Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Avenger Assembled

Last Record (IC)

Recommended Posts

April, 2012. Around lunchtime.

Despite the mixed success of his initial visit to Doktor Archeville in Providence Asylum, Harrier had visited the now-released scientist more than once since. At first it had simply been to tell him about the welfare of Mona's cat, who Harrier had tended to with care, if not a great base of knowledge, until her recent return from the Terminus. But there'd been other reasons to visit after that, two men who'd been deeply broken in some ways finding their way back to healing. Steve was one man Viktor could trust would never hold his transformation against him, and once he'd proved the bonafides of his origins (a demonstration he only had to carry out once!) he proved a detailed source on the Terminus: there were few living beings who had seen so much there, and remembered it all so well.

But today, he was there on a different matter. He'd been consulted by the Freedom League infrequently on the Terminus, but they'd sought him out personally for a particularly weighty situation. He'd thought about taking this to Gina, but their relationship was new enough, and fragile enough, that he didn't want to break their mutual pact not to discuss their past. And as he cradled the League storage box between his big, scarred hands, he couldn't think of few things more personal than this. He knocked on Viktor's door, his new suit making him look almost like a normal man: it was impossible for him to get any closer than that.

Share this post


Link to post

The sensors in the gnomes that lined the small path leading up to Archeville's door had noted Steven's approach, and notified the Doktor.

Oooh, an unexpected visit! And he is in nice clothes, not out in his armor!

Pft. Like wrapping a steel fist in a silk mitten.

Mmmm, silk...

Be quiet, all of you.

The door swung open at Harrier's third knock. Beyond was a nice foyer, well-lit by a golden chandelier. The stained wood panels along the walls would normally indicate a touch of elegance, while the colorful mandala design in the tile floor would hint at an appreciation for the exotic and the esoteric, were the viewer more familiar with contemporary Earth cultures. Three hallways, left, center and right, branched off from the room, and simple doors between the halls were, he might assume, coat closets.

It occurred to the freed Omegadrone that this foyer alone should, judging by the outer dimensions of the house, take up half the ground floor. But space-folding techniques were known to him, at least in function if not in how they operated.

"Ah, Steven, welcome!," the Doktor's disembodied voice greeted from everywhere and nowhere. "What brings you by? Have you eaten? Would you like a snack?" One of the closet doors swung open, and out of it lumbered a silvery gorilla in a butler's suit. A moment's examination revealed that it was in fact a robotic gorilla, and not some sort of living mutant.

Share this post


Link to post

"I have come with a personal request, Viktor," said the former drone, casting his eyes around the house with no more than a vague aesthetic appreciation for the artwork. "Your food would be...pleasant." The gorilla had initially unsettled him, but despite his personal experience with cybernetic augmentation, he understood the robot's unusual appearance was no more than the jest Viktor had intended it to be. And it was comforting to know the man he'd met in that cell in Providence was never really alone. He cradled the cylindrical storage container in his hands for a moment, an awkward look on his usually impassive face: Harrier was usually a blunt instrument, so geniune hesitation was something novel. After a moment's hesitation, he went on without further preamble.

"Do you have equipment capable of processing and playing back quantum etheric storage media? This particular media is encoded with a complete human-sense matrix."

Share this post


Link to post

"A personal request?" the Doktor's disembodied voice repeated. "I am honored! Please, follow the Kammerdieneraffe to my office... though I am sure by now you already know the way!"

Steve did know the way, but it was easier to let the robotic gorilla lead the way. Down the right hallway they went, which was lined with numerous picture frames showing a slowly changing series of images, some flat (reproduction of German paintings), some 3D (holographic reproductions of German sculptures). Past that was Archeville's massive library, overflowing with works in a number of formats. There were printed books and journals, of course, as well as a handful of stations to read microforms and optical discs, some ancient scrolls under glass cases, carved stone tablets, braids of multicolored knotted ropes, crystals in delicate filigree holders, and other, more bizarre forms. A turn to the right, and Harrier was soon at Archeville's office, a cluttered wood-paneled room filled with papers and file cabinets and a slightly musty smell. A large desk took up a good portion of one corner, and held several dozen papers and files, covering the keyboard and reaching up to block the bottom third of the glowing monitor. Here sat Archeville, munching on a slice of apple he'd taken from a tray of fruits, cheeses and sliced meats that lay on one small stool at his side.

Hunh, when he does come over here, it is always around lunch time. Coincidence? Or is he slave to some schedule?

