Daylight's Dirge: Part Four
The next three days passed in a blur. Pariel unloaded his ship, examining each piece of metal to see whether or not it was useable as it was. Only two were, and just barely. Even so, that was more than usual. But when the meeting grew near, Pariel spent more time pacing in his rooms than in the hanger. He’d done all he could with his cargo. Two of his friends had landed in that hanger, and with Sloth in his head, he couldn’t reasonably go and entertain himself the way he usually did.
Besides, there was that meeting. Pariel had ranted about it to Sloth for hours, talking both aloud and in his mind. Sloth had stayed silent, letting him rant. But as the hours counted down, Sloth forcibly took control of their body, calming Pariel’s jitters. “What’s done is done,” he said, dressing in a dark blue-gray outfit. “We’ve accepted the meeting. I know where the room is. Stop complaining.”
You don’t know who contacted you, though.
Sloth’s hand stilled. “You underestimate me.”
I think not.
With a soft laugh, Sloth finished buttoning his clothing and slipped the charm over his head. “You don’t know what I think, Pariel.”
Pariel quieted, drifting into his own thoughts as Sloth walked into the midnight station. Few people were about, though robots roamed the halls freely. Sloth took a lift up to level 12, impatient with even the minute of delay the lift imposed. Striding from the lift as soon as the door slid open, Sloth walked down the corridors, boots echoing hollowly. If any obsessive scientists remained in their labs, they didn’t look at Sloth as he made his way to the Rainbow Room.
Digging into Sloth’s memory, Pariel tried to figure out why it was called that. From the memories he uncovered, it was an empty room with made of nothing but metal. He didn’t ask Sloth. Hopefully, he’d find out soon enough whether there was a good explanation of the name or whether Sloth was intentionally thwarting his attempts to find out anything.
At the door to the Rainbow Room, Sloth paused. “Identification,” he said quietly. “Doctor Franklin Sloth, currently in the body of one Pariel Zupan.” The door opened with a hiss, and Sloth stepped in.
Pariel stared at the room. Every surface was made out of pure light. Prisms coated the walls, and the light that shone through them covered absolutely everything. Standing in the middle of it all was a spotted Lupe, hands clasped behind him. He wore red and gold robes, utterly impractical for the space station. The Lupe smiled, seeing them. “I was afraid you wouldn’t see the message,” he said, voice light and almost too cheerful. “But perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part.”
Sloth hit a switch beside the door, probably with more force than necessary, and the rainbows disappeared. “Is there anyone else I can talk to?”
The Lupe laughed, spreading his arms. “And miss out on my delightful company?”
Who is he?
Someone who meddles far too much. Sloth crossed his arms. “Get to the point, Chronicler.”
“I just wanted to know how you found him.” The Lupe’s cheerful demeanor vanished as if it had never been, and he let his arms fall to his sides as he narrowed his blue-gray eyes. “Do you know who he is?”
“He found the charm.” Sloth shrugged. “That says enough.”
“Good.” The Lupe grinned suddenly. “She’s doing well.”
Pariel felt the difference in Sloth at those words. From being completely on his guard, Sloth’s mind was sent reeling. “Which she?” Sloth asked, delicate strands of fear lacing his words.
“Both, I suppose.” Smoothing his red and gold robes, the Lupe shrugged carelessly. “Though one of them knows you’re back and the other one has yet to come near enough. I hope you’re ready for her when she does.”
“I’ll need to be.” Sloth clenched his hands. “And the others?”
Who’re you talking about?
“What, spoil it for you?” The Lupe laughed, spreading his hands once more. “Wait a hundred years or so, and it’ll all come together.” He paused. “And Pariel, be glad you don’t understand. By the time you do, it won’t matter.”
Pariel grabbed the Lupe’s robe, overtaking Sloth for a bare moment. “Why?”
Silver-blue eyes stared calmly at him. “Fate,” the Lupe said softly. He gently disengaged from Pariel. “The others wait in the next room, Lord Pariel-Sloth. I hope you converse more nicely with them.” He bowed slightly and walked out the room without another word.
Now will you tell me who he is? Pariel asked tentatively.
Sloth shook his head, walking forward. Fideus is the Chronicler.
What does that mean?
Absolutely nothing, Sloth said bitterly, opening the door.
The room was austere, with little other than metal walls and simple benches lining those walls. Professor Fugelce practically attacked Sloth as he stepped inside, talking too fast for either Pariel or Sloth to understand. Not that they cared. Their attention was focused on the other person in the room.
