Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chapter 98: Trial and Error

There are no visible doors, no windows, no handles. Just an endless sea of tiles.

Small tiles, big tiles. Ceiling tiles, wall tiles, floor tiles.

Which ones open? Which ones are more than they appear?

What is a corner? What is a dead end?

It's a labyrinth. A maze. It's a maze put here to drive him insane, he's sure of it.

He could die in here.

Then he sees her, and she sees him.

Help! HeLP hELphelpmEhelpmehelpmehELPMEHELpmeLEtMEout!

The telepathic buzz in his head causes him to stumble backwards.

She pauses. You can hear me?

"I hear you," Acheron says slowly. He steps forward again, courage renewed. He examines a panel on the wall, the only mechanism he can see. The screen flickers rapidly, its symbols shifting backwards, forwards, upwards, downwards, diagonally. He has never seen a lock like this, if it is a lock, yet he has the nagging feeling he should recognize it.

I would have your name.

He is closer, and her voice is louder in his head, though her lips do not move.

Your name.

The woman's eyes seem especially piercing and unnatural. The pupil is too small, the iris is too wide. Part of him, perhaps the part that is human, has the instinct to flee... but some other part of him senses familiarity. It's the second feeling that sends a chill down his spine.

She waits for his name. She is not the woman he normally sees in his dreams. She is not Claire. She's different, and he has yet to discern her importance.

She waits. She waits for his name.

"Acheron," he says.

She looks at her hands. There's nothing in them, but then again, creatures aren't locked away in forgotten places like these for no reason. She could be trouble. My brother said you would come.

Acheron's gaze drifts back to the panel with the changing symbols. "Where is he now?"

She doesn't see the cold, dangerous look in his eyes because she turns away, hiding her face.

He allowed himself to be captured. So he could rescue someone. A little girl, from... from the far past. And she got out, but... he didn't... and... so they... found me. They used our connection to find me. They did this to me... they made me into this horrible thing...

"I'll get you out." He feels the old sense of empathy returning. The feeling is intrusive and unwelcome; he needs clarity, not compassion. Acheron's jaw stiffens as he studies the panel. He does not see a pattern. He does not know where to begin.

How are we speaking? she pries. She has been here so long, but her thoughts remain logical and ordered, and a little too curious.

Acheron narrows his eyes. "I'm not sure. You're confined in a sort of cursed box. Nothing gets through but light."

He cannot use magic to get her out. That goes without saying.

Then our spirits speak to each other, she decides. How can that be?

Acheron shrugs. "Maybe Kay is right, and we are just all the same."

Realization hits her. Then you are...

"Don't think of me as Ceth's son. Think of me as the one who followed your research," he says bitterly. "I have taken Lethe's power and I need Loki to tell me how it is wielded."

She must be wondering how he managed to do such a thing, but she says nothing.

"I will use you to track him down," Acheron spells it all out for her, as if she hadn't guessed. "So do you know an unlock sequence for your cell, or not?"

YOU don't know?

"How the hell would I know?"

The Acheron should know.

Sigh. Has he come this far, only to be stopped by this lock?

He presses a finger against the display, touching the first glyph that appeals to him. It stops flickering. Carefully, he drags it a few centimeters to the left...

The pain that follows is intense enough to wake him. He dies in front of that cell, he's sure of it.

This was the sixteenth attempt to tamper with the panel.

He awakens exhausted, dimly aware that his skin and limbs are all where they're supposed to be...

...and yet, somehow very keenly aware that he has failed for the sixteenth time to deactivate the panel. He wishes he could tell the Acheron in the dream not to try to free the trapped lady; it's a little mean, maybe, but what if she's behind that anti-magic glass for a reason? What if she gets out and eviscerates him?

Acheron hates this dream. The details escape him quickly, but the memory of pain and anger lingers.

He isn't even sure why he's pissed off, but... the older Acheron is always seething behind that mask of calm. Something must be wrong. The Acheron of the here and now just cannot remember what.

Etc.: Seventeenth time's the charm???

I know Cayenne's altered eyes there being freaky is kind of... an informed trait, but I have to look at it from a sim's perspective. It would be like seeing someone with anime eyes in real life. Cute on paper, uncanny valley in reality.

If you're wondering why her hair looks so great even though she's trapped in some lab dungeon, the answer is because magic. If you're wondering why she doesn't look her age, the answer is because science.