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Thread: Nulion's Journey

  1. #21
    Sir Tristram Solis, or just Solis if you don’t appreciate life’s little formalities, was the first of the men walking through that doorway. A solitus man that seemed to radiate regality, he was one of those more chivalrous types of men in life who found his niche as the leader of the Knights of Avalon…You’d expect him to be a lot more talkative though, but I suppose he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn’t say a single word, nor did he need to. All I needed to know could be gleaned from those eyes of his…

    The other man, smelling thickly of imported cigar smoke that hung aloft in near-invisible wisps, was none other than Alan Jacobi of the Athen Vanguards. This was a man with money thoroughly on his mind, although somehow, he managed to keep that mind in the right place as far as the Clans’ interests were concerned. He was a tall, thin Opifex man, much like myself, and even kept his hair in a similar fashion…although it had grayed with age, or perhaps from absorbing too much cigar smoke through his lungs. A smoking cigar in one hand, briefcase in the other, I could tell that all he wanted was to get rid of me, and get right back to business, making more money in the process.

    I, on the other hand, could hardly talk…My mind was frozen, I didn’t know what to say, what to do, or even how to react. Part of me wanted to just go for broke and run at the door, but the muscles in my legs and the nerves controlling them were at ends with another…and wouldn’t work. What else could I do, but just pick some random point, and start from there..?

    “…I don’t think even one of you would believe what I have to say…” But what DID I have to say?? Nothing!

    “Why don’t you try then?” Chrisax kept his arms folded, only for a brief moment glancing to the men who’d just walked in, eyes returning right to where all the attention in the room was.

    “I am someone known...for his ears...and for listening.” Aideen didn’t seem any less disgusted, but he certainly wasn’t lying. Talking to Aideen, strangely enough, was like having a talk with some sort of guru, as odd as that sounds. It was as if under the surface, beneath that atrox skin of his, there was something else entirely…and it felt comforting.

    That little bit of comfort was all I needed…and the words just poured.

    “…The…the reason I’m here, is because the Legion’s gone. I’ve been doing nothing but living out in the woods for the past four months, going through hell and back, and lying to this Council all so I could try and bring them down…”

    Lie…Truth…Half-truth…Truth…Truth. My mind strung through the words as a thread through the eye of a series of needles, trying to shift everything I was doing from one thing, to the other.

    Sure, I had been trying for much of that year to bring the kidnapping, child-murdering Legionnaires to justice. I’d gotten far too involved, falling into it myself, becoming a part of what I’d sought to eradicate. Elaborate, sure…but the lengths I’d had to go to, just to get the leader of the Legionnaires to have some faith in me and let me on the inside, were what I seemed to be dealing with right there and then.

    It wasn’t enough that I told the Legion’s leader, Volcatius, that I was one of them. I had to show it. Since I’m not actually a terrorist, the only way I could think of was to convince others that I was a threat. Visibly cut the ties, and then with hope my credibility would skyrocket with the Legion.

    It didn’t.

    Instead, I was left alone, hung out to dry in the middle of the woods, hiding from everybody I’d known as allies, and in wait for something, ANYTHING that could have put an end to the eternity of waiting.

    It dawned on me, that maybe what was happening right before me, was my chance to put a stop to all the hiding...all the skulking and vanishing acts. Even if the Legionnaires were still active somewhere in the world, I just didn’t care…I wanted to return, to come back to the place where things made sense.

    The last thing I expected to feel, there in that room, my mind motoring at a hundred miles a second, was comfort. A chance to set things at least partially right…and if that meant I needed to rot away in some jail cell, at least I’d have a roof over my head to rot away in.

    I missed that.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  2. #22
    The four men standing in front of me didn’t seem to know how to react…probably having never considered the possibility that all I’d said and done over the past months had been a ruse.

    “I…I didn’t think you’d believe me. Not sure why I bothered…” I just trailed off, my voice a little shaky still…

    “And while...words are not...entirely will understand when...I say that we, as...a whole...cannot take them...on their own.” Aideen’s voice seemed more gentle then…still gruff and weathered with age, but without a hint of the scathing tone he’d had before.

    Chrisax, having listened carefully to every word, just nodded in agreement, stepping a little closer to me.

    “What Aideen means, is that we need more evidence.”

    I hated that word…Why did everything need evidence? Can’t some people just be believed..? At the mere mention of the word ‘evidence’, there is ill thought of the entire human capability to lie…never mind the fact that I’d just lied, myself.

    I didn’t have evidence though…all the toiling, struggling, and suffering I’d endured was more or less for nothing. My word was all I had, and unfortunately my word was worth less than air I’d used to say it.

    Some months before, I’d had evidence…a disc. I don’t really want to think about the measures I was forced to take to get that disc in my possession…but it doesn’t really matter as it is. A friend of mine, and sister to Dr. Burke, Cylie was forced by the Omni-Tek Board of Directors into getting me trapped inside the Reet Retreat fireplace room while Unicorn Troops barged in. They flooded the room, guns loaded and leveled at my face…and they wanted that disc back. What could I do, but give it to them..?

    It wasn’t enough that I’d given them the disc though, but that I was dragged outside, put up against a wall, and more or less faced a firing squad. The bullets they used were coated in some sort of nano-nullification enamel, to add even further injury. The instant I’d revived at one of the reclaim terminals in Old Athen, I’d just…collapsed. The bullets had stayed trapped inside my arms, the enamel-coated bullets keeping the wounds from closing. I’m just extremely lucky the shot to my forehead actually went the whole way through…

    It still pained me, all I’d gone through to get that flimsy piece of plastic, all to see how far it’s gotten me, which is to say, nowhere.

    “If….if you want more evidence, then I…don’t have any.” I had trouble getting the words out…knowing what evidence typically means to people, and what the lack thereof suggests.

    A collective mutter filled the otherwise silent room…coats rustling and fabric stretching around their arms as one by one, they showed their discontent. I, on the other hand, thought I could feel my heart start to shrivel and weaken…wondering what they could possibly say to that, other than immediate jail time.

    “Then you are…either a fool…or a liar…and neither are something…to which I can abide…” Aideen’s voice sounded even more grave, and stricken with both indecision and disgust. I could see it all over him…I could even smell it.

    It wasn’t a jail sentence though…and that was enough room for me to breathe, enough for me to speak again, maybe to salvage myself…

    “Everybody’s…a little bit of both, aren’t they? I…I can’t keep up this charade; I just *can’t*. Physically, mentally…” I just heaved a sigh. “…It’d be better rotting in a prison than what I’ve been going through.” I could hardly believe what I’d just said…even though I knew it was how I felt.

    All the time spent outdoors, away from most all human contact, had taken so much out of me…I was so tired, I was so sick of being cold, being without any sort of human comfort…

    Aideen just glared at me…but seemed to lighten a little, if only because of the expression he must’ve seen carved into my face. Just looking, he might have been able to glean just an inkling of the loneliness and tiredness that weighed so heavily on me. Turning to the others in the room, Jacobi and Solis, Aideen spoke again.

    “Your judgment…in this matter? Sir Solis…and Alan…” His voice seemed calmer…and if not bereft of anger or disgust, it seemed almost…merciful.

    “Everybody deserves a second chance, if they can prove themselves.” Solis was a man of few words…it had been the only time he’d said a word the entire time he was there, and yet with those few words, he didn’t really need to say anything further to show how he felt.

    Jacobi, on the other hand, wasn’t as ready to give me another chance.

    “It seems he’s spent the last few months doing…nothing? Or, at least as far as ‘evidence’ goes..” I could tell from the tone of his voice how he could barely believe me…That’s the kind of thing I’d have expected a man like Jacobi to say, anyway.

    Chrisax, silent all this time, must’ve felt the need to say something, maybe also taking note of the distraught, tired look of my face.

    “I’m your friend Nulion, or…I was. I…don’t know…so I’m ready to believe you. I’d like to believe that…so…I need to see that you can demonstrate you’re a real Clansman.” Chrisax still sounded…I don’t know. Like he was in a bit of disbelief? He didn’t seem to know what to think, his eyes still wandering over my tattered body.

    “Then the verdict…seems to have fallen…on the burden of…proof.” Aideen’s gravelly, tired voice ached so badly to say what was needed. Too bad that what was needed, was something I had no ability to give.
    Last edited by Nulion; Mar 20th, 2007 at 18:17:10.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  3. #23
    The conversation was slightly interrupted, although I barely even noticed, by another man’s footsteps echoing in the Council chamber. I didn’t look at his face…or at his clothing…I could only stare at the floor, his scent invading my nostrils. It was Xeavier Humbold, of the bureaucratic Clan, New Dawn. “Ugh…why isn’t he *dead* yet?” I could almost taste the venom on his tongue…something very atypical of a man like Humbold.

    I couldn’t look up though…I felt so defeated and outnumbered on all fronts, regardless of what those men said to me. Each one of them added an extra member of the jury, the odds stacked so enormously against me that a normal man would just fall to his knees and weep. I don’t mean to make myself sound like more than I am, but I’m not exactly a normal man, am I?

    “…proof…proof…How do I get proof…I can’t get it, I…I can’t. He never let me close, never…never gave me a chance…” I could do nothing but mutter quietly, almost talking to myself. I know the thought was still sounding loud and clear, that no matter what I actually did to cover my own ass, I would still lose out in the end. Unless, by some incredible miracle, Dr. Burke got back from Omni-Prime before....well….even now, I hate thinking about what could happen in that case.

    “You know Nulion…You shouldn’t be as worried as you are. If this were Omni-Tek, you’d be dead by now, and we’d be happy we could save a few credits not having to have you on the payroll..” Chrisax stepped closer to me, and although I couldn’t see his expression with that helmet in the way, I surely could smell it. And of all the people in that room, he was the only one who smelled concerned.

