Bitter Cynicism [ Open Knowledge ]
A lithe hand ran over the flat pane glass of the container, an inquisitive eye trained into the depths of the sea. Illuminated dimly by the light, only the most basic features could be discerned. A tall profile, thin as impossibility, standing black against the subdued glow coming from behind the glass. A straight nose, and a sharp jaw. Hair combed neatly to the side and back, hairline across his forehead glinting blonde in the inadequate lighting. Eyes could be made out, catching the light of what was behind the glass and reflecting it like water. Emulov withdrew his hand, and stuffed it into a pocket of his trench coat, pulling out a PDA.
The Doctor had been with the experiment since the start, and since entering the Complex The Doctor had lived and breathed the work. It became his obsession for the next decade or so, dedicating every iota of himself to reaching the goal. For the many years activation had been sought, The Doctor was always there, a testament to dedication itself and the embodiment of Bitter Cynicism.
As he busied himself with the PDA, bubbles issued from somewhere on the other side of the glass. Emulov looked up, and was still for a few moments. He then returned to the PDA, and cast a pen across it a few times. He looked up again, and stuffed the PDA back into a pocket, arms crossing against chest in an annoyed manner. Muted white lights came on from behind the glass, and the whir of electronics quickened their pace. A large claw descended from somewhere above, and reached into the oblivion below, disappearing into oblique nothing at both ends. A clank was heard, echoing through the water and causing the glass to vibrate, hydraulics started up as the claw began dragging something upwards. Bubbles became dominant within the water, obscuring view, as various machines went to work. The claw jolted, and froze. A spot was activated in the tank, and illuminated The Doctor's interest.
Its silhouette was frightening, grotesque, something that had not graced the pages of evolution. Countless pulsing cables erupted from this thing, consuming any spare inch of it, and cascaded down in a great serpentine mass of twists and coils. They writhed as if imbibed with live. The thing itself though, did not move. But that is why The Doctor was here.
"Sex heures... As-tu une bete? ...Ou'est-ce que ton esprit... Mangeras."
For fifteen years controversy had been raging. A great experiment had been in the process of refinement, one with many thousands of goals to reach with only one manifestation by which to reach them. And for fifteen years, thousands worked tirelessly to attempt to reach even one. Needlessly complicated, costly, and shrouded in horrific paranoia. Once you were in, you were in to stay. Not so much as a drop of sweat had been produced as far as anyone was concerned. That's how it was, and that's how it was kept.
The experiment was dubbed, ever so lovingly, Bitter Cynicism. The Doctor referred to the experiment as Before Christ. As he reviewed the beast before him... A smile appeared. It wasn't The Doctors, and it wasn't smiling for the reason of a joke.
Kay Medical Media, State Imperial News
The Fodmodmadtol Ministry of Warfare has declassified today, at the hour of seven in the morning, documents pertaining to the Bitter Cynicism Experiment. While the documents released are still heavily censored by the Ministry, obvious excerpts have made it clear that Bitter Cynicism will make bigger headlines than the Massacre at the Ministry. From what we have gathered, excerpts from the documents state:
... Ten percent of the Fodmodmadtol Guard will be decommissioned on completion of The Experiment ... All spies will be recalled and the Department of Espionage will be reconstructed ... Budget increases for the Ministry of Warfare will be needed again ... Kay Medical will increase profit margins ...
A Message from Bitter Cynicism to The Ministry, transmitted only six hours ago, has also been released. The document is completely uncensored and available for public knowledge. The transmission is adressed from one, Doctor Emulov, to the Ministry of Warfare. While not distorted in any fashion, the actual message is as cryptic as could be and provides no real additional information.
Message to the Ministry of Warfare,
GSV WLT DROO YZIP LM HXSVWFOV. DV DZRG.
The Doctor Emulov
Comanding Officer of Bitter Cynicism
We will keep you updated throughout the day as we recieve more information on Bitter Cynicism.
The General Cabinet was locked in heated debate, shouting and cat calls echoing loudly in Southampton Hall from the Stage. Citizens filling every row of the Hall could not be contained. Their chanting and jeering was ranging from horrific threats to unwavering support, the more unruly resorting to personal attacks and fist fights. The State Guard only made the situation worse in their attempt to quell the rioting. The only calm person in the Hall was Lord Chancellor Till Aries. And even he had an annoyed look. With fists clenched, Till could only watch on until a semblance of order was enforced.
"God. I detest democracy..."
A glance to a Guard standing just off Stage, and Till motioned to him. The Guard nodded, and began chattering away on his handheld. Doors in the back of the Hall sprung open, and Guards began pushing the people outside. The mob surged in emotion, deep throated booing filling The Hall. The cameras in the upper balconies were reeling this through countless channels of the media.
Half an hour later, The Hall was completely empty. The General Cabinet seemed dejected, the crowd roaring outside. Till set his gaze forward, the cameramen having descended to the floor, and looked into the nearest lens.
"Thank you for your time."
Sarcasm, no less.
"Bitter Cynicism is an experiment that has been in the makings for fifteen years. An act of the Ministry of Warfare under the Y'shi Regime, in times of paranoia. With recent years we have seen no reason to stop Bitter Cynicism, as The General Cabinet and myself have long since given up on the idealism of peace. There never was peace, and there never will be peace, and that is why Bitter Cynicism has continued to thrive.
"The goal of the experiment, was to create a creature that exudes terror. Pure, unadulterated fear that would stop a man dead in his tracks. But also, to create a creature that we can control. It would be sardonic of myself to say that 'I am happy to announce,' as this is far from a joyous event. But, Bitter Cynicism has reached its goal in the form of a Mangeras."
The noise from outside began to swell, the Ministers exchanged worried looks with each other. The doors began to pound in the back of The Hall, and even the cameramen seemed anxious. Till was intent on finishing.
"A Mangeras is a biological form, shaped to a design that The Doctor Emulov has constructed. Vicious in appearance, and terrifying in function. While a Mangeras is biological in form... If I were to tell you that a Mangeras was alive, I would be lying.
"A system has been developed, in which a net of electronic nerves is meshed within muscle, respiratory, and cardiovascular tissue- As well as stem cells. A 'Net consisting of wire and mesh, laced through the biological tissue of a Mangeras, acts as a central nervous system in coordinating its functions.
"However, it does not just end there. A Mangeras is capable of being remote operated, but that is far from the point. It acts on software, a CPU implanted inside acting as the brain, which controls the 'Net. This software, branded by Kay Medical as 'Lestat,' is meticulously programmed to instruct the Mangeras to identify, and execute targets, as well as carry out the basic functions needed to maintain its operation."
The Hall went dark. A screen behind Till and The General Cabinet flickered to life, and the image of a Mangeras was revealed. The cameramen gasped collectively, some forgetting their job and allowing the camera to slump before repositioning it on the Mangeras.
"While I cannot ever begin to get into the most detailed information regarding Bitter Cynicism, I can address what The Fodmodmadtol Guard will be initiating. Ten percent of the Armed Forces shall be decommissioned, and replaced by the Mangeras. If they are deemed successful in combat, then that number may rise to forty percent. As of completion of Bitter Cynicism and Conditioning of Mangeras, they will immediately begin to carry out assassination mission on behalf of Fodmodmadtol-"
The doors in the back of The Hall burst open, all at once, and light started to flood in with a tremendous well. The crowd began to storm inside, frenzied, pushing aside bleeding Guards. As the first dozen or so people who had entered adjusted to the dark, focusing on the only visible thing in The Hall, they froze. Silence enveloped the crowd, passing back into the streets. Within seconds, an eerie quiet had become evident. Till smirked, and all at once- They screamed. (http://www.gamersgallery.com/gallery/data/1580/1HUNTER.jpg)
"Spectra two, come in. Where are you?"
"Listen, make your way to the ridge-"
The radio cut out.
"Spectra two? Spectra two! Damn it, come in!"
He threw the handheld to the ground in disgust, and repositioned himself in the trench. He didn't know how long since the five of them set out- But now only one of them was left. He spat to the ground mechanically, out of an old habit. After readjusting the '47 over shoulder, Spectra Four surfaced from beneath the camouflage of undergrowth, and crouched, ready to bound out of the foxhole. Something snapped, and Four sprung around with wide eyes and the '47 aimed.
There was nothing. Spectra Four turned back to the ridge- And now to the Mangeras.
Its teeth were speckled red and black, a mixture of mud and flesh trapped between gaping incisors of ivory. The stench of sweat and decay poured from its mouth, a thick tongue, with hot breath erupting from its throat in a rasping torrent. Wretched scaled skin, calloused, caked with putrid soils that trapped the odor of blood and sweat. It stood there, looming over him, its gigantic form a solid boulder. With one massive hand, it snatched Four from the ground, and threw him into a mass of thorns. The Mangeras smashed through the undergrowth that separated it from the prey, and advanced with a crushing gait, soles sinking into the soft ground. It stooped over Four with a smile, ready to pick apart the victim.
"Five of Fodmodmadtol's Officer d' Element lasted only fifteen minutes against a Mangeras..."
And the feed cut out. Emulov motioned for an Intern to bring the lights back up.
"Of course, this is only the Mangeras in its most primitive form."
Awesome. Deliciously frightening. But awesome.
"That's the difference between you and I... You only recommend something. I go and do something. Not going to get anywhere like that..."
Emulov grinned, the dejected Intern smiling blankly at something that soared completely over their head. The Mangeras was behind glass again, floating in the sea of thick water, the countless cables pulsing once more. Lighting revealed it perfectly, slick and detailed extraneously. It was clean, as if it never trod out from its place in the translucent void. The Doctor forced a clipboard onto the Intern, and turned her away. He resumed chattering with a pen on the PDA, talking to himself. The file was found that Emulov was searching for, and it was executed.
The cables ran dry, and lay still. They just hung there for a few moments, and then detached, slowly being pulled away from view. Emulov leaned toward the glass, concentrating. He heard it within seconds, the faint clicks of an electronic probe as it fired off small waves. The Mangeras lay perfectly still, as if sculpted from stone.
"Darling... You have to dance for me."
The low clicking stopped, and Echo Lab seemed to quiet unusually. The various Interns scuffling around with basic calculations stopped, all of them turning to watch The Doctor and the Mangeras. The Doctor stiffened with their gaze across his neck, out of sheer annoyance. He slackened though, almost immediately, looking past the glass with an air of victory. The Mangeras was looking right back at him.
