A Crystal Hall Library Entry
I was born wrong as a child, and even in death I could not find rest.
Now, my body has been reborn, melded with machines and
cybernetics to create a new person. I am born anew,
and I can only guess where my life will take me...
Most kids can't remember their first memories, mine - mine are in crystal digital clarity. Well, let's backtrack and be clear, I remember my last and my first moments. I remember feeling the oppressive pain of the stars on my shoulders, and finally, I gave up. I could never be whole as I couldn't afford the medical procedures. I was a poor piece of sket and my parents didn't get it. Well, they did and they didn't.
I remember looping the wire around my neck and stepping off the chair. It hurt more than I thought, as that loop dug into my neck and I felt it burn. What was worse though was the sudden jolt of life that came. A flash of light and my body bent upward as my spine tried to rip itself out of my back. My hands grasped at the air as my eyes were overloaded by the sights around me.
A beeping sound thundered in my eyes, and when I finally was able to focus I felt wrong and right at once. I can't even put it into coherent words for people who aren't like me. It's hard to translate tactile feelings that meld machine and flesh at once.
I was born wrong. My body was dysphoric from the start and my parents and siblings knew it. I barely qualified in my home province for anything and the local Lord didn't give a shit. So, after being bullied all my life for not fitting in and being a good little worker bee, I offed myself. Hey, I was poorer than sket was.
What I didn't know was that my body had been randomly added to a lottery to be given the honor to be "Reawakened". Okay, so I died and then this happened:
They took me apart piece-meal. My insides were cut up and some of my organs removed. It's hideously cold to think I can even describe my dismemberment in such a fashion. Believe it, I still get chills down my synth spine thinking about it. They then sewed me back up and reworked my body. You see, the Arashia, that's what I am now, read my physiological profile. They knew I was dysphoric and so out of the kindness of their undead hearts, they changed me to fit.
So this is how I ended up on a medical bed in the middle of a sterile cleanroom. My hands felt wrong, and yet they were stronger. I could feel the reinforced servos and plasteel in my muscles. Staples and stitches were keeping my skin together.
I was some kind of golem made out of a dead body.
I was born again.
If I were more of a nihilist, I would say that I’m just a laughable excuse of my former self. I was made from a cast-off to the point where my DNA is barely any different. Yes, my Proctors changed a bit of who I am, but the nucleotides are the same. Even now as I sit here parsing my words, or more correctly, my thoughts into the typed word. How am I supposed to even make it quite clear of what I was and what I am now? Ancestors, that’s a philosophical quandary for the Eras to come.
I take a second to pull myself away from this discourse and I can feel the threads of my cyber-self, my cysoul, pulling back out. Sweat-like coolant perspired from my pale flesh as a nice steady cadence keeps my artificial heart beating. I need it to beat on time or the Black Ichor keeping me alive will coagulate. The very thing which could easily keep me alive forever would see me suddenly stop. Yeah, think about that, you bleed out and if your heart stops you die. Me, I just stop moving like a puppet without a puppeteer. My strings are hung up until my heart starts to beat again.
Was I born again or was I just given a better puppeteer?
I shake my head to dissuade those thoughts from coming again. My eldest Proctor, Jewell, says I shouldn’t even consider it more than I need to. I mean, I’m laying on my bunk in my Quorum’s starship and all I can do is come back to when I first awoke. When my new family first reanimated my corpse into the new being that is me. The thoughts don’t bubble up like that might in you warm fleshy types, these drift in like a cool unwanted breeze on a frigid morning. The juxtaposed dichotomy of my dysphoric former self and my modified current self are at times pure agony.
When I was first waking up and sewing together my new personality I would rage and even destroyed one of my earliest plasteel joints. I had to endure the disarticulation of my arm and watched it getting repaired in front of me. There wasn’t an ounce of pain and yet my phantom thoughts gave me imposed pain enough.
As I try to shake these constant thoughts, I roll over and stare at myself in the large monitor screen across from me. I can see myself in it, and I reach a hand to drag it across my countenance. My face is oval, a pair of kissable lips, exaggerated doleful eyes, and a pixie nose all set in nigh-perfect symmetry. That’s one way you can tell I’m an Arashia, the unfailing calculated corrections they made to my flesh when they remade me. Some are far less perfect looking, but my coven likes that doll look.
