“It helps to think of reality as an infinitely big crate containing stacks of dinner plates. The plates are the planes of existence. The space between the plates is Limbo. The stacks are multiverses. And the space between the stacks is the unmanifested absolute.”
~ Admiral Cavendish Farlore, Commander of the Dreamfleet Division of the Martian Navy
“True freedom is freedom from the fight for freedom.”
These were the first words of the Abraxas before it grew to enormous size and began absorbing first worlds then entire realms into what would have become a single cosmic uni-mind.
For 3000 years the War of All Gods raged across the cosmos. The fabric of reality itself was threatened by the savagery of the resistance put forth by gods, demons, angels, beasts and men.
In the end it would be Tin Prince Twain who would defeat the Abraxas. A robot of Atlantean design crafted in New York by the exemplary Earther mind of Nikola Tesla and piloted by the feuding souls of Samuel Clemens and Aleister Crowley whom, having fought for so long, had finally settled into a loose alliance.
His sorcerously reinforced immortal robot body, capable of withstanding rigours that would destroy even the most powerful of gods, meant he had lived for over a hundred years – and that he would live for at least three thousand more. He was an impeccable warrior and perhaps the most cunning and proficient sorcerer to have ever lived.
His lessors (as he saw all beings) had taken to calling him the Tin Prince, and he had enjoyed the quaintness of the moniker. It set low expectations, which was helpful in his mind as it caused others to make the fatal error of underestimating him.
The trading houses were replete with the souls of beings who had underestimated him.
For though he had the appearance of an antiquated wind-up toy, and the demeanour of a gracious gentleman, his intelligence was extraordinary, his knowledge of sorcery was unsurpassed, and his skill-at-arms was legendary. But most of all, there was his tenacity. His relentless dedication to the tasks he took on was what made him truly dangerous. Failure was unacceptable to him. Perfection was the dangling, golden carrot that drew him ever onward.
Here was the one who would, 3000 years hence – faced with the eradication of free will from all of reality – strike the blow that would finally fell the Abraxas – the most powerful being that had ever, and possibly will ever, live.
With a cunning plan, a gentle voice and a beguiling turn of magical phrase he had wrenched the heart from the nigh omnipotent beast – the greatest threat to sentient life the multiverse would ever know – before it would consume us all.
Now, the Tin Prince focused his will on moving the last of five enormous crystal ziggurats into place. His outstretched metal hand wavered within the telekinetic field that held the 22-tonne, 22-meter-tall stone.
The thousand-meter circle called Caldus Citadel was the only structure on the bleak, black rock known as Cygnus Denegar. In a distant orbit around a blue dwarf star, the planetoid was so cold as to be uninhabitable for most life. But the Prince relished the cold. It made him feel sharp, tight, and focused. He had chosen this place to build the citadel in part for how it made him feel. It made him feel clean, sterile and alone – all things that aided in achieving the deep state of meditation so important to his life’s work.
But it wasn’t just a place where he could go to be alone, and to meditate; it was an unconscious, outward reflection of his loneliness as well.
It also lay along a useful interplay of converging magical ley lines and weakened probability fields that approximated the nature of those that defined Sanctuary’s metaphysical peculiarities. These unique characteristics were heightened by the magnificent gravitational forces emanating from the dying dwarf star, which was on the verge of collapsing in on itself to become a black hole.
The location Tin Prince Twain had chosen for the closest thing he would have to a home was a weak spot in the fabric of spacetime. And though there were many reasons that made this desirable, there was one reason above all the others: the reason he was here today.
Among all the other things this location was, it was also a potential gateway between this reality and another.
Beyond Sanctuary Rim, beings possessing the necessary physical characteristics and proper training could cross the vibrational barrier between one realm and another as easily as an Earther could cross a city street. But leaving one multiverse entirely to enter a parallel multiverse was a different matter all together.
Far more problematic than simply retuning one’s waveform signature to traverse planes, breaching the boundary between realities entailed not only tearing open spacetime, but also ripping through the boundary layer formed by the collective probability fields generated by all of the consciousnesses of all the sentient beings in that reality.
