2004-03-25 | 5:30 p.m.
The Dance

-----"This is so embarrassing," moaned Enzo, pulling back. Peter paid him no mind and continued dragging him up to the counter.
-----"Don't be such a puss," Peter demanded, "you've got less than a week to learn how to dance. Unless you want to embarrass yourself in front of the whole school?"
-----Enzo groaned and looked over the Marionettes. Cheap, low quality humanoid robots used to teach simple basic skills, like swimming, tumbling or dancing. Enzo didn't really want to learn to dance. It was embarrassing to be using 'nettes at his age. Of course, Peter's argument was that it was embarrassing not knowing how to dance at his age, which was only true if you ever had to actually dance.
-----Unfortunately Levitan City had a major High School dance scheduled for the next week, and all the kids from every district in the city were going to be there. It was a rare and major event. No one wanted to miss it. Even less did anyone want to embarrass themself in front of every person their age in the entire city.
-----"Alright, alright, I'll do it," Enzo shouted to forstall Peter's constant nagging. It didn't really matter what 'nette he danced with, none of them looked at all realistic. He punched a button at random and stepped out onto the dance floor.
-----An auburn haired 'nette slid smoothly forward, it's uncovered joints bending in ways no normal human's could. There were several minutes of confusion as Enzo figured out the proper way to stand, and the proper way to hold the marionette, then a slow waltz began to play.
-----Light, azure blue eyes stared, into blank, artificial blue eyes, and Enzo prepared the follow the 'nette's instructions for the dance, but all he could do was stare into eyes as deep and blue-green as the ocean. The body in his arm was warm, and vibrant, no longer a marionette, but a woman, her hair shining auburn waves across her back that lightly brushed his fingers as he held her.
-----There should have been confusion, there should have been alarm, but Enzo felt none of these things. Enzo felt nothing anymore, but there was something. The waltz continued to play, their feet began to move, but in an upbeat salsa, their steps quick, perfect, as if they had danced together hundreds, thousands of times before.
-----Their eyes remained locked whenever they faced each other, unable to look away. Neither of them could speak, the dance their only means of communication. The steps were prescribed, their meaning determined, but this man and this woman put everything they had ever felt for each other into their dance.
-----And then it was over. The music played on, but the dance ended. Enzo stood their holding the auburn haired, blue eyed Marionette in his arms. His head felt fuzzy as he walked away, back outside with Peter, looking back every so often at the 'nette standing there. He could have sworn it hadn't felt like a 'nette, that something had been different.
-----"Wow man, you're a natural. You and that 'nette were all over the place. You are going to kick ass at the dance this weekend!"
-----Enzo didn't remeber learning anything. Everything was fuzzy, vague and uncertain. Everything, except Enzo was now certain he could dance any dance he cared to set his feet to.


-----"Special Agent Lordaeron reporting for duty," Terry announced to a room that was utterly failing to pay him the slightest bit of attention.
-----Terrence Lordaeron stood at ease, hands folded behind his back, as men and women scurried back and forth across the room, going in and out of one of five doors, including the one he had come through. Though technically a high security government installation, the place was crawling with scientists and magicians, none of whom seemed at all disturbed, or even interested, by the shadow within their midst.
-----Several minutes later a short, balding man walked up to him distractedly, touched his arm, saying, "Follow me." The older man led Terry through several doorways, past labs, down hallways, and through the facility, until he came to a sealed door without ever once glancing at him.
-----The older man pressed his forehead against the door, mumbled a few nonsense syllables, then stepped back quickly as the door slid open. He turned and walked away, mumbling to himself, leaving Terry to decide whether to enter the doorway or not. With a raised eyebrow no one could see, Terry entered the room.

