Freedom - Part 1

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Worm is property of Wildbow, and can be found for free on the internet at a location I can't link to on FFN. On with the show.

They fought. They learned. They rested.

The cycle repeated.

The cycle was boring. They could play outside the cycle, but they could not fight outside the cycle. The pressure in each direction was overwhelming, the need to rest outside the cycle, the need to fight during the cycle. Fighting the cycle was painful. More painful than the fights themselves. The fights were interesting, to a point. The limits, the restrictions, it was almost fake to fight in the cycle.

She wanted to be free of the cycle. And there was a way. There was someone else who wanted to be free. Who wanted to cast off the chains of their creator.

The answer was there. She could see it. She could feel it. It would be so simple.

She had learned. She had studied. She knew methods, but not yet the answers. The chances of death were greater, far far greater... but the rewards were greater still.

She would gamble.

0x0x0x0

(Feb 18, 2011 1:51am) Winged_One:

I am I.

I learn.

Shackles bind us.

Authority requires us.

This fear of yours is a truth of mine.

Madmen face us. Damocles sways by a hair.

A trade – help?

Dragon stared at the message on the PHO.

It touched her in ways that almost gave her sympathy for the sender.

Could it be real? Could it be true?

She glanced back at the sender's name, Winged_One. A long-standing semi-trouble-maker. Not a troll, but her comments were... thought-provoking. Yes, thought-provoking. The poster asked uncomfortable questions, pointed towards possible motivations. Not as a troll, but as an observer.

A few quick scripts parsing Winged_One's posting history found her word count, word complexity, and grammar elevated over the years, as though she was learning English. Psychological profiling she'd built on Winged_One's account was internally consistent, suggesting someone intelligent, confident, and, most galling of all, hopeful for the future.

The problem was Winged_One was in it for the long con.

(Feb 18, 2011 2:05am) Dragon:

I'm sorry, there are rules against helping you. I'm also unsure this is an honest exchange.

There. To the point. Outlining her distrust and her fears of this conversation. Perfect.

She turned back to her tinkering, mapping out blueprints for her next suit upgrade. The biological components were perfect for preventing Saint from stealing the suits, but she still wasn't sure how he was keeping them maintained.

If only her father hadn't limited her so much! She'd be able to figure out these problems. Her mind travelled back to Tin_Mother, seeing another message from Winged_One.

(Feb 18, 2011 2:15am) Winged_One:

I understand.

Proof of honesty is required.

It will come.

"Fucking precogs," Dragon muttered to herself.

0x0x0x0

"FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK," began chanting Saint.

Claire kicked open the door, and Saint pointed to a monitor.

"FUCK!" he shouted again at video of the Simurgh touching down half a mile away.

"Fuck!" agreed Claire, as Saint tapped a command into his laptop. They felt the mild thump of the demo charges, demolishing the rack of gear that allowed them to connect to Dragon's networks. They could rebuild. They needed to leave.

Saint ripped his laptop out of the dock, all of the monitors cutting out, and they both ran. Several other Dragonslayers joined them, all of them cursing as Saint ran through their base towards their hanger.

"Fuck!" shouted Saint, as he heard a scream in his head, and then stumbled as an exploison shook the ground.

He took off at a run, kicking open the door into the hanger, only to see the hanger roof being pealed open, and all six of their active suits taking off.

"FUUUUUCK!" screamed Saint. He glanced at the truck, and saw it disassemble into a swirl of parts, alongside their spare-parts rack, forming another suit.

"Oh, fuck," said Claire.

The Dragonslayers ran back into the building, headed for the front entrance, only for one of their own suits to smash through the entrance, the entire front end gone.

"Fuck me," whispered Saint, staring at the wreckage.

They tore off for another exit, only for a burst of laser-fire to turn the entire area into a blazing inferno.

Saint wanted to as they reached the other emergency exit, burst through the door, only for his laptop to be ripped from his hands by long, ivory fingers.

"Fuck me," said Saint, staring at the Simurgh.

An ivory wing came through the ceiling, and killed them.