Both the amount of energy and the depth of conscious null-sentience required were staggering. And the process was rife with risk – not just for the breacher but also for the multiverses on both sides of the nexus. Indeed, it was so dangerous, the Tin Prince had come to believe that an unconscious aversion to even contemplating doing what he was about to attempt was hardwired into the consciousness of most sentient beings. He smirked at the thought that he most certainly was not most sentient beings.
To his knowledge no other entity in all of history had ever attempted to open a gateway between one reality and another.
The giant crystal he just set into place was the last of five that were evenly spaced around the perimeter of a perfect circle over a kilometre in diameter. The smooth, black, vein-less marble of the circle, which was polished to a mirror finish, was etched with three equidistant lines of runes radiating outward from centre to edge.
Three kilometres up, directly overhead, an inverted three-sided pyramid one kilometre square at the base hung in the thin atmosphere. Made of the same black marble, it had three lines of runes – one down each side from tip to the centre of the base. The runes mirrored those on the circle below. The enormous mass rotated slowly, suspended (inexplicably considering its incredible weight) by some sort of magnetic field.
The Tin Prince unraveled the telekinetic link between him and the crystal he had just placed and paused to admire his handiwork.
This was the culmination of a project he had started twenty years ago. The plans for it had come from a dream he was now certain had been sent back to him telepathically from his future self. This structure, which had been built to painstaking specifications, was the means to transforming the aetheric plasma from the souls Lucifer had given him into a form of chaos energy that would negate the boundary layer of probability between this reality and the parallel reality beyond.
The principle was based on the pyramid-focused fluxprob weakforce process that was characteristic of the lost art of Martian alchemy but also included a variation on Nikola Tesla’s Dynamic Theory of Gravity.
All of this was made possible by the bizarre circumstance of his having two souls within a single aetheric field. Over the past few years, Crowley had instructed Twain on how to use the aetheric plasma liberated from the souls to straighten the intense gravitational curvature of spacetime around the blue dwarf star into straight lines that converged on the point where the breach would occur. Concurrently, Crowley would use a portion of the ace from the souls to corral cosmic energy in the region along the gravitational lines that would be pulled taut like the strings of billions of bows a third of a billion kilometres long. Then, after enough energy was amassed near the point of the breach, Twain would release the distorted gravity causing it to snap back to its natural position. This would not only fire all the collected cosmic radiation into the breach it would also trigger the blue dwarf’s collapse into a black hole. For good measure, the robot had also planted timed entropy-grenades in the hearts of five other stars directly in-line with the breach so that they would collapse in upon themselves as well.
Once the stars began collapsing, simple chaos magick generated by the immense marble structure he had built here would reverse the gravity from the aligned black holes causing it to push energy into the breach rather than pull it out. When focused through the pyramid, this reversed gravity/cosmic energy/chaos magick beam would punch through the boundary layer of probability and hold open the nexus between realities for his return.
Tin Prince Twain sat down cross-legged in the absolute centre of the magic circle and looked straight up at the tip of the pyramid directly overhead. He knew that within minutes, the planet’s tiny blue sun would be directly aligned with the pyramid, and that, by his calculations, the five other blue dwarf suns spread across millions of light years of spacetime would be perfectly aligned behind that one. Each had been attended to previously (by traveling through Limbo) so that they would collapse into black holes (in some cases millions of years previously by sidereal measurement of spacetime) so that the gravity from all of them would reach this location at the precise moment required.
That moment was at hand. He placed metal hands upon metal knees and began to empty his mind in order to clear a path to the null-point on the delta-quanta side of the moebius bridge in his consciousness. His third eye flickered to life. The indigo point of light on his forehead cast a pleasing glow upon the gold-tinted pewter of his metal face. The decades of conflict between the souls of Aleister Crowley and Samuel Clemens had evolved into a kind of hybrid soul – a truce of sorts – that allowed him to zero-out in that way required of a master of the mystic arts.
He had a quick recollection of why he needed the Grimoire so badly, which led in turn to a flash of memory regarding the pleasure that came with the touch of a woman’s hand. Then he recalled a moment from Pinocchio and he had a glimpse of the blue faerie! Then he was the void.
In a low droning voice he began to chant.
