Repeat. Regret. Reincarnate. Sammy Sara sat there peddling to turn the Prayer Wheel of this Rue Inn, where people came to punish themselves over and over again. You had be Spook Qualified to run this place; and that meant that you had to be a survivor of some kind of massacre or extinction event. Sammy walked away from a planet-burn. They’d called it Parch, and when they unearthed the last crystal that the place had to offer up, only then did they realise the truth – that Parch was an amplifier for a signal that had been stopping an old one from folding into the localspace.
Sammy had wondered how he would survive because the rumour was that anyone in the presence of an old one during entrance into this reality was marked for death. The Spooks told him that they had bleached his soul and that he could pass right under the nose of an old one and he would come to no harm.
Today he wasn’t so sure – there was someone that had walked through the door who looked familiar – someone who made a point of letting everyone know that he only drank water. Quench-walkers were a sect from Quench, the planet twinned with Parch, rolling around Bunker’s Star, heart of the Pinwheel Galaxy in The Swiss Cheese Quadrant, known for its place as a birthplace of many black holes.
He relaxed for a second and called his Hamstir over to run the interior wheel. He sat at his bar.
‘Code Baron Alpha Rigel, Ident SS.’
‘Yes, sir,’ offered the Hullogram ‘What would you like?’
‘James Bond Pussy Drink please.’
‘Yes, sir, always makes me laugh when you say that.’
‘But you didn’t laugh, James.’
‘Yeah, I’ve been waiting for a patch to replace that donkey bray they equipped me with as a standard fit.’
The suspected Quench-walker sat down next to him.
‘Hello, Sammy. You probably don’t remember me, do you?’
‘I don’t think so, no.’
‘My name is Bendar Spowed – you’re right, I am a Quench-walker, but you don’t need to worry, I’m not here to kill you. I am in fact here to tell you that we found some of your companions on Parch, in fact maybe all of them. We didn’t quite understand what was happening with the old one, but now we think we do. All the legends told us that they were evil, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That planet was set up to pin him there so that when he came through he’d create a black hole just on that spot, the idea being that one of The Followers, a protocol triggered parasitic organism connected to the old ones, would pass through that exact spot and unpack the supertranslation encoded on the event horizon and build a new version of parch right there. It wasn’t supposed to have people on it, so they have been recast as electrical storms in Parch’s southern hemisphere.’
‘How can I help.’
‘Well, we’ve been busy. Quench-walkers have always been around; Quench goes through a similar cycle to Parch, and what we realized was this – that The Spooks are us, or were. They extrapolated this process you use here to create something that did for others what our planetary technology, which comes from somewhere we don’t remember, so, you can bring this rig with you, and we’ll pull them out of the clouds.’
‘James, on the end of the next cycle inform all people in the Inn that we are leaving, and then Cube-It, and transmit on the Entanglement Line to the Locke Box.’
‘So, Mr Spowed, off to Parch, eh?’