“Glad to see you back, Lord Commander.” The split Grundo smiled, his X-shaped scar distorting slightly. “Your message was unclear, but a Lupe told us where to meet.”
Sloth nodded absently, taking in the near-empty room. “Is anyone else still around?”
“Garoo deserted shortly after you left.” Parlax crossed his arms, shrugging slightly. “No great loss. Gormos is around, but with the eyes of the Resistance on him, he can’t do anything. If you need him, it’s likely we can get a message to him, however.”
“Security? Programmers?” Sloth looked between the Pteri and the Grundo. “How much have they replaced?”
“None of the researchers,” Fugelce said quickly. “And few of the programmers, at least of the ‘bots.”
Parlax nodded. “Security is almost unchanged. The holding cells have new guards, but there aren’t nearly as many of them. Not nearly as many prisoners, either.”
Explain to me why these are the only two people here? Pariel asked.
Sloth smiled. Because these are all we need. Aloud, he said, “Fugelce, create more robots. For battle, if possible. The more self-aware, the better. I’d rather not waste any resources, and we have plenty of metal.”
The Pteri nodded, head bobbing like a cork.
“Organize this for me.” Sloth turned to Parlax. The split Grundo looked almost as surprised as Pariel felt. “You have access to my personnel logs as of now.”
You trust him? Pariel asked, amazed.
Of course I trust him, Sloth snapped. He’s stayed with me despite watching me lose.
Parlax bowed, the shock on his face already smoothed over. “I would be honored.”
“Both of you may try and gather recruits.” Sloth looked at both of them. “Work together.”
He didn’t add ‘be careful’, Pariel noted. Judging by Parlax’s expression, that was likely a good idea. The Grundo already knew the rules, and would take it upon himself to ensure that Fugelce did as well.
The Pteri coughed, getting Sloth’s attention. “My lord? How overt should our actions be? Not as far as sabotage or the like,” he added hastily, wings fluttering. “But with recruitment.”
“Be discreet,” Sloth said. “I don’t want Valka knowing anything until it’s too late.”
“What counts as too late?” Fugelce asked.
Parlax scowled, creasing and twisting his scar. “If possible, he shouldn’t know until we take over. More likely, however, is him not knowing until we make our first attack. Whenever and wherever that is.”
“Precisely.” Sloth laid a hand on Parlax’s black-clad shoulder, looking at Fugelce. Parlax glanced up at Sloth, and Pariel thought he saw his eyes widen for a moment. He also seemed to have relaxed slightly, now that Sloth was touching him. It was interesting to note, and Pariel wondered if Sloth had noticed. “I expect to have a large enough force of robots – of warbots – in two months.”
Fugelce’s beak opened for a second, then closed again. Pariel felt the slightest twitch of Sloth’s lips as the Pteri bowed and spoke. “I will do my best, my lord.”
“You will do more than that.” Sloth’s eyes narrowed, and his voice deepened. “You will succeed beyond your own expectations. Use as many helpers as you need and can recruit without it seeming odd. Do you understand?”
The Pteri’s pale blue and purple head bobbed furiously.
Parlax glanced up. “My lord, how many do you expect to recruit before you begin attacking?”
“Perhaps a hundred.” Sloth shrugged. “I don’t expect many right now. Just do your best. I am entrusting the rebuilding of my empire to you, as I must keep my cover.”
Parlax straightened, looking Sloth in the eye. “My lord, will you answer a question for me?”
Sloth hesitated. Pariel could feel, and almost hear, the thoughts racing through his head. A few second later, he nodded.
“How did you return?” Parlax gestured at Sloth’s – Pariel’s – body. “You are not who you were.”
Are you seriously going to tell him? Pariel asked. You haven’t told me.
Be quiet. Sloth stepped away from the Grundo, crossing his arms. “Would you like the simple version?”
The split Grundo narrowed his eyes. “It’s the only version you’ll tell me, isn’t it?”
“Of course!” Sloth laughed. His words, however, were utterly serious. “I survive only because of the Space Faerie and this gift she gave me.” He touched the charm hanging at his throat.
You’re kidding. Pariel could feel Sloth’s warm joy at remembering the Space Faerie.
Andromeda. And no, I’m not.
“Let me get this straight.” The look of disbelief of Parlax’s face was gratifying to Pariel, if not to Sloth. “You and the Space Faerie are on the same side?”
Sloth hesitated. “You asked how I survived. Faerie magic. How I came back. It’s due to faerie magic and a touch of luck. Simple.”
“Nothing’s ever simple,” Parlax said.
Pariel silently agreed.
To be continued...