186 Memoirs of a Dead Homeworld
Zoey was in shock for a few minutes when she saw Viridi in human form. She had never anticipated that it was even possible that her friend could transform like that, and now she was face to face with that exact situation!
Viridi looked completely human aside from her feline pupils, nothing else about her was notably different, but Zoey's surprise only lasted for a moment. Something was strange, different about Viridi… It was like it was not really her at all! Zoey could barely sense the link between her and her friend, as if it was subdued somehow.
Then she sensed it! Something was inside Viridi's body! A foreign existence, a strange being, an unfamiliar mind was controlling her friend!
"Your friend is sleeping, and as you guessed, we are not them," said the figure, confirming Zoey's suspicions!
Someone, or something was inside Viridi's body! They were using her as a vessel to communicate with Zoey, but how?! Why?!
"Is Viridi OK?" Zoey asked, her voice threateningly low as she readied herself to attack. If this person had harmed Viridi in any way…
"She's fine, only sleeping. In fact, it was she who reached out to us for help. We are only here because your friend called out to us."
"Help with what?" Zoey asked in confusion, still on guard against whoever the person inside her Viridi's body was.
"Helping you of course. She was worried about you. You do realize you have been trapped inside a prison don't you?" the figure replied wonderingly.
Zoey had realized that much since her memories had returned, she just had no time yet to actually think about it. There was a lot of things that she wanted to know, but first thing was figuring out who this person was.
"Let's start from the beginning. First, who are you?" Zoey asked the figure.
The figure cocked its head for a moment as if thinking about the question.
"Our identity… is complicated," said the figure. "The best way to understand it is that we are an echo, a remnant of someone long dead lingering inside the Dark Star Shard that you possess. You may remember having heard our voice before, when you first found the Shard."
"You sounded different back then," Zoey stated, still not convinced of the person's identity or purpose.
They nodded in response, then said, " We were speaking to you through the Dark Star Shard at that time. Now we have physical form, allowing us to communicate in a manner familiar to you."
"So you were only a message in a bottle. So how are you now answering questions? How are you able to do this?" Zoey questioned.
"We are part of the Dark Star, kept in the shard as a memory for the one who wields our power. When your friend asked the Dark Star for help, we were sent to assist as a response from the Dark Star, but in doing so we have been affected by what you call a database. The information we were exposed to allowed us to form a consciousness that we are using to communicate with you."
Zoey frowned as she processed what they had told her. A memory sent by the Dark Star to assist her that gained consciousness when they came in contact with her database. She sent out a sensory test and confirmed that she could indeed sense the Dark Star's energy inside of Viridi's form, and sure enough, there was a connection from Viridi's body to the crystalline tree.
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The Dark Star was part of her, and by extension so was this existence that Viridi had called forth to help Zoey. Vridid must have been very concerned about her to go to the lengths that she had to awaken this strange existence.
"OK, I understand a little better now. So can you explain where I am and how to get out of here? Also, how is Cornelius in here with me?" Zoey asked.
The figure noded, then spoke; "Our information shows us that we are currently inside what matches the description of a Mind Prison. A Mind Prison is designed to trap a prisoner inside their own memories, looping the victim in a cycle of trauma until they give up and subsequently die. Once the prisoner dies, the prison opens to await its next victim.
The prison also alters the perception of time. Perceptively, we have been trapped here for about 5 years, but outside the Mind Prison, only 5 hours have passed. Methods of escape include death, or seizing control of the Mind Prison control matrix to open the release.
As for the unlucky fellow that has been trapped in here with us, he appears to be a psychic projection via magic link from outside the prison. I believe he did not intend to be trapped here, but a Mind Prison is also designed to work on psychic beings, so as a result he was also caught in the cycle. Unfortunately, his mental state has been severely damaged since he was unable to withstand the trauma of dying repeatedly. My readings indicate he is in a comatose state, likely for his own protection."
"Why could I not understand him at all?" Zoey asked.
"The Mind Prison seals off all access to talents and abilities, leaving prisoners vulnerable to the horrors that await them in their memories. Your connection to your interface has been severed while you are here, so the translate function is no longer working."
