gantis: toward the edge

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.


The first in a series of short stories exploring a universe in which our negative space (i.e. space) is turned into their positive space (i.e. matter) and vice-versa. Thus, it is like the entire universe is a series of caves that they must excavate. This story introduces a few key characters, explore a bit of the lore, and is an attempt by me to write a story in which a clearer light is shone on a relationship between two characters. More to come, enjoy!

The idea for a story involving an inverse universe—in which our negative space (air, space, etc.) is turned into positive space (i.e. matter) and vice-versa—came on Christmas day while thinking of other ways the universe could have come about. I was interested in exploring what underground dwellers (ants, moles, etc.) deal with every day and expanding that to include the entire universe. This, of course, came with problems—at least for a scientific mind used to justifying the state of affairs. To avoid making the story convoluted and spending too much time on the theory of what would happen, several liberties are taken with physical laws. After all, this is a fictional universe.

I have tried to reduce science fiction word soup and creating alternative non-English words for the same concept, e.g. water = H2O = dihydrogen monoxide rather than jouliup or similar. This is the first of several stories to take place in the Universe, i would like to flesh out the world as i really like the concept. Enjoy!

It was the first Gant in several hundred years—nearly a million people joined the voyage—to head toward t231, a sector that probes indicated contained a massive gantis. A few smaller ganti had been found and their antimatter was re-routed toward t23, a nearby sector’s supercolony. Ultimately, the antimatter streams didn’t last long enough and t231 was abandoned with a skeleton crew left to maintain the tunnels.

Recent evidence from Galho’s scouting group indicate that original estimates were correct. There is a gantis big enough in the sector to sustain non-polluting energy for the foreseeable future. You have been selected as a part of an elite set of diggers who will head to t231 and find that gantis. Full mission report to follow in several thousand time-units. Good luck.

“Dynt, run! There is a stream coming this way, run!” Synx screamed and ran toward me. I snapped out of my dream—the cold, metallic voice that had give us those fateful instructions still echoing in my mind. I peered ahead and barely made out Synx bearing down on me, her face full of terror. This surprised me—her type were generally unafraid of antimatter streams, given their unique…abilities. We’d taken to calling them Shielders.

“Holy hell, Dynt, start digging a re-routing tunnel or something!” she barreled into me and grabbed the scruff of my collar and dragged me toward the end of the tunnel.

“What? Hold up, this is a dead-end tunnel, there isn’t…we aren’t…”

“I don’t care about authorization! Where’s the map? Give me the map!” she hollered as i fumbled around my pack, desperately searching for the little chip. In the distance i could hear the hiss and small crackles characteristic of approaching antimatter. I’d lined the walls around here with some damn thick neutral matter, so the antimatter shouldn’t be reacting with anything…then i remember this tunnel wasn’t vacuumed, so all the air was being eliminated by the onrushing antimatter…

“Found it!” i yelled and tossed the chip over to her. She stabbed it into her arms and fainted for a second before waking back up. Engineers never figured out how to not do a soft reboot when loading chips, fucking retarded design.

“Alright, start digging on the left-most portion of the tunnel, i’ll prepare an A-shield in the meantime,” she said, suddenly quite calm. She was super cocky in general—her parents had been top Shielders and not just for their skill with the arts. I wouldn’t call her beautiful, exotic, or hot…pretty? She’d probably cut my balls off if i mentioned that thought to her.

“Digger? You there? Start doing your fucking job!” she said and trotted in the direction of the approaching stream. I snapped out it and ran toward the end of the tunnel. Looking down at my antidig, the indicator read near empty. That should be enough antimatter to put a dent in the tunnel at least. I dropped my goggles, flipped on my suits heat reflector, and jammed the antidig into the wall. With a loud hiss, it began to melt away.

“Hey Dynt! You’ll be wanting to get your fat-ass behind me real soon,” Synx said kneeling down and drawing some symbols in the ground. I hated Shielders and their faux magic almost as much as the Collectors and their obsessive wasting of resources to find ever last bit of antimatter seeping from old tunnels.

“Yeah, i’m almost…” Zzzztttt, BOOOOMMMMMmmmmm! Zztttt! I was flung against the wall and the handle of my antidig dug its way into my ribs. Stunned, i twirled around to see the tunnel completely filled with antimatter. Rather, i didn’t detect any form of electromagnetic radiation, antimatter absorbed all of it for reasons we never quite figured out.

“Get over here now!” Synx said and raised up a shield that only blocked a small sliver of the tunnel.

“What the hell is that tiny thing? Isn’t going to stop…”

“Shut your ass and get over here!” There are times when you don’t argue with an angry women who wields ‘magic’. Especially when antimatter is approaching. I did as i was told and sprinted toward the shield and slid inside just as she completed closed it. Staring into her golden eyes, i could see a spark of terror hidden behind her tough-as-balls attitude.

