Genes. We figure them out. We play with them. We think we can make our
species more perfect.
All we did was damn ourselves.
-Memoirs of Terra
Cyriuss suite was somewhere near the pinnacle of the Tower, giving him arguably the best view on all of Escillian. Every morning and nine oclock, Ariana made her way up to the bosss room and they discussed the events of the day over coffee. It seemed highly informal considering their positions, but it was always something that Cyrius had insisted on. Coffee is a brainstorming tool, he would say. It gets both the body and the mind going. When Ariana first took the position as his assistant, she thought it was a creepy way of getting to flirt with a way younger woman. She soon realized that despite being one of the most accomplished swordsmen in the galaxy, when it came to women, he was actually pretty harmless. Friendly and amusing, yeah, but still mostly harmless.
Even odder, perhaps, was that Cyrius would only drink coffee that came from a particular region on a specific planet in the Mystician Empire. He had apparently acquired a taste for it in his travels and paid top dollar to have it imported. Anyone who ever drank coffee with him had no choice on what kind they drank, either. Even Duncan McKlane had had his decision made for him.
What time is he meeting Ranagorn? Ariana asked. And do you want me to take him there?
One oclock, Cyrius responded. And theyll be no need for you to help him. Ill speak to him this morning. Hes probably getting the hang of the teleportation system around here. Did you two speak of anything after I left last night?
Just about Tristan, for a little, she said. He just wanted to confirm the connection of the last names. Also, he spoke about your knowing his dad. He suspects that you fought with him at one point. I thought your little love-making session with the Dreamblade made that pretty clear, though. Cyrius frowned.
That weapon, Ariana, represents something that great man once believed in. Its more than just a sword- its a symbol of a movement to shake the establishment. I had a great deal of respect for his father. When youre as old as me, the memories you retain are sometimes only of the things that have most profoundly affected you. Everything his father fought for was one of those things.
To what extent did you actually fight with Lathain? she asked.
That, my dear Ariana, is a secret, he said with a smile. My life before the Swordmasters Order is a mystery to everyone, and Im going to keep it that way.
His elf friend is trying very hard to change that, Ariana said.
Hmm .yes, shes actually a very good hacker, Cyrius admitted. She doesnt know it, but Ive hired her several times through third parties. The only reason Im not worried is because there is no information regarding my past out there. Ive seen to that very carefully.
Youre the most meticulous bastard Ive ever met, you know that? Ariana said. How the hell do you plan all this stuff out?
Foresight, Ariana, he said with a smirk. Unfortunately, I was not gifted with Duncans prophetic abilities. I just have a knack at seeing things out before they happen.
Fine, she said with a pout. Thats a cop out answer, but whatever.
Kyrie needed significant rousing the next morning to get her out of bed and back to work. Naturally, she complained of a splitting headache and feeling like the dead, but sympathy for a hangover is tough to find from someone whose body filters out poison ten times faster than a normal person.
I need to make a call about this thing tonight, Duncan told her. And that means I need you to score some more info about Cyrius.
Uh-huh, she muttered, her eyes half shut and her hair adding about three inches to her height. Dont I even get a thank you for the work I did yesterday?
The work you did on the information or the work you did on that bottle? he prodded, pointing to the rum on the end table.
Well, both, I guess, she said with a frown. I did find the alcohol, after all.
And you got beat by it, it looks like, he said, shaking his head. You know youre not supposed to do that without a babysitter.
You mean without you, she said.
I mean without someone who doesnt drink themselves into oblivion and can detoxify you if it comes to that.
Uh-huh, she reiterated sarcastically. Kyries a big girl, Duncan, she continued. She can drink by herself when she wants to. Duncan sighed, finally concluding that any sensible conversation about his partners drinking problems might have to wait.
Okay, forget it. I need info on Cyrius, so get yourself with it and lets get some work done.
I have been looking and I havent been able to find anything, she said.
Yeah, but we have a lead now.
He fought with my father at one point, Duncan said. So there might be some record of him in LEA databases I have on the Vendetta. Can you access them remotely?
Sure, she said. Why wouldnt that have come up in my initial searches of the Towers network, though?
There arent too many copies of that LEA stuff. Cyrius knows a bit about them, though, so he must have some sort of database somewhere, but he probably keeps that off of the main network. Again, hes smart enough to know that that kind of stuff is best kept out of the eyes of the public.
Thats funny, though, Kyrie said.
I didnt think your pops had elves working for him.
There might have been a few, Duncan said. I personally dont know of any, but the LEA was around for quite a stretch of time. Cyrius might have served and then left before the fall. That would explain the fact that hes still alive.
Or maybe he wasnt in the LEA at all. Maybe your dad contracted him as an outside agent.
Also possible. Either way, lets just get what we need.
Ill get cracking on it, she said. When do you meet with Ranagorn?
