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God and Mind - Volume III - Freedom
By Dark

Presented by: Xenogears: God and Mind

Chapter 23
Kislev Capital

     The Music swirled around the loft in pleasing ripples, it's cords and arpeggio's sang in a solid rhythm, each cord leading to it's neighbor in a series as obvious --- and yet as surprising as the evolutionary steps that (according to the Ethos) had once lead to the development of man.  The great organ seemed to stand in it's wooden loft like some king --- surrounded by it's vassal pipes, it's music pouring from it like blood from a wound to fill the little room with splendor in sound.  Yet there was no audience --- except the player.  He was a small slight man --- weak looking and dexterous.  His delicate --- almost feminine fingers flowed across the ivory and darkness of the keyboards like water across a warm streambed in the height of summer.  He was about the same age as his enemy --- the loutish Shakhan of Aveh, but in looks and character Kaiser Sigmund was almost a total opposite.  His gray hair and beard were trimmed to a neat curly fringe about his tanned face with its Kislevian slanted eyes, giving him the look of some wise little hermit.  Like Shakhan, he wore robes of red, But where as Shakhan's were gaudy and almost indecently showy, the Kaiser's robe was of simple dark red with no design or ornament except for the tiny golden sun broach pinned to the chest.  On his gray curls he wore a cap of the same red as his robe --- also plain and unadorned.  
     "Sir" The Kaizor lifted his hands from the keyboard irritably --- playing here was about the only rest he got from the governance of his country.  With furtive yet dignified steps, he moved across the loft and into the antechamber where some of the organ's tools and part were stored in bare wooden boxes.  Like the great organ's throne room, the antechamber was spartan --- almost ostear with it's whitewashed walls and bare wooden floor.  Yet when the sun peeped through the high windows of the room it was not an unpleasant place --- yet through the industrial smog that surrounded Kislev's capital city of Nortune the sun rarely peered.  "We've picked up some strange goings on in central Aveh Sir"
     "--- Continue" The Kaiser looked over the messenger with approval; the man was a military officer in the plain khaki of the armed forces with a forage cap slanted on his brown hair and his angular eyes respectfull.  The Kaiser didn't go in for ceremony --- but he did value simple respect.  
     "It seems that there has been some kind of internal struggle in Aveh --- we detected a massive explosion near the border"
     The Kaiser rung his small delicate hand s together irritably --- but like the consummate politician he was he kept his delicate fact free of annoyance.  "It was probably just a weapons test"
     "I don't think so sir --- the reports say that it was the explosion of a warship's generator --- and also the border fleet was completely destroyed.  Several Geblar vessels were seriously damaged --- somehow, and an attack of what seemed to be Kislevian gears on the county of Nisan was bloodily repulsed by combined Geblar and Aveh forces"
     The Kaiser frowned; he played with the lapels of his robe, rubbing the velvet rhythmically between finger and thumb as if trying to squeeze an explanation from the fabric.  "I never ordered such an attack"
     "No sir.  It could have been some kind of internal rebellion"
     "Yes --- probably an attempted coup by one of Aveh's ridiculous royal family --- Shakhan was very inefficient in exterminating them"
     "Probably sir ---" The messenger's voice trailed off on an unsatisfied note.  
     Sigmund waved his hand impatiently --- one of the criteria for advancement in the Kislevian forces --- a factor which combined with Kislev's greater supply of buried gears, would have won the war long ago if it weren't for the help Aveh received from Geblar.  "Yes --- If you have a suggestion make it man"
     "Sir --- surely now would be an excellent time to take over Aveh whilst it's forces are divided?"
     The Kaiser took off his cap and turned it between his hands, his face creasing into an expression of concentration.  "No.  If we killed Shakhan they would just use another puppet --- that ass of a general Vanderkaum probably.  But keep an eye on their internal situation --- I want to know if there is any opposition to Geblar."  
     The Kaiser turned and was about to return to his music when the messenger stopped him with a respectful: "Sir."  
     Sigmund turned, robe swirling slightly in a sudden flash of sunlight from between the gray clouds outside like the legions of a vast ethereal air force massive for conquest of the earth.  ""Have you more to report?"
     "Yes, sir.   The experimental gear that was stolen from base eleven was recovered"
     "What, you mean that purple black Weltall model which the Ethos excavated three months ago?"
     "Yes sir"
     The Kaiser scratched his head, and then replaced his burgundy cap on his immaculately coifed gray curls.  "I thought that gear was at Lahan?"
     "It was sir?"
     "Weren't all the gears destroyed?"
     "When one of our agents examined the wreckage on the following night there was no sign of the Weltall gear --- it must have survived the attack and been carried off"
     "Is there a flight recorder or any indication of where it's been?" The Kaiser's face was suddenly sharp and shrewd like a dog on a scent --- he remembered the gear with its slim build and neat jets, and he recalled the mazes of incomprehensible black circuits beneath the midnight armor.  
     "There is no way of telling.   It contains many black boxes that we know nothing about.  Also we managed to catch the unconscious pilot --- male, 18-19 years, appears Aveh, no military uniform or other evidence of belonging to the Aveh armed forces"
     "Keep me posted on his condition.   Nothing else to report? "
     The messenger shook his head, gray air of the cell like room reinforcing the negative like a chorus of undead spirits.  "Thank you."   The Messenger saluted with a quick movement that spoke more of an eagerness to get the formality over than a desire to show his patriotism, but the Kaiser didn't mind --- the man was intelligent and useful and even if he didn't bow and scrape, he respected his ruler.  Besides the Kislevian head of state had more important things on his mind than his troops signs of loyalty --- he had an appointment to keep.

