Prologue

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An enormous cavern gaped before her, dominated by a towering machine only partially visible from her vantage point at its base. Walkways, scaffolding and railings loomed on either side while thick ropes of cable lay everywhere like a runaway, metallic infestation. Did humans build this? This insanely complex, gigantic thing in the bowels of the Earth?

She climbed the steps to her right for a better look, breathing in the cold, subterranean air through her respirator. Goosebumps erupted on her arms. The ventilation, electrical and other systems they had in place seemed out of this world, and she wondered how they dealt with the waste heat. It was nothing short of an engineering marvel.

As she inched along the catwalk, a distortion caught her eye. Squinting, she inched towards it and saw another.

It was like a pocket of space was warping into dizzying Calabi-Yau manifold geometry. She stared at it, torn between alarm and fascination. Am I tripping? Some kind of psychoactive substance in the air? Or is it an optical illusion?

She found it harder to concentrate. It was like in her dreams, just before she woke up, when everything became sluggish—even the simplest motion requiring an effort. Then she was sinking—steadily and inexorably into nothingness.


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