Description: Alas, once again I fail to create a functional soul from nothing, that maintains the requirements of sustainable essence. If I could only engineer the perfect soul, I wouldn't have to depend on unreliable and difficult to acquire raw materials. At the very least, my darling son Bedman comes to pay me company. The little boy is having some bed trouble, and what kind of loving father wouldn't help their son with that. Of course, I require a little something from him, but it's only reasonable to assume that. Unfortunately, that damnable Lightning Spangles gets involved when I least expect it, and now I must do what I can to save not only my worthless son Carl, but the whole of the Novus Orbis Librarium!
Relius's laboratory was, for most sense of purposes, one of the most twisted and disturbing places in the entire NOL complex.
Oh, there were other laboratories; there was a range of open labs and engineering departments where the various scientists and magicians of the NOL would toil. Some had their own abominations. Some did not. It was a fact of work that dealing with magical artifacts and creatures meant that dirty work needed to be done. No, no, this was not on those lab. Relius's inner sanctum was far more depraved in it's creations, far more terrifying on not only the ends, but the pure means of reaching there. It was telling that Relius had an open door policy on his laboratory.
A policy rarely utilized by the rest of the NOL.
At least, for anybody taking the long and winding narrow staircase down to the laboratory, it was clean. Very clean; you couldn't even feel the viruses penetrating your cells down here. Everything had a sterile and wax-like feel, like if it wasn't even real. A designer model of a lab, a dollhouse of labs, where everything is perfectly child-locked and safe; unnaturally and uncannily so. This was, after all, a place for children sometimes; that is why there was, off to the side, a single service elevator for his more precious children.
And of course, a little, Pooh Bear and Piglet was painted over it's stainless steel doors.
Likewise exterior was impossibly organized. Even in his most manic and absentminded frenzies of discovery and creation, Relius makes it a practice to make every single thing in it's place. Empty cauldrons were neatly stacked, set, labeled alongside each other. Medical devices of questionable purposes were upright against the wall, carefully folded and stored. The shelves and shelves of ancient tomes, completely dust free, and impeccably arranged and symmetric, in spite of many of them being variable sizes. There are no chairs. Relius did not use chairs, because a healthy scientist stands, not sits.
The table was clean, and was best described as a kind of deep, slowly descending single. An oblong, oval shape, intricately crafted with seals, wards, and runes. Countless tools hang around mechanical limbs over it, around it; nearly as thick as a jungle brush. The fusion of science and magic, hovering over this vaguely shaped basin. This was where Relius was, most of the time. The center stage where the most horrifying miracles. Where so many new lives were born, reforged and created into conception in the mind of the NOL's greatest mind.
And Relius was busy at work at his new project.
At the moment, Relius was currently making a baby. Not a human baby, because humanity was so far removed from the creations with. But it was like a human, close enough to human. The squawks of the small, purple creature rises up, louder and louder, as Relius plucks and poke, a smile on his lips. It was responding; that implied progress. And yet, as it jostled, as its limbs lash out, Relius's countless mechanical limbs presses down, keeping the pressure on it. It was alive, yes, but that's not what Relius wanted to see. Peering into the quivering, wet shape, the cries grow louder and louder. No. The vessel was ultimately irrelevant.
Relius wanted to make it's soul.
In theory, there is no reason for Bedman to use the service elevator to Relius' lab. In practice, one could never be sure whether or not Relius had put up some kind of protective ward on the spic-and-span, entirely-too-clean and above suspicion laboratory that could backfire badly if he tried to just teleport himself in, and so Bedman did what seemed like possible the most ridiculous thing to an outside observer: teleported to a known location in a sub-sub-sub-basement, then took the service elevator up.
The colonel would have received a notification on his phone at this point that he has a visitor in the Youth Elevation Chamber, but he's probably too busy to notice. The cheery 'ding!' when the elevator arrives, its Disney-branded doors sliding apart to admit the visitor entry, would probably have to do. Contrary to all the ways it usually -can- move, today Bedman's bed moves in the way one would expect a traditional hospital bed to move - rolling.
It's still ridiculous and garish, with its purple metal, its concealed spikes, that crowned metal orb, and the two giant screws, but as it wheels from the elevator towards the experiment in progress, it still just seems like a bed.
Bedman's voice projects into Relius' head as he and his contraption glide into the room. "It seems congratulations are in order, Colonel Clover. You seem to be a father yet again. I do hope NOL has a generous paternity leave policy, as this one seems like it's going to be a lot of work for a single father with a growing family of misfits." The orb on its crane tilted to examine the strange being from above. "Is it supposed to be that color?"
See, Bedman was the most precious kind of son.
He didn't need anything, except a loving father's care. Certainly, he could try to teleport in; but Bedman wouldn't, because of the fawning, loving respect he had for his father. Relius doesn't break from his concentration, though he is aware. The wonderfulness of Bedman was amongst the top of his sons, as the bed wheels its way forward, alongside him. Relius built that bed, with the full level of his loving, precise handiwork. As for it's appearance?
Well Relius thought it was wonderful looking.
"Whether yellow, black, or white, they are all precious in my sight." Relius responds, looking deeper into the baby. "Are you here for a tune-up?" He reaches over, to touch the boy lightly on the leg. "I know that all my dear creations need a little bit from their father every once and a while. Or maybe you are just curious about what daddy does at work!" The condescending tone comes a moment, before he turns back to his creature.
"As a matter of fact, though, his color is all wrong."
Relius gestures over the body. "He's not getting enough oxygen. See, Bedman, I'm not trying to make a body; vessels are so easy and malleable, so fragile and meaningless. What I'm struggling with is, come come, look closer." He pulls a magnifying glass over from the jungle of arms, focusing dead center on the trembling thing. "What I'm trying to make is a soul. I've observed the materials of it, but it's one thing to harvest materials, and another to make your own. If there is a light, then I've made the most incredible breakthrough in the history of mankind!"He waits a moment...
But there is no light.
Relius gives a defeated sigh. He reaches down to the creature, stroking it gently with his fingers. "And yet, nothing more from conception, but quivering flesh, and mewling life." He builds the pressure. "But progress comes with the risk of failure; and every set back is another step towards the inevitable future of progress. Thus, I say... Oh well!"There is a snapping sound, as the crying falls silent. He raises his hands up, and brings a small nozzle from the mechanical arms. He turns it on, as the clear liquid and the strong smell of cleaner fills the air, as he rinses his hands off. The gloves remain dry, as he lets the pitter patter down into the basin. He looks back at Bedman.
