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Priceless

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3 years 11 months ago #23207 by Quorry
Quorry created the topic: Priceless
A very long time ago, somewhere on Earth

Chirrup loved her new shelter. It was a small enclosure in the center of a large ring of tall stones, with a roof of woven leaves to keep out the rain and a little hatch to let the smoke out if it was cold enough to start a fire. Because the ground was made of many small stones it did not get muddy and gross and full of bugs like it would if it was dirt or grass. Waking up with crawlies trying to eat her was very annoying, it made her want to claw at her skin. Her Ba wasn’t around anymore to stop her, and she forgot sometimes. The scratches would hurt more than the bites and last for longer. But that wouldn’t be a problem anymore. She had found this great place that the wolves would go near, and now she could sleep well.

She found it some suns back when she was running from a wolfpack that wanted her as a meal. They were faster than she, and there were many more of them, so she was scared. But she had hands to throw rocks, and she was very good at it, enough that they kept wary and waited for her to tire. She tried to flee up the mountainside, but they kept their footing as well as she did. Then, all quickly, they turned and left. She looked around, wondering if she had stepped in some larger predator’s territory. But all that had happened was she had stepped between two tall rocks into a little-rock pit. She walked around the edges cautiously. There were lots of tall rocks, and they had lines cut into them, somehow. She didn’t understand why someone would do that, waste their time trying to kill rocks. You can’t eat rocks. She licked it experimentally. Nope, it was just a normal rock.

She stayed in the area for a sun or two before she decided it was a safe place. The wolves came back sometimes, but they would never get too close. They didn’t like the rocks, maybe. Well, she didn’t mind, if it kept them away, she liked it. Then she started dragging dead tree limbs from the woodland further down the mountain, up to the tall stones, to build a place to sleep.

She still had to travel up and down the mountain to get food and water, but that one safe place made all the difference. After a while, she began to think of it as her own, as a place only she got to be in because she was special, and better than the animals. She became comfortable with the strangeness of it, climbing on the tall rocks to look down over the landscape below, thinking of how great it would be if she could be just as safe down there as she was up here.


She lay on the ground one day, and saw a bird flying far overhead. She squinted against the sun, and lifted one arm up as though to grasp it. She closed her fist around the sun, then opened it palm out towards the bird. Nothing happened. The bird would not be punished for intruding on her space. She rested in her shelter after that, where she didn’t have to see the sky.


Sometimes on a night with a storm, her shelter would threaten to blow away in the wind. She went out to find some river reeds to weave into rope to secure it, trusting the storm to frighten the animals into letting her travel relatively safely. She returned, muddy and wet and cold, but with a large bundle of reeds to use. She took them into the shelter and started preparing them like Ba used to. She had little warning but the prickling on her neck before a blinding light came from outside, and the tall stones roared. She scrambled out of the shelter, staring wildly as the sky cracked open again and again, with awful noise and searing brightness. The cracks touched on the stones, filling their graven surfaces with an ethereal glow. She had to avert her eyes mostly, to prevent blindness, but during one interval of relative calm, she glanced up at the sky, and thought she saw a figure there, looking down on her. It looked like her, and Ba, and nothing like any of the animals. A person. A person was attacking her home, and she could do nothing but let it protect her. She covered her ears and cried, cried until she tired, and somehow slept.

Eventually, the storm ended, and Chirrup was greatly relieved. Though she suffered deafness for a time after, she felt safer knowing the tall stones protected her.

Thus situated, she lived for several winters peacefully.


It was evening, and she was enjoying some berries she’d found that she knew to be edible. She sat cross legged on the pebbled ground, looking up into the evening sky. It was half-cloudy, but the clouds that were there were dark and threatened rain. The hairs on the back of her neck pricked up, and she was reminded of the terrible storm. She trusted the stones to protect her, so she kept watching, to see what would happen. A glowing object flickered into existence above her, causing the surrounding clouds to rush away in a wide ring. The stars showed through with sudden clarity. The object fell, or rather, it flickered, appearing closer to her level every time. It was near enough now for her to tell where it was going to end up, if it kept going. Finally, it appeared, just above ground level in the center of the ring of stones, and she got a good look at it. It was like a large bubble, transparent and uneven, wobbly. It contained within it a slightly smaller bubble, which wobbled differently, and bounced off of the larger one when they made contact. That bubble had another inside it, the same but smaller, and so on. At the very center of all the bubbles was a bright speck, whose light shimmered and changed with the movements of the bubbles. A moment later the bubble flickered again and vanished. Chirrup looked around, scratching her head. Then it was back, with a few loose bits of gravel stuck on it. It stayed for a while, glowing, shimmering. She watched and waited.

Then she got bored, and started tossing rocks at it. At the first, the bubbles shook terribly, and the speck flashed brightly a few times. At the second, a thin thread of light wove out of the speck and its bubbly layers, to touch her forehead. It happened so fast she didn’t have a chance to avoid it. An odd sound resonated in her head. It was like water in a stream, but it crackled and rang in her ears in a way she had never heard before. She clapped her hands over her ears, but the sound was still there. The sound changed, and she sensed meaning in it.

[Place… want....] There were many ideas being sent that were too complicated for Chirrup to grasp with her limited experience, but she recognized several, enough to grasp the general meaning.

“[No! This my place!]” She thought.

[Place… you… own?]

She didn’t really get the ‘own’ part, but she understood the idea of territory.

“[Yes. Whole place is mine. You no get.]”

The light flashed rapidly. It was a different color now, though she had no name for the color it was before.

[Us… need… place…]

“[Need, to live?]”

[Maybe… …. …. ….]

Here there were many ideas and sensations that Chirrup could not comprehend.

“[Do not… understand.]”

