Tree of Ubiquikin
by DJ Burnham
forum: Tree of Ubiquikin
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Tree of Ubiquikin


With overwhelming exhilaration she relinquished the final tenuous thread and abandoned her corporeal form, as she soared above Brighton, above Britain, above Europe, out into space, and into the arms of destiny. From this orbital vantage point her home for these past years was wrapped in alluring blue oceans and green-brown continents, precious atmosphere streaked and whirled with immense weather systems, shining like a fortune-teller's crystal ball reflecting clouds and blue skies. For a moment it was as though man didn't exist and time had rolled back to a more innocent age, but then she was momentarily shot through with sadness as time rattled forward and humankind bloomed across the surface of the Earth, plundering and defiling the fragile masterpiece orbiting the Solar furnace that granted life—that was itself, in turn and turning, taken for granted. Then she surrendered herself to his fervent embrace.

She was twenty-one at last, but days, weeks, months and years were antiquated concepts now, and millennia were as motes in the perspective of her new life, in her true form: a Ubiquikin. Her chosen partner had travelled an inconceivable distance to arrive at a precise and predetermined moment, in order to trigger her metamorphosis and awakening.

* * *

His parents had visited the Tree of Ubiquikin, at the centre of the realm of the Flux, a match for an eternal companion had been made, and her location revealed to their progeny by subconscious time-release. Some worlds leant themselves to the conscious development of a Ubiquikin better than others and the seed of the gestating life force would be sown according to strict rules. A world could only be seeded once (throughout all of time and space); the ratio of individuals developing with an awareness of their true identity, to those without, should be 1:1 (although all would harness their biofield—consciously or involuntarily, depending on circumstance—to adopt the physical and developmental characteristics of the host species); and each set of parents were permitted to seed two progeny, one male and one female, of which one would be a Sleeper and one a Seeker. Whilst on Earth, Once-Jiva had been a Sleeper and Sparklehead her Seeker.

Sparklehead had lived amongst the Hoolgrax for eighty sheddings, from egg to teenager. He was the second, and last, progeny of his parents, so he inherited a full update from the Flux's Athenaeum, but concealed his ipseity from the Hoolgrax by harnessing the seminal energy of his biofield. He kept a low profile by working as an assistant regenerative shedding-cot engineer, communicating by basic chirrups—although he was more than capable of Hoolgrax standard etheric transmission across considerable distances, but chose to maintain the pretence of witlessness, biding his time. Then the time-release surfaced and he relinquished his Hoolgrax form for that of a Ubiquikin and set off across the universe to find his Sleeper, his destiny and his amor fati. The location of his companion was revealed to him in the form of elaborate physical cosmology, as a map of the universe unfolded in his mind's eye, gigalight-years in dimensions, and through his cosmic theodolite, at the very hub of the great mass of Galaxies and Clusters, he saw a tiny flashing beacon.

* * *

Jiva had been irresistibly drawn to Sparklehead from the very instant she saw him, compelled to behave totally out of character, mesmerized in helpless fascination. The flickering bright lights of his cranial display were the manner in which his memories, thoughts, experiences and knowledge of the Athenaeum manifested themselves to her simple human senses, but the choreography of these dancing satellites wasn't just the visual representation of a unique energy signature, but also the complex code which was the catalyst to her metamorphosis; both mating display and key. It had to be a gradual process, the product of each stage accelerating the next, so as not to cause a shut-down/overload to the primitive substrate of the human mind, initially making full use of her brain and broadening her horizons with successive revelations about the nature of the Earth, then increasing neurotransmitter efficiency, which lead on to direct synaptic anastamoses, allowing subtle Ubiquikin definition and dreams of surfacing identity. Then came her physical transformation—as had been visited upon countless other Sleepers before her—as her organic and then atomic construct was carefully converted. She perceived her kind as Invisibles, yet to fully appreciate her true nature; nevertheless, she knew that Sparklehead had come for her and it was time to join him, as she submitted to the embrace of space-time foam and felt the final release.

