(I seem to be stuck in a loop where I need to finish a particular scene in order to proceed, but never get to finishing it, and I then wind up staying up all night to try, and I don't succeed and just make myself tired all next day. I've got to break out of it and both get to bed on time and get the story moving again, whether the artwork cooperates or not.
Thus, I present the next update below, as text. I'll continue to compose the entries this way until I get my workflow back in order again. I hope that this will be acceptable.
It was a flash between instants that made all the difference. Before, the world had been compressed and tight, a bubble of silence in which Chax could hear just his breath and the muffled chirps from the Kollen maintenance drones that responded to his presence. Then there was that brief crackling noise at the precise point where Chax had pressed his attack claw with all the intensity he could muster against the inflexible blister...
And the world exploded into light and sound and odor as if reality itself had broken. The air turned bright and moved again, the chittering and wailing of the one-armed workers as they flung their clinging tendrils overwhelmed the ears, and the sharp and sweet, musty but invigorating air of the Kollen's interior filled Chax with a rush of exultation. He was fully, intently alive.
The height was a trivial fall for an Oistrem. Chax felt no fear, confident that his sturdy legs and reflexes would bring him to a safe landing in the jumble below. In the second it took for him to descend, he saw the rotating shards of the blister sparking around him, noted the drones shrieking at him as they fell and clacked their injunctors and cast their tendrils frantically, glimpsed the assemblage of parts below him, and searched for Aun's presence.
What lay below was not fully comprehensible; Oistrem had little need to learn the full inner workings of a Kollen. Chax knew that some of the bulbous organs were generators that built up reserves of an etherial substance akin to air, but which was more insubstantial than air, so that it sought a higher level and sought to fly upward. The Kollen would use this later in the cycle, pumping it into the many blisters that dotted its surface, one of which Chax had used as an entrance. The spikish things with clustered bulges at the base were probably for assimilating outside material, such stuff as the Kollen had taken in via its colossal ingestion mechanism - it seemed too large and complex an operation to fit under the tag of 'eating.'
And Aun had gone into that mechanism, apparently by choice. He seemed calm; perhaps he knew what he was doing, but who could tell with Strasmin? He might have miscalculated, or he might still be strange in the head from being poisoned. Chax knew that his own body was still weak, his mind still resting mainly on its pivot leg, and that he himself might now be doing a foolish thing. Still, it was done, and there was nothing left but to see it through as far as he could.
Spikes and pods rushed towards him, instinct and reflex took sure hold. With no conscious decision, he navigated the forest of sharpened fibrous bone and pulsing blebs, and made a firm landing on the Kollen's bottom, blister fragments crashing and crunching around him. He now faced a sort of wall; one with an opening of variable size, but like the ones Chax knew from childhood which parted their own substance to create an entry, not like the thing that Strasmin called a 'door', which was a sort of intrusive piece that moved itself out of your way and left a hole behind it.
The entryway dilated. Chax did not know what (if anything) was to emerge. It might be Aun, or a force of attacking drones, or a cluster of rejected material from the Kollen's ingestive process. Perhaps the Kollen was about to exhale, or try to eject him. Chax took a quick deep breath to energize himself, then breathed slowly to try to catch a sniff of what was inside. The maintenance drones shrieked above as they fought to close the hole he had made; he feared no attack from them. Intent on one goal, he waited.