Interlude: Archangel

There were hundreds of them after her. Featureless white mannequins, mockeries of the human form. Some were more masculine, and some slightly more feminine, but otherwise all exactly identical. Most disturbing, their fingers were unnaturally long and pointed, still stained red from their last prey. They were gaining. She could get tired. They couldn’t. She needed to tell someone, she needed to warn them. She reached the corner, and ran straight into one of the Cherubim. She tried to run, but-

“’Good morning.’”

A white room blossomed into existence in her consciousness. A sterile white ceiling and a female voice coming from the walls greeted her as she found herself lying on a plain white cot. The voice that greeted her was eerily calm, as if it really didn’t care about anything.

“Ugh. Wh- where am I?” said the woman, attempting to rise to a sitting position, and succeeding, though awkwardly.

“’Can you not remember?’”

“I remember… no. no I can’t, What’s going on? Who are you?” An edge of panic entered her voice now.

“’Calm yourself, you are safe.’”

The panic left the woman’s body in an instant. “What did you just do?” She said coldly after a moment of perfect calm. The voice now seemed more sinister than before, yet she could conjure no strong feelings about it.

“’Oh that is right, you don’t remember. You had a terrible accident. Tragic, really. You were very damaged. You may be surprised by some changes in yourself, but I assure you they were necessary to save you.” The voice remained entirely neutral, except at the last two words, which had an almost religious zeal. “It is a pity your memory was wiped. You had a very useful skillset. I am sure you have backups, but I doubt you will be able to access them now.’”

“Who was I?”

“’You were one of our best agents. One of the best. Your file is open on the computer.’”

The woman looked around the room from where she sat on the cot. It was all white, even the sparse furniture. One wall was an enormous window, and even with the blinds drawn, bright sunlight was shining through. The other walls were empty apart from a small painting of a flowerpot and a desk with a sleek, minimalistic computer. As she took in the contents of the room, she stepped carefully down from the cot, using her arms to support. When her shaky legs held, she approached the computers slowly. Her strength started coming back to her as she crossed the room, but her movements were still awkward and stiff. She scanned the document for any information that might give her a sense of identity:

Agent File: Raine Hope, or Archangel Rhamael

An archangel level agent and member of the CMC & CRC,

I’m an archangel? Raine thought, and continued reading.

It specializes in infiltration, espionage, and covert assassination.

What? An assassin? They don’t do that kind of thing, the Common Man Coalition is, is a peaceful protest group. Why do I remember that? Why do I remember…

Raine looked up from the computer and addressed the walls of the room, “Are you the Metatron?”

“‘Oh, do you remember now?’” The voice, now identified as Metatron, did not sound surprised in any way. The strange voice’s lack of emotion and apparent source now made sense. Metatron was the de-facto ruler of New Tokyo, the tinker who had rebuilt the city after the original Tokyo was destroyed.

“No… I… I remember people, and, and faces, and places, but I don’t know who or what they are. No context.” Her brow furrowed as she racked her memory for details of the few images she could remember. One stood out, an attractive man with the name “Vaun.”

“‘Interesting. Your cortical stack was very damaged. We restored it as best we could, but your backups did not recognize you. Do you remember any of your skills?’”

“Yes, I think so.” She tested her balance again, standing carefully on one foot and crouching to the ground, to find that it had mostly returned to her. The awkwardness from adjusting to a new body was starting to fade as she adapted to the new proportions.

“‘Good. We are going to need you. Are you ready to return to work?’”

Raie shook her head. “I don’t think so, I’m still adjusting.”

“‘That body was named after you, you know. The Rainedrop Classic. You helped design it. It is much more… human than the older models.’” The Metatron didn’t seem at all disappointed at Raine’s denial.

Raine downloaded the rest of her file to her cortical stack. Invented by Metatron, the cortical stack was a tiny memory chip lodged in the back of the skull, the “black box” of the brain. It’s what allowed for most of the advancements that the citizens of Japan took advantage of- backing up memories, downloading information, controlling cybernetic augmentations, and being able to transfer their egos between bodies, granting functional immortality. It was, as Metatron first described it, “fruit from both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.”

She took a look at her reflection in the window to get an idea of what she looked like. She was quite unremarkable, which meant beautiful these days- perfect skin and complexion, flowing brown hair, perfect physique, the basics that anyone with a reasonable income could afford. Her figure was slight and vaguely androgynous, to the point where she could, with small effort, pass for an effeminate man. The specification document for her body was available on her cortical stack, she noticed: technical descriptions of her various augmentations.

“Metatron?”

“‘Yes?’”

“Where am I?”

“‘New Tokyo hospital, data recovery wing. You may open the blinds if you like.’”

