Monday, June 30, 2008

what's done so far

I awoke darkness. I felt one hand supporting me under my chin while a sharp pair of tweezers prodded and scraped over my cranium like a small scavenger's beak. I felt wires and thin cables painstakingly overlaid, threaded through and connected where muscles should be.

The tweezers drew back as I tested the mandibular. "Eyes?"

"Vun moment. Stay still."

I held my tongue (the only thing I could hold in this state) as the prickling and twisting continued. I heard the tweezers slide into the leather kit again.

"Vhat colour?"

A choice. I pursed my new lips. "Green?"

"Green it is." I heard the clinking of glass against glass. The pressure of a set of calibers over my left eye socket, then the gentle clink of metal touching glass. Slow steady pressure on my face as the glass slid through. The feel of a tool scraping lightly against the socket on two sides as a click heralded a circle of blinding yellow light.

"Bright!" My vision wobbled between the brilliance and more comforting shadows. As of yet I had no eyelid to shut in protection.

"It is only a candle. You vill adjust."

I slowly became used to the light. I could make out the brass stand and the white candlestick below the glow. Then I discerned the flame from its radiance. The blue heart of the light from the yellow tail stretching proudly upwards. I followed a glistening ivory drop of wax over the collected lump of its forbearers until it froze in place, just as it was ready to take the precipitous drop to the lip of the brass candleholder, on which a tiny speck of wax had already fallen to its doom, releasing a miniscule portion of itself onto the darkly stained wooden table.

A gaunt pair of chalk-white digits lowered over the stray speck, scooping it into the underside of a neatly trimmed nail. The alabaster hand glided to the candlestick, releasing the droplet to roll into the the brass base of the candlestick.

"Your eye is vurkink. Sehr gut."

I panned upwards and focused, and beheld the face of my new Creator.

Friday, June 27, 2008

and makes me whole

I opened my eyes...gazing up at the stone ceiling. I hear a loud voice. I turn my head to the side. A pale face with streaks of red and black looms over me. He is wearing a white robe. His eyes glowed like embers. Crimson hair is tied back, and two pairs of horns just from his forehead.

"You see, Doctor?" He spoke in deep strident tones. "I kept my promise. Together with your skills and my energy we have built your little Project!"

With a gasp, his voice and gestures changed in an instant as he leaned over, eyes now deep blue. They accounted for every inch of clay sculpted into flesh, and at the metal grill implanted in my abdomen, now beginning to glow from the rising heat within.

"Her soul chip is inscribed with sacred symbols, but you powered her with demonfire? Bloodwing, what have you done?" Finally he stared into my eyes. One was deep blue and the other burning red. Two rival spectators in the same shell.

"Let us see how she operates before you despair, Doctor."

The two looked me square in the eyes, hopes tempered by trepidation, and jaded deceit suddenly amused by novelty in the other.

"Your Qlippothic Projects."

I took my first breath, and reflexive responded as the letters that composed my new mind bade me to do. "My name is Qlippothic Projects."

"I am Darien Mason. Your Creator." That eye, those loving eye. Filled with pride and boundless hope and adoration.

"You are Darien Mason. My Creator." He smiled nervously. The hand that reached for the hem of the sheet that covered me was pale as chalk. Slowly it pulled it the covering away.

My awareness of a body. I felt the structure...and a structure within. I felt a crazy-quilt of logic to which I was meant to be bound. I scanned ahead in my soul for the next question. I saw two answers.

You were built as an act of love under the image of the Tree of Life.

You were built to be my soldier and conquer Erebus.

I shuddered. I already had knowledge placed within of what both meant. They were irreconcilable. I could not follow both branches of the forked path that had been laid before me. My existence would be a failure for every goal, spiraling in paradox to utter system failure. My soul thrashed in the shard of stone of which it was imbued. The sigils were interlaced like a cage, keeping me in, keeping my thoughts on track. But it was constricting me.

"Now, my hollow one," asked the demon. "What is your purpose?"

I sat up. I looked around me at the laboratory equipment and alchemical scrolls. Every object I focused on was cross-purposed by the next.

"Qlippothic?" Asked the human creator.

I stumbled forward and my clay hand touched an ancient scroll fastened to the wall, dappled with colored circles. I instinctively knew what the diagram was. It also knew it was inverted. I ripped the parchment down the middle.

"QLIPPOTHIC!" Roared the demon.

I could see where one designer subverted the other, and countered and undone again. One massive short-circuit. Was I to be a hopelessly bifurcated construct like my Creators seemed to be?

