Monday, July 20, 2015
The Crux: Chapter 6 Visit with Auntie Maim
“So are we lucid today?” I confirm travelling down the foyer into the hall.
This is grandma’s house in every way, shape, and form. Despite its exterior, inside it has all the quaint charm and décor of a Norman Rockwell painting. The walls covered by outdated and drab coverings, infested with a perfectly correlated array of watercolor and oil paintings thoroughly repeating the artist’s obsession with dolls posed and dressed in any and all manifestations imaginable. Vintage and distinctly weathered furnishings occupy any available space demonstrating an appetite for an eclectic order mixed with a methodic devotion to hoarding. I skirt by showcase after showcase, frosted with layers of dust and age, eerily displaying her addiction. A myriad of porcelain dolls cautiously and passionately categorized and positioned, eerily observing my every step.
Reaching the end of the corridor, I covertly peer into her study. The steady creak of her rocking chair rivaled only by the irritating tick of an old, large, masterfully gilded grandfather clock haunting the furthermost corner of the room. She is knitting again, gracefully maneuvering her purple needle through her multi-colored creation. Her oldest cat, fresh from the taxidermy, stands frozen as an everlasting guard intently protecting the rungs of her continuously gliding rocker. A worn and yellowed afghan adorns her shoulders as a shabby pink crocheted blanket lies neatly in her lap, flowing mere inches above the floor as it sways in unison with her every motion. It is a deviously deceptive scene for those who don’t know the history.
Make no mistake; this is not some frail, feeble shut-in. She is not a helpless convalescent crippled by the cruelty of Time. From a distance, she may look as warm and comforting as the treasured memory of a beloved matriarch. But once approached, the wide-eyed, hapless child becomes nothing more than a wandering fly, quickly and agonizingly discovering the divinely deceptive masquerade of the deadliest of spiders. This precisely constructed charade conceals a sting sharper than a scorpion’s tail and venom rivaling death’s kiss.
This is a young woman, wrapped in a cloak of distraction. Her golden blond hair tightly curled and crimped with short bangs that dance across her forehead, intermingled with her thick black eyelashes. A coiffure that would make the most jaded spinster or zealous librarian cringe with unrestricted envy. Thick rimmed glasses sporting dense fish-eyed lenses hide her pastel pink pupils distinguished by ivory white corneas. You have never seen eyes haunted with such a distinct and pronounced hue. They lure you in, seducing you with their bizarre existence, only to lead you to a swift and severe demise. She is quite the machine, a predator that shares no equal. At least I pray as much.
“I can hear you breathing, Ronin,” she announces continuing her poetic weaving. “To what do I owe this sudden visit?”
“I don’t mean to disturb you,” I begin.
“That is a lie,” she interrupts. “You actually enjoy doing so. I can sense it in your tone and demeanor each time we fellowship together.”
“Is that right,” I comment. “Here I thought we got along so swimmingly. I sincerely believed you enjoyed these brief but biting appointments.”
“Oh, don’t be mistaken,” she replies engrossed in her craft, “I savor every moment.” “But somehow I have the feeling this is not a social call. You are not simply checking in are you? This time you need something from me.”
She stops her knitting, collects her supplies, and drops them gingerly into the frayed darkly stained basket to her side. Turning to me but continuing her slow rock, she flashes me a menacing tight-lipped smile. She removes the awkward glasses from her pale white face, folds them closed, setting them on her lap.
“No, this is not a social call,” I concur. “Today we negotiate the terms of some unfettered information. I am prepared to give you exactly what you want. That is if you can provide the same for me.”
“Is that right,” she delicately responds searching my eyes. “Something truly awful must have happened then.”
“Does that mean you are interested?” I press.
“If what you are offering is what I think you are,” she skillfully continues, “then I think we can come to a satisfactory agreement.”
I enter the room and find an old wooden chair. She closely and suspiciously follows me with her eyes without a single blink. Removing my P.D.T from the pocket within my duster, I quickly swipe across the screen. It is an inch thick, seven by nine inch, flat sheet of an unknown transparent metal, powered by the intangible energies flowing freely within the Crux. An inspired and inexplicably complex little toy created by the Record Keeper. Moving a few windows around until I locate the desired file, I can sense her rising impatience.
She has not seen her for such a long time. I know the anticipation is distressing. The image opens and I enlarge it until it fills the screen. I glance over at her as she is nearing the climax of her ardor. I instantaneously flip the screen in her direction to relieve her overwhelming angst. Her eyes widen as they intently and entirely digest the virtual portrait I have boldly exhibited.
