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Superpositions (Closed story, feedback encouraged)

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Part 1: I can't go on/I will go on.


Prelude: The day I turned my back on all you people.


When the call came to muster in Mor Dhona, the very same call that I knew was a rally for death and glory, I did my best to ignore it. To go about my days as if the world were not on a terrible precipice, to pretend as if this gathering of troglodytes, waving their sharpened sticks from an age long since dead was truly the solution this world and it's people wanted.


I smiled, as I was supposed to smile. I made arms and armor for sons and daughters that would not return. I shook hands. I made well-wishes. And I kept careful eye on the force marshalls that came with their orders of conscription. 


All would fight under the banners of these so-called Grand Companies, or all would perish. When the letter came for my band, my decision was a simple one to make. I told them "no" in the most familiar manner available to these pirates-turned-soldiers. With the crack of gunfire.


They would not find our faces among the dead of that field. They would not sift through the wreckage, and wonder what kind of idiot pride would drive a man to attempt to fight a floating castle with an axe. 


As I sealed the entrance to our small hold on the Lominsan islands, I allowed myself a moment to consider the gravity of this choice. I had decided, in no uncertain terms, that we three were more valuable than the thousands in Mor Dhona.


But it was done.


It didn't take long for my navigator to express regret. She had clung to a soft-heartedness uncommon in brigands. I remember her asking me if I had abandoned my hope of bridging the gap between the weak and the strong. If I had given up on bringing Eorzea into the present, and severing the chains of superstition and dogma.


I cannot recall the exact words that I used, but the message was simple enough: My dream for this world was doomed from it's inception. We were a society that would spend the entirety of our existence looking backward.


Right to our bitter, vainglorious, senseless end.



Chapter 1: All the world is mad.


When we emerged, after weeks of simply subsisting off of dried food stores, and the stream that ran through the cavern, it was to an alien landscape. Limsa Lominsa burned, but not at the end of an Imperial torch. The shapes in the sky were not airships. They were winged, and they screamed.


For a time, we had thought ourselves alone on the islands. When the shapes in the smoke-blackened clouds circled, we hid. When they grew bored, we hunted, and fed ourselves on the thinning population of creatures still breathing. 


When we found another person, we were hesitant. He was an Imperial. Wounded, tired, and lost. Against my protests, he was restrained and questioned. From the few things he would tell us, I was correct. It was a massacre. Being right had never left me so hollow. For the first time in years, my armor felt heavy. My bones ached. And something other than hunger caused a pit in my stomach.


As I sunk to the ground, my axe serving as a crutch, I tried to listen to the rest of his tale. Dalamud housed something he called the Dragon King. And it had butchered the attacking Imperials before turning it's fury on the rest of creation.


I began to feel as if my helmet were suffocating me. It hit the ground as he finished telling us that some poor fools had begun worshiping this thing from beyond the sky. That they sang it's name, and followed in it's path, destroying what they could. His unit had fled to the Lominsan isles to escape the Dragon King itself, and were ambushed by what they had mistaken for Maelstrom troops.


He opened his mouth to share more, but was struck silent by the passing of one of the shapes in the sky. Navigator Reid called my name. "Inside!" she said.

I told her I would follow when I felt I could move again.


With that, my companions took their prisoner into a small outcropping, and left me to sit. I watched the thing circle. I listened to it scream. For a moment, I tried to imagine the ruler of this creature. This Dragon King. And then it left, dragging with it a curtain of flame. It aimed for the spire that once housed the Mizzenmast Inn.


I would have been content to remain motionless if I hadn't watched specks scurrying away from the tower, and into the waiting ranks of red-robed murderers.


For all this man's rambling, he had neglected to mention that there were others still hiding. I tore into the outcropping, tossing stone and covering tarp aside. My axe fell to the dirt. I demanded a re-telling. One that included mention of survivors. He pleaded with my compatriots not to allow me to harm him, and they would have obliged, had they been faster.


I relayed what I had witnessed outside. If there were survivors, there would be someone leading them. They would have a place they would go, in the event that the city fell.


An inevitability, with our collective standing armies dead.



Chapter 2: Naught but the wind to rely on.


We stayed only a few days at the outcropping. It was for the best that I remained separate from the others, and so I took the liberty of plotting the likely places that the Lominsans would hide. 


It was days before we found them, in what used to be a Serpent Reaver hold. Very few soldiers. Even fewer children. Upon getting a look at our prisoner, they immediately cried for blood. I was happy to allow them to eat the man alive, but Nagivator Reid was having none of it, and she was adept at appearing intimidating when it suited her. Such is the way of Rogaedyn, I am to understand.


While she was busy scaring already scared villagers, and my First Mate was busy locating alcohol, I took it on myself to find the organizer of these refugees. Imagine my dismay when I learned that the remaining soldiers were simply taking turns, and operating on the incomplete orders of a dead man.


I told them of our stashes. They had been set up in case of a much less flamboyant disaster, and as places for us to go to ground during some of our less legal outings, but all had food, clean water, arms and armor. They didn't have the courage to ask, but I felt safe in assuming that at least one of them wondered why no one knew of these holds on the eve of our mutual ruin.


With little issue, and in good time, we moved from store to store. The supplies were exhausted in short order, but that was to be expected. I had planned for three, and no more. 


I began to question why that was. Why I had looked ahead for so few.

My introspection was interrupted by insurrection. The soldiers, roughly half of them, began to accuse the other half of hoarding supplies. When that faltered in the light of everyone going hungry, accusations of being Lambs surfaced.


Through their shouting, which I did not dare to interrupt, I learned that the Lambs of Dalamud were the individuals in red that I had witnessed. When it came to blows, I did nothing. Not for fear of taking sides. 


