His current form was small and black-furred, but that didn't fool any of the Others at the Well. It was, after all, nothing more than a symbol, just as everything else around and of Them were symbols. They knew what lay behind it; some were comfortable with it, and some were not.

The Place that They were in was a convenient embodiment of certain multidimensional constants and functions. Each of Them had their own preferred metaphor, but when They came together, as They had done quite frequently of late, a single common set of imagery was far easier to deal with than a welter of conflicting paradigms. In a nearly infinitely more complex way, it was much like the virtual spaces most of the four-dimensional races built for themselves once their data-processing technologies reached sufficient complexity.

Only very, very different.

Much the same was true of the forms which They chose to take in this common space. Four-dimensionals still following the data processing metaphor would call them avatars.

Four-dimensionals following an even older metaphor would call them avatars, too. But for different reasons.

This particular avatar -- whichever meaning of the word one prefers -- was in the form of a small, black cat. And He was wondering if it was time once again to cross someone's path.

It had been a little too long since He'd had some fun.

The Pool around which They congregated was also a metaphor, as was the Machine near it, but the metaphor was a tool, and a tool was to be used. The Being that appeared to be a black cat was using it. Others watched.

In the pool was an image of an unconscious leather-clad man strapped to a motorcycle. Both were grey, a faint contrast against the empty white nothing of the Void Between Worlds. The cat-that-wasn't flicked a claw through the metaphorical sand that ringed the metaphorical pool, and sent a single grain into liquid that was not water (nor, strictly speaking, even liquid). A tiny circular ripple appeared -- not in the surface of the pool, but in the white nothingness in front of the man and the motorcycle. The ripple expanded as ripples do, its edges becoming rainbow-colored even as its center turned pitch-black.

The man and motorcycle plunged into its heart, and vanished from sight.

"You have sent him..." began One whose voice was as the chiming of bells. She sounded ever-so-faintly cross, which to those who knew Her was a warning sign of most terrible import.

The cat turned to Her and grinned in a way that mere four-dimensional cats cannot. "I've sent him to Paradox's incubator."

"That's not a nice way to describe that Earth, Elder." She frowned disapprovingly at the cat.

"That timeline is quarantined until Niichan comes into his full power!" objected a smaller figure who spake as a child in the bloom of wisdom.

The cat glanced at this other and raised an eyebrow. "'Niichan'?"

The Child blushed.

"I was bored, and young Paradox needs a kick in the pants," the cat declared. "Besides, I have a special dispensation. (Not that I needed it)," he added, sotto voce.

"To the Abyss with dispensation!" the Third declared in Her sultry voice. "We promised the Stormsdaughter that we would not interfere further in Sangnoir's life. And here you drop him into the laps of our chosen incarnations! Would you make of us oathbreakers?"

"How are you oathbreakers? You didn't do anything. I did it all." He flicked his tail insouciantly. "Your lesser selves there -- and Paradox's core -- will be able to handle him, see if they don't." Then the cat's eyes narrowed and he smiled at them slyly. "After all, she asked you just to 'Butt the hell out,' and you have. You're not breaking that promise if he suddenly shows up on your doorstep."

"You split hairs too finely, Elder," the First said softly.

The cat shrugged. "I have my reasons. Besides, I'm thinking of marking him as one of my champions. Chaos in the service of Law with a twisted sense of humor? He's one of mine, all right!"

"Does that mean you'll be inserting there to advise him?" the Child asked, grinning at him.

"Are you serious, Maiden of the Raven Hair?" The cat seemed almost taken aback. "Not even on a Bet!"

This page was created on February 9, 2007.
Last modified June 01, 2012.