"How can I help you, my little genius?"
"Well, purple -does- seem to be the Relius Clover Trademark. This bed, Carl's doll, that stage magician costume he never takes off." Bedman is silent for a bit as Relius cleans up his experiment. "Looks like a messy business, being the modern-day Paracelsus. Someone would say Frankenstein but I can't imagine you stooping so low as to go digging through graveyards for castoffs and second-hand second hands."
He tilts the bed up, suspending himself from it, so he's facing Relius in a horrible facsimile of being upright like a normal person. Some people are uncomfortable having a half-silent conversation with someone who's just lying still in a bed, so Bedman at least puts in the effort to face them during extended chats. Never let it be said he doesn't care. The 'arms' make a rough mechanical noise as they lock into place at the 'shoulders.' "A couple of the rotors in the upper joints have been acting up since I took it on a short jaunt to Japan, following up on a lead about a particular Darkstalker that made our Persons of Interest list. She's certainly interesting, and maybe even a person; her powers overlap some of mine in a way that make me very curious about what exactly she -is-. I'm not sure if I would have been capable of taking her alive without serious risk to myself, but it was worth it to see how easily she's distracted by mortal foibles."
"However," he continues, "besides my requisite tune-up - you did send me a note saying you wanted to consult with me about something? I could hazard a guess, but it would probably be just as elucidative to have you explain what you need while checking out the bed, I'm sure."
Bedman's unnerving nature was in good company here.
"Yes, purple is a wonderful color..." Relius says, as he looks down at the broken flesh. IT was already disappating. "And what an astute observation, my little boy. I have my assistants to fetch any corpses. You have always been a polite and caring child; adopting you and your little Delilah was always one of my most favorite ideas." Relius was happy at the praise, for sure, as the boy explains inside his head how wonderful he was. Of course... Bedman points out that Relius had something else in mind.
Relius pauses a moment, his white eyes staring blankly at Bedman. He looks up, and ahead, scanning the equipment. "Oh, yes! That's right! Yes, yes. Now I remember, yes, yes, we can't fix you quite yet then!" Relius reaches the mechanical equipment, and draws out a large, face-concealing headset. Long pneumonic tubes draw from it, attached to a massive steel pillar. He flips some switches, warming up the machine. "As for your little encounter, I must say I am proud of you. I was worried you would be uniquely disabled in your situation. I would like to hear your report on her; while I know that your circumstance betrays any meaningful reward, I am eager to expand the bounties. If she has your power... well, I have a specific interest indeed. But before I forget again..."
"I want you to help me sort some potential events in the boundary."
Relius's tone was crisp, but the means was miserable. Work. He wanted Bedman to do work, the kind of work he was made for. "Please take me to your dream realm; this should keep me... alive while I am there." Alive from Bedman's actions? Or perhaps, as the whites of his eyes show, the effects of the boundary was... not something he wanted to repeat personally. That was what Bedman was supposed to do. Relius eases on the headset, as the tubes in the back begin to fill with a thick black vapor. "I need you to filter down some potential outcomes for me; I have some concerns about my theories, and I need confirmation on them. Once I am satisfied with our little picture show, we can take care of your hydraulics issue." He pauses again.
"Or, you said rotors, didn't you?"
"Rotors, hydraulics, whichever it is, I'm sure you'll have it solved in a flash. Hopefully it's just some moisture in the gears or a kinked line. But first--"
Suddenly, the world goes white.
Before long, a simple wooden table pops into existence in the middle of the nothingness: round, antique, undecorated, unblemished. Two chairs appear, one on each side of it, facing each other. Around them, in the distance -- almost as if concealed by mist -- various shapes loom; shadows of angular, vaguely humanoid figures, bodies ill-defined and diamond-shaped, floating above the nothingness, behind the nothing fog, off in the white, observing this imaginary meeting-place. Focusing on them hurts one's head, as though they're not there to be looked at, they're there to look at you.
Above this ominous tableau floats Bedman, eyes open here in the world of dreams, arms extended in welcome.
"Concerns about your theories, Colonel? You must be on to something truly legendary if you have a concern other than failure and are willing to come here to prove or disprove something. Fortuitous indeed that you have me around, then, and we can have this little tete-a-tete without scattering your soul to the billion unwritten scripts of as many doomed timelines. And fortunate that you are who you are; not everyone is willing to subject their mortal soul to the dangers here, on the boundary between dreams and reality. You're quite the lead for our show tonight."
Bedman settles into a cross-legged sitting position on top of the table. "Or did you prefer the theatre? It's more comfortable, but you miss out on the little details."
Entering the world was dangerous.
Relius doesn't lose his composure, as he walks- walking? He walks to the table, resting in the chair. The headset was gone, of course, because why wouldn't it be? Here, in this world, sitting was just as healthy as dying. Anything was possible. Well to be specific, anything that Bedman wishes could be possible. Relius, however, trusts his creation. Why wouldn't he? This wasn't like Carl, where you had to pull the strings to get what you wanted. No, Bedman was a superior son, who was a delicate sleeping doll, screwed down to the perfect job he was made for. So as Bedman gives him the summary of the show tonight? Relius can only restrain himself in applause.
"Such a thoughtful young man!"
"I think I would prefer the theatre this time; the loss of details is well worth the exchange of safety. I've... endured scattering across multiple realities. No thanks in part to my incredible intellect, but..." Relius's voice turns more stern and direct, as he rubs the corner of his mask. "...I may as well explain to you one what I am up to. There are potential realities where, in one way or another, I create something called a 'Black Beast.' I'm not quite certain what it is capable of, other than in it's aftermath is a wonderful new world order, and at an incredible cost of human life. I believe I can recreate it, but, I have some serious concern on it. I am well aware of potentials on it, but... there are holes in it. I can't seperate the real from the unreal, and the has with the coulds with the musts. Thus, I need you, my dear sweet son." He smiles, wiping the table with his gloves. "
"I want you to show me creating the Black Beast, Bedman."
"The Black Beast..." Bedman's eyes briefly glaze over. "Hmmm... yes, I can see why you wouldn't want to be face-to-face with this particular nightmare. Exeunt us, stage right." He raises his right hand and swipes it from left to right, and dream-reality slide-cuts to place Bedman and Relius in the familiar surroundings of the Dream Theatre. The house lights were already low, and the screen pulsed a barely-visible crimson with a light of its own.
