SHIP OF THESEUS’ CHARACTER CARD: Espie Vasquez
Blinding neon lights swirled around Espie and Scott, passing beyond them at nauseating speed; a vortex of color, throwing off red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, then violet firework displays with tracers stretching infinitely. Their sinuses clogged. The sound was a hunting knife on a beer bottle, and they tasted copper and rosemary in their mouths. The wormhole opened up into a library. Bookshelves reached up twelve feet to the ceiling. Antique furniture and lamps with green stained glass shades filled the corners. Long tables filled with seated cultists lined the room’s center; some of them reading while others worked equations. They had entered the windowless room at the only part of the wall that wasn’t filled with a bookshelf. Instead, there was a floor to ceiling oval mirror with an ornate gold frame. Their reflection stared back at them.
Espie got woozy. “I need… To sit down,” she told her hand-holding cultist. She helped her to a chair beside a mathematician. Espie coughed into her elbow, noting that the library Brots seemed disinterested in their arrival.
Scott said, “What is this place?”
“Welcome to the Temple of Divine Geometry,” said an approaching woman. “I’m Gabriella, but my friends call me Factor.” She was garbed in what might be described as cultist casual. Her skin was a paler blue than most Janusians, and her face was deformed by Khwarizmi’s Melting Sickness. All the muscle mass on the left side of her face was missing, and the skin was stretched over that side of her skull like canvas stretched across a wooden frame.
He had been warned, but Scott couldn’t help wincing upon seeing her the first time. “No way,” Scott shook his head. “We’re a half mile from the temple, at least.”
Factor took a fold of her robe and stretched it tight between her fists, creating a flat plane between them. “We were a half mile away. If my left hand has a hold of the temple and my right hand has the park, the wormhole does this…” She brought her fists together.
Espie sneezed and asked the mathematician for a glass of water, telling him, “Sorry. Allergies.”
Factor continued, “Do you understand, Skyrat?”
Scott looked her over. “You think I’m… Skyrat?” He wore a mask of denial. “I’m just a kid.”
The cultist ignored him, asking again, “Do you understand the wormhole?”
Scott nodded. “It brings two points in space together.”
“Same difference,” said the mathematician as Espie accepted a bottle of water. She took a sip, then put an inhaler in her mouth.
Espie looked at his math. “Is that fractal geometry?”
“As are all things.”
“There’s no solution, it feeds into itself infinitely. You need a computer to do that problem and graph it; you won’t get anywhere with it on paper. What’s the point?”
“Meditation. Three hundred years ago, our founder discovered the Grand Unifying Theory, the mathematical description of everything... From the universe to the individual consciousnesses of fundamental particles. This is that equation. We work the equation to ponder the deep mysteries that arise from it.”
“You believe a math equation is God?”
“Not God but the language she speaks,” said Factor. “Follow me.” Scott took Espie’s hand and followed the robed woman out into a long hallway. “I’m the senior monk in Green City, and I run this temple, although technically, we’re not in the temple, we’re under it.”
“How do you know me?” Scott asked.
“Anyone who’s been paying attention would know you, kid.” Numbered doors lined both sides of the hall. The carpet was a colorful hodgepodge of geometric patterns and scribbles, looking like a cubist painting of vomit.
We’re in an old hotel, thought Scott.
It suddenly occurred to Espie that Scott was holding her hand. She withdrew it and put her hands in her pockets. Her face went red, and so did his. Breaking the awkwardness of the moment, she asked Factor, “Can I get a book or something in your gift shop to teach me that equation?”
“No.” Factor answered, continuing to lead them down the hall. “That requires at least a decade of Brot training and meditation.”
Espie looked at Scott with her brow furrowed. “I’ve got to join your cult to learn the math? That’s not very democratic.”
“Can you imagine if Newton or Einstein kept secrets? We’d still be in the kwothing dark ages!”
They turned a corner, leading down another hall toward an elevator. “You’re right, of course,” admitted Factor. She stopped for a moment to face Espie. “But Newton’s equations won’t drive an untrained mind to madness. Einstein’s best work won’t spiritually unravel spacetime. We are no cult. We’re the guardians of sacred knowledge.”
Factor’s disfigurement uneased Espie, and she couldn’t maintain eye contact.
The Brot turned and continued toward the elevator. “Last night, you intercepted a shipment from the Louies. Within those boxes was the key to Tony Poseidon’s hive mind.”
“Wait.” Scott opened his mouth to speak, but Espie put her hand over it. “Scott, you have to ask more questions,” she said. She didn’t trust this Factor character or her cult or her secret math. “For example, what do you get out of this? Why help the Tonys?”
“We are the Fraternity of the Formula,” she said with pride. “We are from the A, the B, and the C… All the way to the X, the Y, and Z, child. We are all points on the grid.”
“Well, that’s kwothing convenient.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Factor stopped at the elevator door and pressed the down button. “You, me, the Tonys, the Louies, the planet Mars… We’re all connected; arbitrary points in a spacetime field. Show compassion for one point, you show compassion for all. Everyone benefits.” She led them into the elevator. “I have something to show you...”
Shiny Red Nothing is proud to present Ship Of Theseus, a genre-nuking novel that pits a troubled young writer named Wayne Bird against his own demons before rocketing him 150 years into the future to meet Skyrat, the superhero he created when he was a little boy.