Abbas felt his brain turning into mush as he listened to the recording of Magos Dexxira'tel lecturing on the topic of basic data systems. It had all seemed so simple when Magos Frist had sat him down and drawn it on his data slate but now that she was no longer there to guide him through the engineering diagrams, it seemed that all of them had changed into a fascinating mix of gibberish and oblong shapes.
“I need to get memory engrams installed before the Magos realizes I have no idea what on earth she says five minutes after the fact,” Abbas sighed, “Orr, have you gotten any farther in this than I have?”
Abbas looked to his left and realized that he Orr had frozen in place, the boy sat stock still with his spoon hanging in front of his mouth. Taking it for a practical joke Abbas swiped at him with his data-slate, “Very funny man, be serious.”
Orr burst into a cloud of blue smoke as Abbas fell off his bed and into a So'go'ol pitch he'd been fond of as a child. Standing up with some confusion Abbas looked at the Data-slate in his hand only to find he was holding an oversized piece of uncooked grox steak.
“Oh for Throne's sake,” Abbas pinched himself and felt nothing, “I fell asleep. The Magos will have my hide.”
A troupe of So'go'ol players ran around him, firing back and forth at each other. He recognized the uniforms of his favorite team. He knew that he was supposed to be doing something to do with studying but for the life of him he couldn't remember how it was relevant to the game.
Abbas ducked down and pulled out his own stun pistol, feeling great pride in the So'go'ol uniform he wore. The Magos wouldn't begrudge him one game and he knew that the flying blue grox circling the pitch wouldn't let him leave anyway, not without a silver whistle.
He leapt over the boxes and tucked into a ball, rolling down the stairs as stun-fire spluttered across the railing. Sparks hissed and spat on the puddles of moisture dripping from the ceiling as he leapt to his feet, soaring above his opponents and landing on the other side of the pitch. Astonished at his own feat of acrobatics he jumped again and found himself soaring more easily.
Again and again he jumped, the game long forgotten as he rose higher and higher till he was eventually flying. He soared around the cargo bay, swooping twice before banking left and soaring out the open window and into the void of space. Inky cloying blackness swirled around him in an ocean of sound and shimmering dust, psychedelic trails of orange fluid moving out of his way with every paddle of his fingers.
The normally empty void of space was teeming with life. Multicolored fish bubbled their way past planets and stars, nestling in reefs of asteroids and planetary debris. Silver sharks ate blue warbling bird-like eels, braying in amusement at Abbas' playful smile.
A golden manta circled Abbas, singing songs of good cheer. He caught the golden manta's tail, sinking his fingers into it's skin like a pilot fish. Laughing like a madman, Abbas whooped with joy as the singing golden fish swam through the stars, joining with a thousand other manta rays. The golden fish swam around huge green flowers, tending to them and singing with them in a glorious chorus cheering for life and wonder.
They bathed in the light of brilliant white stars, feeling the tempo of their constant solar drumming base line. The great stars nurtured their planets, caressing them and filling them with teeming life. The ocean filled with more animals and plants than Abbas could hope to count, each adding to the song with new rhythm and motion. A symphony of harmonious eternity. The golden fish and their plants hovered around ancient men of stone and lithe, transparent men of eternal beauty and serenity. Each had their place, each had their part, and all followed the suns with rapture.
Then from a place of darkness came a mewling discordant cry, abrupt in its severity and envy. A measured staccato of furious hatred. From a dark hollow of shadows came the sorrowful ones. Slight of figure and near translucent in their temporal nature they lashed out at the animals, crushing fish, bird, and beast out of spite. They charged forwards, murdering then disappearing back into the ether.
Incensed by this the largest and strongest of the creatures pounced on the sorrowful ones, fish, flowers, dancing men, huge saurian figures and stone men crushing the murderous aggressors. They battled for an age and a half, pure titanic might versus craft and guile. The minds of the sorrowful ones were great and terrible but the suns heard the terrified cries of their children and came to their aid.
The sorrowful ones were mighty, but no match for the suns. Sorrow was cast back into shadow and night.
The chorus was diminished, but not gone. The dancing men ever vigilant for the sorrowful ones return, the suns turned back to their worlds. They made new fish, beasts, and plants, sowing their garden with more life than ever before, all to the sorrow of the sorrowful men. New creatures came, apes, wolves and vipers, each adding to the tune till it exceeded it's former resplendence.
The sorrowful men turned to their own dying sun, a hateful god who'd long abandoned them, and pulled a poison from it's corpse. They syphoned a hungering hatred from it's marrow, giving form to a thirsting venom from the birth of all. The howling maws of the abominations fed upon the singers, leaving behind silence and sorrow.
No longer discordant, the sorrowful one became the silent ones. Marching across the stars with their hungering abominations they moved ever forward, crushing the star children. Men of stone crumbled, men of steel rusted, and all manner of bird and beast were slain. Abominations swallowed whole worlds. The Suns came to save their children but they too were food for the hungering ones, monsters weaned upon the flesh of stars like a mother's milk. Beasts fled to the silent ones, begging for mercy and pledging service.
Traitorous vermin and mewling vipers ill suited to sing in the first place, they found easy living till the hunger of the Abominations grew too strong to bear and the vermin became food for their new masters.
In their pain and desperation the dancing men forged their terrified chorus into a weapon, bringing forth abominations of their own from the song, bringing alien songs from beyond. All manner of disgusting creatures of melody were forged to silence the hungering ones. Unable to kill the Abominations, the Suns fled to the corners of the universe, creating life with little thought as to how it grew and lived, so long as it survived. The endless field, the hastening blades, denizens of endless dance, and the hidden ones became the new image of how life was to be. They forged their creatures into weapons, turning the men of steel into blades, the men of stone into walls, and the fish and flowers into sharks and thorns to protect the nascent choir. For even the immortal were made moral.
