Meltdown - Part 3Date Posted: May 1, 2019
This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
“You little cowardly… skink!” Scylla reached outward and upwards, either to rip his ears off , or choke his head off his shoulders… she wasn’t sure yet. “You could have done something, Amon!”
She almost had her fingers around his ears when the voice startled her out of his anger.
“AMON! SCYLLA!” The voice radiated out. “Look, this node is configured to detect stress patterns between the two of you… Trust me, I have enough data for two lifetimes on the bickering I’ve seen.”
“Listen. We’ve made a breakthough up here at the Aetherochemical Research Facility. My staffers have worked out the interdimensional balancing… and we have… summoning!” The voice sounded hopeful. “I am hoping that the emperor finds this pleasing enough to calm his wrath.”
“But in any case, I have seen this man kill his own kind… loyal, hard-working Allagans.” The node voice choked. “And I cannot be a part of this anymore.”
“I have ignored it too long… ” The voice seemed to grow old and tired. “And this started long before the emperor… at least… this emperor… Xande is just a symptom of what the agents of destruction wanted to happen.”
Amon had backed a step away, lifting his arms in a defensive position – Scylla was far more aggressive now than he remembered her being in the Tower. Perhaps it had something to do with the effects of the hounds…
No matter, he was grateful that her onslaught was stopped short by the node’s chiding once more. At least something seemed to remind her to keep her place. He really didn’t want to have to be the one to do it – but he would, if he was pushed.
The Elezen tried to shove away his irritation and concentrate on the node’s words. He did remember this – the discover of Summoning – what an amazing breakthrough it had been! But try as he might, Amon didn’t remember Lord Diokeles’ attendance at the grand ceremony when they announced the unveiling of this new type of magic to the Tower.
Had he… already passed by then? It was hard to remember. So many things were fuzzy in his mind.
The node’s final words stood out, however. And Amon found himself echoing.
“Agents of destruction? What are you on about?” The Elezen frowned. “Xande was… an incomplete resurrection. A grave miscalculation. The error wasn’t discovered until it was well too late. I did what I could to research a fix for his condition, but things spiraled out of control too quickly for me to respond. If I’d been given time, though…”
“Oh, this is where you are in error, my young prodigy. Xande was a brilliant success, for those who are manipulating the very direction of the Empire. Everything was in the right place. Xande’s aether preserved body, an empire with the greatest technological advancement. They just needed us to start the destruction in motion.”
“We all played our part, even myself.” The node spun around, rotating in irritation.
“They gave me your folder, Amon… They knew you had a way of connecting to the aether that was rare. They gave me the aether-enhancing-drugs to administer to you… and the chemical augmentation schedule as you grew. Somehow, they knew everything that would happen… the power, and the side-effects…”
Amon gritted his teeth uncomfortably at the talk of the aetherochemical enhancements.
It was true that Lord Diokeles had taken part in the initial injections that he agreed to take as a child. Originally, the treatment was supposed to be but temporary, and he was told it’d improve his performance in class… But he had been the one to choose to continue to use them, expand on their properties and improve their potential as he came into his own knowledge.
Unlike most, he hadn’t seen them as a drug. There was an addictive quality to them, to be certain, but he’d always embraced the paths they opened for his mind. He doubted he would have become as powerful as he had without them.
Even now, just to think about them, Amon felt a distant longing…
The Elezen shook his head, trying to focus on the node’s words. Once more, drip-feeding them with information.
How could all of this have been set up? Amon had walked his own wild paths – no one could have known what he’d choose to do. What he’d choose to become. That he’d delve into the darkest secrets of immortal life and undeath.
It was preposterous to think anyone could have… orchestrated all of that!
“You must be mistaken,” Amon shook his head. “Who would have the knowledge and ability to manipulate that many things at once? Not even the best swindlers in the Tower, and there were quite a few, could have foreseen what came about. And certainly, who would have wanted to watch everything we built crumble into dust?”
“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!”