Chapter 31: The Catalyst

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Corra looked down at the rusty cylinder she held in her palm and swallowed the lump in her throat. The Transmission. So much potential in so small a thing. How many legends had she read over the past weeks about this tiny little metal device? Yet it felt light in her hand. Insignificant. Then again, she’d thought the same of the Caelum Lex. Leta had called it a paperweight. And she’d never forget what that had managed…

What the hell was she doing?

A hand gripped her shoulder and she looked up to find Finn standing beside her, his brow creased in concern. “You don’t have to do this.” He nodded towards the door they stood in front of. They’d been standing in this empty hallway, waiting to enter the Gatekeeper’s chapel for what seemed like hours but was probably minutes. Corra just couldn’t muster the strength to move forward.

“We can just go,” Finn assured her. “We can just get the hell out of here and never look back.”

There was a part of her that wanted to say yes. Let’s leave. Let’s forget this whole thing ever happened before it all goes to hell. But the other part, the part that pulled with more force, knew she’d made an obligation to herself to see this through. She shook her head.

“No.” Her fingers curled around the device and she held it firmly at her side. “We’re here. It’s all ready. It’s happening.” She nodded, exuding confidence she didn’t feel and cast a furtive glance up at Finn. He was watching her in a way that instantly sent a spike through her fake bravado. “You don’t think I should activate the Transmitter,” she accused. “You think it’s a bad idea. You can tell me, y’know?”

“I don’t care what happens with the Transmitter,” Finn admitted, lifting his shoulder in a casual shrug. “I care about what happens to you.” He prodded her in the shoulder with his index finger. “You worry about your thing, I’ll worry about mine. So, you wanna do the thing?” He waved vaguely at the heavy wooden door before them. “Let’s do the thing.”

Corra nodded slowly and tried to even out her nervous breathing. Without thinking, she reached over and grasped Finn’s hand, entangling her fingers with his and gripping hard. “Let’s do the thing,” she agreed and then forced her feet to carry her forward and elbow open the door into the room beyond.

She’d spent a lot of time in the Gatekeeper’s chapel over the past few days, yet when she walked into it now, it didn’t look familiar. The overhead lights had all been shut off, leaving the room mostly in shadow save for the glow of electronic orbs held in the palms of the congregation. They stood in rows, watching her intently as she froze in the doorway. Seeing them all there, bathed in blue light, lining a path she knew she was supposed to take made this whole thing seem more like the cult-ish ritual it was. And it made her wonder whether she should have taken Finn’s offer to leave more seriously.

But as the spindly woman, the for-all-intents-and-purposes leader of the group, stood up on the dais, cracked open their holy book and started to read from it, Corra heaved another deep breath and got herself together. It was just another act, another part to play, like all the allies she’d impersonated over the years. Just be a mirror, she told herself. Reflect what they want to see.

She squeezed Finn’s hand once in reassurance before unlatching her fingers from his, holding her head high and striding forward into the aisle towards the dais.

“–we assemble in faith and respect of your prowess,” the woman was reading, her voice full of importance. “We humbly beg the gift of your salvation and swear to uphold your judgment, even if it suit us not. We, the Gatekeepers, entrust our lives and souls with you, vessels of the Holy Origin and deliverers of our retribution.”

The nonsense she was spouting, and surely that’s what it was, went in one of Corra’s ears and straight out of the other. There were many things she’d considered might come of her actions here today and at this point, she was willing to believe anything was possible. Anything except some grand religious deliverance, that is.

“–be not afraid of our destinies, but rejoicing of our redemption. We call your vessels unto us to ignite our existence with your holy purpose.”

Ignite your existence? Corra thought and suppressed a snicker. More likely some Origin ships come bursting out of the sky to ignite this building.

The green light of a terraformer flashed briefly in her mind, making her gasp for breath. Calm down, she ordered herself, ignoring the looks of confusion from the crowd around her. That’s not gonna happen. Calm down, deep breaths. Her heart was still pounding as she continued her walk. The Transmission felt heavy like a weight in her hand.

“–as the prophecy has foretold, the Catalyst has come to us and made herself known. She who belongs not to herself steps forward to utter our call. She speaks for us all and bears messenger to our deliverance.”

Finally, she reached the dais and the makeshift altar that stood there. Upon it sat a small red cube with an intricate gold pattern. There were specks of rust on the corners and edges and a dent on one side. In the center was a cylindrical hole with grooves that matched the object still clutched in her sweating palm. The whole thing was about the size of her head.

That was it? That was the great Transmitter?

Well, stealing it suddenly seemed like an easy enough option again. She’d expected it to be something big, something impressive. She expected to be in awe of this great ancient device that legends said was the last link between the modern Span and its ancestors.

Standing in front of the box, though, she started to wonder if those legends were just made up by the same idiot who wrote the stupid book the woman was reading from. Maybe he’d even constructed these two objects himself and just decided to make up some fantastical story about them to fool generations into believing their importance. He’d developed a story so mysterious and enticing that he’d not only given his shoddy craftmanship a huge bump in market value, but created a whole religion and inspired a special task force within the Society to hunt down his work. Now that would be impressive.

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