The old roost is much as it was. Still isolated, still grimy, still possessing an amazing vantage over the city. The only notable differences are the new figure on one of the mural-cylinders, and the smeared section of grease and dirt that was once a crude drawing of heroes and monsters. Two months had passed since then, but it felt like another lifetime.
Tex sits down, pulling his ether-wave theremin from his back. Instead of plugging it into his arm, he presses the connector between his teeth. He fires off a low, haunting tone to calibrate the device, and casts his gaze around. His mouth is busy completing the motonic circuit, but his mind is free.
“Less air traffic. Probably put all available vessels on supply and transport duty. Fewer lights, too. But even without all that, the city feels more peaceful. We’re at our best when the enemy is on the outside, rather than in.”
The haunting tone reverberates, shifts up an octave, then collapses into a torrent of notes as he begins an old song from the borehole miners, his instrument mimicking the lead singer’s voice in that muted, indistinct way. But he knows the words by heart.
His eyes pass over the cylinders. He does not smile, this time.
“Nüt looks good in those robes. She was born to wear them. I’d have rather it not been like this, but at least she is safe and making a positive difference. Also, kind of funny how they sculpted her likeness to the same size as Stern Whip. Definitely not to scale.”
He still doesn’t smile, nor does the song waver from its melancholy tones. His internal monologue fades away, as words give way to deeper impressions and feelings. He considers how much of Sova’s heroic legends, its inspiring tales, its proud history, might be based in lies and exaggerations. How much of what he unhesitatingly believes does not match up to reality.
Oh, he always knew that’s how it was. Not even in a “deep-down” sort of way. The People need heroes, need legends, need inspiration. And like all things in Autochthonia, legends can be manufactured. But to acknowledge it too openly is to drain away some of its power. You have to be able to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at once, and choose one over the other. The essence of being a citizen of the Octet, some might say.
He knows those words by heart, too. Domadomod turned out to be Ku. An Apostate became a friend. So many heretics with dangerous ideas became allies, became enemies, became both and neither at once. The dead can find no rest, the Maker inches towards death or salvation, and our Nation is tearing itself apart.
But even so, to be so directly confronted by the compromises and cruel realities that hold the world together, and at the highest levels, for the umpteenth time… To know that Inspiring Monument of Virtue, reincarnation of the First Sova, twice-founder of the great Sovan Nation, had given her blessing… Well, it came as quite a shock.
Tex stopped, letting the song trail off. With one finger, he reaches out to the smeared grime that was once his canvas, and begins to draw again.
“Well, I know my duties. They aren’t the duties I was made for, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll do my duty.”
His art finished, he rises, slings the theremin, and begins his descent. He leaves behind an image almost identical to the original, save for one key difference. There are no champions, no angels of the reaches, only monsters. Some of them just happen to be mixed in with the mortals.