The Laser Fiction - An Impervious Landing

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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


Fiction



An Impervious Landing


There hadn't been time to contemplate what occured behind the seemingly empty building and I found myself dwelling on our brush with fate, frequently and unpleasantly reminded of our encounter without apparent reason or warning. I sensed my mind reeling and spinning in place simultaneously, reliving that frightening memory. The mysterious, intemperate creatures remained elusive opponents, appearing unexpectedly without warning, then vanishing nearly as quickly. This left us vulnerable, and I still felt their menacing presence despite their distance from our current position. She'd implemented an innately prescient approach to deftly remove us from the confrontation - neither destroying the malignant creature nor succumbing to its agitated state. Instead, she managed to dodge its advances through perseverance and foresight, alongside a touch of deception. Her machine was manifestly beautiful and yet paradoxically, appeared conspicuously dangerous from certain angles, despite its inactive functionality. I worried that she wouldn't be as fortunate the next time we encountered a member of the malevolent forces. I was surprised by her tactics intially but, concluded that her contravening approach to the encounter was surprising and unnerving for our adversaries enough that would could escape unscathed.
 
Her approach was inarguably effective at holding them at a safe remove. It kept the monstrous affronts at bay, giving us the chance to escape its clutches. She had leapt ahead into another field before they could respond, and drew the navigator and myself alongside her. As for the other mysterious figure, he was definitely on our side, but his motivations remained unclear to me. I wasn't sure how to react to his conflicted approach. I found his unstinting devotion and unquestioning loyalty surprising given his perennial skeptism towards her up to that point. The two instincts seemed to be in perennial opposition; there didn't look to be an obvious way for him to mitigate those clashing contradictions. Perhaps, without articularing his evolving rationale, he'd finally managed to trust her intsincts. Another explanation was that the dangerous situation gave him little choice in following her lead, though cautiously. I took a minute before jumping alongside her but eventually decided to follow suit. In the blink of an eye, I found myself standing in a completely strange, yet somehow familar place. I was able to recognize a few elements, but they'd been misplaced which seemed to change their meaning and function. There was a cluster of rocks in a different formation to the ones I'd encountered, their meaning no longer pronounced, if there was anything there that could be discerned.

She stood at their periphery attempting to maintain her distance and make a sensible judgment, but there appeared to be nothing legible upon initial examination that she could decipher. The complimentary guide she enabled was confused by the disjointed figures and seemed to be just as perplexed, and began to flip through a series of pages in his notebook, seemingly at random. Since he hadn't explored that sector previously to make observations, nothing fit within his accumulated notes. He put the book back in his suit-pocket and looked back at her for guidance, but she offered nothing tangible. Contradictably, she held herself within in a confined general area, pacing back and forth within a small circumference. Not wanting to leave her side, he followed suit fastidiously, walking in place directly behind her until something more definitive could be gleaned from the encircling, enveloping conundrum we encountered. She looked towards me and motioned towards the rocks, then back in my direction. Finding nothing else to add, she gave me a nod and pointed beyond our current location. It wasn't immediately obvious that we'd been surrounded, but it rapidly became an unmistakable conclusion. Fortunately, it looked as if the unseen forces were benevolent, meaning us no harm.
 
Surmising and extrapolating from their defensive posture, the intertwined thicket of trees revealed their actual purpose. They comprised an elementally protective forest that formed a defensive wall surrounding us. It appeared that we'd discovered a natural shelter but it wasn't immediately obvious how strong or how much time it would last. Walking several steps closer, the arrayed trees appeared significantly taller than expected. Their branches were skinnier and disjointed, stretching like arms into the night. Diverging, the branches ran in parallel for a significant distance until their pathways crossed paths and crested to form an elaborate barrier. Grasping at each other's extremities, they'd quietly and surreptiously managed to produce a protective web that couldn't be easily breached.

I looked closely and the surroundings sat on the cusp of winter. Their skinny arms were mostly bare except for scattered leaves clinging to the branches. They appeared to be the final surviving elements of a robust season. Walking closer, the fallen remnants had formed expansive, glistening piles that kicked up a mess if I walked through them carelessly. She reminded me not to play in them. We weren't here to make a scene, after all. Admonished and humbled, I carefully measured my steps and resisted the urge to rile them, instead moving carefully to avoid unneeded contact. He followed me downward through the sloping surface across the narrow pathways I'd forged, walking carefully over the natural assemblages, until he was walking only a few paces behind me. We took measure of the scraggly shape of a solitary, almost completely bare tree nearby and sensed that the cycle had nearly finished. There would soon be an extended period of rest, lurking just beyond the present.

