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Somebody that I Used to Know

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It has spent millions of years bringing sentient beings from two galaxies into Unity. In the beginning, It had a vague plan for how It should proceed, but mostly, It acted on instinct. It has done much good over the past six million years, but Its work—Its true work—is only now beginning. At long last, It is approaching people and places and times that It remembers, and It isn’t certain that It is ready.

But ready or not, the Atonement begins now.

~*~*~

Atoning Unifex watches:

BERLIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE: 1944

“But Louie, you can’t go!”

“And why the hell not?” Louis Remillard was short but powerful, and nobody ever told him what he could or could not do. Nobody, that is, but his charismatic younger brother. “So one leg is slightly shorter than the other? So what? If I enlist in the Navy rather than the Army, I won’t be marching and it will make no difference at all. You know I could get the Doc to overlook it if I asked him. Or you could…”

This was the thing that they didn't talk about. That no one ever talked about. Joe could get people to do things for him. Sometimes, things they didn't want to do. If Joe went to the naval enlistment office with him, Louis would ship overseas and nobody would ever again think “coward” when they looked at him.

Joe had other plans. “You’re not going, mon grand frère. You’re staying here to take care of your kids. More than that, you’re staying here to take care of Adele.”

“Adele?” Louis shook his head at the non-sequitor. “Adele Laforce? Your old girlfriend?”

“Yesterday she was my ex-girlfriend. Today, Adele est mon fiancée enceinte,” Joe corrected his brother with a sigh. “We’ll be getting married before I ship out. Her old man will cut her off when he finds out that she’s pregnant, and Adele’s mother will never stand against him. She’ll need help when I’m gone. She’ll need your help.”

Joe stared at his brother with fierce, blue eyes, and Louis felt his coucougnettes shrink right up into his body. He didn’t want to sit out this war. Damnit, he wouldn’t sit out the war. He was going. He would enlist in the Navy and sail far away from Berlin and see the world. Shit yeah, that was what he was going to do, and he was going to tell his brother exactly that. Louis opened his mouth and said, “Yes. Of course. I’ll take care of Adele. For as long as she needs it.”

A brilliant smile overtook Joe’s face, but never reached his eyes. “Bon! I knew I could count on you, Big Brother. You always come through for me... with a little persuasion.” He whistled as he walked away, leaving Louis shivering in a cold sweat.

~*~*~

Unifex remembers:

OKANAGON: 2082

Jack strolled up to CEREM and was immediately admitted by the receptionist. “Mr. Remillard said he would meet you by the elevator, Director. Take it to the basement level and he’ll be waiting for you when you get off.”

Jack thanked the woman at the desk and did as he was told. He had a premonition that he wouldn’t like whatever it was that Marc wanted to show him in the basement. If he had a stomach, it would be falling as fast as the lift.

As promised, Marc was waiting for him when the doors opened, familiar half-smile firmly in place. “I don’t usually forget things,” he said wryly, “but for the life of me, I simply can not recall sending you an invitation.”

“I always used to have free access to CEREM,” Jack said mildly. “Is it so different now that you’ve moved to Okanagon?”

“Certainly not,” Marc proclaimed grandly. “Make yourself at home, Jacko. Why don't you move right in? How about I get you a fishbowl?”

“I won’t be staying that long,” Jack assured him. “There’s something we need to discuss in person. Privately.”

“All right.” He gestured toward a door and both brothers walked through it into a long room filled with empty tanks and unused medical equipment. “What is it?”

“Fury’s gone,” Jack said bluntly. “Uncle Rogi mind-zapped him. Like Parni.”

Marc stared intently at his younger brother. “Are you sure? Really sure this time?”

Jack nodded slowly. “There’s no doubt. Before it died, Fury told Rogi that the last Hydra was dead as well. The five Remillard cousins and the New Ones.” He peered sharply at Marc. “Do you know anything about that?”

Marc let out a sharp laugh. “I should. I fried Maddy myself. With our dear sister in a cozy little coma, we’re finally free of Hydra.”

“I didn’t know what happened to Madeline. What I meant to ask was, what do you know about the New Ones?”

“Merde,” Marc said with an uneasy laugh. “Why should I know anything about them?”