“Alright, before you start asking your wise-ass questions, i’m not going to try and block that entire thing. Did you dig the hole?”

“How could i dig a goddamn hole in twenty seconds?” i snapped back.

“Hmmpf, thought you were ‘top dog’,” she snorted and flipped her goggles on and stopped talking. She was one of the few Shielders i’d seen use goggles and she never explained why. The antimatter was almost upon us and I realized that her shield wasn’t nearly thick enough to protect us against the onslaught that would follow.

“Ummm, Synx, might want to make the shield thicker…” i trailed off as she gave me a look that even with the goggles on i knew meant death. She calmly turned her head back toward the antimatter stream and just froze.

“Get ready Dynt, we’ll probably die here. Can’t say its been enjoyable dragging around your lazy ass,” was all she said as the antimatter slammed into the shield and tore away at it layer-by-layer. But i soon realize why she’d made such a thin shield spread out over a fairly small area. She increased and modulated the power to different sections, creating new inner shields and not wasting time forming outer shields that would be destroyed immediately. Absolutely brilliant. Of course, one would never tell her royal highness that.

While Synx was busy saving our lives, i peered behind us, but could see nothing. The antimatter didn’t seem to be pilling up as i expected. Even though there was a mountains of it streaming by, per area it wasn’t enough to create anything but neutral matter when combined with matter. That should’ve ceased any forward movement and caused a rather troublesome back-flow.

“Hey Synx, think its strange that we aren’t having back-flow like normal?”

“You dug a fucking hole, right? It should all be flowing into an abandoned chamber behind this tunnel,” she noted without so much as moving a muscle in my direction. She would seem to switch personalities when shielding and never for the better. The antimatter continued to flow for what seemed like ages and she never broke. I could see her body wither though. Shielding didn’t use energy from matter and antimatter but from the reserves of the user. That’s why it was remarkable Synx was one at all, what with her tall frame and lanky form. She was always eating, the fat pig, but she burned it all away just as quickly saving me from shit like this.

“Hey Dynx…Dynx, can you hold me?” she whispered, her voice full of pain and a small amount of drool worked its way down her left chin. She turned her head toward me and through the goggles i could feel her soul leaving. A pang of guilt ran through me as i rushed over and pulled her up. She again stared at the oncoming stream of antimatter and continued working the layers of her elaborate shield. I stood like that for what seemed like a thousand time-units as she withered away, but finally it ended and i laid her down.

“Don’t fucking look at me!” she immediately exclaimed once she dropped the shield and reabsorbed enough energy to speak. She curled into a ball and tears rolled down her eyes. Getting up, i began to walk toward the tunnel’s end. Interacting with her in that state, no matter how weak, was inviting retribution later. Near the end i spotted where the antimatter had gone and took a step closer, peering through the hole. I tossed an antiprobe into the air and watched the chamber fill with light, noting the vast expanse of nothingness marking the antimatter pool. How the fuck was this mis-routed?

After a time checking the size of the chamber and noting it down for later, i returned to Synx. She had bolted herself against the wall and every so often she gasped for air followed by a stillness that suggested she had died. Upon seeing this i immediately donned my breathing mask and switched on the nitrogen. Waiting a several time-units or so to let my breathing stabilize, i leaned over and grabbed Synx’s mask out of her pack and pressed it against her face for a brief moment and retracted it. She coughed heavily, then a torrent of fluid came rushing out and splattered across the ground. I let her wrench up the remaining liquid then secured her mask. Looked at both our pressure gauges and at the barometer, i calculated we only had about a couple hundred time-units to get back to base camp. Plenty of time considering this sector had no wild animals to speak of.

“Hey, Synx,” i said softly and reached down to grab her around the waist and unlatch her bolt. I was treated with a class A slap to the face.

“Get…ack…get away from me!” she tried to scream but it came out as a whimper. Flailing about for a bit, she eventually settled down and i reached over once more to unlatch her. She obliged with a grunt and did everything possible to prove that my help wasn’t needed or wanted. I ended up securing her pack then shoving her in the direction of base camp—allowing her to float there would be easier than manually guiding her, she deserved to bump into a wall or two on the way back.

Waiting a bit for her to round a corner, i looked back at the hole in the wall and finally noticed the glint of metal above it from my flame. Colony t22 chamber. DO NOT USE!. Turning around, i began to open my mouth and holler at Synx, but thought the better of it. Fuck. Well, she was about to be in for a big surprise when we got back to base camp.

Digger Dynt and Shielder Synx have been reassigned to t242 until further notice. t242 is the newest colony in the sector and contains many of our top diggers—among them Digger Rylet, your instructor. They have been webbing their way around a largely empty gantis for several hundred thousand time-units. More information can be found in the written report, available in a couple hundred time-units.