    Still sounds weird to me, saying that he ‘smelled’ concerned…But then, I know the fact just helped me regain at least the tiniest sliver of confidence.

    “The fact that you…are still standing…is a testament,” Aideen spoke up again…It was so strange that he, who had so much trouble speaking, was the one who spoke the most. It spoke a lot for the man’s character…one of the reasons I respected him. “Perhaps, Alan…” Aideen glanced towards Jacobi, voice as slow and cautious as ever. “…a holding cell? I would feel…irresponsible, if we were…to allow this individual…to remain free.”

    I’d been expecting that all along…but even so, it’s an entirely different feeling for it to actually be spoken, to be confirmed and to be set in stone. And then, the things that would follow…The fact that I would still be without my antigen.

    What could I do, though? What could I say? Running and hiding is the hallmark of a guilty man. I know inside that all I had been doing to deceive the Council was supposed to be for the greater good…I know full well it was a ruse, and that I’d never done much more than *appear* to be a criminal. That’s why I never ran…and why I never lashed out for fear of being judged. Having your heart and mind in the right place can hold you steady even in the most desperate of situations.

    Hanging heavy with images of being held in a jail cell for who knows how long, I just didn’t really care when yet another familiar scent, attached to a familiar face, stepped along into the room. Hayden Okoli, of Terra Firma…

    “I’m sure I’ve seen this face along with talk of credit rewards…” Okoli just glanced at me, adjusting his tie and giving me an amused smirk. “Would someone explain to me what is going on here?” He, just like the others crowding the room and staring at me, didn’t sound in the least bit pleased.

    “Well…we spotted Nulion here, and he’s been explaining to us that things aren’t exactly what they seemed to b-“ Chrisax was cut off, Aideen chiming up in that gruff voice of his.

    “But he has yet…to offer proof that he…is not a mortal…enemy.” There’s that word again…’proof’.

    “Out of several months, you’d think he’d have something, wouldn’t he? Anything at all?” Jacobi crossed his arms…the scent wafting from his slender Opifex body and his imported cigar mingled with that muffled, stifled scent I could perceive as doubt. I’m not exactly sure if he noticed me sniffing a bit in his direction, though.

    “A few months ago, I had a disc…no idea what was on it, but…it was taken away by the Unicorn Company. That’s all I ever had…..” Not that telling them of my experiences with those Omni-Prime freaks would do me any good. My voice trailed off almost into a mutter, getting that feeling that no matter what I said, it simply didn’t matter without something physical I could show.

    “I personally find it…hard to believe that one…with your talents and…intellect…would undertake such…a plan without a form…of exit strategy.” Aideen was mostly mistaken, but it was the last thing he said that rang so true. I didn’t have many talents and I know I wasn’t all that smart a man, but I should have had an exit strategy. I should’ve had a way out, before I’d started this whole gung-ho ‘Join ‘em to beat ‘em’ plan of mine…I should have realized how easily plans can backfire.

    “People…do the craziest things when they’re pushed, Aideen. And I was pushed.” I just looked at him, letting him know the true reason I did the things I did…

    Joining the Legionnaires was not exactly for anybody else but myself. It was selfish, and stupid…and at my very center, those are the things that could best describe me. After their leader, the ‘high and mighty’ Imperator seemed to haunt me and my footsteps, coming around me no matter where I went or what I did, I honestly became afraid. The man seemed so capable of killing me…I didn’t know what to do, or where to turn. The Council surely couldn’t help me, they were all too wrapped up in their own affairs to do anything…Omni-Tek wouldn’t share any morsel of information they had found, and there was nothing to be done anywhere else.

    Joining them was the last thing I could possibly do, to end it all…to finally get some peace and stability in my life. It was an act of desperation…and it exploded in my face.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  4. #24
    The room stood almost perfectly still for a few moments, not a word spoken…a kind of deafening silence, that made me more and more nervous with each second that ticked by. The men in the room almost seemed to be quietly delegating amongst one another, their faces and scents shifting from mood to mood, opinion to opinion. One moment, I could see the guilty verdict, the next moment I could see those willing to give me another chance…and I could barely stand the tension.

    “I offer…this suggestion.” Aideen spoke up after giving slight nods to several of the other men in the room. The tension created by the nothingness was quickly dashed aside, my stomach able to loosen up for a few precious moments. “As stated previously…the burden of proof falls…upon you. We have no…course of action available…to us, other than your…untimely death. And at this point…that would be fruitless…I believe. You have until…the next meeting within…these halls. Gather your proof. Present it…to us. And then judgment…will be passed.”

    About the only thing I could do, was the same thing I’d been doing the entire time. Standing still, listening to and studying each word that came from each mouth in the room…

    I should’ve been overjoyed. I should’ve been thanking the powers that be, that I was given the chance to redeem myself, a chance seldom given to those in my position…but I wasn’t.

    I should have been thankful, that I was granted an extra month so that Dr. Burke could come back here with the medicine I so badly needed…but the fact that she was still so far away, and I was entirely dry of the medicine, was what bothered me. As soon as the immediate threat of jail time had lifted, there was the other threat of losing myself completely.

    If that happened, what was the point of having a second chance?

    “Gather your proof. Present it…to us. And then your judgment…will be passed. You have fallen deep…into this pit, Nulion. But for what…it is worth…I hope you have the ability…to crawl your way…home.”

    So did I.

    “Go. And be…swift.”

    So I did.

    It’s defeating in a way, to just walk out of a place like that, with so many eyes following. I could feel them, all of them, staring at me as I stepped towards the door, the lock clicking, door gliding open.

    More than the feeling of their eyes, was the feeling that it genuinely was the time to stop my charade…to return to normalcy.

    I just wanted to go home., even if it was only superficially so.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  5. #25
    …one week later…

    It had been a full week since they found me in Truth Tower…a full week since I resigned myself to living back in my apartment in sunny, sky-borne Jobe...It had been a full week since I’d last had my medication, and apparently, that’s all it takes.

    First came the headaches, and then came that deep sickness that oozed through every inch of my body. I spent so long just laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, the edges of my field of vision starting to bleed into nothing, parts of the ceiling itself seeming to spin, rotating in a strange, physically-defiant ballet of nausea.

    I forget how many times I threw up…

    My body churned, my head hurting so badly, as if the very things I’d come to know that made me who I was, were being forcibly wrenched from out of my cerebrum, as a wet rag twisted and knotted until it was dry. Things that had always made the most sense to me, things I had always known to be firm truths, were starting to feel…wrong.

    Why should I bathe? Why do I sleep on a bed, anyway? What’s the point of wearing those tattered rags at all times? It felt better without them, anyway…

    Watching the holovision I kept in my bedroom, keeping a close eye on the news as I always did, I’d started to have trouble understanding the words coming from the reporter’s mouth…they sounded foreign.

    Each day of that week, I felt myself slide…Each day of that week, I found something new, and something lost.

    Pulling off the ravaged husk of my body armor one day, I sat down at the foot of my bed and stared in a kind of sedated awe at the scales growing over my taut stomach. Where once there was grey skin, a new and strangely beautiful pattern of scutes had formed, tannish-green plates of reptilian chitin that had no rightful place being on the stomach of an Opifex man.

    I rubbed at them in slow, disbelieving circles, marveling at their strangely soft firmness, as if they were a kind of armor. It even felt strange, the nerve endings inside reacting differently to touch than those of the skin I’d once had there. It’s hard to describe, but mesmerizing enough that I could have spent hours exploring it.

    They were so smooth, armor that melded into still-grey skin along the sides of my abdomen. I’d trace a claw along the edge of each chitinous plate, fascinated in even the tiniest details of my new self. The scutes followed their way down my body, tapering off around my inner thighs, giving an odd new feeling just to the sensation of walking. It’s odd, but it felt like I was wearing armor even while unclothed.

    Why did I feel that kind of fascination..? I should have been horrified, really…My body was definitely not the one I’d been born with, things that are considered staples of the human form, like the small but so common belly button on my stomach simply gone now, covered over by the scutes of my new self.

    An unnatural strength seemed to pervade my muscles, and a burning sensation accompanying it. I knew it was the nanophages in my bloodstream, and in each of my cells, speeding the changes along at what was now a brisk, uninterrupted pace. There was nothing stopping them, and there was not a single thing I could do about it.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  6. #26
    I lay there on my bed, on my side…My nostrils flared at the tiniest whiff of scents pouring out through the ventilation shaft near my bed, tiny pieces of the activity on the floors above me floating and wafting about. I could smell a roast someone, somewhere was preparing. Another person was showering, and the light, frothy aroma of that person’s body wash was as clear as the light of day to me.

    I didn’t think much of it though, sitting up not at the thought of taking the bath I so badly needed, but at the thought of food. Oh god, did I need it so badly…

    Food, as it felt to me then, was the only thing I’d ever need…My stomach churned, growling almost as deeply as I sometimes could, when angered or upset. It was this wild, powerful hunger that thrashed and *needed* to be sated as soon as was possible…nothing else mattered until then.

    Shambling over towards the refrigerator outside my room in the adjacent kitchen, I tore the door open, almost in a kind of daze…For several moments, I didn’t even realize why I looked there. Food was meat, and meat was found on something still living, ripe with warm blood. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to me then, seeing the near-emptiness of my fridge, considering I’d cleaned it out over that past week.

    As the hunger pangs worsened, my slightly lengthened claws dug into the hard plastic of the fridge handle, my other hand clutching at my stomach, knees wobbly and giving way…I slid down onto my knees, lying on the floor in a huddled mess.

