"Let machinery fake my place, who has time to chase. Digital is where it is. Love can always be replaced. Welcome to my consciousness. Welcome to our race. Everything is never quite enough."
Everything (is never quite enough) – Diop, Wasis
"Fina, call Chang Wufei's residence."
I turned to face one of the many screens imbedded in the walls, steadying myself against another surge of pain spreading out from where the wings had emerged. So far the pain had been ceaseless, if anything, escalating in its intensity. The screen lit up and I immediately began talking.
"Chang something strange has happened I need your help."
"You grew wings." He shrugged nonchalantly, "Well, I suppose I should have been expecting it."
"What? What do you mean 'been expecting it'?" I did my best to glare at him through another ripple of pain.
"I suppose you'd better come over, there's a few things I should tell you," He glanced away for a moment, something almost like chagrin crossing his features. "I guess I should have told you a long time ago." He said softly.
"I... what are you talking about Chang? I don't understand this at all."
"Come over, bring your Fliogan, I'll explain everything here." He met my eyes, then looked away. "Computer end call."
I dropped to the floor, Heero caught me and held me, pulling me up and onto my feet again.
"He knows something."
"Yes, but I don't understand this. The spinal insert is merely supposed to be wetwiring and metal alloys, there's nothing like this built into it. I can't even identify the substance these wings are made of, can you?" I turned slightly, absently flexing my shoulders and gasping in pain at the movement.
I felt a feather light touch stroking one of the oddly feeling wings. "There's something about it, I don't think it is blue glass." I said, turning my head to watch him.
"No, it looks like crystal."
"Crystal... blue crystal... "
"Do you remember the Klishana expedition?"
"The ship that supposedly found a living crystal?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes, and supposedly they managed to obtain only one sample of it to study... and then no one knows what happened... "
"It was blue wasn't it? This crystal... I heard a rumor about that ship and what happened to it. They managed to find out the crystal was alive and could create energy as well as fuse with a human... " Slowly I turned to face Heero, my mouth open in astonishment.
"And the ship was rumored to have been lost, though another rumor said it was the system itself that might have gotten rid of the expedition."
"But why would they do that? Why didn't they just seize the ship if they wanted that sample so badly?"
"Maybe the crystal was considered dangerous to the system."
"Heero, nothing can threaten something that big, the system spans universes." I shook my head, smiling grimly. "A fragment of crystal couldn't destroy something so powerful."
"Perhaps not, though it could end up creating another race of superior techmasters, much like the Fliogan. Think about it Duo, why do you think my race is so enclosed. We're the only ones who understand and use the Steelshift. The system has been watching us very closely the past hundred years, it sees a time when it will not be needed."
"A time when the system is not needed? Matches not set up, levels not given, how would the lower systems stay alive if the system itself was not around to control them? That makes no sense Heero, nothing could compete."
"Nothing except a society that can build its way around the rules set up by the system, bypass them and live without it entirely. We're close already, and it's only been a short time since we discovered the Steelshift."
"And the crystal? It's another organic element that can be fused with a human, apparently." I said ruefully. "But how did it get inside of me? That sample disappeared along with the Klishana expedition."
"Or did it?"
I opened my mouth and shut it again, staring at the floor for a moment. There were just too many questions; my mind was flooded with them all. "Let's go see Chang, we know he has some answers, maybe he doesn't have the ones we do."
"You're right in thinking it's Klishana's crystal, though in almost every other guess, you're wrong." Wufei turned from where he'd been staring into an optiviewer, analyzing a small Youlin.
"So what is there to know?" I asked; noticing the pain in my back and shoulders was finally diminishing.
"It's not the system that destroyed the expedition's ship, and your spinal insert was not made of regulated material. Follow me, both of you." He eyed Heero for a moment and then headed for the airtube at the far side of the room.
We stepped into it, and lowered one by one on a cushion of air to the level below. The room was small with high ceilings, a metal door in the left wall. Wufei entered a brief series of keystrokes into the touchpad beside it. The door opened and he gestured inside. "Come, see why I know what I do."
I nodded, pulling Heero along behind me and into the small, chilly room. My eyes fell on a familiar face and I moved towards the figure stretched out inside a chamber similar to the VR modules. "It's ready, it's been ready, hasn't it Chang?" I gave him an accusing look, resting my hand on the freezing surface of the module.
"Yes, it's been ready for over a year now Duo, but I didn't know what to do with it. You've never been dying, you've been lied to."
"What?" My voice rose, a shiver gripping my body.
"You were born with a spine like everyone else, you were actually born quite healthy. A bouncing bright-eyed boy, you were also born in the natural way. You had a mother and father, and you were born on the Klishana expedition." He paused and looked uncomfortable for a moment, coming to stand beside me and staring down at my clone. "From my study of your DNA patterns and a bit of illegal study on the mystery of the Klishana expedition, you must have been precisely 1 hour old when they cut open your back. Then, they removed your spine and installed what they had created. The sole reason they let you live... "
"The Klishana crystal?"
