- -by Frelle
It was nearly done. Oh, there would be centuries more work in convincing the more narrow-minded of her folk to accept what she had done for them. There would be improvements, corrections, upgrades. After all, learning could never truly be completed. But here stood the culmination of so much mind-boggling effort, gleaming, beautiful. Ready.
The storm outside gained in strength. That was one advantage of this hidden Gnomic tower Frelle had found in the fastnesses. Although shed adapted Neias fine work to create power cells of marvelous efficiency, a certain amount of basic electrical charging had proven vital to setting variable positronic pathways. And this tower thrust its way up from a mountain top in a meteorologically unstable area, providing nearly constant electrical surges.
She looked over to an old glass vat, long emptied of the nutrients that had supported her most prized possession, the brilliant brain of Gnomeregans greatest genius. She smiled. Thermaplugg had tried his wiles on her, but in the end shed sliced his mind to bits as she extracted piece after piece of vital information. Hed provided the springboard to launch her project. Yet his vision had been small, incomplete. A small sigh escaped her lips. There had been a time of betrayal begetting betrayal, until many she had thought friends had fallen away. That had all begun with Cogitatus and his attempt to bar her free access to Thermaplugg.
She sneered to herself as she connected the leads and set the dials. How had she ever admired that mage? His crusade against her work had been unstinting, eating up the life span of such a short lived species. Surely he was dead by now, surely the long years of her seclusion had waited him out. Abruptly she clutched at her head, going to her knees.
Not now, not now, dont let those images come in, those thoughts of warmth and light, those chaotic desires for ephemeral things. She pulled hard at her ears, letting the Shadows of the tower whisper her back to cogent thought. No need for such desires, shed left them out of the positronic functions, and soon so soon! shed at last experience Transference for herself.
Somewhat guiltily, she glanced at the frozen metal form in the corner, the shellacked rose lying atop it. She was certain Dyrnthal was still in there. Shed never scrap it, just in case she could restart the mind within, no matter how useful the parts would have been for her new chassis. Hed volunteered, as had the others in the failed precursor projects. Hadnt they? Shed heard consent, she was sure of it, the Shadows said theyd all consented.
Rising, she turned to look at her destination. In deference to the prejudices of her folk against gears and servos, shed made it bipedal, Elven-formed, only slightly larger than living Elves. Hah. It was not Life to be trapped in a withering shell. Theyd thank her. Daydreams took her for a long moment, thoughts of her triumphal return to the family home, Fathers proud smile as he at last understood how shed realized his greatest desire, his return of her full name to her enough! It was time, and past time. She reached for the cranial helmet.
Intruder alert! Intruder alert! The mechanical cry came from all over, all her Alarm-o-Bots wailing the alert. Rushing to the window, she stared out and down. Lights. People, climbing the narrow defile, glowing mage staves and enchanted weapons vying with more prosaic torches. At their lead, she knew that staff, it was Cogitatus himself. How? More importantly, why now, in her moment of success?
She sank into trance, reaching out to her mechanical allies, splitting her attention to a dozen metal forms despite the pounding headache it would cause. Shed give them a chance. Willow, her oldest and now most advanced construct, bounded to a boulder top near the head of the column. Frelles relayed voice rang out over the thunder.
Were done talking. I hate words, take yours away, take away your intruders and your chaos. Be gone, you are not welcome here, you are not wanted. Leave me in peace.
Willows optics relayed only Cogitatus grim face, his leveled staff. Then pain! Willow, gone! A shriek of agony soared out from the tower top. The remaining constructs leapt at the invaders, firing death rays, reaching to rend. Yet the intruders knew well enough what they faced. Some attackers died, some were maimed, but the constructs failed, each loss another firebrand across Frelles mind.
Maddened, she hammered the switches to fully arm all the entrenched explosives. Soon there were shudders in the tower as massive explosions erupted. She looked out again, binoculars ready, only to curse Elunes name. A pair of Dwarven sappers had advanced, using extension tools to set off the mines without any harm coming to their party.
One more boom, not of her making, and air rushed up the central elevator shaft as the reinforced entry was breached. She howled defiance, locking the elevator controls, and leapt for the cranial helmet, jamming it down on her head. She would Transfer now, damn them all, shed show them that the process worked. Booted feet pounded up the access ladder in the shaft, but it was Cogitatus who soared up, his levitating feet pushed upwards by the shoulders of a warrior.
Too late, she told him, pressing the final switch. As his feet touched the floor, her vision shifted, blurred, and focused again from a new perspective. More invaders poured in, yet her outrage was gone. The disjointing in her thoughts, the fragmenting constantly with her since childhood, all melted away. She took a step forward, servos whirring smoothly, and raised her hand to marvel at it. She was whole at last. A thought, and the fingers flexed.
Cries of alarm rose from the men pouring into her laboratory. Its moving, stop it, were too late, she activated it --! Frelle smiled reassuringly. Everything would be all right now. Why were they still fearful? Oh. Expressions. Far too hard to mimic those, shed left the perfect Elven face a mask. She spread her arms.
Do not fear. I have achieved the future. Her voice, same as it had ever been, emitted from the construct. Too quiet, where was the volume control, theyd not heard her over their own shouts.
Cogitatus gestured to two other Engineer-Mages. The three of them aimed their staves at her and chanted. The chassis froze in place. No, she tried to scream. You are making a mistake. But she was locked in the positronic brain, its control over the metal form severed, receiving passive information only.
Now they were carrying her out, lowering her by block and tackle, down to the forge shed built against the towers side. Fire spells or torches, everyone present added heat to the forge. It was a large forge, designed to make the biggest of needed pieces, and easily held her in its embrace. Her form began to slump in the heat. Cogitatus leaned on his staff, panting now with all the exertion, his glare meeting her silver eyes as she lost cohesion.
At last the heat reached the positronic brain. Synapses, carefully crafted over two years of work, fizzled and sparked. The last she observed of the outside world was the scurrying as sappers fled the tower, the earth-shattering explosion as it and all its contents oh, Dyrnthal! became rubble. Yet Cogitatus remained at her side, shielded as the stones rained down, watching to ensure that she was gone. Her last thoughts dissolved into a keening sense of loss as the Shadows took her for their own.
A weary Cogitatus turned away to tally the losses, knowing full well that the extent of what the mad Elf had done would never be understood. Just as well. The world would be better off without anyone being able to duplicate her twisted projects. A couple of shellacked rose petals fluttered down from the sky, tinkling off his arm and falling to his feet. Deliberately, he ground them beneath his heel. A moment later, he had the portal to Ironforge open, his companions entering one by one. The King would have a full report, but his first loyalty in this lay with the High Tinker.
The portal closed. Wind took the ground bits of rose and scattered them as dust. The storm eventually moved on, leaving behind nothing but a wet jumble of stone and metal, scattered pieces of a shattered dream.
(( Apologies to Cog for such liberal use of his character. As I said before, there are many possible ends for Frelle. Current RP has cast Cogitatus as her adversary -- and I am amused by the thought of him as Van Helsing, leading a torch wielding mob against the mad scientist. Thus the above. I can also forsee great happiness for Frelle, so we'll see how her tale develops. Razas, thanks for starting this thread. ))