Haloed Bane

About the First Two Arcs


A Recap

Sinduin is an alien from another universe. When the story begins in mid-2011, she has been infiltrated in Earth for nine years. Her job is simple data-gathering, but by this point she's begun to get bored and is seemingly more interested in anime paraphernalia-gathering, especially as it relates to the works of Leiji Matsumoto. One day, she receives an order from home: report back immediately, as something of grave importance has occurred. Sinduin had earlier traded in her precious portal, the technology that allows Incudean aliens like her to travel to our universe, and is thus forced to rely on Zeburajas to travel back home. The Zeburajas are only one of a vast number of vassal species of the Incudean Empire, but they happen to possess the innate ability to cross from one universe to the other without any aid of technology. (A Zeburaja was in fact the first of their universe to stumble, accidentally, onto Earth's.) An Oxylord (as the Zeburajan Highborn are called) known as Kontin turns up and retrieves Sinduin, but the two are intercepted by a German fighter pilot. After neutralizing the plane with a pole weapon, Sinduin manipulates the fabric of space via her fourth-grade ability (malleability of space) to trap the pilot in a spherical prison. Before she can figure out exactly how much the German government knows about her presence, Kontin kills the pilot. This done, they cross over into their universe. The travelers note that the Silver Planet, the capital and heart of the universal empire, is full of plants, that is, alien species from our own universe. In fact, a number of Earth’s biological species have been recently turning up in their universe. Kontin is delighted by this “grass” thing and decides that he will report what he has seen to the authorities in the Zeburajan nation of Oxytania, the reason being that an old prophecy foretold a green, promised land.

Meanwhile, Sinduin has a meeting with fifth-grade members of the Incudean Council. She tells them that, as opposed to their universe with its 21 dimensional worlds, Earth’s universe seems to be composed of a single dimensional world. It’s a huge universe compared to theirs, but so far only Earth apparently has life. The agent also tells the Council that there are too many uncanny coincidences between the two universes (for example, the main Incudean script bears a striking resemblance to certain writing systems on Earth) The Councilmembers tell Sinduin her role is observing, not speculating, and remind her not to use her abilities while in this other universe. Being home in her universe of Belklaun after so long brings back all sorts of memories for Sinduin. She remembers her baptism, where as part of the ritual she was questioned on the structure of the universe. There are 21 worlds, arranged in seven rows of three worlds. Every intelligent being is born in one of the three worlds of the “first trinity.” Wise beings eventually reach the second trinity, then possibly the third and so forth. The overwhelming majority of species in Sinduin’s universe has a ceiling beyond which they can ascend no more. The Inculae from Incudea are one of the very few who can attain all seven trinities with their corresponding grades. Sinduin is currently a fourth grader. Not all memories are happy. Sinduin remembers how she has had to endure the stain of coming from a heretic family of Three-Worlders, who refused to believe in anything beyond the first trinity, and were prone to commit many foul deeds besides. She also reflects on the Upa Rebellion. The Upas are terrible monsters, the scourge of Incudea and yet Inculae themselves. Whenever an Incula reaches the sixth grade, she automatically rebels against Incudea. If she manages to survive and ascend to the seventh grade, her rebellious phase immediately ends and she takes place among the higher seats of the Council. Because of the presence of transoptical flayers around the Silver Planet, whose role is to collapse all 21 worlds into a single world (allowing people of all trinities to work together for the cause) the Incudean capital is most vulnerable to the Upas. Here they can roam freely.

In her room on the Silver Planet, Sinduin is contacted by her seventh-grade boss, and told the real reason for her recall: it seems the Upas are planning a great strike against the Silver Planet, timed perfectly with the end of the current Earth Cycle and the beginning of a new one. This discovery of the existence and mechanism of Earth Cycles is one of the greatest fruits of Sinduin’s nine years of research. The Councilor fears that the Upas mean to take over Earth and use it against Incudea, so she commands Sinduin to return to Earth but now in the much more active role of conqueror. She is to use her knowledge of the Earth Cycles to control the planet. If all else fails, she is commanded to destroy it. Anything but letting the Upas take over.