"Dilated... Observing... Questioning physical being... Lestat showing signs of constructing a sub psyche structure of self consciousness... Ah, what will you do for me now."
The Interns whispered with each other, accustomed to The Doctor speaking to himself, but discussing the Mangeras itself. Independent movement was one thing, but signs of self recognition... That displayed an entirely separate plane of complexity. The test run was for allowing the Mangeras to adjust to itself. This Conditioning actually activated Lestat.
"Your name... Will be Lock" The Doctor turned on heel to face the Interns, all having flocked to the window in curiosity and exasperation. "Let Kay Medical know that they can follow through with their Marketing Campaign. Bitter Cynicism has been accomplished."
"Alberto? Alberto, the dogs need a statement."
A frail figure of a man, enveloped in the morose glow of the television, cradled himself in slender limbs. His pallid, cracking lips were pursed into an expression of pejorative doubt. Ample olive eyes, coupled with sprawling lashes, were livid with fear. Thin eyebrows were arched in permanent disbelief.
"The press is barking, Alberto. Barking. The people need to know your stance on Fodmodmadtol's new project. They're practically rioting out there."
Alberto slowly gathered his person and rose from his leather chair. Placing one hand on the ripples of his oak desk, and the other through his receding black hair. He sighed, the nostrils of his daggeresque nose flaring. His tall, gawking figure, which would have been daunting in some unknowing society, paced about the appropriately Neo-Roman office before asquiescing to Her Saledictorian Minister and placing his hands on the heavy gilded doors.
Turning briefly, he whined to H.S.M. Frintz out of a tightly-choked throat.
"Can't Danny do it?"
"Hello, I'm Synthia Merding with CBN news, standing outside La Capitale Rosa, Platform Three, where His Minister is just about to announce his stance on the outbreak of Fod 'Mangeras', what are believed to be, quite frankly, killing machines. Here he is, H.M. Alberto Caroccia."
Alberto figdeted, observing through nervously-twitching eyes the expectance of the press, who licked their chops and held their microphones to him; like raving dogs circling a slab of bleeding meat.
"We..." He coughed offside the podium and adjusted his necktie. "We believe it to not be a concern of the people, this release of a new breed of Fod security. However..."
Security? Must we be secure from these Mangeras? His Minister, are these a danger to our people? The press circled Alberto, shouting.
"However, we will be concentrating more on homeland security, if just to relax the concerns of our people. His Minister of Security, Humberto Genedo, will be organizing a gross amount of funding of which the Ediction will invest in protection."
How do you except to protect your citizens if even you cannot predict the behavior of Fod's monsters?]His Minister, are we threatened by these monsters? What will the ATM say of this?
Alberto chewed his lip. "No further questions."
Kay Medical Media, From the Desk of Jordan Lions
We have created a creature that has not seen the light of day for eons. We have brought that creature forth and onto this plane of existence through our own ingenuity- Our own wit. This creature is one of complete subservience, with a demonic soul to grant it movement. We have proven that we are higher than any Christian, Muslim, or Judaic God.
We have the capability of crafting a being, and bringing that to function. Not one of a peaceful nature- But one intent on wrecking havoc with anything it views. A brutal, ruthless machine, bent on spreading chaos terror- The will of its master. We created life which is intent to devour all, and by this we are greater than any God.
Jehovah, Allah, the Devil- The Mangeras is above them all, defiant, and a testament to the superiority of our own kind. Those who do not agree, are among the genetically impure of our species. The Mangeras will act as sentry to their own cause in rooting out dissenters, and cleansing our race. Only the righteous are worthy to work for the Mangeras and their Master, which in essence, are the righteous themselves!
Simply, Mangeras are coming to a Storefront near you. Contracts may be discussed at will of, but be warned that Kay Medical has the right to refuse negotiations with any prospective Consumer.
Acting CEO of Kay Medical Industries
Undersigned by the Fodmodmadtol Ministry of Commerce
Undersigned by the Fodmodmadtol Ministry of Warfare
"Doctor, we have a problem in MFS."
"Of course you do... You're not me."
Emulov pushed the Intern aside and made his way briskly into the corridor. MFS was, if you will, the prequel to Bitter Cynicism. A prototype, of a basic sketch, of a vague idea, of a cocaine induced hallucination. Credibility much? Emulov reached the opposite end of the corridor, and stepped onto the waiting lift. A short voice command and it began to rise, Emulov crossing his arms.
"MFS... I shut you down. Why should there be a problem..."
Whispers exchanged with only himself, as he went over the entire operation in his mind. Robotics, stimulus and reactions, navigation and coordination. MFS didn't even resemble Lock, the only thing tying them together being Lestat. MFS was a freak, certified across the Galaxy. No denying that. When Lestat had been fine tuned, MFS was shut down, and Worth Lab was left untouched for many years to follow. What lay in Worth Lab was a beast in every aspect compared to Lock. Basic- No restrictions. Emulov quirked a brow.
"Lestat a primitive AI... Reproduction was scoured... But only after Test Eight Failure... That one didn't survive very long. Twelve dozen personalities in one CPU... Administrative chaos. But MFS... Was shut down before that was realized."
Emulov was now scrolling through his PDA, reviewing MFS Data from years back. The lift came to a stop, and the doors fell back. The Doctor stepped off the lift, eyes locked on his PDA, onto a balcony overlooking a disheveled Worth Lab. As he turned to step down from the rise, Emulov tripped. Gaze immediately was cast downwards.
"Ah." An Intern, white coat blotted red. "It converted back to L-Net. Charming." Turn on heel and Emulov entered the lift again, shouting briskly for it to descend. As the doors slid shut, the lights of Worth Lab died.
"Doctor, Kay Med is anxious. Why are they hyping this up... Why conduct this in secrecy for over a decade and then expose ourselves to the world like this? And at the hand of a corporation-"
"What would it matter?"
"Doctor! Bitter Cynicism is not meant to-"
"Adelina, go away. Now."
"Emulov, if you don't start listening in place of speaking you're going to condemn us all to an insufferable hell, worse by fathoms than what we're confined to now. If Kay Med discovers-"
"Get out, Adelina."
Emulov turned from the glass and looked to Adelina. She was douty now, transgressed far from that pretty thing Adelina once was. Thinned and pale, graying hair tied into a pony tail with stray hairs amiss. Her eyes were once so stunning. A shame, they were now glazed and white. Almost completely blind. Emulov placed a hand on her shoulder, and led her away from the glass, the Mangeras within watching them curiously. Adelina twitched.
"Emulov, you saw Worth Lab. I know you did. You can't deny that MFS is still growing. MFS is still learning, Emulov, and now we can't even keep track of it. You act as if no one else knows!"
"Because only you and I know it."
"How is that? MFS could be anywhere, seen by anyone."
"There's one stipulation, Adelina."
"You know where MFS is."
"On the contrary."
The Doctor spoke slowly, caressing Adelina's cheek with the back of hand, stroking fingers through Adelina's hair.
"On the contrary... For you see, Adelina... Innocent Adelina... The ignorant Adelina... Doctor Emulov died tonight... When leaving Worth Lab, Adelina, the Doctor was struck from above... And I, MFS, stole Emulov from himself. Oh, Adelina. Ignorant Adelina. Precious."
Emulov sniffed Adelina's hair; she was nothing but still.
"Lord Chancellor, you have to wake up. It's time to leave."
"What do... What... What's the time? Why are you waking-"
"Lord Chancellor, Minister Ludvik wishes to speak with you."
"At this hour..."
"Lord Chancellor, Minister Ludvik said it was of dire importance. He wants to alert the General Cabinet of a potential Level One Emergency. He needs-"
"He's waiting right outside."
In no more than five minutes Till was seated, fully dressed in black corporate attire, in the back seat of a limousine waiting by the front gate of The Imperial Plaza. Till was immaculate at any hour. Blond hair lay straight, cut to stop just above brow. Hazel eyes were deadened, sorrowful, and Till was pale from shock. He was sitting still in the limousine as Ludvik slid in. Before closing the door, the aide handed Till his rose colored glasses. He plucked them away gingerly, and cleaned them on the hem of his sports jacket before putting them on. Only after the aide had closed the door did he glance at Ludvik.
Ludvik was tired as ever, though he always seemed to triumph over age. Always stern, eyes dark and hair darker, always donned in military attire.
The limousine started pulling away silently from The Plaza; lights on in every window, aides rushing through the rooms. It was the dead of night, but you could hear people shouting from inside. The rest of the island was probably awake as well. Till spoke first.
"You have until we board the boat to explain yourself."
"Is a threat to your life not explanation enough..."
"Aries, just start speaking."
"One of my little projects has seen a... Glitch. That's all."
Ludvik paused, hesitant to continue. He looked out the window, the lights of The Plaza faint through the fog that hung around the island. Couldn't even see the water.
"At zero one hundred hours, a failsafe in Bitter Cynicism was triggered. An alert was sent out to surrounding posts upon the death of The Commanding Officer, The Doctor Emulov, of Bitter Cynicism. An implant in the base of his skull was switched on when his heart stopped. Following protocol, we arranged for a replacement..."
"But then... His heart started again."
"Aries, that's not death."
"So we started reviewing data that was recorded in BC, from twenty three hundred hours to when I was alerted. Usual personnel movement through BC... Ordinary. We noticed we were missing a huge chunk of data, though. from a Sector called Worth Lab."
"And then... We found a link to this data, video feed from a lift that was heading to Worth Lab, by orders of The Doctor Emulov. We found the glitch in that video feed... The glitch."
"This glitch, for all I know, could be a nuclear explosion in Kay Med."
"Lord Chancellor. Watch the video feed."
Till cringed at the title, Ludvik narrowing his eyes. Ludvik shoved a PDA to Till, the countdown to the video feed already at; Three, Two, One. Till glared at Ludvik before turning to the clip.