The light dimmed for a moment.

[Us… change… you. You… understand.]

She was about to reiterate her point about not understanding when the light pulsed, and wave of energy passed over her, running through her veins, through her brain.

“[Whooaaah… That was something.]”

[Do you understand now?]

“[Yes, I do. What was that?]” She was feeling at her head, which she was now for some reason associating with thought, though she’d never even thought about thought before.

[You are a far simpler being that we. It is no problem for us to bring you an infinitesimal step closer to our level, if needs be.]

“[Huh. What were you saying before?]”

[We would like to have this place. You have… ownership of it, correct?]

“[Yes.]”

[We would like to negotiate with you for ownership.]

” Without the safety of the stones, she did not like her chances of survival among the animals.

[We can arrange to have that resolved.]

“[How?]”

[Like we said before, we have no problems altering lesser beings. In the sense that you understand it, we can change you so you never die.]

Chirrup was becoming accustomed to her increased intelligence. She did not, however, have much experience in thinking outside the box. If she gave up the ring of stones, she would never die. It seemed simple, but she tried to imagine it. The only reason she stayed in this ring in the first place was that she didn’t have the strength to do what she wanted. If she couldn’t die, she could still be hurt, or trapped, or harassed by crawlies.

“[Can you give me power?]”

[We can… unless the kind of power you want is able to harm us.]

Kind of power? What did that mean? There was more than one? She was just going to ask for physical strength… well, as Ba always said, be greedy. On the other hand, Ba was killed trying to steal fish from a bear. She lost some of her good sense when she got old.

“[Can I have all the kinds of power that do NOT harm you?]”

[You wouldn’t be able to handle it. Besides, that kind of modification would leave you dangerously close to figuring out a way to harm us anyways.]

Chirrup was starting to understand what this negotiation thing was about. The light had one thing it wanted, and was willing to give her whatever she wanted, unless it would be bad for the light. It was fairly simple. But now, she was faced with making a very important decision. Not whether to make the deal or not, obviously she didn’t want to die, but how to get the most out of it.

“[Can I think about it for a while?]”

[You may. We will wait until you have decided on your conditions.]

She sat and thought, and thought, then thought some more.

“[Can you make me smarter, temporarily, to help me think about this?]”

The light wavered for a few seconds. [We can do so. Hold still.]

There was a stronger pulse than the last time. She felt like her head was expanding, her brain full of fire, ants, and noise. The pain eased, and she tried to think again. It was like night and day, there were so many more things she could see now, obvious solutions to the problems she had faced all her life, but she brushed it all aside to figure out her answer to the being in front of her.

After thinking for some time, she had her answer. She posed it carefully, because she didn’t want her ideas to come across incorrectly.

“[Can you make it so I can have any power that cannot harm you, at any time, but only one at a time? Would that be too much for me to handle? Also, I want you to make me never die, as a separate demand.]”

The light changed colors and flickered for a while. She idly traced shapes in the stars. There was four sided shape. There was the other four sided shape. To the left was their mortal enemy, five sided shape, that fights the four sided shapes for eternity. Overlooking their battle there was the rough approximation of a person with all their limbs and a stick. She imagined he liked the taste of wolf meat. Somewhere on the other side of the sky there was the campfire star. It looked like a really far away campfire.

And so she continued until the visitor made its decision.

[... We have determined a functioning model for your payment. Do you wish to review it before we seal the exchange?]

“[No, just do what you must.]” She didn’t want to do a lot of thinking again. It felt strange.

[The deal is set. Please make contact with the probe.] She didn’t move. [... … … touch the… bubble.]

Chirrup did as she was told, eager to get her power. She reached out one hand and pressed it against the bubble. A single ray of light etched a symbol onto her hand, so intense that she could see it tracing through the other side. It didn’t hurt, but she wouldn’t have moved even if it did.

Nothing else happened for a few seconds. Was that it?

No, it wasn’t. The light pulsed, and it kept pulsing. Again and again it sent ripples of energy into her body, the symbol on her hand lighting up with each one, as if the steadily building heat wasn’t enough of a signal. Her muscles twisted and tore, and reformed, her bones melted and froze, cracked and mended. She couldn’t move, even as the vicious currents of the power she wanted tore her apart endlessly. She was destroyed, to be made anew. Her organs began to move about on their own, becoming stronger and at the same time smaller to make room for new parts that she assumed would be necessary to use the powers she was being given.

Beyond the physical changes, she felt others, veins of pure energy drawn through her limbs, her senses stretched and kneaded into new configurations, and her spirit split into many and stuck back together in layers. Every possible deconstruction and reconstruction was performed to prepare her body for the stresses of the powers it would soon be responsible for containing.

When she was finally released, she thought she had been through the most harrowing experience of her life. She rocked back on her heels and fell clumsily to a sitting position. She took some time to collect herself.

“[How do I use this power?]”

[Simply think of the kind of power you wish to use, and if you can, it will come to you.]

Huh. So if she just thought about physical strength, then it would just happen. Her muscles tensed, and she jumped from the bed of stones to the top of one of the pillars like it was a short hop. She returned to ground level in a spray of pebbles.

“[The deal is sealed then. I have power, and you have this place.]”

[Correct. We will come to claim it in due time.]

“[But you are already here.]”

[This is just a single probing aspect of our true form. We are actually incredibly far off.]

Chirrup scratched her head. She guessed that she was supposed to leave now, since the stone circle wasn’t hers any longer.

She thought about flight, and with fantastic speed, disappeared into the morning sky.


Some hundreds of thousands of lightyears away, something massive stirred. One of its probes had accomplished its mission to acquire a planet with life on it. For the first time in a very, very long time, the Greater Intelligence began to move.
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