I do not own nor have any rights to "the Traveler"
Characters and locations from the book "the Traveler" are referred to in the story for continuity.
However, all characters in this story have been created by me.
The story takes place six months to a year after the events in the book
"Defense of the Realm" a fan fiction by CJ Harrison
The swarm's first contact with the Fourth Realm (our realm) was 300 years ago, when a novice traveler crossed into their dimension. As with any other life form they found, the swarm attempted to assimilate it. The Traveler's body was invaded by a stem, which immediately attempted assimilation and domination. But the assimilation did not occur instead it caused a massive cellular breakdown in the brain. The stem tried to escape but too much cellular damage had occurred.
The organism was not indigenous to this world; the swarm assimilated this world over 7 thousand years ago and had never collected one. It resembled a sentient species the swarm had assimilated in the past, but there was little if no evidence of advanced technology. A ship had not been detected earlier and could not be found now. The swarm definitely needed to discover how it came to this world, and from where it had come. The following examination and early experiments gave every indication that indeed this was a sentient species, and for now one beyond their assimilation. It was imperative for them to get as much information as they could about this new race. When the swarm encountered them again it wanted to be prepared. The swarm would be the only sentient race in the Universe. It had been that way for thousands of years and it would continue that way till the end of time.
It was another 150 years before the next human fell into their grasp, but what is that to race that doesn't die. Because of their shared consciousness, death was not a concern to them. A portion of the swarm could be destroyed, but that did not affect the whole to any great extent. The shared consciousness remained intact until about a light year. When part of the swarm traveled a greater distance than that it would leave the shared consciousness. On returning, all experience and knowledge while apart became part of the whole, however if destroyed, that information could never be shared with the swarm.
The swarm had done countless experiments on what was left of the first organism. But it was not made of viable tissue, it could be examined but it was more like a photo or a model of an organism. They strove to find the differences between their metabolisms. But without a live subject, the question of controlling the organism's physical structure would still be in question. They very rarely found a race that could not be assimilated, but through the millennia rare cases did occur; and in those rare cases the swarm quickly proceeded with extermination.
Because of the swarm's shared consciousness, all of the swarm knew the steps to take when the next human did arrive. The next was quickly captured rather than assimilated. The swarm conducted hundreds of experiments on the subject. A human was definitely more fragile than the swarm. It deteriorated so much that experiments had to be discontinued. Hopefully it could restore itself enough to run a last and crucial test. Would they be able to assimilate the race? After all the experimentation, had they learned enough to overcome the biological differences? If they could, then all that was human would be assimilated into the swarm, and the flesh would be used as food.
The human finally became strong enough, for a stem to be introduced. Both the human and the stem survived assimilation. The deterioration in the human started immediately. It never stopped fighting domination, and it's only desire was to terminate itself. In a short period of time it was no longer a viable host. The moment the stem relinquished control it died, but that was of no consequence for in the first few seconds of domination, the swarm knew all the human knew. It answered many questions and may be the swarm's greatest discovery in many millennia.
The being had not arrived in a ship. Its biological body was in another dimension, only its essence had traveled here. (What it called the inner light.) With the knowledge the swarm had obtained from the 2 humans it began a plan to pass into the human's dimension. This might not just be another race to assimilate, but possibly a whole new universe could be brought into the swarm. It was just a matter of time before another human crossed into their realm, and time was nothing to the swarm. Very soon they would assimilate human civilization, and harvest their flesh.
Five years ago Ciaran was charged with escorting Adrian Lister to a Pathfinder. Adrian was a Canadian man that was almost certain to be a traveler. Ciaran had flown into Montreal without incident. Adrian lived in Mont-Laurier, only a 25 mile drive. The Pathfinder was located 50 miles west of the Montreal/Quebec border at Lake Abitibi. It was June so the weather and driving were not an issue. Picking up Adrian had been arranged before he left Ireland, So he was able to pick him up and make the drive to Lake Abitibi that same day.
Hosea Oats was a professor of Geology and Theology at first in Mexico and now in Toronto, but for the next 8 days he was a guide; a guide to other dimensions. The Pathfinder met them at a set of bluffs near Lake Abitibi. The entrances to the Abitibi Caverns were at the base of these bluffs. It was here that that Hosea would do his best to guide Adrian on the paths to releasing his inner light. As was standard procedure he asked Ciaran to leave them and return in 8 days. Ciaran knew better than to argue with the old man.
