Thursday, December 10, 2015

Throwback Series: "Day of Reckoning" Chapter 5 Part 3


Previously: Chapter 5 <Part 1> <Part 2>

Sergeant Kantor surveyed the milling masses going about their daily routines. He had little fear of uprising from them; his eyes searched for the ones that didn't belong, the strangers—the rebels.
Kantor's head picked up as his ears sensed one of the lesser officers listening to raised voices. The network connectivity they all possessed allowed some of his interest to fuel the officer's actions, drawing him closer to the argument.

"—well I don't like it!"
"Don't talk to me that way, woman! You will do as I say, or else!"
"Never! You can't make me!"
"Oh can't I?"

Kantor closed his eyes so that he could focus on what the young officer saw: a man and a woman actually finding cause to disagree; such a thing had never happened in the wyrt network. The wyrts made everything smooth and peaceable. Perhaps the presence of disagreement signified the participation of the rebels they had been searching for! Kantor prompted the officer to peer closer. Everyone in the immediate area had the signature of a wyrt on them. Kantor sighed, instructed the officer to arrest the two for disrupting the peace, and opened his eyes to resume his own duties.

It happened twice more that morning: a merchant started haggling with his customer, and one man assaulted another. Each time, Kantor searched, and each time, there were no wyrt-less rebels present. Why did these things happen?

Near the Garrison, Captain Lyam watched the arrests being led to prison, as well as maintaining alert for the dangerous renegades that would doubtless try to sabotage the army. Lyam shook his head; who were these people, and how did they expect to win? They must know that all the soldiers were connected by a wyrt-like neural network; attack one, and the others would come running.
The sun beat down on Lyam's armor, making him sweat. A distinct sensation of discomfort caused him to flinch and squirm. Lyam struggled to stay focused. Something hovered at the back of his head; what was it? He tried to wave it away, but it wouldn't leave. The feeling sank right into the back of his head and seemed to push and spread through his whole skull. Suddenly Lyam began to wonder if his helmet was too tight. He removed it, welcoming the instant relief. The Captain did his best to resume his duties with the annoying phantom midges swarming around his head. At least he could think straight without his helmet on.

A pair of soldiers made their way toward the prison with yet another captive, a woman this time.
"No!" She screamed, pulling against them. "Let me go! Let go of me! I've done no wrong!"
Lyam felt a sudden impulse, and he moved toward the group. They stopped out of respect.
Lyam was still trying to figure out his own intentions. "What, ah, what are you doing with this girl?" he asked the guards.
The burly one answered in a gruff voice, "She was seen going into an irrational establishment," he used the familiar term denoting activity outside the wyrt's programming, "we have reason to suspect she is in league with the rebels."
Lyam knew the proper course of action would be to back away and let the soldiers do their job, but for some reason he could not move.
The other soldier—obviously a higher rank than his partner—watched Lyam keenly.
"What are you going to do?" he asked the captain in a strangely calculating tone.

For the first time, Lyam actually looked at the prisoner. She had golden hair. Lyam kept watching her; why didn't he respond to her the way he responded to everyone else? She raised her eyes and looked at him. Her green eyes registered amazement.
"Lyam?" she gasped.

In a burst of memory the like of which had never happened for a very long time, that one word unleashed every instance that particular voice said his name. Suddenly she was no longer a prisoner, but a familiar face. She had a name, and he knew what it was.
Then they were eye to eye, but she had not moved. Lyam himself had dropped his spear and fallen to his knees to embrace her.
"Petra! Petra!" he gasped over and over, weeping as he realized how wonderful his sister's name sounded, how wonderful the realization that he had a sister! He was more than just a soldier—he was a brother. He felt her tears running down his cheek, her voice whispering breathlessly, "Lyam! Lyam!" Saying her name and hearing his own was not like his dreams; she stayed, and did not disappear.
How could he have forgotten? Was not a soldier's duty to protect and serve, just like a brother would? Since when had his duties consisted of looking out for the interests of the high-and-mighty elite brotherhood? Petra could go where she pleased! He would protect her!
Lyam stood and pulled Petra to her feet. He frowned at the guards.
"You will not touch her!" he said.
"She must be arrested," the second guard with the keen gaze reminded him. "She was seen breaking the law."
"Hang the Law!" Lyam thundered, pulling Petra closer. "I am her brother, and I say you will not touch her!" he moved threateningly toward the soldier and placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.
A strange disembodied voice erupted from very nearby.
"Carsius, I don't know what you did, but we have soldiers wakin' up and looking for their families all over the place!"
Lyam looked around for the voice as the guard in front of him removed his helmet, revealing a small device on his ear; had that made the noise?
The man smiled kindly at him and extended his hand. "Hello, Lyam, I am called Carsius. Welcome to our cause."