“Rogi is under the impression that Mental Man is somehow connected with Hydra. He often falls under bizarre impressions, but I think he’s right about this one. And so I ask again, what do you know about new Hydra units?”

Marc locked gazes with Jack for a long, tense moment before letting out an explosive breath. “Boom-Boom tipped me off before the Krondaku raided my CEREM labs on Earth. I hid some of the fetuses and brought them here. I was growing Mental Man here.” He swept an arm expansively to show off the empty room. “Right here, in fact.”

“Where are they?” Jack leaned in closer. “Where are they now, Marc?”

“Gone. Electrocuted.” Marc’s one-sided smile overtook his face but there was no warmth in it. “Maddy got to the fetuses. Corrupted them, somehow. I didn’t want to believe it, but I think she may have created a new Hydra. Some Good Samaritan fried the whole lot of them. 103 paramount minds--all gone.”

Jack blinked in surprise. “One hundred and three? How many were you growing?” Marc smiled again. “Are you telling me that every single fetus was a paramount? How is that possible?”

“Well, they weren’t all paramounts. Or at least, they weren’t when they died. But they would have become paramounts.”

“You can’t possibly know that! There’s no way to ensure that you’d overcome all their latencies. Not unless you were intending to subject the babies to some kind of trauma…” Jack gaped at Marc in dawning horror. “What is Mental Man, Marco?”

“He’s like you, Jack.” Marc projected an image of hundreds of disembodied brains, all floating in air and existing without the burdens of flesh. “You'll never be alone again.”

Jack slammed down his mental shield to block out the horrifying vision. “This project isn’t done, is it? You’re going to try again.”

“Yes. Now that Hydra and Fury are both gone, there’s nothing more to fear.” Marc suddenly threw all the coercivity that he could muster at his brother. “You could be part of it, Jack. You will be part of it.”

For a moment, for a long, endless moment, it seemed that Jack might actually succumb. He who had never been coerced in his life, damn near fell under Marc’s powerful spell. But he didn’t. “Never, Marc. I’ll never be a part of this.”

Marc’s eyes glittered. “Then you don’t need to be a part of my life, either, baby brother. Leave.”

Jack shook his head sadly. “I think we stopped being brothers the moment you tried to coerce me.”

“GO,” Marc commanded.

Jack left.

~*~*~

Unifex watches:

BERLIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE: 1966

Rogi and his twin brother were stumbling along, both much the worse for an evening of drinking. Unifex was about to pass on, mentally shaking Its non-existent head over Rogi’s long-standing fondness for booze, when Its uncle suddenly jumped up on a railing over an icy river. “Wa-hoo! Boy, that’s a kick! C’mon, Donnie. Now it’s your turn.”

Unifex had always known Uncle Rogi to be risk-adverse to the point of neuroticism, so It stayed to observe this atypical behavior. Thus It was in place to watch in growing alarm as Rogi cajoled his far more intoxicated brother into following him upon the rail. Not even Rogi’s gonzo shield could completely hide his murderous intent.

let me kill him Imustonlyway must KILL orbetter perhaps weboth die freaks damned unrealmen KILL unrealhuman kill us kill us BOTH intowaterdowndowndissolve KILL

After Unifex saved Don and sent the twins on their way, It stayed on the bridge for a long while to soak in the hostile aether. No other Lylmik would have understood why It would remain in such a malevolent environment, but then again, no other Lylmik had Its need to Atone.

~*~*~

Unifex remembers:

HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE: 2043

Marc ran home as fast as his little legs could carry him, banging the front door as he darted in. “Mama! Papa!”

His father tore down the stairs within moments. Seeing that Marc didn’t appear to be physically injured, he scowled at the boy.

“Luc has finally dropped off to sleep, and your mother needs to take this opportunity to rest up herself.” Unspoken, but understood by both of them, was the knowledge that Marc’s mother needed all the sleep she could get. Little Luc’s fragile physical state, combined with Teresa’s recent miscarriage, had wreaked havoc with her mental health… which in turn disrupted the entire family. “Tell me what’s got you so riled up. Quickly and quietly.”

“I was at the bookshop. Uncle Rogi is sad about Luc and about Mama and the lost baby, so he’s been, uh…”

Paul Remillard frowned in distaste. “He’s been on a bender. I’ve seen them before. I know that they’re undignified, but Marc, you know that your uncle would never harm you. Not ever.”

