Here begins DOWNfALL: Obliteration
Breaking Dawn [T-minus 8]
Aran felt all of his energy drain. Sahris flew from the train, catapulted by the shockwave. A body that was made to stand forever crumbled beneath him to the cold metal surface of the train. He felt the wind whistle through his hair, felt the train gather speed. If he didn't do something, everyone would die. The world dimmed. No rest for the weary. His eyes strained, colors faded. No reprise for the strong. His body went numb, but a hand stretched out to the sword. No mercy for the heroes. A white light burned in his vision, what was left of his strength seemed to fade. Fingers grasped the hilt and fumbled at the engraving. No forgiveness for the losers. The end of the sword popped open and a thin tube of green light tumbled across the roof of the train. Pure Lucent Energy, the last remaining energy supply in Tyillion's sword, skittered past his eyes. A heavy hand landed on it. No rest for the weary. Aran’s fingers fumbled over his right arm, but he felt the rush of fresh pain flood through him as the raw energy was drawn into his system by the coupler in his arm. Barely enough to keep his system running, he felt motors and gears starting to turn again, felt the drain. But at the same time, the odd energy, the essence inside of him, sparked. Aran stood up, shuddering, as his frame was regenerating. The ground spun lazily below them, the train sputtering as the generators strained to produce power to keep it from falling. Aran grabbed the sword and placed it over his back. Magnetic plates latched onto the blade, holding it between his folded wings.
“Ta-Kyn!” Aran felt his hard-wire link reach out across the ether for the signal that was Ta-Kyn. Once there were signals of thousands of Technomancers, a virtual static of information and life skittering through the net. Some thought the static itself was alive. Where did the static go, when the world fell? The words seemed to be directed at him, a question from somewhere deep inside him. Aran pushed them out of his mind and concentrated until he could feel Ta-Kyn's mind in his own.
“Ta-Kyn. I need every single PLE battery you have, NOW. Get Kreep and the other Technomancers to lock down the Pure. This is going to be rough.”
Aran began to survey the roof of the train. Riddled with bullet holes and a million scratches from the ever-shifting body of Kreep, the integrity of the roof would rupture if it fell too fast. The body was in no condition to land as it had been intended, a gradual descent and slow into a long narrow track. Most of the streets were broken by the riots or littered where makeshift barricades had been erected. Out of the corner of his eye, Aran saw the Courtyard of the Seven Blades. From here he could just make out the small building he and Tyillion had lived in. The courtyard was large enough to hold the train, but was a bit farther from the waterfront than he had hoped.
Seer? Can I land this in the courtyard? I'm loading the map now. You could land. Damage to the train will be substantial. You just feed me data on the state of the train. Patch into the maintenance system. Done. Hull breached in four places, estimated 3 lateral G's maximum force, 2 vertical G's maximum force, time to hull destruction at current speed, 19 minutes. Just feed it through, I'll get the train down.
Ta-Kyn appeared through the roof of the train with a small cloth tied into a package. Aran heard the rattle of glass casings inside. He opened it and found almost thirty PLE batteries.
“Good job Ta-Kyn, now get below and do everything you can to keep this train together.”
“Got it, Doc says Kreep is going to be ok.”
“Can't worry about that now. If he goes nuts, everyone dies. If I don't land this train, everyone dies.”
Aran’s wings snapped out of their metalic housings and stretched to their span width. He simply walked to the edge of the train and floated to the ground.
* * *
A short distance from the train, a wave of purple energy disintegrates everything in its path. Buildings crumble to dust, steel supports vaporized. And in the wake of this blast, a figure is tumbling and flailing. Without warning, the energy dissipates, and the figure is hung in the air for a few suspended seconds, then begins to plummet to the earth. Black cloth streams from his body, a tattered remnant of some once-grand attire. A scythe-bladed staff twirls end over end, falling faster than him. The streets below are broken and battered, great rocks and craters marring the once busy intersections. The riots flow and ebb around them. And the figure is falling directly into the riots. He is seen by them all, a faintly glowing figure, trailing a dark light plummeting towards them. The streets clear as much as possible, and the figure plows into the asphalt. Sprays of dirt and stone erupt as the body carves a half mile trench almost ten feet deep into the earth. His staff has a rioter pinned to the ground, its fall fast and fatal. That rioters gun, once leveled at an unarmed child, now lays limp in the streets. Smoke billows from the crater, and a thick, brackish blood seems to coat the street. From the crater, there is a cry, like the mourning wail of a thousand funerals, or the birth cry of something long forgotten, some hideous creature of darker days. Windows crack and rioters cower. The figure's hand, coated in the sticky black liquid, oozing its dark life essence, scrapes against the ground over the crater. Small rivulets of blood form in the scratch marks, but it pulls itself up. Sahris looks at the world from one eye, the other long punctured and now coated in a dark-black scab. His elegant suit hangs on him only because the wind isn't strong enough to blow it away. Slouching, lurching, it makes its way to the staff and pulls it out of the body with no ceremony. Kneeling in the street, the staff held above his head, words began to flow from his throat, a low guttural series of words that the earth hadn't heard since the fall. Commands. Instructions. The sky darkened overhead, and a thin beam of light erupted from the clouds, striking the tip of the scythe. Rioters drop their weapons, they crowd around the figure. Here is something that defies even destruction, here is something stronger than their madness. Sahris good eye stares with hatred into nothingness. Above, between the heavens of the earth, and the heavens of space, something moves.
