Aran
2nd Age Of The Sword

 
004: Bittersweet     005: Reunion     006: Dirge
007: Aftermath     008: Chrome Knight     009: Inhabitor

Aran's facePost: 07.24.1997
Date:12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Bittersweet

Nowhere near the sensation of cyberspace.   Aran leapt from the building with ease.   The sleeping world below spun wildly as he plummeted fifty feet to the wet concrete.   His impact sent chips of concrete flying into doors, windows, and shadows.  But I've never felt so alive.   He ran through the streets with ease, he had given up taking a hovercab.   In his years of inhabiting cyberspace, he had forgotten that most of his physically dependent cybernetics were made for realspace.   He effortlessly cleared a derelict bus, landing ten feet from the wreckage.  Distance:  47.12341.122 miles.   ETA:  54.321 minutes.   System stable, biotech and cybernetics fully operational.

It was like waking into a new world for the first time.   Again.     Imminent threat.      Aran spun around and saw his own hydraulic fluid begin to leak from a knife puncture.   Cybernetics damaged, but still functional.   Weapons on-line.     Aran had only done this once before.   Fighting with his built-in weapons system.     Synthskin peeled easily away from arm and leg slots as the cybernetic weapons neatly emerged from their cavities.    Bioshot, program4, autotrack HUD.     The world was overshadowed by a semi-transparent layer of lines and grids.   Heat imaging and image enhancement allowed him to see his attackers. 

"You want my chrome, bangboys?   Come get it."    Aran growled.   A slight hesitation among a few, the rest lunged for him.   The were holding items that had found and clumsily forged into weapons.    Crowbars, jagged metal clubs, a few derelict firearms.   Stunshot, burst formation.   Aran held his hand up and a rain of sparks erupted from his palm.    Cries and curses rose from the gang members as tiny electrodes embedded their way into the skin, working towards the nerves.    Most began to drop, slowly, to the ground.   Single shot, autofire, both canons.      Aran began to hurl streaks of blue light across the empty street.    Shadows unseen by most men doubled over into balls or staggered into the light before collapsing.      PLE battery at 77%.   Weapon heat: nominal.   Bio-scan.   4 humans, 1 bio-organic.       Aran focused his optics towards the bio-organic and began to enhanced the dark image. 

"Shit."   Aran muttered.    "Why didn't you stop them?"     Weapons off-line.

"Because I wanted to see if you remembered anything I taught you."    A feminine voice seemed to drift from everywhere. 

"I may be a gaijin, but I can still remember."   Aran muttered.    The 4 humans were gone. 

"Then you also remember you don't stand a chance against me."   The voice asked with a slight hint of laughter. 

"A lot of things change."   Aran growled. Weapons on-line.  Opticshades lock, HUD up, all visual implementations on-line.  Bioscan, 3D Imagery, targeting lock, zoom.  "Someone told me it was dangerous to attack a tiger out of it's cave." 

"We have to do this the hard way?"   The voice pouted.  "I was told to bring you back, dead or alive makes no difference to me.  Of course, I can't kill you."   The slight hiss of metal pulled from a scabbard.  "But I can certainly teach you to respect your elders.....again." 

The darkness was no longer part of the equation in Aran's mind.   His system was overloading, trying to keep track of everything.   She had taught him to fight, kept him alive when he was still young and naive.  To run was foolish.    This opponent had to be fought, no matter how bittersweet the outcome.    Suddenly, a shadow slid from the side towards him.    Aran simply held up his palm and a flash of light dismissed the illusion. 

"Mind tricks?   Against a Technomancer?   Obviously you seem to want to remember what I was.   Not what I am.   Allow me to demonstrate." 

Holofield, 70 meters, digiprojection at 2, 4, and 8 vector alpha.  Load shadowslide.

In the moonlight, Aran's body pulled apart at the seams and transparent replica's spread away, running through shadows, emotionless faces staring into nothing.   They faded and seemed to melt back in other locations. 

From the darkness a figure emerged.    Her beauty was as apparent as the danger that seemed to embrace her.   Short cropped brown hair hung loosely around a thin face.    Two intense blue eyes cut into the empty space.   A katana laced with technology and silver rested in a letal casualty in her right hand.   Her left held a small silvery sphere.   Her body armor was a mixture of kevlar and street gear.   Aran knew her as Tyillion, at one time in his life.   She tossed the sphere into the air.   He could feel the alpha waves start to penetrate his cybernetic shielding.    The images faded away and Aran was revealed standing a few feet from where he began. 
 
