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Chapter 20: Gotterdammerung

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

The station rises fast, but not fast enough.

It is still incomplete — its weapons systems half-functional; its ability to stomp away unreason and impose Tom’s will on the cosmos unfinished — when Gotterdammerung arrives.

It is very sudden.

Cheryl is there, and she is monitoring the scissors-lights; billions of them, tens of billions, which is of course, no real concern. They will come around the sun and they will attack the Earth, and they will be harmlessly repelled.

Something disturbs her, though. Something causes her to rub at her nose and stare at the scissors-lights and think.

Something makes her go out to the observation deck with a telescope and stare out at the coming storm with her own two eyes; and that is when she sees the end of days.

The Fan Hoeng have come to make an end to the world. Twelve great stealth-ships — they are of no matter; death rays and lasers have they all, but still, they are nothing compared to Vidar’s Boot. Twelve great scissor-shaped ships, and she would laugh at them, save for what else that stealth conceals.

They have given their shelter to the swarm.

They have hidden them, blocked out the glittering of space. They move among the scissors-horde like cowboys among the herds.

They have concealed the coming, not of ten thousand scissors, nor ten billion, but sextillions of them, at least, rounded up and packed tighter than the old swarm was, and aimed sharply and directly at the Earth.

Cheryl stares for a long moment. Then she drops the telescope.

(You shouldn’t do this.)

She turns. She runs. And she knows as she runs that they have seen her as she them.

The lasers of the Fan Hoeng dart out. They flicker around the eyelets of the boot. Holy energy, death energy, and light; she barely dodges a fierce and far-aimed burst as she throws herself into the elevator from the observation deck and hits the emergency button with her palm.

The scissors-shield spurts up, and then collapses. Cheryl rockets down the boot’s great tongue.

She is screaming into the intercom, “Get St. Peter.”

The scissors’ day has come.

– 2 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

The wolf-magnet is a sudden, gutting end to Fenris’ freedom. It is a sucker punch to the wolf’s sense of autonomy in the world.

There is no absolute frame of reference, so to drag someone is to pin them.

It’s all just force. It’s all the same!

The wolf scrabbles. It tries to hold to its location.

Result: failure!

It goes skidding through the house and gardens of Erik Larger, who’d never done anything to the wolf or to the Lethal Magnet School.

He wasn’t even larger than the wolf!

The wolf skips skyward like a stone, falls back down heavily. It pins itself with its claws and its face is strained.

“Saul,” it says. “Saul.”

Saul is doing little better.

The magnet has grabbed him by his hat; it is pulling him; it drags the House of Hunger through Edmund’s wolf-bond towards the school.

“Saul,” pleads the wolf.

It is still slipping.

There are thirty-eight kilometers standing between the wolf and its death. It scrabbles, stretched out, like it’s being pulled by a vacuum.

Over the distant school looms the bootstrap, and Vidar’s Boot.

– 3 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

Lucy pounds on the door. Martin opens it. She lunges for him. Her eyes are white. Her teeth are sharp.

It is that fast. It is a sudden act of murder. He is staggering back, he is scattering potential timesheets, and she actually has her hand at his face, her claws catching on his goggles, when the ulfleiðarsteinn activates and jerks her hat-first back and into the wall.

She writhes to her feet. She struggles forward like a mime in a heavy wind.

Real or imaginary — it doesn’t really matter.

That’s a really exceptional mime!

Her umbrella opens. It begins charging. Martin waits for it to blow away in the wind but it doesn’t. There’s no wind. Just a magnet!

The umbrella chimes. It’s ready.

Martin looks down at its gleaming war-tip. That moment of distraction is enough.

Lucy dissolves into a furious pall. She lunges forward — and backwards, dragged by the magnet: she diffuses in both directions; she fills the room like smoke, tangles about him, drags him down to the ground, twists his arm and leans over his face, re-manifests and prepares to eat him eyes-first, but his goggles have gone skew; he is looking at her with one goggled eye and one real one —

No. He isn’t.

That didn’t happen.

She is a prophet. She doesn’t let that happen.

She is curled up, around the corner. She is shuddering. She is trembling. She is watching as the self she would have been, if she hadn’t adjusted her actions, burns into the never-has-been and the never-was.

The magnet surges. She rattles against the wall.

Jane is struggling, somewhere below them, in her chains.

Martin lowers the goggles back onto his face. He recovers himself. He attempts to be less awkward. He brushes back his hair.

“You’d better not eat me,” he says. “I taste dry and fibrous!”

After a while she says, “That is because you are not actually a goat.”