The sun is obscured in a moment, the face of the city blanketed in a darkness so thick that the lights of the street seem to do nothing. Sahris chanting stops as a massive cylinder of energy erupts from the stars and engulfs him. White-bright fire dances over his body and staff. He is transformed, rebuilt, in an instant. His body stitching back together before their eyes. Where once the broken man had stood is a mighty warrior in dark armor. His high collared cape obscuring his face, and his back-length black hair no longer neatly bound, but trailing behind him. The light disappears, the clouds part, and Sahris falls gently to the ground. They approach him in disbelief, a thousand questions on their lips. But their lips can not even part to speak, or scream. For there are no lungs to scream from, there is no blood to curdle. The closest to Sahris are nothing but red mists trailing his scythe. Sahris' black eyes round to the east, where he sees a train beginning a descent to the earth. From his throat, one word, one name, is growled. It echoes through the streets and pierces even the most insane rioters ears. And in the madness, a single thought is achieved. If anything wants to live, if anything wants to avoid this monster, it will have nothing to do with whoever this "Aran" is.
* * *
Aran pulled the empty cylinder from his arm and let it fall. He jammed another PLE battery into his system and steadied himself against the lamp post. Even more energy surged through him, more essence, more power. Ten times more than he should be able to hold. The battery is drained, and Aran begins the last one. His eyes cannot focus on the world, his senses are all dedicated to the tidal wave of power pulsing through his system. He raises a hand shakily and closes his eyes. There is no sight. The world fades. There is no sound. The roar of the train, the screaming of his own electronics falls away. There is no feeling. Aran feels himself slip away. He is floating in nothingness, and for the first time, he is doing it on purpose. The Mindscape Void wraps around him hungrily, seeking into his mind. But it finds nothing but Aran, conscious and powerful. Aran pushes through the Mindscape Void, further, farther than any Technomancer had gone in centuries. He reaches a point where there was only him, his mind, and the essence coursing through his body. His hand raises, blue sparks jumping between his fingers.
It started as a rattle. Pebbles on the ground shaking. Then stone and steel shrieked as they were ground together. The courtyard groaned as a single being, its very foundation shaking. From Aran’s body a blue light radiated, it engulfed the stones, the buildings, the street signs and the abandoned cars and houses. From the midst of his own personal nowhere, Aran shaped the world with his mind, felt the ground pull itself up. The train could not land this far down safely. Aran would give it a safe elevation to land on. Even if he had to build a mountain to do it.
* * *
Miles away, in a tower far above the island, the historian's disembodied representation floated among long dormant machines. Dusty electronics were humming to life, and age old alarms were blaring. His eyes scanned a machine who purpose once, ages ago, had been to track energy signatures, erupt in light and color. A map of the city faded into view, and two large spheres of light had erupted. One was dark purple, crackling and raging, the other was a brilliant blue that seemed to push all light away from it. They were separate for the time being, but they were getting closer. Memories floated through the ethereal mist that was the historian's "mind." Technomancers waging wars in the skies and through the net, pushing all their essence into purely mental warfare. He remembered the fear everyone, technomancers and the world at large, shared: a physical battle of essence. One of the strongest technomancers to ever exist, and one of the most hideous abominations to ever crawl from the depths of The Pit. The historian patched his long dormant ether-link back into a system.
“John. Part of him is remembering. Part of Aran is waking up. They're going to duel, John. And the Island may not survive it.”
* * *
The train was sitting on solid ground, a mixture of broken tile, destroyed building, and pure dirt. The mountain of rubble had been raised from the surrounding city by Aran, pulled directly towards him, raising over him. Like a volcano, a pure eruption of his energy had created a small mountain. Doc carried the still faint Kreep from the train, ahead of The Pure. People pushed and shoved to be out of the train, back on solid ground. The Technomancers formed a tight circle around them, prepared for anything. And the one question in their mind was answered, as Aran, who hadn't been seen since the earth covered him, clawed his way out of the top of pile. Shining metal joints, fellinum and triadium laced arms glinted in the dawning sun. His gray hair was caked with mud, but his eyes (much like the rest of his body), were now glowing a faint blue. Aran seemed to radiate energy around him. He paused for a moment, staggering, then straightened himself, clenching his fists. Concentration became etched on the metal-skeleton face and slowly the blue light increased. Skin began to pull itself together, layers of thin sinew wound themselves back together over the metallic shell. In seconds, he was completely healed. He ripped the sleeves off of his shirt and stuck the remainder of his pant-legs into his boots.
“Where's my coat?” Aran coughed. There was an explosion of action as the silence broke. Half of The Pure scrambled to find a coat, the other half tried frantically to get out of their way. The Technomancers tried just as hard to get towards Aran without inadvertently hurting any of The Pure, and Kreep had shot into consciousness at Aran’s voice.
The Technomancer known only as Kreep was regressing even farther. His hair hung over his back, glistening micron-thin, razor edged weapons. His features were sharper, more angular, and his finger nails had grown almost three inches. Fang-like teeth grinned at him from a sharp-cornered mouth.
