An Extremely Speculative Story of Infinity Wars
"It's really just a simple piece of magic," Ethan said, following her around as she tried to ignore him. "We rewrite the fundamental nature of the universe to make ourselves immortal."
"Except the universe isn't written in code like some sort of computer," Aleta shot back, adjusting one of the dials on the power generator.
"All metaphors break down eventually," Ethan admitted. "So you're interested?"
"I think we'd have to know a great deal more about the variables involved before we do anything," Aleta said slowly, adjusting another dial and walking over to another terminal.
He pulled out a sheaf of papers from his jacket, spreading them out on the terminal's keyboard. "Okay, it's simple. Anyone with the right knowledge can change the way the world works--that's what magic is, after all. Little, everyday miracles. But the big stuff, that takes a lot of power. So if we channel enough power into the magic, given the proper runes we can bend the universe to our will and make ourselves immortal. If it works, we could even repeat the process." He pointed at a runic circle on his plans. "Check it out. Some of the most elegant runework I've ever done."
Aleta was already checking another power terminal, making sure that the aether inside of the generators wasn't becoming imbalanced. She adjusted a dial by one degree, then turned around to find Ethan shoving the papers into her hands.
"Really, I want to know what you think."
She glanced at the scribbles. "Your grammar is off. And your handwriting is the sloppiest I've ever seen."
He grinned. "Still, it would work, right?"
Aleta did some mental calculations. "It would take... something like the city's entire aetheric output to generate that much power. Look, you're being too brute force about this. If you change these symbols around, substitute in an 'ash' instead of the 'a' here, and rewrite this arc of the spell entirely you could probably halve the power requirements."
He shook his head. "I want to be certain. If we aren't careful and specific, the spell will have unintended consequences. It could just turn us into immortal zombies or something."
Aleta began to give the designs a closer examination, noticing more and more intricate circles and patterns of runes that Ethan had worked into the design. "Ethan," she said, her pulse racing, "how much time have you spent on this?"
"A lifetime," he said, smiling broadly. "But it will have been time well spent if we succeed."
"You've spent too much time on these redundancies," she said, squinting at some of the miniscule runes spiraling around the edge of the design.
"What can I say? I don't want to mess this up. If anything were to happen to you because of me, I don't think I could live with myself. Which would be quite the problem if I'd just made myself immortal."
"All right," she said, putting the schematics down and looking at him. "But why are you telling me about this today? Why now, while I'm working?"
He smiled sheepishly. "Well, I just finished the designs, that's all. I wanted to share my success with you."
"I still think you can clean up your runic grammar and cut down on some of the redundancies," Aleta said, but he shook his head.
"Trust me, everything is perfect. I've gone over the entire circle three times, and even the stuff you pointed out earlier is all part of the design." His eyes lit up. "You want me to explain it in detail?"
Aleta glanced around at the aetheric generators filling the immense room. "This'll keep. I'll call it an early day and we can talk about it over dinner." Ethan beamed and she gave him a small kiss on the cheek before walking out arm in arm.
They had spoken for hours, the candles burning themselves out nearly halfway through and forcing Ethan to turn on the lights. Dinner lay half-eaten on their plates, forgotten in the midst of the complexities of magical theory.
Aleta rubbed her eyes. She hadn't believed Ethan at first when he had called it his "most elegant runework," but the more Ethan talked about it the more impressed she was. The attention to detail that had gone into the massive runic circle spoke of years of study and editing.
"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" she asked finally.
He glanced away. "I was afraid you'd laugh. That you wouldn't take it seriously. That you'd call me crazy and leave."
His face lit up again. "But I've done it now. I've figured it out. The spell will work, I know it will."
"There's just one detail that worries me," Aleta said. "We're putting so much power into this spell, what happens if it goes wrong?"
Ethan waved it off. "It won't. It can't. There are too many redundancies and safeties in the runes. Almost as many as surround the powerplant itself."
"You seem pretty confident about this," Aleta said, smiling.
"Why shouldn't I be? You've read over the runes, what do you think?"