"Good to see you again, Steven!," he greeted, wiping his hands on a cloth napkin as he rose. He shook the man's hand, "You are well, I trust? Please, sit," he swept his hand in a low arc across the room, indicating several old-looking wooden chairs, "and have a bit to eat." The freed Omegadrone knew the Doktor knew of his condition, and (rightly) assumed the chairs only looked like they'd splinter under him.

Share this post


Link to post

Steve relaxed once in the presence of Doctor Archeville, taking a seat and a plate almost overflowing with different kinds of food: fruits, meats, and cheeses in a wide array. He didn't seem particularly hungry, though, and in fact as he talked found himself slipping those little bits of food into his pocket. He slowly, gently, set the box on the desk between them; now that they were face-to-face, the doctor could see the bottled-up emotion behind those usually flat, dead eyes. "I am well," he answered, the same stock response he gave to most questions about himself. "I hope you are also well. In the box is storage media recovered from the Terminus; a broadcast made to the private channels enjoyed by Annihilists and their cronies." He didn't bother with the story of how the Furions had recovered the device during a raid on Nihilor, or how it had come along with a collection of other data to Daedalus during a dimensional conclave, and then been passed to him. "If the encoded data is correct, it contains information about my parents."

Share this post


Link to post

He does that a lot, too. Nervous habit? Stockpiling in case he is cut off? Did he get another pet after he gave Archimedes back to Mona?

"Ooh," the Doktor almost purred as he picked up and examined the device. But when Harrier mentioned what it contained, his sounds abruptly changed. "Oh? Oh! Oh! Ah, right, quantum etheric storage media with full sensory playback... well, I do not have anything quite like that, but," he glided towards the library, to the crystals on their delicate filigree stands. He placed Harrier's package on the table next to them, "I may be able to adapt this to the task. They are thought-stones from an extraterrestrial race Daedalus & Pseudo encountered on their sojourn through space. Anyone with sufficient telepathic ability can read and write over the stones, but if you lack such ability, these little stands can be placed on the head to amplify any latent psionic potential, enough to use the stones. These are a few Daedalus had loaned me, which contain an assortment of their musical styles. He thought I would enjoy them, and so far I have found many of them quite soothing."

He turned back to Harrier's package, "I may need some items from my workshops downstairs, but first I will need to oen this up. I believe I felt a catch over here..."

Share this post


Link to post

"I am familiar with technology similar to what you describe," said Harrier, nodding at Archeville's words. He didn't go on; very few people on Earth-Prime enjoyed hearing those stories. The box snapped open easily enough at Archeville's touch, revealing the data medium inside: a black cone shot through with sparkling filaments of crystalline fibers that shimmered pink and purple as the light in the room hit them. "It may be compatible." He stared at the cone, the light from the nigh-luminiscent stripes along the sides reflecting in his eyes. "I never...I never had one of these. We would sometimes see propaganda broadcasts among the higher levels of the city, but we were never the intended audience. Proles already know the faces of their gods."

Share this post


Link to post

The Doktor nodded silently. There is much he is not telling me, but much is implied. The horrors he has faced, both those he did and those he had done to him... the mechanics of it still haunt me. So many questions I desperately do not want the answers to, yet cannot stop myself from asking.

But they will remain unvoiced. For now, at least. The folks at Providence say talking about things gets it out of you, but...

Archeville shook some stray thoughts from his head, "so, ah, who was the intended audience, if not the peoples in the lower parts of the cities? Did the ones at the higher tiers have a degree of freedom such that propaganda was, ah, necessary?"

Share this post


Link to post

"Though all serve Omega and his cause, all are at once against all," agreed Harrier. "Open warfare is rare in times when the power of Omega is not in abeyance. Annihilists compete to demonstrate their power and wealth, their fealty to Omega and devotion to entropy, the luxuries they can promise their followers." There was that flat silence again and then simply "Their willingness to destroy. My parents served Shadivan Steelgrave as the makers of his propaganda, before and after his corruption by the Terminus. When all else was lost from the world that had been theirs, he found their survival...amusing."

Share this post


Link to post

Ah, so Steelgrave used propaganda before his turning. But he was one of his world's heroes -- what do heroes need with propaganda? Perhaps there was a darkness already within him, which is what lead to his bring corrupted. And he could hide it, as he'd his so many other things.

"... hunh" was all he managed to say as he worked. He examined the components of the recorder, and tried a connections with the alien crystal-player, but did not yet find a way to connect them. "So, you say open warfare among them has happened before, even when Omega was around? What do you think is going on now, with him... well, I will not say gone, as I am not sure an entity like that can be made gone. But, what do you think is happening there now? There has never been an absence like this before, has there?"