The boy raises his hand to his glasses and adjusts them briefly. "This appears to be the most common chain of events resulting in a Black Beast." Bedman's eyes settle into a thousand-yard stare, and the screen begins showing a scene. A lab, much like the one they had just exited -- no, the one they were still in, in reality. Instead of the already dessicating failed lump of flesh resting on a table, there was a young blonde girl restrained by a massive white machine of some kind; she was unclothed, but parts of her body seemed to be naturally armored; the machine - a surgical device of some kind? - encased her legs to the knee, her arms to the shoulder, and forcibly gagged her while holding her head in place. She seemed, surprisingly, to be a conscious participant in whatever was happening - or, at any rate, a passive one. She showed no signs of struggle or distress, and simply hung in the midst of the machine's guts.
A figure walked in from offscreen: Relius Clover himself, carrying something that looked altogether ordinary when compared to the girl, the lab, the machinery: a large black rock, perhaps three feet in length. Despite looking like volcanic glass, it showed no signs of having been worked, yet it was in the shape of a human body - minus the head. Whatever it was, the onscreen Relius handled it gently, almost reverently; carrying it forward, he pressed it against the torso of the girl in the machine. Her body stiffened, a blue glow emanating as, inexplicably, the stone dissipated, forming a black fog around her, covering her entire body in a jet-black cloud.
"It appears this is the birth of your 'Black Beast.' Not coincidentally, this is also where your role in this timeline ends." Rather than disperse, the fog solidified until it looked like inky blackness given form, a living shadow with an only vaguely humanoid shape now, beginning to ooze out of the containment device. Relius took a step backwards just as eyes opened in the middle of the form; flat red windows of pulsing energy, with a jagged excuse for a mouth below it, like one a child might carve into a jack-o'-lantern. It roared, an absurdly loud sound in the small space, and then various lights on the containment device began flashing red as well; mere seconds later, the former limbs of the former girl - now tentacles, additional heads, whatever its amorphous blazing body desired - burst forth, and the Black Beast emerged from its mechanical womb.
Its first act was to consume Relius Clover whole with three heads at once. The safeguards had failed.
"From here, things get even more desolate. It's a hopeless show indeed. Nothing can stand against the Black Beast." Bedman accelerated the vision. Two or three other of the armored girls - these more clothed, but barely - attempt to stop the thing in the lab, but it destroys them. It continues to grow as it works its way out of the building into the world until it is a colossal size, seething with magic through its wire-like veins. "It discriminates not between friend and foe, human and Gear, life and artificial life; the Black Beast is a walking nuclear explosion that never ends. It gets worse, too: it has some kind of intelligence to it. The nations of the world set traps for it, and it avoids them. It surprises people by attacking where they're not expecting it." An image of the Black Beast covering Southtown in a thick inky blackness. "It spreads seithr wherever it goes, that it may sustain itself and choke out all life that isn't it. It births children of pure magic to serve as its own army, extensions of itself guarding the main host. In the ... end?" Bedman sounds curious at something he's found. "In the end it is the only thing left alive."
An image of the Black Beast triumphant above a dead world. The film suddenly distorts, scratches, and glitches in a way unlike real video before resetting to an innocuous image of a green grassy countryside.
"It's the strangest thing, though. That should obviously be the end of that timeline. And yet something happens, something I can't quite comprehend right now; this possibility doesn't end, but it doesn't continue, either. It goes beyond my vision, which shouldn't be possible, but here we are. Nevertheless," Bedman says, rewinding to the moment where the Black Beast is tearing Relius asunder, "I can't imagine this is what you intend to do."
Relius... feels a glimmer of memory as the show unfolds before him.
It was such a distant and vague memory; in spite of how personal it was, it wasn't explicit. It was like deja vu in the faintest sense, a dream that he once had, where the same events transcribed before him. A name on that girl, his peers beside him. It was so familiar, and even Relius is at the edge of his seat. What was going to come next? What was the most common outcome, truly, of his greatest scientific work? He steeples his fingers, the pure passion of his brilliance coming to a peak...
Relius furrows his brow as he is killed horribly.
The rest of the display seems almost boring. By the end, when there is nothing? Relius actually gives a yawn. "Yes, well, I doubt we need to explore the desolation." He says, almost put off at the ending. "Please keep focused on that part- no, no, not that part." He waves away at the scene, averting his eyes from the part where he is being eaten by only two of the heads, with the third one just about to dig in. "At the beginning, if you please." He exhales, trying to relax a moment. The memories weren't fading away. He -remembered- that feeling, that sensation flooding him. This was precisely why he refused to dive into the boundary again. Rather than a memory?
It would be a consuming, endless reality.
Bedman makes some astute observations, however, that Relius does take a moment to answer. "Your intellect once again takes you several steps ahead, Bedman. One of the fundamental aspects of the universe is that even a complete understanding is limited. Even the boundary, with it's infinite potential, still is constrained by fundamentals that pull on it's strings. Everything that is and could be could simply be tossed and turned over, reset if you will. And when this happens, it happens outside of the potential of this interaction of the infinite events. Thus, why is there limits on your vision?"
"As far as you need to know, Bedman, that the timeline was reset."
He makes it sound so natural, like the sky was blue, and the grass was green. "Interfered with, outside the scope of your vision, by a one Rachel Alucard... I believe. I... only can even barely comprehend it, in the most literal sense, thanks to an individual outside the confines of the boundary. I had memories of the event, of course, with memories of every other potential. But by letting me focus on what did... yes, yes, We can discuss him later; I need to focus on this." He points at the screen. "Aren't there any -other- variables on this? Clearly the containment is simply defective in most outcomes; Obviously I could make a containment doesn't break. Show me some of the less common outcomes, perhaps more successful ones?" Relius's tone takes a pompous air, as he scowls at the screen.
"Please, humor me."
"A timeline reset! How obvious, once you put it that way; rather than ending, the timeline loops back on itself, like so--" For the briefest of seconds, Bedman scrubs back and forth between the end of the world and the reorigination. "Presumably in an attempt to stop that from happening."
