Xenogears: Prelude to Destruction
Chapter 9: Echoes of the Past I: Faded Shadows
Dargaard's Crown, Dargaard.
Darrell sighed deeply, and tried to concentrate on something besides his own laborious breathing. That proved to be an impossible task, though, as Lucia prompted him through yet ANOTHER set of punches against a large bag stuffed with styrofoam.
"No, no, not like that! A newborn finori could beat you if you punch like that! It has to be more like this!" Lucia cried. The two of them were in her incredibly huge `training complex' which stretched on for miles on end, with obstacle courses, exercise areas, and running tracks galore dotting the landscape, and all contained underneath a 60-foot-high ceiling.
They were currently on a tenth set of punch `warm-ups' as Lucia liked to call them, a routine that consisted of Darrell punching a large dummy over twenty times in ten seconds. And it required that each strike use every bit of Darrell's force, or Lucia just demonstrated what she WANTED him to do, then made him start over.
"Lucia, can we PLEASE stop for just a SECOND?!!" Darrell cried with what little oxygen he had left in his body. His new black uniform, almost identical to Lucia's own, was almost soaked completely through with sweat.
The eternal sighed deeply. "We've only been going for an hour and a half, Shanning. It's going to take a LOT more training than this to unleash your full potential."
"I don't care about `unleashing my potential!!'" Darrell yelled, sitting down on the hard tile floor. "I just want to figure out how to control my trances, and go track down Grendel!!"
Lucia crossed her arms, and looked down her nose at the young man. "And if you don't train, just what do you plan on doing to the lavoid when you find him? What I'm teaching you WILL help you control your trance powers, but more importantly, it will help you not have to constantly rely upon them!"
Darrell shook his head, drawing in a deep, shaking breath. "I sure as hell don't feel ANY closer to controlling them than I did when we started… but then, it IS kinda hard to think when you can barely breathe!"
"It's hardly my fault that you're out of shape, boy." Lucia said, shaking her head. "But I suppose I can see where you're coming from. You may not realize, but there's a lot going on with you mentally as I draw out your physical potential."
"What good does that do me if I don't know what's going on?!?!" Darrell cried, closing his eyes and putting a hand over them.
"Oh, fine, then. We'll take a REAL break, and I'll show you what's going on in your head."
Darrell seemed surprised at that. "What're you going to do?"
Lucia took a seat on the floor next to him, a pillow materializing beneath her as she did. "Well, the best way for you to understand your trance persona… your `Id', as he calls himself… is to take a glimpse into the events that created him. Your memories, basically."
Darrell raised an eyebrow. "And how can we do that? I can't remember much of anything that would've created him before the destruction of Zion."
"Well… what about your parents?" the eternal asked, her steely eyes glimmering.
"I…" Darrell looked down. "I don't really remember my parents. I was put in an orphanage when I was two or three… and they never even told me who they WERE, much less where they were."
Lucia put one hand under her chin, and bit her lip. "Ah, that explains a lot." She said. "I think I know just how to go about this, then."
"What? What're you going to do?" the young man asked in response, intrigued… and more than a bit worried at the prospect of more brutal `training.'
"I'm going to cast a spell on you that will force you to witness some of the events from that timestream… it shouldn't be too hard to get a lock on your parents energy signatures, given that they'd be similar to yours… and send your consciousness through them to see what happened all those years ago."
"Er…" Darrell stammered, "What, now? What're you talking about?"
Lucia rolled her eyes, as if she'd just been asked what the sum of two and two was. "Through partial timestream manipulation, I can send a part of you… your spirit, so to speak, back to your parents, so that you can see what the hell happened to make you like you are."
Darrell's eyes widened as full understanding sank in. "You… you can control time?"
Lucia shrugged. "I can travel through it fairly simply, yeah."
"Then you have to send me and my friends back to before Grendel destroyed Zion!! We could keep it from happening at all!!"
"Um… no." Lucia said, shaking her head, and trying to ignore the flabbergasted reply from Darrell. "I'm not going to mess with possible paradoxes because one measly planet was taken out by a lavoid. Do you know how many planets have been destroyed by lavoids? We're not going to embark on a quest through the space-time continuum to destroy them all. For one thing, that's not my concern, and for another, the last group of people that did that met with a rather… unfortunate end."
Darrell opened his mouth to protest.
"Shut up, Darrell. Just shut the hell up. I'm not going to change my mind on this, no matter WHAT you say. You should be glad I'm doing as much for you as I am."