Standing between the branches extending from those retreating yet steadfast trees, we encountered smaller arrays of brush filled in the gaps and I could see a narrow yet distinct texture maintaining a visible presence. There were long-stretches oddly smooth, though at this point the unevern surfaces in their branches predominated. This complimented the white trees perfectly and gave everything an otherworldly, ghostlike appearance at first. However, the longer I examined them, the more it seemed to be something else entirely. I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined what was to come and felt a colder chill arrive, it appeared they'd fallen into slumber; while simultaneously implementing an extensive process of reinforcing their outer layers of bark in anticipation of the impending frigid season.

This was an unexpected observation but one I had difficulty conveying to her. Instead, I pointed down and shook my hand briefly to indicate a chill. I'm not sure she interpred this the way I expected her to and she just shook her head dismissively. Initially, I expected her to keep moving on towards our objective. She too was drawn in by the unusual fauna, pausing to examine each of their branches. It wasn't entirely clear what she was doing at first, and I had to look carefully to see what she was up to. I waited and carefully observed until it became obvious that she was searching their branches for patterns and constructions that repeated or formed an identifiable whole when combined. Locating evidence of symmetry and associated redundancies wasn't an easy task. She attempted to use her machine to expedite the process, but this was of limited use. It wasn't configured to look for alignments of shapes and could only offer partial information. There had been a few notable confluences, but nothing definitive. She waved the machine around a few times and ascertained that there was no threat in the immediate area. Relieved, she waved me towards the clearing and I took a few tentative steps, not really clear on what her over-arching purpose might actually mean or adhering to unspoken entreaties that appeared incomprehesible.

My pace quickened and I found myself standing at her side before I realized what had transpired. The reluctant navigator followed suit and we surveyed the surroundings ahead. Reaching farther than expected, it featured numerous unpredictable elements that weren't immediately discernable. The trees weren't as thick as they'd seemed from a distance. Instead, scattered branches appeared to stretch upward instead of extending sideways. They punctuated the darknening skies above, their twisted, impermeable branches enclosing the edges, serving as both shield and barrier. We'd were safe but couldn't take it for granted. I knew we couldn't charge through and pass beneath their palid extensions recklessly. We had to keep a safe distance, for consequences for failing to ascertain their demands for denying them a minimal deferene would be severe. She surveyed them carefully, and looked methodically for anything that might lead us forward. Pulling out her machine, she began scanning the branches. There were no signs or signals, nothing was written on their exteriors.

There were no symbols carved into the skinny trees. They appeared famished and when the slightest breeze blew onto them, it looked like they would surrender gracelessly and fall to the surface unheeded.
However, they had some inner resilience and somehow bent back into place as the wind subsided. She walked ahead a few steps and began to examine one of the trees at a close remove. The clean, uncluttered branches gave nothing away, there was nothing scratched into them, even the smallest notches weren't visible. I sensed her frustration as she stepped back and waited for something to show up on her machine. The indicators were dormant, nothing seemed to bring them to life. Extending it outward had the opposite effect she apparently intended. Instead of a sudden revelation, it seemed to burrow in even deeper, closing inward and hiding its secrets with ever increasing guard. She shook her machine around a few times and scanned its surface to no apparent result. Its surface was resolutely unmarked and clear, thei boundararies defiantly undisturbed by intemperately rushed, hastily-scratched symbols or recessed hidden messages.

Growing impatient behind the both of us, the enigmatic navigator became frustrated and suddenly sprinted ahead until he was standing in front of us both. He turned back and shook his head; it was all taking us much too long. This should be a simple task, over quickly. Storming towards the assemblage of trees, he paged through his notes rapidly. He didn't find anything that matched out there ahead. He stepped ahead a little closer until he was mere inches in front of the trees. He pulled his hands out and began tracing the branches. Staring at them was too easy and yielded little, or sometimes nothing. It was time for a little hands-on effort. He yanked on a few of the branches and pulled them downward. He began stroking them and then closed his eyes. His search was extensive and I watched him systematically examine the trees. His hands thoroughly combed their bark despite his best effort, he ended without confirmation. Those deceptively delicate fingers travelled extensively but encountered a similar blockade. There wasn't an apparent solution they could unravel.

