“Dunwith isn’t the kind of world one visits. Humans used to joke that they came from a death planet until they reached it. The thing about death worlds – the real kind, the killing kind – is that they don’t develop life forms capable of getting off-world. Or perhaps that intelligence is not advantageous to survival on such a world. An argument can be made that intelligence is detrimental to survival but it is not one I agree with. Further records in System indicate that –. You are doing it again.”
“Oh! Sorry. I don’t get worried often so I kinda wander when I do.”
“So noted. I am, however, a TX83-class Intelligence piloting this vessel. Your mind sending into my subsystems is not optimal.”
“I didn’t mean to at all but! I can’t get to Dunwith normally and that’s really confusling you know!”
“You are on a spacefaring vessel using a Malkuth Drivel. Is there another travel method I should be aware of?”
“Lots, I bet, but mostly I –.” The boy wiggles a hand. He is eleven and, to every scan and probe I have, entirely human. Ordinary in ways that no human has been in over a hundred years. “And it doesn’t work to Dunwith, which is really rude!”
I pause, a second almost an eternity as I crunch data. I watch the stable wormhole dissolve without a net loss or gain of energy. “I would like to know how you are doing this, please.”
“I don’t know yet; I won’t find out for a few years I think but it’s kind of cheating even if it’s not since I don’t travel like you do,” he says.
I drop into regular space. Dunwith is closed, has been since not longer after it’s discovery. There is one intelligent life form on it. A human boy, identical to the one beside me.
“He’s twelve,” Jay explains. “I’m eleven. It’s a hugey difference!”
Forces are balanced and held at bay within Dunwith. I begin scans. There are variables I don’t even know, energies that defy scanning. The older Jay is sitting right in the middle of the most dangerous world and holding it back.
Jay pokes the screens, staring out as I go transparent. “Oh, me,” he says softly, sounding very sad.
“I am afraid I do not understand?”
“He’s not holding it back. Sorry, but you think really loudly and he’s not – I’m not – he’s playing with it. Toying with it. Tormenting it.”
“It cannot harm him.”
“Nope. I’m tough like a Jay and I get way tougher as I get older and sometimes other things too.” He sighs, and a moment later is holding a blade in one hand, cutting it into the air. Whatever barrier is about Dunwith dissolves. Rips. Every error system aboard me shrieks alarms and Jay winces. “I didn’t mean to do an oops, but I’m kinda in a hurry,” and he is gone a moment later.
Somehow I am with him, which I know he intends. There is an empty field, about it swirls death that falls away from the blade as Jay walks toward himself. The older-him is twelve, and the smile he offers contains nothing of kindness.
“What is that?”
“Oh, we won’t run into a Verkonis blade for years so! I kinda cheated,” Jay says. “Because! you are cheating by not being jaysome.”
Forces impact. The world ripples like a mirage, and the universe itself seems to do the same.
“You’re older than me, and that makes you strong in some ways but being jaysome makes me stronger.” Jay doesn’t move. “You can’t keep being this, doing this. You need a hugging,” and this is beyond scans. Beyond understanding. The last Milieu War unleashed energies almost beyond the understanding of a TX90 AI. This is far beyond even that.
“Even with that blade, I am more than you.” The older Jay laughs, a thing of broken data and sundered connections. “I can turn you into me with three words!”
“But you won’t because that wouldn’t be jaysome and! because I’m taking umbrage with you being all kinds of rude!”
“Umbrage.” There is a deep silence after the word. “This is a prompt,” older Jay says, slow and disbelieving. “I remember this.”
“On tumblr, and it’s by @thatrandompoet and they’re pretty important to a Jay!”
“You broke space and time, risked unmaking the future and the past to do a prompt?” the other demands in a tone of pure incredulity.
“It is a very important prompt.” And Jay grins, only this grin is fierce as much as joyous. “And you need huggings badly and I can’t give them to you so I’m making a way toward them!”
“A Way, and not a binding.” I can’t understand that tone at all.
“I learn things really fast for my friends, and I am always friends with me!”
The blade breaks, or twists, and Jay is gone between one moment and the next.
The balance with Dunwith is unbroken, but the death world does not attack the older Jay. He looks about, waiting. “He made it jaysome. Of course he made friends with the most dangerous world in the universe. I am done with this place.” He lets out a sigh, shakes his head and is gone a moment later.