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clockwork1 [2012/11/05 01:56] (current)
doan created
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 +As he swooped low over the pale, silent ruins, Reala finally saw for the first time the true extent of the damage that had been done overnight to an entire sector of the dreamscape. It didn’t mean he could quite believe it.
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 +An entire invading army of Nightmaren couldn’t have caused that kind of widespread destruction in such a small space of time. No attacking force would have a reason to sack the area. The anti-Nightmaren resistance force didn’t damage scenery where possible, in case they accidentally hurt a dreamer or a Nightopian. It was part of their strict, complex and utterly impractical code of conduct. Not that it made much difference to them in any case, as they didn’t attack in large enough numbers at once to do damage on this scale, preferring the guerrilla and skirmish tactics of a vastly outnumbered force. Even the Nightmaren, who cared nothing for the former inhabitants of the sectors they attacked, would have reservations about destroying so completely a structure they would have to live in, and rebuild out of their own coffers. Besides, the Nightmaren already owned this sector, and it was too minor for any of them to bother fighting a civil war over it. Reala normally forgot it existed, except for the monthly patrols of his entire region of the dreamscape, even the tiny border provinces such as this one, and when he received urgent distress calls, or worse, no communications at all for months on end. Travel was slow over long distances when the other end of the line didn’t even have a dedicated telepath; it wasn’t this slow. Which was why Reala had taken it upon himself to visit the province in person. It was quicker and more reliable than sending minions and waiting for them to come back when sometimes they didn’t.
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 +If anything, the pattern looked more like that of a natural disaster. Except that Lord Wizeman had told him this sector wasn’t in any of the known fault lines for the quakes, tornadoes and lightning storms that were caused by naturally occurring pockets of completely uncontrolled psychic energy, Ideya that were damaged and leaking, or occasionally summoned and left to run amok by a strongly psychic and mentally unstable dreamer. Reala’s glorious leader could spot both such occurences instantaneously with his supradivine levels of clairvoyance and elemental magic, and had done so countless times, moments before invasion plans, saving entire armies of Nightmaren by spotting and aborting suicide missions before they happened. Lord Wizeman would never fail to notice something as crucial as a natural disaster of this magnitude.
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 +The damage was extreme even for the worst recorded magnitude ten dreamquake in history, the one that had bisected the sector and that Reala had to order a bridge built over. There were different types of damage that could be done to a sector of the dreamscape. Superficial damage done to the ‘furnishings’ of a dream, the illusions cast over it, in short, the reality that a dreamer would see, could be fairly easily repaired with a little time and an illusionist who wasn’t tired. Structural damage to the underlying, more permanent shape of a dreamscape would have to be repaired in the same way a physical shape was repaired, either with bricks and mortar or with powerful telekinesis. Lord Wizeman could re-allocate and shape such matter at a push, if it was strategically vital enough that he did so for him to even look twice at a request, maybe to persuade some earth-element matter to shift out of the way so that the nice mountain that wasn’t there yesterday and that his non-flying Nightmaren couldn’t get past would go away.
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 +Then there was this kind of damage. Decay to the underlying laws of nature in a dreamscape, its very essence. If it was a computer program, its code would have been deleted, overwritten by garbled nonsense. An area hit by that kind of damage could not be rebuilt. It was impossible to set foot in, as there wasn’t really a floor. Flying was difficult, too, as it required a control over the environment that required both an environment to have control over, and essence to sustain. A lower-class Nightmaren than Reala might not even have been able to go near it without his essence being weakened through sheer lack of anything to nourish it. It would be as fatal as falling out of an airlock into space would be for a human. Such an environment simply didn’t support Nightmaren life. To all intents and purposes, it wasn’t part of the dreamscape any more.
