A/N – Inspiration hit this time around when I was in the shower. Yeah, no idea how that one happened, but I liked where it could lead so I'm going for it. Most likely I'll be alternating chapters between this and my other ongoing fic (Innocent One, Innocent Love) to keep things fresh. And besides, I've always liked Emma because she's a scientist lady like I hope to be one of these days and it gives me a chance to put all those physics classes to use in a fic. I haven't played Alter Code yet and it will most likely come out before I finish if this winds up going for longer than I expect, but hopefully it's not going to render my story AU. Bunches of thanks go out to the ever-wonderful MJP for beta-ing (read - correcting my grammar since he never played Wild ARMs!) and I vote you check out his stuff if you like Comic Party. Either way, please read, review, and enjoy!
To Whom It May Concern,
The Day of Judgment may be at hand. Despite the apparent death of their Mother, the Demons are still planning what will result in the destruction of Filgaia. There is a chance I will not survive even if they are vanquished. If it comes to that, so be it; but there is one thing remaining on my conscious that I do not want haunting me... or anyone else. There is only one person now who knows the truth of my life and past, and I do not think I can ever be certain if he is even still alive As I work on what may be my final project, my ego steps in and wants to make sure I am remembered correctly, even if that was not the case when I was alive.
Everyone knows I was a student of Zepet, the famous researcher who had a vast range of experiments and projects to work on, but it was his work that focused heavily on the mysteries behind the forbidden ARMs that most people knew him from. But such knowledge always comes with a price; for the chance to study under Zepet, I had to give up acceptance from my family, my own flesh and blood to work with the fruits of Demons.
"Hey Andre, can you check my math? Using this formula the density seems really high, but it might be right." Of course, I would never begin building before the numbers worked out perfectly. It was the first thing my brother, a genius in physics, math and engineering, taught me.
"No, it'll work because you're dividing that whole part of the equation in half, remember?" Andre is 4 years older than me, and did I mention he's a genius? It's not like I was of below average intelligence or anything, but I can never compare to him. He could be doing so much more than our inventions and tinkering in this podunk little town, but he doesn't want to leave Mom and Dad. I know he at the very least was approached by a minister from Adlehyde last year, but he turned down that research position.
"Oh! I completely missed the square on the speed. There! That should do it! Let's get to building!" One of these days, I want the chance to be somewhere exciting, and unlike my brother I will take it the instant it arrives, whenever it would happen.
So goes the perpetual conflict of the scientist. At some point, a choice must be made between the pursuit of knowledge and something dear to you. What makes a scientist great is not regretting that choice. Perhaps I was a greater scientist at age 16 than I am now.
Our latest project was a model flying machine. The idea came suddenly to Andre a few months ago, and it's been all we've been working on since. All his tinkering around with formulas must have paid off at that point, because he had derived an equation that he knew must have some relevance, and it was our job to discover and implement it.
At last, after the 5th all nighter in a week, we finished the machine and prepared for its maiden flight. It was small, no larger than a full-grown cat. But within those nuts and bolts and circuits was the power of flight – or so we hoped. As I was well aware, much of the machine was beyond my understanding. My mind could see the parts and verify their accuracy, but it was up to Andre to put seemingly random principals and formulas into motion.
"And now, the Protowing takes flight, or so we hope." Andre seemed almost... nervous, and I had never seen him that anxious about testing one of our projects. But our flying machine was nothing more than an exercise in proving our engineering skills... right?
We had a motor in there for power of course, but what will make it fly is the theory that air can act as a fluid, like water, instead of a gas. "If we can have ships that sail the seas, Emma, we can have ships that sail the skies." At first I thought Andre was nuts, but after working with the numbers these past few months, it began to make sense. Of course, many things that are unsuccessful also make sense on paper.
There, in our backyard littered with parts and tools, we were about to make history. I had previously cleared a strip of land as to allow the Protowing to gain enough momentum prior to takeoff, but we weren't sure how far it would fly (if it would fly at all) nor did we have any means of steering it. Numbers on paper could only do so much – the theory rarely predicts the experimental correctly.
"Emma, will you do the honors? I need to be able to record exactly what happens from start to finish."
"Sure thing." I closed my eyes and sighed. This was always my favorite and most dreaded part of our projects. I couldn't wait to see it finally in motion, but I also hated to see things go wrong. I always felt like it was my fault that whatever we were testing would fail. Human error, it always had to be human error in my mind. Outside variables could be predicted and accounted for, only if the person behind those calculations was smart enough to realize it ahead of time.