He formed himself into a broad biofield spread at the apex of her launch trajectory and caught her like netting a butterfly. The Earthly form of Once-Jiva had been shed like an atomic cocoon and abandoned, space-time folded around them, and as she harmonised with her chosen partner she knew an elation that was so intense, so sensuous, so glorious, that it would have destroyed the mind of her outmoded animal form, but with a fully integrated life force bonding a quadrillion sentient quantum particles and the first tentative steps of conjoining with her lover, it was a delirious rapture that rewarded their union. Once recovered, she experienced an epiphany as he gradually streamed his collective memories and the first lesson of the essence of what it was to be a Ubiquikin. She became familiar with her own biofield's energy signature and was made ready for space travel. With reassuring caresses they expanded to an ultra-wide field of view and combined their dissociated particles into an azure biofield cloud of massless energy, acting as quantum chameleons, leaving Earth's orbit at an incalculable velocity. Perceiving their rapidly changing position in the Universe, they watched as the Earth became a vanishing dot, red-shifting into the far distance, lost amongst the stars, swallowed by the spiral arms of the Milky Way. With a second lesson he taught her how to manipulate time, such that with their combined energy they could compress their journey into attoseconds, covering megalight-years in an instant.

Her Earthly moniker stayed with the planet, along with her corporeal form. Now they knew each other, and their kind, by the complex energy signatures that were emblematically synonymous with the Ubiquikin soul.

* * *

They began the first stage of their adventure by visiting a small planet with even less landmass than the Earth. Evolution had overcome the fierce territorial battles of the native species by adapting several of them for flight. Whilst they had been obliged to remain no bigger than a shrew on the ground, once they took to the air they found an environment far more conducive to growth. The dominant lifeform resembled enormous manta rays, a single beat of their pectoral fins could take up to an hour (Earth True Solar Time) to complete, and they flew in flocks of fifty or more, steadily cruising the atmosphere, searching for smaller airborne prey or simply gliding with their immense jaws agape to filter zooplankton journeying on the breeze. The smooth ventral surface was pigmented to match the pink colour of the sky, such that prospective prey would remain unaware of their stealthy approach, and the dorsal surface a deep blue to match the wide expanse of the ocean below. They could communicate across vast distances with astonishingly resonant booming bellows, virtually sub-sonic, conjured up from the depths of their bellies. At night they would ascend to the upper limits of the breathable atmosphere and steadily glide in their sleep, before the shift in wind rush, detected by the pressure receptors in their ventral gland-line, alerted them to the proximity of the ground, waking them up in time to pull out of a languid dive and resume feeding.

Next they encountered a deep space-dwelling species, each individual a kilometre across, glistening like an oil slick, shaped like an inverted bowl, glittering pockets of radiating colours marking the bell margin of the skirt of their bodies. The flashing sacs were filled with bioluminescent symbiotic organisms converting cosmic background radiation into a compatible energy source for their hosts' metabolic cycles. Subumbrella tentacles trailed for tens of kilometres behind them, wafting in the breeze of solar flares, sifting for solar neutrinos—their diet consisting of the three basic flavours of electron, muon and tau. The Ubiquikin couplet's knowledge of human history identified them as the source of UFO reports in the latter part of Earth's 20th century.

In a trice the honeymooning Ubiquikin couplet arrived at a colossal planet with an immense ploon in orbit around it. The three times Earth standard-gee force had created broad, squat, bipedal creatures, troll-like in appearance and living in highly developed societies complete with sovereignties ruling over vast dominions. Their sight was keen, but restricted to proximate horizons by virtue of both the flattened topography wrought by the unremitting force and the limits of their stature. Their skin was dyed red by the dense muscle tissue packed below its surface and movement was laborious, but they knew no different and shuffled their granite frames about their daily business. The smallest of molecules falling on their tongues, or olfactory glands, could elicit the most intense flavours as they were driven down onto the sense organs; consequently, their vocabulary revolved around the identification and composition of practically every chemical compound that had the audacity to challenge the burdening environment. Loyal subjects, invited to court, could taste the mood of their sovereign through the food that he, or she, directed the royal cooks to prepare. As the Ubiquikins brushed the minds of the assembly—with a lightness of touch that would have utterly confounded them—they soaked up the response to the chemical messengers in the feast. Anger was the theme that evening, coupled with a dangerously aggressive disposition. The path of their lives was dictated by the influence of a twenty-year cycle, beginning with terrible and exhausting conflict directed on similarly enraged neighbouring dominions. Lumbering battles, fought at close quarters, would decimate entire armies and take months to conclude, as troops squared up to the enemy and struggled to be the first to thrust needle-sharp daggers through leathery skin and pierce the super-thick myocardium of their adversaries' hearts. After several years' bloody conflict a strangely ambivalent calm would descend and a period of indifferent tolerance would ensue. Ten years since the height of enmity—which had also spilt over into exaggerated bouts of sibling rivalry—the time-travelling Ubiquikins witnessed a complete turn of events. It was a time of sweetmeats and sweethearts, courts abuzz with flirtatious good humour and uplifting music, inter-dominion marriages bolstering regal harmony. Large groups would set off and plod along compacted roads to explore the irresistible affinity—the gravitational equal of their planet—that they felt for their neighbours. They experienced the quirky similarities of their cultures and revelled in the unity of adoration that flowed from every mouthful of glorious food, which they shared with unbridled relish. They fell into drawn out bouts of love making, days on end, tenderly clasped in scented baths whose buoyancy gave some relief from the gravity and prevented them from crushing the life out of their partners. The population expanded rapidly, replacing the losses from the long-forgotten war in a celebration of congeniality. As the years past they lost their sexual verve and fraternisation slipped into guarded, strained mutual respect, as petulance superseded goodwill and, inevitably, the anger started to seep back into the sovereign's feast.