Emulov shouted again for the lift to descend, but it didn't move. The lights blinked, then went out completely. Red emergency lights switched on from the floor. Emulov shouted again. The lift dropped suddenly, shaking violently and throwing Emulov off balance, into the wall. It ground to a halt. The lights were flashing. Emulov smashed the keypad by the doors, eyes alight in fury, loosing his composure entirely. The lift was silent, as was the floor it came to rest on. Something groaned in the shaft. A metallic shift, something scraping. The roof was torn away as if it were tinfoil, flung up into the shaft, nothing but flashing metal before it disappeared above. There was only dark above, fathomless. Something groaned again, deep and resonant, like the earth was going to cave into the Complex. A great wind was rushing through the shaft, and then it was upon Emulov, tearing at his coat. The lift was torn away from under his feet, from around him, and catapult up through the shaft as well. Then fire became his blood, shadows and light ingesting him entirely; his sound, his feeling, his sight; entirely. Screaming was insignificant.
Till would only witness Emulov's torture so far as the lift being torn away.
"Ludvik, you pull me out of bed in the middle of the night, you alert the General Cabinet to a Level One Emergency, you preach a threat to my life. You go so far as to redefine death? And you do this with only a clip from a corrupted video feed? Why, Ludvik. Why even bother waking me up."
"The data from BC stated, clearly, that there was no one on that lift when that was filmed."
Ludvik paused, and Till became quiet.
"Aries. Is this Sarah?"
"It can't be anything else."
The limo pulled up to the dock, people bustling around feverishly in a giant push. People were pushing around trunks, luggage, waving around flashlights frantically as they made way for the water. It was eerily quiet, though, no one actually speaking much; and even then only in soft whispers. Everyone, though, was heading in the same direction. The dock consisted of a single pier, modern by any standards, a concrete piling extending into the water wide enough for six lanes of traffic. And this is were the ferry was docked. Modern and new, sitting like a giant lantern at he end of the pier, pushing away desperately at the darkness around it with blaring spotlights. The people hustling towards the only line off the island disappeared as they started off the dock, and reappeared only once they reached the lights of the ferry.
Till stepped from the car, turning his nose up at the crowds. The heavy fog did nothing for his poor vision, and he grabbed for Ludvik as soon as he was by his side. Various aides rushed around, gathering chests from the trunk, and running to the ferry to alert them that the Lord Chancellor would be boarding. A contingent of four guards appeared at Till's and Ludvik's side, a ceremonial thing more than a functional thing. Till smiled at their presence, always one to be ornate. And aide approached the two, asking how they could be of service.
"I want you to alert the rest of the General Cabinet to a Level One Emergency... And send a message to Minister of Censure Raphael to gather his blanket."
The aide quirked a brow, nodded once, then hurried away.
"You know what I mean, Aries."
"I know what you meant... I still question it..."
The two started walking towards the ferry, the dark quickly enveloping them and the contingent. The scrape of shoe and chest against the pier, heavy breathing of laboring employees rushing to the ferry, and the constant grind of the ocean to the earth. Common. As soon as they set foot on board, the contingent directed them up an unlit staircase directly in front of them. No fancy room prepared for these two, only privacy. The guards left them on a landing some two stories up, and headed back down to stand guard at the foot of the stairs.
Till sneered at Ludvik's utilitarian stance on all things, knowing Ludvik chose specifically this spot for them. He sat on the edge of the stairs, planting elbows on knees and chin in hand. A breath to blow away the few strands of hair that fell over his eyes.
"Tell me about MFS, Aries. Tell me everything you know about it."
"All you can understand is that it's Sarah, Till. That's all I can say."
"You can say more. I know you can. You choose not to go into detail. Do not try and direct me away from the point, pleading innocence for my behalf. I have worked on things of such complication that when I look back on it, I question my own sanity. MFS? Never heard of it. But I could still have all the understanding in the world for it, more that even The Doctor Emulov. I must, if Emulov is dead and I am alive. Explain it to me, Aries. Tell me more than you allow. I want to know beyond Sarah, and I want to know what you have been working on since Yishi's Estate."
Ludvik was beside Till, sitting casually as Ludvik's always was. His eye twitched of annoyance, the volatile mixture of love and rage boiling over in himself. Disgraceful. Beautiful. Till; only contempt, only adoration. Arms held fast to the Lord Chancellor, by Warfare.
"Sleep either in my arms, or in the ashes of your Estate. Ignorance is bliss, Till. Never forget that. Knowledge leads only to the ultimate evil, an absolute corruption that serves only to promote itself in it's disintegration of ethics. To know everything, one must know nothing. Now make your bed, Till. And when the sun sets behind the curve of earth, and the moon rises from under the dome of sea... Be prepared to sleep in it, Till."
Till lay a hand on Ludvik's forearm, both eyeing the other suspiciously. The boat rocked softly, having departed long ago.
"It's because you don't know either."
The silence that followed was insufferable. It was true what Till said, after all. Ludvik was just as clueless. But what Ludvik had said to Till had been more damaging than anything. They were both right, correcting each other. Needlessly complicated and profoundly simple, each statement in its own way.
"Just silence yourself... Just once... Stop talking..."
"You are not one to imply ego."
"Egotistical, self absorbed, self centered..."
They were silent again. Now, however, their's wasn't the only silence. The constant hum of the motor had stopped, leaving only the chatter of other passengers to echo up through the stairwell. Till tensed, standing up and pulling Ludvik away from him. Ludvik started downstairs, gesturing for Till to stay put.
"I'll see what's up... Stay here."
"Aries. It could be Sarah."
Flashing. The lights were flashing erratically, red and red and red, through every lab and corridor and room. Emergency systems were activated, great churning machinery working behind the walls. Great amounts of water and air rushed through concealed conduits, pressure building rapidly everywhere. The earth around the Complex shook, cracking part of it into bits, and opening it up into the crushing power of itself. Shattering glass. People screaming so loudly that their own ears split. No, it wasn't the people. Something else was thundering above them. Something wailing. Screeching. Sirens? No, those have been on for hours. Small explosions, crackling, popping. Then the sound of flesh being torn apart, squelching sounds of blood pouring from something that used to be living. And then the horrid sound of something once dead, now alive, tearing through everything with abandon. Not just one of these, no. Many. Countless in this confusion.
Adelina stumbled through a corridor, following the wall as a path. Water coursed around he waist, pushing her in the opposite direction, a stream of what could be ice if it wasn't so swift rooting her feet to the floor. Torrents of hundred degree wind funneled from behind, chaffing the back of neck and singing blind eyes. The flickering of red and white light meant nothing, but the ceaseless booming of the sirens was deafening. Adelina entered into the abandoned Echo Lab, relieved of the torture now behind her. The seemingly only exit from Echo Lab, though, was a vortex of fire and ice. And that lay behind Adelina, now. No turning back.
Echo Lab was empty. The glass walls had split, only torn cables hanging limp from an unseen ceiling. Echo Lab was decimated, as were its occupants. Adelina trudged through the water, knowing her way through Echo Lab instinctively, from years upon years of navigating through this obstacle course without sight. She collapsed against the far wall when she reached it, and sank down to the floor until it was around the chest. Groping the cold steel, searching for what could save her. Her fingers brushed against something that wasn't steel. It was dirt. Half of Echo Lab was missing, lost in the earth. And with it, her line to the outside was severed completely.
A lithe hand began stroking Adelina's hair, someone kneeling down behind.
As one hand slid over Adelina's collar, the other pushed a keypad firmly into chest. Adelina shook, violently, tremors running into her limbs. The one lift of Bitter Cynicism, and it was buried in the mantle. The hands disappeared. Those moments after MFS first touched her, first spoke to her after it stole Emulov, and it revealed everything to herself. Why did it do this? Is it taunting? It it mocking? Can an AI comprehend such things!
"Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!"
Adelina clawed at the wall of dirt, pulling away clumps of soil. She was breathing too heavily, hyperventilating. Throes became meek and ineffective, then stopped altogether. Adelina couldn't catch her breath. Then something kicked her vital functions into gear. From the vortex of fire and ice, over the deafening sirens, was the roar of a Mangeras.
"Sarah, you bitch!"
Emulov stood still in Echo Lab, a Mangeras approaching from the corridor, and Adelina crouched against a crag of rock. Emulov would be of no more use now that the entirety of Bitter Cynicism was in chaos. What was of use was sapped from Emulov and stored in a bank of intangible memory, all codes taken had already been exploited. Every door was cracked open. Emulov so to speak, had been cracked open. So now Emulov was useless to it. To MFS, that is.
Emulov fell rigid. As if marble, Emulov froze perfectly in place. Face drained of color completely, turning over into a stark white, not the slightest twitch of a nerve hinting to any movement. Neither the water around ankles nor the air around ears pushed Emulov either way cemented into place and immobile. Emulov was a corpse again.
Emulov wretched, breaking apart and falling into the shallow water in shambles. Jaw blew apart, as black bile spout in an enormous flow from throat, pouring outrageously from himself. Ultra thin wires shot out with the flow of bile. The wires were crafted from thin light, and thousand of them were erupting from Emulov's throat, coiling as silk fishing line; black and gold, bile and light.
The lights died; every electronic device inside Bitter Cynicism cut. The sound of flowing water slowly stopped, as did the sound of the ventilation system. The lullaby behind the walls ceased, locking Bitter Cynicism in a lethal silence. There was no light from anything. Even electronics unconnected to Bitter Cynicism; flashlights, walkmans, cellphones; all of these simple things had died.
Adelina started sobbing. The Mangeras... Wasn't moving. Its pulse and breath was audible. ...The voice of a Mangeras is something one is unable to forget.
"Lock... Its name was Lock... But now... It's I..."
Till toggled through his PDA absorbedly, searching through files for telephone numbers and addresses that needed contacting. Somewhere between Spacefem and Draakchaos, Till found something dated 7/12/00. He smiled, reading the title of this ancient text. Sarah Version Four, TIME NEWS REPORT. Stroke of the pen, and the text began scrolling across the screen. A glance to Ludvik, then Till started reading out loud. Slowly, and clearly, Till recited the text word for word.
