Xenogears:  Prelude to Destruction

Dark Angel

Chapter 22:  Order, and Followers of Chaos

By Nightsong




Terisiare, Prison Block


 “This is incredible.  I never would’ve thought that a planet under such… circumstances would have a prison, of all things.” Cynewulf shook his head, somewhat annoyed at his voice as he heard it echo off the steel walls of the enclosed cell.  It was a tiny room, this cell, with but a rock-hard bed sitting in one corner across from a rather unsanitary-looking toilet.  There was a door of some sort, surely – they’d come in through one – but the room had been designed in such a way that it was all but impossible to make out the outline of one, in one corner remote from any piece of ‘furniture’ or any sort of hiding place.


“Actually, it makes sense.” Said Meryl, sighing as she tried to make herself comfortable on the block of cement she’d mentally tagged a ‘bed’ for lack of a better word.  She tried as best she could to concentrate her gaze on the ceiling, so that she wouldn’t have to see Cynewulf pacing back and forth like a rabid dog.


Their weapons had been confiscated, of course – only a fool would have let them hold onto TAGs in a chamber made of steel – and on top of that, Cynewulf had run into a rather disheartening discovery a moment ago.  Through some process that neither of the Seekers could even dream of, the room had been designed in such a way as to block all emissions of Ether.  The invisible, immaterial energy source was nowhere to be found anywhere in the room, in any elemental color. 


Needless to say, the burly man was in a rather foul mood.  “Does it?” he asked curtly, coming pointedly to a stop in front of Meryl.


The trader shrugged her shoulders as best she could, trying to look as though she didn’t notice Cyne’s gaze.  “Yes, it does.  Think about it.  Your planet’s been overridden with lavoid creatures, with no apparent hope of the situation improving.  Sure, the crime rate probably plummeted, but mental illness…”


“Skyrocketed.” Cynewulf finished, his tone showing that he was reluctant to concede the point.  “Yeah, that makes sense.  Also makes clear the reasoning behind the ether blocking, though I don’t have a clue how they managed it.” He shook his head.  “Of course, the friggin’ Council should probably be locked up in here by that same token… damn, things are screwed up.”


Meryl started to respond, but a clanging from the other side of what they believed was the doorway interrupted them.  The Seekers immediately turned to the door, wary of attack – Meryl actually went so far as to jump out of the bed – and tensed themselves as the door swung open, slowly.


On the other side of the doorway stood a rather nervous-looking guard armed with an energy weapon of some sort, along with two Hunters Cyne recognized as Mathiu Racnarth and Kayla Narube.


“You’ve got twenty minutes.” The guard said, looking intensely and the two with his dark eyes.  “I shouldn’t even be giving you that, you know.”  He waved the two in, and slammed the door behind them.  The noise echoed through the small chamber for several seconds as the four stood there, none quite daring to break the silence.


“I…” Mathiu was the first to attempt words, and he very nearly failed at it.  “I’m sorry.” His head was bowed low, but his voice came across clear and obvious in its tone.  Regret played over the whole of his features, from how he held his body slouched over to the worried lines that painted his forehead.  And his eyes… their cadmium depths were dulled.  It was obvious that his confidence had been shattered, at least in partial, by this event. 


He wasn’t the only one who was upset.  Next to him, Kayla seemed lost in her thoughts, almost as though she wasn’t fully aware where she stood.  Her red hair was disheveled and fell haphazardly around her shoulders, and her clothing was in a similar state of disarray. 


Apparently, the two had been up for the full six to seven hours of the night since Cynewulf and Meryl had been imprisoned.  And even more apparently, Cyne didn’t care in the least.


“Yeah, I’d think you would be sorry, Racnarth.  Damn, you told us your Council was paranoid… but you never said they’d gone insane.” The large man shook his head, and appeared disgusted as Mathiu responded by looking even more upset.  “I mean, you must have known… about everything they told us!  About the lavoids, about the decadence…” he trailed off, shaking his head.


“You’re right.” Kayla said after several moments, speaking with great effort.  “We should have told you.  But we didn’t.  And why not?  There are a million excuses, Cynewulf.  We could tell you that we thought your arrival would change their perception, that your incredibly high energy signatures would impress a sense of hope in them.” She sighed, and shook her head.  “We were wrong.  That can’t be helped at this point.”


Cynewulf rolled his one human eye, and made an effort to look put out.  It didn’t take much.  “Thank you, Miss Narube, for acknowledging the obvious.  The problem we’re having now is the simple fact that we’re stuck here, in an etherless prison, at the bottom of a stronghold that’s going to be completely wiped out as soon as the Shi Kari take a notion to come looking for it.” He muttered a curse under his breath, something strong enough to make even the usually apathetic Meryl wince. 


