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clockwork9 [2012/11/12 20:48] (current)
doan created
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 +Lysander clawed his way through the portal and collapsed just outside it, his energy spent. His crimson armour, that was both the majority of his usual physical form in the dreamlands and an actual fortification against fairly low-level structural damage, specifically designed to protect against some of the damage done to Nightmaren by red Ideya, was battered and dented in a thousand places. A neat square hole had been punched through his chest by a laser beam that the winged games console had fired from its screen. He had been forced to dodge an entire salvo of those attacks, as the annoying thing wheeled around in the sky firing them off at an unreadable speed before he finally got in enough solid hits on it to drop it out of the sky. He hadn’t known it was capable of doing that kind of damage. That was the problem with being a Nightmaren of War; there were so many different kinds of wars, never mind individual wars, that he couldn’t be expected to know all the different sides and with what fighting styles and weapons they waged war. Even Wizeman’s vast archives of information about dreamers that he collected as he captured them and interrogated them didn’t help. There were always new wars, new weapons, new enemies, and a lot of them were imagined, changing and growing with every new height of paranoia that an insane dreamer reached.
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 +Then there were other enemies that definitely existed, and hadn’t even been part of the dream. He had heard the ringing and realised that he wasn’t alone just as he finished off the opponent he thought he would be fighting today – making the second time in a row that it had changed. He knew the Egg Clocks were fearsome enemies, not the sort that one simply rushed in hand-to-hand combat, but he readied his sword anyway and waited calmly to intercept its attack.
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 +Then the entire floor exploded from underneath him, as though he had just stepped on a landmine. A searing white pain tore through his vision and he found himself falling through blackness, unable to move the entire left side of his body. He had spotted a larger chunk of debris and grabbed hold of it, hoisting himself up onto it and pouring all his reserves of desperate mental strength to force a portal to the closest Nightmaren-friendly sector into existence. Then he had dragged his ruined frame into it and immediately closed it after himself. He wasn’t that stupid.
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 +He lay there for a long time, staring at the roiling mass of chaos that was the night sky in Nightmaren territory, their natural dream-colours undiluted in their insanity, their light muddied by perpetually angry grey-sodden storm clouds that draped curtains of thunder and lightning, Wizeman’s more permanent magical defenses in action. He still couldn’t move his left arm or leg. He suspected that their mangled remains would never function again, and could not be forged back into shape. Wizeman would have to remake him anew. It was partly his fault for not registering the attack in time, so it would probably hurt. It didn’t have to hurt, in the same way that surgery could theoretically involve anaesthetic, but the simplest and quickest methods involved more pain, and taught him a lesson without Wizeman having to waste even more time devising a punishment that would even mildly worry a being of pure nightmare without actually rendering it unable to serve his will.
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 +Grim humour lit up his eyes blood-red underneath his hollow visor. I never imagined anything in one of my own nightmares that would have *me* lying on my back, he thought ruefully.
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 +An hour passed and the novelty of being unable to move and being in true pain for the first time began to wear off, replaced by mild concern that the sector may have already been evacuated. If that was true, it might be days, even weeks, before anyone even noticed there was still somebody trapped there. That was if Wizeman even cared about one trivial soldier, who was now a weak link in the chain, even if they were Second Class. It didn’t mean all that much any more, to be a Second Class Nightmaren. There were too many of them. While they still served the same purpose – to guard an entire Mare – there were too many Maren these days, too many guardians, so many Third Class Nightmaren that Wizeman had stopped making them fertile, and introduced culls on the ones that weren’t. Even First Class Nightmaren weren’t quite as impressive, now that there were twenty-five of them, and Reala had invented the term ‘S-Class Nightmaren’ to refer to himself so he could still feel self-important. No, there was no particular reason for Wizeman to have him recovered at all, unless he wanted information about the attack out of him.
