Outworld/The Unlocked Archives
Author: Pandora Morozov
Pandora, while usually armed with a custom pistol, loved knives. They were versatile, varied and very good at giving her what she wanted. They worked well as threats. Everyone had a deeply rooted fear of getting stabbed or sliced because they would quickly realise how painful it could get. A gun didn't work as well because a bullet lacked the controlled pain she needed. Sure it could cause indescribable pain but it could always end the 'interview' too soon because of bleed-out. Knives you could leave embedded in someone and not have to worry for a while provided it wasn't pulled out. And the cuts didn't have to be deep either.
Knives were good. Which was why she was spending an afternoon with a designer to make the perfect custom blade. One with multiple functions, relatively easy upkeep and looked amazing. And also after strenuous bartering it was a steal.
All in all she was happy with the outcome as she brought the new weapon home in a lovely ornate box which she left on top of the chair a certain Bodyguard preferred in her office.
He could complain all he liked about her causing him grief but it was unfair to say she didn't treat him nicely every once in a while.
The Hardest Decision
What am I doing? This… this has to be done but. I find myself holding back a panic attack as I repeatedly argue to and fro what the results of this will be. It's not the physical dangers that worry me but the mental ones. The emotional ones.
I sit in shivering in silence. It's dark in this room too which only adds to the isolation. From this point on only one other person is going to see me and it hurts so much that it's not the one I want, can't, say goodbye to.
My name is called and brings me back to my surroundings. I get to my feet steadily, feigning determination in everything but my eyes.
"Are you ready?"
I laugh bitterly. "Ready? No… but I'll still do it."
They nod gently. "I understand this will be hard."
No you don't. You just have to forget you did this. I have to forget everything. I have to forget… I halt that thought immediately as they put a hand on my shoulder. Any anger I felt melted away a little, it was hard to be mad at them. They acted almost like a parent would throughout this unhappy experiment.
"Your form." They remind me with a hint of hesitation.
"Right." Of course I don't even get to keep that. With some effort I alter myself. Younger. Some things I keep, like the colour of my eyes. My clothes I had already changed to simple black combats and a tank top. Indicators of my life removed for protection.
"Let's get this over with." I sigh reluctantly and try not to flinch at how I sound now.
They look over me carefully then zone in on my wrist. Holding out their hand they comment. "The bracelet."
I clasp it with my other hand tightly and shake my head firmly. "Not this. This is the only thing I am keeping if I have to give up everything else. I don't care how childish it is. I don't care."
The other sighs then drops their hand away. "Fine… just that."
While their back is turned to lead me I seal the leather strap to my wrist so that only I can remove it, because I genuinely don't trust them not to try and take it out of some misguided desire to protect.
A few moments later I'm lying down, awaiting the procedure. As I'm strapped in I breathe shallowly trying so hard not to cry. It starts. I stop trying. Even when they hold my hand, I cannot stop the tears streaming down my cheeks or the scream building up in my chest as images flash through my mind along with a mantra I can't say aloud anymore. I can't do this. It hurts. I want it to stop. I can't do this, I want it to stop. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. IT. NEEDS. TO. ST-
Pandora woke with a start. Her face wet, her throat raw, her entire body covered in goose bumps. Looking around frantically she sees she's still in her room. "Dammit." She sighs and gets out of bed to go shower. From the look of the clock she hadn't got nearly enough sleep but it didn't matter.
In the shower she goes over the dream in her mind and silently curses the Nexus. Before that she had never remembered any of her dreams, never! Now she just had the same one over and over and it was beginning to grate on her exhausted nerves. Whatever was happening, she really hoped would subside soon. It needs to stop.
It looked like a bomb had gone off. The living room was such a mess that it was virtually unliveable in the place she called her home. She could fix it but honestly she was past the point of caring.
The blinds were closed in a way to let in only fragments of lights, the ash trays were threatening to spill amongst the mugs of coffee, glasses of alcohol and papers that littered the coffee table. If she were in anyway mortal she'd probably be dead by how many narcotics and stimulants outweighed how little nutritional sustenance she'd actually consumed.
Pandora or whoever this side of the Breach she was meant to be was currently laying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. Caff-Stim patches adorned her arms as she found it too much effort to drink the liquid variety now. Between staring and breathing shallowly she was using up all the energy she cared to aside from staying awake.
