The two-dimensional image came to life. Its photo-neutrino heart beat.
An alien landscape unfolded before it. Pools of liquid energy trembled in crystalline craters of frozen radiation, reflecting the light of the distant Immensities without the interference of an atmosphere. The scene was deadly. And beautiful.
The image clarified itself and tested its appendages. Everything was intact.
Chunks of solid radiation shattered beneath the image's movement, though it weighed almost nothing, even in the massive gravity of the planetoid. Everything on the surface was frozen to the point of fragility. Only the liquid deposits were warm enough to escape the entropy of death that was absolute zero. Even these silver pools would not escape the creeping cold of the interstellar vacuum for long. Given time, the liquid energy would solidify and form bulbous, but perfectly reflective mirrors, which would sparkle like gemstones.
Among the distant stars that swirled frightfully fast in the unreasonable depths of vacuous space, photo-beings analyzed the image's environment and decided its fate nanosecond to nanosecond. These same lifeless but somehow living circuits of light had long studied this dead planetoid from the far reaches of time and distance, intrigued by the impossible existence of those fantastic volcanoes of liquid energy.
There were no nearby cosmic clues to indicate what might be occurring on astral body Cignus to cause this unexplainable activity. From such vast distances, even the agile, artificial synapses of the photo-circuits found it difficult to resolve this, the last great mystery of the Outer Void.
For countless millennia, these light-based beings, self named Cere, had traveled the known system of universes, jumping from place to place, time to time, dimension to dimension with the ease of ethereal bodies possessive of exceptional intelligence and unlimited technology. When necessary, the Cere resorted to physical dimensions, encasing themselves in gravity warping exoskeletons where particularly hostile environments would otherwise endanger and entrap even these beings that lived at the speed of light. Utilizing such formats, the Cere had colonized the hottest stars, the most massive gaseous giants, and the smallest black holes. With each new jump in their technical abilities, the Cere had turned their interests to ever larger puzzles of inter-dimensional existence. They had learned to tap the ancient entropy of the forever changing system of universes, collectively known as the Immensities.
Like a crude arrangement of connected balloons, the inhabitable universes and dimensions were constantly expanding and collapsing at each others expense. When one filled, another was emptied.
Ever a state of balance was maintained at the focal point, a completely ordered state of entropy involving all the matter, energy, and time that ever was and ever will be, anywhere. Like the satellites of a star, the Immensities revolved about a focal point. But, unlike a star system, the individual components comprising the Immensities did not inhabit separate orbits or separate realities. Everything was everything else. All was one, and nothing.
So, after a time that measured uncountable generations of light, the Cere had learned most of the mysteries of the Immensities. After coming to greatly understand the macrocosm, they had shifted directions to pursue the beguiling microcosm, as well.
As beings of light, they had long understood their own physical structure, its independent bits and pieces. Eventually, they identified the smaller parts that made up the larger parts, and so on, until they had come to the smallest physical entities, exotic mecho-forces that existed on the verge of the inter-dimensional realities, so small that time could not touch them. At the same instant, these ID mecho-forces were vastly massive, densely filled with absolutely nothing. These forces balanced on the infinitely honed juncture of paradox and unreality.
Eventually, the Cere discovered that the worlds of the extremely small were indivisibly linked to the worlds of the extremely large. By conquering one, their wisdom deciphered the other. Crudely represented, the macrocosm was the head of the serpent, the microcosm its tail, and the serpent eternally devoured itself tail first.
Like the Immensities, the ID forces were ever changing, expanding and contracting, but maintaining a mysterious entropy that was difficult even for the Cere to comprehend. As the snake consumed itself, it became shorter, as it aged it grew longer. The cycle was endless and complete, the balance utter and undeniable.
Once, in darker ages of their evolution, these beings of light had turned against themselves, divided along the lines of an abstract schism in their scientific reasoning. A war was fought, now long forgiven, but named the Conflict of Directions.