Share this post


Link to post

"Omega has been...discommoded before. I recall the reaction after the death of this dimension's Centurion. His wrath was great." An anguished howl from a god's throat burned in the back of Harrier's mind. "That his body was destroyed now was a particularly great victory." Growing uneasy in his seat, he rose to his feet, his eyes still on the cone in Archeville's hand. "But to destroy entropy itself would require a change in what Is. And such changes are harder to work than even destroying the physical manifestation of the Lord of the Terminus. He will return, and the Terminus will come to this world again, possibly in the lifetimes of those alive now. But with direct assault failed, and subterfuge too, what will follow is...beyond my ability to predict."

He fell silent, then said frankly, "To war to rule the Terminus in Omega's absence must be a difficult prospect. To fall before the other Annihilists would foretell a fate both terrible and everlasting. But to _win_, to be the one who has dared sit in Omega's throne on his return..." He shook his head. "Their conflicts meant little to me. As a prole, they were simply another of the many things we cowered from. As a drone...nothing had any meaning." Silence fell again, stretching long and painfully, before suddenly Harrier cracked the ghost of a smile.

"I stand here and tell you these doomful things, in this shining city of Freedom in this beautiful world, and you are kind enough to believe them. I want...I want this to be more," he said, touching the storage cone again. "Only myself and Shadivan Steelgrave even remember there were such beings as my mother and father. I want...I want this to let more people remember what was. Otherwise their fates would mean...nothing. And that is a far crueler fate than simple destruction."

Share this post


Link to post

The Doktor nodded along with Steve's words as he worked; if it seemed he was paying more attention to the device than to the freed Omegadrone's story... well, yes, perhaps he was, a little, but he certainly did not intend to offend. "Hrm, yes, entropy is something of a multiversal constant. All things break down, in time. It is, as far as I can tell, only Omega's terrible will that has made it such a malevolent place. But with him... absent, the ones who were under him will fight and squabble. It may give the rest of the multiverse a bit of a reprieve, in that the ones directing the Terminus are too busy with their own infighting to focus on consuming other worlds, but once a victor emerges -- either from among the clashing forces, or a returned Omega himself -- they shall resume their destructive goals."

Now would be the best time to shore up defenses, warning systems, and the like. There may never be another chance -- just because Young Freedom defeated him once does not mean they would be able to do so again. I should convene with Doctor Atom, Daedalus, and-

Hey, take your eyes off the tech for a minute, and talk to your guest!

Archeville looked up, blinking. "Of course I believe you, Steven," he said warmly. "What reason would I have not to? You have proven, time and again, to be a good man, despite all the horrors you have witnessed, all you have lived through. And once I crack this," he held the recorder up, "others will see the kind of people your parents were. Now, I think I know what I need to access this, in my workshops, so I can either pop down there and bring the gear up, and we can take the recorder down there. Your choice."

Share this post


Link to post

Steven followed Archeville down to the Doktor's workshops, feeling a moment's hesitation about letting the recorder out of his sight. A matter of trust? he asked himself. It wasn't that he distrusted Viktor, rather, he distrusted the multiverse as a whole. His work as a consultant with the Freedom League would certainly take on an entirely new angle if he couldn't be trusted with a mission like this. Feeling like a bull in a china shop, he kept his thick arms close to his body as Archeville went about his work. Or...suspicion? Viktor's predictions about the recorder's technological compatibility proved accurate enough, and as he worked Harrier continued to think about what he'd said.

What kind of people your parents were like?

"They tried tracking the years they served Steelgrave at first. A year, a decade, a century. Then, finally, the years were numberless. All I know of their time with him was that they praised his name and were the champions of his cause to the rest of the Terminus. Until they defied him, and were cast below as a lesson to the others who served the Annihilists. They would come sometimes and look at us. To make sure their children learned the lesson too." He shook his head.

Share this post


Link to post

A short trip down a service elevator deposited them into Archeville's immense sub-basement, where his main laboratories and workshops were. The floor was split into roughly four sections, with a massive monitor-covered pillar in the center, looming over all. The northwest section, housing the physics laboratories and mechanical workshops, and the southwest section, housing the electronics and robotics workstations, was where Archeville headed.

So cool to be working on such a fascinating piece of technology! I am already getting so many ideas for how to incorporate elements of it into other- but, no. As groundbreaking as this may be, the real impact here will be on Steven, on what its contents will show him.

... but it is a really cool piece of technology...

"I think that just about has it," he said at last. The device Harrier had brought in now had nearly a dozen wires and cables connected to it, feeding into a small cluster of devices that would be able to play the data on it as a full sensory holographic display. He made the final connection, and held his breath as it all powered up.