“Look, Cynewulf.” Mathiu said, interposing himself between Kayla and the threatening form of the Seeker, “We realize that this shouldn’t have happened.  We’re both incredibly shocked and sorry that it did happen… but… it is not our fault, and it’s not like we’re just going to sit here and do nothing about it!”


“Oh, you’re going to do something about it, Racnarth?  Like what?  I suppose you could just go talk to your Council and they’d be happy to let us go run along our merry way, eh?”  The large man shook his head again, ignoring Meryl’s attempts to calm him.


“Why the hell do you think we’re so shook up?” Meryl said, her indigo eyes locking with Cynewulf’s for several long moments.  “Because we’re shocked and surprised that this happened?  God no… like I said, we probably should’ve expected it.  We’re upset because of what we’re almost considering doing here.”


Meryl’s eyebrows furrowed, the woman not certain she could possibly be understanding what Kayla meant.  “Excuse me?”


Mathiu sighed deeply, ran a hand through his long flaxen hair, and looked straight at the Seeker woman.  “We’ve decided we’re going to help you escape.”


“Do what?”  Cynewulf was incredulous for a moment, but he could tell from the young peoples’ eyes that they were serious.  “You…. you’re joking, right?” the two just nodded in response, and Cynewulf’s dour expression, already quivering, crumbled entirely, leaving a look of complete shock in its place.


“If you get caught doing this, there’s no telling what the Hunter Council will do to you!” Meryl protested, grateful for the offer of help, but worried for the two children.


Mathiu’s expression went grim.  “Screw the Council.  They aren’t even Hunters any more… like I heard you told them, they’re all just scared children, trying to hide under their blankets from the big bad wolf.” He sighed deeply, and ran a finger over the silvery metal of the wall with an air of regret.  “Unfortunately, the wolves are out there, and they aren’t going away just because we want them to.”


Cynewulf sighed and nodded, and took an uneasy seat on the concrete slab of a bed.  “We both appreciate this gesture, Mathiu… but what do you have in mind?  This whole chamber’s ether-free, seems like, and our TAGs are gone.  And whether or not that guard was willing to do you the favor of saying ‘hi’ to us, he’s not going to just stand idly by.”


Mathiu, his disposition somehwat improved, smirked suddenly.  “Ah, but I’ve got a plan, haven’t I, Kay?”


Kayla shook her head, and grinned despite herself.  “Of course you do, Matt.  You always have some sort of thing running around in your head.” She chuckled.  “Explains why you can’t concentrate on the here and now.”


The young Hunter rolled his eyes and shrugged.  “Yeah, something like that.  Anyway, the point is that I’ve got a plan, and it’s a good one.  Foolproof, even.”


“Foolproof?” Meryl asked quizzically, leaning up casually against one wall.  “I wouldn’t say a plan that involves making use of fools like us is ‘foolproof’.”


Matt looked at the woman ambivalently for a moment, saying nothing.  Then he shrugged.  “Whatever.  Anyway, let me get started.”  He scratched his head, and without a thought sat down on the metal floor of the cell.  “Okay, let’s deal with the things impeding escape first.  Most obviously, there’s the deal you mentioned about the anti-ether field.  That one takes the most explanation, but it’s a fairly simple thing to get around.  You see, we could…” he trailed off as he caught a pointed glance from Cynewulf’s direction.  “Ah, but you want to know how the thing works.  Alright.


“Basically, the Anti-Ether Field works on an anti-Order principle, established by a nebula located in the Planetary Union.  You see, it…” Mathiu trailed off again, and sighed exasperatedly as he caught the blank stares of Meryl and Cyne.  “I swear, don’t you Seekers hear about anything?  What is it you don’t know:  Order, anti-Order principles, the Chaos Nebula?”


“Start on the first one, and end with the last one.” Meryl said, cocking an eyebrow.


Mathiu covered his eyes with the palm of one hand, and tried to look put out.  He had more trouble pulling it off than Cynewulf had a few minutes ago.  “Of course, we only have fifteen more minutes to pull this all together, and you want a science lesson.  Fine, fine.” He leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes as he tried to pull together his memories.  “First off is Order, I suppose.  I really would’ve thought you two had heard this one before.  Basically, it’s the term used to define the force that makes up the ‘winds of magic’, or the Ether fields.  It works as an opposing force to Chaos:  whereas Chaos energy comes from outside the Multiverse, is used in casting non-elemental – for the most part – spells, and promotes a distinct feeling of… well, chaos… Order comes from within the Multiverse, is used in the casting of all elemental spells, and promotes a organization, control… order, ya know.


“There’s supposed to be a kind of balance between the two energies throughout the Multiverse.  Like I said, Chaos energy promotes anarchy, destruction, greed – I’d imagine you already knew that, if you’re at all familiar the complete transformation a human goes through once they’re exposed to that energy, even if they aren’t being injected with it – it’s dangerous for too much of it to be present on a planet.  Given that you two have ancestors on Earth, I imagine you know what happens when too much Chaos permeates.”


