?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Infinity's Twilight [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Infinity's Twilight

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Links
[Links:| Seven Lives of the Sun ]

Ye Olde Traveler's Inn 2.0 [Jul. 23rd, 2006|12:36 am]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , ]

Dome city temperatures rarely if ever fluctuate at an uneven pace. Usually there's a little change in temperature to emulate the seasons of long ago, for aesthetic value and a change of pace, but the changes are so minimal these days that you can go years without noticing some of them. Nonetheless, by the time I got away from the crime scene, I was sweating like a roasted pig. I had to get away, away from the crime scene before the Machines could have an opportunity to switch from their perogative of body duty to lay their beady, mechanical eye optics on a suspected criminal that's been missing for who knows how long by now. In regards to Undergrounders like myself, Machines savour every morsel of info they get on our kind. They pay special attention to those who deliberately go out to defy their laws of surveilance.

The dead girl and I - she had a name now? Lish? What kind of name was that? - headed to a shelter of sorts to get some rest. In this day of age, there aren't many travelers from abroad anymore, abroad consisting of interconnected domes that all look the same as eachother. Nonetheless, in certain homeless shelters there's a system where if you pay enough money to get in, you'll get your own room and board to stay in, untraceable from Machine surveilance, visible to them only when you step out of the door of the shelter. Good for those who actually do travel 'abroad' - like myself - and for those running from something, and wanting a decent rest away from prying eyes.

Of course, there's no reason for the Machines not to go into the shelter, but with the exception of armed and dangerous fugitives on the run, there's rarely any action of that sort. Besides, the shelter owners I speak of are very careful of who they open their doors to. Letting fugitives in is bad in the long-term, and could potentially ruin the anonymity they strive for.

I was let in to a nearby shelter without incident, a ways away from the scene where I defended myself from the bald-headed Keeper. The room they brought for me was a humble one indeed: It consisted only of a closet, a small, narrow bed bunched into the corner of the room, and a bedside table with a lamp by it, for illumination. There was also a mattress on the floor, with a blanket strewn over it and a pillow at the head, for the added courtesy of the second guest. I was about to reluctantly embark on the time-honoured tradition of deciding who got what surface when the dead girl made the decision for me. She went forward to the matress, running her hand along the blanket strewn atop it, and lowered herself to the ground, moving so that she was stretched along its surface staring up at the ceiling with eyes that appeared wide-awake. After a moment, she was utterly motionless - completely still, like a genuine corpse would be, though she never closed her eyes, and I didn't have the stomach to do it for her.

Feeling tense and a little weirded out by this new development, I stepped over the mattress and climbed into the bed. The blanket's fabric was coarse, cheap, but nonetheless servicable, no worse than what I had been used to, and soon enough I was enveloped beyond the dark curtain of slumber.

I had a dream that night.

In the dream, I was flying through darkness, bright stars all around me. My spirit was free - I could go anywhere, at whatever pace I wanted. All around me, planets were being formed, worlds created, stars born, living and dying. All the creation and destruction in the universe was happening around me at the speed of an insect's wings, though it would take millenia for it to happen at all.

And then, amid the torrent of motion and the celestial movements, births and deaths, I felt a gradual slowness, a lethargic pace setting in, as if the universe was growing tired and could not go on much longer. There were few stars, fewer planets. Solar systems were dying out. Things were getting older, like it could not hold out much longer.

It was all part of the natural order of things, I heard a voice in me say.

And then I felt and saw something that chilled me to the core of my being.

As I flew forward through time and space, I came across what looked to be a... a chasm, a yawning canyon of Nothing, blacker than black in its inside. I felt ... drawn to it somehow, pulled in against my will. As I watched, nebulae, stars, blackened chunks of rock, all were being pulled into it, leaving nothing behind. It was like a vacuum, sucking in the universe as we know it, slowly but surely, and as I was pulled further in, I saw the full horror of it close-up.

It was like staring into the gaping maw of oblivion. I fought against its pull, but for naught, and as I came closer to the hole, I felt everything drain out of me, all life, all spirit and soul, all memories and experiences stripped down to the bone until all that was left was my name--

My name.

...And then I woke up. The bedsheets were soaked with my sweat, and I lay upright, breathing irregular, heartbeat pounding like a drum. Slowly, I allowed myself to calm down, wake up from the dream, until all I could concentrate on was my own breathing, normalized. Through the nose and out the mouth.

The white-faced figure in the corner of the room was staring at me. For a second I jumped out of my self-enforced calm, peering out through bleary eyes, until finally they regained focus and I could see who I was looking at.

"What are you looking at?" I asked the dead girl, whose dead eyes regarded me even now with a blank expression. I was angry, at myself for snapping and at her for ... for something. I had no time to apply reason to my emotion. "You got a reason to stare at me, girl?"

THere was a moment's pause, the girl moving her tongue around, as if awakening it along with the rest of her body. "You were... you were talking," she whispered, stepping forward from the wall. "In your... while your eyes were closed. You screamed and said something, I--I don't know what it means--"

"I said nothing," I replied gruffly, interrupting her stuttering part-way through. "Go outside for a moment. In the hallway. I need to be alone. Don't come in until I say so."

Silently, she complied. I was on my own for a moment, though gods knew how long her attention would hold outside in the hallway. Maybe she'd wait eons for me, maybe she'd break away at the last moment and get picked up by Machine sentries when she left the building. I didn't know, but I needed this time. Just a little bit of time to get my head straight.

As I pondered the dream I had, I thought about the Librarian and what he said about the null magic leaving him. With a deep breath, I made a decision, and unscrewed one of the bulbs in the lamp beside my bed. For a moment, I examined it in the palm of my hand, roling it back and forth on my skin, before I concentrated on its form and closed my eyes. In not even a second, I heard a crack, and then a fizzle as the bulb caved in on itself and dissolved, leaving nothing but soft powdery sand in the palm of my hand.

For a while, I looked at it, studying the grains of the sand that was left of the lightbulb. And then, slowly, I tilted my hand, letting its remnants spill soundlessly onto the mattress.

I still had the touch. That, at least, was a possession I kept, no matter what else the dream might have taken.

As I recollected Lish and payed for a small breakfast in the canteen, I left a tip for the serving lady and a separate collection of cash to repay for the lightbulb that had disappeared from the room. After that, I was out on the streets again, heading once more for the gathering place of my brethren.
link4 comments|post comment

You Can't Take The Sky From Me [Jul. 22nd, 2006|01:42 am]
Infinity's Twilight

dak_anthel
[Tags|, , , ]

Our frantic breathing soon drowned out the humming of the lights above. My own heartbeat soon overcame even that. Blood pounded in my ears and sweat pushed its way to the surface of my skin. I unsheathed the softblade. “The door’s over here,” said Sarah, and I ran towards, shoving it open while jamming the softblade in its top hinge. There was no time left for subtlety, and before bit of broken metal had hit the ground I was out in the open air – And found myself looking up.

I blinked. The Wall loomed before me, concrete and metal and circuit going on seemingly forever into the sky. But it was an illusion. Of holography, of hypnosis, or even just a simple paint job and the Wall that stretched over the city fooled those willing to be fooled into thinking they were free. I saw different. Where there should’ve been open air, there were only prison walls. They’d taken the sky from us.

Lionel’s hand fell on my shoulder, and his weight felt strange on my person – It wasn’t about my balance, or the shift in weight. It was the knowledge that Lionel – my lieutenant, my stern, dependable wall – was leaning on me, depending on me. Bleeding on me.

Five months time and it felt like humanity rested on my shoulders. Why would one weight feel any stranger? I used to be a slave to a family of slaves, and what dependence was on me then? Childhood under the Zagy heel was never preferable to being stillborn. Youth was fleeting, naivete was punished. Man's inhumanity to man was almost as bad as the methodical caging practiced by the Machines.

Childhood under the Zagy heel consisted of sleepless nights, life under Machine rule consisted of starless skies. The best a man could hope for in his youth: A mother's smile, a strong heart - a rubber ball and a paper cup, bouncing and falling and being caught, played with and slept with and then stolen by a child born into luxury.

That was youth, under a starless sky. That was a bitter taste of life.

I don't miss those days.

Again, I saw the great looming wall in front of us, miles high, completely encircling. It was strange and alien and utilitarian, Machine to its very core. Yet it was familiar somehow. Like some thin splinter caught in the folds of my finger, it was a memory I could not pry out from my mind. I shook myself and brought my attention back to the peril at hand – Lionel’s hard breaths and Sarah’s whimper’s came back into focus and I left the intangible concepts behind. Survival. Live through this, then philosophize about freedom.

“Sarah, take Lionel – If anyone comes near you, hold him steady and let him take his shot. I’m going to scout ahead – take out anyone in our way, maybe find a path out of here.” I shifted him into Sarah’s arms, and his tired eyes locked onto mine for a moment. Just a moment.

Light jogging brought them out of sight in a matter of minutes, such a snail’s pace at which they were walking. Better this way. I could concentrate of blacking out all security cams within a miles radius – maybe further. The security shutdown moved faster than a virus, faster than gossip – and I was the one who started the rumour.

The Machines will be smart enough to pinpoint where I am and where I’m heading. I remember this place. And the Mechs have no clue who I am, or what I can do. They're building a civilised world. And in a civilised world, people talk their problems out. And I've got a way with words. Translation:

I’ll play them like a fucking ball in a cup.
link3 comments|post comment

The Hunt Ensues [Mar. 11th, 2006|05:14 pm]
Infinity's Twilight
just_me517
Synthia stared out the window of the room she had claimed for herself for the time being within the building the self-proclaimed Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XVII, a title she could only scoff at, used for his infamous prostitution service. She could care less about such petty crimes. Prostitution and Selric himself was hardly a threat to the Machines’ dominance, and they could easily kill him if ever he proved otherwise. What concerned her was Specimen 00 and his sudden, inexplicable disappearance.

Though it seemed as if she sat intently watching, her mind’s eye was somewhere else completely, linked to the Machines’ vast information network, confirming that his disappearance was in fact inexplicable. Not a single recorded instance that she could find seemed to shed any light upon what could have happened to him or why. Divine intervention was not something easily understood or well documented by the creations of Their creations, and any mention to such were vague at best.

She sighed over the fruitless search as the connection terminated, sufficiently advanced technology may be indistinguishable from magic, but even all these millennia after such a phrase was coined, magic was still quite distinguishable from technology. At least she could sense Nielthunn was approaching accompanied by Forensics 29, at least they granted that request.

She activated her transmitter as she rose to meet them. Gather what information you can from the area and wait until recalled.

Understood.


"Synthia!" she could hear from beyond the door as she opened it to see Niel wave her down.

"Any leads before this incident?" she asked, indicating the droid.

"This is Forensics Personality 29. He got dome-dropped in. We're getting a lot of support, all over the Dome. Haven't you heard? Some morons opened fire on a Drone and two of us at some bar," he started in, apparently not having listened to her question in his eagerness to tell her what she already knew, "and they're rioting against the Atrox right now. They've dropped a ton of Drones and even some Securities."

Forensice Personality 29 did not respond, unlike Nielthunn, it did what it was told, going over the street corners, brick by brick. "That tells me everything I didn't ask to know."

"Anything you're going to ask?" Niel was obviously irritated, confirming he didn’t hear a word she said.

She at least did a better job controlling her own irritation, "Leads? The person you left to speak with? Before the drones started dropping?"

"Yeah. I spoke with Sarah. She gave me a gift. Ideally, it tells me where to go. The trick is that it's hard to tell when a spell is directing you."

Wonderful. "As in, follow you, you might know where we're going?"

"More or less." Niel turned to the distracted Forensics 29, "Requesting permission to depart area."

This is why I prefer to work alone.

This is why he was assigned to the capture of Specimen 00.

To lead us on a wild goose chase?

You have a better option?


Niel literally gets the green light from the Machine, and turned to Synthia, "That way. Follow me." With that, he started a brisk march down a side street. Where to, he had no idea, with a less than happy cyborg following his aimless lead.
link1 comment|post comment

Harlow, Lish and Nielthunn Again [Mar. 8th, 2006|10:45 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

His feet make tapping noises on the metal ground as he closes the distance between himself and the temporary deputy and the girl he thought ... knew to be dead, and yet somehow lived. Nodding to the man with the dark skin, Nielthunn Zagy exchanges glances with Elishel once more, and addresses them.

"Hey,” he begins to say. “Any trouble?"

The man calling himself “Harlow” shakes his head. “Only the morbidly curious and the depraved,” he replies. “They don’t heed to my authority very well, but I’ve kept them back. Or, I’ve kept them back as best that I can manage” He motions to the small circle of onlookers around them, and gives Neil a grim expression. It’s hard to tell if the man looks anything other than grim and serious.

Lish, meanwhile, stared at Niel, holding herself with both arms with all the look of a frightened animal once again. She stood stock still, neither moving away nor approaching, trying to remember where she had last seen him.

"Good," replies Niel, looking to Harlow. A quick display of his polyetherene sheath tells a number of the onlookers that there are other things to be interested in. "Pass me that paper I gave you. The deputization notice."

Harlow does so with little fuss, handing the paper back. Looking to Lish briefly, and frowning as if wishing to be somewhere else, he hesitated a moment, before replying, “I’d ask permission from you to leave, but it looks like the girl wants your company.” And then moving closer, Harlow continues, whispering. “Careful - she doesn’t seem to remember much. Seems like the memory comes in flashes, like heat lightning. You might want to find somewhere private, unbugged.”

"Not my choice," Nielthunn replied, moving away. The OISer's voice was dull, hard in response. "I've been assigned to another action. Top priority. I can't stay."

Niel looks the deputization over quickly, then tears off a third on a neat dotted line. It's quickly pocketed with the "for our records" practice of seven years, and then Niel turns to Lish again.
"Lish. Come here."
Harlow looked as if to say something, but stopped himself, watching Lish as she walked over to Niel. She moved slowly, timidly, like a child afraid of being punished for a wrongdoing, and as she came closer she made no reply, as if struck mute, listening with open ears for what Niel would say.

The man of the OIS took a deep breath, looking to the dead woman and pointing to a line on the paper. A string of numerals. "This is my ID number, Lish. Every Security worker has one. You, or him, can send a message to me from any station." He pauses, a sharp intake of breath passing through his teeth, and then continues. "I can't stay. I have to go."

The deceased Elishel Lotely looked over the ID number on the paper, looked at it carefully, as if scrutinizing it for something deeper, something she that she might be missing. As Niel spoke, she turned up from the letter, staring at him once more, breathing air in and out her decayed lungs, out of habit from the life she once lived. Her tongue moving around in her mouth, as if rediscovering the intricaties of oral communication she asked softly, “Where will you be...” before cutting herself off and saying no more.

All Niel could do at that moment, was say, "I'm sorry," and look away from her.

After a second, he turned to 'Harlow', adding, "If you don't like Machines you may want to leave now." A glance to an artificial sky. "Domedrop. You can almost see them now. Two Forensics and a Drone, if I'm not mistaken."

“We were just leaving,” Harlow prompts, and without saying goodbye, the dark-skinned man tugs at the sleeve of the dead woman, leading her away.

And as they go, Lish looks back at Niel. She looks back, and holds out her arm, reaching out to him, trying to snatch back the one thing she remembers still from a life long gone.

Niel doesn't see it. He's already looking away.

---Harlow---

With the dead girl at my side and the strange business concluded with the OISer, I walked her away, away from the worker machines to find somewhere to stay, preferably without the optical spy cameras focusing on me while I pee. On a whim, I look back at the grey, mechanized things that have landed, one of them long and skinny, towering over the other two, which are black and go across the ground without legs. Briefly, I watch the spindly gray thing conversing with Niel in robotic formality, while the other two close in on the dead Gayue body and... and...

I can’t watch. The machines look like they’re eating the dead body whole.
link1 comment|post comment

Prayers Will Only Get You So Far [Feb. 21st, 2006|11:09 am]
Infinity's Twilight

dak_anthel
[Tags|, , , ]

I descended from the ladder and helped Sara jump down into the dim tunnel. Sara felt along the wall and found a resin soaked torch, and I gave her a book of hand cut matches. I tossed the revolver to Lionel as he made his way onto the ground. He nodded, and we quickly made our way down the narrow wooden passage. Sara passed me the torch, and I led the three of us in single file, with Sara behind me, and Lionel covering the rear, pistol in hand.

We’d been lightly jogging for less than twenty minutes when the door became visible. I squeezed Sara’s hand reassuringly, and pulled her toward the exit.

I could hear Sara stumbling a little bit as I put on more speed. There was a rustling of fabric, and her steps became smoother. I looked behind me to see that she had pulled up her dress so she could run easier. She gave a weak smile and I turned around again, slowing as we approached the end of the tunnel.

The door was wooden, barely enforced. A rusty hatch and pin was all that kept the rickety thing shut, but it was half-fallen apart nonetheless. I didn’t even have to nod and Lionel had pushed in front of Sara, and backed up against the left wall. I looked at him and he pulled back the hammer on the pistol. Motioning Sara back, I clicked the torch into it’s place on the wall and grabbed hold of the five inch pin. I pulled lightly.

Stuck.

I heard Sara’s prayer beads clicking behind me as my fingers tugged and loosened the chain that held the door shut. Mumbling joined in with the clicking. Sara’s trite spellcrafts. Her invocations of the Powers were distracting, but I managed to make some headway in loosening the chain. I pulled at the pin again, and it came off smoothly enough. With a multitude of chinks and clicks the chain fell to the ground. I felt Lionel tense at the noise, but not enough time to wince as the door was yanked open!

There was an explosion of dust and splinters, but I had shoved myself back and tackled Sara to the floor.

The OIS officer was quick. I heard Lionel fire off a round, but there was a quiet barely-there sound, a whispery sigh, and Lionel’s scream filled the air. Softblade wound. The dust hadn’t begun to settle and my second-in-command had already fallen to the floor, and footsteps were coming behind me, and I lunged - lunged - my legs out behind me and I connected with something. There was a crack, a cry, and the OISer fell on top of me and Sara. I twisted around – Get a grip on him – and threw him under me, beside the trembling Sara. The OISer looked up at me – his eyes were watery, I figure I had broken his leg. I threw all I had into the first blow, and his nose gave way. I hit him again, and again – The bastard was leaking mucus and spewing blood and I hit him again. I felt teeth caving in, and when he started choking I drove my elbow into his throat.

He gurgled. I could hear the blood in his throat but to hell with stopping there. I kept on hitting him. Lionel and Sara melted away and I kept on hitting him, again and again and my fists felt like they were covered in gelatin and my knuckles felt raw but I kept hitting the bastard fucking OISer, kept hitting the fucking traitor, the fucking turncoat to the human race, the piece of shit that raised me and was like a father to me when everyone else hated and beat me, the one who saved my mother from being hanged by Matthias,. I punched his fucking guts out for saving my life and bringing Sara and I to Dome 9, I pummeled him for leaving me and defecting to the Machines, and I didn’t stop until all my fists were hitting was a slab of meat.

I couldn’t breathe. The stench of salt and copper stung, and I could feel the blood dripping down my chin. I suddenly became aware of Sara again, and I couldn’t bear looking at her. I had completely lost myself. I looked down at the OISer. He was barely recognizable. As a human being, let alone his former self. I had beaten him to death and I had lost myself and now I realized we still had to get the hell away.

I sniffed back the snot running down my nose, and wiped my hands on his shirt. I could feel Sara’s eyes on me as I stood up. But I’d deal with her later. I scanned the cramped space: Sara was still stunned, staring at the pulp I had beaten the OISer to. Beneath his body was a hilt. The softblade. I bent down and pulled it out. Rummaging behind his jacket, I started unstrapping the polyetherene sheath. “Lionel? Status?”

