“Why not?” asked Nakayama’s Hurricane. “Why shouldn’t Lucille pull the chain? We’ve got Faith, that white fox. Let’s send her to the Galaxy Zephyr!”
“Iya!” Nakayama flew around Lucille’s Wheel. Finding the bulge totally remedied, she released the white wing and returned it to robot. “I need her. I need Faith.”
“What?” Her Hurricane opened eyeballs in the Wheel’s green haze to watch Nakayama. “But the Galaxy Zephyr needs Faith, too! Why are you keeping her?”
“Because,” said Nakayama, “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?”
“I’m only one person. I’m already having trouble wirelessly operating the bird-pilot of ZAP.” Nakayama loaded herself into the Mountain. “I can’t devote myself to combing the desert for new Zephyrs. I need someone else to survey our Hurricane Planet. Life is too unruly to order itself into nice principal components and converge near me. Some principle components will surely isolate themselves and hide, so we must prepare.” 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 water world’s main island.
As she dove, Nakayama noticed much had changed. 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 gray 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; she recognized 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 text for centuries. Visitors from other nations taught me to pronounce English characters. 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 folded her sleeves across her chest. “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.”
“In the deserts of my Hurricane Planet,” said Nakayama, “I’ll make sure you arrive in one solid piece instead of decomposing into worms; your soul will stay intact until the end of the eternities. Until then, I need you to subsume the souls which otherwise would never know me. There are some who would avoid me out of fear, or greed, or selfishness, even given eternities to approach. I need you to collect those beings such that your soul includes theirs.”
“How?” asked Nemo.
“The information you carry must encompass them, in the same way a widow who’s lost her husband carries his mind with 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 sentient beings. 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 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.
“In this eternity… or the next?” Nemo tensed every muscle in his arms. “If I have two whole eternities, could you save these documents until I enter the next world? 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 manifest, 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. Even if my plan turns out as intended, it will be difficult 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 find Anihilato by the end of the eternities. But even then, 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.