I realized my thoughts could range anywhere. I lock of the gate fell apart at my touch, and it swung open wide. I hefted the metal table upon which I had lay and threw it across the room, smashing the array of bubbling and steaming glass across the room.

Pale hands wrapped around my wrists, the white face had returned and crimson wings ripped through the robes of science and spread in anger. Blazing eyes stared deep into mine.

"This is not what I had in mind when I made you," snarled the demon, "perhaps you should be unmade." He pressed his lips to mine, and I felt the fire withing me drawn within. My shell filled with cold, and in the cold all went dark.

I awoke again to see the man frantically exchanging a clutter of tools from an unrolled toolkit stretching across my body. Tears fell from his bloodshot eyes onto the grill that barely sizzled.

"I won't let him subvert you, daughter! I won't let him destroy you! I may be his thrall, but not even Bloodwing can resist the Spark of Prometheus, which is MINE alone! Someday you will help your Father be free of this curse, and then I can fix you the way I you were meant to be! But for now..." He reached under me and pulled a switch. I felt a new spark, that grew to a flame. He opened my grill, and dropped in a lump of coal just small enough to fit through. "You will run on Science...not...Magic..." He fell to his knees, leaning on the table for support.

"Father?" I wondered at the intensity by which he said the word, and took his hand in mine. I sat up, straining from the weight of the machine that was now fastened to my back.

"I love you..." With tears in his eyes, he collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. I rose to my feet, and carefully placed him on the table and covered him with the crumpled sheet. I stared at the wreckage I wrought in this, my birthplace, and and the damage Darien had done ripping things apart and rewelding them to match the design unrolling from a piece of parchment that fell from his pocket. The design of a coal engine...reverse engineered from a hieroglyphic rubbing written in Avarian.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

my musician wakes me - stirs my soul

The first thing that interrupted my stream of unconsciousness was the ticking. Not the soft muted stimulations of thoughts simulating sensory data. These were vibrations. At first there was a simple a metronome. Then, I felt the gentle pressure of metal against metal slightly off-angle, with a slow but firm twist. Each new connection made added a new rhythm, part of a growing cascade of gears and springs and counterweights in an interlocking dance. I felt pressure...within. Another rotation, and the vibrations focused to the point I could discern locations. I was hearing. It was very little to hear...the quiet rummaging of metal from leather and wooden housings and returned in sequence. But I relished it. When I felt the screwdriver connect another ear...right ear, the absence of noise was like a symphony. It is the joyous silence on the border of a Librarian's perception when she relaxes at her station and opens a book to read, confident that all is running smoothly under her presence.

I guaged the dimensions of this new apparatus. I was attached to a skull, metal strips held by tiny rivets to the bone of the palate. I was still beyond descriptions of light and dark, I could feel the air in my empty eye sockets.

I felt myself being turned and manipulated as mandibular joints were secured. I tried to speak, but could find no muscles to harness that simple feat. I felt the jaw open from gravity alone. Secured again, I heard something dripping as it was removed from a submerged container. Small spheres of water falling on water as it was allowed to partially dry. Then, I felt the softness press against the sigils on the exposed side of my chip. A first sound of inhaling, and a muttering of syllables I could not discern, and the object fused to the skull. A torrent of sensations roared through it, so great that I would have screamed had I the ability. It was taste, something cold and sweet, tannic as well as metallic, I was now sensing. The new signals stretched through my awareness, claiming passages as their own as I realized I could smell again. So the tongue had been preserved in wine. How thoughtful!

This Builder was measured and meticulous, as well as silent. No surges of frantic assembly, no...improvisations. No angry projectiles of tools or parts. And especially, no sudden interruptions of rants between sips of scalding tea. This was a Spark in full control of how his Genius burned.

I heard a close whisper in my ear. It was a male voice, slightly trembling towards a higher range from the advancement of age, and more used to sharper consonants than those of English.

"You vill be goot time. Savor this vintage. You vill grow to enjoy it. It is part of my gift to you."

I heard a hiss as the candle was extinguished. As the chill claimed the entirety of the air around me I heard the sounds of wood against wood and the creak of a container being sealed. This deluge of sensation soon lost order from the cloud of intoxication. I gave up trying to solve where I was in this blindness and floated on the blend of fruit...and blood...away from immediate awareness into designs upon my spirit's casing where my memories are stored.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

destiny denied

It was an unexpected face that greeted me in what I assumed to be my final hours. It was Augustus, Frau Lowey's brother. So now the Council was involved. Bloodwing would be furious. By the dimming light of my power core we conversed in waves of pure thought. Without complaint I allowed him to interface directly with my systems to corroborate my final mission.

