[[A/N: Hey CV, been a while! I've been kinda busy with a lot of stuff so I've been slackin' on my fan-fic duties, but I've been working on something new, an original Science-Fantasy novel set in a new world of my own creation. I've decided to share the chapters with you guys as I write them, maybe help me stay motivated in finishing the whole thing. :D Here we have chapter one, starting with our first protagonist, Anix....]]
Chapter One – The Professor
“It is one and one-half hours past sunrise, sir. You requested that I awaken you at this time.”
“Go away,” I grunt quietly, swatting my hand aimlessly in the approximate direction the voice was coming from. I don't hear the little machine move at all, no small whir of vapor to signify that my attack even came close enough to cause him to move back.
“If it is necessary, sir, I can begin to read from your priority list, if that would be of assistance in motivating you.” The tinny, buzzing voice almost stings my ears, causing my stomach to lift slightly in a surge of nausea. I really need to figure out how to get rid of it one of these days. I lay still on my stomach, pillow squashed around my face as I pretend to ignore the little mechanical pest.
“Very well, sir. I did not want it to come to this,” the voice continues. “Your primary directive, as appointed by the Aneriel Council, is to follow a freelance investigatory campaign in order to avoid probation--”
“Shut up...” I whimper, my voice hoarse and moist from sleep. I dig my fingers around the pillow and squeeze it against my ears. When did everything go to hell? Helis-9 was appointed to me by the elves as a 'helper', but I haven't noticed much help coming my way. His (or its? I'm not sure with this thing) existence is to torment me; gathering socks I purposefully leave to be dirty, organizing files the way I don't want them, insisting that I eat right, and maybe most importantly, constantly forcing elven ultimatums on me.
Though, that may be... well, partly my fault. Here, let me explain.
My name is Professor Anix Cavanough, and I'm... well, an explorer of sorts. Had my sights set on teaching pre-war history, thought it was the most amazing and fascinating thing out there. As a kid I'd sit up nights, imagining a world where the elves worked their amazing spells, dwarven knights sat perched atop the countless outposts that marked their seemingly endless territories, and the elanu were still only forging the first secrets that had led to the active practice of Silence. Things didn't go exactly as I'd planned, but I certainly didn't mind until things went south.
I was a good learner but wasn't really a good student, so dreams of teaching fell through quickly; but different – better – work quickly opened up. In the field, I was in my element, actually getting a chance to explore the remnants of those ancient civilizations and lifestyles. I made amazing finds, some of them even revolutionary to the pre-war history courses I had loved as a kid.
Then again, I also found some stuff I wasn't supposed to. Or, at least, some stuff that caught the attention of the Aneriel Council in a way I didn't need.
I won't go into grueling detail, because honestly, all of this happened about a year ago, but this big incident that landed me with Helis-9 took place pretty far west. Place called Baldervenn. It had been a dwarven citadel, fifty years or so ago. Not so much, now. Apparently it was among the first targets when the Vendroll first came and the Invasion War began, and when I got there, there was a larger amount of short, thick-boned skeletons than there was intact architecture.
Turns out, the fact that it had been the first Vendroll attack was what landed me in the mess I'm in right now. They were sloppy, back then.
I mean, not sloppy the way we'd think of it. Big mistakes and bungles, loose ends left untied, that sort of thing – no, none of that. They just hadn't completely streamlined their method of totally destroying our cities and our people, and as such their – what do I call it – their 'signature', was a little bit different. In future attacks they razed the cities to the ground, corpses were unidentifiable, everything was reduced to a dry paste when they were finished.
But me, I decided it'd be 'innovative' to take a closer look at the very first attack site, something that other field-professors like myself had only given a very brief glance to, the same they had given to the other ruins before moving onward. Not me though. Me, I had to pretend I was smart.
As I said, their signature was different at Baldervenn, and as I later discovered, it was also different at the next few attack sites before the Vendroll changed their style and cleaned up their act. They left things behind... small things, nothing that could really be used on their own. A dribble of fluid (maybe some kind of fuel) that now just left a small, forgotten stain. Maybe a casing from one of their explosives. The ashes of a fuse. One of their soldiers' organic armor platelets. Small stuff.
I was in the clear for a good while, too. I presented a few of my finds to various academies expecting some sort of recognition, receiving none. “We've already found all there is to know about early Vendroll weaponry,” they'd said, paraphrased of course. My memory's only so eidetic.
Anyway, your everyday success story ensued. I persevered, I struggled onward, and I started using the pieces I had found to create something more, even enlisting help from elven or elanu sages in breaking things down to basic chemicals, then recreating them in integropolis laboratories. It became my primary goal, my ambition – my obsession. They wouldn't acknowledge the pieces as an academic find, after I had exposed myself to radiation and wasteland creatures to find them? Maybe they'd acknowledge a fully-recreated Vendroll weapon, and I endeavored to give them one no matter what it took.
It was when I completed the weapon, of course, that I was sniffed out by the Aneriel and arrested for treason and premeditated terrorism (whatever the hell that means). They knew I was innocent of any real crime – even confessed that exact thing to me (if only I'd brought a recorder!), but they pushed me through their rigged courts, made me sing the song, dance the dance. They had all the evidence they needed to convince the right people that I was the criminal they said I was.
“It is my duty to inform you that twenty minutes have past since your last reminder, sir.”
I growl and roll over. I was almost done anyway. Long story short is that the whole arrest was a sham, a big charade to get me under their thumb, and the Aneriel were 'merciful' enough to keep me out of a jail cell by letting me work off a special sort of community service directly to them. Damn elves. They wonder why everyone hates them.
Now I'm, for lack of a better word, their bitch. I go where they tell me to go, find what they want me to find, and do with it what they want me to do with it. I was the first person to actually recreate a functioning Vendroll weapon (a flash-grenade, nothing that special) and that made me a commodity. I was 'the man for the job' and apparently the Aneriel aren't big proponents of just saying please.
“Sir–” Helis-9 begins once again.
“I'm up!” I throw the sheet quickly off of me and slam my long, heavy feet onto the carpet beside the bed, releasing a heavy breath through my nostrils. “I'm up.”
“Your primary directive, as appointed by the Aneriel Council, is to follow a freelance investiga–“ Helis-9 suddenly paused, his normally bouyant, semi-spherical metallic body going rigid and seeming to vibrate, a grating, though quiet buzzing sound grinding out from him. I rub my eyes and stand, leaning in to get a closer look at the autonomous annoyance (ooh, alliteration).
There's a brief snapping sound from within Helis-9's body and he returns to his bobbing, whirring self. “Primary directive altered, Professor. Your new primary directive is to travel immediately to the South Thistle Quarter and report to the Aneriel outpost there.”
I set my teeth and feel my eyes droop. Freelancing and bringing my finds to the Council was one thing, but I tended to consistentlyhate whatever specialized missions the elves sent me on. They were inevitably clogged with rules and protocols, unnecessary restrictions and annoyances, irresponsible (bordering on suicidal) levels of danger, and whatever other inconveniences the Aneriel could heap on me. Hell, last time I went on one of these specialized missions I got landed with Helis-9, and I still hadn't gotten rid of him. “Great,” I growl, squeezing my palm across my brow. “Just... seriously, great. Alright, I'll start getting ready. Send a relay to the Council that I might be a little late.”