*In A Past Life*
-Throne Room, Floor 12-
Sir, Castle Defense Integrity at 41%
Dammit IAGIS, fight back! For once, the Steward of Castle Oblivion was less pissed at his automated system IAGIS, who had assisted him in controlling and running his Castle, as he was at the situation himself and all his citizens had been placed in.
I’m sorry Sir, primary Retaliation is not fully charged yet. 75% of Castle power has been rerouted to it, but main subroutines must be left running for.. The ceiling of the 13th floor where Castle Oblivion’s throne resided began to crack, interrupting IAGIS as he spoke. Castle Defense Integrity: 27%
Steward Felonix shifted his attention to his earpiece, a digital construct he had created for communication throughout the Castle thanks to the technology given to him in a trade with Azmot. Anse, do we have a lock on this asshole? An identity? Anything? A trembling yet confident voice responded back to him.
Nothing Sir.. No biometric scans, no identification in our servers, not even a chain of memory we can break as a final attempt.
Is it Onyx?
It doesn’t appear so Sir. Even if he were to change or come back in a different form, we’ve made necessary precautions to detect him nonetheless.
Steward Felonix slammed his fist into his desk out of frustration. He was indeed a Nobody, meaning all of this was mostly for show. He found, however, in appealing to be more human to his Citizens, some of the habits of having a heart were harder to break. He found that in his attempt to protect, train and guide the Citizens of Castle Oblivion, he found himself ‘caring’ for them in a manner. As a Nobody, he had no true feeling towards them. For some reason though, he knew that he could let no harm come to them. This new attacker though threatened everything he had built up to keep his Citizens and his Castle safe. Another explosion outside the Castle, but this seemed a bit lower than the last one, which was presumed to be a direct strike at the 13th Floor.
Castle Defense Integrity: 9%. Sir, one more blow, and the attackers will be inside the Castle. A moment’s pause, then concern from the pseudo-British information system. Sir.. What should I do? For once, Felonix wasn’t pissed at IAGIS. He could yell or insult the system with his sharp wit and sarcastic tongue, but for the first time in a long time, the Steward realized why he could never scrap IAGIS, why they always fought like brothers instead of a Nobody and a Computer, why they had such an excellent back and forth of insults all the time. They were the same. Neither capable of feeling Feelings yet understanding the responsibility of protecting what they had nourished into a pure specimen of life and technology.
Neither could feel anything, but they both knew fear.
The Steward spoke calmly, and quietly, both into the intercom where IAGIS ‘resided’ and in the earpiece where his lead scientist trembled.
IAGIS.. Anse.. Initiate Valhalla Protocol. The responses were simultaneous.
But Sir! Are you certain that… Are you mad?! I haven’t even fully…
I know! Damn it, don’t you think I know?! The Steward shouted, his deep voice booming through the 13th Floor as IAGIS and Anse stifled themselves to listen. Do you think I don’t understand the risks that this carries? Do you think I want to make this sacrifice?! Do you think I want to fail the friends and citizens who trusted in me for safety and protection?! I have to do everything in my power to keep these people safe! I have to..
A final explosion, this time coming from the 12th floor, interrupting Felonix’s painful rant. It was all he needed though. IAGIS and Anse understood. IAGIS was the first to speak, almost immediately.
I’ll gather who I can Sir. The intruder is making his way through the 12th Floor now. But I *fzzt*. A crackle of electricity buzzed through the intercom as Felonix began to leave the throne room. He stopped for a moment to look around as he attempted to reconnect with IAGIS through his earpiece.
A darkened marble desk with paperwork scattered on the top rested to the left of the room, the documents on top of it trembling as the lower levels of the Castle shook. In the center of the room was the throne itself, a large testament to the grandiose nature of the castle, made of the same darkened marble as the desk. Behind the throne was Felonix’s living quarters, but he required nothing more from that room. Lingering Darkness had been in his hand since the beginning of the ordeal, and Burning Rage had never left it’s resting place on his back. He turned, satisfied with what he knew would be his last look at this room, and began to run through the 13th Floor’s long corridor.
