Storytime: The Long Run.

June 15th, 2016

The Dorride was moving.
Several sextillion tons of… stuff, hurtling through emptiness. Travelling many times faster than light, many times slower than it was capable of.
It was halting.
The Dorride’s composition was largely indescribable, generally indecipherable, and contained traces of impossibility. Some relatively small (yet absolutely large) portions of it were worryingly close to being entirely non-empirical.
It was halting.
A little more than halfway across the galaxy, a voyage that had begun with a point of dispute and was being scheduled with precision finer than any pinpoint, set to end about fifty thousand years from right

It halted.

If the Dorride had possessed a face, it would have turned about to look behind it. The Dorride was a colossally maladjusted spheroid with no front, back, or sides, just surface, so it did not.
Slowly, so very slowly, it began to move. Just at the rim of the kiss of the speed of light, no more, no less. And as it crawled directly back the way it came, it began the long, carefully-calculated wobble that would lead, in a little more than a hundred years, to a stray planetesimal entering its orbit.
The duel had started.

Two hundred years later, it wobbled again. Soon – no more than sixty years hence – it would enter a solar system. Four of the six planets would slide into its capture radius. It would have liked to gather the fifth – a sizable gas giant – but the deviation would send it off-course from its next target, already beginning to loom large in its senses, remote and strange as they were.

It was not a large star. It was not a young star. A dwarf, dwindled down to a stubborn little nub of impossible denseness.
The Dorride reached out across its gravity well with senses that were more than senses, grasped the dwarf’s core, and yanked it sharply into itself.
It monitored the star closely as it went on its way for the next few centuries, watching as the last stray flakes of matter were wiped out of the emptiness. For record.

Five thousand years in, and the accretion was beginning to pile up. The spiralling, lost little orbs of matter than whirled around its form were prodded gently with the mildest of touches, encouraged to splinter, to break, to bend and shape and lash themselves against the Dorride’s sides. For later.
It came to another solar system, missing every single planet but beelining straight to the sun itself, a real red giant. It tore it open with impossible claws and sucked down its fragments. As the Dorride left, the first long, slow ripples in the dance of the seven little spheres that had called that place home were already beginning. Asteroids-to-be, sudden orphans.

Thirty thousand years in, and space was thicker, clogged with targets for the Dorride’s appetite. The galactic core was nearer than not; the universe was becoming a more crowded place, choked with debris doubled over on itself, expressing that unmistakable longing of matter for matter that the Dorride was co-opting for the task at hand. It slid through asteroid belts shovelling the grandest planetoids into its molten innards; stormed ruthlessly through dozens of systems. It reached and took and took and took, calling victims from long long lightyears away to itself, and as it sank further into the heart of the galaxy its rapacity only increased. It barely paused to record its prey any longer, save in the unusual and most extraordinary of cases – a pair of twin suns, one after another; an entire system taken at once in a moment of freak planetary alignment; a single, tiny rocky world orbiting a callow star that boasted a just-flourishing system of carbon-based lifeforms.
All of it star-grist.

Forty-nine-thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine years and three hundred and sixty-odd days later, the light ran out.
The Dorride shot out of the glare and bustle and tight-packed heat of the galactic center and coasted gently along the very edge of the black hole’s event horizon. It bobbed on the edge of space and time, gently balancing its own immense natural pull against one impossibly huger.
It had grown, grown so very much. Its original form was a tiny speck buried under the flensed and tanned carcasses of an endless parade of interstellar detritus. Some of it had been refined, some of it had been shaped and used to repurpose others, but the vast bulk of it had become… well, a vast bulk. And yet in spite of this, it moved at the same pace, the same speed, the same grace, the same heading as it had before.

And there, on the edge of the small awareness it had permitted itself to hold for the last fifty thousand years, it found what it was looking for.

The Other Dorride was there, was here already. Approaching at the same speed it was, no more no less. On the same heading as it, no more no less.
Armoured as it was, scarcely more or less. Well-matched, even. Too close to tell. It had played its game as carefully and fiercely as the Dorride had.
It was too late to change anything, to prepare, to connive, to subvert and upend and plan and plot. The last stray atoms had fallen away behind them. Their velocities were immutable by formality. All that lay ahead was emptiness and the crash.

They did watch the moment of impact, though. For record.

When it was over, the Dorride collected itself.
This took some half-million years. It was not hurried.
Some of the matter – most, even – had been lost; sprayed away before it could begin its efforts and seize it; cast away beyond reach into the black hole’s mouth; or simply hurtled away past the stars and into the emptiness.
It made do.
What was left was small, so much smaller than before. A few sextillion tons at most. Very nearly all the essential things that made it the Dorride rather than part of the general makeup of the universe, but still less.
It reached out with its full attention, met another doing the same.
A draw.

There was a conference lasting a little less long than the time from then to now. And then the Dorride turned without turning, in that way it did, and it began to travel to the outer edge of the galaxy.
It took five minutes. And as it moved, it plotted its course again, setting straight the path of the next fifty thousand years.

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