Follow the Ashes – Rivalry Reunion

Cas blinked. “Family?”

Gavin, or rather the holo-Gavin, chuckled. “Not blood related, mind you. We both initially reported to Bertie, and he often mocked us for behaving like siblings. He wasn’t wrong, I’ll concede.”

“I wish I could remember, but details are still fuzzy,” Cas replied, a frown tugging at the edges of her lips.

Holo-Gavin shook his head. “Probably some of my best work,” he said. “We all had to play our roles, after all, and for your journey to get here to succeed you couldn’t remember anything. Perhaps I did too well on the memory block, though, but it seems you’ve worked past it. Mostly.”

Cas winced as memories flew through her thoughts like a highlight reel. Events zipped past too quickly to process, and yet the details were clear enough.

“This is a suicide mission, isn’t it?” Cas said.

Holo-Gavin rolled his eyes. “You certainly weren’t this dour when you figured out how to power the rings,” he said. “Until you found out the cost the world paid for customized utopia living spaces, anyway. There was big money in it.”

Cas began to pace, and Holo-Gavin mirrored her. She stopped occasionally, a hand raised as if she were on the cusp of saying something. Each time, she resumed pacing instead.

“I’m not really capable of feeling much anymore, but you are making my storage overheat from trying to track you,” holo-Gavin said. “Please stand still if you can. Maybe another drink?”

Cas shook her head. “I’ve got to stay sharp,” she said. “And you never answered me. I’m going to die for the sake of the Earth, aren’t I?”

Holo-Gavin shrugged. “How the hell would I know?” he asked. “I’m already dead. No hard feelings on that front, by the way. That was a contingency we had planned for, obviously. As for your fate? I’m not much for gambling, but if I had to place a wager I’d put my money on you making it out of this alive. Unless you fail, of course, in which case I’d like to point out again I’m not much for gambling.”

Cas shook her head. A display on the back wall of the room showcased real-time footage of the Earth as it burned like an ember of a neglected campfire.

“Any helpful hints?” Cas hazarded asking.

Holo-Gavin smiled. “You need to go back the way you came,” he said. “Cryptic. Just the way you like it.” His image faltered, gaps in his appearance visible for fractions of a second.

“Damn,” holo-Gavin said. “Guess our brief time together again is almost up.”

“Hold on!” Cas demanded, unsure if it would help. “Before you go, could you at least tell me…Did we ever really get along? Were we friends, or just colleagues who fought one another? What were we?”

Holo-Gavin smiled, his face one of bittersweet recollection. “We both fought with all we had to be the lead architect on the rings,” he replied. “With time and success and failure, it became apparent who was the superior choice. I was happy to work for you, and when we realized the cost? I knew you’d make the right call. I suppose, in a sense, you did become something of a sister to me.” The holo-Gavin faltered again, longer this time, and reformed into a choppier, more pixelated version of itself.

“Do me a favor, yeah?”

Cas forced a smile. “I’ll try.”

“If you succeed,” holo-Gavin said. “If you get out of this in one piece and ever get back to Terra, could you take my eye with you? Bury it somewhere nice so I can see the world again.”

Cas winced, the sting of imminent tears burning her eyes. “Yeah, you sentimental bastard,” she replied. “I could do that.”

Holo-Gavin laughed, the sound tinny until it faded as did the projection. The cybernetic eye went dark.

Cas took a slow, long sip from the bottle and appreciated it more this time. A single image appeared on the screen ahead of her. It depicted a castle, almost straight out of a movie, deep underwater. Coordinates flashed quickly, followed by a sharp pain behind Cas’ eyes.

“I guess I’ve got the answer to where I’m off to next,” Cas said. She retrieved Gavin’s cybernetic eye from the pedestal, replaced it in her pocket, and left the room to continue her journey backwards through time and achievement to right the wrongs her progress had caused.

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