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He rose through layers of thought like a diver rising through the depths, chasing the foreigner in his mind like a bubble seeking the sky. The foreigner entered his mind, a ghost at the edge of his vision, so many times in the past year he’d lost count.
“Who are you? ” he demanded.
Energies normally bled to suture the face of the universe Tommy now caught and manipulated for his own purpose. Curvatures of space were transformed into topologies of mind as he chased the intruder down.
He stopped. A place, a world he’d never experienced before, lay before him, growing and collapsing with his every breath.
He turned. The world surrounded him.
No way in and no way out? How did I get here?
The only way out was up, up through the layers of consciousness to full wakefulness. He rose, but too fast. The bay couldn’t compensate.
He panicked. His entire mind gave itself over to his unique form of thinking, engulfing himself in his own thought’s quantum signature, floating in the energies of his own mind.
The intruding thought floated away, forgotten.
Chasing the intruder required he master the Penrose problem. Doing so revealed another universe, microcosm and cosmos intertwined in ways he’d not conceived.
He rose to someplace new, a place of time-spaces where hours were distances and yardsticks measured time. The Penrose solution occulted a universe of solutions to other problems, answers he’d never thought to question.
“Ah, well, there you are. I knew there was one here. ” The intruder swept through him and Tommy twitched in his bay. His arm fell free and sliced through the light guides communicating his solutions from the mask and the Labyrinth beyond. The sudden severing of thoughts caused the quantum fluctuators to send their gathered energies back into him and he doubled over, a diver trapped with the Bends.
“No.” The voice moved through him like quicksilver. Puddles of lightning bright liquid weight and heavy light formed where the pains were greatest.
The pains ceased. His eyes saw every color he would ever see, his ears heard every sound they would ever hear, his lips and tongue tasted everything there would ever be to taste, his skin sensed everything there would ever be to touch. His body twiched again. Every synapse of his being fired as his own quantum signature collapsed inside him.
The bay reached out and lifted Tommy’s arm back into solace space, careful not to move it through the light guides a second time.
“Nice to meet you young man. Have a good day. ” The intruder pulled away.
“Wait. I disconnected from the BookShelves and you still communicated with me.”
The intruder laughed as it receded down the network of thoughts linking Tommy to the BookShelves and whatever minds lay beyond.
“Please, don’t go. ” Tommy pushed himself into the channels of thought connecting him to the Labyrinth.
The intruder stopped as if to catch its breath during the chase, turning to see if whoever followed still followed, a dog with a sock in its mouth waiting for its master to finish the game. It turned down a corridor and Tommy followed, riding the thought-energy waves as he’d been taught.
He wasn’t fast enough. The intruder pulled away, traveling faster than the thought waves allowed.
“Think, Tommy , ” he ordered himself, Think!
He slipped beneath the waves, into a Dirac Sea of others’ thought. His own thoughts’ signature engulfed him, propelling him into something deeper still, into a darkness which shouldn’t have existed in the brilliance of the Labyrinth, only to surface in a brilliance he’d never seen before.
“Where am I?”
He slammed into a wall that didn’t exist and fell back stunned. The intruder laughed. “What is inside? What is out? ”
Whatever this intruder was, the walls surrounding its thoughts contained energies beyond Tommy’s experience. Perfectly spherical, perfectly smooth. No place for purchase, nothing to hold. The realization came to Tommy as his mind raced over the energies withstanding him. “Complete, completeness.”
The intruder’s voice pulled away again, taking the sphere with it. “A measure of degree measured by the sane on the insane. To you, complete. To others, not so. Those with greater ability are judged by those with abilities greater still, yes?”
“No, don’t go. Please.”
“How do you hold onto something you cannot touch? ” The voice and sphere leapt away before Tommy could form the thought to follow. From somewhere in the matrix of minds and the labyrinth of thoughts he heard the voice echo, “Mind how you go, Thomas. Be careful what path you follow.”
Tommy came up through the remaining layers of thought slowly, letting his rising consciousness calmed him down. He wanted to be terrified. This thing, this Intruder, learned everything about him and he knew nothing about it.
A Librarian touched his arm and he rose from deep thought to ambulance. “Yes? ” His speech was muffled due to the mask.
“Your time is up for today.”
Tommy sat up slowly and swung his legs over the side of his bay. Seated, his body shivering from the coldness of his own thoughts, he waited while the Librarian removed his mask. The Neuroscaphe walls shimmered a verdant [[dull]] green.
“I’ve never noticed this color in here before. This color is reserved for under the palace domes and the parks the Cavalos maintain.’
The color faded.
Tommy asked the Librarian, “How long have you been here?”
“I just arrived.”
“What is your name?”
“SuperString Theory, 1895-2010 Old Calendar.”
“No, no, no. Your name. Do you have a name?”
The Librarian’s eyes flashed a series of colors, violet-orange-red, several times.
“I’m sorry, I could never reproduce that series. Do you have a human name?”
“Someone has called me ‘Bertrand’.”
“Someone brought here by the Travelers?”
“I’d like to meet him.”
“A female, yes.”
Tommy’s attention returned to the walls. “What is the color of these walls? ” Librarians detected color by thermal inertia and had a broader visual spectrum than did any other synthetics or humans in this time.
“65 218 62 52 115 9′.
“In Standard, please.”
The Librarian slowly shifted its gaze from the walls to Tommy.
“What is it?”
“You ask a subjective.”
“Sorry. Base color, then, greatest saturation.”
The Librarian’s blisters pulsed through several colors until, like a chameleon hiding from prey, they became the color of the walls they’d just seen.
“That’s the color, yes.”
The outer edges of the blisters wavered in hue briefly and Tommy heard it as a whisper on his skin, “Green. ” The color faded and the Librarian’s blisters quavered in ways Tommy’d never seen before, nor could he make out the sounds.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you.”
Tommy stared the Librarian face to face. “Oh, I’m sorry, I missed the joke.”
“We broadcast the colors around us only three times; we are dead, we are hiding, we are stupid. The last is used if we answer what is to us an obvious question.”
Tommy smiled. “I get it, you were saying ‘Duh’. ” He hesitated, balancing on the edge of the bay. “I’m glad the Librarians have a sense of humor, Bertrand.”
“Among ourselves, yes. Even to slaves laughter is free.”
“You are not slaves.”
“Then it would be impossible to laugh.”
Tommy shook his head. Like their language, Librarian thought was complex.
“Is there something else, Tommy?”
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