    At the time, I know there were only two things on my mind…and I knew that one of them would lose out. Part of me wanted to leave the house, and EAT…it didn’t matter what I found, either. The other part, was screaming, thrashing around and straining to stay the loudest one, raging against the dying of the light, as it were.

    Maybe humans think too much of themselves when they say that they are the light; they certainly aren’t angelic. They look around at the cruel, brutal and natural world around them, seeing their capacity to think and act differently as divine. Where one creature would kill for the chance to eat, humans find God in the charity they do for others, providing food to those who cannot get it for themselves, those who would surely die if human beings were ‘just’ another kind of animal. It's a selflessness that does not exist elsewhere, and it leads to arrogance. Sentience is arrogance, isn’t it? That little part of me, the part that wanted so badly to hold on, to keep in charge, was scared of losing its place. It didn’t know how to handle being shoved in a corner, forced to obey a creature entirely foreign and without one quality of enlightenment that marked a sentient being.

    Even if humans aren’t the light…even if they truly are not angelic as they think they are, they still have that subconscious need to rise above the banal existence of everything else tied so inextricably to the natural world, and prove themselves endlessly, over and over, that they are different. Call it a species’ ego.

    What happens when you crush an ego? Where does it go? Does it weep in the corner of the mind, and become oblivious to everything else, as if to pretend it had no responsibility in the first place? That’s how it was starting to feel for me…as if the species ego were fighting a losing battle, and that it was just on the verge of giving up. Once it gave up, it would limp away, and shrink in the corner, in the bowels of some lump of neurons somewhere.

    I guess I sound too Freudian sometimes, too. The man may have been dead for so many thousands of years, at least from what the history records say, but his ideas still find so much relevance today. Those ideas, those ancient, immortal concepts have still found relevance within me. And it is exactly that kind of concept that, at the time, I was just not caring about. It was that kind of ‘human divinity’ that I was losing grasp of…replaced only by the hunger for food and sex, as little as I like admitting that.

    I lay there on the floor of the kitchen, staring at the cold flooring. The frigid tiling pulled the heat, the very strength out from every piece of flesh it came into contact with…especially those places on my arms that had begun developing those damned scales.

    My arms weren’t spared of course, and neither were my legs, my feet, or my back. They weren’t everywhere, and were only in small patches, but they were still there. The most amazing thing though, was that my face was spared…and as long as I kept everything else covered, I could still pass as a normal man.

    At that rate though, stomach snarling in near-desperate hunger, how long could I possibly keep up that sort of image?
    Last edited by Nulion; Mar 30th, 2007 at 17:42:45.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  7. #27
    I needed help…I’m not afraid to admit that, and I’m not so proud of myself that the mere thought of reaching for someone’s support threatens my self-image.

    There were things I could do on my own of course, things that I’d never in a lifetime think of asking someone to help me with…but this wasn’t one of them. I simply could not cope with what was happening to me, at least not alone.

    The thought occurred to me though, of who would ever want to spend time helping something like me? I couldn’t picture anybody with enough patience to sit in my disheveled apartment, reminding me of the simple things that no human being over the age of two should ever need to be reminded of.

    I wouldn’t expect someone to help me in that sort of way, nor would I want that sort of help. It’s humiliating, it’s dehumanizing, and the chances of it scarring me were too high to even consider it. I still needed something, though, to remind me of what I really am.

    There was a good source of help, fortunately…And it was all strapped to my forearm. Several years ago, when I first came to this miserable little planet, I was issued a comm unit. They come in all sorts of flavors these days of course, from the kind you can stuff in your pocket, to the kind that fit inside a wristwatch, to the other kinds that are implanted directly behind the ear canal, and are accessed via NCU. I’d always liked the physicality and the sensation of touch I could get with a physical unit, and so I’d opted for the kind that fits onto my arm with comfortable straps holding it in place.

    The best thing about a communications unit, is that it does exactly what it says; communicate. The best place to do it, that I’ve seen, is a small neutral-run node called Nrpb. There’s all sorts of people that come and go, all sorts of people going in and out. I’ve met some very strange…and very good people, by using that node. It caters just as equally to the scum of society though, and so that is the price I pay.

    The good people though, the ones who’d come to know me so well over the time I’d been frequenting the node, would be the ones most likely to give me a hand whenever I’d need it.

    Staring down at the unit strapped to my wrist, it only took a few precious taps to get me in, letting me get what I needed…

    My voice must’ve startled the people connected to the node, sounding so harsh and gravelly. My throat and tongue felt so wrong, and it didn’t help any that I strained just to get the words to form, to sound coherent and like I was still myself in full. It had been awhile since I’d really said much of anything to anyone, even if there was nobody physically standing in front of me…and it showed.

    Have you ever heard the stereotypical caveman speak? That is broken English, a language without contractions and conjugation, without flow and tact…It’s the opposite of articulation, a chunky mess of sentences and thought that only barely resemble the language it tries to imitate. From the point of view of an articulate man, that kind of language denotes stupidity. I was forgetting words though…forced into broken English, my sentences were stopped and broken as I struggled to wrestle the words from out of my animalizing brain.

    I told them how much I needed something to eat…and how afraid I was to go outside. It didn’t occur to me how much I was hissing, and growling from just trying to speak, and the inhuman qualities to my voice must’ve made me even harder to understand.

    The last thing I needed at the moment, was Tipha…I wanted food, not a bickering fight, or to be further put down and made to feel even less like a real person. That, honestly, was Tipha’s specialty…and she happened to be hooked right into the node while I was talking.

    I don’t entirely get her, in all honesty. She used to work with Omni-AF, at least before all of the mess with the Legionnaires, during which she’d fell into their favor. From what I remember, she traded her service for the return of the kids that the Legionnaires had kidnapped at the beginning of that year. When the kids were back safe and sound, she became completely lost in her new role as a terrorist. For some time I even worked with her, though it was only a sting operation of sorts…for her though, it was for real.

    Not long before then, I’d confessed to her that I couldn’t go any further, that I just couldn’t keep up working with her. I never once said that it was because I was a spy, but rather what I did tell her was also true. I was tired, I was ragged, and I could barely function anymore. Between the drugs I was forced to take, living on the fringe of civilization, and my ‘duties’ as a terrorist, something had to give. She seemed to take well to it…at first.

    By the time I was lying there on that cold floor, trying to get some food of any sort, Tipha had developed a sharp tongue of her own. She saw something entirely different in my condition, something that she could take advantage of, to her own ends…she saw power.

    Where once I was a physically weak Opifex, scrawny and only good for pulling a trigger, she saw now how empowered I could be by what was happening. It was true, I guess…I felt so much stronger than I used to, like I was capable of so much more. The both of us knew that as my condition intensified…those parts of me would only be enhanced. The thing is, what would happen to my mind in the process? She didn’t care. Bit by bit, neither did I.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  8. #28
    I don’t know how long I waited…It could have been a few minutes, it could have been a few eternities…though of course, it couldn’t have actually been that long. Any sort of stress can play the strangest tricks on the mind, even bending our perception of time.

    I know that’s what relativity is, and I know that we’re all subject to it. It makes me wonder though, now that I think about it, if time is just a tune we’re all dancing to. Sometimes the music just seems so much slower, when the beat of the heart rests. Sometimes it’s a paradoxical half-opposite, when the heart *quickens*, time grinds to a painful near-halt.

    The icy floor that held me and wouldn’t let go, was physically slowing my heart…with each calorie of heat drained from my skin, everything seemed to take multiple times longer. Even staring up at a clock seemed to confirm the feeling of stretched time to me, something you’d expect to have the opposite effect. Ever sit and watch a clock, counting off the seconds until 8:41 became 8:42? It takes so much longer than a minute.

    Forever was cut awfully short though, as I heard the soft, inviting tone of my doorbell ringing.

    Claws ticked against the stiff flooring, and I pulled myself onto unsteady feet, dragging myself foot by foot towards the door. Those muscles, although feeling so strong, felt so uncertain. They didn’t feel like they knew which way to contract, which way to release…as if they expected to move another way, in another configuration that the bones they were attached to just haven’t figured out yet.

    A holoscreen fixed beside my door flickered to life at the tone of the bell, the image of a young opifex woman projected before my eyes, her thin finger just drawing itself towards my doorbell again. In her other arm though, she held a plastic bag that was filled with…something.

    I recognized her face though, young and bright as it usually was. It was Ashleigh, a girl who just scant weeks before that moment, I had first met. She was a strange one though, as if I had any right to say such a thing. Despite her issues, she’s a good person, and one of the people that, at the moment, I did want to see.

    I pressed my hand up against the plate beside my door, the mechanism sliding both halves of my door to the side, Ashleigh’s face lighting up at the sight. I could almost instantly see that same light fade though, as she stared in shock at my half-clothed body. I was, after all, only clothed from the waist down...and it’s not as if I had a normal-looking body.

    I stayed hunched over, supporting my weight against the door frame, looking up at her, just not as happy as I should have been to see a familiar face. I had to have looked almost like a starved animal, nose tensed and trying to get as much of what I could smell from that bag of hers into my nose. I practically drank the scent in, reaching a hand towards the bag, nearly gasping the words out…

    “g….give it to me….”

    Oh god, how I wanted it…I wanted what was in that bag more than anything, and it didn’t matter what it actually was, if it was at least edible. The thought occurred to me, standing there and staring at her, that she wanted it for herself. That she wouldn’t give it to me, and would take it away with her…I couldn’t let that happen.

    Ashleigh stood almost paralyzed, not having really realized how far it had gone…and how much of me was already lost. She looked at me, her eyes showing the same kind of primal fear as a child would if locked into a cage with a snarling animal.

    Maybe she saw what I was thinking, remembering from how many documentaries she must’ve watched, how beasts treat their food, and how they treat those who stand in the way. She didn’t waste any time in holding the bag out to me, the crinkling of the plastic the only sound echoing through the brightly lit hallway.