“You give me what I want,” I lean forward and dictate. “I will ensure the two of you have the sweet and creepy little family reunion you have always dreamt of.”
She reaches for the screen, trembling, and then recoils with an adamant stare. “This better not be a ploy, Mr. Ronin, a twisted trick to heartlessly extract information!”
“No tricks,” I assure, “you have my word.” “Though I don’t think you are going to get the homecoming of your belabored, motherly fantasies.”
“I will welcome her with open arms,” she sighs deeply.
“She will wrap hers around you,” I add, “but it won’t be the loving embrace of a prodigal cub, more like the suffocating swaddle of a boa constrictor.”
“Once she returns she will see,” she closes her eyes and drones. “She will see how much her mother loves and misses her.”
“No, Seamstress, she won’t!” I pity. “She will kill you, slowly, excruciatingly, without mercy, savoring each unadulterated joy extracted from every second of brutal revenge. You will die in a way that will rattle the deepest level of hell.”
“To see her just one more time,” The Seamstress continues unhindered, “would make even the nethermost wound, debilitating pain, and savage mutilation, worth every blessed moment.”
“If that is what you wish,” I fretfully concede. “Then I will deliver her to you, as long as the information you provide is advantageous.”
“You are the one person whose word holds any value,” she opens her eyes and assents, “a rarity in any dimension.” “The only reason I humor your interviews and unannounced interruptions is because of your unmistakable integrity. You may not be a perfect man, Mr. Ronin, but your intentions always are.”
“The road to hell is paved with those,” I reflect, as Sasha’s words revisit my memory with a renewed vengeance.
Unfazed by my momentary introspection, the Seamstress excitedly directs her chair to better facilitate her responses. “If you say so. Now, what can I answer for you?”
Much to her dismay, I power my P.D.T down and return it to its home in my duster.
Why would I go to the Seamstress for answers?
The Seamstress is one of the few Citizens who have no Didymus. She is also the only Citizen, who has successfully connived her way into the Crux, defying death to continue her insatiable rampage. In a nutshell, she deceived Etheria into entering the Crux as a mortal with the promise she would deliver her more souls to carry to Oblivion. Etheria, being the twisted greedy bitch that she is, jumped at the chance to exceed her quotas, convincing herself it would impress the Controller.
Who knows how her mind works or why? I for one don’t want to know. I have the feeling it’s a place that the most diabolical hellspawn would avoid at great expense.
Either way, Etheria accepted the terms and the Seamstress delivered and then some. She expired many more victims before we were able to rein her in. Of course, when we did, Etheria denied everything, but I absolutely believe the Seamstress’ story was indisputably true.
Now didn’t you say that a Crux Citizen can only be expired with permission from the Great and Powerful Oz, you might ask? If you did, you would be correct.
That’s the kicker.
The Seamstress developed powers never experienced in the Crux before. You might say that her transcendence spurred a metaphysical metamorphosis evolving her into a fascinatingly horrific hybrid of human and Citizen. The one and only time it has happened.
Her unquenchable rage amplified by the abundant energies of the Crux, gave her the skill and strength to, not only craft sadistic weapons and tools to exact her murderous actions, but provided her with additional senses that could relentlessly track evil in any form. Finally, and this is the one that sent shockwaves through the system straight to the Controller’s ball sack, she developed the ability to reconstruct corpses and breathe life back into them. To resurrect her ghastly, painstakingly assembled recreations. We never determined when she learned that last abominable skill set, but we did figure out why.
It was to build a grotesque and demented family to replace the one she was so viciously robbed of. The depths of her madness corrupted every ounce of her motives and essence, so her gruesome obsession was not surprising. Hate is a cancer that will torture the mind, soul, and body until they deteriorate into an unrecognizable inhumane mass, tirelessly propelled by mercilessly violent lunacy.
Thankfully, her rejuvenating talents only worked once. Even she doesn’t know why. But when they did, they produced the tortured and lost prodigy she aptly named Dolly. She attempted to unsuccessfully nurture her, but Dolly resisted, tormented by her very existence. The Seamstress then traded care for confinement, imprisoning Dolly in chains in a last ditch effort to control her distorted aberration. That too failed and Dolly escaped, dropping off the grid because the system can only track living entities. Dolly though sentient and animate, redefined the lines between life and death and, therefore, is the only Citizen, who can avoid the watchful eyes and ears of the Repository and its Controller.
