013: The Essence Of The War 014: Body Format 015: Saline
For years Aran had inhabited a digital world of twisting streams of information. Where every day brought new streams, new paths, new destinations and new dangers. For years earlier Aran had inhabited the streets of the sprawling city, turning through dark alleys under military law one day, mob rule the next. But in all that, there had been one thing in common. He knew where he was, he always knew where he was going. Aran had abandon such foolish notions hours ago as he plunged ever deeper below the city.
The path was gone. There was no light, no torch, nothing. His light amplification system did nothing. There was no light to amplify. There was no sound to guide but the splash of his own feet in 500 year stagnant muck and grime; a thick sludge of waste and water that filled the decaying tunnels beneath the city. Tyillion had spoke of that darkness, when she first journeyed to find the man known as Keet'aal the Ageless. Someone who existed in myth among her kind, a teacher who had survived the age before the wars, who had seen high technology. Aran's foot no longer hit stone beneath, but kept sinking. He fell headfirst into a lake of filth. Sinking, slowly, until he felt the broken concrete beneath his feet. His synth skin was dissolving in the sludge. Great. Aran pushed forward, walking along the bottom of the lake of sludge for what seemed like days. Tyillion had swam it. But she didn't weigh in at over just under a ton. Aran finally felt the broken ground slope, as he pushed his way upward to the surface. The water broke in an explosion of light and sound that even his digital eyes could not cope with. A dim, green glow emanated from lichen on the wall and dripping fluid from the stalactites of the cavern. The endless dripping of water filled the cavern, echoing, echoing endlessly. He stared at his reflection in the black lake he had come through. A chrome monster stared back, liquid filth draining from its mechanical crevaces. A monster I am, to prevent the monster I could be. He turned to walk through the cavern. Time was meaningless here. He could have walked for days, or seconds, or hours. Time meant nothing now. Only stopping the ever growing thing inside him that was sharing his body. Kill it, or himself. He didn't care much either way, just as long as it was stopped. His own metallic footsteps echoed trough the cavern, overpowering the maddeningly dripping water. He kept time with the rhythm. There was nothing else to do.
"Do you really think I'd let a tin man walk this path of warriors?" a voice asked. It was tired and sounded more than a little annoyed. "You make enough noise to wake the dead, and you want to be a warrior?"
Aran turned around. No one. The way this cavern is shaped, if he knew how to throw his voice right, he could be....anywhere.
"I don't want to be a warrior," Aran said in a half growl. "I want to be healed."
Laughter echoed through the cavern off of every wall, growing louder all the time. It was a rolling laughter, as if Aran's answer had been the most hilarious thing it had ever heard.
"For over a millenia....I've heard everything. 'I want to be a warrior,' 'I want to use the sword,' 'I want the secret of ancient technology.' A thousand excuses, a thousand quests. But never, EVER did a tin man want to be 'healed.' " The laughter cut off into the void of silence filled only by the continual dripping and echoing. "Tell me, half man, why do you want to be healed?"
"There's something inside me..." Aran said slowly, his wings were unfolding. Not now! I can't lose control! "Something that wants the world dead..." His right hand began to whir in motion as the DIRGE Canon began to charge itself. I cannot lose control, NOT NOW!!!! "Something from your time...I think."
Silence of voices. Aran fell to his knees, struggling to keep control, the energy building inside him was threatening to feedback into his system. "Killing you will heal you," the voice finally replied.
"Fine," Aran replied icily. "I can do that myself." He forced himself shakily to his feet, using every bit of strength of will to force the DIRGE canon to retract into his right arm. The energy was beginning to feedback into his body, he could feel the synapses and fiber optic nerves frying with the energy. "I expected more from the man who trained Tyillion."
"I expected more from the man who loved her."
The world erupted. Aran's wings exploded in action as he
leapt into the air. All the electrical energy in his system
paled to the rage in his heart. WHY!!!!
Energy arced from his fingers across the cavern, striking age old towers
of formed rock and slate. Rocks and dirt showered the cavern
as the storm of energy from Aran cleared a path forward across the cavern.
The world went black.
"Wake up," the voice demanded. It was cheerful, humming a tune Aran didn't recognize.
Aran blinked. His visor was gone, not retracted, gone. His eyes were staring at a ceiling of gray metal with a dull finish. His body felt like a dead weight.
"Good. Now SIT up." The voice sighed. A pair of hands lifted Aran's shoulders and he found himself starring across a small room. It was immaculately clean, gray and white walls shining in aesthetic purity. Across the room, in a pile, were the remains of his arms. He looked down and saw the replacements that had been attached. Three fingered hands attached to crude rotary based joints.
"Your arms were damaged in that little temper tantrum you threw," the voice replied. Aran whirled to face the speaker.
White hair hung shoulder length around a face only slightly older than his. A white coat hung loosely over what was unmistakably armor from some time long ago. A scar snaked its way from its forehead down the right side of its face. The figure was in shape and implied danger at every glance. But his eyes cut into Aran with what seemed to be... boredom?