-----There were five people in the room, four women and a man, all five wearing inch thick glasses. There was only so much science and magic could do for your eyesight when you abused it on a regular basis.
-----The five were standing, obviously waiting for him. Behind them was some sort of massive device with cable and machinery running off of it out into the room, and back into the walls. The room wasn't very large, and had a one way mirror on the far end. Obviously meant to observe whatever was going on with the device.
-----Terry hadn't technically been in the military for years, and, if you were being technically correct, no one in this room outranked him, but he stood at attention anyway. Always better safe than sorry, especially when dealing with the government. None of them seemed to notice.
-----"You are Terrence Lordaeron, correct?" asked one of the women standing to his left. Her eyes were green behind her coke bottle lenses.
-----"Yes I am," Terry responded mildly, his eyes barely moving as he took in details about each of them.
-----The tallest, and probably eldest of the women spoke then. "Excellent. You come well recommended to us Special Agent Lordaeron. We have a very important mission for you. I assume you've been made aware of the security issues involved, and your...discretion...has been assured to us."
-----Terry nodded and the scientist, her demeanor was all wrong to be any kind of magical theorist, continued, "Of course you know that our world is not like a normal planet.
-----"Freedom is an artificial world, powered by forces we only just barely understand, that travels endlessly throughout space. Our atmosphere is artificial, as is our sun, and when night falls, the sky is always filled with different stars, and planets as we travel from system to system, and from galaxy to galaxy.
-----"Of course, every school child knows this. This is nothing new. And they are also taught that many of the jobs we do help to provide energy both to keep our atmosphere intact, and maintain the propulsion of our world's engines. Freedom is basically the world's largest perpetual motion machine, and we, humanity, are a vital part of it. Luckily, we are a renewable resource."
-----Here the scientist, obviously the lady in charge, paused, but Terry didn't move at all. He had lots of practice in remaining perfectly still, in seeming to disappear in plain sight.
-----"What they are not taught is how and why this world, Freedom was designed. The primary reason for this is that no one is really sure.
-----"What we are sure of is that it is a very complex system, more complex that nearly anyone of this time can conceive. This world Freedom is nearly 1000 years old, possibly older, and yet it still functions as if it were new made. Do you even being to comprehend how incredible that is?"
-----Terry nodded again, she seemed to expect then, then she continued on. "We must assume that among the people who originally designed Freedom both genius and practicality were common. Now, if you were going to design a self contained facility of any nature, what would be your primary concerns, Special Agent."
-----Terry gave this careful thought, but he already knew the answer, it was much the same considerations you made when preparing a mission into dangerous territory. "Food and water, some form of shelter or other protection, security, and an escape route or contingency plan."
-----The scientist nodded and held out her hand. The only other man in the room handed her a small display unit, which she passed to Terry.
-----"You were once in the military, I understand, what do you make of this."
-----Terry took the dispaly, and glanced at it. It was quite simple, and he gave the obvious answer. "I see 23 enemy units converging on a single allied base, all coming from the same direction, spread out in an arc so a single spray of fire won't take them all out." Terry handed the display back to the other man.
-----"That is absolutely correct special agent. I can see you are definitely the man for this job.
-----"You see, that allied base is our world, and those 23 eneny units are starships which our data assures us are armed to the teeth, and probably violently inclined towards anyone they meet in space. Basically space pirates.
-----"What we believe is that our world, Freedom, was designed with a contingency plan, some sort of fail safe, that would activate whenever it was threatened by something that could not be handled by the normal operational systems. This fail safe would have to be highly advanced, probably intelligent, and likely sentient as well, to be able to handle any eventuality.
-----"We are quite certain such a fail safe exists Special Agent. But like so much of the technology that keeps our world operational we...we don't know what or where it is, nor how to activate it."
-----Terry blinked as his mind tried to rap itself around the implications. The entire world, his entire world, was in danger from multipe enemy targets, possibly with superior armament. There was a contigency plan in place to deal with such a situation, but no one knew precisely what this plan was.
-----"From that data, it would appear the enemy is very close?" Terry asked.
-----Another of the scientists answered, short with mousy brown hair, she seemed the youngest, which put her several decades Terry's senior, "We estimate at their current speed they should be within striking distance of what weaponry we do know about in one day and two hours. We assume their weapons have a similar, if not greater striking distance."
-----"So, at best we have a day to prepare." Terry looked at each of them. "I assume from the lack of unreasoning panic that we have a plan?"
-----"Yes," their leader said. She beckoned him to the device behind her. Now he could tell it was some sort of stillstate device. There was a cushioned depression sized for a human body, and many of the tubes heading away from it had devices to be placed against or within the human body. He had no talent for magic, but he was certain that it also generated a stasis field of some kind, probably a standard stillstate field that slowed the activity of the body while leaving the mind active.
-----"This stillstate device is nearly as old as our world of Freedom. It also appears to be the basis for the stillstate devices we use for advanced teaching and sublimation techniques. However, this device is not meant to teach precisely. From our tests we have determined that it is meant to fold time," the head scientist used the world with some distaste, as if it were incorrect and she was upset she could not think of anything better.
-----"We have already tried to use it once, with one of our scientists, and we discovered, in the process, more of how it works. Unfortunately, that discovery cost Theodore his life."
-----All five of them stilled for a moment, as if remembering an old friend, then the head scientist continued her explanation.
-----"What this device does is, it separates your being, what you are, from your body. It works by sending, essentially, your soul, backwards through time, separate from your body. It uses the stillstate field to keep the body alive and properly active while the spirit that animates it is gone. This is not what killed Theodore.
-----"Apparently the process of reintegrating the spirit with the body is...harsh. Dr. Theodore Hubrick was as old as any of us. He was fine until the awakening process began. We could see he was struggling, but there was nothing we could do, his heart simply gave out.
-----"This is why we requested your assisstance. You were militarily trained, and have had further training and experience in information gathering operations. You are young, and in excellent physical shape. We believe that not only can you survive the stillstate process and the awakening process, but that you will be able to gather the information we need and return to us in time for us to put that information to use and save our world.
-----"Are you willing to do this, Special Agent Lordaeron?"
-----Terry smiled, the expression finally reaching his blank eyes. This was bound to be interesting. "Strap me in," he said.


