Beneath the mist the heart vessel continued beating, and as it did so the shriveled tendrils of the dead parasite broke apart and were passed down and out through the vessel’s discharge valves. The veins bristling at the crown of the heart at last had room to wend their way up and through all of the circuitry and framework that housed them, and like blind fingers they felt their way into the dead husk’s actuators and controllers, restoring each to life one at a time. The cracked glass on the optics glowed back to life and the head spun haltingly to take in the surroundings, the memory banks began tabulating the which systems were available and which were broken.
Locomotion was entirely offline, due to extensive hardware failure, but one arm was still available and there was plenty of material strewn across the ground nearby, things he could use to fashion new body parts. With that the automaton reached out and started rummaging through the scraps. To his side was the chassis of some great brute, and he noted that almost all of its parts were in excellent working order. The repairs would have to be done in phases, the first order of business would be to fashion a second arm. It couldn’t be too heavy or intricate as he would have to install it with his single remaining limb, but then he could use it to help fashion a more superior replacement. Bit by bit, motors and rods were cobbled together in the basic form of a two-hinged arm. There would be no hand, not yet, but its stump would at least help to hold things in place. Now there needed to be a proper socket to connect its shoulder to his chest. Looking around he noticed the remains of a strained, broken arm. His arm perhaps? Yes, some vague memory of it tearing off began to resurface. He extracted the socket connector from it and took a moment to smooth out its bent pins, then added it to the new arm. He inserted it, waited for it to come online, and then tested its motion. It would do, now for his legs. He pushed up to a sitting position and assessed the situation there. The left one was broken clean off halfway between the thigh and knee in a sharp jagged edge. It would need to be totally replaced. The right one might be brought back to working order by just replacing a few snapped pieces, at least until he could improve it.
He was a skilled worker, and he went quickly, his sensors summarizing the materials available, his control unit ordering the best of them into new schematics, and his motors whirling away at crafting them into a reality. He added a new leg and repaired the other, then set to work replacing his stumped arm for one with finer motor capabilities. His chest plate was quite shattered as well, and soon he had a replacement for that, before moving up to replacing the cracked lenses on his optics. He even found some advanced modules in the husk of the behemoth and he gave himself a few upgrades.
All while his body was working his memory banks hummed away as well, replenishing their charges, cataloging their databases, and retrieving important files. Bit by bit he rediscovered his memories, although he found that he perceived them differently now. Many of these files were initially composed in confusion and ambiguity, but now he was finally seeing everything as it really was and he made annotations to them to clearly define the true from the false. All of it built up to one final revelation, one that he had somehow sensed in times past but never fully acted on until just recently: she was everything.
“You want to give me a gift?” she asked with skepticism. “Why?”
“Because it is for you. It rightfully belongs to you and no other.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said flatly.
“Indeed. I’m certain that you’re far more accustomed to giving than receiving after all.”
Her head cocked as she realized the truth of his words. “Yes, I suppose that you’re right about that. Although I don’t know why.”
“It’s because you have a heart, and hearts give.”
“And no one else around here has had a heart to give me anything in return” she added dejectedly.
He sighed heavily. “That, unfortunately, is too true. And that is why I want to give this to you, you’ve deserved it for far too long.”
She gave a small smile. Still morose, but appreciative of his gesture regardless. “Alright then.”
He reached into his open chest and extracted an intricate mechanical clock. Like him it was built without any plating so that all the internals were on full display and it seemed to have been cobbled together in a playful chaos. The gears were numerous, and a number of them were attached to small spindles with spheres on their end, which revolved above the upwards-facing clock-face that made up the base. The overall effect was that of a miniature solar system, with little planets spinning along orbits that lay in perfect synchronization to the actual night sky above. The clock-face was the world beneath, and there were very small knobs spinning around on top as if they were ant-sized people going about their rounds each day.
In spite of her melancholy Ayla couldn’t resist an audible gasp at the delicate beauty of it and she took it into her hands with utmost care. “It’s incredible” she breathed.
“Yes, well, don’t forget its key now,” he reached back into his chest and pulled it out. “Without it there is no life after all.”
She took the key, and as she did so she noticed the heart-shaped medallion on its end. This gave her pause, and she stared blankly at it for a time. “Was there ever even another heart vessel?” she finally asked. “Somehow I’m sure you know.”
“What do you think?”
