The world of Elysium floated far below him. A single continent of brown and green lurked amidst swirls of cloud, surrounded by blue seas. It rotated slowly east-to-west, going the wrong way, as always.
Far below Will, he could see three heartlights in train, reentering the atmosphere. Farewell, Ramesh, Milton, and Takashi. I hope that, whatever I achieved, it was enough to justify your sacrifice. And I hope you’re not out of incarnations. I hope you make it back to your bodies again. I think you deserve to live. He wondered if they would find John Ammerman again. He wondered what the four of them, working together, might do next.
The heartlights disappeared into the atmosphere, vanishing beneath the clouds. Will hovered in place. And as he did, he reflected on the terrifying possibility that had first occurred to him as he’d fled Asphodel. The Rel Dega told me that they no longer had a grasp on my consciousness, that my strings had been cut. But were they telling me the truth?
Even though Will was prepared to consider the possibility that the agenda of the Rel Dega was more benevolent than that of the rest of the Seraphim, he still didn’t trust them. They had lied to him, tried to manipulate him. There was no way to be sure that they were not still lurking, observing, whispering in his ear. And, as much as he didn’t want to acknowledge it, there was one overwhelming piece of evidence that their control over him might be stronger than ever.
The Seraphim offered me immortality, and I turned it down. I placed myself at war with an unimaginably advanced alien race. Why? Had he done it out of loyalty to his friends, and to humanity? Had he made the decision for himself? He wanted to say yes, but logic told him no. The more likely scenario, and by far more terrifying one, was that the decision had been made for him.
Will wanted to believe that he had chosen―of his own free will, as it were―to turn his back on the Seraphim. But he could never know for certain. The only thing he knew for sure was that his presence in Haven had exposed his friends’ behavior and secrets to an alien audience. Until I know for a fact that my thoughts and actions are my own, that the only consciousness looking out from behind my eyes is my own, I can’t put them at risk. In order to earn the company of my friends, I have to first confront my creators―and I have no idea where to even begin looking.
The STYX has returned. The Seraphim are blocked once again from Asphodel and Earth. But there’s no barrier, no STYX, to keep them off of Elysium. All that restrains them is some form of “codex”. And now that I’ve killed one of them, does that restriction still apply? If I go back to Haven again, will the Seraphim follow? And if they do, how can Ben and Jason protect the town against an army of demons? No. I can’t go back home.
And yet…they have to be warned. Somehow, I have to get word to them not to go into The Light.
Somewhere in the distance, Will spotted a falling star against the sky, another heartlight emerging from the Axis of Eternity and descending towards Elysium. Were you there? he wondered. At the end of your life, on Earth…were you there to see it? The lifting of the veil? And if so…what did you see? How did you react? How did people explain the things they saw, in those few minutes? Did the STYX come back down before, or after, the Seraphim arrived? Did the people of Earth watch a thousand angels explode in front of them? What changes have my actions wrought, on that world I’ve never known?
So many questions.
Will hovered in the void, suspended somewhere between heaven and Earth. The questions pressed in around him, besieged him, defined him. And slowly, his thoughts turned over in his head, and his soul began to smile. A plan began to form in his head. And the longer he thought about it, the brighter his smile grew. I don’t have the answers I need. But I DO know where I need to begin looking...
Will directed his thoughts forward, arcing downward, into the planet’s atmosphere. Slowly at first, then fast, then faster yet, tilting down towards the planet’s surface. He was awash both in the thrill of flight, and for the first time, in the unique glory that was himself. No one else could possibly have done what he was about to do.
Maybe I’m not fully human, Will thought. Maybe I’m not an end in myself. Maybe I’m not a sovereign entity, but a thing to be used. But even if I’m only a thing…I still have a choice. I can still choose what sort of thing I’m going to be. And I choose to be a weapon.
My thoughts may or may not be my own, but I’m comfortably sure this is MY plan. I’m comfortably sure the Rel Dega aren’t telling me to do this. They’ve lost their capacity for imagination, and this plan is nothing if not imaginative. And it’s insane. It’s utterly, completely insane. But if I don’t try it, I’ll never know whether it would have worked.
The atmosphere roared in his ears. Will was a streak across the sky, descending towards the surface of Elysium. Whether his mind was his own did not matter. What mattered was that his fate was in his hands.
I’ll have to see!