“Oh,” says Martin. “I — yes. I am not actually a goat.”

He brings her a cup of hot cider. He sprinkles tinsel in her hair, because he is a bad person. He says, “Do you need a goat? I know a pretty good service.”

“I need a really sharp goat,” she says.

“Those,” Martin says, “are the worst.”

“I want to find it,” says Lucy Souvante, “and defeat it at rock-paper-scissors. And then I’ll have the confidence to blow up this whole world.”

Martin gives her an evil prophecy. She thanks him. She blows her nose with it. She starts to hand it back.

“No,” he says. “Keep it.”

She unwads it. She looks at it glumly. She wads it back up again and sticks it in her assassin-bag.

“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t really mean to try to kill you. I was just —”

Martin shrugs. “Hey,” he says.

She looks up. He pats her head.

“Maybe you shouldn’t worry so much about whether you can beat a goat at rock-paper-scissors,” Martin says, “and just, you know, be —”

He waves his hands vaguely.

“The evil prophet of space,” she says.

“Yeah,” he says. “That. Just be the evil prophet of space.”

She bites her lip.

She drinks her hot cider.

Then she stands up.

There is a wolf-magnet pulling her. It is dragging her. It drags the House of Hunger to it as it drags Fenris; she is only barely able to stand still there at all.

“I have to go,” she says.

Martin nods.

She steps up off the ground. She is seized by a magnet. She flies through the door, out the hall window, and is gone.

And maybe it seems a bit too neat — like, he’d read all the things that were coming in the evil prophecy. Like he knew exactly what to do, and when to do it, and what the final result would be. And maybe it seems like if you have the evil prophecy, and adequate time to speculate upon the future and make arrangements, then you can shape everything in the world to the details of your every intention. That we’re all just puppets in Martin’s — and now Lucy Souvante’s — little game.

But Martin says it’s not like that. Not really. Not even when he had the evil prophecy in his hands.

He was a prisoner of his choices, he says, just like everybody else.

Maybe he looked at what was going to happen and maybe he didn’t; but it’s been a long, long time since a little wooden boy stole it.

It wasn’t Martin’s prophecy, so he gave it back.

– 4 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

The scissors-lights have filled the scissors-panel. There’s just one bright and brilliant glare.

The wolf-light is flashing. The wolf-magnet’s come on. On the marvelous threat-tracking displays of the space station of the House of Dreams, the wolf-hairs — like cross-hairs, only for wolves instead of crosses — drift slowly towards the location of the boot.

The scissors-shield’s grid’s monitor sulks with a dismal, powerless grey.

“I think we can still do this,” Cheryl says. “We can still kill them.”

She’s rubbing at her nose. She’s thinking about folding.

“What we do is, we send over an away team of origami soldiers,” she says. “To kill the life support on the enemy ships. And we hold off on stomping until we’ve got Peter up here and launched. He’s got a Scissors-Smushing Cannon that should smush the scissors. And then, once he’s out there and going, wham, flat wolf. Is there anything else threatening the world right now? Do we need to tackle global warming? Hell ants? Anything?”

Tom glances at the Hell ant monitor and the global average temperature index.

“We’re good,” he says.

“Thank God,” she says.

She pounds on the Anything-Ending Button, experimentally. It’s mostly depleted — it’s not an Everything-Ending Button — but it still ignites one of the Fan Hoeng warships in a brief, fierce flame. She kicks a scissors-grappling button with one foot and sends a bootlace lashing out to grapple with the scissors. An elbow activates the Saint-Speeding Turbo-Device and dials it up to full.

Tom looks amused for a moment. Then slowly the smile on his face fades away.

“Cheryl,” he says.

“I’m busy,” she says. Her precognitive heart monitor flatlines. She rolls her chair to the side until it kicks up again. A Fan Hoeng laser bursts through the pseudo-glass and scorches where she’d been.

“Cheryl,” he says.

She stops. She turns. She looks at him.

“When I was a kid,” he says, “you’d have been there, doing this to me and my brother.”

“Yeah,” she says.

“I would have been all, grr, I’m a world-ending threat, and this kid here’s the antichrist, Linus, and you’d have been all up here in a boot, going grr, argh, bam, gragh, fire!”

She makes a face. Then she sighs.

“It’s not the same, Tom.”

“Oh,” he says.

“They have to die,” she says. “There isn’t any alternative. If they don’t die, then —”


She sighs. She beats her head against the Head-Powered Anti-Alien Missile Battery, and finally rests it there.

“It’s Gotterdammerung, Tom,” she says, without lifting her head. “They have to die.”

He licks his lips.

Then he nods.