“What's going on with him Doc?”
“I don't know. This is why he came to me, to find a cure for whatever it is, but I can't figure it out. He's infected with two kinds of viruses. One is constantly turning his biological cells into nanite factories, and the other is constantly turning his nanite factories into whatever is generating all these razors. They were holding each other in check pretty well, but when he decides to use one of them in battle, it gains the upperhand. If he's going to reverse this, I need to get him to a bio-lab of some kind, FAST.”
Aran swung a finger towards the lumbering shape of Seven. The massive Technomancer's face became a mixture of surprise and wonder. Like a zealot being summoned by a king.
“I'm having Seer send you a detailed map of the city, on that map you will find the location of The Doctor, and his lab. Tell him Aran is getting off the Island, and ‘invite’ him to come along. Doc,” Aran turned to the gray-bearded technomancer. “you head for the tower, get The Historian. Bring him back to the docks, we'll have a boat by then.”
“What about John Salan?” Doc glanced around the group to find the missing warrior.
“I have a feeling we couldn't stop him from coming if we wanted to. He'll show up.”
From the crowd, someone threw a small package. Aran caught it in one hand and watched the age-old knee-length jacket unfold in his hands. He smiled to himself as he slipped it over his shoulders.
“Now lets get you people on a boat.”
* * *
Two bright lights flared in the middle of the darkness. One destructive, on constructive, one negative, one positive. They were drawn together, opposite poles of a karmic magnet. Without even trying, they were being pulled together. And the resulting attraction would prove fatal to all the world, but before even their fringes can touch, static erupts in the void, it fills the limitless silence with a mass of chaotic noise and screeching. And for a while, those lights are motionless. Then begin to move away.
* * *
* * *
Aran spun at the sound of his name bouncing off buildings. (2)syl, or what was left of her, bolted across the top of the mountain of dirt in a broken run. He snapped his wings and flew towards her, scooping her up and returning to the train.
“Glitch. Why are you glowing?” she managed to finally mumble. Aran stopped and looked at himself. He couldn't see anything. In much the same way someone standing in Seattle can't see the pacific northwest. Aran dismissed the question.
“You're bleeding. We'll get Doc to patch you up as soon as he gets back. Until then, do you want to stay with The Pure?” (2)syl looked puzzled, mis-matched eyes boring into his. “Pure Humans, no degenerate genetics, no environmental poisoning, no mutation. We're putting them on a boat and getting off the Island.”
“You better get of this glitching Island as fast as you can. It's dissolving. It's…” Her face contorted. “…something mechanical.”
“Where?” (2)syl pointed behind her shoulder. Aran glanced beyond her and magnified as much as he could. A thin mist hung in the air almost two miles away. It was all he could do to focus on it at that distance. All he could make out were vague colors, and that was with Seer running ¾ of the software enhancements.
“Yeah. I'd really like to get you on that boat.” Aran sighed. (2)syl started to say something but he interrupted. “After you get patched up you can do what you want, blast but I'll even help you, just hang on for a while. Besides, The Pure need something to stabilize them right now. Another Pure with real world experience would really help.”
In a matter of introductions to Greasy and a few other Pure, (2)syl was being ushered away by a number of older ladies to a set of crates laden with spare clothes. Aran’s mind reached across the ether, the remnant of the net of technomancers past, and encountered static. A light humming, crackling noise filled the space. Maybe the net is going back up? Aran reached out to the Technomancers, wherever they were. Instructions were handed out, orders were given and confirmed. Aran picked Ta-Kyn up by his arms and flew towards the ocean. The land blurred beneath them as he gained altitude.
“So which one is it?”
“There…” Ta-Kyn realized he couldn't gesture, a bad move, and then shrugged (even less of a good move). “…the big orange looking one.”
“That?! That's not a ship! That's one good rain away from being a pile of scarp metal.”
“That is the Rusted Whale, formerly the Gray Whale, formerly the Shining Whale. It's an ancient maritime liner with twin turbine engines with PLE converted generators. I can get it running in no time. Just drop me down.”
Aran swooped down over the pier and onto the brown-red deck of the Rusted Whale. The metal, to it's credit, was not actually rusted. The layer of environmental sealant, years old, had been applied to protect against Acidic Biotoxins of the coast. However, in the new post-fallen environment of the comet, it had been eaten away to produce large amounts of iron, which did rust. Aran could faintly imagine it shining after a good polishing. He dropped Ta-Kyn on the deck and watched him disappear down a hatch. Aran opened a main hatchway, deciding to take a look at the interior.
Despite years of decay and mildew, everything was structurally sound. A good cleaning and the vessel would be in perfect condition. It would be good enough to haul The Pure around in. The iron-rust of the exterior had not penetrated the air-sealed locks on the hull, and the carpet, though faded, was mostly whole. It smelled like an old library. He turned a corner and found himself at a stairwell. Large iron bars, as thick as his leg, climbed upwards, with thick steel steps. These stairs had been designed to hold an immense amount of weight. Aran stepped on the first one and gradually let his magnetic and kinetic dampeners turn off. Without the kinetic dampeners, a Technomancer would not be nearly as mobile as they needed to be. The device's simple purpose was to counteract the massive bulk of the metal in their bodies. But Aran, with no compensation, found the stairs holding his weight. What? Aran reached out his hand and touched the walls, he could feel vibrations, faint vibrations. But his heightened senses could also pick up a few other facts. The walls of the ship were almost a foot thick.