"Lavoid loving…" Darrell muttered under his breath. Lucia's eyes narrowed.
"Look, damn it!! I bear NO love for the lavoids, boy! But don't try to make this into MY quest for vengeance! It is your own responsibility to avenge the people of Zion, NOT MINE."
Darrell looked down as she said that, and sighed deeply. "…You're right." He said. "I cannot expect anyone else to do this for me. It's all on my own two shoulders."
Lucia rolled her eyes, not hurt in the least by Darrell's obvious ploy for sympathy. "Glad you get the point then. Now, if you'll TRY to relax, I'll cast the spell."
Darrell nodded, and layed down on the hard floor, trying to get comfortable. As he shut his eyes, he could hear Lucia beginning to chant in a language that Darrell could never hope to understand, or even remember. As hard as he tried to concentrate, the things she spoke slipped around his mind as though they were soaked with oil.
And soon, Darrell couldn't even concentrate enough to tell that words were being spoken, or why they were, or even that he existed.
Blue energy. Endless waves of blue on black on blue on black surrounded Darrell. It was almost beyond comprehension… it was certainly beyond reason. He seemed to fly through it at a rate of speed even further beyond belief than the scene itself, and yet he felt nothing. No rush of wind, no even true movement of the scenery around him. There was just… something within him that told him the distances he spanned were greater than any simple human could ever go, even if they tried for a lifetime.
He wanted to speak, wanted to hear the sound of his own voice, just to prove he could still exist amidst this blue-black infinity, but no words would come forth. He didn't have a mouth. He had no lungs with which to draw the breath to speak. He had no vocal chords to make the sounds which would proceed. He was… nothing. A shade, a ghost wandering an unachievable landscape.
`Am I dead?' he thought, and was shocked to find that thoughts could still proceed through him.
`Dead?' his voice echoed again… but this time there was something different. He hadn't thought that… he hadn't wanted to, anyway.
`What was that?' he thought desperately, wanting to turn his head to look about him, but not having one.
`Nothing… oh, nothing that can be found on the outside. Nothing at all… Darrell.' The voice, his own thoughts, shook through him. Darrell wanted to shiver, but it is impossible to shiver without form.
`Who is this?!' he thought desperately, wishing with all his might to be free of the rushing landscape of nothingness.
`Just a part of yourself… honestly, Darrell, have you forgotten why you are here?'
Darrell would have blinked as recognition struck, were he able. `I… Id?'
`Bravo, oh… bravo.' Somehow, the thoughts just dripped sarcasm. `I was wondering when you would remember yourself, Darrell. You very nearly went mad in this passage of time.'
`Where are we?'
`You forget so quickly. This is the space between time… the space between dimensions… infinity. The Walkway. We're on our way to meet our parents, remember?'
`Dear… dear God, yes. I almost didn't believe that Lucia could really do this. How… incredible. And yet…'
`And yet you are still not satisfied, for she would not aid you in your quest for power.'
`My quest for vengeance, not power.'
`It is a quest for power. I should know. You shall see, Darrell. While we wait for that inevitable truth, we should concentrate on what is at hand.'
`And just what IS at hand, Id?'
`A chance most humans never get. You shall see just WHAT within you desires power so very much… and you shall see the downfall of a planet, as I never could have seen it back in those times.'
Darrell wanted to think more, wanted to talk more with this enigma that had dwelt inside him for so many years, but it was impossible. A black, all consuming un-light now dominated everything. It swallowed up the blue little by little, an ever-advancing, perfect circle. Soon enough, it surrounded Darrell.
And then it consumed him completely.
"And just why are we going to Zion, Olin?" a woman asked a man… all too common a tale, probably. The two, along with a smile child, sat aboard a small personal cruiser in orbit of a planet. Just another planet, just another new family, just another day.
And yet, Darrell could tell, being there, yet not quite being there, that it was so much more than that.
"I told you, Julia. The Council must be certain that it is truly on this planet before we take action to contain it. It would be idiocy to have a PR disaster without vital reason!"
"But aren't the councilors nearly certain that it is on this planet?" the woman maintained, all the while looking worriedly down on her child… a little bundle of arms and legs, with thin grey hair and piercing, somehow intelligent green eyes.
