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soh23 [2011/07/29 20:04] (current)
doan created
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 +He couldn't quite place the voice in his head. He had heard it somewhere before but he couldn't remember where. The voice was dimming – he realised that it was getting further away from him as he rose up into the void. A single pixel of light on a broken screen was drifting into view.
 +
 +He awoke to find that the light glaring down upon him was the lamp in the medical room. He had been lying on the bed. Concerned faces were watching him.
 +
 +“Hey, he's waking up!” said Dunbar.
 +
 +“Told ya he would make it,” said Matt, “He's the one who passed the ordeal. He's a whole Garian, now.”
 +
 +“Not quite,” said John, “There's the one who failed. But then there's a spare Parallel, so it'll be OK.”
 +
 +“There's a what?” demanded Garian.
 +
 +“Oh, you're awake.” he said.
 +
 +“Found your sword,” said Kubota, handing it to him – the newly forged blade of howling static. He stared at it.
 +
 +“Guess there's a battle to fight,” he said.
 +
 +“Yeah, we know, man,” said Matt, “Bruno and J.J's gangs, we already got everyone to J.J. City. The big guys are out and ready to fight.”
 +
 +“This is Garian's battle, idiot.” said Kubota.
 +
 +“Yeah, but we don't want no innocents getting hurt in the cross-fire. Well... non-combatants,” he corrected, remembering the crowd he was talking about.
 +
 +“I'll make it quick,” promised Garian, testing the weight of his sword. It almost seemed to move on its own. It was a living thing, snarling, waiting to be let off its leash. He stood up and walked out of the clinic.
 +
 +As soon as he set one foot outside, the ground began to rumble and then split apart. The first tremor knocked him straight off the balcony. Used to jumping from inadvisable heights, he landed on his feet, avoiding being impaled on the balcony rail that had been wrenched free of its moorings. Everywhere, people were screaming and running into the nearest buildings, even throwing themselves into the sea. The skies had erupted into turmoil as well, lightning rending the clouds and bringing down a torrent of rain. Garian could only watch as Deadman's Castle was torn in two before collapsing in on itself. The fissure had opened directly underneath it. Flames began to erupt from the great cleft in the ground, then a column of lava rose into the sky, setting fire to the hanging garden of the Silver Castle Clock Tower. It was a scene of Armageddon. Where a mighty prison fortress once loomed, there was only scarred wasteland. He prayed that Matt's friends had gotten the inmates to somewhere safe, although he couldn't think where that would possibly be. If this destruction continued, there would be nowhere left.
 +
 +Suddenly, everything became extremely quiet. The darkening sky flashed white, one more sheet of lightning and peel of thunder, then became grey. Out of the chasm rose a small cylinder of glass and metal. Garian recognised it as one of the capsules used for long term storage under the Capture system. Suspended in a time-loop of tiny proportions, a figure floated inside the capsule. It was a Snakebird, its long neck tucked under its wings, its barbed tail wrapped around its body, as the birds tended to do when at rest. Its feathers were white – not the white of a holy shroud, but a sickly, pale colour, like something that had atrophied. He struggled to look at the bird. It was wrong, in some fundamental way he couldn't put his finger on. The fact of its existence seemed to be warping the reality around it to suit it. The world felt suddenly hostile. There were eyes watching him from every corner. He had a sudden terrible feeling that no move he could make would be a good one. He hadn't realised until it had been taken away from him that the world of Jailer's Island had seemed almost comfortingly familiar to him.
 +
 +Worst of all, the world wasn't moving again. There was no background music.
 +
 +The bird stirred and opened its eyes. They were albino pink and had no pupils. The walls of the capsule began to open.
 +
 +Garian's sword buzzed in his hand like a Wiimote responding to a quick time event. He brandished it in the air and ran forward, screaming. When he reached the end of the fissure, he threw himself at the capsule, bringing his sword down in a wide arc.