The Corridor had been lined with masterfully painted portraits of all the rulers of Castle Oblivion throughout the years. Felonix’s portrait was first, closest to the throne room as he was the current Steward. Underneath his portrait read a small bio, with the uncharacteristic nameplate “The Steward of Innovation.” Next down the list had been Jeremi, “The Steward of Sacrifice.” Jeremi had saved the Castle from an attack on Onyx years before by sacrificing his Stewardship and banishing himself from the world. I’m sorry I failed you old friend.. Felonix thought as he continued running by.
Next was Steward Etzolix, “The Steward of New Beginnings”. Felonix didn’t know much about Etzolix, or honestly many of the other rulers of the Castle beyond him. Despite the fact that Felonix had lost much of his memory years prior, Castle Oblivion kept minimalistic records of its previous leaders as both a sign of respect of privacy, and a precautionary measure. The less known of an outside source no longer within the confines of the castle, the better. The final portrait, by the door, he remembered very much about.
“Lord Zexion – Steward of the Oblivion”. Many of his citizens mumbled rumor amongst themselves about Lord Zexion, some claiming him to be peaceful, while others blaming him for the downfall of the Universe. None knew him like Felonix did however. Strict, but stern. An Illusionist by trade, a Mastermind by choice. Felonix knew the truth of Lord Zexion, but resounded to let those memories lay to rest with himself alone. Anyone else who fought in the Oblivion War and still lived often seemed to agree. Much of the past was best left forgotten. Still running towards the door, the mechanical voice of IAGIS broke his reminiscing.
Sir, this being that is attacking.. IAGIS seemed to pause momentarily before continuing. He’s gone straight for the main connection point between Space Paranoids and Castle Oblivion on the 12th Floor. Typical procedure would have broken the chains in his heart already to prevent movement but..
But there are no chains to break. Who the hell is this guy? IAGIS, can you teleport me to the secondary bridge in Basement 12?
Unfortunately not Sir. Power was redirected from most subroutines to keep defenses up. Teleportation will not fully be back online for another 12 minutes 16 seconds. Damn he thought. We don’t have that kind of time. How close can you get me now? As far as the lobby. Do it. As the Steward ran, his body began to disappear into blue blocks, starting at the head and working their way down to his feet, reappearing in the same order in the lobby. All in all, the process only took about half a second. Under the circumstances however, it felt like an eternity to Felonix.
Anse, I’m in the lobby. How is the Valhalla Protocol coming? As he began making his way to the stairs to Basement Floor 1, Anse’s voice came through his headset. Slowly sir. Most of the citizens have made it to Basement Floor 11 and are beginning to funnel in per procedure, but we can’t do anything without the Signet Ring. I know, I’m coming as quickly as possible. Felonix stopped abruptly, before adding Thank you Anse. You’re doing a fine job.
Anse was partially floored. It was uncharacteristic of the Steward to compliment his work. Clearly this matter wasn’t sitting well with him. Th..Thank you Sir.
Felonix nodded, reaching the base of the stairs to Basement Floor 1 as a large explosion from above almost knocked him off his feet. A quick glance behind him showed the roof collapse on the stairs he had just come down, effectively sealing him in the Basement. Nowhere to go but down I guess.. he muttered.
-Gummi Hanger, Basement Floor 1-
He was in luck, however, as Basement Floor 1 had been converted into a Gummi Ship hanger almost as soon as Felonix had received Stewardship of the castle. A Gummi Ship in this scenario would be useless, but in the contingency of a field operation, the Hanger had been hard-linked to both the Soldier Stasis and Training Wing in Basement Floor 9 and the Medical Wing in Basement Floor 10. Steward Felonix rushed to the console linking the floors, and punched the digits “BF10” on the keypad in front of him. As the transportation began, another strike hit from the outside, threatening to bring the ceiling of the hangar crumbling down.