He was wearing a faded jumpsuit of some rough blue cloth. From the sleeves poked the three pronged metal hands. Cybernetic feet clanged on the concrete floor as he slid off of the table.
"Where am I?"
"Here," the speaker said.
"Who are you?"
"I am The Warrior," the boy said smiling, bowing formally. His white hair spilled forward as he bowed, revealing two sword hilts they had been hiding. "You are the initiate. We are proceeding."
"How do I get this thing out of me?" Aran said, stepped towards the warrior.
"You must know what is inside of you." The Warrior smiled. "And to do that, you must slay the greatest evil to mankind." He slid backwards with a snakelike grace and opened a door near the far wall. Aran followed the Warrior's gliding, soundless steps over the metal floor. Through the twisting metal halls of the Warrior underground home, a place for centuries hidden in the catacombs of a city that was dying, Aran and the Warrior walked.
"What is wrong with me?"
The Warrior had stopped before Aran knew it, his feet flew from under him as the Warrior laughed. The floor gave way almost too easily as Aran began to fall into the darkness below.
"You want to know what's wrong with you?" The Warrior laughed. "Here's your diagnosis. You're dead. Physician, heal thyself."
The floor above snapped too, sealing Aran in the darkness below as he continued to fall into cold oblivion. Alone again.
Breaking The Walls
In the past few days, Aran's life was glitched.
Cyberspace fell. It had to happen sometime. Just glad I survived.
His entire body had to be rebuilt. Not the first time, won't be the last.
A blue haired girl became imprinted on his mind. I don't like mysteries.
His AI had tried to kill him. That pissed me off.
A young-old warrior, the only apparent hope of getting this thing out of his brain, had swept his legs out from under him and sent Aran falling down into the depths of nothingness. Time to get violent.
Aran's light amplification system made dim polygon overlays of the environment based on the tiny fragments of light from the now familiar glowing lichen. Most of his gear was either not working, or had been tampered with. He nearly found himself dead when he tried to activate the small light in his shoulder. Apparently, his inhabitor had rewired it slightly. It took him an hour to see straight after the light flare. He had figured out, sitting, thinking, in the darkness, what his AI was doing. It was reshaping his body. The cybernetic wings were longer, more arced than sloping. His arms were a little longer too. Whatever it was doing, it wanted a different shape out of Aran's body. It didn't try to stop him from walking through the cavern, either. From what he could sense, it was actually...intrigued, fascinated, by what they both saw.
"You must slay the greatest threat to humanity." The words of the Warrior echoed in his mind. Aran pondered for a moment the statement. The greatest threat to humanity was humanity itself...no, the choices of humanity. Bad choices had to be stopped, or corrected. He really couldn't stop thinking about Tyillion either. Deep inside, he wished the reason he had reacted to the mention of her name was rage. Something seemed wrong with that idea. Why would he rage about her, if he didn't love her? Glitch. I've spent most of my life as a datathief. I've gotten people the answers they need, always. Why the glitch can't I find my own?
The cavern sloped downward, towards a blank wall of night. I've built so many walls in my life, so many barriers. But to keep the coldness out...or in? Did I accidentally isolate what I was trying to protect? Aran's eyes studied briefly the impasse: he had reached the end of the wall. Tyillion, I wish there was more time for us. But there never will be.
Aran slammed a three fingered fist into the cavern wall. Both the resounding thump and the sound of twisting metal made him feel better. But his feeling of relief gave way to awe, as a stream of light from the cracked wall illuminated his bent hand. It's hollow?
Aran stood back, studying the wall briefly. On the other side was light, and a breeze of some sort. He charged his hands with energy and crouched down for a moment. Without an AI, it was all plug-and-chug math and guesswork. Over the past few hours he had found out that he had gotten better and controlling his body with just his mind. The machines seem to respond to his thoughts, almost, now. He lunged forward and jammed his hands outward. There was enough force and energy in his attack, added to the sheer lucent energy he had charged in his hands, to break a hole in the wall. Aran was glad for the replacement arms, as the three fingered hands tore easily at the loose stone and pulled it away. A good ten minutes work had cleared a hole just large enough to move through. He ducked and entered the light filled room, wishing he had turned his light enhancement off. After he did, it took a few minutes for the flare effects to subside, and the room to form into view. Metal walls, old, lined with block letters and signs that, despite their age, screamed a warning. Aran walked down the corridor, his metal feet causing the only ghostly echo. Command terminals, long since fallen beyond repair, lined every few hundred feet. A security gate, long rusted in a pile of red-brown dust, offered little resistance to his trek through the hallway. It was, however, the voice of his inhabitor that chilled him most. It was in his head again, but what was most frightening was that it didn't seem to care.
Beneath the deepest levels of their greatest structure... The AI recalled in a whisper. ...was a place where the mistakes were placed. A technological hell, an ending place for all the works of man that were too violent, even for his own mind.