For the Ubiquikins it was easy to appreciate what was happening. As they fast-forwarded through the twenty-year cycle they noticed a distinct change in the biochemistry of their unwitting hosts. The massive ploon took years to complete a circuit of the planet itself. The ploon and the planet's relation to the star altered according to fixed cycles over a twenty-year period, but the resultant tidal forces didn't act on the oceans alone. The stocky beings were unwitting players in the theatre of the heavens, as the ploon and sun directed their tidal-influenced endocrine glands. At syzygy, adrenaline-equivalent hormones surged around their bodies, stimulating aggression and masking the androgens. Whereas neap tide allowed testosterone and oestrogen to rule, which had the opposite effect on their emotions. Between these extremes was the hormonal equivalent of slack water, when neither dominated their mood and a lassitude fell upon them.

Had the Ubiquikins so wished, then they could have communicated with the populace, explained the aetitology of their dilemma and even given them instructions on how to manufacture a carefully timed antidote that would have matched the tidal mood swings. But it was neither their role, nor their intention to interfere. With the awakening of her true Ubiquikin mind and the shared knowledge of the Athenaeum from her partner, Once-Jiva had swiftly eschewed any lingering human sensibilities—whose feeble protestations clamoured for her to intervene in the course of the lives of the myriad species that they were to encounter—preferring to leave the course of conflict and the development of belief systems to their natural outcome.

It was not the Ubiquikin way. Their praxes were not so much of an ethical root, as more unquestioned and logical codes of conduct. As a race the Ubiquikins were as old as time and had seen a billion joys, and a billion sorrows, borne by other species who came and went like fireflies in the seemingly infinite encounters. They were observers, cosmic culture-vultures possibly, but with ancient wisdom and a dispassion for their subjects' fleeting lives that would have shocked her former human hosts. The Ubiquikins' only vice—if you could call it that—was a craving for exploration and insight, not adventure as such, more akin to the ceaseless drive of a Victorian plant-hunter, but satiated by the ever-growing intellect of a collective consciousness, rather than physical accumulation.

* * *

They flitted from one world to the next, like pinballs ricocheting off a game of cosmic pic 'n' mix in a playground 90 billion light-years side to side.

A behemoth overflowed their visual field, densely packed, interweaving shoals of leviathans swimming below its surface, rising up in coloured blotches before diving back down into its ponderous form. They pulled back to a distant vantage point and all became clear. In a moment of déjà vu she saw that her sweetheart had brought her to the realm of her metamorphic dreams and understood that they had been future echoes of their incipient adventure. There before her was the symbiotic macro-organism of her final Earthly reverie, as oblivious in its role as the shoals were to the true nature of their living aquarium. This aggregate of gigantic superhydra formed the cellular structure of a lifeform that was as immense as a galaxy. The leviathans were dwarfed into insignificance by the body to which they belonged, and had unwittingly evolved to serve.