Back then, I never placed much stock in the value of mankind. Humans could be wrong, but science never lied. The laws and principals governing Filgaia remained the same throughout history, even when the laws and principals behind man's civilization altered over the course of time. Therefore, everything in the world depended on science, the never-changing aspect of the universe as we knew it, and that was the only path I could take and be satisfied. At that point in my life, that was all that mattered. Nothing as abstract as emotion could rival science.
I opened my eyes again and flipped the switches, activating the circuitry of the Protowing. The familiar hum of gears and knowledge in physical form grew louder and louder, and I stepped back in case something were to go completely wrong and we had an explosion to take care of.
It began to slowly move forward, picking up momentum as it went. We had marked the place on the strip where it should become airborne, and we were correct.
"We did it, Andre! You were right, you were right! It seemed so crazy, but you were right! Do you realize what this means? In our lifetime we could witness a transportation revolution!" I was too excited to notice that the Protowing had crashed into our shed rather unceremoniously, after a 15 meter flight.
Andre only nodded, franticly writing and scribbling notes and observations. I couldn't understand why he wasn't even one fourth as excited as I was. This could be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of our time, and here he was, stoic and calm as anything.
"The air density obviously wasn't what I had predicted, but it still flew regardless of that. Turns out we were right all along." He shook his head in what could almost be taken as disbelief. Was Andre assuming it wasn't going to work?
"Of course we were right, the numbers checked out."
"Emma, if all the numbers were wrong, they still could have checked out just as well as if they were the right ones. But enough of that. It's almost time for dinner, so let's go help Mom out. We'll talk about this after dinner."
With accurate information, the end result made still be faulty. However, if you start with incorrect data, you will always get incorrect results. I wish I had fully understood that back then. Not just with science, but also in the world beyond that, one that I did not give much thought to until much later.
I had never seen Andre as quiet as he was during dinner any other time in my life. There was something he wasn't telling me, he couldn't say that much any louder. I didn't know what to think. It had to do with the Protowing, of course. But what? What was I missing?
He broke his self-imposed vow of silence as we were on the way back outside to tidy up a bit. "It wasn't my idea."
"Huh?" That came out of nowhere. "What wasn't? The Protowing?" I knew he must have drawn inspiration from somewhere, all scientists do, but that doesn't mean he wasn't the one to implement it in the end.
"I received a letter a few months back. A... challenge, you could say. Or a bargain. In that letter was the equation involving density. It stated 'This is the secret behind flight.' It seemed so improbable, yet made perfect sense. I had to at least try, even if I was certain it would fail."
I brushed some wayward hair out of my face and stopped my hand right behind my left ear. "But it worked, and that's what matters. So what is the next step? I suppose you're going to write that guy back, but then what? Are you going to challenge him back? I think it'd be great to have such a system going."
"There's more to it than that. This wasn't any old inventor. It was Zepet Roughnight."
I stood there in near shock. Zepet Roughnight was not only one of the greatest inventors and engineers that ever lived, he led all research on the forbidden ARMs. Ancient Relic Machines. The tools of the Demons.
"And there was more in the letter. 'If you can make that a reality, I want you to study under me. I want to take you on as one of my students, one of my disciples.' He's old, Emma. He knows he will not live to see the mechanics behind the Protowing become widespread, but he can pass that and other knowledge onto others." Andre crouched down and ran his fingers through the dusty earth beneath him. "But I don't want to go. I just mailed out a letter telling him we succeeded... and recommending you instead."
This was even more of a shock. "What? But you're the one he wants, and you're so much smarter than me... how can you not want to go?"
"It's simple. You have the drive, the ambition for life outside of this village, Emma. I am content with living my life here in Surf. But you... you want to see the world. This is your chance, so you'd better take it."
We both stood there in silence. Of course, I had already made my decision years ago. "I'll do it. Chances like this only happen once in a lifetime. Looks like mine came a little earlier than expected. But what do I tell Mom and Dad? I don't know what they'll think of me going to study with someone involved with the ARMs..."
"Tell them the truth, but not until the day you leave. Normally I wouldn't recommend being so hush-hush, but this is your decision, not theirs. You need to make sure no one can stand in your way. Wait until Zepet gets back to me. I'm certain he will arrange transportation for you to his workshop, or wherever he's stationed. I'll cover for you if you decide to sneak out completely and not tell them at all."
"Andre... thank you. I never would have this chance if it wasn't for you."
"Thank me by helping to invent something wonderful, OK? I'll be doing the same right here, along with feeding the chickens and milking the cows."
I could only smile.