For her journey to Earth, Sinduin is assigned yet another Zeburaja, named Papieca. Papieca is much more than just a highborn, however, he is a proud member of the royal Clan Cowling, more specifically, one of the Queen of Oxytania’s nephews. The pair is awarded an extra level of protection, as they will be escorted to the nearest dimensional crosspoint (one of the weaker space points through which Zeburajas are able to pass over to our universe) by two Epheboctopi ships from the planet Ephocto. (The Epheboctopi resemble rainbow-colored octopi, and are terribly arrogant, though I'd probably strut my stuff too if I were a rainbow-colored octopus.) As soon as the two escort ships turn up, they open fire on Sinduin and Papieca. The Incula is forced to respond in kind, but she finds that her grade abilities have become useless. The pair flees beyond the transoptical flayer field to evade the attacking ships, a choice that results in their forcible separation (Papieca is a second grader, so he will end up in the second trinity world of Eryam, as opposed to Sinduin, who will appear in Kalderon.) They hastily arrange to meet again soon. Papieca heads straight for Eryamite Ephocto to get some answers. He learns that the two escort ships were hijacked by Upas. His Epheboctopus informers also contribute the information that Clan Cowling is known throughout the System as having mysteriously survived the great Broken Battle which decimated the Zeburaja ranks long ago and made them vassals of Incudea. The implication is that the Cowling Zeburajas betrayed their brethren. Papieca sheds a tear, seemingly accepting the veiled accusation, but then proceeds to destroy the accusers. Honor is honor after all.

In the meantime and over in the fourth trinity world of Kalderon, Sinduin decides to travel beyond the System and onward to the planet called Ildico in the system of the same name. She intends to do tourism by visiting a famous pink-colored residence in Kalderonian Ildico, but she is unable to find the place. During this time of idleness, she concludes that her attackers must have been Upas, since the sixth grade ability is reputed to be the power to deny others the use of their abilities.Sinduin meets up with Papieca and they finally cross over to our universe and Earth. Sinduin initially decides on landing in the Arctic to minimize detection, not realizing that the Upas, who love the cold, are swarming in that region of Earth. Two Upa agents note the presence of the Incula and the Zeburaja, and decide that they will allow Sinduin to compete for the supremacy of the Earth, only killing her if it is absolutely necessary. They refer to a mysterious leader against who they believe Sinduin does not stand a chance. Since the Arctic proves unbearable, Sinduin orders Papieca to find a crosspoint out of Earth, then come back in but at a warmer longitude. They land in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, near Zambia. Sinduin reckons the nearest airport is across the border in Livingstone, so they head in that direction, an airplane being necessary as they are forbidden from using any abilities.

Sinduin decides to explain to Papieca the business of the Earth Cycles. Unbeknownst to practically all Earthlings, the outcome of their world history is rigged, and has been so for centuries. A secret cabal known as the C.A.S.B.A. pulls the strings. Every 88 years (oddly enough, exactly a quarter of the time that Johannes Trithemius calculated for his own, angel-driven cycles) the C.A.S.B.A. holds a musical contest, where only the best musician from each of Earth’s countries is allowed to compete. The winning country is then “helped along” by the C.A.S.B.A.’s huge array of resources to rule until the next cycle (with the second-, third- and fourth-placed countries also being given considerable amounts of power.) Sinduin’s plan is simple: win the contest and use the C.A.S.B.A.’s power to rule Earth, permanently. As Sinduin and Papieca walk through the African bush, several C.A.S.B.A. agents are actively recruiting for the upcoming competition. Max Di Luvio heads to Florence, Massachusetts to talk with a talented street musician, who promptly turns him down, thus dooming American dominance over the Earth, as the U.S.A. will not even be represented in the competition, let alone gain one of the top spots. In southern Zimbabwe, Léto de Plessis tries to recruit a young girl who is not only the best musician in her country, but easily the best marimba player in the world. Faced with the girl’s skepticism, Léto cheats a little by showcasing some of her organization’s amazing power. The marimba player agrees to participate.

