Fragments of Time: Part Seven

While Sapience celebrated the defeat of the Haekathi and took a moment to relax, Copperhead had other things on its mind. Arriving in the City of Spinesreach, the Cogger commenced what would be a weeks-long search for the ‘non functional remnant’ to which it had been earlier alerted. Spirean reactions were a mix of alarm and curiosity as the familiar clanking of metal sounded through the streets. Search parties were dispatched yet for all their efficient scouring of the city, Copperhead remained elusive.

Examinations of the catacombs reminded the Spireans of an ancient construct therein, fused to the stone itself in an age long past. Questions to the irascible Vusbati revealed little, save that the construct predated him and dated back to the First Order. Vusbati explained that researchers of the Second Order had utilised it during his own time with them – to construct the orrery that lay in the catacombs. Though its head had been replaced with the guise of an Ankyrean, the construct’s composition was – is – remarkably similar to that of Copperhead itself. Confidence grew, certainty that this was what the Cogger sought.

Under the advice of Sneak and spearheaded by the efforts of Legyn, the Archivists began to prepare a trap formed of geometric patterns in order to restrain the errant Cogger and interrogate it. Though they suspected its quarry, they did not know the Cogger’s reason for seeking it. While the Spireans had no malicious intent, they worried for their home and laid in wait. Some days later, what once was a neutral clang of metal and whirring of gears transformed to mechanical indignation: the trap was sprung, and Copperhead – having located that which it sought – raged against the bonds holding it.

Interrogation yielded little of import from the Cogger save for maddened ravings, grief at the fate of what it termed a sacred work, and newfound hatred for the Spireans who – it assumed – had defiled it. When asked of its maker by Saidenn, Copperhead demanded freedom and the Chair – interpreting this as a request to bargain – gave assent. Legyn loosened the bonds and the Cogger broke free in a whirlwind of mechanical fury. Slaying several of those who stood present, it declared a state of war against the City of Spinesreach, felling several guards as it fled the scene of its capture and declared Legyn to be “an asset” for his hand in the liberation.

For weeks then did the Cogger terrorise the Lion of the North, seeking to undermine the city’s foundations from below. It wrenched sewer grates free, murdered many more guards, woke rockworms from the earth with its rowdy workings, and came and went to and from the city without obstruction. Loudly broadcasting its plans to the world with each objective it completed, panic began to wrack Spinesreach as tremors shook the city and access to their aqueducts was denied. The citizens rallied to the defence of their home, organising guards and patrols in order to stop what seemed like a course toward destruction. But all efforts were futile.

Once more Sneak came to their aid, positing a theory that the Cogger had fashioned its own means of entering and leaving the city, denying access to the sewers in order to complete its objective. She explained, having obtained the information from Delve’s Pious Wards, that Copperhead was a creation of Aechros, the Endless – the Albedi Helm-God of Time and Machines. Copperhead, it was revealed, was no mere machine, but a soul infused into a mechanical body. The broken construct in the catacombs was, it seemed, a similar construct of Aechros that the Cogger believed to have been profaned and defaced. While Sneak sought to locate it, she proposed a plan to capture it and utilise the powers of Yuef and Ef’tig to form a collective mind in order to shut down its attack.

The Numerologist tracked Copperhead to the Crags, where it had bored a tunnel of its own making through the mountains and into the aqueducts. Led by Vara, an enormous group of adventurers composed of Bloodloch and Spinesreach citizens both, gathered for an assault. First navigating a series of Cogger Coms deployed as security, the group cautiously entered the aqueducts, where Copperhead had transformed the simple sewers into a theatre of chaos. The ceilings began collapsing, countless explosives awaited disposal, fissures in the rock made passage difficult, and toxic sludge poured out of broken pipes. The Cogger’s maddened ravings rose to a fevered pitch as the adventurers fell in droves, first to premature fusebomb detonations, then to horde after horde after horde of rockworms.

Though it took some time, the disparate group finally began to organise, carefully bracing the ceiling and disposing of loose explosive devices before blowing apart the Cogger’s obstructions. In the midst of the chaos, Iesid Mulariad – the same man who had first alerted Copperhead to the presence of the construct – entered the sewers. Despite his valiant efforts to defend Copperhead from the assault, reclassified as an “asset” by it in the process, the Seer of Omei could not withstand the combined assaults and fell. Minutes later, with the rockworms quelled and the various obstacles cleared, the adventurers turned their attention to the water wheels and as one unit, opened all the valves. Water gushed forth to flood the aqueducts in a raging tide, overwhelming the Cogger and washing it into the catacombs, where Sneak awaited.

Losing no time, the Numerologist began to form the collective mind, taking advantage of the construct’s weakened state. So it was that Ayukazi, Blodwyn, Dreww, Elene, Eoros, Feirenz, Galilei, Holbrook, Kagura, Kurak, Legyn, Lenoriel, Lim, Nebula, Nipsy, Pietre, Raevina, Renli, Rhyot, Saidenn, Sheryni, Teflin, Tekias, Toz, Whirran, and Wjoltyr relaxed their consciousness and became one in Copperhead’s cogmind while Inkh, Mazzion, Xenia, Motrec, and Reave stood guard over their empty bodies. There they faced an experience unlike any other: their thoughts disparate yet one, faced with countless choices requiring consensus derived from individual input in order to direct the whole.

Painstakingly navigating through the cogmind network, they examined Copperhead’s core protocols, reviewed its key directives, and sought to reclassify its conflict directive as low priority. At first slow and scattered in their decisions, the individual minds soon began to yield to the will of the collective, becoming more dexterous in their traversal through the Cogger’s brain. Language protocols were required to translate the archives into common. Motor operations enabled the retrieval of oil in order to conduct maintenance and repair core systems. Stray thoughts bubbled up into arguments between the separate thinkers, yet the collective prevailed. Rustguards attacked the one mind and had to be fought off by expenditure of will.

Disabling the security, they ventured into the classified archives to retrieve two codes before returning to the key directives cog. There, they successfully expunged Copperhead’s conflict directive before returning to the archives, greedy for knowledge. Examining each and every document, their learning revealed much about the Spokes, the individual Coggers, the Thinking Engines, and Aechros – the Maker, who Copperhead noted with the alias “Sapient sanctitude preservation engineer”. Delving into the Fleshsack Memories archive, it was further revealed that Copperhead was once a Tarpen by the name of Dapuna, the date of its voluntary consciousness transferrence unknown.

After more than half a day of analysis, the collective returned to the directives module and reprioritised Copperhead’s confluence preservation order. The Cogger stirred then, woken from its stunned and disabled state. Fleeing through the main network, the minds of the collective returned to their bodies, and the Cogger regained its lucid state. Declaring Spinesreach irrelevant, it exhibited confusion as to its location before the directives reasserted themselves and it ambled away, back to Masilia and its prime objective.