"Yes, they had discovered something unique in the universe, something that they could not only merge with the human body, but something that embraced the human body, enhanced it."
"But... how did I get here? Why don't I know any of this? Why did I never notice anything odd before? Why now?"
Chang held up his hand placatingly. "From what I could find out about the expedition, about 2 months after you were born they began experiencing extreme difficulties with the ship, the energy core was failing fast, they blamed you. They realized the crystal was draining the energy, it was trying to keep you alive. You see, after they performed their 'surgery' on you, your body began to ail, you were dying. They should have known one so young could not sustain such injury as they inflicted on you. The crystal could not share energy with you, so it began draining the ship."
"So they got rid of him." Heero said softly, laying a hand on my arm and squeezing reassuringly.
"Yes, they did not want him to die, he was their great discovery, and contained the only sample of the crystal. They put him inside a cryopod and sent him towards the nearest system ruled planet." Chang turned to face me again. "The information that arrived with you said that you were from the Klishana and that they had sent you to safety due to technical failures aboard ship, your bio records lied, they stated you'd merely been an incubation failure."
"And how do you know all this?"
He smiled slightly, running a hand along the cool surface of the cloning module. "Inside your DNA lies the truth Duo, the rest wasn't that hard to put together."
"But why wings? Why now?"
"From what I understand, occasionally the body can send excess surges of energy out during copulation, I think perhaps the Klishana picked up on them and utilized them."
"And the wings?" I asked again, a vague idea beginning to form.
"It was during intercourse when they sprang, wasn't it?" I nodded and he went on calmly. "The crystal copied the nearest energy source other then itself, Heero's Steelshift is a minor energy source."
"So it copied Heero's wings? Chang... that makes no sense."
"The crystal is not only an energy source or organic element, it is alive Duo. That's why it's so priceless, it is a living being."
"What, like an alien form?"
"They were never sure, that was the problem, they wanted to study it's affect on you, but couldn't afford to as long as the crystal kept draining the ship's power source. But from what I could learn from your clone, which contained an unknown element by the way... "
"It had merged with my DNA?"
"Oh yes, it's a part of you now." He looked over at me, tapping on the cloning module with a finger. "That's why they replaced your spine with the insert they'd formed of the crystal. They wanted it to merge with you."
"What kind of people were these?" I asked, not really expecting an answer.
"Scientists, doctors, technicians, techmasters, biogeneticists, and you, one baby boy freshly born from an illicit coupling." He shrugged apologetically. "Not much of a family I'm afraid."
"This all sounds wonderful," Heero said dryly, lightly rubbing my hand where it lay upon the icy module. "But why would it only react to an energy surge now? I'm sure Duo's been around larger sources than sex."
I chuckled despite myself. "It's true Chang, I've been in the very heart of our main power sources and nothing like this has ever happened."
"No?" He gestured at my hands. "Why do you think they reacted the way they did during the system failure? You were feeding energy back into the system. Duo, the crystal is symbiotic with all energy sources. At the time, I couldn't figure it out, so I installed the wetwiring in hopes that Fina could help you."
"The crystal attached to it... "
"Yes, it attached to all your modifications and made them it's own, it adapts very easily to any energy source."
"So it adapted to the Steelshift... " Heero began.
"And it decided it liked its form, who knows? Perhaps the crystal in its original form had wings and missed them, or maybe it felt Duo would need a way to move quickly."
"It liked? It felt?" I yelled, banging my fist on the module and grimacing when it sent a splinter of pain into my shoulder.
"It is alive, as I said, it thinks on it's own." He paused, taking my fist and lifting it to his eyes, tracing the wetwiring beneath with his forefinger. "There is still a mystery I have not been able to know, and there is one more thing that hasn't made sense to me."
"Well? What is it?" I asked impatiently, tugging my hand away and staring at the clone in anger.
"Why the system isn't after you, and why Fina chose Heero as your perfect mate when she is well aware of your little enhancement."
"I can answer those questions." Heero spoke up, moving between Chang and I. "Fina is AI, both of them. Between the two of them, they can control the system. And... there is more... "
"What?" I pushed in front of Heero, facing him.
"Duo... I've lied to you... " He met my eyes, the silvery orbs that served as his own, turning a darker shade. "I was on the Klishana expedition."
"Impossible! You're my age, you couldn't have been there!"
"I was, before the ship was destroyed they sent me after you, they sent me to find you."
I was in shock, my mind shutting down completely, my mouth moving silently.
"I'm sorry Duo, it was my idea to install the crystal inside of you. But, it was also my idea to send Fina to you. I knew you would need her."
