This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
“I have insufficient data to point a finger to any one person. But the resistance’s data seems to suggest that these people are close to those in power… even closer than you, Amon. Perhaps you will have more luck deciphering these puzzles, than I ever would. But the empire has already fallen, rotting from the inside.”
The node paused again, a deep breath coming from the voicebox of the node.
“Scylla? I have a request for you… though you won’t like it.”
“Yes father?” Scylla found herself instinctively answering to her father’s voice, as a sick feeling welled up in her chest. The realization that he had been dead thousands of years left a growing pit in her stomach.
“Amon will go through aether-withdrawals in a matter of a day, maybe two without his injections. I have prepared a detoxification kit for him in my private office on level three at the Tower. Get that if you can before you leave… That, and your restorative magic should be able to help him through until I can get to him.”
Scylla wiped the moisture from the rims of her eyes, muttering to herself. “Why does it always have to be about Amon..?”
The node turned to Amon. “Amon… I need you to trust me on this. I know it’s going to be the hardest thing to leave your emperor. But we have to stop him… and the Resistance needs you, much more than myself.”
Amon stood quietly looking at the node for a time, working through the requests – and the concern – that Scylla’s father put forth regarding him. Perhaps… if this message had reached them in time… maybe things could have turned out differently.
But then, he began to doubt even that.
Would he have listened to this warning in those days? Or would he have melted the node out of blind arrogance and allegiance to a mind-crumbling Emperor?
As all of these conflicting notions flooded his mind, his emotional reserve cracked, and he slammed a fist down on the top of a nearby desk. He rarely lifted his voice this way, knowing he had to sound much like he used to… back when his own moods would shift and he’d lash out at any voidsent or servant that happened to be unlucky enough to endure his annoyance.
“WHY?” Amon snarled. “Why did this message never reach us?”
“Request granted, Amon. Accessing video…”
Blurry, corrupted video footage projected on the wall – from the perspective of a far security camera of a functioning research facility long past.
“Dad…” Scylla cried out as if the moving images along the wall would respond. She traced her fingers along the outline of the vessels and machines that lined the research facility in Azys Lla.
The beleaguered technologist stood busy as he gathered his belongings. He was busy ruffling through scattered tomes as he was encoding his responses and mind-engrams onto the node. He was so busy, that only at the last minute did he notice the guards coming through the outer facility doors.
“Oh no…” The scientist called away in a garbled voice. “They are too early.”
Her father turned around, knocking the node intentionally behind the table into the scattered piles of scrap parts. He stepped back as the guards came in, surrounding the old man in a tight semi-circle. Glabya, the captain of the imperial guard, walked in behind them.
Bows were exchanged. Nervous laughter. Words.
Words became shouting.
Shouting progressed to shoving.
Shoving escalated to violence.
It wasn’t much of a battle.
It only took two guards to subdue the old man, dragging him away on his knees, before the room emptied away. Scylla thought he saw her father look at her, before the doors shut.
Amon’s brows lowered as the recorded playback began. And lowered more as it continued through.
“This…” his voice was husky with subdued emotion. “This was… not documented. I was never informed… What in Allag’s name…”
A twisting feeling of disgust wound through his gut. He knew what he was seeing… he just didn’t want to believe it.
“They said he died in an accident.” Scylla turned to Amon, with a horrified look, mouth agape as she repeated the words. “They said he DIED in an accident! You… you dedicated the statue in front of the Tower to him!”