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Fatal ~ Exception

Chapter Text

RAX unit has taken critical damage, going offline for emergency maintenance.

He remembered falling, convulsing in agony, after the sad-eyed ethereal being's last blow that seemed to come from nowhere, faster than his already dangerously overclocked sensors could possibly track. Sparks showered, electricity wracking him with more pain as the feedback from his battered cybernetic limbs filled every nerve.

The entity had whispered something about being sorry, how something or other wouldn't work and there had to be another way. Then everything had gone black...

ERROR: File integrity compromised. Irreparable core data damage detected. Cannot load from backup.

Panic filled him. His phantom heartbeat went wild, his ravaged digital mind remembering every single sensation of real, cold dread, how his chest tightened until he wanted to throw up, just like it had been on that day. He had flashbacks sometimes and it was like being trapped in the worst, most vivid waking nightmare. Right now it was even worse because it really was happening again. Back then, someone had done something to his cortical backup, probably the same megacorp who designed his cyberware in the first place, who practically controlled him, who set him up in that last fight. He'd been told the fight was straight this time but it had gone and happened again. He cursed his own naivety. He had emergency auxiliary backups scattered all over the place but it was still terrifying to trust yourself to a backup file when you had no idea how old it was, how much of your life you'd lose, or worse, that it wasn't corrupted or missing or also hacked in some nasty way. And then there was the matter of finding a new body, one that wasn't a complete piece of trash...

Besides, there was some primal terror inside him, the same as meat-death used to hold for people a long time ago, or possibly worse: there'd always been the concept of an immortal soul, some kind of memories that survived death and were infinitely more vital to one's existence, and now something like that existed, right there and then, free for every dodgy bastard to mess with in all sorts of previously unimagined horrible ways.

Still, the damn thing always, impossibly, endured. He had a reputation for that. DigitalPhoenix000, that'd been his hacker handle back when he was a pretentious teenager. Good God, maybe that was where he'd restore to! After all, he had to be running out of backups really damn fast...

Now that last thought was something he really didn't want to dwell upon...

Scanning for available auxiliary restore points... connection interrupted... rescanning... hacking detected, activating maximum firewalls... rescanning...

Restore point detected...
Beginning transfer...

Chapter Text

"No, I've a better idea," remarked Xavier, the sudden shift in his voice and the unexpected refusal enough to actually surprise the legendary perfect warrior, "How about you tell the truth about what you're doing here? I recognise soul sorcery when I see it and this is unusually malicious. You've been executing the defeated combatants and extracting parts of their souls, haven't you? Your sudden mastery of their powers, the runes arranged around this room, it should have been obvious from the start."

"Technically, I cannot be said to execute one who is already, according to space and time, dead. But they are returning to their own timelines only to die. If I can at least make use of their potential power, I can maybe stop this disaster myself..."

"Except that souls reincarnate and have second chances, and now they can't, not properly, and you know that, and the spells you cast here are among the most malicious known to humanity. To resort to them is... equally a disaster."

"If you go down the route you're thinking of, this is no longer just a test."

"It never was, was it?" Xavier's eyes glowed. He leveled his staff, ready to strike.

Chapter Text

'Slippery as an eel', was a term that he had often heard the humans use. In his opinion, land-dwelling hairless apes were in no position to make any such remarks on a world they did not understand in any context other than which of it was edible. However, it was an apt simile to describe his state of being. Such as right now, when the immortal who thought they had his soul, who thought they understood everything about the situation, didn't even know how much of his essence was distributed along the fragile, complex and entirely DNA-based information network of the coral reefs. There was an atoll out there in the middle of the ocean where certain vents led too far down for humans to even reach yet, where he'd recorded and shared certain things, receiving things in return, that the so-called Eternal Champion would definitely grant him a second chance in exchange for knowledge of... if Trident was sure he could trust the entity at all.