pool on the floor, as the association might prove to impede his investigation of "the object," however after evaluating its effect on The Plan, he determined that the union would fit.

 

Sure, said the creator of the known universe.

 

Simultaneously, the two de-armored. Max’s Grabeth retracted into its chest-plate, the metallic segments retreating neatly and almost magically from the protective shell they had previously formed. He looked over to where the demonic figure last stood only to see the same pale, middle-aged gentleman he had encountered only minutes ago, the sourceless artificial lights from above shining dully on his forehead. The satchel remained over his arm.

 

It was you! said Max, I thought I smelled strawberry pudding!

 

The two approached the door where a small console with a green, illuminated button in the middle of it was mounted atop a support post. To the side of the door on the sheer wall, a hastily scrawled handwritten message was inscribed:

 

“Bio-Habitat 9 – Door #3, 06-13-2012, 22:00â€

 

Max pushed the button and, with a rushing hiss of hydraulic pressure, the door snapped open revealing a vast wilderness of forest, savanna, mountain, and valley. Two suns hung low in a pale blue sky. The screeches of birds and the howls of varmint filled their ears.

 

Hesitating only briefly, the two stepped through in unison.

 

You still gotta tell me where you got that man-purse, said Max.

 

It’s not a man-purse! protested The Architect as the two became engulfed by the blinding light that penetrated into the cool-steel chamber from the mysterious portal. The door slid shut with a metallic growl, leaving no evidence that a god and a man had stood there together only moments before.

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