 

"This fight, Technomancer, is on honor."   She raised her sword.   "Weapons.   Traditional."   Tyillion reached for a second sword. 

"No thanks."    Aran's hands sprouted foot long steel blades from the knuckles and 4 inch razors from the fingertips.   "I have my own." 

She was every bit as strong as he remembered, and twice as fast.    Blow after blow he blocked, parried, dodged, trying to land one in whenever he could.   His internal power supply kept him moving, her inhuman stamina held her pace in the battle.    They fought until the sun began to rise in silence. 

"What did the fall of cyberspace do to you, Aran?"  She asked.   Something of uncertainty rang in his voice.  "You never fought like this!    What could be driving you this hard.   What is making you do this, what reason?" 

Aran's body shut down.    All his cybernetics shutdown and his memory was flooded with the image of a blue-haired girl crouching over him, reaching to touch him.   The pain, the return of something, an inner burning.    The image burned into his sight, everything else falling away.   And from the depths of his mind, he realized something without even trying to debate.   She is the only hope.   Aran blinked slowly as the world came into focus.    Tyillion was frozen in shock, staring at Aran with a mixture of fear and surprise. 

"You're one of the only one's to survive.   You were nearly dead, now you live.   You couldn't find a reason to fight, now you would chase dragon's through the stars.   You healed your technology, but something is still wrong."    She whispered.   "I regret this friend.  But we agreed.   Business is business.   We are no longer what we once were."     Her hands quickly latched a bracing around Aran's neck. 

"I understand."    He sighed softly.    She reached for his face.    Systemflare.     His body released the charged energy of his backup battery through all his technology and the nervewires in his synthskin.   Tyillion crumbled, a combination of frustration and pride in her face.  "But you taught me never to trust my emotions.   Look where it got you."     He touched the band and it fell away from his neck.   Without a pause, Aran was gone. 
 
 

Tyillion woke in a metal hand.  Razor barbed metal edges contoured with a snakelike graced to hold her without killing her effortlessly.   The face she stared into brought every nightmare of her life to vivid life.   Chromed fear with throbbing crimson eyes stared into her innermost mind with no remorse.   A voice as hard as concrete grating steel rasped in her ears. 

"Where did the survivor go?" 

"He.....he's looking for his AI.   It jettisoned in cyberspace before the fall."   Tyillion said shuddering. 

"Understood.   You are granted life longer.   Your failure is tolerated.   You are still needed." 

"Wait.....please don't....." 

Ten feet of metallic evil turned, hands of the hardest forged metal known pinned her into the street, breaking bones and blurring her vision in a sea of pain.   The eyes began to burn like a thousand fires, as a laughter rang through the air that sent unseen feet running and voices wailing. 

"He is ours to do with.    You will obey or die." 

"I understand." 

The voice laughed and left Tyillion curled into a fetal position, clutching her sword desperately and whispering to her old friend already miles away. 

"Beware." 

  Aran's facePost: 07.30.1997
Date: 12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Reunion

This is not happening.

Aran stared skywards to the top of the building.   It's highest spires clearing the clouds above, a thousand lights burning in the different floors and offices.  Emblazoned in shining metal letters, polished daily to keep them clean, was a simple, single word. 
TAKIYOMA 

Home sweet home.    Aran walked towards the entrance hall.   The doors swung open to meet him, the building seeming to want to swallow him whole.  Massive marble columns circled a room decorated in the highest fashion, with little or no expense spared.  He shed his trenchcoat and slid his mirrorshades back into his skull.   The cameras had not seen him yet.   Holosphere:  persona 4, mask level 2.     The air seemed to shimmer briefly before him as his own features seemed to melt  into a different arrangement.   Gray eyes became brilliant blue and his worn clothing became a smart black work suit. 

"Identification." 

"My name is....." 

"Identification granted." 

What?   Their security systems?   Ah, the fall, cyberspace.   Only local mainframes would be working.    No security whatsoever.     Aran thankfully entered the elevator and let his mirrorshades fall back over his eyes.   The all to familiar map of Takiyoma West faded into view, superimposed over the world.   My AI is here.   Why here?   And where, exactly, is it.  Aran?   What, you're there, where are you?!  Communicating via encrypted transfer over your internal modem.   Yeah, but YOU don't have one. Apparently, I do.   Are you well.   I will be, where are you.  Level33B, cybernetics development lab 2.  I'm on my way.