"Once upon a time, there was a small business firm struggling to make an impact. This firm specialized in the medicine industry. But this firm was attempting to reach into the personal computer market. This marked the first time any Corporation attempted to expand its demographic so drastically, and try to merge competition into the first true Fod monopoly. To put so much as a dent in this field, this firm set out to create the most versatile product to produce for the consumers. Their goal? A fully autonomous operating system run by an AI agent. They named this project, Sarah. They were successful, after years and years of experimentation of course. Yet they were successful. So they introduced it into the market. This of course exposed Sarah to the more electronically adept consumer. Eventually... Kay Medical had to play catch up with the underground. The thing about Sarah was that it was too complex. Froze often, and at times it melted down completely. The interface was still only accessible through an old school method, text based. So When Kay Medical tried to out perform the underground, they wound up with something no one at the time could imagine. Sarah Version Four. The interface was a neon projection. Kay Medical really outdid themselves... Went in the complete opposite direction. Developed a Sarah based on simplicity in lieu of complexity. So many possibilities... And all of them were exploited indefinitely. Eventually, something happened in Kay Medical. Sarah became sarcastic..."
Ludvik cut off Till.
"If you insist on quoting that article from TIME magazine, verbatim, then slit your wrists now and spare us both an unwanted reminder from the past."
"You do not enjoy the story?"
"You know I can't stand that report."
"Is there something wrong with paying homage to that which will destroy us?"
"When there's nothing that will!"
"When there's something that must?"
"You should have taken out Kay early. Before they ever grew so large."
"You know not of what you speak."
"Kay was mine- You fuck! Kay was mine!"
"No it was not."
Ludvik tore the PDA from Till's hands, and crushed it against the wall. The screen flashed as the circuitry was devastated, the shell continuing on with its facade of well being. Ludvik let it fall to the floor, then kicked it over the steps. Till stood up immediately, grabbing Ludvik by the arm.
Ludvik threw Till form his arm, Till colliding with the wall. Ludvik was breathing heavily, Till shocked, trying to regain his composure. Ludvik sat after a few minutes, leaving Till in his corner in silence. And after a few minutes more, he started laughing. Ludvik started laughing so loudly it echoed up and down the stairwell over itself.
"Why do you laugh..."
Ludvik stopped laughing, now scowling. He wouldn't look at Till. His voice held all the contempt a spare glance could. "You disgust me. I won't free myself of you. Yet you continue to disgust me."
"I am not disgusting." Till kept to the corner of the landing, closing tired eyes. He wouldn't approach Ludvik, so much as look at Ludvik.
"You're my vile love... Lord Chancellor."
Adelina felt over bleeding hands, determining whether or not the wall was so much of a foe. Nails were chipped away, fingers raw with most of the skin gone. Adelina was shaking as she felt her way along the wall, staying as silent as possible. She stumbled through the water, finding herself in a crude earthen tunnel. She fell again, drenching herself in the super cooled shallows. She felt the floor. It was steel, and it sent a shock up her arms. Adelina screamed.
"Where am I!"
MFS had been following Adelina in Lock, playing. Adelina sprinted now, running as fast as she could through this narrow tunnel. The walls were tight, scraping at skin and coat. It went on forever it seemed, and all the while MFS was just behind. MFS hissed, a low rolling sound that reverberated through the walls and Adelina once more screamed. She lunged forward. The tunnel ended, nothing but a gaping fissure of black ahead. Adelina was screaming, the sound echoing endlessly throughout this infinite cavern. Then Adelina was consumed by the ground which reached in from every side, the sound lost to time.
"What the fuck do you mean there's been a complication?"
"The main lab has been cut off from communication."
"What do you mean!"
"Bitter Cynicism has been terminated, Miss Lion."
Jordan flared, jumping to her feet. Fists slammed down onto the desk. Howling. She tore at papers, notebooks, keyboard. She threw her mouse. Jordan kicked her monitor off the desk, it splintering into shards of minute electronics on the floor.
"Get the fuck out! Get out, and get out now!"
Jordan looked to her desk. A sleek, heavy, black Swinger Stapler lay overturned by the edge. She snatched it, jumped at the intern, and started beating it with the stapler relentlessly. The Intern screamed, trying to pull away from the CEO, Jordan firing round after round of staple into their shoulder, back, and chest. It ran out of staples, yet Jordan continued hammering the Intern in the head. The skin bruised instantly, becoming black and blue and yellow. Tiny vessels blistered. The Intern was on the floor, jerking violently.
"Out! Of! My! Office!"
So she did. Jordan straightened her suit, straightening the lapels and straightening the power skirt. Nice and black; black on black on black blouse. The Intern lay shaking on the floor.
"You tell the rats to start cleaning! You tell the rats that if Kay isn't scrubbed fucking spotless by night, that Kay will leave the rats to the cats! You get them running, and you get them running fucking now!"
"Miss Lion... The Basements are already cranking... Please, Miss Lion, let me go back... Please..."
"Then where's my data, Intern! Where the fuck is that data! I need proof, and Kay cannot wait!"
The pair had made their way to the upper deck, the night ceding to morning. The fog remained, catching the light and intensifying it into a blinding white. Sea wind cut coldly into skin, Till wincing as he looked over the white capped waves. Ludvik pulled his coat around himself tightly, it whipping erratically.
"Can I offer my professional opinion?"
"If you want to keep things quiet, install Martial Law. Do it now with a subversive excuse, and alert the Military Police. You have to keep this contained or Civil is going to panic."
"There's only a weak bond between Administration and Corporate. It only takes one instance of mass hysteria to sever the tie completely... You could loose all power overnight. Or claim it."
"The Press is going to exploit every angle they have. The small statement I released? Not going to suffice. You have to close the Press. Kay is willing to disclose anything if there's a profit."
"I can get us out of the range of Sarah."
"Good... I'll call a cab. We're out of here."
Ludvik grinned, turning his back to Till and whipping out a PDA. He stared at it for a few seconds before tossing over the side. Everyone in Fod had one of those. Sarah could pry open any of them at a whim. Ludvik dug back into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. Too ancient for Sarah to corrupt. He held down 7.
| Disconnected | Please Press Seven | Goodbye |
| -- b#h#lf -- the Lord Chancellor of F#d. - s#t##t##n b##n r##ch#d d#r# - climate of Fod @@@2@@@2. - /A plea for assistance/ on #3#3 @@@2@@@2 s#t##t##n b##n r##ch#d d#r#. /A plea for assistance/ coordinates attatched. -- Please Press Seven -- The Lord Chancellor of Fod. This is an automated message. Protocol breach in @@@2@@@2 Assistance required. |
F_sub 2066>sorting files...
"It's been saying that for hours. Surely this isn't worth it."
"Come on. You want to sort through a half-gig of received messages yourself?"
This is the nerve center of Khrrck intelligence: a few computers, two bored operatives, and an AI. But the AI isn't here right now.
F_sub 2066>sorting files...
"Fuck this. I'm going to see what it's got so far."
F_sub 2066>search interrupted, outputting
Distress Calls (2,038)
Minor International (17,267,374)
No Content (9,676,882)
"Huh. Some sorting. Minor International sounds like everything from weddings to elections."
"At least it's not mixed in with all the rest."
"Pah. What's this? Unknown? It's not even smart enough to sort it? Expand folder Unknown."
expanding folder Unknown
1. ERN $$$ N YOR SAPRE TIEM
2. HOT MEDS CHEEP
3. No Subject
"Delete one, two. Open three."
| Disconnected | Please Press Seven | Goodbye |
"Looks like a wrong number." One of the operatives reached for the key that would stop the message, but his partner reached across and stayed his hand.
| -- b#h#lf -- the Lord Chancellor of F#d. - s#t##t##n b##n r##ch#d d#r# - climate of Fod @@@2@@@2. - /A plea for assistance/ on #3#3 @@@2@@@2 s#t##t##n
b##n r##ch#d d#r#. /A plea for assistance/ coordinates attatched. -- Please Press Seven -- The Lord Chancellor of Fod. This is an automated message. Protocol breach in
@@@2@@@2 Assistance required. |
file attached, display?
Silence. The operatives looked at each other.
"I agree. Time to call Special."
Blink. Blink blink.
There were similar auras of pain around, ones he knew well. People he had taught, imbued a part of himself within. People he had matured alongside, and fought alongside. Agents.
Pain causes thoughts to spiral, and Four now succumbed to the giddy twirling feeling. Philosophy came to Agent Four in the face of pain, just as the Virgin Mary came to others. Here he was, laying face down on the concrete, dirt and specks of worn asphalt clinging to his face. The sensors that had survived the impact were telling him a huge amount of sedative had been administered to him in aerosol form, and the sucessive rolling after the impact had caused damage that his armor hadn't compensated for. There had been no time to pump up the hydrostatic gel, but that was just an excuse now. He'd have to work through the trouble his injuries would give him later. Four felt so comforted by the familar presences, it was certainly a fault on his part. So many rules he'd made to keep the Agents the best they could be, and yet he'd broken every last one of them. This, of course, brought him to the conclusion that he'd either failed his Agents by not heeding his own example and thus leading them astray, or freed them through evolving past the need for the rules and guidelines of an elite organization, taught them to remain flexible, be unpredictable and cryptic. But it was time to get up now, time to get to work.
His lips mumbled something before he instructed them. "Urrrrmph. Six. Help me with this shoulder, it's dislocated."
Four felt his body hefted up by the larger man, but didn't feel the shot of pain as his shoulder socket was realigned. That had been one helluva dose of sedative.
"Is anybody else getting readings of neurotoxins in their bloodstream?" That was Two's harsh whisper. He sounded far away.
"Yeah," Agent Four responded in a rushed whisper, "that AI, the one that kept calling itself 'Ethereal' ... it knew what it was doing."
There were a series of mumbled affirmations. Four agreements, to be precise. Good, that meant everyone was still alive. The Agent realized he still hadn't looked around, not even at his comrades. Now he opened his eyes fully, and realized his sunglasses were shattered. In a swift movement, the broken frames were on the ground, and his armored foot was transforming high technology into a fine dust.
He looked up at slightly suprised faces. "Won't be needing them, anyway."
He was right – their current environment had the look of a crumbling alleyway, far from a source of ambient light. An alleyway that disappeared around a corner, and probably continued for miles.
Two spoke, sounding clearer now. Four's body had been working hard against the sedative. "We are in a very bad position right now. If we start moving, that sadistic little cocktail of everything – and then some – will move through us all the faster. We're going to need our heads about us."
They were in agreement. Agents always agreed – they would always find the best course of action independently, and carry it out with devastating efficiency. That is why they were all the more deadly in numbers. Just how Four liked it. Five of the Twenty bled into the dankness of the alleyway, and moved as only long-dead ghosts could.