“I know that, Papa. And he didn’t. But he did say something that scared me.” Marc took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Papa, who’s Matthieu?”

“Merde!” Paul knelt down so that he could look his son in the eyes. “What did Rogi say about Matthieu?”

“He said that he was my brother,” Marc whispered. “But not a brother like the stillborn boys. A twin brother. My twin brother. But I killed him.”

“Fucking connard!” Paul rubbed his temples for a moment then spoke more gently to the little boy. “It’s true that you did have a twin brother and that he came all the way to term, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that you killed him.”

Marc narrowed his eyes, suddenly looking much older and far more mature than his actual five years. “What do you mean by ‘necessarily’? Did I kill Matthieu or not?”

“You and Matthieu gained some degree of consciousness before your birth. Babies are extremely egocentric, and in your cases, that egocentrism seems to have manifested itself in the form of mental antagonism.”

“What does that mean, Papa?”

Paul sighed. “You were both born grasping the other’s umbilical cord. Apparently, Matthieu tried to strangle you with your cord. You squeezed his cord tight enough to cut off his blood supply before he was able to do so.”

“So I did kill him…”

“No, Marc! The doctors think it was probably self-defense, and in any case, you were just a baby. You didn’t have enough moral knowledge to be responsible for your actions.”

Marc wasn’t listening. “I’m a murderer. Does that mean that I’m evil, Papa?”

“No, son. No!” Paul held the little boy close. “I’d never think that of you, Marc. Never!”

~*~*~

Unifex watches:

MOUNT WASHINGTON, NEW HAMPSHIRE: 2013

True to his promise at breakfast, Severin Remillard tackled his two older brothers as soon as they left their panel to break for lunch. Most of the adult operants gave the boys scandalized glances, but a few smiled fondly.

“Why do you have to be such a pipsqueak all the time, Sevvy?” demanded Maurice as soon as he was back on his feet. “If Mama and Papa knew you were roughhousing, they might send all three of us home.”

“I’m not a pipsqueak,” Severin declared. “Take it back, or I’ll fight you!”

“I, for one, refuse to engage in fisticuffs,” said Phillip with his usual gravitas. “I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation of the conference, and don’t intend to risk an early return home just to satisfy a brain-dead cretin like you.”

Severin immediately charged his oldest brother, but the lanky sixteen year old was easily able to hold him at arms’ length. Severin ran as hard as he could, and pumped his arms as fast as they would move, but still managed to get no traction against the taller boy.

“Give it up, pillock,” laughed Maurice. “Even if we wanted to violate the Altruism Ethic by engaging in fighting, we wouldn’t fight with you. You’re covered in eggs and we’d get all dirty. A pipsqueak like you simply isn’t worth it.”

Severin glared at his brothers but had no ready response. They left, both of them chuckling to themselves while he stood watching them go. When they were completely out of sight, he shrugged and went in to lunch. He made a point of sitting on the other side of the room.

~*~*~

Unifex remembers:

SEATTLE METRO AREA: 2078

“Please, Marco. I can’t get married without you.” Jack looked imploringly at his older brother. “Please say that you’ll be my best man.”

“I’m busy as hell here right now, you Bodiless Boob. You know that. A wedding would throw my schedule completely out of whack.” Marc scowled. “And besides, why should you want to get married anyway? It’s ridiculous.”

“You only say that because you haven’t met anyone like Diamond yet,” Jack declared with a dreamy look in his eyes. “If you knew a girl like her, you’d be rushing her down the aisle too!”

“You’re wrong,” Marc stated confidently. “I have much better control of myself than that. But even if you were right, it still wouldn’t be as laughable as you getting married!”

Suddenly deflated, Jack asked quietly, “What do you mean?”

“Look at yourself, Jacko!” Marc waved an arm expansively to cover Jack’s entire body. “Not as you are now, not as you pretend to be, but as you actually are. Your entire body is a psychocreative trick; it’s not real. You’re my brother, but let’s face it: you’re also a thing. Can’t you see for yourself how absurd it is for you to want to marry?”

