Aphelion Issue 283, Volume 27
May 2023
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Queen of the Universe

by Logan Thrasher Collins

Elena drapes over a clockwork throne, her scarlet eyes glowing like neon bulbs. Beside her, three guardian angels stand motionless, their lusciously feathered wings juxtaposing against featureless chromium faces. The angels wield huge, knightly swords which hum ominously. Elena opens her purple lips and yawns, revealing vicious canines. She appears to be about nineteen years old. At the opposite end of the cathedral, a glittering nebula illuminates the chamber through a colossal floor-to-ceiling window.

“Mikhail. Is the weapon ready?” Elena asks. The angel named Mikhail speaks in an electronic tone that reverberates through the chamber.

“Yes. Apocryphonik will be like a mosquito in an exploding sun.” Elena smiles, but waves a hand dismissively.

“Mikhail, you’ve never seen a mosquito.” She giggles. “I killed off all the mosquitos before you were created. Besides, this isn’t a weapon of fire. It’s a quantum field replicator. My weapon devours the substance of reality itself.” Mikhail nods. The angel named Azraeil raises his sword and gestures towards the window.

“There. Apocryphonik’s central node.” Within the nebula’s pink haze, a silvery sphere can be seen, an object as large as an entire solar system. Elena toys with her raven hair and regards the node.

“Samaeil. Care to do the honors and release the replicator?” She singsongs. Seven seconds pass. “Samaeil?”

“Beware!” Mikhail’s voice resounds. Elena rises and spins as rapidly as a cobra. Samaeil’s greatsword carves a blazing arc through the air, but Elena snaps her fingers and the ambient nanites trigger a directed nuclear blast which launches the angel backwards. Samaeil collides with the opposite wall and crumples.

“Apocryphonik!” Elena hisses. “You were wrong to think that you could catch me unawares! Mikhail! Azraeil! Launch the weapon!” Mikhail taps his temple and activates the release sequence. Then Azraeil’s claymore runs him through the heart. Elena stands, facing down her enemy. The angel’s hacked body towers above her. Apocryphonik rips Azraeil’s sword out of Mikhail, causing an eruption of lightning. Mikhail falls to his knees and deactivates.

“It’s too late now! I’ve already unleashed the replicator. Your soul will be unmade!” Elena shouts, her eyes blazing with blood-red light.

“Little girl, you dare to challenge me?” Apocryphonik speaks through Azraeil’s hardware. “I have ruled this galactic supercluster for a billion years. I have faced thousands of upstart godlings like you and each time, I have emerged victorious.” The king drives Azraeil’s sword into the ground. “You think that merging with artificial superintelligence makes you invincible. But that is only the beginning. I’ve passed through five technological singularities. I’ve witnessed the underlying codepoetry of existence. I’ve beaten back vast demons from outside of this universe, creatures that could swallow the entire cosmos like a peeled grape.”

“My replicators will still unmake your node and force you to yield to me.” Elena flicks her bangs aside and giggles mercilessly. The angel Azraeil dissolves into steaming black sludge, but Apocryphonik’s voice continues to echo through the cathedral.

“I’ve just disabled your replicators and traced your microwormholes back to the computational substrate storing your consciousness.” Elena’s link to the replicators dims and winks out, but she smiles and turns back towards the window.

“I suppose you think that you’ve beaten me.” She says. “You’re wrong. You mentioned the extracosmic demons. I’ve encountered them myself. If you kill me or imprison me or drive me insane, it will open the door and allow them to surge into our reality. This trap cannot be disabled as it uses an uncomputable lock. Check and see for yourself.” Nine seconds pass. Elena’s grin widens. “You see? I’m linked inextricably to the gateway.”

“Elena, this cosmos contains vigintillions of sentient minds.” For the first time, Apocryphonik sounds afraid. “If the door opens, they all die.”

“Well then. You’d better relinquish your hold on my replicators.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“You’re in my mind. You know I’ll go through with this.” Elena waits. Nineteen seconds later, she feels her connection to the weapon flare back to life. Elena watches as her replicators tear Apocryphonik’s node apart. The shining sphere dissolves and the ancient king loses his mind. Elena returns to her clockwork throne and assembles a dark crown filled with stars. The queen of the universe sits back and steeples her fingers, reveling in her victory as she gazes into outer space.

2019 Logan Thrasher Collins

Logan Thrasher Collins is a synthetic neurobiologist, science fiction and poetry writer, and futurist, and an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His work has been featured in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine and Abyss & Apex. He has spoken at TEDxMileHigh about his scientific research as well as at the DaVinci Institute about uniting the sciences and humanities towards building a brighter future.

Find more by Logan Thrasher Collins in the Author Index.

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