 +
 +He was thrown back by a force field that knocked him into the bottomless crater. He flailed around for something to stop his fall. He winced in pain as something grabbed him by the hair and hauled him up onto a ledge.
 +
 +“Is that really your plan, Garian? To throw yourself into a hole like a lunatic? That's gonna cost you double Bounty Hunter Points.”
 +
 +“Like I care about my Agency ranking right now!” he growled, “What the hell is that?”
 +
 +“Its a Snakebird,” she said. There was fear in her voice.
 +
 +“Okay, that was a badly worded question... what's wrong with it?”
 +
 +“Its blind,” she said, “And completely insane. And older than time, and more powerful than anything in this Universe.”
 +
 +“Is that the Enemy you were talking about?”
 +
 +She nodded, “We... we didn't realise until we contained it, what it was.”
 +
 +“You said it was free, then the whole Universe was doomed...”
 +
 +“The rules have changed,” she said, “SHIT! INCOMING!”
 +
 +Garian drew his sword. The Snakebird had moved position slightly and dropped something onto the same platform as them. It was Garian-2. The other bounty hunter landed in a crouch, then looked at Garian with pale eyes. The scar on his forehead had twisted and turned in on itself until it looked like a white dot.
 +
 +-------------------
 +
 +“You're late,” he said.
 +
 +He shrugged, “Garian-1, at your service.”
 +
 +“Really? Because to me, it looks like my friend Garian-1 is dead, and you murdered him, Carbon Garian.”
 +
 +He blinked, then felt his forehead with his palm. He didn't have a scar.
 +
 +“You do look a lot like him,” said Perdix.
 +
 +“Come to think of it, I feel a lot like him,” said Garian-1, “I guess you're right. I must be him. Now get out of my way or I'll kill you too. You're standing between me and Parallel Six.”
 +
 +He laughed a hollow laugh, “There is no Parallel Six. Hadn't you figured it out yet? This prison really is just a prison. We've been going around in circles for nothing, looking for something that doesn't even exist. The only 'True Ending' is that there is no ending, because there is nothing to end. There is no overall plan, only co-incidences we grouped together, thinking that fate followed a pattern. There is no overall purpose to our lives. We're just here to be in prison.”
 +
 +“Is that really what he thinks?” asked Perdix, “Is that what he's seeing right now?”
 +
 +“This is the world as it is,” said Garian, “We were all blind, but Infini has opened my eyes. “
 +
 +“Do you realise that this world you're seeing didn't exist until... Infini... 'saw' it?”
 +
 +“If it really is you in there, Garian, and not Carbon Garian, come with me and we'll make our own path in the world,” he extended his palm, “There is no fate, but there is an entire world out there that could be our playground, if we decide to shape our own fate, if we work at it hard enough and build it from the ground upwards.”
 +
 +“Nobody has that right, Garian,” Perdix shook her head, “Even Snakebirds. That's probably what drove the poor thing mad in the first place. Trying to break too many rules. You can be banished from one too many world, end up only in places where nothing can live. Or worse, you can get your wish. The Universe might just let you keep the fate you wanted so badly for yourself. If you don't want a fate... fine, you're banished from fate.”
 +
 +“Garian, I know where Kay is. She's alive. Come with me. I'll show you.”
 +
 +“There's only one problem with that, Garian,” he said, smiling, “You said 'if it really is you, Garian, and not Carbon Garian'. But I really am Carbon Garian. I accept that about myself. It was my ordeal, the sacrifice I made. It made sense that he should be the one, the final one, made out of all of us but with no place of his own in any Parallel, but I was too scared to admit it.”
 +
 +“So, are you going to murder me?”
 +
 +He shook his head, “If I absorb your life energy, I'll absorb some of your timeline too, won't I? I'm afraid I don't want a reality as messed-up as this to be part of my experiences. But I won't let you block my path, either. Perdix, I think its past the time when you can bullshit me about Snakebirds not being allowed to intervene, when there's one of you attacking me!”
 +
 +“I can't. I'm needed on the front lines...” said the bird.