Over in Northern Ireland, a third agent is faced with a much more difficult task. Michael is supposed to recruit a prisoner of the British government, presumably the best musician in Ireland, but arrives there only to find that the man has just been killed by another prisoner. Rather than simplifying matters for Michael and knocking Ireland out of the competition, the prisoner’s death means Ireland will have a better shot at winning, by means that thoroughly upset Michael. It turns out that Michael is Irish (though adopted by American parents as a child) and he used to be an excellent musician, literally the best in Ireland. Even though the C.A.S.B.A. initially accepted its agent’s refusal to participate in the upcoming competition, the prisoner’s death is taken as an omen by Max di Luvio and he forces Michael to stop fussing and take his rightful place among the contestants. Sinduin’s decision to dress Papieca up as a sable antelope, a common sight in Zimbabwe, backfires. A tank crew of Zimbabwean Army soldiers mistake her for a poacher, on top of which she inadvertently portrays herself as a callous white farmer. Soon the soldiers become aggressive. Sinduin and Papieca try to evade them but fail. Finally, Sinduin attacks them without using her abilities and is terribly wounded. She gives permission to Papieca to use his own powers and repel the attack, but the Zeburaja is too proud to do so and opts for another “conventional” strike, which achieves nothing. The pair is about to be annihilated by the soldiers when Papieca, having gained in wisdom, suddenly ascends to the third grade and immediately employs the corresponding ability of transformation to crush the tank. (Léto de Plessis witnesses part of the action but, thinking it none of her business, does not intervene.)

Sinduin wakes up in a Zambian hospital, having been taken there by Papieca, who has transformed into a human boy to better blend in. Since morph-capable tetrapods are strictly forbidden by Incudean law from ever taking bipedal forms, and because Papieca’s new look quite frankly creeps her out, she orders the Zeburaja to turn back into his original form. They then arrange to take a plane to Japan, where they will take another plane to the tiny island nation of Preciosa in the East China Sea, where Sinduin’s mission apparently will come to fruition. Papieca is forced by Sinduin’s prejudice to ride in storage, where no doubt he keenly feels his status as a vassal and a second-class being. He still does not know what the purpose of going to Preciosa is, or how Sinduin intends to win the C.A.S.B.A. contest, when she has no musical experience and is not even a true citizen of any country on the planet Earth…

A Note on Earth, the Two Councils, and Unreal Possible Variable Sets

Starting in chapter 22 of Sinduin Saga, there is an extended sequence in which Sinduin gives a report about Earth to a few, rather silly, Councilors. She then goes home and is awakened by a voice interested in hearing the real report, referencing the fact that those Councilors were fifth-graders and not fit to hear a true account of what was going on in Earth. Some clarification is in order, and for that, we need to look at the structure of the Council in Sinduin’s time.

The Council

To be eligible for a position in this august body, one must have reached the fifth-grade. And in fact, elections to the Council only occur in this grade. The sixth grade naturally holds no elections (the Upa Rebellion and all), and the seventh-graders are all automatically inducted in the Council. 1,296 fifth-graders sit in the Council at any one time, and we don’t know how many seventh-graders share the privilege (their number is a top secret matter). Now, the fifth-graders have quite short terms of under an Earth year. It is no wonder then that people in the know talk of two councils: a Baby Council, and the True Council. Which is to say, more bluntly, that the actual council that counts is the membership of all seventh graders, fifth graders be damned.

Since things are so, one could be shocked to see these Baby Councilors being appraised of the new dimension of Earth, even if they’re not getting all of the facts. And yet the fact is that they’re not getting any of the facts, not really. Here the following proverb comes into play: “The best kept secret lies inside a solid red chest box in the middle of a field.” The fifth graders, this select group of fifth graders, since part of the whole point is that these reports are limited to a select few (where the word select is more for show than anything), are being fed a secret that’s a lie. A secret that’s meant to hide the real secret, which is the truth about Earth.

