While the Professor researches some of the notes that Sweep found inside the Miri Nigri anatomist’s desk, Byte and Sweep decide to scout out the three other tunnels they’ve seen. Each tunnel radiates out in opposite directions, with 120° angles between them on a flat plane. Sweep almost resists looking into the shifting, smoky walls of the tubes that form the tunnels, and sees inside the glassine gel a congeries of weird little bacteria and algae lifeforms, and some massive, shadowy figures that he doesn’t want to think about too much.
They take the down-tunnel while walking on the ceiling, and adjust fairly well to the reverse force-dynamics of the Templeship, and soon find themselves in a triangular room that has three passageways leading out; it seems the tunnels follow a geometry that Sweep figures to be a tetrahedron, or trilateral pyramid, with them being on the outer faces of said pyramid. This room is filled with the influent tubules, valves techno-organic machinery of the Shan.
The next tunnel is a trap filled with mechanoreceptive nematocysts (good thing they never came across the chemoreceptive tunnels), sort of like glutinous worms forming from the walls, each filled with coiled-spring-like traps (see Ecology of the Shan Templeship). In a harrowing battle the Tagers overcome the poisonous nematocysts, but in order to move further into the tunnel they have to slow their movement to a crawl to avoid further attacks.
Arriving at the Phantasmagoria of Flower Views – a room filled with bioluminescent, polydimensional shifted creatures and a huge gravity furnace pulsing with N-radiation. Sweep suddenly feels the dysjuncted left half of his body pulled into a higher dimension, wherein the consciousness of the Ta’ge symbiont extends into a vast fruiting body of a hundred different organs, propellers, appendages and sub-forms, one of which is a puny little skeleton with meat wrapped around it…that being Sweep (the human). The Miri Nigri in the room demand that the Phantom Ta’ge divest itself of the “contaminating unimatter” (as they refer to Sweep’s human body), but Sweep refuses and maintains most of his sanity. Meanwhile, his left half is pummelled by the noetic (graviton and tachyon) radiation backwards in time, seeing himself moving through the previous tunnels. Eventually Sweep forces his halves back together and returns to simple reality. Phew!
The rest of the team decides to rejoin Byte and Sweep after the Prof finds some interesting info about the templeship in the notes; apparently the ship exists in multiple times and dimensions, and the gravity furnace is controlled by mental energy, probably directed from the apex of the pyramid. Brushing Young Jeffrey’s suggestion of explosives aside, Glass leads the civilian part of the team into the nematocyst tunnel.
Halfway through the tunnel suddenly fills with a strange toxic ooze which almost eats Jeffrey and only Glass’s gravewind power slows it down enough to allow the team to reach the Phantasmagoria room. A dazzling display of martial arts and quill-strikes from Byte finishes off the last of the cysts even as the black ooze infiltrates the walls of the templeship and begins to corrupt it. Moments later it reforms into a obscene humanoid shape formed from black congeries of bubbles and inky tentacles: that of a shoggoth lord, intent on devouring the pyramid and everything in it. This was the “poison” provided by Dr Adams and injected by Sweep into the tubule system in a previous episode, and it’s grown into a huge monstrosity.
It lashes out at the team and the Miri Nigri while they attempt to hurl themselves at the tunnel leading to the gravity furnace, and manages to snag and eat Young Jeffrey before the team can protect him. Grieving, the Prof makes it to the door in time. Sweep barely avoids a charge beam from the shoggoth, which, incredibly, has incorporated a mecha into its shell. Glass phases into the shoggoth’s head, exploding it in a shower of obsidian goo, but to little effect.
Sweep cracks the protective diamond-glass doors into the tunnel ahead and Byte opens the triangular doors, and hurling themselves towards the gravity furnace they find themselves in a wash of brilliant white light, like a supernova of radiative purity…