 +
 +“... But I can!” yelled another voice, also avian and female. Regina swooped down from nowhere and grabbed the other Garian by his hair before lifting him up, screaming and thrashing.
 +
 +“Let's go,” said Perdix. Carbon Garian allowed himself to be lifted up. The bird flew towards Infini, who waited, wings outstretched, calling out again and again in a voice like a broken doll.
 +
 +“Sorry for sounding like a sceptic, but I can't fight while dangling in mid-air and I doubt you can fight while you're carrying me,” he commented.
 +
 +“You're right,” said Perdix, and dropped him. He let out a scream that was muted when he landed on a moving platform.
 +
 +“The Warden's alive?”
 +
 +“Yes. Its a long story. I'll tell you it after the battle.”
 +
 +He broke into a broad grin. He wasn't sure why the news felt him with such joy, but it did, “The Warden's alive!”
 +
 +--------------
 +
 +Rather too fast for his comfort, the platform sped off towards the enemy. As soon as the bird came into view, he swung his sword. It moved out of the way almost casually, as though space and time themselves parted to allow it aside. Damn Snakebirds, he thought, they're all the same, Jack, Regina, Infini... you can't hit them no matter how many times you swung. Still, he realised he was moving much faster than usual. When the bird reposted by flapping its wings and whipping up a twin gale of pure paradox, speeding towards him like a howling tornado, he dodged almost as effortlessly as the bird had done. Energy flared from his blade like a fire whipped up by the wind.  The bird's attack was being absorbed by his sword, he realised. He also burned with an aura of pixels. They sang to him like the crackling of a hearth fire. It was comforting. Another reality was asserting itself. One that was so used to hiding inside other realities, both in them and outside of them at the same time, that it ignored Infini's ban on its existence as easily as an experienced burglar bypasses an alarm.
 +
 +There was a screech as Perdix dove straight at the bird, disappeared at the last moment and re-appeared behind it before raking it in the back with her claws. It cried out in pain and snapped on a force field, a writhing bubble of cling film, which threw her back. Sparks flew from the field and she convulsed as if electrocuted. Carbon Garian thrust his sword into the barrier. The pain that ran down his hand felt like he had stuck a fork in a plug socket, but he didn't draw his hand back. The aura around the sword, and around himself, was growing, pulsing, and the sword roared like a beast sating its hunger. Infini shied away from its light, darting backwards and changing its barrier into an omnidirectional laser made of fate-shearing paradox. He screamed as one of the rays hit him, carving a deep welt down his chest. It felt as though the burning agony would never go away, as though the fact was etched into the rut where his future should be. His fingers clenched around the sword. The flames were dancing and leaping. They had their own music, wild and organic.
 +
 +He wasn't very good at fire magic but he would do what he could. He swung the blade towards the bird and concentrated his entire will, bellowing a battle cry at the top of his voice. Pillars of fire erupted from the sword and from his own aura, twisting and winding around each other like dragons  snaking through the sky towards Infini. He put up another force field. It easily stopped the flames reaching him but he didn't realise Carbon Garian's true intent.
 +
 +Perdix's reality had manifested in a wide circle around him, just for a moment.
 +
 +It was long enough.
 +
 +The golden bird shot towards him, her colours as glorious as the rays of the midday sun to counter his limpid moon. He shot away. Once again, the Snakebirds had reached their maximum speeds, too fast for him to follow. What he did see, however, were the platforms that flew in from nowhere, spiralling towards the birds, trying to smack into Infini while missing Perdix. Spires and minarets of the Clock Tower, entire sections of the prison were rising into the air, forming some kind of ever-changing surrealist recreation of the prison as a maze for the aerial combatants. Carbon Garian wasn't sure whether it was really stopping either of the birds but he sure as hell couldn't navigate it. It was like trying to scale the Clock Tower while being drip-fed magic mushrooms.
 +
 +Suddenly, he had  caught up the birds. Infini had been backed into a corner. Perdix's reality was wearing off but she was seconds away from killing him.