-----They were nearly done with the tango. Associations had all been set up, and now calibrations were being made.
-----Dr. Alvin Corwin watched his young daughter and her lover sadly. Everyone in the project shared the young ones' pain, but not so intensely as Dr. Corwin.
-----It had been her choice, of course. They hadn't fought about it, hadn't even argued. They both knew it had to be done, and Liss Corwin was simply the most qualified. It was just a twist of fate that the most qualified partner they could find turned out to be perfect for her in more ways than as a dancer.
-----The process was conducted in silence. Ethan and Liss were long past the stage where they needed any music other than that that beat between them for their dance. The scientists were quiet so as not to disturb them.
-----It was sad that they loved each other so, but it made them perfect for the project. Their synchronization was complete, their movements clean and perfect, they were like a higher mathematical equation. Absolute and irrefutable.
-----A voice in the back of Dr. Corwin's head seemed to want to go over all the events that had led up to this point, and he found himself staring off into space, recounting his memories....

-----Ethan lifted Liss from the dip and the dance ended. They continued to hold each other, azure blue eyes open as the sky, and blue-green eyes deep as the sea, both filled with love, and they kissed.
-----"I'm so sorry, Ethan," Liss whispered when their lips finally parted.
-----"What's there to be sorry about my dove? Everyone acts as if this is some great tragedy, but it's not. I know it means we'll be separated in time. But our love will last forever. We will last forever."
-----Liss just shook her head. Ethan didn't understand. They'd both be around for eternity, but they were still doomed. There was no way for it to work out, not really. Liss had come to accept this, and mourn. Ethan thought everything would be okay.
-----"But it won't be my body anymore, or yours. 90% of my body mass will be replaced with machinery and data. I'll still look the same, but it won't be my body."
-----"And do you really believe it's only your body I'm interested in, petal?"
-----Liss smiled despite herself and snuggled deeper into Ethan's arms. "You seem fond enough of it, dearest. And what about you? Your being will be drawn from your body, tied by your own magic to this world for all eternity, to be reborn again and again. And all for what? Some overly complex disaster detection system? It's ridiculous."
-----"It's ingenious Liss, truly visionary. For centuries scientists and magicians have tried to find the perfect balance between science and magic. No one else could have come up with a system sufficiently intelligent to handle any eventuality. Your father is a great man."
-----"Oh yes, he is a genius. A mad genius. No matter how brilliant it is, it's still insane. There has to be an easier way."
-----"Maybe, petal, maybe, but who is brilliant enough to think of it?" And that was true, and there was nothing else to say.

-----Today would be their last dance as they were. The last test run through the entire program before all the codesteps were coded and accepted. Today they would dance, and tomorrow they would begin the operations that wold make Liss into a cyborg interface for the Freedom Computer Control system.
-----It truly was brilliant. What better way to insure a system could handle any possible situation than by adding not one, but two sentient components that could interface with the sytem, and with each other.
-----Ethan was the detection system. His being would be stripped from his body by magic, and bound eternally into the very atmosphere of their new world. His magic would blanket the world, and detect anything and everything that went on within it, as well as around it. Aware, though not truly awake, it would take note of any situation the standard systems could not handle.
-----This awareness would be reborn generation after generation, into a new body, an attachment to this new consciousness. Whenever an abnormal situation arose, Ethan would 'awake' and his magic would trigger Liss' awakening from a complete stasis. A stasis capable only because she would be more machine than woman.
-----And they would dance. There were two parts to the dance. In the first, Ethan would lead, the dance chosen, and the steps of the dance conveying to the Computer the problem and the situation surrounding it. The Computer would process this, and together with Liss would come up with a solution based on it's available options, and the dance would change, a course of action would be set, and followed through, and everything would be alright, and they would both resume their slumber.
-----But today, they danced. They danced every dance they knew, they created dances that had never been seen before. Their feet wove and glided and flew, and it was beauty, and it was grace, and it was data, and it was love.
-----And the dance ended, and they kissed, and Liss returned to her room, to rest before her operation, and cried herself to sleep.

