13: The Weapon
Click-click. Again, there went the noise of boot heels on marble. Mox Garel whipped his head around over his shoulder, certain that this time he’d see a Dominion soldier come to tear him a new one. But it was nothing. He sighed deeply and tried to force himself to relax, a task that proved impossible when he regarded the man in front of him.
Grey was sitting in front of a computer monitor, clicking away furiously on a keyboard as he pored over files of every shape and size. Even if the things in the files had meant anything to Mox, which he somehow doubted they would, the Wanderer was going over them far too quickly for him to pick anything up.
“You do realize what a precarious position we’re in, don’t you?” Mox said, his anxiety over their location overriding his ever-growing fear of this strange man. “Breaking into the Magistrate’s office alone is a capital offense. Looking into his files… and the fact that I basically abandoned my post… is treason enough that we’d never even get a trial.”
Grey rolled his eyes at that, but didn’t respond. His hands continued flying over the keyboard.
“Don’t you get it, man?!” Mox said as loudly as he dared. “Whatever you’re trying to accomplish here couldn’t possibly be worth the risk of…”
The young Elosian’s speech was cut off rather abruptly as Grey reached out with his left hand and grabbed him by the collar. As Mox nearly fell to the floor due to the abrupt movement, the Union spy spoke.
“Shut up, Garel. I’m almost finished, and if I got us in, I can get at least one of us out.”
Mox’s mouth opened, but the words he wanted to say went unsaid as he considered the full meaning of the statement.
“That’s right, Garel. Now quit pissing me off.”
Mox closed his eyes and let out an inaudible sigh as Grey released him. He had no doubt that the Wanderer could follow through on his threat to leave Mox behind, at that. They had gotten in through the air duct system, amazingly enough. It shouldn’t have been possible for them to even get on the roof in the first place, but Grey had actually made the motors and fans in the huge air conditioning systems stop momentarily while they entered, with only a wave of his hand.
‘Whatever this guy is,’ Mox thought, ‘he’s got an incredible amount of control over ether energy. But why is he so concerned about those Unionites?’
His internal monologue was cut off rather abruptly as Grey made a strange noise. It was like the spy was choking on something without substance, and Mox was almost concerned as he saw a look of genuine rage pass over the silver-haired man’s face.
“Shanning.” That was the only thing the man said, and whatever reference he was trying to make was lost to Mox. Next thing the pilot knew, Grey had stood up and, with but a flutter of his black cloak, jumped effortlessly back into the still-open ceiling vent.
A moment later, his head poked back out, along with a gloved hand. “Hurry up, Garel. We have other places to be now.”
Mox only hesitated for a moment before accepting the helping hand up into the vent. ‘I just know that this will be the death of me… maybe mom was right about politics. Safer.’
“HQ, Lyles and Shanning here, ready to land.” Terra said over the intercom of the starship. It had been another long trip back to Karonne… but thankfully, the number of insults flowing from Zohar’s mouth had decreased in number somewhat, making the whole ordeal a bit more bearable.
“Confirmed, Ms. Terra. We’re ready to receive you… same docking bay as last time.” A voice crackled back.
“Well, looks like the place has survived while we were gone.” Commented Darrell as they came into atmosphere to view the huge, domed complex. After Dargaard’s Crown, though, it was no longer nearly as impressive to him.
“What’d you expect, Dar?” Zohar said, popping into view beside the young man. “We were only gone about two weeks.”
Darrell shrugged, and didn’t really respond. ‘A lot can happen in two weeks, Zohar…’ he thought, shutting his eyes tightly as he did.
The ship touched down in the docking bay without a single problem – Darrell never ceased to marvel at how smoothly Terra could land – and they exited shortly afterward. To their surprise, only a few orderlies were on hand to greet them, and Meryl, Cynewulf, and Kyra were nowhere to be found.
“Hello again, all three of you. I take it your trip went well?” one of the Seekers, a tall woman with blonde hair, asked.
Darrell nodded. “Better than we could’ve hoped, but… where’s Madam Kyra, not to mention our friends?”
The woman looked down for a moment at that. “I… I’ve been instructed to bring you to them immediately.”
“What?” Terra said, her eyes widening. “What’s happened?”
Another of the Seekers spoke up. “It’s… not easy to explain, miss. Please, just come with us.”
“Excuse me?! Are they okay?!?” Terra exclaimed, her powerful gloves creaking slightly as her fists unconsciously clenched.
“In a manner of speaking… yes, they’re fine. Please, just follow us!” the woman said, and, apparently considering the discussion closed, turned to lead them off.