The two sharp knocks on the door barely alerted her to the presence entering her room. It wasn't Talos, or any shaper. If Talos were even allowed in the apartment he'd have had a fit but she had long since banned visitors and declared to her bodyguard she was giving him a 'Well Earned Holiday' as she'd put it. So this must have been one of her realms people, and there was only one who had unhindered access.
The Advisor she had been gifted walked into the room and took in the state of it with a scornful look. "You've been avoiding me."
Pandora chuckled darkly, not moving or looking away from the ceiling. "Have I? I didn't notice."
"You'd be in a better condition now if you'd just talk to me." They stood over the shaper, arms folded. Pandora frowned as they appeared in her sight.
"You aren't a therapist, you don't really need to know about my problems."
"No I'm not a therapist, I'm an advisor." They replied sharply with a heavy dose of patronisation. "And did you know the role of an advisor is to advise on matters? I can't do that if you don't let me."
If only to look away from them, Pandora pulled herself up to lean against the sofa. "Advise away."
"You need sleep."
Pandora finally looked at them properly. They looked strange for someone out of Opportunity. They looked like that time she'd seen a fashion show of Valtarian inspired outfits. Engraved and embossed ornate leather, chainmail, plating; almost all of it was practically designed too.
They reminded her painfully of someone and she couldn't remember who, partially the reason she avoided them. "That's it?"
"You need to sleep for two reasons." They sighed as they crouched down and started removing the patches. "One is so you can finally think with a clear head and rested body."
"My sleep isn't exactly restful right now." Pandora argued. "Ow!"
They had just ripped off a particularly stubborn patch. "The other reason is so you can dream. Those dreams are your memories. Something we both know. You can't deny that."
Pandora reached for a cup of cold coffee only to have her hand stilled by the advisor placing their fingers on the back of it. She was shaking like a leaf.
"I know it's hard and it's only going to get worse before it gets better but you need to face your past and remember."
There was a gentleness under the firm insistence of her Advisor's words that eventually broke her stubbornness.
She was tired, exhausted even, and finally conceded defeat against her own desire to rest.
The Advisor helped her get to her feet and head to the shower before drying off and climbing into her bed. Her bedroom was the only place that was still tidy, having been avoided for so long. Hesitantly she looked at the Advisor, maybe her memories would unlock a name for her to be called, and opened her mouth to speak.
"I will stay close by for when you wake up." They interrupted her. "Don't worry yourself and rest now."
For a brief moment Pandora wondered if she would struggle to actually drift off but the moment her head touched the pillow she was out like a light.
Lights In The Sky
She walked out into the seldom seen balcony that was only accessible from within her living quarters. It encompassed a large area of the centre of the Archives, the walls of which formed as a massive square. The platform was circular shaped with three walkways leading into her quarters on the top floor.
Several levels below it was a communal garden and courtyard for her petitioners who, if they bothered looking up, would see what they thought was the sky thanks to a very handy device at the base of the platform which camouflaged it. It also projected down light which replicated sunlight very much like a giant S.A.D lamp for when it was supposed to be daytime.
The balcony itself was fairly sparse. Mostly just a large open space with a fountain dead centre. She had a few benches spaced about as well and the odd potted plant but as she very rarely came out here she didn't see the need to decorate it much.
She had finally agreed to get some sleep but she couldn't do it in her bedroom. It was too confining in there. Her advisor had suggested she find a place with fresh air and try meditating rather than fully sleeping. They had said so with a glance to the hidden door, an action that surprised and unnerved Pandora as she gathered what they meant.
The advisor had left shortly after leaving Pandora to her privacy.
With a little effort she shaped the fountain into a bed to rest on. It looked sort of like a nest with its round shape and raised sides and had a canopy to keep her shaded and sheltered.
"…whatever." She sighed and settled into the middle of it. The softness of the bed caused her to begin to drift off along with the warmth of the sun.
After what felt like forever she found herself in a dark empty space of her own mind.
Looking around she wasn't sure what to expect.
She certainly didn't think that two figures, hazy at first, would appear. It didn't take her too long to figure out who one of them was and their image cleared.
The girl was young, not just in looks but in how she held herself. Longish hair, longer than Pandora would find herself wearing, enough facial differences that she wouldn't recognise even herself at first. The eyes were the same, though they were brighter, not tired and a little angry.