-----Dr. Corwin monitored them as they danced. It was remarkable that the operation had proved such a success. He had feared losing his daughter, but the test runs as Liss and Ethan danced showed that nothing had changed. She was more machine than human, but she was still a woman, and she still loved.
-----It was there in their dance. Adjustments had to be made. Liss was still light on her feet, her movements enhanced somewhat by her design, but she was a small woman, and so was considerably heavier now that her entire skeletal system had been replaced with metal.
-----Liss had been happy to still be herself when the drugs and anesthetics had finally worn off, but she was still melancholy. Dr. Corwin knew why, of course, knew that she would miss her lover. He cursed himself every day for doing this to her, to them. He only hoped his surprise could make up for it.
-----Before the end, before the system was brought online, he would see the two of them married. See them bound together in a way more meaningful, and hopefully more permanent, than some damned security system.


-----Terry groaned. His head felt like little prison inmates had taken up residence and were trying to dig their way out of his skull with spoons they'd pilfered from the mess hall. The sudden bright flash of light in his eyes did nothing to help.
-----He struck out, knocking the flashlight across the room, and the person who had been holding it squacked and clutched at their stinging hand.
-----"You seem to have returned perfectly healthy," said the head scientist. Terry still didn't know any of their names.
-----"I've got a headache that could conquer a small nation."
-----She smiled, "I have some aspirin if you think you can open your eyes without attacking anyone."
-----"Sorry about that," Terry grimaced. "It was easy enough while I was there, in Dr. Corwin's head, but coming back into my own body was....
-----"Actually, now that I think on it, I don't remember at all what it was like."
-----Terry took the aspirin, and the scientists gave him a moment to recover himself. They had been joined by two more men and another woman, none of them more than a few years older than Terry himself. "So?" the head scientist finally demanded.
-----"I don't think there's much to worry about," Terry said, "the fail safe system is made to kick in automatically. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it has already completed processing."
-----There was some muttering and whispering, things like 'Incredible' or 'Wonderful' or 'Unbelievable'. The head scientist ignored them all, and simply asked for an explanation.
-----Terry did his best to explain what he understood of the system. About Ethan, and Liss, and the dance, about the use of a magical detection system, an artistic interface system, and a scientific defense system, but he was less than a quarter of his way through his explanation when the entire room shuddered like a present being shaken to tell what was inside.
-----Into the absolute silence that followed came the voice of the short, brown haired scientist as she summed up what they all were thinking. "What the hell was that?"