She wandered alone, saturated with hate for her creator. I searched for her, intervened on her behalf for reasons I don’t yet understand, probably never will. I taught her the tactics of survival, how to fight, provided shelter and safety. She became a Marshall thanks to her effectiveness in certain extreme circumstances. I kept her as far away from the Seamstress as possible to avoid the inevitable conclusion of their tortured relationship. Once the Seamstress served her copious sentences, I relocated her to one of the most remote corners of the Crux to ensure they would not reconnect, even by accident. So far, it has worked without a hitch, but she continuously begs me to allow a reuniting. It is her sole desire, purpose, and will eventually be her final, grisly undoing.
Getting back to the how’s and whys she is so vital when it comes to information. Well, when you spend as much time in the pen as she has, surrounded by the worst of the worst, you tend to get to know things. The Seamstress spent her stony lonesome days studying, fact finding, digging in places that few if any, visit. You think eternity is bad; eternity in a Crux prison defies this ludicrous monotony.
“How much do you know about Kalos?” I begin my interview.
“I spent time with many of his bunkmates long after he left,” she answers. “They are a talkative bunch under the right circumstances. Apparently Kalos was as well. He enjoyed bragging about his escapades and pedigree to anyone who was willing to listen. His status as an Elemental propelled him, in a split-second, to a rock star- like status among the slime and filth of that hell hole. He had diarrhea of the mouth spewing effortlessly from his cesspool of a mind. They bought each line he was selling with every cent stashed in their nearly depleted mental accounts. You want to increase your IQ, surround yourself with a diverse conundrum of demoralized idiots and you become an instant genius. I was able to extract a great deal of information with very little push back from his deranged disciples, all of his dirty little secrets. Despite his fabricated celebrity, my substantiated body count made my ascension to lord of the dregs far more brisk and deeply entrenched.”
“What kind of secrets?” I press.
“What do you want to know, and why?” She quizzically poses. “What could have possibly occurred that would encourage you to make such a monumental trade? To bless me with what I have literally begged for since my initial apprehension. What part does a defrocked philander like Kalos, hell bent on a path of utter self- destruction have to play?”
“There has been an incident,” I carefully answer, “a series of murders.”
“You are far too coy, Mr. Ronin,” she quickly but softly objects. “The sheer girth of our agreement validates that. If you wish me to be honest with you then I would hope you would, at the least, afford me the same respect.”
“Alright,” I decide to divulge more than originally planned. “Didymus have been killed.”
“Didymus!” She nearly shrieks. “How many?”
I pause for a second,
Am I really doing this?
“Thousands…ten thousand to be exact.”
The shock envelopes every aspect of her expression. It is something that seems impossible for such a diabolical creature. She reclines in her chair digesting my last statement as if she swallowed it whole.
“I see,” she quietly concedes. “Well that explains it then, doesn’t it?”
“I need to know if Kalos could be involved,” I continue undeterred. “If he still has the stones to pull something like this off. It’s not a matter of whether or not he would do it. I need to know if he can.”
She silently soaks it all in. Her hesitance immediately concerns me. Will she spill it or clam up? She can be a temperamental character with emotions though typically well concealed, swing widely and many times violently.
“Can you help me?” I guardedly push. “I don’t have much time.”
“None of us do,” she reflects. “Time is as much an illusion as the mirages of free will and control.”
Not the answer I was looking for. This might be a dead end after all. I begin to rapidly concoct an exit strategy. Suddenly my game plan is as effective as a dog humping an armadillo.
“To answer your question,” she snaps out of her unsettling trance, “his motive would be apparent but the effectuality of his involvement is far vaguer. Kalos has never forgiven the Controller for the execution of his father, Talos. This would be understandable if the man weren’t a world class sociopath. But for Kalos, he was a visionary, a revolutionary hero who sought to dismantle the system to free its Citizens from the endless oppression it levied. There is some truth to his cause, but Talos’ intention was not emancipation. He wanted to be a god. He failed in his attempt to do so during the Elemental Wars. So, he saw a renewed opportunity after being given a miraculous second chance by the very being he eagerly wanted to overthrow, ferociously biting the hand that fed him an underserved feast of redemption.”
“Yeah, I get all that,” I interrupt.
“But you have to fully understand the past if you wish to act appropriately in the present and preserve the integrity of the future,” she swiftly informs. “The story doesn’t begin with Kalos’ animus, it nearly ends there. The foundation was built upon the legacy of a father; a history that articulates the chaotic tale of whom and what weaved the very tapestry of the cosmos and inevitably forged the Crux itself.”
“Okay,” I concede. “What’s the story?”
