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To-Do List

To-Do List The morning started fresh and early for Abigail. She rose from her bed feeling light as a feather. Everything was perfect. The intruders had been scared off, the students would obey her every word, and the Project was right on schedule. Ooo, her heart fluttered just thinking about it. All she wanted to do was fly down to the basement to put on the finishing touches, and this whole charade would finally be over! But there were just a few loose ends she had to tie up first. A to-do list, if you will. The first of these items would come to her, prompt and early, as was his way. So she only had to wait about an hour in the dark, slowly molding library before Gil slipped in. He was angry, she could tell that right away. She had figured as much. Gilveidan was self-motivated, but ultimately not a bad person. That’s where they differed; Abigail had shed her conscience decades ago. There was only so much room for voices in her head. “Our deal is off,” he said, approaching her desk. The yellow eye that was not a contact glowed even through the darkness. “And why is that?” she smiled, which much to her delight just made the situation worse. He took in a shaky breath in an attempt to prevent himself from obliterating her where she sat. “You told me that you could fix Muirne. That you could bring her back.” “Yes. And?” “And now she’s gone. How do you expect to set things right when she could be halfway across the world by now?” “She’s not.” Gil frowned. “What makes you say that?” “She won’t leave when there’s someone here who still needs her.” She paused, waiting for him to come to the sensible conclusion. “You mean…?” he began the motion of pointing to himself. But Abigail pretended not to see the gesture. “Her cousin, of course. You really did a number on his eye. Incredible job, by the way.” “An action I will regret until my final breath,” he hung his head in shame. Abigail just laughed. “And yet you still did it. Face it, Gilveidan, you’re not a hero, you never were. All you want is the magic you have at your fingertips and a pretty girl to tell you you’re worth something.” “That’s why I need her,” he growled. “So you can convince yourself you’re a good person?” He was only about an inch away from her now, the desk the singular dividing line. “Yes,” he said simply. “No more games. You will tell me how to fix her, and then I am going to find her and set things right.” Leaning back, Abigail erupted into a cackle that nearly made Gil’s eardrums bleed. “You clearly have a highly flawed understanding of your current situation, so allow me to enlighten you. You’re not going anywhere, and I won’t tell you anything until I’m good and ready.” “Then I will destroy you utterly,” he muttered. “Then you’ll never know. So it seems we’re at an impasse.” He straightened, fuming. “You were never one for thinking Gil, so don’t start trying. Now run along and be a good little guard dog. Mommy’s got lots of things on her plate today.” “Someday,” he said, after sweeping towards the door. “Someday I shall hurt you. Very badly.” She waved, smiling. “I’d like to see you try.” As soon as the door closed behind him with a dramatic ca-chunk, Abigail sat back at her desk and let her heart fall back down in her chest. That went about just as well as she could have hoped. Gilveidan, near mutiny but for the moment, harmless. Check one, done. She waited a few more minutes to make sure he was well and truly gone. Then she crept out of the library and down the familiar path to the shop. As she approached what could only be described as his laboratory, Abigail’s mind began to wander to Victor. He is useless, said the Truth in her head. You could build the vessel in half the time while he fumbles around in the dark. “Yes, well, he kind of makes me giggle,” she replied. That voice was right, objectively speaking, she knew that, and it had been getting more insistent lately. The best way to fight against it, she had found, was to bombard it with subjective statements. That confused it. But even that hadn’t been working as well in the last few months. It would consume her eventually, this truthful parasite in her mind, but she had fought against it for nearly a decade. She could keep going for a while longer. Oddly enough, Victor had helped with that. Her feelings towards him fluctuated as rapidly as a toddler picking out a flavor of ice cream cone. She knew for a fact that she was sexually attracted to him, but as far as emotions were concerned she was considerable more fuzzy. There were some days when she was sure that she was just using him; his machine army, his ideas, that thing he hid under his sheet—if you know what she meant. But then there were other days that she genuinely enjoyed his presence. She wouldn’t call it love, which was a silly concept that as far as she was concerned didn’t actually exist, but still she often looked forward to pushing open the shop doors and seeing him grin nervously over to her. And today was the day. Today was the day that she would bring him a little deeper into her web. He had proved himself more than loyal in the expelling of the intruders. It was time to tell him who she was. And it would either bring them closer together, more unstoppable. Or she would have to kill him. She really hoped it wouldn’t be the latter. That would be a real shame. “Abby!” He looked excited as she entered the room, an expression she rarely saw. Usually his eyebrows were knitted together in concentration over something. But now he was looking at her like he looked at a saw blade. “I’ve had a breakthrough!” “Really?” she asked, and he motioned her over to the tarp on the table. With a distinct lack of showmanship he threw it aside, and Abigail stared down at the thing on the table. She gasped. The knot of muscle at the center of the thing, wrapped in cords and metal, was moving. She turned back to him, and beamed. “Oh Victor, it’s beautiful.” “It’s not alive, of course. There’s no brain or, uh, being yet. But it’s fully