“I’m going to go do forbidden things,” he says.

“Don’t switch sides,” she says.

“I’m not going to switch sides,” he says. “I’m just going to — you know . . . do stuff.”


“Good luck with that . . . apocalypse-fighting thing,” he says.

“Yeah,” she says. “Thanks.”

“Cheryl,” he says. His voice is rough.

“You told me not to die,” she says. She looks out at an endless wall of scissors; at the Fan Hoeng scissors-ships; at the indicator for the world-devouring wolf. “This isn’t fair, Tom. Surviving is hard enough.”

And she flicks the Tom-Ignoring Screen upwards with a finger, and there’s nothing more that he can say to her; and he watches as she kills them, the ships of the Fan Hoeng empire, and all their screaming, living, breathing soldiers, one by one.

Then he goes off.

To do, you know, his stuff.

– 5 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

Saul is moving past Fenris. He is skipping from building to building. He turns and he looks back at the wolf, his back braced against a tower to hold off the wolf-magnet.

His body is trembling but his face holds a distracted smile.

“Wait for me,” he says.

The wolf is trying to fight by digging its great claws into the ground.

“I will go,” says Saul, “and I will dispose of this matter. So wait for me.”

The wolf snarls. It snaps in the direction of the words. It bites itself — it consumes and takes in a bit of the strength of itself, and heals again, with little net result save agony — and then it goes back to frantically scrabbling for a hold, or to pulling away.

It is being bound again, and itself is the only logical source and target of that binding.

It is made resentful of the fact that it is a physical presence in the world, and may thus be pulled.

It is minutes before Saul’s words even penetrate the mind of the wolf.

It is white-eyed and growling, hooked deep into the Earth with its claws, and staring about for something, anything to kill when it realizes he’s moved onwards.

It is the passing thought: gravity

Let me unpack that, although the wolf’s internal monologue did not, into: well, I was already being bound by gravity, wasn’t I? And being spun around by the world’s rotation? And wasn’t I already caught in a net of being Fenris, and not anything that is not Fenris?

Wasn’t I already a prisoner of my circumstances, bound into the specificity of the world?

— that releases the grip of panic that has fallen upon it. That gives it some space to laugh there, to choke and laugh there, and then bit by bit for the rest of its situation to sink in.

Saul has gone ahead.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” it whispers. Saul has such a tiny body! He’s barely even a wolf.

Mr. Gulley has —

It sifts through Mr. Gulley’s being. (He has come to being one thing with the wolf, now, they have alloyed himself through it, and now Mr. Gulley and the wolf shall never be apart, though they remain alone.) The wolf laughs because it is proud and it is angry at its Mr. Gulley, who has known it would be free, who has not really tried to fight its being free, who could not even really make himself not want for it to be free, but had rather conceived this awful plan:

That when the wolf broke loose, it would be dragged to his Lethal Magnet, and then a giant boot — as per the prophecies of Nostradamus — would, one way or another, fall.

“Oh, gumby,” it says. “But I won’t die.”

I won’t be stomped, thinks Fenris. I refuse. I don’t have to be.

In the distance, Peter is waking up. He is flowing into his clothes. He grapples a muffin to him as he passes and he ninjas through his door without breaking stride.

He shoves the muffin in his mouth and he spits out its wrapper.

It’s really difficult for him to chew it properly because his mouth is so full but he gives it his best effort; and he runs for the bootstrap, for the lift up the bootstrap, and he runs like his body were light.

In the distance, Saul is moving. He is moving by strength and skill and by magnet, which pulls at him through the hat wound through his soul. He is moving with the speed and by the grace of the Saint-Speeding Turbo-Device, which is dialed up to full.

He is moving fast when he hits the school. He is a white-topped blur.

He hits the bootstrap without breaking stride. It’s carbon-nanotube boot leather — much like Nike’s revolutionary footstalks — but he doesn’t let that stop him. His nails sink into it; he catches hold one-handed, he scrabbles, he tears; he swings himself around, sets his teeth it, begins to gnaw at it; and that is when the elevator that Peter’s in strikes him, whirls upwards underneath him with a furious speed.

His teeth do not unlock from the bootstrap. There is a horrible squealing all along the carbon.

Five gees. Ten. Fifteen. The lift drives him up.

His teeth catch fire. His mouth is all over blood. He rips the bootstrap as he rises, buckles it, cuts two channels on either side of the furiously accelerating lift; and finally it is too much, he whimpers, he scrabbles, his eyes bleed, and he bloody-mouthed bites a chunk away; and the lift buckles, slews, and shatters, and he and Peter go their separate ways up into space.

