by Geoffrey W. Cole
Deep within a comet that slipped through the empty space between Neptune's orbit
and the Oort Cloud, Fadid broke two hundred years of concentration to answer an
ancient subroutine. The subroutine's message: Lo'ihi breach anticipated in the next
week. Fadid took the mental equivalent of a deep breath and synthesized a
transmitter, but what could he say? More than twenty-five hundred years had
passed since Kabime last responded to one of his calls.
Fadid's increased mental activity alerted one of the comet's other resident artists.
"What do you think you're doing?" Levitz-Prolific said. Though Fadid shared a
processing core of three cubic micrometres with six other sentients inside the
comet, Levitz-Prolific made the mental space seem infinitely smaller.
"Go back to your poem equations," Fadid said as he completed the amplifiers on
"This is a composition retreat," Levitz-Prolific said. "Communication with the
outside world is for emergencies only. I don't care how famous you were --"
Fadid squirted his message across the vacuum: "Kabime, I'm coming home. Lo'ihi
will be born this week."
The message would take ten hours to reach Earth. It would take even longer to
beam his personality home and the transmitter he'd synthesized had neither the
capacity nor sufficient encryption to accomplish the task. Only the emergency
transit beacon had that kind of power. He'd need help from the comet's other
artists and a share of their processing power to operate the beacon.
Fadid sounded the general alarm.
Five other personalities pulled out of their respective composition states.
"I'm in the middle of narrative labour," Hawthorne Maythorpe said, the retreat's
leader. "Your interruption risks still birth. Our workshop isn't scheduled for
another fifty-three months."
"Apologies," Fadid said. "You'll believe me when I say I have no choice. I need to
return to Earth."
"No one can leave until the comet's returned to its perihelion," Levitz-Prolific said.
"We signed a contract."
"Shut up, LP," Hawthorne said. "We have an emergency transit beacon for a
reason. What's the emergency?"
"Lo'ihi is about to breach."
"The Hawaiian sea mount?" Levitz-Prolific said. "You've interrupted my creative
genesis so you can go sightseeing?"
"If you had a face and I a hand, I'd slap you," Fadid said. "Almost seven thousand
years ago, I made a pact with someone: if we were both still alive when Lo'ihi
breached, we would merge. I've been monitoring the volcano since then, and it is
due to rise above high tide in the next few days. I'm still alive. I intend to return to
earth to see if she lives too."
"Let me guess," Hawthorne said. "Your ancient muse Kabime is the one with
whom you made this pact. I'll lend you my mind for the transit. How about the rest
The other four personalities grumbled their acquiescence.
"My poems don't derive themselves," Levitz-Prolific said. "I refuse to bend a mind
as sublime as mine to such a moronic task ."
"I vote we send Levitz-Prolific back too," Hawthorne said.
The grumbled agreement from the other four personalities was much more
enthusiastic this time.
"No!" Levitz-Prolific said. "I paid my dues just like everyone else."