Cynewulf shook his head.  “Your saying Chaos controls our actions?  That doesn’t make sense.”


Matt snorted.  “It makes plenty of sense, ‘Wulfie.” He smirked to see the large Seeker’s reaction to that nickname, then went on to prevent the man from saying anything about it.  “And it’s not really a control, so much as a desire.  The presence of Chaos energy brings out lusts like nothing else.  I mean, God, the only reason the lavoid race exists is because of a lust for power in the hearts of the people in control on Earth.”


Allowing the Seekers to chew on that for a moment, Mathiu tactfully moved the subject from Chaos.  “On the other hand, a complete permeation of Order, with no Chaos present, can be just as bad.  This leads to the stifling of creativity, the need for organization to the point that tyrannical dictatorships are formed, and the persecution of anyone who threatens to think differently than their peers.  In short, on its own, Order breeds control to the point of decadence, and Chaos breeds ambition to the point of anarchy.”


The young Hunter, after seeing that he’d receive no sort of response on that bit of information, decided to move on to the next topic.  “As for anti-Order principles, they’re just what they sound like.  It’s a set of theories on what conditions will stifle the presence of Order energy.  There are basically two ways to go about it:  if an area becomes too permeated with Chaos energy, the ability to use Order energy can vanish entirely – this is kinda strange, actually, because up to a point the introduction of unneeded Chaos energy can increase the strength of ether magic.  The second point’s the one that we make use of in the anti-ether field machines… seeing as it’d be nuts to try to use that much Chaos. 


“Basically, ether energy – Order, to be specific – has difficulty traveling through unique points of the Multiverse.  It thrives on redundancy in the various timelines to move through the dimensions, if you take my meaning.  Thus, in order to create an Order-dampening field, all you have to do is slightly alter the fundamental nature of all the molecules in a set area.  Nothing to it, really.”


Meryl cocked one eyebrow, and tried to hold back an impending headache.  “How in the world is such a thing possible?  I mean, if one group of scientists even found a way to alter the molecules in a given area without killing everyone IN that area, wouldn’t they have counterparts in other dimensions doing the exact same thing?”


“Actually, that was the exact problem with the theories behind the device.” Mathiu returned.  “So what they did was input a program in use by gamblers for years:  a randomizer.  Basically, the device re-balances matter on such a small level – the alteration of a single quark, for example – that it’s easy to change which place the device alters with no significant damage done, as well as make sure that it’s unique to the other dimensions.”


Cynewulf blinked, and started to ask a question.  He was cut off before he could even form the first syllable.


“Don’t ask how it works, Cynewulf.  Trust me, you don’t want me to go into the formulas required for that.”


“And how did you come up with these theories in the first place?” the big man asked instead.  “What’s all this about a nebula?”


Kayla sighed deeply, and shrugged her shoulders.  “Look, we’re running low on time.  Let’s just say that there’s no ether energy available in a pretty large quadrant of the Planetary Union, and move on, ‘kay?”


Meryl launched a protest to that, but was silenced by Mathiu.  “Look, Kayla’s right.  If we don’t get these plans straight now, we’ll never be able to carry them out.  Let me tell you what I had in mind…”




On the other side of the steel wall that made up the Seekers’ prison, a lone Hunter stood.  He’d long since sent the guard off on break; it wouldn’t do for anyone to hear the conversation he planned on having with Narube and Racnarth.


Sien Taggart enjoyed his privacy, after all.


He was an older man, more than old enough to have been a Councillor had he so chosen – and certainly old enough to have gained the trust of that motley group.  His hair, once a fine dark black, had been tinged with silver in a number of places, but it was still thick and ran midway down his neck.  His clothes, though the standard grey fatigues of the Hunter organizations, were cleanly pressed and gave him a feeling of sheer presence that men around him (on the rare occasion that there were men around him) lacked.  Most of the reason for that was in his eyes, though.  Their pupils were a glimmering, intense red, like flaming hot iron set in his sockets. 


The only visible weapon he carried was a simple foil – an edgeless stabbing sword with no decoration and not much length.  It looked somewhat out of place on such an extraordinary person.


And he stood there, not even a thought running through his mind, until Mathiu Racnarth and Kayla Narube gave the knock that signified they were ready to leave.  Sien was more than happy to oblige them on that score, and with but a motion of his hand, the door that was across the room swung open.  The two younger Hunters were obviously surprised as they walked out to see him standing there, but they hadn’t time to form a question before the steel door to the cell they’d just been in slammed behind them.


As the noise echoed throughout the room, Sien walked over to the pair.  His boots clacked harshly on the tiled floor of the room, sending chills through Mathiu and Kayla.  As he came within a few feet of the two, he ceased his motion and regarded them curiously.  “Having a pleasant conversation, children?”