I don’t hate them for it, and even if it’s not my old face I don’t care. It is my new and current face. I can see the stitches that circle over my eyes and down my cheeks. They make it look like someone peeled away two parts of my face and put them back together with a laser-focused sewing machine. There I go again, annoyingly being hyperbolic when it serves no end. I stretch out my long arms and see my swan neck crane as my back arched. So, they made me taller, and I’m not sure why. I know my former sister always said I was too short for my age. I wonder, maybe she told them or mentioned it in passing?
Or perhaps my Proctor’s just wished for me to be taller.
My height was created by plasteel bone extending splints implant in my legs and arms. I needed more muscle as they had to also widen my hips and remake my chest to better fit the feminine shape. Arashia doesn’t adhere to the biological binary of gender and so I just consider myself a femme. Even if I have female gonads now I don’t get into specifics. I can only reproduce by reanimating another Faerin body so there is little point in getting into labels. My arms stretch out above me as I arched my back again and get a look at the winding metal staples who trail down each limb. Three small tubes protrude from my neck and slither across my chest to feed the constant need I have for black ichor.
The stuff is tar-like, and yet this strange sket keeps me alive. I don’t need to eat, and as long as I inject a new amount every few weeks I am good to go. At this point, the only thing I have to ingest - other than the ichor - is a glass of water. To wet my throat and to keep the integrity of my body going. Sure, I can eat, but it won’t digest that well as my slowed metabolism leaves me often colder and less motivated at times. I don’t gain weight either.
"Alex, wake your ass up, its time for another round of tests.” The voice of Amel broke through my berth’s com. I sat up and felt the movement of my chest as I was still unsettled by that change.
"Yes, Proctor Amel,” I said my new soprano. Which added to the uncanny feeling overtaking me.
I stood up and reached out for a bodysuit which would cover most of my form. Only my arms and legs would be revealed and while it was quite tight I didn’t care. Arashia didn’t care for the Faerin notion of modesty and we looked if we wish and showed no dislike for getting attention. The truth was, I was on a ship, these suits were easy to put on and lack a need for underclothes. There was a nice fact that it emphasized my bust and my hips. Plus, it reminded me of those outfits girls use to wear in videos from my previous life.
Stars, I guess I’m some sort of low-grade Courtesan now!
I wriggle into the outfit and feel the hair on my back decide to get caught under one of the straps. I growl. Letting the sound filter out of my digital vocal cords. The flange sound nearly causes me to jump. Hey, I have been in this body for a long time, well I think it’s a long time, and it is still completely alien to me. I spring on my legs with carefully practiced ease and sauntered to the door to wave my hand to make it open. The audible swoosh of it reminds me of where I am aboard the ship of the Forge Quorum. They have yet to bestow a full name to me and merely call me Alex.
I don’t even know where that name came from. My memories were so ripped apart during the Reawakening, that one single aspect of who I was, is gone forever. Stars, I’m getting dramatic again. I lean out of my door frame and hold it with the machine-backed grip of my right hand. No one is there, I guess Amel had left for the bridge. The total size of our Quorum numbers close to ninety and I’m one of the youngest of the Awakened to be aboard.
The corridor outside my room is clean and spartan by comparison. Inside my room is covered in posters displaying the latest music craze and art from my favorite holo-casts and novels. I cast one last glance as I tug one of the straps of the bodysuit as the damn thing rode up on my arse. It’s almost comical as I placed a barefoot on the ground and ignore the chill of the plas flooring. My skin is numbed from hours of being a cold hunk of meat on a medical table. I feel tightness growing in my chest as my heart tries to beat faster through half coagulated veins. Only the ichor flows, all the blood was exsanguinated when I died. Stars, there I go again, my mind wanders like a derelict in the black. The walk to the general bridge of our ship takes maybe a few seconds at the most or at least a minute.
Another woosh greets me after I hold my hand up to let the lock identify my bio-cadence. A mix of my slowed heartbeat, internal ichor movement, and the level of body heat I generate. Every day the ship did a scan of my rhythms as an individual and keyed the security privileges I was given.