Ciaran left them and got back on the road. One of his earlier charges had not been heard from in some time, and his last known address was in Toronto. So with 8 days before he was to return, Ciaran could drive to Toronto and hopefully find Julian in good health. Though Julian Thomas wouldn't be in the phone book, all Ciaran had to do was find "the Divine Church of Isaac T. Jones." If anyone would know his whereabouts it would be them. He arrived in Toronto the following day and after a little investigation found the church. Someone in the Church got word to Julian and arranged a place where the two could meet safely. Julian was very happy to see Ciaran and asked if he would like to go on a roadtrip to Montreal. He had heard rumors of a young boy there who sounded like he might have potential, but no one had checked for fear of being discovered. Ciaran still had seven days before he would return to pick up Adrian and this was a good way to spend the time. They spent the rest of the day getting supplies together and took off the following morning for Montreal.
The path that had brought the Panamanian born Hosea Oats to Lake Abitibi Canada had been a long and convoluted one. For some reason the climate here suited the old teacher; and when he discovered there were caverns in the bluffs he believed he'd found Nirvana.
Hosea grew up in Mitla, a small town 25 miles from Oaxaca City, Mexico. Most of Mexico is covered with mountains, but the branch of High Sierra's where his family lived was not only extremely beautiful but riddled with caves. He had 8 brothers and sisters; and being the youngest of the brood was a real pain some times. The oldest of his siblings had children his age, talk about weird. Their home was constantly filled with people and noise. There was always music playing, laughter, and loud conversation, and as with all families there was also fighting, screaming and crying. He had discovered an entrance to the caves only a half mile from home. When the squabbling started he would slip away and find solace in the caves. The quiet, the cool moist air, the sound of water dripping, and the occasional flutter of bat wings, all calmed him. He found the splendor of nature within these dark confines, and this is also where he found the God of his understanding.
He began reading everything he could lay his hands on about the High Sierras, Caverns; and especially the caverns of the High Sierras. A good student, he received a full scholarship to the university in Oaxaca City. He majored in Geology and minored in Theology. One professor taught classes in both of his majors. One day after going over some of the reading assignments, they just began to talk and soon found they shared an obsession with Spelunking. Hosea went on to graduate from the university, get a Master's Degree and eventually joined the teaching staff. His relationship with the professor continued to grow through out this time. While spelunking in one of the deepest caverns of the High Sierra; one of their many conversations turned to spiritual things. It was here in the bowels of the earth that Professor Lazaro told him of the world's other reality. He told him about the Travelers and their age old battle with the Brethren. He then told Hosea that he was a Pathfinder, one who helps a traveler cross into the other realms for the first time. They had known each other for 12 years, and without Hosea knowing it, Professor Lazaro had been grooming him as his replacement.
Hosea wasted no time with Adrian; after Ciaran departed he loaded up some food in a backpack and took him deep within the caverns. After a good many twists and turns the cave opened up into a gigantic room, the ceiling was a good 100 feet above the floor and the room itself around 300 yds long and 200 wide. Surprisingly there was enough light to see comfortably. The light came from the walls of the room; Hosea said they were covered with lichen that broke down the minerals in the walls and produced phosphorus as a byproduct, hence the light. A stream meandered across the floor of the great room; it originated from a crevasse about 25 feet up the wall of the room and 15 yards from where they had entered. It created a beautiful waterfall, and the light from the lichen was enough to create a small rainbow. Periodically a fish would come flying out the crevasse. Hosea told Adrian they were mostly trout but sometimes and unlucky pike or sturgeon found their way here. The Pike and Sturgeon we too large, there was not enough natural food for them in the small pond in the center of the room. The stream exited the room through a crack in the floor approximately three quarters of the way across the room. Hosea imagined that the stream flowed through places too small for them to go through with out damage. But he also did not know where the stream exited, and it was possible there was a larges expanse of water underground where they could survive. On either side of the room several tiers of dwellings had been carved out of the rock. Hosea said that there were enough dwellings that 3000 people could have lived in them at one time.
Hosea put down the pack, and sat down on a rock. "Adrian, I don't want you to leave this place for eight days. It's very probable that if you would try to find your way out, that you could take a wrong turn. Many passages lead deeper into the earth and there are many treacherous areas."