In a moment the Ubiquikin couplet were amongst the fleeting lives of a trillion sentient microscopic avians, flying in dense flocks above an immense ocean. They pulled back once more to reveal the ocean as an eye. That eye belonged to a Flatchian pygmy mouse (the smallest mammal on its planet), and the avian colony was no more than a tiny speck on an eyelash of the busy little rodent—stacking pebbles in front of its burrow to harvest the morning dew.

In a distant corner of deep space they encountered a young planet, swathed in acidic gases, in the cradle of a collapsing nebula. But even here life had found a foothold and probiotic architecture wound upwards from volcanic foundations, reaching for an unforgiving sky, feasting on the corrosive atmosphere, biding its time, forming breathtakingly beautiful curvilinear growth, an iridescent sheen protecting the proto-plant life in its protractedly resourceful evolution.

When these images had originally filled her dreams they had been code-transmitted trailers, promises, and tokens of affection. Now they were reality, gifts beyond compare, the ultimate Ubiquikin romantic gesture. Together they headed out into the quietest region of the sector, their bond cemented and their love crying out for consummation.

With glittering gyrations in their biofield cloud they abandoned themselves to love, circling one another as they helter-skeltered down a sub-atomic double helix in a tornado-blended snowstorm of cherry and apple blossom, musical notes in an exultant multi-layered symphony, a synergy of pan-dimensional sentient matter, jigsawing pattern after pattern in inexhaustible combinations, a blur of playful adoration and implicit trust, gently colliding galaxies merging in tender harmony, violet static chasing its tail across the surface of the escalating pulsation that was the combined Ubiquikin essence cloud-state, sending metallic sparks off into space, until, finally, a turquoise micronova of photonic ecstasy erupted from the conjunction. The cloud slowly formed into two discernable entities, still mingling in a central band of subtle overlap, both nebulae dappled with the fading remnants of a quantum orgasm, sprinkled with tiny glittering starbursts, as a third energy signature coalesced in their midst, triggering the appearance of another flashing beacon on the horizon of their cosmography.

Within moments they hung in front of a shimmering frame in space, a gateway to a conduit of organic energy, a portal of blackness, which mirrored nothing but accessed everything. They slipped inside and the spacetime foam equivalent of a sprung-steel leaf-shutter snapped behind them, hiding the entrance from every other being in that vacated universe. They flew along the conduit into a raging torrent, part artery, part sentient energy plasma, part buffer to the alternative realities, and part soakaway for the boundless residual energy of creation.

And then they were spat out at their destination.

* * *

The Ubiquikin couplet's Sleeper progeny would be born into the host world's society with automatic involuntary harnessing of his biofield (chameleon programming). He would take on not only the appearance of the native race, but also their growth characteristics (both physical and mental). The unwitting quantum cuckoo would also be capable of perfect mimicry of his hosts' flaws and injuries, emotions and social interactions, and the qualities and failures of a complex populous in a narrow corridor of time. His parents immersed themselves in the chosen world—in its past, present and future—familiarising themselves with the pattern of evolution that had brought this alien civilisation to its current form and how the planet interacted with the alternative reality universe in which it resided. They saw how a massive increase in the intensity of the sun's ultraviolet output initially caused widespread photodamaging and carcinogenic effects to the people's skin, but an extraordinary evolutionary development led to a new characteristic being inherited by successive generations.

In the Earth's universe, in the developing creatures that would eventually become the human race, specialised proteobacteria quietly evolved an endosymbiotic relationship within their cells. These prokaryotes eventually developed into the membrane-enclosed organelles (cellular power plants) known as mitochondria, which greatly boosted the metabolic cycle and intra-cellular energy reserves, especially in muscle tissue. These proteobacteria waited until their dormant capabilities were given the opportunity to shine.

And so it was with the creatures of the chosen planet, except that their endosymbiotic companions were not bacteria: they were algae. These latent chloroplastic organelles were eventually activated by the rise in sunlight UV intensity and multiplied in the cells of their hosts to spring into bustling photosynthesis. They were at their greatest concentration at the surface of the skin, and so, just as human skin would turn brown from melanin production, the alien skin took on a deep-green hue from the activated chloroplasts. This acted as a barrier to the harmful effects of the UV, absorbing the energy of the incident photons, whilst also providing a modicum of extra energy.

