Short SciFi: To End The Plague - Part I
He snuggled under the elder, helping to buoy him up a bit. They were still precipitously losing stratas but a bit slower now. He had bought the elder a bit more time. It was getting very warm but he was young and still had some of his original strength so he could circulate faster to dissipate some of the heat. The elder was not as lucky. His circulation was clotted and sluggish and dangerous hotspots were beginning to form around his aged and dying body like glowing, throbbing welts. The time he would have with this elder was very short. He needed to absorb as much information as possible.
The stream from the elder's mind to his was sporadic and inconsistent. At times it would be a powerful current carrying ideas, information, opinions and wisdom so quickly that he would struggle to compartmentalize it in time. Then suddenly it would trickle down to a mere thought or two, or stop outright. He encouraged the flow by pushing up even harder on the elder's limp body, trying with all the effort he could muster to prolong the inevitable, even for just a few mere moments.
He concentrated very hard on pulling from the elder's mind any more information he would have as to the direction but he had just pushed up just a little too hard and a jagged seam broke into the elder's body. The elder winced as the indigo oozed out slowly, a spiraling cloud streaming upward marking their fall.
He felt to the elder to make him realize that there was almost no time left. The elder struggled hard to think a coordinate map to provide as much information as he could of the path to where The Plague had come from. The elder tried hard with the last of his power. Coordinates flew from the elder's mind and into his, a dance of With/Against, Hot/Cold, Stream/Torrent, a three-dimensional tracing that mostly duplicated what he already knew, and unfortunately filled in only a few gaps.
As the stratas became more and more infrared, the heat was becoming intolerable for him and he wondered how the elder managed to keep life from ebbing away. But the elder struggled with every bit of energy he had left to release one strong current of thought containing critical information that filled in a large part of the map that was unknown. He gasped at receiving this last critical packet, taking in a searing blast that scalded his mouth. This caused him to slip from under the elder a bit and he immediately struggled to reposition himself but it was too late. There was no life left in the elder's body, just an empty shell glowing red and bleeding dark indigo.
With an immense sadness he swirled around the elder's corpse, finally letting it freefall into the boiling turmoil below. With a hard stretch, he repositioned his own buoyancy to escape as quickly as he could from these crimson-hot stratas and into the cooler layers above. He rose so fast that bubbles filled his circulation. He would have to put up with the aches later, right now he needed cool and he needed it now.
He was still many strata from the icy blue of home, but found a small convection vortex that pulled cool in from above and rested within it for a few moments. The pressure of the circulating bubbles caused him to shudder several times, and the dull ache filled his mind. He tried hard to concentrate on comprehending the critical map sections he had derived from the elder to drown out the pain, and succeeded only to a tiny degree. Far more important than his pain was the undulating map. This would take him much further towards The Plague where he could then... he could... he did not know what he could do if he ever reached The Plague. Of course he would die, just like all the others, but he would have died anyway, just more slowly. Maybe he could do something, learn something, and maybe he could transmit it to some younger, stronger one who could take one more step towards understanding The Plague. If the cycle repeated itself long enough maybe, just maybe, this could lead to a solution that would save the last of The Species.
It was a foolish expectation, but what else could he do? Just watch his life drain away until he too fell into the scarlet? At least he would do something with what was left of his life. Something that might make a difference. Or it might not. But it was certainly better than just waiting to die like a floating energy clump waiting to be absorbed.
He chose to counter the incoming stream from the vortex to the cooler stratas. It would take more effort than just rising directly towards the cool, but it would keep his temperature down. He had experienced enough heat and reveled in the restorative coolness. He felt some strength return to him and the pounding aching from the bubbles in his circulation seemed to subside a bit.
As he rose against the stream he began to sense indigo in the flow. He was reaching the strata where the indigo pooled from all the dead. There had always been the merest touch of indigo in this layer as it collected from wounds falling from the cool and bodies falling to the heat, but now this strata was heavy and dark and cloying. So much death. So much spilled indigo. There was not much time until there would be no one left in The Species to bleed.
He broke through a transition layer to a comfortable strata. He was still far warmer than home, but it was a more than tolerable temperature to try and intersect the map. He felt for the nearest coordinate and synched quickly. He was now in the path, heading With/Torrent, then turning to With/Stream, then almost directly With. He had been fortunate that the path did not take him Against. This way he could preserve some of his strength by letting the flow carry him all the way to the place where he would be much closer to The Plague than he had ever been before.