"I can't teach you how to be a traveler, I will just attempt to guide along some spiritual paths created to release the inner light. May they help you find yours, and so we'll begin." The first 4 days were like Boot Camp, They hiked all over the cavern. On the floor of the cavern was what could have been a park at one time. Several bridges crossed the stream, in a few places where the soil covering the cavern floor was disturbed, was what looked like a sections of a walkway had been built. Multiple stairways crisscrossed the dwellings. The dwellings were set up like complexes, much of which were carved deep into the rock. Much of the construction looked as if modern equipment would have been needed. The dwellings varied in many ways; within a complex they would be similar, but at times were drastically different between complexes; not just in the style or appearance, but the manner in which it was constructed. Hosea told Adrian that the dwellings had not been inhabited for several thousand years, and that nothing was known about the people who created them. In fact he didn't know if anyone but himself had ever found them, he had chosen not to expose them to public scrutiny. Knowing what he did about the world he chose to let this mystery remain just that, a mystery.
They would take breaks often to eat and talk. Hosea wanted to free Adrian's imagination, get him to think about things and in ways that were alien to him. They discussed their thoughts about the complex they were currently in, and theorized about the people who built it. Surprisingly, though their thoughts could be very similar in kind, at times they had drastically different impressions concerning the people themselves. Hosea told him about people in recorded history who had actually been Travelers. They discussed different religions and the differences in the way they sought spiritual connection. Hosea also guided him in practical exercises and meditation that were paths to setting free the inner light.
Often Hosea would enter a passage off the side of the great room and show Adrian how life prospered even here deep within the earth. He showed him, blind trout that had almost translucent skin, different types of frogs and salamanders, algae that gave off light, and countless types of spiders and insects. They talked about the caverns ecosystem and the balance that life seeks where ever it exists.
Each night Adrian would dream of life coming from nothing, of flora and fauna; first of life they found within the caverns; then of life's forms all over the world. Each night he would dream of life appearing out of nothingness. And then on the 5th night the dream began as it always had, "life bursting from the void." But on this night it continued, the power of life was so intense it could go anywhere, attach to anything, it could make barren rock into a teeming forest; a force of creation adapting to any environment, always succeeding never failing. His dream began to draw away into the clouds, encompassing not only the earth but the sky. It raised high above the earth. Life filled the heavens, flocks of birds in every imaginable color, some in groups of hundreds and groups of thousands, geese flying in formation, solitary birds of prey, and circling carrion birds. But not only birds use the air for transport, insects, clouds of locusts, colorful dragonflies, and thousands of butterflies, spiders and caterpillars on threads of silk; even microorganisms on airborne grains of sand and drops of water. His dream took him through and then above the clouds, encompassing more and more finally he was looking down on the earth from space, but it did not stop, instead it accelerated out into space.
Lines began to become visible; a sort of web not covering but connecting all things. All things on the Earth and the Moon, it expanded quickly and soon spread through out the solar system and then out to the galaxy and then the Universe. Adrian understood that all things were interconnected, everything working together and in a natural balance.
He awoke the next morning ecstatic. He had never felt this good; he was connected with the world like he had never been before. Hosea took him back up to the dwellings. When they first entered them, he felt light headed. He stopped and took a couple deep breaths and soon it passed. But then it hit him again, his vision blurred and he was sure he was going to pass out. But his vision wasn't blurred; it was more like a double exposure or the ghost image on a television set. There was the world with Hosea and him in it, but superimposed on it were the dwellings only different. As Adrian acknowledged this vision it grew more substantial. The dwellings were inhabited; people were walking around, talking to each other, and taking care of daily business just like any other community one might visit. The clothing was a little different, but nothing drastic just simpler.
And then Adrian knew with a certainty he could not explain, that these were the past inhabitants. Hosea was gone. Though he knew these were the past inhabitants, he also knew that wasn't possible. He walked up to a young man and pointed down to the floor of the cavern where his camp was. The young man didn't react but Adrian stared ahead dumbfounded. His right arm was still at his side but it wasn't, he saw something akin to the ghosting he had seen when he walked into the dwellings, but this was not the same. He could see a translucent image of his right arm pointing to the camp. He was still walking forward staring at his arm, when he stumbled over a rock. He was so intent on the image of his arm that he wasn't prepared and fell flat on his face.