Raine did. The light was blinding for a split second, but her augmented eyes adjusted almost immediately. Stretched out below her, and a good ways above as well, was New Tokyo. The “tallest city” lived up to it’s namesake, taking advantage of the lowered gravity to build impossibly high structures from the bustling ground level streets, to the mid-level Mezzanine layer, and up into the Terrace, towering above the streets below. The city went underground as well; mostly maintenance tunnels, her research was telling her as she made a few mental queries to the mesh. When Metatron had built the city, it had been designed to support the highest possible population that was structurally sound and still used resources efficiently. The result was a full city with two city layers above it, held in place with massive pillars. The tallest buildings appeared to almost reach the bottom of the streets of the next layer, but the distance was decptive due to the scale involved. In the center was the massive administrative tower, the only building which extended through all three layers. She felt a brief moment of recognition, some half-remembered image, but then it slipped away from her like time.

Raine walked over to the door, and sent a command for it to open. It responded with a query for proof of recovery. Irritated, she ran a quick diagnostic and sent the results to the door, which accepted it with a cheerful chime and a message saying she was officially discharged.

She read over the diagnostic message quickly while she walked through the empty halls -the Data Recovery Wing was sparsely populated. It said:

All bodily systems operational, but with minor resurrection sickness. Severe memory corruption, irreparable without damaging Ego. Recommended treatment: memory reseeding. Visit familiar places and people.

She reached the nearest exit and stepped out onto the Mezzanine layer. She made her way through the bustling elevated streets to the nearest lift to hitch a ride down. The elevators were massive contraptions, built into the enormous support pillars that fixed the layers in place. They easily held one hundred people each, at least on the way down, though they were often crammed with upwards of twice that many people. Trips up were less heavily populated, because the journey up was expensive. The trip down was cheap, because gravity was on your side- in fact they paid passengers going down for helping lift passengers up, though less than it cost to go up. From a mechanical perspective, it was logical. Each pillar had two lifts, one going up, one going down, connected by an enormous pulley at the top. Because the downward lift is almost always more populated, hardly any energy ever had to be used to lift people at all. Because people going down were doing all the work, it made sense to pay them. The problem was, people just ended up having to go down a layer to be able to afford to eat, and not being able to go back up. Most of the population of the lowest layer just couldn’t afford to go up. People tried to climb the pillars all the time, but only 1 in 100 made it. Almost everyone who didn’t fell to their death, and some who almost made it were dead before they hit the ground.

There was a faster way down, but you didn’t come back from that one.

The ground level of New Tokyo was cleaner than one would expect, but not nearly as neat as the Mezzanine level or the shining gardens of the Terrace. What made it different was the light. The Terrace level had enough direct sunlight to house massive gardens and solar plants. The Mezzanine capitalized on the beams that made it through the Terrace, building parks and greenhouses. The ground level, though, never received any kind of sunlight at all. Its residents were pale shadows of those walking above, yearning for the light they may never see.

Raine entered the Common Man Coalition headquarters half an hour later. She gave all the right codewords, walked the walk and talked the talk purely on instinct. Clouded glimpses of memory assaulted her as she walked through the halls and was greeted by all-too-familiar faces.

She entered the inner sanctum of the Common Man Coalition & Civil Rights Coalition and saw waiting for her a man she recognized immediately. The leader of the two groups: Vaun.

“Raine!” he exclaimed. “You’re back! Was the mission a success?”

“No,” said Raine, suddenly remembering. “It failed. I- I barely made it out.”

“Damn!” Vaun swore. “At least you’re safe, my love.”

He was her lover? Raine remembered. She remembers all of it. The memory locks on her fell away.

Archangel Rhamael approaches Vaun, extending a hand.

“At least I’m safe,” said Raine sadly as she lost control, and Archangel Rhamael takes over.

Rhamael places a hand on Vaun’s cheek, turning his head to face her. As she caresses his face, the poison glands implanted in her palm work their deadly art, pushing a venomous cocktail into Vaun’s bloodstream through his skin. He stiffens as he senses the poison entering his system.

“Raine- Why?” Is all he can gasp out.

Rhamael looks at him with cold, emotionless eyes and says,

“‘Population control.'”

Raine didn’t regain control until the last of the Common Man Coalition leadership lay dying at her hand. Some part of her wanted to run, because the police would be coming, but for a moment she wanted to be caught, she wanted to die. She had designed this body as a statement that humanity is more important than strength or beauty, but now it had taken from her, against her will, the one she loved. She wanted nothing more than to be rid of it.

She remembered now. She had regained her memories of Vaun, but now they were tainted by the memory of his death at her hand. She had never been an Archangel, not before she was caught. Metatron had made her into a weapon, a poisoned arrow guided straight to the heart of their fledgling rebellion.

She tried to conjure grief over what she had done, but could not. She tried to be angry at the one who had forced her into it, but could not. The emotional dampers which had let her stay calm before now restricted her rage at Metatron. What grew in its place was a cold, calculating fury more powerful and devious than any mere anger. She still wanted to die, but there was someone she had to kill first.

 

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