     The concrete runway towered above the land, a great gray geometrical monolith like a scared monument to the god of mathematics.  It was cold and ostear as only an artificial work can, having nothing of pleasing irregularity of nature's work.  Above it the sky hung low heavy and sullen, like a sheet of gray heavy cloth draped over the world to keep it quiet.  The ship that floated a few inches above the concrete surface was no less dun --- though it was a soft black of gleaming metal, with red flashes outlining it's strangely triangular door.  It hung in the air with soundless stillness, the miracle of technology that held it making no sound, but all the more powerful for its silent menace.  
     Outside the door of the ship Kaiser Sigmund stood with an odd respect on his face --- sitting uneasily like an animal who senses danger and will bolt at any minute.  Standing in the doorway was a figure cloaked in brown --- a long cloak falling to the ground and hiding almost all details in a flood of sandy fabric.  It was only just possible to see that the shape was that of a woman --- and even that might have been brought on by the female voice that came from the plain red mask that covered her face.  The material seemed course and heavy, and if it weren't for the mask Sigmund would have taken her for another peasant girl --- or would he, for there was some kind of poise in the figure, an erect regal pose that conveyed quiet unquestionable authority.  
     "I would like to thank you again --- for that"
     "It will get you through the barrier as I promised" the woman's voice fell on dead air.  
     "I think it strange that Grahf should help me so much --- as his representative I wondered if you would tell me --- what does he ---" The Kaiser checked himself --- after all she may be Grahf's partner not merely an underling, he wondered why his political nose could tell so little about this mysterious woman and her people.  "--- That is to say, what do you get out of all this?"
     "The increase in your understanding Kaiser --- you will learn more and gain more power"
     "Are you sure that is all, is there nothing you want?"
     The mask was impassive, a plain of dim red, unreadable and hard as a rocky cliff.  "There is one thing I want --- a personal favor if you will"
     "What Madam?"
     The woman moved forward until she stood close to Sigmund, Leaning over she whispered directly into his ear.  For the first time in perhaps five years, Sigmund was conscious that he was male and she female --- at that moment he might have granted anything.  
     Then with an abrupt movement that was almost brutal, the woman turned and skipped lightly into the door of the spherical ship, which closed behind her with a soft hiss of compressed air.  The Kaiser watched expressionlessly as the dark craft disappeared up into the sky --- as dark as Grahf's enigma.  
     "Captain" The green clad figure seemed to materialize out of the gray air with a soundless stealth that would have been more appropriate to gorilla combat than service as an official escort.  "Have the pilot of the Weltall gear transferred to D block immediately"
     "At once sir" Sigmund smiled --- he had carried out the masked woman's wish, he had paid Grahf for the help he had received and what's more paid her.  