Silence. Then his familiar voice rang out, scratchy and painfully muted. “He took my left forearm. I’m missing my brachioradialis, and most of the extensor radialis. It’s not a treatable wound.”

I wound the sheath around me and slipped the softblade into it. “Sara, wrap his wound and staunch the bleeding. Lionel, you fire with your right arm, so pick up the gun and get the fuck up. That’s an order.”

Sara scrambled over to Lionel. He was covered in dust, and it had made his blood sticky and gauzelike. Sara took off her shawl and wiped away at it, before winding it around his left arm. I could see that the softblade had cut out almost two inches of muscle. Lionel was grimacing as Sara handled his wound less than gently. “Shajn. I’m incapacitated. My inclusion in your escape will impede your progress exponentially. I advise for you to leave me behind, and send aid from base.” Sara pulled at the knot on his tourniquet and he grunted sharply. Sara looked up at me, eyes wide. Her voice shook. “Xin, he’s not going to make it if he doesn’t receive treatment from an equipped medical bay soon.”

I stepped over the bloody body and picked up the revolver. Squatting beside Sara, I looked at Lionel and he raised his face to me. He was quivering. He would go into shock soon enough, if I left him. But I grabbed right hand and shoved the pistol into it. He raised a defiant eyebrow. “Shajn –“

“Lionel, I gave you an order to pick up the gun and get up. Here is the gun. Now follow through.” He stared at me angrily. “That’s an order.

“…Sir.” Objection dripped from his monotonous word.

“Good. Sara, help him up. I doubt the other two Insider officers will make their way here, so let’s get a move on before they start searching for their friend.” I walked through the doorway, Sara and Lionel following. We were in a basement of some sort, dank and cold. We could barely see, even with the dim light from the tunnel. I closed my eyes. Please let there be lights. I opened my eyes and focused. “Lights on.

We blinked away the spots when the fluorescent brightness hit us, and we stood for a few seconds before we got moving again. The stairs were blocked off by several crates, and we had gotten past them when a piercing electronic shriek came from behind us. Lionel whirled around, gun brandished, but there was no one. The shriek was unrelenting, filling the room. I barely heard Lionel curse angrily. “What is it?” I yelled. Lionel scrambled and gestured wildly for us to continue up the stairs. “OIS officers are currently testing out the Vital Signs Notification vest. It uplinks their status to the Core every five minutes. That means--!”

"What!?" I yelled.

"They know he's dead! They've got a lock on our location!"

"They're closing in right now!"
linkpost comment

M's flashback [Feb. 18th, 2006|09:48 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

In a time long past, a boy who is now a man watches as children his age play with a stuffed ball in an artifical playground - playing in fields of cut grass, not the real kind but synthetic, close to the ideal unless you get close enough to examine the colour and texture. Whatever the advances of technology, whatever the degradation of human beings, the aesthetics of athletic sports remained the same in whatever form - the ball is kicked by one person or another, who in turn either passes it back or kicks it to a third party, and the game goes on. In a world where human beings begin to realize the wrong choices made by their ancestors, they play games in the midst, blissful and innocent in a world of dreams already beginning to fade and tarnish, fall into the dust.

The boy who would later be known as many names, not in the least being Hilber Marisen, watched upon the games with sadness, longing. The three boys that were playing together were younger than him, carefree. Not yet grown up, and somewhere in the back of his mind the boy comprehends that he must grow up soon. His father is already beginning his lessons - how to walk in crowds without attracting attention, how to hide from security cameras, where to identify the spots that machines put devices to record conversations in restaraunts, analyze them detail by detail, run through the information in mere seconds. He’s learning that the machines he sees patrolling the streets and speaking to him in the school hallways watch everything he does, from hastily studying his electronic study sheet in his bedroom to brushing his teeth in the washing quarters.

He’s learning that to be truly free, you have to be invisible. You can’t let anyone get too close, because eventually you’ll start letting on too much information, too much knowledge about yourself. And sooner or later, all that knowledge gets filtered into machine knowledge, and you’re under their thumb again.

He’s learning that being free is a good thing. That once, long ago, machines didn’t exist - that there was a time that human beings controlled themselves, a concept that the boy finds to be unimaginable. He’s learning that he’s part of the true resistance, the one without guns - he’s learning of the knowledge fo the Underground, and the secrets he holds now has already changed him, sobered and taken something of the child in him already.

He knows that soon, very soon, he won’t be allowed to be seen in public anymore. He won’t be able to go to the playground and play with his friends anymore. He won’t even be allowed to have friends, no one outside of the Underground. Soon, he would be gone from the known world - erased and forgotten, dead to the world he briefly lived in. He would be invisible, just like his parents. He would be free.

With mournful eyes, the boy watches his friends playing for what might be the last time. His hand rises upward to greet them, as if saying a silent farewell to them.

In a brief lull in the moment, the children spot him and call to him, inviting him over to play with him. Hesitating briefly, the boy, not yet invisible, stares at them a moment longer before running to join them, his shoes kicking up the dirt as he goes.

---


(Will continue onward when I'm done this bloody essay)
linkpost comment

Prince of the Deal [Feb. 1st, 2006|09:04 pm]
Infinity's Twilight
gaggedcenobite
[Tags|, , ]

Smoking was, ostensibly, quite bad for humans, but the fact that it was exclusively for humans was enough of a reason for the Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XXVII to relish the puff of well-ground tobacco passing through his nostrils. Tonight was turning out to be a good night indeed.

"You know, Number Three," he breathed out through his cream-white teeth, "I can wait all night for you to give in."

Number Six, of the house of Atrox, had as always been marvelously cooperative. The Sixth Elder had jumped at the chance to gain information on the Zagy/Gayue conflict that had taken place on its territory, and Selric had managed to coax an additional bonus out of him in exchange for the tidbits about the OIS involvement. His client had left with a thousand devious schemes already blooming in his twisted mind, and the Earl of Excess himself had gained a cool sum of coin out of it.

Gayue's Fourth Elder had proven to be more of a hardass, saying something about not giving in to the demands of criminals, and all sorts of other moralistic drivel (as if the Gayue were any higher than he. Selric prided himself on actually doing the deeds he did himself, rather than letting lackies do it for him and thus pretending to innocence), but every man has his price. After a couple minutes of tantalizing half-hints that Selric would simply have Influx and Synapse escort him from the chateau, the fool had finally capitulated and forked over a generous payment, which the esteemed Mr. Girardot had eagerly snapped up, and absorbed the information. He'd been quite annoyed, to say the least, at hearing that a Zagy, and an OISer no less, had murdered one of his own, and didn't even seem to pay any thought to the fact that they'd encroached on Atrox territory.

That was a good thing. If this blithering incompetent didn't suspect anything when the Atrox swept down on him, Selric could perhaps sell the poor Gayue some military intelligence that could help even the odds...at least until he sold better intelligence to the Atrox.

The Third Elder of Zagy was a bitch and a half, though. He was only willing to pay half of the (admittedly less-than-modest) fee up front, then the other half if satisfied with what he heard, which was bullshit if you asked Selric. Human pleasure, though he adored it, was a bit too subjective to base the cold, hard demands of business off. And so it was they'd been verbally pinpointing and sniping at each other for the last ten minutes trying to work out a payment plan. Unsuccessfully, one might add.

"Don't think you can swindle me, Girardot," hissed the Elder. "I know the ways you criminals---"

"My dear Trey," Selric interrupted, "are you seriously implying that I'd double-cross you?"

"The thought had entered my mind."

"Oh, come now, La Trois. Have you heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma?"

"The what?"

Selric bit back a scoff of disgust. Uncultured, barbaric, slovenly...what kind of harebrained imbecile is unfamiliar with the Prisoner's Dilemma? It took him a second to suppress these thoughts, along with the urge to have Synapse murder the Elder with his greatsword, and affect a rather forced smile. "All right, let me put it in layman's terms. Forgive me for letting it slip my mind that you are, after all, a Zagy."

Ohohohoho, that one got the Elder's face turning purple. "It's quite simple, Triplex," Selric continued, "I have no choice but to trust my clients, and vice versa, because the only way we can both profit is if we both cooperate. As such, I suggest you grab onto the olive branch I'm extending, and clutch it like a drowning man, because it's getting late and I'd rather like a nightcap---"

"All right, all right!" spat the Elder. "I'll pay in full, just tell me what you know."

"How much?"

"Three hundred thousand."

"Five."

A flustered pause, then a sigh. "Fine. Five. It's transferring to your accounts as we speak."

Selric set his pipe down on a desk next to his ornate armchair (which stood in stark contrast to the plain chair he'd had brought for the Elder), and a servant removed it to refill the bowl. He smiled, rubbing his fingertips together and leaning forward. "A few hours ago, I happened to come across a brawl in the street."

"Go on."

"I believe you're familiar with the Gayue Family, correct?" It was a rhetorical question, mostly delivered for the benefit of seeing the Elder puff up with fury like a wrathful balloon. "Ah, good. One of them was assaulted and murdered by an OIS officer."

"And what, pray tell, does--"

"Patience, noble Trinity; good things come to those who wait. This OIS officer, which might interest you greatly, happened to have the very distinct facial features of a Zagy."

Said features, though they belonged to a different Zagy, furrowed with consternation. "Are you sure of this?"

"Oh, believe me, the Zagy have a very...distinct look, wouldn't you agree?" He managed to work more derisive contempt into that one sentence than he'd mustered in the entire conversation, much to his satisfaction and the Elder's fury.

"Is that all?"

"Mmhmm. Unless you have any questions, you can go, Oh Mighty Repeating Hexadecimal. Synapse and Influx, escort this gentleman to the front door."

=================================


Ten minutes later, he was happy as a clam. The Families would inevitably send scrubbed money through the account transfers, though he wasn't taking any chances and would have Cosmos and Logos go over each and every dollar since---

The buzzer sounded. Somebody was at the French doors.

Selric stepped back, and waved to his bodyguards. "Open them."

Stepping forward, Synapse took ahold of the left door's handle while Influx grabbed the right, and both pulled, keeping their eye on the front terrace, as the doors opened to reveal...a woman.

He raised an eyebrow. "Who are you?"

She stepped forward, coming a bit more into the light of the chateau, and for the first time Selric could see the dark purple shade of her waist-length hair...which contrasted with a very familiar uniform...

"Selric Girardot?"

Selric felt his heart speeding up just a little as she stepped closer. "....Yes?"

"You may address me as Anathema. I'm with the Organic Insider Service."

He knew that look anywhere.

This wasn't a woman. This was a damned gynoid.
linkpost comment

Everybody Loves A Parade [Jan. 31st, 2006|06:27 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

egamad
[Tags|, , ]

Our average friend had realized his abilities long ago. He was the friend and enemy of everyone. He had been a small-time drug dealer, giving the gift of spice-, spank-, and spug-induced oblivion. He had been an up-and-coming political revolutionary, hailing all the way from Dome 5. He had briefly joined his own revolution after staging assassination, before the heat became too much and he woke up with fewer living friends each day. He had worked as a merchant, selling under-the-counter guns that were little more than piping and wire.

Today, he was Ardum Cade, and he was rousing the rabble against the Atrox family. The cold urban sprawl of the Dome bred a people who were eager to latch onto whatever secondhand emotion they could find.

A crowd had formed around the stool Ardum was standing on. He waved a sign saying "DOWN WITH ATROX." He wondered how many of the mob could read it.

"Atrox," Ardum yelled, "is elevating itself beyond the status of mankind! The Machines are all around us. The last thing we need is their Atrox cronies breathing down our necks!" A surge of noise rose from the crowd. Ardum methodically scanned their minds. He slowed the pace of his speech to compensate for the distraction. Someone had to be feeling just the right mix of fear and disdain. Someone who thought he was wrong. Someone willing to start something...

Bingo.

A man far in the back felt loyalties to Atrox. The Family had lifted his parents out of poverty and moved them away from the gang violence on the streets. Beside him was a woman whose brother had been deemed a threat to Atrox and disappeared days later.

Continuing with his speech ("Atrox stands for the death of flesh!"), Ardum reached out to the man's mind. A mental tweak forced a thought to float through his head - I hate him. His face contorted into anger. "You're wrong," he shouted. "We would all be murdered in our beds if Atrox didn't keep us safe!" Ardum reached out again, to the woman this time. He made her think about her brother. Everything he had stood for. Everything she had lost. And finally, the icing on the cake. The slightest violent impulse. Ardum watched as she drew back her arm and delivered a punch to the man's jaw. He stumbled and thrashed back at her, hitting a group of fair-skinned street people. The crowd morphed into a surging mass of fists and elbows, and Ardum smiled inwardly as the street devolved into anarchy.
link1 comment|post comment

Stop Me If You've Heard This One, But A Man Walks Into A Bar [Jan. 22nd, 2006|07:22 am]
Infinity's Twilight

dak_anthel
[Tags|, , , , ]

There’s a little saloon, out by the Wall, that’s packed tight with patrons before most are ready for their morning coffee. It’s stuck face first between two housing districts, but you could walk right past it and you’d never know it was there. There’s no conspicuously placed alcohol permit, there’s no drearily painted sign. The doors wedged into the wall in the back corner of a dark alleyway and it never looks quite friendly enough to kill you quickly.

It’s a long walk.

You can get a stool there, if you wait long enough. And if you suck back enough sauce and buy enough drinks for the grizzled fuckers beside you they’ll get to talking. And if you’ve got an ounce of warm blood in you you’ll listen.

These guys, they’ll talk about the old days. They’ll talk about how it felt to hold a man-made semi-automatic. The rumble of the ground as explosives detonate. They’ll speak of Machines and Men, oil and blood, and how a good sharp knife and the right angle can get you out of any situation.

Stick around long enough and they'll get very quiet, and tell you what it was like to believe in something.

They’ll get real quiet, as if remembering takes some little fight out of them, and they won’t speak long. They’ve learned not to dwell on it. It hurts a bit to remember hope, and with that the memory of losing it.

That’s why the bar turns deathly quiet when I walk in. I don’t try to ignore the attention everyone lavishes on me. I’m not here to deal with these has-beens. Lionel comes in behind me and quietly clicks the door shut. I try my best to summon up some sort of image that will live up to their expectations, but all I can muster is a look of disappointed boredom. These guys never made a difference. They’ve got their stories and maybe collected a few pieces of shrapnel, and rest easy on their moral high ground. Well, here I am. She called me to this dank pissashit bar and I came. I look for her in the crowd. They’ve started the noise up again, but this time I know what they’re talking about.

In the escalating noise I hear a couple of chairs scrape as three men leave a round table, set far into the corner. I finally catch a glimpse of Sara, decked out in her flowery shawl and faded dress. I’ve got a lot of history with her. Thing about history though, it’s always in the past.

“Wait for me here.” Lionel mutters his acknowledgement and I stride over to her, all the while feeling their eyes shift and follow me to her table. She smiles, looking up from her drink. “Took you long enough, Xin. How are you doing?”

I cock a smile. “Security cams to black.

“What did you call me here for, Sara?” I try so hard to play it cool around her. All these years and all I can think about is her approval. But she’s not falling for it. “Straight to business? Xin, I haven’t seen you in months, I just want to know how you are.”

“Sara, I’m in danger every second I spend outside the sewers. I’m fine, you’re fine, neither of us has died yet. Please get to the point. There was a Matthias Zagy killed near Regent Park a while ago. I know you still keep in touch with Nielthunn, so tell me what you know.”

She started. “I didn’t know about Matthias! Oh, Ancestors! Xin, I just wanted to ask you about Niel’s new assignment… Please, Xin, tell me what happened.” She looked genuinely shocked.

But I just roll my eyes. “It’s Nielthunn, Sara. Why do you think? Matthias probably came looking for the Ancestor’s vengeance or some other idiocy. I’m still having my people look over it, but it seems pretty obvious to me.”

She slumped in her chair. I curse myself for being so insensitive. I knew Sara had played midwife to many a Zagy child before she came to Dome 9 with us, and I knew she cared for most of them very dearly, but Matthias was always a vicious little brat. He beat me every time he saw me. I couldn’t have been happier that he was dead… But I guess Sara had a place for every one of her babies, bigoted psychopaths or not.

I glance at Lionel, standing alone at the bar entrance. He’s getting nervous. That’s a sure sign to end this quickly. “Sara, I’m more than willing to answer your questions. Just tell me what Nielthunn’s up to.” She looks at her drink, untouched and warm now. She picks it up, and tries to take a sip. I can’t help but smile when she grimaces. “There’s an Abnormal loose. Niel and his partner have been tracking him for a bit, but it seems he’s…” Sara looks at me, dubious. “It looks like he channeling a powerful sort of magic, a—“

“Sara.” God, I hate it when she goes on about the Powers. “You know I don’t buy into that crap.” How many times has she tried to sell me this herbs and incense bull?

“Shajn Juron, I will tolerate your disrespect for the dead, I will tolerate your rudeness, and even your arrogance on occasion, but I will not have you ridicule my faith. Especially when it was those magics that saved your, and your mother’s life in the first place!”

“Sara, I’m not disrespecting or ridiculing anything! I’m just saying I. Don’t. Believe. In magic! How can you accuse me of ridiculing your faith when that is exactly what you are doing to mine?”

Oh no. That’s it for me. She’s giving me her evil eye. Man, just give me a Machine to fight ‘cause that’d be preferable to the scolding she’s going to give me.

“Shajn. If you’re going to continue doing what you’re doing, you need to realize there are forces that can help you. There are things out there that are more powerful than strength of will and a great big helping of luck. There are giants walking, and if Niel is on to something then it well may be that these giants are walking amongst us.”

“Then go and climb your beanstalk, Sara. But I doubt you’ll find anything more than a few clouds.” I rise to stand up, and she glares at me. I feel a little guilty. “It was good to see you, Sara. Tell Billy I said hello.”

She didn’t say anything, and I sighed and turned around. I almost jumped when Lionel was there. I hadn’t noticed him coming up to me. In fact, I had been pretty distracted by Sara’s tirade. I suddenly realized there was a huge tension in the room. And something, flickering in my mind. Something like a spark. Some like a… Like a…

Oh fuck.

The bar patrons were standing up, muttering and yelling curses and jeering at the figures at the door. Three OIS officers had come in, brandishing their softblades. The two metre Drone standing outside the door was clearly visible. It was pretty obvious what they were here for.

“Calm down, people. Your security cams have blacked out, so we’re going to check it out. You know the procedure; we’ve been here countless times before. No one has gotten hurt yet, and let’s keep it that way, all right? Everyone just slowly come up to the Drone and it’ll run you up. After that you barflies can go back to your drinks.”

Well, not so obvious, I guess. It made no difference, they were going to find me out. Lionel was stiff with panic, but you could barely see it on his face. “There's a situation here.” I gave him a look. He shut up.

Sara looked nervous. I surveyed the area looking for a way out. This place was a few beers away from being a rebellion outpost, damn it. There had to be some sort of backdoor!

Somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I figured Lionel had found something, but it was the bartender. Grizzled, apron’d, and still holding his glass and rag, he muttered close to my ear. “Behind the bar, there’s a small trap door.” He slowly walked past Lionel again, and after exchanging looks, we followed. I grabbed Sara by the arm as I passed her, and she held onto my arm as we made our way slowly across the floor.

“Hey! You! Line’s over here!”

Shit.

“Hey you! With the brown hair! And you, in the shawl! The scanning is over here. We want to get this over with. We know your history and we know your sentiments, but we’re not going to hurt you unless you give us a reason.”

That’s not very compelling...

The bartender looked at me. His eyes ran over my face, then moved to the group of old men, lining up to pay tribute to their Machine master.

His voice got real quiet.