Hosea, was standing over him offering his hand to help him up, the ghost image of the dwellings and the image of his arm were gone. His ears were filled with the sound of rushing wind. The sound dissipated and he realized Hosea was talking to him, "Did you see it? Did you see the light? Your close Adrian really close. If you hadn't tripped you would have crossed over." Adrian burst out, "I saw them, the people who lived here, I saw them. Listen; tonight I want to move camp. I want to sleep here tonight. These dreams have got to mean something. I don't know what's going on, but maybe I'll find out tonight."
They moved the camp, and built a fire. They grilled some of the trout from the stream, made coffee, then spent the rest of the evening sitting around the fire drinking coffee and talking for hours. Adrian described his dreams in detail, and then his vision of the ex-inhabitants of the dwellings. They kicked ideas around all evening, but when it came down to it, they were both clueless. Tomorrow would be the seventh day; if he was gong to cross over it had to be soon.
Adrian didn't remember falling asleep, but found himself dreaming again, it began the same as before and he grew excited at the prospect of what was to come. He was accelerating away from the earth and the web started to become visible. And then something changed, something was happening to the web. The web was dying, it was no longer a web connecting life though out the universe, it looked like, no… felt like the web was holding everything down. He found himself back in the dwellings, this time, the inhabitants looked frightened. They were scurrying around looking at the cavern floor and then up at the roof. His dream exploded into red and the village was empty again and but now everything was soaked in blood. The web was becoming darker and more substantial. But it wasn't a web anymore, it was some kind of structure, like the struts and beams supporting the roof of a dome, it had a kind of honeycomb look to it. It seemed to be made of metal, but looked organic.
Then he saw movement on the structure. At first just in one spot, but the onger he looked the more movement he saw. It was like an ant hill, first you only see a couple ants, but longer you look the more you see and soon realize that there are hundreds of them moving around. He didn't feel well, he was short of breath, he was sweating and felt starved for air. He raised his hands to wipe his forehead, and saw the light. This time there was no ghosting, his whole body was aflame with light. And the light had attracted what ever was moving all over the structure. He realized, he had crossed over, he had never heard about anything bad happening when a traveler crossed over, but of course how would they know anything if the traveler never returned. The structure was writhing; things were all over it racing towards him. Adrian was panicking now; he didn't know if he could be hurt here, but he wasn't going to take a chance, He needed to find the exit. Hosea had described it as a crack, a crack in the universe, the doorway home.
He began to examine his surroundings looking for the exit. He looked out across the structure and then down. The structure looked like the frame for a 3d model. It was everywhere; he looked down again and wished he hadn't, below him was a wasteland, there was rubble that could have been homes or buildings at one time, but now the surface was dead. He saw nothing living, no grass or trees, just the blackened rocky surface. Then he saw it, the crack in the universe; and that is exactly what it looked like, it was a black so deep nothing could escape it. It looked foreboding, but that's where he was going. He ran as fast as he could and heard them behind him gaining ground; he looked back to see how far ahead he was and about fell. This thing was catching up to him like he was standing still. It looked crablike, except the body did not look like it was covered with a shell, it was more like skin. There were 5 legs also crab or spider like, except the tips didn't look like the feet of a crab or spider, they looked like a hands. Each leg had a joint in the middle and after the joint, the legs became more like a tentacle, and they weren't hands, at the tips were a series of small tentacle-like fingers?
Adrian was almost at the crack, but that thing was gaining ground fast. In his peripheral vision he saw it jump; it looked like it would come down right on top of him. In that split second he got a real good look. On the underside of the carapace were mouths, five sets of mandibles one between each of the legs. And the eyes, it had 2 eyes for every leg, one on the bottom of the carapace and another on top. If he was going to make it, he had to go now. Adrian dove at the crack, as he went through he looked back, that thing came down right where he had just been. He had escaped, but it had been close, damn close, so close in fact that some slime or whatever had flown off of it and hit the back of his neck.
Adrian was back at the dwellings. His body had been lying here the whole time. His hands were shaking. He'd never been so scared in his life. If this was what the life of a Traveler was like, he did not want any part of it. He was still shaking when he looked out over the side and saw Hosea walking across the floor of the cavern. He couldn't stop shaking, and now something was happening with his vision; it was turning gray and getting fuzzy around the edges. He dropped down on his knees, threw up and started having spasms. The world began to spin and he started hearing voices, no not voices, one voice; and he didn't hear it, he thought it, and blacked out.
