Thursday, June 05, 2014

Elijah's New Garden

Elijah was not held in a cell, nor in a cage. Unlike his ‘brother’, Zacharael, he wasn’t locked away. At first they thought it was just because he was unable to move. After all, Elijah appeared to be carved out of a single piece of an unknown hyperalloy. His arms stretched out either side of him, his legs hung sullen below his body, as if dangling from his form, although entirely incapable of actually dangling or even moving. His head was turned downwards, his shoulders raised upwards, in a scene of immense sorrow. His face, although difficult to see in anything but direct light, was a picture of sadness, his closed eyes awash with disappointment, his closed mouth upturned in grief.

Whatever the Archangel of Innocence knew, it bore a heavy weight on him.

But after further discussion – and it was much more a discussion than a study – it was revealed that, although Elijah couldn’t really move, he had no intention of doing so.

The struggle that had took place to get him here had already passed through the lips of everybody in the facility. An attack on a Hypertech starship – a famous one, no less, the Scales of Judgement! – a mad dash to acquire the target in the belly of a downed Human Capital Ship – The Innocent Father, another famous name! – and an intense battle between two teams with totally different ideological stances. It was almost the plot for a mindless summer action film. And, true to form, the good guys won.

“There are no good guys in war..” Masqeurade would respond, when the story finally reached him. “Alexander is no more, no less malicious than I am. Now stop that silly story and get back to work..” And the connection was lost, simple as that.

When Elijah was brought here, carried on the back of a number of Humans and Machines that came in with him, he did little but weep and howl in grief. Those that brought him in were monuments to his power, the deceased souls of the crew of the Innocent Father resurrected through a concoction of natural plant growth, Hyperreal acceleration, and whatever gift Elijah possessed. But it appeared that his power had a source – the large tree growing in the centre of the Innocent Father, where Elijah had reached out from to Masquerades team, if the reports were to be believed – and as Elijah’s disciples grew further and further away from the tree, Elijah’s power began to falter, and they began to fall.

The last to fall was Nathaniel Barton, Commander of the Innocent Father, whose final gasps were used to carry Elijah on his back, alone, into this room, into this sanctuary, where he was safe from Alexander and the Scales of Judgement.

“You have survived..” Barton spoke, his eyes welling with tears, as he looked up into Elijah’s face. Barton forced a smile. “Then it was all worth it..” His body, less flesh and more plant-like material, began to falter and then fail completely. His whole form seemed to disintegrate and then collapse into a pile of ash and detritus. The last of Elijah’s disciples had fallen.

How he screamed in rage, that night.

The coming days were difficult. Elijah was grief-stricken. When they tried to speak to him, to ask him so many different questions, his responses were few, and always concerned the same topic.

“I saw their souls. Pulled them from the Loneliness. They died in such agony, and I knew they deserved better. Why did you come for me? Why did they have to die a second time?”

Weeks would pass before they would get anything more from him. They tried to provide him with food or sustenance, but he refused. Masquerade’s scientists performed every type of visual or theoretical test they could, trying to figure out what Elijah was, how he existed in this closed-off solid state, and if he could eat, how would it even happen. The biggest question was; could he move? If he wanted to, was he able? He was suspended on wires from the ceiling, with a small stand to hold him stable and aloft. Could he step down, if he so wished? Could he escape?

They tried to put security on the door, but Masquerade stepped in. They tried to lock Elijah in, but again Masquerade said no. Every scientist in the facility petitioned him time and time again to perform physical tests, elemental screening, mobility and form and function tests, but every time Masquerades thoughts were quite clear;

“He came with us, willingly. Give him time. Patience is our best chance here.”

Time and time again he turned them away.

It had been three weeks. No progress had been achieved. Most had returned to Zacharael, to the Jackal Virus, to dozens of other projects Masquerade has brought in over the recent months, all of them somehow related to Alexander. Elijah’s room would be unmonitored, unvisited, for days at a time.

It was a researcher, Sally Hughes, the first to enter Elijah’s room in a few days, that made the first real breakthrough. She arrived that day, content to check on Elijah when so many others wouldn’t waste their time. The room she entered, however, was not the room Elijah was originally brought in to. Over the course of a few unseen days, Elijah had blossomed. A single seed had dropped from his upturned mouth, and landed in the centre of this barren room.

The speed this seed had sprouted could be visibly measured, watched and followed as it moved visible to the naked eye. The first few tendrils were quiet, gentle moving things, but as they grew more confident, more vines began to sprout. In three days, half the room was covered with plant-life, each vine sprouting numerous bulbs, each bulbs sprouting beautiful flowers. This was all with no light, no water or moisture, no nutrients, growing across concrete and carpet.