Aran stopped at the door, his hand reaching for the security latch. And their mistakes where horrid, so horrid. Things that make my own purpose seem benevolent. Technology beyond any dark description. Aran grasped the handle and twisted it slowly. The door before him screamed as metal and meal grinded for the first time in years. Bad choices. Technology for Technology's sake. But, most of it has long since fallen to disuse, unsalvageable. Now, The Pit has another purpose. The double doors swung open, slowly, each shrieking as it ground against its hinges and gears.
When the world fell, a fissure opened. Linking the surface and this place of mistakes, a gateway that only leads downward, into man's dark past, and his worst mistakes. A hole, that every day is utilized.
Aran's eyes began to scan the interior and he began to realize what his AI was saying, and why it was frightened. Every technomancer knew of the place, it was a source of nightmares and cold sweats when even whispered. It was the price most would eventually pay, the ones who would go mad from the lack of humanity. The ones who could not survive the operation to become a technomancer.
The mad, the diseased, the incurable technological monsters are thrown into that hole. Thrown to be forgotten and join the mistakes of a forgotten age. But this place is now no longer vacant.
Red, electronic eyes glared from the shadows.
For the Technomancers worst fears are true.
Metal on metal scrapings, as limbs and bodies shuffled and skittered through the shadows. Misshapen figures, bent and twisted beyond any resemblance of humanity.
They throw the mad, the insane, the Technomancers who are no longer human, into that hole.
Mad howls and voices, laughter and screams from the distance grew louder. Aran was paralyzed, his AI had long since given up trying to fight for control.
But some have survived the fall.
From the shadows, metallic tentacles whipped out, pulling Aran into the darkness. The door screamed close behind him, sealing off a place where the walls were designed to never be broken.
Beyond Man And Machine
Aran was pulled through the shadows, as hands and claws tore into his body. Screaming laughter surrounded him, echoes of once human voices and fellow technomancers.
We can only get out of this together. You're strong enough to resist me, you can fight them. You just need a little fighting lesson.
Aran felt his memory open up as his AI flooded it with memories that weren't his own. A flood of information became common knowledge, two seconds had produced information so vivid it might as well have been his own memory. The modification of his wings and arms made sense...now.
"Get off me." Aran growled. The voices laughed louder.
"Fresh tech. Make us human again, yes it will." One cackled.
"Real...real chrome. Make us human, make us go up." Another added. Aran could see its arm, a three foot, triple jointed compilation of metal from the piles that surrounded them and pieces of other technology. Pincers were locked onto the end, silently snapping open and closed in the shadows.
"Maybe I didn't make myself clear." Aran built up a charge of the energy, wondering only briefly where it was coming from, he had learned that questions didn't really matter much anymore, the answers alluded him. He sent the charge through his body suddenly, causing hands, arms, tentacles and claws to recoil in pain. Aran stood up and quickly assessed the situation. No dirge, no weapons, outnumbered. Again. He expanded his wings and spread them wide, swooping them forward. The motion cut grooves across a dog-like shamble of metal and technology, sending it screaming into the darkness. Aran whirled and caught a hand in the three fingered grip he was beginning to grow fond of. His other hand delivered a jolt of pure energy through its system, rendering it a useless heap of scrap metal. The others were beginning to back away, chanting a word over and over.
Aran turned and looked in the darkness. His light amplification could only make out a little bit, enough to ensure him of nightmares for the next thirty years. One of the massive scrap heaps was moving.
It started as a low rumbled, metal pushing off and metal sliding away from the mountain of scrap as a hand shot upwards. The hand began to pull the rest of the body out of the heap. It was dull chrome, but one thing was apparent. Despite its jagged appearance and patchwork frame...it was whole. It had been built that way. Aran's AI was beginning to do something, something he didn't like. His internal datajack was sending a wire-to-wire pulse. It's trying to talk to it.
Aran saw the creature stand upright. Nine foot of steel and chrome from a generation long before his own. It's still working! How?! Aran's datajack sent a pulse back. Apparently, it wants to talk.
In the next moment, something happened that left the room silent. Aran crumpled to the ground, along with the 'Pyle'. Aran, for the first time since Cyberspace fell, was alone. His AI was gone, this time, the absence wasn't as crippling. He could move his limbs, slowly, and push himself upwards to see the monster across the room do the same. The mad Technomancers huddled in the corners. Aran pushed himself up to a half standing position.
"I AM PYLE," roared the voice, like steel scraping granite. Pyle roared into the darkness, a birth cry Aran had never expected. Oh Glitch. Aran realized what had happened to his AI.
"I AM YOUR LEADER," it roared. The mad Technomancers began to crawl forward. This is not good. "I AM YOUR COMMANDER" Not good at all.
"No, it's not," Aran shouted. "It's something else, something that was inside me. It's something as old as anything in this pit."
The scattered crowd was rallying, moving, trying in their half human minds to decide who was who, what was what.