Back on track. I press headfirst and tripped at the sudden catch at the door. Every damn time my toe snags the edge of the lip of the room’s tiled floor to then see me headfirst into the table a few mevres inside. Amel catches me and I almost let out a squeak as their strong form cradles me against their chest in response. This is one of my Proctors -- Parents to you flesh bags, who has been overseeing my enrichment. Amel is the caregiver of the Trio whereas Jewell is the detached teacher. To put it lightly Amel is my nurturer and as they hug me I let out a purr of satisfaction.
Amel is tall like me, but unlike me was born that way before Awakening. He was formerly a powerfully built soldier who was skilled in not only hand to hand combat, but as a master sniper as well. Even now I can see the knife on Amel’s belt from my vantage point in their arms, and feel the roughen skin from years of soldiering against my own. Amel’s torso was best described as lean and ending in a pair of narrow hips above long legs made for marching for hours. I’m pretty sure that Jewell must have crushed hard on the poor bastard when they met, as even now my eldest Proctor is eyeing his partner.
Amell, unlike me, was dressed in a sleeveless lab coat that easily falls along his legs and brushes against my exposed skin. As I nuzzle closer, as any good daughter would, he strokes my hair. I could already tell he sensed my discomfort with being asked to leave my room. I settled into a gelled crash chair bolted to the wall near the pilot’s helm. Jewell was lording over it as usual. She was short and spritely. Her body that of a former Shipborn. Even now her pointed ears twitched detecting any sudden change in air pressure or the chimes used by monitoring programs.
Of all my Proctors Jewell is the one I see as my “father”. She’s the one who scolded me and directed me through the emotional control needed as my personality stabilized. Amell, while being the big goof, was easily countered by the more direct and expecting personality of Jewell. I even liked her hair a lot since it was a vibrant purple color showing extensive use of nanite dyes.
My body curled up in the chair as the last of my Proctors was late, which was strange. Of the three usually, it was Amell who would saunter in at the last moment to playfully cozy up to Jewell. The last of my Proctor’s was fashionably late as always, Etienne was a muscled trans-femme figure with androgynous features. A half-shaved head with cross-stitched scars showing where eir body was changed along with an aquiline nose fitted to a hawkish chin and sharp almond eyes. Their ears were also a bit pointed, but not so much as Jewells. Ey were a Starborn, a Karnes made Arashii who had left their previous Quorum to join Jewell’s after a long and debate riddled courtship. I only knew the first act of the story and can only remember pieces of it. One would think with the superior computing power of the computer core implant I would have better memory, but mine always seem to get devoured in the cloud network.
"Why did you all call me here? Amell? Jewell?” my voice carried the soprano I had come to expect from my throat in that typical flange tone native to all Arashia. The slow thud of Etienne’s feet on the plas floor was the only thing I could hear besides the ambient beeps of the consoles. Etienne sat down cross-legged beside me. Eir hair was black as night at the moment, and eir eyes green glow settled on me as I leaned from the chair to slump into em. Much like Amell Etienne was a caregiver and acted as my lovely spoiling aunt.
The meeting didn’t start at all when I asked, and so I did what I did best -- I whined and snuggled up to Etienne. Eir face was solemn as ever as ey pulled me closer and I let out a small yelp in reply. Soon I was in my Proctor’s lap as both Amell and Jewell were busily conversing in Essenish. A language composed of a mix of code and specific syllables native to my people.
"We have picked up a contract with a House in Veilais,” Jewell reported while leaning against the helm terminal. I eyed their curved body as she was wearing a long form-fitting synthsuit covering everything but her hands, feet, and neck. Amell was standing arms crossed as he appeared annoyed with what Jewell was relaying.
"We don’t need it, love,” he said, his voice coming as a low rumble.
"No, we don’t Amell, but we do owe a favor to House LeFaye,” Etienne sighed.
"How patriotic of you to offer your skills as a Wright to the Lords of Masardie,” Amell snapped as his arms shifted to his side. Etienne’s face flinched at the sudden escalation. I frowned at my “father’s” reaction and I surmised that he and Jewell must have been debating the subject for quite some time. Etienne stroked a hand through my hair and tasseled a loose lock and I calmed as Mother and Father argued.