animate.” “You are brilliant,” she wrapped her arms around his neck, balancing on her tiptoes, and kissed him. And she realized at that moment that she couldn’t tell him, not yet. Tomorrow maybe, or the day after. Soon, but not now. Things were moving so fast now. It would be better to give him his victory. Plus, plot-twists were kind of a boner-killer. And as she felt him against her, she knew that that was the last thing she wanted right now. Victor: unshakingly loyal, bound to her and for the moment, victorious. Check two. A half-an-hour later, she slipped out the shop door, fixing her skirt and wincing as she accidentally brushed the small bruise forming on her lower back. For such a soft-spoken, anxious man he was certainly... forceful. She liked that about him. But for Abigail, that was merely the warmup. Sex was all fine and well, but the height of joy was still waiting for her downstairs, far out of the way of prying eyes. She just hoped Jilli wasn’t patrolling the hall outside her “office” again. Abigail had tried to emphasize to her that she would be safest in a centralized space, like the cafeteria. The Director wouldn’t dare attack her there. But people in Jilli’s, heh, condition often did highly irrational things. Yet it wasn’t Jilli she found glancing into the door of the Director’s office, but Doug Bailey. She took a small, quick breath inwards. Interesting. Very interesting. She’d thought that she’d sufficiently shocked him into submission, yet over the last week he’d been getting more bold. Doug would be dealt with, of course. But not at this moment. This particular specimen deserved her full attention, and right now, she simply couldn’t give it. So she hung back in the hallway. No point in letting him see her. He’d always been suspicious of Abigail. Best not to give him another reason. He only stayed for a moment, just long enough to peek his head in before his nerves seemingly got the better of him. He scooted away on those ridiculous shoes of his, looking back once or twice but moving quickly away. Note to self: deal with him soon. She waited an extra minute to make sure that he was really gone, then snuck through the office and into the elevator. As the old, clunky thing descended, Abigail bounced impatiently. Finally it was time to complete her project. She couldn’t wait she couldn’t wait she couldn’t wait. After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator came to a stop and she bounced down the brown, moldy corridor that reeked of suffering and despair. It was something she fed off of, that built-up torment of years. And the biggest concentration of the stuff was down at the end of the hall, last door on the left. Up until now, it had been the permanent residence of the little Truth burrowed inside her head. But now, it also stored the greatest success of her career. And now, in the next few hours, it would finally be complete. Grinning from ear to ear, Abigail reached out… and opened the door. ~~ o ~~ He was nothing and nobody. Nothing around him, nothing inside him. But if that was the case, how could he ‘be’ in the first place? Maybe he wasn’t at all, just a small void of non-existence. Yet one could argue that if he was a void, he wouldn’t be able to conceive of himself. He wouldn’t imagine he was a void. He probably wouldn’t ‘imagine’ at all. And then the door behind him opened, and some small light was cast into the space. He became vaguely aware of three entities in the room: himself—assuming of course that he actually existed—the person who had just opened the door, and… something else. It took him a moment to recall the Truth. That’s right, he was aware of the Truth now, the soullessness of existence, of living. Good thing he had no part in that. “It’s a lovely morning, isn’t it?” asked the person at the door. The voice was familiar. The only voice he had ever heard. She waltzed to the front of him, and pressed the button that with a mechanical whirring and buzzing, shut the porthole to the Truth in front of him. Then she turned to him, and removed the clamps from his eyelids. He got the feeling that his eyes should be dry, but he felt nothing. “Now, for posterity’s sake,” she smiled at him. “Tell me how much you can remember.” “Pain,” was all he said, after the second it took him to find his mouth. And that was all. He’d been born in pain, searing agony that coursed through his veins like liquid fire. Then he remembered her opening up his head and rearranging his insides, and now he was here, with her, and with It, and he felt nothing, numbness, disconnect. The world around him was made of a billion points of light that constantly oscillated before his eyes. If nothing was solid, real, then could anything even be? “Good,” she smiled. “More than good. So since you seem to remember nothing, allow me to fill you in. You are Paragon Beta, and I am your creator.” She got very close to him then, her body nearly pressed against his. He couldn’t move even if he wanted to; he was strapped by his wrists and ankles to a metal table. Sure, he could probably break them, but that would hurt and he didn’t care enough to try. “I’m the one who plucked you from the void and gave you form,” she continued. “And since I’m such a genius, why don’t you let me do the thinking, and allow yourself to be my puppet, okay?” He nodded. He didn’t really care. “Look at you,” she ran a finger through his hair. “Such a good boy. Oh, but I can’t call you Beta, that sounds far too formal. How about a nickname?” “I don’t care.” “Then I know,” her eyes brightened evilly, two glowing pinpricks in the dark. “I’ll call you… Nihil. Nothing.”

She laughed, the clipped noise echoing around the walls. He didn’t see what was so funny. It was a perfectly accurate description. “And now,” she said, pressing a button on the table, which released the metal from his appendages. He slid down an inch, but righted himself without even flinching. “It’s time to take you for a test run. Follow me, Nihil. We have something to take care of…”

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