-Medical Wing, Basement Floor 10-
As the transfer finished, Felonix turned, and, with Lingering Darkness still in his hand, destroyed the console, rendering the bridge between BF1 and BF9 and 10 Useless. Basement Floor 10 was also completely empty. As barren as the rest of the Castle. Everyone should be at 12 by now Felonix thought as he made his way to the stairs from BF10 to BF11. IAGIS, Status Report. Sir, it would appear all citizens have been gathered in Basement Floor 12 as per the Valhalla Protocol. Castle Floors 5-13 have crumbled, rendering floors 2-4 impassable. Damn. Begin downloading yourself to my earpiece now to ensure safe passage. Understood Sir, but please realize I will be temporarily offline while downloading. Yeah, but as much shit as you give me, I’m not leaving a single inhabitant of this Castle behind. Including you. IAGIS’s voice temporarily shifted from serious to playful in response. How very.. Generous of you Steward. Will I receive my own Hard Drive in the Future? Felonix cracked a smile as he circled the spiral stairs to BF11. Don’t push your damn luck trash heap. And with that, the earpiece made a quick, digital *POP* and IAGIS fell silent.
-Soldier’s Quarters, Basement Floor 11-
Anse, Status Update. It was the Scientists turn to speak as dust began to fall around Felonix and throughout BF11. All citizens, soldiers and staff accounted for Sir. The Protocol needs more time to charge without your Signet Ring though, but as of now, 92% of all Castle Resources and Technology have been prepared. The Steward opened the final door in BF11, leading down to BF12. Good work Anse. I’m nearly to you. One final explosion rocked the Castle above. That’s probably the Lobby by now.. Anse interrupted his thoughts. Will we have enough time Sir? Steward Felonix cocked his head, as if calculating how much time they had versus how much time they needed. Of course Anse. Every single one of us is making it across alive. Steward’s Honor. Anse didn’t respond, but he didn’t need to. The Steward had finally arrived at Basement Floor 12.
-Basement Floor 12-
The room was filled with a hollow somberness as Steward Felonix walked in. Immediately every Soldier in his army turned at attention and gave a salute, ready for anything expected or otherwise to happen. Felonix feigned a smirk. At ease Soldiers. Instantly, every Soldier dropped their hands to their sides and went back to tending to the civilians. Felonix began to walk from the door to the Main Console in the center of the room. As he did, the civilians and Soldiers alike separated to create a clear path down the middle. As he walked, Felonix couldn’t help but notice the look of terror in their eyes. Through the agreement he had with Azmot and the power of the Castle, most of the Soldiers’ Memories had been rewritten to give an air of fearlessness. But the Citizens.. The families of the Medical Staff, Gummi Dock Workers, Training Crew, Crowd Control.. The Steward had never seen so much fear in one place. Fear of what was happening to their safe haven from Onyx’s War. Fear of not knowing what was going to happen. Fear of the possibility of these being their final breaths, buried 12 stories beneath the surface of their homes.
Every Single One. He reminded himself as he approached the Console. Anse, Status Report. The frail scientist in the too big lab coat barely looked up. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, it was pointless trying to make eye contact with him through his 3-inch-too-thick glasses.
Reports are showing that all Resources and Technology have been digitized and prepared for transfer. Castle. Staffing and Personnel Transfer is only at .2% With your Signet ring, the time should increase threefold. Good. Have you informed them? Yes Sir.. Everyone in the room is prepared for the transfer. The Steward nodded before walking up to the Console.
The White and Green Console pulsed violently in front of him, it itself a marvel to behold. An engineering feat of the technology of Space Paranoids combined with the style and class of Castle Oblivion. Proof that two World Leaders could share a common goal. It had originally been designed to act as a bridge between Space Paranoids and Castle Oblivion, but once contact had been lost with Azmot for nearly a year, Anse had suggested a back-up escape plan should anything happen.
Anse.. Felonix spoke before pausing. Anse did look up this time, sensing a gravitas in the Steward’s voice that was not present earlier. When you informed me of your discovery almost a year ago.. a Parallel Universe nearly completely similar to ours.. I wanted to smack you so bad for making shit up again. Anse nervously brought his hand behind his head, in a sort of “Yeah, I can be a bit of a Mad Scientist sometimes” kind of way. But now.. Felonix placed his hand on Anse’s shoulder and gave his traditional fake Nobody smile. I’m glad I listened to you Old Friend.