"They want me to rebuild the weapon systems of one of their Eternals,” Jewell said without missing a beat. Her focus was on the job and not the personal feelings her love held for his former family.
"I expect they’ll want me to assess one of their brats for the battle schools,” he said
"Mayhap, love,” Jewell inclined her head as she informally hopped up on the helm.
I wasn’t sure where this was going. My head was firmly nestled in the crook of Etienne’s neck as I watched it all play out. Slowly, they switched back to Essenish and I snorted. The sound brought a small flick to my nose from Etienne.
"HEY!” I whined and closed a hand over my nose to give it a quick rub.
"Kiddo, you aren’t even two years out of waking up and you’re already developing an attitude.” The words were meant to chide me, but I responded with a pout.
"I’m an adult,” I countered. My hair was slowly getting tangled up again and I growled after spending hours brushing it up. It was what I got for my tightly curled hair, and refusing to use hydrating oil on it.
"Technically your body is adult yeah, your brain though not one bit,” ey poked my head and kissed it.
"I am not the baby of the QUORUM!” I said and clamped my mouth shut as I heard my voice.
Both Jewell and Amell were staring at me. Jewell’s hair was tied in a tight topknot falling back over her shoulder blades. The purple cascade was mesmerizing to me and I found myself easily distracted by her shifting form. Right now Jewell had edged to kick her feet over the console where she sat her hands gripping the edge itself to keep her balance. Of all my Proctors she had the most obvious cybernetics. One of her eyes was an ocular implant looking much like a round opaque patch situated just over her glowing right eye. The implant itself possessed, from what she told me, a rather complex array of input views through the interface.
I think what it did was overlay design software to her natural visual input implants in her reawakened eyes. My own gave my vision a natural heads-up-display giving me the ability to keep track of my prosthesis status and even more crucial facts like my level of black ichor.
"Are you done?” Jewell asked as her green eyes bore into my own.
"I uh.” I bowed my head immediately in shame. Once, I was an adult, and now I was a child again. Sitting there in my proctor’s lap I could feel the vast inexperience, maturation and more between myself and my proctors. Shame kissed my cheeks and I blushed even brighter after being scolded by Jewell.
"Love, let her be,” Amell said as he stepped closer and gently caught Jewell’s chin in his hand.
"She needs to learn not to make a nuisance of herself in public! Our Quorum does work for some of the highest-ranked members of the Nobility,” she protested in kind.
"Not all of us are Archmasters of the Wright’s Guild who are sought after by every single House in the system,” Amell mused. I watched as Jewell herself preened at the compliment and her ocular implant slowly folded back against her skull revealing both of her glowing eyes.
Etienne, eirself stood and scooted me from eir lap as I sat on the floor to watch the throuple who made up my parental units. Etienne, from what I could tell, was platonic in the relationship, whereas Amell and Jewell were romantically involved. I rose to my feet as I made my way to take a seat on one of the terminal seats and ran my hand over the biometric lock-screen of the display. I activate my tutoring program as I feel a strange tingling jolt in the base of my skull.
"Alexandra,” I heard Jewell’s call for my attention and slowly canted my head to bring my eyes level with her.
"Yes, Proctor?” I asked in a formal tone.
"Have you thought about your path to perfection?” she asked carefully.
"I uh...that’s a bit of a heavy question to ask,” I said stumbling over my words.
For the last sennday, I had been holed up in my room to avoid this very conversation. Sure, Jewell could have pulled me out or confronted me there, but she preferred to have me out of my comfort zone. I tended to ignore Jewell when she asserts her authority with me. Truth was, I was still plagued by the nightmarish experiences from my reawakening. My throat had been destroyed by my screams and now my voice was created via a synthetic implant.
I wanted to hide when she put me on the spot, she hopped off the console and padded toward me. Her movements were so controlled I could easily believe she was three hundred years old. I had a feeling it was done on purpose to make sure clients never underestimated her.
"Alex,” she spoke and I eased up at hearing my preferred name, “you have been with us for two cycles now. You’re smart, and all three of us are proud of you.”
