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Pan Post 159 continues from CatH Post 90 with Ciel, the Void Ranger, appearing aboard The Hopeful where she meets Kara Pashna in a dress as he continues to experience Earth culture. When Ciel suspects that The Three Fates may be intervening in the destiny of her and Clear, the Fates themselves panic. They are on the Timeshoreway, which balances on the Mouth of Time, with Aeon. Nona, fate of youth, Decima, fate of people in the prime of life, and Morta, fate of the end. Each of them have chosen a piece in the game and Decima chose Clear the salmitton, last of her people, while Morta chose Ciel. Nona chose Kimleigh but she was taken out of the game unexpectedly by The Imperium in CatH Post ?. Back aboard The Hopeful, Ciel receives a message through Mother, the ship's A.I., and Ciel detects what happened to the other Void Rangers, as seen in Pan Post 1982. She uses her travel-sphere to get outside and she finds the still living body of Lobo Ono, still clinging to life. She takes him to the medical bay of The Hopeful and requests Kara Pashna's help and resolves to stay with him despite Clear wanting Ciel to join her.

Post

The Mouth of Time

This post follows just after/during CatH Post #90. This post is set prior to the ending of the Time Lock War.

Ciel has just left The Unbroken and appears in the Command Centre of The Hopeful where she intends to wait for Clear and her crew to make their own way over. She is, in her own estimates, 'Void Ranger Extraordinaire' and was one of the ten Void Rangers assigned to protect the Earth given its diminished status. Mostly this meant drinking tea and eating crumpets most days, except when that threat suddenly reared its head.

It was difficult to judge whether to act or not. The 'War of the Munchkins', as she dubbed it, is happening on the opposite side of the sun and threatened to spill over to devastate the planet. For the most part, though, there's not a lot these Void Rangers could do against the full might of either the High Empire or Mega Jonestown Prime should they decide to blow up the Earth. On the other hand, Earth is now directly threatened by Jupiterians and other-worldly humans. Much easier to deal with but she isn't convinced this is within the parameters of the Void Rangers' duties here on Earth. They're meant to keep it safe from serious threats or destabilisation, not its governments. If Jupiter wants to control Earth, then why get involved?

Ciel pulls a hot flask from her bulky robes, which takes a moment because it got lost in the dozens of folds, and then sips at the hot green tea. There's a serene quietude in the Command Centre when Clear isn't around.

From the corner of her eye she sees a squid-man in a 1950s polka dot dress.

Kara Pashna: "Hello there, Ciel."

He twirls a parasol behind his head.

Ciel: "Let me guess, you found 'My Big Book of Earth Culture' in the library?"

Kara Pashna: "This ship has a library!?"

Ciel: "It's the size of an island. I'm pretty sure there's a library somewhere on it, yes."

Kara Pashna: "I should try to find it!"

He then looks at Ciel as though he just realised she isn't meant to be here.

Kara Pashna: "Welcome back, by the way. Funny meeting you again!"

Ciel: "Meeting the salmitton child here makes me think the Fates are sticking their fingers into my business..."

---

Decima: "SHE'S ONTO US!!"

Morta: "QUICK! HEAD FOR THE HILLS!"

Aeon: "There are no hills..."

The Mouth of Time spews forth its currents, allowing the essence of time to exist within the NeSiverse. This colossal well seems to swirl gently from a distance, but up close it is a raging time-storm. Any normal beings of the universe affected by time would have succumbed to the influence of the Mouth long before they got anywhere near to the Timeshoreway.

The Timeshoreway is a boardwalk that surfs along the outer swirl of the Mouth of Time, locked in perpetual orbit. Very few come here, even if able. Aeon pays frequent visits, this being his element. Chronos, Aeon's rival, has visited a few times but her chaotic nature doesn't rest well with Aeon. Aeon is a being of absolute precision, down to each and every tick aligning to each tock. Chronos is like a broken watch. Broken because it's being repeatedly smashed on the corner of a table. She set up her time-agency for that very reason, to organise what she wouldn't. Or couldn't. He isn't even sure.

Aeon stands, now, in his dark purple and black robes, upon the Timeshoreway and watches the eddies of time. Aeon, for all his godliness, is nothing but a caretaker for this fountain. His eyes are cogs that click-click around and around as the Mouth turns. He takes out his dark-tinted glasses. They appear like sunglasses but they do not protect his vision from sunlight (he rarely ventures into star systems anyway) but instead they protect his cogs from the warping of time when so close to such a source. The Mouth of Time is the largest of its kind; bigger than any standard galaxy of the universe. There are smaller pockets throughout reality but it is from this font that time truly functions.

It is with time from the Mouth that the Three Fates weave their work.