"You are correct in that sometimes containment failures are the issue. However - oh, I do so want to show you this," he adds, "in that -- it's strange, clearly you were creating -something-, and yet it's almost like you accidentally created a Black Beast, or it was created in response to your actions. Location clearly matters. Observe." The scene shifts. This time the view opens on a vast, open underground area of some kind. Relius would recognize exactly where this is: dangerously close to the edge of the Boundary, near one of those entrances that some joker named a "Kiln"; above it, suspended in a seemingly precious fashion, is a glowing orange device of some kind - it almost looks like a stalactite, save for its singular nature and its clearly manmade angles. The Murakumo unit - more armored this time, bearing a '0' on her helm - seemed more of a willing participant. Relius stood nearby, a much younger man, this time holding what looked like a latticework cube that glowed with an azure light.
Two other men were also nearby, assisting in the experiment. One of them, although he doesn't say much, clearly is deferential to Relius, like an assistant of some sort. His brown hair is interrupted with a birdlike shock of white, and he's dressed in a fairly elegant grey suit, white shirt, and even a black halfcape. "The zeroth unit is ready for the smelting experiment, sir. Sirs," he quickly corrects himself, addressing the other fellow present in this scene. That one's a little harder to see, the way his dull yellow cloak and its hood covers the rest of his outfit in shadow. His only real identifying mark is a tuft of spiked green hair that refuses to cooperate, poking out from under the hood's grasp. "And, of course, in the event of an emergency, we have the nail--"
The green-haired man waves dismissively. "Let's get this going." Relius once again makes contact between the object he's holding and the girl; this time, the black substance once again flowed over the girl's body, and that blue light spread outward briefly engulf them - and then the room goes dark again, lit only by the Kiln and the nail. The hooded figure opens his mouth to speak -- and suddenly, the Black Beast bursts forth from the Kiln in a rush! With merely a swipe of what appeared to be claws, the green-haired man was swept effortlessly to the side; his body dissolved almost immediately from an overflow of magic element. Relius and his subordinate both managed to dodge out of the way; however, a tentacle snaked out of the Kiln and began pulling Relius towards it, towards the base of the Beast. Panicked, his subordinate looked around for something no one could see, including him: "Where--where's the key? It can't stop anything without a key--" As he flailed about, our dear Colonel Clover was pulled into the depths of the Kiln, vanishing from sight; the subordinate, hiding himself from sight, is helpless to stop the Black Beast's emergence from the underground laboratory.
"This one does go... a bit more successfully, actually." Bedman waves his hand. "Well, not for you, obviously. This time around, they managed to put it to sleep for a year somehow. Perhaps it ate something that disagreed with it. In that time, humanity managed to round up a few warriors, although I don't think you'd truly call any of them human; they also learned to use magic, the only thing that could harm the beast. Though they still started by trying to nuke it." He shakes his head. "You'd think the nuclear bomb was the be-all end-all of normal human innovation, the way they levied it against every major threat; all they succeeded in doing was destroying Japan." A flash forward: six heroes of all shapes and sizes, cast in shadow, at the head of a great army facing down the Black Beast, who seemed to be actually missing a head for some reason. "In the end, they are triumphant. However, there's a part in the middle here that might be of interest to you."
Bedman rewinds the images, pausing somewhere between the Beast going to sleep and the final battle. "Someone got the brilliant idea to create a -miniature- Black Beast to fight the Black Beast, because if you can't beat them, join them, I suppose. It worked, though! All it cost was tens of thousands of souls: a pittance to pay compared to the survival of the planet, I suppose." An scene plays out that, were it not obviously a real event that happened in a timeline somewhere, would almost seem like something out of an anime. A satellite shaped like a giant coffin opens, dropping forth an enormous humanoid figure that looks like the Black Beast and the Iron Giant had an abomination of a baby. Its outer shell was black laced with red magical veins like the Beast, but where the Beast was amorphous and curved, the giant was all straight lines and squared edges; where the Beast had a billion eyes full of hate and malice, the giant robot thing had only two eyes, but it knew its purpose. It barraged the Black Beast with an onslaught of lasers from its enormous mouth, taking the strongest attacks the thing could manage, and eventually, improbably, forced the Black Beast to retreat.
"This seems to be the key to successful Black Beast creation: not giving in to scope creep. Miniature Black Beasts seem easier to control."
This remake was a little better than the last.
Relius places a hand on his cheek, as he watches it carefully, listening to the terms. The pieces in play, the magical artifacts, the nail. All this feels... like it happened before. Just like before. Relius's mind was once stretched across infinite possibilities; every instance with -him- felt so intimidate, and so dreamlike at the same time.
And yet, this was fails as well.
Relius purses his lips, frowning. Oh, certainly he lives this time, perhaps: being tossed into the boundary, that was something that truly did happen. And yet, what could make this what really happened? It was only potentials playing to the roles that could be and would be. And when the heroes arrive, and save the day... what made that any more real. As the miniature Black Beast is released, however... he studies it carefully. "Miniature Black Beasts..." Relius considers. "This is invaluable insight, yes... but they still require a level of life. Hrm. If we minimize the risk, we greatly scale down the effect. Precision over power, in levels of magnitudes. This is invaluable, Bedman." If Relius wanted to destroy the world, he had the blueprint for it. If he just wanted power? He had that bleuprint as well. The Mad Alchemist should very well have exactly what he needed.
And yet, there was a core problem.
Relius's tone comes across as a little curt with his beloved creation. "But are there really no other outcomes where I don't die horribly, or am sent hurtling into the boundary, that doesn't also obliterate the timelines?" Relius sounds almost like it's -Bedman's- fault. "Could you please filter down to ones where I live and NOT get thrown into the boundary?" Relius then sighs, shaking his head.
"I would like to see a happy ending, you see."
"There are some timelines where you came to the conclusion about the miniature Black Beasts - the compressed versions, if you will - much sooner, and so the creation is a lot less traumatic for both you and the timeline. Although you needed help for this specific one, and I'm not sure that help is available to you in this timeline - at least, not in the form it was there - but I'm sure you can devise a substitute. Take a look."
The old image fades away, and opens on another Kiln - this one tightly sealed to prevent the escape of, presumably, Boundary energy. Once again, Relius is not alone, but this time, there is no Murakumo unit, no hooded man, no panicked subordinate. Instead, there are four figures. Relius stands, proud and brilliant, next to two humanoid shapes, although clearly they are inert. They both have beautiful headdresses - the pink one's resemble long metal pigtails, while the purple one looks like a housemaid's bonnet - and long, flowing armored dresses; their arms are angular, somehow just a bit too long in a way that is strange to look at, and hanging limply at their sides. Strangely enough, they have no faces - just a blank sheet of metal where their heads would normally be, polished to a brilliant sheen.