Share this post


Link to post

Steven stood with his usual perfectly erect spine as he watched the image come to life, first in scent and touch, then sound, then against all the senses as Dr. Archeville's telepathic machine broadcast the full sensory record to both men. They smelled blood and other things first, then heard screams that resolved into the roarings of a crowd before an image on the screen revealed itself: someone was being murdered by Omegadrones. It was too fast to see a face, just the final roar as an azure-skinned giant was pierced a dozen times by pikes, then fell bloodily to the ground. The 'camera' panned up from that grim scene to one, if anything, even grimmer; a barbarically decadent crowd that could only be Annihilists and their lackeys screaming their joy at the murder below them. They could see the rapture on the faces of those given over to entropy, smell the sweat and feel the heat of the arena. From the red sky overhead and the grimly brooding black skyline all around, they could only be on the surface of Nihilor itself.

A few moments later, the image shifted to the local equivalent of a pressbox, where a dead-eyed man with perfectly-tanned skin gleamed a golden smile into the camera, the scent of his hair oils sharp and alien. "Well, that certainly was an exciting battle, wasn't it? Before we go to our post-game coverage, let's get a few words from two of our very special guests." The image panned around to reveal a man and woman, and here Murdock's eyes widened, his hands clenched into fists. "Born Sally and Ben, reborn Shrike and Blackthorn in the fires of the Terminus, you probably know our guests from their work as champions of Shadivan Steelgrave, the glorious Right Hand of our Lord! Shrike, Blackthorn, how do you feel now that the last superpowered being from your old world is dead?"

There was nothing maternal in the eyes of the narrow-faced, brittle-looking woman behind the blood-red glasses and bizarre black costume of jewels and flimsy draperies. "Oh, we're delighted," said Shrike with a smile, taking the hand of her fat, well-satisfied looking husband, whose rings and gold-lined clothes would have fed their family after their fall for years. "Being destroyed in the glorious name of Omega is one thing, but being destroyed here, in the name of the great Shadivan Steelgrave as well? We couldn't be happier!" She smiled, her too-white teeth looking like fangs. "I wish _more_ of those deluded fools had resisted our conquest by the Terminus, so the show itself could go on!" The show, as it happened, turned out to be an anniversary celebrating Shadivan Steelgrave's service to Omega. In honor of Steelgrave's service, the last half-dozen survivors of his native world (save for Shrike and Blackthorn) had been called out to die in the pit in honor of the power of the right hand of Omega.

Harrier watched his parents smile and flirt with Joyful George, the 'sportscaster', his hands tight at his sides, eyes flat and pained, as they spoke of the glories of Steelgrave. Shadivan hadn't made it to that particular festival, but all would be praising his name soon enough.

Share this post


Link to post

Oh my...

Blood! Blood! Blood!

Oh! What a waste -- I can think of so many better uses to put those bodies!

How can they just stand there and watch?! I don't- wait a minute...

Yes, I see it. Oh, Steven must see this!

Agreed, and he will.

"There appears to be more going on here than it seems, Steven." The Doktor paused the recording, rewound it, and played it again, slowing it as the scenes played out once more, even pausing it in a few key spots. "Most would not see it, but my mind is faster than most... and I know a thing or two about keeping secrets. See, there, the look on her face... there, a gentle touch... there, a furtive glance... a flinch... another... even a snarl, there. It... it is an act, Steven. A terrible, horrible act they are putting on."

Share this post


Link to post

Steve walked up and put his hand on the screen, as if trying to reach through and touch his mother's face. "They were alone, Viktor. Their world was dead. The worlds like their world were dead. All those they had loved, all those they had admired and respected..." He waved a hand. "Gone. No one was coming to save them." He folded his hands together and stared at the screen, paying close attention to all Viktor said. "That...that is good. I had feared that they meant it, even once. That they had served without compulsion in the face of such horror." He forced himself to keep watching. "They were never shown the Doom Coil as Annihilists were, never...warped inside the way their more mighty peers were. They simply served, and lived, and remembered."

Harrier couldn't cry; he physically lacked the ability, but he felt his voice tighten all the same. "Until they could do no more. I thank you for this, Viktor. It was good to see them again, after so long. Even like this."

Share this post


Link to post

Why were they never- ah, of course, their service was as much a punishment to them as anything, but brainwashing them would remove that small part that resisted. So... Steelgrave knew? He must have known... right?

"I am pleased, and honored, to have been able to give you this," Archeville replied warmly. "I wish I could give you more, but... well, my last attempt at time travel proved... unwise." He fidgeted a moment at the awkward half-joke.

