Monday, August 26


He could not measure how long he tumbled through the void between time and space. He took solace in the certainty that he had sealed the hull breach before he was torn away. Wherever and whenever Qlippothic and Koen would land, he surmised, they would at least land intact.

"Our construct integrities are compromised!" Qli shouted, her voice distorted in the Paradox around them. "Redoubling Probability Shield Strength!"

He was certain he heard Qlippothic's voice. For barely a nanosecond he saw two wrecked constructs latched onto each other as they careened through the infinite in a trajectory only a Time Lord could possibly chart. He telescoped his limbs in the fruitless hope of finding someone or something. If only he could get some sort of bearing...there. A pinpoint of light in the visible spectrum, on a three-dimensional vector no less. It was following him like a spotlight, even as he flipped himself inside out a few times while trying to stabilize his course. It appeared to be getting larger, or closer. He began postulate if he was falling into a trap until he identified the exact frequency of the light.


"He is not here, Ash Mason."

There was gravity again. He rose from the smooth marble floor. The tall semicircle of stone before him was likewise flawless and the same deep shade of green. At the top of arc, several wizened blue humanoids in orange robes peered down at him. One of them spoke.

"Only you can bring him back." An orb of energy slowly descended to the floor beside him and dissipated, leaving a device behind. "The ring must be recharged so you may both return."

Ash quickly adjusted to the darkness of the Digital Grid. As the Guardians taught him, he held the lantern forward, letting it guide him towards wherever like emanations remained. The terrain was unformatted and treacherous, jagged rocks as sharp and brittle as obsidian. He followed the trail of carnage - ghost images of destroyed machine parts that floated where their controllers were disintegrated, still too radioactive from the destructive blasts to de-rez. Very rarely did programs linger in such a state. The Grid was all too eager to absorb their living energies back into the realm's essence.

But Ryder was not a program. He was human. Ash rested the lantern and fell to his knees when found his comrade's remains.

Ash's eyes cast a red glow on the shimmering identification disc in his hand.

"You did find a workaround...the Guardians told me that the ring will always adjust to fit its wearer. You reformatted your ring into an identification disc and drew energy directly from this plane. But is it still compatible with Oan power batt..."

His modulated voice trailed off as his irises clicked wider. He watched the sparks spiral within the circuitry embedded in the disc. A disc recorded a program's thoughts and feelings. Ash had learned to read the code of the discs. His grip trembled and his voice began to crack.

"Ryder? loved me too? And just like me, you were too afraid...?"

He cradled the disc against his chest. His sobs echoed across the smooth stones.

In a flash he rose to his feet and assumed a combat stance, raising the disc in preparation to throw even as oily tears fell to the ground where he stood. Was that laughter he heard? Or phantoms from the entirety of another man's life that he held in his hand?

He lay the battery at Ryder's feet. Ash turned away, still too shaken to watch as the battery's aura engulfed Ryder's body.

"I have made this same mistake before." He spoke to the disc despite his certainty that nothing inside it could respond. "I swear to you, Ryder. I will never make that mistake again."

Hesitantly he turned to face the power battery again. Nothing remained of his former companion.

"Let me be worthy to continue your duties in your place, Ryder. Like you, I shall craft my own Oath."

He extended his arm until the rim of the disc touched the core of the battery. Sparks danced throughout the circuitry of the disc and traveled through to the lines of his own uniform, green light overwhelming its red hue and even washing over his own disc that was still fastened to his back.

"The Blackest Night where evil spawns
Trembles from the emerald dawn
By my Will I'll set things right
Let there be - there will always be

Hovering near the roof of this dark world, Ash aimed the brilliant arc of the battery at an obsidian cliff face that resembled a tidal wave frozen a moment before the strike. The outline of the symbol of his new charge scorched into the glass. A perfect circle in the center dissolved away, and Ash leaned forward and vanished into the tunnel. Unbeknownst to him, a wildly spinning comet crackling with yellow lightning hurled straight through the portal moments before both the insignia and the tunnel vanished from the cliff's face.

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