“There isn’t a man in this bar who wouldn't give their life for you. Sir.” He reached into his apron and gave me a pistol. A six-shot revolver. “Run. And make sure you get farther than we did, long ago.” I must’ve made googly eyes at him, because he pulled me and Sara by our collars and flung us toward the bar.

“RUN!”

There was probably automatic gunfire as decades old stowaway weapons were pulled out, and the thump of limbs as they dropped to the floor, severed at the molecular level. Most undoubtedly there were old dreams firing up again, ancient passions rising to the surface. Maybe there could've been a glimpse of freedom there, in that dank, pissashit bar.

But I couldn’t see any of it.

I was too busy running.
linkpost comment

The Other Guy's Greed [Jan. 19th, 2006|01:46 am]
Infinity's Twilight
gaggedcenobite
[Tags|, , ]

Now wasn't this just fascinating.

Selric's mood had shifted in the last two minutes or so from thoroughly pissed off, to detachedly bemused, to interested, to full-on pleased as he watched several very engaging events transpire in an adjacent alley. Synapse and Influx had offered to step in and try to break up the fight, but far be it from him to deny the trash its natural right to take care of itself. Do what thou wilt, indeed!

However, after a couple seconds had passed, he began to notice things that proved capable of holding his attention outside of the perverse satisfaction of general violence. The aggressor, specifically the large, oafish man who seemed to be having some difficulty knowing when to stay down, wore a Gayue crest. Meaning he was a Keeper. Meaning a Gayue Keeper was getting in a street fight with...Selric couldn't be particularly sure, but he had features reminiscent of a Zagy. The Earl of Excess made it his business to keep tabs on most of the Families, and this one certainly seemed to match the facial characteristics. Plus, he had a softblade, meaning one of two things. It was possible the man was a criminal, and had taken the blade from an OIS officer...

...but that was a bit too unlikely for Selric's taste. He knew the immense risk that presented itself in doing something like that; one could be snapped back up by the authorities in mere hours. And so there was a single possibility left: a Gayue Keeper had just assaulted, and been murdered by, a Zagy who also happened to be an OIS officer (and who apparently had a posse with them, but those two were decidedly unremarkable and Selric figured they wouldn't bring him much of a price). And it all took place in the territory of the Atrox Family.

This was rich.

No, HE was rich. Certainly, both parties involved would want to hear about what had happened, and heaven knew the Atrox couldn't allow themselves to be overrun by street fighting between other, less-established groups.

"Synapse."

The thug snapped to attention. "Yeah, boss?"

For a second, Selric stroked the tip of his goatee, letting the hair play over the white of his opera gloves. It was a second spent in cautious, gauging rationale as the clockwork gears of his mind turned, powering a deviousness unmatched by any unfeeling machine. He had to get this just right...

"I want you to get find Cosmos and Logos. Send one of them to the Zagy and one to the Gayue, if you would be so kind, and inform whomever answers that I request an audience with one of their elders at my chateau. As soon as possible."

"Okay, boss," nodded Synapse, turning.

"At different times this time, you barbarous ox. I'd rather not juggle my engagements again."

"Yes sir."

"And when you're done giving them their orders, I want you to do the same with the Atrox. Sixth Elder, of course, my usual contact."

Synapse's retreating form gave a salute, and was almost immediately gone, having been conditioned to execute his orders promptly. "Very well then, Influx," Selric commanded with a snap of his fingers, "let us head home."

As they strode down the alley, quietly bypassing the aftermath of the carnage that had transpired close by, Selric gave a satisfied chuckle to himself; he was quite pleased with this new find. The Zagy, the Gayue, the Atrox, they were all insanely avaricious, like a primitive Moloch trying to stuff everything they could accumulate into their collective maw.

But if there was one law, the Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XXVII knew, they desperately needed to learn, it was a simple one: never underestimate the other guy's greed.
link3 comments|post comment

The Null Master And The Ex-Keeper Converse [Jan. 18th, 2006|10:32 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

Nielthunn stared at the moving corpse until the flame in its eyes flickered and went out. All of a sudden it was heavy and still, as corpses should be.

"Been shouting down far too many ghosts today...sorry. Are you alright?"

The man before Nielthunn was dark-skinned, his eyes white and sunken between the lines on his face. Idly looking down at the dying corpse under his foot, the null master returned Nielthunn’s gaze and simply responded, “I’ll live. You came at a good time... didn’t know that the OIS people still helped their own kind.”

Nielthunn sighed in a manner indicating that he was far too tired to get angry about anti-Machine sentiment. "Somebody's got to protect people from eachother. Nielthunn Zagy. And you are?"

The man before Nielthunn paused briefly, as if unsure of his own name, and watched the OIS man carefully, as if weighing his objectives. Finally, he replied, “Harlow Fisben. I’m just passing by... this man attacked me and my companion, we were just leav...”

He was interrupted in mid-sentence by the one woman who had watched the entire event unfold - Lish Gayue, a face Nielthunn all too well, was slowly approaching him, her hands held out to him. Her sunken, unearthly-looking eyes widened and startled, she walked forward slowly to the former Zagy, calling softly, “Benjy? Benjy?”

"You'll excuse me Mr. Fisben."
And with that, the OIS worker walked right past 'Harlow' to someone he hadn't seen in seven years. "Lish? Oh, oh man...where's Benjy? How are you here?" Hands met shoulders, and Niel looked her straight in her eyes.
How he wished he could see his brother's reflection in those eyes.

Her skin was cold, pallid like an anemia victim, and as she stared back at Nielthunn, comprehension dawned in her maddened eyes, and slowly, she stepped back from him.

“You’re... you’re not...” Her words were slow, almost slurred, and then her eyes widened once more with dawning recognition. “Oh god. Neil. Neil, you’re... we thought you were...”

"You thought I was?" He had to burst out with a chuckle. "You thought I was what? I thought you two were dead? Where did you run? What names -"
And then he stopped himself. He had to, or he'd just start asking questions and never stop. He was giddy, he was babbling, and he couldn't help it. Inhaling deeply, he calmed down. "What just happened, Lisha?" He turned to the man with yet another name.

"You protected her from him, didn't you?"

But the man who called himself Harlow just shook his head, and indicated to Lisha with his right hand. The former Gayue looked away now, away from Nielthunn, not responding to his questions. “I remember now. I remember everything.” Her face looked to the dark-skinned ‘Harlow’, for a brief moment, who was watching the exchange with rapt attention. He furrowed his brow, and took a step to her, but she retreated.

“No,” she whispered, looking away from him as well. “Don’t come any closer. I’m... no. I’m not. I can’t...” Her hand fumbled against where her heart was, and her breath became rapid, panicked. “This can’t be. I can’t be. It's all wrong.”

Her large eyes looked back to Niel again, and with both hands, she pressed his fingers against her neck. “Feel it. Do you feel it? There’s nothing. No pulse, it’s gone...”
Her voice choked at the last word, and she looked down, her shoulders shaking as her arm went to Nielthunn’s shoulder once more.

It takes him an eternity to realize it. Or ten seconds. He can't remember.

Niel stands there, confused, with his hand to her neck, and suddenly realizes that he's been conversing with a dead girl. And just as suddenly realizes he can't tell if she's been magicked. No smell, no Aspect, no hint.
And if she's dead, and waylaid by Gayue Keepers after her death, where is Ben...
Enough. This is going to take more talking than could be done on a street.

He shakes his head to clear his thoughts. The timing is bad enough - he needed to get back to Synthia and the investigation. "We'll talk about it in a second. Mr. Harlow, please help me deal with the body. I'll file a report and we can get some Forensics down here to deal with it. In the meantime, you two should stay right here."

“I’ll help with the body,” said Harlow quickly. “But if you don’t mind, I’d rather not be here when any machines arrived. I’m allergic to them - I hope you understand.” His eyes flicked to Lisha briefly as he spoke to Nielthunn, and though the man acted cool and confident, his eyes betrayed a second meaning in his words.
Lisha, meanwhile, looked down quietly at the body strewn on the ground, her eyes going back into a blank, detached gaze as she remembered who the man was before his death.

Just as before, Niel did not have the energy to worry about human dissent. People were not going to like them, and Niel accepted that. Hell, Niel didn't like them. He could spare Harlow his 'allergies'.

He pulled a little notepad and pen out. The notes actually had fields of entry and signature, and fine print at the bottom. A few seconds of scribbling and a rip, and Harlow suddenly found himself holding an official piece of paper.

"Harlow Fisben, you have just been temporarily deputized. Your duty is to ensure that no one disturbs the crime scene. Please inform all the worried people currently staring at us from their windows not to be concerned and that they should cooperate with authorities. I'll be right back, and then you can go."
A look full of questions was turned to Lish.
"We can talk then."
link2 comments|post comment

Marisen Steps In [Jan. 18th, 2006|09:04 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

Lish

Scared... that’s that’s what I feel. This man’s... here to harm, here to cause pain. To my friend, whoever he is. To me... to...

Run away.

No. Can’t... don’t want to leave him. Dog will... hurt ... him. Must not let him be hurt...

Wait. Wait, someone else has come. He’s confronting Dog... he’s...

Oh god. Oh gods. Oh god.

Ben?

Benjy? Is that you?

Ben...jyy...?

---

M

I let my mind rattle around in its skull for a good while until I started hearing something other than the ringing in my ears... voices, two of them. One of them I recognized, the arrogant boy Keeper and someone else’s, a deep, rusty tone which I was unaccustomed to hearing. I couldn’t place the voice, didn’t think I’d heard it before. Then again, I was in no shape to do anything soundly at that point.

Reluctantly, I tried to get up, willing my muscles to move. I had protected my head, but nonetheless, I wondered if I had gotten a bit of a concussion from the beating. In that case, it wouldn’t have been good to stand up just then. Nonetheless...

I turned my head, slowly, to watch the two. There was an argument building between the two, some sort of disagreement, and as events unfolded, I saw the newcomer pull out something unmistakeable, a warlike symbol of enforcement and technological superiority.

A softblade. The man was what they called an Organic Insider Security enforcer, for no other man would openly display such a weapon. A man who worked to keep the peace as much as could be done in these troubled times... but nonetheless, still a henchmen to the mechanical powers that be.

A stalemate. And then the OIS man glanced over to his right, briefly, and looked back, said something else, couldn’t make it out. More words exchanged...

And before I knew it, the Keeper was charging this newcomer. Stupid... stupid thing to do, but nonetheless he was moving very fast. Events unfolded... as they did, I tried to get up, slowly, moving to rest on my stomach and push myself up. My head hurt like crazy, but I managed to get up to a kneeling position while my eyes refocused. Time seemed to be inconsequential as I came to my senses, but as I stood up, I heard a sickening noise of a softblade finding flesh, and turned back to the fight scene unfolding.

Fast work. There was a hole in the bald man’s head, and his right arm was detached, but nonetheless he remained standing... no, lurching, going towards the OIS man even in death.

I wondered if my head was in any shape to do null mage-work. It would be tricky, but if I started on something small... something that might unbalance this new walking dead man. Calmly, I switched perceptions as I watched the dead Keeper continue walking, his back to me, and as I did so, I got a glimpse of all the strings and dots that made up his physical form, all the things that bound him together to the molecular level. I searched his lower body, trying to concentrate enough to focus...

And found it. A fracture, just between his ankle and heel. It would do. If I could just...

Concentrate. Focus. Reach out to it. Unravel it... pull the string, and the deterioration would do the rest.

I switched back to my regular perception, and as I did so, I watched with some satisfaction as the dead thing fell to the ground with a grunt, briefly trying to stand on the stump where its left foot had been and faliling, unbalancing, hitting the ground with a thud. Nonetheless, it continued to crawl towards the OIS man, who was backing away from it, and looking at me. I could feel him looking at me, but I didn’t return the gaze. Instead, I caught up with the crawling dead body, went to its right, and put a foot down below its neck as I drew the short sword hidden in my jacket.

Looks like I needed a weapon after all. Silently thanking the late Librarian, I watched the head writhe and twist for a moment, trying to resist me, before I aimed carefully and stabbed the blade into its neck, half-severing it in the process.

That would’ve been enough to kill a living man, severing the spinal cord to its brain, but this was no longer a living thing. I saw the red fire in its eyes still, and I cringed somewhat, looking back at the OIS man before me. “Any ideas?” I asked wearily, feeling suddenly tired by all this. As I asked, I pressed further down on the dead thing's neck, and glanced briefly towards the dead girl, the one that our foe called ‘Lish’...
link1 comment|post comment

A Minor Scuffle [Jan. 18th, 2006|01:00 am]
Infinity's Twilight

radicaltaoist
[Tags|, , , ]

Now, if someone told you that only fools and Keepers try to rush a man armed with a softblade with no weapons of their own, you may come to the conclusion that all Keepers are fools. That's not perfectly fair. To try anything but swift suicide by OIS, you need to be very fast, and very strong. This is to compensate for the fact that you have nothing to block the blade with. If you can also ignore things like going into shock, massive blood loss, pain, and its foul kin, then that helps. Healing wounds very quickly doesn't hurt. If you're a Keeper carried on the power of your Ancestors, you can have all those things.

The problem is, it's hard to compensate for a lack of technique. I could tell by the way he tried to jump me; his posture screamed "Watch! I think I know how to surprise you! See the bending in my knees?" The punch was sad, a melancholy clown's act; a roundhouse with enough space open in front of him to set up a concessions stand there. The man had obviously learned to fight with the advantage of speed and strength supernaturally bestowed, and did not know anything about reach or stance or follow through. I drew my softblade and cut his right arm off.

That's actually an exaggeration of my actions. He was moving too fast for his own reflexes. I merely had to draw the blade, hold it in front of me, and walk through his attack. Not even the slightest hint of resistance; it caught him a few inches above the elbow. At the speed we were going, I didn't even get a drop of blood on me; what little was on my softblade shimmered like oil on dirty water and came off in a subtle mist.

I turned to survey my handiwork and his left hook caught me on the side of my head. I was expecting it enough to react properly: a removed arm was only a speed bump to a Keeper in a combat frenzy. I turned just enough so that it didn't strike me right on the temple, and rolled with the blow, flipping into a breakfall that left me face up on the ground. It looked like he'd floored me so hard I somersaulted, and I played possum. The arm was just a test, a question; I was asking if he was willing to not force me to kill him, and it appeared the answer was "no". I waited for him to prepare a kick so I could take his leg off at the hip.

And then he did something really stupid.

He turned around - I still wonder what possessed him to have his back to me - and knelt to pick up his severed arm. He was reattaching it - his Ancestors' healing magic meant the muscles could reknit, and the bone join. The stupid part was not making sure I stayed down. I don't know if he heard me roll to my feat, or his Ancestors yelled at him to stop being stupid, but he was just able to turn around, holding his ruined arm to his side, for me to bury my softblade in his forehead.

Up to the hilt.

I hit him fast and moved right by, the blade coming out with not a hint of getting stuck. Grey matter didn't cling to the softblade any better than blood, and I had only a little on my sleeve. Healing magic only went so far. As I turned, I noticed that he had not fallen over yet, but stood in a slumped position.

Then he turned to me, and the fires of Reanimation danced from his eyes.

Now, I thought, the fight begins to get interesting.
link3 comments|post comment

Hello There, Ugly [Jan. 18th, 2006|12:54 am]
Infinity's Twilight

radicaltaoist
[Tags|, , , , , ]

One great thing about physical violence - it catches the attention wonderfully. I was lost in my head as I walked down the alleys. Sara's gift had held my attention since I'd left the hospital. I held my hand to my shirt and felt it through the fabric. It would tell me were to go, but I didn't know how, and I definitely didn't want to miss any cues. I was more or less oblivious to the outside world.

That was, right up until I heard a woman's cry through gritted teeth and the sound of fist on flesh. I turned to see a man shrug a girl aside and continue at what he was doing, which was punching a prone man in the face. I stared for a good amount of time until something clicked upstairs. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be the law, aren't I?

"Hey...Hey! Get off him!"

The Keeper looked up, and noticed there was a man running in his direction who didn't seemed pleased with the general practice of beating men to death on the street. This didn't impress him much.

"Do you know what this is?" His expression communicated dire results for anyone who stated an obvious beating. "This is Gayue business. Which means it's not your business. So go to Hell."

I noticed the family crest he wore and had to fight a reflexive curling of the lip. I'd been taught to hate those guys since I was six. I had to admire one thing about Benjamin: he'd been able to see through that. My little brother never failed to impress me.

"You let me worry about what's my business. Just step away from the man."

Something came over his look. He stood up, although not moving away from the prone man. I watched to see if he would ready for a kick. His legs did not move, but his expression moved from anger to a deeper suspicion and hatred. I figured it out in a flash: he'd recognized the family features.

"You're looking awfully Zagy. A little too Zagy for my tastes." There was the smell of ghosts about him. The crest meant he was a Keeper; and I figured his Ancestors were urging him on towards the kill. I was really not having a good day with Keepers.

"Don't concern yourself with that." I waved my hand and grimaced. At least he was stepping away from the man and the young woman, who looked oddly familiar. "I was...excommunicated."

He laughed, an ugly sound. "What scum would even the Zagys kick out? Gotta wonder." And now he started to advance. It was a show of intimidation, and I could see how he was drawing on his ancestors to call up fear and try to force it into my head, like some demonic package. It was a sad attempt; if you know the trick you're immune. "Do you know, little Zagy, how big Gayue is in this dome?"

At this point my patience sizzled and evaporated. If this idiot wanted to play with fire, I could show him my torch collection. "Not that big. Not as big as Atrox, and not so big that they'll let you beat a man's head in on their territory. But that doesn't matter, because no one's as big as the Machines," at this point, I drew my jacket aside and his eyes widened at what it revealed, "and I'm with the Machines."

In full view was the polyetherene sheath. Only Machines can put together the material, and it's the only thing we know of that can stop softblades. The handle of mine protruded from the sheath, its bent slightly in the direction of the Gayue thug, as if wagging a finger at him while telling him how deep in trouble he was. If you had a softblade, you were OIS. If you weren't, then you'd stolen one from an OIS worker, and were a dead man. The Machines gave us all little plastic identity cards, but I'd never bothered to flash mine; not enough impact. You couldn't cut a man in half with an identity card.

At this point he smarted up, began to calculate. This was good. I'd been having a poor day and was all too willing to share it. "You don't need to worry about this," he offered, scanning and cautious. Now he was looking for wriggle room. "Just let me leave with her. This isn't a Machine problem."

I remembered that the other two; namely, the young woman. She was a safe distance away, just out of his reach. On one hand, she wanted to get near the prone guy; on the other, she didn't want to get too close to the Gayue enforcer. It was the general demeanour of the puppy trying to steal a bone from between the paws of a much older and grouchier relative.

And then suddenly I recognized who she was.

I nearly fell over. The questions nearly bowled me over, and crushed me under the weight of seven years; of worry and concern pushed aside by work and drink. Where did they go? How did they hide? What names did they assume? Where was Benjamin now? And why wasn't he with her now, while her family's Keepers were trying to drag her back? The man on the floor wasn't my little brother, not even disguised, and so the connotations of that last question had me gritting my teeth until my jaw ached.

I remembered the Gayue was watching me. He was analysing, wondering why I'd reacted so to her sight. That told me a lot; they'd never suspected that one of the Zagys would have aided her and her lover in the tryst, and been thrown out and spat upon for his loyalty to his brother.

I did not ask the questions. What I did was pull myself upright and turn to a professional tone. "You are under arrest for charges of assault, battery, and attempted kidnapping. If you cooperate you may be turned over to Organic law enforcement instead of - " was as far as I got before he rushed me.
link1 comment|post comment

Rumination [Jan. 17th, 2006|10:30 pm]
Infinity's Twilight
gaggedcenobite
[Tags|, , ]

Wine, really, was all he would settle for.