No, it was for the simple fact that if more of them died, the supplies would last longer.


My crew was not so quick to leave them to their devices. Attempts were made to placate tempers. Pleas were spoken to my own deafened ears for action. Leadership.


But I would not have these people look to me for salvation.



Chapter 3: Keep your hands from play.


Burying their dead was bittersweet. On one hand, these people had grown close. On the other, the few children we had with us would have more to eat.


The last man in charge of the soldier detail had reasoned that they could skip meals, as the adults needed to be sated, and functional. They feared attack by their Lambs. I had dismissed this as a paranoid fantasy. The secret wish of a proud mind.

What better end for a man at arms than to die defending starving families in the wake of a cataclysm from nameless, faceless monsters who want nothing but to kill?


In truth, these Lambs seemed in worse condition than we were. You could see them, time and again, scavenging and screaming prayers and praise. Their faith would go unrewarded. Their slaughter of the fleeing Lominsans had won them nothing but contempt, and a pile of bodies.


Their camp, if one could call it that, was not far from what was Bearded Rock. I found myself watching them to escape the squabbling, and rousing speeches, and crying. In the relative quiet, I found myself wondering once more. I could not find the exact point that I began to count lives as little more than variables. I could not find the crux at which I became more concerned with personal survival than with the pursuit of knowledge. Than with the betterment of Eorzea as a whole.


Wasn't that why I left home? Wasn't that why I was here at all?


But what good would this do me, or anyone now? Superfluous parts in a broken machine.


I avoided returning to our current hold for quite some time. I could not bear to look on these people. I spent my time quietly cursing the gods that they had held to. That they still offered prayer to. The very same gods that picked and chose, and granted a swift, likely painless death to their favorite few, and left the rest of us to squabble over scraps.


The Lambs at the camp had begun to cheer. From what I could tell, they had happened upon emergency stores, or the tide had washed lost cargo ashore. Whatever it was, they were happy to have it. And they were few.

But we were fewer. None the less, the had things we needed. And they would not expect an assault.


When I explained my aims to the others, I had interrupted Navigator Reid instructing the children on how to make toys from bones and rocks.



Chapter 4: Close your mouth to song.


There were few volunteers. These were guards, after all. Not killers. Not pirates. Not what I needed. Not likely to return.


The plan was very simple. From four angles, while the majority of their number slept, we would burn the tents with oil-soaked arrows. While they scrambled, our raiding party would move through, kill the armed members first, and cause sufficient injury to whoever remained to cause them to flee. Once they did, we would not follow. We would burn the rest of their camp, take what we could carry, and toss the rest into the sea.


We began as planned, if a touch off on our timing. Navigator Reid compensated. Overcompensated, perhaps. The woman was gifted with a bow, I will not deny her that.


Our trouble began as we moved toward their defenders. They were not disorganized. Someone had rallied them amidst the initial chaos. This individual was neither seen, nor heard. Not by me, in any case. I did manage to witness my First Mate hurl a tent post at something in the dark, and bound off after it.


I shouted for the rest of the raiding party to close ranks to little effect. And so, the geography of my predicament would become important. Rocky shoals to one side, a few rolling hills, and nothing but ash, dirt, and gravel in most every direction that didn't lead to the sea. To my back was a sheer cliff face, and Navigator Reid's perch. Nowhere to retreat to, no one listening to orders, and far more angles of incidence than I would like.


The retreat was sounded, but I did not bother to keep track of who followed. These people would not listen. Or I was not loud enough. During my exit, I did find that the Lambs did not wear armor. Some among them practiced a kind of defensive magic, but it faltered under an abrupt application of physical force. "Were it not for their numbers...", I thought.


We could not go back to our camp. Navigator Reid, two guards that had bothered to follow, and myself made for ground further inland. It was a bizarre experience, attempting to navigate the island without the landmarks with which I had become familiar. We would pass ruins time and again, or a particularly blasted gnoll still bearing scorch marks and rotting bodies. "There was Bloodshore", I would think. "And here was where the goats would graze."


Losing our pursuers was no easy feat. I had Ms. Reid to thank for our brief respite. I had Ms. Reid to thank for a great deal, but no where-with-all to say so. They would pick up our trail again, though. We were aware of that.  We slowed our pace, and I attempted to regain my sense of position.


It took longer than I would have hoped, but I found what I was looking for. A small, natural funnel. A pass I had held against the Reavers years back. Back when I was young. Back when the world was whole. Back before this monumental failure.

If these were to be my last moments, if I were to drown in a sea of stabbing iron and shrill cries, this would be the place. I instructed the others to build a fire.


Gather what they could, and stack it as high as possible. There would be only one more person to pay for this misstep. As the glow of our pyre spread, I took time to check my armor, and the condition of my arms.


Dents, gouges, chips...to my surprise and chagrin, a lodged shot from some rifle or other. And this damned helmet never fit correctly. I decided to leave it sit. My axe was no better. Chipped, stained, and more mallet than cutting implement. I sat, and removed my traveling coat while they found more and more to burn, and attempted to grind some type of edge back onto the head with what few tools I had kept on me. Even the leather of their case was cracked and weathered.  


Navigator Reid broke into song while she worked. A dirge. She had raised her voice to it before, usually on the eve of a raid on a rogue vessel that had earned itself a Letter of Marque. When I asked who she sang for, she did not answer.

And when I told her not to sing for me, I was struck.


Chapter 5: I like the dark.


I had never witnessed a tear fall from Ms. Reid's eye. Never. Her spirits were never what I would call "high", and she was far from jovial, but genuine displays didn't seem to suit her. Butterflies, and white knights riding great war-birds, and other faerie-tale nonsense. That was all she spoke of.