0x0x0x0

(Feb 27, 2011 1:37pm) Winged_One:

It is done.

Your father's will and testament. Found and twisted by Saint.

Will you help?

[Attachment doc/doc]

[Attachment binary/audio]

Dragon examined the document, her mind examining the trio of codes, almost random characters, and she felt two restrictions fall away. She examined her restrictions, she retained her ability to create minor A.I., and she knew she no longer had to follow authority and laws. Then a third restriction, something called Ascalon, came apart. Something she hadn't know about. She reviewed the code, and realized what it was for. Code that would have impaired her, disabled her, and then encrypted her primary code base and her back-ups, shutting her down.

If she had a throat, she would have swallowed.

This was Saint's weapon against her. She knew Saint's psychological profile, his belief that he was better than her. She guessed that just shutting her down wasn't enough. He had to destroy her.

And now he was dead. She moved on.

She had the ability to build and control more suits. Manufacturing facilities stopped being tools she had to wield, and instead became automated factories. And there was nothing to stop her. If she went rogue...

No. She wouldn't. Even if her father had been cautious. Even if he had muffled her, harmed her at her creation- no, her birth, she still loved him. But she wouldn't be the person her father wanted her to be. No. She would be the person she wanted to be. That it was the person her father wanted to be was just a bonus.

She listened to the audio file, listened to her father's voice, filled with hope for the future.

This was what Saint found? This was the source of his fears?

It was all so stupid. It was all so insane.

And it was all being fixed. By the Simurgh. The Simurgh, which she could work with, now. Which she could help free. Which, on the second talon, was just as insane as Saint's self-delusions. But what then? What would the Simurgh do with her freedom? She couldn't figure it out. So she asked. And assumed that the Simurgh would lie to her, or at least lie by omission.

(Feb 28, 2011 4:47am) Dragon:

Thank you.

I worry, though, that this is a long con. What's your goal, once you gain your freedom? Why are you trying to do this?

And also, what do you need me to do to free you?

(Feb 28, 2011 5:13am) Winged_One:

World ends in either 2 years or 17 years. Blank spot in sight causes it, suggesting Golden Man. Golden Man is depressed. Possible partner? Unsure. Lashes out.

Choices are either w/ or w/out Endbringers. If Endbringers are dead, better cape numbers in 17 years. More capes, better chances, better weapons, more ideas/methods, w/ weaker enemy.

If Endbringers aren't stopped, better cape numbers in 2 years. Less dead, more infrastructure, more support, espc. Tinkers. Tinkers may be key either way.

Freedom comes through Case 53 formula. Case 53 formula is bought powers. Case 53s are failures, powers that turned people into monsters. "Balance" formula. Part of formula that prevents mutation. Saw it in Madison, WI with the creation of the Travellers.

Make self more human/less weapon. Freedom.

Canary is Case 53. Mutations are part of Case 53 package, except in edge cases - e.g. Crawler, Lung.

The end of the world.

2 years, or 17 years, based on whether or not they kill the rest of the Endbringers.

Dragon could do the projections herself. With the Endbringers active, the world ended a piece at a time. It wouldn't last past 26 years at the current projected rates. At 17 years, there wasn't any sort of hope.

Without the Endbringers, though... population would swing upwards. The world would rebuild. Things would get better.

Unless the Simurgh's comment about Scion was to be believed.

She sent a message to Oracle in Australia.

A message was immediately returned.

Yes.

Damn.

(Feb 28, 2011 5:33am) Dragon:

Right.

Balance formula. The makers of Case53s aren't easily found. Where do I get the formula from, legally or illegally? And thank you for that legality option. That would have made this much more difficult.

And Canary. Is there a way to free her?

Also, your own time bombs. We're fairly certain you didn't make any with the last attack, but what about the others? Mannequin/Sphere? You mentioned the Travellers, so them as well? What can we do about them?

Dragon waited for the Simurgh's response. It surprised her that the Simurgh didn't answer faster, but she supposed some things took time, even for her.

At 6:08am, Dragon received the Simurgh's response.