The Conflict of Directions was waged to decide the course of the Cere's analytical endeavors. Nearly equal in size and strength, one faction favored further study of the ID forces, another desired the exploration of the Outer Void. Each project required a blinding length of time to complete, even when worm holes and colloidal matrices where used to navigate the Immensities and the forces, respectively.
For beings that did not know a physical form of existence, warfare was an abstract exercise, but nonetheless deadly in its own sinister way. Cere destroyed Cere with weapons that left gaping holes in the gelatinous fabric of the time-space continuum, that ravaged the dimensions of time and reality. Cere unleashed the unimaginable forces of inter-dimensional paradox against Cere. Cere exchanged matter for light and turned the resulting energies against Cere. Black holes and tachionic pores were shifted throughout the Immensities for use as deadly snares to immobilize and destroy fellow beings of light.
When the spasms of battle fell still, the photo-circuits once again turned their timeless energies from the tasks of destruction to the nobler undertaking of pure, unified research. For a direction had been chosen and accepted by all.
The Cere reached for the farthest corners of the Immensities, delved into the Outer Void.
There they found an impenetrable wall of nothing, much as they had found within the confines of the ID forces. But long experience had taught them that a tangible something must exist within this barrier known as the Outer Void.
Thus the discovery of the Cignus bodies. Unfortunately for the Cere, the forms of transportation to which they had grown accustomed were inadequate to reach those unfathomably dense and distant planetoids. Coiled about the concentrations of matter and energy within the Immensities, worm holes looped tantalizingly close to the subjects of their quest, but dwindled to nothing at the apex of their orbits like massive copper cables that have been stretched to the thickness of a single atom. Not even the Cere could travel these physically restrictive avenues of warped time, and, even if they could have, the closest approach of the smallest diameter worm hole would have left the Cere woefully short of their objective.
So they constructed the image, and transmitted it across the multi-dimensional vacuum that surrounded the Immensities. Suffering the attrition of more unfulfilled generations of light, the one dimensional image ultimately arrived at its destination.
And the image came to life. Its photo-neutrino heart beat.
It stood at the farthest shores of existence, and looked back at the entirety of all the physical universes shining on the other side of the Outer Void. Holding up its sinuous appendages, the image encompassed all that was and would ever be.
The Immensities did not shine with light, for that primitive energy could not traverse the barriers of the void. Instead, they shone in the image's eyes as a synthetic illusion, a kind of map to orient the autonomous structure and serve as a means of dimensional direction. Sparkling in the skies of abstract imagination, those unreal stars vaguely called to the image, spoke of home, revealed the nature of its evolution. They were so UNREASONABLY far away . . . so untouchable . . . .
But all those things meant nothing to it now. Its mission no longer held any significance for it, either.
Back home, the Cere manipulated the image, and came to understand the final, great mystery of existence. Their studies had come full circle. Having exposed the boundaries of ultimate knowledge, those noble beings of light surrendered to the despair of boredom, and winked out of existence forever.
As a race, they now could only delve the unknown reaches of death. A new frontier spread out before them. Beyond the confines of absolute power and unlimited knowledge, they found unspeakable stillness and boundless ignorance.
There, they played as children once again, new to all they felt and experienced . . .
. . . the image found its new home in the Outer Void intensely curious. For a great expanse of time it wandered the craggy features of the Cignus planetoid, measuring the physical characteristics of those strange, unspeakably beautiful pools of liquid energy. Where nothing dimensional should exist, this lifeless chunk of ice spun languidly in a dead orbit. Where nothing tangible should support the image's weight, it stood amid delicate mountains of frozen radiation.
In one direction lay the macrocosm of the Immensities, and home.
In the other, lay the microcosm of the inter-dimensional forces, and home.
In a final gesture of abandonment, the Cere had left the image to decide for itself where to go, what to be. The image stood at the juncture of paradox and unreality, examining the surface of a single ID force and Cignus astral body simultaneously. The image stood inside the serpent's mouth as its tail went sliding past, wondering whether to consume, or be consumed . . .