"HIS WINGS! THEY COULD CARRY US ALL TO THE SURFACE! BACK TO HUMANITY AGAIN!" The entire crowd turned to stare at the metal objects attached to Aran's back. Glitch. Glitch, glitch, glitch. He scanned the ground for a weapon. No weapons, nothing. Just whatever was on his body. In the darkness, Aran grinned. He still had a few tricks.
Aran melted into the shadows as his holographic unit played tricks with what little light was left. But Pyle knew, he didn't know how, but Pyle was staring at Aran, even as he moved across the room. A stick like finger pointed to his location.
"THERE!" Pyle roared. "TAKE HIS WINGS!"
Aran kept the small hologram around him, he was going to need everything he could get. The army of mad Technomancers began to scream and howl as they leapt across the room. The fight never ends...
The Essence Of The War
Shadows danced across the walls, as something that wasn't became something that was. Aran emerged from the hologram, his three fingered claws ready to punch or tear the nearest adversary. The war never ends. Mechanical legs vaulted him through the air until he came crashing down on top of an attacker; his hands moved methodically as he clamped the once human technomancer's spine and sent a surge of energy into his system. The body went rigid as blue light arced over its limbs and joints, bathing the room in soft light before fading. I never wanted to fight, but it's what I do best. He whirled on his right foot, bringing his right hand outward. Fingers pulled the iron jaw from a startled enemy, his hands reaching to the gaping hole in its head. His left hand plunged into the chest of that enemy, sending the blue energy through its central computers for a moment before it shuddered and fell limply from his grip. All of my life, my fight has been for things I cannot see, but must protect. For good I cannot know, but must defend. For people I will never love, but must. Aran leapt through the air, wings flaring outward to glide him across the room. Both hands caught the head of a technomancer and jerked it free of its body. Aran landed and tossed it aside. Tyillion. Blue light flared from his hands and leapt through the air. Technomancers erupted in swatches of light and energy. Saa. Lightning seemed to flare from his hands as they worked over the room. (2)syl. The last name meant nothing to his memory, but everything to his soul. She had to be protected. He felt the strange energy building inside him, coursing through both flesh and machinery. The war has never been about the victory, or the gain. Aran planted himself like a statue, arms clenched at his sides. His mind raced, realizing finally, what it all meant. "You must slay the greatest threat to humanity," he said. Tyillion, Saa, (2)syl. Names that meant things to a machine such as himself. Sparks erupted around his metal hands and legs. Aran's eyes shot towards PYLE, hatred and anger piercing through the giant metal body to something beneath. The greatest threat to humanity, is the danger we face by abandoning it. These techtrash monsters will never be human again, they gave their humanity to their machinery. They lost the war, not because they lost the battles, this war isn't about winning. Aran's body seemed to vibrate with energy. Brilliant blue light filled the pit. Technomancers screamed and scrambled for the shadows behind scrap and debris. PYLE, who's metal face had been etched ages ago to be the very image of death, reflected only fear. The war is about remaining human, fighting the advance of darkness, anger, hate, rage, pain. Aran threw his arms into the air and screamed. Realization made his soul sound in unison, a realization of his own downfall, his own future. He was heading down the road, as surely as if he had been running to this pit. He had lost himself in the marriage of man and machine, he let his heart become steel, his soul chrome. Despite his efforts, all he had done was to reject his humanity, toss the gifts of life aside for the embrace of machinery.
"NEVER AGAIN!" Aran roared. The walls shook, the light around him increased tenfold. "THE WAR ENDS HERE!"
Life was a vacuum for a instant. Nothingness was everything,
and time had frozen. Metal faces glared in fear and rage at him,
PYLE fell to the ground aware of what was happening.
The wave exploded around him, a wall of blue light and energy engulfing
all. An massive surge of the mysterious blue energy he had found him possessing
lately, enhanced by the sheer force of his will; it was something that
seemed to emanate from his heart and soul more than his machinery.
A force that was directly related to his very life, as he changed it changed,
it changed. As he raged, it raged. The energy erupted
from him like an explosion. Metal magnetized, shards of steel
began flying towards living magnets, piercing and rending technomancers
apart. Aran felt his legs give way, and a sliver punctured
his heart, the bio-mechanical pump reacting in a wave of shock and mental
fear. He crumpled to the ground in the midst of the pit, amidst the
remains of an age that had died. For an instant he could see
Tyillion's face, hear her laugh. Light faded into darkness,
and love into a void. Aran's eyes stared vacantly into nothing,
then closed slowly on a world that he had loved and hated with equal passion.