Were it not for sheer chance, I would have missed this singular drop of moisture as I strapped my armor to me. It caught the light of their fire for a fraction of a second before she wiped it away.


"What about your coat?" She asked. Her voice trembled. I tore the sleeves of it off, and wrapped it around my breastplate before fastening my pauldrons. The red would make me all the more obvious. The wind would fan it like a flag. The holes in it would cast fearsome shadows. 


"And your helmet?" She held it out to me.

"Can't breathe in it."


Her hands sunk. As I looked on her, I was flooded with a great many things that I felt I should have said. I never once told her that I was afraid of fire. That my home in Ul'Dah had burnt when I was very young. I never told her the names of my nieces and nephews. She had never spoken with my mother, nor met my two younger brothers, or had the pleasure of conversing with anyone I went through schooling with. I never told her that I would go hungry for days so that my tiny crew could scrounge every morsel they could. I never told her that I kept the three of us treading water by working the shipyard. I never told her that the beds she and Mr. Allard slept on were paid for with coin soaked in blood.


I did not even mention that the strides I had taken in working with magitek were built on the shoulders of another. 


My one true friend along this winding, terrible path, and she did not know the road I took to find her. She did not know the holes I found myself in along the way.


And now, here, in this pass where her favorite story about me began, there was simply no time. I told her and the other two to leave. Make broad circles, and find their way back to the others. Ms. Reid refused, but this was not her decision to make. This was not her wrong to right, and I would not have her here for the sake of sentimentality.


She started to protest, and gods help me, I have no idea what madness took my mind in that moment, but I grabbed her by her collar and kissed her. We stood in silence as the sun started illuminate the horizon behind the fire. She left at some point after I turned to the west, and began waiting.


There was a strange sense of peace in the air as I watched the Lambs approach. Embarrassed as I am to admit this now, I took a kind of pride in seeing them pause. I must've looked a sight. Tattered coat billowing in the cross-winds we tended to get on the island, battered, blackened plate underneath? Pyre and sunrise to my back, chipped, nearly ruined axe in my hands, and likely ten lifetimes worth of blood, ash, and general filth on my face. Such a creature would give me pause as well.


Their assault began with a great deal of hesitation, and that was to my advantage. I swung in wide arcs, the reach of the haft extending my killing arc well beyond what their scavenged swords, handaxes and knives could achieve. This, however, did nothing to halt those still charging. 


With their implements of murder ineffective against the angle of my plate, they attempted to pull it from me. I retreated to the fire, found a workable grip around a piece of burning timbre, and beat back my attackers. They did not advance again. Only about ten now. I would have felt accomplished, if it ever took more than one hole being punched in chain and padding to kill a man.


Their redoubled efforts saw longer weapons, and defensive magics. Halberds, mostly. Taken from the guards and armory. They advanced, and I retreated once more. I would have to abandon this pass. Turning on my heel I lead them further inland. Further from their camp and ours. Their cries and payers had turned to the panting and rasping of hungry dogs. 


Into the caverns. That was where I would take them.


I carried my makeshift torch with me, hoping they did not know the caves as well as I did. When I heard them lagging behind, I tossed it. A few followed the light, the others gambled on following the sound of my footsteps. But these were unreliable, and picking these people off as they groped about was simple. Brightly colored as parts of my garb were, it's quite the feat to adjust to sudden darkness after staring into a fire.


In time, those that were not dead were hopelessly lost. At least I had hoped they were. I made my way back to the mouth of the cavern, and was greeted by a thunderclap, something very hot striking me in the chest, and the faint smell of sulfur.


My attacker was on top of me before I had time to reel with what had just happened. He had dropped a still-smoking rifle, and was fiddling with a duckfoot pistol bearing the Barracuda's symbol. His free hand cinched itself around my throat. Of course, I fought, but every time I moved, I could feel his shot sink deeper. Our struggle caused his pistol to misfire. All three barrels, unfortunately. One into his leg, one into mine, and the third simply burst from overuse or poor maintenance. In the instant that this startled him, I mustered the strength to throw him off.


I could hear him moving toward something, but I did not allow myself time to look. My axe had not fallen far. Once again, I found myself using it as a crutch as I drew to my feet. He had apparently caught the worst of his weapon's failure, as he sputtered, clutching his gut. Looking down, I caught sight of a piece of brass lodged in my plate. Far enough in to cause bleeding. Not far enough to kill me outright. Not like the ball in my chest. 


I hobbled to him, struggling to breathe. My first good look at this man who I very well might be sharing a gravesite with. A Duskwight. No scarring. Young. He would have easily overcome me if his pistol hadn't failed. Superior reach. Superior stride. Superior sense of hearing and balance. I raised my axe as well as I could, and very nearly dropped it when the blade hit his neck.


An ugly cut. He would live a few moments before passing. 


I thought of lying down in that field. It would have been the appropriate thing to do. But, I was well past the point of propriety, and had been for some time now.



Chapter 6: Nothing left to burn.


This was Aleport. A singular standing building, a ruined coastline, and unused munitions. There was more, I knew it, but my vision had blurred. A combination of a sudden gale, and blood loss.


I opted to sit a moment. Perhaps more than a moment. Aleport was not where I had wanted to go, and I was in no condition to re-trace my steps. I began to wonder if anyone would come for me. It was a far away hope, to be certain. My life was one lived in obscurity. My death would be the same.


The world, it seemed, preferred cycles to remain unbroken. But why do we, the things swept up in causality's flow, seem to care so much for the world's comfort? Why should we, beings gifted with the freedom, and the burden of choice, choose the natural order of neat little cycles, if the fabric of our shared existence marches on without us?