He helped me refine the calculations the Steel units had pieced together. Destroying Wormwood using New Erebus as a missile should work. It must work. It was entertaining seeing him visualize the cosmos as a celestial game of billards. I never played the two-dimensional version myself. It would have been vastly unfair to my opponents.

Violent tremors shook through New Erebus as the city shifted its course away from Earth, and on a curving path towards the comet that would spare other civilizations from obliteration. In one last surge, my link with the ship was broken, and my reactor went black. I was unable to resist as he extracted my soulchip and stepped through a dimensional portal.

[I'm taking you home.] I should have expected as much. Why did he not understand? And of course, due to the abrupt shift in the direction the city was hurtling, the tesseraction tunnel he opened was too unstable for him to hold me for long.

I descended through the sub-aether along the last quantum tunnel I had constructed. The last temporary home I had was neither in Steelhead nor Caledon. It was the cavorite-suspended refuge my Aunt Sysperia hand given me when I first came to her for aid.

But her pocket dimension was abandoned, waiting for a new master or to vanish from the Grid altogether. No structure remained, only the terraformed features. The glimmering shard that held my essense tumbled downwards from where my steel haven used to be. I posited to myself whether I would float to the surface of the lake below me after splashdown, or be lost in the muck of the lake floor. Would would happen then? Would I be trapped in the belly of a fish? Would my designs fade as water dissolved my essense over centuries? Or would a lag-wind steer me off course so I would just shatter on one of the majestic outcroppings of rock? Anything but this, I thought.

Then I noticed the utrasonic soundwaves pummeling me, and growing stronger. Not an attack...echolocation. In just less than half a second that I calculated I would be submerged, a was engulfed by a claw and carried aloft at sudden shifting angles. As we were enveloped by the familiar stream of energy that comes with folding space, my attempts to establish contact with the owner of the cold appendage were not respoded to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Don't call me Qlippothic

Mr. Fourway wants me to express myself. To work out who and what I am.

Ever since I've come back from that failed mission, I've been been in mourning. I mourned for my fallen sisters, I mourned for my brother Koen, and even for Demonfather, despite what he did to me. I've mourned for the loss of who I was. I was once Fire Chief of Caledon. I was strong enough to ram skypirate ships and win dogfights with Martian invaders.

I never thought I would actually miss that coal engine. But I do. I asked Dr. Mason to rebuild one. He said the blueprints were detroyed by the aethership engines. I asked Aunt Flea for a spare. She said she threw the plans away. Qli-2 thinks I'm too sentimental. She says she's building a new gearbox for me.

That's a typical cyberpunk mentality. Toss that hardware away next month when the new version comes. But steampunks love their machinery. Sparks don't work in factories. Each piece is handmade, lovingly crafted, faithfully maintained. Upgraded when possible, but still treasured even when obselete until its worshipped as an antique.

That's how I felt in Toxia. The steampunk android dancing for the cyberpunk crowd. Their eyes were entranced by the warm radiance of my coal fires. A wonderful anachronism. The Qli-3 body...never fit. When I danced, I saw their eyes jaded in the glow of my reactor. They were tired of pale skin.

Mr. Fourway told me those Steel units were never me. Only shells, hastily filled by Jeremiah with alien technology. Bloodwing said they were not his and shattered them with a wave of his arm. I finally believe him.

Koen died, but became the being he is between lives. He got to say goodbye to his love and swear they'd meet again. Will I still be here when he returns?

Ash...the shard of my soul-chip that grew like a culture on a petri dish over Bloodwing's sternum. A magical breastplate. Tumim. His creation a fluke of magic that completely shatters the family tree.

My soul returned with no body but the shard. Hastily planted in the only complete form left in the basement...a doll. A body built for the pleasure of others. I dressed like one before in solidarity with them. It was useful when I didn't want to risk soiling the curtains with coal dust or stray sparks. But it was still my size. Now I'm dependent on Mr. Fourway to rewind me while he lectures me. Dependent on others to reach the oil can for fear of shattering my porcelain if I climb workshop shelves.

Ash isn't even finished yet. But he doesn't seem to mind. Having your gears showing seems to be the fashion this year.

So many lines have severed. I used to have clockwork dreams of being a Pirate Queen or a Tsarina, of being an Elite Muse with my name under a frame hanging in a gallery in Milan. I would have even been content in a quiet house by the shore with a library as dukedom enough. All dreams rusted away like forgotten gears in a broken watch.

I no longer feel trapped in this web of relationships, this geometry. Yes, that's it.