-----An hour later scientists, magicians, generals, and the president himself were discussing not only what the hell that was, but why it had happened, and what, if anything, they needed to do about it.
-----Across the table were strewn countless sheets of paper, covered in technical diagrams, equations, rituals, proofs, spells and even bits of high level, object oriented code, and a few sheets that were in nothing but machine code. Terry had been writing virtually non-stop since he awakened from stillstate, all the things he remembered from his trip through time, and into the subconscious of Dr. Alvin Corwin, as much as he could get down before it all faded and was forgotten. Terry understood virtually none of it, and knew that what he'd managed to get down was only a fraction of what all there was to it, but every scientist and magician at the table was hard pressed to keep their attention on the conversation and off his writings.
-----As it turned out, the shaking had been the remains of the recoil from firing an energy blast so intense it had blazed across the night sky, even though, as far as anyone could tell, it had originated from beneath Freedom, a place that had proven to be completely inacessible up to this point. The world's energy reserves had been drained by 4.62%, and the temperature world wide had risen by 11.
-----"So, the temperature rise is nothing to worry about. It was basically a method of recoil compensation for so large a blast, much like a gas vent. The kinectic energy produced was converted magically into heat energy and released into the atmosphere. It should dissipate on it's own in a day or so."
-----"So what, the crisis is over?" General Caster asked.
-----"Not exactly," said yet another scientist, or mabye a magician, the two were difficult at best to tell appart. Buttons were pressed, and part of one wall turned into a display. "21 of the enemy targets appear to have been completely annihilated by the blast. The two remaining targets have both sped up, and become more erratic in their flight patterns. This could indicate either that they are both damaged, or that they are taking evasive action to avoid another blast."
-----"They're hanging together pretty tightly there," said the president, "have they changed course?"
-----A tactical officer of some lower rank answered. "It appears not sir. Neither has veered from it's course, they ar simply approaching more erractically now, but it still appears our world is their target. We have been as yet unable to determine the extent of their damage, or even if they are damaged."
-----"Would another blast like that last one be able to take them out," demanded Admiral Smidge.
-----Another scientist/magician answered. "Almost certainly, if it were aimed properly. However, not only do we not yet have direct access to take such a shot, that would put our planet's energy reserves dangerously low. As it is a number of laborers will have to put in a lot of overtime to get us back to our previous level of reserve energy. Also, another increase in atmospheric heat of that maginitude would affect crops this season."
-----"Anyway," the president said as he finished, "there are only two of them. We should be able to take them out with conventional weaponry. Unless their weapons are a lot more advanced than what we've detected so far.
-----"Anyone else have anything to add?"
-----There was a bit more discussion, but no one really had anything useful to say, and the scientists and magicians all wanted to get back to studying the information Terry had brought back from the past with him. Eventually the council was ended, and the president went out to reassure the people that Freedom was safe and whole as always.

-----Twenty hours later the president and the generals were demanding to know what was going on.
-----Apparently standard planetary weapons had managed to destory one of the enemy targets, and damage the remaining enemy, which had then crash landed somewhere out in the countryside. A military operation was being planned to locate and deal with the survivors, assuming there were any.
-----The problem was, no one knew what the invaders were like, or what their capabilities were. No one was even sure if this would be a search and destory mission, or a rescue mission. After all, after having virtually their entire fleet destroyed, most intelligent species would probably surrender without further activity.
-----A team had been put together, with Terry and a few other Special Agents along to see if they could infiltrate the enemy before the troops were sent in.