 +
 +He flapped his wings and screeched. Pale white light filled Carbon Garian's senses, flickering on and off. He recognised it instantly.
 +
 +“NO!” he screamed, brandishing his sword. Greyscale lightning crackled. He was engulfed in a sphere of static just as the spell hit. Instead of light, he met darkness.
 +
 +-----------------------
 +
 +A figure was hovering in the darkness. At first he thought it was Kurtliegen, then he saw that it was a different man in the Warden's mantle. He was slightly shorter – not a difficult task, as Kurtliegen was rather clumsily ungainly -  he looked around twenty years older, with grey hair and a  no-nonsense moustache, and he wore a grey suit. He kind of reminded Carbon Garian of a venerable old wolf.
 +
 +“DeBose?” he guessed.
 +
 +“Right first time,” said the man, snapping his fingers. Several lights went on, small orange lights in the floor. He was in Perdix's room, in the unused space.
 +
 +“That's the second time you've got me out of a scrape. Thanks.”
 +
 +“It was the same one, funnily enough,” he said, “That piece of shit bird didn't escape. If it had done, we'd all be worse than dead. It was flying towards the Island's event horizon.”
 +
 +“Trying to escape?”
 +
 +“I fucking hate escapees,” he commented, “But he made the biggest mistake of his whole existence. He tried to get out through Two Alternate Beta. That, with Tracy roaming around off her leash.”
 +
 +“What the hell did he do that for?”
 +
 +“As far as I can tell, because he followed the other Garian. If the other Garian was there, it'd be the only place where you weren't. And the only Garian there would be his own pet Garian.”
 +
 +“You mean, Garian-2's not...?”
 +
 +“'Two' is a relative term,” he laughed, “Geez, a fine mess this Island is.”
 +
 +“What's happening to Tracy right now? She's not going to delete the Universe, is she? That would kinda make everything I've fought for pointless.”
 +
 +“I don't know that, kid. I only know what I saw. This place only exists because you made it exist. It'll disappear once your sword's charge runs out. Then I'll have to get you out of here before you disappear with it, 'cause that'd make me sad,” he said, “I always did like you. You and that Seagal kid. Always knew you'd make Class A some day.”
 +
 +“Did you see the other Garian?”
 +
 +He shook his head sadly, “I'm sorry. He's not gonna make it out. If its any consolation, that Garian never did stand a chance. You don't get out of Two Alternate Beta alive.”
 +
 +“I can't believe it... all that time...” he shook his head, “What he must have been going through each time... no wonder he fell under Infini's control.”
 +
 +“He was calling Kay's name, over and over again.”
 +
 +“Oh yeah... he said something about meeting with Kay. Is that what Infini promised him? To be with Kay?”
 +
 +“Could be. The things people do for love...”
 +
 +He shook his head, “I guess that means I'll never see Kay again. I'm not sacrificing my True Ending just for Kay. I'm sorry, Kay, but...”
 +
 +“Its okay. You learn in life that there are many kinds of love. I chose to show love by protecting the things I'm responsible for, as a Warden.”
 +
 +“I'm not sure Kurt would agree with you.”
 +
 +“Well, Wardens are different, and so are people. You'd be surprised how much a man can change, though,” he said, “You've reminded me. I'm not really the Warden. Kurtliegen is. I'm in Carbon Freeze, watching the world go by. Better get back to what I was doing.”
 +
 +“This world isn't going to go permanently, is it?” asked Carbon Garian, “The Unused World deserves to live, too. For you, and for Perdix, and for the part of me that's glitch-Garian.”
 +
 +He laughed, “There'll always be dreams, kid. Even when you wake up, you'll soon need to sleep again. And the prototypes are the oldest and deepest dreams of all. Its time to wake up now. Time to reach your Climax.”
 +
 +He snapped his fingers again and the bells of the Silver Clock Tower began to toll, louder and louder, over and over again.
 
soh23.txt · Last modified: 2011/07/29 20:04 by doan
 
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