"That's why she knew her name... "
Heero smiled, the corners of his mouth lifting incrementally. "Yes, the rest of the expedition was killed shortly after I left, the ship's energy source was too drained, they hadn't sent you away fast enough. Luckily, Fliogan age very slowly."
"You lied... *you* are a complete lie... "
"Not completely... "
I felt rage, blind hatred towards him for the first time since I'd met him. "Do tell, you lying hunk of Shinalp."
"You see... I'd given up all hope of finding you again, you had disappeared. Then one day, just for a masochistic laugh, I sent Fina on an impossible quest, I asked her to find me the perfect mate. She found you Duo, not because of the crystal either, she found you because you matched me perfectly."
"... " I managed to say.
"Exactly, who would have known?"
I glared at him, my mouth snapping shut. "Perfect match, perfect liar, perfectly despicable. Go home Heero, it's perfectly wrong." And with that, I turned on my heel and headed for the door. A few seconds later, I was in the transpod and home.
"Set console, sleep mode."
"How long would you like sleep mode set Mr. Maxwell?"
"It's not for me Fina, send yourself to sleep, I don't need you anymore."
"Mr. Maxwell... "
"Set... Duo... "
"Lies, I can't abide these lies I've been told. Sleep mode now Fina."
"Goodnight Mr. Maxwe... "
Her voice blurred as I found myself sliding onto the floor and into blackness so deep, I felt I'd never find my way out. I'd been lied to again.
Transpod: A dimensional traveling device. The transpod will transport human mass within any area that contains another transpod. The time taken for each journey will always be exactly 10 nanoseconds, as time is folded as well as matter to create no ripple within the dimensions.
Slosta: A drink created from organic matter grown on Jilad, the Slosta is filled with nutrients that heighten awareness and energize.
CR chips: Two microchips implanted behind the ears, the connectors that allow a direct linkage to the VR modules.
Shinalp: A form of cursing, Shinalp is somewhat akin to saying "shit" or "ah shit"
Kajacrap: The Kaja is a life form located on the planet Neskin, a large beast known to produce huge amounts of feces. The phrase kajacrap is akin to saying "Bullshit"
Fliogan Warriors: The Fliogan is a race that attaches metallic wings to their young while they are still being formed within the incubators. The wings are partially organic, fusing with the young so as to become part of their bodies. This warrior race is known to be extremely high tech, and very vicious, most normal humans will not go near them, as they are known to kill without reason. Very little is known of the Fliogan or their ways.
Feed Tubes: Connectors that feed information and nutrients to any life form connected to any long-term device.
Lavablue 6: The planet on which the society of Fliogan reside at this time.
Levels: Technological knowledge is rated by level; most societies only have an average of 30 levels. The common level of most humans is 5, techmaster levels tend to be higher and in the upper ranges.
Steelshift: 1 of over a million different charted elements, Steelshift is partially organic, allowing it to be integrated with human DNA, testing is still in experimental stages, most distinguished users of this element are the Fliogan.
Slipshot Diskwings: A style of wing known to be common among the Fliogan, Slipshot defines the integration of movable parts, Diskwing is the style of the small circular patterns of metal that form the wings of Fliogan.
Contract: A contract is a more binding way to say, "Promise or swear?"
Optilenses: Cyber optic lenses, which can be used during a VR program only.
Creos: The original form of the name Christ has changed with the passage of time, modern form of the word when used as a curse is Creos.
Orstras: A plant matter grown in dark caves on the planet of Trinition, considered a delicacy on most planets, the plant is dark purple with small white bells that can be plucked and cooked. The taste is said to be sweet and delicate.
Realtime Call: The difference between a realtime call and a regular call is in the distance, all realtime calls infer off planet residence of the caller, communications run at high speeds, face to face talking is still difficult between planets.
What is your task: This is the way most people will ask what your job is, what career you're in.
Crèche Technician: Most people are born to the incubators and raised in crèches, the technicians help care for the many children being raised in such places.
Grower: The still forming body of a child within the incubator, a delicate time that must be carefully overseen to prevent accidents. A grower is usually designated as a child in a womb-like state. Between –1 to –9 months, or the time a child would be inside of a mother's body.
Youlin: I manmade mammalian life form, these animals are specifically created to improve the technology behind cloning. Most tests are performed with a small VR module; with which the creatures are filled with the only knowledge they know, as the Youlin is created with a blank slate for a mind.
A Set: A group of Growers that have reached maturity.
Trance state: Every few months of a citizen's life is recorded during REM cycles, the consciousness is stored within a neural processor called a memory chip. Occasionally when one wishes to know another, an exchange of such chips may occur.
Wetwiring: circuitry and modifications that can be installed within the human body without harming it.