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 +Reala involuntarily shuddered as he flew as close as he dared to the disaster site. Its utter absence of anything was aesthetically jarring to the point of nausea, and it reeked of danger and aberration from the natural laws of his world. It was like silence where there had always been music, stillness where there had always been movement, a cold that no warmth could penetrate, as cloying and stifling as the air in a tomb for an entity that was not supposed to be able to die. Dragging his mind, screaming in protest, back into some semblance of professional demeanour, he unhooked the monitoring equipment that he used for everyday maintenance from his belt and set it to search for vital signs of any sort. Sure enough, no signal was returned. No matter how many times he waved it back and forth, easily close enough to pick up signals, the machine reacted as though it hadn’t found anything it could scan yet. The sector he was pointing it at might as well not have existed. No wonder his efforts to communicate with it had all been in vain. There was no way to tell if the area had been evacuated before the damage happened, or if there had even been anyone working in the strategically useless area to start off with. He didn’t know if the damage had hit all at once or had been gradual, or if something had been gnawing through the foundations of the dream and it suddenly collapsed. All evidence had been erased along with the sector. All he had to go on was prior experience of such incidents, the occasional reports from surviving eye-witnesses.   
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 +One thing he knew for certain: this was caused by a Global False Awakening, or Nightover. Only one thing caused Nightovers. This was more damage in one sector than he had ever heard of them causing before, but it was basically the same thing on a larger scale. And the reports were growing more frequent and of larger damage, to the grave concern of even Lord Wizeman. Against the screaming protests of his danger sense, he closed his eyes, hung as still as possible in mid-air and listened out for the tiniest hint of one sound in particular.
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 +Almost immediately, he heard it. Multiple accounts of it, arranged in a methodical circular pattern like an evil crop circle. Relinquishing caution as though he had been snorting powdered red Ideya, he bared his sharp teeth like the predator that a Nightmaren was and drill-dashed straight towards the source of the hated noise. And, even though his very essence longed for any noise at all to break the erroneous silence, he still despised that noise.
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 +The noise abruptly became much quieter as one member of its choir was hit face-on by a blow that sent it flying across the featureless white plane in an explosion of cogs, gears and blinding white light, where it bounced a couple of times, rolled, then became jammed in the substance that was semi-solid to its alien form. The mechanical creak of protest that was its death-scream felt much more satisfying. Instantly sensing and reacting to the wrecked machine’s four companions, their faces turning to their assailant, hands a blur, they darted towards him as one, but he had already darted back into the air, thrust by the momentum of the first attack and spinning his arms around to maintain the screw-dash, and was attacking them from behind, as efficient and deadly as a hawk on the wing. Another foe was gone before it could swivel around to face him.
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 +He expected the others to try and jump him that point, to drag him down to the ground where he would be helpless, or activate their beam weapons, with the deadly white rays that would Nightover him upon contact, so that he couldn’t rush them from at least one direction. His tactic was rather thrown when they scattered, forcing him to spin into a rather undignified low roll, inches from the ground, to avoid hitting the potentially lethal surface of the dead zone. Instead of trying to escape altogether, the unearthly machines regrouped a short distance away, immediately formed a smaller circle, their faces turned to the inside, and all turned on their rays. The lights were much brighter and more intense where they pooled into each other. The constant ringing noise they made grew louder and more frantic, their forms vibrating as though they were cultists in the throes of a ritual, communing with their dark masters. Then one of them jumped into the light and faded from view. Before Reala could complete a broad, low paraloop that would encircle the remaining survivors and crush them to scrap metal in a gravitational field, they all quickly jumped inside the portal one after the other, then the light winked out behind them like a television turning off.
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 +Blinded by battle rage fuelled by revulsion at their very existence, Reala still knew better than to try and follow his enemy through that portal. It burned him to even approach the light. The best thing he could do under the circumstances was to report the incident to Lord Wizeman. He hoped that his failure to intercept the enemy would be excused in light of the fact that he had witnessed an incident that his master had ordered him to investigate wherever he found it, and discovered an important fact.
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 +A fact that Lord Wizeman wouldn’t like to hear, but one that he needed to know all the same, and wouldn’t shoot the messenger over if he was truly the genius that Reala knew him to be.
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 +The Egg Clocks were out of control, they were dangerous, they attacked anything they came across in increasingly larger numbers. The situation was getting worse, and fast.
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clockwork1.txt · Last modified: 2012/11/05 01:56 by doan
 
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