He had his notebook at his side awaiting its next entry but there was nothing for him to write about. He seemed at a lose as to what to catalog or survey, both his arms remained at his side, in a state of readiness that wasn't answered. After several additional close examinations, he grew frustrated and eventually took it out on his notebook. He stuffed his pen into its aluminum rings and slammed it shut, pulling it back underneath his jacket. Looking back towards her, he seemed completely stumped and he looked to her for any sort of guidance he could find. She looked at him and seemed a little annoyed, but not with the immediate situation. Her frustration centered on a flawed, inflexible approach on his part that seemed to be going nowhere.

She decided not to take excessive frustration out on the surroundings and instead began to examine them, looking for any further guidance she could locate. He stood back and let her survey the suroundings. Then, hiding his pen, he placed it back inside the notebook, and closed it firmly. I waited for them at the side of the clearing, not letting it consume the surroundings, while giving it enough space to breathe. This was a difficult balance but one I was temporarily successful at achieving, the trees seemed to be co-operating with me. I looked back on her and she had stopped moving ahead, there was a seemingly impenetrable force-field beyond the clearing.

Concluding that her surroundings were important enough to declare a further examination, they recieved a comprehensive look. She'd found enough within their twisting branches to elaborate on her position. The atmosphere was silent, al ost quietly implacable, only the muted sounds of our footsteps gave an indication that we were present in that environment. The branches didn't seem to respond despite her best efforts attempting to elicit a reaction. They twisted and turned at different angles but there was nothing on them to indicate any messages or directions. Searching the ground carefully for a signature of any type revealed nothing. Nothing was visible. Its smooth, unscratched surface was smooth and impermeable. It allowed us to move about freely but its lack of barriers and detours negated any effort to arrive at conclusive paths. Any secrets the impervious landing contained within would stay hidden under a clandestine layer of rock no of us could breach. there was nothing pointing us anywhere, nothing to go on. Looking downward at the ground, its surface revealed a flat, plain expanse at our feet, we seemed to have reached a dead-end. The air surrounding us was cold and still, the winds had calmed, which left us without any obvious direction.

This didn't seem to bother her nearly as much as it annoyed him. He had run out of patience with entire situation. The time had come for him to make a change. He was obviously frustrated that he'd wound up there, without anything for guidance. Unable to make much progress alongside us, he stood in place for awhile and pondered what to do next. I watched him cautiously, he seemed to want to get away from there but there was no apparent escape. He began pacing back and forth in circles until he came to a conclusion. He was only getting in the way. Without much pretext, he turned his attention towards her and spoke quickly, explaining his conflicting emotions. He couldn't decide whether to stay, but he felt that he was getting in our path. There was no reason for him to stick around; we no longer needed his protection or fastidious note-taking. He remarked that we'd be just fine without him, he added approvingly that I'd almost reached competency as a navigator, despite my apparent inexperience.

He maintained that appearances could be deceptive, and I knew more than my age belied. She seemed to accept his reasoning without questioning his motives. He began walking away, but decided to turn back one final time and waved goodbye to us. While there still seemed that there were lingering issues he needed to resolve with her and us, they'd have to wait for another time; there were minor in the larger picture and he obviously had more important things to worry about. It didn't feel permanent, he confidently indicated that he'd be there if we needed him, but it might be awhile before he'd rejoin us.

We stood back and watched him sprint into the night, his form slowly dissolving into the night, and held our breath until he lipped back into the night, its noctunral cover giving him the perfect opportunity to slip away. He quickly vanished beneath the darkness, his destination unknown, disappearing alongside the distant trees, with reasons and motivations remaining decidedly unspoken and purposefully ambiguous. Strangely, when we looked at each other, the sensation wasn't expected. We were happy that he'd completed his mission assisting us; he could finally go back to his normal existence. We didn't feel abandoned or deserted. Instead, we were free to move around, engage our surroundings, take our time and examine things at our own pace, carefully and unrushed. We paused for a moment, and squinted our eyes. Watching carefully, we trained our eyes on the diminishing figure in the distance and awaited his departure, making sure he'd safely crossed its mysterious threshold until he was no longer visible. After several minutes, we were on our own. After a long period of danger and unrelenting fear, it was a pleasant change of pace. We were finally able to regain our focus, and could once more explore and navigate on our own without unnecessary distractions. We only had each other, but that's all we needed.

