"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
"Wake up Mr. Maxwell, wake up now." A small, piping voice said next to my ear. I squeezed by eyes shut and tried to remember ever hearing a voice like it before, but could recall nothing similar.
"Mr. Maxwell, you must wake up now, you need to leave this place."
"Why?" I muttered, rolling onto my side to see what this voice came from, and opening my eyes.
A small, furry face peered back at me, wide green eyes pleading with me. It was a Youlin, apparently a trained Youlin.
"Where did you come from, and why are you here?" I asked vaguely, sitting up and taking in the relative darkness of the room. Fina was still in sleep mode, why I had fallen with her could only be explained by our connection.
"Mr. Maxwell, hurry, you must leave now!" The small Youlin began tugging on my pants, tiny claws digging into the skin beneath.
"Who sent you?" I tried asking again, gently disengaging the claws and standing, setting the Youlin onto my palm.
"Mr. Chang sent me, you're in trouble Mr. Maxwell, the system has discovered your connection to Fina."
"What? This isn't good, how... where should I go?" I turned and headed for the door, still carrying the tiny creature.
"Cover your wings Mr. Maxwell." The Youlin suggested as I cast a glance about the room.
"With what?" I asked uncertainly, checking the clothes I had hanging near the transpod.
"Anything, you must not draw notice."
I grabbed a cloak from the wall and set down the tiny creature while I hid my wings. "How did you get inside little one?"
"My name is Youlin number 138, you may call me 138, Mr. Maxwell. And I was sent to you via the transpod. Now, you must exit your home without using the transpod, and go to dome 29."
"What's in dome 29?" I questioned, picking 138 up again and depositing it on my shoulder. "Hold tight."
"Escape is in that dome, Mr. Maxwell. You must get off planet."
"You want me to leave Zephlid?"
"I do not want for anything Mr. Maxwell, this is your need."
"All right, if I must, then I suppose I should." I wrapped the cloak more firmly around myself and then slipped out the main door of my home, stepping into a drop tube and sliding towards the main floor of my dome, as well as the airducts that would lead me to dome 29.
"138, can you survive a drop through the well?"
"No Mr. Maxwell, but Mr. Chang has supplied me with what I will need." The tiny voice said with reassurance. I could feel the miniscule claws digging into my shoulder as we slid downwards.
"The gravity is weaker this far down in the domes." I muttered, annoyed with my cloak, hair, even my wings, everything was twenty percent lighter and in my way. The Youlin still clung to my shoulder, half-floating beside my ear, piping commands guiding me through the maze of tubes we traversed.
"We are almost there Mr. Maxwell, please turn right at the next junction."
I nodded, crawling on hands and knees while half-floating had not been fun, though what awaited me in dome 29 most likely would be much less enjoyable. I kept my mouth shut for a few moments, concentrating on moving ahead.
"How did the system discover my connection to Fina?" I asked eventually, as we turned into the next tube.
"When you sent her into sleep mode several systems had been attached to her. They shut down as she did, the system took immediate notice of such an occurrence."
"They know she's AI?"
"They suspect, but they know nothing for certain."
"Good, perhaps she will be safe if I'm not here, they cannot prove a connection if I'm off planet."
"Yes, so Mr. Chang has said."
We came to a stop in front of a hatch, the end of the tubing. I crouched in front of it, shifting the Youlin to my other shoulder so that I could turn my head without it being in my way. We both eyed the hatch lock for a few seconds of silence.
"Can you unlock it Mr. Maxwell?"
"I can try."
Ten minutes later I still hadn't managed to unlock it, the coding too complex. "It's because this is a connector tube, opening it risks letting in vacuum if the tubes outside it have been broken." I muttered quietly to the Youlin, it nodded and met my eyes.
"You have another way to do this Mr. Maxwell."
"What do you mean?" I tilted my head to regard it
"The crystal, tell it what you need."
"Tell the crystal? How can I do such a thing? The crystal has never spoken to me."
"Then now is a time to learn this, wouldn't you say so Mr. Maxwell?" I peered closely at the small, furry face, trying to determine if it was smiling.
"I... I don't even know where to begin."
"Close your eyes, concentrate, extend your mind, feel your heart beating, your lungs breathing... "
"All right." I calmed my breathing until I could feel my heartbeat thumping throughout my body, concentrating on the sensation of each breath I took. Slowly everything seemed to fade away, until only my mind remained, blackness and my life merging. A soft blue glow filled the world behind my eyes, gentle light, unlike the bright glow that had emanated from my wings earlier. Then I felt it, a presence that was not of my own making, and not of Fina's consciousness either.
It whispered to me softly, it's language strangely musical, almost like a bell being rung over and over, low and harmonic as it hums. I tried to tell it what I needed, while not even knowing exactly how it could help me. And yet, it seemed to understand, the amorphous presence touching my mind for an instant, almost like a caress against the very nerves that were created for feeling comfort. It had understood me, somehow.
"It's unlocked Mr. Maxwell, hurry now." 138 whispered, one sharp little claw hooked around the upper curve of my ear as it leaned closer.
I had the worst sensation, that at any moment someone would shout at me to stop, demand of me to turn around and go quietly. I felt prickles up and down my back, the movement of eyes over my skin.
"Act naturally." Came a tiny voice next to my ear. I glanced aside; giving 138 a silencing look as it wiggled lower beneath the shoulder of my cloak.