Lyam didn't know what to think. "What are you talking about? What cause?"
Petra smiled up at him, "It's the Resistance, Lyam! They're not dangerous, they're here to help us rid Eillumaeia of the Elitinati Brethren forever!"
Lyam looked around as soldiers lay down their weapons and joined their families, and a few even went into the prison and freed the ones unjustly imprisoned. The streets were lined with wyrts who had fallen off the uniting populace and now could not find their way without proper hosts. Rather than temporarily stunning them, this new mixture given by Ra'dith seemed far more potent and permanent.
"Where are they going?" Lyam asked Carsius, as a few others (such as a female Elf, a young woman, several men, and an alien being Lyam did not recognize) joined their apparent leader.
The Elf spoke, "They are probably headed to the one place where their influence is still recognized: the Temple University."
"Is that it, then?" Petra asked, "Are we free?"
The Elf shook her head, "Not yet. As long as the Elitinati are here with the mother-mind, they can still manipulate her influence to catch you all off-guard."
"Then we must destroy this mother-mind," Lyam concluded, "and drive away the Elitinati, so that their influence can no longer be felt here!"
A crowd had gathered, and when Lyam raised his sword, they all knew what that meant (because everyone had been discussing the same issue and individually reached the same conclusion), and they cheered.

The march began, as every able fighter mobilized and started down the streets, chanting in time with thier footsteps:
"Tolerance! Individuality! Responsibility! Brotherhood! Tolerance! Individuality! Responsibility! Brotherhood! Tolerance! Individuality! Responsibility! Brotherhood!"

Within the caverns of the Temple University....

The Elitinati Brethren were displeased with the recent turn of events.
"You fools!" the Sixth Brother hissed, "How could you allow this to happen? It must be rectified at once!"
"All the Novices, Overseers and Mentors are Inoculated," the Third Brother reassured him, "So long as they remain faithful to us, we have nothing to fear from the rabble."
"Is that so?" the Sixth Brother seethed, "There are at least five times as many people out there, and they have all united against us! There will be no stopping them!"
The First Brother spoke, "If they bring down the Temple University around our mortal bodies, we will perish. It is no longer safe, my Brothers."
The Sixth Brother grunted, "At last, the Wise Coward speaks! Yes, there is nothing for us here. Look upon the mother-mind."
They all obeyed the caution.

"How she quivers!" The Fourth Brother breathed.
"She knows what is coming; any moment could be the last. We should not have Inoculated the soldiers and left them so exposed to the Rebels; the conflict of power is too much to be borne."

The six Brethren exited the Time-Crack and landed in the cavern with the mother-mind. The mass quivered, caught between the two forces of influence. One Brother lifted a rock next to the mother-mind's nest. At one time, she was so conflicted she could not produce any wyrts. Now the mother-mind fairly spewed the small polyps in an effort to fragment the overpowering commands. 

The Brother withdrew from under the rock a warpstone, which they had hidden there for just such a purpose. The Six gathered around and laid hands on the crystal. In a flash of light, they vanished from the cavern.

Far above the cavern, within the halls of the Temple University, the Novices, Overseers, and Mentors felt a distinct switch in priority from one of regulation to rote survival instinct. Danger was coming, and it would arrive soon. The mother-mind, thrust into sole control, knew nothing but that she received an influx of wyrts. The bodies now under her direction no longer had the power of sight or speech, for she could not give them what she did not have. She merely organized the bodies in the perceived order of importance, and braced for the oncoming storm.

Outside, the people chanted, "Tolerance! Individuality! Responsibility! Brotherhood! Tolerance! Individuality! Responsibility! Brotherhood!"