The first of the crystal spires began to glow and vibrate, absorbing and amplifying his chant. Then another. Then another. As each of the five blue dwarf stars from across this reality fell in line behind the pyramid’s peak and the centre of the circle where the Tin Prince sat, its corresponding crystal roared to life and joined the chorus of vibrations in the citadel. At the same time, the immense inverted pyramid, slowly rotating, began its descent toward the Tin Prince.
Without allowing it to divert his focused attention, he noted that the unconscious, captive souls Lucifer had given him were punching their little holes through spacetime to go and nest into their new biological homes as new lifeforms all throughout the multiverse. The aetheric plasma from their departures fuelled his journey inward, warping probabilities and tearing reality asunder so that it could be re-ordered in accordance with his will.
Samuel Clemens now hovered just above the null-point. His third eye pictured a whirlwind on a Missouri field. His other ears heard Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.
And in that instant, real and conceived became one and the same.
The souls Lucifer had given him blinked away, again and again. Twinkling like faerie dust as they went on to live new lives. Little lime-green wisps of aetheric plasma are left in the wake of their departure. It was the most precious commodity in all of reality, for when it mingles with a being’s natural aether it empowers consciousness to alter probability.
As a result of Clemens’s effort to will the gravitationally curved spacetime around the star into straight lines converging at the base of the pyramid floating above him, the blue star, stressed to the point of collapse, began to fold in on itself.
A vicious cycle began. As the star collapsed, gravitation intensified. As gravitation intensified, Clemens pushed harder to straighten the curvature of space. The robot’s hands began to tremble. Though he knew it was not possible in his robot form, he felt the ghost of a bead of sweat run down his forehead.
Now Crowley hovered above the null point as well. His third eye pictured a magnet pulling iron filings. His other ears heard an alluring violin solo.
Souls sparkled away about his seated form and the cosmic energy for millions of kilometres around was drawn in to travel along the ever-tightening gravitational bow-strings being held taut by Clemens.
Cosmic energy started to gather and froth in the pyramid above the Tin Prince’s head as it continued to descend, slowly, precisely.
The void of the robot’s mind reverberated with the song of the crystals and then found its focus.
A teenage boy in a scarlet school uniform looked longingly from the observation platform of a residential space station. His tidily cropped golden hair was wet with perspiration and he was panting. Seated on a floor, he pulled a book from his school bag. A golden hammer and sickle are embossed on the black leather binding of the book. He opened it and began to write.
Pure white cosmic energy danced and crackled at the tip of the inverted pyramid above the robot’s head.
The citadel screamed now. The vibrations began to shake the planet apart, yet the citadel itself remained perfectly still. All around the quiet, focused seated figure of the one called Tin Prince Twain, Cygnus Denegar fell into its death throws. Ancient mountains collapsed into deserts. Desserts fell through gaping fissures. Three-hundred-million kilometres away, the blue dwarf continued collapsing in upon itself. Then, when the blue dwarf finally imploded completely into a singularity, its corresponding crystal went silent and dark.
The descending pyramid’s tip was now mere meters from the centre of the circle. An incalculable distance away, another of the blue stars collapsed and another crystal fell silent, dark and cold. Then another.
The Tin Prince focused on the boy in the scarlet uniform. All of his will was committed to painting a perfect, photo-realistic image in his third eye. The boy’s name, he now knew was Andrei. And he knew instantly that he would suit his purposes perfectly.
Then, somewhere on the other side of the universe, the last of the five stars collapsed just as the tip of the enormous pyramid came to rest on the crown of the Tin Prince’s head and the last crystal suddenly ceased its deafening scream.
The entire black marble pyramid now glowed white with the cosmic energy gathered from the straightened gravitational curve of spacetime between the star that had become a black hole and the base of the pyramid.
Crowley’s inner voice whispered to Clemens, “let go.”
The instant he released his sorcerous grip, spacetime recoiled into its natural curvature and violently propelled the collected energy down through the inverted pyramid into the crown of the Tin Prince’s head.
He exploded with light. White, violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red – all of his chakra raged visibly to life as the cosmic energy focused by the pyramid surged down through him, down through the centre of the magic circle, and down into the core of the planetoid that was now breaking apart all around him.