I looked over at Synx and hid a smile. She would be fuming later at the prospect of being shipped out to t242. It was a backward place that you only heard negative reports of. The place where careers, and people, went to die. The only tunnel there was vacuumed and special vehicles were needed to traverse the vast distance to reach it in a reasonable amount of time. We walked out of the room together, with the gap between us noticeably wider. She waited until we were floating through an empty chamber before spinning to face me.

“You insolent piece of shit!” she screamed. I momentarily flinched, even though i’d anticipated the outburst. But for once an act of physical violence didn’t follow.

“What do you mean, you ordered me to dig a hole there!”

“Yes, and you’re a Digger. Maybe you should have checked to make sure…”

“With a wall of antimatter rushing toward us? Fat chance. I saw the glint in your eyes. You were terrified,” i shot back and increased my foot thrusters output ever so slightly. She boosted ahead of me and blocked my path.

“I don’t mean to be an asshole, because I’m not, but you should have known the layout of the tunnels. That’s your fucking job. Your only job.”

“And what is your job? Oh right, also knowing the tunnels. We have several more years, at the least, of assignments together. Let’s argue then. Out in t242,” i smiled as the last sentenced slipped from my lips. Fury racked her face and she shot toward me. I easily boosted out of the way and let her glide past before rocketing over to the other end of the chamber.

“And you better get your coordination up. I heard t242 isn’t t2. There are wild things out there,” i said and pressed the door ahead of me, gliding through. We didn’t talk for several thousand time-units, until the vehicle from t242 arrived.

I’d spent much of the time reading the news on the more efficient waste removal, apparently people had figured out how to separate trace antimatter from trash, allowing it to interact with antimatter sans repulsion. That this coincided with a breakthrough in agriculture was not to be overlooked. People often say Iyteu was one of the more brilliant minds, having discovered that waste disposal through antimatter fusion could be used to power devices that would provide enough latent heat to allow certain organisms to grow. They could then be killed and eaten. Massive chambers were built for this purpose, with streams of matter and antimatter entering and colliding on one side while bigglopumps (a squishy little round monster of a creature) sat on the other side of an electrified fence soaking up the heat. I had just flipped to a fascinating article on bigglopump genetic engineering when Ms. No-Fun walked in. Yes, i’ve emphasized the Ms. in my transcoder.

“Get that smile off your face Dynt, I’m not here to argue. The vehicle is at the dock,” she said and immediately glided out. I grabbed my pack and followed her down the nearby tunnel and into the main artery leading to the docks.

Hold docks, vehicle from t242 is arriving,” a voice announced, the sound echoing around the chamber. The docks were always a fascinating place, partially because there were only ever one artery and one vein. Several million time-units past someone in t2 had decided all child colonies would work under the same system, the One I/O rule. This was meant to reduce wasting resources on developing multiple arteries between colonies, but lead to severe bottlenecks in non-hub (e.g. t2+) colonies. It also meant that to go between colonies with different parents, you had to traverse to your parent colony before going to any other colonies. As a digger i hated it, especially given the dangers of unexpected antimatter streams that could collapse tunnels. But there were too few travelers in the outer colonies to care and protest.

“Hey Dynt, you awake?” i jumped several feet back as Synx appeared right in front of my face. Much too close for comfort. Still not in the mood to care.

“Yeah, yeah, what do you want?” i responded tersely.

“Jesus, calm down. We’ve barely talked lately and your still ice…”

“No, I’m just tired of you at the moment. Let’s get on board,” i cut her off and flung my pack through the air and followed it toward the ship.

Welcome to t242!

That was the only greeting we got as we exited the shuttle. I was momentarily disorientated and blind, they used echo lamps here instead of light lamps. Echolocation seemed primitive to me, having grown up digging tunnels meant to be operated in a vacuum. But many swore by echo lamps, partly because they used vastly less energy. I found it quaint and i could tell by the look that Synx had, that she was not bemused by the primitive technology.

The dock itself was still rough around the edges and hadn’t been formed into a perfect sphere yet. I could make out forms moving in the distance, but my echolocation was still playing catch-up. Floating toward the nearest rig, i attached a line and began drifting toward registration—or at least what looked to be registration. They normally made it reflect sound waves in weird ways to make it stand out amongst the clutter.

“Dynt, you ass, hold up!” Synx said as she hauled her massive bag behind her. I’d told her that it would do no good out here to bring all that stuff, they would give us outfits and other necessities. But she had to have her hijos and calwinks or whatever it was ladies from t1-9 carried with them.

As i neared the registration, a form came barreling toward me, arms spread wide. I tried to avoid, but i’d grow rusty on the long, confined trip over here. Smashing into me, we tumbled a bit until my rope went taunt and we came to a halt. I was flailing about a bit trying to get the person off me.