“In the beginning,” she proceeds, “if there ever was such a thing…there was a void.” “A never ending nothingness, where Time, Space, and Reality, simply didn’t exist. A concept that is hard to comprehend for the most profound purveyors of limitless wisdom.”
“The only beings that inhabited that abysm was the Elementals and no one possesses the memory to comprehend their inauguration. The three Elementals, which you know of, are Shadow, Fire, and Stone. But there was a fourth, greater than them all, called the Elders. They were the first of the Elementals to visit the void and once settled, invited the others. First called Celestials they were entities without discernible form, existing as pure, uncompromising energy.
“Together these essentia began to delicately and patiently contrive and fashion the utmost details of our cosmos, called the Firmamentia, faithfully hanging every star, elaborately molding each planet, brilliantly spinning the wondrous patterns of the endless galaxies, orchestrating breathtaking superclusters, dynamically energizing life in all of its strange and splendid forms. They birthed Time allowing it to prudently grow and mature so that it would embrace the teaming influx of energies and forms methodically introduced into the breadth of their new infinite residence. Then they designed the architecture of Space to contain their inconceivable phenomenon, but expanded its borders to the deepest fathoms to guarantee the spans needed for essential and continual evolution. Finally, Reality was born, the inevitable spawn from the passionate courtship of Time and Space.”
“As their cosmic family progressed so did the silent, secretive undertow of resentment and jealousy of the Elders’ power and leadership. Knowing that their stature was diminishing under the umbra of the Elders, the three masters, Shadow, Fire, and Stone, rose against the Elders with their allies dogmatically fighting by their side. War began a bitter and brutal conflict that infected all of Firmamentia as the armies of the three Elementals quickly overthrew and occupied any expanse loyal to the Elders.”
“The Elders realizing they had no answer or antidote to this visceral plague upon their dominance, gathered together to formulate a defense against this seemingly terminal disease. In their haste to regain control, they assembled a legion of Vindicators formed from the dark energy of space. Girded with divine armor that solidified their form and empowered them beyond restriction, the angry Elders dispatched them against their adversaries. Marching on the rays of the cosmos, they assaulted the dominion of their enemies and battled them until their resolve began to thin and weaken. While Flame unsuccessfully deterred the Elder’s Vindicators, Stone bearing witness to the utter worthlessness of the conflict, retreated, refusing to further engage or aid either side.”
“In a last unfortunate attempt to shift the violent tide breaking against them, the Shadow Masters chose to assault the Elders on their own turf. That was the moment the war reached its apex and damned the Shadow Masters to their unavoidable ruin. The Shadow Masters, though megalithically powerful, could not match the unbridled energy of the Elders. During their final conflict, the Elders discovered their opponents’ one vulnerability. That if their Shadow Force was separated from their original form, all of their powers would be drained reducing them to enfeebled immortals. Using an energy emanating from their own essence, the majority of the Shadow Masters’ Shadow Forces were violently stripped away and eviscerated; dispersing their particles with such definitive distance they would never meet or collide for all eternity and beyond.”
“The remaining last few Shadow Masters, defeated and powerless, surrendered. At the same time, the Flame Masters were overcome by the Elder’s Vindicators who extinguished their Ignition Fury, the source of their abilities, with frozen weapons crafted from the cold energies cascading from the mammoth tail of the very first comet. Unable to survive without the burning fury that composed their essence, the remaining warriors sacrificed themselves in a bid to ensure their orphans would be spared. Their terms were accepted and the children of Flame were delivered to a planet home of their own, fostered by a few willing Elders.”
“Stone allied itself with the Elders once again. They provided all structure and surface to the countless worlds that occupy the Firmamentia, breathing fire and energy into their cores and blanketing chosen globes with sustaining water. They governed the root, sprout, and rock of every species and genealogy sprawled across the innumerable galaxies. Their undying allegiance protected the balance of the Firmamentia, ensuring no single power or collective could claim authority over its expanse, but the attained peace that ensued was tragically short-lived.”
“The Vindicators, charged with defending the Elders and their allies, turned against their creators, choosing to be conquerors instead of subjects. Led by a nefarious general, who took on a name pronounced in mortal tongues as Slaughter, they began a genocidal rampage. They ravaged every planet they could reach leaving none alive. Worlds became barren graveyards with blood stained terrains and atmospheres saturated with the screams and stench of death. Stars warmed desolate wastelands where even memory had been extinguished. Space became an empty place, lonely, cold, and lifeless.”