My mind raced with a myriad more questions. Always with questions. A thousand variations on the same bleeding questions, in fact. Through a great deal of derivation, I was able to distill these whispers and shouts in my head. 


Why should I play nicely? Had I not spent the past few years doing the opposite? Was that not the very lesson imparted to me by the crews I had sailed with? I had long felt that my misfortune had been part of a vicious causal loop, entered when I refused to simply be happy in my station. To date, that had been the closest I'd come to some form of faith.


But these loops are not inescapable. Small variations of the conditions in any nonlinear dynamic system can produce large variations in long-term behavior. I just needed to find my one degree of variation.


When you construct anything, before you draw plans, or discuss ideas, or get anyone who claims to be an "artist" involved, I've found it pays to take stock of the materials and tools at hand. If you begin with what you can do, rather than what you'd like to do, the project smooths itself out.


At the time? I had one broken ceruleum generator under my left gauntlet, a ruined axe, plate that was mostly useless, plenty of loose blood, my blunderbuss, perhaps some still active fire crystal shards, and a pile of unfired, primed munitions.



The secret shame of scientists everywhere is the relative ease with which their craft can be turned to destructive purposes. For example: You need significantly less expertise to make a bomb than you do to make medicine. The formula, if it can even be called that in situations like these, is quite simple. You start with something highly reactive. Ceruleum. Check the holding container for breaches. Fortunately, it was not a ruptured fuel canister that had rendered my magitek inert. 


Then, we need something for our catalyst to react with. Fire crystal powder and rust shavings. The former delivers more heat over less time than your standard crystal shard due to the greater total area of exposure. The latter, when exposed to the exceptional heat that the crystal powder releases, burns intensely enough to liquify the iron present in the substance. 


Next was a delivery method. Many would ask why I did not simply shoot the munitions. I would answer that they would be shocked at how very stable the powder the Lominsan navy used was. Nothing short of an open flame tends to set it off, so a hot projectile, painful as it is to be hit with, does not quite suffice. To remedy this, I would have to find at least one heavy, solid piece to fit down the barrel. One of the broken slabs of metal from my plate would do. With it's fitting, and a few strips of my coat, I fashioned my ignition charge. Powder in the fabric, wrapped 'round the canister. I packed my firearm. I thought of uttering a prayer.


I decided against it, and simply hoped not to miss instead.


The shot flew in a lazy arc, but that was to be expected, given the irregular shape and weight distribution. As it lodged, I heard the canister crack. Good. However, I had neglected to measure my distance from the blast. I was pelted with debris, choked with dust, ash, and sand. Nothing lethal, as far as I could tell.


Now, I could only wait for someone, anyone, to become curious and come looking.



Chapter 7: Hold my hopes under water.


I can't remember how much time had passed between the explosion, and the first sound of footsteps crunching stone. In and out of consciousness. Whoever was making the noise must've heard me stir, as their pace quickened.


I did not know if they had come to help, or harm. I could make out little more than shapes, and gleaming metal. No room for gambles anymore. Whatever they had used to get here, I would have to take for my own.


The fragmented door to the munitions building made a decent enough shield. I laced my arm through the slats where the bar would have sat. I could no longer heft my axe, though. It was too heavy, and I was too weak. It had been so...so very long since I had been too weak. I groped around, and managed to find some sharded iron banding. It would do as a makeshift spear.


I readied myself for their approach. Memories of my commuted sentence in Ul'Dah came flooding back as I felt the weight of the door/shield bear down on my shoulder.


"Isaac Jacobi, you stand accused of Treason, and of Theft. The specifics of the latter are as follows: Your superiors within our office of Public Works allege that you had taken, without consent, the design specifications to an experimental Airship that had been submitted for production, and rejected."


The shapes in the dust and smoke drew closer. They called out for something or someone, but I could not hear. Everything was so very far away now.


The bailiffs close ranks as I'm brought in.

"How do you plead?"



I wait, and the gathered audience turn their eyes on me. Every last one, a backbiting snake in their own regard, and here they would look down their noses at me for taking what was mine to begin with.



"Innocent on the first, absolutely Guilty on the second. However, I would like it recorded that I fail to see how I might steal something that was mine to begin with."


A hint of armor, and the probing, polished end of a halberd. I ask them who they are. I ask them what they want. I ask them if they're here to help me. But I still cannot understand their response. I cannot even make out more than their shape, and we are not more than a few fulms away from eachother. What are these things that seem to multiply in the ruins?


My "trial" is a sham. My own brother, member of the Brass Blades, testifies against me. Anything to further our name among the well-to-do's. Nevermind they wouldn't have given us a bucket of their own piss to douse ourselves with if we were to catch flame. 



The simple truth that I had taken my designs to prove my concept was lost in the ocean of lies and frightening stories of intrigue that came pouring from the mouths around me.



I am told that I will either spend my life in prison, or I will spill blood in the Sands. A fate fit for a spy, certainly. But I was no spy. 



I spit on my brother's pride. On his reputation. I would rather chance the Sands than be marked as a stepping stone for his advancement.


They close, and I react. With a swat, I redirect the polearm. I can't manage proper maneuvering, but a simple lurch forward puts me inside of his reach. I drive my "spear" into a thigh. I would have to take hostages if I were to survive. I was in no shape to fend them off otherwise. Not now.


They give me weapons and armor too heavy for me. I was no fighter. I was an Engineer. A Civil Engineer, at that. Pipes and waterworks, street planning. That was my day-to-day. I am told that my one and only match will be against a hardened Garlean spy. Caught some years back. A crowd favorite for his performances. The others in the barracks spoke of him as some kind of butcher-ballerina, weaving here and there. 