"Mrs. Shanning, I swear that you are the most stubborn woman I've ever met!" Olin said, cursing good-naturedly as he did. "Nearly certain is not good enough. We must uncover evidence that there is a lavoid present on Zion before the Council on Riven can move against it. Do you know what would happen if we were wrong? Do you?"
"Well…" Julia began.
"The Council would be revealed to both the Union AND the Dominion prematurely, and all of our research would come to naught!"
"But this research is AGAINST the lavoid menace!" she protested.
Olin sighed, running a hand through his long grey hair. "I know, and I want to do something about it. But we have to be 100% certain that there IS a lavoid menace on this planet."
"…Fine. Go ahead and radio the control tower in Asgard, then." She said, sighing. It was obvious to Darrell, unseen - and somehow unpresent - viewer of these events that she still wasn't happy with landing on Zion, though.
And the implications of her words were even more disturbing, though Darrell could scarcely ponder them.
"Asgard Control, Asgard Control. Freighter from Kyrax VII requsting permission to land, over." Olin spoke into what struck Darrell as a rather antiquated piece of radio equipment - at which point a rather sarcastic, embittered inner voice reminded him that he was 20 or so years in the past, hovering over a Zion still whole.
A voice crackled in over the intercom. "Your cargo, over?"
"Just my wife, child, and our personal belongings. Nothing out of the ordinary, over."
"Very well. You have clearance to land. Customs will meet you at the fifteenth docking bay, over and out."
Olin Shanning sighed deeply, and leaned back in his chair, his leather pilot's uniform creaking as he did. "Now we'll see if the money our kinsmen back on Riven payed for these fake ids was worth it."
"For little Darrell's sake, they'd better." Julia said simply.
"Oh, come ON, honey. Stop being so dismal! Even if they don't work, I can get us away from a bunch of magicless Unionites! You know that!" Olin protested, a smirk growing on his face as Julia rolled her eyes at him.
"Sure, mr. Hotshot pilot. You can get us away from ANYTHING. That's why Riven had to send in a team to get us off of that Dominion planet four years ago."
Olin sighed. "Oh, can't we forget about that? Besides, if we hadn't been captured, I never would've been able to fall in love with you!"
Julia chuckled. "You were infatuated with me from the day you saw me, Mr. Shanning. What you mean is that you couldn't have convinced me to marry you if not for your inability to do anything useful."
Olin moaned again, then started to take the ship in. "Well then, say a prayer to whatever Ethereals are listening that I can land the damned ship, since I'm so useless."
Julia just laughed and shook her head.
Soon enough they came in on the Asgard Spaceport, a sight that left Darrell spinning with memories from his own final experience there just a month or two before. Things were a bit different, sure… a few less buildings here, less flamboyant ships there, but all in all, it was so remarkably familiar.
`Thank God Terra can't see this…' the young man thought, even as he watched his parents - his PARENTS - land an antiquated ship that was undoubtedly state-of-the-art in the ruined Asgard Spaceport that was in perfect condition.
`Confusing, I'm sure, Darrell. Just let it be, and stop thinking so much.' The voice, though sardonic and anger-filled, held a good point. Darrell tried to just drink the scene in, and stop analyzing it.
As Olin landed the ship gently in a docking bay - a bay in the eastern sector, where the immigration offices were held - little Darrell - little HIM - woke up and let out a small protest at the new surroundings. Julia picked the small child up - he couldn't have been even a year old, yet - and cradled him in her arms, whispering little phrases that ultimately meant nothing in his ear.
"Well… here it goes." Olin said, pulling his hair into a ponytail and putting a metal clasp on it as he got up from the pilot's seat. He smoothed out his leather uniform, and shrugged at Julia. "Do I look presentable enough for the Unionites?"
Julia smirked. "I suppose it'll have to do. And myself?" she looked down at her simple cloth-cut outfit, a basic black pants suit accessorized with silver bangle bracelets on each of her arms.
"Perfect, as always, Julia." Olin said, the note of playful sarcasm that had been in his voice since Darrell had first heard him slipping away.
The two stood there for a moment, the worries of whatever situation that Darrell was beginning to gather they were in slipping away as they gazed into each others eyes.
"Well…" Julia said finally, sighing deeply, "here goes nothing."
Little Darrell cried a little at that, as if throwing his own opinion of their chances into the mix.
"Oh, that's a good sign." Olin said, lifting his eyebrows. Just then, the airlock to the ship opened up, and three Zion policemen stepped onboard, followed by someone who was obviously an immigrations officer.
