The Herald of the Broken One, Part 3
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Chloe didn't think, Chloe just acted.
The pavement was hot from the fire. Heat was dangerous. She had to get away from the heat. He couldn't be allowed to touch her back with the heat.
Chloe scrambled backwards across the street and pressed herself against a cool wall of the house.
Coolness meant no pain.
Coolness meant safety.
Coolness meant that he wasn't there….
Gradually the panic ebbed and Chloe could think clearly again.
The black book closed and was sealed again, by stronger chains than before.
"… Is with the child?" Eunasses asked Dean at that moment.
He looked horrible standing there in the middle of the street, the flames had consumed almost half of his body, and underneath… was metal.
Dean, with whom Chloe had had so many adventures, turned out to be a fairly advanced robot with a silver and, at the moment, soot-smeared chassis. Whoever had built it had taken great care to make the form as human-like as possible. The arm, for example, seemed to have real metal muscles. Without the skin, she could hear the quiet workings of servo motors underneath.
Two men were trying to beat out the flames that were still eating away at it.
"You almost burned her to ash, isn't it normal for a little girl to be scared when you do that?" Dean asked reverently.
His voice was distorted as if he was talking through a phone with bad reception. It was creepy.
"I picked her and her mother up out in the country and promised them safety here in Amoni, and thanks to you, my word is broken!"
"I'm terribly sorry about that, O Lord," the master farmer apologized with multiple bows. "But why did you not make yourselves known before the temple?"
"Because the TRAITOR, whom you sacrilegious ones also call the Herald of the Broken, would have drawn you to his side with his sweet words. He would have compared me with the whore of the Hebrews, even though she was created by him. He has made sure that you no longer see, but only believe! He brings you into even deeper shadows than the Jews are able to do."
Nervous whispering began.
"But Lord," said the soldier at the flamethrower. "Did not the Herald create so many wonders, even the Apparati, according to His schemes?"
"His schemes?" echoed Dean. "HA! He stole them from Him, with powers that even the Wizard-King of ADYTUM had tried to attain. MEKHANE was angry at that, and that anger manifests itself in me."
Chloe had to admire his talent for theatrics. Or was it programmed in? She had to question everything she knew about Dean.
"He's right," a guard said. "Hasn't Sofia, his creation, done more damage to our cause than all our enemies combined? Has she not even incurred the wrath of the Chief Builder Demetrius of Ephesus? Lord, tell us what to do and we will act!"
"Now that you have damaged me, my time here is limited, so we must act quickly," Dean said. "Take me and my companion to the TRAITOR and the mother, that I may bring him to his just punishment."
Great cheers were raised. Soldiers formed up and plans were discussed.
When it was finally extinguished, Dean approached Chloe, who looked up at him in amazement. Dean was not looking at her stoically as usual, but had a bitter expression on his face.
"Calmed down again?" he asked in German.
Chloe deactivated her translation patch.
"Y-yes, Dean… You-you're a robot? You never told me about that."
"I'm an android," Dean corrected, "and you never asked."
"I know, I mean, I had no reason to assume anything like that. You acted like a human the whole time."
She could tell by the look on Dean's face that she'd said something wrong. His left eye, which had turned out to be a camera in a rotating ball joint, stared soullessly down at her.
"Aren't I allowed to do that?" he asked, disappointed. "You've been with us for so long, and yet you panicked the moment you saw my true face."
It was a completely new experience for Chloe that Dean seemed sad, usually he was indifferent, grumpy or irritable. But he had completely misinterpreted Chloe's reaction.
"What, no, that… that's complicated… But I thought you died in the fire."
She stood up and hugged Dean and hip. She couldn't get any higher. The metal felt warm.
The remnants of Dean's face relaxed and he placed his intact hand on Chloe's head.
"And yet, I'm alive. But now come, we have to help Elli."
Chloe nodded resolutely.

WHY DID YOU DO THAT!?

YOU HAVE CONDEMNED COUNTLESS TO DEATH!

