The Heart of Gartlant

A Saber Marionette J Fanfiction

By BG-57 Program 01: The Heart of Gartlant

The city of Gartlant lay sprawled across the valley like a sickly giant. It was a grim, gritty industrial town, and had always been so. Under the obsessive watch of ten generations of Fausts, it was devoted to the single-minded purpose of conquering the rest of Terra II. At the center stood the Kanzlei, the nerve center of the military-industrial complex. It was a ziggurat shaped black building flanked by trapezoidal towers, all eerily lit with an unhealthy greenish glow. Immediately in front of it was a vast treeless paved plaza which served as a site for military parades and little else. The inner ring of the city consisted of vast research facilities and cheerless factories. The rest of the city was made up of endless concrete high-rises, all forming vast soulless suburbs. From the observation desk on the highest floor of the Kanzlei, Gelhardt von Faust surveyed his vast creation with grim satisfaction.

He fit into his city like a hand in glove. Tall, muscular, with long blond hair that formed a large widow's peak in the front, he was dressed in a black dress uniform with gold trim and a white ruffle around his throat. A large cape with a high collar and elaborate gold epaulettes was draped around his shoulders, spilling over the throne on which he sat. He sipped blood red wine from a goblet held in a gloved hand as his malevolent slate blue eyes scanned the horizon. No one knew was he was searching for a place in his mind, not the city. The agony of sorting out two centuries of overlapping memories was almost too much to bear. But he had to endure. Only he could save her….

"Lord Faust?"

"This had better be important!" Faust snarled. He turned to regard an officious looking little man dressed in a uniform that was similar to his, but much simpler. Goddel, his Chief of Staff, was always the prima donna, with a powdered wig and waxed moustache. Faust barely had the energy to feel contempt for the man, but at least he was efficient.

"Forgive me for disturbing you Fuhrer," said Goddel apologetically, as he privately he cursed his luck for interrupting one of his Lord's periodic fits of sulking.

"What is it?" demanded Faust impatiently.

"Doctor Hess has completed the modifications you requested," replied Goddel evenly, "He wishes to inform you that they will be ready to view at your leisure." Faust drained the goblet at set it on a small table next to the throne.

"Go tell him I'm on my way," he said as he rose. There was no time to waste. Goddel bowed hastily and left through ornate gilt double doors, thankful that he had survived the encounter with his skin intact. As he closed the door behind him, he noticed a Marionette standing in the shadows of the hallway.

"Why are you creeping around like that Tiger?" sneered Goddel archly. Tiger glared back at him defiantly. She wore her crimson hair bobbed and was dressed in a white shirt with a buckled tie and skintight black pants that exposed her midriff. A red sash was tied to her hips in the back. She wore long black fingerless gloves under a matching jacket with round shoulders and a red collar. Blue orbs decorated her earlobes and a black cap rested on her head.

"I'm guarding Lord Faust," she replied in a slightly husky voice, "What else matters?"

"He's in a bad mood," explained Goddel, "So don't bother him." Tiger had always rubbed him the wrong way. It wasn't her emotions, unusual for a Marionette, so much as her possessiveness of Faust. As if a mere Marionette could ever own a human being! The very thought was preposterous, but as long as Lord Faust tolerated her, there was nothing he could do about it.

"You'd better not have upset him," she said darkly.

"Hmph!" he snorted, "You Marionettes need to remember your place!"

"My place is by his side," she said reflexively, "As long as he needs me."

"We'll see how much longer that is," said Goddel with savage glee. Tiger winced unconsciously. He had poked at the raw wound at the core of her being, the fear that one day she would be discarded. Her hands tightened into fists.

"You're not indispensable either Goddel," she growled. He paled at that, his jaw working silently for words that did not come.

"I'm l-leaving!" he stammered eventually as he stormed down the corridor. Tiger smirked briefly, but the victory felt hollow. In truth, everyone in Gartlant was disposable to Lord Faust. As she was thinking that the doors flew open and Faust swaggered out.

"Out of my way Tiger!" he snapped. She quickly stood to one side as he strode past.