“Ta-Kyn? What was this ship designed to do? Originally?” Aran opened the wire-link to Ta-Kyn. The static filled response came back shortly.
Aran climbed the stairs, turning his kinetic dampener back on. No reason not to be cautious. The door at the top was a blast door, but slightly ajar. Aran pushed on it and entered the pitch-black beyond. His feet echoed loudly for what seemed like ages. Whatever this room was, it was huge. Aran summoned a small amount of essence into his hand; a blue light erupted in the room. Twelve hollow eyes levelled at Aran, six guns levelled at his chest.
* * *
Sahris sat on top of a broken tower. Around him, old desks and chairs had formed and an impromptu throne of sorts on which he perched. The winds were blowing fiercely, but his rage had calmed. Black eyes could see the mist swirling around the island.
“It is not life. It is the imitation of life. And it is going to end this place. Soon.”
From the silence, a voice echoed in Sahris’ mind, older than ages and devoid any concern. “Bring samples. Otherwise, deviation from the plan is punishable by your demise.”
“Aran. Test him, push him one step farther. Soon, soon that memory of his soul will seep into this iteration of his existence. Push him.”
“And Sahris, there is a creature in this laboratory. Something from another age. It calls itself ‘PYLE’. Apparently, it has assimilated a form of its own.”
“Make sure it survives the fall of this island as well.”
“Now go. I will watch over you, Sahris. Fear nothing. All of Pavidus is at your disposal.”
And there was silence again. Sahris leaned on the staff from his throne of rubbish; a murder is king, in the world of the fallen.
* * *
“What…” Aran gasped for breath, his energy almost gone. “…what are they?”
“They WERE Armored Response Units. ARU’s, old tech. Exo-suits designed to encompass and pilot and be used for emergency rescue and repair operations.”
“Guns. They had guns.”
“Plasma Arc torches. For welding large pieces of metal, they could repair the ship while it was running full speed.” Ta-Kyn kicked what had once been a breastplate to the mighty suits. “Don't understand how you took ALL of them down.”
“Let's just say I'm a little edgy right now.” Aran picked up one of the Plasma Arc Torches. The mighty tool was so heavy he could hardly lift it, much less aim it. “How much energy do these things produce?”
“Single pulse or repeated charge, enough to spot weld metal or completely melt it.”
“They could tear down walls to get to trapped soldiers. Or, burn holes in the enemy defenses.”
Aran looked around the room.
* * *
From the deck of the Rusted Whale, Aran surveyed the shore. The wind was blowing fiercely and the sun was just beginning to dawn. Crimson streaks broke through the alleys and by-ways, reflecting the sun. Breaking Dawn, we don't have time. Aran opened the wire-link to what was left of the ether. The static was more powerful, more chaotic. But in it, he felt the pulse of Technomancers. His "brothers of chrome."
“Men, we have no time. Immediately begin to bring The Pure to these coordinates. Bring them in packs of twelve. Nothing touches them, nothing hurts them. Tell them to bring only whatever clothes they can carry. No tech, no toys, no memories. We have no time, and there will be nothing to want to remember of this place I fear. All our lives we fought a battle we didn't care about for the right for humanity to crawl out of this hell. Now we have forsaken all our heritage, all our pride. The war is over, and we have lost. What is left of man is rolling in the streets, basking in blood. The Island is dying, and there is no more tomorrow for this place. This sun we see is the last one for this place. We have no time. We are leaving, now. Cut the witches loose. They will help us to, and in return we will take them with us. But know this, witches. The first Pure you touch will be your undoing.” Aran lowered his eyes, as a memory rolled through his mind. He didn't know whose it was, His, PYLE’s, or what was left of the first Aran to ever truly live. But it was a memory, and it was true. “The first Pure to die at your rituals will force me to perform the Unbinding.” Across the static he heard the wirewitches scream. For one of the first times in recent memory, Aran smiled. “And right now, rules and regulations mean little. I'll break you all, and I don't make threats. Now. Everyone. MOVE. We're burning daylight.”
Continued in [p015]: Flight [T-minus 7]
Continued from [s053]: The Hammer Falling [T-minus 6]
Blood Sun [T-minus 5]
There is a cancer upon the earth. Once blue oceans run black and red with the free-flowing taint of darker days and Other Things. Darkness fell from the sky and consumed the earth, the once pure veins now flowing a brackish fluid that nourishes no life. The elements twist upon their principles, and what was, is no more. Upon the black sea, amongst the memories of the dead there is a point where life has dared survive and now it must account for its own vanity. All the disease and entropy has come full circle, and all man's mistakes thrown away now claw their way to the remains of day. Here all things creeping in the night wail in the cyclopean abyss between worlds, knowing that the frail barrier between waking world and nightmare realm is weakening. Other Things flow in the crevices of these barriers, and the lost souls who walked too close in the way of dark things find their minds shattered from the presence. Down the streets march the revenant humanity, undead existence of a brighter day. There is a cancer on the earth. And there is no cure.