Aleta laughed. "It'll work all right. It'll definitely work. You're crazy Ethan, but you're a genius."
He threw his arms around her in a bear hug. "I'm so excited."
"When do you want to do it?" she asked.
"Is tomorrow too soon? I don't know if I can wait."
She smiled and kissed him. "Neither do I."
The next night they stood on the rooftop of the building where Aleta worked, minding the city's aetheric generators. "Are you sure you don't want my help?" she asked, not for the first time. Ethan was hunched over the rooftop, painstakingly drawing his runic circle with magically empowered chalk. He wore what he called his 'magician's cloak,' a sort of good luck charm the childishness of which Aleta found endearing.
He looked up and shook his head. "No, I'll be fine." Then he went back to work, muttering to himself as he drew the infinitely complex design.
"Really, it wouldn't be a problem."
"I'm good," he snapped, then he looked up. "Sorry. Didn't mean to yell at you."
She smiled. "It's all right. I just don't like watching someone else work without helping out myself."
"It's okay, it's okay, I'm almost done."
Aleta looked at the sky. Gray clouds rumbled in the distance. "How long will the spell take? It looks like it might rain."
"Don't worry, I'm using the weather-resistant chalk. 'For outdoor spell-crafting and long-lasting wards.'"
An hour later, Ethan stood up and dusted some excess chalk off of his pants. "Ready."
"That rain looks awfully close," Aleta noted. "Are you sure you don't want to wait until tomorrow?"
Ethan nodded. "Worried?"
Aleta forced a smile and shook her head, quelling the queasiness in her stomach. "Just nervous. This is complex stuff, Ethan."
"Don't worry, it'll work. What could possibly go wrong?" He laughed, and Aleta forced herself to join in. She stepped forward and joined him in the center of the circle. "Okay, I need you to draw power from the generators below to make this work," he said.
She nodded. "Of course." Reaching down with her magic, she found the aetheric plants that she had worked with every day for the past five years. They were familiar to her, like old friends or pets. She knew each generator's temperament and habits, its tides and currents. Taking a deep breath, Aleta began to siphon power from her children.
"More," Ethan whispered, and she nodded, concentrating. She began to drain them of all energy, burning out the generators to perform this one spell. All around them the city's lights flickered and died. A magical wind picked up around them and the runic circle began to glow with an orange light.
"More," Ethan said, shouting over the wind, and Aleta nodded again, crying as she destroyed her livelihood. She began to feel something changing inside of herself, but then suddenly the sky began to split.
"Ethan, something's wrong!" she shouted, holding him close in the increasingly violent aetheric storm.
"Don't worry, I'm here," he said, his arms wrapped around her. "I'm with you. Always."
And then the city began to be destroyed and the universe crumbled into a million pieces. All that remained was an immense crater around Ethan's runic circle. Not a single mortal soul survived.
Very little is known about the Calamity. This speculative story is meant to work through some of the main points of what I think happened. We know, for instance, that Aleta was somehow involved, along with another man. We know that the Calamity split the universe into infinite dimensions and that "not a single mortal soul survived."
I suspect that the purpose of the Calamity was to make Aleta immortal and that it went wrong somehow. I suspect that the unidentified man (we know it isn't Coyle) was the one who came up with the idea, given his presentation in the artwork and alternate artwork. I chose the motivation of them being love interests because we know of other cases when men have done stupid things to be with Aleta forever (cough cough Virus of Avarrach), and it seemed believable.
I'd like to know more about the mysterious man involved (I named him Ethan because of its similarity to Epimetheus, Pandora's husband. I doubt there's an etymological link between the two, but they sound similar enough. Also I just watched Mission Impossible III the other day). Is he, too, immortal now? Where is he? Was he also split into infinite parts or did he stay in one piece. Did he keep his memories or were they wiped like Aleta's (well, Caretaker's anyway)? I've got some ideas on what Ethan can do and on why he wouldn't be involved, but I think I'll save those for a later time.
Anyway, this is all guesswork. I have no idea if any of this is actually close to the mark. Still, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Let me know what you think. Got your own theories on the Calamity? Share them in the comments below.