*  *  *  *  *  

     The first thing that Fei was conscious of was the color blue, it surrounded him on all sides seeming to stretch away to infinity in an azure field, there was no sky, no earth, no up, down, left, or right, just himself and blueness.  Only then did he realize that he was dreaming, that this blueness was the depths of his mind that his ego had delved into like a swimmer diving for pearls And maybe he could find those pearls --- down here beneath the dark serine surface of the wall of amnesia that blocked his unconscious, down here where desires lurked like ravening monsters in the dark, and where memories lay on the non existent ground like falls of glittering snow, crisp virgin white and new.  Out of the darkness and blueness that composed this place of thought an image floated --- no not floated swung.  It seemed to glow with strange inner fire and the massive gem in its center transfixed Fei like a watchful predatory eye.  The pendent hovered, menacing and alone, its silver cross peaces like the still blades of the propeller of eternity.  Then suddenly, as if summoned by the talisman's ego image, a memory coalesced in the void, swimming slowly out of the blueness and enfolding Fei's consciousness gently in a wrapping of preserved reality.  
     Fei's small hands gripped the ball inexpertly, his child's body thrilling with the game, like the plucked string of a musical instrument.  Summoning all the strength in his child's arms he threw the ball outward, clumsy as a puppy.  The brown haired woman stretched out her delicate gentle hands to catch it, and then with a light easy throw sent it spinning back through the warm summer air to her son.  The small leather sphere bounced off Fei's chest and he ran to catch it, scampering after the rolling ball and shouting with triumph when he lifted it, he had won! --- Joy like a silver tide filling him in argent laughter.  
     Fei's small hands gripped the ball inexpertly, his child's body thrilling with the game, like the plucked string of a musical instrument.  Summoning all the strength in his child's arms he threw the ball outward, clumsy as a puppy.  The brown haired woman stretched out her delicate gentle hands to catch it, and then with a light easy throw sent it spinning back through the warm summer air to her son.  The small leather sphere bounced off Fei's chest and he ran to catch it, scampering after the rolling ball and shouting with triumph when he lifted it, he had won! --- Joy like a silver tide filling him in argent laughter.  
     Fei's small hands gripped the ball inexpertly, his child's body thrilling with the game, like the plucked string of a musical instrument.  Summoning all the strength in his child's arms he threw the ball outward, clumsy as a puppy.  The brown haired woman stretched out her delicate gentle hands to catch it, and then with a light easy throw sent it spinning back through the warm summer air to her son.  The small leather sphere bounced off Fei's chest and he ran to catch it, scampering after the rolling ball and shouting with triumph when he lifted it, he had won! --- Joy like a silver tide filling him in argent laughter.  
     As the memory started to repeat for a forth time Fei became aware that there was another watching --- not an external person, a person Fei knew, a deep preconscious drive --- not a person at all, only a longing of his mind unknown to his ego.  Slowly he turned and looked across the blue plain, half seen half sensed, he detected the drive --- a child form like himself but far younger, a wrapped expression on it's cherubic face as it watched the memory repeat and repeat like an endless reel of video tape.  Fei --- the Fei that thought of itself as Fei was shocked, what was this part of himself locked in this endless reverie.  He was just about to ‘talk’ --- or was it commune --- or was it remember, with his errant self when suddenly another presence appeared.  This one Fei knew instantly was wholly alien to him --- it felt a dark and twisted thing --- his eyes caught a brief glimpse of redness before a mental voice --- cold and hard like a blade of ice spoke, and at it's sound Fei's ego fled, kicking his way frantically behind the wall black comforting forgetfulness as if for protection --- yet all the red voice had said was: "You shouldn't be here"