The Theory behind the Lie

Circa 1825 AD, a theoretical engineer by the name of Fornevian came up with a striking theory in connection with the sophisticated simulation centroids operated by Incudea. She argued that if one of the centroids activated a combination of conditions which together comprised at a theoretical level a universe coherent and logical enough to sustain itself apart from Belklaun, then it would be instantiated immediately and come into existence. Mind you, this new universe brought forth from the realm of chaotic possibilities within a simcen would be very unstable. If with the passage of time the universe even for a moment linked itself to Belklaun and became logically, if not actually, dependent on it, it would immediately lose its “right to exist” and would become just another simulation. And even if it never did lose itself in its own vagaries, it would still die eventually. This next part loses me completely, so I’ll just give Fornevian’s result: the young universe will immediately collapse and die (“scatter”) as soon as the first rays of light that it generates reach the edges of the icosahedron (remember that the notion of Belklaun’s final shape was around for two centuries by this point). The math is obscure and sadly coupled with some reckless jingoism, but the theory is well-respected. And since the heart of the actual universe is under 50 light-years from the edge, you get a sense of how fleeting these instantiated unreal possible variable sets would be, if they could ever be produced.

The Actual Lie

By now you should start getting the picture. These Baby Councilors have been led to believe that what Incudea has stumbled on and Sinduin is exploring, is nothing more than the first recorded Fornevian universe. This universe is in the Malvrein simcen, so its longevity will be three decades at most(a calculation based on the distance between the planet of Malvrein and the edge of the known universe.) And Fornevian herself did not think it would fare well for a “real” traveler to be caught in such a universe if and when it collapsed. So the fifth graders are more than happy to let Sinduin do all of the exploring. But let it not be said that Incudea is doing badly when the True Council cannot find a handful of brave fifth graders to go on this suicide mission. Remember, the heroic type is precisely the one not sought for by those seventh graders in possession of the secret of Earth (the owner of that mysterious voice being of course one). We can be sure these Baby Councilors are among the sorriest of the lot. But by keeping the secret “out there”, they keep the truth hidden within. A heroic, resourceful fifth grader is far more likely to be thrown off the scent by her annoyance at not having been picked to share in the secret than to be told the lie to her face.

Incidentally, my colleague in CSD-A likes to call your home the Hitler-Spears Fornevian construct. The way she tells it, the shortest way to describe your universe uniquely is to say that it contains one Adolf Hitler and one Britney Spears. I know she is joking, and that a more elegant description would hinge on the quixotic nature of your gravity and your light, but at the same time I appreciate the creative directness of her expression. It's a good thing I have the job I have, and she has the one she has.

More (F)layers?

Actually, there are more layers to this secret. Just as a portion of the Baby Council is led to believe in this Fornevian universe, the greater portion of Inculae is led to believe that the secret has to do with the flayers. Understand that if one is to keep this whole Earth business secret, at least some explanations must be given. Green plants rise on the Silver Planet (Sinduin has dubbed them green cryo-non-sapients, tek idandoshulins), a Storm citizen swallows a Musca domestica (cf. P.E.T.S.) and so on and so forth. The Babies and all other high graders who pry and spy on them, believe the Fornevian universe is to blame and that the anomalies, while striking, are reversible and of no lasting effect. But the general populace must be told something, and that something must be radically different from the other lie, otherwise the Babies will start to wise up.

And so the general Incudean population has been told that certain technological breakthroughs having to do with security matters are responsible. Here again, the anomalies are under control. Progress, a progress that will enrich Incudea immeasurably, is being made. Secretly, low level government officials are leaking, some purposefully on orders, most because they’re awful gossips, that the breakthroughs have to do with flayer technology. The flayers are one of the great mysteries of Incudea, even, especially, to Inculae. The mystery in question is simply: why haven’t more be developed? As Sinduin labors on Earth with Papieca, the talk of Incudea is that a new flayer field is about to be unveiled, or two, or three, or even a dozen.

CSDA crew

Some of the CSDA Earth group members. From left to right: transport, front office, management, back office

There is a final layer to this madness, one at the highest levels. Not even the majority of so-called True Councilors know about the reality of Earth and what it could mean for Incudea, but only a select few members of the main intelligence unit known as CSD-A. They look at the dissemination of all of this misinformation, then stare into each other’s eyes and smile: it is a good ploy, to keep Incudean morale high after a century without conquests (there being nothing left to conquer, it seems) and to throw off the Upas and keep their backs to the wall. For if ever Incudea were able to collapse the 21 worlds of all Belklaun into one massive hunting ground, Upa blood would flow forevermore. The technoleap would spell the end of the Rebellion.

next arc