Meltdown - Part 2

Date Posted: April 30, 2019

This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.

“Judging your intentions? That was long ago, Amon.” Scylla gave a laugh. “Judgement was already passed when you sewed my remains to the hellhounds and left me to bitter anguish in Syrcus.”

“And they still are there…” She tapped at her head looking through Amon with tired, haunted eyes. “Almost every night, they still are there in my nightmares…”

The white mage’s countenance returned to the mix of weariness and disbelief.

“I’m not these people, Amon. I know what evil you are truly capable of… enough that you could single-handedly demolish an empire through your actions.”

Scylla began to gather the node, and turned to move towards the exit.

“You’re right. This was a huge mistake… I’ll tell Benjamin in the morning, and he can help me with this.”

Usually, Amon was very capable of shielding himself against the words of others. But he found himself unable to deflect the things Scylla said… Partially because she was painfully correct. Partially because a stab of guilt jarred him in a way he didn’t expect. It had been so long since he’d felt truly… remorseful… that it left him befuddled.

His hands shook against his will, more than they usually did, and the Elezen grasped for the nearby desk to steady himself. There was no covering it up. It was a weak motion. He hated showing weakness. But it was as if something deep inside physically responded to Scylla’s accusations in ways he could not control.

“Wait…” Amon’s voice rasped as his hair dripped in front of his eyes. He struggled to lift his head – it was impossible to put on the proud act. At a loss for words, he inwardly chided himself as he foolishly stammered. “I… …I…”

So much for the great actor, Amon of Allag.

Scylla stopped at Amon’s voice, closing her eyes as she held the node tight. She hadn’t heard Amon stammer like this since they were in their youth. As much as she hated to admit it, there was a tinge of something… almost genuine.

Authentic remorse… coming from Amon? Impossible!

The silence was incredibly awkward, because she really didn’t want to believe it. Amon had never shown the slightest bit of tenderness or vulnerability to her. Over and over again, her conscience told her to simply continue on and go back to bed.

But something in her – perhaps sheer curiosity- stopped her from high-stepping it back to her quarters. She instead found herself peering behind his white locks, trying to look up into his eyes. Deliberate, soft-spoken words parted from her lips.

“You what, Amon?”

Amon tried to measure the words in his mind before he spoke. He wasn’t used to openly sharing thoughts or feelings… it was extremely awkward for him. Especially in the face of his rival.

But he didn’t see any other way to convince her… Of what? What was there to convince her of that she didn’t already know?

She was right. There was little he’d said or done that ever amounted to anything but the destruction of the very home he sought to save.

“I… never wanted… this.”

“You never wanted what? You mean turning me into your personal chimerical nightmare? Or perhaps watching Clio march to her death in a biomass reclamation center?” Scylla threw the node forward. “Or waking up eons later in a world that doesn’t know who you are?”

Scylla made a sulky face.

“You could have left me alone, and everything would have faded… all of the memories and nightmares of the past were better left long dead!”

The white mage’s voice began to rise. “But you had to go and make that choice for me! You tricked me, and led me along in a false friendship, and woke up the Allagan that should be dead!”

“Stop lying to yourself! You wanted something, and you were willing to just stomp through people’s lives again to get your way!” Scylla grabbed him by the collar, temper flaring. “Just like Xande, you didn’t grant me the death I should ha—“

“That will be enough!” The node flared red, uprighting itself. It spoke with her father’s voice, though with glitches and the tinny distortion that came from age. Even Allagan inventions were not immune from the corrosion that occurred over time.

Scylla jumped forward in surprise letting out a squeak, shielding herself behind Amon. “It’s talking again!”

The small construct rotated around scanning the room, confirming the presence of the two Allagans, before letting off a few static charges.

“Amon… and Scylla, dear daughter….”

The node paused, seeming to struggle to access the long lost data structures. The words were in her father’s voice, but poorly synthesized together, with incorrect inflections, as if trying to piece together words and syllables from different sources.