The Pit had been used since the fall of the world, since the comet. John Salan had seen it open with his own eyes, had shoved the first mad technomancer down its gaping maw. He had forged its legend, tossing the mad down to guard something he hoped no one would find. Every technomancer that came to him for the cure had been thrown into that pit. Most were already so far gone, the plunge to madness made them feel welcomed. Some screamed and raged for hours before they joined their metal brothers. But he had never expected this. A technomancer on the verge of breaking barriers, on the very brink of change. He had sent him down there to die, because he had thought he would never be able to live with the realization of his nature. He had never expected that nature to be one of life, but one of technology. That pit had been used to hide an ancient technology from someone who would find it, someone who would use it to become an unstoppable power. Someone had found it, and that same someone had destroyed it too. Something he could have never done. John Salan leapt into the hole, falling quickly through the darkness. A warrior from an age long ago, who knew more of war than any man alive. Seconds before he reached the ground, his boots hummed into activity and he floated on a field of induced energy. There were five like him, he was the third. They were The Guardians and keepers of a technology that couldn't be released yet. The miracles of another age of humanity, too delicate to be given to this broken semblance of humanity. After the world grew, after it started to rebuild, the five would help them back to a new time.
"Perhaps the time is nearer than we think." John Salan knelt before the unmoving body. He could feel essence, pure essence crawling through the remaining circuits. Something he didn't think possible. "Don't let me be wrong."
He pulled a small sphere from his jacket and placed it inside Aran's chest, where the sliver had pierced. A soft green glow flared, following by a throbbing pulse. He would live. But not without the help of something long forgotten. The girl, Tyillion, he had trained not long ago. She had impressed him, the desire in her heart to fight was controlled by her determination to heal. She had spoke of a man, a technomancer she loved. He never thought her stories were true, no soldier really loved. Aran was pulled to his feet by one hand and thrown over John's shoulder. His boots hummed once more as he began to rise from the pit with the body of a man made machine.
"No," he said slowly. "A man reborn from machinery."
For the longest time, there was nothing. Aran was nothing, the world was nothing. There was no sound, no motion, no smell, no feel. Aran was nothingness, and part of nothingness. I'm not dead. The realization of life without life shrieked across the nothingness. Glitch. I'm in a Mindscape Void. No! This isn't glitching happening.
Aran continued to be without being human. He was not dead, he would still exist. Existence was not dependent on the beating of a heart for a Technomancer, not entirely anyway. The sliver in his synthetic heart should have shut down the bio-pump, and his central computers were already powered down. He would simply cease to exist...or he should have. Lightning split across the nothingness; great azure hues erupting into brilliant crimson and incredible purples. I'm waking into it. But because he had not 'shuffled off this mortal coil', he was stuck. His soul, mind, and body existed; unaware of each other. Only, Aran wasn't sure which he was. Until he could pull himself together from this Mindscape Void, he was as good as a vegetable. Stories of rusted Technomancers springing to life in a shower of dust and sparks raced through his mind. The Collapsed were kept for years in hope they might be in a MV. Aran reached out, trying to embrace nothingness with his very thoughts. The lightning began to grow, spreading, painting a world around him.
"The Mindscape Void is the nightmare of all Technomancers. It is getting separated from your body, your consciousness drifting through your memory. In this stage, you have no control, cannot force control. Your memories will live, your past will hunt you down. If you can't find the way to pull yourself back together, you will exist until madness; madness is it's own death." The voice of his mentor rung in the empty world. Buildings began to grow from the ground, sprouting skyways and roofs as they stretched upwards. Towers of polished glass and steel, brilliant white marble and shimmering metals.
These are not my memories! Aran crouched at the base of a fountain slowly filling with a translucent pink water, a rich wafting aroma surrounded it. This is not my time, this is someone else's memory. PYLE's?
"Doctor." A voice rang. Aran sprang up, willing nonexistent technology to work, he was as human as anything in these dreams. He spun around in another man's body, the plaza flooding all of his senses. Eight towers circled the plaza, eight towers of white bricks seamlessly joined, eight towers with mirror-chrome windows and huge, sprawling skyways between them. Tubes of glass so clear it seemed their occupants were striding on air above him. The plaza itself was geometrically perfect, nothing was out of place, polished white marble was broken by smoothly paved sidewalks and strange plants seeming to shoot from the ground. And before him was a young man in a white jumpsuit, light gray boots and gloves seemed to complete a suit that covered everything but his face. The stranger's hair was short cropped and immaculately combed, raven black.
"Doctor, we're ready to test it, Dr. Tsano?" The young man replied.
"Y...yes. Sorry. Let's go." Aran faked. As long as I'm in this glitched MV, I'm nothing more than what my fractured memories make me. I have to find something familiar, something to lock onto, some sort of control.
Aran was led to the tallest of the eight towers. Silver letters worked in gold was emblazoned above the doorway, displaying the name of the company.
TECHNICIA DEFENSE ORGANIZATION
The lobby was in the same color scheme as the outside, white marble and chrome made up the floor and walls, a thick grayish tiling covered the ceiling. A few desks with young men and women behind them were scattered in geometric patterns throughout the room. Everything screamed of efficiency, organization, and control. Everyone wore the same white jumpsuit with gray boots and gloves. The young man with the black hair lead him to a wall on the other end of the room, and seemed to wait. Finally, he turned a raised an eyebrow.
"Dr. Tsano? Your pass-scan?"