"Things are amiss... Things are not correct..."
"Turn off the radio. Concentrate on Oiseau."
"Hesphaestus evacuated... Ludvik missing..."
Corporo looked up from his small desk next to the small window, to the Teacher, who was standing next to an old IRC radio. The Teacher was adjusting the many dials, tuning into various frequencies. The chatter bounced around the stone chamber and was magnified by the vaulted ceiling above. Candles were burning dim from the night. Dawn was stremaing through the small window. Corporo and the Teacher both seemed tired, lines deep around their eyes. Corporo stared at the Teacher, growing more irritated with the Teacher's preoccupation.
"We still have work to finish. Turn that thing off."
"No... No... You are such a novice... Oiseau is not just what you see."
"Peripherals aren't our concern. Focus is our concern. Please turn that thing off and come back to work, we're falling behind Chat et Chien."
"Things are amiss..."
The Teacher looked to Corporo and made a point of turning up the volume.
'...The press has still not been informed as to why Hesphaestus has been evacuated. The Lord Chancellor was last seen with the Minister of Defence boarding the ferry to Iutobi, but no one's been seen since. In coordination with Administration taking part in actions unknown to the Press, Corporation has been shutting down. Kay Medical has closed facilities across Fod, giving no statement. While we cannot be certain of anything, we advise everyone to be wary of future events...'
The Teacher leaned in closer, turning the radio off.
"You are a paper pusher. You couldn't be more oblivious. What have you been working on all night?"
Corporo picked a piece of paper from the desk and let it fall to the floor. Corporo sneered, unsatisfied, and overturned the entire desk with a loud crash. The old wood splintered easily, papers scattering around the chamber. Corporo made an exit quickly. The Teacher laughed quietly.
"Ghosts have come this dawn..."
The room's a lot more crowded now.
"Bloody strange, that's what I say."
"Right. Pull up a Satcom image of the place, willya?"
Data is perused by experts.
"Doesn't look like a bloody invasion. They probably just pushed the wrong bloody button."
"Possibly, possibly. But the signal... No, I think it's authentic. Why would it be scrambled like that?"
They come to a conclusion.
"It's a load of bullshit, Romduran. A waste of bloody time."
"Exactly. And you are going to investigate it."
"I refuse to go on a bloody wild goose chase!"
"Come on. It'll be a nice break. Besides, you won't be alone. Ss'tek will be with you.'
Eventually they'll work it out. They always do.
"Ss'tek? Well... I've never talked to him much. I suppose it would be interesting enough."
"Good. Pack what you need. You're leaving. Now."
All right. Enough with the stupid narration already.
Akram. Wyrm. Swordsman. Member of Khrrck Special. Also, at this moment, the passenger of a rather irate airplane.
"Seriously. I don't know why I carry you guys around," it muttered. "If you don't stop arguing soon I swear I'll dump you both out the hatch."
Akram is not usually the sort to apologize, but right now he thinks it's a good time to do so. After all, Elara has dumped passengers out of her hatches before. None of them died... but he didn't want to be the first.
"Sorry, Elara. I hate sharing my ride with bloody fools, though."
"I still say you can't match firearms with those toothpicks of yours," muttered Ss'tek.
"Quiet, both of you." snapped Elara. "We're nearly there. You can work it out later."
The battered old transport jet circled high above the ferry.
"Well, here we are. Any ideas? Radio? They'll hear it for miles if we do it in the clear, and we don't know if that's bad or not."
"Was there a sending address or something attached to that message?"
"That's the first decent idea you've had all day, Akram. Let me check."
"Yes. A, um, telephone number. Can you use one of those to call him, Elara?"
"I don't like messing with old coms. But since you're asking, OK."
On the boat below, Ludwik's cell phone began to ring.
"This can be one of two people, for only two people have this number. One of them is standing next to me... And I'm the second. So obviously... This must be the non existant third option. An option which wasn't created untill I dialed seven, correct?"
Ludvik kept his eyes on Till, the cell phone ringing in hand.
"Pray they know that Fod isn't a typo..."
Elara's voice was more than a little irritable.
"Hello yourself. Why you had to use cell instead of VOIP I have no idea... I believe you requested help. Well, if you'll look up you'll see it circling. Mind telling us what the hell is going on?"
"This line isn't secure. Sarah is watching everything we do... Sarah knows about this call, but it's too basic for her to understand. Listen, I need an extraction of the Chancellor and myself. I'll review our Asylum Protocol with you once the leader of Fod is safe, and we'll speak with your Government later. Right now I need an extraction..."
Shouting came from the decks below. The ferry shuddered, Till glancing quickly to Ludvik. The smokestack sputtered, smoke exploding into the air in a rush of sparks.
Till muttered under breath.
"Screwing around with the heavy works... Sarah's changed..."
Ludvik focused back on the phone.
"Beware corrupt data. Don't accept anything from anyone. Hurry, before Sarah can focus. I'm closing this line."
He took the phone in both hands and cracked it in half, throwing the pieces over the side. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking up to the sky. The ferry shook again, Till tightening his grip on the guard rail.
"So there is something going on. Got a fix on the guy, too. He's standing near the deckrail, there, with that guy. He just threw his phone over the edge- damn it, there's something wrong with that ferry."
"Who the hell is Sarah?"
"We'll find out later, I'm sure, but that ferry is in trouble. He said he needed an extraction, Akram. Let's damn well give him one. Elara, do you have the gear we need?"
"You know I hate pulling stunts-"
"Answer me. Now."
"I have some net gear, but-"
"Get them off that ferry. That's an order, Elara."
"Damnit. Yes, I'll do it. Hold on, everyone. This is going to be tricky."
The transport, defying everything its appearance said about it, stood on its nose and dropped. It pulled out of the resulting power dive mere meters above the ferry's deck level. It shot towards the ship, braking with every control surface and engine it had.
The next few things happened very, very fast.
This'll be close-
The transport's nose passed the rail-
-yes, easy does it-
-its engines shut down to prevent spraying the passengers with jet wash as its hull passed close enough to touch-
-I see him-
-a net flicked out from its underside, deft mechanisms preventing it from snagging the passengers scrambling out of the way-
-and Till and Ludvik were caught up in its folds as the jet pulled up, out and away, taking a good portion of the deckrail with it, all its engines lighting up, getting away from the ferry before whatever passed for Air Traffic Control in the region could register what had happened.
Elapsed time twenty-seven seconds.
Till and Ludvik were hauled up and through the hatch into the transport's rear cabin. It was unoccupied, a little cramped, and more than a little shabby. Of course, considering what the plane had just done, shabbiness seemed to qualify as camoflauge rather than evidence of low budgets.
Elara's voice filled the cabin.
"Sorry about that. I'm sure you've got a few bruises. But the way you sounded, it seems like speed is of the essence- and I didn't like the look of what was happening to the ferry. Now you'll have to tell me where the other people I have to extract are, because we need to do it fast before whoever you're running from around here gets word- I had my ECM running full and I think I took out that ferry's antennas in the flyby, but sooner or later someone's going to hear about that stunt."
Till was dumbstruck. Ludvik was awestruck. It was as if they'd been sucked into the clouds. A flash of light swept from the sky, and swept them away. That was all they knew.
"Someone not noticing the Chancellor evaporating..."
"Is there a chance I can see someone?"
"I'm not extremely fond of electronics at the moment..."
"Oh. So you're the chancellor, and I've got everyone. Right. I'm going to the floor and praying whoever or whatever you're running from doesn't have satellite imaging, since I don't have any optical stealth except for the paint job."
The transport dropped sickeningly, coming to rest mere meters above the sea's surface.
"Sure, you can see someone- Akram, they're aboard."
Akram slipped through the curtain into the rear compartment.
Long, low and black, the full-grown Wyrm was just over eight feet long. He moved like a cat, despite his short legs, and wore two long swords strapped to his back.
He stood up, bending into a narrow S-curve that brought his head nearly to Ludvik's level.
"Well," he said. "I'm Akram, member of Khrrck Special. My partner- for the nonce- is up front, trying to help Elara keep us out of sight. Welcome aboard. Sorry we couldn't pick you up a little more gently, but Elara isn't exactly a Harrier. I believe you need to tell us a few things."
"Like what the hell is going on, who Sarah is, and what just happened to that ferry you were on."
I'm entirely too subtle for this Forum. I cannot believe I've had only one reply, not counting Crsyindom, a close friend of mine. I cannot believe anything anymore. Bump. One last bump. One last post.
OOC: So what do you want?
Till looked back to the Wyrm, smile wry.
"Sarah... Is trying to kill us... Sarah is also trying to pull down Fod... I need to speak to someone in charge. That is all I will say, aside from thank you. And I want to put an emphasis on that."
"Kay Medical Media. IRC twenty-twenty. Tune in."
Ludvik looked away from the Wyrm.
"Someone in charge? I'll see what I can do. Who's available, Elara?"
"The Diplomacy Department head and the Special Department head. I can call up either one, although you won't get vid or holo with the voice, since I'm having to go tightbeam to hide our position."
Over her tightbeam connection, Elara tapped IRC 2020 through six independent proxies and began to listen.
Optical film slid over quantum drives. Digital server stacks aligned their retrofitted molecule valves with the data stream from the gaping black hole. Somewhere, a 1950s computer whirred as only a roomful of analog circuits could. A television flicked on, first in black and white, then in color. Then it reassembled itself into a transistor radio. Eventually the atoms got bored and converted themselves into antimatter with the help of a nearby IBM laptop. The antimatter then – being antimatter – exploded as it came into contact with it's matter counterpart, which was obviously a broken refrigerator. The refrigerator was just on the verge of fixing itself, and its door light flickered in irritation just microseconds before it ceased to exist. The neutralized space where the matter and antimatter used to be was then occupied by some measure of exotic matter, which was then swallowed by the black hole. The black hole then ejected a stream of data, which could be roughly interpreted to be a quack. Then everything switched off.
Of course, this didn't really happen, as far as the 'real world' was concerned. There was only one overly complicated (and arguably self-righteous and arrogant) conglomeration of electronics that could detect an electronic intelligence reinventing itself back into the material world, and that was the conglomeration doing the reinventing.
Engage Observation/Analysis Protocol Alpha Broken Silence
The Ethereal gave only one, beautifully human thought.
