"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
The next two days passed in what for, all intents and purposes could be called a blur. The night of Khali and Bell's tryst I'd fallen deep in to dreams of the past, memories. Bell's parting words triggering it, or perhaps it had not been Bell that'd spoken but some deeper part of me. Had I been wrong in all this time, assuming that my connection to Fina was too intangible to stretch this far? I had been missing her more and more often lately, and now I wondered if in her forced sleep state, she missed me as well.
The planet of Bell's birth approached, shining brighter than the suns nearby, giving forth its own intense white light. In a few hours Khali would begin orbit and we would…what? I still wasn't sure what would happen when we arrived. Would I lose Bell? Would the Mother decide we shouldn't exist? Would the Finders somehow find us all? And what did the Universe have to do with all this? Why had it marked me?
I glanced down, staring again at the white gold circles on my palm, scar tissue from destiny. What did it mean? Lately things had only become more confused than ever, nothing was being explained, and no one around me had an answer for all my questions.
"We're almost there," Heero said quietly, sitting on one of the view port ledges, eyes on the space beyond, hands idly playing with a piece of wiring he'd been trying to connect to his boot.
"What do you think will happen?" I asked, wondering why exactly he was trying to attach things to his boots.
"What is meant to happen, of course," and briefly those Steelshift eyes seemed to reflect all the possibilities. He didn't seem to mind that Bell had taken his sight when he'd slipped from their shared body, leaving him once more in his blindness. But then, he was used to it by now, wasn't he? Years of being that way surely were never forgotten; perhaps it was actually more comfortable and familiar.
Someday, when I was more skilled in the energy, I would figure out how to change his eyes permanently, restore to him his sight once more. Though I feared that if I tried it now, I would somehow muddle it up completely. I shuddered at the thought of Heero having nothing but empty eye sockets, or something worse than that. No, I would wait, and I was sure he'd have the patience as well.
The Chang-doppelganger, which I was finally beginning to get used to, swung into the room and beamed at me from where he stood. "Just whom I needed to speak with," he proclaimed, "we have much to talk about," he nodded as if to himself, settling beside me on the view port ledge. "I must ask you what you seem to have done to my Youlin. It is not behaving normally, nor how it was programmed."
"Well, you skip right to the point, don't you?" I smiled in spite of my annoyance, "Just like Chang, I wonder what else is the same inside that head of yours. What do you remember of being him?"
"I am Chang, I've told you that, we are exactly alike in all ways, the only difference seems to lie in his actually being a real human, where as I am not. Now, I would like to know what you've done to 138, it was once a very polite Youlin, and it seems to have suddenly grown a raging personality."
"It was blank before? I can't see that at all. 138 has had a complete personality from the moment I met it, now it is only more pronounced." I couldn't tell if Chang was more upset or intrigued by the idea. Apparently, he'd not planned for a creation with an attitude.
"Funny," his lips twisted, "your clone seemed to do the same thing."
"My clone! You woke it. But Chang…"
"Of course I woke it, I had to see if it had the capacity to replace my friend, didn't I?"
"And did it?"
"Hm, in some ways it surpassed you, but no," he shook his head, "it could never take your place."
"Anymore than you can take Wufei's," I pointed out, wagging a finger at him.
He looked surprised for a moment and then laughed softly, "of course, I could never, and yet always will, be the only one able to surpass myself."
"What's your last memory?" I asked softly, wondering what had happened to the real Wufei after Heero and I had left his company.
"Ah, my memories do not end, they only begin."
"You're enjoying these riddles a little too much,"
"I can't help myself,"
"So what is it that you recall?"
He looked away, refusing to meet my eyes, instead staring out at the view of the oncoming planet. "Many things; perhaps even everything. But most of all, I remember you."
"Yes, the many clones of you."
My back stiffened, "wait a minute here, Chang. What do you mean the *many* clones of me? You only made one, didn't you?"
"One, seven, who knows?"
"You do! And if you made more than one of me…"
"Well, they kept coming out differently," he tried to look innocent, shrugging and still refusing to meet my eyes.
So the one you showed Heero and I, was…"
"Number thirteen," he said with a small smile.
"Number…" my mouth kept moving though no sound came out. I couldn't seem to wrap my mind around the fact that somewhere, back on Zephlid, there were 13 more of myself, doing who knew what. For some reason, it worried me, just a little. Then I remembered, this was only a copy of Chang, somewhere back on Zephlid, was my best friend *and* thirteen copies of myself. I shuddered at that particular thought. Poor Chang.
"We're nearly within orbiting distance," Khali's voice echoed from somewhere above us.
"We *will* talk about this some more," I told Wufei, glaring at him as he stood.
"Of course, just not at this moment, I said I would help Khali with a few matters before we land." His voice was still utterly calm and collected, unruffled at what he'd just told me.
"If you weren't one of my best friends …"
"I know, and believe me when I say I'm thankful for that," he grinned briefly, slipping out the door.
"Thirteen more of you…"
I glanced up, taking in Heero's fascinated expression. "Don't even think about it."