The other figure, to the surprise of probably everyone in the room, is Kokonoe Mercury, and she looks aghast at whatever she has just been told. "You know as well as I do," Relius says, "that the Nox Nyctores are powered by the Black Beast. Don't you want to create something -new- here? This could be the greatest achievement of our time, of all time - the world's greatest enemy, neutralized - no, utilized! - and all you have to do is use that which you've inherited."
"These dolls of yours," Kokonoe begins ranting, "don't think I don't know how you made them, Relius! Don't think I--"
But Clover already looks bored, tugging at the corner of his mask. "I was afraid that's how you'd feel." Striding confidently to the Kiln, he addresses Kokonoe again - "Remember, you can save the world" - and opens the lid. Instantly, the Black Beast's roar fills the room, and as Kokonoe pages someone over a communicator, it rushes out like a wave of energy to meet the soldiers she has summoned. One, two, three - the Black Beast eats its fill, snatching Sector 7's private forces into the Kiln, causing them to dissipate in the depths of the Boundary. From Kokonoe's communicator, a scream - and whoever it was, whatever it was, it seemed to cause her to snap. She begins intoning a spell.
"I command you in the name of Kokonoe -- releasing the zeroth restriction--"
"Yessss," hisses Relius, unheard by anyone except the audience during the battle.
"Engaging link with the Boundary! You who protects this gate, unbind the nine locks that seal what lies beneath!" The energy of Kokonoe's spell begins filling the air around her with crackling blue as the chant fills the room at a measured pace. "I hereby seek the power of the Great Magister Nine!"
The air itself goes wobbly, and the spell Kokonoe inherited takes shape. The Black Beast roars and fumes, raging against the walls of an invisible prison, growing smaller and smaller to a point that's almost comical, split apart and pushed down until it is a pair of spheres, black split through with red, terrible to look at. Relius strides forward, grasping them with his gloves while Kokonoe is exhausted from her ritual, and veritably slams them into the two dolls.
They begin moving almost immediately. Their heads, formerly blank slates, form faces of their own volition. "Ignis... Nirvana. Awaken, my beloved ones," Relius says, addressing the dolls. They both turn to look at him.
Kokonoe gestures, and Nirvana, seemingly under her control, strikes down Relius.
"Don't worry," Bedman conspiratorially whispers. "You're still alive. You're just a very good actor." He gestures at the screen, where Kokonoe has left the room, and Relius eventually judging it safe to wake up, sneaking out under cover of darkness along with Ignis and Nirvana. "And you manipulated Kokonoe Mercury into compressing the Black Beast -for- you with infinite gravitational force, using it to power the core of these two combat dolls. Seems like a happy ending to me, wouldn't you say?"
Now this was a show that Relius could get behind.
He actually lets out a laugh, as Kokonoe reveals herself. "That little brat..." He coos, as the play presents itself. None of the cold, bitter failure theater as before. It was a grandoise success, as the hero, Relius, cleverly manipulates and play the self-righteous Kokonoe right into his clutches. As the smaller disaster plays out, Relius can see that he does not die, at least, not immediately. The play plays out, as Relius is at the edge of his seat, smirking. Constantly smirking... until the Infinite Gravity comes. Relius frowns, as he stares at Nirvana... kills him?
"Am I-" Relius begins, before Bedman already answers his question.
Peering closer at the screen, he gives out a small, delighted gasp as he sees himself barely escape, with Ignis... and Nirvana. Relius covers his mouth, pleasantly surprised. "And yes, yes, then I escape with both of them.... because the Nirvana drive... is required in order to subvert the Sankishin. That's it!" He pounds his fist at the armrest of the theater seats.
"That -does- sound like something I would do!"
"But that means, in order to launch that... Ah yes, yes, that means everything is on track." Relius rubs his chin, the realization overtaking him. "But... for -what?- Why did I do it?" A question for Bedman? A question for himself. "The Sankishin.... It's outside the scope of the boundary, you see Bedman. And that's a key component in order to take control of the resets. As to what comes next" Relius tries in vain to grip anymore details. "This is... so much for me to deconstruct on."
"... But it is very clear to me what must be done by you next, Bedman."
Relius gestures idly at the screen. "You have your parts, and your players. But as with any theatrical production, nothing ever follows the script to the letter. Every performance is it's own, every turn and trick is unique. Your skills and intellect are beyond peer; and yet, your strength requires an audience; or least, a cast and crew. I must reach the Sankishin; I must have the Nirvana unit when I reach them; I must initiate the great reset, I must be excluded from the great reset, and yet, I must be able to intervene. Four pieces of a grander opera, Bedman. I now see my script."
"But all of this is for naught, if the meddlers meddle."
"There is a young vampire woman, her name is Rachel Alucard. She is a Bystander, and the cause of that little timeline split. She is one of the primary objectives, to eliminate, and replace. At this time, however killing her is not important. What will be important is that the NOL will be in conflict with her more aggressively. During that time, she will almost certainly use the most powerful enemies of the NOL to unite and fight the NOL. At this time, the NOL must endure, and most importantly, not distract itself too much with her little toy soldiers.
"The enemies of the NOL are inside and outside the organization, Bedman."
"You are capable of analyzing the potentials of individuals; your task is to locate the enemies, identify them, and turn them against our enemies. Divide and discord, and if the opportunity presents, eliminate. Search the bounty list, find the opportunities, and do your best work. As well... if you are bored with tracking down our enemies outside, try and search within."
"Does that task sound appealing to you, my darling child?"
Bedman quirks an eyebrow at the mention of Rachel Alucard. Now an actual vampire? "What is it with vampires and meddling? Just because they were granted immortality by some kind of outside force, they seem to think they have a right to toy with the lives of a world they set themselves apart from. How rude." He lets Relius go on about his 'enemies within and without' for a bit, then nods.
"Is there anyone this task is more suited to than me? I should think not. I can search for enemies both without and, thanks to the more... informal... nature of our relationship, within the Librarium with but a modicum of my power. It's perfect, really; you, free to reach that which lies beyond the beyond, me, able to test my own powers on a variety of internal and external obstacles."