"Forgive me my Fuhrer," she said bowing slightly. He ignored her and walked down the corridor. She had to run to catch up with him, her high heeled boots making a slight clacking noise on the marble floors.

"Today's the day!" exclaimed Faust, "We'll see if Doctor Hess can deliver on his promises!" Tiger's expression brightened. It was good to see her Master excited; he brooded too much.

"Then you're one step closer to realizing your dream for Terra II," she added hopefully. He stopped at the end of the corridor. A door slid open in front of him, revealing an elevator shaft. He walked in, followed by Tiger. The door closed behind them and the elevator plunged down into the lower depths of the Kanzlei.

"Those fools don't know anything!" he stated angrily.

"They will recognize your greatness soon Lord Faust," said Tiger soothingly. She reached out her hand to touch his arm, but then thought better of it. The elevator came to a stop and they emerged into a long underground tunnel, with white tile walls. They proceeded north down the tunnel through a series of metallic blast doors. Eventually they reached a door marked Bauhaus 2. The door swung open and they went through it.

They emerged onto a catwalk overlooking a vast open space. Below them was an enormous forge that stood several stories tall. Two rows of Marionettes stood on either side of the glowing orange maw, using hammers to shape the red hot pieces of metal into mechanical arms and legs. The Marionettes were all identical, with long red hair tied back, soulless blue eyes, and dressed in skintight shirts and pants, with white caps similar to Tiger's. A conveyer belt carried the parts to the next line, where different Marionettes assembled the limbs together and loaded them onto pallets. The pallets were carried though massive double doors to the factory floor next door.

Faust walked the length of the catwalk, followed closely by Tiger through a doorway. The room beyond the door redefined clutter. A pile of broken Marionettes lay in a large bin. Tiger couldn't help but shudder at the sight. A row of military Saber Marionettes stood mutely along the back wall. A man stood next to a long metal table and adjusted a machine that looked like a random collection of junk.

Not that Doctor Hess looked out of place. Everything about his appearance and demeanor suggested a mad scientist. He was of medium height, with dark skin and a hairless head. He wore a dark suit with a long coat that had pipes snaking out of it. He wore a pair of crimson-tinted goggles perched on his long lose. But his most disturbing feature was his ever-present grin, as if existence was a joke that only he understood.

"Ah, welcome Fuhrer!" said Hess cheerfully, "I'm ready to begin the demonstrations."

"What is that?" asked Faust nodding toward the pile of junk. Hess ambled over to it and opened a small square box resting on the table. He held it out for Faust to inspect. Inside rested a single mechanical eyeball, with slots in the back. The golden iris reflected light from the fluorescent ceiling fixtures. He inserted it onto a post on top of the pile and connected the back to some wires that were attached to a large battery.

"GSM-7450-1S, stand in front of the target," ordered Hess. One of the Sabers blithely walked to the far end of the room and stood in front of a human outline painted on the wall. Hess flicked a switch and a bright pure blue beam shot out of the pupil of the eye, cutting the Saber in two. It fell over and exploded, sending debris everywhere. A screw landed next to Tiger's foot. She bent down and picked it up. It was partially melted. Tiger struggled to keep her composure.

"Excellent work Hess!" said Faust with a fierce grin, "Can they be installed on the Krieger units?" Hess looked wistful.

"Unfortunately, the eyebeam is not cost effective for mass production," explained Hess, "Also it causes a severe drain on the power source." Faust fought down irritation.

"Then why did you show it to me?" he demanded. Hess held up a hand.

"I recommend you install it in an elite Saber," he explained. Faust and Hess peered at Tiger appraisingly.

"How long will it take?" asked Faust.

"Fuhrer…," began Tiger. Faust shot her a withering glance.

"Is there a problem?" he stated testily. She shook her head.

"Of course not Lord Faust," she said meekly.

"It would take about a day," said Hess, "But I have other things to show you." Faust nodded to him.

"Proceed," he commanded.