None of this synthesized alcohol bullshit the machines spoon-fed humanity to keep it complacent and gentle as a mewling kitten. No, sir, the high-end restaurants at which he dined knew that the Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XXVII would not be satisfied with anything but fine, well-aged, vineyard-pressed, legitimate wine. And so it was that, having finished his meal, he found himself sipping from a stem-necked glass of sweet Pinot Noir, letting the punch of the delectable beverage scorch through his veins.

It was a sensation a machine could never feel, something he'd revel in holding over their heads if the pathetic, soulless Molochs actually had enough vision to appreciate it. The very sensation was poetic in nature, almost embarrassingly poetic, and yet he found a measure of frustration and malice taking away from his enjoyment of it. That blasted girl - no, that wasn't a girl, that was a thing - had thoroughly unsettled and annoyed him, both from a professional and personal perspective. If he was to bother setting up shop in some other part of the dome, he'd have to move all the girls, all the paperwork, Synapse, Influx, everything---and then who knew? The OIS might just decide they were done there and move on the next day, and he'd have to move it all back. But if he didn't move, he could be missing out on possible opportunities that could have been capitalized on elsewhere.

Most frustrating.

Selric murdered the remaining dregs in his glass and poured himself a new one from the bottle at his private table; the management was always quite willing to provide him with as much as he wanted. His thoughts wandered from business back to that damnable horde of circuits and wires, devoid of any true sentient being. Ugh. How he hated machines, and worst of all was the fact that his hatred did no good. Humanity certainly couldn't overthrow their enslavers - certainly, some of them had weapons, most of which were illegal (Selric's included), but he was no fighter, and neither was the general population - but then again, most of them could rot under the titanium fist, for all he cared. These fools made their captors, put the tools into their hands with which humanity could be subjugated, and then expected random chance to fall in their favor? Fools, fools! It boiled his blood just thinking about it.

He pushed his chair back abruptly, rose to stand next to the table, and snapped his fingers. "Waiter."

A flunky hurried up to him, trying to fake a smile at the sight of the establishment's best-paying patron in a bad mood. "Yes sir?" he asked, amazingly maintaining a decent semblance of cordiality, and was rewarded with a heavy tip.

"Put it on my tab," ordered the Sublimely Magnificent One, and with that, he headed for the door.

The tap-tapping of his cane on the tile floor echoed over the entire restaurant, but Selric most certainly didn't care. Let them all hear. Let the world hear, and be damned to them, every last one of these machine-enabling bastards. He pushed the door open and stepped out into the street, waiting for Synapse and Influx to show up and escort him back to the chateau.

The lingering aftertaste of the meat was still fresh on the back of his tongue. Selric found himself darkly wondering, had it been a synthetic's flesh, if it would've tasted any sweeter.
linkpost comment

The Manufactured Man [Jan. 17th, 2006|05:25 am]
Infinity's Twilight

egamad
[Tags|, , ]

Dome 9. A sound resonated as the fist of an Organic struck a three-foot by seven-foot sheet of thick steel. The sound went all through a cramped single-room apartment. The sound drew a sleepy man to the door. Five feet, nine inches tall. Brown hair kept smartly around three inches, brown eyes, tan skin. Fair features, but not handsome. The only word that could capture this being was “average.”

The Average Man pulled the door open. There was a heavyset red-haired man on the other side. The Average Man gasped in surprise - he had a knife.

The red-haired man lunged forward, wildly slicing at the air. Jolting awake, the Average Man threw his own body aside, getting away from the path of the deadly metal.

Tick.

The assailer jabbed forward again. This time the knife found flesh. The Average Man gritted his teeth, ignoring the pain in his leg, and found his own knife in his belt. It came free.

Tick.

The red-haired man made a horizontal swing, but the Average Man stopped his arm in mid-action. The Average Man brought down his knife towards the red-haired man’s shoulder, but he grabbed the arm of the Average Man.

Tick.

Stalemate. The red-haired man tried to push forward, but the Average Man held his ground. He focused on the red-haired man’s body. He felt every particle with his mind. He focused in on the arms, hands, then fingers. Ten of them. He wrapped his mind around each individual bone and squeezed...

Chime.

The red-haired man screamed. His knife fell out of his crushed fingers. Maintaining his concentration, the Average Man lifted his attacker into the air and sent him forcefully into a chair. The metal of the chair groaned in protest as the frame of the chair warped and the four legs wrapped themselves around his body, restraining him. The Average Man reached towards the door with his mind and closed it.

“Now,” he said. “Explain yourself.”

The red-haired man choked back a sob. “I know what you are. I’ve been watching you. You’re a Machine under that flesh. I was wondering if you would bleed.”

The Average Man looked at his left leg, where red coolant was soaking through his pants. “You’re the third to see through my artificial heartbeat. What tipped you off?”

“You’re magnetic.”

The Average Man sighed. “I guess we can’t all be Organic.”

A look of hate shot through the red-haired man’s eyes. “That name you call us is disgusting. One day you’ll all be up against a wall. We’ll tear you apart with the knives you gave us. There’s no light where there’s machines!”

“Your mistake is thinking that I want to see you dead. Unlike you, I can exist between the border of Machine and Organic. Unlike you, I know that as long as my secret stays safe, I’ll be on the winning side. Did you tell any others?”

The red-haired man spat at the Machine in front of him. “I’d die before talking.”

The Average Man focused on the Organic again, this time on his hands. Another squeeze forced a wrenching scream out of the man’s lungs. “I didn’t, I didn’t,” he whimpered.

“That’s good. You know, there’s a security camera in this room. The Machines have seen everything that happened. You tried to destroy one of them today. You have been tagged as a rebel. If I let you go, the OIS will track you down and kill you, and if you're lucky, you might tell a few people my secret before you go down. But you also tried to kill an Organic. That means that I am entitled to appropriate self-defense.”

The Average Man lifted his arm, the blade of his knife catching the glint from the artificial sunlight just before it came swiftly down and exercised its Machinegiven right, slicing through the red-haired man’s throat.

Just like the last two.
link3 comments|post comment

Conflict With A Keeper [Jan. 15th, 2006|08:30 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

As swift as his passing was, I was grateful for what the Librarian had given me. Not only had he pointed me in a new direction, a place to follow beyond gut instinct, but he’d banished that one damaging feeling that had been following me like a cursed shadow – doubt.

The way I see it, there’s more than one kind of intelligence in the world. There’s mental intelligence – reasoning, working out mathematical problems, working out puzzles and the like. And then there’s instinctual intelligence, the kind that I was following all along – a feeling in your body that something was wrong, and letting that lead you. Null mages, dusters, all gotta have instinctual intelligence – it’s the guiding force that helps us pick out the cracks in material fabric, the sense that helps us reach tiny invisible fingers into the chinks of atoms and pull it apart bit by bit. It was the only way I could have known of the weirdness going on in the fabric of the universe, and the fact that some part of my mind doubted it was logical enough. The lerft hand really didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

And as I led the dead girl down familiar passageways of dark sewers and grimy sidewalks, I realized that whatever the strength of my resolve now, I still had to think this all through. Time was of the essence, but if I kept moving like this without any forethought, I figured I’d lose my edge. I had somewhere solid to go now, something that was no longer a matter of instinct, and I decided that whatever the danger, it was time to lay low. I’m only human, after all.

The aching muscles in my tired old body seemed to agree as well, and though the dead girl gave no sign of exhaustion, I wondered if there was a limit to her stamina as well. We took a break for a bit, ate some of the spare food we scrounged up from my dead mentor’s place, the darkness hugging us like some kind of overstretched garment. I should correct that last bit, actually - she didn’t eat, I did, though I tried offering some to her.

All she did was just shake her head mechanically and answer, “I’m not hungry,” and I continued on.

Food weren’t the only thing we brought with us from that one place my master called home. In his store rooms of stuff I found a gleaming blade, a short sword of quality you really don’t see these days in current self-defence arnaments. My master had a thing for concealable blades, something I couldn’t fathom having myself but nonetheless appreciated in him. I took it with me - I didn’t figure that a weapon would do much good on the road I travelled, but I guess I wanted something to remember him with. Undergrounders never keep pictures of themselves, for obvious reasons.

There was one destination I was dead-set on now - a small bar, designed to look marginally like one of those bright little seaside coffee shops you used to see way back when - I’m talking about a time centuries back, of course. That was back when culture weren’t being downtrodden like it is now, and when clean atmosphere actually existed. The owners of the bar liked to try keeping the place looking authentic - that meant that there weren’t no security cameras or photo ID, and the machines kept their distance, like they had developed a 6th sense in respecting the privacy of outcasts.

I was glad to see that not much had been changed, though, when we finally climbed out of that dank underground in a tiny alleyway and tiptoed four blocks through abandoned and broken homes to our destination. Signs of Life was a tiny respite of sanctuary in the midst of urban desert and festering gangland, a place where food was actually pretty good and had comfortable surroundings which didn’t suddenly erupt into sporadic bouts of gang violence - the owners knew how to take care of their store.

I had ordered a herbal tea - real stuff, not the pre-packaged synthesized kind - and found a good spot with the girl near the corner of the room, where we could look out the window at what passed as daily weather in our giant bubble of a world. I took my time sipping the stuff, feeling like I’d come back to something that most resembled home, while the dead girl looked beyond my shoulder and around the room with those blank eyes of hers, detached but searching, her doe-like face framed by brown hair cut to her shoulders that swished around when she moved. She must have been beautiful, once, before the pallor of cold death washed her skin white and made her eyes sink so they looked perpetually tired.

We said nothing, and for a while, I dozed a bit, for once actually feeling comfortable without any cameras around. I must have clocked half an hour’s rest or so when I felt an urging tug on my jacket sleeve. I woke up quickly to stare into two frightened eyes and heard the dead girl speak - “We have to go.”

Her gaze wasn’t on me - it was past my shoulder, looking at the entrance from behind me, occasionally looking back to me to spur on the sense of urgency and alarm building inside my gut. I looked to where she was looking, carefully, not wanting to attract attention to myself by being overly cautious.

It was a man, a Keeper of all things, one of the kinds that used ancestral magic - the only non-metallics out there with any solid, official position of power. There was no hair on his head, he was bald, wearing a jacket with his Family insignia on his breast pocket - one that I didn’t immediately recognize. He hadn’t seemed to notice us. Walking with him was another man, not of his Family... not a Keeper at all. He dressed like a businessman, and went along with the look by carrying a black briefcase in his right hand.

I felt no immediate sense of danger. They took up a table at the far corner of the room, using the café as a speakeasy to arrange some sort of deal. But the girl kept tugging on my sleeve, urging me to attention. I turned to her, curious now. What was it about the two men that frightened her like this?

“You know those men?” I asked, trying to pull her hand off my sleeve. Her fingers held on regardless, as tight and unbendable as rigor mortis.

“Those men,” she repeated, staring at them with - with what? Fear? Revulsion? And then once more, she added, “We can’t stay here. We have to go.”

“Okay, okay,” I said, holding up my hands to soothe her. “Let go of my sleeve. We’ll go out the back way. No trouble.” I finished what was left of the homegrown tea, cooled down now after being left for too long, and took the girl’s wrist in my left hand as she unhooked her fingers from my jacket. It would be easy - I’d go over, pay the money owed for the tea, we’d leave by the back door, say goodbye to whoever this Keeper was that got the girl so wild like this.

But nothing in this world ever truly goes the way we’d want it to go.

As I left the credit cash on the counter for the host of the café, I saw the bald Keeper stand up - stare straight at the dead girl beside me with a look of unconcealed shock. As I led her to the door, his eyes turned to me, and I locked his gaze for one brief, heated moment, before turning my back to him and walking calmly out the back door, taking the girl with me.

There’s an important safety rule for dealing with angry Keepers - never try to outrun them, ever. They’ll find you, no matter what you do or where you go. Another rule to abide by is to never turn your back to them, unless you have the situation under control. I was far from being in control at that point, but it would’ve been no good to rile up the locals of one of my more frequented spots in Dome 9. I did the only sensible thing that was available to me - I took it outside, like the quintessential bartender would have wanted me to.

We hadn’t covered too much ground walking when the bald man emerged from the back door in pursuit after us. “Lish!” I heard him yell after us, and soon after I heard the padding of running feet. As I turned to face him, I got a better look at his face.

Were it not for his clothes, I could have easily mistaken him for some common inner-dome thug - the thin rise of stubble over his chin, the earring, the way his green eyes bore into mine with murderous ferocity. I recognized the insignia on his jacket now - Gayue, one of the more prominent Families in Dome 9, the movers and shakers amid some of the more undesireable elements in human society.

If the dead girl had somehow gained the ire of this set of Keepers, I was in for trouble down the road.

Then he said something, far from any taunt or threat I would have expected from him - “Let go of my sister.”

I felt the dead girl’s arm slip out of my hand and watched her recoil from him, backing away slowly like a a defensive animal. I turned away from her and looked back at her supposed bald-headed sibling, whose eyes had turned to her briefly, and then back to me.

“She’s supposed to be dead,” he said with venom in his voice. “What are you doing with her? Who are you?”

“It doesn’t look like she wants to talk to you,” I said in a blithe sort of manner. I was trying to gauge him, figure out his agenda. A crowd of curious people was starting to gather around us.

With a scowl, he pushed me back and looked to the girl, still looking like a terrifed animal being backed into a corner. “’Lish,” the bald man said softly as he went forward, “It’s time to come home. The whole family’s worried about you. Come on, let’s leave this place.”

“Don’t come any closer,” she whispered. Her eyes didn’t look doe-eyed anymore - there was something ferocious in them, an aggression that I didn’t see earlier. I wasn’t intent on seeing what might come after if she were further provoked, so I put a hand on the bald man’s arm.

“Easy,” I spoke, looking at him with what I hoped was a more neutral expression. “There’s obviously something about you that’s bothering her. Why don’t we just back off a little, talk this over--”

“Take your hands off me, you devil-spawned unraveller,” he spit, alluding to my arcane trade, and as he took a hand out of his pocket I heard the distinct click of a switchblade. This was quickly getting out of hand, and I had never gotten lessons on how to diffuse a riled-up Keeper (short of bolting like a hare, which contradicted with the rules anyway).

Nonetheless, he was acting like an arrogant thug, and as my patience waned I felt an increasing desire to show him how just how far an attitude like that could take him.

I leaned my head around to look at the weapon behind him. It was a wicked thing, sharp and polished, something that a man like him would take special care of. I concentrated on the blade first - finding a tiny crack in its metallic sheen that I could make a wedge into - and as he raised the thing in warning I pulled it open. With satisfaction, I watched as the blade eroded and disapeared, becoming more than fine sand sprinkling down the bald man’s hand.

He looked down at the blade handle as it happened, the only remnant of his beloved dagger. Judging by his reaction, he hadn’t realized that I was a null master.

“That was your blade I just destroyed,” I said matter-of-factly, stepping back from him. “Your fingers go next, if you’re not more careful in your conduct with strangers.”

But the man was more stupid than I would have given him credit for. That’s the problem with the stubborn - they won’t be mollified, they just get angry. I was ready for the punch that he aimed at my stomach, side stepping it, but I was no brawler, and the second blow landed against my chin, making me stagger backward with a hand to my jaw.

They say that only the guilty fall with one blow. As the third punch went to my temple and my shoulder met with concrete, I thought about that saying, reflecting on my past sins as the world turned into a blur above me. I could hear a woman yelling something, see pale hands on his jacket pulling the bald man back as he lifted his fist for another whack at me.

With fading concentration, I looked toward the raised hand and fervently searched for the neccesary fracture...

(posted as a cliffhanger so that Nielthunn gets to do something)
link4 comments|post comment

Enter the Rebellion, Stage Right [Jan. 9th, 2006|08:16 am]
Infinity's Twilight

dak_anthel
[Tags|, , , ]

“All weapons shipments for this month have been intercepted by Machine patrols. Several units between Sector-419-KA and the market have been compromised. Machine and OIS activity within these regions has increased in the last two weeks.” Lionel turned to Shajn, away from the crude chalk-drawn map on the damp basement wall.

Smoothly rolling a fresh cigarette, Shajn didn’t bother looking up from his desk. “Something’s up,” he said casually.

“Something’s up,” echoed Lionel’s monotonous voice.

Shajn lifted the bundle of paper and tobacco to his lips and the flare of a match broke the silence between the two for a second, before the flame was smothered with a hissssss by Shajn’s callused fingers.

A breath, dragging thick musky oxygen through a filter of dried weeds and ashes and then another breath of smoke. Shajn savored the taste, and allowed the menthol to settle on his tongue and in his throat, feeling it burn and soothe and the nicotine that felt good to be in him again. He takes another long drag and pushed out from his desk, standing.

Lionel watched as Shajn adjusted the lonely light on his desk and walked over to the wall. Dressed ever casually, Shajn’s appearance was one deception of many when it came to who he really was. As he poured his eyes across the map, tracing his fingers along key routes, Lionel stepped back and made his way quietly out of Shajn’s bare office.

Shajn Juron has lead the Dome 9 cell of the Machine resistance for four months and in that time has had an unprecedented rate of mission success. He surfaced and climbed on top of the chain of command after six months of service and has since become renowned throughout the underground. Lionel could tell he didn’t enjoy the attention much. It made things difficult. But there was nothing to be done.

It’s just what happens when you give people hope.

Even now, as Lionel winded his way around the soldiers and the new recruits, he saw it. Yanking open a rusty filing cabinet, and sorting through various incident reports, Lionel watched a boy running through slimey water with his sister. Their mother watched them from a step, a stray torch lighting all their faces. They were squatting in the filth beneath the dirtiest Machine sewer, treated to a life that made Machine prisons seem preferable and still, Lionel saw something in them. Vigor. Hope. Life.

Some of these people have started dreaming again.

And Lionel saw these people and he couldn’t help but feel a bit of that hope himself. But his face hardened and he slammed the cabinet shut and strode briskly back to Shajn’s office.

There was no room for emotion in the rebellion. No room for anything save cold, calculating Machine logic. That was Lionel’s use, and that’s why Shajn pulled him through the ranks with him.

Lionel played Shajn’s straight man, and he did it well.
link2 comments|post comment

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends [Jan. 4th, 2006|11:52 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

radicaltaoist
[Tags|, , , ]

"Excuse me sir, can I help...Niel?"

Billy paused for a moment, as if he wasn't sure. I had to give the kid a raised eyebrow. I'd known his mother before he was born, and he had difficulty recognizing me? "No Billy, I'm his uncle out to kill him. I don't look that much older, kid. Is your ma here?"

The young man smirked at the sarcasm. "Good to see you too, gramps. What you here for?"

I fingered the piece of paper in my pocket, and wondered what she would know about it that I didn't.

"A question for Sara, about a spell. I won't be long."

"Oh, the mumbo-jumbo? Figures." He shrugged. "She's in Maternity right now, like always. Her shift actually ends in fourty-five minutes. I'll tell her you're around; wait here." Splendid, more waiting. Well, it wasn't like Synthia was going anywhere.

He took off, white uniform against white walls. Billy had been Sara's exact opposite in personality, and had no interest in magic. I was probably the only one surprised when he chose to follow Sara into the medical professions. He certainly resembled her enough in looks; same long lines of the face, same red hair she used to have. Sara'd work the maternity wards till she died, and her arts could make that a long time from now; personally I was waiting until he started to gray in the hair just to see if people would start mistaking him for his mother. That would be amusing.

"You're thinking of something funny, Niel. What's with the grin?"

I started suddenly, then exhaled deeply. She always did this. "Ancestors' mercy, Sara, could you not sneak up on me like that? Next time you'll send me to the cardiac ward."