"What?" Aran stumbled over the words. "Your memories will live, your past will hunt you down." Aran concentrated, his mind spinning.
"For the lift? Are you feeling ok?"
"Yes...just a little...lightheaded. I can't seem to remember." 788nO24x-Dr. Roan Ka'chal Tsano. The words seemed to form on his brain, and on his lips. As he spoke them, the wall seemed to melt away. Hologram. Albeit...a solid one. Where the glitch? Is this the past? How far back is this? Is this what the world was like before the comet?
The floor beneath them moved, barely noticeable, downwards. Aran was lead through a series of steel plated doors and heavily fortified security stations. Whatever is down here is powerful enough to make people with this kind of technology afraid. What in the Eiech have they made? His question wasn't answered, but they finished their trip when the two doors slid apart. The doors were four feet thick, made of an alloy he didn't recognize. Pulse shielding could be heard humming outside, and inside, the doors. He knew that he could have never gotten through that, not even with the DIRGE. A group of men stood at a window of foot thick glass at the end of the room. Three men, each staring outwards into what looked like a deep room of some sort.
"Ahem," the young man cleared his throat.
"Dr. Tsano." One of them turned to greet him. He wore an ankle-length coat of spotless white, buttoned from its thick hem to the collar which encircled his neck. Gray gloves were sewn almost invisibly to the sleeves. Gray hair fell past his shoulders, and his eyes were a tired blue; the fire in them gleamed, but only with the light of a dying blaze. The old man gestured to his two colleagues.
"Commander Lyosam and Dr. Vuu have been waiting." The old man said, then, in a hoarse whisper. "They may be smart, but old age brings patience, eh sir?"
The remaining two men could have been the best example of opposites Aran could picture. One tall and thin, blond hair cut close to his scalp. He wore a similar white jacket, but his shoulders were looped with a braided golden rope. Green eyes seemed to pierce him, searching, trying to read his mind. He was a commander in the army, but he didn't know how he knew. The other gentleman was short, stocky, and completely bald. They way he rubbed his hands together made Aran cringe, he was the kind of man who always had something else running through his mind. Not exactly good thoughts either.
"Let's proceed, shall we..." the short man said. "If Commander Lyosam here wants to see his weapon, let's show him how well we have made it." The sound of the man's voice was enough to freeze water.
"Dr. Vuu, Project 22 is a tool, not a weapon. It is designed to allow our soldiers to adapt to the conditions of the Genetech empire, to let us survive without becoming one of those blasted mutations. Those half-human monsters need to be helped, but unless we can take down the lab that makes them, we have no chance of freeing them from Genetech."
"Ohhhh forgive me." Dr. Vuu grinned.
"Let us see Project 22," Aran said, cutting the growing argument short.
He strode to the window and stared below. The room was a hollowed out section of earth, the heat almost unbearable despite the shielding glass. Sulfurous gasses poured from seams in the ground, and a thick gray-green liquid flowed from the stalagmites to pools below. The only discerning feature was a doorway fifty yards away.
"Project 22 was initiated two and one half years ago," the young man began. "Progressing from an idea that Technomancers could survive conditions better than some humans. Basing the idea off of the 'technomancer operation' we have developed a derivative of an experimental organism: Technosites. Technosites are a parasitic organism--they form a symbiotic bond with the body they are induced into. This Technosite, called Technacatamine22, is given by a normal hypodermic. However, Technacatamine22 turns these cells into similar technosites. The Technosites have complete control from four minutes after injection, and then can be spread by fluid to fluid contact. Namely blood transfusion."
"Or a kiss?" Dr. Vuu asked wryly.
"Yes," the young man said. "As noted, the cell itself is a very complex and infinitely superior version of the Technomancer operation, or Body Format, as it is being called these days. The subject will gain full control over it's individual cells, allowing for incredibly adaptive circumstances. Our volunteer should be entering the chamber now." At the word Body Format, Aran's legs gave way. Something about it, something so close...yet so far away...
Aran watched the door now. Time seemed to trickle by, but slowly it opened and a uniformed girl entered. Slowly, she began to crumple to the ground. Aran's blood boiled. The illusion of a benevolent civilization long past was fading rapidly. His fist clenched, if he had to tear that safety glass apart with his teeth, he would make sure...
The girl froze, then flailed her arms violently. She thrashed on the ground for a few moments, her skin paling to a grayish blue, her hair seeming to turn to black steel. It fell from here temples, leaving only a small stalk at the tip of her skull. Aran's skin began to crawl...
"Wirewitch," he whispered.
"Not a bad nickname Doctor," Commander Lyosam replied. "Not bad at all. Think, a fleet of these things could survive in almost any condition."
"No," Aran whispered. "You don't understand, there's more. More you haven't seen, they don't just adapt, there's something else, they can--"
The girl lept to the safety glass, a good twenty feet up and away. Her hands seemed to melt into a mass of razors. The glass rattled and shook, shards of it etching away slowly. Aran bolted for the doors.