Ten minutes, Duncan said, grabbing his trench coat out of the closet and swinging it over his shoulders. And yes, that means you did sleep past noon.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, she mocked, waving her hand in dismissal. Just go save the universe, already, would you? His only reply was a thin smile as he left the room.
By the twenty first century on Old Terra, human scientists had completely mapped the genome and had began unravel the secrets of their existence. Basking in their greatness, they thought they had uncovered all there was to know about where they came from. They began to gain skill at manipulating the genetic code, altering the blueprints of life for experimental purposes. They learned how to clone, using copies of DNA to create copies of people. They even learned how to create specialty cells that could be used to duplicate organs and cure some of the most harmful diseases. Heart Disease and Cancer were no more and medicine was reaching levels that were only imagined by science fiction novelists.
Yet something was missing.
Through all of their advancement and miracle cures, there was still something that they did not understand about their genes. There was still something missing from their knowledge base, the reason why no exercise in gene therapy worked perfectly.
The discovery of the ethereal plane changed all of this.
Scientists had no idea that there was a whole level of genetics that had never been addressed. They had been missing some of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle, and now they were suddenly floating helplessly amidst a new sea of knowledge. It was around this time that they stumbled upon their answer: The Lavoid Factor.
When humans discovered the lost strains of DNA that somehow drew from an energy source no one could see, they began to pick apart the mystery of ethereal genetics. They learned that there was actually a use for many of the filler codons that they believed made up the genetic code. To most peoples surprise, these seemingly useless strains of nucleic acids were actually coding for the mysterious signal proteins in our bodies that provided beacons to the ethereal plan for our very souls!
Some people were hesitant to call the ethereal essences that mirrored our physical bodies souls, but what was confirmed was that they were able to perform this mirroring by attaching themselves to the signal beacons that are strewn throughout our cells. How well someone is connected to their spirit and the ethereal plane, even, is a direct function of how many signal beacons they have. The number can range from several hundred thousand in the case of the most magical dull beings, to several hundred trillion in the case of some planeswalkers.
On top of these signal proteins, planeswalkers also have a special genetic structure that provides a beacon not for ethereal energies, but energies of Chaos. The entire structure, including the elements that hold on to this energy and refine it, became known as the Jurai Apparatus.
Ranagorn Illivians lab near the heart of the Tower was a sprawling complex the size of a ballroom. The elven melding of science and magic found its home here, the walls brimming with devices that even Duncan wouldnt know what to make of. Banks of supercomputers buzzed with activity, running thousands of variables through innumerous equations in an attempt to calculate Illuvitar knew what.
Ranagorn himself was very excited today, mostly because he was going to get to examine the genes of a living legend. When Duncan McKlane actually walked into his laboratory, his heart nearly skipped a beat. He knew that he was hear because of a problem with his genes, but the chance to actually experiment on High Elijiahian DNA made that problem weigh significantly less in his mind.
Hello, hello! the old elf greeted the planeswalker, moving quickly across the floor to shake Duncans hand. In an instant, Duncan recognized this as the elf from his vision and something inside of him stirred as he felt he was finally making some progress. It was the eyes that he recognized clearly, and though Ranagorn was slightly hunched as he walked, he moved surprising pace for someone his age.
Pleased to meet you, Duncan said, extending his hand. Ranagorn quickly gripped it with both of his own and shook it vigorously.
Were very excited to you have here at the White Tower, Ranagorn said. I truthfully hope I can help so that youll stay around and help us with our little mission.
The feeling is mutual, Duncan said. I certainly want to be cured.
Good, good, he said. Well, please come this way and have a seat in this chair, he motioned to a steel chair a few meters into the room that reminded Duncan of the chair in his tactical indoctrination room. Duncan did as instructed, taking off his coat and draping it over one of the counters near the chair before sitting down. Ranagorn was quickly over him and waving a small flashlight in his eyes.
Lets have a look at you, now, he said eagerly.
Have you ever examined a planeswalker before? Duncan asked.
Not in thousands of years, and never one with as many accolades as you, he admitted. You have quite the reputation following you around. Ive read several of your books, you know. Duncan almost blushed.
Ive read several of yours, too, he said. Thats funny, though.
That you mention my books, he responded. Most people only know about the Lavoid hunting or the Lemange trading. Or, if they know any history, that Im Lathains son.
Well I knew all that, too, Ranagorn said. But Im a man of science. Your work that interests me most is your study of Chaos and Order.
I wish it was helping me now, Duncan said. Ranagorn smiled.
Well, well see what might help you now. He walked over to the side and pulled out a large syringe from a drawer. May I?
Go for it, Duncan said, rolling up his sleeve and rubbing the skin around his exposed veins with a minor anesthesia spell. Ranagorn skillfully plunged the needled into Duncans pale skin and drew out a goodly amount of blood. As he withdrew the needle, Duncans body quickly clotted the wound and repaired the skin. Ranagorn watched the rapid regeneration with awe.