“Boy! Calm down, calm down. There aren’t any rebels here, only friends!” the form exclaimed. I took a moment to orientate myself but finally got a good look at the fellow harassing me. He was obese, to put it politely, and carried a full mop of hair. I couldn’t make out much else, echolocation sucks that way, but he seemed non-threatening enough.

“What do you want?” i said, pulling back a little.

“Why you of course,” he said, smiling. “Name’s Rylet! Like rivet…”

“Not even close,” i interrupted. He blinked several times before carrying on.

“Now, where was i before you rudely interrupted? Ah yes, name’s Rylet! Like rivet! From the lovely t240 and explorer of all t240+ colonies. I’ll be your instructor as it appears you,” he paused a moment and stared at Synx, smiling all the while. “And your girlfriend…”

“We’re partners,” i interjected.

“Ahhh, tied the knot i see!” he bellowed. I really wanted to turn on my light lamp, not being able to read a person’s eyes was killing me.

“No, i meant operational partners,” i corrected.

Operational partners? What the fuck is that boy?”

“We work together, there is no romance. That enough for you?”

“Oooohhh, haha. The boy has no mojo, don’t worry, i’ll help you fix that before you’re done here. Now, i’m tasked with teaching y’all a lesson in team management and proper tunnel building. I’ll add in emergency preparedness,” he said and looked down at a notepad that had suddenly appeared in his hand. “As it seems y’all lack a semblance of level-headiness during even rudimentary antimatter scenarios,” he finished, his tone become slightly less jovial.

“We were dealing with a class A.2 disruption, what would you…”

“Quite down boy, I know all about your class ‘A.2’ problem. First we’ll fix the type A problem you both carry around then we’ll get to your highly ‘courageous’ fending off of a class ‘A.2’ antimatter flow,” he said, his voice dripping with mockery. “Welcome to t242! This is where the real diggers and shielders come to learn.”

He detached himself from me and floated off toward the other side of the chamber. I watched his grotesquely oversized form bounce against several objects on his way to the exit door. Looking behind me, Synx had finally caught up and was trying to prevent her bag from floating away.

Operational partners?” she spate at me. “Since when were we operational or partners? I rank above…”

“Shut up Synx, we just got here,” i broke in and pushed off toward the registration. This was going to be a long, long visit.

“Alright chumps, time to learn the art of digging fast,” Rylet said and took out an antidig. “And shielding well.”

Synx snorted and formed a small energy shield in the palm of her hand, allowing it to flicker in and out before extinguishing it. Rylet iced over for a moment as he glanced her way before looking down at the tool-chest and pulling out several other instruments and arranging them on a table.

“I learned to shield from the best. I’m sure you have some gimmicky little tricks that work out in the back colonies…”

“We are the future girl. Without us, where would your precious t2 get all its antimatter? Want to power your cities with matter?”

“There are plenty unexplored areas even around the parent colonies, so yes, we well could. But better to have you switch-wacks…” and at that Rylet sprung over the table and pinned Synx onto the ground and wrapped one hand around the side of her neck. I screamed and rushed forward to pry him away, but before I could get half-way there, he was already back on his feet, walking toward he table.

“Now, don’t you forget where you are little girl. This isn’t a place to go making enemies,” he stated and began taking out more equipment and laying it out before him. His expression never displayed any rage during the whole incident, but for the first time in awhile, Synx was visibly shaken. She clutched at her throat with one hand and was busily trying to make a shield with the other, but it kept fading in and out until it dissipated for good. She back away from me as i approached until her back hit the wall of the room. Her eyes danced around wildly the entire time.

“Synx, what the hell? He only meant to frighten you,” i said, leaning forward to help her up. A shield blasted me in the face and i was back on the floor several feet away.

“He tried to kill me!” she screamed suddenly and her shield grew brighter and began to fill her half of the room. “You piece of shit, I ought to…”

“Shut up girl, you aren’t in t2 anymore,” Rylet noted, barely giving her a glance.

“I KNOW!” she screamed back, concentrating her shield into a tiny ball and flinging it toward Rylet. Without so much as flinching from his task of taking out various tools, his hand went up and a small shield formed there, completely absorbing Synx’s.

“Now girl, i know being a t2 make you an automatic bitch,” he finally finished taking out the tools and stared at Synx. “But don’t go threatening people in a territory you know aught next to nothin’ about.”

Synx had collapsed back onto the floor, her body having the same look after she saved us from the antimatter stream. But this time she carried a hate in her eyes that i never had the pleasure of knowing. Rylet’s expression changed from momentary annoyance to a bemused smile.

“Ah, yes, so now you find a bit of a limitation to that faux magic of yours, yes?” he said, reaching down and tossing me a thin, pole-like object. “We are going out to explore the tunnels. Y’all be ready, this ain’t no main tunnel. There be things living in these walls.”

To be continued...

bahanonu [at]

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©2006-2018 | biafra ahanonu | updated 31 january 2018
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