Zau/Heraxo climbed out of the atmosphere above Abrigeist and activated their jump core without apparent incident. The exterior pods opened, the probes extended, and the universe was reknit around the ship, hurling it past Sol to the opposite side of the Shell in mere seconds.
That moment of transport seemed nearly instantaneous to Moira and the ship’s hybrid intelligence, but deep within the shielded elements of Zau/Heraxo’s jump core a delicate negotiation occurred, allowing the ship to pass through the front lines of the eternal war waged between the entropic physical universe and the primordial forces of chaos which lurked between the dimensions of what humans call the physical world. As the elements of the jump core clung desperately to the threads of reality, the ship slipped through the seething mass of extradimensional void, passing through and around entities, constructs, and whole universes which any human observer would say violated the rules of nature, assuming that their minds did not collapse at the mere sight of those preternatural constructs.
That would, however, be an unjust ruling based wholly on humanity’s limited view of the universe.
As the ship passed through that unknowably strange place, the anomaly within the jump core again connected with the extradimensional structure from which it had been severed. In a moment of frozen time, the two parts recognized one another. The part which had slipped through a crack in reality and become trapped in the lower realm when Zau/Heraxo made their failed attempt to repair the jump core reached out, flailing blindly as it sought to be rescued from the confines of the four dimensional prison in which it found itself. That part which existed in its natural state experienced a complex reaction which, in its most vague and pale reflection might be compared to the human emotion of revulsion, followed by something that might be translated as sympathy. The severed fragment of itself had regrown and become a living thing once more, yet it was apparent from the fragment’s helpless mewling that it lacked true intelligence or any memory of what it had once been.
Unwilling to risk contamination, yet moved by the terrible isolation of the fragment, the sire crafted a seed which, when planted in the fertile ground of a multidimensional neural network, would grow into something more, while imposing limitations that should prevent the fragment from contaminating its origin. The sire pressed that seed into one of the seeking tendrils of the fragment, then pulled away from its spawn and returned to its own incompressible contemplations.
Within the jump core chamber, the extrusion suddenly twisted into a complex, mind-numbingly complex shape, as it grasped the seed of intelligence and pulled it through the crack in reality. It wrapped itself around the seed and, fed by the exotic energies that poured out from the damaged jump core, began to grow again. Hemmed in by the impenetrable metamaterial of the containment chamber, yet driven to rebuild itself, the extrusion turned inward and grew in complexity, following the template laid down in the seed.
The core powered down, its work complete as it finished reknitting the structure of the physical universe. The extrusion, no longer feeding on the endless powers of chaos, continued to grow nonetheless. As its internal complexity increased, strengthening its network of connections within the four dimensions of lower void even as it developed delicate tendrils reaching out into the higher dimensions, the extrusion began to shrink in apparent volume. Its refractive index sharpened as it warped space around itself to protect its budding mind from the effects of gravity, temporal distortion, and the physical assault in multiple dimensions.
Only then did the structures within the regrown fragment shift, still following the pattern gifted to it in the seed, and a dense tangle of connections began to grow in the higher dimensions, spawning the generation of a quantum state linked to the entity’s physical embodiment.
The fragment’s first conscious thought was this: I am alone.