The aliens were bipedal, but about a tenth of the height of a human, and with the chloroplast activation in their skin they were, effectively, Little Green Men. The Ubiquikin couplet encoded the chameleon programming into the shallow region of their progeny's involuntary biofield and their accumulated knowledge into the deeper subconscious, which would be activated when his Seeker came to awaken him. They activated the beacon, so that when the time came for the Seeker's time-release then their progeny's location would be revealed and she could cross this alternative cosmos to find her partner, her paramour and companion, for the aeons that would stretch out before them. With precision timing, they sowed the seed on the verdantly-peopled planet and continued on their own journey. There was no wrench, no sacrifice, no guilt or sense of loss, because this was the Ubiquikin way and the key to greater adventures, playing their part in an age-old process, Sleeper sown on a Tree-chosen world (always the opposite gender to the Sleeper of its parents), parents given access to a new alternative reality in recompense for their endeavours, and so they would move on, explore anew, until the time came to sow their Seeker.

* * *

They travelled back out amongst the stars and came across a planetary paradise: a new Eden. It was an environment in perfect balance, a bioequilibrium that would be the envy of every world, a rare jewel at the dawn of an immaculate epoch, in a perfect orbit around a benevolent star, blessed with an embarrassment of biodiversity co-existing in natural equity. It was a snapshot in time. The millennia that had led to this period had been littered with the usual clumsy mutations and adaptations, which clutter the development of every habitable world. But of late, chance had thrown an unprecedented run of evolutionary double sixes. There was no dominant species, no pandemic or plague, no incipient ice age or rogue asteroid on an intercept course, no random catastrophes or environmental disasters. The turbulent volcanic period was over and the tectonic plates had wriggled themselves into a reasonably comfortable position. Life had occupied every conceivable niche, plant life burst forth with preternatural health, and the food chain had such an abundance of reserves and choices that the carnivores could afford countless lazy hours dozing in the shade.

Then the ship landed.

The Ubiquikins watched in detached fascination as the failing ark pumped out the first toxic pollutants to have ever troubled the planet. Its landing legs gave way and it collapsed on its belly, crushing everything beneath it. The landing site fell quiet for a while, save for a few inquisitive mammals that scuttled around the vessel's bewildering metallic hull, occasionally being gassed by random discharges from the dying engines. Slowly, more animals gathered to see the strange beast that had interrupted the fruitful predictability of their day. Within the grubby shell of the ark, the last of its passengers' kind ran tests on the atmosphere, and gathered data on the riches of the innocent, apolitical utopia in which they'd found themselves. With a hiss and creaking protest, a hatch opened in the hull of the ship and a creature stepped out into the brilliant sunshine, shading the jet-black pupils of its five eyes. A small shrew-like animal sniffed at the stench issuing forth from one of the visitor's four leathery boots and squeaked its disapproval. It was dismissed with a fatal kick. Pollen from the polychromatic flowers of a nearby shrub reached the nasal passages of the Schiston's flattened snout. It sneezed. The aerosol from that projection contained a plethora of bacteria and viruses hitherto unknown to the indigenous creatures. Their immune systems had no defence and it would only be a matter of days before they started dying in droves. The Schistons quickly set about cutting down trees to build shelters and lit fires to roast the easy prey from their forays into the nearby jungle.

Time rolled forward and the Schistons made further inroads, intruding on the sanctity of the planet, abusing its good nature, plundering its riches, harnessing its resources, leaving a trail of damage, waste and extinctions in their wake. Soon great carbuncles of inorganic obscenity metastasised across the once-unblemished habitats, as cities rose up in a mess of artificial geometry and choking smog, and the Schistons revelled in the selfish filth of their rapacity. Their numbers multiplied exponentially, swarming like egotistical locusts across the suffering face of the dying planet, apparently oblivious to the lack of sustainability in their actions, seemingly driven by some God-given right to profligate satiation. Eventually famine turned to war, war to disease, and disease to a near-total collapse of the Schiston population, but not before they had all-but annihilated life on the once-magnificent planet. The few remaining Schistons used the last of their resources to build an escape vehicle, an ark, a spaceship based on the ancient texts of their long-dead ancestors. They launched back out into space and began the search for another planet that might be able to sustain them, having utterly trashed the one place that could have been their salvation.