She noticed that I wasn't as sure that things would go according to plan. I was worried about something unforseen lurking just beyond our immediate area, waiting for us once more. We'd managed to escape its clutches the last time, but the result may have been more due to luck than skill. She thought about what to say to me and couldn't quite understand my lingering fear. After pondering her next step for a few minutes, she decided to take out her machine and extended it into the air surrounding us. It wasn't immediately clear what she had in mind until she switched it back on. There was a quick burst of energy in the night which quickly coalesced into a narrow beam of light. Maneuvering it across the night sky, she searched the atmosphere for any signs of malignant forces. There were no warning signs, the machine didn't let out any emergency sirens, which seemed to indicate that we were at least temporarily safe. However, my biggest worry was the grounds in front of us.

There was no logical reason to think otherwise, but I was still nervous that one of them might be hibernating or sleeping outside, unaware of us until it was too late. She carefully searched the lower reaches and I could see the beam extending through the tree branches. It was a systematic approach and she didn't skip over any areas we could be expected to cross. She was relatively thorough and I was relieved, after several minutes, that there was no indication that anything was amiss. After several minutes, she turned off the machine, folded it back in place and set it back inside her cloak. We had nothing to worry about, she reassured me. There was no signs of life. Even the navigator had vanished from view. We were absolutely, definitively alone, and, with our instruments nearly useless in that remote location, we'd have to rely solely on our instincts.

Standing against unknown, unseen threats, we decided not to seperate too much from each other, it wouldn't allow us the protection that we might need, She stayed just beyond arm's length and but that was how how she maintained a mysterious dispostion. It didn't bother me that much, she didn't really need to prove anything to me. I held back against the wind, allowing her the proper space. She brudhed off her machine and made sure it was spotless, without the slightest dent, it looked like it had just been created. Its dials and switches maintained their positions despite the forceful rush of her hands over their surface, its near-flawless appearance intact. She looked it over carefully, holding it a bit closer and turning it in several rotations befoe placing it back underneath her cloak.

It seemd to vanish into a clandestine hideaway, its mysterious abilites remaining steadfastly hidden. Turning her attention back towards me, I was immediately taken by her piercing eyes, unable to move for an interlude while she examined and referenced my current disposition. I tried not to move and but she maintained her focus, unassailable in her determination. She stopped for a second and looked directly at me, apparently sensing my discomfort. She thought about what to do next for quite awhile, and seemed puzzled by my lack of faith. She thought about it for a minute or so, then remembered what she needed to do. Around her, the lurking danger felt omnipresent but she repelled any lingering fear. A steady voice counter-intuitively reinforced an over-powering, yet deceptively quiet notion, paused; then calmly and assuredly spoke my name.

I found myself transported backward and felt temporarily paralyzed, somehow angled so I was standing in opposition to the seemingly endless nocturnal waves of darkness, her unwavering presence alongside reinforcing my confidence. Nothing had occured to change my understanding of her pure motivation. Time hadn't altered our understanding or intervened to change my perception. A simple message of conveyance was all that was needed. She hadn't forgotten my name and I hadn't neglected responding in kind. A simple reiteration; that's all that she needed. I remembered immediately why I continued to follow her without unwarranted questioning. I waited patiently, standing well-within earshot, but finally decided that I didn't need to say anything more. She innately understood my rationalization and reinforced my loyalty but this particular divergence marked a deeper path in its wake, extending beyond the intrinsic task of guiding me away from an imminent threat, their pending attack became secondary to the unspoken bond we shared. It retained durability despite the lengths to which our purpose could have become overtly hidden, the overarching mission objective subsequently unfocused and malignantly clouded. Without speaking a word to each another, we managed to locate a nearly-ideal path with surprisingly little effort.
 
