Project ZEAL

Scene 16 - The Other Side (ZeaLitY)

Deep within an isle shrouded in wary mists, a few of Zeal's most daring spires rose, lacking the adornments of the other, sunlit towers that sat below the palace, and lending an imposing feeling of cold uneasiness. None could tell that deep within, clockwork to challenge the universe was being undertaken, intricate in its countless designs, daring in its scientific vision, and dangerous to all beyond its walls. Indeed, the illuminated royalty hardly stepped upon these grounds, and the respected aristocracy of Zeal was totally exempt from everything but mere visitations -- for this looming complex did not employ any from that glorious class of citizens, instead drawing from the Gentry. It had long been a social fact that aristocrats were simply not recruited into the shadowy School of Temporal Magic; the Gentry who were chosen often basked in this subtle form of superiority, though one's choosing to attend the school was mandatory if passed and unable to be debated. Beyond these 'Chosen' souls, others had rarely been offered a glance into this place, instead merely gazing afar from a dreamer's bed and wondering of its enigmas and secrets contained within the gray walls.

The Centre for Dimensional Research had long been, to certain immortals, abnormally busy; silver-robed scientists populated the halls with a calculating ferocity that would shake the frame of Enhasian sleepers and unsettle any common citizen -- for each carried the burden of vaporously huge weight, and obtained little rest from constantly evaluating theories and reporting findings, only to wipe their high-tech tablets clean and begin anew. While this certainly drove more than a few somewhat crazy, this did not constitute their darkest aura; it was no wonder that those born with particularly acute senses felt dread and despondency from the Centre, even in its relative aloofness from the other islands of Zeal. These detecting citizens knew to remain reserved, out of a certain fear for the power of the Council; that considered, it was unlikely that any would harbor ill feelings -- as evil deeds were never reported, nor even suggested by the little knowledge of the Centre's on goings, said to be merely simulations of timelines and dimensional distortions, with occasional tests on minor phenomena. The agents of research were thus free to engage in their experimentation, liberated from the scrutiny of artists and certain, bothersome ethics -- free to roam the metallic halls and exchange data, or merely enter the observation deck and intrude upon the affairs of other men -- men in worlds far spanning and closely related to their own.

As several analysts rounded a corner within the somewhat-labyrinthine complex, brushing sparsely decorative plants whose leaves even retained a shadowy, ominous outline, they soon found themselves within the primary construct, a rough oval in shape. A few gray-tinted windows lay along the stonewalls, whose architecture resembled classic Zeal more so than the scientist's laboratories and corners. As one proceeded toward the wall farthest from the entrance, magically powered machinery grew in proliferation and technological advance; at the center, almost interconnected with the wall, lay a small platform, on which a burnt brick lay. On its left existed a square, complicated frame whose square build supported a large sheet of cyanic blue within. Lastly, to the right of this centerpiece, a circular frame, large enough to accommodate a person, rested upright; it too was deactivated currently, though it demanded the attention of several well-adorned workers. A few in this magnificent accomplishment of Zealian science called themselves worthy of leading; each directed orders, and scribbled in personal journals, making decisions and sketching possibilities, although the last critical choice in the effort's history had been made days prior.

The analysts sought out one of these men, and conversed briefly; they soon departed, missing a flashy spectacle as several blue orbs condensed from the air around the cyan square; the light blue suddenly disappeared in violent swirls, giving way to a topographical tableau of green and sandy ground. No manmade structures appeared, save for two primitive huts, which were as miniscule dots on the screen.

"Zoom, ten times," a voice called.

The view increased significantly, revealing a handful of cavemen darting about the area, some stacking firewood and others preparing hides. The man standing in front of the viewing port squinted his eyes, and raised a hand. A grin forming at the corner of his mouth from tingling sensations emanating from his fingertips, he called forth an aura, which enabled a few lights on the Zealian mechanical architecture, whose workings resembled a masterpiece of craftsmanship. A voice came again, somewhat charged in energy.

"Establish contact with FF-A17. Release lock level to D."

A hum could be heard emitted from another part of the complex, while an interface appeared before the man. It was arrayed in several dimmed colors, with current options and tables highlighted. The man paused, stared at the screen, and then spoke to the controls.

"Transmit directive A. Break contact."