The Ubiquikin couplet moved on to another world, ten gigalight-years from the last. Herds of terrestrial crustaceans grazed on the pink fruits of prickly brown shrubs, growing in clumps in lush meadow pasture. They scuttled between meals on twenty-eight jointed limbs, protected from airborne attack by an armoured, segmented, calcareous exoskeleton. They moved relatively swiftly for their size, in the warm sunshine of the day, their metabolic rate being boosted by the heat. They had almost exhausted the supply of fruits in that patch and were preparing to move on to locate a fresh source. Under normal circumstances the males and females would void waste fluids in carefully allocated separate areas, but as their departure grew close the mating pairs assembled in a circle around the pasture. The reason for their segregated toilets soon became clear as they squirted in unison. On its own, each of the waste liquids were perfectly safe, but as they combined, in a fountain of defecation, the chemical constituents that set the genders apart ignited into sheets of flame. They scuttled outwards from the blaze and gathered together in a long row of paired individuals. Rolling themselves into balls, carrying those too young to perform the trick on their underbellies, they extruded three sets of vestigial flippers (from their aquatic phase) and used them as paddles to propel themselves forward in a tumbling/rolling motion. As the migration gathered speed, clouds of savanna dust were thrown up either side of the caravan and the sight was accompanied by a great roar of segmented armour against earth.

Back at the vacated pastures the inferno slowly burned itself out, leaving the twisted, charred remains of trees and bushes in skeletal smoulder above a bed of ash. But the coming rainy season would bring about an amazing transformation. Trees that looked lighting-strike-dead returned to life. Seeds that needed the heat of the fire to destroy growth-inhibitors, or burn off the tough impenetrable kernel to permit water ingress and oxygen uptake, sprouted into the light. The drifting smoke had already attracted a broad variety of mammals, avians and insects, associating it with the forthcoming miracle. A few weeks after the rain the sweet green blades were being gratefully nibbled, soft grass heads were being plucked for nest-building material and insects feasted on the nectar of copious bright flowers.

As a new era rose from the ashes, so the Ubiquikin couplet found another Bower of Bliss and the new energy signature of their second progeny burst forth: a Seeker in their midst and another flashing beacon to guide them to the gateway.

* * *

First there was Thought, free-forming in a pre-dimensional vacuum. Thought grew until it became the tiniest pinprick of super-condensed immeasurable energy. There was nothing—other than Thought—no containment, no atoms, no fuse, and no chemical reaction.

Then Thought had an idea.

There would never, could never, be another explosion like it. From that epicentre the bubble of the stuff of life raced outwards into the nothingness. But that accounted for barely a flicker of the energy dissipation, long before the laws of physics or the rules of the cosmos had even drawn breath. Infinite alternative realities sprung into existence from that most singular singularity (the cosmic microwave background radiation of our universe would be but one song) and in those first few attoseconds countless dimensions blinked into being.

And what of Thought?

At the dawn of history Thought was flung, spread, scattered and coalesced into every manifestation of thermal, magnetic, chemical, electrical, nuclear and gravitational forms of energy, before it took upon a form. Thought became the guardian, the buffer between alternative realities, the stabiliser of dimensions, a pansophical entity: the Flux.

The Ubiquikin race was blessed with a primordial innocence; thus, granted tolerance and access to the Flux. Ubiquikins had neither ulterior motive, nor hidden agenda; no undesirable characteristics disruptive to the stability/continuum of the alternative realities; they were incapable of corruption of societies' fine balance, and carried no diseases (be they microbial, spiritual, philosophical, avaricious or militaristic). They would act as scouts for the Flux, carrying information from the furthest reaches of every reality: hi-energy bees carrying cosmic pollen.

The Ubiquikin couplet were squirted/exhaled into what they took to be a 3D microcosm of the realm of the Flux. To the horizon, and in galaxy-sized layers below, planetary simulacra floated about them, identically sized with rapidly altering ghost-like images weaving around their allocated sphere. Closer inspection revealed sensational detail on the fluorescent surfaces, clouds, seas, continents, immense cities, and deserts, each in turn distinctly unlike the last. Some raged red and boiled in molten fury, others icy-blue with snow-capped peaks. Miniature satellites orbited tiny worlds, boundless in variety. Highly complex geometric links joined the worlds into pairs, filamentous genealogy with Seeker-Sleeper bond-traces cobwebbing the layers. From the couplet's perspective they were gazing upon the expanding Tree of Ubiquikin.