There was no need to elaborate, we had re-established our connection in an instant; moving onward with renewed confidence. We shared collective relief and quickly resumed the mission. She motioned towards the narrow path in front of us and told me that there wasn't enough space there for us to glide over but we could still maintain a rhthym if we walked astide one another, facing towards the moonlight, away from the deepening clouds at our back. I decided to let her take the lead and followed along. It was surprisingly slippery and I thought, at first that it might have recently rained. After a few minutes walking over the grounds, the slickness intensified and I felt like I was sliding more often than not. It became increasingly difficult to maintain my balance as the ground became nearly impossible to navigate, its texture excessively icy. Looking over in her direction, I norticed her eyes were closed but she maintained forward velocity without tripping over anything, She seemed like she was almost gliding over the surface. I wasn't confident to follow her lead precisely but I squinted my eyes, allowing inner guidance and luck to prevail, for a short time. Much to my surprise, adapting her technique was successful. I wasn't sure exactly how she managed to traverse the strange terrain but decided not to question its effectiveness.

Quickly realizing that the surface was becoming increasingly hard and frozen beneath our feet, I moved carefully. She pushed ahead unhesitatingly while I struggled against the uneven ground; it was difficult to traverse with any speed and build momentum intially. I gradually grew accustomed to its recalcitrance and was tentatively able to mitigate and circumvent many of its permafrost-encrusted tricks. It took a period of adjustment, but once I got the timing and sequences in a good flow, I was able to catch up to her faster pace. Though, on reflection, it seems that she might have purposefully slowed her pacing down a tad and moved with a smidgen less aggressiveness, allowing me to catch up.

Dodging the increasingly rock-strewn ground and accompanying gaps wasn't easy. It wasn't clear where we were headed, but she continued moving effortlessly, almost gliding over the cresting and collapsing paths, her eyes completely closed throughout. The surroundings were consistently unobtrusive, without any signs or markings to guide our way. Scarce, irregular moonlight didn't offer the level of illumination we needed which made navigating more complicated than it could have been. When looking over on the opposing side, it didn't look like there wasn't an easy path running parallel, either. We had to keep going forward, there were no short-cuts or work-arounds for us through the icy pathway. This didn't affect her confidence in the slighest, paradoxically, she seemed to welcome the challenge, treating the unpredictable expanse ahead as a kind endurance race or a rough hike.

I couldn't effectively maintain a sense of direction with the multitude of unpredictable turns, indirect passages, and sudden changes in altitude we encountered but she seemed to know precisely where we were headed. After a long session of walking over an obscured path, things seemed to clear up and we at long last reached what appeared to be a clearing. She paused in place and surveyed the surroundings. The atmosphere was clear and the ground ahead of us seemed to have been smoothed over, like it had been flattened by an unseen force. At first, it wasn't immediately clear what might have transpired. After we scampered over several dozen rough yards, it became obvious that we'd finally reached the outer perimeter of a frozen lake, a destination without pretense. Shimmering beneath the newly unblocked, fully illuminated moonlight, it appeared to be inviting us to skate over it. I was ready but she held her hands up and told me to stand back for a minute. She looked around for a while before coming to an oddly placed seat. Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was a rather large tree stump frozen in place and dusted with ice. She quickly brushed it off and invited me to join her as she took some time to pause for a rest. Reluctantly, I sat next to he but was confused that she had no desire to further explore the frigid lake bed. She sat quietly and appeared to look towards the distant stars, tracing thier paths without commitment. There was no pending directive for her to follow. It wasn't immediately clear why she'd held back. I attempted to join her hypnotic state, but was too excited to calm down completely. I stood up nervously, bent my shoulders outward and began walking closer towards the frozen lake; taking a circular path to avoid disturbing its pristine surface.
 
I felt something hit the bottom of my feet. I wasn't sure what happened but when I looked down, I realized someone had thrown a rock at me. I was puzzled and turned around to face her. It didn't sense. Why was she coming after me. I didn't comprehend her motive at first but then she threw another rock. This one went past me and landed on the lake. It spun around a few times and settled into place. At first, it came to complete stop and became still. In a moment, I noticed a large crack come into force, which opened up. The small rock quickly broke through the surface and plunged into the water. It was obvious what she was doing at that point. There wasn't enough strength in the newly-frozen ice to hold up a small rock, let alone support one of us. It was a good thing that we didn't rush ahead.

I was a bit surprised that she had the foresight as to test things out, but not entirely surprised. This was unknown territory, after all. I didn't know what to do and reluctantly walked back to her side and sat down once more. She looked at me briefly and turned her attention back towards the lake. It remained largely pristine expect for a large gaping hole near its center where the rock had landed. Now completely submerged, the projectile had left a gap in its wake. I looked at it and back to her for some guidance. Was there any significance to its position or placement, had she uncovered some hidden secret. I pointed at it decisively but she responded by shrugging her shoulders. It was a completely random, small-scale test, there was nothing more or less to think about. I waited for her to say something to elaborate on the plans.

