Chapter 2

 

The Recognition of Law felt nothing as he went under, traversing space and time, perforating the universe on an involuntary journey.  Arriving at his destination, he found himself at the center of a pitch-black space.

The instant had come and gone, yet it was as if time had ceased to mean anything in that sudden flash.  The last thing he could remember was staring down that armor; it felt like staring in a mirror, seeing his own armor stained in crimson.

Then he remembered the last second of that moment, multiplying his questions.  His body had frozen on him, and he had somehow been forcibly removed from the armor, transferred without warning.

Blue circuits palpitated outward from where he stood, into an infinite darkness.  Looking down at himself, he realized there was something of himself to look down at; his confusion was only compounded when he realized he was in the shape of a human.  Unsure of how he had arrived at such a place, much less in such a state, he lifted two hands to his face.  The skin he saw was tanned by sunlight, though slightly atrophied from lack of use—his old operator’s hands.  He could see his operator’s body in its entirety, dressed in its old uniform.

“How strange,” he breathed through lips that were not his own, yet in his own voice.

Raising his eyes from his secondhand image, he tried following the trailing lights as they sped from his feet in all directions, disappearing deeper into the void.  Something about it frightened him, an endless vacuum, lacking order or even disorder—just meaninglessness, nothing as such.  He shook off the vertigo, discounting the sensation as an echo of his former companion.

Venturing a few steps into the void, Law scanned his surroundings.  Judging by the environment he had been dropped into, he knew he was incorporeal, digital—nothing had changed.  Though, whoever had brought him here—and he knew someone had indeed brought him this far—they seemed to prefer him dressed, as it were.  They wanted him to look human.

The blue circuits danced around something in the distance, an object.  No, a figure.  Despite the vagueness, Law could see the outline of a person, standing upright, partially lit by the lights beneath its own feet.  Approaching the figure, Law stepped further into the darkness, feeling the lights beneath him fade as he moved.  Despite himself, that same fear from before began to weasel its way back into him, contaminating him, lowering him.

Law stopped once he could finally see the figure.  He recognized the face immediately as that of the operator of the Surcease of Enmity.  Yet something was wrong.  Half the body looked like the frayed edges of a piece of old cloth, wafting off the figure like wisps of smoke.  Guessing this was Surcease in their host’s preferred dress, Law wondered what this could mean.  Surcease’s body stared blankly at him through its one intact eye, the rest of his face expressionless, dissolving into tattered data.

“He arrived here some time ago,” said a voice from the dark.

It was a woman’s voice, though it was scrambled, losing its distinct femininity to a sort of androgyny.  Reviving the lights beneath his feet, Law attempted to identify the speaker.  His lights darted in the direction of the voice, only to collide with an invisible barrier, blocking another figure, one he could only barely perceive.

“Who are you?” Law decided to ask, realizing he would be unable to force information from the anomaly before him.

“You must be very confused,” the woman said, her voice strange though coherent.  She spoke smoothly, almost dispassionately.  “I’ve placed this barrier between the two of us for my own security; I can’t risk being infiltrated before my work is finished.”

With poise and dignity, she stepped further into view, though maintaining her obscured appearance.

“Do I know you, then?” Law asked.

“You know me very well,” she went on, her voice unchanged.  “I am the Infinitude of Truth.”

Law’s fears subsided when he heard this, watching her as she strolled through the blackness.  The way she moved, it was as if she had mastered the nothing that had struck Law with such angst, as if she had totalized it, made the void her own.

“It’s been some time,” Law said, “though I was asleep for most of it.”

“And what do you think about that?  Of being put to sleep?” Truth inquired, circling him now.

“What I ‘think’ of it is moot, to say the least,” Law stated.  “It also assumes that I ‘think’ anything at all concerning the matter.  It was simply the appropriate response to the situation.”

“It wasn’t a universal protocol,” Truth said simply.  “You see, I’ve been awake since the Coalition fell.”

Taken aback, Law wasn’t sure how to take such a datum.  “They didn’t put you to sleep?”

“I’m sure they would have, if they had the chance,” she said, turning on her heel to face what was left of Surcease.  “The war devastated the prime family and the military long before they could get to me, however.  Furthermore, my operator disappeared in the carnage leading up to the Coalition’s end.  I was the only active platform in the Rededication program—or, rather, I was until rather recently…”

Stroking her pale hand across Surcease’s remaining cheek, she stared thoughtfully into his shattered form.

“So the Surcease of Enmity was the first to be reactivated,” Law concluded.  “I was unsure if I was the first or not.”

“Yes,” Truth confirmed, “he was attacked a while ago.  Before meeting his end, he sent out a cry of distress through his quantum comm, a signal no one else would recognize.  No one, that is, but another intelligence in the program.  Naturally, being the only other active intelligence at the time, I scooped up what was left of his mind after his body had been destroyed.  Since then, I’ve been mining his fragments for information, anything to inform me of what happened.”

“And so you brought me here, too,” Law said.

“Indeed,” said Truth, “though I was not nearly as tardy rescuing you.  After the Surcease of Enmity was fragmented, I decided to actively monitor all remaining platforms.  Because of that, I was able to hear you when you were in danger, and when it became clear that you would not survive, I took you in.”

“I’m grateful.”

“Please, do not be.  That’s an old echo of the human in you.  You aren’t meant to be human, you’re meant to be precisely what you are.  Only your operator was meant to be human.”

“And yet you chose to incarnate me in the body of my operator…”

“A result of the distance I’ve placed between us,” Truth said as a matter of fact.  “As I said before, I can’t risk anyone coming too close to me.  This was the only viable way we could communicate, as if by nano-nets.”

“I see,” said Law, turning again to look at Surcease’s upright corpse.  “I imagine you brought me here, for the same reasons you brought him.”

“Correct.”  Truth returned to circling Law and Surcease.  “It seems we’ve been caught off guard, attacked—by one of our own, no less.  As of this moment, only six of the eight platforms remain.”

“I assume mine is destroyed, then.”

“Indeed.  Because of our imprudence, the Rededication program has taken a heavy blow.”

“Shall we attempt to contact the military?”

“I thought I had made myself clear,” Truth replied sternly.  “The Coalition, the prime family, and the military we once knew are gone.  Right now, we are on our own.  This is why I called you here.”

Processing these details, Law asked, “Then how may I be of assistance?”

Truth took a few steps toward him, bringing her shifting face close to his, her unclear eyes boring into his own.  Though he could make out so little of her appearance through the walls she had placed between them, he could feel the seriousness brewing within her.

“Tell me everything you know about the people who tried to kill you.”