     Consciousness slimed back into Fei's mind like a sluggish scummy river.  The sound of dripping water a mechanical humming, the smell of antiseptics, a fowl taste in his mouth and an ache in his head all seeming to crawl back into his mind like late night party guests returning home sodden and confused the following morning.  First he groaned, then slowly and cautiously opened eyes that felt like heavy sand bags to let in a painful smack of light.  He closed them again and then sat up before making another effort to let in the light.  His head throbbed and pounded.  Fei prided himself on never having had a really serious hang over --- but this was probably what one felt like.  The first thing he saw was the face of young woman peering nervously at him with large dark eyes.  Her hair was brown and flowed down the color of a white and green uniform that was almost painfully medical.  Her features were Kislevian --- though her skin did not have the harsh bronze tan of most Kislevians.  Looking at her angular eyes, Fei was reminded painfully of the absent minded teacher who played such a crucial part in his life and a twinge of pain filled him.  
     "W---who are you" Fei said thickly.  
     "I'm a doctor --- here" He raised a trembling hand to take the glass of water she held out and poured it down his throat in a stream of cold damp pleasure.  
     "What happened --- where is this?"
     "You’re in the D block of the Kislev prison --- in Nortune."  
     "Why? --- What did I do?"
     The doctor shook her head.  "I don't know --- but you've been unconscious for quite some time judging by the state of you"
     "How did I get here?"
     "I don't know --- they just brought you in yesterday --- I examined you but you seemed fine."  
     "Thank you" Fei said, the courtesy coming automatically from his lips.  
     For the first time the doctor's face lost it's slightly nervous expression and she smiled --- lending her slightly plain face a transient beauty like the glint of sun on a rock pool in Desert Mountains.   "What's your name?"
     "Fei Fong Wong" He smiled back.  
     Whilst they were talking he let his eyes roam the room they were in --- not particularly searching just looking for something.  He saw that he was lying on a bunk covered with white sheets and blankets and surrounded by other bunks with lines of washing hanging between them from whitewashed wall to whitewashed wall.  The hanging clothes almost obscured the light of the small hard bare bulbs that hung on the ceiling and glared down like watchful eyes.  To one side of the room he saw the gleaming white of the medical bay, separated by a pair of open doors.  It's pristine white flooring contrasting oddly with the ostear brown floorboards of the dormitory.  At one end of the room another door stood open revealing a corridor lit with the same cheerless bulbs as the dormitory.  Fei shook his head and lay back down --- the hard bleakness of the room seemed to reinforce the girl's statement almost as much as the sincerity in her face.  
     "… Look, Doctor ---" Fei's words trailed off as the door at the end of the room --- which had been half open anyway was kicked wide.  
     The woman who had kicked the door walked across the floor with a swagger, metal jingling as she moved.  Behind her --- almost like the retinue to some curtly queen, a man swaggered in, his pose showing as did the woman's, that they were no strangers to unarmed combat.  
     As she strode to the bed Fei's muscles tightened for her appearance was hardly one to inspire trust.  Her hair was blond and hung loose down her shoulders --- wild and free, flowing down the color of the red leather suit she wore.  It was close fitting and creaked as she moved with a zip on the chest picked out in electric blue.  There were little metal patches sewn into the leather that flashed in the light like the scales of a fish, as did the two silver rings - large and showy - she wore on each hand.  At her waist was a broad leather belt studded with metal and on her feet she wore a pair of black leather boots with heavy metal spike sprouting fro the toes.  At her belt hung a barbarous looking scythe with a blade that glittered dully in the light, it's crude wooden haft made all the more primitive by the stylized lightning hacked into the plain varnished surface.  But Fei could tell by the way her hand hovered near the hilt, and by the sheen of the blade that the weapon wasn't just a costume accessory.  Her face might once have been pretty, but now it was disfigured by a sardonic sneer that Fei couldn't be sure was the result of the scar running down her left cheek, or her inner nature.  
     Her companion was no less bizarrely dressed in a suit of green leather picked out with small chain mail patches at the shoulders and stylized flames stenciled across the chest.  The brown hair was topped by a leather cap that was pushed down firmly on his head --- a gold badge in the shape of a flame set at the front.  His face was no less mocking than the woman's --- though it had no scar, just a pair of hard Kislevian eyes that gave Fei a cold stair of steely brown.  In some bizarre affectation or group badge both the fighters wore heavy colors of dull bronze metal that fitted closely over their throats.  
     "You're the new boy then --- welcome to D block scum, I'm Suzarn and this" The woman gestured expansively with one beringed hand.  "Is Leonardo"
     "No please --- not now, he's only just recovered."  