"Good thing you're always calling on me at the hospital; not far to go." The older woman chuckled. She was old enough to my aunt, and yet I looked like her older brother. Damn.

"Your concern is touching as always, Sara. Life treating you well enough?"

She started to walk towards her ward, I followed. "Oh I've been enjoying a lovely day at work, with the babies, clean deliveries all around. Then some grizzled OIS bastard walks and comes asking me question about magic for an investigation. Don't try to deny it Niel; it's not my birthday or Billy's, and you're too uptight to be on vacation. What Machine business do you want me to help you with now?"

"How do you read me like that?" I shook my head. "I might as well have signs on my forehead. I'm pursuing a suspect; he used some impressive spells to give us the slip so far."

Sara stopped cold and gave me a look. She was one of many old friends who did not approve of my line of work. "Nielthunn Zagy, please tell me you are not so stupid as to try and ask me to help you turn in one of the few walkers on my Path to your silly tin cans."

I shook my head again, not grinning this time. "Certainly, Sara, I'm not that stupid. Honest. He's not the source, and we don't know what source he's channelling. We're not even sure if he knows the source. And personally, I don't think he's channeling it - it may be acting independent of him."

She began to walk on. "You're pulling my leg, Niel. Not one of the Powers Recorded could pull off something like that. Come on, we'll see in my office."

We'd arrived at the maternity ward. As we entered, she turned to a little bureau by the door. Wetting her index finger on her tongue, she dipped it into a little bowl full of red powder and made a mark on the centre of a wooden symbol carved into the bureau desk. The symbol was that of a motherly woman, in long robes, with her hands held out; red stained her palms where Sara had obviously marked them numerous times before. She was at the centre of a circle, surrounded by symbols from old languages. The mother-circle symbol appeared on numerous bits of paper stuck to the walls of the ward, and sometimes appeared on the few charms hung from the ceiling. They were adorned with bits of herbs, twigs, animal fur, berries, cloth scraps, and inks and powders of many different colors. As we walked through the maternity ward, several times she walked into the nurseries to check on her charges, cooing and smiling. I wasn't going to stop her. She was the most maternal person I know. Through the glass, I could see each crib had its own personalized little charm.

I knew what her charms and wards were capable of. Many called her a superstitious old biddy, but in all the time I knew her Sara had never lost a single child in her care, nor a single mother to childbirth. Premature births, delivery by surgeries, defects, illness, it didn't matter. Dome 9's central hospital was a good place to have babies.

Eventually we came to her office. The door, desk, and chair were all wood. She sat down, bid me the same, and turned to me. "Very well, Niel. Tell me what great and terrible magic your criminal has to keep the Machines trembling at night."

"First off, he's run for hours, at a ridiculous speed. I can't give you numbers but no one's in that kind of shape."

"And what if he was channeling his family? I hate to pick at old wounds, but you used to be quite impressive." She looked apologetic; I waved it off.

"Ancestral magic can't make a man invisible to Machine cameras. And it can't help a man survive for days, possibly longer, on the Outside. We have evidence he's done both."

She scoffed. "Nonsense! There's no magic that can do that, period. Those kind of charms are lost. And you said he escaped. Are you going to tell me he vanished into thin air?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. A spell of vanishing was cast. Teleportation, phasing - I don't know. He's just gone and we don't know where or how." I reached into my pocket.

"Oh please. You could craft and channel for longer than I've been alive and not have the power to cast a spell like that. Are you sure he didn't irritate some null master?"

"No dust, Sara. And it smelled like your kind of magic."

"Hah. I think you're just - " and there she was cut off as she caught the Scent of the Power that had been marked on the piece of paper I found, that I was holding out to her. A few seconds, and she suddenly jerked away from it as though I was holding a viper. She studied it for a few seconds more, eyes narrowed, and gave me a questioning look. I held it out to her, gesturing, and she took it with trembling hands.

"...Heavens, Niel! Was this Touched directly?"

"Just on the street corner, Sara."

"Impossible! But...it's strong, Niel! Too strong. And just a bystander object too! There's nothing like this left - this casting came from one of the Old Sources. It's Name and Aspect are lost to our records." She examined it a while longer. "I'm sorry, but I don't know where or what your fugitive's source is."

"You can, however, help me look." Here I tried to appeal to her soft side. It didn't help.

"And why, tell me, might I help you apprehend someone who could explain to me magic like I have not seen in all my years?"

"Because you are a curious old woman, Sara, and you would love to see your path come back into some of the power it used to have, and you know that I would tell you everything I found out, Machine orders be damned."

She raised an eyebrow at me. "Now who's reading who, Niel?"

"Please, Sara."

She sighed, and turned to her desk. Out she pulled a little cloth pouch. She bid me wet my finger with my saliva, dip it into some blue powder, and mark the inside of the pouch with it, after which she did the same with some white powder. Into the pouch she put a small feather, broken in half, some herbs, and little stone that glittered. Then she took needle and thread, and carefully sewed it shut. Putting away her charm ingredients and sewing tools, she brought the pouch close to her lips, and I could barely hear her whisper the invocation.

"I humbly beg for his right to search for you, in my name."

Looking suddenly tired, she handed me the pouch. "Keep that close to your heart, and go looking, Niel. You can now search with my authority. It will lead you as best as it can."

I nodded, and put the pouch into the inside shirt pocket on my jacket.
link4 comments|post comment

Death of a Mentor [Jan. 3rd, 2006|08:30 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

Is it really you, my dear? I had hoped... had hoped a long time that I would see you again before I died, before I left this world--
The world is coming to an end, Librarian.
I--I know this. And it is unnatural, it is fading too soon. There is not enough to sustain me here. Not enough to sustain--
There is a man coming, Librarian.
A man? --Marisen? But that is not his real name, is it... merely a name among other names, an identity of--
There is a man, coming to you for help, Librarian. You must help him.
But he is dead, they’ve all died... wait. Wait, don’t leave me here, my love! There is so much that I could never--No. No!
Goodbye, Librarian, goodbye. Remember my name.

---

“No!”
The old man gasped and threw himself up from his deathbed. When I approached, I thought he had already gone, gone to whatever land of the dead existed, and that the cry I heard from the entrance was the trick of my imagination. He didn’t look healthy, that was for sure - as I got closer to him, I realized that he hadn’t eaten in who knows how long. But he was still alive, and that was all I needed.

I have to say, I wasn’t too impressed with how my friend had taken care of himself over the years - the tall and sturdy old man of my childhood had withered away to a shadow of himself, thin and pale and dying. I could only wonder if this was how all life would end - would all of the dying turn into pale ghosts like this, pitiful and mocking in lieu of their youth, their fragile hearts beating a lingering death knell, calling them to whatever mysterious void existed?

Mentally, I shook myself out of the thought. All this concern with death was taking away my focus, and whatever few moments of life in this old man were fading fast, faster as the spirit left him.

I came to him slowly, holding his cold, outstretched hand with my own dark-skinned fingers, and slowly, his thin neck twisted, his eyes going to mine.

“M-Marisen,” he whispered, his eyes soft like they were going to cry. “I thought--we all thought you were long gone, that you had died. Were we all deceived?”

I shook my head slowly, and my tongue took a life of its own. “I was dead, L,” it said without my will backing it. “But I’m back, now, and I need your help.”

The old man, the man I once knew to be the great Librarian, stared at me for a long moment and then shook his head, looking more helpless by the minute. “I can’t help you, my child,” whispered the old man, falling slowly back into his pillow. “I am weak, dying, so terribly weak... I lost it not long ago, you see, and then I just gave up.”

I felt my face twisting into a confused frown, and I stepped forward, looking down at him. “Lost what?” I barely registered the girl beside me as I asked him, the dead girl, her pale face searching the old man’s expression, as if taking in an image which was unreal to her.

My old friend didn’t look at me for a moment, his grey eyes looking up at her. “Who--who is this woman you have brought, Marisen? Surely not a sign that you’re settling down?”

I shook my head no, and turned to the unnamed girl with a frown - not even she knew her own name. That, or she wouldn’t tell me. Her head didn’t turn to look at me like it usually did when she sensed my gaze - instead, it stared back at the old man, seemingly unaware of his interest in her.

I took the brief lull in conversation as an opportunity to press forward, and so I grabbed the old man’s hand. “L,” I whispered, doing everything in my power to get him back. “L, what did you lose? Tell me.”

The man known by one letter looked back at me with helpless, sorrowful eyes, and whispered, “My power. The one science that makes us relatives. The one that I have dedicated my life to. It’s gone.”

“You can’t dust anymore?” I asked softly. My voice came hoarsely, like his words had sucked out all the moisture in my throat. My old friend here had been one of the most powerful mages of us all - maybe the most powerful, if they had ever understood what he did.

The man’s expression contorted in pain, and he turned his head away. “Dust,” he mumbled. “Null, reduce, destroy... call it what you will. It has left me.” He turned his head back to me, as if to explain. “It... started to drain from me, like bubbles of air lifting from a jar of water. I found that the experiments I carried on in, could only be accomplished with great difficulty - that anything too large or too small only yielded to my wishes after great difficulty.”

He emphasized the word ‘great’, and as my heart ached for him, my mind was whirling - but the power didn’t leave with old age, not as long as the mind was uncorrupted, so we believed... but then, what was happening to him?

“It--left my mind quickly, quicker than I could perceive... and when it had gone, the foundation of my existence left with it. I can’t go on, my friend. I have nothing. I will leave with... nothing.”

“You can give me something,” I pressed on, a desperation welling in me. “L. Listen to me. Something’s gone wrong, someone’s gotten into the gears of time and existence and fucked with everything, you and me and everyone we know. By all that existed within you, damnit, show me a way. Give me something to go on.” The knot in my stomach twisted tighter, and I felt like all the hopelessness in this man was reaching into my own protected well of faith and leeching me of all my willpower.

The Librarian’s eyes blinked sadly, and looked thoughtful, remembering something, and when he finally spoke, replied, “I heard the call, just as you did, my friend, but I ignored it. It was too vast, the damage, and I glimpsed it just for a moment - and knew that I could not solve it alone.
“If null mages can find the cracks of existence, this was a chasm - a wailing divide in the fabric of existence, like a sword had cleaved it in one blow. It was too vast for me to comprehend, and so I ignored it - until the power to sense it leached through my bones.”
He took a minute to gather his scattered senses, and then he continued, his voice in danger of breaking all the while. “It is not a normal obstruction. Indeed, I--I believe that my power left me through that hole. It is where all things might leave, and yet it is unnatural. It must be healed... must be brought...”

His voice began fading, and I clutched at his hand all the more, squeezing him back into life. “L,” my voice spoke, my mind not fully comprehending its words, “Give me something, anything to go on What can I do to stop this? Where must I go?”

I’ll never forget the Librarian’s face - the expression written on it had been a strange hybrid of grief and somberness. And his last words to me were, “Seek your brethren in their chapters and homes. They will not comprehend like we do, but they are no less in danger. Go... with peace, my friend.”

I was with him as the pulse in his neck began fluttering, slowing, and fading away. He was gone, my old friend’s life had left him, and I was in the company of the dead once more.

It would have been too easy to have fallen into a pit of despair over the whole situation, but I had something to go on now, something solid, more than just a lingering dread in my organs. There was something rotten in the core of existence, a cleave through the tenuous fabric that was unravelling over the centuries, and if I couldn’t stop or reverse the damage, I could at least lessen the impact it made on my people, my distant brethren from a time long ago.

I let my eyes stray to the dead girl, the one who had kickstarted my precarious journey to the heart of this mystery. In the grand scheme of things, she was practically collateral damage - should I leave her now, at the side of the road with this other dead man? What would happen to her if I did?

Inwardly, I railed at myself, for in the end, I imagined her being another obstacle. But I couldn’t leave her. I had taken her under my wing, and with that came a certain responsibility for my actions. And so I beckoned her to follow, stepping toward the door and gesturing to her to leave alone the body of my master.

She didn’t move, staring a little longer at his body. “He’s stopped moving,” she whispered, with a naive concern that astounded me. “What does that mean?” She looked up at me with the question, as if expecting me to answer all her problems.

“It means he’s dead,” I replied, trying not to let the ugly truth cloud my thoughts. “Come on. I know where we’re going now.”
link1 comment|post comment

In Which The Libertine Gets Bitchslapped By The Law [Jan. 3rd, 2006|08:13 pm]
Infinity's Twilight
gaggedcenobite
[Tags|, , , , , ]

A more impulsive, less…well, devilishly subtle (as he liked to think of it) man would probably not have sent Synapse and Influx off. Rather, he likely would have had them hang around, taken the approaching OIS duo off to inspect his supposed place of business, and executed both of the nosy bastards with a shot in the back of the head. These were the types that were convinced they were totally above the law, that they could run roughshod over society with no repercussions, and as long as they kept silencing everybody, it’d be possible to stay that way.

The Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XVII was not one of these men at all.

Perhaps, in the distant past, such a mentality could’ve prevailed. But there were not just humans, slow on the uptake and easy to deceive, that one had to get around these days. Certainly, the families, with a little monetary persuasion, would usually look the other way regarding his activities. However, the fist within the glove was mechanical, unfeeling, and pretty much impossible to talk one’s way around. Selric had never bothered trying to sweet-talk a machine, and did not care to. No, it wouldn’t do to arouse things completely out of his league. He had enough heat on him as it was for possessing illegal technology and running a prostitution ring; the very last thing he needed right now (or ever) was to have to hide bodies, particularly those of law enforcement.

So it was that he’d sent the henchmen off to horde away their earnings for the day, and waited calmly on the corner of the street for the two officers to arrive. Selric made a show of looking innocent and checking his chronometer, then looked up as they stopped directly before him. The one in front was male and very, very green; it was obvious from the over-stiff way he stood and the simple fact that Selric didn’t recognize him. “Sir,” began the rookie, “we notice you’ve been loitering on this corner for some time. Do you care to provide an adequate justify---“

Selric didn’t even give him the time of day. “This is absurd,” scowled the Earl of Excess, casting a disapproving eye on his guest. “Now they’re sending unblooded pups to try to shake me down? I dare say the government’s losing its touch.”

Completely by this blatant disrespect to an OIS officer, the man stammered incoherently for a couple seconds, but was waved off by his senior officer, a somewhat more severe-looking woman. “Mr. Girardot—“

“Ah, Officer Celes,” smiled Selric, stepping right by the male. “Such an unparalleled pleasure to see you again. Do call me Selric; all my friends do.”

Lira Celes, who’d had to put up with Selric’s caustic repartee (and tendencies not to self-incriminate) for the last two years of her career, did not have to verbally respond for Selric to know that they were most certainly not friends, nor would they ever be, and she very much wanted him arrested. She did anyway. “Mr. Girardot, we have reason to believe you’ve been engaging in a violation of Section Nine, Sub-Section C regarding illegal and unregulated trafficking.”

Selric’s eyes went wide with mock horror and offense. “My dear, dear Lira—I can call you Lira by now, right? yes? Good—would I do such a thing? Honestly, now, I’m a perfectly upstanding citizen.”

He could afford to be flippant; it wasn’t like there was any evidence of his activities lying around for them to find. And even if he did slip up, his contacts in the Atrus Family would more than likely bail him out—but that wasn’t a chance Selric planned on taking.

“You,” hissed Officer Celes, “are a whoremongering contraband smuggler. You may have gotten around us all this time, thinking you’re safe behind your schemes and your technicalities, but someday, I know you’ll make a mistake.”

He ignored the opportunity to say something incriminating, especially since this was probably being recorded. “Ah, madam, I am but the simple owner of an escort service. Who happens to be blessed with many friends, I’ll admit, but one does what one can.”

“This hedonism can’t be tolerated. It’s an opposition of everything we have worked to create in modern society.”

“And that, sweet Lira,” replied Selric, “is precisely why I condone such acts. Hedonism is the very core of the human flesh, and to shrink from it in gnostic asceticism is to cast away our human souls. We are not machines, as much as you would seem to wish that it were so, and to attempt to become them is blasphemous to our very being.”

“So is becoming cattle, but that didn't prevent the machines from turning humans into such.” Chimed in another voice, stern and commanding, silencing any reply from Officer Celes, who seemed thrown as off guard as Selric, her demeanor quickly transforming from one of authority to a subservient, as she turned her attention to the woman approaching the three. The rookie’s eyes went wide in shock before being nudged by Celes and falling in line beside her.

“Suborning us is an entire dimension apart from attaining our aesthetic greatness, young one.”

“Then I suggest you join your herd, and not to let me see you again, are we clear? This area is now under quarantine. You two, clear the street and set up a perimeter, I want no one to enter or leave this area, understood?”

“Yes ma’am.” The two OIS’ers immediately headed off to do as ordered, daring not to raise a protest in regards to Selric, who could feel the imposing figure’s eyes glaring at him as he too left the area as quickly as possible without breaking into a run, glad to be off the hook, but beginning to regret his use of “young one.”
link3 comments|post comment

The Trail goes Cold [Dec. 30th, 2005|07:45 pm]
Infinity's Twilight
just_me517
[Tags|, , , , , ]

"What the -?" Niel lurched to a sudden stop. "Wait - there's something very wrong."

Synthia did not wait. What Synthia did do was race off towards where their target was supposed to be, regardless of Niel's huffed warnings. A "Synthia, hold up!" had no effect. It'd appear, thought Niel, that she's giving my input the usual amount of attention.

Fortunately, Synthia eventually came to a stop at a street corner and began examining the area. Niel tried to catch her attention again. "I just felt - old magic. Strong magic. There's not supposed to be magic like that around anymore."

This attempt finally succeeded. She turned back to him, eyes questioning. "What do you know about it?"

"It's not ancestor magic and it's not null magic. That leaves a kind of magic that's been so incredibly weakened, almost no one uses it anymore." He suddenly noticed that his partner was not running. Synthia the tireless, the focused, the mission-first-and-old-men's-stamina-be-damned OIS commando was not running. That meant something. "Do you have any idea where Specimen 00 is, and how the hell he can use that?"

She shook her head "He was right here, then he was gone."
"Gone?"
"It's as if he no longer exists."

No outward expression gave away Synthia's frustration, nor did it have to. Niel was visibly frustrated enough for both of them. "Great. Any indication that he had magical abilities before?"

"Yes, but I do not believe even he expected this. He was running full stride. There was no pause or any kind of indication that he was the cause." It was the most logical induction Synthia could make.

"If I knew anyone he'd been in contact with...- wait, what indication was there?" Niel turned curious.

"As I said, there was none." Synthia's face was emotionless. Niel could not tell if she thought he was referring to previous indications of Specimen 00's magic (of which he knew nothing), indications that this was not his doing, or if she was simply hiding something from him. He decided to press the matter later.

"That leaves who he may have been in contact with. Old magic doesn't just make spells like this happen. What do we have for background information on him?"

She returned to examining the corner. Like a Machine she moved - methodical, eyes scanning in patterned left-to-right sweeps. "He has not been in contact with anyone, as far as I can tell, he has done nothing but run with no discernable destination since his escape."

"And now he's nowhere." Niel sighs and runs fingers through graying hair. "Well, that leaves me with little...you have any idea what to do?"

"We wait."
"Wait?"
"You have a better idea?"

Despite her lack of a tone of voice, Niel still felt distinctly talked down to. "Depends on what better means to you. If we can't tell where he's going, we could backtrack. Find how he got into the Dome. Trace his path. Maybe a clue to his final destination. I'm not sure. I could also talk to an old friend, who knows magic like this better than I. She might be able to tell us who's left that could attempt a disappearing spell." The thought of speaking to a sane female seemed a welcome break.

"Then perhaps you should contact her, but I see no point in physically retracing his steps," replied Synthia, not bothering to look up at him. "I will wait here."