    It’s amazing to me, that even though she was afraid, she was able to keep her composure and not just drop everything and run away from me. When I think back to it now, I think she had remembered the way I was without all of this bearing down. It’s the only explanation I can think of, and I’m still grateful for it. Makes me glad to be the person I am, to think that someone in such a situation would remember the real me, and think that worth remembering.

    Her hand tensely reached out towards me, the bag crinkling and swishing as its contents swayed from side to side. There was such a heavenly scent coming from out of that bag, rising and swirling around my nostrils…it was a steak, and some sort of vegetables or something. Not that I cared for the vegetables, but almost immediately, all I could possibly think about was that steak…

    I craved it as a drowning person would crave air…

    Ashleigh stepped a little closer, despite what her better judgment must’ve told her. I could see it in her eyes, and it was etched into the very air around her by that scent…the same as any creature really, when it was afraid. But why didn’t she physically SHOW it? If I’d been thinking more clearly, I’d have known.

    She very cautiously slipped a backpack from her shoulders that I hadn’t noticed before, arousing my attention once again, in interest at whatever could have been inside that dusty old thing. She set it on the floor, the sound of glass clunking against the carpeted hallway floor, dulled by the sound of sloshing liquid inside. Apparently, she thought it’d be nice to bring a drink of some sort, too.

    “Thought I’d…pick up some other rations and some sake for you, too.” She pushed the backpack closer to me with a foot, pulling the foot away and leaving the backpack for me to take. I didn’t waste any time, grabbing the thing with my free hand, claws easily tearing through the material, effortlessly letting me see what was inside.

    I loved sake, rice wine, and I loved the kinds of rations she’d gotten. There was this company that imported rations for Sentinel troops, and the rations were also made available for Clansmen to buy if you’d stop by one of the Sentinel supply depots situated in Tir. I’m not sure exactly how Silverstone, or one of Silverstone’s men, managed to arrange such a deal with an off-world supplier, nor am I sure how he managed to find a kind of emergency ration that tasted so good. I wasn’t about to complain, that’s for sure.

    It didn’t really make much of a difference though…even if I knew down inside that I loved those rations, and that wine, at the moment I only cared because it was edible, and because it was mine.

    Not only that, but I was so wrapped up in my newfound food that I didn’t even bother to notice another scent that drew closer and closer…
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  9. #29
    I set the bag with the steak on the floor, hunching down and slumping on hands and knees to pry inside the backpack, the ripping and shredding of fabric about the only sound in the hallway for several moments.

    “And…what do we say, as civilized people?” Ashleigh tried to smile as best as she could, watching me enjoy the things she’d brought me.

    Any other time, I’d have known exactly what to say; I pride myself in being a polite person. Any kind deed done should be followed by a “Thank you” at the very least. Those kinds of manners simply didn’t exist anymore for me…Why should I thank someone who could have taken away my meal? What did it even mean to thank someone in the first place?

    I just stayed silent, staring up at her from behind the wispy veil of my unkempt hair. Despite me even forgetting the universal “Thank you”, her smile never faded.

    It was right at that moment, that I realized there was another scent in the room…and it nearly snapped me out of whatever trance I’d fallen into from all that food at my knees. No sooner than I had noticed the scent, that pungent and fragrant perfume she’d kept on, Tipha walked into view from down the hallway, a smile crossing her face.

    “Good god, look at yourself…You DO deserve a leash, like some rabid dog.” She wasted no time, seeing how I looked, having watched how I acted the whole time with the food Ashleigh had brought me. It might’ve been easy for others, if they were there, to agree with her.

    “You shouldn’t say such things…!” Ashleigh was a little surprised, her head swiveling to take view of the ‘notorious’ Legionnaire woman that had joined us. Despite the attention afforded to her, Tipha shrugged it off, stepping past Ashleigh and directly towards me, a cunning smile slipping across her face.

    “All this power, and look what you do with it…Guard food, growl, and park your ass in some corner to show your teeth…” She glared right into my eyes, putting emphasis on each word that came from her mouth, as if to drive it even further into my skull that she was the only one in this hall who saw what was actually going on.

    “w…hat….do you….want..??” I could hardly form the words, my ability to remember which word went in front of which so painfully decayed. Even then though, I didn’t want to make her any more right than she was…and just hide right in the corner against the door, with my precious food, baring my teeth at her for no other reason than to keep that food in my possession.

    “I came to see you, you know. We *are* friends, aren’t we, Nulion?” Tipha’s voice changed from that drilling, condescending tone to a more light and friendly one…though it was so obvious how thinly she meant it.

    Ashleigh, being the caring kind of girl she was at heart, just wouldn’t take it though. She kept trying to chime up in between Tipha’s words, trying to keep me from feeling too comfortable with anything she said. Normally, I’d have known Tipha was just being manipulative, as she so often was.

    “Who are you, again? Certainly not someone who knows what she’s talking about.” Tipha shot Ashleigh a glance that could’ve made a heckler uncomfortable, vivisecting her consciousness with those eyes of hers…

    “I…I’m…I am…” Ashleigh was a timid girl, most of the time, and a person like Tipha only magnifies that trepidation within. On the surface, she was just a friendly, albeit shy, girl who had this…this near-obsession with chocolate. I know most women have some degree of obsession with it, but then again most women eat things *other* than chocolate. It’s amazing she kept the figure she did, considering. The other part of her, the part that didn’t even make an attempt to show itself, was the dark part that kept me on edge whenever it appeared.

    It’s trite to say that a person has both a light and a dark half, and it’s the basis for so many stories, poems, songs, movies, you name it. For some people, having a darker part within is a fact of life that must be dealt with in the same way we all deal with having to shower to avoid smelling like week-old clams. Ashleigh, on occasion, sheds that bubbly and chocolate-loving surface to reveal a…a very cold, very knowing and dare I say it, sinister version of herself that wouldn’t be out of place on a field of war. She may be a friend, but then again, she’s quite the oddity…and it gives me reason to keep on my toes.

    “Run along, before I feed you to this beast…I’m sure he’d *love* it.” Tipha grinned at her own words, perhaps amused at herself.

    One of the many moments of my life that I’ve come to regret, began right around then. Tipha was winning her little ‘war of the mind’, getting me to think exactly as she’d hoped to. I stared at Ashleigh at that moment, the thought dawning upon me that I might have an even better way to get a meal…

    “My name is Ashleigh, and you’ve got no authority to…to be ordering me about!” Ashleigh stammered in a brief moment of courage, snapping her fists at her sides, her movements following what is expected of a woman trying to gain control of her situation.

    I didn’t really pay attention to what she said, though. The fact that she was not only standing up for herself, but for me as well, bounced from my attention and disappeared as if it had never happened. I only stared, that hunger thrashing around in my stomach the only thing I could perceive, the only thing I cared about…and she was looking awfully appetizing. My throat tensed, lips dry, arms, legs, feet and hands all tensed…I tensely licked my lips, which quickly caught Ashleigh’s attention, and dashed away whatever courage she’d managed to scrounge together to fend off Tipha.

    “What’s that, Nulion? Does she look good, hm?” Tipha’s voice sounded so…satisfied. She had me right where she wanted me, the strings pulled to dance me along at her accord.

    I’m fortunate, for my sake and for Ashleigh’s sake, that there was some semblance of humanity that still flittered around inside me. The parts that remained knew why a sweet girl like Ashleigh should never be reduced to nothing but a source of food, simply because a predator’s instinct is sated more by the fading of a heartbeat than it is by a restaurant-prepared meal.

    “s….sss…ssshut up…” I didn’t want to hurt Ashleigh…The thing I was becoming did, but I didn’t. It may have only been true in the tiniest of ways, but I was still in control, and I wasn’t going away so easily. I couldn’t talk right, I couldn’t think straight, I felt a nigh-irresistible urge to tear into Ashleigh as I would a flank steak, but I didn’t move…

    “Think about it, Nulion…What would you do if Freyda were here right now? Would you just back into that corner and show your teeth, hm?” Tipha insisted on drumming it in further…drawing on and counting upon all the anger I had for that woman locked inside, wanting to use it to further her ends…

    Freyda truly was the worst human being I knew. A crazed, delusional and vendetta-driven shade with a taste for the masochistic, she’d fixated herself on me not too long before then, because she thought I was being hypocritical. I can’t remember what the actual fuss was over, but surely it wasn’t worth what she ended up doing…The woman would seep through the air unseen, leaving dagger scars in her wake. One of them detached my ear from my head, leaving me in a bloodied, huddled mess.

    It’s a strange thing though, that Tipha was the one to actually get rid of her for me. She’d helped by actually facing Freyda, and putting her down…but then at the same time, Tipha can be so manipulative and cruel, even to those she’d helped before. She was getting me angrier…and a person, when angered, is so easy to manipulate.

    “Go on, back into your apartment! Show that you’re a coward! Yet, you aren’t doing anything like that, are you? That’s it Nulion, control yourself…don’t BE controlled.” Her voice tugged at me, pulled me along as a leash would, holding me in place, exactly where she wanted me to be…

    Ashleigh, at this point, was up against the wall on the other side of the hall, staring at me in plainly visible fear. I think that, at the time, she saw me starting to really listen to Tipha, to think that she was making some sort of sense. It…just made so much sense to me, there and then…

    What held me back from thinking otherwise?
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  10. #30
    I stared at Ashleigh, watching her tremble…The scent of her sweat and fear wafted from her, each minute change in what she was thinking chemically open to me as was a book. There was something about her though…a scent I remembered so well, that served as a desperately-needed reminder. I could smell chocolate drifting from her…It was all I needed. Who said that chocolate can’t save a life? It certainly saved one right then…

    “sshe’ss….not…..Frreyda…” The chocolate helped me think, even though it didn’t stop me from glaring at Ashleigh more like a piece of meat, and less like the innocent girl she actually was.