Cautions and nature and nearly old as the stars themselves the arachnids started biting every creature in sight in desperation, poisoning them so that the silence would not reach their hidden webs. Born in a time before the song they hoped to confuse the silence, hiding between worlds. They crushed all who strayed too close to the nest. The fish and flowers rose up to crush the spiders wrapping their vines an webs about each other, attacking in the past and future in eternal looping battles. But with five words the greatest of the Suns brought the spiders into the fold, turning them into a weapon against the silence.
The Arachnids joined the song, howling at the top of their voice and disappearing before coming back and doing it again. No order, no planning, just fear and war and death. The dancing men and the arachnids fought alongside the otherworldly abominations, giving the men of stone time to forge great black gems. Horrible in nature these gems were intended to do that which should not be, to turn the power of the stars upon themselves, harnessing the power of creation to un-make what is. Armed with chaos and horror they struck back, slaughtering the silent ones and their abominations and driving them back to their worlds. The children of the dancing ones, the hastening blades, became the favored weapons of the suns, given power and knowledge beyond that granted to the other races.
Though they held the gems of the suns, the creatures were lost without the song, an orchestra without a conductor. Each of them tried to continue singing but it was a poor imitation of what had once been the music. The suns grew dim and silent, dying of age and weariness.
The timeless creators of all things had drawn to an end. Fearing for their lives the suns hid among the stars, burrowing within the corpses of the worlds that had born them. Though the oldest and wisest of the suns still lingered, they could not return to them for fear of the silent one's abominations, able only to give each of first of races a single task, an duty till the song could return.
It was a wise action, for without the suns to slake their hunger the abominations turned upon each other and upon the servants of the silent ones, having grown too fat and greedy upon the ancient suns. But too late, it was all too late. As the suns faded from the universe the silent men turned upon their own abominations, fearing their hunger and dominion. No longer protected by the discord of abomination the silence hid their shattered gods as they hid themselves, slumbering mordant silence for fear of the dark gems.
For a time the young races found peace in their duty and their successes against the abominations and the destruction of the hiding places of the silent ones. But the fish and thorns were impatient, they wished to have the song again, to touch the face of the divine. They forged a gateway to go beyond the paths of the web and into the ocean of stars beyond. It was the place that had birthed the starts in the time before time. Greedily and foolishly they opened a door that should never have been, unleashing the songs of dominion. The universe, having long battled silence, had no defense for the sea of screams.
So eager to hear the song again were the fish and flowers that it was too late that they realized the song was corrupting them.
Those who'd waited for the choir most eagerly became easy prey for the dominion of screams, mindless servants to it's howling. The silent ones and their hiding places were lost as the vast ocean of the stars became a blood bath anew, the oldest and youngest of races suffering from the screams with equal measure. Only the arachnids in their hidden places were free of the danger, their otherworldly nature and preternatural caution protecting them from harm. The gems were turned upon each other as the children of the suns and the dominion of screams battled to rob each other of knowledge and territory, ending only when the fish managed to crush the bridge to the ocean beyond.
The golden manta looked at him with tired fish eyes and a man's face, crooning in sorrow. Though there were no words Abbas felt the lamentation of the countless dead and suffering, the desire for order and the knowledge that it would never come again. It spoke as it sang, it's lips not seeming to matter to the song, “You must know. You must learn. Listen to the music, not the song.”
Before he could remember exactly where he'd heard the unnerving reverberating echo of a voice before, Abbas awoke in a cold sweat. His head had collided jarringly with the floor as a set of agumentic hands yanked the mattress out from under him. Winking the stars from his eyes he stared blearily up at Magos Frist and said, “The fish was singing to me.”
“The wine was singing to you if you thought I'd forget about your assignments boy. You'd better have finished them all if you think you can go about napping instead of coming to me with them,” She jibed caustically, “I'll have to hide you and Orr both. Being an apprentice to a Magos is not some cake-walk for indolent princelings to ignore until luck and social obligation puts them in a position of power.”
Orr looked nervously at Abbas. Abbas knew all too well that the poor boy had likely decided not to wake him out of simple courtesy. His kindness would not be replayed in kind. Abbas clutched his data slate to his chest, “I would prefer that you gave me both Orr's beating and my own for my mistakes.”
Orr's eye's bulged in horror as Magos Frist sighed and snagged his data slate with an augmentic tentacle. She ran a finger across the scroll bar, looking over his answers in total silence before meeting his eyes, “How on earth did you do this?”
Abbas opened his mouth to explain that he just couldn't figure out what Magos Dexxira'tel meant about the data systems having their own minds, though lacking their own will, when he recognized that he in fact did have an answer to that. Actually, it seemed that in his sleep all the words about his technical manual seemed to have reverted from incoherent symbols into plain English on his tongue. Nobody was more surprised than Abbas when he pulled out a pen and started drawing out his own ideal database hierarchy of specialized logic engines and knowledge spirits, and how he wanted to integrate them with Babylon systems.
He hummed to himself as he worked, discussing his ideas with Orr and the Magos, the threat of a whipping apparently forgotten in favor of her beloved machines. The music, older than time itself, gave purpose to his quill strokes bringing the knowledge into focus with greater acuity.
Abbas was proud that he would one day be a Magos, but knowledge was useless without a goal. Worthless by itself. He now had a goal, a borrowed wonderful memory from a dream as clear as day. By hook or by crook he would find the beautiful music once again.