Anse removed his arm and looked back at Felonix, a smile on his face. Feeling bad for ruining one of the few moments where the Steward wasn’t shouting at him for his mistakes, he gestured to the console. The Signet Ring, My Steward. Felonix nodded and approached the console. The Ring on his hand a symbol of his power. Handed down to him in a time of war by Jeremi.. He never could have assumed while adjusting to the heavy weight it bore that it would one day be used for this. He looked over his citizens one more time, but all their eyes were on him now. Some filled with terror. Some with hope. All looking to Steward Felonix for guidance and protection. He gave them all a reassuring smile, then inserted the ring into the Console.
In that instance, time seemed to stand still for everyone in the room. Everyone but Felonix. The Ring on his hand, his hand in the console, his eyes locked straight ahead. A strong sense of darkness surrounded the entire room, the energy emanating from it reminding him of a portal.. Unable to move but aware of his surroundings, the Steward stared directly ahead at a cloaked figure moving through the domed wall of darkness towards him.
This was the attacker. The person responsible for all this.
A grin flashed from under the cloak, and a deep, older, almost gravelly voice spoke. I was growing impatient. Figured you would have made it here sooner with every push and shove I gave you back there.
Push and shove…? The Steward thought. Goddammit.. He WANTED this.. It was all a trap!
The figure nodded, as if he was in Felonix’s head. You’re damn right I wanted this. The figure brushed his hand over the console, right above the Signet Ring. But I’ll have to tell you why later. The head inside the hood turned to look at Felonix. Right now, you’ve got a trip to take My Boy. He violently reached out, punching the console and shattering it into several pieces. His smile appeared once more as he brought his hand up and waved.
Safe Trip, Steward. I’ll be seeing you soon.
As the figure walked back through the portal, the base of the console began to explode into digital code, as if a Nuclear Bomb filled with Matrix-style coding had been dropped in front of him. Still unable to move, Felonix watched as the orb exploded, engulfing him in a flash of green text. The impact was enough to free him from the Mysterious Figure’s spell, but also enough to temporarily knock him unconscious.
*Afloat and Unmoored*
Steward Felonix stood, looking out at the room. Every eye focused on him, but everyone.. Smiling. They all made it. He whispered to himself in his mind. Every lost soul accounted for. He was about to smile, to celebrate, when an orb of darkness swallowed a young girl at the back of the room. Felonix leaned forward to focus on what had happened, as two more orbs appeared, swallowing two more citizens before disappearing. All the while, every face was still focused on him, smiling as if they had won a war. The orbs began to speed up in their consumption of the Residents, from two to three, from three to five, from five to seven, from seven to ten. Felonix attempted to reach for Lingering Darkness by his side, but found that he couldn’t move. In an instant, his hand was stuck in the Transfer Console again, leaving him powerless and motionless as his Citizens stared back at him, Cheshire Cat grins on every face. He was unable to struggle, to scream out for help, to command them to run. All Felonix could do was watch as the last of his Citizens faded into darkness. Anse stepped in front of the Stewards frozen eyes, happy as could be as the darkness began to creep up his body, seemingly flowing through his veins. His face was inches from Felonix’s as he began to shout.
STEWARD! WAKE UP! WAKE UP PLEASE!
Wake up? Anse’s grin grew larger as he continued shouting, the darkness wrapping around him in a cloak, his voice getting deeper and louder as he spoke. WAKE UP NOW! YOU HAVE TO! He sounded as if he was gargling ground sandstone as the Darkness changed him from Anse into the Mysterious Figure that had assaulted his Castle. The Mysterious Figure, still smiling from underneath his cloak, place a single finger on Felonix’s unmovable forehead.
Wake up Steward. With that, the console exploded again, same as it had before.