On the shore of that island, the last refuge of sanity and the only hope for life breaks down in Chaos. The Technomancer known only as Aran has had a moment of weakness. A moment when he could not bring himself to strike a friend, a single second when he could not raise a hand against one of his own kind.
That moment is over.
Kreep stands over the wirewitch known as JACK. Somewhere in his mind, part of Aran thinks bitterly that murder is not the best way to influence potential allies. The thought is out of his head as fast as it appeared, and Aran no longer stands still. Since he first gained the metal body countless and lost years ago, he has known and realized human potential on a increased level. Speed came at the rapidity of thought, great walls that obscured the actions of flesh and blood broke underneath iron gears and steel skin. All the energy, all the essence he had building within him for a blast is gone, brought back into his body. Before such an action would leave him convulsing and shaking for hours, this was because he had energy with no action. This is no longer the case. Before any eye can follow, Aran launches across the space between him and Kreep. Punches are landed so fast he can feel the metal in his hands burning from the friction of air resistance. There is nothing Kreep can do. Aran’s blows land so fast that the expression etched on the Technomancer's face hasn't changed. The world moves by in a blur, and it's only in what was, to the outside world, a full second later that the realization hits Aran: he has pummelled Kreep across the courtyard, through two walls and into the side of hill. Not enough time. Not enough for making enemies, not enough for the restoration of friends. Aran flinched slightly as he ripped Kreep’s two spear-like appendages from his back. Taking only enough time to give 7 the coordinates of where he is and instructions to take the fallen Kreep back to the boat, Aran unfurled his wings and dove forward. Not enough time. Another second, Aran shot back across the half mile of wasted terrain. In order to stop himself in time, he channelled all the remaining essence into his forward kinetic dampener. The resulting force of his stop hurled nearby debris through windows and across the courtyard. One of the un-named wirewitches lost balance in the sudden rush of wind and stumbled. Aran threw Kreep’s appendages at the moddie named Kiiziiziixii.
“No time for arguments. We're getting of this island. Now.
You want to leave with us, you're free to help. (2)syl, if you need
me, any Technomancer or Pure can get in touch with me; also, there's
a place on the Rusted Whale for you if you want to leave with us.”
Aran turned from the blue haired girl back to the collection of wirewitches.
“What Kreep did was wrong. There's no arguing that. His actions and
opinions are not mine, nor those of my friends. You don't believe
me…” Aran floated into the air and began to fly toward the waterfront.
“…ask the wirewitches helping us save the Pure.”
* * *
* * *
“Your little idiot grease monkey here…”, he motioned to Ta-Kyn, who, to Aran’s horror did not sneer indignantly or scowl, but simply waved as if Aran had forgotten which 'idiot grease monkey' he was, “...ripped my boat apart for parts to fix this one. I'm taking them back. And he's going to fix them.”
“No,” Aran snapped. Before Phoenix could retort, Aran turned to Greasy. “You, take your team over there and fix his boat. Use parts from the train, or nearby boats. You shouldn't have any problem Kreep should be conscious soon, get him to help you retrieve anything you need. Phoenix...” Aran snapped his head around. “...sorry about the inconvenience. Your boat will be ready by the time we leave or I'll personally carry it across the ocean. That good enough for you? Great. K’Thos?”
“Erm...” K’Thos squirmed uneasily in the silence. “I'm going to go wherever this guy goes. He seems to have an interesting life. I think that's the direction I wanna go for a while.”
“Fine. Good luck. Ta-Kyn, follow me.”
Aran stormed below deck, his wings snapping into his back a split second before he disappeared down the stairs.
“Glitch.” Greasy broke the silence. “Is he always like this in a bad mood?”
“He's not in a bad mood,” K’Thos sighed, pulling his gearblade from its sheath and examining it casually.
“What's he like in a bad mood?”
“You remember that building on the middle of the island, just north of Vault 13?”
“The only thing north of Vault 13 is a crater…” Greasy mused. K’Thos glanced up from the gearblade with a blank stare. Greasy’s eyes went wide.
“It's not as bad as he makes it out to be,” Aran interrupted dryly,
emerging from the stairway and stalking back across the deck. “The
building fired first. It was self-defense.” And he was gone,
flying back across to the train.
* * *
“This should work.” Sahris said aloud. “For now.”
He leapt from the ledge back down into the streets, whistling a haunting
melody as he stepped lightly back into chaos.
* * *
“We don't have enough time,” Doc said softly.
“Believe me,” Aran spat bitterly. “I am fully aware of that. Ta-Kyn has been temporarily diverted, as have Greasy and his crew. We need at LEAST another four hours to get the Rusted Whale working. That's with no distractions, no unpleasant surprises.”
“So we need at least eight hours?”
Doc studied the map Aran had scratched in the dirt with his finger.
“So you had 7 and Weapon seal off these alleys?” Aran nodded. “So the main traffic is gone. But they can still crawl through all these buildings and windows. Also, those barricades will only serve to divert the flow here. Were this a river, you would need some kind of dam to prevent the water from just pouring through here with great force.”
