Cathryn slipped out of her home in the early morning light, ran to the small hut on an abandoned street, and knocked twice, leaving the basket by the door. She ran up and down the street to make sure it was clear and knocked once more. The door opened and she made her way inside.
She wondered why Byrd became an Animen all of a sudden, as she often found herself doing the past few weeks. He already had enough trouble with his name, and its spelling, but now he had to hide his wings.
"I've heard that one of the city's barracks is actually located in that factory." Cathryn tilted her head to suggest the direction.
"You know that's out of the question, you can't wage war with the city." Byrd rarely spoke at all now, and his crackly voice made that clear.
Cathryn folded her arms and sighed, "We can't just sit here and wait for them to find us all, but I know we're not alone...if we make enough mischief for them, then maybe we can attract the interests of other Animen. The only reason we're so quite is because we think we're only, the city's counting on things to stay that way, there's probably a handful of soldiers who would fight against the city, if they could see we'd fight too."
"You're not an Animen, Cathryn." Byrd pointed out.
"Sure, but we're friends, this is my problem, too." Cathryn turned around and thought for a while, "You know, they're not counting on you flying me over them, landing me on the roof-"
"You're crazy if-"
"You can fly, we have more opportunities to fight them since we're not limited to the ground!"
"Where would we hide? How could we avoid detection?"
"Simple, I did some scouting last night, they're only guarding the front, they're counting on the terrain to keep us from getting over there, it's like an island...just flying me that far and I can go up the rest of the way."
"If you get captured-"
"You can make sure that doesn't happen, you can hide, and if I get caught, surprise whoever it is who caught me, I'll make some machines overheat, then we'll get back out, if we can just leave a few marks on them, then they'll be powerless...especially if we find a constant supply of clean water."
"We could just...fly away."
"Well, funny thing is that there are battleships out there, and that factory makes parts for them...maybe we could eventually persuade them to leave, even if they burn the place down, their presence will be weakened."
"I...honestly can't believe I'm letting you talk me into this." Byrd shook his head, "Fine, I'll grab my coat."
Byrd flew Cathryn over the gap in the ground, flying from behind one building to another, "We're out of sight so far." he breathed shakily as he let her slip her shoulders from his hands and fall to the ground.
"There's a door right here, ready?" Cathryn held her hand over the doorknob and waited for a reply.
"As ready as I'll ever be."
Cathryn slowly pulled the door open and found no one inside, "Must be out training. I'm not going far, you can probably watch the exit for me."
"Fine, I'll give you ten minutes before I go in and drag you back out."
"I can handle that." she stepped inside and turned around once more, "See you in five?"
She wandered around to the left of the door for a while, the place was mostly empty, save whatever scuffled about in the dark. She darted along the wall, catching a glimpse of something standing behind her as she passed, a brief glance revealed him to be unarmed.
She heard running and someone talking frantically in hushed tones, "Great, they know I'm here."
She ran passed what seemed to be a wall control connected to the door she passed under and made a note to smash it on her way out, after sabotaging the controls in this room and dealing with whoever was chasing her, then hurrying to the exit before anyone else showed up.
After deciding she wouldn't hang around long enough to see what chaos followed, she pressed every button and flipped every switch that seemed to bear some significance, the voice behind her called her attention away from her work, "Do you even know what that does?"
"No, but that's the beauty of it, I don't need to know what it does to know it'll throw a wrench into your plans." she got her smug smile off her face before turning around, he wasn't that much older than her, or even that much stronger, and as soon as she showed signs of resistance he dropped the pipe he'd been carrying.
After the brief exchange, she determined he wasn't so bad, but they were still on opposite sides, and leaving him unharmed would make him suspicious, since he could be a potential ally, it was best to leave an impression on the city's security between the young man and her, so she took him outside the room and struck him with the pipe on his shoulder, then smashed the controls and left the rest in his hands.
Byrd jumped into the air and flapped his wings the moment Cathryn stepped outside, "I did it, I got caught, but I did it...and maybe made a friend."
"Slow down, what did you do, and what do you mean you got caught?" Byrd grasped her shoulders and flew away from the factory, towards a cluster of decrepit buildings as she answered his questions, "And what friend, you mean that for real?"
"I fiddled with the control panel and locked the room down, I'm pretty sure I heard pipes bursting in the walls, some guy saw me and called in his friends, but my flashlight slowed them down, but as for the man himself...he seemed pretty harmless, I beat him up a little to throw of whoever he's going to have to report to, but I was clearly out of time...for all that, though, I think we got along pretty well, if anything he's a pacifist, could be he doesn't believe in the city or King Remulus."
"Well, let's lay low a while, maybe you've done enough to cause permanent damage." Byrd wrapped his coat tightly around his wings, glancing around nervously.
"Production might not even be slowed, shouldn't we-"
"Cat, just take a break, until we get more help it's a risk."
"Even then, it's still a risk."
"You're at risk just walking around with your coat, eventually something's going to happen." she stared into the distance as they wandered back to the building Byrd had been hiding in for the past couple of weeks, "And I refuse to give up on the chance that something good could happen."
Later that day she met the man from earlier, she wanted to believe he could be a friend, but the parting left a less than satisfactory impression on her, and then, as she stood between Byrd and an angry mob, she saw him. He walked away as they were led to the city's Beach District's prison, and she realized there was no way out, but maybe she left an impression on him, she knew Byrd certainly must have.
"Project E.N.D., rise." her eyes opened and she sat up, the king watched her intently from across the room. He took a step, when her eyes remained lowered he took a few more steps, "You're name?"