The spectral images, which fluttered around the worlds—planets, gas giants, nebulae, asteroids, stars, behemoths and assorted astronomical bodies—at a ferocious pace, revealed fleeting glimpses of strange creatures and bizarre landscapes, of multi-cosmical creation and demise, myriad lettering and symbology, transportation and architecture, all in a chaotic flurry. This was the repository of knowledge, the annals of history, the Flux's Athenaeum.

As the conjoined Ubiquikin biofield cloud sped above the Tree—guided by a force of the Flux's making—so their experiences of the worlds they'd visited were drawn from them, twirling down like ticker tape to catch the tails of passing entries into the Athenaeum. Once the sum total of their experiences had been added, so it was their turn to learn from the supreme font of all knowledge, to acquire an encyclopaedia of possibilities and destinations. They became versed in the art of piggybacking gravitons, of exploiting temporal dimensions, of journeying in the astral plane, and were honoured with the gift of access to the boundless conduits of the Flux.

They had just one final task to perform.

As the beacon had drawn them to the portal, so one hovering wonder shone brighter than the rest. As they approached it, their combined visual field involuntarily zoomed in on one of the chosen world's continents and further magnified until a Ubiquikin biofield cloud came into focus. They immediately recognised the ersatz energy signature as representing that of their progeny and realised that the Tree of Ubiquikin was guiding them, and that this planet had been chosen as the place for them to seed their female Seeker, whose gestation was nearing completion. This time the Flux allowed the Ubiquikin couplet to learn directly from the chosen planet's micro-Athenaeum, in order to pass that knowledge on to their unborn progeny, permitting her to take on the characteristics and temporal life-patterns of the native race by direct, voluntary harnessing of her biofield. Once they had absorbed all that they required, a fine, white light lasered away from the surface of the gracefully revolving sphere, and they set off in pursuit.

Reaching its destination, the thread beamed through the atmosphere of the planetary simulacrum and the filament attached itself to a point above the sand-coloured cathedral mound of an immense isopteran colony. Images from the local Athenaeum fluttered up to the Ubiquikin couplet and they explored the interior of the mound, examining its flues, vents, galleries and chambers. They came upon groups of workers busily foraging, storing food and maintaining the elaborate nests and tunnels. (The swarm intelligence formed a greater mind, such that an individual was of little significance—ideal if you sought anonymity.) They tracked the local nano-Athenaeum forward in time and found a small group of workers who were adding plant matter to a fungal garden, their vestigial eyes of little use in the dark, damp conditions. One of the insects laboured in the darkest corner, carefully patting regurgitated digested wood around the base of some fungal hyphae. It was practically invisible to the others and kept itself to itself.

The Ubiquikin couplet recognised it for what it truly was. This was the future echo of the Sleeper who their Seeker progeny was destined to find. They recorded the exact time and place at which the encounter would occur, calculated the distance and velocity from the Seeker's chosen host world to this, and encoded the beacon into the time-released cosmography that would be buried in their progeny's energy signature.

As they set off to complete their task and deliver their Seeker to her chosen world, the Flux granted them access to every portal leading to every universe of the Alternative Realities. Like pandimensional albatrosses, paired for life, they would travel for aeons across time and space, occasionally contributing to the Athenaeum during their passage through the sentient energy plasma of the conduits between realities, until that moment of their first meeting would become a time out of mind to most mortals. But to the Ubiquikin couplet, that frozen image was an ancient and immutable memento mori, which they would treasure in the midst of their permanently conjoined biofilm cloud, until the last flicker of the candle's flame dissipated the smoke of their energy signatures to the care of the cosmos.



copyright 2007 DJ Burnham.

DJ Burnham has had a lifelong love of Science Fiction. Having stepped back from an exciting sideline in concert promotion, he has found time to pen some stories of his own, many of which have appeared in webzines such as Silverthought, Bewildering Stories and Aphelion.

In 2005 he had a short story published as part of a speculative fiction anthology Silverthought: Ignition and in February 2007 another short story was published in Vol. #1, Issue #1 of The Literary Bone.

The first collection of DJ Burnham's short stories was published in July 2007, with all of the profits from the sales going to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

He also writes poetry and creates original decoupage-style artwork.

DJ Burnham lives in Brighton, England with his wife Sue and their cat. He is a Health Service worker by day and a dreamer by night.

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