“When two minds—“

“It’s a wonderful thing when two minds meet,” Marc interrupted with a sneer. “But on your wedding night, the esteemed Dirigent Lassie is going to want le bras de vitesse and you haven't got one.”

“You’re right,” Jack conceded sadly. “But I still want to be with Diamond. Will you help me?”

“By being your best man? Fine! You’d better not be thinking of making a full week of it though.”

“No. Or rather, yes! Thank you, Marco.” Jack made a show of taking a deep breath that he didn't need. “But I was wondering if you could also help me be the man that Diamond deserves. Could I model my… erm… tackle… after yours?”

Marc gaped at him for a moment before bursting out laughing. “Why the hell not? Do you want me to strip, baby brother, or will you use your deep sight?”

Jack joined in the laughter though it didn’t seem quite as heartfelt as Marc’s guffaws. “Deep sight will do, big brother. Deep sight will do nicely.”

~*~*~

Unifex watches:

THE VULPECULA, IN ORBIT AROUND OKANAGON: 2083

Just a few short months after the Milieu lost two billion Krondak minds at Molakar, another two billion souls were destroyed on Okanagon, and for no better reason than the first massacre. It was appalling. Horrific. The damage done to the evolving mind of the universe was unbearable.

But Marc Remillard bore it. He wanted to do more, in fact. “Blanchard!” he barked. “Pull yourself together, man! Time to make my freak brother and his freak wife pay.”

“Yes,” screamed Patricia Castellane. The normally urbane Dirigent of Okanagon looked like a madwoman, or perhaps even an operatic avenging spirit. “I don’t know what the hell they did, but that little trick they pulled killed my planet. Make them die too, Marc. Make them die!”

Owen Blanchard ignored Castellane, focusing instead upon Marc. In a minor show of rebellion toward the leader of the Rebels, he refused to wipe the tears from his face. “What are your orders?”

“I want our secondary team to concentrate on the energy sphere. Once Adrien and his people get inside, they can attack the Carbuncle from in there while we hammer it from out here.”

“Concentrate how?”

“Fuck, Owen. You know how! Have them do a damned hyperstatial translation right inside the sphere!” Blanchard looked skeptical but relayed the orders anyway.

The tactic was brilliant and worked perfectly. Adrien Remillard’s metaconcert of coercive energy broke through the energy barrier with ease. Marc’s metaconcert of creativity energy destroyed Jack’s little ship as if the Scurra was made out of paper. If the Rebels had been fighting an enemy like themselves, one that operated under the same rules of war that have characterized all primates at or above the level of chimpanzees, they would have won easily. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Jon Remillard and Dorothea MacDonald made their own rules.

Jack and Diamond constructed their metaconcert out of love and goodwill and nonviolence. It had no offensive capabilities, and that’s what made them invincible. The combined attack of the Rebels may have destroyed the bodies of the young lovers, but immersed in Unity as they were at the time, they were glad to join the Cosmic All.

Unifex remembers

Jack’s last words pounded in Marc’s head.

{{Adieu dear Marc}}

The Scurra exploded with the same intensity as a small nova, taking with it his father, his brother and sister-in-law, an aunt, two uncles, and many co-workers that approximated friends, but he could survive it. The creative flashover from his collapsed metaconcert damaged him badly and killed many more of his almost-friends, but he barely noticed. All his hopes and dreams of Mental Man and human superiority and independence from exotics were crushed, and he didn’t give a good god damn.

{{Adieu dear Marc dear Marc dearMarcdearMarc}}

Marc had only ever shared the full extent of his Mental Man dream with Jack. Instead of being pleased with the honor, or excited about the scope of his plans, Jack had rejected Mental Man. Had rejected him. On that day, Jack the Bodiless became Marc’s most deadly foe, and so he had remained. Until now.

{{Adieu dearest Marc}}

Marc Remillard hadn’t just lost everything, he’d also lost his brother.

Atoning Unifex acts

When It heard Marc’s mental cry of anguish, It knew that it was time to act. The Angel of the Abyss might not yet feel remorse for the billions of souls that died at his hands, but he ached for his lost brother, and that was a start. He’d have a few million years to come to grips with the enormity of his crimes after all.

It manifested Itself on board the Vulpecula. “Hello, Abaddon.” It’s time to Atone, mon cher miroir.

THE END