    “That may be true, but this *girl* is not who she seems anyway! Don’t let them leash you, Nulion…” Tipha pressed on…twisting the situation, making it feel so much as if it were Ashleigh, and that dark side of her that she harbored within, that were ready to take me, and hold me bound to the floor, to force me to submit.

    But then…it didn’t even seem like it was just Ashleigh that Tipha was referring to. The whole world that I had been living in had been keeping me leashed up, tied to the rules of morality and sensibility that had governed my thoughts, feelings, and actions since the day I was born. It was as if Tipha offered a way out of it all, and a place where nothing truly did matter.

    I liked the idea.

    Tipha stepped over towards Ashleigh, smiling at me as she wrapped a gloved hand around her trembling shoulder, the fabric of her glove clenching tight. The other hand gently brushed Ashleigh’s hair to the side, the wisps that hung of her scalp jittering back and forth out of fear.

    There was a soft glow, though…a very faint, familiar kind of light, pulsing through what little was exposed of Tipha’s arm, soft rays of pale blue poking through the myriad of tiny holes in the stitching of her well-crafted alien-tech armor. A kind of wispy smoke rose from her fingers as for a quick pulse, the light brightened, flowing and emptying out from Tipha’s arm, and directly into Ashleigh’s frightened body….and from that point, she didn’t move. She was paralyzed.

    “Oh look, she can’t move now….You’ll never get a better chance, you know? Would you strike down this innocent, hm?” Tipha smiled, pulling the dangling wisps of Ashleigh’s dark hair back behind her ear as she shot that grin towards me.

    “Why….did….you…?” I struggled to push the words into being, to do the one thing no animal ever wants to do…to understand. I wanted to understand why she was doing this, I wanted to understand what she, or anybody else, had to gain from trying to create some kind of monster. Tipha knew how fragile my entire concept of ‘understanding’ actually was, though…she knew how little it actually meant, given the grand scheme of things.

    “Come a little closer, Nulion…”

    I did as I was told, stepping closer, my boots sliding across the floor towards the poor, incapacitated girl, my boots having accidentally knocked over the bottle of sake at my feet in the process.

    “Easy though…not too close, eh? Would you do it?”

    I doubt she actually wanted me to stop, or slow down…she wanted me to go the whole way. It still wasn’t what I wanted, though…The last thing I’d ever wanted, and the thing I’d been most afraid of, as all this was happening to me, was that I might hurt someone who didn’t deserve it. I was so close to making that a reality, each muscle in my taut and tense body ready to do what instinct dictated, with only that small piece of me left in stout rebellion. It was just enough to make me stop.

    “I….don’t want…to…do it…” The words were barely even audible, my voice as guttural as it could be and yet still be vaguely recognizable. It made no sense whatsoever, that I was still able to hold out…that I still, at the very core, just couldn’t hurt her.

    I don’t know if Tipha ever did see it…a kind of strength inside that she hadn’t expected. She knew what I was capable of physically, yes…but not mentally. There is a part of us inside, a kind of mental black box if you will, that cannot be damaged or unwritten. It stays there, looping back to us and reminding us that which is most important…The kind of information that, without it, we would not have any way to check back on and figure out how we want ourselves to be, and how we want ourselves to stay.

    Despite knowing what I truly wanted, and what I truly wanted to avoid, there just wasn’t enough strength left in me to do anything but stumble backwards against the wall beside my apartment door, tears rolling down my face.

    “…d….don’t DO thisss to me!!” I nearly screamed at Tipha, my shaky arms crossing one over the other, hugging my chest…I literally couldn’t take any more, the two parts of me at complete odds with one another, all thanks to her…

    All of this only elicited another grin from that….that *woman*, who seemed all too content at the fact that she was having such an easy time creating a new asset to the Legionnaires. A conflicted, angry, helpless and yet dangerous heap of a man, bent into shape only with the power of suggestion. Never mind the little annoyance of that ‘mental black box’, since it can only help when it isn’t buried six feet under by persistence. Maybe I could hold out for now…but if I were like this for weeks? Months?


    My train of thought was cut short, by a shrill beeping noise, coming from Tipha. She scowled, staring at her comm. as it blinked and beeped a second time.

    “…Looks like it’s time for me to go. Remember Nulion, DON’T let them win so easily!” With that, she pushed Ashleigh’s motionless body away from her, the paralyzed girl dropping to the floor with a heavy *thud*.

    Tipha just smiled, walking away from the two us, leaving Ashleigh on the floor, a soft nano-smoke rising from her body, in particular the shoulder where Tipha had been holding her. I, on the other hand, just huddled in the corner in a fetal position, trying to get a grip on myself.

    …but I was still so hungry.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  11. #31
    It didn’t take long for Ashleigh to come to, as the wispy smoke of disengaging nanobots rose from her body, hanging over her like some sort of near-invisible cloud. Her fingers curled, her muscles tensed and relaxed, and as soon as she was certain that she could, her attention centered on me.

    “N…Nulion…? Are you okay…?” I don’t blame her for only sounding half concerned at first, having just been held in place like that. I’ve had it happen before, and it’s very disconcerting, to say the least of it.

    “I….I’m…sso ssorrry….oh g-god…” I was such a wreck, whimpering and sniffling in between still-distorted words. Without Tipha there, there wasn’t as much of a problem actually saying them, but that did not help comfort me in the face of the fact that I’d nearly eaten a friend. I still feel guilt over it.

    Ashleigh was on her hands and knees, crawling closer to me though, a small smile on her face, as if to be reassuring. She really did try so hard…At the moment though, I didn’t want anybody near me.

    “N-NO!! …P…pleasse…” I held out both hands as if to stop her, scared of what I still felt stirring around inside.

    “I’m a friend, Nulion….You know I don’t want to hurt you.” How did she do it? How did she bounce back so fast, after being under the ‘spell’ of a madwoman, and nearly fed to the very person she’s trying to support and help?

    “I….I…k-k-know, yesss….b….but…it’ss not you…” I whimpered a little, uncurling from the position I was in, just looking at her…and I could still smell the chocolate. That was such a soothing scent…

    I love how scents can actually be experienced in memory, even without the scent physically being there…I could smell a kind of mildew, and remember the old floorboards under the basement stairs, where once upon a time I’d built a fort out of blankets and mattresses to spend the night in. I can smell it right now…even though there isn’t even a hint of mildew to be found here.

    The chocolate on her breath though, is something I can strongly remember…and every time I think about it, my mouth waters, and my heart lightens. I feel just a little more like a kid…

    “Give me your hand….Come on, don’t be shy…” She kept that smile going, and along with the chocolate, it was what made me comfortable with stretching my hand towards her again, this time not to stop her, but for her to hold. It didn’t matter to her that the glove was torn and dirtied, with a singular, black claw poking through a hole torn at the tip of each finger.

    She squeezed my hand tightly, that smile never once going away.

    “I don’t believe you’d ever hurt me, just so you know…” The more I thought about it, and the more I was reinforced…the more I thought she was right.

    “I….ssometimess…doubt myssself…” But then again, if I thought about it another way, I just didn’t know what I was capable of doing.

    “Look at that, you’ve got your hand in mine, and you’re not doing anything to hurt me, are you?” She glanced down at our hands, giving the back of mine a soft patting.

    Maybe there was hope for me, if I could sit right there, hungry as I was and still of such a conflicted mind, and yet not hurt her.

    “You should go back into your apartment and eat, okay..? And there’s even a book for you to read afterwards in one of these bags, I forget which…But it’s about the control of body and mind. You know, one of those martial arts books?” She even giggled a little, fidgeting her one hand around at the bags to try and find that book, although she just couldn’t do it without letting go of my hand.

    “I….I’ll trry to do that…” For the first time in what felt like the longest time, I smiled a little…

    Just as I was about to try standing up, to get back to my apartment and get some food in my stomach, I felt a sharp sting against my neck…

    Reaching up to feel at whatever made that sting, a soft growl escaping my clenched teeth, I felt a small tube that was embedded in my neck…and pulling it out to see what it was, was the last thing I remember.

    It was a tranquilizer dart.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  12. #32
    I had no idea how long it was from the moment I passed out, to the moment I woke up. Could’ve been hours, could’ve been days…

    I was so cold…and the place around me was so quiet, save for the quiet humming of…of…something? A lot of somethings, all humming. A shrill beep pierced the hummings, followed scant moments later by a second…and a third….and a fourth.

    I tried to move, but the whole of my body simply felt so unresponsive…I would tell my arm to bend, and it was almost as if the muscle was just too tired to do it. At the tiniest twitch though, I felt these *things* shaking around…things that weren’t my arm.

    What happened to me?

    My eyelids would barely open…It was as if I’d never opened them before in my life, and at the first tiny glimpse of light peeking through, I could only recoil. They were so sensitive…and the light coming through was just too much to bear.

    I don’t remember ever having that difficult a time simply opening my eyes, training them and weaning them into desensitivity. Each time I tried, I could see more and more of the ceiling above, and the bright lighting fixture attached to it.

    Even before actually looking around though, I took a deep breath, nearly choking on the thick, stinging scent of antiseptic. It felt so *strong*, almost like the undiluted scent of ammonia. As I coughed, struggling to get used to the antiseptic, I felt even more of those *things* hanging off of me jiggling. They felt so bouncy, and were seemingly attached to my body.