I'm so sorry…

With a yelp, Elli threw the knife from her. She gasped heavily.
"I've been wondering for a while why you only use a frying pan now and not regular weapons. I guess that was the answer."
She looked around. Lawrence was nowhere to be discovered. Only the Apparati were there.
Behind her, a louder buzzing sound arose as the energy portal generator created a gateway to a reality composed entirely of electric current.
It glowed white in the ring, making Lawrence's silhouette stand out sharply as Elli turned around.
"Midnight, I773," he explained. "I promised Amoni that Ultra would take his first steps."
The ground began to vibrate.
"I wonder if I should go over to Athens for a short while," Lawrence mused aloud.
"The device has a gas weapon. I could kill everything and have the riches secured for Amoni right away. What do you think?"
Ultra bursted his shackles binding him to his suspension and strode through the wide streets toward the city gate.
"Do you really want to destroy tens of thousands just to rub it in my face?" Elli asked bitterly.
"Yes," was the dry reply. "Look, I773, I'm not like them. Compared to me, everyone in this era is no more than an ant. And wouldn't you burn an anthill if it meant you could raise your own to a level where they were more useful to you?"
"You think of them as you think of me," Elli concluded.
"Inevitably, you stand in solidarity with them rather than dominate and guide them. You see them as equal to you? Then why shouldn't I do the same with you? Huh?"
This last expression was not directed at Elli, but at something that was apparently happening outside.
"HEROLD!" came through a microphone from outside. "Stop the Colossus and surrender in the name of the Broken One."
Lawrence rolled his eyes.
"What's going on now?"
He stepped up to a weird microphone behind the generator and peered through a periscope of sorts installed behind it.
"Eunassess," his voice echoed outside and also within Ultra. "What's with those crowds down there? They're blocking the way of our response to the heathens from the southeast!"
Run away, thought Elli. You can't win against a reality-bender!
"By all respect, Herald, the true emissary of Mekhane has arrived. And you let us hunt him like an animal!" it came from outside.
Was Elli mistaken, or did she hear a rapidly approaching screech…?
"What emissary?" asked Lawrence. "Don't you think that, of all people, I should be able to tell most accurately who is an emissary and who is not?"
"Ask him yourself!"
Something slammed into Ultra's chest and bored through it. It was a wrought iron cone four meters long with a base diameter of two. It split in half with the bang of several explosives as it hit the ground. A half-burned Dean sprawled out next to a large amount of sheep's wool. Sheltered in his crouch, Chloe groaned in pain.
"Ouh… no wonder we never heard of the infiltrator ballista in history class…"
"Chloe, Dean," Elli snapped. "What are you doing here?"
"I brought her here," Lawrence explained with a smile. "You can't be hypnotized, I'm afraid, since you can't change your memory, but with them…"
"Hypnotized?" Chloe exclaimed. "That was our own decision to come here."
"That's what you think," Lawrence retorted. "I admit I should have structured that more carefully, because now I've got a revolt on my hands, but hey, I'm in the most powerful weapon of war in the world. ULTRA, ON TO THE GATE! CLEAR OUT EVERYTHING THAT TRIES TO STOP YOU! Apparati, arrest them!"
"Aye, aye, master!"
The metal people started moving while Ultra lifted a foot. Beneath him, the people fled to avoid being stomped. Trumpets were blown and alarm bells sounded.
Orthos tried to grab Dean, but he simply shoved him backward, taking Ellis' bag from him, which still dangled from his arm. He tossed it to its owner.
Chloe, meanwhile, took flight from Pneuma and climbed a ladder. The Apparatus was too heavy to follow her and broke off the rungs of the ladder. Chloe hoisted herself onto a catwalk.
"You have to do everything yourself…" said Lawrence, annoyed, as a Logos thrown by Dean landed in front of him.
He strode up the stairs, which Pneuma was probably too heavy for as well, holding onto the banister with his left. The stairs became air behind him so no one could follow him.
"Elli!" shouted Dean in his distorted voice. "Don't lie there, do your usual thing!"
"And do what?" asked Elli back. "Dean, that man is a reality bender, one that even I can't stop, he-"
She blinked in confusion. She had noticed it before with the numerous metal prosthetics in town, but it seemed the transformation was not complete. Normal people couldn't notice it, but she could. In some higher dimensional way, the transformation was not complete.
Determined, Elli picked up her bag and rose to start an experiment.
Beside her, Dean fought off two of the Apparati by repeatedly punching them in the face. Pneuma meanwhile followed Chloe on the lower floor, presumably in case she fell down.
Elli reached the spot that had earlier claimed an air and stepped on it.
She stood on the air…
To confirm her suspicions, she climbed up the airs of the air.
Indeed. The air was not gone. It's concept had been changed so that she was now perceived as air. But changing a concept did not change the thing itself. It only changed the perception at a fundamental level.
Why did Lawrence do such a thing when he could actually use his reality bending powers to make the catwalk Chloe was on simply disappear? Instead, he had followed her and sent flames from his right hand toward her. Chloe escaped them only by taking a staircase that led further up.
Wait, he changed concepts only with his left and shot flames only with his right….
Elli took out her frying pan and posted herself behind Lawrence.
"HEY! STOP TORCHING MY CHLOE!"
Lawrence turned to her, startled, but too late.
BONK!
He still had held his right hand in the way of the pan in time, but all it had done was damage to the fire glove he was wearing. The force was still great enough to throw him against the railing.
Elli knew this tool. It was used by saboteurs in the twenty-sixth century for arson. The glove was translucent and barely visible, making it perfectly camouflaged.
While Lawrence was still dazed, Elli pushed him over the railing. He fell down…
And unfortunately landed in the mountain of sheep's wool….
"Stay up, Chloe!" begged Elli, hurrying back down the air.
When she reached the bottom, a small, white, spindle-shaped object rolled towards her. It was made of plastic.
"A miniature reality anchor," she noted, picking up the device. "No wonder I couldn't get the Nexus open. You used it to seal the whole city for me. That's probably why you made me pick up the knife, so I wouldn't note you turning it off to get the energy portal open."
She began to grin.
"If you had that device on the whole time, then that means you can't use your powers anymore. Oh, I think I know why. Different reality, different rules, right?"
Lawrence, meanwhile, fiddled with his pockets and then fired a laser pistol at Elli.
She had caught his hand movements and held the pan into the beam before he could fire, causing it to ricochet off the kitchen utensil and burn through the ceiling.
Lawrence looked at the pan in disbelief.
"Teflon-coated and indestructible, it's got a twenty years warranty," Elli explained. "And now for something I love to do. Getting guys who think they're better off their high horse. Especially ones who pretend omnipotence when they're just using an interdimensional teleporter to steal technology from other realities and the distant future. Let's see what pocket you hide that in…"
Pneuma rushed to her creator and stood protectively in front of him.
"Pneuma, get her!" bellowed Lawrence from below. "Tear her apart!"
"Understood."
The Apparatus stomped toward Elli, arms outstretched.
"You think you're my equal!?" came hysterically from Lawrence as he struggled to his feet. "I773, who do you think you are by now?"
Elli struck a pose with her pan in her hand that was supposed to look cool and mysterious, but looked absolutely ridiculous.
She giggled.
"Who am I? My name is Elli and this is my Stand:『DEAN UNLEASHED』!"
Pneuma was almost there, but then Dean's fist whizzed past Elli's head, grabbing the metal woman by the arm and pulling her toward him past Elli, who blocked another laser shot with the pan.
Lawrence looked around frantically for his other Apparati, but Dean had wedged them into each other in such a way that they were slow to disengage.
"Bronze?" Elli asked with a sideways glance at Pneuma and Dean as she walked slowly toward Lawrence. "Against the finest alloys of the twenty-first century and beyond?"
The Apparatus clutched Dean and pressed his arms to his body, but Dean's motors were stronger than the alloy and bent the metal woman's arms apart.
"I know," Lawrence replied calmly. "That's why my plan B was numerical superiority. But well, then plan C now, PNEUMA, SELF-DESTRUCT!"
"Understood."
Ellis' grin vanished abruptly, and she managed to put five feet between herself and Dean before Pneuma exploded.
And tore Dean apart.
The blast lifted her off her feet, as well as Lawrence, and hurled her into the mound of sheep's wool. Several small shrapnel bored into her back.
She groaned in pain as Lawrence picked himself back up and pointed the laser at her. Behind him, Logos and Orthos approached.
"I keep thinking, I773," he said proudly. "Your injuries seem to hurt, but that's about it, looking at where you were hit. I think I'm going to-"
He aborted his speech as the ground went off kilter. It seemed like Ultra's upper body was spinning.
Then Elli realized you through her pain: He was winding up for a punch.