We were gliding through a gem-world, translucent rainbows and multifaceted reflections all around, the golden bubble spinning gently through on its way to the center of it. In the distance, I could see a white light brighter than any of the scenery, as if something awaited us at the heart of the planet. Then my eyes turned towards the flowing landscape, undulating crystals, sparkling in their own light.
"Beautiful," Treize whispered, one hand softly lying against the bubble, as if he could somehow touch the world outside.
"Is your whole world made up of crystal?" Khali asked, turning towards Bell.
"Most of it, though, perhaps not the center,"
"Where the light is strongest?" I asked, I'd wondered what lay ahead of us.
"That is the queen, my mother," his voice throbbed with respect and love.
"Does she know we're coming?"
"Oh yes," he nodded vigorously, "she has known before we ever did."
Again, our eyes turned towards that incandescent light ahead, the unknown future lay there.
"Her chambers," Bell whispered.
We stood at the entrance of what for all intents and purposes looked like nothing more than the mouth of a cave. White shimmering walls of crystal coated it, slinking back and down into a strange sort of lucid darkness. I didn't want to admit it, but I really didn't want to enter. There was something vaguely foreboding about the entrance. It looked like it wouldn't want to let us out again. I shrugged, following behind the others with trepidation. My eyes remaining firmly on the sloping floor, wishing the whole ordeal were already over.
Gradually, after what seemed like hours had passed, the walls became farther away, eventually opening up into a vast rounded chamber, reminding me of the Energy God's domain on the planet of the golden butterflies. The ceiling rose to a point that was invisible above us, and the path narrowed so that we were walking along a slender walkway suspended over a pit that seemed bottomless.
A whispering sound seemed to slide from one end of the chamber to the other, like children laughing from far away, the tinkle of bells as heard through a misty night. At last, I dared to glance ahead, and froze in my tracks, Milyardo bumping into me from behind. At the end of the white pathway was a large circular area, sheets of crystal standing like a great throne or podium directly in the center of it.
"Mother," Bell said softly, approaching and kneeling before the sheet of crystal, forehead bending to just touch it.
A long sigh seemed to filter through the chamber, like a breeze that had become human. It went on for a long time, feathering across my ears, a slide of sound. Suddenly it stopped, everything becoming silent and still once more.
In the distance, or so it seemed, I could hear the tinkling of bells. The breeze picking up again, blowing more fiercely now, sending tingles down my spine. It felt as if, were it to blow too strongly, we might all be swept from the narrow walkway.
"Bell? What's happening?" I shouted, a sudden gust forcing us to clutch each other in a tight group of fear.
"I'm not sure," he stood slowly, scanning the white walls, "don't move, whatever you do," he whispered intensely.
A great cracking sound filled the chamber, as if the entire world were splitting in two, and the sheet of crystal that Bell stood in front of seemed to waver almost like water. As it undulated, a hand slowly pushed through it, white and long fingered, shimmering like the crystal itself. I watched in stunned amazement as the hand was followed by an arm, by another hand, by a body. Before I could even so much as take another step backward, a woman had appeared.
She was as tall as one of the Finders, much taller than any human I had ever seen. Like Bell, her skin had that almost blue tint to its whiteness, except unlike Bell's her skin also seemed to shimmer slightly, as if something on it caught the light and reflected it back.
As she shook her head, long white hair surrounded her and spread out like a blanket of snow, folding around her nude body and becoming a perfect cloak of white. Her eyes, which I had been avoiding, were a bright white, multifaceted as if they'd been carve by a jeweler, sparkling with an uncanny knowledge and power. When she opened her mouth, the sound of the wind, and a million tinkling bells scattered from her lips.
Bell looked like a child before her, the top of his head barely reaching her knees.
From behind me, I heard 138 whisper quietly, "What is she saying?"
In a flash her head turned, eyes narrowing as she stared at us. "How the universe will not know its own wrongs, how the universe will turn on itself, why…" and she stopped, her great voice, sounding hollow and sharp, stinging the eardrums with its force. "Why we must change, you are right, my child," and she turned towards Bell, a small smile flitting across her face. "I will call my children forth," she sighed then, fingers stretching out and down.
Then she did the strangest thing, she seemed to pull a strand from her hair, and then another, and another, until at last she was holding several strands of it. But it seemed these were longer pieces, as they trailed over the end of the plateau she stood upon, down into the endless pit below. As she held aloft the strands of crystal, she looked at our little group, huddled at the end of the walkway, shivering together quietly. "No fear, children, it will be over soon."
And then the room seemed to undulate, the world seemed to shiver, ever facet of crystal surrounding us seemed to slide and break away without moving. The walls expanding, shifting rising, lowering. The floor seemed to fall away and rise back up, and it felt as if everything were twisting, the world, the universe, me. Just as suddenly it all snapped back into focus, only now the chamber we stood in seemed to have expanded, becoming larger than any arena, larger then it seemed could fit inside the cave.