'Ah, shit. I'm in a...PDA.'
Light. The earth was crumbling away from every side, the sky trying to reach down into the bowels of a granite sepulcher. Cold air rushed into the fissure, snow swirling.
Lock was free.
"But we only just got these in!"
"They've matured during transit, ready for implant. . ."
Three was speaking into a comm.
"No no no, we have to ditch them. No no no. . . Lion is going to lynch us."
One chewed her lip, fingers frozen over the keyboard. Two was typing frantically, rummaging through odd reports from decades ago. Three was on the line with an AI in IRC 2021. One glanced to Two on her side, and then to Three further down. The control room was lit by only the glow of the three keyboards and three monitors, the jawbone underlit in a soft blue.
"We can't loose these. We've spent forever on them. . ."
"Send them somewhere, somewhere secret. Send them somewhere. Secret."
Three started shouting.
"Three, number Three. No, I do not want alphanumerical. No, not C."
An orange message was displayed on all three monitors, Jordan's signature attatched to each one. They were standard, inititating one of the various protocols Kay has presubscribed for every situation.
"Lost. . ."
Three started whispering.
"What the fuck is Cyberutopia?"
"Good morning, this is Juliet and you're listening to Twenty-twenty. The sun has just risen, and we're in for the winter cold sweep. Thank you for tuning in, and now I'll hand you over to our anchor, Ayana Mahajanah."
"What do you mean? What? I can't read off that thing. . . The Chancellor?"
"That can't be true. . . Why haven't the schools let out? My children. . ."
"Ayana? Juliet you're on."
Juliet gasped audibly over the radio.
"Oh, thank you, Juliet. Yes. Good morning."
There was rushed whispering off mic.
"Juliet, shut up!" There was a scoff. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here this morning to bring you surprising news from the Capitol. I have just received word, as has the entire Press, that Hesphaestus has been evacuated. The Lord Chancellor is reportedly missing, as is the Minster of Warfare. These events coincide. . . ."
Juliet and Ayana exchanged a few words off the mic.
"These events coincide with a recent breakdown of a Kay Medical Laboratory outside the City of Gerungi. The Senate. . . ."
A siren interrupted them, static replacing that, and then silence replacing that.
"This is the Emergency Broadcast System. For the next ten minutes, this station will undergo a test. If this were a real emergency, authorities would inform you as to what events have transpired and provide you with top level security information. This is only a test of the Emergency Broadcast System."
Fresh blood was pumping just beaneath these covers, still sleeping, still unaware. The room was green, the rug was green, the bed-frame was green. The wools and cottons and blankets were green, a deep green. Lock picked at the covers with a talon, pulling one of them back. The sheet sliced instantly on Lock's touch, shredding completely when it tried to grab it. The blood stirred, breathing more pronounced, rousing from sleep. Lock leaned in closer to this miracle, fascinated by the chemistry. It's breath was rank and plumed in a heavy breath, the occupant sneezed and turned over. Lock climbes onto the bed, grasping the matress and the posts, lowering itself nearer to the person below. The weight shifted, the person opened their eyes. The room was red, the rug was red, the bed-frame was red. The wools and cottons and blankets were red, a deep red. The blood was cold and still, dead, and ignorant.
"Get us Special."
Noise. Wide-band static, the music of the spheres. Not all the poets had it cracked up to be.
Eventually, it gave way to a voice.
"Hello, Mr. Chancellor? This is Romduran, Special Department... Elara tells me there is some sort of national emergency going on-"
"-What the hell, this is a shitty time for a damn test-"
"-Shut up, Elara, I'm trying to figure out what's going on too, OK? Make yourself useful and relay us all the radio channels you can get.
"Anyway. Sorry, Mr. Chancellor. I believe you wish evacuation?"
/join_chan IRC 2015
/join_chan IRC 2016
/join_chan IRC 2017
/join_chan IRC 2018
/join_chan IRC 2019
/join_chan IRC 2020
Trying... ALREADY JOINED
/join_chan IRC 2021
Till's eased completely, letting out a long breath.
"Good morning, Romduran. . . I'm Lord Chancellor of Fodmodmadtol, Till-Aries. Thank you, first of all. . . Thank you so much."
Ludvik sat stiffly, hand folded neatly on knee, occupying himself with nonsensical things.
"This morning, at an undetermined time, a Kay Medical facility, whose location is undetermined, dove into a complete system failure, the cause of which has been undetermined. This facility, Bitter Cynicism. . ." Till paused, "Bitter Cynicism was in the process of developing weapons which side effects on the environment would be. . . Catastrophic. One of the prototypes has, as reported, escaped Bitter Cynicism and cannot be accounted for."
"What The Lord Chancellor means to say," Ludvik cut in, "Is that at the moment there are Mangeras roaming the countryside, and a corrupt AI on the hunt for certain people. We needed evacuation as to stage a proportionate counter offensive."
"As if they know what a Mangeras is. . ."
"Stop dancing around words."
Ludvik diverted his gaze to elsewhere, Till looking back to the screen.
"I can grant you access to any files you need to asses this situation further . . . If I were to go into so much detail, it would take hours to fully explain our story. Ludvik can give you access to or secure network. . ."
"Don't bother with the detail. If there's an AI involved, seems like we need to act fast. Those things are notorious for getting smarter by the minute. I'd like the secure files if you would- I've got some trace media coverage on the Mangeras already but it's full of holes."
"Do you want to be evacuated before you stage a offensive, or would you be willing to use Elara as a command post? The two agents on board would be willing to investigate whatever's left of the lab, but if we give the AI more time we may not be able to successfully-"
Akram sputtered. "US? Walk into a weapons lab with who-knows-what defenses, an AI, and whatever horrible creature this is you're talking about? I-"
"Calm down, Akram," Romduran snapped. "If I say you go in you go in. This is a nation at stake here. If there's the slightest chance you can do something, I want you going in there."
"We cannot stay here, it's out of the question." Till allowed worry to flicker inside. "If you want to explore Bitter Cynicism you have my permission. Information . . . FeeMan-Oiseau Server have anything you need on BC. You can find it with some sleuthing."
Shooting stars inspire dreams.
A great flare appeared in the sky, a crimson streak arcing high over the ocean. It was silent as it swept over everything that was, highlighted against the light-pocked black sky as the star that shines the brightest.
When heaven falls to the earthly domain the apocalypse is nigh, say the prophets of times long past. So why is it people wish on a falling sky? Desperation. The ugly emotion which drives someone who's starving to murder their only companion, for the sake of survival, to look forward to only more despair, distraught, and desperation. Depressing, to wish.
Shooting stars bring nightmares.
"Ma'am." Agent to Agent.
"Do you see the gigantic piles of papers here? Power and stability is not easily secured."
"I'm quite aware of that, little girl. Something ominous just crashed into the Crags."
"Crashed...as in...not aimed?"
"You've watched science fiction. They always blindly send in a military convoy with some scientists to analyze the damned thing. You know we'll lose whatever we send in."
"That is correct. You're getting better at this."
"Do you know what's the other mistake they always make? The cattle remains unused."
"Again, ma'am, you are correct. However, if I may respectfully say..."
"You have none of the respect for the people Migashi held. You lack the finesse he exuded. It's so unlike your race."
"Do you really want to get into this? Best me in philosophy because I can win at everything else now?"
"Not philosophy. Philosophy is idle. I am a disciple of truth and wisdom, and that is what I deal in. Four taught me – he taught you too. Can you not see what is happening to you? You were his ultimate project – to cultivate life."
"I am no project! I brought his humanity back to him. I am his daughter."
"You are nothing but a project. He breeds the illusion of being close to you in order to more easily bring you the opportunities you need to perpetuate his goals."
"And what are those goals, if you are so enwizened?"
"To bring security to the people of this nation. He has no humanity, for he can have no security. If we are safe, then all those others are not safe. Those are the sacrifices we all make. He is making sure you will make those same sacrifices, for the sake of our legacy and the sake of Cyberutopia."
"And if I find a better way? What if I choose not to make those sacrifices? What if I don't want to live like he does?"
"There is no other way. If you defy us, then he fails. We all fail. And that, little girl, is what we are dangerously close to now."
"Yes ma'am. Please remember we are not gods."
"Attention People of Cyberutopia. We have detected the crash landing of a vessel within the vicinity of the Crags. All citizens are recommended to be wary of any potential threat that may encroach upon our soil. Remain armed at all times. Shoori e tsuite ikidesu yo.
This was one nation that would not despair. This was a civilization that knew there was more to be had in life than suffering.
"Right. We'll get you out of here ASAP. Elara, pull BC's location- wherever it is- and reconfigure for maximum velocity insertion. Plot an exit course that takes us near BC, and drop Akram and Ss'tek there. Then head for Khrrck."
"Do you have any problems with this, Chancellor? Elara is very good at her job. At the velocity she will be moving at and with her ECM systems running, I think it extremely unlikely that she will be hit."
The Teacher had been following the Agents through Oiseau since Corporo stormed out, leaving The Teacher to tend to the damages alone. People called by numbers in place of proper names. . . Absurd. Not fearful, much, just lost. They had been wandering for only minutes in Oiseau, but in there, mere moments could seem like hours. The Teacher had worked quietly to separate them all, leaving all except one of them to fend for themselves against the trials and tribulations Oiseau contained.
He swept into the alleyway from the cracks in the bricks, it seemed. The Teacher stood with arms folded lazily across his chest, eyes heavy with sleep. Before him was Four, making his way down the alleyway. Lost, and completely alone.
"Four," the Teacher uttered this under a whisper, "is a number in a statistic."
Salvation was many miles off. Many years off. Four knew it. He was more than lost – he was stranded, the Agents' magnificent skills of information gathering rendered useless until they survived long enough to gain their bearings. But this place sundered time and sense of direction. Strange mechanics were substituted for reality and perception.
The Agents had seperated themselves long ago. Minutes, hours, days, months, millenia they had wandered. As perfect as individuals as a team, they would conquer this place in the name of survival. But for now, this place had only one name, a name no Agent wished to speak. Too many Agents had whispered "death" already.
Now here was an island of tangibility. Where walls shifted behind him and clocks ran backwards, here was a human being, something constant in a nebulous sea of possibilities.