Amazing, he said.
I guess that part of me still works, Duncan joked.
Is it just your channeling of chaos thats been hindered? Ranagorn questioned, moving off to the side and emptying the blood into a centrifuge.
Well, not hindered, but completely halted, Duncan said. And that means I cant planeshift. Other than that, though, everything else seems to be working. Ranagorn looked back to him.
What Im going to do is determine how exactly they locked up your Jurai Apparatuses. Then I should be able to fix the problem. Duncan nodded. The computer will take about twenty minutes to sequence your DNA. In the mean time, you can make yourself at home, here. Therere drinks and food in the room all the way off to your right. Why dont you help yourself to a pastry or something?
True, Duncan didnt have time for pastries, but since he wasnt going anywhere before these test results came back, he figured he may as well. He walked over to the food cabinets in the side room and made himself some tea with some magically boiled water. He had a sudden urge for some smoking tobacco, but quickly realized that he stopped carrying a pipe around with him decades ago. It was a terrible habit that he had gotten himself into, though he did had every justification that one could need: any permanent damage that smoke could have on a persons lungs he could mostly likely regenerate naturally, and what didnt regenerate, he could simply heal magically.
He liked smoking because it reminded him of Tristan, who he had grown up watching holograms of. In fact, he probably had more footage of Tristan than either his father or his mother, mostly because Tristan was the kind of egomaniac that would actually film his everyday activities. Duncan respected him, though, and as a kid, the image of him in his trench-coat, lighting a cigarette with a flame from his thumb was something Duncan had somewhat tried to emulate. He gave up smoking somewhere around the time he gave up painting. It was just a time in his life where he stopped providing himself with things for distraction from the task that he had assumed.
Duncan? Ranagorn called, snapping him out of his daze.
Yeah? he responded, walking over to the old elf with a paper cup of tea in his right hand.
Have a look at this, he said.
Is it done?
No, Ranagorn said. Its just rather interesting. Normally, when we sequence someones genes, we start from the chromosome 1, but I started from your Y chromosome, since thats where the Lavoid Factor is.
And I also started running tests on the cells in your blood. Either way, I can give you a good idea of the total results, just from these two things.
Im listening, he said, slightly impatient.
Well, theres good news and bad news. The unfortunate part is that the Dominion folks who placed these limiters on you did a very good job. Theyve used a bi-nucleic interlacing technique to which I dont yet have a remedy. Duncan frowned, but Ranagorn continued. Fortunately, though, this technique is one of the ones which I am currently researching, and I should have a solution for you in a reasonable period of time.
About five years.
Five years?! Duncan asked, a little annoyed. Ranagorn looked puzzled.
Duncan, between two people who could easily live to over five thousand, what is five years, really?
Its not much, really, Duncan admitted. I was just hoping that there would be a more immediate solution.
Well, you see the problem is that these limiters havent exactly shut down your Jurai Apparatuses. Instead, theyve actually altered their functioning!
What does that mean and how is that a problem?
Duncan, I believe that your Jurai Apparatuses are actually absorbing Order energy by the manner in which they used to absorb Chaos energy. Your captors didnt actually break anything; they just sort of reversed its functioning. Duncan looked confused.
Are you telling me that Im not a planeswalker anymore?
No, no, Ranagorn corrected. Everything else is still in place, as you explained. It looks as if all of the coding regarding the physical aspects of being a planeswalker is still present and unchanged. What this indicates to me is that the Dominion scientists who worked on you were extremely limited in what knowledge they actually had regarding your species. They knew about the Jurai Apparatuses, but apparently thats it. They couldnt even shut them down. Instead, what they did was alter the genes that code for the ethereal signal beacons in order to cut off your connection to Chaos. They probably didnt even know that they were creating signal beacons for Order in the process
So they fucked up? Duncan said flatly.
Well, unfortunately, this does mean that youre not as powerful, but perhaps if you try to harness this Order energy, you may find that it becomes at least a partial substitute.
You think you can cure me in the long run, though? Duncan asked, crossing his arms over his chest. Ranagorn nodded.
I just need time, Duncan, he said solemnly. I know youre knowledgeable enough in this field to understand that this can be slow work. Duncan took a minute to take this in. He took a long sip of the tea and closed his eyes.
Well, without Chaos, theres no Lavoid Slave, and with no Lavoid Slave, I cant even go after Class As, let alone a Queen. Also, I need my DNA repaired if I want to save my friends, so I guess I really have no choice. He opened his eyes and looked sternly at the elf.
Im trusting you, he said. Im trusting that you can really cure me, given enough time. In the mean while, Ill help out your little rebellion. Is that satisfactory?
Quite so, Ranagorn said, smiling now. Cyrius will be thrilled to hear this.
Im sure he will be, Duncan said. Because he just found himself a general.
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