He tilts his head to the side slightly. "Though I hope you have not forgotten to turn /some/ of your resources towards helping me recover Delilah. If her spirit contains the same potency as mine, and I can't imagine why it wouldn't, then returning even that part of her to this side of the Boundary could be a great asset in this grand quest of yours."
"Yes, precisely my son!"
As Bedman adds to the awfulness of vampires, Relius could truly feel the connection with his darling young boy. "You are perfectly suited for the task, of course, you were made to be. Your intellect is your own, of course, but it has been honed and hammered into a perfect shape. You really are the best son a father could have, Bedman." And that would be the end of it for Relius, a perfect outing into the Dream Theater, between him and his wonderful son.
Expect, of course, Bedman asks about Delilah.
Relius's overwhelming joy fades almost instantly, into a restrained smile. And even that comes with a chin rub, as he looks away from his son. That feel, that shift in feeling. It was almost like disappointment. There is an uncomfortable silence, as he stares into the screen. Turning over some of his resources, to help Delilah? And it comes, as the silence breaks.
"Bedman, Bedman, my dear son."
"I had hoped that you, of all people, would understand the role of your sister in relation to progress." Relius says with a hint of warmth surrounded by an icy chill. "Recovering Delilah is more complicated than simply finding her and pulling her out; you should be very well aware how your existence and status is dependent on her status and existence. Naturally, your well-being is dependent on her as well, and that's why it's so important to find her soul. But recover it?" Relius flashes the gleam of his teeth.
"Please be reasonable, Bedman."
"She's much more useful at this moment being on her side of the boundary, than ours." Relius pats Bedman on his head. Relius's smile was seared on his lips, as he leans over his darling son, his attention transfixed with barely the hint of threat in his voice. "Even if we do find her, recovery would be out of the question until the time is right, and you are free to appreciate your and hers freedom. Of course, I will tug at that connection you so deeply carry; it's just as important to me as it is to you to find your sister, my dear son. But you can't lose your perspective on this, Bedman."
"Do you need to remind me on the outcomes if she never fell so deeply into boundary, Bedman?"
Gritting his teeth quietly, Bedman manages a smile - and, mentally, he makes a note on a list somewhere. The list is buried very, very deep in his subconscious. Perhaps it is beyond the Boundary at this point, a mere possibility all on its own, a hypothetical list from a dead timeline where he is alive and keeps paper lists.
On the screen that neither of them is actively watching at this point, a low-lit flickering series of other timelines, in which Relius fails again and again and again, is running in a sort of hyper fast-forward. Clearly he's just running through other outcomes to see if there's anything he forgot to display. Clearly. The red and black eyes that appear periodically, scuttling in the corner of the screen, are just window dressing.
"Of course not, father." He manages to say the last word without sounding like a liar or an ingrate, which is probably something of a miracle in and of itself. "You and I both clearly understand the importance of an anchor on both sides of the Boundary; perhaps no one understands quite as well as us. And obviously I did not mean anytime -soon.- There is a time and place for all things; a time to sow, a time to reap. Merely to not forget the deal made with us beds of no consequence when you're off doing such weighty tasks as resetting reality itself."
He still has that smile plastered on his face. You really -can- do anything in dreams.
Relius doesn't even look at the screen now.
Relius gives another kindly pat on Bedman's head, unaware of all the horrific ways he is being defiled and destroyed across the possibilities of reality. What's truly a miracle, looking at the sheer volume of infinity, is how Relius could even be alive, with the raw hatred the universe itself directed at his sinful executions against reality. Even Bedman's hate was merely a candlelight to the sun; even as bad end after bad end consumes Relius. It almost could reach out, and take him into the screen, take him to the very nightmare that the was unleashing the Black Beast...
And yet, all he could do is return that same plastered smile.
"This is why I like you more than Carl, Bedman." He states his son's name, his blood son, with the kind of disappointment only a true father of the year could give. A conspirial whisper rises from his throat. "You know, there is a bounty on him. He's been a naughty boy, wasting his time on playing with his doll, instead of focusing on what's important. Could you imagine yourself wasting your intelligence on a mere shell of your sister?"
Relius actually gives a little chuckle at such an absurdity.
"And he even treats her like she's anything more than a little plaything I left for him. A little project to test his limits." And he gestures towards the screen. "Maybe you can discipline his mind a bit; he's practically a brother to you; I suppose technically you would be his younger brother, but, you're certainly more mature than him. He certainly doesn't quite understand the place his sister has on the shelf of reality, unlike you. Letting his emotions control his destiny. Perhaps you could persuade him a bit, if you have the time..." Relius's eye gleams behind his mask. "I might find it fit to reward my better son with... some quality time, in finding your dear sister."
Relius gives a firm shoulder squeeze to Bedman.
To be fair to Relius, part of the reason he seemed to reach a bad end so often was meddling with powers that no one was meant to meddle with. But when has that ever stopped a real man of genius?
"I take it no one's taken you up on your bounty on Carl, then?" Bedman chortles. "Maybe no one wants to dock your pay, since, if I recall, that one comes out of your own pocket. I admit I am deeply curious about what's going on with him, and why he's such a flake - did you see he's in a water gun fight at a tournament sponsored by a swim lotion company? And against Lightning Spangles, of all people. Now there's a troubled mind; I've never met anyone more willing to put themselves through hell for seemingly no payout."
Literally, he remembers. She literally, briefly, went to hell.
"Well," Bedman agrees, "if I can find a moment between stopping a vampiric Bystander from turning us against ourselves, and being the Librarium's internal affairs department, I'll have to have a chat with Carl Clover."
There was a slow shift in the emotional climate.
Oh, generally Relius was restrained. With the tasks before Bedman, he should be delighted. "Well, a stray dog might have taken the bait, but..." He trails off as Bedman... explains what Carl was up to. Relius smirk fades. He was at the edge of his seat now, listening to Bedman's description. He was not joining in the laughter. And as he reaches the end, saying he would chat with his son? He didn't care. There was only one concern now.