     The woman called Suzarn walked forward menacingly, and the doctor backed off timorously, her large dark eyes once more full of nervous fear --- Fei was reminded of a snake stalking it's prey.  "You keep outa this Doc or else."   With a sweet mocking grin she turned to Fei and stared down, examining him with cold gray eyes that seemed impregnable as a wall of steel.  "Good Muscles Leo --- maybe we've got another C class here"
     "Muscles ain't everything Suzarn --- remember that farm boy"
     Fei was becoming increasingly angry.  Though he had no idea where he was or how he had got there, he felt it unfair that these thugs should push in and act as though they owned the place.  He would be the first to admit that he was far from perfect --- but he at least had manners.  
     "If you've finished discussing me --- would you tell me what in God's name you're doing and leave the doctor alone?"
     "Boy's gotta crush on dctor."   The man in green muttered and Suzarn laughed harshly.  
     "No, Leo, I like a man who wants to get down to business" She turned, her uncultured voice taking on a lecturing tone, hands on hips head raised.  Behind her Fei saw the doctor's large eyes resting on him with the resigned sadness of a person witnessing an execution.  "You are inside now --- and in here --- in jolly old D block we work by the natural order --- strongest at the top wimps at the bottom."  
     Leonardo walked arrogantly up to stand beside the woman, leaning indolently on the post of Fei's bed.  Fei could smell a rank odour of unwashed bodies and leather coming from the weird couple that made him wrinkle his nose.  
     "We gotta see where you come in that order --- so now it's time for your baptism ceremony.  You're coming with us."  
     "Suppose I refuse?" Fei kept his voice level, feeling his muscles tensing ready to spring.  Only now did he realize that he was fully dressed beneath the blankets and that his shoes lay beside the bed.  
     The woman grinned broadly and slipped the scythe from her belt with practiced ease.  She smiled with a horrible sweetness at the doctor and Fei was given a glimpse of the pretty girl she might have been as her sardonic gray eyes almost softened.  "Then we better hope that your friend the good doctor is very good at self plastic surgery --- it'd be such a shame to spoil that pretty face."  
     The doctor cringed and with a dawning horror Fei realized that he was powerless --- there were two of them and they both looked tough, and that Suzarn would have time to do the doctor some serious damage whilst he was dealing with Leonardo.  
     Sliding his feet out of the bed he bent to pull on his shoes.  His head still span and his hair hung down the back of his crumpled shirt in a tangled mass.  He noticed his clothes too bore a slight odor and surmised that he hadn't been washed on his arrival at D block.  Standing he looked straight into the eyes of the intimidating Suzarn --- noting rather sourerly that she was an inch or so taller than he was.  "Alright I'll come."  
     "Smart choice" Grunted Leonardo.  
     Suzarn sheathed her weapon and to Fei's surprise walked over and squeezed the doctor's shoulder.  "Look sorry but the kid's gotta do this --- if he doesn't do it now you know we'll get 'em later.  No hard feelings, huh?" Then she swung towards Fei and was all hard brutal business once more.  "Okay, I'll walk in front and Leo here will bring up the rear.  Leo's very quick at the old knife in the kidney's so if I were you I'd just relax and enjoy the tour."  
     "I won't try anything ---" Fei kept his voice level his brown eyes --- that could be so innocent, hard and sharp and clear as brown diamonds.  "Not until this ceremony of yours anyway."  
     To Fei's unexpected surprise Leonardo laughed.  "That's the spirit kid --- save it all for the champ" With out a word Suzarn strutted towards the dormitory door, Fei followed with a cool collected economy of movement that showed nothing of his still reeling head, Leonardo brought up the rear --- Fei didn't bother looking around to see if the knife in the kidney's was real.  
     As they walked down the drab corridor, Fei hurled his mind into reverse like a motorist trying to ram his rear bumper through a glass window.  There had been the boarder fleet, and Matreya --- well at least some had got away.  But still it was all his own fault --- if he hadn't --- hadn't? Then there had been that huge crab machine that had almost crushed Weltall into the sand --- and Grahf! At that dark presence Fei's mind shied away like a panicked horse running from some black predator --- Grahf! A sudden fear mingled with guilt welled up in Fei like an internal hemorrhage --- what if Grahf had killed them, Bart, Citan and the others --- but no! No!! He couldn't.  But even as he thought the words Fei knew that they were a lie --- Grahf could.  
     Like some frantic cleaner rushing to tidy the house before a big family visit Fei grabbed the memories and pushed them down, seizing them and uprooting them as if he were pulling up weeds before they could germinate into trees of guilt and pain.  Then he hurled the bitter stems from him deep down into the sucking darkness where the light of conscious would not catch them wishing so much that he could build an impenetrable wall of negation to keep them out --- like the one that covered his unconscious.  

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~ End of Chapter 23 ~

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