    Tiredly, I pulled what strength I needed into looking at the space around me, everything so unfamiliar…

    It was a hospital room, to state the obvious. It was a fairly empty room, as most hospital rooms were these days, clean and devoid of anything that could conceivably cause the place to be unclean. There was a tray nearby, loaded up with hypodermic needles and nano crystal arrays, all of which designed for some sort of medical purpose.

    There were no windows, although in an effort to bring some of the outdoors into the room, a small self-watering vase atop a cabinet across the room held a small bouquet of orange and red flowers, making them the most colorful thing in the room. If I tried hard enough, through the stinging antiseptic, I could smell them just a little…even from where I was.

    I love flowers…And no, not in that girly sort of way where flowers make a great gift for any occasion. I just love to look at them, to watch them sway and bob in the breeze as some insect floats by, collecting the pollen and drifting onward to the next bunch. Flowers color our world, and have inspired people throughout the ages to dream in just as many colorful ways. Not just the color is important though, but the smell is also one of the things about them that I love…

    It reminds me of home, where wild fields of orange day lilies would sprout every summer. Their pollen would carry through the air, bringing with it that scent of life that made the season just…feel complete. Suffice to say, I love anything that reminds me of home.

    The place I was in though, just didn’t spark that warm feeling. It was so cold, so stark and empty…and truth be told, the fact that it was designed the way it was, is what got me worried. Worried enough to try and crane my neck down towards my body, to see what had become of me there…and maybe to finally figure out what those things hanging off my body were.

    Glancing down, my neck feeling tired and even a little stiff, I gazed in a kind of quiet fear at the tubes projecting from out of my arms. Rather, the tubes were going *into* my arms…intravenously, of course. There was one attached to my right wrist, and another that had been pushed in on the inside of my left elbow. The one on the inside of my elbow actually hurt, as I thought about it. The skin around it, the parts not covered by scales at least, was a purplish blue from the bruising inevitable whenever an IV is placed in an area as tricky as that. Whoever did this must’ve had a hard time finding the vein, I supposed.

    The thing that caught my eye though, was the thing I was hoping *not* to find…

    Stitched into the upper right hand corner of the aquamarine hospital gown I was wearing, and upside-down from my vantage point, was a strongly recognizable logo…

    Last edited by Nulion; May 17th, 2007 at 01:59:36.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  13. #33
    It’s hard to imagine an the skin of an Opifex man getting any more pale than it already is, but I assure you, it’s entirely possible. I know, because it was the very first gut reaction to seeing the logo of Omni-Med stitched onto that hospital gown. I was scared in a way that I never had been before, grabbing in a lethargic panic at the IV’s buried into my arms, trying to pull them out, no matter how much it hurt.

    Even trying to pull them out, I’d hurt myself without realizing it, dragging those sharp claws of mine along my bare skin, leaving a number of thin, crimson trails down my forearm and wrist.

    I had to get out…I couldn’t be there…not there. Procedures that I didn’t even want to think human beings were capable of performing were all that could be in store for a *thing* like me, within a place run by Omni-Med. What kinds of things would they want to do? Take DNA samples, large swatches of scales and scutes, tissue and blood, brain matter and thought pattern recordings, implant and symbiant tolerance records, the implants and symbiants themselves even..? Would they hook me up to a machine built to accelerate the changes in only a part of my body, leaving me with an entirely alien arm or leg? And what would they do with me once they were done with me..?

    I was facing, quite literally, the same fate that I’d seen so many times out in the wild, plodding through the grasses and deserts without point or purpose. I’d always thought that maybe, just maybe I could understand what all those creatures in the wild might be thinking, or what they might have experienced to get them where they were. Not all of them were rational and sentient things, but the ones that were have truly gotten the short end of the stick on life. Only then, did I realize I never actually had the slightest inkling of an idea as to how they must have felt.

    To be a mutation, and to be processed by Omni-Med research teams, is to become utterly ruined. Those creatures out wandering the plains, the waste byproducts of Omni-Med research, were absolutely nothing but expended pieces of biological garbage. Think how it must be for them….

    Think of the person you are. Think of all that you, as a human being, are capable of doing…You can change the world. You can become a parent. You can master the most powerful of technologies, nano-tech. You can control nature itself…

    Think now, of what they are…and what they’ve lost. What potential does a piece of garbage have? What can a discarded bullet casing do? Is there any reason to keep or to cherish a burnt out light bulb? Those things out there have had their entire purpose for living robbed from them. It makes no difference whether they live or die, and the only reason they keep doing so is because it isn’t their choice anymore.

    I felt that if I stayed there, that I would be expended. All that I ever was, and all that I ever could be, would be stripped from me, and I’d be let loose to live out the remainder of my life as something else entirely. There’d be no more friends, I would never see my family again, and if someone with a gun were to have me in his sights, I would help him level the barrel at what’s left of my forehead. I’d be so thankful…

    There’s no way I would just allow that to happen. I have just so much to live for…So many people that make life a worthwhile thing, that keep me smiling and feeling some days that Rubi-Ka really can be a home away from home.

    Pushing myself from the bed with trembling arms, and heaving a weakened growl from my pale, chapped lips, I tried as hard as I could to get off of that hospital bed.

    My bare feet tensed and clenched at the icy floor, the claws at the tip of each toe screeching along the tile for the briefest of moments. It’s not often I really look at my feet, but they’ve changed perhaps more radically than any other part of my body has, at least in terms of appearance…Their shape was still very much as they always were, but with differences that warranted my usual, constant wearing of socks or boots to hide them. Each foot was graced by only four claws, despite the fact that a normal person has five toes. For me, there were only three toes per foot. Three big ones. Each toe was no longer covered in human skin, but in a tougher form of those scales that truly gave them an inhuman appearance. Not only that, but the fact that they were so tough meant I’d have almost no problem walking wherever I’d like to go, barefooted. As if that were an option for me. The fourth claw though, came from an unlikely place; from the heel. The heel-claw was small enough that wearing boots was still comfortable, but I still wonder how long that will be the case.

    There was only the soft clicking sound that my claws made along the floor, as I tensely stepped towards the door, body trembling and weak…I still felt sick, and I still felt so indescribably hungry…I still didn’t have my medicine, and perhaps the only reason I couldn’t tell was because at the time, both parts of me were in full agreement; the most important thing was escaping.

    The door at the front of my room swept open with a soft rush of sterilized air, the chill breeze from the building’s air conditioning system having its effect on my temperature-sensitive body. I felt even more weak in the knees as I trudged out into the open hallway, relieved and yet a little su****ious that the only person there was myself.

    There was, of course, the soft yet distant hum-clicking of security cameras as they swiveled side to side. I knew better than to be caught in the watchful eye of a security camera, although I didn’t carry the equipment on me that I usually had for sneaking past such things with abnormal ease. The fact that my footclaws clicked against the floor with each step made things no easier, too, since most security cameras these days could detect even the quietest of sounds.

    My sense of smell, however, was almost completely handicapped by the antiseptic pumped throughout the building; not just in that room I’d woken up in. I’ll admit that, ever since developing the nose that I had, I’d relied more on scent than I should have, even with the antiseptic as thick as it was. Humans mostly rely on sound, considering it’s what they can detect best…and because of that, they tend to ignore whatever they might be smelling. As for myself, well…I must’ve been ignoring what I was hearing.

    Oh, I tried to hide…At the sound of footsteps coming closer, I took notice of a nearby door, with the large-print word SUPPLY written against its glossy and white exterior. Rushing towards it, claws clacking loudly against the floor, I got in there as fast as my tired body would go, hoping to find some sort of shelter from whoever I’d just heard out there.

    The supply room wasn’t all that big, and the lights were dim, though it was decently stocked with all of the medical tools and equipment one would expect a doctor to have handy. There was everything, from EKG machines and portable holo-ultrasound units to defibrillator packages, bone-meld gel tubes and cases of empty and full stim units of all kinds. I could smell the sterile scent of rubber gloves and tongue depressors, and the metallic tinge of the empty biohazard trash cans, the kind with airtight lids and built-in incinerators.

    There was only one exit to that small room though, much the same as there was only a single way out of the room I’d woken up in….and those footsteps only grew louder.

    I’d only had maybe a few seconds to try and hide myself…but where exactly would I have hidden? The room was small, the shelves would never support a full grown man’s weight, and I simply didn’t have the energy…and I was scared.

    They stepped into the room, two large and well-built atrox men donned in that typical, glossy white Omni-Med uniform, the both of them looking down at me. Neither one of them spoke though…but rather, it was a woman behind them who did.

    “Don’t let him bite or even scratch you, boys…I’m serious, you don’t want what this man’s got.” That voice….it sounded so familiar…I knew it, but at the same time, I hardly cared. Those men wanted me, and they’d never let me go…

    I was nothing more than a cornered animal, in the back of the store room, growling and using what energy I had left to scare them away. I knew full well that I couldn’t pick a fight with those two, with them sporting such impressive physiques as dictated by their atrox genetic design.

    There was just too much on the line not to try though…I don’t know if it was me in control, or the *thing* I was becoming….but I tried to break through them, dashing on weakened legs towards what was more or less a wall of muscle.

    Before I knew it, and before I could even see who that woman was, my arms were locked behind my back and I was forced onto my knees, hissing and snarling in a desperate struggle to break free…but it all came once again to an abrupt closure, with a needle pushed firmly into my neck.
    Last edited by Nulion; May 23rd, 2007 at 21:09:06.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  14. #34
    We sped along in a sleek, radiantly shimmering husk of metal and plasteel along the cracked, weathered and ancient roads that wound themselves beneath stone and foliage. We passed little streams, downed trees with moss grown thick against elder trunks, and curious rabbits that can only ever wonder what it is that just whisked by, but could never know.

    I saw it all as an amalgamated blur, a never ending streak of green…The sun’s diluted light poked through the treetops, the beautiful rays highlighted by the barely noticeable mist that rose from the moist and humid air.