“The Elders pursued their gruesome genesis to the end of the cosmos, and there, they barraged their nefarious inceptions with every ounce of energy they could muster. It was a battle that waged beyond the comprehension of Time and sympathy of Reality. Once over, the losses on both sides were unimaginable. The Vindicators had been completely overrun and destroyed, with only General Slaughter’s armor left to bear testament to the horrific conflict. That same armor, cursed with all of the hate, rage, and bloodlust of evil incarnate was sealed in a massive vault that now exists in the domain of our Controller, accompanied by a myriad of relics stored for study and attestation so the Firmamentia never forgets their legacy.”
“Shamed by the events that led to the near extinction of life from the universe, the Elders searched the ethereal planes to find a cohort that could restore order to the embattled cosmos, left chaotic by the ruin of war. In doing so, they discovered a capable ally, one who could easily interject herself into the collective and alter the entire spectrum of established principles and parameters.”
“Her name is Fate, and once introduced into the diapason of creation, everything irreversibly changed. It was Fate that quickly became the foster of the siblings, Time, Space, and Reality. She wielded her authority over them with succinct and unquestionable prowess and ascendancy. The Elders relinquished more of their control to Fate, with the condition she first and foremost preserves life’s continuation. She agreed but requested assistance. So they left one of their own, a wise and benevolent overseer who would work in tandem with Fate to guarantee successful progression. The being you know as the Controller. It was the two, working in harmony, who designed multi-layered dimensions to sustain the longevity of the cosmos. Dimensions that expand, renew, expire, and spawn alternatives on a fluid, continuous basis in perfect unison with the whims and purposes of Time and Reality. Space would never be confined and stagnate again. Reality could remain free to express itself in limitless variations. In doing so, they had reestablished the family, soothed the wounds of dysfunction, and bonded and balanced their efforts and effects.”
“To safeguard their complex configuration, the Crux was formed to govern the spectrum of infinite possibilities and conclusions. It was powered by the combined energies of the Celestial Collective contained within an intricately enigmatic device and containment called the Construct. Never ceasing, always flowing, the Construct provides the fuel that runs the engine of the cosmos and the glue that connects the delicate appendages of existence. The Controller manages the Crux, but it is Fate that he answers to. She is the puppet master, and we are all share her strings. He is unconditionally loyal to her, unwavering in his devotion. Whatever she deems or desires he will go to any lengths to comply with, there isn’t a measure that escapes his attention or consideration to satisfy her instructions. Therefore, Fate’s design and plan, veiled from most, is inescapable with no amount of negotiation, tribute, or sacrifice accepted.”
“It was Fate who connected the Fleshworld to the Crux. For her, humans held the most value in the rejuvenated cosmos with their uncanny and unrelenting ability to adapt. She was obsessed with their capacity to experience the vast array of emotions unique only to their species.”
“I tell you all that to reveal this to you. There was a Shadow Master that remained, begged for forgiveness. A young, skilled soldier, who vowed fealty to the Elders, pleading for a second chance to have his legacy and capacity remain intact. They foolishly took pity upon him and under carefully and relentless observation, allowed him to prevail intact. He assisted The Controller in building the Crux with Fate. It was this young man, basing his suggestions on his relationship with his own Shadow Force, who proposed the Didymus as a way to safeguard the Crux from Citizens who might turn against it. It was this young man, who so proved himself, that he became the first Navigator. The Repository was designed by him and an enigmatic alien called the Record Keeper, whose past remains a mystery. As you might have guessed, his name was Talos. The Controller poured all of his trust into the inventive and ingenious Shadow Master; it was a mistake he has yet to make again.”
“As expected, his new Navigator had a definitively hidden agenda with every act he so selflessly demonstrated merely a front to disguise it. Talos not only hungered for revenge but altogether believed he was the destined overlord of the Firmamentia. It was a maddening obsession that burned within his belly like the fire of a thousand suns. How he managed to contain, it only validates his relentless dedication to it.”
“When the time was right, he enacted his deviant strategy, attempting to corrupt the Construct with his Shadow Force, transfer its absolute power to his essence. It was an overly ambitious move destined to fail. Ignorant of that reality thanks to the dangerous intoxication of his limitless insanity. The Controller soon discovered his plan and intervened. He allowed Talos to enter the Construct and then amplified the filters to eliminate any contaminations. As Talos infiltrated the Construct’s cone of intensity, he unleashed the full potential of his Shadow Force. His endeavor was short-lived. As the raw and unbridled forces that formulate the Construct trapped and shredded him at a metaphysical level, dismantling his life matrix and reducing every particle to such a minuscule level that they evaporated into nothingness. So, the first Crux Citizen was expired at the hands of the Controller.”