"Good afternoon, sir." The officer said, offering a semi-polite greeting to Olin and his wife.
"Ah, good afternoon, officer." Olin said, nodding back.
"I would be correct in assuming that, by your earlier contact with the tower, that you've come to Zion to live?"
"You would indeed." Olin said.
"Ah, then these men will just have to look through your cargo to ensure that there's no… er… contraband onboard, eh? We've had a real problem with narcotics lately… not to suggest that you obviously upstanding people would be carrying any."
"Ah, no offense taken, sir. You have to check everyone, of course." Olin said, waving a hand in front of him.
The officer grinned, his crooked teeth showing as he did. "I'm glad you understand. Now, if you'll just show me some identification and proof of residence, we should be done."
Olin nodded and pulled forth a small disc, casually tossing it to the immigrations officer. The man pulled out a small handheld computer, and shoved the disc into a slot in the top, watching as a readout of various information - all falsified, Darrell knew, but very accurate - scrolled across the tiny screen.
After a minute, the man nodded, and gave the disc back to Olin. "Everything seems to be in order, and from the looks of things," he motioned to the policemen, now finished with their search, "so are your things. You're free to go, sir. And… you can either take the ship to a private docking sector, or rent out this one for a small fee."
"Well, I hardly see the need in finding a private docking bay, when it's obvious that yours is in such good order. What's the fee?"
"20 credits a month, with a 40 credit upfront fee, Mr… Shanning, is it not?" the officer said, grinning even more widely.
"It is indeed. Olin Shanning, sir. And that shouldn't be a problem. I have an account based on the planet Landon under the name Shanning… if you check there in about twenty minutes, you'll find the necessary credits ready for transfer with the code 52809."
"A code-user, eh, Mr. Shanning? I've always found memorizing the various codes for every amount withdrawl, on top of the security changes, rather… tedious. Hard to remember."
Olin shrugged. "I've always had a way with numbers. Speaking of which, in a way, do you know where two engineers, like me and my wife, could find a job in the field?"
The officer beamed. "Why yes, I know just the place, Mr. Shanning. The Zion government's got a new computer project, run down at the Vanhele Center on Fifth Street."
"Oh, really?" Olin said, acting as if this was all news to him. "What sort of project is it?"
"Well…" the officer said, quieting down some as though he were telling a great secret, "this isn't confirmed, but there are whispers that it's some sort of energy-absorbing machine. People are saying they've discovered some sort of new power source."
Olin raised his eyebrows. "Oh, really? What sort of power source do you suppose it would be?"
The officer shrugged his shoulders. "Beats me. I imagine that it'd have something to do with magma, or something like that. The government bigwigs don't tell me much of anything, let me tell ya!" with that, the man chuckled a bit, and patted Olin on the shoulder.
"Well… that's most interesting, sir. Thank you for telling us about it!" Olin said, grinning back at the seemingly always-smiling officer.
"Hey, not a problem, Mr. Shanning. Tell ya what, I'll go call a moving truck for your things, and you can take it wherever it is you want to go."
"Thank you, sir. We really appreciate that."
The man just shrugged his shoulders, chuckled a bit, and walked out of the ship, followed by the policemen. As they left, Olin sighed deeply.
"Good God, I thought he'd never shut up."
Julia snickered. "You're the one who kept on asking him questions, Olin!"
Olin sighed. "I know, dear, but it was just to make certain that our story didn't have ANY holes in it this time. I'm guessing the Council back on Riven wouldn't be happy if they had to send ANOTHER squad after us."
"True enough…" said Julia, shrugging, "but that guy was certainly hapless enough."
"And it's those very kinds of people that worry me, Julia. You never know what they might be hiding. Just like us. If I'd had to smile at that man's bad teeth and pimply face for another second, I would've screamed. I swear, he probably hadn't bathed in a week."
Julia just laughed. "Hey, you're the one who went into this line of work, honey."
"Well, what were my options, Julia? It was either this or go into politics, and though I do respect them, I certainly do NOT want to be another bookworm councilor."
"Fine then, fine. Now, let's stop thinking about this junk, and start worrying about how in the world we're going to convince the Vanhele Center we're vital to their lavoid energy extraction project."
"Through the deep past I wander
Through dreams of ebon flame
Through lives of wandering hate
And yet all is the same." - Sheena Vortex, Poem 5368 in the book of Blank Verse Studies.
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