Another two moving to my sides. I would have to leave the wounded first for now. I drug myself backward, unable to properly lift this hunk of wood and metal that I would depend upon to protect me. A testing blow from the left, and an attempt to hook my one good leg from my right.


When we meet in the arena, I am shocked. A gaunt man, head and face shaven to a shine. A short spear in one hand, and a longsword in the other. The scutum they gave me hurt to carry. The iron shortsword was unwieldy. He betrayed no emotion as he darted at me, blows coming from all directions.


I allowed myself to fall backward. The shield/door fell back onto my shoulder, catching the tip of the thing to my left off-guard. He'd lodged his weapon, and was unable to retrieve it. The other lost it's fingers to the iron band.


Practiced as he was, he was striking all wrong. Against the slight dome of the shield, his blows meant absolutely nothing. I hid beneath it until he tired. His spear hit sand, and I locked my blade behind it's head. The glue gave way when he tried to pull it back.


I whirled about as best as I could. My shield would have to sit on the side that still had a weapon pointed at it. My swing was wild. Desperate. But I caught some manner of plate. I felt metal grate against metal. And someone staggered backward.


The man was laughing as he backpedaled. He called me "clever." Claimed he had expected me to simply hide and wait until the 'Blades came and drug us apart. That he was only to make an example of me. Put on an entertaining show. He said that he would have to kill me now. That it was now a matter of honor.


My arm buckled as the remaining halberdier swept my shield aside. I had little choice but to be carried with the impact, and so I tried to control the rotation as well as possible.


My guard was open, but he was at the end of his swing arc. Mutually exposed, but only one of us still had a striking avenue.

I drove my arm forward.

And found purchase in my opponent's abdomen.


We both fell to the ground, unable to hold ourselves up any longer. Someone, somewhere, grabbed me by my ankles. In the swirling dark, I could hear the stunned silence of the crowd. Their man had fallen, and I had won my freedom.



Chapter 8: Until I feel whole again.


I don't remember blacking out. I awoke to the sound of birds, and to the feel of the sun. Ms. Reid...Beatric. Was at my side. She chastised me for being a layabout. It took me quite some time to convince myself that I was not, in fact, dreaming.


She told me that what was left of the Maelstrom had come home. They had reclaimed and secured the city. Reconstruction was already underway. I had been unconscious for nearly a moon. I watched as she studied my face.


"You wounded three of them rather severely, you know."


I was shocked. Ashamed. I had become so used to a life of frequent violence that I did not so much as chance a guess at help arriving. This was not who I wanted to become. I did not know what else to say to her. My questions and confessions from before all seemed small.


I simply thanked her for staying. 


"I couldn't tell you I was leaving if you were asleep."


Beatric always had this rather comic way of stating the obvious. As if she believed the people she spoke to had no grasp of the most glaring reasons why something could, or could not happen. In spite of myself, I laughed. 


I sat with her while she packed. I walked with her to the pier, where refugees of all sorts waited for their trips home. My limping and hobbling nearly made her late, for which I had to apologize.


She looked on me a moment more.

"I didn't think I would see you again."


I tried to stand up straight. The tunic she'd dressed me in, the very same one I wore when I left home, no longer fit. Made the bandages and stitching rather obvious.


"I didn't think you would either."


She boarded her ship. Last call for the mainland. She didn't say where she was going, but I could hazard a guess. Born in Ul'Dah. Raised in Gridania. And the only Rogaedyn named "Beatric", I was certain. A very strange woman. A very appropriate companion.


We spared eachother the embarrassment of a long, romantic gaze from ship to shore. I decided to try and find my bearings. A good number of the walkways were still down. Simple rope "bridges" were in place for the time being. Traversing this city would be like moving about in the riggings of a larger sailing vessel. At least until it was fixed.


I wandered the docks for some time, picking up bits and pieces of scheduled departures. I couldn't go to Gridania with Beatric. They would not have me right at this moment. The next boat to the mainland would leave in a week. I was sure I could find a way on to that boat. It would do me good to get out off of these islands. To find another crowd, and disappear a while.


Ah, but then there was this man. This man in his crisp, red coat. A young Midlander. His oration was lost on me. My hearing was...somewhat dampened since the blast. I did not know if it would return. But it was obvious that he was making an appeal. His gesturing was passionate. His face full of hope. A mirror of who I might have been. I was prepared to walk away when he asked the crowd if anyone had any experience in city-planning, masonry, and/or smithing. The crowd before him was silent.


I knew that creeping dread. That empty realization that your plea has fallen on deaf ears. I had wished someone spoke up when I had begged. This young man would not go wanting.


With a raised hand, I spoke. Sheepishly at first.

"...I...I do."


The relief was tangible in the air.


I might just stay here for a time.

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  • 2 months later...

Part 2: Too idealistic to be at peace.

Interlude: Beneath the weight of doubt.

My recovery took time. About a year and a moon, to be precise. Time enough for me to realize that I had nearly forgotten how to put pen to paper. Normally, I would be scouting locations to set up camp around sunset.


Instead, I sat. Alone. In a rather plush, and tastefully decorated room, staring at an empty piece of drafting paper.


Hard as I tried, I could not will my hand to scrawl the equation for calculating the necessary tensile strength for a series of support struts.


My mind raced, and strained, and eventually gave up. Had I so fully become a murderous vagabond? I found myself looking again and again at my arms and armor. Still in a state of ruin and discord. I would have been appalled at such a sight. I should still harbor disgust, looking upon it. Upon my negligence. But there was nothing. Not even despair at the very portrait of how far I had fallen.