“Afterward the Controller placed irreversible fail-safes into the system to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. He continued the Didymus program to provide a quick dispatch for any Citizen, who would jeopardize the Crux, acting in cooperation with Fate. In addition, he developed the process of chosen mortals to be Remade, those who demonstrated a beneficial potential in the progression of the universe. Yet another advisement of his partner Fate. Finally, he instilled the Marshall program to police and protect the Crux and the Citizens of both dimensions, ensuring they neither interact nor interfere with each other. The Navigator’s position remained intact, but a new criterion was established. A venting system that is so complex and intense that only .0001 percent of the entire populace of the Firmamentia qualifies. The Controller still hand selects them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fate, like most things, has a hand in it as well.”
“So now you have the whole story,” she concludes. “I spent my entire time in the cells to attain it. Whether or not you believe it is up to you. But the funny thing about truth is that it makes no difference who chooses to accept it. It is an absolute that doesn’t require acceptance to sustain itself. Truth is one of the few constants in the universe and the only thing that Fate actually fears.”
She slides back into her rocker, searching my eyes trying to identify if her lengthy dissertation fell on deaf ears. Her exposition was overwhelming but contained a cornucopia of information that has never been divulged to me, which after two centuries is deeply and irrevocably upsetting. Despite the sheer glut of data, the answers she provides only spawns more mosaic questions.
“Okay,” I scramble to organize my thoughts. “I have a couple of things I need a bit more clarity on, in no specific order.”
“Fire away, Mr. Ronin,” she happily agrees.
“Let’s start with this one,” I begin, “what is a life matrix?”
“It is what makes up the entirety of whom and what we are,” she informs. “We are not designed and constructed by such primitive elements as DNA or subatomic particles, even though mortals dogmatically subscribe to those doctrines with their elementary levels of scientific understanding. The life matrix consists of the energies that codify our spirit, soul, and physicality. Three facets that devise our identities, assembled by an infinite number of particles, each containing the full threshold of our personality, memories, and appearance and held together by an inexplicable life force emanating from the very heart of the cosmos. Even when the physical form dies and the organic material spoils, the remaining two aspects continue on, an unnoticeable immortality driving the Cycles of the Fleshworld.”
“It is also what defines the presence of every Citizen, although the organic element is significantly altered as to survive and sustain in this ethereal environment. Simply stated, we are biological entities in concept only. The way we look is to provide an acceptable form, a combination of our own perceptions and basic needs, to operate effectively within the certain parameters certified by Reality’s input into the Crux. Why humans look like humans was entirely decided by Reality. It enjoyed the wondrous complexity existing in perfect accord with such essential mechanics, augmented by irrational emotions that both heighten and counteract their versatile and expandable logic. They are a majestic conundrum, one of the most remarkable creations in the whole of the Firmamentia, a crowning achievement of both art and function, majestically flawed and exquisitely resilient.”
“It is the life matrix that allows an individual to be Remade. Without the understanding of it, the process would have never existed. A development unlocked by a combined effort of The Controller and Talos, one of the few benefits of his horrid existence.”
“Wait, what?” I interject.
“The life matrix is a difficult energy to control,” she explains noting my confusion. “It takes a great deal of caution, planning, discipline, and complex mechanics to make it work right. Normal procreation was a purposeful bi-product of the Elders formation of the Firmamentia, later perfected by the orchestration of Fate, Time, and Reality working hand in hand. The origins and continuum of life throughout the Firmamentia functions under the principles formulated long before the Crux was ever a concept. The Controller and Talos discovered a way to reformulate life using an instrument called the ArgaMax, named after its alien inventor.”
“The ArgaMax?” I abashedly question. “Why have I never heard of this?”
“No one has, Mr. Ronin,” she answers. “It is yet another secret that makes up the soul of this place and it may be the most sacred of them all.”
“Not secret enough,” I argue. “How did Kalos know about it?”
“His Father,” she abruptly replies.
“Kalos thought it was a good idea to share these secrets with his prison bunkies,” I exasperate. “It sounds a bit ludicrous to me!”
“I never said he was a smart man,” she clarifies. “More of an attention whore, who could not, would not survive without the admiration of others. Even if they were mindless refuse.”
“Seems a bit too neat to me,” I challenge, “to know all of this from a litter of desperate and pathetic prison rats.”
