I wrote this story between August and December of 2009. It's a rewrite of a shorter story I wrote in 2008, and yes, I realize it's not a very original concept.
In the most obvious sense, this is a work of fiction based on another work of fiction, i.e. the Xenosaga series of role-playing games created by Monolith. I don't own Xenosaga and I'm not associated with anyone who does. The premise for this story is heavily based on supplemental material for the aforementioned series, including the in-game database and the Perfect Guide, as well as a few other documents. I'm also greatly indebted to my friends on the Godsibb forums for the many discussions that influenced this story, and for answering my stupidly obvious questions when I was too lazy to look things up.
In another sense, which will probably become very obvious to anyone familiar at all with the kinds of popular culture I've been immersed in lately, most of the ideas in this story that aren't directly swiped from Xenosaga are borrowed from something else, either accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose. Just about every science fiction story I've had exposure to in the last 24 years has found its way into this fanfic in some sort of chopped-up, regurgitated form. I won't list them all here, but you can probably play Guess Where I Got That From with almost every scene in the fic. Actually, you could probably make a drinking game out of it.
There's also a fair amount of sophomoric Jungian butchery and mangled Biblical references in this fanfic. I'm certainly no expert on either one, and my lack of knowledge is probably laughably apparent to anyone with more than half an education, but I found the in-game use of some of these concepts interesting enough that I wanted to deal with them in my fic as well, even at risk of making myself look like a pretentious idiot. The title "Unconquered" is a reference to William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus.
And also, yes, I realize that a lot of the ideas and scenes in this fic have been addressed in other and better works of fan fiction, especially 100-series' Maybe Tomorrow. I hadn't read much of 100-series' excellent story when I originally started writing mine, and the similarities between the two were not intended. I was, however, directly influenced by several other writers, including EK (issachar-san), Ekplixi/Suramira, Princess Artemis, Rin (missheartilly), TheShoelessOne, and many others. I apologize if I've done anything to offend anyone, or crossed a line by plagiarizing too much from someone else's ideas. It wasn't my intention to copy or offend anyone.
This fic is rated T for violence, disturbing scenes, and moderate romantic behavior (yeah, I went there). It also contains religious themes which may be objectionable to some readers. They don't necessarily reflect my own opinions.
Any errors I've committed, canonical or otherwise, are of course entirely my own fault.
The world had aged a hundred years in an instant, the walls of the cathedral around her caving deeper into ruin, the sharp white light at the windows dimming to gray as if even the sky had grown ancient.
He had changed too, in ways she didn't understand, and he was looking through her, past her, into the empty space beyond.
She tried to call out and found she had no voice. She could hear the words in her mind, but they made no sound, left no echoes to diminish in the silence of the walls. Still it didn't stop her from trying to reach him. Jan, why can't you hear me? Why won't you look at me? What's happened to us?
"Mom, what's going on?" Her son tugged at her arm, and she looked down. At least he appeared substantial enough, and she could hear his voice, although it had the same echoless quality as her own. "Is that Dad? Why does he look so different?"
"Shhh, Joaquin, I don't know." She turned back to Jan and for the first time noticed the others with him, people she had never seen before. Where had they come from? She couldn't remember why she was here, although it seemed she had been certain of her intentions only moments ago. Or had it been longer? A part of her felt as though it had never left this place, but she had memories, vague and dreamlike, of returning here after spending a long time elsewhere.
What have we done? Do you remember? Tell me ....
For a moment she thought he heard her this time, because he raised his head and stared straight at her, into her eyes. But when he spoke it wasn't to her, and when he turned and began to walk away she realized he hadn't been looking at her either.
"Let him go," said a voice behind her, accompanied by the faint warm feathery sensation of something brushing her shoulder. "You have to let go of this place." She didn't recognize the voice, but it sounded familiar and reassuring, like that of a friend she had known for years, or forever. Almost without thinking, she reached down to take Joaquin's hand. The light had begun to fade so rapidly that when she looked back one last time towards the place where Jan had gone, she saw only darkness.
T. C. 4770
Captain Lapis Roman hadn't taken a vacation in the last three years.
At first she thought she had her work cut out for her when she was monitoring the U-TIC Organization from her vantage point within the military, but after the UMN collapsed two years ago and the Federation Government dissolved and the remnants of U-TIC and Ormus and the Immigrant Fleet scattered like mercury droplets into every forsaken corner of the star cluster, Roman had found herself taking on more responsibilities than she would ever have thought herself capable of handling under less urgent circumstances.
Even after the government reconvened and a semblance of the former order was restored, her job hadn't become any easier; if anything, it had become more complicated. That it hardly seemed remarkable anymore said much of her ability to adapt. One crisis bled into the next until they all blurred into a constant state of emergency, and constant emergency became routine, and routine became a way of life, so that now she could glide with ease from one critical situation to the next. Most of the time.
Today was going to be more difficult. She could tell as soon as she reported to the Intelligence Bureau headquarters that morning. The air was solid tension, a force field that set her nerves on edge as she entered the room--but she always felt on edge these days, after all the upheavals and reorganizations and re-reorganizations the military and the government had undergone in the last two years, so it only put her on a sharper edge than usual.