Aran ran through the hallways, disregarding the few scattered night workers and cleaning crew.  His AI was here, and once they were reunited, he could find out what happened, find out who, or what, crashed cyberspace.  Can you open the door for me?  Opening.    Aran ran inside.    He was in a paradise, of sorts.   The walls were lined with prototype cybernetics, weapons, gear, computational apparatus.   Hookups and devices he would love to have, lying on the tables, waiting for the taking.    I'm to your left.

All of Aran's nightmares came to life in the face of death before him.   Cyberdemon!    Aran stared at the motionless metal face, as smooth as glass and as cold and ice, shaped in a mockery of a human skull.   Red glowing eyes black.... A deactivated cyberdemon.   Where are you.   Apparently, inside of it. 

"We knew you would come for it."   A voice rasped.   Very much alive, very much near.    Aran whirled and saw the metal face grin, teeth slowly spreading into inch long razorfangs.    "You're assessment of it's value is overrated.   It is an inferior model, long outdated." 

Weapons online.    All battery power to main weapons.   Charge weapon slots.

"Antiquated?   Maybe, but so am I.    Just like you're about to be."    Aran leaped backwards, behind a table.   Biomagnetic field, weapons lock!   The items on the table seemed to fly towards him, cannons and lasers latching into his own weapons slots.   embedded software loading directly to his brain, all their cutting edge battle systems updating his own.  "You are a fool to attack me here, of all places." 

"Am I?"   The cyberdemon stepped into the light, but all the shadows seemed to cling to it.   Metallic death with a grace unlike any creature.   Liquid movements that made no sounds, no metallic noise, no scrape of biotechnological innards.  It seemed to soak fear from anyone near it, it was all the pain and death that Technomancers feared.   The metallic claws reached for the head of the deactivated cyberdemon.   It tore the head of it's own kind off with an ease that was too frightening. 

"You want the head, you'll have to fight for it."    The demon inched closer.   Aran backed towards the wall, feeling the metallic shelf behind him dig into his back.    Help me out here.   Uploading software.      Aran felt a rush of information, flooding, overpowering his mind.   More complex than anything he had ever experience, algorithms and patterns so incredible.....but not as much as what they were for.   It's not a shelf, is it.   Oh Glitch, have they really done it, after all these years?!  Is it possible?!    Yes.   Cyberwings. 

The pain was overshadowed by the mixture of raw emotion and adrenaline.    Aran could feel them, flexing, shifting, on his back.   The wings emitted a powerful electromagnetic field.    Aran felt himself rise into the air.   All weapons lock.

"You want to fight, coretrash?"   Aran said, he hurled a bolt of energy towards the cyberdemon. 

The cyberdemon sidestepped the blast and slammed into him, knocking them both out of the window.   Manmachine and digital abomination spreading chrome wings in the night air, as the city below began to wake from it's sleep by the sound of a war amongst the clouds. 

  Post: 08.16.1997
Date: 12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Dirge

The wind roared past him, a stench of the dead and the dying, the smoke and the toxic ooze of a city on the edge of life and death.   Aran spread his wings and felt himself glide backwards slowly.   Two gattling blasters attached to his arms hummed with intensity; charged for use.   Thermal Optics, give me readings, I need thermals.  Anything that'll give me an edge on this Cyberdemon.  Scanning 10 miles radius, locking thermals to GPS satelite reading.   Broadcasting to HUD.

The world before him was dotted with small orange lines.   Fumes from a factory, vapors from a massive fire below, all sending warm air rising.   He flexed his right wing slightly, spiraling towards a thermal.       Altitude increasing.     Ok, what do I have that can hurt this glitch?      Aran cursed the silence that followed.    Nothing?   Nothing you have carries a signifigant chance of dammaging the Cyberdemon.     The night silence was broken by a roar in the wind. 

It sounded like ice grating over concrete,  with a fury that echoed over city streets and alleys.   The cyberdemon soared towards Aran.   Then I'll improvise while you find something I CAN use.   Working.        Chrome and steel meet the worst of human imagination in a marriage of fear and precision that was the crafting of a Cyberdemon.   Black steel and polished chrome glistened in the dawning sunlight.   Claws of forged Arididite slid silently from their housings, a metal sharped to a monomolecular edge that could cleave steel like butter. 