Was she buttering me up or wait no that wasn’t how Jewell thought. Etienne would sugar coat things before laying down reality. No, she was being serious so this meant I should at least try to pay attention.
"I am....sorry if I have disappointed you, Proctor,” I murmured.
"You haven’t my daughter,” she stated before resting a hand on my shoulder, “I know the post-process depression has been a struggle.”
I flinched a bit at the source of most of my melancholy. Some who were put through the Return-Walking didn’t come out as stable as they should. The others were sometimes, like me, someone who awoke to the pain of resurrection scarred by it physically, emotionally and mentally. My first few months of new life had been filled with night terrors during my sleep and recharge sessions. I had screamed so hard that they had to do maintenance on my vocal implant. Etienne had picked up the habit of sleeping in the room with me so I could feel safe enough. The worst though had been the disassociation. The phantom pains for the limbs they had modified and the disorientation of my new body.
I know there are splints, implants and more radiating throughout my body. There were synthskin wrappings throughout my chest, and not to mention the patch of dermal armor implanted under each stitch. I was a patchwork girl, something made out of a dead body. As Jewell pressed my head against her chest I froze and snuggled closer.
"I have thought about becoming a Logician,” I let the words spill out as my emotions were slowly pushing me closer to talking.
"Hear that Etienne, she’s taking after you, again,” Amell commented with a loud laugh.
"Oh? This is the first I’m hearing of it,” the third Proctor said with a smirk on their face.
"I liked Holo-Games,” I murmured against Jewell’s chest as I kept my eyes shut tight. I could hear the sigh come from Amell as he padded over to embrace us both. I wasn’t their first “child”, but I was their youngest. My “siblings” had already left the nest a century before and it had taken them years to decide on a proper candidate.
"Alexandra,” my full name drew me to squirm in their grasp as I wanted to run back to my room and return to my solace. For the last full Harvest month I have done nothing, but play games and watch holo-casts. Void! I didn’t want to think about my future right now! I was just a sierding child! Amell released me as I wriggled free of Jewell’s grasp and darted back for the crash chair. Once I touched down I curled my knees up my chest and did my best to shrink away from all the emotions pressing me.
Arashia didn’t have the same senses and feelings as other mortal races. Whatever a Soulgiven or Faeru senses from a singular touch is halved for me. Even my emotions are a third of what the overtly passionate Faeru express. So now as reached an overwhelmed state my ever-increasing panic attack made me slowly breath harder and harder.
There was another call for my name and I ignored it. Immediately I sent the command to disconnect my hearing and silence filled my skull. My eyes darted and followed the movements of my Proctors as they drew together and started to talk to each other. Amell, his green eyes focused was rapidly speaking to Jewell and wildly gesticulating. The two were the oldest of our Quorum and had been together for two centuries before meeting Etienne.
I spied Jewell’s purple topknot shifting in the bright white light of the ship panels. Her pale tanned skin flushed dark grey as Amell leaned over his lover’s ear to whisper something. I turned off my lip-reading software and closed my eyes. They hadn’t even named me fully. I was still just Alexandra! My siblings by now had full names to be proud of. My bodily senses were just too much today and so I threw up my shell to hide further.
This was how I ran away from the phantom pains and the plastic feeling of my body. Sure, I was the right gender now, but my body still didn’t feel right, at all! Sitting in my pool of self-worth I played with my memories. It was quite a nice way to drown out reality and it left me without needing to worry about the demands of my life. But, I - I could tell it wasn’t healthy. I didn’t care though! I didn’t care what my Proctor’s thought. They were the ones who kept treating me like a child.
I was there for exactly ten minutes, so said my internal chronometer, and they were -still- talking. I let out a grouse as I reactivated my mute senses and made to leave the room. I was done waiting. I had told them what I wanted, and now I was going to walk away.
"Child stay where you stand,” I heard the biting command of Jewell, ever the disciplinarian.
I hesitated to respond, and only after shaking with emotion did I finally calm down. Tears greyed with traces of black ichor stained my cheeks as I realized how confused I let myself become. Slowly, and painfully, I turned to face Jewell and instantly glanced at the ground to avert her gaze.
"You finally tell us what you want to do, and promptly return to sulking,” Jewell drew out the words and gently cupped my chin.
