I looked up.
A thousand particles, energies and forces tumbled in alien equations from a ceiling that had no end, and some of them I recognised. I'd been studying this array for sixteen years and was no stranger to its charm, its elusive essence of beauty and truth. My eyes watched the quantum dance as time lost meaning, loving it, learning it even as I knew I knew nothing of its heart.
"Have you pledged an allegiance?" a dark, reptilian voice boomed from the shadows.
Into the dancing light stepped one I knew from another world, a world I had only ever seen through a screen, a world which was unreal and real at the same time. The elegant figure of the Galaxy's most feared System Lord drew nearer, studying me. I shivered. Here in my personal realm was a killer, a tormentor, an enslaver of souls. What would he want with mine?
I looked back at the floor, but the floor, yielding nothing but dancing light, remained unforgiving.
"DO NOT PLAY GAMES WITH ME!" his voice boomed, hard as gravel and cold as steel, demanding absolution.
I thought of something sensible to say. I thought about fear, remembering when life had been tough and illusions had played deadly dice with my intentions. Then my mind flicked sharply to 1997, a year enslaved by a love so dark it bred a snake in my head whispering insistently that I seek information, driving me to realms I didn't understand. The serpent had sent me across the European continent in a quest to learn of cosmology and deep physics, and I had followed blindly, naively, absorbing a sense of what was real as I travelled, finally breathing life into that sense with the birth of Quantumology.
"My Lord, I have loved..."
"Ba'a!" he snorted with contempt, "I read your mind. You partied with idolatry!"
I laughed, instantly thinking that was probably a bad idea, despite the vast gulf between assumption and reality. But Apophis blocked the spark with a steady gaze I could not read. Honesty, in this situation, was probably the best policy.
"Some, like the moon when she is full, believe the light which shines upon them is their own. There are more self-made statues on the altars of false gods than questions begged by universal law, My Lord," I said quietly, lowering my eyes back to the rippling marble.
"And so?" he snapped, clearly unmoved.
"I believe that allegiance above all should cleave to the truth, wherever it may be found."
He was silent. He turned his back. I studied the jeweled tapestry of his beautiful cloak and wondered what my words would mean to him. For a moment I thought he would step back into the shadows and say nothing more, but instead he walked to a wall inscribed with ancient symbols. His hand swept slowly over them, tapping at indentations in the stone.
I felt fire run through my mind and the lights tumbling from the endless ceiling joined me as I hit the floor.
"Ahhh, the power of the singularity...."
99 people were following the corridor to see where Quantumology would lead.
Then Peter Williams laid his cloak over the threshold,
pledging his name to the hundredth number,
and I kissed the ring as my heart replied in kind;
"The power of singularity is legion, My Lord. That makes a million of us."