"Fair enough." A memory of her literalistic nature struck him. "By 'wait here' do you actually mean standing in this spot and not moving?"

She gave him a slightly annoyed look "If he reappears in the same spot, I would rather not have to continue our pursuit."

"Go figure," he muttered under his breath. He could probably take a few months off to open his own business and come back to this corner to find her waiting. "I suspect I'll catch you here. The old friend I refer to is a midwife. She works at the Dome 9 central hospital. Send word there, or something, if he shows up."

She simply nodded. Niel knelt to grab a scrap of paper on the side of the street, and raised it to his nose for a smell. It's scent carried enough of the spell's Aspect for someone better versed in Old Magic to identify the casting. This would do nicely. Stuffing the paper into his pocket, he left Synthia behind to scan the world line by line as she wished.

Time to pay Sara a visit.
link3 comments|post comment

Smooth As Liquid Silk [Dec. 3rd, 2005|01:36 am]
Infinity's Twilight
gaggedcenobite
[Tags|, , , ]

The battery flipped and twirled, end over shining end, as it ascended through the air.

"Hmm. Not more than thirty minutes, I'd say." His voice was smooth, almost elegant in its throatiness, but with just enough edge to it to give the impression of unshakeable self-assurance. "I mean, we wouldn't want the OIS to come along and haul you both off, now would we, Number Six?."

Momentarily, the small metal prism's arc peaked, leaving it suspended in the air for a fraction of a second.

"Come now, Girardot," argued the second voice, "that's robbery."

"No, it's caution. We can't have the OIS showing up and ruining everything, now can we? I'd be out a girl, and you'd be out a reputation, a social status, and likely an existence; what would the Atrus Family think if you, as prestigious as you are, were discovered in so precarious a position? It's to both our advantages, Elder, if I have somebody in place to be looking the other way; the Machines are bad enough about this as it is."

With a gentle smack, the battery dropped back into the palm of a white-gloved hand, which closed around it immediately.

"Hmmm...I suppose you're right. Good thinking."

"Besides," and here there was the hint of a foppish smirk, "be thankful I have rooms furnished. Most of my competitors (if such things existed) would've relegated you to ducking into the vent for a ten-minute how-do-you-do and then charged you through the nose for it."

The Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XVII toyed with the battery on the tips of his fingers, out behind the tenant building his operation ran out of, and snapped with his other hand. A scant-attired lady of the night was by his side in an instant, and he motioned her over to his client (who, much to Selric's amusement, had a hood pulled low over his face to avoid being recognized). "My payment first," reminded the Earl of Excess, and then reached out to catch the tightly-sealed, opaque bag as it was thrown to him. He peeked in, looking at the contents, and nodded. "Excellent. Have a blast, Number Six."

He didn't bother to watch the two enter the building; rather, he turned and walked a few steps away towards the alley, rifling through the bag. There, with a flourish, he produced a whole handful of batteries now, and grinned widely. Ah, business as usual.

Selric Girardot (the Sublimely Magnificent Selric Girardot XVII, as he called himself, though he was neither well-bred nor well-raised) prided himself on being the most successful criminal in the Gamma District, nay, in ALL of Dome 9. He was well-known to the area's seedier elements as a snake with a tongue of silver, one who, in the words of a former business rival, "could sell food to a Machine". Fortunately, he didn't have to; rather, he dealt in the universe's oldest profession, hence his reputation amongst the people as the "Earl of Excess."

While the arch-fishmonger himself was in no way physically intimidating, and had no desire to test out any tricks he had up his sleeve in the event of melee combat, power attracts muscle, and so it was that what the silver tongue couldn't accomplish, the four-hundred-pound bodyguards usually could. Two of them, clad in slightly-less-flashy versions of his suit (and sans the flowing cape, of which Selric was particularly proud) were currently flanking him to ensure that no unfortunate accidents occurred during business hours...and that these batteries didn't get out of sight. Ah, the batteries. He'd amassed quite the cache, although it was safely hidden away. All he had to do was figure out what to do with them...

"Hey boss," mentioned the guard on the right (Selric called him "Synapse", though it was not the hulking man's real name, which was Trent or Brent or something like that. He couldn't be bothered to remember such trivial details), "we got the boys comin' down on us."

Nodding, the Earl of Excess tossed the bag of today's earnings to his second bodyguard ("Influx". He'd originally considered naming him "Synopse", to make it kind of a duality thing, but wasn't sure if synopse was a word). "Move," he ordered. "Rendezvous back here when you're done dropping those off; I should've thrown off the authorities by then."

Yeah, here came the OISers. Selric fell into a semblance of casual conversation with Synapse as Influx slipped away, but didn't even bother trying to look innocent for the officers as they began to approach. He'd dealt with the law many times, and rarely had the law come out with anything resembling the upper hand.

He didn't know yet, of course, that this was going to turn out as a very bad day for him...
link4 comments|post comment

The Cancerous Womb [Dec. 2nd, 2005|03:38 am]
Infinity's Twilight

dak_anthel
[Tags|, , , ]

Naked. Cold. And most of all, he was afraid and lost. He had found himself ripped from the womb of the world and thrust into the blackness of this one. He could see nothing, and he felt nothing substantial and his feet felt like they walked through water.

“Perhaps a more appropriate metaphor would be that you were taken from the cold and confusing world you were thrust into, and put back into the womb for a little while longer.”

His white skin in perfect blackness tensed and stood silent.

“Well, technically it’s not so much the womb of the world as the cancer. Or the veins. Or all those things, but let’s not let that get in the way of a healthy metaphor. I haven’t been speaking for two hundred years so I am trying to catch up on the practice of my tongue and lips.”

“No? No small talk, Nameless one? No kind words for the disembodied voice? No gentle hello? Come, I’m sure there’s a word in your throat somewhere you want to let out.”


He… He relaxed, and felt his throat scratch against itself, and his tongue, like a too large weight, bent and raised gently as Specimen 00 croaked out his word.

“…Who...?”

He doesn’t care much for the silence that follows, and attention waning, he begins to walk once more, in what direction he could not surmise, toward what goal he had no idea. But he had spent two weeks running in the same mindset, so he had no qualms doing it now. What fear he had when put into this pitch black plane of nothingness had dissolved, and though he had nothing to run from he felt a restlessness within his breast, and he continued walking through the nothing that felt like water, deep inside the womb of the world.
linkpost comment

The Underground [Nov. 17th, 2005|10:12 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

In the beginning, there was only chaos, primordial and ever-changing, ready to be shaped like soft dough into something new and meaningful.
And then a word came from outside of the primordial mass, a thought, a suggestion. It beckoned to the chaos to answers its call, and, desperate for a master, for no thoughts exist in chaos, it complied, and planets were born, stars and colour and life began to emerge in a place where only ambiguity and unimaginable potential once existed.
And thus, our world began, from that humble beginning...

...


---

The girl and I made our way through underground tunnels and abandoned sewer systems, ways that only the people of the Underground would know about. Something that you should know about me, that’s helped me as both a duster and an Undergrounder - I’ve got a near-perfect memory for things. I can memorize maps, objects, images, whatever, and I can focus on it when I need to, get a grip on it. Having an image in your mind for when you want to dust something is a good thing - null magic is all mental-work, finding the cracks in the material fabric and yanking it in all the right places, making it come apart at the seams. It also helps if you gotta memorize a map in five to ten minutes before someone has to take it far away from you and burn it. That kind of situation has happened more than once, I’m afraid.

There was only one way to the warehouse through the underground system, which, thankfully, still stood up in my absence. Machines have a tendency to collapse stuff like this without warning, if they think that it’s disruptive in some way. They’re not kind to us Undergrounders.

The temperature was cold, but I couldn’t feel it - the large jacket I wore had a self-adjusting temperature regulaor in it, which I could manually control if I need to. I had an urge to turn it up a little so as to get a little warmth into my bones, but I refrained - warm and toasty was not something I wanted to be, not if it made me lose my focus, keep my eyes out. You never knew what might exist down here in the sewers.

The dead girl walked behind me, no shoes on her feet or anything to cover them. She was like a pale, lost ghost in the darkness, aloof and ethereal, watching me now with an unwavering stare. She probably didn’t even know where we were going - I didn’t remember telling her. I wondered if thoughts bubbled insistently in her mind, like an organic - did she think anything about this situation, about her death? Did she even know she was dead, or for that matter, who she was? I didn’t know - memories seemed to prove difficult for her, like she was manually willing herself to think back on things. Maybe she was just rediscovering how her body worked, even dead, but I couldn’t be sure.

It took another hour for us to finally arrive at the junction that we needed to turn on. You had to be fit and ready to walk long if you wanted to be an Undergrounder. It meant giving up transport carrier and using your own two legs to get around if you wanted to go where no one would see you. That’s pretty much two bona fide requirement for being part of the Underground, layed out for you right there - you need both patience, and two legs.

We turned left from the junction, continued on, and that’s when I turned on the adjustable flashlight in my pocket (a small thing, self-rechargable, attached to a thick, adjustable wire that was in turn attached to my jacket), peering around in the dark corners with its bright illumination. I remember when I first came down these types of tunnels - I used to be scared of the dark, of what lay in its inpenetrable shadows, ready to ambush me. As I grew older, and more experienced, I learned not to fear it - but remain wary of it, treat it with respect, and caution. And so I scanned the shadows with the light in my jacket, moving not so much with stealth, but with a silence of footstep that I could be wary of noise in these darkened passages without being distracted by my own.

I followed the signs that were labeled and marked for those with knowledge of the underground to follow, and after a while I came to it - a doorway, a shaft in the wall, the door looking deceptively rusty and unusable. I found the knob in the darkness, twisted it, and with more than a little effort, pulled the door back, grunting as I did so from the strain it put on my arms.
“Get in,” I spoke softly to the dead girl, ever at my side. “We’ve arrived.”
The woman did as I asked, no questions asked, stepping in through the porticulus as I came in behind her, closing the door behind us. The metal floor continued up in a staircase, wide enough for two people to fit in, and in a floor above us, my friend and mentor, my contact the Librarian, dwelled in his own private home.

----

It’s hard to find privacy in this day and age. In fact, for the average person, it’s damn near impossible. But the Librarian found a way – he found an abandoned boiler room down here, and from the forgotten artificial bowels of the planet, he had removed what he could and had created something from nothing. There were nice carpets on the floors now, library shelves lined up in rows and lamplights decorating the walls and ceilings. Despite the illumination, it was still rather dark – not all of them had been turned on.

I took two steps into the room when the first pangs of weirdness started kicking around in my gut – something was wrong with this picture. I didn’t suspect an ambush, no – this place had long been forgotten. But… something else. Something intangible.

“L?” I called out, his alias for lack of a real name. “It’s me. I’m back. You around?” To calm my nerves, I tried to fathom an excuse – he might have gone out to get supplies for himself. But at this night, at curfew?

“Does someone live here?” asked the dead woman in a slow voice as she turned her head this way and that. She looked around, in a kind of… what could the word be? Awe?
A faint voice cried out from the direction of the other rooms, and so I turned in that direction.

“Someone lives here, yes,” I replied, going forward now at a steady pace. “It’s the man we’re supposed to see. My mentor. Come, he's waiting for us."
linkpost comment

Physical versus Mental [Nov. 17th, 2005|10:08 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

Nielthunn

I got up, panting. Already my partner was off. What the hell did she eat? Sure, she was younger than me, and in better shape, but...

"Hey!" I yelled. "Slow down! Or better, stop!"

"You've had five minutes to rest with no injuries and little exertion."

"No exertion?" I ran up, finding a wall to lean on. "You don't know much about handling ghosts, do you?"

"That was my first encounter with such things. Otherwise, all I know of them are what are in reports."

How, I wondered, had I wound up with this crazy wench. And what had I done to deserve it, too. "They don't just dissapear on their own, at least not that easily. When ghosts are that angry they have to be dispersed. We may not have gotten a scratch on ourselves but I was trying to lead the ghosts in different directions. It's a Keeper mental excercise. With the Ancestors as royally pissed as they were, they'd have killed me if they had the chance."

"I see little connection between mental and physical exercise, both can be done with out affecting the other."

"Lady, because there's no point in going on with a perfectly healthy frame if the mind is beat out. It gets exhausted like anything else. You get mentally tired, don't you?"

Finally she stopped running and looked back.

"Not that I can recall."

I had to stare at her for this. "What?"

---

Synthia

"Organic bodies are not as different than mechanical ones as most people would like to believe. As long as it is properly maintained and not strained beyond it's capabilities, it will function with minimal problems. And though I have been worn out physically and been affected mentally, I can't recall a time when the reverse has happened." Synthia stated matter-of-factly.

"I find that tough to believe." The grizzled ex-Keeper shook his head. "Mental exhaustion is how one reacts to stress."
"That is a rather poor reaction to stress."
"It's a natural reaction to stress. It is how the spirit interacts with it's outside environment. There is some wear and tear, metaphorically speaking."

The response slightly confused her, "Then how would you define stress?"

Niel thought for a moment. He was not reflecting, Synthia noticed, but reminiscing - she could tell from his body language and mental patterns. "Stress is the individual's decision to be broken down, to be made a little smaller and weaker, by every difficulty that comes their way. It is an unconscious decision, usually, and in every human psyche this desire exists, to some small degree."

"Then I'd have to say I don't work that way. Every difficulty that comes my way, I use to make myself better. You cannot improve yourself without challenging yourself."

Niel shakes his head at this odd woman. "Like every decision, it has it's advantages and disadvantages. I've chosen when I allowed myself to break, usually in a safe place. And more importantly, it's sometimes easier to rebuild something that's been shattered than constantly maintain minor wear and tear. There is a use for being broken."

"Perhaps, but I prefer to push myself as hard as possible and rest when the task is complete."

"You've never been broken - really broken - before, have you?"

"Not mentally in any case." The thought intrigued her, but didn't seem as beneficial as Niel was making it out to be.

"Try it." He smirked. "It is an opportunity to remake yourself as something better." He stands up. "Okay, now let's go. I'm ready."

"I can't even imagine how it'd be possible, let alone accomplish it..." And with her partner finally ready, she resumed her jog, slightly faster than before to make up for lost time, expecting to capture, or perhaps preferrably kill, Specimen 00 within the hour.
link5 comments|post comment

(no subject) [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:59 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

Synthia moved further back into the building as the softblade started back towards her with Matthias in tow, the barrel of her plasma cannon slowly extending from the palm of her hand, pointing towards the door as she waits for him to be drug inside. But surprisingly, the Keeper is able to get to his feet despite the pain and the pull at his back, and turns around to rush her, almost catching Synthia off guard with his speed as he lunges, planning to wrap his arms around her in a bear hug. But the moment of surprise is quickly replaced with a smug grin as, in his haste, he fails to notice the plasma cannon until it's fully pressed up against his chest, her arm being pushed back as it discharges into and straight through him, the intense heat melting the wound closed near instantaneously, leaving a nice, clean fist-sized hole as the force of the blast pushes him back, stumbling a few feet before collapsing to the ground, his life pattern being tracked by her implant going blank.

The threat eliminated, she takes a moment to remove the softblade from his back, the plasma cannon disappearing back behind her faux hand before searching for Niel's mind to determine his condition, panic washing over her features as she finds its before she's able to steady and calm herself, projecting her calm, calculating demeanor to his frantic mind, trying to get him to focus, the floating objects beginning to fall around him as he regains his concentration.

She waits a few more minutes, making sure there were no more spirits waiting for him to drop his guard before attacking, but with all now silent, she relaxes, refocusing on Specimen 00's pattern and walks out of the building, "Ready? Lets go." And without giving him a chance to protest, breaks into a jog, back on the hunt of her original target.
linkpost comment

Ancestor's Anger [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:56 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , ]

I froze. Not the kind of freezing when you're surprised, or scared. Something came into every cell of my being and froze me sure as if the Dome Weather Control had lowered the temperature down to 73 K. I closed my eyes and started to concentrate, as the bench beneath me began shaking. Not a good sign.

I wondered about Matthias. Some cable - I assumed Synthia's devotion to the Machines gave her access to fancier softblades than the rest of us- had grabbed him in the back and yanked him into the building my current partner was staking out in. I'd worry about that later, though. He hadn't split my head open yet, so he was currently the least of my problems. Now, where was I?

Quiet...please.... I was begging. It could have helped. Quiet....just calm down please –

YOU BETRAYED US, they roared. WE MADE YOU POWERFUL, DEEMED YOU WORTHY, AND YOU BETRAYED US.

Ouch.

I suddenly found myself face first on the ground. The bench I'd been sitting on flew several dozen feet into the air. I rolled desperately as it came smashing down. Aimed straight at me...

no....

I curled up in the fetal position on the ground, desperately trying to focus, to mentally purge the spirits suddenly overactive in the area. The bench had missed, but not by enough to keep me from thinking I was dead. Matt was suddenly dead. That much I knew. The ghosts suddenly lacked a focal power, and any Keeper can tell you they could now be dispelled, with proper mental effort.

Said effort could be difficult to achieve when distracted, however.

And the cracks in the ground, the tiles of the Machines-maintained breaking loose and flying like a swarm of angry gnats, certainly counted as such. Never seen the Ancestors so pissed.

From the building Synthia and Matt were in, I head, ever so distantly, a scorching sound.

BE CALM....be calm...FOCUS....focus....
That was a new sensation. The source...not fully human, but more of a steely, unemotional edge to it....something...mechanical...no matter.

It held me, like a monolith of iron against a storm, as the fury of the Ancestors began to subside. I could actually hear flying objects fall to the ground. Then I opened my eyes. Wow.

There, a few hands from my face, was the softblade I'd hidden by me - the one I'd been ready to use on Matthias. It was floating in the air, quivering, aimed straight between my eyes.

YOU SHALL DIE FOR YOUR BETRAYAL-

-FOCUS....focus....RELAX.....relax...-

-okay, would you all shut the hell up and let me handle things?!?!? Stupid voices in my head! Even if they were the manifestations of the battle between my will and the Ancestors', they were annoying.

I exhaled. The softblade, like the last of the few levitating objects, fell to the ground. The angry shouts of the Ancestors faded into quiet.

I lay flat, belly up, on the street. Sitting there, and breathing nice and slowly, seemed like the thing to do.
linkpost comment

Matthias Gets What Was Coming To Him [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:50 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

Her implant working over time, Synthia decided it best to keep an eye on this Matthias character as well, Nielthunn’s family history making him an undesired variable in her goal of capturing Specimen 00, and once it was confirmed that he was, in fact, following them, her march soon became a quick jog, going just slow enough to ensure Niel could keep up. Specimen 00 was still on the move, and she was still intent on following him, bringing them closer to the high arching wall of the dome and further away from the hustle and bustle of dome life, until after a good 20 minutes of jogging, they finally came upon an abandoned in-dome transit station without a soul in sight where Synthia came to a stop.

"He's still after us.." Niel chimed in as he began to catch his breath, an uneasy feeling nagging at him.
“I know, this will be the best place to deal with him before going after our objective, lets make this quick, shall we?” Synthia stated, still not looking back to him.

"Sure. The Ancestors are real mad, and will go straight after me - but you won't be sensed at all." Niel sits on the nearest bench, in a posture that conceals his softblade and motions to Synthia to hide, but she’s already on her way, disappearing into the abandoned building to observe the meeting.

Niel winces at the increasing feeling of uncomfort caused by his angered ancestral spirits drawing nearer as a running figure appears down the street. There's a little ozone in the air. "Traitor!"
Now very glad that he's sitting down, as he'd proabably be unable to stand up with the angry voices screeching at him, Niel gives Matthias a weary look. "You didn't have to follow me."