Aeon stands upon the boards and peels his eyes from the Mouth to gaze at the artisans. Though they are contained within just three bodies, the majority of their being is eternally upon the cusp of the Mouth, here on the Timeshoreway, weaving the fates of people from across the entire universe. Time is taken and spun into destinies for even the most grandiose of beings or the most humble. Fates being spun for billions of planets'-worth of people and creatures. If he tries, Aeon can sense those fates. Not all fates are spun by the Three. Some are engineered by other deities in the universe, some acting under the umbrella of the Three and others completely independent. Some worlds are free of fate entirely, never being restricted by the decisions of these universal deities.

For all the enormity of what they do, they can be awfully annoying.

Nona: "It's always bad when someone like this Void Rangers discovers what we're up to."

Aeon frowns over his cogs at Nona, who spins the thread of life and appears, physically, the youngest. She determines the births of everyone under their influence, as well as the rebirths of those too stubborn to die like sensible people. In worlds where the time of birth governs the personalities of the people born, she not only determines when they are born but who they will grow to be.

Aeon: "Why would it matter? It doesn't make a difference."

Nona: "Not in actuality. But ethically..."

Aeon waits for an explanation of that but when one doesn't come immediately he gestures his hand for her to speak.

Decima: "When they don't know it's us, it's fate. When they do know it's us, it's coercion. I don't like that. It's like we're members of the Mafia or something!"

Decima is the middle-aged woman of the three and the one that does most of the work. She ultimately creates the destinies decided by the three, weaving in the pinnacle of a person's life.

Morta: "Settle down, settle down. This Void Ranger knows there's always room for manoeuvre, even when we've been interfering. She is a tough, old thing. She knows the deal."

Morta makes the end game and delivers up the existence of a mortal unto Death. Who is currently a very shy adolescent that keeps stuffing people into snack packaging.

Morta herself appears as an old, wizened woman. She has been urging Ciel along when Decima took a liking to the red-skinned salmitton. Though Clear has no liking of gods, usually meaning she could be exempt from their dabblings, Decima found the misfortune too delicious to pass up. A woman who is the very last of her entire species. How could the Fates not get involved? Nona had brought her own piece to play, though she cheated. The girl she pushed into Clear's life may appear young, even think young, but her existence is older than the Martian. That girl's life, however, had met a premature end, definitely not the destiny chosen by Decima nor the ending that Morta had planned. Instead the life was claimed by those outside of destiny's touch. When Nona introduced Kimleigh Emp, Morta felt she ought to likewise bring in a player to Decima's game. Ciel was her chosen piece but Morta was not so committed after Kimleigh was removed. But now she is guiding her chess piece to engage so that Clear's destiny can be extended. Without their intervention Clear's fate may well be to expire at any given moment. Morta has not written the ending and Decima is currently playing with her.

Aeon: "I sometimes wonder how the NeSiverse manages to get by with you three playing your games. Fate should be organised and structured and maintained efficiently. You take the chaos and create order."

Nona: "We get bored, okay!?"

Decima: "Besides, this is like real life soap opera! Why watch people have dramatic lives when you can make dramatic lives for them!"

Aeon: "But wherever you push that toy of yours, the threads of fate keep being cut for the people she meets."

Morta: "Them or her. We're choosing her."

Nona: "For now."

Decima slits her eyes at Nona.

---

Mother: "Ciel."

Ciel: "ARGH! ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK!? DON'T YOU KNOW HOW OLD I AM!?"

Mother: "There's a communication for you."

Ciel had been in deep reverie, thinking of the Fates and imagining what tricks they're up to. She hadn't noticed Pashna leave, nor the image of Mother appear on the large monitor bank of the Command Centre.

Ciel: "A communication for me specifically? Nobody knows I'm here except--"

She then reaches out with her senses and in her mind's eye she sees the destruction that was wrought by the blast from this infernal ship (as in NeS2 Post #1982).

Ciel: "They're all dead? Why were they even--"

Not dead. One yet lives.

She jumps up and her travel-sphere appears around her person. She phases through the ship and appears in the void of space. She whizzes across the void faster than light and comes to the battlefield in less than a second. She feels with her mind for her friend and there, floating amidst the debris, she finds Lobo Ono. His skin is charred all over and he seems barely capable of moving his eyes to look at her as she approaches. His recovery will be long and arduous and he may never heal completely.

But she is determined that he shall live.

She cradles him in her arms and then she returns to The Hopeful where she knows there's a medical bay advanced enough to help alleviate his pain and begin attempts to stave off the damage. She would need to take him to Tatooine before he would be well enough to be whole again.

As she lays him down on a bed, she adjusts the room's temperature and lowers the ambiance to provide better comfort.

Then a screen lights up and Mother is, once again, peering at her.

Mother: "Clear has come aboard and is asking for your whereabouts."

Ciel: "She'll have to manage without me. And tell her I need that kara to come up here. He might be able to help me heal my friend."

Ciel reaches out, tentatively, and gently touches his skin. It almost cracks and she jerks her hand back. Even if it could withstand her touch, it would probably cause him pain anyway. He must have been on the very edge of the blast to have survived where the others perished. She wonders now, what cruel game the Fates are playing. What is she being coerced into?

This thread will continue in CatH Post #91.

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