Matt shrugged his shoulders.  “As pleasant as can be expected right now.  As you could imagine, the Seekers are none too happy with us.”


“And why should they be?” Sien asked, his flame-red eyes dancing amusedly between the two children.  “They have proven themselves a threat to our organization, and have been foiled in their efforts.”


“They were no threat!” Kayla said, making a sharp motion with her hand.  “And I can sense, from what little of your dark mind you make open, that you don’t believe that either.”


Sien grinned.  “Oh, that’s right.  You’re a telepath.  It’s a bit rude to intrude on others’ minds, you know.” He made a negatory motion with his hand, resulting in a gasp of pain from the young Narube.  This, in turn, nearly caused Mathiu to pull out his mace, but his partner stopped him. 


“You say I don’t think them a threat?” the older Hunter asked.  “Perhaps their coming was not intentionally harmful.  But they are still threatening the organization.  They breed discord…. Perhaps,” his grin disappeared, and he stared angrily into Racnarth’s eyes, “even treason.”


“I would think,” Matt’s words came out between gritted teeth, “very carefully before you accused me of treason.  I have never lost sight of our goal, of the mission.  You would do well to remember that.”


“Oh, my.” Sien’s eyes danced again with amused fire, and he cracked his knuckles.  “Is that a threat, Racnarth?”


Mathiu looked grimly up at the taller man and unconsciously moved closer to Kayla.  “No.  It’s a warning.”


“I shall certainly keep that in mind, child.” Sien smirked.  “But it is beginning to grow late, and all little children must mind their bedtime.  I wouldn’t want to to tire you out too much, not with all the plans I suspect you have for the evening.”


“What are you implying?” Kayla asked sharply, perhaps with more anxiety than she meant to.  It drew another laugh from Taggart. 


“Oh, nothing, nothing.  Just remember that I’ll be keeping an eye on you two.” He gave a low, mock bow to the two, and turned to walk off.  “The Council doesn’t trust you anymore… with good reason, it seems.  Watch for their eyes on all sides, and don’t do anything stupid.” He chuckled a bit, cold and humorless about it.  “The Hunt grows boring otherwise.”  With that, he walked away down a long hallway and up a staircase.  Mathiu noted, with no small amount of discomfort, that his formerly noisy boots made absolutely no sound as he walked away.


He and Kayla stood there in silence for several long moments, until they heard the guard for this particular jail block coming back.


“You want to get something to eat, Kay?” Mathiu asked, rubbing his temples with one hand.  “I doubt you’re any hungrier than I am, but I need to sit down and think things out… and who knows when we’ll have opportunity to go to the cafeteria again.”


The young woman shrugged.  “We may as well.  I need to think through all this too… and it’d be nice to see everyone one last time.”


The two left the room silently, passing by a rather confused-looking guard on their way into the long and twisting hallways that connected the chambers of Terisiare.  Their thoughts ruled them as they made their way for the cafeteria, unpleasant thoughts.


‘Can I let Kay do this, even when the stakes are this high? Matt asked himself, looking over at the young woman.  ‘If she got hurt, I don’t know what I’d do… besides never forgiving myself, anyway.’ This string of thought lead into another involving love and things of that nature; one he made very careful not to let Kayla see.


His mental guard was completely unnecessary; his partner was too lost in her own thoughts to try to traverse anyone else’s.  ‘Are we doing the right thing?  The Council, as crazy as they might be, has a very real fear here.  If those two… if we get caught by the Shi Kari, it’s probably all over for Terisiare.  And there’s nowhere else to hide after that.’ She shook her head and closed her eyes, letting her mind guide her down a hallway she’d walked down many times in her short life.  ‘If we even make it that far.  That Sien Taggart… the Council doesn’t assign him to just anything.  If he’s watching us… we may not even make it out of Terisiare alive.  At least that proves we’re doing something good… in a day when we have to worry about getting killed by our own kind.’


She sighed deeply, and could have cried as they reached the cafeteria.  It was, as usual, filled with people; all her fellow Hunters.  And yet, all but a few of their friends were like the Council, like Sien Taggart.  She could almost feel the distrust in them for each other, for the whole damned planet.  The elders all sat together on one side of the room, no doubt reminiscing about the times before the Shi Kari had come.  The younger Hunters all sat across from them, gossiping about their older counterparts and dreaming of a mission to wipe out the Shi Kari that they knew would never come.


And Kayla realized they weren’t really leaving much behind at all.




“It was a day when lavoid hunter fought lavoid hunter… much to the amusement of that accursed race.  And that shall ever be the problem with exterminating our enemy; humanity’s too busy destroying itself to see the real threat.” Meryl Sara, Last History of the Seekers.




To Chapter 23


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