Meanwhile, back on Jupiter...


...XOXLNDU was slowly swimgliding through the thick AtmoSea, as always. To observe from a distance, that was all XOXLNDU ever did: swimglide, on and on, without destination, purpose or intent. A ship with no port.

But there is purpose: a Nation can never stop for long, or the liquid hydrogen atmosphere would cease to flow through the exoskeletal hull, hundreds of kilometers down into the colonies of symbiotes that are the very soul of the Entity, and they would perish.

Come closer: see the millions of grabberlings waving and rippling through the waves, constantly gathering in the small "foodfish"; see the swoopers sucking in the glowing "plankton", and distributing it into the core of XOXLNDU's body, where every creature that consumed it glowed with the same light; see the forests of sensory ganglia undulating in the current as they process information from the eyestalks and the sniffers and the sonarslugs. This ship is a world within itself, like a planet slowly orbiting through the AtmoSea of Jupiter.

Come, through the outer wall of the open exoskeletal structure, down into this vast living ship/city/world, penetrating layer after honeycombed layer of ribstructure, upon which festoons a myriad million different species of symbiotic creature, each living out their lives as part of this vast One Being, each mounted and configured to a function of this totalitarian system, each doing their part in keeping the machine running, each sharing a connection with the intelligence and awareness of XOXLNDU, who is in fact, each themselves.

Deeper and deeper, the layers of worlds within worlds becoming more crowded in the safer regions farther inside the Nation. And in the heart of the great entity, thousands of colonies of thousands of jellybrains perched on ceilings and walls, woven by ganglia into and along the great dendritic ropes of neural plexii, sending and receiving high- voltage synapses that zap brilliant sparks of bluewhite lightning.

For what XOXLNDU actually did was to think:

All the rest of the enormous physical structure and symbiotic cooperation was merely a support system for the brain banks, which, networked by the neural plexii, thought great thoughts in harmony with the collective consciousness of XOXLNDU.

And just now, that massive Collective Entity, the current Master Genius Of Our Solar System, is thinking mostly about one tiny, o so tiny creature: The Precious Child.

The mated pair and Their Precious Child would be landing on their Homeworld soon. XOXLNDU had calculated arrangements for that moment, for a sign to be shown to Earth, corresponding with the moment of their arrival, which had to be timed to 11 hours 32 minutes 42 seconds BEFORE they actually did arrive, due to the light-hours distace between the respective planets at that moment.

An atmospheric effect was sent in motion, as when XOXLNDU had made the signal beacon to guide the Jupship in, a mirror disk of ammonia ice formed itself in the upper atmosphere, as wide as the planet Earth, and at the exact moment XOXLNDU tipped it to reflect the sun's light directly at the Earth.

It would be nighttime on Earth where and as the friends landed, so the sign would be easily seen. XOXLNDU watched the 3V news channels for confirmation.

And XOXLNDU focused attention on one of the smallest brainbank systems, only 16 of the jellybrains branched out on their own private section. They were telepathically liked with the Precious Child--or rather, one of them was, the others being backup, for more than one would be confusing for her tiny brain.

A sonar message resounded throughout the AtmoSea. "Hail Thee and Well, Nation XOXLNDU, once XOXL and XNDU, we first greet since your mating and reconfiguration. Perhaps you have become slightly enhanced...you were lucky it wasn't a total catastrophe."

XOXLNDU recognized XXZL, a Nation who had been greater than XOXL before the mating, but now was not as great as XOXLNDU. There was a thunder of jealousy in the sonar waves.

"Hail Thee and well, Nation XZZL. No, not lucky, we planned the mating carefully, organized every aspect of the configuration, and executed it flawlessly."

"Yeah, yeah, the sound of Your crashing into each other reverbrated througout the AtmoSea, to half way around Jupiter: EVERYBODY heard you two going at it...the rumor is that You crushed and destroyed too many symbiotes and that Your enhancement was not all that you had hoped it to be, that you were in fact, almost...Lessened..."

"Oh, not so, Nation XZZL. We are Extremely Enhanced now, why the New Things We can comprehend..."

"...and yet, Nation XOXLNDU, it seems that You are still playing with those silly Earthlings. When will You grow up? They are not worthy of Your time."

"Nation XZZL--say, haven't you become smaller again? never mind-- as for the Earthlings, they are the way forward, and therefore worthy. We can reach the stars again with them. You know that the XAPF also used them in the millenniums when they colonized the Universe, back when they were mere apes. They have become more intelligent since then."

"We are also more intelligent than the XAPF were, We can solve our own problems."

"We are too slow, Nation XZZL: Our Fellows on Aldebaran iV will perish long before we would reach them....listen!"

"Yes, a vast wave of Lokusts come our way. We shall have to defend ourselves. Damned little things can tear up a configuration in no time."

"Nation XZZL, let us work together for the onslaught. We can present a better defense."

"Work with you? Never! Are you crazy? I link up with you and you will seduce me in, as you did XNDU, and configure me!"

"XNDU here, Nation XZZL; We chose to go in, We are satisfactorily enhanced here, it's working out quite nicely, in fact: We have no wish to reconfigure again just yet."

"Yeah, well You were supposed to go in with US! Instead You became part of THEM!"

"You can join Us too, but hurry, the Lokusts are coming, We have to present a defense."

"There is no defense against lokusts, they are too many and too small: our defense drones are too big to fight them, and once they penetrate our inner layers they'll gobble their way through our symbiotes--who knows what's left by the time we emerge from their swarm? The only way is to charge through the swarm as fast as possible, minimize the damage. Unhail, Nation XOXLNDU, You're on your own."
("That's why XNDU didn't go with you, Nation XZZL, You're too stuck in configuration...")

The sonar voice went silent, but now the gibbering gargles of the approaching Lokust swarm was quite audible. They smelled a big fat Nation coming their way, with too much speed and mass to turn away from them in time, and they were priming their hungry lean raptor configurations for the powerdive into a gorge of flesh.

"Perhaps, Dear XOXL, it would be best to break on through to the other side..." "Perhaps, Beloved XNDU, but the damage can be extremely severe, we will be Lessened. Surely, there must be a way to use Our accumulated Knowledge and Intelligence to resolve this situation..." "Yes, Dear XOXL, surely, let Us think, but quickly..." "THINK!"

"Hi, Mister XOXLNDU: check out memory banks on Earth films, 20th Century, the classic Star Wars!"

"You know what? That was a message from...from The Beloved Child!" "And you know what? She's right: X-Wings! We can assemble them, millions of them, from various symbiotes, into a smaller faster fighting creature with MEST-capabilities, each faster and more deadly than each lokust..." "Great idea, but there's no time..." "Sure there IS if we go into a MESTwarp Relative Time State..." "That's right! This will work!"

Big AtmoSea battle: zillions of nasty ugly Lokusts ripped to shreds by the flashing /and; dashing "X-wing" fighters, lots of special effects, heroic actions, daring stunts...

And out the other side of that scattered Lokust swarm, which was greatly reduced and did not dare give chase, bursted that vast Ship of the Jupiterian AtmoSea, Enhanced with the ideas of a tiny race from a tiny planet.

The unstoppable Nation XOXLNDU sailglides proudly past, the music swells, fade out.

as promised, this was
THE INTERESTING ENDING,
in case you couldn't tell

3R