Dome 29 was filled with people, it was one of the main domes leading to the drop point. Zephlid's gravitational field was so strong, that the spaceport was centered around a hole in the planet. A hole that extended through to the other side. This well would cause any ship traversing it to speed up enough to break the field that surrounded Zephlid and it's moons. My only question, was where I would be able to find a ship that wouldn't check my identity.
A hand grabbed my elbow and I felt my breath stop, the world funneling down around me and centering on that touch on my arm. They'd found me already. Slowly, I turned in place, my eyes rising to take in the sight of my captor.
"Heero!" I shouted, my voice rising embarrassingly on the last note.
"Quiet, don't draw attention."
"Let go of me Heero, I don't need your help." I said firmly, removing his hand and backing away from him. 138's claws began digging into my shoulder as it eased further down beneath my cloak.
He didn't respond, merely waiting, one hand poised over my elbow. Glancing from side to side, I checked for anyone watching too closely, any eyes facing our way that didn't need to be. So far, we didn't appear to be drawing any excess attention. There was so much I wanted to say to him, and yet, I didn't want to say a word of it. I didn't want to open my mouth again, be drawn into him again.
He nodded silently, letting his hand relax at his side, then turned and walked away. I ignored him, facing the opposite direction and glancing at the ship schedules that were displayed on various screens.
"You should have gone with him." The tiny voice said next to my ear once more.
"Fliogan's have political status, they cannot be questioned."
"... Great, now you tell me."
I felt the small pressure of the Youlin's body shift slightly, then it wiggled towards where my hands clutched at the cloak front. "Over there." It said softly, tugging on one of my hands, a tiny claw peeking out of my cloak to point left. I nodded, letting it remain clinging to my thumb peering between my clenched hands.
I could see Heero's form twenty feet away, the occasional flash of silver beneath his cloak marking him as Fliogan. It made me wonder what I looked like, my back humped and covered, hands clutching at the front of my cloak. Then it hit me, he'd seen me, but how? Fina was asleep; he had nothing to connect to. Somehow, I'd been lied to again, but how? As if responding to my silent questions, Heero met my eyes, nodding to show he'd seen me. I nearly laughed; he'd seen me, a blind man that could see... it made no sense. My feet moved me closer to him never the less, eyes glued to his.
At last, I reached him, his hand clasping my arm again as soon as I was close enough. "How?" I asked quietly, moving so that my mouth pressed close to his ear.
"One more secret Duo, I promise there's only one more to tell. For now, listen and stay quiet. Shutting down Fina was not a wise move, the system immediately detected several of the internal connections closing, and it was traced back to Fina within seconds. The only thing that stops them from finding you is her sleep mode. So tell me, how long did you set it for?"
I was speechless for a moment, mouth moving soundlessly. His hand nudged my elbow, jarring the small Youlin hidden beneath my cloak, and bringing my voice back. "I didn't time her."
A slight nod, "Good, she'll remain down until you wake her. There's a ship leaving in a few minutes, stay close and do not speak unless directly spoken to, even then, try to avoid it."
We turned together, his hand clasping around my forearm, the Youlin moving to hide at the back of my neck, beneath my hair and the cloak. The crowds parted before Heero, people moving without being aware of what made them shift to avoid touching the strange, silver eyed man.
Drop time in 2 minutes, my eyes kept turning towards Heero's face, wondering what was going on behind the blank look. The Youlin was warm against the back of my neck, claws clasped loosely within my hair. They'd been scanning the occupants of the netting that was strung along the inner walls of the ship. The netting was powerful enough to hold against the forces of gravity, yet felt more like a comfortable embrace. Until the scanners came closer to us, sending my pulse screaming as they neared.
I closed my eyes, a bead of sweat trickling down my face to slip inside the cloak, my body heat rising with each second. They would find the crystal, they couldn't miss it, there it was, blatant in a pair of blue wings on my back. I was going to be caught, nothing I could do would change it, they were almost to me.
"Calm." A small voice whispered into my ear, one tiny claw tapping against my neck. "Relax," it said again, "Concentrate, tell the crystal what you need." It whispered.
Yes, as I had before with the lock, the crystal would listen. Seconds passed, locating that other awareness easier now that I had found it once. Calm despite my desperation I tried to explain what I needed, a mask of some sort, that it must hide itself, hide me.
I blinked open my eyes, and realized it hadn't worked.
"Please come with us Mr. Maxwell."
My muscles froze; there was no escape.
"You are wanted for a sample Mr. Maxwell, an unknown element is within your DNA."
A tiny claw pricked the skin at the back of my neck, and I nodded. "Yes, certainly." My fingers felt numb as they fumbled with the various straps holding me in place. No escape, I carefully kept myself from looking at Heero, from acknowledging that I knew him.
They would only need a sample, and then what? They'd find out what I had, they'd figure out that it was the only known source, they would never let me go.
"Thank you for your cooperation Mr. Maxwell, this way please."
There was no escape from the system.
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.
The System: There are 3 levels of the system. The first is that which take cares of the minor systems such as basic maintenance, the second level controls techmaster training, medical facilities, and knowledge. The final level of the system controls all other functions between worlds, each detail is observed, and stored within it.
Klishana: A crystal found during an expedition of exploration, it is not only organic, but sentient as well.