Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

It emerges from whatever variety of nowhere that allowed it to traverse the vast distances between the worlds of the Beacon, and I know that it’s a Stranger. I’m about to slap the alarm pad when the nine-hundred meter form dips its prow and opens vast wings of multicoloured force, like some wanderer over the seas spreading it’s wings after a dive. Rainbow lightning dances down its length as supposedly discrete realities claw at each other. The sheer spectacle paralyses me.

Sure enough, after the unfurling comes the first flap. At its peak, the wingtips touch and clashing energy fields flash ball lightning and flux portals. With a great downstroke, the machine fully exits the nowhere it’s crossed and rises above our plane of observation. The great pinions spread again and it hangs there; an albatross of the gods.

“Tychnar Beacon Twelve to intergalactic vessel just emerged in our quadrant, render your identifiers.”

This is the moment I dread: when a Stranger can become an Intruder and our survival hinges on the alien devices that are inset around this planetoid.

“Kreeloo kreeloo day, narien laday sho tok nu madest.”

I sit up as alarms howl and Fresnor, my second, wakes so violently he falls from his hammock. Looking down at the master console, I see lights racing in patterns as the language CPU gives itself primary status and brings n=E2 processing power to bear.

Applying the equivalent of double Earth’s entire computing ability in 2217 allows the language system to produce and answer in ninety seconds, which indicates this Stranger is an incomprehensible distance from home.

The translation comes out in a pleasant baritone: “Formal greeting under auspices of unknown deity, this is Laday of Narien seeking the insightful far-travelling one.”

Fresnor is preparing navigation co-ordinates, collating three-hundred ways of saying ‘your destination will be at this point at this time’, in the hope Laday can understand.

Fresnor nods and I lean down to the receiver: “Fair journeying to you, Laday of Narien. We are transmitting a navpulse now. If you cannot derive direction from the primary sets contained, we have a secondary set.”

There is a pause, then the glorious starbird folds its wings and dives into a hole in reality that appears before it. Within a minute, we are alone in the vastness of space once again.

“That was pretty.”

I look at Fresnor: “It was. Here’s hoping it carries hope for the Worldwalker’s quest.”

Fresnor sighs: “Only in that it’s another race joining us in preparing to fight the Cornered Circle.”

Nodding, I ask: “I have always wondered: are they attacking us or fleeing what follows them?”

Fresnor tosses me a mealpack: “It makes no difference. They will come for Tychnar. Everything that crosses relies on the Anchor signal for multiversal navigation. The strategic necessity is that Tychnar must fall.”

I grimace: “So we’re doomed?”

Fresnor laughs: “No, we just need some unusually good luck.”

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