When Terence Ransom heard Master Overend-Watts’s specialty, two thoughts flashed through his mind, that he knew were shared by all the members of the group. The first was that it was now clear why the escape portal from the bunker in the Night Land led here; and the second was that it was no wonder that a dark monster had followed them here.
“That’s a rather peculiar title, though--Deep Chaos Theology?” He asked the frock-coated professor.
Giancarlo grimaced. “Imposed from the outside, albeit without malice--much malice--and with a sense of humor. Our science--I’m sure like yours, has a grand tradition of the pursuit of forces and substances later to be shown not to exist. Phlogiston, the Luminiferous Ether, ylem, Dark matter, superstrings--let me know if I’m overloading your translators.”
“Coming through fine,” said Dr. Ransom, wondering how fast his daughter Jennifer’s head must be spinning.
“Long story short, the received wisdom is that Deep Chaos does not exist, and that I am making tremendous progress in describing all the essential aspects of this phenomenon except the ontological one--that is, whether or not it exists.”
Senhor Capoeira Capybara yawned, and said, “I beg your pardon, Master Giancarlo. That was a purely involuntary reflex on hearing the word ‘ontological.’”
“Ha ha! Scoring a hit, my friend,” the master said.
Terence thought about doing it the other way around, but decided to ask him, “Before we tell you our experiences, what conclusions have you come to about Deep Chaos?”
Overend-Watts looked at him sharply. “You almost make me want to say, ‘no, you go first,’ young man. But very well, I’ll tell you--although it will sound more than a little like theology.”
He cleared his throat. “We have dealt with chaos on more than one level. For a great deal of time, we have tried to eliminate it, define it away, and set great store by opposing it. Order versus Chaos: Science can be said to begin with the idea of natural law, that we can penetrate to the core of natural activity by the deduction of law. Rather quickly, historically speaking, we find that Chaos is an irreducible part of Law: Uncertainty and the like. The ground underneath that is Existence: that there is something instead of nothing. But it then gets discovered that things go in and out of existence all the time, and randomly. Electron-positron pairs in no pattern and from nothing that can be called a cause.”
“When alternate, branching and parallel universes are discovered and taken advantage of, talking about fundamental principles goes deeper still: possibility and imagination. This is where things get rather, erm, advanced. What universes exist? Those that are possible. What is possibility when frameworks of law can be varied? After a great amount of sound and fury, it’s that those universes exist that can be imagined.”
“I expect that you would like some drinks at this point.” This time it was Jeanette who tried to make amends by saying, “No, that’s OK,” but she was ignored.
After everyone took long, cool swallows, Giancarlo Federici Tedeschi Overend-Watts resumed.
“There was a lot more to it than that bald statement: a lot of complex praxis and quantification. It’s all as difficult for me to explain as it would be for you to credit. But my part of this grand process has been to posit, by analogy at least, that there is a chaos that subverts and works to destroy imagination, and that is called Deep Chaos.”
“Despite their interpenetration, if Chaos were to destroy Law, it would be a wretched state; if Chaos were to be triumphant over Existence, it would be even worse. And looked at a certain way, there are forces and agents of Law, and forces and agents of Existence, to prevent that. So, with Deep Chaos existing as the enemy of Imagination, there are opposing forces and Agents of the Imagination.”
Terence’s hands went to his gloves--as did everyone else’s. And what are toons except Agents of Imagination? he thought. We toons?
Master Overend-Watts had been looking at them intently. “You have things to tell me, and I think they may be very important. So out with it.”
Grandmère Hutan held up her white-gloved hands. “Master, have you had any experiences with entities wearing these? Some other travelers perhaps?”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”
The orangutan folded her arms over her head. “Those of us who wear them were at one point and in one world or other, cartoon characters. Does your culture have them?”
“Probably. We did last time I interested myself in such things,” The professor answered.
It was the capybara who said, “In our wildest flights of self-aggrandizement we’ve never thought to call ourselves ‘Agents of the Imagination,’ but we are products--created things--of imagination, if only of untalented screenwriters and for uncritical little children. But the fight we’ve been thrown into is very real, and may have the importance you’ve just told us about.” He looked at the professor. “I think we might have succeeded in counter-flabbergasting you.”
“You may be right,” Overend-Watts said.
Lord Elphinstone’s longsword rang from its scabbard. “The thing comes. Arm yourselves.”
They all moved in from of the professor, with guns drawn from behind the sixth wall. The thing was utterly black so that it didn’t look like it had depth as it charged across the fields. It went from two legs to four to six to three, it seemed, and it was big.
The first volley of energy blasts hit it dead center, but didn’t seem to slow it down. The second volley, from new projectors, slowed it a bit, and it seemed like chips or scales flew off of it, but the thing was incredibly tough.
“Like the last time. Professor. Move back.” Silvertyger growled.
The group spread out now. The thing was at the border of the garden, and may have grown, because it was taller than the tiger or Weasel-bear.
Grandmère Hutan leapt forward and landed on the black mass, pressing her hands on its bulk. “DIE, spawn of Chaos!” She shouted.
The black thing burbled, squealed and hissed. It seemed to lose mass. The orangutan’s gloves blazed and turned to ash, and she screamed herself. She pushed herself off.
The others let off another volley as Grandmère crawled to the rear. Then Senhor Capoeira sprang and shouted “Die, ridiculous thing!” The same thing happened to the capybara’s gloves, turning to ash.
The thing was shorter now than the tiger, but it had begun to fluidly reconfigure. Dr. Ransom then jumped, shouting simply “DIE!” The results were better this time: the thing actually staggered before he pushed himself free.
O Tse had come around to the side and ran towards the thing with his pike low. With a roar he impaled the creature lifting it into the air and casting it many yards away.
With blinding speed they were surrounded by a gleaming dome. Overend-Watts walked forward.
“Still not dead,” Silvertyger rumbled.
Moments later, the dome rang with a heavy impact. The professor looked at Dr. Ransom, who was putting on his other set of gloves. “Sorry, professor.”
The professor tried to speak, but his breath was heaving too hard.
The dome started to make a sound, and began to wrinkle and twist.
“Prepare yourselves,” said the tiger.