Ascent - Part 1

Date Posted: July 27, 2020

This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.

It was strange to be the one lying on the observation table. It wasn’t all that comfortable, either. As much as he’d tried to make it a bed, a table was a table was a table.

Amon slightly regretted the choice of putting a glaring light right over the bed. Each time he tried to crack his eyes open, his senses were blasted with unwavering white light. Great for the observer. Not for the observed.

It was too late to make changes in décor, however. He was already strung up with cords that attached to tubes, using mis-matched tape that attempted to masquerade as electrode pads stuck on his bare skin. It was the best they could do with what they had.

I sure make for a fine looking experiment.

Amon grimaced weakly. Even his own humor was lost to him at the moment.

While everything else about his body felt lagged, his heart beat rapidly, loudly proclaiming his fear and will to survive. The sound thundered in his ears, his only real comfort. He knew as long as he could hear it, he was still drawing breath.

His golden eyes cast across the room, managing to make out the humming machine on the other side of the barrier. Lights flickered and cascaded over the device’s many screens, everything running as intended.

Beyond that, he could make out Scylla, ironically dressed in a lab coat.

How the tables have turned.

After last night, he found much of his anxiety around the woman’s unknown intentions fading away. If she wanted him dead, he could have already been. Instead, she worked herself to the bone to keep him alive yesterday. And she was right back at it that morning – her crimson eyes fixed on the machines and the readouts.

Ben was also present. Probably because he felt he needed to be due to his job… moreso than for any real concern over what the outcome would be. Amon didn’t know if the mage really knew much about aether transfer, but if having company made Scylla feel better, then so be it.

The Allagan then thought through the plan, hoping that would help him focus on something other than his fear.

The idea was to draw as much of the corrupted aether out of his body as could possibly be done without killing him. It was a fine line to walk, but until the wild aether was released into the lifestream, it would remain angry and destructive within him.

Then, the magic of the choker he wore was to be reversed. Rather than keep the aether held within him, it would instead draw in natural, clean aether to replace what the machine had released.

The hopes were that this aether would “stick” and start to build up his life reserves again. But if it didn’t… he was facing a bleak future.

If any part of this tricky process broke down, he wouldn’t live to see another day. And yet, he had to go through with it. Those were just the facts.

No more hesitation.

“’Tis time,” Amon told Scylla, trying to sound calm. But his heartbeat and the quivering of his ears told the true story. 

Scylla came over to Amon, putting her hand on his forehead. 

“I will be the judge of that, not you.”

Her patient had survived the night, and even seemed a little stronger after a few hours of rest. However, his strength was fading fast once again as the dark energies continued their rampant destruction of his physical form. 

She had never seen such fear in Amon, and now that the day of reckoning was upon them, it seemed to strike him ten-fold. His life depended upon how well his fever-stricken mind had worked the equations, and how well this several-era old technology would function.

At least she wouldn’t be alone in the endeavor. Ben was here, deep in meditation. The word was that he knew how to balance aether and control energy flows, and if Allagan technology could not contain the energies, he would be the last thread of hope for the technologist.

Scylla examined each of the electrodes along his frame, checking them to make sure that they were secure. With little sleep and even smaller confidence, it was hard to hide her nerves from her patient.

Even in Azys Lla, no one would attempt to even try to save someone as far into an aether illness as Amon. Even with pristine equipment, surrounded by the finest mages in all of Allag, they would have let him die.

Just give him two death tabs and let him fall asleep peacefully… rather than try to rip his very life energies from his body… Why am I even trying this? Am I promising him a painful death?

The white mage shook her head, turning to give Amon a final check out to break the tension. She spotted Ben across the way, also carefully examining the procedure one last time before they began.

Ben seems to believe there is hope… Maybe there is a chance…

She smirked at Amon, taking one of the electrodes and sticking it to his forehead. 

“Just as I thought.” The mage looked at the readout with a smile. “No meaningful activity.”

Amon wrinkled his nose at Scylla. “’Tis a fine time for Your Highness to re-discover your sense of humor.”

He wondered for a moment if she’d joked for her own sake, or perhaps his. Then, he rewarded her with a slight smile.

Their interaction was interrupted by Ben, who, in the light of the machine’s controls appeared somewhat otherworldly. Or maybe it was just Amon’s vision blurring and deconstructing things to be as they were not.

Ben held out an unusual crystal that seemed bleached without color or element. Amon struggled to remember where he’d seen such before, if ever.

“This will work as the vessel to direct the aetherflow from your body,” the mage told them. “Due to its wild nature, the energy will want to escape quickly, but we must keep it held back at a steady pace or…”

Ben didn’t have to finish the sentence for Amon to catch the meaning. The Allagan took in a ragged breath, his eyes flicking from the odd crystal to Scylla’s face and back again.

“Is the machine primed?” He asked her using his best Technologist tone.