In the distance, Aran heard footsteps. SEER amplified all the sounds and pieced together a picture in his mind..
“Ah, Kiiziiziixii and her wirewitches come to visit?” Aran stood up without turning to face them. “What?”
“We're going to protect (2)syl, tin man. I couldn't care less if you and your little carnival of humanity perish here on this isle or not.”
“I can't make you do anything you don't want to.” Aran said flatly, then added in a whisper. “But do NOT interfere if you want to continue to protect (2)syl.”
“You should let people finish their conversations.” JACK said in a rasp. At least she was back on her feet, no doubt the healing of Kreep’s wounds had begun. But having seen them inflicted, Aran had no doubt they were gone. Wirewitches rarely scarred, but Kreep’s wounds would be deep gashes for days to come.
“We're staying. (2)syl wants to leave on your boat. That means we're going on your boat whether you like it or—“
“Anything sane of mind and wanting to leave this place is welcome on that boat. Provided the peace is kept, and no blood of ANY kind is shed.” He heard the intake of breath from JACK and continued before she could say anything. “I'll guarantee your safety from anything on my end. Guaranteed on punishment of death.”
“There's peace Aran,” Kiiziiziixii mumbled. “For now.”
“Understood. Now if you will excuse me, I have pressing matters. DOC, you can fill them in on the situation.”
Aran was gone and Doc faced the wirewitches and the moddie before him.
“YOU are the Technomancer DOC?” Kiiziiziixii laughed. “I heard legends of a mighty man, but who is this gray beard fool before me.”
“A gray bearded fool,” DOC replied. “But a fool who has learned. A man who dreamed of greatness, and found only adequacy. Now, you will need information to get out of this situation alive. We all will. Listen to me detail what we have done so far.”
Doc traced the map in the dirt. He showed what Aran had showed him, of the barricades formed around the perimeter to keep them safe, and the further barricades that had been erected to send the riots towards farther areas. He outlined the timetable for fixing the boat, and Aran’s layout of defenses and plans for the eventuality of confrontation. Doc pointed out the building nearby that Aran had wired to explode. At the end, Doc even outlined the weakness of himself and his Technomancers. “In the event we become a threat to you and your group.”
“Your legends do you no justice,” Kiiziiziixii muttered. “But what is Aran’s weakness?”
“Aran is his weakness. We can do nothing to Aran that could weaken him. I have my suspicions about him, but if they are correct, heaven help us all.”
“Then why do you hang around him?” Jack rasped.
“Because if my suspicions are correct, the best place in the world to be will be beside his side.”
“If my suspicions are correct, however, the best place in the world is as far from my side as possible.” Aran landed in the courtyard lightly and placed a heavy box down. Inside were rows of small cylinders marked with caution and safety symbols.
“Thermite? Plasma explosives? Mines? Firebombs?” Kiiziiziixii raised an eyebrow. “You MUST tell me where you do your shopping.”
Aran grabbed a few and began to plant them around the train.
“This is all old stuff. But it'll do. I'm going to blow up the train here, forcing the blast that way. The result should create a large enough obstruction to deter the rioters. But it also seals our fate.”
“Howso?” Doc queried.
“The moment they find out this entire circle is closed off, they will want to know why. Then nothing can help them. Also, those creatures are pushing the entire population of the island here, to this beach. Eventually, that dam will break.”
“We need eight hours.” Aran answered, carefully planting a mine in the courtyard.
“How long until the dam bursts.”
“We need eight hours.” Aran repeated.
“You're not going to get it.” A mysterious voice laughed. Once again Aran was moving faster than the eye could follow and they saw a bolt of blue energy hurtle from his hands into the darkness. There was a cry, and a figure fell from the shadows of a nearby doorway.
“Glitch…..Aran….this how you….treat all your….friends?” The figure, a young woman in heavy armor staggered to her feet. Aran dropped his hands, but the immediate area around him seemed to darken; and even the wirewitches could sense the supressed rage around Aran.
“Hello, Tyillion.” Aran spoke through gritted teeth. “Leave.”
Continued in [p016]: Talons [T-minus 4]
Continued from [s054]: Demon Apocalypse [T-minus 3]
Obliterated [T-minus 2]
Somewhere, the sun is shining. Somewhere, on this planet, the sky is blue. But not here thinks the man made machine. His name is Aran Seetal, and he is a Technomancer. The word is an atrocity to most people, though once they were considered selfless servants of humanity. But that was another age, one that it appears Aran was part of. He has had trouble remembering of late.
Above, clouds of green and gray boil as if the very earth had been set afire. The sound of winds deafen his hearing, augmented by intricate machinery. And on the air there is the scent of rain, mingled with the sickening stench of blood. Blood which is everywhere around him: soaking his clothes, running between his fingers, dripping over his eyes.
It is not the blood of Men.
It is the blood of Monsters.
The atrocities around him were named "Demonspawn" by the broken world that first encountered them. No one knows where the came from, or what they want. In a more enlightened age, they would have been studied, handled differently. But the age of reason for this place has fallen away, replaced by an age of chaos. The Demonspawn were nicknamed “eoas” by those who had never seen them. Regardless of what they were called, they were nightmares given shape. And right now they were killing anything they could get there hands on, rending men and buildings with their massive bodies.
