Crystal descended upon the world of the Sur-nah-him. In the century since she had last been here, much had changed. Without the predation of the amoebas, they’d flourished and begun to spread further. Other cities had emerged, and these were less ramshackle, built of stone they could now safely mine. The city in the salt flats was still ramshackle and leaning, but it also looked deserted – a monument to the world they had endured.
A group of Sur-nah-him were pointing at her and shouting in a mixture of excitement and fear. She altered her flight towards them and landed before them.
“Don’t worry, loves. I’m not one of the psycho princesses.” They looked at each other, their eyes wide, and she sighed. “See you still haven’t invented humor. Don’t worry, it’ll come to you. I’m Crystal. You’re safe.”
The sur-nah-him breathed a collective sigh of relief. “I am Shanid,” one of them said, bowing low, and Crystal was delighted that the name translated as “hope for future.” “We are glad you have won the Century War against you daughters.”
Crystal coughed. “I wouldn’t exactly call them my daughters, they were more…” conceptual manifestations of your dark side that came into being when your universe was created after the last big crunch spread the corruption of another, evil god across it? C’mon, Crystal, don’t blow the poor woman’s mind. “…sisters,” Crystal finished weakly.
Shanid nodded. “I will make sure your priesthood is informed. How might I serve you, goddess?”
Crystal smiled and held out her hand towards Shanid. Making the thing had been an incredible effort, but worth the push. Shanid took it, hesitantly. “Go ahead, Shanid. Look at it.”
Shanid did, and after a moment, whispered “Goddess…it’s full…thousands of stars.”
Crystal let out her sigh, mirroring the one the Sur-nah-him had given when they realized she wasn’t going to kill them all. No one had been able to make a nanoverse before. Common wisdom said it was impossible.
But that was because they were missing the important detail, the thing that made the nanoverse work. The cycle of sacrifice to renew stars. Pretty much ever god or goddess that tried had just tried to will a nanoverse into existence. Crystal had tried that route before herself, and it had failed.
Because that wasn’t how nanoverses worked. Just like the stars used the cycle to not go supernova, the nanoverses used the leftover energy to draw power. She hadn’t known that before, hadn’t even considered it, but Potentia had given her the idea. “We will finish Enki’s grand design and we will escape to face the God of our reality.” They hadn’t just wanted to kill and replace her, they wanted to find the Creator, the omnipotent entity that had existed throughout time. If they were right, if reality was someone else’s nanoverse…then there was no reason she couldn’t make nanoverses of her own.
It wasn’t the first time she’d considered the possibility that everyone she knew lived in a nanoverse, of course. Lots of people, as far back as Lemuria and probably further back still, had thought about it. Turtles all the way down. As above, so below.
Shanid was still standing there, staring into the nanoverse. “It’s an entire universe, love.” Crystal said, softly. Even though her voice was gentle, it startled the woman into looking at her. “A nanoverse. And having it makes you a goddess too.”
Shanid dropped the nanoverse as if it had suddenly caught flame. “I don’t…I can’t be a goddess!”
“Relax, love, you get to decide what you do with the power. And you won’t have the world ending levels of power that I do, or that the Three did. But you’ll have power.”
The woman was shaking in shock and confusion. “Why…why me? What makes me so special?”
“Honestly, love? It’s because you were the first person I talked to, and I was eager to try it out.” If Shanid was comforted by her words, she sure wasn’t showing it. If anything, she looked even more terrified at that answer. “Hey, relax. It means I just expect you to figure out what it means for you, so no pressure.”
Shanid let out a panicked laugh. “No pressure? I’m a goddess now – that means I have a duty.”
Although it would probably be in poor taste to mention it right now, Crystal was immensely glad the woman was reacting this way – low chance she’d go power hungry. “You won’t be alone – I’ll be spreading them across your planet, across the universe. There will be others, once they’re found.”
“But why are you doing this?*
Crystal pointed upwards at the sun that was reaching noon. “Your sun. It’s green.”
Now Shanid looked like she was worried for Crystal’s sanity. “Yes. It…yes, that is the color of the sun.”
“Ah. But it’s wrong.”
Shanid blinked, slowly. “I’m…sorry? What color is it, then?”
“No, no, it’s green, but it shouldn’t be. The fact that it’s green is the symptom of a sickness afflicting the entire universe. Stars should be yellow and white and blue and red!”
After a long moment, Shanid nodded in acceptance – which was good, because Crystal had no idea how to convince her if she didn’t take it on faith. “So…what am I to do about it?”
“Nothing. Not right now. I’m going to fix the sun. But when I do…the corruption will come back, eventually. So you goddesses and gods who find the nanoverses, those of you who are still alive, you’ll have to end the world. Create a new one, a better one. And that will keep the corruption at bay, until I can fix it again.”
Shanid took a deep breath. “That’s…a lot to take in.”
“Well, you have a long time to think about it. Can you take it on faith?”
Several seconds passed, followed by minutes, as Shanid turned the nanoverse over and over her fingers. “My father, he said you were good. And kind. That you wanted to help and that you would win the Century War, and you would make life even better. That we had to have faith.”
She lapsed into silence again, and Crystal broke it gently. “Xurir. He was your father.”
Shanid nodded. “I’ll keep his faith, Crystal, goddess of Help. After all, you freed us from the horrors of before. And I’ll…I’ll make sure the world ends so we don’t fall back to corruption.”
Crystal rested a hand on her shoulder. “Good. I’ll be back, to check on you. I won’t leave you without guidance. Might be a few millennia, but I’ll be back.”
“Thank you,” Shanid said softly.
“It’s what I do, love. I’m a helper.” And before Shanid could answer, Crystal was gone.
“Thank you,” Shanid said again, to empty air, and turned her face upwards. She didn’t look directly at the Sun – she was not a child, to blind herself staring into its radiance – but she kept it on the edge of her vision…and as it turned yellow, the light changing from gangrenous to warm and welcoming, Shanid knew she had chosen correctly.
It would take Crystal another thousand years to populate her nanoverse and spread more nanoverses within it. From the squid-like Chold to the giants of Xa’nati to the warring hiveminds of [Scent of Flowers in Rain] to the miniscule peoples with a mathematical language of f=m*a, she removed the barriers keeping them unable to advance and gave them the same nanoverses – and the same warnings. It wouldn’t keep forever – one by one the worlds would fail, and just like stars went supernova in reality, stars would become corrupt here. She was only postponing the problem, but at least she had hopefully bought herself time.
She couldn’t be sure she had completely contained the corruption, but for now it was at least in remission. Time to get back to reality and see what kind of mess Ryan has gotten himself into, she thought.
By sheer chance, that thought happened at the exact moment Ryan was getting half his face shot off.