And what does that make of me? Here is what seems evidence for nature over nurture -- Steven is a good man, underneath the hardness, and his parents did not give in to the monstrous conditions around them; did he inherit some moral and ethical strength from them. And I... I was what I was, but now... now I have no link to my monstrous past, no connections. So what am I?

Share this post


Link to post

"I appreciate the offer, Viktor. But for all that has happened...the past cannot be changed. The dead cannot be brought back to life." Harrier turned away from the broadcast of the long-gone horrors, silhouetted by some grim children's entertainment. "Those of us with regrets must remember that, if we are to be of any use to the world. What has happened has happened." He reached out to Archeville and clasped him on the shoulder briefly, his grip as always a little stiff and awkward. He coughed, and his manner changed. Steven said, "Come, let us talk of the future, not the past. I have a, ah, girlfriend now. Tell me, how has your relationship with Mona Teymourian progressed?"

Share this post


Link to post

Archeville nodded, and smiled, shaking off the grim mood that had started to descend. "Oh, we are doing well. She is recruiting more staff for her art company, and we- wait. You what?!"

Now, now, be nice.

He lead his guest upstairs to the parlor, filled with numerous comfy chairs, and the deli tray he'd been eating on earlier, moved there by technopathically-instructed housebots, along with a bot of hot water and an assortment of teas. "I... well, that's wonderful, Steven!," he exclaimed after fumbling a bit. "Anyone I know? One of the FLSCH? Oh, I'd love to hear all about her!"

And how on Earth do they-

Behave.

Share this post


Link to post

"I do not believe she has made your acquaintance," replied Steve a little elliptically, who was telling the truth for all that he had no idea Gina had somewhat outed herself to Viktor Archeville as a means of becoming his employee. Hmm, I do not actually know who else knows the secret. I could not simply ask Gina who else knows, as if there was something shameful about what she truly is. He was clumsy at social deception, but managed to get out "Given her nature, and mine, she prefers that I keep who she is a secret from others. What I wanted to ask you, though," he said, taking a seat and giving Viktor an intense look. "Is how a man should court a woman. I have watched your television programs extensively, but I know they do not always reflect what this world truly is."

Share this post


Link to post

Oh, myyy...

Aww, that's so sweet!

[bg=#000000]Well, it is only right that he comes to me for help.[/bg]

Pipe down!

Even Archeville's superhumanly fast mental processes could not hide his shock, though it did insure it was only a momentary pause. "Well, you are wise enough to know not to trust everything you see on television, so that's definitely a point in your favor! But... well... " The Doktor distracted himself momentarily by intently studying the deli platter at their side, "I am not sure how much advice I can give you. It is true that 'courting' is something I've been studying the past few years, due to my relationship with Mona, and before then I had a... number of relationships, but those would not be relevant here. I suppose my first question would be," he reached over and plucked a ham roll and two small cubes of cheese, "what is it you are looking for in the relationship? What do you want, and what are you willing to give?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I want to be happy," replied Steve frankly, "and I want her to be happy." He couldn't help but feel guilt as he said the first, selfish as it made him sound to his own ears. "We were alone, both of us, and now if sometimes we are alone together...well, at least we are alone together." He flexed his hands, cybernetic joints beneath the skin creaking ever-so-slightly. Lacking the restraints most men might have had here, he added,"I thought I had nothing to give. Nothing anyone would want, and nothing growing in my heart. But now, I begin to realize that I do. And that I am wanted."

Share this post


Link to post

Archeville was silent as Steven talked, carefully listening to every word as the freed Omegadrone before him bared his soul. "That is a fine place to be, and I hope she realizes how much you care for her. I also hope she is sincere -- I do not know how good a judge of character you are," he said with the unease of someone trying to give warning to a child without sounding condescending, "so I do not know how good you would be at detecting deceptions."

"But," he quickly changed to a more positive, upbeat tone, "these are concerns I am sure you are already keeping in mind, so let us focus on the positives. How many dates have you two gone out on? Do you have any planned for the near future?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I am grateful for your concern, Viktor," said Steve honestly, "but I do not think I have anything to be exploited for. I possess very little, I know very little I have not already told the Freedom League, and I am not a handsome man. She has had opportunity enough to strip the Terminus technology from my bones that I feel confident she has no interest in doing so today." He sighed. "As for our dates, they have all been...within a narrow circle. She is a very...quiet person. More comfortable with her work, and her machines, than people. I suppose I fit in because I am not like other people. I am planning to see her again in the next few days."

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...