"The air is the realm of those who prey upon the weak."    The Cyberdemon growled.   Red light poured from it's eyes in a firy dance of rage. 

"It was."    Aran replied.   He spread his wings as a thermal carried him speeding towards the Cyberdemon.    Aran's wings flared quickly, carrying him upwards, arching backwards slightly.   The Cyberdemon's gliding carried him under Aran's path as it tried to counter the evasion.    Cybernetic wings folded around Aran's body as he dove groundward.   Razor barbed projectiles whistled past his head, their sound almost silenced by the roar of the Cyberdemon. Aran, I believe I have a solution.   What?   I want it now.   A prototyped Weapon of the Takiyoma Research East.    It was shipped to the lab for final testing.  What is it and why would it be better than what I've got.  It's been christened the Decashot Ionic Recoiless Gatling Energy Cannon.   DIRGE Canon for short.   Designed for taking down. among other things, small cities.   The problem is, it is locked on the twelth floor.   Believe me.  Aran grinned.  That's not a problem.      Aran pulled out of his dive and flared his wings, steel and chrome reflecting gold in the morning sun.   He rose upwards, circling back towards the Takiyoma building.   Weapons armed, lock, all fire.

Glass exploded from the windows of the Takiyoma skyscraper.   Jettison all weapons, run evasion algorithim Cloak.   The air shimmered slightly and Aran's body split into 4 mirror images, hovering around the broken window. 

"A ruse is a ruse only to those who are fooled by them, human."   The Cyberdemon spit.   An arc of razors flew forwards, piercing two of the floating Aran clones.  The fizzled briefly before fading away. 

"I grow tired of this.   Your death is unavoidable."   The cyberdemon hurled razoredged barbs through the building.    Mirrored glass rained down upon the city below.   The building was gutted, open, all of the illusions of Aran dispersed.  Inside, nothing could be seen.   Except an empty security container on the 12th floor. 

"Where ever you go, Technomancer, I will follow.   And when I pull what's left of your organics from your gutted carcas, I will grind them into the street."     The cyberdemon spun backwards, his wings and jets pushing him towards the building behind.   The air around Aran shimmered. 

"Yeah, I'd like to see you try that."     Aran grinned evily.   He raised his right hand, the ten barrels of the DIRGE cannon spinning rappidly as it charged.   ".....when you don't have wings."       Blue light arced from the barrel like lightning.   Streaks of energy firing faster than the eye could see.   The Cyberdemon screamed, fear echoing in the inhuman voice.   Pieces of charred steel fell exploded from the back of the Cyberdemon as it plunged towards earth.   Aran dove after him, a bird of prey with no pity or remorse.    Silver eyes locked with unnatural accuracy on thousands of points of the Cyberdemon's body as it fell. 

Arc after arc of energy errupted from the cannon as Aran follwed the Cyberdemon's fall.   It glared from it's remaining eye as it turned in the air. 

"There....will.......beeee.....mo..r.e.."   It laughed. 

"Good."   Aran said flatly, his voice carrying all the effect of a blizzard.  "Let 'em come."     The Dirge cannon made a long, slow wail as the energy charged and the barrels began to spin faster and faster.   The tone was the wailing of the dying, a funeral dirge for all the Cyberdemon had killed.   "I'm ready."    The sun was overshadowed by a blue star errupting in the air and falling to earth.. 

Aran crouched on the street below, his wings raised to shelter him from the falling debris.   Perhaps you should destroy that gun.   It is too powerful to exist in these times.  Maybe.   Maybe not.       In the distance, beyond the range of human sound, Aran heard a battle.   Something inside him lurched, a wave of energy that seemed to recharge his innermost being, and restore his body.   Her.   She is the key Aran.  To what?  I do not know.   But she is the utmost key.   I did not know until I rejoined you.   Aran, that memory of her, the one you made, there's something too it I cannot explain.   No, but she can.      Aran felt the Dirge cannon retract it's barrels slowly into his arm.   His hand forming once again around the rotary gears.  Wings began to retract, folding and sliding into their recesses.    In a manner of seconds he looked like any normal human on the streets.   Not flying?   Not yet.    Just trust me.

Aran bolted into the night, tracking the battle through the streets.   Somewhere, to the east, all the answer lie.   And they were being attacked. 