"What's the matter, Dr. Tsano? Don't like my creation? Stick around, she'll convince you in a moment." Dr. Vuu laughed.
Aran was helpless as memory took over, so vivid a memory of something
that had happened, something long ago. So powerful was the
memory, that he could not help but watch it as it played itself out.
Down the hallways Dr. Tsano ran, stopping at control panels to seal doors.
Towards a laboratory, his own. Fingers flew over a console
as various protocols were activated. He heard a stream
of hisses as the gas chambers were shut. He breathed a sigh
of relief. In a minute, they would all be liquid, destroyed
by a gas he himself had developed as a security measure for this building.
Dr. Tsano sat into a chair and felt the links of cyberspace fold around
him, he had to fix something...he had to leave something for the world
to find later. A cure, perhaps. But perhaps a greater
John Salan looked at the body of Aran on the table. Nearby, his close friend Kieth Rains was working furiously to keep him as stable as possible. The monitor showed massive surges of brain activity, but Aran was as motionless as stone. Kieth Rains, the second of five, was a doctor and a technician from another age. He said Aran had to be rebuilt, but it wasn't easy, as he had been rebuilt so many times already. But this Technomancer could be something, he had survived having the AI in him that had been designed to kill entire nations. John wondered for a moment; That creature, now calling itself PYLE, had devoured entire lives and minds, collecting a database of information drained from people's lives. How much off that had seeped into Aran? Whose memories did he have, and from when? What secrets did Aran now possess that he might have no clue of how to unlock? All he could do was wait, and see if Aran lived.
Aran woke up to the darkness again. He had slipped out of
the Mindspace Void just as Dr. Tsano had entered cyberspace. Lightning
began to crackle all around. This time, I'm traipsing through
my own mind. Aran focused, tried to reach out again, with nothing
to grasp with. But this time, he ignored the emptiness, this time
he embraced lightning. Streaks of every color imaginable
exploded as Aran was torn from nothing to everything. The darkness
was replaced by infinite color and light. Hues of every shade
raced around him, melting and forming into each other. They
were painting the next 'dream' he would have.
Aran blinked, and the pain swept over him. Another armored fist slammed into his chest. The clang of metal on metal rang in his ears, while his inner system began to shudder from the abuse. He was tied up in a chair, surrounded by ten ACCU's. The Armed Civilian Control Units were products of Utopia, a kingdom of the insane, ruled by the insane. Built to keep citizens in order, and to 'convince' others of the Utopian way of life, the ACCU's killed any who opposed. Aran's body was familiar, the Dirge cannon was inside his arm again, and all of his tech was familiar. He realized, as another punch landed, that he was living the memory his mind had forgotten.
"Give me the sword," the commander ordered. One of the ACCU's handed the commander Tyillion's sword. Aran could feel anger and rage build inside of him, a wellspring of hatred and fear boiling over. All of that snapped as Tyillion's sword was driven through his chest with great force. The hilt slammed into the metal plate where his rib cage should have been. Aran screamed as a shower of sparks flew from the wound, and he slumped forward. His body convulsed and thrashed, but the ropes held. Aran lay still.
"Now, tinwit. You'll die just like our glorious emperor, in exactly the same way as you killed him, shall you also receive." The ACCU captain laughed.
"That's what inbreeding does. You can't even speak straight." Aran spat.
"SET THE BOMBS!!!" the Captain roared.
Aran waited until the bombs were set on the walls. Dealing with Utopian soldiers was a lot like dealing with any lunatic, you let them think they were in control. Then, when things were getting out of hand, you play your ace. As the last ACCU trooper left the building, Aran simply sighed and turned off the holograms. His body was whole except for the gaping sword-wound in his side. All the dents, the moans, and the screaming had been theatrics; the shower of sparks an illusion of light. Aran's body was a triadium alloy, capable of absorbing most damage short of heavy ordinance. Which, coincidentally, was lining the walls around him. His wings unfolded swiftly from his back, snapping the rope and metal cords binding him. He flexed his arms briefly, and fired the DIRGE towards the ceiling, creating an exit. Lifting off the ground, Aran soared upwards for two hundred feet, then flared his wings to hover for a moment. Below, the ACCU troops were watching the surrounding building; even when it exploded and consumed them in the blast, they watched intently as their mission completed.
"You again," Aran growled. "You're not getting control of me that easy. I've got Tyillion's memory, I've got the sword, I've got a reason."
You've only got a problem.
"Care to explain?"
How will you remember that... Aran's wings clicked softly as they folded back into his body. ...after the concussion?
The ground below rushed up to meet him, and as he impacted, he found himself back in the middle of nothingness. So that's how the little g'ekk got more control of me, he erased part of my memory. PYLE. I wonder where he came from?