– 6 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

Under most circumstances Peter would not have had time to get into his spacesuit and prep himself for a fight. Under most circumstances it wouldn’t have even been in the lift at all; but he is under the sway of the Saint-Speeding Turbo-Device, and, more than that, of the purpose of his life.

From the moment he entered the lift he understood what must take place there.

When the lift explodes behind him, when he goes tumbling off towards the scissors-swarm, he is clothed not in cold and void but in a spacesuit all of red. He has congealed it from the depths of Hans’ wardrobe. He breathes an aerated red mist. He wears great shining red saint-blades on each of his wide-spread arms.

Perspective skews for him as he tumbles.

The scissors spread before and around him like a great curving wall. They are not charging him, nor he them; he is falling into the bowl of them.

He bends sideways to skirt the Fan Hoeng death rays.

They are of no interest.

He is falling towards his own private apotheosis. He is descending towards the awfullest of storms. His smile is bright. He spreads his arms as if to say, “This is the moment.”

This is the moment. At last it has come to him: Peter’s chance to smush scissors, at last!

Only, it isn’t.

There is something wrong.

They are focusing their attention on him. The light of scissors is glinting in all around him. And he feels small.

He feels small.

He tries to fight it off, but it impinges; under the withering glare of the scissors-swarm, the great and solemn purpose in him becomes as the errant daydreams of a child. He falls and he is surrounded by them, but instead of slaughtering among them he is passing no closer than five yards to any of them; he is slipping through the holes in the swarm like a crumb through a loose-knit blanket or a drop of waste water through a sieve; and as he falls among them, as the swarm swirls about him, he understands himself suddenly as nothing more than the tiniest speck.

He casts the mood off with a shudder. He rejects the light of the scissors with his eyes. He steps through an airless ninja-space; he turns sideways; he appears behind a pair of scissors. They cannot dodge him. He reaches for them. They cannot cut him. He looms over them, he seizes them through their safety handles, and they are made as a lamb to the slaughter, as a child before great wolves: his fingers curl through them, and they are become his prize, and he readies himself to smush;

And he feels small.

He looks around him. His face contorts and his saint-blades fade. He can see the light of them, all around him, the great cold scissors-will of them; and he weeps, because he understands it then, in its full awfulness.

He cannot kill them. He cannot smush them. He never could.

Not since the moment Tom bound him. Not since the moment Tom hatted him.

He scissors the safety scissors helplessly in his red right hand. He looks around him.

“Cheryl,” he says, over his intercom. “I have a problem.”


“I, um,” he says. “I, um.”


“I seem to be,” Peter says, “um. A saint.”

– 7 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

It’s probably a bad idea, all things considered, to build a space elevator over Brentwood. There’s a very good reason that most space elevators are never built at all, and most of the rest are built over the equator.

If you don’t have people like Cheryl and Amber to fold the space around it and manipulate the qualities of rotation, you’d need to have a whole second bootstrap descending to a different point on the planet; and then the whole idea of having a saint pull the space elevator up by its bootstraps — technically, by dragging it through a hope-distorted ninja space — starts to get a little difficult with the technology of the day.

Boots should have two bootstraps! It’s not a bad thing! It’s just not feasible. Not yet!

Even with Cheryl and Amber, though; even with Peter; even with Harold, Keith, and Tom —

But anyway.

It’s probably a bad enough idea just building a space elevator over Brentwood in the first place. But one thing you should absolutely, definitely never do, if you do build a space elevator that stretches up from the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth in Brentwood, is attract the attention and the anger of sextillions of scissors.

That’s just too wayward!

Don’t do that!

Have some kind of methodology where when the scissors come, they are less likely to notice that your space station and central world defense nerve center is tethered to the planet by a single, narrow thread.

“That,” Cheryl agrees —

Not with the narration!

“Was my mistake.”

She’s just staring at the flashing SCISSORS HAVE CUT THROUGH THE BOOTSTRAP warning, and realizing that when she’d designed that panel she really ought to have given the matter more thought.

– 8 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

Saul screams as he hits vacuum, but nobody hears him. He rockets out into space —

But the magnet loops him back.

Tom is sitting on a bench. Tom is crying. He is crying unashamedly and with no self-consciousness because he is alone, alone save for scissors, in his 101% security Vault of Forbidden Things.

It is lonely but it is safe to cry there. That is what 101% security means.

But even 101% is not 100%; and this one time, of all possible occasions, Tom is interrupted.

His precognitive heart monitor flutters startlement. He looks up.

Even with that warning, he is extremely startled and his heart beats fast.