Relius's mask of cheer falls off, as a scowl of disgust comes over him. "That idoitic boy is trying to mingle with Lightning Spangles again? That foolish child. I should have -known- he would have scurried off to that stupid and obscene fantasy adventures with that blond-haired bimbo shooting recklessly at the hip." Relius was practically spitting in anger, as he -throws- his hands at the screen. "She performs in those oversexualized, hussy shows where she kicks high, and puts every kind of nasty thought in Carl's head. You know I once caught him wearing a cowboy hat playing Lightning Spangles with Ada? A COWBOY hat! What kind of brilliant scientist wears a cowboy hat! And Ada and Ignis were just encouraging it, letting him act like that big-breasted buffoon, making him a sexually confused wreck! That woman is a toxic influence that is an affront to every intellectual progress known to man!" Relius pounds his fist on the arm-rest of the theater.
"Well that does it.
Relius throws a hand in the air, his temper getting the better of him. "I will put a bounty on her as well! If she's corrupting the youth with her grease-stained brain-leaks, with her vile and uncouth performances, then she's an enemy to the values of the Novus Orbis Librarium! Why, to do the very thing to my own son, it's practically abusive! No wonder he didn't tell me what he was up to; he's probably ogling that thick-bottom wench and imagining how to turn his sister into such a disgusting little trollop! Or worse..." Relius covers his mouth in growing outrage.
"... How to turn -himself- into a little Spangles wretch."
Relius fumes in his seat, twisting and writhing as he breathes hard, trying to regain his composure. "I... apologize, Bedman. I don't know what came over me. I just fear what it would do to this organization if that little tasteless harlot gets her track-marked clutches into the cultural heart of the Novus Orbis Librarium. I have already seen the touches of her siren song amongst the layman; if she were to reach the ears of the The Imperator..." Relius almost pales at the thought of it. "I would want to see that woman dead before that happens. Dead and forgotten." And then, a pause.
"... How do -you- feel about Lightning Spangles, Bedman?"
This time, it is Bedman's turn to place a reassuring hand on the shoulder of Relius Clover, before Relius somehow manages to hurt himself. "Oh, I guess never submitted a formal report, being outside the formal structure of the Librarium, but - I actually happened across her a month or two ago while investigating the psychic signature of a Darkstalker. You remember, the one I was talking about, whose own powers fall on a Venn diagram with my own?" He leans in, as if sharing a lascivious secret. "A Darkstalker in the form of a -succubus-. Who was riding along on Lightning Spangles' mind."
He gestures at the screen of the Nightmare Theatre, which is beginning to spin up again. "I have seen -exactly- what kind of person she is, and rest assured, she has no appeal for me." And there on the screen, Relius sees everything. Bedman happening across Jezebel and Morrigan in Aokigahara. A short conversation before pulling the delusional cowgirl into the dream world. All the hells that she puts herself through; the gnashing of teeth, the wailing cries, Relius gets a front row seat to the last act of the Lightning Spangles Christmas Carol, all his own - ending with her graceless exit into a noose and discovery by a Youtuber.
"I cannot imagine the Imperator, or much of anyone else in the NOL, being ensnared by that Baconator-hawking waste of space. Should I add her to the list of things to discuss with Carl?"
He pauses a beat, then realizes he can dig the claws in.
"Oh. You -have- seen what the third round of the Golden Angel Tournament consists of, haven't you? Oh, but perhaps you've been sequestered in your lab and the advertisements have passed you by. Allow me--"
Suddenly the promo for round 3 plays on the screen, with Angel demonstrating the water guns at work. Perhaps Bedman exaggerates a detail or two here and there, but Relius gets the picture.
As Bedman explains what happens, Relius somehow grows even more pale.
Sweat builds on his brow, even in the dream world, as Bedman reveals the depth of the nightmare. Not the nightmare that the actress who played Lightning Spangles was dragged through, no. But the very nightmare theater that Relius was finding himself in. When Bedman reveals the shadowy influence he mentioned before was... tied to Lightning Spangles? He wasn't even amused at the opportunity to finally have authority over the worst television he had ever seen, or even the justification for his loathing.
Because Bedman presented the madness within Jezebel.
"A -SUCCUBUS?!-" Relius stares at the screen, writhing uncomfortably in his chair. "I should have known!" He had seen atrocities; he had created them. He had even seen his death replayed over and over. And yet, before his eyes, with his complete knowledge of the best and worst and most extremes of reality, was what was equally the most pathetic, disgusting, and -desperate- display of self-indulgent self-loathing he had even seen. In the flickers of souls and light, the most abominable one he had seen was this woman's. "I knew that woman was a monster, but the fact she's a predator... No..." Bedman then presents it. The worst fears within Relius's heart, almost too easy.
The Golden Angel tournament.
Relius was trembling now, as a fear seems to enter him. Certainly, Bedman's words made logical sense. And yet, that was the affront that was Lightning Spangles. The rules of logic simply did not apply to her. She murders a child, and still remains a beloved icon for children? Her deepest, darkest desires are unfolded before her, and she's blamed for ruining the internet star's show? She literally was mounting herself, forcing disgusting burgers down her own throat, because she felt like she deserved it? And now... and now she was taking her depraved images of hope and ideals, defying all reason and logic, and getting ready to force them down -Carl's- throat? As he watches the 'squirts' of Angel, with the effects of the fresh water on the sprayed on swimsuits, Relius's words were too soft, too terrible. "Bedman..." He begins, a growing terror coming over the man.
"... What are the potential outcomes, if Carl fights Lightning Spangles in that vile tournament?"
In the darkness, Bedman grins to himself. Got him. "My, my," he says, mock-fanning himself. "Well, if you think your heart can take it..."
The dream master waves at the screen, dismissing the image of the scantily clad Angel and her assistant, replacing them with the same watery backdrop - but this time it's Lightning Spangles and Carl Clover, facing down with aquatic artillery. "Oddly," he intones, "the two of them are fairly well-matched. This could go a lot of different ways." In the theatre, the first one plays: Lightning Spangles gets in a few early shots on Carl, luckily only removing non-crucial parts of his GA swimsuit. Remembering where he is, Carl quickly taps out and evacuates, blushing furiously. "This is probably the best outcome. Carl learns a valuable lessons about how to defend yourself against firearms, and runs from Lightning Spangles in shame."
A beat. "This is also the least likely outcome. Carl doesn't have a lot of quit in him."
The scene restarts. This time, Carl has the good sense to take advantage of his natural wiry agility, choosing a pistol over the bulkier rifle. He easily dodges most of Spangles' early volleys, and it's only a matter of time before he's standing over her in victory. But Spangles has no shame, and Carl is forced to completely remove her swimsuit to force her to submit! The viewpoint avoids Spangles - let's leave that to the imagination - but instead focuses on Carl's face as he sprays his opponent. His laugh is boyish and gleeful, but his eyes... his eyes.