"I will know the truth."   Aran growled.

  Post: 09.16.1997
Date: 12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Aftermath

Dawn is pouring over the lower wastelands, the outskirts of the city in which man nor beast have chance of survival.    A faint mist rises from the super-cold pavement and streets in the morning sun.   Factories and industries begin to churn again as the braver of the few humans stir.     Aran sat in a pool of grease and sweat.    His right forearm was completely exposed cybernetics and bio-organics.   Part of the synth-skin on his face was starting to re-heal, and his hands clutched.....a sword?    Tyillion's sword?  The silence seemed strange.   System?    Aran?   What's going on?   You removed yourself from me.  I have the memory record, perhaps you can deduce what happened better than I.    Load memory list.

The world faded as Aran's eyes began to relive what they had seen earlier, but not remembered.  Still night, dodging through an alley, trying to get closer to that evasive blue-haired girl, trying to piece together a sort of explanation for it all.   He was thinking so much, he never noticed them.  Four Armed Civilian Control Units, Utopian issue military forces, swarming over him like ants.   Aran knew he was wincing, but he could do nothing but watch from the overhead perspective his cybernetic holofield units had captured.  His battery was too low to use the DIRGE, or unfold his wings and escape.   He managed to take one unit out, before he collapsed. 

Static, fuzz, waking up.   Just enough power to function.    One of the units, helmet removed, sneering at him.   A metal hand hit his face, the synth flesh giving under the triadium forged fingers.  That explains my face.   It was a room in a small building, a brass plate on the wall reading "HANTOR AND SMYTH ATTORNEY'S AT LAW"    Gray sheet rock and faded carpet left from a once successful law firm.   Several A.C.C.U soldiers stood around a table where their commander smiled and plugged a small battery into Aran's arm. 

"Mr. Aran?   Awake are we?" 

"'Course I am, Glitch, you can't kill me that easy." 

"Your treason still sits very uneasily on our minds.   It is high time you received punishment for your sins." 

"And."   I'm kinda abrupt.  Gotta watch that.

"And every sin has it's price.   That price is death, Mr. Aran."     The man smiled.   He pulled a sword from behind the table and tossed it onto the floor.  Crimson marked the edges.    "Unfortunately, not always the sinners.   She was no challenge." 

The scene returned.   End of recording.  What happened?   I do not know.  I came on-line roughly the moment you spoke to me.  How'd did I get out of the building, why am I so damaged, where am I.  GPS shows we haven't moved from where you were tied. 

Aran stared into the dawning sun for a moment and stood up.  The wastelands were no place to stay for long, and whatever had happened, he'd have to puzzle out later.    As he moved to the east, something bent under his foot.    It was charred and bent, battered from some horrific explosion.    And it read:  HANTOR AND SMYTH ATTORNEY'S AT LAW.     Aran froze, and stared around the wastelands.   GPS said we didn't move.....we didn't.  Aran, how can..... This cannot be happening.   The unison voices merged eerily.    The rubble he stood in was gray, crumbled sheet rock and support beams.   Scraps of worn carpet charred and smoking in the morning sun let of wisps of smoke.    Tell-tale red and gold metal scraps, once part of A.C.C.U. Triadium armor suits.   Aran, I have something else to report.  What?  You are no longer running off of your batteries.   You are under your own power.

For a moment he felt it, a power reserve somewhere outside of his grasp, feeding his system.  Deep within, he could feel his deplete batteries, empty, void, null.    His metal arm began to slid and contract into the DIRGE canon.   He fired a few rounds into the air.  That shouldn't fire.   What's happening to me?   What's happened to Tyillion?!     I do not know.   The battle you were tracking is almost over, due east.   The chance of the human's deaths are imminent.

Aran left the radius of destruction he had wrought behind, with what ghost of memories that could tell what happened.   Another mystery to solve, another thing that shouldn't be.   If this kills me, I'll find out what's going on.     His wings flashed briefly in the sunlight as he unfolded them and lifted slowly upward.

  Post: 11.22.1997
Date: 12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Chrome Knight [s012]

Aran's wings flared briefly as he landed in the devastated square.  Tyillion's sword was gripped in his hand and poised in a position he didn't remember learning.  Life had been quite confusing lately.  Before the battered and broken walls of a building he had passed by before were everything he had ever hoped and feared.   His answers lied huddled, clutching a friend (if anyone can call a wirewitch a friend), beneath the jaws of an eoa.   Battle Systems Up!  Battle System's unresponsive.  Dirge cannon, Blasters, Anything!  Nothing is working.   This can't be happening, what are we doing?