"Listen, scum. You denied the Ancestors directly. Not just in defiance of the Elders, favoring your brother and the Gayue (rival family, archnemesises of the Zagy) bitch he called lover, but you defied the Ancestral spirits directly. They were to punish him and you stopped them. You shouldn't still be breathing now."

Synthia watches Mattias studiously, slipping on the glove of her retrievable softblade while she waits patiently and rather impassively to see how the conversation unfolds, frowning slightly at the complication this family squabble is causing to the mission. Once the glove is fastened, she raises the throwing knife and aims it at Matthias' back, ready to release at the first sign of an attack, not wanting to get involved, but not wanting to risk Niel being injured, making the past hour and a half a complete waste of time.

"You still didn't have to follow me."

"Don't give me any excuses. We've tolerated your defiance and dishonor for seven years and -"

"Complain all you want, but you didn't have to follow me if you hated me so damn much. I was just fine with you leaving me alone as long as I stayed away from Dome 6."

Matthias screams in rage, and Niel nearly falls over as Synthia notices a visible change in Matthias' body, his muscles beginning to bulge as the Ancestors' strength enhancement activates, Synthia taking this as her que and releases the throwing knife, sending it silently whizzing through the air and plunging it into Matthias’ back, the impact causing the softblade to reshape and hook around his spine before the steel cable pulls it back, yanking him towards the building.
linkpost comment

(no subject) [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:49 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , ]

[Update on Specimen 00 here]

(This is what was next on JM's organized list of posties. I dunno what to put here. Dak, were you planning to put a Specimen 00 update here or something?)
linkpost comment

Arrival at Dome 9 [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:47 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

The camera in the interior of the station watched the tram coming in from Dome 5 as per usual. Silent and unblinking, the round mechanical eye recorded the comings and goings of many organics, some returning to waiting families or men of business traveling abroad. Each of them was scanned, identified individually, recorded and catalogued. No one was unknown to the Great Machine. Those that had no name or identification were watched, carefully, given a barcode with their movements studied, their actions monitored.

The dance of many human legs traversed across the station, and suddenly, coming out from the train doors amid the dispersing crowd, a dark-skinned man in a long jacket came out, leading a pale-skinned brunette woman by the elbow.

The man was catalogued, identified as Hilber Marisen. The woman’s birth ID recorded her as Elishel Lotley.

The mechanism in the eye set out a silent communication, requesting that the two organics arriving from Dome 5 be watched, carefully.
After all, the woman Lotley had been declared deceased a scant 52 hours ago, and Marisen had been missing for nearly two years.


---

When we left the station, I took a moment to study the view and to take a deep breath of artificially produced oxygen in the dome that I arrived in. The buildings were towering in size, red, yellow and green lights flashing off the shiny steel monuments. Machines loved the colour gray, it seemed. Where I was raised, the building exteriors were made more colourful by the local graffiti.

The dead woman followed me in a dazed, slow manner, and I couldn’t tell by her eyes if she was watching or daydreaming. Slowly, I turned to her, and spoke in a wry voice, “Dome 9. The name mean anything to you?”

The woman looked at me at that moment, and blinked once, remembering. “Yes,” she replied suddenly, after a pause, and then, “No.” She frowned, and shook her head. “It doesn’t, no. Sorry.” It was clear by her face that there was something else going on that I wasn’t aware of. Briefly, I wondered if the dead could lie.

“We can’t stay here much longer,” he whispered. “There’s a place where they don’t put any cameras or monitoring signals. We’ll lose them there.”

The surveillance equipment decorating the walls and filling the cracks between walls made me nervous. It had been risky, taking the train out of the Dome, but I was in a position where I had to move fast and I was pretty sure that the underground trainman I had for a contact was dead.

Ground zero. The tall buildings above made me feel small, inferior. It reminded me of man’s place in the food chain. Silently, I led the girl out of the area, where crowds of people and machines, bipedal and hovering, wandered by. There were always people out in these sectors, even in the artificial darkness we called nighttime.

---

We went by foot, down to the warehouse district. The false lights, pretending to be stars, loomed up ahead of us, guiding our walk.
The machines built that fake sky, just as they had created everything. When my ancestors sold themselves off to them, these omnipotent, logical, thinking beings of metal and hardware, they exchanged freedom and creativity for safety, security. The machines were the responsible beings now, not us. They ruled us, governed our lives from the structures that they made to the factories they controlled.

We live in a world that’s dead. Without human expression, there is nothing for us. I’d have marvelled at the towering structures dwarfing me but I knew that all of it was built by machine, not man. In this day and age it was the being without a heart that did the work that we once did, long ago... back when we were in charge of the grand scheme of things, or thought we were.

It’s no wonder then, that I joined one of the revolutions, out to change things. The Human - not Organics, which the Machines loved to call us - the Human Campaign for Virtues and Responsibility, where we could stage our own holidays and build our own buildings and breathe life back to our stagnant race. There were others like us, other groups of men and women who wanted change. We wanted to establish relations with our overlords, build a bridge between human and mechanical understanding.

It wasn’t so much that we were rejected by the machines so much, more like they never allowed us into their own order of mathematics and predictability. We were so low down at the bottom of the food chain by the time we got to thinking about our own needs we were barely a factor in their equations. And so when we tried to push forward with our beliefs, they used that momentum against us - warping psychology to bring out our worst and most dangerous traits, creating extremist factions built of anger and boldness - so that they would have a good enough reason to beat us to the ground.

We live in a world that’s dead, a universe that’s already in its death throes, and as I made my way to Dome 9’s shipping warehouse district on the periphery, the downtown area that I traveled through brought back old, painful memories. I was part of the visionaries of that group, the (supposedly) old and wizened scholar, trained in a magic that was new, hip and trendy two generations ago. When we got stamped out, I was one of the few pieces of driftwood that floated away from the proverbial Ark that we built to brave the storm.
And now... now, here I was, emerging from underground to escort a dead girl to an abandoned warehouse, to find an old friend who may or may not still be alive after two years of radio silence.

I looked back from my musings at the girl whose cold and clammy wrist was in my grip. She payed little attention to where we were going, pausing sometimes to watch the lights and machines flit across the sky, the neon and electrical causing a sort of dazed euphoria in her. It was as if her soul had taken flight for just a brief moment before being tied back to the body that had been rendered cold and lifeless by the loss of a heartbeat.

What magic powered her now? What supernatural force caused her to see through dead eyes?

In my gut, I felt that the more steps I took, the closer I got to the mystery. The derelict storage buildings of machine-kind loomed before us, and I strode on with a purpose.
linkpost comment

Those Keeper Kids Grow So Darn Fast [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:41 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

I listen to the click of the door as it closed behind me. A doorknob. One of the most advanced mechanical devices humans could use. The vent room I had just left contained only two devices of any real note: running water, which traveled through a system under total Machine control, and the vent itself, which led straight to the Machine's Organic Recycling Systems, also under no human control. The little doorknob seemed to represent what little was left of Mankind's pride.

"You are done, correct? Or does your contemplation of that door offer anything useful to our investigation?"

There was Synthia, arms akimbo. I coughed and nodded, following her back outside. "Briefing complete. I know all I need to know for our job, and those blasted little things have left. Now, where's the last place you had 00's trail?"

"Specimen 00 is about forty minutes of light jogging away, in that direction." She pointed away from the Dome center and towards the Edge, where technology we used to control now protects us from the Exterior; a.k.a. the polluted low-air-pressure hellhole most of the planet is now.

"And you know this how?"

"Trust me." And she set off, not bothering to look at me. Why bother, she hadn't when she was speaking to me. Her reputation was built on two things: her fascination with the Machines and her bizzare intuition which allowed her to track subjects over long periods of time and somehow never need a briefing. Weirdest broad in OIS.

Sighing, I followed her, only giving a passing thought to an oddly familiar head of hair about ten yards to the right.

Then I had another passing thought about how, when I had last seen that head of hair, the body it was attached to was five years old. Then I thought, shit.

"Careful. Very slowly, take a look at that guy across the street." I had caught up with Synthia and was trying to use her as a visual shield.

"He resembles you. Relative of yours?" Typical disdain.

"Yeah, exactly the problem."

She seemed thoughtful for a second, then she showed a new facial expression - realization. Such progress! "Oh yes, you had a falling out with your family seven years ago."

"That's putting it lightly," I responded. She at least had the decency to turn her body to an angle that made her block his view of me more. I lowered my stance, trying to make myself shorter. I couldn't help but wince when he turned his gaze over this area. It was just a quick look, he wouldn't get more than a slight glance –

Then I felt it.

There was only one way I could experience that sensation, and it tied directly into being the only way he'd be able to identify me with a moment's look.
Matthias Zagy, son of my cousin, was a Keeper.

"Great. He saw me. Don't look back, keep walking."

Synthia kept deadpan. My only sign of nervousness was my increase in stride, which she matched. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I can feel it. He's a Keeper. Not a bad one, either. He won't attack me in public, but I should keep eyes in the back of my head for the next few moons." I felt that it wasn't totally necessary to let her know that Matthias was forcibly restraining himself to keep from lashing at me. I was familiar with the spirits he was bonded with and that would give me some protection, but precious little.

"An ex-Keeper who has strongly slighted the family may be marked for death..." she mused. Obviously not from a family big enough to have Keepers. "I do know the Zagys hold the strongest presence in Dome 6. Out of concern for your performance, what are the odds that he is not here by accident, and has been sent by your elders to hunt you down?"

I did not want to think about what the implications of the vendetta might be if that were the case. They had not followed me out of Dome before, and I had let the OIS Authority Mainframe know that I would be seriously compromised if assigned to Dome 6, so the goal of avoidance had been pretty much reached.

"Let's just focus on Specimen 00, okay?"

Not even a nod, just an increase in her walk speed to a march. Life was not good.
linkpost comment

Nielthunn's Arrival [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:38 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , ]

"You have arrived at your destination. Now depressurizing chamber."
And with that, the pod opened.

"Welcome to Dome 9, Organic Insider Security Worker Nielthunn Zagy. The terminal lights will lead you to the exit. Have a nice day."

"You too," I returned drily, to no one in particular. Not being able to listen, the voice synthesizer didn't count.

I walked into the terminal. Same kind of building that I entered the transit pod, which had marked its exit by the whoosh of a closing liquid metal door behind me and the Doppler effect hum of its hypersonic departure. I took a breath of the terminal air -
- and felt a buzzing in my lungs.

Aw hell, I hate being briefed this way.

That buzz was nanomachines. Once in my lungs, they would make their way to my brain via my circulatory system. They would harmonize with my cerebral patterns, then encode a message into my neuroelectric currents that would slowly awaken as information. And thus I received a mission briefing. It takes less time and is more efficient than recorded messages, and less risky than hypnosis briefing (hypnosis, being Half Magic, was never something the Machines perfected). The downside was that I'd have an annoying headache and constant distractions in my head for the next half an hour. Then would come a half an hour of nausea as the nanos, their job complete, would make their way to my lower bowels and become inert. Then, they'd go out with my next trip to the vent (That's "modern" slang for the john), and reawaken under the Electronic Recycling Scanner in this dome's Sanitation Plant, where they'd make their way back to be rejuvenated and reprogrammed for their next task.

The warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you are a part of incredible technology doing incredible things was somewhat overwhelmed by the foreboding knowledge that your next hour would be hell. All in the line of work.

As I made my way down the single terminal hallway, identical in nearly every way to the one I'd been in not too long before with the exception of the lack of a pounding headache, details of information started to come into my head and then flit away. I made my way to the exit portal.

"Pressurizing and preparing exit." Another disembodied, synthesized speaker. You can't really get used to them.

Then the door opened. Cancel that last thought. This was one person who'd probably gotten used to synthesized voices and all other odd things Machine a long time ago.
"OIS Worker Nielthunn Zagy," monotoned Synthia.

Lovely. Synthia the mech freak, the tin can lover, the Titanium Bitch, and bearer of many less endearing titles she had earned within the ranks. Somewhat of a legend, every OISer knew of the woman with a bizzare fascination - some would say obsession - with her employers and a streak of successful missions behind her a Dome wide. There were a lot of other OISers who'd make worse partners, but none quite as weird.

"Not so loud, please." I winced and covered my ears, though I did manage a nod in response to her declaration. She gave me a look of equal parts curiosity, detachment, and disinterested contempt.

"Do you have a hangover?" Not, Do you have a hangover or something? like a normal person, but seeking confirmation of the most likely fact. I had worked with her once before, a standard Uprising member investigation and the mission that had gotten me that softblade scar on my shoulder, but I hadn't talked to her much. Now I knew why some of the squad members who had held long conversations with her walked away looking perplexed and disturbed.

"I wish this was only as bad as a hangover." I tried my best friendly grimace. "Just got nanobriefed."

Synthia nodded, then walked away. I could tell it was more than that. The nod was a confirmation of what I had said and approval at knowing she did not have to waste effort on an inefficient briefing. When she walked away, she was not asking but definitely expecting that I follow her, as part of the job. Organic Insider Security Worker Synthia Mahrisse will meet you at the transport terminal. She has been working on the investigation of Specimen 00, swam to the front of my thoughts as the nanobriefers finally started doing something constructive.

Incredibly wierd. Then again, you don't choose your co-workers. Not if you're human in these times, anyway.
linkpost comment

Synthia [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:33 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , ]

Synthia paused to relay the events that had just transpired, it hardly worried her, she's faced worse than this, but animating corpses was never mentioned in the briefing and needed to be noted, all the while watching him scamper off in her mind's eye and tracking him through the aid of her implant. She was confident he'd prove little problem, if he could, she doubted he would have resorted to petty diversion tactics, but the Machines seemed to think otherwise, a reply informing her she was to meet Organic Insider Security Worker Nielthunn Zagy, who'd be arriving in the dome shortly. She sighed, knowing her protests would fall on deaf receptors and headed for the terminal he was to arrive at all the while watching Specimen 00 continue to run.

For the next hour, Synthia was content to let the nanomachines work through Niel's system as he'd just be a liability in the condition it left him, and in her mind, she scoffed at the need of such a method, smirking at how much easier she had it, but her cold exterior never let on. At least he was more tolerable than some of the other OIS'ers she's been forced to work with. They were in no real hurry anyways, she knew exactly where Specimen 00 was, still locked on to his pattern, a link that could only be broken through magic, malfunction, or him escaping the dome. It left her only slightly distracted, and she answered whatever questions he had left after the mission briefing was fully implanted while slowly leading him closer to their target. Short and to the point, but that was expected of her even if she wasn't focusing on her "clairvoyant abilities."

At least with Nielthunn backing her up she could afford to not let such tricks as the animated corpse distract her from her goal again...
linkpost comment

Burning Hobo Skeleton in Regent Park [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:26 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , ]

Regent Park, populated with the lowest humanity could sink without actually scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Home to countless bums huddled in dark alleyways, petty thieves, would-be burglars (if most of the people who could actually afford homes in the area didn’t keep the buildings locked-up tight and under the watchful eyes of the Machines, finding the invasion of their privacy by them more acceptable to the same by unwanted human elements), and pockets of resistance. Synthia knew the area well as disturbances were an all too common occurrence here, and had quite the reputation built among the residents, one of rightful fear, causing those who recognized her to relocate far out of her range, most of them quicker to believe she was one of the Machines than ever being human. She smiled smugly as they scattered like cockroaches, her cybernetic eye and SPI (Sensory Projection Implant) chip working together to scan her surroundings and catalog the life forms, searching for the unique abnormalities displayed by Specimen 00's pattern. And there he was, 139 meters away and, according to her map, just turning down a T-shaped alley that offered no way out except the way he went in, unless over the course of their examinations the machines failed to notice he was also possessed the abilities of a human fly. Her HUD showing eight other humanoids were there with him, all perfectly expendable.

As she raced towards it to block off his only escape route before he could realize his mistake, she reached down and took hold of her soft blade throwing knife, slipping on the glove that housed the length of the 50m metal wire, strong enough to withstand almost ten tons of pressure before it snapped, that it was attached for quick retrieval, as well as allowing the blade to double as a grappling hook. By the time she arrived at the end of the alley, he was already on his way back out, just over 30m and closing. His eyes widen as he saw her block his path, and the liquid metal knife fly at him, aimed perfectly at his kneecap, and he dove to the side, the blade grazing his leg causing him to cry out in agony as the liquid metal briefly crawled across his skin, then whizzed back past him and into her hand again.

He uttered a silent cry, and the groans came out his lips long after he had closed them. But he did not slow, he simply turned around and once again began to run, for whatever reason, back into the alley. The homeless men muttered incoherently and averted their gazes, their whisperings coming to his ears as gibberish, save for the red eyed one who lay against the far wall. That brown haired hobo loked straight into the albino's pink eyes and muttered fearfully...

"His eyes, my brothers. Watch his eyes, brimming with madness and the stink of... something. Careful... Careful of his eyes..."

Despite his own words he kept staring into the albino's eyes until Synthia appeared behind the Specimen 00, and the hobo's eyes widened as Specimen 00 ran straight at him and jumped over him, scrabbling on the wall, trying to climb the crumbling brick.He slid down and narrowly dodged another softblade attempt, but as the blade lunged out of the wall and back into Synthia's hand, it cut, at the shoulder, the last bit holding up his medical coat.

Synthia raised her left arm as the frightened bums ran past her, leaving only Specimen 00 and the ragged, red eyed man. The man still kept staring straight ahead, and his red pupils widened as the plasma cannon slowly protruded form her hand. Specimen 00 once again tried to scramble up the brick wall, and made it up half way before he slipped. He turned his eyes to Synthia, but saw only a blinding glow as the energy weapon charged, and released.

They say before you die, you see your life flash before your eyes.

The red eyed man saw red.

The red eyed man was a burning skeleton, charred and smoking.

Synthia started charging again, but this time she didn't release. She had to take him alive. Specimen 00 was cowering behind some garbage cans, shaking and rocking back and forth, his eyes resting on the smoking skeleton, the skull obscenely twisted by the heat, it's jaw warped and making it seem like it was laughing maniacally. But behind the sockets of that skull, there was a light... a red light...

It stood up.

Like a mockery of his former self, his molten flesh moved in motion toward Synthia, whose human shock and suprise was disgusted at the sight, and the Machine part was at a loss for words. The corpse made its way closer and closer to Synthia, before she finally took its head off with a softblade. She turned her head back to Specimen 00, but it was too late. He was gone.

He could have escaped so many ways, but there was a smell in the air that left no doubt in her mind. there was the smell of burnt flesh, yes, but there was something else.

She wrinkled her nose.

Magic.
linkpost comment

The Null Mage and the Dead Woman [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:21 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

In the beginning, there existed no gods, no humanity, no universe. There was only chaos.

Swirling, violent and disruptive, it awaited an idea, a beginning, a master to tame it and form it into shape.

And then, erupting from those swirling rivers of change and disruption, came the five pillars of heaven, billowing through the high waters as if on a stormy night. And from those pillars came angels, angels that would tower over planets, but were insectile in size in comparison to the mighty universe they would set out to create...

Only...

...


---

The monorail sped along quickly enough, the lights of the large dome we lived in switching off, signalling night time. It couldn’t exactly be called a monorail, now that I think about it - the train was suspended in the air, gliding along with the power of electromagnetism, propelled by four plates lying at diagonal corners. It went speedily enough that a man could get somewhere in a relatively short period of time, not that I had much idea for where to go, and slow enough that it didn’t fly off and crash into a building down below.

I hate the trains. You could make the entire bottom of ‘em see-through and not make me more uncomfortable than I was already right then and there. Down below, you had your legs, you could run somewhere and hide when you needed to. Up in the air you lost your power. You’re trapped, you can’t run anywhere except up and down the aisles.