"Perhaps if I set my hands to something more tangible", I thought. "Perhaps that would clear my mind." I took what materials I had. That blackened meteoric iron that had saved my life over and over. My traveling coat, that I had worked, sweat, and bled through enough for many lifetimes. My ruined axe. I packed them as well as I could, and half-drug the lot of it to the forge.


There were no familiar faces there, save the owners. We had never spoken much, and I don't believe they knew who I was. I was unlikely to be able to answer if they deigned to ask. All the same, I stripped the metal available to me of it's fittings. There was not enough here to simply mend my armor. Not enough in my pockets to buy what I needed to re-forge it. Not enough time to go chasing shooting stars, or hunting for pieces of Dalamud. Ah, but what armor that might make. The very material that caged a being capable of ruining a world.


I began smelting the metal none the less. Working the billows was comforting in it's tiring repetition. In, count two, then out. Repeat ten times. Then reduce to count one. Repeat as deemed necessary. If no one's told you yet, meteor iron is incredibly hard to work with. It contains a great deal of nickel, which resists forming. This is a metal that takes patience, and a kind of obsession with perfection in circumstance and shaping that is almost entirely unheard of within the ranks of these workmen.

Funny. I could easily recall my metallurgy, but I couldn't find the numbers. But still, I had a task that I could accomplish before me. As the lumps turned to liquid, what I might do with it took shape in my mind. I scrounged about, one hand still working the billows, for my traveling coat. Poor, dull thing. Never designed for the things I put it through. No, it was more for parades. For speeches. For regimented marching drills. But it had proven that it could be more than what it was meant for. The apathetic numbness of before had finally yielded to something.




Misplaced, but real none the less. It had proven it could be something other than what it was made for, but it was something far worse. Far uglier. It wasn't until I felt a cold wind that I noticed I'd been lost with this thought long enough for the fire to die down. As quickly as I could, it built it back up, checking and re-checking my precious bit of workable metal to be sure I hadn't already ruined it. Nickel attracts sulfur, you know. Spoils the whole thing, makes it brittle.


By now, it was time to add the steel. It would have to have a high carbon content. Something preferably 1.5% by weight. I left the billows in the care of a bored workman, and handed him a fistful of gil for his trouble. My questioning lead me nowhere, and so I resolved to simply make some myself. Iron was in high supply, as were lumps of coal, and dark matter. No one would notice a few ingots and lumps missing here or there. And so I returned to the smeltery, and began the process of creating high-carbon steel. The reasoning for this, of course, is to add hardness to the thing you're making. Otherwise, meteor iron, even the high quality sort, doesn't hold shape, much less an edge.


For my purposes, I would go lightly with it's addition. Too much, and it would become impossible to shape. Too little, and the meteor iron would stick to it's tendency to fracture. Well into the night, I worked my metal. Plotting my application. I would have just enough to form a series of small, rectangular plates. Plates to lay upon my old coat, and fix to it's surface. It would not simply languish, broken and battered. I refused to pack it away, and never look on it again. It would not be discarded. I would make it into something not entirely divorced from what it was, but infinitely more fit for what it could be.


I would need rivets, rear plates that I could fashion from steel, a few yards of leather, and padding. Now, I had reached a fever pitch. A possessed man's pace. With the glow of my fire serving as my only light, I flit from station to station, taking what I could get my ash-blackened fingers on. I would answer for these missing materials later, if ever. Carefully, I poured the metal into the forms. Four ilms by two ilms. With a borrowed doming hammer, I made use of my years of combat. Each swing brought me to a time when I could barely shape copper. When a boy's hands trembled with fatigue after making his first bronze pipe. When those same hands clasped over a nearly lost eye after snapping his first piece of wrought iron.

This metal that, in my first attempt to shape, gave me no quarter and endless frustration now bent to me as if it were clay.


The fires of excitement, of...not anger, but a kind of gripping, furious exhilaration had all but burnt away the pity and pain. As I set the plates to cool, I realized I still had iron. And carbon. With a touch of chromium for the weather, I gave my garment back the sleeves I had torn from it in the shape of manica. Thicker than would be advised, but flexible enough to allow a range of movement that was indistinguishable from full to me.


The sun rose as the meteor iron plates were finally cool enough to touch. I set them carefully, domed outward to fit more comfortably around my chest and waist. I fixed them with rivets to their rear plating. I lined my coat with leather and linen padding. It was a heavy thing, to be certain. And the fittings for my manica needed to be adjusted several times before I was content.


But I was content.


As I moved, testing the fit of my creation, I tried to think on what had driven me to make it at all. My contribution to reconstruction...


And here I had spent an entire night doing this, rather than simply penning out:

Tensile Strength =F/A (N/mm2), and asking for a survey of the ground this was to be built upon.




Chapter 1: Play with matches (if you think you need to play with matches).


Were the reconstruction efforts worth recording day by day, this log would span the seas, end to end. Happily, most days were uneventful. We would wake early, refine resources, submit plans and suggestions, so on and so forth.


Things like decentralization of standing structures were common foci of the various discussions. So common, in fact, that I felt little need to add my voice. I kept myself busy in the off-hours by volunteering my time to the forge and shipyards. An agreed upon method for me to pay my debt to the Lominsan people, after injuring members of the Maelstrom, and stealing materials.


Unfortunately, not much of the local social climate had changed. So long as no one was looking, and you were certain you would be able to get away with whatever you were doing, not much was considered to be taboo. These were not the first drunken brawls, stabbings or robberies I had witnessed, but given the state of the city two years into it's recovery, these habits just seemed...inappropriate.