“The world is crumbling around you both, and you still insist on antagonizing each other.”

The voice popped and buzzed through sentences, pausing once again.

“Nothing ever changes with you two, does it?”

Amon grit his teeth, holding back his own words as he was violently berated by the lash of Scylla’s sharp tongue… only for another voice to intercept just as she’d worked herself up to the peak of her anger. Much to the Elezen’s surprise, it came from the very node he’d restored.

He knew that voice, too. Even though static distorted the sound chip’s attempts, it was very evident that who this machine was meant to imitate.

“Lord Diokeles?” Amon’s voice wavered a bit as he formed the name he’d not spoken in a very long time.

Then he shook himself out, peering at Scylla, working to mask his shock. Now he was getting berated by a node, too.

“What… did you do to it? It was previously unresponsive. I tried everything. Well… everything within my ability with such limited resources.”

“Don’t look at me, Amon!” Scylla pulled at her own shirt in frustration. “I’m not the emperor’s master technologist!”

“In case you couldn’t tell, neither am I… anymore,” Amon frowned at her dark reminder. “Even though that’s all I’ll ever be in your eyes, no matter what I say or do.”

“You have that right!” The white mage chided. “I’ll never trust you, Amon! Never!”

The node seemed almost responsive to their bickering, sinking down a bit as if watching them with the disappointment of an old father.

“If this message has gotten to you, this means that you are at least temporarily safe. If you have not left the tower, I must beseech you, children… you must leave the reaches of the Allagan Empire now. The emperor is not the man you think he is.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Scylla whispered under her breath.

Amon scowled deeper at Scylla for a moment, then glanced over at the node with pursed lips. “Appears to be a pre-recorded message from your father.”

This was an unexpected find. If Lord Diokeles was aware of the turmoil surrounding Xande and the danger it brought, what else did he know?

The Bard decided to play along with the situation. The node seemed to recognize them, but not the fact that they were not in the proper place and time. Still, information was information.

“What’s going on? Why should you doubt the Emperor… why would we need to leave?”

The voice in the node seemed to take a deep breath.

“They are dead.”

The node paused, giving a buzz as if struggling to pull data from the corroded databanks.

“Pyotr, and all the others at the Eastern Summoning Research Wing are dead by the emperor’s command. The official news-link stories from the Emperor’s Guard suggest that that rebel Meracydian sympathizers are to blame. The truth is, he had Glabya and his hounds slay every last one of them. I saw the security-imaging. They murdered their own… Allagans murdering good, loyal Allagans!”

The breathy voice shuddered with panic.

“Since the reports came back of our heavy losses at the Meracydian Lines, the emperor is enraged at us with our current slowed progress on AWAKEN 3.0. Now the Emperor has summoned every major technologist group and their staff to the Aether Convergence Development Site.”

“This is why you are both in danger. Even you are not above the emperor’s wrath, Amon.”

“I recall this incident…” Amon murmured to himself, rubbing his chin. “I had no connection with these orders, and did not condone them. In fact, it wasn’t until well into the executions that I was aware this was taking place. It was a travesty, a true waste of good Allagans, knowledge and resources. However, I’m not sure what it had to do with me.”

“Wait?” Scylla’s voice seethed with anger. “You knew that the Emperor killed these people? You let them die?”

“I just said I didn’t know until the executions were well under way. Xande wanted my technologists to provide a fast-track to weaponry against the Eikons, and lit a literal fire under them. Do you think I would have approved the execution of my lab force?” Amon scowled at her. “Considering I was the Emperor’s adviser, the fact he went around me to make this happen has never sat well with me.”

“And you did nothing?” The white mage started advancing on Amon. “Those were people’s fathers, children, loved ones, Allagans of your beloved empire! You just sat there while blood spilled all about you and did nothing!”

“And what would have happened had I spoken against it? The node just plainly said that even I wasn’t immune to the Emperor’s ire!” The Elezen spread his hands. “A lot of good I could do anyone if I were dead, too!”