Number 43 was a veteran Collossus who led the squad on five similar machines. They kept wide distances from each other, since Amoni's roads did not allow them to spread out too far. And one had to expect to be knocked down.
Alkibiades, Collossus helmsman, would have liked to wipe the sweat from his brow while his green helmet visor told him what was going on outside.
Ultra, a truly magnificent machine, was on its way to the South Gate and had trampled down everything stupid enough to obstruct it along the way.
None of the Collossi sent had the ANSWER, but hopefully it was not necessary, for their use would have destroyed all of Amoni.
Number 43 above was designed as a siege machine, which meant that it had very long and strong arms with special attachments to tear down masonry, towers and gates. Of course, he also had the obligatory flamethrower to scare defenders off the battlements. But his strength was something else…
Only Ultra seemed to be able to do that, too, as he took a swing with deceptive slowness.
"Hekataios, put the right arm in motion. Try to destroy his arm."
"All right, helmsman," echoed his helmet.
Gears meshed and the pounding of the steam engines gained intensity as Number 43 began to mimic Ultra's movement.
Then both punches flew toward each other.
Ultra was at a disadvantage because he wore his attachments on his arm. He had a real hand that could easily be destroyed with the battering ram attachments.
But while still in the punch, Ultra suddenly opened his fist and grabbed the arm of Number 43.
"Left arm, strike! Aim for the elbow!"
More steam billowed from the chimneys as Collossus spun sluggishly to strike with a block of solid steel, the "wall shaker."
But Ultra pulled on the arm he was gripping, thereby not allowing Number 43 to finish his move. And tore off his arm.
Orders were shouted in confusion to ensure that the Collossus did not lose his balance.
Ultra, meanwhile, extended his cannons from his arm. It was a new technology developed by the Herald. It fired not arrows, but massive balls of iron. They pierced Number 43's armor and damaged numerous mechanisms.
They were paralyzed.
But that's when Number 52 came to their rescue. The Collossus wielded a ballista and the arrow he fired had an explosive charge. And it hit Ultra in the shoulder.