"Captain Roman!" Her warrant officer approached before the automatic doors had finished closing and bolting themselves behind her; he barely remembered to salute before he led her down an aisle between rows of monitoring stations, busy with a profusion of lighted screens. "It's a crisis, the peacekeeping fleet in Third Alexandria--"
Roman gritted her teeth, her nerves still reacting with the tension in the air. Monitoring events at the edge of the civilized universe was like patrolling a border that changed constantly, at times daily, with the ebb and flow of political currents within and outside the Federation. It was like trying to keep track of every wave along the shore of a rough sea.
The universe was smaller now, the Federation reduced from five hundred thousand planetary governments to a mere hundred thousand, its total population cut to a fraction in less than a day, and those fortunate enough to survive had an administrative nightmare on their hands. Nearly two years into its construction, the new Axis Mundi Network, developed by Vector in cooperation with Scientia and the government, had yet to provide adequate coverage even to the fraction that remained. More than half the surviving planets in the Federation still lacked access to the network, and it was in such places, as in others where the infrastructure had only lately arrived, that certain ideologies tended to ferment. Command headquarters had remained here in Tessedora through the dissolution and reconstitution of the government, partly out of respect for convention but also out of a need to maintain a military presence on one of the remotest planets in the Federation proper, because the greatest threat came from the outer regions.
Usually, the threat came to still more remote planets like Third Alexandria, a minor autonomous state that had rejoined the Federation a few months ago and was still reeling from two years of civil war--hence the deployment of the peacekeeping forces. Roman could already guess what had happened. "Another hijacking, officer?"
"Yes, ma'am." The officer paled, straightening the collar of his uniform. "And, er ... it looks as though the same group is responsible. Here's what we were able to find out so far." He gestured toward a screen at an unmanned station.
Roman leaned forward to study the report. "We had no intel on this group's activities prior to the attack?"
"Er--no, ma'am, that's just it. They struck without any prior warning, and apparently without coordinating their movements beforehand. At least, we didn't pick up any trace of their communications on the AMN."
"I can see that." She glared at the screen. The organization her team had been monitoring for the last few days appeared no different from the others they had investigated recently, another armed cult rallied around a fervent strain of the Ormus religion. It was one more example of what the remnants of the faith had become after they had been buried underground for a few years, irradiated with provincial superstitions and prejudices and memories of persecution, cloaked in the language of apocalyptic prophecy, and unleashed against a government that, by suppressing them in the first place, had created its own worst enemy. That was Roman's analysis of the situation. Her expertise was in unconventional military tactics, not the finer points of intersection between religion and politics, but she had seen the same conflicts played out, with minor variations, often enough to have a clear if simplified idea of what was going on.
At first the post-Ormus groups--as some analysts in the Federation government and the media referred to them, since they were no longer strictly affiliated with the church proper, if a central religious hierarchy even existed anymore--had posed more of a nuisance than a threat. They were poorly organized, and their ambitions far exceeded both their resources and their capacity to do any real harm. But during the last year and a half they had pulled together into larger and more cohesive units, thriving despite the Federation's increasingly desperate efforts to stamp them out of existence. Somehow they still managed to acquire newer and better equipment to carry out their attacks, in spite of government-imposed restrictions on trade with politically unstable areas.
That didn't surprise her. Even without evidence, Roman would have been convinced there were still Ormus supporters in the government and the military, and in private industry, who would gladly provide the Federation's enemies with all the equipment they needed. What bothered her was the fact that it all seemed to take place unaccounted for, without any transaction records on the AMN--the only evidence was what turned up in the hands of the enemy, and by then it was usually too late to take preemptive action. It was impossible to disrupt supply lines when the lines themselves were invisible.
"Is this all the information we have?" Roman finished scrolling through the few sparse pages of reports, then turned back to the officer, shaking her head. "It isn't much."
"We did receive a broadcast, ma'am. Apparently the Third Alexandria fleet sent a distress call before they were destroyed, although their signal appears to have been hijacked by the enemy as well." He swallowed. "It's a very strange message."
Roman glared at him. "Play it back. I want to hear it."
"Y-yes, ma'am." He reached over and tapped a command into the keypad. A roar of static burst from the station's audio transmitters.
What the hell is this? thought Roman just before the words began, in a faint thin voice that wavered on the edge of dissolution.
"Then ... one of the ... seven angels ... said to me ... 'Come ... I will show you ... the judgment of the great harlot ... who sits on many waters ....'"
The voice subsided into static again. And what the hell was that? She felt the tension prickling at the back of her neck, standing her hair on end. "Excuse me for a minute."
Before the officer could stammer another "Yes, ma'am," Roman turned an about-face and strode out to the hallway. She waited until she heard the heavy bolts shoot back into place on the other side of the door, and when she was certain no one else was in earshot, she slipped her AMN phone out of a pocket on her uniform.
A secretary answered. Roman said, "I need to speak with Representative Helmer. Tell him it's Captain Lapis Roman. And it's urgent."