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 +It really was his first time feeling pain. Structural damage, which he had taken thousands of years’ worth of, impeded Nightmaren and made their lives worse in general until they could be repaired, but this feeling that something was deeply, fundamentally wrong with him, an alien presence invading him at the root of his existence and stripping away what it meant to be him, coupled with the knowledge that he might never be able to repair it, was the closest he could imagine to the fear and pain that dreamers, brief mortals encased in weak flesh, must feel every moment of their entire lives. It didn’t make any difference to Lysander whether he empathised with them or not – he did not, and never would, care about the fate of dreamers – but he hoped it would give him information he could use to hunt them more efficiently.
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 +If he ever got out of this Mare.
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 +Meanwhile, a tiny light was about to flicker back into life.
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 +At first it was weak, flashing on and off as rapidly and faintly as the heart of a dying man, every moment of its existence threatening to be the crucial one that decided whether it terminated irrevocably or garnered enough life to support itself at steady pace. Then, after an excruciating five seconds’ wait, the light stabilised and began to broaden. An ear-splitting beep rent the air at roughly the correct pitch and tone to break glass, then a small, square section of pale blue back-light switched on, just bright enough that a casual observer, if any such a thing existed in the world that it was about to wake up to find itself in, would be able to spot the first small light and recognise it for what it was.
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 +It was a little symbol of a battery, the kind that no battery looked like but that the archetypical battery was nearly always represented by, as if it were some kind of racial standard that batteries aspired to live up to in all enterprises that they pursued in their secret inner lives. It was flashing, down to the last of four little segments that its lifespan was depicted as being arbitrarily divided into, as though batteries had all read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and believed their lives were plays divided into acts, but there was still some life left in it.
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 +This, in itself, was a miracle, one so utterly astounding that it was surely beyond the means of any mere Gods, and was immediate hard evidence that a supragodlike administrative organisation existed somewhere beyond the reaches of time. The Game Gear did not care about these theological implications. It was a simple creature who did not waste its life ruminating over such conundrums, and besides, it had already met the Celestial Bureaucracy. One of them had given it a plate of batteries while it perched on their shoulder and watched them drink a cup of tea. It missed those simpler days of its youth.
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 +It lifted a wing experimentally. The limb moved but agony shot down it. Probably broken; it would be suicide to try and fly. It wondered where it was, and whether it was safe for it to take a brief rest. The hated enemy that had attacked its pet human and itself was obviously gone – otherwise it’d be dead by now – but he still didn’t feel safe where he was. On a scale of one to eight on the pro-Game-Gear to anti-Game-Gear scale, it was probably somewhere above eight. It wasn’t quite sure. It could only count up to eight.
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 +The thing that disturbed it the most about the new environment it found itself in was the silence. It wasn’t the silence that suggested its audio systems were damaged, which sounded like static and ringing noises and its own inner workings and whatever was jammed inside its audio systems. It was complete absence of sound. In the same way, the stillness and the endless bleak white plane told the Game Gear that there had never been movement, life, light or sound here, and there never would be. It reminded the Game Gear of crashing. That wasn’t to say that the world had crashed; when you crashed, you generally crashed in the middle of doing something, and you would continue trying to do that thing in vain until someone reset your systems, whereas there wasn’t anything even trying to happen in this world. No, this world was the concept of crashing in general, in the way the picture of a battery that flashed up on the Game Gear’s screen was both a battery and not a battery; it embodied the experience of crashing in the eyes of the crashed, the act of having crashed and the agent of all crashing.
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 +Suddenly, a voice interrupted its pontificating. It adjusted its optical sensors and saw wide purple eyes and a cheeky grin pressed up against its screen. Judging by the angle at which the Game Gear believed itself to be positioned right now (and it admitted it might be mistaken), the stranger was probably above him, flying upside down.
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 +“Hi there,” said the stranger, “Need a lift?”
 
clockwork9.txt · Last modified: 2012/11/12 20:48 by doan
 
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