Aran spun around, letting his wings stretch out. Solid triadium metal could withstand almost anything, and ripped through four inch hides with ease. The eoa roared in pain, but not fast enough. Aran leapt upwards, hands outstretched, taking the mighty creatures jaw in both hands and…
There is sound that blankets the battleground. It is the tearing of muscle and cartilage. It is the sound of inhuman bone splintering. It is the sound of a nightmare dying. The eoa crumples to the ground silently, and Aran finds himself alone.
His wings are punctured, shattered. He finds he can no longer fly so he walks instead, wading through the remains of fallen eoas. His right hand still holds part of the eoa’s jaw, a long shattered bone-shard he hefts like a club. In the distance he can hear them. Running. Memories stir, but he can not force them into his mind’s eye. And he sees that he has not been alone. Others stand in the battlefield, his fellow Technomancers standing on shaking legs in the sea of mud and pain around him. They would follow me to hell, but they don’t even know me. And I don’t know why I would let them. Aran’s eyes also take in the sight of a figure that his memory couldn’t suppress. The warrior Tyillion is wiping the blood from her sword. Odd, he thinks, that despite her wounds she follows tradition before tending her injuries.
“You’re hurt,” he says. They're the only words he can summon.
“Yes,” she responds. There’s a coldness in her voice that he didn’t want to hear. Something…familiar and at the same time so foreign. She turns to face him and her eyes belie her composure. There is something in them, a spark of surprise perhaps…but mixed with what. She regains her indifference quickly and sheaths her sword. In the distance he can see the boxes she has been guarding across the battlefield, surrounded by what is left of her mercenary forces.
“Tyillion, I…,” he begins.
“What?” she snaps.
“I don’t know. Are you ok, what’s going on? Why did you fight me earlier? Tyillion, what’s happening…with you…with me?”
Tyillion’s eyes remain cold.
“Only Aran would know.”
“But I don’t!” Aran retorts. And Tyillion smiles a bitter smile.
“I know you don’t,” she says them with such harshness that it floors him. The man who had felled Demonspawn without flinching is left stunned. A second passes like an entire era between them, an epoch of cold confusion and pain. He never heard the hiss of metal on metal as the impact bullets tore his metal body apart. So terrible was his confusion, that he never even felt her tear his heart out.
* * *
Sahris halts his assault suddenly, as if held back by an unseen hand. Black eyes see figures that do not want to be noticed. They stand in front of him fearing nothing, and he kneels and feels their minds touch his.
“The girl has terminated our tests. Her revelation to the subject has put the entire project in great jeopardy. It has become necessary for us to retreat.”
“But why? We are almost finished. He will be most displeased.”
And then Sahris shivers. Tears of dark blood pour from his eyes and his breath stops as something enters his mind. The three figures before him merely touched his psyche, speaking to him, looking inside him. But the presence that has arrived tears through his mind, a mental intrusion of such power to make the sensitivity to pain increase ten fold. It violates his existence with no regard, and etches its words upon his mind in burning pain.
“You could not possibly discern my thoughts on this matter,” roars a voice that hammers through his mind. “You have done well so far, my child. I have use for you in the future, do not make me feel that I have misplaced the trust I have in you. The woman has denied us the results of the experiment, but has provided us an opportunity. I am going to cut him free.”
The confusion is palpable. Even the three specters are visibly shaken.
“I could not hope for you to understand. We have shaped him this far. But this creation, this finality of my work will not be finished by my hand. No. It shall complete itself in a way I could not foresee or plan. I shall suffer it to exist, for now. Sahris, my child, return to me. There is much we must discuss regarding the final moments. The Three shall see to it that these ‘Bleed’ are suitably aided in the destruction of this place. Now…return.”
Sahris doesn’t have time to respond, as his very molecules are torn asunder by lightning, and where once the dark warrior stood is only a void of silence and the stench of ozone. The three specters turn and are gone in the blink of an eye, about their own tasks.
* * *
He cannot live, yet he does. He cannot fly, yet he is propelled forward by the energy he cannot see. Aran has begun to see some things for the first time. For instance, the fact that he is not alive.
Tyillion had ripped his heart straight from his chest. As she did, all he could do was stare. Somewhere within him he noticed that the heart was dead already, tissue twisted and blackened. She held it in front of his eyes for him to see. Aran reaches inside of his chest and feels…nothing. Organs which should be warm are as cold as ice. Machinery which should be sustaining his life is not present. Instead, he feels strange and alien devices. And then he can feel it folding back together, could feel his body repairing itself. Where his heart had been, something was regrowing. But not a heart. Whatever was now in his chest pulses not with the black-red blood of Technomancers but streams of pure energy. Essence. Aran looked down as his own chest began to restitch, but different than before. He sees wires of pure light weaving through his body. And Tyillion threw his heart to the ground. Softly, she said, “You’re not the man I loved.”
And he realizes the words. The body he is in is not his own. The collection of memories that is "Aran" is simply a copy. He can feel it now, the realization that he is not alive. In a time long gone, there was a term for it.
“Golem Soul.” The words sound strange coming from his mouth. Or the mouth of the construct that houses his conscious thought.
