ENTER THE OMNISTRUCTURE PART 2 - NUNS OF DESTRUCTION
As the Fantasticar passes 'beneath' the world-tendril they see before them what look like pearls, globes of pale white light scattered on the midnight-dark material. Behind them, the remaining sunlight sheets past in columns of red and gold.
The Fantasticar lances forwards on a pillar of ionic fire, yet the vast scale of these incalculable structures make it seem as if it only drifts, like the gleam of light travelling along the needle of a compass is it turns slowly in the dark.
The orbs of pearl are city-globes surrounded by vast radial fields of something, fields shaped in elaborate jags, "Like the star-forts of Renaissance Europe, but on a vastly greater scale", muses Reed.
Closer still and the 'fields' are revealed as gigantic crowds, but not of living beings. These are the empty ghost-like body-shells of beautiful insectoid women, each with four back-bent spiderlike legs, two sharp mantis-like arms and two smaller grasping arms held under the head like the limbs of a Tyrannosaurs Rex. The body-fields stand in innumerable rows, not only empty, but somehow half-real, like shadows or memories.
As they pass over the inner borders of the crowd the FF witness an incredible sight, one of the insect shells fills inwardly from some unseen source, glimmers a pearly white, comes to life and begins to walk towards the whit city-globe.
While Reed advises caution, Sue Storm doesn't hesitate but leaps from the Fantasticar to hail the wandering woman.
While Sue speaks to the recently vivified insect-lady, the rest of the FF investigate the city ahead of them. Between them all they discover that these are the cities of the Nuns of Destruction, a memory race created by, and feeding from, the lost cultures and dying energies of the annihilated civilisations on the sun-side of the world-structure.
These sombre women age backwards, coming to life in the darkened fields outside and born with the encoded knowledge and experience of millennia of the highly-cultured mega civilisations that formerly made up the Omnistructure.
The tragedy of their all knowing existence is that everything they say and do, every movement they make, every piece of culture they produce, from the simplest thought to the greatest work of art, will be an echo of something already done in the ancient societies long passed. Not only that but for every complex action they take, for every sophisticated idea they have, their expression of it will be the last time that idea or action takes place, they feed and exist, literally, on the final destruction of those cultures. With their movements and their words they spell out the dying memories of worlds.
As they 'age' they grow smaller, younger and more supple. When their destined mother emerges from the darkness outside the city they know their beginning/end is near. They shrink into a grub, and then finally into an egg the same colour and shape as the city in which they live. Finally their 'mother' absorbs them into her own body and they disappear.
The Nuns of Destruction know exactly how many generations of their race are left, they can see them waiting in translucent ranks outside, and they know that their numbers will eventually decrease until only a handful are left, who will then shrink in age until nothing at all remains.
The FF ask them to help then in their quest, to no avail, the Nuns of Destruction have little interest. Until Sue Storm, speaking to 'Ebed', the freshly created/uncreated Nun she met outside, realises that there is one aspect of their memory-lives the Nuns cannot play out.
Combat. The fatalistic Nuns do not fight and there is a galaxies worth of transcendent combat-knowledge that must go unacted, and therefore and expression of life that must go unplumbed.
In return for their help, Ben Grimm challenges the entire city to a fight, and the battle is on!
The FF must fight against a city of Insect Women wielding extra-cosmic close-combat knowledge gleaned from a thousand different civilisations, a battle in which each style, tactic or blow may be struck only once before being forgotten for all time.
The FF manage to survive the city-wide throwdown and in return, the Nuns of Destruction tell them of the vast creature that recently passed overhead. They are not sure what it is, it cannot have existed in the living age of the Omnistructure or they would know of it, but they suspect it has something to do with the terrible Cannibal Cultures and the Nightmare migration of their tractable cities to the world stem and the Chrysalids of Strife.
