From: Never Jobe

     "Even someone who knows everything can sometimes struggle with finding the proper places to put things.  One cannot just absorb information and suddenly eliminate knowledge from their bowels.  That is why chaos still reigns supreme in the universe," explained Eleje, sitting at the foot of Emghee's bed in the middle of the night after Trace had his little outburst.  "Chaos is the ultimate order."  There was a mild green glow emanating from the being as he sat there, seemingly physical, solid and real.  At the same time, Emghee wasn't convinced that she was even awake.

     "Are you trying to destroy Trace?" she asked, sitting up in bed.

     "The Jobe have been trying a good many things to thwart this new agent of turmoil.  Trace Exide believes in the precepts of an ideal which he means to follow to its conclusion and that is something he perceives to be an honorable task.  In behaving the way he does, he is not fully aware of the consequences following each subsequent action he takes, which infuse the futures with further chaos.  Yes, The Jobe mean to end The Exide Equation, if it can still be done."

     "I heard you say, or thought that I did, that it can no longer be stopped.  Did I make that up or is it true?" Emghee asked innocently but with audible interest and curiosity.  The room was otherwise quite dark except for the glowing Jobe at the foot of her bed.

     Eleje stood and paced the floor a while.

     "There is a small opportunity for success.  It is very small.  About one chance in a trillion.  No, more accurately one chance in one hundred trillion.  It requires great care and timing and the establishing steps to be followed like a path made from stones across a river.  Some stones are large, above those which cannot be seen.  Others are at the base, helping to secure the topmost stones from the current of the water's flow.  Even the speed of the water, the volume of its flow, must be calculated properly for those pieces to fit and not crumble and tumble away.  Just as a structure like this abode must have a sound foundation, then a skeleton to hold the sheathing and finally a roof, all tied carefully together to resist the elements and weather and time, so too must this pattern of actions The Jobe have initiated since the time Exide was made, be well executed."

     "But Trace is not doing things the way you might expect, is he?" she asked, her smile of admiration almost in every word.

     "That is true.  Exide is something The Jobe have never encountered before and is difficult to manage.  If anyone can defeat The Jobe, it is Exide.  But The Jobe do not give in nor do The Jobe give up.  In that regard, Exide and The Jobe are equals."  Eleje sat down at the foot of the bed once again and placed a hand over Emghee's flannel covered feet.  His touch was that of a father to his daughter, gently patting them, shaking them a bit as if to say, now sleep and be peaceful.  Emghee slid back into her reclined position, covered herself more completely and sighed, wiggling her toes as Eleje returned whence he came.

                                                                                *                                                *                                                *

     "You have a way of traversing space as though nothing is in your way, Trace," Peloria was the first to greet him when he returned from Apogee.

     "Hello, Peloria.  Have I been too much trouble?" Trace asked.

     "No trouble," Bethbetta answered, stepping out onto the porch.  A light snow had begun to fall and soon, the members of the households of Beaudunnadun would all be cozily indoors for the duration of one of Threadholme's famous early Winter storms.  Bethbetta looked fetching in her fluffy jacket, tight leggings and thick, knee-high boots.  Trace couldn't take his eyes off of her.  There were shops in town capable of fulfilling her fashion sense and he was glad she still liked to make herself as pretty as she could.  Not that she needed much help.

     The tall Shelph, now again a bit taller than Trace though less and less every time they were together it seemed, wrapped herself around him and pulled him inside, stepping backwards in the process.  He gladly allowed the gesture.

     "I have news for you all," Trace said, withdrawing gently from Bethbetta's soft, moist lips after a lengthy kiss.

     Ajax rubbed his back from one side, Emghee from another, Joe Boy stepping closer to reveal that he too, had grown a centimeter or so.  Trace had been gone only three days, standard time, but time was not a thing capable of measurement these days.  Not for any of them.  They all seemed embroiled in the whirlpool of his influence.

     "I hope it's good news, for a change," Wendolynn said, hugging her son in a manner he had never felt before.  There was something cathartic about it.  As if the truth had freed them all.

     "I think you'll find it good," he said.  "Apogee, the place the Ramblers came from, three planets and three suns, all in the same system.  Other planets nearby but not colonized by Sapiens yet.  It will be the perfect home for us."

     Wendolynn looked surprised that such a thing should be considered.  "Some of us, most of us, already have a home.  Joe Boy here, Josef, he is welcome to stay with us forever if he wishes.  His world is gone now.  Bethbetta is wherever you are, Trace.  Emghee and Pellie and Ajax are here with me because it is their home, too.  Why would we want to leave?"

     "It's not a matter of wanting to or not.  The Jobe and their ilk have done something."  He stopped for a moment, not wanting to sound like some portent of gloom.  "They've done it long ago but after it already happened.  It's hard to put into words that make any sense," he said, seeming displeased with his own attempts at clarity.  Emghee nodded and looked sympathetic.

     "That's nothin' new, comin' from you," Arthur put in.

     "It's all coming into play right now.  It was a trigger they planted when I was being made.  None of us could have felt it then or even now.  But I do.  I can.  The Malignomorph is coming, faster and faster.  In standard time, which is warping like a bubble of soap in the breeze before it tears away from the stick a child is blowing on to produce it, the Malignomorph will be halfway into the universe in another month.  A month after that, probably all the way through."

     "You have a funny idea of what good news might be," Peloria put forth.

     "Is there anythin' we can do t'stop this~this mallgrote or mutergort or whateer you called it?" Arthur asked, hobbling away into the foyer of the boarding house, not exactly expecting an answer he would understand or want to try to.

     "Malignomorph.  It's not an elegant name but a fairly descriptive one.  It's a malignancy of the Nauplius genome.  A morphologically advanced but simple being which develops, alters, changes anything it touches, into itself," Trace explained.

     "Sounds kind of like you," Bethbetta smiled.

     "It is.  Very much like me.  It's the reflection of me, were I to stand in a cosmic, genetic mirror.  But it isn't as friendly or as sociable as I am," he added with a smile, mostly placed into Bethbetta's eyes.

     "Like the ultimate chiral molecule," Joe Boy contributed.

     Nodding appreciatively at the lad, Trace said, "Exactly like that, Josef.  I cannot neutralize the Malignomorph as it is.  It must envelope the universe with its genome and then I can infiltrate it with mine.  The Nauplius will become complete.  So will the universe.  But it may not be pretty.  That's why the good news in all of this is that there are places in our galaxy where we can hide.  Places like Apogee."