Chapter 18: Freakangel
Towers sprouted up over the centuries around the Last City on Earth to fill the role of sanctuaries for the guardians who fought back against the forces that would lay waste to it. Inevitably, the deep interiors of these places were claimed in some capacity or another by a guardian of such and such group. Nobody really complained. There was plenty of room and everyone more or less respected each other’s claims.
Solas-3 has been around for a very long time, even for an Exo. When a freshly unearthed recruit by the name of Ikora Rey with a bad attitude and an uncanny ability to roll over instructors appeared, it was Solas-3 that took her under his wing as his apprentice and taught her how to hone that tenacity into a weapon. He gained a reputation for being calm, focused and determined. He called the warlock Iron Lords Skorri and Timur among his friends, valiantly fighting with them at the Battle of the Twilight Gap. He was Arch-Magus of a small but well-regarded Warlock Order. His official power rank was AAA+, though some believe his true limits may be well beyond rank S. He was known as The Blind Dragon.
Her blonde hair shone brightly under the harsh hallway spotlights as Angela walked down the hall, looking at the labels on the doors as she went. Guardians and staff noticed the young girl and stopped to offer assistance, recognizing her from vids telling of a new Speaker’s apprentice. Angela thanked them kindly for the offer but declined, preferring to take advantage of the few times she was not waited on like royalty. Her arms encircled a huge tome, holding it close to her chest. Within the book was documentation of Solas at a monumental event in the City’s history. She hoped to use this as an excuse to spend time with someone she considered one of her few and precious friends.
She was so excited and nervous that she almost passed Solas’ lab entirely. In fact, the door seemed to almost not be there unless you looked at it directly and focused your mind on it. The door was only marked with a glowing ward in the centre that was about the size of someone’s hand. A lock? There didn’t seem to be any other mode of entry. Angela placed her hand on the runes as it came to life, warming up and vibrating.
“Angela. I want to see my friend, Solas.” she said. She was not quite sure, but the door seemed to ask a question, to which she responded almost without her own intent. Her training allowed her to make sense of some of the glyph’s design, parsing out spells that could force the truth out of unwilling participants. It glowed in many colours and hummed in many tones as Angela’s hand remained on it. Was it deciding whether or not to let her in?
The door bled from view, as did the entire hallway. Immediately it was replaced with the interior to a dimly-lit but extremely well-equipped laboratory about 2000 square feet in size. The Speaker himself would have been jealous of what Angela saw, as was she before backtracking to how she got inside in the first place. She could see no door or window around her, and her best guess was that Solas somehow kept his lab separated from normal spacetime by sealing it within a pocket dimension. Windows showed her that the lab was indeed floating in the bleed between realities. Perhaps that door was not the only point of access.
Still clinging to her book, Angela walked around the lab, silently observing all the wondrous experiments. Several frames seemed to handle the lab’s various workings and ongoing experiments but didn’t bother interacting with her. She considered trying to get the attention of one but decided it was best not to impede their work.
She came to a curious device in the centre of the room. It resembled a large metal seed, lacking any readouts but several conduits snaked from it and around the pedestal it was set on, leading into the floor. She hadn’t touched anything else in the lab, but something made the thought of touching this curiousity compelling. Her hand grazed the platinum shell and felt the presence of her friend. Was he inside? Bracing herself, she firmly placed her right palm flat on the pod, the book occupying her entire left arm to hold. She closed her eyes and focused her light into her hand like she was taught to, extending her senses and projecting her mind forward.
Bright and warm sunlight washed over Angela as she opened her eyes and found herself in yet another place. The smell of old books, older wood, dazzling crystal and a vague something baking filled her nostrils. It was instantly the most comforting place she had ever been, yet she was pretty sure it was not real. It was too perfect, but that didn’t make it any less wonderful to her.
The true secret of this place was that it was not a place at all. While Solas’ body rested inside a sunflower seed-shaped platinum pod of his own design, his mind had room to expand and evolve, thanks to the pod’s supplemental memory and processing capabilities. The warlock’s celestial-scale mind was indeed contained fully within the Exo’s frame, but he built the pod some time ago to allow his intellect some room to breathe and stretch. All of the wisdom that he’d collected since his resurrection was stored here. Every book. Every experience. All of his knowledge stored in this place to be constantly reviewed and analyzed.
Still clinging to her own book, Angela’s curious eyes ran across dozens of other book spines. She found that she could taste the data within them if she just focused on them a bit. She was checking out a recovered Golden Age scientific journal about using exotic matter resonance fields to stabilize quantum slipstream travel, when she felt a new warmth coming from the third floor. Turning, she saw a silhouette of pure light. It didn’t have any features but Angela could not only tell it was Solas, but that he was looking and smiling at her. It was stunning to her because Solas always had his emotions under strict control, but this side of him was free. With all his balances and barriers left behind, the Exo was able to simply be. He was intensely happy to see her. Moving through the construct of the library, Solas floated down to her and lifted her up, embracing her in a warm hug. Angela could hear no sound emanating from him, but she knew he was laughing. He was so happy to see her it was a bit of a shock at first, letting loose her own laugh and returning the embrace.
They spent the day sharing stories without speaking, laughs without laughing and just reading in the comfortable silence of kin.