But I didn't choose the path of the scientist, it chose me. Call it a cop-out, but that's the truth. If some can be destined to lead and others to teach, surely someone can be led to learn and create. But maybe you have to have traveled down that path yourself to truly understand. I found my path and nothing was going to stop me, even if it went against everything my heart was screaming at me. For a scientist, the mind must always win or all may be lost. Nothing could convince me otherwise.
A little over a week later, the letter came. I was to meet another student of Zepet's outside the entrance to town at midnight of the day we received the letter, and then we would be off to his secret lab. It had to be under the cover of night, for many people disagreed with Zepet's research as I was well aware. Perfect timing, though I'm certain Zepet had planned it that way. Of course, I had packed up everything I imagined I would need as soon as Andre told me. All that was left was to wait until it was time to leave.
It was past nightfall on that fateful day. I decided to head out a half hour early, because I didn't want to keep whoever was to meet me waiting. I expected that he or she would be there early, which was more the incentive. What I didn't expect was for my parents to be waiting at the door.
"Emma, we found the letter on the floor outside Andre's room." Dammit! Leave it to the 11th hour for something to go wrong!
"Mom, Dad, I made my decision. I'm going, and you can't stop me."
"You're right, your mother and I cannot stop you from going, but we can stop you from coming back."
I froze. "What did you say?"
"Do you understand what you're getting yourself mixed up in? ARMs aren't forbidden for nothing, you know. And the people here do not take lightly to such evil things. We are no exception."
"But they're not evil! We're not involved with the Demons, they don't even exist anymore!"
"But they did, and that's why we live in a near barren wasteland now!" I don't think I had ever seen my mother so livid before. "What Zepet fools around with has the power to destroy our world, and it nearly did once before. Those ARMs are more than just guns, they're the Demons themselves."
"No! You're wrong!" It took everything I had to hold back the tears. "Zepet is now working on a flying machine, something that will change the world forever for the better. It'll fly like a bird and..."
"A metal bird, just like the metal demons you mean? How can it be anything but evil!"
"Stop it! Stop it!" Now the tears were flowing. "Technology itself cannot be evil!" I couldn't take much more of all of this. This had to end one way or the other for the sake of my own sanity.
"And the Demons, and anything related to the Demons cannot NOT be evil! You're going to bring ruin to us all when you play with things that are forbidden." I could not believe what I was hearing. My parents were always so supportive of my curiosity, and now... now that I have the chance to finally do something with that curiosity, they can't accept it.
I bit down on my lower lip to keep from crying and tasted blood. There was no easy answer, only the one I had decided on earlier. "Zepet is waiting for me. I have to go now." If I didn't leave at that moment, there was a chance that I never would.
My parents looked at each other before my father step out of the doorway. "Fine, but you can never return to Surf. We have already told the mayor, and you will not even be allowed to step within the gates. This forbidden art must never enter in the town, and you are now a part of it. You have made your decision, and we had to make ours for the good of everyone. Goodbye, Emma."
He was right, I had made my decision and I had to stick with it. But leaving behind all I ever knew? That's not easy. I didn't know what would become of me after I left Surf. All I knew was I could not be afraid of it, or I would be stuck here forever. The one thing I didn't know, however, was what my parents really thought of me leaving, beyond the whole Demon issue. Yes, I did know how scared the majority of the villagers are, and how big of an issue this must be. Right now, I knew I wouldn't be able to know, but nothing was keeping me from writing letters.
"Goodbye." I walked out the door, and waited until I was a good 30 meters away before looking back. "Logic over emotion? We'll see if you were right soon enough, Emma..." But I knew I was right. There was nothing left for me in Surf, and they knew it. I needed a way to guarantee I would never lose sight of my goals, and maybe, just maybe, this was my parents' way of ensuring that.
Not surprisingly, Zepet's messenger was already at the entrance to town when I got there. I turned around once more to see my home for one last time. "Goodbye..."
Emotions change. People change. But science, that alone withstands the test of time. For which is more important – the inventor or the invention? I sacrificed all of those that I knew, all that meant anything to me up until then for the chance to discover. There was more to life than what I had experienced. That was every bit as true then as it was a few years later as it is to this very day. But there was no way to strike a balance. I could receive either the blessing of the ways of the world or the blessing of my parents, but not both. I would be lying if I said I never wondered what would have become of me if I had chosen the latter. But every time that that thought crossed my mind, I know that I had not only the blessing of the laws of physics and nature, but the blessing of my own inquisitive nature. I could never be satisfied with life otherwise, nor myself. I never desired the other path, even if the path I did choose intersected with the one of the soul in a way I would have never predicted, causing me to reevaluate my very being.