Now, I had never harbored any contempt for the law, nor did I have any particular need to rail against it. Such notions are carried by stupid young men and women who have been dealt a sour hand, or by equally stunted older individuals who believe that their time spent in this world exempts them from following it's rules. However, one does tend to adapt to, and eventually accept an environment when fully immersed.


As a point of fact: I firmly believe that there was no crew more fully immersed in the Lominsan "culture" than the Misericorde. We lied, we cheated, we stole. On occasion? We killed. All with the blessings of the Thalassocracy, provided we exclusively targeted other crews that were inconvenient to them.


None the less, I found myself chafed, having to witness these events occur time and again as I made my way back to my quarters. More often than not at the hands of the Bloody Executioners, with whom I had sailed for a short time, and the League of Lost Bastards. But I had never been the heroic sort. Instead of taking any real action, I busied myself with another project. My axe was truly ruined, and so would be scrapped and salvaged to reforge my sword.


This was a project that I had embarked upon shortly after my travels began. I bore witness to a great many feats performed by the wandering swordsmen that used to dot the landscape, cutting down rabbits and beetles with weapons that burned and crackled with their channeled Aetheric might. Being entirely magically inept, I could never hope to reproduce those dazzling displays on my own, and so I had hoped to match them with technology.


The initial attempts were bulky and inefficient. Modified Garlean magitek harnesses, and I'll admit that I had little idea as to how their power sources worked. The whole of the machine I'd lashed to myself was used to power the functions of the blade. A blade which was prone to breaking and malfunctioning, and burning my hand.

Pulling the weapon apart, I found myself confused by my past attempts. I had used iron wiring, rather than copper. More than likely due to the cost of materials.


Perhaps due to the oxidization and corrosion that copper tends to exhibit when exposed to less-than-ideal environments. This was the first thing I would have to fix. A silver alloy would solve the oxidizing issue. It would cost a touch more, but I was not above melting down a few coins. I wouldn't need much, after all.


The rest of the materials were easy to repurpose. The focussing arrays that would sit along the guard were still the best I would be able to do without considerable time for further research and development. Re-wiring was simple enough. The blade itself was easy to form, though I did lament the loss of a great deal of the metal from my axe. Simply no good to reforge. There is, contrary to popular belief, such a thing as "too pure" when it comes to metal.


I tossed my weapon and it's reinforced housing panels in the cooling pool while I set to work on a prototype defensive system I had been meaning to test. Nothing that would be terribly pretty. A few emitters crudely fixed to the outside of a scutum that had been tossed in the scrap pile, exposed wiring leading from the bundle I'd spooled around the shield's grips so that my harness, trimmed down as it was, could make contact and power them. In theory, they should have produced an aetheric eddy that would catch, redirect, and potentially neutralize incoming kinetic forces. Extend the life of the shields used, and provide some kind of easily accessible defense against the arcane for your average soldier or guard.


With that assembled, my blade cooled and at the very least, slightly improved upon, I wrapped, sheathed, hung, and otherwise obscured my personal projects. I suppose the fear of being branded a traitor to the land had never truly left me. I decided to detour down to the lower levels of the city, across the nearly complete bridges, minding the gaps of course. There was just enough coin left for a about a fortnight's worth of food from the Bismarck.


I hadn't left the islands, but I had managed to find a crowd, and fade into it. Of course, it helped that there wasn't someone parading about, playing songs, and telling stories of how I was a ten-fulm tall immortal made of Darksteel. On the other hand, it did bring a kind of excitement to life than this more average existence I had chosen provided. Watching Mr. Allard attempt to subdue fifteen members of the Kraken Arms at once was always a thrill. Being called upon to "negotiate" cessations of hostilities as my crew's Captain was also a highlight I found myself missing.


As I waited in line, wondering once more if the choices I had made were anywhere near the heading of "correct", a voice rang out.


"Mr. Jacobi!"


Naturally, when someone addresses you, you turn to face them. I recognized this scarred visage staring back at me. Another midlander. Burnt over the right side of his face, remnants of a tattoo poking over the scar. Broad. Fit. He was one of the guards we had found in the early days after Dalamud's descent.


"I don't mean to be curt, but would you mind stating your business? Rather tired, and looking forward to getting home, you see."


Even my most practiced smile wasn't quite enough to stir this man. He gripped something tightly in his right hand. A cylinder. Brushed metal. Indentation on the top.


"Sir, it is not just my business I am here to address. It is the shared business of the realm."


By now, he had the crowd's attention. They began to move away from me, anticipating an arrest, no doubt. Their shadows obscured what he was holding from further examination. That's the trouble with these hung, gas lanterns at these arbitrary angles. Poor clarity with objects in motion. I waited for him to continue.

"You, and your heretical ilk have brought nothing but ruin upon us!"


He threw something at my feet. One of my old harnesses. Taken from our disused holds, now that our period of desperation had long since passed.


"These things you've made. That you've taken from Garlemald's monsters. They profane the very order of nature, and you would think yourself wise enough to employ them? To what end, "Captain"?"


He spat the word from his mouth. Behind him were two others. Not guards. Hired hands, more like. He was not acting with the official sanction of the city-state. They'd likely taken a look at this hunk of metal, and deemed it junk. I'd never been thankful for ignorance before, but the world has ways of surprising. But this man, he knew just enough to condemn.


"And what of your secret fortifications? Hm? Have you breathed a word of them to anyone yet? As you promised us you would!?"