"It seems in this timeline, he wants to, as Spangles' nightmare incarnation proclaimed, 'eat the Baconator.'"
But wait, it gets worse. The onscreen timeline resets. Jezebel, knowing she's up against a faster, wilier opponent, has armed herself with a cannon for the joy of proximity splashing. And splash she does; while Carl gets plenty of shots in, leaving Jezebel in a lewd state herself, it's the boy genius who's down and out this time. Curled into a ball to protect his dignity. Lightning Spangles may not have any dignity, of course, but Carl does.
She's out of breath, causing everything to shudder just so... delightfully. She offers Carl, of all things, her cowboy hat. "Well heck, lil buckaroo, it looks like you might need this to cover yourself!" She offers Carl the hat in slow motion. "You gave me," and her voice gets weirdly husky here, which probably doesn't -actually- happen, of course, but who's to say - "a heck of a thrashing!"
"What say I make you an official member of the Lightning Spangles fanclub? With all the benefits that entails."
Her eyebrows waggle suggestively at Carl. And then at the camera.
Fade to black.
He should have left when he could.
Relius's journey into perfect knowledge took him into the extremes of the nightmarish realm of science. He watches the first timeline, the first potential outcome. Where Carl, his Carl, is able to control himself in front of an illogical influence like that. He doesn't allow himself to be twisted in. Even that was a humiliation, but it was one he would learn from. Relius could handle this... but then, Bedman tells him that this was the least likely. Relius looks harshly at the boy, eyes wide. He slowly turns back to the screen.
And then he sees the second timeline.
Relius grimaces, squirming uncomfortably at the disgusting display as his own son forces himself to spray that harlot, again and again. He grips the handrests with white-knuckled horror, as Jezebel doesn't stop. Not until every layer of the swimsuit was peeled away. Relius can't control himself, as he says it. "No." He sees the look in Carl's eyes. That was not a look that was -meant- for a woman. It was a look that could only be for science, he tells himself. Maybe your first dissected housecat, or maybe your first simulation of life. But no, no. He knows it in Carl's eyes. It was the look of lust, of... those foul baconators. Relius could almost endure it.
And then the third timeline comes.
Every splash was felt by Relius, as his heart races. The terror was flooding him, forcing its way in. He could feel the pressure of his son, the pressure of the dream world around him. He breathes harder and harder, as he stares as his son mingles with the passion of the worthless monster of a woman, the predator feeding off his youth, his innocence his... laziness. And then, the twist comes. Relius audibly gasps in dread as finally, the nearly nude woman strides out, and offers.... and offers...
And then, she extends the hat to his own flesh and blood.
"Stop it, stop it now Bedman!" He finally declares, unable to stomach it anymore, as he averts his eyes. And yet, it still plays before him. "She wouldn't... she would! She would do that to my little boy, to show those -things- to him. And with Ada too; I do not even want to -think- of the kind of disgusting experiments he'll want to perform with his doll after that vile woman gets his clutches into him. It treating Ada as his little... Lightning Spangles doll! To -practice with- before he... before he..." He turns towards Bedman, clutching his heart. His mechanically augmented heart was... was...
It was too much.
"The... the dream theater is becoming too much for me, Bedman, I apologize." He casts his eyes to the corner, almost upon the black eyes that felt like they were bearing down. "WE must stop here. But..." He looks to Bedman, face ashen white, hands trembling. "Please, as a big brother, as a good brother..."
"Don't let carl fall for that vile Darkstalker possessed woman!"
Bedman lets the dream theatre fade away to the gentle, serene white from when they had first arrived. The table and chairs were right where they had left them. The shadows in the distance in the dream fog were just as ill-defined as before. Although, oddly... were they wearing cowboy hats? Surely not.
"Of course, we can stop. It can be a bit... intense, I know. As -you- know. You've been in the Boundary. Sometimes having truly infinite possibility at our fingertips can be terrifying." Bedman lets Relius rant, trying his hardest to not think about anything Carl might do to or with the Ada doll. Surely Carl wasn't as depraved as his father suspected... right?
Bedman stands up again, floating down from the table he had been positioned above, and takes Relius' hand. "Don't worry. I've seen what a negative influence she can be. Carl Clover will be safe with me, as a good brother. You can trust me. And if he insists on acting out, well," he gestures at the world around him, "this is the ultimate 'time out,' wouldn't you agree? Where he can nigh-infinitely reflect upon the error of his ways for but the length of a momentary nap in the real world."
He grins reassuringly(?). "After all, we wouldn't want you to have to worry about his welfare. That's an unnecessary distraction from a good father's work."
The table and chairs are joined suddenly by an oaken door with an ornate silver key in its lock, connected to no walls, open merely a crack but opening further. "Speaking of which - let me show you out. You've got important things to do - and so do I!"
The peaceful whiteness again.
Relius catches his breath a moment; certainly the destruction of reality was one thing. But to have Lightning Spangles invade his personal life? There are somethings that that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die. Lightning Spangles was very definitely one of them; at least the Black Beast would destroy reality. It wouldn't twist it into incomprehensible shapes like Lightning Spangles would. He almost resented Bedman for it, he almost wanted to punish the boy for his torment.
And yet, it was not Bedman's fault that such an awful woman existed.
"Yes... yes..." Relius dabs his forehead with a drawn out purple lace handkerchief, still not quite returning to his composure. "You are right, Bedman. I hardly should bring myself to worry about Carl, as I have the loving support of the rest of my family invested in his welfare." Relius stands up, stretching into a stand, as he tucks away the hanky. "I have the utmost trust with you, Bedman. Do what you will with Carl, and I will ensure you are handsomely rewarded." But he looks at Bedman very sternly.
"But a concern, of mine."
Relius takes the air of the father of year, as he wags a finger at his beloved creation. "I would appreciate if you make sure he doesn't see any obscene material while in your domain." He adjust his collar and sleeves. "He needs less of that, and more... wholesome educational entertainment. Keep it... PG-13?" He considers, as he begins his stride to the door. He pauses at the doorway, hand on handle.
"... Better make it PG, you won't believe what they'll put on TV these days."
Log created on 12:33:25 02/08/2018 by Relius, and last modified on 18:56:25 02/20/2018.