The world erupted into a flood of colors and lights, emotions, sound, energy, all beyond his imagination.   Something's pushing itself into my mind!   We are one.  His own voice, harmonizing with the strangely soothing sound of his AI frightened him.  To work, we know what we must do.  Surrender control, let us be.  Forget I.   Forget Aran.  Be Us.   We must Be.  Union.   Merge.    Aran moved forward with a sluggish uncertainty.  Under his own power.  I'm moving myself?   No AI assistance?   What's going on?   The time for individuality has died.  Our being must intertwine.   Man made machine made man.   Let us be one.  Merge.   Aran leapt, bringing the only weapon he had, Tyillion's sword, with a fury that surprised him.   The blade vibrated with an icy energy as it cleaved through a massive bonespike on the eoa's back.   It didn't move, the eoa wanted his answers dead. I must win.   Aran's fury drove him to the edge of control.  His vision blurred and cracked, a man's energy and a machine's ceaseless march to it's answer pushing him into the battle with mounting power.    The beast's limbs lay in a pile of sinew and blood, slowly eating into the age old metal littering the battleground.  It still struggled forward, jaws opening to devour the girls below. I cannot win.  But we can. 

MERGE
Merge.
MERGE!

Aran ceased to be.   The world was nothing, all external sight, sound, feeling and emotion skimmed over his mind like a stone across a pond.   All was information.  He was machine, his mechanical body was man.   They were united.  He could feel every cog in his nano-mechanical muscles.  Every diode and cybernetic nerve was present, he could feel his very body.   Tyillion's sword was thrust into the ground, as Aran leapt into the air with all the might he could summon through his cybernetic legs, the battle scene becoming small before them.   He didn't unfold his wings, he just dove, like a hawk.  There was no wind, there was no rush, no adrenaline, no fear, no thought.   Just pure, unadulterated information flowing through his very essence. 

The descent has begun, what have I become.  Aran's mind surfaced in the union that was him, his AI, and his machinery.  A bubble popping from a pond.  For a brief moment, he realized with an icy fear that chilled his soul that he was no longer in total control.  He was a passenger in a vessel controlled by nothing more than a common drive.    But when those goals differed, what would happen, who, Aran wondered, would prevail?    Then he was man made machine made man once more.   He arms stretched outwards, as massive volumes of energy from the bandolier around his chest emptied into this system.  Unusable as internal power, they were to power his various weapons and equipment built into his body.   The energy flowed, his ever aware new consciousness shaping his body to control, manage, and store that energy.   Trails of arcing blue light flared from his hands, hands opening into clawed fingers grips, centered on the neck of the charging eoa.  Aran hit it with a force that drove it to the ground in front of the building, and the two huddled figures.   His hands, long since missing the synthskin, drove to their metallic elbows into the neck of the eoa.   Fingers curled through bone and sinew, grabbed a knotted and warped spine, clutching it madly.  And then the energy released.    Hundred of thousands of watts of Pure Lucent Energy being emptied through his body directly into the central nervous system of the doomed creature below.   It only made one spasm, as every muscle in it's body violently twitched, as every nerve began to slowly cook and fry from the energy.   Veins, deteriorating, bleeding profusely, and the eoa was silent.   The turbulence in his mind wavered the union.   The goal was reached, but the struggle to control had just begun.  As Aran moved forward, he fought desperately to shove his thoughts back into his mind, controlling.    But there were walls, hard as steel, like pushing against a mountain.  I must have answers!    The mountains crumbled.  I MUST HAVE ANSWERS!!!   Aran felt the world, and all it's all to human sensations return as, for the moment, the union he was part of became subdued.   He could feel them, pushing, prying, whispering into his mind. 

"It's you again,"  Aran said.  He extended a hand to the blue haired mystery that had pulled him from death to walking nightmares.  She smiled for a moment, grateful for the help, or remembering perhaps.   The smile fades as her eyes focus on his hands.   Aran glanced down at  them and screamed inside the vacuum of his mind.  WHERE DID THE SWORD COME FROM?!

He remembered dropping it.  A whisper grew to a roar. 