    How did all of it survive us..? Humans, I mean. Nature is so delicate, and yet it could withstand so many thousands of years of our meddling, only to remain as beautiful as it ever was.

    At the time though, all I cared for was the sight of the rabbits atop their log homes. I would just laugh, pointing at them with a giggle, leaving a lone fingerprint against the glass.

    “Look, rabbits!!” I had so much enthusiasm for something so small.

    “Oh really? You found some bunnies?” My mother, looking so youthful then, turned back towards me, her black hair adrift in the car’s air conditioning, brown eyes shining in the soft light with that twinkle in them I could remember so well.

    “Yeah, yeah! I wonder if they have them on Rubi-Ka? You think they do?” I had so much enthusiasm for the place…always wondering what it was like. My mother didn’t, though. That smile faded away, turning more towards an expression of worry…

    “…Didn’t we tell you that you can’t go there? It’s a bad, bad place…I’m sure they’ve got bunny-rabbits, but there’s nothing else there for you. You should listen to your grandmother and grandfather more when they tell you about how bad it is! You remember the story they told you yesterday, don’t you?”

    I could only nod, my enthusiasm slipping away into the same nonexistence as her smile. My grandparents were adamant about Rubi-Ka, constantly reminding us of their days on its surface, living out their lives in the face of near-constant conflict. They told such fantastic stories though, of a land where technology itself danced along with the wind, and where all things were possible. Heroes fought for freedom, villains stood up against them, and there were battles…but nobody ever died.

    Can you imagine how such a fantastic place would light up a child’s imagination? Kids are always searching inside for the promised land, the place where all of their myriad fantasies can come true. Kids dream of flying like their favorite superheroes, and on Rubi-Ka it can really happen. Children relish in the thought of being invincible, being powerful, being able to alter reality itself to fit their sensibilities, regardless of how silly it might sound to the grown-ups. All of it can happen there.

    “Yeah, I remember…They got into a fight, and grandma got shot…but she came right back to life! That was so cool!!” I lit up again, at the mere thought of it.

    “No, it wasn’t ‘cool’! They were so scared, that they took the next shuttle to Earth! Being scared like that isn’t fun…You don’t like being afraid, do you?”

    “N….no, I don’t like it…” I sulked a little in my seat, looking out the window again for a moment.

    “It’s like when you have to go to the doctor…I know how much you hate it, and how scared it gets you. What your grandparents went through was a lot worse than even that!”

    I thought to myself about how much I really was afraid of the doctor, remembering the last time I went, and how deathly afraid I was of the needles he had to immunize me with. At the time, it was genuinely hard for me to imagine something *worse* than that.

    “W…worse than *that*??” I turned to look at my mother, growing more and more worried.

    “Yes, even worse than that…But you didn’t listen to them, did you? Now look at yourself! Go on, just look!” She was so stern all of a sudden, her voice getting the way it always did when she was angry…

    I looked down at myself, noticing for the first time that I filled out the car seat more than I should have. Holding my hands to my face, I saw plainly how alien they were…Claws at the tips of my fingers, scales in a thick coat over the surface of what used to be my skin. They looked complete, and only barely resembled the human hands I’d but a few moments ago owned. A thick, alligator-like tail curled and tensed up in between my legs, which were now crooked and thick with muscle, coated entirely in the plate-like scales, themselves. A long snout protruded from my face, the thing constantly in my line of sight. Trying to shake it away, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and for the briefest of moments, I could see a flash of the dinosaur-like beast I’d become.

    “I didn’t raise my son to be some lizard!! Why didn’t you listen?? Why’d you run away?? This wouldn’t have happened if you’d just LISTENED!!”

    I wasn’t capable of thought anymore, the creature in the passenger’s seat staring at the delicate Opifex woman in the driver’s seat, lunging with jagged teeth at her throat. There was no scream…She just thrashed, hands flailing as the steering wheel, left unattended to, jarred to the left.

    The car was helpless, taking a turn far more than what it could handle, the entire thing sent flying sideways down that ancient road, tossing and turning, rolling and rolling until finally, with a sickening, grinding crunch, it slammed into a tree.


    I practically flung myself from the bed I was lying against, in a nervously cold sweat, screaming.
    Last edited by Nulion; May 27th, 2007 at 18:10:23.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  15. #35
    I’d never had a nightmare that horrible before…the whole thing felt so stunningly, horribly real. I could barely feel any sort of energy, but even so, I hefted my hands back up towards my face, seeing the only partially-changed, still-gray and so familiar fingers that I’m used to, although they’re still not the ones I’d always had.

    The tubes and IV’s were reconnected to my arms though, their bobbing motions felt with even the slightest twitch. There was no doubt, I was right back where I’d started…but this time, there was a difference.

    There was a woman, thin and bright-skinned as were most Solitus women, sitting at the foot of my bed. Her blonde hair was oddly enough (For a doctor, at least) done up in two ponytails, one on either side of her head. She’d obviously been frightened at the sight of what should have been a comatose man, springing upright and screaming as if he’d lost a limb. She was scribbling something on a pad of paper, with a sleek-looking pen that bore what looked like the Omni-Med logo on its side. It was hard to tell though, considering how blurry everything was. A book, apparently something very thick and technically medical, lay at my feet where she’d dropped it…

    “Are you okay, Nulion? You gave me an awful big scare, there…Looks like you scared yourself, too.”

    Her voice was gentle, without the slightest bit of malice or condescending tone that honestly, I’d always expected from an Omni-Med doctor. I recognized it though….it was the same voice that was hidden behind those two atrox orderlies from earlier. And even more than that, I knew that voice from somewhere else, too…but my head hurt so much, and I couldn’t even see straight enough to read her nametag.

    I tried to speak back to her, but all that came out was a dried-up growl-mumble, half from the fact that I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in so long, and half from the fact that I was so far gone, that speech just wasn’t possible for me at the moment.

    That was distressing, to say the least. She must’ve seen it in my face, how that only compounded whatever fear I was feeling.

    “Shh, don’t talk…You’ll be okay. I’ll have to get you some food and drink soon, alright? For now though, I have to run a few more tests just to make sure you’re going smoothly.”

    Standing up from where she was and pushing her impromptu desk aside, she stepped over towards a small table in the corner of the room to grab…something. It was too hard to tell what.

    Rubbing my eyes, so that I might clear out the fuzz blocking my view, was a difficult and careful affair. If I wasn’t careful, those black spikes at the tips of my fingers could do some serious damage. I’d developed a method for doing it though, although it wasn’t near as satisfying as doing it the way I used to, and the way every other human being does. It involved just using my knuckles to rub in quick circles, but even that didn’t do me much good.

    It did, however, let me see enough to know that what she’d gotten off that small table was a syringe…and I’ve always hated syringes and needles; that part of me hasn’t changed a bit. Funny, how I honestly wish that part HAD changed…Being a guy in my twenties, a member of the Council of Truth, and having died more times than I could possibly remember, it sounds awfully odd to still be afraid of something as simple as a needle. It’s embarrassing.

    That would explain why, at the very sight of her grabbing the syringe, I recoiled a bit. It was just enough to let her know how little I wanted yet another one of those things prodded into my body.

    “Oh come on you…You’re worse than my sister, you know that?”

    I think it was about then, that the fear just…lifted. I’d been so scared this entire time that something awful was going to happen. I was scared for the past week, even.

    Batting my eyes as quickly as the muscles inside would allow, I could see things a bit more in focus, a few of those things setting everything right, and back at ease.

    Her name tag read “Dr. Alannah ‘Kealy’ Burke”, and the nearby IV fluid bag bore the name “X-2367: Omni-Prime”. It was her new antigen.

    I couldn’t have asked for anything better to have happened…and even as she closed in to inject the needle into my shoulder, I just smiled and relaxed.

    I needed it.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  16. #36
    ….one more week later….

    That week was one of continuous respite and recovery, two things I was in desperate need of. A man has his limits, and even when he is no longer quite a man, those limits always stay the same. I’d stayed in that bed, being fed and cared for by the good doctor, and under a near-constant supply of Cylie’s cookies and meals.

    When she’d heard of how I was found outside my apartment in Jobe, and how the only sure way I’d come to the clinic peacefully was through a tranquilizer, Cylie had taken it upon herself to give me more than just the typical hospital fare. One day, she dropped by with a steak, no doubt made along with the meal for her own family. Another day, it was a fresh bowl of soup, complete with sandwiches and extra soup for later.

    She really has treated me well, and I can never thank her enough for it.

    It’s people like Cylie, people like Dr. Burke that serve as a kind of charm bracelet. She is a constant in my mind, reminding me that Omni-Tek is not by its very definition, an evil thing. There are good people working there…honest people, just trying to make it from day to day, on what money the corporation allots them.

    Omni-Tek is the same as the Clans in that way, really…a conglomeration of mothers, fathers, pastry chefs and pediatricians, warmongers and pacifists, children and elders, each and every one of them full of ambition, and the desire to do what is good and right in their eyes, and to make those around them proud. But the problem starts when those people are influenced by the power of the situation, into becoming something one side or another can construe as ‘evil’. That’s all evil is, really….a perspective. The evildoers never see themselves as evil, they see what they do as good.

    We all do that same thing, don’t we?

    A man working for Omni-Reform is just doing his job, following orders so that he can get his pay, feed his family, and lead the happy life he’d dreamed of since he was just a kid. The people forced into his office, destitute clansmen and errant employees, are merely criminals in his eyes. He is the one doing a service to the public, cleaning the streets and making sure that the safety of the public is maintained. In his eyes, he’s the good guy.