“Am I to assume that you don’t believe me?” She stiffens and chides
“Didn’t say that,” I half-heartedly correct,” just a lot to digest in one sitting.”
“Then you should have brought your winged truth seer with you to ensure the validity of my erudition,” she scoffs.
“No need,” I digress. “But I would be a fool to simply accept every word without scrutiny, don’t you think?”
“I would agree,” she concedes. “Do you wish me to continue or is has your hunger been satiated?”
“No, not yet,” I rebut. “I have a few more questions if you are still willing to comply.”
“But, of course,” she agrees, “want you to get your monies worth, after all.”
“Okay,” I continue redirecting the conversation back to her last topic. “So the AragMax is the source of all life?”
“No!” She snaps. “The ArgaMax is used to reconstruct life, but it requires an original life matrix to do so. To create a Didymus, they need a sample of that Citizen’s matrix, which they acquire while the subject is unaware. Please don’t ask me how. That is an answer I do not possess. The ArgaMax can also manufacture life from the human emotions of Fleshworld. The machine receives, reads, and does it best to interpret those emotions and literally personify them by designing a Crux Citizen to reflect them. Those emotions must be strong enough, their signal so potent they might be recognized. The emotions that carry the strongest signals are fear, hate, rage, greed, pride, and sorrow. You would think love might be included in that list, but, unfortunately, despite its depth and effect, it shies in comparison to the vigor and fortitude of the aforementioned.”
“So life came before the machine?” I question.
“Yes,” she reiterates. “The machine simply generates manifestations of a mortal’s worst fears, deepest insecurities, haunting tragedies, and fiercest ire. Once personified, you arrest them after they commit horrendous crimes predetermined by their abominable existence. It is a vicious cycle that makes as much sense as anything else in this interstellar delirium.”
“So, to recap it,” I sarcastically denote, “it Remakes the chosen, births the monsters that haunt and torment humanity’s imaginations, and duplicates every Crux Citizen with a Didymus.”
“No, that is incorrect,” she interrupts.
“Which part?” I puzzle.
“Not every mortal has a connection with the Crux; many are completely disassociated with it,” she reveals.
“I know,” she immediately interrupts, “another alleged fabrication of the Controller.” “Millions of mortals will never share a relationship or Didymus with the Crux. It has been a truth since the symbiotic bond between the two dimensions was formed.”
“Why?” I struggle with her revelation.
“It is another inquiry I do not have a resolution for,” she laments.
“Either way,” I add. “It’s yet another set facts that common outlaws seem to know, but the Navigator’s most trusted Marshalls are deprived of.”
“Yes,” she rubs her chin, “that is very true and so you have some validation about my information, I can speak about this reconstructive power first hand.”
“How is that?” I curiously interject.
“It is the same power I possessed when I brought Dolly to life.” She reclines again as her eyes begin to wane.
Now it begins to make sense. This is not just a jumble of data she recovered from a gaggle of degenerates. She made a definitive connection between their tales and her own tragic history. These were answers she was seeking to understand her own abilities and their dormancy. Clever girl!
“But you never duplicated her,” I pointedly insert. “She’s the only one, right?”
“Yes,” she waxes solemn. “I can’t explain why. I was hoping I could find out through those dejects. Once I heard their tales from a distance and realized their value, I interjected myself into their disgusting culture to harvest the information I needed, and then separate the wheat from the chaff, fact from fiction. Despite my incessant poking and prodding, the endless dribble I was forced to tolerate to obtain the smallest scrap of truth, I never gained any more than I already knew. The stories of the Elementals and Talos’ tyranny were enlightening in their own right, but even those monumental insights magnificently paled in comparison to my failed quest to rediscover my sterilized abilities.”
“So you still have no idea as to why you lost that power?” I press.
“No,” she continues somberly. “I thought it might be the guilt of seeing her the way she was animated. My gift was supposed to resurrect her, transforming her into the beautiful creature I had envisioned in my heart and mind. But once she revived the second stage never came to fruition. She came alive only to behold, in the mirror before her, an abhorrent reflection starring back at her. Awaken from Oblivion only to be damned to a living hell, filled with regret, shame, and unfettered guile. When I tried to comfort her, she violently, savagely resisted, succumbing to the monster she believed herself to be. She forced my hand in her imprisonment as unjust and inhumane as it was. It was all I could do to give myself time to think, struggle to undo the hellish transgression I committed. You know the rest of the story all too well.”
“Did you try again,” I persistently inquire, “after she was gone?”