He opened his eyes as a migraine from hell rocked his head, Felonix feeling as if his brain had been turned to mush. He put a hand down on the ground to get his balance, then slowly stood up. As he turned around, he noticed that not only was he alone, but he had never seen this place before. The closest description he could think of was of Betwixt and Between, but instead of two portals, there were 4. East, South, North and West of him, Blue, Green, Orange, and Red respectively. The only company he had was a floating cube, about a foot tall and a foot wide, floating in front of him. The cube began shouting at Felonix again.
STEWARD! ARE YOU THERE? Felonix looked at the box, studying it quickly before responding. Anse?
Oh thank the heavens you made it! Made it? Made it where?
The cube was silent for a moment, before a small holographic screen projected itself from the top. Displayed was Anse’s face, in the background all of Castle Oblivion’s citizens. BF12’s ceiling visibly crumbled a bit as Anse spoke again. I believe you’re in the halfway between our Dimension and the new Dimension. A.. “Connecting Station” if you will.. Felonix tried to take it all in. And where are you Anse? Where are the Citizens? The Resources?
Well, the Resources are all in front of you. The Steward looked at the cube. They were compressed into digital space to make the transition easier. That’s what took so long. We can’t compress people though..
Anse.. A bit of tension in Felonix’s voice this time. Where are you and where are my Citizens?
Anse was silent for a moment before speaking. We didn’t make it Sir.. I..I.. I don’t know what happened! You inserted the Signet Ring into the console and in the next instant, you were gone and the console was in pieces! Felonix turned away, hand on the bridge of his nose out of frustration.
In a heartbeat, Felonix turned, blinded by rage, and began punching the floating digital cube, screaming out in anger. WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?! Another punch. THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK FLAWLESSLY!! Two more punches. YOU HAVE TO TRY AGAIN ANSE! A final punch, almost of desperation instead of rage. You have to help me save them!
Sir.. I’m sorry.. Anse fell silent again for a moment before speaking. He mustered every last bit of courage he had as he spoke. There’s nothing you can do for us but rebuild. Anse, you have to try to..
Sir! For the first time since he starting working with him, Anse took an assertive voice with the Steward. It’s over for us now. No.. he muttered under his breath.
Anse shook his head violently before looking back to the Steward. You’ve done all you can for us Sir. Anse stepped away from the screen for a second, giving Felonix a clear view of everyone in the room. They could all hear Anse. They all knew it was the end. No one knew it would come this soon, but their final hour was upon them. The ceiling cracked again, rubble and dust falling into the room more visibly now.
Sir. We will not die like cowards. Not after everything you’ve done for us. Anse.. Felonix couldn’t believe this was happening. Everything he was trusted with, everything he built, everything he fought for. Literally crumbling before his eyes.
ATTENTION! Anse’s usually meek voice resounded throughout the basement. Every Soldier in the room stood at attention, right hand in a salute, left hand by their sides. Each was broken in formation however, as on every face was a grin. Grimly, the Citizens stood up, at first one-by-one, but in a matter of seconds all were standing. In a matter of seconds all were saluting. In a matter of seconds, all were smiling. Anse slowly moved back in front of the camera.
Sir, you taught every one of us to step outside of our comfort zone. You taught us what it meant to be Warriors, Doctors, Scientists, Blacksmiths.. You gave each and every one of us a new purpose. A reason to exist. And you’ll do it again. Anse turned and smiled at the Steward. Just like you alwa…
A large explosion from above BF12 shattered the incoming feed long enough to cut off Anse. A split second of the ceiling crashing in on the trapped citizens flashed in front of Felonix, and before he knew it, they were gone and the feed transitioned to static.
Anse?! ANSE!!! A blind fit of fury boiled throughout Felonix as he took Burning Rage from its holster on his back. The flames on the sword roared to life, filled with the passion and anger that now consumed its Master. It burned brighter and hotter than ever before as Felonix repeatedly smashed it into the cube in front of him. Everything he did would be for naught, however, as minutes later, he slowed down to see the box was completely unscathed.
He cast his sword to the side and began punching the box once more, screaming in rage and agony, pleading for retribution. Uncharacteristically, a lone tear streamed down the Nobody Steward’s face as he begged. He didn't even think that was possible. To show real emotion. Please let me save them.. I can’t do this alone.. I don’t want to be alone..