As if his thoughts had unlocked a door, Aran saw the lightning paint a third time, more violently and beautifully than before. He was back in the laboratory of Dr. Tsano, looking through the eyes of another man as the links of cyberspace faded. The lines, the vivid blue streaks ran across his eyes from the after-image of living data. Memory flooded him of cyberspace, his real home, so fast that it created a void of emotion in him. It burned, cutting through his heart and soul; there was an absence he hadn't realized. As if reality had struck his soul, the resounding sound of hollowness echoed back. Blinking, it was gone. Aran/Tsano was standing up shakily from the controls, walking.
Friggin' memory is on auto-pilot again. Dr. Tsano grabbed three tubes from the nearby table and hastily shoved them into a vault, slamming the door behind. Averting his eyes, he slammed his fingers into the keypad several times. The lock was sealed, even he couldn't open it. Technacatamine22 would be sealed away. The last wirewitch would die in the liquefying gasses below. A slow clapping made him whirl about. "Dr. Vuu?!"
"Nooooo...not quite," the short man crackled. His face stretched, the skin slowly turning to water, revealing something underneath, something Dr. Tsano had built.
"NO!! YOU'RE DISMANTLED. DESTROYED. THEY WIPED YOU, CLEANED YOUR BANKS!"
"Not quite, daddy dearest." The remains of Dr. Vuu slid from the mechanical monstrosity. A wire thin skeletal shape, almost humanoid, stood upright, glaring down from the hollow skull shaped hull. It was a weapon of death, designed to eliminate nations, a one-of-a-kind machine. It had no name, and he had taken none in all his time. A body made of neuro-kinetic fibers wrapped around a malleable skin-permeable gel, a skull that was a wrapping shell, and no AI. It was built to kill, only to kill. The first time they used it, the shell was dropped into a forest; The 'string-man', as it had been nicknamed, had wrapped it's fiber twined arms around a mutant male, the gel seeping into the pores, the wires pulling themselves into the skin. Within four seconds, the mutant was no more. His memories, his life, his body, and even his nervous twitch belonged to the string man. He simply walked into the mutant colony and began to kill, switching forms to raise paranoia. In a day, four thousand corpses lay silent in the once thriving colony. The body of a small girl walked out of the forest, a puppet whose strings were being pulled by the machine inside her; a gun in her arms made Aran shiver to his core. He remembered watching PYLE's shifting core, the images flashing back and forth...a girl with a gun. Oh glitch, what am I dealing with? Dr. Tsano's memories rushed into his mind, seeing the young girl picked up by aircraft. The poly-gel liquid she was immersed in to keep the string man from leaving, the machine the girl/string man was set before. He had been erased by a controlled electro magnetic pulse years ago, deemed too powerful to live.
"I'm afraid I have to get that wonderful formula from you, pops." The creatures arms became a mass of twitching wires, slithering towards Dr. Tsano as the gel began to ooze from their housings.
"You can't! I sealed it inside the vault. You'll never get it!" Dr. Tsano screamed wildly.
"I don't need your password, I don't need your vault--" The fiber-cables
lashed like whips, pulling Dr. Tsano towards him, as the gel began to seep
into his skin. Aran screamed in his own personal hell as he
relived the doctor's memory. The burning, the destruction of
DNA, cells dissolving, the absorption of all he was to be replaced by the
gel-code. It flowed through veins that were not his own, as
the fibers began to twine around his skeleton, the skull-shell fitting
around his head to a perfect fit.
"I just need your mind." Dr. Tsano laughed. But it wasn't the doctor, it was something else. Aran relived the nightmare of being pulled from humanity through the core of the fibers to a housing of all the string-man's memories. Aran found himself lying on the ground beside the still form of Dr. Tsano. A glowing pulse of energy sat before them. Something familiar, something that had shared his mind and body...
"PYLE!!!" Aran roared. The mass shifted, from form to form that the monster had captured, all the memories now it's data-base.
Aran leapt forward, arms reaching for the glowing, shifting, shape.
His arms hit it, but it was as hard as steel. Aran's eyes closed
Heaven and hell coexisted. Acid rain burned his skin, created
rivers that washed away the industrial filth on the streets.
Acrid winds burned his nose, keeping the deadly fumes of the outer-island
from coming inland. Tyillion kissed him, and he felt nothing.
Everything that meant anything, gone. Everything that was wrong,
trying to do good. A blue haired angel on wings of gold cried tears
of blood as a halo of ivory serpents fell from her head. Tyillion
held his shattered body, carrying it to their home. Cyberspace
embraced him, welcoming him like a lover, like apathy.
What was right, what was wrong? Nature trying to kill everything,
nature trying to repair itself. A human race, rising and falling
in time. There was nothing left to do, everything he knew was nothing.
Only one thing to do, climb above, rise. Fall to hell, rise to the
heavens. Aran tore apart at the seems.
The world faded in slowly, Aran was panting. Arms grasped shreds of a metal door, pieces of which were lying like shrapnel on the floor. He was alive, he was out of the Mindspace Void. The world was real around him, and real flesh covered his arms. Nothing mattered. Not the new body he could feel, not the memories he could recall, not the ruined door beneath him, not the streams of digital cable trailing from his body. Aran was alive, and he was crying.
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