"I am for you to summon, the End of all Seasons, sir!"
"I yet hear your words in my head."
"T-that's because Your Majesty wishes for no secret thoughts when I am to obey orders."
"You are to be a perfect vessel for Her Majesty."
"As you command." she closed her eyes and tried to remember her dream, but she could only remember her name, for the longest time she knew it was Eternia, but she couldn't remember who gave it to her.
"Do you know who she is?" Eternia stared at the king curiously, and he raised his hand, "Ten Thousand Spears!" Etrnia fell to the floor to escape the electric spears, but to no avail, "Yours isn't to wonder," he set his boot against her fingers and ground them against the floor, "and certainly not to try to escape fate!"
"Sir," the king turned to find his lead researcher standing behind him, "her digital integrity is decreasing at a steady pace, it's far more effective to use the powers of the four Season Spirits, as bequeathed by Her Destructiveness."
"Very well...fix her AI again, she mustn't wonder, it will prevent Her Highness from possessing the vessel."
"Well, she did say that for a successful takeover, the thing would need to be completely focused, but I think a few questions here and there wouldn't-"
"Let's not take risks."
"Right...ah, well, I suppose we can always find other spirits and offer them-"
"No, Unseason is the only spirit we're working for, she's going to be difficult enough to keep up with without a hundred other spirits roaming around."
Eternia's melted into a deep frown as the king and his researcher left, "They're going to put me back in the tank, they're going to tamper with my memories again."
She stood up and wandered the room for a while, then ran to the door and wriggled the knob furiously, slamming her fist against the cold surface repeatedly. She heard a crack and jumped back, but it was only the form of her hand that'd cracked, leaving some wiring exposed, somehow she knew that wasn't normal, she was sure humans bled when hurt.
She closed her eyes and tried to remember, then it came back to her, the king struck her once with his scepter, after she failed to say her name. It wasn't that she was disobedient, she was at a loss for her name and searched desperately for it. She reached for her cheek and felt for the pale scar the sharp edge of the scepter caused, a slight difference in texture reminded her of that day. She pulled her hand away as she felt nothing in particular, and expected to find blood on her fingertips, but there was nothing.
"Where am I...who am I?" she sunk to the floor, heart gripped by terror, and felt under her eyes, her entire face felt strange.
"We've changed you, made you stronger," she looked around for that voice, the brunette who followed the king outside the room several minutes ago, "you should be thanking us, our first genetically constructed subject, turned into a cyborg...you're special, Eternia, you were built to last...forever."
She squeezed her eyes closed and shuddered, for all she cared she had lived thousands of years already, this was a nightmare and she wouldn't wake up. She took a breath and felt under her eyes, she considered the concepts of nightmares and waking up as she felt for tears, but there were none.
The voice spoke again, and a panel raised to reveal him standing behind a wide window, "We've almost made you perfect, the king keeps thinking we ought to crack open your skull and see if we can't burn out a few unnecessary cells here and there, but I keep telling him, 'Your Majesty, you just don't get it, Unseason doesn't want to be controlled.' alas, the poor puppet king doesn't know that Unseason's onto his game, no, instead we have something else planned for you...freedom sound nice?"
"W-why, you keep...changing things...taking...taking...my feelings-"
"We are constantly editing you to be perfect, sure, you're forever miserable, but you don't cry...soon you'll have enough programming in that skull of yours to be complacent enough for Unseason to take over...but first, allow me to present you with a vision: A world without change, everything will be perfectly stationary, even the world will slow, Unseason will halt the world at just the right position in space to keep us from freezing or burning, the environment will be hers to control, endless spring or winter as she sees fit."
"I don't want to be possessed, though!" Eternia screamed.
"Ha, ha, well, already you've been outfitted with special resonance gems that allow you to interact with her, and soon she will possess you through them, just as soon as you're devoid of emotions but still human. Now, see here, I have a plan...you will wish to be be free of your feelings, and invite Unseason into your heart...my poor king forgets that psychology is science too, but alas and alas again, if he can't feel or mold, he wants nothing to do with it, but can he hold electricity in his hand, or bend wireless signals to his whim? While he can control the thing that creates them, he will never control the principle of the thing, he will never be able to use his thoughts to open a door, yet he feels nigh all-powerful. He's the king and the fool, isn't that wonderful? Believe me, you'll be happy with the outcome...or would you trust the king, who's constantly stabbing you with his Ten Thousand Spear tricks?"
"I just want to be left alone."
She shook as he laughed and stared in horror as a cylinder descended into the room, "Tell me, do you want you to create a perfect world, or live in this prison? Unseason has offered a deal, you can have a few months--maybe half a year of that rare thing you've not been possessed of sense...well, if I'm being honest, sense you could dream: Happiness, cold, hard happiness, with no artificial preservatives or colors...just all natural flavors, like you'd expect. Go on, now, step inside, when you awaken, you'll know what to do."
Eternia clenched her jaw and stared at the cylinder, then ran to the tank, and fastened the mask inside over her face. She turned her eyes to a sole button and knew in that moment she pressed the button, the world would change. She closed her eyes and extended her hand, her finger pressing the button until it clicked.
The same panic as always seized her as the cylinder turned to face the scientist, but for the first time she didn't feel angry, just afraid. The cylindrical glass closed in front of her and she took a deep breath as the man behind the window smiled at her. He waved and she waved back, then felt the usual haziness descend upon her. She closed her eyes and waited to be set free, released by a captor, only to be caught again, but she'd enjoy her time of freedom while she had it.ns 22.214.171.124da2