Immediately, the world as seen through the port grew dark; clouds amassed in the atmosphere as the result of serious geological disturbances, and the wildlife appeared to be insane as they whelped wildly and ran errantly. The frame decreased the size of the view, allowing a wide span of topography to be seen once more; a particular spot of ground near the center of the continent became heated. The observer uttered a low word, and was once greeted with a zoom on the area, revealing an unparalleled explosion of lava and shattered crust. Only one aspect of the eruption was constant; a mass of obsidian spikes rose from the breakpoint, and unleashed countless spires that soared through the sky, breaking the dark cloud formations, and rained down flaring in unquenchable hellfire. The land was instantaneously metamorphosed into a nightmarish, searing glow, as all combustible materials seemed to light in white fire at the mere sight of the descending needles. The few spots of villages had been cleanly wiped from the planet, scraped in mile-wide swaths as annihilated ash. As soon as it had began, however, the screaming fire ceased in its fall; the immortal god of death had fully surfaced, and sat dormant upon his new realm. The ash and smoke would, for centuries, encase the world in a morose veil, to shield the stars from the heresy of Lavos.

This brilliant spectacle of destruction did not amuse the Zealian watcher, as it might please a sadistic man, but neither did it evoke within him question of his actions and morals; it merely was part of a grand process, of which he and his work were cogs -- jewels in the magnificent crown of the glory of Zeal. Perhaps it was that Roget did not desire to consider the ramifications of his actions at this time, but merely enjoyed being along for the thrilling the ride. A voice came from behind him, mildly startling him -- though he attempted to play it off.

"Eh? Tidying up already, I see. I guess you missed the Nanashi that was on a mission and left before you got here this morning, hah," it spoke.
"What! Are you serious? This can't..." Roget began.
"Oh, just joking with you; you really can get serious sometimes. What are we looking at here?"
"Dimension A17. The last experiments were done two weeks ago, critically wounding the natural history. It was high time for it to disappear."
"Interesting. It is a shame you have to be here all the time. Dimensional disposal is a wonder to behold in the observation deck's dome. Was a new project decided on?"
"What?" Roget asked. "You should know; you're only one floor below us."
"Yes, but it is like a dungeon down there."
"Hah. Well, yes. That brick from a wall of ancient Enhasa..." Roget pointed to the stone resting on the centerpiece machine, "...gave us a nice world to work with. A full report hasn't come in yet, as you know, but we've already begun a test."
"Interesting! So you found another Enhasa, I bet?"
"Yeah. We burned it severely with several flares. I believe its equivalent structure perished two million, nine hundred and nine..."
"Eh, don't get too detailed on me. I've got to get going. Have fun with this new land! Give me something fun to analyze down there."
"Good day, Jacob."

His friend hastily departed the primary construct, after which Roget returned to his post at the viewing screen. Uttering further commands, he altered it to reflect upon a man of light build, rough around the edges, and somewhat ruggedly handsome. He sat gazing at a prismatic bulk, whose crystal structures reflected all colors in the visible spectrum of light. His wide smile nearly cracked his face, for he stroked the luminescent, glassy mass unrelentingly, and ate a few provisions he had carried. Roget too grinned, happy that the first mission in the study of this new dimension had been a success, and feeling superior as usual -- for the sorcerers on the islands he could see from one of the narrow windows could probably synthesize a beautiful object such as that ten times as large, and a thousand times over. Nonetheless, he did share a tinge of happiness for the adventurer onscreen, whose life had seemingly been completed somewhat by his finding the artifact.

Another distracting person approached him, hastily entering the construct and speaking with an assistant before approaching Roget. He too wore a gray subfusc, but with a special marking that denoted him a representative of the Council, who orchestrated the Centre of Dimensional Research from afar -- seemingly never dirtying their hands themselves by undertaking visitations with the analysts and scientists themselves. Their representatives did seem to maintain a superior attitude towards the workers, garnering dislike as they gave orders haphazardly. This fine example of such a disposition strolled toward Roget, passing several vines and plants, which had been added so that the room did not seem entirely bare and practical. Overall, the construct lent itself to the feeling of sitting in a garden during a cooled, rainy day.

"Roget Parrion, I presume?" he asked in an irritated tone.
"Yes, what is it?"
"The Council wishes to know why an official report regarding the newest dimension has not been filed."
"We only began experimentation two weeks ago; tell them we're getting one ready."
"Why have you begun conducting tests without an official report?"
"What? We have a working knowledge of the dimension; that's enough to start..."
"You should not deviate from procedure!"

