“Why not?” asked Nakayama’s Hurricane. “Why shouldn’t Lucille pull the Chain? We’ve got that white fox! Let’s send her to the Galaxy Zephyr!”
“Iya!” Nakayama flew around Lucille’s Wheel. Judging the bulge to be totally remedied, she released the white wing and returned it to the robot. “I need her. I need Faith. I have a plan which guarantees we rebuild Earth’s population as accurately as possible.”
“I don’t even know how our original plan was supposed to work,” admitted her Hurricane. “Why do you need Faith?”
“Life is too unruly for its principal components to converge near me. Some aspects will surely isolate themselves and hide. They will even be aggressive toward the notion of rejoining humanity.” Nakayama loaded herself into the Mountain like an iron ball into a cannon. “I can’t survey the desert alone. I need someone else to search our Hurricane Planet.” Nakayama used inconceivable methods to select an instant in her torus of timelines. “Fire!”
Her Hurricane fired her from the Mountain. Nakayama spread her wings to dive at the main island of Sheridan.
As she dove, Nakayama assessed the changes since her last visit. The islanders now lived across all three islands, even the barren sandy one. Atop the main island she saw a white-walled monastery. She landed beside a great stone statue. The statue intrigued her. It was a giant bird atop a stone box sheltering a tiny man with its wings.
She turned to the monastery and waited. She might have waited seconds or centuries, so disrupted was her perception of time. Eventually she saw Nemo exit the monastery, recognizing him by his navy robes and silver mask. Nemo approached her and bowed. “Akayama! Oran dora.”
“Virgil Blue,” she said. Nemo nodded. “I must ask you for a favor.”
“Anything,” said Nemo.
Nakayama squawked. “You speak! You speak English!”
“Of course,” said Nemo. “You gave me a thousand books. I studied their texts for centuries. Visitors from other nations taught me to pronounce the words. Welcome to the Islands of Sheridan.”
Nakayama almost cried. “Thank you, Virgil Blue. I can’t imagine the effort you’ve dedicated to understanding me.”
“Anything.” Nemo bowed once more. “O venerable one, I devote my entirety to you.”
“No!” Nakayama crossed her wings in an X. “Devote yourself to nothing less than all sentient beings.” Nemo didn’t understand, and shook his head. Nakayama tried to explain even though she knew she never could, in any language. “I’m collecting souls in the afterlife and I need your help. I can think of no one else to shoulder the indescribable burden.”
Nemo nodded and stowed his hands in his sleeves. “Anything.”
Nakayama hesitated but relinquished her command: “You must contain unruly souls.”
“There are some who would avoid me out of fear, or greed, or ignorance, even given eternities to approach. I need you to collect those beings such that your soul includes theirs.”
“How?” asked Nemo.
“You must encompass them in the same way a widow carries her husband’s mind in hers,” said Nakayama. “You must impress upon yourself the total fiber of their form, so when I collect you at the end of the eternities, I contain all conscious thought. To help me reconstruct Earth’s population from dust, you must be King of Dust. Anything which would otherwise be annihilated, you must consume. Anihilato,” she dubbed him.
Nemo nodded like he understood, but of course he couldn’t. “I will consume those who would otherwise never know you,” he said.
“Perfect,” said Nakayama. “I should give you a list.” Using statistical methods she could never explain, Nakayama produced reams of encoded papyrus. “This is a complete catalog of all expected Earthly souls. Either in this eternity or the next, I hope every specimen documented here is accounted for, if not in me then in you.” She pushed the papyrus toward Nemo, but he refused it.
“In this eternity… or the next?” Nemo tensed every muscle in his arms, repelling the papyrus. “If I have two whole eternities, could you save these documents until I enter the afterlife? I feel they’ll be more useful then.”
“I understand.” Nakayama absorbed the papyrus into her sleeves. “As long as you accept your duty, I trust you to the end of time.”
With that, Nakayama blasted back into space and merged with the Mountain. “Is your plan underway?” asked her Hurricane.
“Indeed.” Nakayama watched the islands from above and allowed her toroidal swirl of space-time to spin the scene away. “If my machinations pan out, the pesky principal components will be conglomerated into a single convenient entity.”
“Like a giant worm?” asked the Hurricane. “One worm representing all the disobedient aspects of Earthly life?”
“I know, I know. If my plan works, it will be nigh impossible to convince this entity to join the Galaxy Zephyr—or even reveal itself.” Nakayama floated within the Wheel. “That’s why I need Faith to survey the desert and track Anihilato, so I can collect it at the end of the eternities. But it won’t go willingly! It may even overpower me.” From her seat in the Mountain, Nakayama surveyed the water-world and the Hurricane Planet simultaneously. “Despite Virgil Blue’s good nature, Anihilato will be unruly because of the characters it contains.”
On the main island of Sheridan, Leo climbed uphill. He panted and sweat. Surely the best centipedes were near the top.