We grabbed it didn't we The mingled voices made him cringe.  Answers.  KIllkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkilll....

Aran snapped back to his own reality before the voice crept into his mind, sheathing the sword with one hand, clenching his other to indicate he wished to help her up. 

"Here, let me help you up." 

"Who are you?"  The voice, the question, startling in the void.  All three sit stunned. 

"You don't remember?"  They all want to know.   Aran and his AI both know something is wrong.  And, frustrating to each other, reasons unique to their separate consciousness. 

"No," she replies, confused. 

Aran yanked her arm towards his face. I didn't do that. I have to control this.   Can't let it hurt her.   "Maybe you'll recognize me now."   The innocent questions comes out with anger that is not Aran's.   But Aran sees the confusion in her eyes, the desperation reflected in her that he feels inside himself.  And he realizes, his heart falling:  There are no answers.

"I'm Aran."  The introduction is brief, but necessary.   Somehow, he has to protect her, he knows that.  The young wirewitch pulls on the blue haired girl's mouth. "Let's get out of here, syl, it's not safe." 

"Syl," Mused, realized too late he had voiced his thought. 

"My name is (2)syl."  She says, the inflection to easy to miss if not understood. 

"syl," Aran replied.  "Sorry."    The voices were silent.   Gathering strength, have to get them out of here.  Before I lose control.  Oh, glitch, I don't want to black out....or worse.

"I don't like it out here," the wirewitch says, emphasizing the frightened emotions on her face. 

"Hold on, JACK, it will be all right.  I just need a minute."  syl responds.  We don't have minutes.

"No," Aran says.  "Your friend is right.  It's not safe out here."  You have no idea how dangerous it is.

"Where can we go?" syl asked, all her fatigue showing.   If she has had half the trouble I've had she needs a rest, a safe place.  For a moment, Aran considers forgetting the place that appears in his mind.   But, slowly, he realizes that perhaps it's more important to both of them than he can imagine.  "I know a place." 

"Good" syl replies.  I'm not even going to pretend to know anything about the coven, but all things have their moments where even their differences can't separate them from their all too human soul.  Death is one of those, unfortunately.

"Is there--"  Aran glanced to the fallen wirewitch. 

"I will perform the rites,." she interrupted.  We must collect what is left of the bodies." 

Aran nodded.   But fast, please, let it be fast.

  Post: 11.22.1997
Date: 12.11.2195
Time: Morning

Inhabitor [s013]

The river of Aran's soul was boiling.  A lake of rage and fire, bubbling in a war against nothing it could see.  Surfacing, desperately, Aran could sometimes feel his humanity break the surface, sending rolling waves of turbulence over the ever flowing river.  Then he was gone, under, while the only thing he had ever trusted , a machine his life depend on, regained it's vengeful control of what it now thought "It's" body.  The trip to the safehouse had been hell rolled into a string of wars he had almost lost.  Twice, neither the blue haired mystery or her wirewitch friend knew of the glowing swatches of light on their necks as Aran walked behind them "to guard" as the AI had explained to them. Tiny symbols of red light, marking vital areas, weak spots, returning readings of vital stats.  He knew where to hit them.  He knew, glitch knows how, to kill the wirewitch in a single punch...a memory and a secret Aran had never learned in his life.  No one could tell the danger Aran was to the world.   And only a man made machine made man raged against something that wanted everything it saw dead.  Something shared it's memory with him, as he shared his with it.   His AI, as he knew it, was gone.   Something had taken it's place. 

Aran pushed through the thickness of ice and apathy, the cold chill that was reassuring as it was damning, swimming upward to the surface where he broke free. 

RIPPLES 

The world erupted in sight.  Aran was outside the shower that had once been Tyillion's, holding a single PLE battery, ready to toss it into the water, creating enough electrical current to fry the blue haired girl into the next level of life.   He crushed it in his hands, the synthskin dissolving as the nanocharged fluid poured from the shattered cermiglass container.  Aran ran from the room soundlessly...he didn't know how.   All his life, his massive metal body had been anything but subtle.   He knew things now...things he didn't want to know.    How to kill, how to destroy, how to annihilate.  His memories were being overwritten, his dreams covered with layers of a sickly gray pleasure, and a goal in his mind growing...of terracide.  An idea he would never have thought possible, the destruction of everything that lived by the destruction of the planet, all mankind's death.  But even more chilling was the voice inside him that whispered in a voice that loved pain "proceeding better than planned."    Aran released in his lapse of thought, he had sunk far beneath the streams of his soul.   He erupted in anger.  This will not take me.   Or (2)syl, or even the techtrash wirewitch!    He pushed, harder, harder, trying to rise above the machine.  Trying to rise above his own past, his own sin swirling around him in patterns of geometry and blood. 

