On the Tlaina system’s ringworld, the crew of the Blind Jump have cut a deal with two local political factions – the Mystics and the Materialists. The Materialists have provided an antimatter missile to destroy an asteroid headed for the Tlaina homeworld, now a nature preserve. In return, both the crew and representatives of the Materialists will gain access to a mysterious Founder structure submerged in the oceans of that homeworld.
Aboard the Blind Jump, the crew heads for their rendezvous with the asteroid. With Miaulong at the helm, Max at the missile controls, Whooey at the sensors, Lefty calculating vectors, Binx calculating impact equations, and Shoob keeping an eye on the very aggressive Max, the crew easily manages to crack the asteroid apart into harmless fragments with their antimatter missile. Seeing an opportunity, Whooey tractors in some of the fragments as fodder for the ship’s omniprinter. “We should have the Omniprinter turn this into a trophy to commemorate how awesome we are,” says Max.
The Mystics contact the crew and thank them for their work, and send coordinates for them to visit “The Source of the Waters”. Miaulong pilots the ship there while Whooey downloads petabytes of data about the Tlaina homeworld- but almost nothing about a Founder site. Whooey sees that someone is policing the data to eliminate references to the Founders, and deploys his hacking skills to dig out some background data. It appears that the Mystics believe that the Founder site is holy and is responsible for Tlainax sentience and civilization, while the Materialists scoff at the idea that the Founders had any responsibility for the Tlaina species.
The homeworld is over 95% ocean, but a landing platform sits above the waves for the front half of the Blind Jump. The two Materialists who provided the missile, Alna and Olaintl, are waiting on the platform. “The Mystics are awaiting you below. The Purists don’t believe in biomods so they can breathe air,” scoffs Olaintl. An elevator descends, filling with seawater from a grating in the floor. At the bottom, Otlana, the Mystic who hired the crew, greets them at the sea floor and leads the way across the ocean floor.
Rising from the sea floor and lit with bright lights is a 100 meter metallic cylindrical structure. Archways at the base provide access, and Otlana leads the group in. Several other Tlainax are inside, but the crew’s attention immediately goes to the awe-inspiring architecture within. The structure follows a spiral, rising up to the top of the cylindrical space. The colors of the walls shift and change, and all of the Tlainax, even the Materialists, seem instinctively drawn to change their colors to match.
Otlana turns to the group. “We would ask that you not broadcast the existence of this location. It is… sacred to some of our people. It is the source of the Waters. If you wish, you can say that you visited a sacred location, but without identifying the location, this would be acceptable to us.”
“We need to go to the Founders tech,” says Max. “We’re quite sure that the reason you haven’t discovered anything here is that you’ve been keeping people away from it.”
“Oh, we’ve quite thoroughly explored the site,” answers Otlana. “That is not a concern.”
“So it’s safe?”
“Oh, entirely, except for the central chamber.” She gestures to a chamber at the top of the cylinder where the spirals converge. “This chamber is dangerous. It has strange effects on the mind. I cannot vouch for your safety if you enter.”
Binx asks, “Has any non-Tlainax survived the chamber unharmed?”
“You are the first offworlders we have allowed here. It is said by those who have trained to enter the chamber that it gives visions of the Waters themselves.”
“Could this be related to the water sphere we found?” asks Miaulong.
“The Waters are everywhere and nowhere,” answers Otlana.
Lefty notices an asterisk on the translation of “The Waters” and clicks it on his interface. He reads “May also translate as The Founders”. Lefty explains this to the rest of the crew. Whooey, the Founder expert, is not convinced. The conventional scholarship about the Founders does not suggest they are mystical spirit beings, but rather concrete material aliens with a known shape and size. Miaulong checks her translation database, and finds that only in Tlainax is there this confusion of terms between The Waters and the Founders.
Whooey asks Otlana, “It seems that our translation devices say that you are saying the Waters, but that Waters could also refer to Founders.”
“We do not use this other term to describe the Waters. We find that offworlders have an inaccurate picture of these celestial beings.”
“Do you have any depictions of these beings?” asks Lefty.
“Shall you also draw the water that surrounds us?” answers Otlana. “Like the waters that surround us, the Waters are everywhere… and nowhere.”
Curious, Lefty samples the water through a port in his environment suit, finding it to be regular salt water as near as he can tell.
“Do you have any advice if we are to enter this chamber?” asks Binx.
“No one can explain the chamber to you; you have to see it for yourself.”
“May we go in and see it?” asks Lefty.
“Yes,” she answers, and gestures for the crew to follow her up the spiral ramps.
“Your weapons, you will not need them,” says Otlana, and the crew powers down and lays down their weapons, except for Lefty, who conceals his extendable baton in his suit, and Max, who keeps his cyber-blades sheathed.
The crew enters the chamber. Overwhelming thoughts strike all of them, and Max, Miaolong, and Binx all pass out. Strange visions fill the minds of the remaining crew, visions of incorporeal beings who occupy every point in space simultaneously. A spiral appears in the chamber, and in the center of the spiral are two more coordinate fragments. Marching around the outside of the spiral are numbers, and there is a blank space at the end of the sequence. Shoob cracks the code and the heroes retreat.
As they return to their landing platform, the crew sees a group of four armed Tlainax around the Blind Jump. They raise their weapons and yell “Claim Jumpers in the house!”…