Peered at the snappy man's eyes, teetering on the verge of giving a long, dangerous speech on the low social position of messenger boys such as this representative, why they should behave with more respect, and the reasoning behind allowing experts to do their work uninterrupted. However, he was saved from this risky move by the bursting in of another attendant, carrying a detailed report in his hands. Roget procured the delivery, and vocally gave an "hmph" in his general direction. The representative of the Council turned to leave, but gave a final, annoying warning.

"The Council demands results of this experiment in two days. Do not be late!" he demanded.
"Yes, we won't be. Now leave us in peace! How do you expect us to get something d..."

The man had already departed, and Roget ceased his lecture. He had an absolute distaste for those who did not recognize their position in life, and did not give him proper respect; as one of the old Gentry, he had long lavished in attention given to him -- and in the Centre for Dimensional Research, far removed from those undeserving aristocrats, Roget was free to cavort with other members of his class in relatively unchallenged superiority. Only the Council imposed authority greater than theirs, but as they remained aloof and unseen, Roget freely thought of himself as one of the project's directors -- even though he was merely one of several researchers assigned to the primary construct, though it was the Centre's most intensive room. Roget currently had the pleasure of listening to an underling's presentation.

"This report -- care to run over it with me?" Roget inquired.
"Yes sir," came the reply.
"Very well then. Let's start with the basics. Major dynasties, kingdoms, whatnot."
"Well, twelve-thousand years after Zeal was destroyed, that familiar kingdom showed up, this time called 'Guardia.' Interestingly enough, the kingdom is overtaken in 1005 A.D. on its timescale, rather than a century before in its last few appearances."
"Cause of the fall?"
"Well, all goes hand-in-hand. The next great kingdom, Porre overtook it due to several factors, and reigned as one until around 1500 A.D. on the scale, when the old states vied for power and successfully split."
"And then Lavos arose, and humanity died. What's next?"
"Oh, excuse me sir, but Lavos did not erupt here, not even in the evaluated date of 1999 A.D. Cause is currently unknown, other than reports of a band of warriors seen at the epicenter of an earthquake on that date which briefly spewed lava and exhibited Lavoid energy signatures."
"Most interesting, but continue with governments."
"Well, around that time, civilization and human advancement was of such a level that the principalities agreed to unite for a common good, uniting somewhat behind science and humanism. This is known as the 'Central Regime.'"
"Very well. Hmm, what beings have 'god' status?"
"A full scan is not yet complete, but thus far, we have Lavos..."
"Of course, go on."
"Lavos, a being known as the Criosphinx, and possibly a supercomputer in the foremost institute of the Central Regime. Unconfirmed accounts of a 'Dragon God' with heavy affiliation to the islands known as El Nido have been received, while the forces that stopped Lavos may also be considered such."
"Very interesting! We must investigate these in the future."
"Uh, sir! You have already begun experimentation?"
"Yes, you heard correctly. We've merely displaced a rich artifact. It shouldn't cause too many problems."
"Very well, I will continue to amass reports as they come in."
"You are dismissed."

The attendant crisply departed the Centre, as Roget strolled to his desk, and set the report down amidst other evaluations; his desk was certainly not cluttered, though it bore a larger weight than most in terms of work. He sat down to study it further, his mind's interest piqued by the list of god-class entities -- those who contain abnormal power within a particular world or are worshipped by countless as a leader or religious figure. However, he was somewhat distracted by a recent negative turn of events that had transpired days before; one of Roget's closest friends in the project, and a valuable asset to the Council, had strangely rebelled and attempted to wrest control of the primary construct. Detained by a deadly number of Nanashi, the special agents of the Council, he had last been seen by Roget cursing as he was dragged in magical bonds. Roget did not question his morals, or why he had suddenly become angry at the effort, though it did cause him to worry -- as his scientific and analytical mind knew that a man such as Argus Dorian would not rise up against a foe such as the Council without good reason.

These thoughts could naught bother the man, as he stretched in his chair and gazed at the ornate tile work of the ceiling. The dimensional machines hummed, as they should; all that was to be done now was collect data on the displacement of the Rainbow Shell, and perhaps think of new theories to test and methods for altering the time of the new dimension. Such was the life for Roget -- a life of riding the cutting edge of science, intervening in the affairs of others with a godlike power, and being part of the greatest, most glorious effort of Zeal, the center of the universe -- a special privilege to him, tainted by a subconscious emptiness.

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