Ultra rumbled and swayed so much that Lawrence had trouble staying on his feet.
But he had confidence that the Collossus could withstand the adversity Amoni threw at it. After all, he had designed it. But with the flurry, he couldn't aim….
"Logos, Orthos, break her legs."
"Seems your ants decided to pee on you," Elli quipped through clenched teeth.
"Humor in this situation, Elli?" asked Lawrence with a raised eyebrow. "Not very appropriate, but you never cared for atmosphere anyway. No matter how much you try to change, you can't deny who and what you are."
"Hey, I'm learning," Elli defended herself. "You, however, apparently aren't. You've forgot to account for Dean again."
Lawrence, startled, turned toward the epicenter of the blast and just caught Dean, no more than a torso and a head, crawling toward him with his remaining arm and the tenacity of a machine.
Immediately he pointed the laser pistol at him.
"Shouldn't have said that," Lawrence muttered.
Something landed on his shoulders. Lawrence registered some white hair before the something bit into his neck with all its might.
"Ah, you wretched little pest!" he howled as he became aware of I773's little lap dog that had dropped down on him from the catwalk above.
I773 had distracted him from her with Dean!
He changed the target of his pistol to the girl, but she seemed to have been waiting for that. Her teeth disengaged from his neck and sank into his arm even before Lawrence could fire. Out of reflex, he opened his hand.
And Chloe dove close to the falling pistol. She crashed to the ground, however, she seemed to be high on adrenaline right now, because she immediately reared back with the gun and fired at the Apparati, who had almost reached I773.
She was a lousy shot, but some of the shots were still on target. And two of the nearly twenty actually landed where they were supposed to. In the heads of the apparati.
They stopped moving all of a sudden.
Then a ballista arrow exploded in Ultra's leg, sending him into a noticeable tilt. The lifeless Apparati fell over and skidded across the floor along with Dean. All three crashed into the energy portal generator, which then began to flicker black.
"What, NO!" Lawrence roared.
He knocked the girl down before she could point the gun at him, wrung it from her hand, and in turn pointed it at Chloe.
"I actually had something special in mind with you, but with any luck I'll miss on the first few tries."
He pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened.
"You should have kept count," chimed it behind him.
Lawrence jerked his left arm up in time, but that only caused the concept converter, a small, camera-like machine he had hidden in his sleeve, to be ejected. His adversary's pan nevertheless made painful contact with his temple. Dazed, he began to stagger….
And staggered straight through the flickering energy portal, which then finally collapsed….