Inherently quiet, she resumed her silent diversion, and I could see her allowing the cold, isolation overcoming her. It wasn't threatening in the slightest, and in fact seemed to be contrary, relaxing her anxiety instead of agitating her fear. The stillness and silence acted as a kind of barrier, pushing out the outside world and the dangers we'd faced. I looked around and saw nothing out of the usual realm of the forest. The trees stood quietly, unobtrusively surrounding the partially frozen lake. I tried to look past them and saw nothing but more trees behind them. I half-expected to find some kinf of partially constructed building, or an odd structure standing out. However, nothing wss visible as far as I could tell. The natual surface wasn't interrupted by anything out of the ordinary. We'd seemingly arrived into a kind of natural fortress, immune from the pressing environments, and safe from any menacing creatures. She held her hands together and placed them on her lap. She decided to soak in a rare peaceful moment, unwilling to let it slip away from her.

I attempted to match her calmness with my own submergence. Attempting to let the winds and trees take the place of the constant noise was frustrated by a lingering fear. Despite the outward silence, my mind was still going a million-miles-an-hour. I couldn't shake the anxieties of the monsters and remained fearful that they, or perhaps something even worse, might show up at any minute. I sought reassurance and her outwardly placid demeanor helped to a degree but I still wasn't entirely convinced that we were secure. Not enough time had passed, the memories were still too raw. The malevolent creatures had an unnatural sense of where we might end up. No matter how far we travelled, it felt like our relentless foes found a method of entering the picture. My eyes searched behind the treees, searching for a threat but found nothing of the kind. She watched me and intrinsically sensed the lingering fear within me. I didn't express it verbally, but she seemed to know without verbalization. She quietly pointed my attention away from the trees and their accompanying lake.
 
I looked toward the skies, they'd opened without resistance, the remaining clouds dissolved instantly. In their place, there were seemingly endless constellations of stars. Arranged in unfamilar locations, I couldn't make out their postion or relationships. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, countlessly multiplied across the night sky. Looking towards her, I noticed she had pulled out her machine. I wondered what she had planned to do with her occasionally deceitful, yet never-entirely dishonest tool. Turning on and manuevering quickly, it quickly produced a bright shining beam of narrow light. It skipped across the ground lit up some of the trees. At first, it seemed that her beams were randomly skirting across the skies, tracing their lines incompehensively, forming disjointed sketches that needlessly cluttered their vast nocturnal canvas. I tried to make sense of them, but she seemed to be purposefully obscuring their meaning and origin.

I couldn't make sense of it until she began to slow down. Her lines became clearer and more consistent. I could see patterns and formations begin to emerge from the seeming chaos eminating from her fingertips. She began to swirl the machine around in a circular motions until they became somewhat predictable. Quickly, she erased my doubts as her machine created distinguishable features and lines. The beams of light narrowed, then expanded until they encompassed and circled specific sectors. As I watched, her focus narrowed and she began highlighting distant stars. It seemed that she was showing me the paths that were previously hidden beneath clandestine cloaking. I watched her manuevers closely. Apparently. she had a plan all along. She wasn't searching at random, instead cataloging the starfields. I waited patiently for her to complete her task. It took her longer than I expected.
 
I shouldn't have been surprised that she was working fervently, decidely focused on her task, marking up an extensive cataloging and inventory of massive clusters of alien stars with manifest purpose and immutable energy. However, after a few minutes, unforseeable alignments and patterns emerged between them. I wasn't expected her to make connections between the unfamilar systems, but it shouldn't have surprised me. She almost effortlessly began forming lines to connect then to each other. At first sketching into the night, then marking more resillient routes. Her commands more forceful, and started forming brightly-lit pathways between the distant galaxies. Her systematic approach worked quickly until she effortlessly forged previously-unseen connections. These began to coalesece and deepened in strength, until I could see the outlines of ports, windows and stations come into view.