Adrian was back on the structure running for the crack again; he dove for it and something hit him in the back, wrapped around his throat and drug him back away from the crack. A tentacle had wrapped around his neck, its fingerlike tentacles coming toward his face. They slid around all over his face, exploring, when they found an opening they shoved themselves in, he opened his mouth to scream and they shot into his mouth and down his throat. They dug into his eyes and nose, the only place they hadn't violated was his ears. He knew the thing had continued to drag him underneath it, he could hear the mandibles clicking and then the tentacles crept into his ears, but not before he heard it start to feed.
The swarm knew the humans would eventually come again. When the last one had been assimilated they found out everything. These fledgling travelers didn't control where they went. Not much is known about the first one, as they did not anticipate the radical difference in the organism. To begin domination, the swarm overloaded the synapse in the brain. But it was not the biological form that was here, it was the essence of the human. When they overloaded the human's brain, to put it in the second human's words, "It was like putting out a fire with gasoline." The swarm didn't use as must bio-electric charge on the second human but it still died way too fast.
The swarm knew that if the next human was assimilated it would not be able to travel back to the host's world. So when another "Traveler" arrived it must not be captured or assimilated. It would be frightened and chased, it would also have to be allowed to escape. While it exited their dimension through the portal to its own dimension, it would be invaded; assimilation and domination would take place after the crossover.
Many thousands of years ago, when their race was young, after invading a host the swarm would use the host's own genetic and biological mass. After assimilation (the absorption and adaptation of the host genetic material and cognitive thought) the swarm could take on the form of the last host or the form of any other past host. Though it used a tremendous amount of energy, the part of the swarm assimilating the host was able to draw energy off the swarm en-mass. The swarm did this because they could. The swarm's strategy was to send portions out into the universe, when another life-form was found, they would assimilate the organisms and replicate within the population. But not many parts of the swarm returned, and so they learned the folly of their arrogance.
If caught in the early stages of replication or in an isolated environment, a part was easily destroyed. The strategy of universal domination was flawed also. How did it benefit the swarm, to acquire a planet and then replicate within the planet's host's, essentially re-populating the entire planet. The swarm developed a new strategy and in the 50,000 years since no other race was able to stand against them. There were other races in the universe but when faced with the swarm they departed deeper into space.
The swarm as a whole had settled on one physical form they had found the most useful. In the shared consciousness, there was no need for individualism and self pride. It was more efficient to take on this one form; it took a tremendous amount energy when they changed their bio-physical structures. The drain was shared within the consciousness; it was no wonder that the isolated portion weakened by the loss of energy was so easily destroyed. It was far more efficient to leave the stem in the host, by the time the host was used up, the stem usually had prepared the planet for assimilation and harvesting. At that point, the stem would replicate using up the last of the host's resources and would rejoin the swarm as another part.
Tonight would be the last night, Hosea thought as he entered the caverns. He had hated to leave Adrian, after he had come so close to crossing. But they needed enough supplies for 2 days and he'd only be gone a couple hours. As he walked across the cavern floor he saw Adrian on the third tier on dwelling, he blew a sigh of relief and waved. Though the goal was to help Adrian cross over, after Adrian had somehow made a connection with the ancient people who had inhabited the cavern he was exhilarated at the prospect of finding some answers to the cavern's mysteries. Maybe Adrian's crossing could be the key to the puzzle and they would finally piece together the history of those people.
Hosea bounded up the stairs, "Get your cup out I've brought several thermoses of hot coffee, none of that camp brew this morning." He got to the third tier, and knew something was wrong. Adrian was covered with dust and he could see where he had rolled around on the dusty floor. There were several puddles of vomit, and Adrian was squatted down holding a rock, he could see blood on the rock and imagined that Adrian had tripped and hit his head in the fall. He tore off his backpack and ran to Adrian's side, "Are you ok, did you hit your head?" He squatted down, and reached into his pocket for a handkerchief. Adrian stood up; Hosea grabbed his handkerchief then turned to wipe the blood off of Ciaran's forehead. He looked up and Adrian smiled down at him, "Dude, Don't take this personal but I've got to go." And hit him with the rock.
End of Chapter 2
As it stands, I don't believe the story will slow down or mellow out, so hold onto your hat, the train is leaving the station.
Till next time……… Happy Trails