Ultra had just been about to punch number 52 into the command bridge when the Collossus stopped in mid-motion.
Amonians, who had taken cover everywhere, cautiously came out of hiding. Shortly thereafter, however, they returned to it as Ultra began to radiate enormous amounts of heat. The Collossi who were still mobile tried to get as far away from him as possible while the incapacitated machines were evacuated.

The portal ring was getting hotter as it had stored energy that it now had to feed into the system because it had nowhere else to go, since the portal had also the function to send excess energy back.
As a result, the whole Collossus began to heat up. The process would continue until the construct began to melt. All evidence of Lawrence's otherworldly identity would be destroyed.
Elli resolved to return later and search Amoni for other remnants to prevent the city-state from becoming too great a threat to other lands.
The heat was already getting to her, and the metal shards in her back didn't make it any better. It was a wonder she could still walk upright and swing her pan.
She scanned the area and finally found a suitable metal frame to create a Nexus portal in.
Chloe tried to drag Dean's remains toward it, but even with Dean's assistance, it was too heavy.
Elli pitched in, but her back complained vehemntly. And it was getting hotter.
"Leave it, Chloe, we won't make it in time. We'll get barbecued in here before we do."
Dean said something, but his voice modulator was too badly damaged. All he produced was distorted static.
"Dean, your black box is still intact, isn't it? I gave it extra-reinforcement, didn't I, so I could collect it even after a nuclear blast?"
Dean nodded choppily and turned onto his back, His chest flapping open. There was a gray cube connected to numerous wires. The black box. Elli reached for it.
"See you later, my friend."
Dean nodded and closed his eyes. She pulled the cube off and stowed it in her pure as Dean's body went limp.
"Elli, what did you do!!!" gasped Chloe in horror. "Did you kill him?"
"Don't worry, Chloe," Elli replied as she took the girl by the hand and led her to the portal. "As long as I have his black box, I can just build him a new body. He'll be back to his old self, I promise."
Chloe eyed her with a queasy expression as they strode through the portal, which closed again behind her.
"Did we prevent a war now?" she asked as they arrived at the Nexus lawn.
"Unfortunately, no," Elli replied with a sad smile. "The war that will occur in about fifty years between the Hebrews and Amoni must take place. Amoni as the aggressor will be annihilated and the Mekhanites will disappear from world affairs."
"So they have been completely wiped out?"
"Again, no," Elli countered. "They will continue to exist and evolve. And much like the Jews, Muslims and Christians once did, they too will split up. But they will never again own their own land. But with Lawrence, they would have been guaranteed to win this war of annihilation thanks to their superior technology, but fortunately it is now destroyed-"
She felt her legs give way as the feelings she had had to suppress in battle came up inside her. Lawrence was gone. This time for good… She was free…
Chloe, in only marginally better shape than her, tried to support her.
"Elli, are you all right?"
Her face expressed confusion when Elli suddenly took her in her arms and hugged her tightly.
"I was so scared, Chloe…" she sobbed.
Chloe tried unsuccessfully to comfort Elli as she began to cry for the first time in a very long while.

Slowly Lawrence regained consciousness…. But even with his eyes open, he saw nothing but blackness. He felt as if he was soaked in thick gel….
Oh shit…
He had ended up in Null Space!
He had to get out of here as soon as possible. Few things are as agonizing as losing oneself with seemingly infinite slowness in the space between realities.
Hectically, he rummaged in his pockets until he found it. The interdimensional teleporter.
It looked like an egg timer and vibrated violently.
The environment had already damaged it. It was designed to use null space as a transit route, but not to be activated in it. It would never be properly controllable again.
But with any luck…
Lawrence activated the machine and was sucked through a random portal.
He possessed kinetic momentum as he came out the other side. As a result, he skidded across the floor of a dining hall and slammed hard into a counter.
He groaned in pain as he noticed people approaching by the clatter of many shoes.
He raised his hands to surrender to any guards.
Then he noticed where he was.
He raised his hands some more….
"Oh… uh… Heil?"

Next time on Nexus:
Dean, Part 1

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