    But how does that clansman think, or that dissident employee? They did what they thought was right, and now their two versions of what is right conflict with the Reform employee’s version of what is right…and as a result, evil is formed out of that friction. Everybody is being evil at the same time, and so the only variation in who is being good in any given situation, is dependant entirely on who you ask.

    I need that kind of thinking, to do the job that I do. If I don’t consider the possibility that evil exists even within the Clans, then I wind up blind to the world…only capable of seeing that which I want to see. Politicians are the ones responsible for taking the bad in along with the good, and then DOING something about the bad in the world, especially if that bad comes from their own side…How can they ever fulfill their duty, if they’re blind to it?

    It’s just good to have Cylie, and Dr. Burke, to act as that charm bracelet, always a reminder of the good deeds done by Omni-Tek. They exist, and they happen every single day, even as the two sides plot and conspire…hoping to wreck one another’s fortunes for the sake of their own.

    I had to get back to my job though…it was my first order of business, and to be perfectly honest, it had me worried. I was tasked to find proof that I’d been working undercover, only pretending to be a terroristic Legionnaire…but I still had no such proof. I didn’t want my past troubles getting in the way of honest Council work, but if I was to actually remain in the Council…I needed that proof.

    At least the one thing that truly was in my way, was calmed down; myself. After finally being released from Dr. Burke’s clinic, I felt almost like a new man. There was still the fact that I could never go back from what had happened…and that I could never change how I had acted a week before then. Nothing could permanently remove those scutes from my stomach, or give me a normal five-toed foot again, since my body is now set to restore itself to what it is…

    Even so, I was finally me…and there are few things that a person could be more thankful for.

    I like being who I am…I feel like I’m doing good in the world, even if the fact remains that whatever good it is I do, can be seen as evil by others. It doesn’t matter, because the only thing that makes the world a stable place in our eyes, is what we think of it. We grab and pull at the myriad fabrics of everything around us, weaving together a tapestry of belief.

    It’s by that belief, that we make sense of everything around us, categorizing all that we see and hear into perspectives, and from perspectives we lead our lives…for better or worse.

    So what does it matter if the Council sees me as a terrorist..? It’s of my perspective that I wasn’t one, and that I never could actually be one…so why not try and convince them of that?

    It was worth a shot…and even without a shred of evidence, I still did have the truth on my side.

    All that’s left, is to help everybody see it.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  17. #37
    ……some time later……

    You have to forgive me for skipping so far ahead in time….Life on Rubi-Ka is, as you know, a very slow thing when the bullets aren’t flying. Sometimes, the days just fly by…

    I’d been trying to keep myself out of jail that entire time…Some two or so months after I’d been hospitalized, and forced onto a strict regiment of medications. Once a week I would still put myself under the needle, so to speak, just to squeeze another week of humanity out of my life…

    It’s difficult to think to yourself, that you’re a Clansman whose life is dependent almost exclusively on Omni-Med…even harder, when you realize that the entire reason I was dependent on them was because of a disease *they* created.

    That was the least of my worries though, to say the absolute least…

    I know it was around December of 29480, and tensions between Omni-Tek and the Clans had never been higher…the fact that I was still under scrutiny for having been pretending to be a Legion man was nearly irrelevant, in the face of the real problems beginning to surface from Rubi-Ka’s deep south.

    The only reason I hadn’t really been arrested during those next few Council meetings was because of this threat…That, and my mouth…I’d had at least enough clout within the Council to keep myself out of a holding cell, although there’s no such way I’d be able to hold it off forever…I still needed proof.

    In the face of what was to happen though…for a brief time, I forgot to care.

    To live on Rubi-Ka is to live under the constant threat of war. I don’t know how many times I’ve turned on the holo, only to see on the news what on any other planet could be considered an act of war. Facilities and dropships explode, transports are hijacked and crashed, apartment buildings leveled and so many lives are permanently taken…all in the name of revenge.

    I guess when you get down to it, the origin of any conflict stems from the human inability to say “No more” after having been wronged…

    Omni-Tek wronged those atrox miners, all that time ago with those famous words, “They’re only atroxes. We’re very concerned about our equipment.”…and it began a chain reaction of the ones wronged becoming the wrongdoers. That’s what human conflict IS…and it can only stop when along the line, a person says “No more”.

    Silverstone was never able to do that, was he? He was wronged…his family was slaughtered, and ever since then, his life has been one giant rebellion in their memory, that desire to not acquiesce with their murderers, to never forgive and never forget.

    I guess I can’t blame him, not able to imagine such a loss myself…How would *I* have reacted to something like that? How angry would it make any of us? Sure, I can sit here and tell you how things are from the outside all day…but if I were in Silverstone’s shoes, there would have been no other choice. The people who slaughtered my family would pay…and without even caring, I would displace all of my anger right back against others….and I would never stop.

    Wouldn’t you?

    That, right there, is the reason humans will always be at war.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  18. #38
    Unlike most days around that time, this one stood out as being important.

    It never seems to matter where you are, despite such obvious differences in the weather patterns on all the different worlds humanity has colonized, December is a cold month.

    I’d prepared for it of course, around a month before then. The armor I’d become bound to, the customized Dust Brigade gear, was in such terrible need of repair. I’d had no choice but to take it to an armor shop, some dusty old place in a nigh-hidden corner of Tir…

    Oh, I can remember the look on the guy’s face, as a person as strange-looking as myself showed up in his shop with probably the most beat up, damaged set of armor he’d ever seen, asking for repairs. What else could he do but laugh, and recommend I just buy a new set instead?

    I’ll admit that despite the biological reasons for keeping that armor on my body, there were sentimental reasons for it, as well. I loved the look, and that isn’t a crime, is it?

    It took a few weeks for the man to repair such extensive damage…and so for that time, I went about my business in a second-rate piece of junk import armor, from one of the colder worlds, some sort of place light years away that I’ve never heard of, nor can even pronounce the name of. Some sort of Nordic world, at least from what the man was talking about.

    By that one day in December though, I’d gotten my old suit back…comfortable and thankful for the soft heat it could provide me with, tailored especially for my survival. It’s a good thing I did, too…the weather was unusually cold, even for Rubi-Ka.

    West Athen was a good town…if you can overlook the occasional bouts of gun violence. Setting that fact aside, it was a great place to spend an afternoon in the sun…a great place to get a coffee, and relax with those people who make Rubi-Ka’n life just a little bit sweeter. That’s exactly why I was there, on that particular day…

    The weathered stonework of the town didn’t even look to be immune from the cold, patches of ice having developed on the ground where drainage pipes ended, the runoff trickling out at the mercy of the chill winds. The guards milled about the town, enjoying their afternoon lunches even while on patrol. I could sample the air, taking in the heavenly scent of a roast bronto and horseradish sandwich that some guard had eaten some time ago, even though the air itself burnt my nostrils and chilled my lungs…Each breath actually sapped a little of the strength I held inside away, reminding me further of how little fun it was to have such a different bloodstream.

    If Rubi-Ka on a chilly day could make me feel so sapped, even while wearing such protective armor, then how would your average day in a place like Penumbra feel? Trapped in an eternal ice age, that place of sheer, frozen beauty has become to me something of a symbol of hell. I’d never go there again like I’d used to, and just sit for a few minutes, plucking icicles off of cavern walls, staring at them and observing how they refracted light so well, like natural prisms…I’d always be in search for the biggest one I could hold.

    I did that a lot as a kid, playing with icicles…Whenever they would form outside, I would always get so giddy, rushing outside so that I could pull them down off of the house and into my gloved hands, my curious and youthful mind always looking for the very biggest one, to run inside to and brag about to my parents before the thing melted. And then, as was typical, my mother would always tell me to get that thing out of the house before it was just a puddle of water…but it’d always be too late.

    There were no icicles today though…just small patches of glossy ice streaked across the cracked stonework. That, and a biting cold breeze worsened by the huge walls of Old Athen, and the tricks that city played on the wind as it passed from east to west. It was almost funny though, to think that Omni-Tek could with the flip of a switch, make warmer weather for us all with that weather controller they have. They must have been trying to get it working right for centuries, but have never perfected it. If they actually did get it working though, it wouldn’t surprise me if they turned the north into a frigid wasteland one week, and into a sun-bleached desert the next. I guess they figure the latter is usually the case, and so don’t bother.

    The place I’d wanted to go wasn’t far at all, conveniently nestled right in the heart of the town, especially popular because of its proximity to a Grid terminal…also very convenient. I didn’t use it though, insisting to have a little walk, despite the sting of the cold against my face.

    The closer I got, the more intense the scents became…mocha, chocolate, caramel and vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, creamer and sugar…

    Oh man…I love The Cup.

    But then, as I said, that day was no ordinary day…
    Last edited by Nulion; Jul 20th, 2007 at 01:37:40.
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  19. #39
    ((I've got to bump this, it's about to fall off the map....and I put a lot of hard work into this story, too! Now, it should also be noted that I'm not finished with this story, and I haven't just retired it and forgotten about it. I'm just so busy with schoolwork that I can't ever get back to writing it >.< Annoying, isn't it?))
    220 Finalizer (FINALLY, after 3 years without a single ding!) Nulion, Squad Commander (And Council of Truth Clerical Staffer) of Alpha Omega

    Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly...Suddenly I awoke...Now, I do not know whether I was then
    a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man. - Chuang Tzu

  20. #40
    Now i know why you afk so often,you are always finishing this story ;p

    On topic:Very well written,i enjoyed reading it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Klod View Post
    From one troll to another. Cut the crap, Blackie. Or just roll a MP.
    Quote Originally Posted by Escritores View Post
    And right there this thread turned emo...
    Boori:There is a difference between a "Soldier" and a "Walking Dreadloch-Modified Shark".
    best post ever
    forum mod <3

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