You aren’t alone Sir.. A look of shock crossed over his face. IAGIS! You made it!
I did Sir. My download finished fully only moments before the transfer. Every line of my programming is currently located inside your earpiece. Felonix gave a sly smile, but it quickly disappeared as he returned to the matter at hand. They’re all gone IAGIS.. Anse, The Citizens, The Castle.. There’s nothing left. Felonix stared into the distance, a forlorn sadness washing over him. I couldn't save them..
The computerized voice inside Felonix’s earpiece was contemplating his response. Not only had he never seen Felonix so emotional over something, he lacked the emotion necessary for comfort. All things said, the Computer and the Nobody were very similar in many regards. IAGIS was silent for what seemed like ages before speaking again.
I… I am so terribly sorry Sir. I can’t help but to feel as though if I was still in the Castle’s system, things may have ended differently.. If it were a glitch or a programming error maybe I could have..
Felonix’s sadness slowly turned to anger as his hand balled into a fist. No.. It was our Attacker who did this. IAGIS was silent in response to this revelation. I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but it was almost as if.. As if he froze time itself.. Felonix looked straight up, at the ‘ceiling’ of this Psuedo-Betwixt and Between place he had been mourning in. I watched everything IAGIS.. His eyes closed as if he was basking in the light of a warm sun or cherishing a fresh spring rain, merely a coping mechanism. I was powerless to help any of them. He led us to BF12. He wanted this to happen.
The Steward’s last statement caused IAGIS to perk up again. He.. Wanted this to happen? The Steward nodded. Couldn’t possibly tell you why though.. He paused for a moment before speaking up again. Now, I don’t even know where the hell I am. This was all Anse’s plan.. I didn’t even know this.. Felonix made a grand sweeping gesture to his current location ..was a thing! Now there are four paths to choose from and… He paused as his eyes fell on the Blue ‘Portal’ in the room. Not only was it slowly getting lighter in color, it seemed to be shrinking. It was almost gone entirely before a bolt of Darkness shot out from it coming directly towards Felonix. He quickly reached over to grab Burning Rage where it had fallen, but it was too late. In the matter of a millisecond, the black mass of Darkness seemed to phase through Felonix. Felonix stumbled back on his feet as if he had just been hit with a strong gust of wind. After he caught his balance, he turned behind him to look at the Red Entrance.
None other but the Mysterious Man was standing in front of him, head cocked down, smile cracked wide. The Red Portal behind him had begun slowly wrapping around him, it’s tendrils of redness wrapping themselves around the Man’s ankles, then waist, then chest.
I see him Sir..
I’m gonna make that bastard pay.
But Sir, you don’t..
Before IAGIS could finish, Felonix was in motion. Right hand on the hilt of Burning Rage on the ground, Felonix reached out with his left hand and pushed the floating cube of Castle Oblivion’s data in front of him. A gust of wind surrounded him as he activated a dormant spell, Zephyr’s Flight. Zephyr’s Mark, a ring on Felonix’s hand opposite the Signet Ring, began to glow as Felonix and the cube began rushing towards the Mysterious Man. In a matter of seconds, Felonix was upon his enemy, ready to strike. He twisted his body back for a full attack, but no sooner than he had appeared, the Man was gone.
Felonix was now inches away from where the Mysterious Figure once stood, which meant he was inches away from the Portal. Unable to stop, he held the wide, flat side of Burning Rage in front of him in a defensive measure as he passed through, crossing to the other side.
*A Familiar Beginning*
-Castle Oblivion, Basement Floor 12-
The East wall of Basement Floor 12 pulsed for a moment, glowing Red as a floating cube of Data flew through the solid surface with great speed. Close behind was Steward Felonix. As he passed through the portal, he shifted from his attack into a dive and a roll, coming to a stop in the center of the room. Back on his feet, he spun wildly in an attempt to find the Mysterious Figure.
FACE ME YOU SON OF A BITCH! The shout echoed throughout the Floor with no answer.
Sir… IAGIS was interrupted by another shout.
COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND FIGHT ME!! Again, no answer.