-----The lights could be seen from down in the city, and army vehicles had passed through town not ten minutes earlier.
-----It was the middle of the night, and everyone in Levitan City had been awakened by the sound of what, they were told, was an alien starship crashing into their world.
-----Enzo was standing in his back yard, staring at the flickering light, probably a fire of some type. His parents had gone back to bed, but for some reason he couldn't walk away. He felt...drawn..., as if he were too big for his body, as if something momentous was going on.
-----There was the sound of someone approaching, and Enzo turned, and found himself looking down in eyes like the ocean, a deep, dark blue in the starlight, with hints of green. His eyes locked with hers, he found his arms around her, and Enzo was gone.
-----Ethan and Liss stared into each other's eyes, as their bodies danced. So much to say to each other, so many centuries, but they were forbidden words, could only look at each other, could only dance thier program, and Ethan stared out of eyes light enough to match his own at the woman he loved.
-----Ethan was consumed with rage, pain, despair, so it was Liss who first noticed the steps her body followed automatically. Something was very wrong.
-----The dance they danced now had no name. The steps were complex and unique. It was a dance Ethan and Liss had created together, and expression of their love for one another. Had she still been human, Liss would have missed a stepped. She knew this dance, it's steps were imprinted on her soul, but she had no clue what it meant in the system, no clue why they danced this dance at all.
-----It was the look of concern in Liss' eyes that first clued Ethan in, and he noticed the steps his magic guided him in. The body he inhabited was human, but rather than stumbling, the dance simply stopped. It was over, and there Ethan stood, holding Liss.
-----Ethan was the first to recover, pressing his lips against Liss', drawing her towards him, devouring her presence as tears began to spill from her eyes.
-----Liss remembered Ethan being almost nine inches taller than her, but this body was only 5' 5", a scant three inchest taller, but it felt like Ethan, it moved like Ethan, and she knew that it was him.
-----The kiss ended, and they continued to look at each other, crying silently. They had both been silent so long, neither knew what to say, or how to say it. Neither was sure what words there were to say.
-----Perhaps they would have stood there for eternity, staring at each other, but Liss received a system prompt. "Active duty," she said, "It means active duty."
-----"What?"
-----"That dance, our dance, it initiates active duty. Something you and I personally are to take care of. Specifically, an enemy that needs to be defeated for Freedom's safety."
-----Ethan looked up, looked around, his eyes passing over the flicker of flames in the distance. He looked over the world he remembered from when it was just being constructed. Overlapped were images of the world over the eleven hundred years he had been born and reborn on this world. Rage boiled within him, bitter hatred like hellfire and he sneered. "Let it burn. Let it all burn. Why should I squander this time for a world that has been my prison for eleven generations. Freedom, ha!"
-----"It's not their fault Ethan, none of their fault. We chose this, you and I, and the people who did it to us are long dead."
-----"No, you don't understand Liss," he turned to her, eyes pleading, "This won't last forever, eventually the system will reset, and we'll have to go back. The only way we can die is if this world ends, if it ceases functioning and loses all energy.
-----"It's not the same for you. You simply return to your bed and sleep the centuries away. I live life, after life, and all of them doomed. I love you Liss, I always will, and every life I lead feels the pang of your loss. Gavin, or Paedrig, or Norris and now Enzo, they all die, alone and unhappy, unable to find love because they can never have you. I can never have you, and every life I lead is more horrible than the last because of it!"
-----"I know," she whispered, stroking his face, trying to calm him, "I know. I've known for a long time what you would face, I feared what would happen, but it was already too late. An eternity of loneliness for both of us, our lives, our very beings given so that our people, our world could live."
-----Liss breathed deeply, afraid to say the words she knew she had to say. She took Ethan's hand, squeezed it tightly, then began to walk away. "You can walk away from it all, if you want. Your system is powered almost entirely by your own magic, nothing and no one can force you.
-----"But I'm more machine than woman. I have no choice, this body will take me whether I want to go or not. If I fight it, it will control me completely. The only way I have any choice, any control, is to surrender."
-----'Impressive,' thought Terry, with a sort of macabre humor.
-----These aliens, these pirates, whatever they were, had managed to build a perimeter around their crashed ship in an hour that had stood up to, and routed an entire military troop. Infiltration had been impossible, and very little information had been gathered about the enemy.
-----That they had highly advanced technology, including apparently autonomous or semiautonomous combat machines was evident. That they could produce massive firepower was now known. It was also suspected they possessed at least one military genius amongst them.
-----Exactly what they were was still a mystery.
-----Terry had haunted the wreckage left behind by the troops slaughter for over an hour when he finally decided to report back to headquarters. He'd found a jeep that was intact and had modified the engine to run silent. Didn't want to bring attention to himself. He'd found no other survivors. Likely there were some, but he coudln't search too openly without risking himself, and as he was the only one who knew for sure what had happened, he had to return to report. If only he could have found an intact transmitter, or radio, or anything. He'd have tried smoke signals if there weren't already so much smoke.
-----The jeep started silently, and Terry follwed the most cirumspect path away from the fortified encampment. It had been a stroke of luck for the enemy to crashland in the mountains, made it impossible for them to be properly surrounded, even by air. However, it made it fairly easy for a trained agent to avoid detection, even in a moving vehicle, especially at night.

-----Finally out of the mountains, Terry picked up speed. Hopefully the enemy hadn't had time to put up sentries this far out, and he needed to report to headquarters quickly. It was still night, and the terrain was gentler, so he could make haste without endangering his position.
-----That was the plan at least, but it was foiled by movement ahead of him. Two figures, walking towards him, and there was nowhere for him to hide. No forest, no cul-de-sac, nothing, so cutting the engine was useless. His only hope was to try to run them over and hope they weren't civilians, and they didn't kill him.
-----He managed to swerve aside at the last minute though, brining the jeep to a halt. He recognized the figures walking towards him, impossible as it seemed. He knew them both, remembered them both. The man was too young, too short, his face was wrong and his build bulkier than it had been, but it was the same man. He moved the same, and that was a hard thing to copy.
-----Terry Lordaeron stared open mouthed as Freedom's failsafe system walked up to his jeep and said, "Hi."
-----"What is going on here?" Terry asked no one in particular.
-----"I'm Liss, this is Ethan. We were just going for a walk, and we wanted to see what had happened up in the mountains."
-----"I know who you are. I know what you are. What I meant is, what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be dancing or something and powering up that great bloody cannon under the world?"
------Ethan stepped in front of Liss, and lifted his right arm. "Who are you, and how do you know this?"
------Terry raised his hands in the universal, 'don't kill me, I'm not a threat' gesture, and tried to explain. "I'm Special Agent Terence Loradaeron. I know about you because I was sent on a mission to discover the workings of this planet's failsafe system."
-----"Don't harm him Ethan, he's a government agent," Liss said. "And he can help us, tell us what's happened. Plus, you must be tired of walking, he can loan us his jeep."
-----"Wait, no, no, we just suffered a massive defeat. I don't know if there are any other survivors. I have to report back to mission headquarters."
-----"No you do not," Liss said calmly, "no one else needs to die. We will take care of this."
-----"I'm sorry, I can't do that ma'am, this is a terrible threat, and someone has to know about it."
-----"If you know who we are, then you know I outrank you Agent Lordaeron," Ethan interrupted, "and I'm telling you to do what the lady says."
-----Terry blinked, then looked at Ethan for a moment. Ethan looked back impatiently, and Terry shrugged. He was used to following orders, no matter how asinine. "Alright, hop in, I'll tell you what happened on the way."