A deep tone rolled across us, a very large bell being struck with a huge hammer, or so it sounded. The White Queen started pulling one by one on the strands she held in her long fingers, and as she pulled each strand, I could now see, attached to each were millions of tiny blue crystals, the size of fingernails. With each massive tug of the strings, they clamored together, creating a nearly overwhelming sound. A mighty shimmering that filled the air, that seemed to shake the entire world.
Softly at first, beneath the sound of a million bells, there was a whisper, voices on the air. The strings of tiny blue crystals extended for what seemed like miles across the whiteness of the cave. I blinked in utter shock when I realized they were no longer the size of fingernails, but now were as large as children and growing by the second, becoming as large as humans. Now it looked as if we were surrounded in all directions by blue crystalline pillars. Then, with one last mighty shake of the strings she held, the queen let go, the crystals shattering into multicolored lights, and everything turning an incandescent white.
When I managed to open my eyes again, it was to find myself crouching down on the floor, arms wrapped around Heero, and a pile of bodies surrounding us. I turned my head, ducking it out from beneath one of Heero's arms and realized that everyone had gone into a protective mode. As there seemed to be an unusual number of arms and bodies pressed close to me. Chang grinned at me, "Sorry Duo, looks like we find you important or some such thing."
From beyond the protective arms, I could hear something new, the sound of chattering, of laughter. A gasp from Heero drew my attention, and I turned my gaze to follow his, letting out an indrawn breath of my own at the sight.
We were no longer so alone in the vast cave. Where millions of little crystals were, now stood a massive army, a hoard of blue haired people. "Bell?"
"My family," he said, a soft smile turning up the corners of his mouth, tears shimmering just out of reach in his sapphire eyes.
Indeed, we were surrounded by millions of laughing, beautiful people, their skin snow white, and hair of blue crystal. "But…" I stammered, "how?"
"It was time, Duo, it was time for my children to evolve, to join the rest of the Universes in their life," the queen's mighty voice whispered, "they will not claim our bodies for their energy, and we will fight them if they try."
"But what will happen next?" I released everyone's arms from around me, standing and approaching her, feeling as small as a bug beneath her crystal gaze.
"You must journey back, you must return home, to Zephlid. There an army awaits you, determined to capture the energy you carry, to abuse you, and use you, until you are nothing but an empty shell."
"No," it came out a choked gasp, "I will not let that happen!"
"Heero," and he halted in his tracks, merely giving everyone around him a surly glare. "What can I do?" I asked, knowing there had to be a reason, there had to be a way to somehow overcome all odds.
"Ah," she sighed, seeming to slump a little in place, "only the universes know your destiny, even I cannot decide on this."
"What do the circles mean, why did it mark me?"
"Why? It means that you are destined to be a great changer of all the worlds; somehow, something you do will change everything. That is what it means," she shook her head a little, glancing down at the shimmering blue haired people surrounding her with adoration, "change is sometimes for the best though, isn't it?"
"Sometimes I wish I'd never left Zephlid,"
"Who says that you have?"
A sudden tremor ran down my spine, a chill so deep it felt like a shock of lightning piercing me to the core. "W-what?" The world around me seemed to fall away, everyone surrounding me becoming so much mist and cloud. "No, that's impossible."
"Is it? Is it so impossible to believe that you are still back on Zephlid, in the safest place imaginable? That you lie deep in slumber inside a blackened Transpod, Feed Tubes connected to you, keeping you alive on this long solitary journey. Tell me, Duo Maxwell, *where* are -you -now?"
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: A 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.
Pinalr: A vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, it is said to be an acquired taste due to its strange fleshy texture and nutty flavor.
Guplit: A type of fruit grown on many planets, it is small and covered in tiny spikes which make it needful to be carefully eaten. It is said to taste rather sour, with a hint of sweetness.
Fermented Hisle Juice: A type of fruit also grown on many planets, it can be juiced and distilled to form a mild form of alcoholic beverage.
Brean-scalpel: a surgical instrument designed for a bloodless opening and closing of tissues, often used for personal bodily modifications.
Inverse Star: Very rarely when a star starts its death throes, it will turn in upon itself and feed off of its own energy, creating a new form for itself.
Ararium: A room usually only found on starships, it is meant for viewing of new materials and study of unknown elements.
Robotic simulator-hologramic: A mix of robotic and manmade tissues, which can be infused with memories and original DNA to form an exact copy. The holographic portions are usually reserved for those who were not satisfied with their own features in life, or who prefer to hide what they truly are.
Lucious Corporation: The first ever large corporation to specialize in the production of humanoid and manmade robotic engineering. It also owns nearly all blueprints of robotic simulators and DNA prints. It is said that this corporation rules half the universes.
Biotissue: A manmade tissue used in surgery and building of copies, it has no specified DNA pattern and can be mixed with many other species.
Biorecords: A type of map made for each creature that is birthed in a crèche, it is a permanent record that can be used to repair or recreate.
Kindal: A form of dried meat, usually made from Hiff, a tasty mammal that can be found on several planets.
Kindal Slices: Hiff meat that is served fresh.
If you would like a definition for something not listed here just ask! ^_^