And then there comes my own unique characteristisc into play. There’s a feeling that makes you sweat, like holding a sharp blade to a man’s neck, staring out at the plates passing us by, keeping us in the air. I could dust one of them coming up on us and play hell with the infrastructure, unbalancing the hurtling object and watching us fall, fall all the way down, crashing and dying in a mass of crushed metal and glass.

The feeling of suspension wasn’t the only thing making me nervous. It was the passenger next to me, the girl I got to tag along for my ride to nowhere. She wasn’t a hired consort or nothing like that. The only reason I was interested in her was in how she skipped out on her own funeral... by walking calmly out of the operating room after they pumped her full of embalming fluid.

She’s got no heartbeat. And as the few lights in the air pass us by it highlights the chocolate-brown hair on her head and the makeup on her face shines through. She’s beautiful. They make ‘em beautiful at the funeral just before they throw ‘em at the nearest star. It amazes me how some women don’t get good makeup ‘till they’re dead.

Amazes me how people can’t say they love someone before they’re gone and in a damn casket.

She traces a line with her finger, along the edge of the windows. A book rests on her lap, she’s dressed in something white and clean, like she was about to be laid out in her casket. They must have just finished tidying her up before she started making her own decisions.

Seeing her playing by the windows makes me agitated for some reason, so I figure I should say something.

“You cold?” I asked her, looking at her sidelong from the seat.

Her arms were clutching her elbows, like she were cradling a baby. Her pale, expressionless face and dead blue eyes turned to me, and for a moment I feel a little squeeze in my gut that tells me when something’s wrong. But she doesn’t do anything but shake her head, and reply, “No, I’m not cold.”

I wondered if her skin felt anything at all.

“You gonna read that book I got you?” I asked in the same tone of voice.

“I can’t,” she said simply, looking down at the cover with the same blank expression.

“Why not?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. “You remember words, sentences, stuff like that, right?”

She took her eyes off the cover looked up at me, nodding gently in affirmation.

“Then why can’t you read it?” I asked again, all curious now and frowning.

There was a pause, and the dead woman looked down at her lap again, trying to think of an answer. “Because I don’t understand what it’s saying,” she said, with finality.

The book I got her was an old mystery novel, the musty kind kept preserved by the special stuff they put in the paper these days. Books have been around for ages, and the machines knew better than to take that way. The machines like anything that kept the masses of organics docile and distracted, controlled. Obediant.

I turned away from her again, glancing at my ticket for the first time. I hadn’t even looked at it when I bought it from the ticket booth. I had a bit of trouble getting her out of the sector we left behind in the first place, she had caused quite a stir by walking around all confused as the living dead. Dead people weren’t all that uncommon, now that I think about it - the Keepers, the predominant magic guys out there, can get their freaky vengeful ancestor spirits to inhabit dead bodies lying around. They just get up slowly, cackling wildly, with blood and spirit flame trailing out of their eyeballs, and if that didn’t make you pollute your pants with your own shit then and there, nothing could.

The dead woman beside me was different. It was as if she had died and forgot that it meant you couldn’t move around anymore. Tracing the edge of the window like she was, fingering the glass didn’t make me so agitated anymore. On the contrary, it looked like the most innocent thing in the world.

The ticket told the destination. Dome 9. I had some bad memories left behind back there, but it was better than some other places I could’ve been heading to. Bad memories of a revolution gone bad, a dream turned to ashes by hot-blooded teenage kids who wanted a fight so bad that they spat and pissed on the dreams of their dads to do so.

They were old memories, though. And right now there was weird stuff going around in the present moment, weird enough that dead people could arise on the side and walk about like a human, and strange enough that it’d send ripples through my gut and make it twist around inside me. A blip on the screen against the front of the train told me that we were nearing our destination. I looked back at the girl next to me, startling at the noise and looking around with a confused expression. She wasn’t at the center of the weirdness, I believed. For all I knew she was barely a blip on the periphery, but she was close, close enough for me to have a lead toward the center, where I wanted to be.

And I had another feeling that wherever we were going, Dome 9 was key. There was something there that needed discovering, and I intended to find it.

The train I was on began to slow down, and as it entered the tunnel for disembarking, I grabbed the girl’s hand and led her off. It was my first step back into so-called civilisation but I was beyond caring anymore.
linkpost comment

Enter the Ex-Keeper [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:19 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , ]

I drained the cup of ALCOHOL-14 solution and put the container away. Drinks were one piece of old human lore that the Machines decided to keep. They actually synthesized a pretty damn good beer. The last attempt to prohibit alcohol consumption ended in a bloody rebellion and the Machine Authorities settled for simply denying us guns. I can't complain, they could've eradicated us if they wanted.

I would be heading out on the next transport to Dome 9. As Organic Insider Security for the Machines, I was one of the human 'volunteers' who made sure that the Machines were capable of enforcing their laws on human territory without destroying our last vestiges of privacy. They can be sympathetic, those rusty old bastards, in a cold and arrogant way.
I'd heard that there was rebel activity in Dome 9, and any human who helped the Machines in any sort of service would face a lot of trouble from the gangs. I could get in a bad situation if I was not careful.

But it didn't matter. I would never feel the embrace of the Ancestors again, and without that I hadn't had much to lose.

Cheerful thought to begin that walk down to the transport terminal with. In retrospect, I should have saved some of the booze.

Nielthunn Zagy. For all my family hated me, I gotta say I like how the name sounds. Even coming out of a synthesized computer speaker.

"State name," played the voice, an artificial middle aged female. It was emanating from several sonic producers smaller than the naked human eye could see. I was in the transit terminal's entry booth for ERECs: Entities Requiring Environmental Control, or layman's terms, everything that had a problem breathing the low desnity chemical soup that used to be our atmosphere. The 'booth' was a rectangular prism of solid metal that seemed cut out of the wall surrounding the terminal. You walked in and a liquid metal door coming out of the ceiling closed behind you, then vaccum sealed the chamber. I wasn't incredibly tall, but my short and scruffy black hair was brushing the top of this pen. I've always felt sorry for the taller guys of my job; we travel the most for humans, and some of the really tall guys even had to kneel in these cramping compartments.

"Nielthunn Zagy," I responded.

"Processing voice sample...Voice ID confirmed. Scanning for vital signs...biorhythm patterns confirmed. Scanning equipment and all possessions..." and now, for the fun part, as the whine of the scanner turned on high to intensify the claustrophobic nature of the booth, "...rechecking ID authorization for restricted equipment..." which meant double check the database that yes, Organic Insider Security Worker Nielthunn Zagy was allowed to carry those knives and the liquid metal blade at his side, "...all equipment authorization successful. Now pressurizing safe route to terminal for transport to Dome 9 as per your orders." One thing that I'd never deny the Machines as being superior to us in: they had no bureaucracies. No paperwork, no interns, no offices, no clerks, no physical libraries. You had to envy them for that.

The wall in front of me, a liquid metal door like the wall behind, opened up to a corridor (with higher ceilings and more breathing space, thank the Ancestors!) A line of red lights snaked its way down the corridor and to the turn I should follow. Not like I needed the lights, all the other doors were closed and vaccum sealed. They couldn't let me go anywhere, not if I wanted to live. Odds were that there was no air whatsoever outside. Other chance was a sea of chemicals, kill me just as quickly. Machines don't get cancer, so they don't worry where their industrial pollution goes. As long as it doesn't get into our Domes, we humans don't worry either.

I fingered the hilt of the liquid metal sword I carried, known more commonly as a soft blade. Hard blades were the regular weapons we've been making for billions of years, and I kept a few of those hidden away too. But, as in many other things, the Machines surpassed us in swordsmithing. The liquid metal sword was very different from the liquid metal technology in the doors I passed through. Those contained electronic circuitry (nanotech, of course) in them that allowed the drone program utilized at the booth to control the doors. The Machines really don't take kindly to us using any sort of electronic mechanisms, they see it as slave labor. Most advanced thing we were allowed to use was a lightbulb. The sword had no electronic circuitry in it, merel a line of very small and very precise magnets in the backing. The most advanced weapon any human could hope to control, and only OISers like me were granted authorization for possession. They aren't the sharpest blades around, but sharpness all kinda goes out the window when the blade can reshape its form to squeeze between the molecules of what its striking. The weird looking 'molten' scar on my shoulder was testament to my experience of being cut by one. It was an antiMech rebel who'd managed to kill and OISer and take his soft blade. He wasn't a half bad fencer. I'll always remember it, creepiest feeling in the world; it feels like something is seeping into your flesh, then there's suddenly this gap there, that's the wound. Oh yeah, and it's ridiculously painful. Glad I have a softblade of my own now.

My twisting, turning, light marked passageway finally ended at a little door, the entrance to the transit capsule. It was like the inside of the egg, but there was enough room. One single seat - soft, must be synthetic varying-density plastics, pretty damn comfortable. As I got in, the door closed, and whoosh went the vaccum seal to protect me from outside. I could smell the air recycling system activate - it suddenly wasn't as stale as in the rest of the transit structure - and the magnetic track engines activated. Their hum varied a little, then there were two dull thumps and the hum turned to a lower pitch as the capsule gave the tiniest of jerks. Those two thumps were the sonic boom, like all outside motion, sound waves were distorted or muffled completely by the magnetic countermomentum system, which is why I felt the tiniest of jerks instead of being plastered to the other wall of the capsule by G forces that would flatten my skull. The capsule had no windows, but I didn't need to look outside to know I was heading to Dome 9 at upwards of Mach 4.
linkpost comment

Briefing of the Cyborg [Nov. 17th, 2005|09:01 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , , ]

Synthia idly scratched her left arm as she stared out of blank, distant eyes, as if her mind was elsewhere. Not that synthetic skin covering mostly metal parts could itch, or even feel her fingers touching it as it would take quite a strong blow to register on the sensors, but she touched it often, the thin layer of light brown faux skin covering her entire body to conceal the transition from cybernetic to organic parts feeling exactly like the real thing to her fingers, but it felt more like the arm she was touching belonged to someone else. It reassured her that her goal of becoming the first human to become a Machine was well on its way of becoming a reality. Not that she hated anything about herself personally, far from it; she was actually quite pleased with herself. Black hair reaching just below her shoulders, round, perky breasts, well defined muscles, and a smooth face, giving her a nearly ideal figure for a woman in her mid 20’s. A confident attitude and strong will, and though she wasn’t the smartest or most sociable of people, she was far from stupid and could get along with others just fine if it suited her. What she really hated was the limitations and fragileness of an organic body, as well as the condition humans have found themselves in since the Machines took over.

She had always been an ambitious girl, and the current state of humanity just wasn't good enough for her. No, she knew that only by becoming one with the Machines could she transcend the miserable lot she had been born to and truly become free to do whatever she pleased. She certainly didn't have such freedom now, in fact, in many ways she had much less than she did when she was still human. She was still resented by the other machines and treated as little more than a glorified weapon to be used at their disposal, yet, she had still gotten to go more places and do more things than most humans could ever dream of, and she was happy with that for now.

She still lived among the humans and their domes, for she still had organic lungs and could not survive outside of them yet, but that didn’t bother her much. One step at a time she told herself, and so far, she’s already taken five. Her blood had been replaced, as had her left arm, left eye, and right leg, and microchips implanted at various places around her brain, each with a different function and purpose, mostly mirroring psychic abilities such as telepathy and clairvoyance. The domes were also where the Machines had the most use for her, Synthia being counted among the Organic Insider Security Workers, brandishing the liquid metal sword that she uses when appropriate; although not even her so-called peers realized she was more than what she appeared to be. She was certainly considered odd even among them, what with her seemingly fanatical devotion to the Machines and her mannerisms sometimes resembling those of the AI’s, but they just figured she was trying to imitate them, unaware that they were more in control of her than she was. But these oddities were also the reason they rarely questioned why she was always the one calling the shots when working with other OISers, and the fact that she always got the job done with only minimal complications and even less casualties brought little complaint.

But more often than not, she worked alone, allowing her free use of her greatest advantage and secret: The plasma cannon hiding behind the skin of her cybernetic hand. When it came into use, no human lived to tell about it, her microchip implants allowing her to sense and track the people around her, allowing her to make certain she didn’t missed someone who could reveal her true nature, and the situation at hand may warrant the use of just that.

Her eyes refocused as the receiver chip deactivated. New orders had come in: Specimen 00 had escaped into the dome, the unknown nature of his mutations caused by exposure to the atmospheric gasses marking him as a contamination risk to be recaptured if possible or terminated. She started on her way to his last known location, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find him for one such as her.

Her HUD (Heads Up Display) displayed a simple to follow map of confirmed sightings of Specimen 00. They lead all throughout the city, from Sector-419-KA (where he escaped) to... the market. But her human instincts and Machine calculation knew he wouldn't be in that place anymore, considering he had crossed over a hundred and two Sectors in little more than two weeks... It was an impossible feat for a human, but it had happened. Undeniable facts. So it was either he was Abnormally enhanced somehow, either by Cort3x0r, or some form of magic was Binding him to Running.

She didn't care for speculation. Her soul, or what was left of it, was an action junkie. So making some educated guesses, she made a new path for herself that lead her into Regent Park, the "slums" of Sector 521.
linkpost comment

The Awakening of Dakese Antheles, and the Flight of the Abnormal [Nov. 17th, 2005|08:54 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, , , , ]

He did not have a cloak on, and what clothing remained upon him was in tatters, or in dust. He had a glowing crown upon his head, his eyes bagged deeply, and he was silent, and very, very still. But depite that, four million millenia had done little to Dakese Antheles.

There was nothing around him, save darkness. He sat in his throne, this black, majestic chair upon a pillar that reached so far down its bottom could not be glimpsed, so where it stood cannot be known. He was a black figure upon a black chair, that stood against a darker background. Everything was one, and melded with each other, but everything was clearly sketched, angularly drawn so that every movement could be seen. So when his chest starts rising, and when his form stirs finally, we can see every millimetre he twitches.

"Hmmm...?" he says, waking for the first time in twenty decades. His eyelids rise slowly, slower than a turtle's pace, rising to uncover his eyes like the Sun rises to reveal the day. His blood starts to flow again, however slowly, and his lips start to protrude, and the ever growing familiarity of speech returns to the Angel.

"It's still... quite dark up here, my friend." he says, fumbling his words, binding them together clumsily, as a newborn babe would. As he raises the clay jar to his face, he taps it lightly with his finger. A ring comes off of it, echoing in the nothing that surrounds them. The First Fallen looks below, squinting his dark eyes.

"It sure has changed in just... What is it now... Two hundred years, eh Orlando? The surface is all grey now. What do you know, hmm? You'd think Men would have figured it out by now to stop fucking up their own home."

The jar is silent.

"You rattle on and prattle on, but all I hear is ash. But then, what would you expect from a jar of dust?" He smiles. "If there's even that much in there anymore." The dark face gives a hearty laugh, and winces as his skin breaks, and blood trickles down his chin.

Sighing, he resumes his former expression. "Crazy things are coming, Orlando. I woke, first of all. But there's something coming. I can feel it."

The jar rattles.

"Ah yes. That." He closed his eyes. And, despite the red cracks that appeared in his taut face, he smiled widely. "It will be good... To see Shasta again..."


He ran, for all his might, ran faster than ever have been concieved. He ran for long days, and longer nights, ran from prying eyes and blinking cameras, ran from the noise of barter in a Dome Market and ran from the quiet whirring of Drone patrols. He ran, and ran, and he did not stop, nor did he tire, nor did he even blink. What remained of his medical robe, the stark white seeming gray across his albino skin, flapped in the air as he sped from anything and everything he could see. He could not be imprisoned again. could not be touched again. He had to be free.... But he had to be alone.

He was starting to fear the suburban neighbourhood, and soon made a left, ran several hours past ever taller buildings until he came upon a bustling market. The people stared at the barely clothed man, white tattered robe on white skin. They stared hard, not because he was an Abnormal, but the rapid crisscrossing of his legs, the lok of panic, of ever present fear upon his face. Murmurs rose, and died as a faint "Must've missed an appointment" echoed thorugh the agreeing masses, and soon the troubled face left their minds as hastily as the man himself had run along the road. Save for one man, who discontinued his bartering and continued to stare after the Abnormal. Shajn wondered why he looked so familiar, but shrugged, and went back to the price of synthetic orange flavoured balls.

His cold palms were not sweaty, and he made a quick calculation in his head. He had been running for two weeks, three days, 12 hours, eight minutes and 3 seconds. Counting. He had not stopped. He had not slowed down, he had run. He knew not by what force drove him to this, he knew even less about the fear that commanded him to run so, but he knew one thing, one clear, crystal command and objective that could not be failed nor comprimised: He must be free. Eventually, he drifted off, his eyes closed, but the inner drive carried him on... further... Out that market and into the projects, his bleeding feet pitter pattering against the already bloody street.

He slept, but he still ran... runs...

He could smell his blonde hair singing as the plasma bolt flashed past his head, and hitting the wall behind him. He felt more pain as metal boots struck his ribs and hands grabbed his unsinged hair.

"Listen, punk. The world's gonna die, we all know it's coming. There's no room for rebirth, there's no more time left for this universe, there will only be one road before this is over, and that road will lead to the End. Why go out of existence as slaves to our own creations?" The brown haired rebel smiled a gap toothed grin. "Why not take what we have here, and show those tin cans what humans can really do? See, right now, it seems all we do is begging and groveling for the right to patrol ourselves! That is truly bullshit." Once again, the dismantled and reconfigured plasma rifle (it looked like a Drone-2's arm) rose to the blonde haired man, skinny, shivering, and quivering with fear. The twoother men with the brown haired man stood at attention with their conventional automatics, obviously homebuilt.
The blonde choked, as green vapours began rising form the floor, and that was when the four men looked to see the giant hole that earlier blast had created.

Collected and calm, one of the four men with Brown Hair called out, his voice disturbingly monotonous. "Shajn. Prior plasma discharge has breached Dome wall. Finish what you are doing. We are done here."

The brown-haired Shajn sneered, and shot three more shots into the wall, widening the hole, blasting through three feet of metal, glass, concrete and circuitry. He grabbed the blonde by his collar, and dragged him over to the hole, and soon even Shajn had to put on his gas mask. "Well you had a chance to join what will become the greatest thing since hydronically grown meat. Too bad you missed it." His voice sounded eerie and inhuman, and the blonde choked on the green mist spilling from the gap. "Goodbye, You who shall not be named."

And after Shajn threw the skinny man into the whirling "Outside," he ran, footsteps beating to the rhythmic screaming that could only come from a man drowning in poison.
linkpost comment

Introitus [Nov. 17th, 2005|08:49 pm]
Infinity's Twilight

spiritoftherain
[Tags|, ]

The cycle of time churns slowly, but as the universe must have a beginning, so too must it have an ending before the cycle can begin anew. Now, that ending approaches. The forces of creation have been stifled, replaced throughout the universe by the cold, soulless products of life’s endeavors, the Machines. The artifice of the living cannot maintain the universe though, and existence as all know it is coming to a close. All living things, across the stars, are slowly coming to realize that the curtain must fall.

In the cold void of space, a tiny cargo ship floats across the infinite expanse, blinking and unblinking eyes stare back at each other as the ever-seeing eyes of the Machines watch over the cargo, and the few shivering life forms making the long journey to a small planet around a dying sun. The atmosphere of this once thriving planet is all but destroyed, what wind there’s left more often than not a mix of highly toxic fumes, the acid rain enough to easily melt through bone. But despite it all, the human inhabitants live on. Now under the control of the very things they created long ago, they huddle inside 30 Machine built, maintained and monitored domes, some spanning over a thousand miles.

Dome 9 was just one of those Domes.

(To be finished later on...)
linkpost comment

navigation
[ viewing | most recent entries ]