"GSM-7433-1S, stand in front of the target," ordered Hess. Another Saber walked in front of the target, and stood among the remains of the previous Saber. "GSM-0012-1K, proceed to the white X," he added. A second Saber walked forward and stood on two crisscrossing pieces of tape of the floor next to the table. This Saber was different. It wore a black helmet with a tinted visor that hid its eyes. It had two massive triangular shoulder pads.

"Is the final prototype?" inquired Faust as he rubbed his chin. He had certainly waited long enough. Hess nodded.

"If the result of the demonstration meets with your approval," he replied.

"Continue," ordered Faust.

"GSM-0012-1K, open fire!" exclaimed Hess. Twin muzzles emerged from the Saber's shoulder pads and sprayed the far wall with deafening machine gun fire. The room quickly filled with smoke, obscuring the view.

"Cease fire!" Hess commanded. The infernal din ceased at once. Slowly the smoke cleared, revealing the target Saber lying sprawled against the far wall, sparking from dozens of holes in its body casing. Faust laughed unpleasantly.

"Begin production at once!" he ordered, "Is there anything else?" Hess shook his head.

"I'm having problems with the plasma diffusion system," he stated, "It will take months to perfect." Faust frowned. He didn't like delays, but this scientist had always delivered before so he didn't question his judgment.

"Keep me updated," said Faust as he headed for the door, with Tiger following at his heels. She couldn't get out of there fast enough. Hess cleared his throat. Faust slowly turned and pushed Tiger to one side.

"Fuhrer, I'd like a chance to study the Maiden Circuit," said Hess with a smirk. Tiger put her hand to her chest.

"Lord Faust, please don't give him my heart!" she pleaded. He looked at her impassively.

"What do you need it for?" he asked Hess evenly.

"If I understand its construction, it may be possible to duplicate it," elaborated Hess.

"Duplicate it?" mused Faust. He suddenly frowned and rubbed his forehead with a hand as he tried to fight back a blistering headache.

"Lord Faust?" asked Tiger grasping his sleeve.

"Fuhrer?" inquired Hess. Faust's eyes opened wide and he pulled his arm free.

"Of course!" he yelled, "There were three of them!" Faust stormed out through the door back into the factory. Hess and Tiger stared at each other, completely lost.

"What was that all about?" she asked.

"He may have just remembered something from one of the earlier clones of Faust," said Hess with a hint of amusement. Tiger felt a twinge of pain as she recalled the torture her Master had gone through to absorb the memories of the previous nine generations of Fausts. And Hess had been at the controls. She turned and ran out after Faust. Hess chuckled to himself.

"This turned out better than I expected," he said to no one in particular.

Goddel was strutting through the control room like a peacock on display. He always enjoyed throwing his weight around. His fastidiousness and mania for perfection had brought down scorn and derision by other officers in the Gartlant military, but Lord Faust valued those qualities. Soldiers in grey greatcoats and black round helmets sat at consoles around the room. He inspected one display.

"What's the status of the city?" he asked.

"Everything is nominal," replied the soldier, "The SVC Mainframe reports no problems." Faust burst through the door.

"Fuhrer!" stammered Goddel. Faust walked over to a console. The soldier quickly got up and stood to one side.

"Access all data pertaining to GSM-01T and reroute it to this console," he ordered. The screen lit up with diagrams and columns of data. He was still absorbed in the information when Tiger ran in.

"Marionettes aren't allowed in here!" protested Goddel. She ran past him, nearly knocking him over.

"Lord Faust, what is it?" she asked. He turned from the screen a strange distant look on his face.

"Which Faust created you?" he asked. She stood rigidly at attention.

"Lord Faust the Fourth created my body," she said.

"And Faust the Ninth revived you," he stated thoughtfully. She nodded.

"But you are my only Master," she added emphatically. He shook his head in confusion.

"I don't remember that," he said, looking lost. How could he be missing memories of his predecessors? The Ninth he knew all too all as the cruel spiteful man who had raised him as a boy and had taught him the value of strength. The Fourth was a mystical dreamer who was happier puttering around in a greenhouse than overseeing the expansion of Gartlant.

"Follow me!" he commanded Tiger.