“I really did believe that there was one. I was sure of it…But now I can’t help but feel if there had been I would have found it already.”
“You certainly have searched a great deal for it, I know. Something about you seems to say that there must be another one, doesn’t it? If there were then you could give and receive to one another in turn.”
Her eyes grew misted and she nodded. “A heart doesn’t want to be alone.”
“It’s against its nature,” he sighed.
She buried her face in her palms and sobbed deeply, the walled up anguish finally spilling past her defenses.
His face grew pained and he stared off towards the horizon, his hands folding quietly in front of him. “We’ve grown old,” he said softly.
“And too close to the end of our time.”
They sat there in silence for a while, any words seeming an affront to their shared solitude. There was a despair to it all, yet somehow a peaceful and understanding one.
“What happens to the broken anyway?” she finally asked.
“Well, we operate against our natures, we break, we become finite.”
She nodded in calm acceptance. “In some ways it makes things easier. There’s only any need to struggle if there is still something left to fight for. I just wish it had been for something.”
“Wasn’t it? Perhaps it can’t all come right here where things are built to break, but in the after all these efforts still come to fruition…”
She narrowed her eyes at him, trying to determine if he spoke from hope or knowledge. Gradually the first warm smile since he had arrived graced her lips. “That seems right,” she said. “I thought it all was for today, but perhaps it was always for tomorrow.”
“And tomorrow wouldn’t have happened if not for your efforts today.”
She sighed contentedly. “And we could even leave something for our yesterdays.”
“Yes, of course,” he smiled back. “Indeed we ought to if we’re ever to see them come to us. I suppose you have your things to do and I have mine, but I’ll see you again soon.”
And with that nodded to one another and parted.
He saw her one last time after she had passed on. She had lasted long enough to withdraw herself back to her dais where she still remained sitting perfectly upright, her head reclined against the neural network behind her. At her side the small clock he had given to her lay still, it having long since unwound itself and grown motionless, its world frozen in a moment of time. Midnight.
As he stepped up to her side he was struck most of all by her expression. All of the different forms he had met her in had always found her very exuberant and happy, but never truly content. She had been a hopeful searcher, but now her face was one of genuine and restful peace.
“I’m sorry to disturb your rest,” he said to the husk. “But they will need you or they’ll never find their way.” As he spoke he turned a sphere at his core and revealed his heart vessel within. “Besides,” he continued, “I have a promise to keep.”
He reached up to the panel next to the neural network and entered the reset sequence. Ayla’s body shivered slightly as a fresh current passed into it, though her face remained lifeless. The Clockmaker entered another sequence and her chest panel opened to reveal the cavity where her cracked heart had resided. “You’ve already kept yours of course. You’ve always been the one to lead.”
He reached back to his own heart vessel and twisted, unlocking it from its socket. It bore on its surface a shadow of the same crack that hers had. Though it had mostly healed, there yet remained one permanent scar, the slight imprint of a parasite. The heart was placed within her and down by her side the clock’s key turned itself and then released, setting the gears in motion once more.
“I always just wanted to hold you,” he whispered longingly, then turned and faced the sun as it resumed its setting. As the light faded his body began to illuminate of its own accord, a thousand shimmering pinpricks running the length of his body in a chaotic dance. The lights intensified in brightness and motion, and as they did so his body began fading away as though it was being scorched into nothingness. Or perhaps it was merely ascending to somewhere else. He turned his head to the side and as his eyes dissolved there was an expression on them as though he had just seen someone familiar, a deep smile illuminating his face. Behind him Ayla awoke anew, her first vision being of his strange phantom disappearing into the ether. Her heart burned within her.
Our Clockmaker is definitely a positive character in our story, and is even a permutation of our protagonist. However, he really isn’t the hero of the tale, at least not in the sense we discussed in Monday’s post. Instead he fills another role, that of the mentor. Many hero’s journeys feature these wise sages, ones whoare able to drive through all of the noise to get to the heart of the matter and provide the simple wisdom which will carry the adventurers through to the very end. In Revelate: Kael we saw him performing this function for our story’s hero, and obviously in this entry we see the same between him and Ayla.
While the mentor character usually receives far less attention in the story than the hero, it is a vital role to understand if it is to be formulated in a significant way. As such, it is a topic that I will spend some more time on in my post this next Monday. Then, next Thursday, we’ll take a look at the last section of the Revelate series. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!