“Yes,” She gasps, “too many times to recollect!” “I tried everything to overcome my impotence. Nothing worked, meditations, incantations, I even expended my One Inquiry to no avail. He simply wouldn’t answer me, even after I begged and wept, more so than when my own child died. I know he feared what I would do with his answers, but I would have promised him my very death if he would have provided me a conclusion, a chance to release her from her misery. I failed yet again, finally surrendering to my deficiency out of total exhaustion and dismay. In the end, I believe it is my subconscious saturated with most incomprehensible regret that prevents me from fulfilling my ultimate avidity. It has become my most decided adversary, merciless, relentless, and unforgiving.”
I can see the weight of this conversation is detrimental to my investigation. I have to reel it back in quickly or I will lose her in deep and unwavering introspection. Within a second my mind collects itself and brings me back to the thread I want to pull. It may all seem random to the outsider, but my agenda is crystal clear and laser focused. I know when to show my hand and when to bluff. Right now, I am running the game exactly the way I want it to. She is an artful gambler as well, so I have to tread delicately and deliberately.
“Can the ArgaMax destroy life as well?” I purposefully pose to refocus our conversation.
I think she is on the brink of becoming catatonic, but I am sorely wrong. What a chess master! For every move, she has already thought five ahead of me. She pauses for a second as if she knew what my next question was going to be. I know she can’t read minds, but my body language is apparently betraying me. That can’t happen again.
“Yes,” she rapidly responds. “It can erase an entity from existence, even memory. As much as it is a tool for regeneration, it can be a weapon of swift and severe decimation. Although created to do both, the Controller would never allow the later. However, your inclination is correct, the machine has the capability to eliminate all of those Didymus and that begs a more intricate question.”
“What would that be?” I pose.
“The fact that we are even having this conversation,” she stoically remarks.
“Do you have any answers for that?” I push.
“No,” she quickly relinquishes. “Although I can relay all of these stories and theories to you, when it comes to understanding the way this universe works, I am as lost as a babe in the woods. I may have been a brilliant surgeon, knew anatomy with offensive ease but the science of the cosmos readily escapes me. Most of what I relayed to you is simple regurgitation that, I, myself, fruitlessly struggle with.”
Well, can you tell me this then;” I cleverly interject, “who operates the machine now?” “Who has access to it?”
“He delegates its operation to one person, and one person only,” she elaborates, “the Navigator!” “She possesses all of the coding and supervises its processes. For the most part, the machine acts as it is programmed to, following the same set of principles and parameters designed by its originators. She can, however, make alterations based on the instructions and commands delivered by the Controller.”
I was afraid of that. That is the answer I was hoping I was going to be wrong about. Suddenly the entire case I had been mentally building has been dispersed like a game of fifty-two pick-up. But I can’t deny the suspicion existed. I just fought it off at the time. Again, what I get for not trusting my gut.
I thought her vagueness and reservations were all part of her irritatingly coy personality. A result of her vacant social skills neutralized by ages of voluntarily reclusiveness and constant isolation. She is friends only with the cold, mechanized consoles that provide her sole manner of interaction, mentored by a more distant authority figure incapable of the most basic empathy. The last of her kind who watched her entire species slaughtered by a faceless, remorseless enemy, rescued from the jaws of extinction only to remain somberly unfamiliar to the very world she now inhabits. It was only a matter of time before her endless solitude and agonizing disconnection might lead her to a nagging animosity gradually metamorphosing into bitter, gnawing madness.
She has every reason to follow in the sadistic footprints of Talos. Alone, stymied, numb, as she watches her life stagnate instead of grow and flourish. Their paths are eerily identical. Her legacy too was erased from Time and Reality’s memory, with Fate deplorably silent and indignantly pitiless to her tragic plight. She is the supervisor of an entire cosmic populous monitoring and manipulating their existence, providing the entire mind, might, and muscle for an ungrateful overseer who offers no reward or accolades. Why wouldn’t she decide that the puppet needs to cut its strings and use them to strangle her oblivious master? How would he know? She understands every protocol and process intimately. Each and every weakness is the push of a button away. She could blind, deafen, and silence the entirety of the system with a simple keystroke before he could even react.
It is an absolute power that can’t help but corrupt absolutely. The Seamstress speaks up again, successfully derailing my train of thought. She has noticed the industry of my mind keenly working through the windows of my eyes.
“But this exposé, though educational, is not why you came to me,” she sharply detours. “We started with Kalos and how he might be involved in this recent travesty. Now that I have established the history and waded through any remaining distractions, we can return to the original question as to whether or not this prodigal son can significantly affect the Crux at all.”