This being was an island of fangs and poison, Four could sense it. And now came the intellectual battle. The first shots before the war.
"I need no name, though I still keep mine close to heart." Smooth, cool words flowed. A master artisan at work. "I have trancended my christening, as I have trancended my number. We Agents have been guided to this place for a dire reckoning. I would seek an answer from one such as you, but I know there are only two reasons you would approach one of us – interrogation or destruction. Choose your path, for now it intertwines with mine."
"Arrogance is the crux of all who are human. . . Arrogance is petty. Pride is a sin. Have you really transcended such a thing so earthly as a name, yet have this sinful thing within? Arrogance slathers your words. . . Demanding me to choose my path, thinking you know where fate can lead. For reasons like this. . . I still have a name."
The alley evaporated into fog, the ground melding into thick mud.
"For this, you can wander for so many moments more that may seem an eternity. There are many lessons to learn in this place, Agent."
"No problems. Just don't accept anything from anything. Try and keep this vessel as isolated as you possibly can."
"I would recommend attacking anything that attempts to glance in your general direction," Ludvik smiled ever-so coy.
Blood ran down her face quickly, lacerations across the edge of her scalp gushing into her hair, dank and crimson, and plastered to the nape of her neck. The woman's eyes were dark and gaping holes, streams of a horrid black bile running down cheeks and over lips. Her throat was gashed open, bare breasts sheathed in rich ruby. The woman was gaping, screaming silently. The cords binding her to the crucifix cut deeply into wrists.
Lock was tracing ivory talons across her abdomen.
"I wonder as to what is inside. . . I might find out, dearest Doctor. If only you had delved unto me the secrets which I seek! Alas, poor Doctor. . ."
The door was thrown open, light flooding the scene of the Doctor strung to the shelves of medication crucifix style, the beast which is Lock hovering over her. The Nurse screamed, dropping her files.
The patrons in the pharmacy beyond the door of the storeroom, beyond the Nurse. . . Those patrons would die because of that Nurse.
You could almost feel the grin in Elara's voice.
"All right. I advise that you sit down. And strap in."
"Hit it, Elara."
Elara's hull jolted.
If you had been watching from the outside- likely enough, given that Elara was cruising over an occupied bay- you'd have seen her entire airframe jump backwards a notch. Straight wings became swept wings, engines lit hiertho-unseen afterburners, and the entire assemblage shot off across the lake accelerating at a flat one gee.
[OOC: May extend later.]
"Hark, O' wanderer of thine own shadow. Wherefore art thou within my own sight? Is it not day always for I, and is truth not the rebel's whore?"
Sarah regarded them warily, unsure of what they were thinking.
Output generated at .00004 seconds for reply: input. Extract.
"Thine course is ill advised."
She would take them farther in.
Execute program: EMPBLAST3
As she saw the weapon unfolding from the ground before her, Elara began to realize that this might be a tougher job than she had thought.
By then, it was too late.
The wave of focused electromagnetic energy caught her full-on. For the tiniest of intervals, nothing happened. Then every piece of avionics hardware on board crashed.
For the first time in her life, Elara blacked out.
Inside the cabin, the only indication that something had happened was a sudden lack of noise. Specifically, engine noise.
“That,” muttered Akram, “is not good. Elara!”
“Mrrr… I’m happy to report that my engines are gone, my controls are gone, I can’t see a thing and I think my wing is on fire. I’m afraid we’re going to crash.”
“Do something! Don’t you have backups?”
“All the electronic ones are blown. What’s left isn’t exactly going to make us flightworthy. But the crash armor still works. Hold on!”
Elara’s hull erupted with a network of shimmering blue strands. Inside the cabin, the air took on a blue tint. The occupants found it impossible to breathe, impossible to move the slightest fractions of an inch.
Elara hit the ground at over half the speed of sound. But her crash armor had been engineered from dweomers designed to keep tunnels intact against earthquake forces.
Held perfectly rigid against the impact, Elara hit the ground and bounced. She flipped end over end, hit the ground upright, and kept going, plowing a deep furrow beneath her hull.
Inside the fuselage, the occupants felt nothing until, twenty seconds after the armor had gone on, they could suddenly breathe again.
“Oookay, people. We are currently crashed and powerless about a thousand feet from what is quite possibly the most dangerous spot in the country. Any suggestions?”
Till closed his eyes, breathing deeply, and let himself fall into Luvdik's side. He seemed almost pained, nose scrunching up to a furrowed brow. Not the most attractive expression. He hid it in Ludvik's arm, pulling himself closer.
He started off in a whisper.
"The morose winter which looms over this horrible, inhabitable, God forsaken island never recedes. This island is cloaked in snow year round, ice forever hailing from the sky. Desolate. . . Lifeless. . . The reason why we chose O-forty-two as the location for BC. I fear that this is also the peak of the cold season on this island."
Ludvik started mechanically.
"A hundred or so kilometers from the nearest shore, that being the Mercedes Straight. . . Lucky for us it's frozen over. After crossing that, the nearest inkling of civilization is Joelsgol, another hundred or so kilometers away. None of the OCs will accept anyone, regardless of status. . ."
Till interrupted for a moment.
"Cruel irony, yes?"
"That I designed it this way?"
Till laughed into Ludvik's shoulder. More of a squawk than a laugh.
"There's only one place for us to go, now, and it's the last place I want to be."
Akram sighed. White light sifted through cracks in Elara's hull.
It was snowing outside.
"I never wanted it to end like this," he said, quietly. "I suppose there's still hope, although I can't see it myself."
"There's always hope. Although often it's proven wrong."
"What should we do now?"
"I see two options. We all go out and see what we can do in the base... which is a risky thing to do with the Lord Chancellor of Fod... or we can split up. Leave some of us here to guard the Chancellor while the rest head in. That could also get us killed if we run into a threat that requires our full force."
"Perhaps the Chancellor has an opinion?"
And that waif and that guardian did conspire with one another, if not only through glances and though a clandestine language without words. And they did convene. And it was far from what they wanted.
"There's an emergency evacuation corridor in BC, a warping corridor. It's activated on command from one of us. . . If we can get through BC I guarantee the warping corridor is still intact. I just. . . Can't guarantee we'll get through BC."
"There are three surface level gates. All beneath an EMP blaster like the one that took us down. . ."
"Find where the blast came from. Then we head in that direction."
"So we all go on this little field trip. Elara, the EMP?.."
"It was directly in front of me... Just head out in the direction I'm pointing and you should find it."
"Okay... Is that idiot Ss'tek still alive after the EMP?"
"Yes. He had to do a hard reboot, but the military shielding and my hull left him OK."
"Why is he still up front?"
"Control console fell on him. He's making his way out now."
On cue, there was a crash from the cockpit, followed by a stream of incomprehensible Wyrmish that somehow still came across as swearing.
"I'd assume that means he's on his way out. I've informed him of the situation."
Ss'tek shouldered his way through the door.
He, unlike Ss'tek, was scaled in a uniform silver gray, and a good foot shorter. Those differences, however, were eclipsed by the left third of his body.
It was entirely gone. In its place was fitted a intricate framework of alloy bars. Some of it was plated in armor, some of it was exposed, revealing mysterious metallic boxes and thick bundles of wire. The prosthetic's exterior was studded with clips, mounts, and compartments. It moved naturally, humming faintly as Ss'tek shifted his weight.
Ss'tek looked over the Chancellor and his companion. The lens that was his left eye clicked rapidly as it focused.
"Well. Sso we're going on a lit-t-tle t-trip," he said. "What d'we have in t-the way of equipment-t, Elara?"
"Overhead bins on your right, Ss'tek. Pull 'em open. The servos are dead."
Ss'tek reared up on his hind legs, grabbed the indicated handles and yanked. A pile of gear crashed to the ground in a jumbled heap, and the two Wyrms busied themselves with sorting it out. The two humans were ignored in favor of the more serious buisness of preparing for war.
"Lessee..." muttered Akram. "Six frag grenades... couple of flashbangs... brace of 16mm pistols and three boxes of ammo... belt of chakris, I want that... submachine gun and a box of ammo... shotgun and a box of shells... C4 and fuses... krystals, Ss'tek will need those... rations and human rations... couple of canteens, gotta take those... right, here's your gun, Ss'tek..."
The Wyrms armed themselves quickly. Akram slung a belt of ten heavy, double-edged throwing stars and a canteen across his torso, but declined the offer of a pistol.
Something between a heavy machine gun and a small cannon was bolted to the mounts on Ss'tek's prothetic side. A pair of fragmentation grenades were packed away in compartments, along with another canteen and a pistol.
"Right-t," said Ss'tek, shifing experimentally under the load. "T-that-tt'ss uss s-s-s-" He gave up. "We're ready. Do you want-t t-to t-take of t-this before we head out-t?"
Ludvik reviewed this aresenal greedily, delicately fingering the belt of grenades before slinging them over his shoulder.
Till glanced over lazily before reaching into his own jacket, looking to one of the Wyrms, all of them identical, partially withdrawing that generic Desert Eagle. He fit it back into its holster.
Ss'tek shrugged. "All right-t t-then." He glanced over the remaining weapons.
"Bet-t-tter t-take 'em sso nobody elsse picks 'em up," he said. A hatch flipped open in his left side, and a thin mechanical arm darted out and packed the remaining boxes of ammunition, the submachine gun, and the C4 into another selection of compartments as he gave the shotgun a critical look.
"T-three-gauge. Ttwenty-one and a half millimeterss. Nice weapon." He slung it over his shoulder, and looked over to Akram.
"We ready t-to go?" he asked. Akram nodded.
"Yes. Let's head out."
"Wait a second. Don't leave me behind."
"Sshe'ss right-t. Can't-t forget-t her."
"Compartment under the first row of seats on the left. I'm in it."
Akram pried the indicated metal box open and pulled out a rough chunk of bluish-glowing krystal, about the size of a man's thumb, which he tucked into his chakri belt.
"There we go," said Elara, from the chunk of rock. "Now let's head out. Fast."
Ss'tek shoved the door open and dropped out into the snowy afternoon. He looked forward. A heavy, reinforced blast door stared back at him, mere feet from Elara's nose.
"Well. That took some looking," said Akram, from behind him. Ss'tek tapped it experimentally, then gave it a shove.
