Ryan and Dianmu stepped into his staging area. “You sure you don’t mind taking mine?” Ryan asked her for what had to be the fifth time.
“Of course not. I was interested to see it – and you need the practice navigating yours, anyway. Crystal tells me you have mostly been riding with her or Athena.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said with a sigh. “Honestly? I have no idea how to get us to Officium Mundi. I’m good for navigating around the globe, that’s pretty straightforward, and Tartarus made sense with the directions Crystal gave me.”
Dianmu gave him a small smile. “I suspected as much. Did you ask her about Officium Mundi?”
“Wasn’t enough time.” Ryan knew how defensive he sounded, and by the look Dianmu gave him, she wasn’t buying it. The truth was, he had just forgotten that he didn’t know how to do it yet. You didn’t mind looking dumb in front of Crystal or Athena, Ryan reminded himself. But that had felt different. In part because it had been the early days, when everything was chaos and it felt like any mistake Ryan made could lead to not only his death, but the death of the entire world as well. The other part of that was…well, it was who they were. Crystal had seemed to be easygoing, constantly telling him to roll with it, and Athena had given the impression that Ryan had no hope of ever impressing her, so there was no point trying not to.
Now, Ryan felt like he should know these things, and even though he’d been working alongside Dianmu for weeks now, he felt like he barely knew her. No time to fix that like the present, Ryan reminded himself. “Could you give me a hand?” he asked.
“After a fashion. Let me get settled in first,” Dianmu said, sitting in one of the chairs. She took a moment to lean back and gazed up at his nanoverse. He followed her eyes.
The stars weren’t quite as bright as they had been at first. More and more of the most luminous supergiants had fallen into supernovas, and many of even the G class stars – stars like Earth’s sun – had burned up, growing into giants and then collapsing into white dwarfs. The orange and red dwarfs were becoming dominant, although there were still other G class stars out there, they were now the brightest stars in the universe. We’re coming to the end of the stelliferous era, if I remember the term correctly. Probably have a few billion more relative years before that’s completely done, and it’s just dwarf stars for the next trillion. Then…nothing. “Feels like I went from a young and bright universe to this pretty quickly.”
Dianmu nodded. “The first cycle is always like this. Your universe is going through time much more quickly than most gods. You’ll probably need to do a Crunch in a century or so. After that it will smooth out, but it seems everyone burns things up more quickly while they undergo apotheosis.”
“That makes sense,” Ryan said, motioning to raise a chair out of the floor and sit across the table from her. He opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t think of anything.
Dianmu seemed to take pity on him, and swung around to face him fully. “Let’s get the navigation set up, shall we?”
“That would be great,” Ryan said with a surge of relief. He stood up and walk over to the console. “Okay, so for places on Earth I know I pull up the Zoisphere and select where it is. For Olympus, we went to where it connects to Earth. For Tartarus, Crystal told me to select her doorway’s location and I’d basically auto follow her.”
Dianmu nodded. “A good way to handle a ‘quick and dirty’ instruction.”
“Yeah, but it means I’m lost when it comes to other realms.”
“The problem is, you’re thinking too linearly.”
Ryan looked at the console and frowned. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Ryan. My nanoverse looks like one of my old temples, and I navigate it by arranging a jade dial. Athena’s is done through touching letters in ancient Greek. With so many different ways of travelling, how do you think we can all go to the same places? Anansi went to the moon long before space travel was even imagined – long before we even knew what ‘space’ truly was, and he did it without anyone to teach him how to use a nanoverse. How can we all do these different things with such different mechanisms?”
Ryan’s frown deepened. “I guess…I have no idea.”
Dianmu gave him a reassuring smile. “Think, Ryan. How does everything else here work?”
“It follows what I…” Ryan’s frown began to fade. “It follows what I think should happen.”
“Exactly. So. You tell me. How do you travel to another world?”
Ryan looked at the console, chewing his lip in thought. Then, carefully, he reached over to the map of the Earth on the touchscreen and swiped to the right.
It brought up a map of Olympus.
Dianmu grinned. “Well done. But surely there is an easier way to select a specific world, isn’t there?”
“Of course there is,” Ryan said because the moment she said it, the moment she put the idea in his head, he saw three horizontal lines on the top corner of the touchscreen. Lines he was certain weren’t there before. He reached over to tap them, and it brought up a menu with dozens of options – the first and foremost of which was search. He tapped it again, and a keyboard appeared. “Does Officium have one F or two?” he asked.
“Two, although I’d be surprised if it mattered.”
Ryan tapped out the words Oficium Mundi, deliberately using one F to test the theory. Did you mean Officium Mundi? With a nod to Dianmu, he tapped the link, and brought up a map of the homeworld of the Curators. It had one central point, a green circle labeled “Arrivals.” He tapped it, and the image on the screen dissolved to show a timer. “Oh, wow. That was easier than I expected it to be.”
“It’s something you must remember Ryan, something I think you struggle with because you’re from a time when ‘magic’ is believed to be myth, and myths are just stories we tell each other. You’re from an age of rationality and complexity, and that means you expect everything to be logical and complex. The fact is, perception shapes reality, and here in your nanoverse, your perception is reality. Intuition rules logic here. Let that guide you.”
“So, in other words, roll with it?” Ryan asked her.
Dianmu chuckled lightly. “Precisely. I think that might be what Crystal was trying to teach you with that catchphrase – that you needed to let things happen a bit more.”
“I think she just didn’t want to spend hours telling me everything.”
“Oh, that most certainly was part of it – she has a habit of doing that.”
“You two go back, don’t you?”
Dianmu nodded. “We’re old friends. I would have come when you both first asked for help, if I hadn’t been busy with coming back from the dead.”
“You were coming back from the dead?” Ryan asked, his eyes widening. “What happened.”
“It’s a long story,” Dianmu said.
Ryan checked the console. “Well, we’ve got an hour until we get to Officium Mundi. Think that’s enough time?”
Dianmu smiled. “Plenty.”
They headed to the table as the nanoverse hummed around them.
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