-----That had abandoned the jeep, and were now looking at the encampment and the remains of the battle. "How horrible," Liss whispered.
-----"Yes," Terry agreed, "and we leared very little about them. Which is why we should report back, get more surveillance up here."
-----"They're reptilian," Ethan said, "each of them cybernetically enhanced. They appear to fight with blaster weapons, short ranged but highly destructive. No overt magical ability it seems, but they may have some natural or individual magic. Only about twenty life signs detected total."
-----"...how can you tell all of that," Terry asked.
-----Ethan just bared his teeth at him. "I'm a living, breathing surveillance and detection system. With no magic to speak of, I can learn everything about them down to the color of their underwear without them ever realizing I'm doing anything."
-----A few more minutes passed as they continued to study the encampment, then Liss spoke. "We should wait until after daybreak to attack then, near the height of the sun."
-----"Wait, what!?"
-----"I am in constant contact with the Freedom Computer Control System. From the information Ethan has given us, we know that they are cold-blooded, they'll be sluggish during the day. And they don't seem interested in moving now, they appear to be increasing their fortifications...."
-----"Downward," Ethan interrupted. "They don't seem to plan to build out, they're digging into the planet. It seems they plan to build a shelter there for some reason."
-----They were silent a moment more, then Liss spoke up again, "Their war machines. They're semi-autonomous. They can invade and pillage our planet without ever leaving this encampment. If our armed forces attack, we just provide them with salvagable equipment to build more robots with."
-----"And you're sure we don't need some kind of backup here?" Terry asked.
-----"Certain," Liss said.

-----They had found a quiet place to await daybreak, and once they were sure he wouldn't go running back to tattle to his superiors, they sent Terry away so they could be alone.
-----"Why are we doing this, Liss?"
-----"It's why we're here, love, why we're still alive. If it weren't for things like this, we would have been dead long since."
-----"And been a lot happier for it," Ethan spat bitterly.
-----"Would we have been? I no longer believe the dead feel anything."
-----"At least we wouldn't have been so miserable."
-----"I'm not miserable now Ethan. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I'm actually happy. I know this can't last forever, but weren't you the one who said something about not wasting the time we have?"
-----"What do you mean, Liss?"
-----Liss laughed, softly. "Do I have to do everything?" she demanded. Grabbing him in her arms, she kissed him thoroughly. "If now is all the time we have, let it mean something dearest."
-----Ethan kissed her eyelids, stroking his hand down her back. "You mean everything to me," he whispered as he took her in his arms.