The Golem Soul. In times of utmost necessity, a Technomancer was fitted with a brain stem implant that let them remotely control another shape, a construct. The construct then would react as if it were an extension of the Technomancer’s body. Aran’s body was a construct, designed for a purpose unknown. But it was almost finished. Aran’s battles, the constant fighting, forcing it to change and evolve. The essence, the power. Aran was being used. And he didn’t even know where he was anymore.
Part of his mind knew something was wrong. Part of his mind knew something was… missing. But he knew where that part was. It was buried inside a monster that had crept inside of him when Cyberspace fell. The creature of ages past, the abomination known as PYLE. Before he had first been repaired by the street doctor, before the machinations of Dr. Keith Rains, the monster PYLE had been inside his brain, and had taken with him a copy. Perhaps the only one left. Now he seeks two things. Retrieval and Resolution. Both are the only things upon his mind, which is why Aran cannot know what he is doing. Flying along, his body attempting to evolve even faster, stretches his wings out, trying to reshape them. Ripples of energy arc from him, tearing streets apart. So great is his energy signature across the face of the island that it begins to create cross-harmonics. Long buried electrical conduits and machinery groan as they are snapped back into life. Streaks of blue fire resurrect dead circuits, and the island itself roars. Buildings attempt to stabilize themselves, only to rely on data so old that it simply topples them. Windows break, but fine lines of blue electricity begin to restitch them. In short, Aran has become a nexus of entropy and chaos. Whatever he is now, whatever this body that was forced upon him is, it is trying to complete itself. And only his constant resistance is keeping it from winning. Ahead he sees PYLE, who is frozen on the dock of the Rusted Whale. There are other faces, he knows below there are people. People, he realizes, who know less about what I am than I do. And he descends.
His mind is set on vengeance, and the power to extract it is at his fingertips. Eight wings, grown from the remains of the original shattered ones, unwrap themselves and unfurl. Sheets of glistening metal cascade from them, and radiate the blue energy, the inhuman essence as never before. Aran can no longer hear, no longer feel. All he does is stretch forth a hand. Below he senses people, knows they see him. But his body is changing, faster than he can keep up with. The very air and light bends around him, people stare at the sky only to feel a sharp pain in their minds, and a sense of paranoia. Among those below, however, one blue haired figure bears witness to the final transformation of the body Aran is trapped inside. The sheer power of this body he exists inside is staggering, yet it cannot distort the perception of the blue haired girl. Something inside of it stirs. Here, the body recoils, is the enemy. Aran forces it, keeping it from reaching for her. The energy collects the child falling from the edge of the boat and deposits him on the deck carefully. Forcing the body he can no longer claim full control over around, he concentrates on the monster who has the last remaining part of the puzzle of his life. Aran stretches for his hand again, shapes his will through the essence, pushes himself even farther down the path to total obliteration, surrendering to the machine around and inside. His hand clenches, and for a moment, the world stops.
Space, Time, Energy, Life, Death.
Aran realizes his ability to control them all, right now.
To be like unto a god.
Or a devil.
He closes his eyes and lets the thoughts slip away, closing his fist.
The world erupts in a light so brilliant that, had it been seen, it would have blinded the masses below. All is as it was, except that there is now missing a man of metal and a monster of wire.
Aran is no longer hovering over the square, and to the people below who will never know…the figure on the boat simply disappears. Miles above, Aran propels himself with no effort, pulling the monster PYLE screaming behind him. Above the clouds, he finds that the sky is blue, and the sun is shining.
He smiles, for a moment, before his reaches in and pulls a single strand of wire from the body of Pyle, and sends it rocketing down towards the island to a destination only he can see.
But his attention returns to Pyle, cowering in front of him. Aran snaps his fingers and the automaton ceases to exist, the ancient core of his programming wiped clean.
There is a moment.
It might be peace.
If it is, he knows the stopping to enjoy it would only cost him dearly.
Aran pulls the body of PYLE around him, feeling the wires encase his body, and begin to attempt to mingle with his own. The essence within screams. Discord, chaos, entropy. Metal wings begin to waver, then crack. Down, Aran falls, trailing metal feathers and the fading strands of energy. He feels the empty shell of PYLE begin to war with the essence within.
Down he falls.
And he feels himself fall apart.
No man should possess this power.
The Bleed below swallow him up, their corrosive existence tearing away what is left of the unearthly body he was trapped in. The remains of Aran hit the ground, but still he falls.
Who did this to me?
Spiraling into a cold blackness, a lapse of feeling until…
Who could seek such power…
Something stirs, and the world is pain. And before he passes into the deepest sleep, he knows three things with confidence.
He knows that the Pure will escape, under the guidance of Tyillion.
He knows that he will wake up and remember none of this.
And he knows, with a certainty that scares him that this very thing has happened before.
And as he falls…
He remembers cities in the sky, and fortresses in the stars. He remembers men and women assembling under a perfect sky. He remembers places that have been removed from the earth for years. The voices of ages come back to him in a moment, and he knows.
Somewhere, there is a void beyond existence.
Somewhere where there is no sun, what is left of Aran’s existence begins to reassemble itself in the empty abyss of his own life.
And there is laughter.
Continued in [p017]: Obliterated [T-minus 1]
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