Rage-001 (Frag1)
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It's so bright, isn't it?



The snake and the Devil, one and the same, rested their head in the night-chill of the desert. They weren't tired — hardly so — but their face bled ichor from anti-ophid shrapnel, and an essophysical suture begged to rejoin skin. Clarity willed it so.

Pssssss.

The overheating cartridge of a mounted Ophiophagy rifle dropped to the sand a hundred meters from their nose; an automatized soldier, half a scales-width and partly sunk in the earth from the bulk of its body and augments, chambered another round and aimed for their blood-blind eye.

"Cease."

The soldier declined. Clarity winced as Tier-II anti-sin ammunition ripped through their scale coat, and focused on rebuilding it. There was something familiar about this.

"Final revenant of Upsilon-1, I say unto thee, cease." Clarity braced themself against the globe and pulled their head upwards, towering over it by several kilometers in the night sky. The soldier again declined, another cartridge deposited beside it — its footing was beginning to solidify as the sand cooked and fumed under the heat of spent components. It didn't intend to take another step.

Clarity blinked, and grinned wryly. "You're a third-generation, modeled after a soul-bearing Task Force member active around the turn of the millennium. My Pages recorded the name of your template in my Library — aren't you curious who you were imaged after?"

The soldier shook its head and took aim at their other eye.

"Sad."

The concussive blast shredded the side of their face, snakemeat sloughing to the desert floor in a torrent of red rain. The wound repaired itself as it formed, and another cartridge joined the molten sand.

"If there's no bargaining left with the last of Upsilon-1 —"

The ophiophager nodded.

"— then I ask of thee —"

It jammed a final round into the mounted gun.

"Cease to move."


In a corner of the deadened Library, a Docent discovered a mystery.

Warped space,

And the shatters of a mounted Ophiophagy rifle on the dusty floorboards,

Leaking righteous coolent.



Clarity sighed as the Way untwisted and the desert air unblurred. Upsilon-1 had been the primary force dispatched to sever their head, and with their demurral the planet was left nearly empty — just them, Death, the small-fry remnant forces hacking at their tail, and that other viper.

Thanks for the assistance, friend.

Clarity's eyes narrowed as the tattered space righted itself, revealing of the writhing semi-solid mass peaking its smile from the sandy floor.

"Merchant."

You got my summons, right?

"You broadcasted it on all channels — I'm not the only one to have catalogued it, surely." Clarity's eyes shifted carefully to the dunes around them, noting the telltale blue illumination rising from beneath the grains. Death's conceptual mass may have disbanded the High Cemetery and re-infested this side of the planet — if that were the case, their means of escape would be largely cut off.

Death's smile widened, a wicked grin visible in the mote of subterranean light running in front of them.

Who gives a shit? One's been trying to burn me out with Upsilon-1 for three years at this point. I'm BIG now, friend. I can CRUSH things and shape my body into the most beautiful ruins you've ever seen. I wish you'd been around to see when I was the Cemetery — fucking INCREDIBLE work on my part.

Clarity felt their healed eyes narrow. They needed to get Death off their side of the planet — if the other one reared its head, the infested ground would be too unstable to defend themself. Their mobility hinged on gripping the planet with their wrapped tail to lunge like a cobra, a plan contingent on their occupied hemisphere being pure stone and earth, not a solution of sand and vengeful infoform.

Listen, Lucy, you know what I said in my summons. I stand by it.

"I am handling myself exceptionally well. I would like to kill One with my own fangs."

Come ON, man. I knew him too. Shit, I knew him longer than you did — can't I get in a good scratch or two on my own?

"I have no need for allies. Leave."

You sure about that? Seems like you've got four vacancies on the sides of your —

A primal hiss rose from the back of Clarity's throat.

Oh SHIT. I'm sorry man, there's no need to — wait how the fuck are you doing that. What.

Their eyes blinked as the sound subsided, rolling back into the depths of their stomach.

Oh. Oh that's not you, is it?

Clarity's head tilted to the side, unsure what game Death intended to play.

Look up at the stars, dumbass.


VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [3.1 x 1089] / Upper Stratosphere


[Disappearance. View of star-body α-Peg ("Markab") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [3.1 x 1089] resigns from post.]

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They say all the old doctors became ghosts and wanderers, their souls imbued with a love of watching and transcribing. The military men became revenants, and the scientists became the eyes of a new order.

Sensor agents in operation: 6.0 x 2109

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [1.2 x 1582] / Upper Stratosphere


[Disappearance. View of star-body γ-Cyg ("Sadr") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [1.2 x 1582] resigns from post.]

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They say the Council never made anything new, just recycled the feats of man from the old world. Who was I, two centuries before? Whence does my soul harken?

Sensor agents in operation: 6.7 x 849

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [9.3 x 1949] / Upper Stratosphere


[Disappearance. View of star-body β-Cru ("Mimosa") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [9.3 x 1949] resigns from post.]

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Enough. No more of this confusion, this miasmic terror. The present is clearer than its ever been. Our master tears through space, blocking the stars, blotting out old lights. We are its wake, trailing in the stardust of its tail — a mourning call for the old world.

Sensor agents in operation: 9.0 x 187

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [6.0 x 2109] / Upper Stratosphere


[Disappearance. View of star-body α ("Sol/Sun") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [6.0 x 2109] resigns from post.]

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We return home, the grasping strength of the Foundation's oldest hands.

Peace be unto the eater of dystopias, the killer of the highest powers, the masked snake. Peace unto Terra Mortes. Peace unto us. Peace to all.

Sensor agents in operation: 0

This old fire is enough. Incarna, we come for you.


Clarity watched in the darkness as the maw of their brother pierced Site-001, wreathed and tangled in its burning twin. There was a screaming kind of stillness as its jaw unhinged, lunged, and swallowed something whole.

"He had a child." Their tail curled tighter in its grip on the planet.

They both did. Made her in a lab about a year before I was released, kept her embryonic until the Old Man died and his powers were up for grabs.

"I… didn't know." Clarity's double-layered eyes watched the flame spread from the ruins of Site-001.

Yeah. If you had, you probably would have stopped it, somehow.

"I would have tried. I think."

Yeah.

Neither spoke, and they kept watching.

I think we die here, Lucy.

Clarity didn't respond, so Death kept talking. It felt like all it could do.

There was a, uh, time a while ago, two centuries back, when I was scared I was gonna die. A man found me, and I survived through him — we became one and the same, old friends, two-century stalwarts.

The sand and rubble shifted under the librarian, coalescing into something half-physical. They felt a tugging in the air, and then stillness, and the Merchant raised its head to meet their gaze.

I don't think you know quite why you're here anymore, Lucy. But I do. I was with your old partner until the moment of his death, and thereafter. I know what it means to avenge him.

Let my hands guide you — no, let me be your hands.