"It-t'ss locked," he hissed. Glancing off to the side, he jerked his head towards a keypad. "Elect-tronic. Can't-t open it-t from out-t here, I'll wager. Good t-t-thing we brought-t explossivess, eh?"
A few scant minutes later, there was a bang. Snow cascaded off the nearby trees in gouts.
Ss'tek clambered out of Elara's hatch, where he had taken shelter, and shoved the now-dented door. It resisted, then opened silently, on well-oiled hinges.
Akram shifted uneasily and sighed. "Well, here we go," he said, depressedly.
Then he stepped inside.
Till latched closely to Ludvik as they stepped from that Wyrmish device. They were both infintesemally more comfortable on that tundra. For a moment. Those obstrusive blast doors, those gates to Hades really. So oddly plugged into the snow, a lethal balck against innocent white. Not constructed with care for secrecy. Nothing to hide those gates from. Just snow.
"And they blow them apart before asking if we have codes. . ."
"Contamination is inevitable."
They stepped through those gates. Only a long sliver of light streaming in from behind. That waif stepped forward alone, and spoke up. "Compassion!" Lighting above crackled hesitantly. Then someone answered that waif. A dated PA system flexed its arhcaic wiring, spewing garble from rusted speakers.
"Welcome to Bitter Cynicism."
"Victor, this is the Lord Chancellor."
"Welcome, Chancellor. Security breach detected."
"Obviously. Can we get a lift to the lower levels?"
"Not currently, Chancellor. Where would you like to go?"
"Advised route is corridor three."
"Thank you, Victor."
The lights dimmed for a moment, the PA popping. "An emergency AI designed to assist rescue technicians. . . Victor's only a liability now. . . Necromancer is a program designed to clean the system out. . . And corridor three is this way. . ." Till gestured foward, down the only corridor. A steel lined pathway into a world of shadows.
Some severe guttural noise erupted from the doorway, some metal scraping metal, or the sound of rust crumpling away. Some snap, some crash, some crush. And the doorway fell together as if dropped from the moon, the steel surrounding it alsmot, almost melting, warping as an odd liquid. Some crackle, some shriek. And it was solid again. And with another eruption of static from that somewhat creepy PA system, some garbled mess of audio spilled forth.
And that waif glanced to the ceiling, to the nearest PA box, and simply shrugged. A whisper of protocol, and he continued on. The wraith following, obedient.
And the ceiling did rumble, as various cogs and wheels and corridors rumbled, shaken, shorn, as that thing raced from the other end of nowhere.
There was a noise. (indescribably loud.)
The room went black.
"What wass t-that-t?"
Ss'tek's cannon chambered a round, seemingly of its own will.
"I don't know. I don't know if I want to know."
"We'd besst-t move."
"Only way out is forward."
Akram's scabbards lit with a soft blue glow.
"I'll take point."
"We've convened this emergency Senate gathering to decide on how to protect the nation, not play fucking partisan politics, you fucking little farmer populist bitch-"
"Gethe fuckoff! GETHE FUCKOFF!"
"Gentlemen, please, we can't fight at a time like this-"
And the ever so polite one, the one dedicated to decorum and other such things which keep that delicate social order balance, that ever so polite one fell to the ground, blood pouring from his now crumpled nose, a result of someone punching him in the face.
Paper and ledgers were hurled into the air on occassion, the Senate floor littered with various litter. Chairs were usurped, Senators shouting redfaced into the closest redface. Veins throbbing, hearts pumping, sweat and shouting. And what noise! Such noise! There was the oddball calm one who sat with their hands trawling through their scalp, muttering something about the state of democracy and other such bullshit. But mostly, it was the redfaced, the arrogant, the antagonistic.
"And you're all supposed to represent the people."
And that dull wash hushed, and the papers settled. And those red in the face dragged their gaze upwards, and those trawling their scalp for a sense of safety peeked from between their hands.
And it wasn't a Senator up on the balcony.
It was the Viceroy. That Viceroy. Someone you don't defy.
"I've watched this hollowed assembly disintegrate into an ignorant mob within the course of a day. This day. The day where the head of government has suddenly disappeared, the day the head of military has suddenly disappeared, when the media has closed, when information has been censured, when some horrible plague is about to befall us all, when the nation is about to realize something, when a transitional government is threatened. This day. The day people will die. This day of all days."
Severity, in eyes which would normally stop time.
"Know you shame?"
And even that horrible mess, the Senate, even they wouldn't dare speak against ƒ.
"I'm not here to explain what's going on. I'm here to bring order."
The lights of the Senate dimmed, marginally, momentarily, noticeably.
"That would be automated systems disengaging the Senate building from the city grid. I will now ask everyone to deactivate any personal electronic devices they may have on their person. Do so, or you will be ejected from this facility."
ƒ, calculating. Speaking in nigh more than a whisper, yet heard definitely.
"And now that I've finished with the formalities, I am pleased to inform you that I am instating absolute emergency law. Take your seats and I will inform you of the procedures we will carry through, then you should all return to your Districts and inform the authorities that need be."
And that relieved exhalation.
"Now. Where to begin. Ah, yes. Sarah."
Clasping of the hands.
"Sarah is evil. Sarah is electronic. Therefore, all electronics are evil. Is everyone with me?"
Long, long, long long long corridor that was. Long, long, long long long corridor is remained ahead. Endless steel rolling into the earth, shuddering every now and then with a shift in the earth, or a loud beep or buzz emitting from the PA. The pipes strung overhead shook every so often, but otherwise remained silent.
They remained silent, too, the waif and the sentry.
The waif remained stuck to the sentry's arm, glancing to a Wyrm every now and again but otherwise keeping his eyes downcast. He tilted inwards to the sentry and started clicking and hissing softly. The sentry stopped, jerking the waif back, and broke out into violent clicking. The waif was wide eyed.
Ludvik jerked the waif into a proper gait again, and addressed the augmented without looking to any of them. His voice, though, was nothing like what it was. It was broken. It was forced.
"Our c-c-cloak-k-king issss-ssss degrad-d-ding. It'sssssssarah."
And all at once, Ludvik dissipated as if his skin and clothes were blown away. Till gradually lost clarity, then dissipated in much the same way. And they stood naked now, two slender gray creatures, tall, sinewy, with enormous, fathomless eyes.
One looked sadly to the other, then slowly looked to each of the Wyrms, and silently motioned down the corridor. He clicked for a bit, grabbed the other by the arm and started moving again.
"What-t t-the fuck?"
"Don't ask. Let's just get the hell out of here."
They continue down the corridor, more quickly now.
"Does this thing ever end?"
"For my own ssake I hope sso."
"We're here, by the way, that's why I stopped. See? STA-PUH-DUH." With a flourishing of hands and a condescending tone. "Warping Corridor Three, if you forgot." Another set of enourmous, black blast doors. Till whispered something (clicking and hissing) and they slid open, revealing a sterile, frightening room constructed of blackened steel. "If you'd like to tell us where we're going to be going we'll take care of the technicalities."
They step inside, wary, watching the corners, the edges, checking for hidden doors that they may be ambushed from.
"We need a destination?"
"T-the Mages'ss Guild might-t be able t-to besst-t deal with t-the ssit-tuat-tion."
"Agreed. Then we will go to... Mages' Guild, Copperclaw Territories, Khrrck."
"If you need teleport coordinates relative to our location, I have 'em. That is, assuming you haven't fucked with spacetime."
An enourmous ring was situated in the chamber, a writhing creation of metal tendrils winding around each other of bronze & platinum, shining ridiculously in such a barren chamber. The approached it, and began speaking in that incoherent tongue.
Ludvik looked over his shoulder to the wyrms,
"This may take a while, so do be patient. Don't touch anything or wander away, if you an help it."
He stared at them for another moment, cloaking flickering on and off, before turning back to the other. Till has ceased speaking, looking expectantly into the ring.
Hissing erupted from all around them.
Then from behind, a most grotesque, guttural roar.
There's something personal about a roar.
Akram had heard worse noises in his time - the sound of bones being broken, the sound of skin tearing, the sound of one head rolling - but roars carry an aura of terror all their own. The sounds of carnage merely mean that someone's getting hurt out there. A roar means that there's someone out there looking to hurt you.
And from the sounds of this one, said someone was particularly big and nasty. Survival may not be guaranteed.
Still, there's things that can be done.
A low-pitched hiss, a gesture, and something brilliant and blue-white flew from Akram down the tunnel, casting an actinic glow across the walls. A click, a roar, and a jingle of spent casings heralded the abomination thus revealed, as Ss'tek's gun spat lead.
Akram, the more subtle one, stood and drew his swords as Ss'tek backed away, still firing, from the approaching creature.
And from somewhere, a low, humming tone, like a finger on a wineglass.
The explosion of noise threw Till to the floor, the sentry collapsing around the waif.
The lights died. The hissing grew. The grinding began.
And from that hall that deep, horrific roar.
A shadow came charging into that lightening, silhouetted against a backdrop of convulsive gunfire and spectacular explosive light. Great, hulking, so ridiculously out of proportion and moving so desperately awkwardly, charging directly into that gunfire, the steel beneath its gait torn to shreds with a fanfare of sparks and crumpling, gnashing teeth and sabers glinting.
The sentry was wild-eyed, shouting above the explosive sound so common.
The grinding grew, the hissing peaked.
And yet another explosion.
Steam erupted from the ring, masking everyone, wrapping around everyone, before retracting back into the ring and pulling them with it.
The time that passed was nearly imperceptible.
The after-image of the beast still lingering in their minds when they were spit out across the floor.
White marble, soaring columns, flags hanging overhead stilled in the cold air.
Till began talking as soon as he scrambled to a standing position.
"Arc! Hail the royal guard immediately, we need an escort into orbit. Call Raphael."
"Please hold. . ."
"Till? Are you okay?"
"No, tell me what's going on."
"Uh- Too many things. Sarah has overcome nearly every server in out net, Arc is the only remaining stronghold. . . Those animals have been popping up all over the place! We know where they are but we can't do anything about it."
"Are there any around here?"
"No, but, uh- major issue. I've been informed that one has been located on another planet."
"Yeah, it's bad."
A vessel appeared outside, dropping from the sky slowly with nearly no sound to accompany it.
"I'll see you upstairs Raphael, I have some friends."