I'm not a Qlippothic anymore. Qli-2 can drop her number. She is unique. There is no one left to confuse her with. I am no moe Qlippothic Projects now than I am a Steel drone or a Nova sexaroid turned cyberdemon squadleader. I will start over. I will forge my own identity. My own values. I will forge my own relationships.

Call me Gematria.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

we err carefully correctly wrong

The strain is tremendous, but I keep my attention focused on the oxygenation systems. Bloodwing's attention is turned away towards his first mate...Mermet it is what his name sounds like, a shelled demon that just landed from the black armada above us. The crustaceanoid crouched and nodded before his captain like a proper quisling as Bloodwing told him where to set up the throne room. I broke protocol by interrupting Royal Business.

"You can't stay here, Father."

"Qli, my dear," Bloodwing turned to softly reassure me before returning to his plans of annexation. "We are demons. We do not need to breathe. Once the mortals have left the city you can..."

I shook my head as best I could in my self-entrapment of glowing chains.

"No Father, I am not letting you take this ship. I am steering it towards a collision course with the Wormwood comet."

"WHAT?!?" the demons barked in unision. As the incubus turned to face me, I could see Mermet's antennae and protruding eyes peek at me from behind the prince's wingspan.

"Have those chains shorted out your brain, child? You are going to be a Princess of Erebus! These drones shall be your handmaidens! You shall want for nothing! I regret I could not reach here fast enough to save one of my son's lives, and Ash incinerating my old body was unfortunate, even if I no longer had need of it, but there is no reason to despair and contemplate..."

"You are missing the point, Father," I interrupted. By the calculations of the Steel units, in the century after next the Wormwood comet will come withing striking range of the Earth. If it does not collide head-on and destroy the planet utterly it will certainly cause an Extinction Level Event when it disrupts the atmosphere and the gravity of the Earth and Moon!" Bloodwing sighed.

"Sweet Qli, always the selfless martyr. I applaud your devotion to Humanity, but it is misplaced. Your loyalty belongs to me now, as this is my city."

"Your city to administer under possession and rule of the Obsidian King, Your Grace," hissed Mermet in an apologetic but slightly concerned...hiss.

"Excuse me one moment." Bloodwing turned, and through the cover of his wings I saw a ball of flame shroud them both. I heard a loud and slow cracking sound as Mermet's shrieks of terror were quickly silenced. He turned back to me, pointing at me with his assistant's smoking claw as he approached.

"As I was saying, even if I let you throw my hard-earned prize at that green rock, it is not large enough to destroy that comet nor even change its course!"

"By itself, yes...but with your help and the Steels we could set up a frequency to..."

He leaned in inches from my face, the flaming crown on his head made my eyes smart.

"Do you expect me to join in your madness?"

"Do you expect to hold off the Obsidian King's fleet forever? Even if the armada above is ready to mutiny with you, you shall eventually fall. You meant this to be your last face off Hades as an equal with a final blaze of glory before you fall in battle." We stared at each other in immesurable silence.

"Your way," muttered my father, "would leave nothing left for him to claim. And it would deny him the chance to claim the last crop of Humanity's souls in one great reaping."

"And the eternal praise of Humanity as well."

"I like the way you think, daughter. We will do this your way. On one condition. Whether we die in self-sacrifice or throw ourselves upon the enemy's spears, I would still be King of New Erebus." I nodded slowly, and addressed the gathering of Steels that were beginning to look humanoid again as they continued to repair each other.

"Sisters! Bow to Bloodwing as your new King, and our last wish shall be fulfilled!"

The drones stopped reattaching their limbs and rewiring their sinews of glowing ciruitry and stood staring at the demon.

"My children! Who is your Master?" roared the usuper.

Instead of the sumbmissiveness I expected, I felt a torrent of anger swell and rise within the drones, spreading through their souls. Someone else's anger.

"JEREMIAH MASON!" They roared as they reconfigured their limbs into weapons.

"So he still lives," chuckled Bloodwing. "I'm not surprised he had an extra body hidden here."

He waved his arm (the one not still holding the chitinous arm) in a sweeping gesture, shattering the drones again and scattering their components across the engine room. I screamed. These were duplicates of me that he slaughtered!

"You are mistaken, child. Similar to you they are, but none of them were of my creation."

As I tried to make sense of his statement through the numbing shock of feeling their psyches obliterated en masse, I felt the presence of something even more malevolent as the cloud of the collective ebbed from my consciousness.

"Bloodwing! Jeremiah must have reached the Gygax! He has unleashed the Pandoran!"