"I...I...I still don’t feel right,” I replied quietly. Was that it? Was that why I was flip-flopping harder than one of those Whores of the Senate?
"Amell, we need to check her acclimation software,” Jewell stated before rubbing her thumb across my chin.
"I do want to train with Etienne as a Logician, but every time I just either feel like you guys are pushing me or limiting me. My mind switches back and forth and leaves me unable to move forward,” I pulled my chin from her head and began to rub my right hand over my left arm as a sign of embarrassment.
"It’s understandable,” Amell added as he came behind Jewell to envelop her in his arms.
"When I was first awakened, I was like you, my body was wrong,” Jewell said as I could see the faintest mist of tears.
"I uh,” my words caught as my voice hitched in my throat.
I thought about running away again before I drew my gaze back to take in them both I felt someone’s arms embrace me again. Etienne’s head soon rested on my own as I closed my eyes and inhaled to calm myself.
"I think she deserves a name now,” Etienne spoke gently. I squirmed a little before being calmed by a kiss to my cheek. Even if Amell was my nurturer it was Etienne was my comfort.
Jewell ghosted a smile before straightening her posture and pulling herself away from Amell. “I believe that seems pertinent.”
Amell laughed loudly, his trial voice ringing loudly as he added, “Yes, yes indeed. She’s been a child too long if we are expecting her to consider Seminary training.”
Seminary? Really? Would they send me away?! I shook my head and blurted out, “Please no, I want to study here with Etienne.”
There was a moment of silence. The three of my Proctors seemed a little shocked that I had even said such a thing.
"Love,” Etienne said by my ear, “I’m a Logician Journeyman, so I can train you personally as my apprentice. We would never send you away unless you were comfortable.”
"No...I would love nothing more than to be your apprentice,” I returned. I sappily joined in on the family smile session. My life was on the eve of new possibilities, well at least the start of them.
I bit back a giggle as I tried to keep my thoughts plus my emotions under tight control. The very idea of a name was not something simple to Arashia, it was the Brand Name I would bear for the rest of my life. I began to fidget with my hands and wrung them together. I shifted from side to side as Etienne chuckled.
"What will her Brand Name be then? I am already Forgeseeker,” ey licked eir lips and squeezed me tight.
"And I am Forgebound,” said Amell, he eyed Etienne and me.
"Hmmm, Alexandra, would you like to just be named Forgespeaker?” Jewell asked me as I frowned a little at the lengthy name. Etienne moved behind me and I felt eir hair brushing against the nape of my neck.
"Too much, too wordy love,” Amell chided her.
"Hmmm, why not Forgesong?” Jewell suggested.
"I like that, simple and yet,” I spoke, and finished, “It explains how I see code. I don’t see it as just language, it sings to me.”
"A tad cheesy shall we say, and yet I like it,” Etienne wrapped eir arms tight around my chest and kissed my neck.
"Forgesong Alexandra,” I said the words aloud. It was strange to finally hear a full Arashic name coming from my mouth. At that moment, I still sensed the dissonance putting a wedge between me and my Quorum. I shuddered as I could feel the rift between my wish to just be part of a family who loved me and the memories of why I hung myself.
Even if my past-parents had cared they never bothered to even ask me why I was in so much pain. Stars....or should I say, Ancestors? Jewell was always chiding me for holding onto “unproven belief systems”. To juxtapose the two sources of disquiet; my current status of being in a half-artificial body to the completely wrong body I once possessed is just unsettling. With all my might I force myself to push forward. Etienne’s arms around me their dull warmth in the slow pulse of the ichor animating eir limbs, gave me pause to answer.
"I like it...I like it a lot,” I chirped a little. My voice shrank as I wasn’t sure really how to express my thoughts verbally.
"Alex is still... feeling the aftereffects of her stabilization,” Etienne offered gentle in my ear.
"Yes...but I like being Forgesong, it makes me feel better.” I squirmed a bit more and found myself confined to Etienne’s embrace. Feeling a little tinge of happiness as a small light in the shadow of depression I wrapped Etienne’s presence around me as a security blanket. Now if only I could keep this feeling for when my future teacher was not busy.