As the FF travel deeper into the darkness, guided by their new ally, Johnny flies ahead as a living beacon, his flame burning plasma white in in infinite darkness, barely illuminating the black (changed from red after Ben starts calling him 'Rudolph'.) Ebed is fascinated by the tales of Sue Storm which contain knowledge of a cosmos utterly unknown to her, a reality where knowledge grows and feeds upon itself like a frightening but oddly beautiful cancer.
On the distant horizon gleam sparks of fire and bioluminescence, sparks that lengthen, growing into slender towers, curved and spiraled and growing from the back of a multi segmented, many-legged machine of coagulated neon and black shell larger than the island of New York. A machine ambling into the darkness, projecting from its forward segment, ravening beams of nuclear force which briefly translate the dark under-matter into energy on which it feeds.
These are the Cannibal Cultures, last mad remnants of the Byzantine Over-Cultures, locked within their survival machines, driven mad, consuming each other in their madness as the great machines in which they dwell consume the very matter of the world on which they tread. Lifeboats for entire civilisations, yet lifeboats whose occupants know there will be no rescue or return, but only endless drifting and waiting for the dark. Within the great survival machines are painted with the blood and bone of their populations, the matter-translation engines heaving to provide their insane masters, products of one hundred generations of auto-phagic slaughter, with whatever their mad whims desire.
Now, for the first time, the Cannibal Machines seem drawn towards some meaningful goal, a pilgrimage of horror towards the Chrysalids of Stife!
Johnny and Ben begin planning a daring stealth-incursion into the Cannibal Machine but Sue points out that as it seems to be moving in a straight line they can jut project its future course and race ahead of its tiny little legs.
Once there they find the caterpillar-esque survival machines of the cannibal cultures transformed into vast chrysalids, the cities, their people, technology and culture are being boiled down by end-stage nano-technology and transformed into singular gigantic beings. From horror into horror, for these creatures, should they emerge, could only be the perfected expressions of the nightmare cultures that made them up, massively enlarged and now of entirely singular will.
And one has already emerged, an escher-angled kaiju motH of fractal obsidian, crawling around the centre of the worlds stem, the FF see this titanic being feeding of the corpse of a dead sun, and around its gigantic neck like a circlet of gems are the crystallised bodies of the missing children and, at their centre, the transmission machine used to open the portals to our reality.
The first Tetra-Deus to emerge has been experimenting with the ancient signals that were used to try to communicate with other realities, the original Pollack signals, has succeeded in opening a small portal.
It recovered the children and has been leeching off their brainwaves in order to widen the gateway to earth.
(Human minds are reality-organizing machines and therefore both key and natural 'fuel' for a gateway between realities, that's why cultists always have to kill people to get the gate open.)
This problem can be solved easily, muses Reed, by just taking the recovered signal machine and throwing it through the open portal with the children, that would close it. Of course, anything left behind would be lost forever...
A battle is on!*
Johnny weaves around the titan-being, blasting it with tongues of fire the strength of solar flares, barely scratching its skin, Ben jumping onto it, punching it right in the eye like an angry mote of dust blinding an evil god, Johnny, Ben and Ebed all leaping in and out of the Fantasticar as Sue alternately invisibles and shields everyone and Reed drives and whips people in and out of danger.
They seize the necklace and race towards the failing dawn.
As they blast into the sunlight, the god-monster smashes through the surface of the world-frond, blasting it like shrapnel. It's too fast for them!
Caught before the portal, the last light of the alien sun dying around them, the FF have to make a nightmare choice, they turn to face the ravening monster but, as ben and Reed glance between them they work together to fling the crystallised children and the transmission engine through the Pollack gate.
They succeed, throwing Eben the Destruction-Nun along with them. As the transmission engine exits the omnistructure, all the gates close. The children are safe, the world saved, but the Fantastic Four are trapped in in incomprehensible alien reality with no way out, and the only person who can tell anyone where they are is an alien women in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, utterly unfamiliar with our world, who can only deliver that message once.
To whom shall she speak?
*man, what happenened to Joesky?