Satisfied that she'd been able to catalog and endeavor to create a temporal map, she invited me to choose a destination. At first I didn't know why she wanted something so specific, but she asked me again, where I wanted to go. I had no idea but she was firm. I decided on a bright, almost pale green one, striking along the upper right side of her elaborate map. I didn't realize what she would do with my choice, but I knew she wouldn't let it go to waste. She took her machine and took direct aim at it, lighting it up until it overtook the nearby stars. It released a minor burst of energy that the machine was able to capture, extrapolate and diverge. The connection built quickly and suddenly, it felt that the star had re-energized her machine, finally bringing it back to full strength. At this point the whole thing began to glow in her hands, brightly shining outwards into the darkness. The beam intensified rapidly until its powers were unmistakable. She looked over the nearby stars and began searching for appropriate places that would further strengthen the machine. I wondered how she'd use its new-found power but she remained obtuse and elusive. Once again, it would be up to me alone to figure out the answers.

I wondered what would happen in terms of our time and position, why we'd encountered this particular place. She didn't answer, but It was becoming clear. We hadn't arrived at a destination, but at a departure point. After a few minutes contemplating the elaborate measures she had arranged in her esoteric methodology, I realized she's implemented an intinsically effective mannerism. This approach seemed counter-intuitive at first but which actually offered protection from seeping, unrelenting darkness along with unfettered movement simultaneously. Achieved with minimal disruption, and without any noticeable loss of energy, the strategic advantage this gave us was apparent immediately. I couldn't help but appreciate her calm brilliance that divulged little more than neccesary. The elaborate, but deliberate methodology and determinations she used coalesced, effortlessly making connections that weren't apparent previously. I realized what she was doing without having to say a word. We could stay as long as neccesary in repose or leave without giving any warning.
 
The remainder of our excursion was entirely of our own doing and construction. We were finally alone and could focus on the complex tasks before us. Our ideas forged the path ahead, without help or advice from any outside force. The most difficult, vexing choice being what specific embarkment to traverse, Nothing would stymie us going forward or impede our movement. She navigated and glided over the uneven surface, manuevering effortlessly over the rock-strewn surface while concurrently and autonomously clearing an easily-discernable path. Denying the surrounding portends and without efforting excessive additional energy she'd single-handedly plotted and built numerous elaborate paths with only her instincts guiding her deceptively forceful machine, her fingers lacking guidance but not needing the slightest directive. She returned my inquisitive gaze, thought about our conundrum for a moment, She held her breath and began an unexpected ritual where she looked upward and commenced contemplating the night sky.
 
After some reluctance, I joined in her seemingly illogical ritual, It took a few minutes, but I gradually felt a peaceful serenity replace my lingering anxiety, I needed patience for a short interval however, the divergent approach was productive on many fronts, I felt the sense of dread easing, while my shattered confidence slowly regained force. I kept my eyes closed for as long as possible, but I had to open them up again, When I looked around, things felt different, infused with a different style of energy, I was finally able to release my fears and join her fully. I felt relief and watched admirably as she examined the endless array of solar systems and decided where we'd travel next. It wasn't an easy choice, at least intially. Despite sharing an outward appearance of relative constriction and relief, we were not far from renewed exploration. Taking only a brief respite in the tranquil surroundings, we began anew, thoroughly rejuvenated.

That unexpectedly serene interlude represented a transient pause before our next excursion. We had an entire galaxy, if not more, to traverse, each inherently esoteric portal acting as a temporal gateway that opened an excursion into intrinsically perplexing, nearly inscrutable worlds previously unseen. Any residual fears quickly dissolved and I felt myself looking in her direction with renewed energy. She responded to my enthusiasm with tempered confidence, anticipating numerous obstacles ahead. Despite the burden of everything that occured, seemingly unlimited possibilities unfolded under impenetrable camouflage, disappearing surreptitiously underneath a nocturnal sheath. The hidden paths intertwined beneath the stars and foresaw their pending convergence long before revealing their existence to our unadorned eyes. An indeterminately encompassing sphere exapanded systematically, relentlessly growing until it completely filled the atmosphere around us with intensifying influence. Its unmistakably dense patterns of contrasting light encompassed almost imperceptibly miniaturized branches of an expansive universe. Its secrets flourished, and we found ourselves reveling in its incomprehensible multitudes; the variations endlessly irresistible; offering startling, invigorating denouements alongside unimpeded replenishment to temporarily satiate our boundless curiousity.

- Michael Palisano