"So you and the blades that are swinging about out there, what are you then?" Zoey questioned.
"The Dark Star has a number of protection routines put in place in case of emergencies and danger to the host. The blades and our existence is part of that system, and we will only exist as long as the defence routine is active. A simple Mind Prison such as this will not be able to prevent us from protecting the host.
The Dark Star's functions are currently only at 50%, so we can only partially activate the defence routines, but Viridi's intervention on your behalf has allowed us to improve the system and make it more efficient, therefore only the blades are necessary."
Well, that was interesting. The Dark Star considered her a host and would actively work to protect her. Zoey was sure it had been like that as well back when she had been trapped on Gaia, the defence routines protecting her while she slipped in and out of consciousness. One thing was for certain, the Dark Star was an existence that was beyond her understanding, at least for now. She was starting to understand a little more about what it was with every event like this.
Suddenly Zoey felt a tremor run through her inner world.
The enemy was coming again!
Zoey focused her mind and in a breath had left her inner world and opened her eyes to the barren plains that the Mind Prison had created to trap her. It was a shock for her to see the scorched plains of Gaia again with her unclouded eyes. When she had seen this all before, her memories had been sealed and she had not reacted, but now she was hit by the tidal wave of sensations and memories that flooded her mind all at once at the sight of her dead homeworld and the tide of enemy that was sweeping towards her across it.
She crouched down and reflexively hugged her knees, making an effort to stay calm and breath. The enemy was approaching, and her instincts wanted her to snap back into survival mode. Her body knew that the enemy was an incredible threat and was trying to respond to their presence!
She could already feel her mind starting to go dark like it had in the past when faced by the enemy, her breathing was fast and panicked, and blood pounded in her ears. Going unconscious was what had allowed her transformation to take over and protect her when the enemy came for her, and now it was happening again!
"Relax, everything will be fine. The defence routine will protect you. Just close your eyes and block them out, they cannot hurt you."
It was the voice of the Dark Star Shard again, and Zoey did as they said, sitting down and shutting off her senses as she focused her thoughts inwards as the enemy approached. As she did this, the molten blades hummed to life with fresh heat, starting to slice a pattern into the air around Zoey as the enemy approached.
The battle began shortly after like it had countless times before. The unresponsive form of Cornelius was swept up and devoured as the enemy swept past. As the enemy neared Zoey sitting on her hill, the molten blades began their work, boiling the air around them with a shriek as they sliced into their foes.
Zoey on the other hand had isolated herself inside her inner world, sitting with her back against her crystalline tree as she tried to calm herself. The sight of the dead plains of Gaia, fake or not, had affected her strongly. The reaction she had experienced was basically post traumatic stress affecting her, fear and trepidation of the enemy pulling on her instincts and reactions. She was tired of it, and wanted to overcome those reactions. She wanted to become stronger.
Her time on Darren had not lessened the memory of the enemy, nor the effect they had on her, so now was her chance to master her own fear and use it. She was without her abilities and talents, but she still had the Dark Star. It was an opportunity for her to grow.
Every time in the past when the enemy had attacked her she had gone unconscious while the Dark Star had protected her, activating what she now knew were defence routines to protect her, the host. But she was not happy with blacking out every time there was a threat to herself!
Over the next few days, Zoey gradually took control of her mental and physical reactions caused by the enemy, forging her thoughts with iron determination and stubborn purpose. Meditation and exposure was the trick, and she kept at it until she was able to stand with emerald eyes wide open and her mind unaffected as the enemy threw themselves at her.
It was a small victory for her, but not an unimportant one. She could not allow the enemy to cause such a reaction in herself. She needed to be in control and awake, not sinking into unconscious protection while the Dark Star did its work.
Now that she was able to stay awake and aware during the enemy's attacks, she was able to learn a lot by watching how the molten blades defended her when they attacked. The patterns, techniques, speed, and style was all many times better than she had been on her own when using Dark Star Control on her weapons.
The blades themselves she assumed were another technique that she had yet to learn, but she promised herself that she would one day wield their molten fury with her own hands. She would not be a passenger any longer. She would be the pilot of her destiny, the conductor to her own symphony.
It was only a matter of time.