Terra started to say something else, but Darrell restrained her with a touch to the shoulder. “This won’t get us anywhere, Terra. Let’s just follow them.”
The young woman looked as if she might protest for a moment, then nodded her head and followed on morosely. Darrell scratched his head as he began to walk, motioning for Zohar to follow with a quick jerk of his head.
They walked through the common areas of the Complex soon enough, noting nothing especially odd, other than a kind of subdued feeling of unease. It was too quiet, and everyone they passed seemed worried about something just beyond view.
It was quite apparent when they passed into what had formerly been the sealed sector, for the entire area was marked by an almost complete absence of vegetation, as well as the occasional crater where some unfortunate Seeker or robot had met his end. After a few minutes, the Seekers leading the trio on stopped before the ruins of the lobby of the Armory. Darrell saw that the portions of the building that had survived had all been rewalled, and a contingent of Seekers guarded new doors into the various areas.
“Lot of security, considering you’re all military here.” Darrell noted curiously.
“Just follow us, please.” The female Seeker said, a new note of discomfort in her voice as she approached the door to the largest room.
“You can see who we’ve got here, I’m sure.” She said to one of the guards at the door. “Let us through.”
The man saluted and stepped aside, but didn’t actually defer to open the door. “Yes, ma’am.” He mumbled along with it, as if distasteful of the situation.
“What’s up with the disrespect?” Zohar said quietly to Darrell. The young man shrugged.
“It’s not to me personally, Finori.” The female Seeker said without even turning back around. “It’s this entire blasted situation. I go no farther than here.” She whirled around on her heel. “Please enter. Madam Kyra… and your friends await.”
The trio stepped into the room with more than a bit of trepidation, and were rather shocked by the state of the room. It was apparently a laboratory of some sort, with machinery, computers, and other things of an apparently biological nature strewn about at odd intervals. On the far side of the room, Kyra and Meryl sat, looking over some sort of glass-sealed tube.
“What’s going on, Meryl?” Terra said as she strode across the curious room, feeling very uncomfortable.
Meryl looked up abruptly at the words, as though she hadn’t even noticed the three of them come in. “Oh… hello, Terra. What’s going on? I…” she trailed off. It was just as well. Terra lost interest in the conversation when she reached the other end of the room, and took a glimpse into the tube laying horizontally before her.
Zohar, surprisingly seriously, teleported over to the other end of the room and gazed into the tube as well. His already large eyes widened.
“What? What is it, everyone?” Darrell said as he fairly ran over.
He received no immediate response, but one glimpse into the tube told him all he needed to know.
Cynewulf lay suspended in a solution of some sort, with wires inserted all over the place to monitor his health. But… at the same time, it almost didn’t seem to be Cynewulf. His right arm was entirely gone, replaced with a huge, silvery prosthetic. At the end, some sort of device resembling a TAG was welded on. His face was similarly disfigured, his left eye – and that entire end of his face – having been replaced with an optic sensor of some sort. Wires ran from it and the back of his head down into his back, where various other bits of circuitry could be made out in patches.
“What… what the hell happened to him?!” Darrell’s words were almost a whisper, but the tone was unmistakeably panicked. “Who did this?!”
Kyra looked up sadly. “He… did it to himself, with the aid of several robotic implements.”
“Dear God… why? Why would he do this to himself?” Terra asked, her hands shaking in revulsion to the horrible sight.
Meryl sighed at that. “The weapon. The weapon he thinks can beat the Lavoid… everything he’s been hinting at, this past month or so… all over this.”
Darrell blinked. “What in the world could he possibly gain by doing… this to himself?”
“I… I think it’s pretty obvious.” Zohar said, surprisingly quietly. “You guys already knew he wanted to anchor me to a weapon… I figured it’d be a TAG or something, though… I figured it’d have to be!”
“No one’s blaming you, Zohar.” Darrell returned. “He… he wants you to anchor to him?”
“Basically… but he knew it wasn’t possible for me to link to an organic object. And so…”
Meryl interrupted him. “By running circuitry uplinked to his brain, and having you anchor to THAT, he’ll get an insane amount of power.”
“Yes… but…” Zohar trailed off. Meryl looked at him curiously, but Terra soon made her forget the comment.
“Nevermind why this happened, or the fact that he did this to himself… HOW did this happen? You guys just let him mutilate his own body like this?”
“We had no way of knowing what he would do, Terra.” Kyra said, sadly. “He shut most of us out of the lab… and, after the favor he did for the entire Complex, we felt we owed it to him to leave him alone.”