And in the centre of the room, where that first seed had spread under Elijah’s feet, was a sapling. The tiny beginning of a massive tree.

It seems Elijah had got over his grief.

From then he was much more forthcoming with what he knew, although that information was still limited.

“I don’t know what I am..” he would say, as the sapling slowly grew to cover and conceal him. “I can tell you I was not born. I remember, before I took this form, that I was drifting through space. So cold, so alone, for so long. That loneliness would never leave me, it was embedded into my soul. That ship, the Innocent Father, I was there in its final moments, I was dragged into its Hyperreal core, and with it, forced into the core of the planet where you found me.

“It molded me. I grew into this, the immense pressure forging me as hard as granite. But there was life down there, the ability to create and sustain, and where the planet grew cold and barren, I found I could cultivate it. As my tree grew, I found its tendrils reaching into the Hyperreal.

“When my vines reached upwards, out of the core and into the ship, I found myself appalled by what I had found. So many had been killed. And with that foul stench of death came a darker sensation, as if I had reached into a world beyond this one, a world of suffering and little else.

“I could feel them there, detached from their bodies, groping around in the darkness. Everyone who had died on that ship was there, so afraid, and so utterly alone. I forced myself to reach into the Loneliness, acted as a beacon, a light of salvation they could come towards. I began rebuilding them. Each soul that returned to its body was so grateful, and in return, that pleased me. So I continued doing it.

“Until those others showed up. Until they took me away from there. I need my tree, I need to save people from the Loneliness. It is my duty.”

Masquerade watched the recording with ennui, and soon cut it off. He leaned back in his chair, brought up a call to the head researcher on the project, which was answered immediately.

“I don’t have time for his life story. You know we’re on a tight deadline.”

Sally nodded. “I know, I thought it would interest you. Zacharael was established when we found him. He had been functioning for many years, had matured and grown stable, became extremely competent and intelligent. Elijah, though, is a different case. The Innocent Father was brought down only 18 months ago. With Elijah’s story, and measuring the growth of his plants, he couldn’t be more than a year old. And his mind and personality reflects that.”

“He’s child-like, I know. What does this mean for our project?”

“Its not that he’s child-like..” Sally continued, “’s more than he’s lacking in maturity. He hasn’t developed yet. This shows a clear developmental timeline within the Archangels. Zacharael was at least 4 years old - at least! - since his conception as Zacharael. We can establish that they have a primitive form, a pre-existential configuration we’re called a Shard. In this state, they’re aware of their existence, but only as a precursor to something greater, usually embodying some greater emotion or concept. Elijah was loneliness, whereas Zacharael was of surrender – he had given up on himself, and therefore was able to surrender his genetic material to create the Jackal Virus. The Virus is his way of surrendering to the world around him, was his lack of power manifesting itself.”

“You mean they have some sort of genetic conscience? Some.. fragmented attachment to reality.” Masquerade leaned forward. Something had finally caught his attention.

“More than that, Sir. They have a fragmented attachment to each other. They’re all pieces of a greater whole.”

“Huh. And you can prove this?”

“It’s only a theory. If you can get more Archangels, maybe. But there is something more troubling about this, Sir.”

“Go on..” Masquerade leaned back. The situation was troubling enough – he crossed his arms over his chest, and wondered how much worse it could reasonably get.

“Well, we’ve got two Archangel samples and are starting to track developmental indicators. If Elijah is like this at 1 year old, and Zacharael was that capable at 4, we could be dealing with a big problem. We know Indrafil-”

“Indrafil?” Masquerade interrupted. “We had confirmed reports that he was dead. No body, but enough footage and genetic traces to confirm he was gone.”

“I’m not here to debate that, Sir, just an example. Indrafil was considerably older and considerably more capable than Zacharael or Elijah. Our agents never established his abilities, but he broke into The Cradle, and Apogee like it was nothing, and he was smart enough to challenge Alexander at the most opportune time and steal the Scales of Judgement, and operate it completely alone. With these developmental profiles, we know that an Archangel gets significantly more powerful, and thus more dangerous, as it grows. It‘s practically exponential growth. If Zacharael was capable of releasing a virus that could take down whole cities, what would Indrafil be capable of? Worse still, there are other Archangels that we just don’t know about.”

“So you’re saying we have less time than we thought. Thank you. I expect your report within the next few days.”

“Thank you, Sir. Is there anything else?”

“Yes. Elijah’s tree..” Masquerade leans forward, out of the shadow that concealed him. His expression was dour, utterly serious and without any indication of emotion. Sally was, quite possibly, the first person to see his real face in a long time, although the power of that fact was clearly lost on her. “..I want it..”

No comments:

Post a Comment