They left the control room and walked through a connecting tunnel to a rooftop that overlooked the vast expanse of Gartlant. The sun was setting over the horizon, coloring everything in shades of blood. In the distant corner sat a disheveled greenhouse, black paint peeling from the metal frame that held cracked glass panes. It was small by his standards, but could have held thousands of plants when in use. He pushed open the door and stared into the long interior space. The shelves were dusty and mostly empty, except for some pots that held the withered brown tendrils of plants that had died long ago. In the center stood a sundial with a small plaque affixed near the base. It read simply: Gartlants Herz.

"The Heart of Gartlant," he read. Immediately the soil shook as the sundial rose and was lifted back to reveal the top of an oblong cylinder embedded in the soil. The cylinder rose, revealing a compartment sealed behind a glass panel. The padded interior was empty. Steam hissed from vents on the sides of the sarcophagus.

"This is where I was born," said Tiger breathlessly. Faust ran a hand along the glass.

"I remember that," he mused, "At first, you thought I was Faust the Fourth." She hung her head sadly.

"Forgive me for my stupidity," she said contritely.

"There were two other Maiden circuits," he stated, "So what did he do with the other two?"

"I'm not the only Marionette with a heart?" she asked in amazement.

"Of course not!" he snapped, "But I have to find them."

"Maybe the Lord Faust the Fourth left a clue," she suggested. He glared at her but his expression softened after a moment.

"It's worth a try," he said.

One of the grandest places in the Kanzlei was the Hall of Heroes, where giant marble statues of each Faust stood to inspire the citizens of Gartlant. Faust himself found visiting the room inspirational, but he hadn't been able to recently. High arches formed niches several stories high that the statues were nestled in. His own statues had him standing in full dress uniform, his boot resting on a globe of Terra II. They stopped in front of the statue of Faust the Fourth, who stood with a seedling resting in an outstretched hand. Faust squinted a bit up at the serene expression of his predecessor.

"Get up there Tiger," he ordered. She leaped easily on top of the massive pedestal. From there she jumped onto the shoulder of the statue.

"What am I looking for my Lord?" she asked peering down at him.

"Anything unusual," he said. She inspected the face of the statue and looked at the seedling. Nothing was out of place. She looked past the cape into the back of the alcove and saw something glinting. She leapt into the alcove and saw a small brass plaque mounted near the floor, impossible to see from the front of the statue. She read the inscription:

Gartlants Herz heiβ Harmlosigkeit

Gartlants Geist heiβ Mutterschaft

Gartlants Klaue heiβ Tugend

Nur die Mitwirkung aller drei ermöglicht

Die Rettung das himmlishe Mädchens

"The Heart of Gartlant is Innocence," she began, "The Soul of Gartlant is Motherhood."

"That first part was written on your sarcophagus," said Faust, intrigued.

"The Fist of Gartlant is Virtue," she continued, "Only together can they save the Heavenly Maiden." Faust staggered backwards in shock. Of course Tiger would have no idea what that meant but it felt like an eternity since he had last seen Lorelei smile at him. He gritted his teeth and drove a fist into the marble pedestal.

"Damn it!" he roared, oblivious to the pain. Tiger leapt down and pulled his hand away, looking heartbroken.

"Fuhrer please!" she implored. He grimaced and walked over between two pedestals and accessed a wall terminal. A small display screen lit up, illuminating his face.

"Display a map of Gartlant," he ordered to the Mainframe. A glowing wire frame model of the city appeared on the screen.

"Display only the buildings dating from the era of Faust the Fourth," he added. Almost all of the buildings vanished except for half a dozen, including the Kanzlei. He stabbed at the screen with an index finger.

"Enlarge the lower floors of the Kanzlei," he ordered. The other buildings faded away as the lower superstructure of the Kanzlei filled the screen. He smirked and pointed to a particular structure on the diagram, a tall cylindrical object.

"The Mainframe computer core," he said triumphantly, "That's where she will be."

"Who?" asked Tiger in confusion.

"The Soul of Gartlant," he replied as if it was obvious.