"Eclipse." Pandora stated bluntly, turning her head to the other figure who was suddenly clearing. "You must be Hope then."
The woman only looked slightly older than Eclipse did. Her eyes a little less bright, gaze a little more weary but she held herself with more confidence and sureness. The same anger the girl held was in her expression too.
"What are you doing here?" Eclipse scowled, folding her arms and sounding very much like the teen she resembled.
"You know why." Pandora kept her voice even. "I'm done running, I'm done hiding. I'd like to know what I need to." This time it was Hope who spoke. "And why should we let you have them? After everything you've done."
"They're my memories."
"Wrong!" Eclipse snapped. "They're mine. They're hers. You don't deserve them."
"They're mine too." Pandora tilted her head carefully. "Whether I deserve them or not, they still belong to me and I should be allowed to know who I am."
Hope frowned. "You've tortured and killed. You've blackmailed and done horrendous things. "
Pandora stayed quiet. It was an odd thing to be arguing with yourself like this.
"You aren't us. You aren't who we should have become." Hope's voice was stone. "We were given a chance to lead a better life and you ruined it. You became a monster."
"You keep knowledge from people. You use secrets against them." Eclipse spat. "We can see you, we can see you really fucking clearly and you're not worthy of these memories."
"Are you really going to judge me?" Pandora asked finally having enough of the commentary. "I'm not going to deny that yes my hands aren't the cleanest but you don't get to act high and mighty."
Eclipse opened her mouth to argue but was cut off as Pandora snapped her gaze to her.
"I remember enough to know exactly what you did, who you hurt. Who's life you ruined. What you ran from the moment you could." She growled out as Eclipse looked guilty. "And you." Hope looked startled as she was addressed. "You can't act like you're any better than me either. If [REDACTED] hadn't found us, hadn't erased it all, what would you have done? I know enough about how you think to know the plan you came up with. What you would have done to them, both of them." Hope's expression fell in horror and regret. It may have been a fleeting plan but still.
"I know the darker sides of both of you because they are part of me. Because, unless you're really going to deny it, yes I am you. I come from you both. Your decisions, your viciousness, your temper. Everything bad about me comes from you two. [REDACTED] could only wipe my memories so much, the base personality they left me with echoes you both and more." Her past selves stayed quiet and still now so Pandora kept going.
"Don't you get it? We've always been as monstrous as we are now. We're selfish cowards who do nothing but run away from our responsibilities when we're bored or scared." She laughed bitterly as she muttered softly. "This is who I am. This is who you are. Who we are. Nothing but the girl who ran towards adventure and the woman who ran from everything else."
More firmly she glared at them both, with a smile quirking her lip. "I'm done running now. Get it? I'm done. Whoever I am now, I'm fine with that. I'm not going to deny what I've done. And I'm done arguing. Whatever this is… it's over. So either give it up or get out of my way because I deserve to know who I am, was, mostly because of the sheer amount of bullshit this has put me through."
She stepped towards them sharply. "Make. Your. Move." Her past selves glanced to each other then nodded and gave Pandora a smile which made her hesitate for a fraction of a second.
"Well done." Hope told her with a wicked grin. "We did wonder if you'd get it eventually."
"You passed!" Eclipse cheered with a thumbs up. "Now here's the fun part."
They suddenly glowed brightly before turning into strands of coloured light which began to wrap itself around Pandora causing her skin to tingle and itch and finally burn as she absorbed it into herself.
And it hurt. Oh sweet oracle it hurt. It blinded and burned with the truth as every single memory she had lost began to fit itself alongside the ones she had created since. It seared so painfully that she couldn't even scream.
Outside the realms of her own mind she slept soundly. Glowing with different shades of light which swirled and surged around her.
At one point her eyes snapped open, blazing with green fire which slowly encompassed her yet didn't burn what it touched. The light began spreading from her body to the area around her. Wherever it touched changed. Grass grew where there had been marble. Trees grew, creating copses. Wild flowers sprawled around stone stepping stones and a bridge with a stream. What once was bare and lifeless was now thriving and filled to the brim with foliage.
The petitioners looked up with awe as they saw the lights in the sky, changing, warping like aurora borealis all while their Shaper dreamt on.