Saturday, November 19, 2016

Clean Sweep: Massquerade (Part III)

Athanaric Fury, A.K.A. The Artist, could very well be the most powerful choosing one born in all of time, in every reality. He possessed an unlimited source of energy, which was why he was chosen to become the keystone of The Gallery once it was created by Baudin. It was his energy that kept it alive, and allowed others to manipulate the timestream, while he spent his time working on his projects. There are many ways to create a person capable of breaking the standard of linear time. Two activated salmon will usually create a chooser. Two salmon, where at least one of them is unactivated at the time of conception, will usually result in another salmon. The child of a chooser will usually be born as either chooser or salmon. The souls of some are so deeply ingrained into the fabric of time that they are born as time travelers, even while their parents are normal. Athanaric Fury happened to be one of those people, and it is trait that made him so important.
The Artist has the ability to literally build entire human beings out of clay or stone. Each one will take decades to complete, but once finished, can be anything Athanaric wants. It was he who built The Prestons. Zeferino, Arcadia, and Nerakali were not born to parents. Athanaric built them long before the Gallery Exodus, just in case something like that ever happened. They were three powerful choosers in their own right. Zeferino could adjust temporal disturbances, Arcadia could extract elements of certain alternate realities and place them in the true reality by ignoring the properties of causality, and Nerakali could rearrange people’s memories so that they could not pick up on inconsistencies. And while in the Gallery, the three of them could carry out their duties on a massive scale. That is, Nerakali need not alter the memories of each individual involved, one after the other.
Unfortunately, Athanaric failed in including a vital trait in these three gallery workers. He forgot to give them humanity, and so they were selfish, careless, and easily bored. They rebelled, much like the earlier Gallery workers, and ultimately either left, or were kicked out. Athanaric was forced out of the Gallery himself, with no hope of returning, and almost no hope of saving time from the choosers. Seeing no other option, he did the only thing he knew how to do, which was to make art. He got to work on sculpting a new choosing one. Known simply as The Mass, this new entity would carry with it nearly every temporal power possible. Though resembling a human in every noticeable way, the Mass was not meant to be free-thinking or independent. It would have no motivations, no dreams, no hate. It was just supposed to be a focal point of temporal energy, something capable of protecting all of time and space from changes to the timeline that could threaten reality.
“That’s all you’re doing with him?” Zeferino asked.
“It is not a him,” Athanaric pointed out. “It just looks like a man.”
“Why would it look like a man if it’s not a man?”
“People are all I know how to sculpt.”
“I’m just not sure why it needs to look like anything. From what I learned before I left, the Gallery wasn’t what was protecting time, it was you. It was just an extension the power that you were providing it. You’re the true Gallery. Can you not do this on your own?”
“I cannot,” Athanaric admitted. “I am strong, but I do not have your and your sisters’ abilities. I can make people with powers, but can wield none of my own.”
“I spent decades in standard dimension, looking for you. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’ve done. I’m not just talking about banishing you from the Gallery. Everything my sisters and I did before that was wrong. We were wrong.”
“I have been here for as many years as you, and have spent that time thinking about my own actions. I am your father, I should have made you better. I should have taught you to care, not just to act, and I should have encouraged you to want to learn. Everything you did was my fault, and I no longer feel anger for being pushed into this dimension. I love you, all of you, and I will be here for you from now on.”
“That’s nice to hear. In fact, it is exactly what I came here hoping you would say. I am also glad that you are building this, as you call it, Mass. We must rebuild, and we must do it better this time.”
“That’s what it’s for.”
“Well, I sort of assumed that you would contact The Constructor, and ask him to build a new Gallery.”
“No, that would never work. It’s too late for something like that. It was located in a special dimension that we can not reenter. Nothing like that could be replicated. The Mass is the only way. When it’s done, it’ll solve all our problems.”
Zeferino looked over the new creation. It looked done to him. “What is it missing? Ten fingers, ten toes.”
“I’m still working on the timer. It’s not quite as short as I would like it to be.”
“What timer?”
“It needs to be on a time limit,” Athanaric said, mildly unsure why he would need to explain it. “I don’t want it to spend too much linear time in once place. It should flutter throughout the continuum.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Quantum superposition?”
“Never mind. You’ll see.”
“That’s all that you need, though? Just to lower the amount of time it’s allowed to stay in any one timeplace?”
“That’s right, why?”
Zeferino removed a sword from his endless bag and positioned it under the neck of the Mass. “Remove it.”
“Zef, what are you doing? Remove what, the time limit? That’s an important feature. It can’t effectively do its job if it can’t jump across moments. Why do you care anyway? What, were you looking to be, its friend?”
“I’m not looking for a friend,” Zeferino spat. “I’m looking for power. And this right here? This is my power. I want you to take off whatever time limit you’ve already placed on it, and then install my mind into its body.”
“You want to...become..the Mass?”
“I want to become what I already am. I want to be The Cleaner.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“I’ll kill it. I’ll kill it before its born, and then you’ll have nothing.”
“I’ll start over.”
“I’ll kill you too.”
“Then you’ll have nothing.”
“I am prepared to explore other options.”
“Zef, let’s just talk about this.”
“No, let’s stop talking!” He slid the sword across the Mass’ neck and drew a non-fatal amount of blood.
“Okay, okay. We appear to be in a competition that I was not aware may happen. I can do what you ask, but I’ll need my hammer. It’s on that table behind you.”
Zeferino cautiously reached behind him, but kept his eyes on Athanaric. He moved his hand around until finding what felt like a hammer. He slowly raised it up and gave it to the Artist.
“Great, thanks,” Athanaric said before swiftly knocking the hammer on Zeferino’s sword, and sending it across space.
“No!” Zeferino cried.
“Welp, the Gondilak are going to enjoying having a weapon like that.”
“Goddammit! Why won’t you just do this for me? It’s not like I would be taking over someone else’s life. It a mass, it feels nothing, so just give it to me.”
“That’s weird, Zeferino. It’s weird that you want this. Just live your life, let me live mine, and let the Mass do its job.”
“I reject your reality, and substitute my own, which I will be able to do once you give me the Mass!”
They heard the sound of a microwave ding. “Perfect timing.” Athanaric removed his chisel from his pocket. “This contains the completed program for the new time limit protocol. All I have to do is tap the Mass with it, and its body will be useless to you.”
“Okay, okay,” Zeferino now said. “Just put..the chisel..down. You don’t wanna do this. Let’s talk. You wanted to talk, so let’s talk.”
“Nah, I’m done with that.”
He attempted to tap the Mass with the chisel, but Zeferino grabbed his wrist and held it at bay. Athanaric tried to hit him with the magic hammer, but Zeferino knocked it out of his hand.
As they continued to struggle with the tool, a woman walked up. Seeing them fight over something seemingly so innocuous led her to believe that it was not a big deal. “Hey, my name’s Frida Quelen. I found this compass that doesn’t point North, and it’s led me here.”
“The Compass of Disturbance?” When he dropped his guard at the sight of something he had been looking for almost as long as he had looked for Athanaric, he unwittingly gave Athanaric the upper hand.
But Athanaric was not ready for this, and lost control of the chisel, sending it flying towards Frida. It gently hit her in the chest and fell to the ground.
The contact point on her skin burned an orangey-green. “What is happening?”
“Oh no,” Athanaric said, nearly speechless.
Frida disappeared.
“Now it’s mine,” Zeferino said in a confident whisper. He turned around to admire what was to be his new body. Desperate, Athanaric took a gouge from his table and stabbed his son in the back. Zeferino coughed up blood, spitting it into the face of the Mass. Then his old body died.

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