Saul strikes the pseudo-glass window of his Vault of Forbidden Things; shatters it; and he comes through.

He lands hard. He is rolling. He crunches into the buttered vulture’s cage.

Tom has a gun in his hand.

Tom shoots him. Saul gulps back the blast, leans back his head, swallows. The pseudo-glass window seals itself shut. The buttered vulture shrieks and flails. Saul lunges forward.

Tom fires again.

Saul twists aside. There is a scent of sizzling butter. A slick of it spreads out under Saul’s feet as he scrabbles for leverage; he slips. He sprawls.

Tom has seized the scissors out of the vacuum containment chamber. He hurls them at Saul. Saul leans his head to one side. The scissors clip off a hank of untidy hair. Saul actually looks better this way.

Then he has Tom by the neck. Then he’s holding Tom up.

“Break it,” he snarls. “Tell me how to break it. The boot must not come down.”

Tom flinches. He looks at the Never-Pull-This Lever. He tries to look away.

Saul shoves Tom to the side.

Saul pulls the lever.

You shouldn’t do this! You shouldn’t ever do this!

Tom burps.

– 9 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

It goes on the entire duration of the lever-pull.

– 10 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

It is Gotterdammerung.

– 11 –

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 20 | 0 comments

Saul turns on him, but Tom holds up a hand. He has started to giggle. He is waving vaguely at Saul. “Stop it,” he says. “You win.”

There is an edge of hysteria in Tom’s voice.

Saul’s fist clenches.

“You win,” Tom says. “You win. No stomping. This boot isn’t coming down.”

Saul frowns.

“Because?” he says.

“Who am I to stomp such a boot?” says Tom. “Why would I do that? I am building a hammer of science, Saul. I showed it to you. When it is finished I will bring down this boot to smash things into the desired configuration. You think I have time to stomp a wolf? And what then? Do I stomp some immortal ant that goes on a power binge? A vampire? Volcanoes? Bacteria? The sun?”

“Tom,” says Saul, softly.

“There’s only one way to bring this baby down,” says Tom, “and that’s to push that button over there.”

He waves at the button.

“And that button,” Tom says, “can’t actually be pushed.”

“Oh,” says Saul.

Tom is laughing again. He can’t help it. He’s having a breakdown.

“Your nose is all snotty,” says Saul.

“Cannibals can’t throw stones,” says Tom.

“That is a serious design flaw,” protests Saul, in shock, before realizing that Tom is just turning a phrase.

After a moment, Tom concedes, “Yes. My nose is snotty. I don’t have any tissues, because I am in space.”

“That’s a major oversight,” says Saul.

“I didn’t —”

Tom glares at him. Then he sighs.

“Are you going to eat me or not?”

“That was my intention,” says Saul. “But now I am having second thoughts. Have you been crying?”

“What?” says Tom. “No. That’s ridiculous. I don’t even have tear ducts. I’m Tom Friedman.”

Tom scratches at the edge of his hat. A marvelous face-concealing veil unrolls.

“As you can see,” Tom says.

Saul stares at him in perplexity.

After a while, Tom mutters, “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.”

He laughs. Then he howls. Then he laughs.

“Did you know, Saul? I’ve always been.”

Saul tilts his head. “Is that so?”

“I thought,” says Tom. “I thought, if I took everything I was, if I took everything and I showed it —”

He sits down at his Tom-bench.

He blows his nose on his marvelous face-concealing veil, looks at it unhappily, and tugs it and releases it to retract it back into his hat.

“Who wouldn’t want it?” says Tom. “Who wouldn’t want dreams and purpose? What wouldn’t want to be like me, to have something that it’s for? Why wouldn’t the world take that and run with it, why wouldn’t —

“I was going to put the world in a hat, Saul.”

Saul looks down. Saul looks up.

Saul sighs.

“Oh,” he says.

And he sits by Tom on the bench. He pulls Tom over and Tom rests his head on Saul’s shoulder and Tom cries.

“It didn’t want it?” says Saul.

And Tom laughs. He can’t help it.

And a little bit later: “Why did I have to be Tom?”


“Of all the things in the world,” he says, “that I could have been, why did I have to be Tom?”

– 12 –

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And Saul is about to tell him.

Saul opens his mouth. Saul knows. He’s about to say. But he doesn’t manage.

– 13 –

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Scissors cut through the room.

Not ten; not a ten thousand; but a burst of millions. They are little safety scissors, with plastic handles. They are not even very sharp. They are not meat scissors, if you understand me; but to their surprise — I think —

Both Saul and Tom turn out to be meat.

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