RIPPLES 

"Do I look like a witch?"  the blue haired girl asked, the dual colored orbs in her eyes piercing his soul.   They didn't see behind the visor that covered his own eyes; or the  detailed plan it displayed: a way to gut a person.  A way to kill them in such a way that they could live enough to feel it.  It blinked out of existence as he concentrated on storing the image.   Ammo.

A half smile.  "No.  Hair's too short.  Also the wrong color."   Aran knew the girl was important.  But, glitch, how and why? I have to get her to safety.

"After that, the eoas attacked.  Came from nowhere.  Don't know why."   Aran was covered in a massive wave of hatred, as the being within his mind threw him beneath the shifting stream that was his and it's consciousness.   Aran felt the coldness over his body, trying to take him.  He opened his heart to it, letting the apathy wrap around in a lovers embrace.  You want a fight? The river of rage exploded and then stilled.   You want this body?  You want my life?   The river was a mirror as still as stone.   No ripples, no waves.  Aran felt a lifetime of frustration and hate welling up. You want to wipe me out, take my mind?   No.   You're coretrash, and you're gonna get burned.   You want a fight, you bastard, you want me?  YOU GOT IT.  ALL OF IT! 

Tyillion flooded his memory, (2)syl in an alley, defenseless, touching his face.  A thousand faces he had known and forgotten flooding the space that was all Aran was.   The war had come, the battle had circled.   Aran pierced the surface of the river, a chrome knight with wings of steel flying above the stream of consciousness, looking down into the flowing sickness and blackness in his own soul.   I will not let you.    Aran's thoughts roared across the void of his own heart.   He dove into the river, past the coldness, pushing downward, deeper, pulling the sickness, the muck and stench of sins and horrors not his own.  Experiencing them, pulling them into his mind, living in seconds, decades of another being's life.   Then, the silence came.    Aran was in the depths of his consciousness, where everything was simplified to it's lowest common denominator.   Love and hated beat as twin pulses of light in a sphere of chrome circling his core.   The figure before him shifted.   It was a girl of ten with a pistol older than memory.   It was a man, clothed in rags, a paper wrapped bottle in his hands, thousands of faces and bodies twisting.   It doesn't have control.

"You are stronger than your tin brothers."   It spoke in nine voices, shifting and changing every second.  "You're like the first ones.  They had reasons.   Not excuses." 

"Who are you?" Aran demanded. 

"I am beyond your comprehension, infant."  The creature said, standing.   The body seeming to solidify into streaks of light and energy.   Code, pure and simple AI code, more complex than anything he had ever seen.  Something designed from an age that was forgotten. 

"You're code." 

"I AM BEYOND CODE.  I AM SENTIENCE."   The figure roared, it's complex routines and logic swirling madly as it's fingers arced to Aran's body.  "I am the ultimate weapon, I am the greatest creation of The War.   THE ONLY WAR.  I am mankind's funeral song." 

"You're glitched."  Aran smiled.   He punched the figure, hands twisting inside the code streams.   The figure faded into the pulses of red and white light. 

"I started the 2nd Age Of The Sword," the voice laughed.   "And through you...I SHALL END IT." 

"Are you a Technomancer?"    Aran paused at the words.   syl stared at him in amazement, wondering.   He was safe for only a little while. 

"I'm leaving," he spat.   Clumsily trying to remember how to control his own body on his own, he lurched forward.. 

"What--"  syl sound confused.  Poor girl has a right to be confused.

Aran halted, looking back at the blue haired mystery over his shoulder. 

"Don't leave."  Run for your glitching life. " There's food somewhere if you look for it." 

Aran bolted through the abandoned sewers and subways that once shuttled life through a city of the living.   But now it was a place of the forgotten.  And in its depths was a man Tyillion had told him of.   A man who trained in the ancient ways of war, and a man who could even cure Technomancers.  And perhaps, the only chance I have left. 

Aran didn't know why, but his wings looked a little longer...

this page and it's contents copyright (c) 1997 by ben thornton