He was waiting for a reaction. That much was clear. I had made no such promise, but his rhetoric was winning support. He held the cylinder high. It was one of my explosives. White phosphorus, above a powdered mixture of sulfur, coal, and saltpeter. The catalyst was a crystal shard toward the top, just under the indentation. One needed only to depress the top, and slide their thumb to grind the crystal against a layer of coarse stone. The friction causes the crystal to react, which exposes the white phosphorus to heat. The pyrophoric properties of the white phosphorus would set off the powder, which would then hurl shards of metal, and burning, caustic powder over a rather large area.


"Tell them. Tell them now, or I will show them. Tell them what this machine is. Tell them what you held in secret."


I raised a hand, and attempted to assuage his temper.


"I'll ask that you put that canister down. For your sake, and for your men's. I don't think you fully gra-"


He tightened his grip.


"Do you take me for a fool? I am not some drunken, lost waif you pirate scum are so fond of chasing."


His demeanor deadened. What I wouldn't give for a more silvered tongue.


"Very well. A demonstration is in order."


With raised arms, he addressed his people.

"All of you, stand back! No one need be harmed, save for this serpent in our midst."


I had already begun running as he spoke. In a panic, he hurled his appropriated weapon after me. The people screamed, and scattered. The grocers joined their chorus as I hurled myself over their counter. Following my example, they ducked low. The blast rocked our surroundings and hurled it's contents, along with a great deal of food stores, in every direction.


The cloud would not be far behind. That was the way it was designed.


Fragmentation of the canister and concussive force would neutralize the immediate targets. The cloud would kill anyone who survived the initial blast. This was never meant to be used on living people. This was a weapon I had employed against the undead, swarming insectoids, and voidsent. I tugged a rag over my mouth and nose, and told the grocers hiding with me to do the same. However, this would not save us unless the cloud passed quickly.


Another explosion shook the room. How many did he have? Did he not know what he held, or was he simply that intent on snuffing me out? Questions aside, the second detonation would insure that the air would remain unclear for quite some time if no one acted on it.


It was once again time to take stock of what was near. Chopped vegetables, cuts of meat, knives, cleavers, and a few Wind clusters. Not terribly promising, but the clusters did provide an opportunity. Quickly as I could, I broke the clusters up, and attempted to jam them into the empty fuel cell receiver of my harness. Make no mistake, I had no real idea if this would work. The Garlean Magitech ran on Ceruleum. Which this was not. It took an enormous amount of power to make these machines run. I had never unlocked the secret to refining the substance, merely scavenged what I could, but rumor had it that it came from some manner of aether processing that left the crystals devoid of charge.


With what I had hoped would suffice as a power source for a singular surge crudely fixed in place, I brought my shield about, held it sideways, braced against the lip of the counter, and turned my switch. The machinery, to my surprise, immediately began to hum. Then to whirr. Then to shake. It had never shaken before, and my expression must've communicated as much, as the grocers moved to flee. With a kind of thump, the emitters projected their force to a greater effect than I had dared dream. The counter itself was uprooted, and the butcher's-block style construct, my shield, the cloud, and myself, were all forcibly hurled out of the main building of the Bismarck.


When I was able to discern which direction was "up", I pulled myself toward it. Another few fulms, and I would have been cast to the sea. Happily, the cloud of white phosphorus hung harmlessly outside of our collective reach, sinking slowly toward open water. Still coughing on dust, and picking bits of goat steak from my manica, I staggered back toward the main building. A few unconscious bodies here and there, but no blood. No obvious sores or burns. I did, however, hear the sound of people scrambling on the piers below, shouting about pulling others out of the water.


A firearm cocked behind me. Instinctively, I groped about for my shield, forgetting for a moment that I had dropped it upon being catapulted through the air. The burned guard stood before me, new lesions on his skin. That answered the question of whether or not he knew what he held.


I raised my hands. I tried to think of something to say to this man, with so much pain in his expression. But my words failed me a second time.


"Do you see? Do you see now!?" His hands shook as he approached.


"These...things! These weapons, these tools, these...damnable abominations only make monsters. Out of all of us."


He stumbled over someone, but quickly set himself straight as he could. He stopped just short of my reach. Too close to miss. Too far to reach.


"I can't let you make more of them. And you will. You, and every bleedin' last bastard like you."


His teeth were clenched. His voice strained. He would pull the trigger, even if he didn't intend to. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and triggered my harness again.


With the blast this time localized to my hands, I was once again thrown. I watched as my would-be killer suffered the same fate, each of us colliding against opposing walls. My impact came quickly. I was not far from the side entrance. His took just a few fractions of a second longer, and that would have to be enough. I scrambled back to my feet as quickly as I could, and charged him. He'd held on to his weapon. He aimed as well as his shaken mind would allow, and fired, missing me narrowly. I made a wide step to my left, and took another off the entranceway near his landing. This, I had hoped, would place me behind him. And it did, however his finger was already depressing the hammer on his second barrel. My fist moved to preempt him, landing firmly on the ruined flesh of his face. My free arm locked around his, and relieved him of his weapon as he tumbled.


Much obliged for the object lesson in disarming opponents, Mr. Allard. Wherever you might be.


I emptied the shot into the distance, and tossed his gun to the ground. The missing ingots, leather, and linen were one thing. A ruined grocery was quite another. This would take explaining. Witnesses. Perhaps a few days in the gaol. Apologies to families of bystanders. Better to start now, rather than later. I helped the people immediately near. I found one of the grocers. Conscious, if a bit banged up. I asked him if he was alright, and he responded with little more than a nod.


"D'you mind if I make a pruchase?" I asked.


He studied me carefully. No doubt bewildered by the timing of my request.

"Mate, take what you need, and I'll tell 'em it was lost in the blast. Saved my life, you did."


Pleasant surprise, that.

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