“And I… well, it’s hard to explain exactly what happened between us, Terra.” Meryl put in, looking down at the floor.
“Make an attempt.” The young pilot said, crossing her arms.
“I…I…” Meryl sighed. “Fine. I didn’t want you guys to hear about this… but Cyne’s left me with no choice, it seems.”
“Hey there, Cyne.” Meryl said, walking across the lab to sit next to the huge Seeker. He was poring over some sort of file on a computer – weapons schematics, no doubt – but he flipped the whole array off as soon as she came within view.
“Yes, Meryl?” he asked, a bit more irritably than she’d expected. “It’s late, you know.”
The term was relative. There was no real ‘day’ or ‘night’ in the Seeker Complex, though the majority of people did keep standardized sleep hours.
“Yeah, I realize that, but do you? You’ve been in here ever since Darrell and Terra left, three days ago. Everyone’s starting to get just a bit worried, you know?”
Cynewulf shrugged, and leaned back in the plastic chair he was sitting in. “I’m busy. Designs for the new weapon.”
“Why, Cyne? Seriously, I’m confused on that note. Historically, people just let the finori anchor to an existing weapon, not make up a brand-new one.”
The burly man sighed. “Because… people die, Meryl. I can’t stand on tradition, not when we’re dealing with a Class B.”
“But… why are we dealing with a Class B, Cyne? I’ve been so confused by all of this,” ‘by you…’ “how did you even find Darrell and Terra, much less take it upon yourself to ferry them around on their quest?”
“It wasn’t so much them, Meryl… I went straight to that planet as soon as I heard where the evacuees from Zion were being taken.”
“Why, Cyne? That’s all I’m asking. What did they have to do with you?”
“Because… Meryl, I can’t tell you. I’m sorry.”
Meryl crossed her arms, outwardly mad with the response… but inwardly hurt. “Cyne… you know you can trust me. I know it’s been a few years since we last split up, but…” ‘but I love you.’ Was that what she wanted to say? She was almost surprised to hear herself think it. ‘Is… is it true? Do I love… you, Cyne?’
She gazed on him for a moment, looking deep into his intensely brown eyes… and he tensed. It was barely noticeable, but as he noticed her stare at him, he became uncomfortable. “Meryl… it’s not that I don’t trust you. I do, I do. But… I can’t tell you why I want this lavoid dead, beyond the simple reason that I want the whole freakin’ race dead… and I can’t tell you why I have to do it this way.”
Meryl’s eyes fell at the words. “I’m… I’m sorry to hear that, Cyne.” That was all she said. Her mind was a tempest. ‘You don’t trust me!! I can tell… why don’t you trust anyone, Cyne? We’re your family… we’re more than that, some of us. I’ve known you my entire life… what are you hiding from me?’
“Look, Meryl… I’m not trying to be rude, but could you head on back? I really need to get back to work.”
Meryl could have cried at that, and didn’t fully succeed in biting back her emotions. “Cyne… I-I’ll do it… if that’s what you really want. Do you really want me to leave you alone?” ‘Would you really be rid of me so quickly? Do you hate me so much?’
The man didn’t seem surprised by the sadness in her voice… but he didn’t react to it, either. “Yeah, Meryl, I would. I’ve gotta get this thing finished before Darrell and the others get back.”
Meryl nodded, and walked out quietly.
“…And that was the last time I saw him, before Madam Kyra tried to pay him a visit just yesterday.” Meryl said. She’d left out a lot the story… every bit of her inner thought had been suppressed, to the point that Darrell and Terra were wondering why she hadn’t wanted to tell them about the situation.
“He was like this when I came to him… and appears to have been for nearly two days.” The old Seeker said.
“What’re we going to do about him?” Zohar said, scratching his head.
“There was a message.” Kyra said. “He asked us to awaken him after you’d anchored. Apparently, he realized you’d all be back fairly soon.”
Zohar nodded, and sighed deeply… a most uncharacteristic reaction from the little alien. “Very well… could you all leave me alone with him for a few minutes, then? This takes a lot of concentration.”
Kyra nodded in acquiescence and immediately stood up, leaving the room alongside the others – albeit reluctantly.
After they had all left, Zohar pressed his head against the glass, and looked down on the slumbering form of the huge Seeker.
“Why didn’t you talk to me about this, Cynewulf? You’re going to kill yourself if I do this… but you’ll never forgive me if I don’t… and then the lavoid will kill all of you.” He sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “How I long for the days when I didn’t care…”
“No matter how long I live… the question shall always remain in my mind. Why, Cynewulf? Why?” – Meryl Sara, memoirs.
To Chapter 14
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