Sir.. I believe he’s gone.. Felonix made one more assessment of the room before lashing out on the Floating Cube of Data in front of him again. This time, it didn’t hold where it was hovering like it had before, but instead floated towards the wall of BF12 at the same speed Felonix had hit it. The Cube hit the wall, slowly digitizing itself as it recognized the familiar surface. Green text coded itself first through what was originally the Transfer Room before spreading throughout the Castle. Felonix stared at it, still expecting the Mysterious Figure to make another appearance. Save for IAGIS though, he was completely alone.
Sir, my readings indicate Data Transfer to this Universe’s Castle Oblivion will be finished in approximately 1 hour. All resources and information of the original Castle will be implanted within these walls.
The Nobody placed his sword back in its resting place on his back as he ran his hand through his hair out of frustration for losing the Mysterious Man. Once it’s finished, divert all non-essential resources to tracking our Attacker. I wish to know everything about him as quickly as possible.
But Steward, I think.. Felonix interrupted IAGIS midsentence. No IAGIS.. I’m not a Steward anymore.. He looked over the empty Console Room of the new Basement Floor 12. A brief glimpse of every Citizen, Soldier, and Officer that was left behind flashed in his mind as he looked at their empty spaces. I have no Citizens to rule, no Soldiers to command, no Families to protect.. I am simply the Empty Lord of an Empty Castle now..
IAGIS paused and after a moment, Felonix took advantage of the silence. IAGIS. Open Subject Felonix, Memory File Castle Oblivion Floor 12, Circe 1 year ago. Are you sure Sir? Lord Felonix nodded. Please.
In an instant the basement walls began to change. Nothing drastic, he was in the same room as he had been before, but to him, it felt noticeably different. Using the power of the Castle to access his own memory links, Felonix was now looking directly into the 3 inch too-thick glasses of Anse once more. This day in his history, the two had been playing a game of chess while waiting for Azmot’s contact through the Console. His contact which never came again. Felonix stared at Anse for a while, knowing he was nothing more than an illusion but not being able to look away.
Your move Sir. His voice broke Felonix out of his trance as he looked at the Chess Board. Sorry, I…
You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Anse chuckled for a second then stopped, as the Steward had never cared much for his humor in the past. Felonix looked up at his lead Scientist, his hand hovering over his Rook. He had been ready to capture Anse’s Bishop, but stopped instead to let off a short laugh. He knew he wasn't real, but he took comfort in talking to Anse once again.
You don’t know the half of it Old Friend. The laugh tipped Anse off, something was strange about all of this. The Steward never laughed at his jokes in the past, always choosing the Firm and Stern approach with him.
I’m not really here, am I? Felonix’s eyes drifted back to the Chessboard, his Rook capturing Anse’s Bishop. He paused for a long moment before answering.
No.. You’re not. You’re a construct of my memories.. He filled Anse in on everything that had happened, from the Universal Shift and the failings of the Valhalla Protocol to the Mysterious Figure and the new, empty Castle Oblivion. Anse sat silent, staring at Felonix as he spoke. Finally, Felonix finished recounting his tale as Anse removed his glasses to clean them, before returning them to the bridge of his nose again.
So why bring me back then Sir? It was Felonix’s turn for silence as he thought of all the reasons. By the end of it all, there was one reason in particular that stood out.
I can’t do this alone anymore. I need the guidance of my Second-in-Command, even if he is only a memory.
Ages seemed to go by as the two sat in silence, lingering over Felonix’s final statement. Finally, it was Anse who broke the silence.
Check Sir. Felonix brought his attention to the board again, where Anse had moved his Queen to take Felonix’s Rook, lining him up with his King. Without thinking, Felonix moved his Bishop to take Anse’s Queen. Sloppy move Anse. Checkmate.”
Damn, said Anse with a smile. Best Two out of Three Sir? I think I can take you this time. Felonix looked up from the chess set, a slow and forlorn happiness on his face. I would like that Old Friend. Best Two out of Three. The memory of Anse, still smiling, nodded and cleared the Chess Board for a reset.
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