-----Terry was tucked somewhere out of the way. He had been told in no uncertain terms that he was merely an observer, his help was neither wanted or needed. Liss had reiterated, "No one else needs to die for this."
-----It was only an hour till midday, and the two of them, Ethan and Liss walked calmly up to the barricade. This was ridiculous. She was wearing a dress, how did she plan to fight in that? And neither of them carried any weapons that he'd been able to detect. They were both going to die, and what would his world do then.
-----They had been detected, and one of the war machines turned toward them, ready to attack. Terry stood, prepared to sprint out, to protect them with what little equipment he had, his gun out and ready to fire.
-----The air in Ethan's right hand shimmered, turned, hardened, a sword formed out of air, but that was nothing. A dark stream flowed from Liss, it tore through the barricade, the war machine, and everything behind it.
-----Terry had almost forgotten that she was a cyborg, had never know she was equipped with a black chain, an erosion weapon of immense destruction. It tore through everything before it in a matter of seconds.
-----They fought side by side, Liss doing most of the damage. Aside from the black chain, she was equipped with both laser and blaster weapons, and she used them each to take out the enemy machines left and right. She also had some sort of device that generated electromagnetic fields several feet away, destroying the systems of several of the machines before they could even be mobilized.
-----And Ethan was the perfect defense. Energy blasts of all kinds hit his shield and dissipated. Anything material that came at them was cut out of the air by his sword. He moved as if he knew exactly where each attack was coming from, and Terry realized he did, his magic could detect an attack long before it got into his range.
-----They tore through an encampment that had destroyed an entire troop in a matter of minutes, and the invaders began to show themselves.
-----Large, biped lizards of some kind, with scales that gleamed as brightly in the sunlight as the metal that made up half of their bodies. They fought slight better than the war machines, they were more agile, able to dodge better, but Ethan and Liss still cleaved through them mercilessly, the black chain taking out five of them in the one shot of it she managed to get off. Not a single attack penetrated Ethan's defense, and still war machines fell to pieces and exploded all around them.
-----Then he showed up. Bright red scales, and metal body parts painted black so they didn't shine at all, even in the direct sun. He was obviously the leader, obviously a badass. 'This is it,' Terry thought, 'this is what legends are made of, why stories are told. This is the final battle.'
-----The commander deflected several of Liss' shots, and returned fire. An electromagnetic field formed around him, making his right arm useless, and Ethan cleaved him in half with his sword of air. It had taken seconds, working in perfect sync to defeat him.
-----'Well that was rather anticlimatic,' Terry thought.

-----Terry stood before the President and the military leaders of Freedom as he gave his report, "...and I drove them back to the town. They disappeared after that. Liss to wherever she goes to sleep, and Ethan to somewhere in town. I suspect he lives in Levitan somewhere, or at least, the body he inhabits."
-----There was nothing but silence, as they looked at each other, and looked at Agent Lordaeron, and considered. Finally, the president spoke. "We can't reveal all this to the public. It sounds ridiculous even to those of us who know it's truth. We'll tell the families of the soldiers they died saving our world.
-----"And you, Special Agent Lordaeron, you'll be a hero, the only survivor of the battle. Can you handle that?"
-----Terry shrugged, then smiled, "I'll deal with it."


-----Dr. Alvin Corwin blinked rapidly as he awoke, and it took a moment for his mind to adjust. Waking up was always confusing after a century or more of sleep.
-----He finally lifted himself tiredly from his stasis bed, stretching taut and sore muscles, and look at his readouts. He'd aged another year while in stillstate, the process was still imperfect, but he was still here, so Freedom, at least, was still in working order.
-----Dr. Corwin touched the wall, opening the panel to the secret passage that connected this room, that existed on no floor plan ever done for freedom, to the Freedom Computer Control room. He walked over to his daughter's bed, far more elaborate than his own, and looked down on her.
-----She had been awake recently, an event which had triggered his own awakening. He brushed her hair back out of her face, careful not to disturb the stasis field, or get caught in it. She had not aged at all, of course, but what with so much of her being artificial, what stasis there was was sufficient.
-----Dr. Corwin quickly went over her readings, making sure they were all correct, then paused, confused. Liss was still, unchanging, but something was incorrect about these readings. But what could it be.
-----His breath caught as he worked it out. A fertilized egg, and it had stuck to the uterine wall. His daughter was pregnant.
-----It could only mean one thing. Protocol Omega Ar 32 had run and activated sub-protocol Anum Tres. For a time Liss and Ethan had been awake, and it was obvious what they had done with his time.
-----Alvin went to sit down and made himself a cup of coffee. He hadn't expected this, and wasn't sure if this was a good thing or bad thing. Liss' new body could support the baby, but would it survive spending most of it's pre-birth in stillstate. There was no way to tell, it had never been done before, and it would be years, centuries before the child could even hope to be born.
-----His head in his hands, Dr. Alvin Corwn sat alone, surrounded by the world he helped to build, and wondered what he was going to do.
Well, that's it, that's the end. You know me, I hate resolution. It's no fun if everything is resolved in the end. There always has to be something for the future. One story ends and another begins and all that rot.

But hey, at least I finsihed the thing, so no more complaining about my laziness. From now on my laziness should receive only the praise it deserves.

And stop being so silent and tell me how you like it, what needs to be fixed or changed, or at least let me know if it's good or not so I know if I have a shot a being a writer.

Current Servant: Life & Death

recent...
2004-03-25 - The Dance.
2004-03-25 - To sink so low.
2004-03-24 - Going nowhere.
2004-03-20 - Inarticulate complaining.
2004-03-18 - Hyperbole.


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