Then, all at once, Cygnus Denegar was a cloud of rocks beginning their long journey toward oblivion in the heart of the system’s new black hole; and the robot sorcerer was falling toward the planetoid’s core, which had become a doorway to another multiverse.
For an instant he ceased to be. Then he felt a pleasant buzzing all through his form. He dared not open his eyes. It was a rare instance, for despite feeling a blissful soothing comfort, the Tin Prince Twain was actually afraid. Was this the unmanifested absolute?
When his eyes opened, the gallant robot from London and Missouri with an Atlantean body crafted in New York, floated in an orbit around a star – now a red giant rather than a collapsing blue dwarf – some 300 million kilometres distant.
Cygnas Denegar was gone and he was alone in space except for a small black crystal sphere about the size of a baseball. He reached out and gingerly grasped the sphere in his metal hand. It bore the same markings as had etched into the magic circle he had been sitting in just moments before.
He turned in the emptiness to regard the distant red star.
And in his unique way – the way only a robot with two souls can – he smiled.
He would be a being of flesh soon. He had just taken a major step toward acquiring the only means in the multiverse to accomplish this. Indeed, he had just done what no other being in reality had ever done before.
He searched his mind for the coordinates where he would find his Andy in this universe.
And he smiled as he thought of what it would be like to return and finally claim the power of The Glass Grimoire…
… the power to finally make him all that he was always meant to be.
~ 3 days before ~
"I do not believe that ghosts or spirits exist."
~ Harry Houdini
Amadeus Mozart Opera House
For those capable of shifting their perception to see his endemic waveform, which – no matter where he ventured in the multiverse automatically shifted slightly out of phase with whichever plane he was on – he would have appeared as a pale green translucent man in his mid-twenties. He had been 52-years-old when he had died, but ghosts that manifested from the aetheric energy of a being murdered for its soul always assumed a form that reflected the way they had been in their physical prime of life.
He stood in the balcony of what was arguably the most magnificent concert hall in the multiverse and had seen the demon crash into the orchestra pit like a meteorite from the red-tinged sky of Hell.
The ghost’s head turned to note the direction the demon had come from. He smiled at the chaos and the cacophony of discordant instruments in the orchestra pit as the musicians scrambled to regroup and resume. “The show must go on,” he thought – though it was a thought deep down in the recesses of his fractured and clouded consciousness, which was relentlessly preoccupied with only one thing.
His prey was close.
The ghost paused and concentrated as he drew wisps of the Tin Prince’s aether into himself. There was the satisfying sense of a hunger being satiated, and though it was nigh imperceptible, a modicum of the intelligence he had possessed in life returned to him as he drank the wisps of aether back into himself.
It only made him hunger for more.
The one who had murdered him for his soul was miles away, which was still closer than he had ever been before. The ghost closed his eyes and clenched his fists savouring the slight increase in tangibility the new aether had provided. He squinted and rejoiced at even the slight amount of new cohesion it had brought to his senses and to his thoughts.
For sixty years he had pursued Aleister Crowley.
At first, he had been little more than a mindless vapour shambling after his murderer like a hound that had caught a whiff of a soup bone. But as time passed, and he took on more of the aether of his prey, his senses had improved and his aetheric body had acquired more and more substance. Eventually, he had even begun to have thoughts again.
But fundamentally he was still an entity of almost singular purpose: to hunt down the fiend that had stolen his soul to fuel his magic; and with the certainty of a force of cosmic justice – as a mechanism intrinsic to reality itself for maintaining the balance of reality – he would succeed. He would steal the very last of his murderer’s remaining aether until he was made wholly substantial again. Then, from the dying form of the one who had betrayed him so, he would reclaim his soul. For so long as a ghost pursued the one who had stolen its soul, that soul could not be freed to reincarnate.
And then, in that glorious moment, the only desire he had known since he had died in that Detroit hospital all those decades before would be fulfilled.
The great entertainer and skeptic, Harry Houdini, fully restored, would look down upon the depleted corpse of that murderer and soul-thief, Aleister Crowley, caring not at all that he had come to be known by another name.