Chapter 17: Manipulation


The massive entry doors to the grey Citadel shut with an ominous boom, and Sam finds himself alone in the hall of statues.

"So. Two fragments. This can't be too hard."

He begins to walk forward, passing the ominous shapes of statues as he does. The lighting is incredibly dim and the only sounds are of Sam's footsteps, which reverberate loudly off the metal walls and marble floors.

"I only ever went into the real Citadel a handful of times… if this is a full re-creation, then I'll be lucky if I don't get lost…"

Sam continues ahead and emerges into the atrium. A lightly shimmering grey hologram catches his eye at the center of the room on the raised elevator platform.

"I thought this place was supposed to be dead."

He fast-walks over to the hologram and taps it. A low-quality image of CABAL's head appears.

"Welcome Sam. Per Colin's instructions, I have inserted a complete re-creation of the Citadel into the Animi program for your use. The building will remain dormant to conserve system resources until you enter for the first time. At the conclusion of this recording, you will be presented the option to activate the structure. The Animi does not possess sufficient processing power to re-create every last component of the Citadel, so only limited functionality has been included. There will be no virtual re-creation of myself, for example. If you leave the structure dormant, this recording will remain active so you have the option later."

CABAL vanishes and is replaced by a yes/no prompt.

"Wake this thing up…?"

Sam looks around.

"Well… it WOULD help to have some lights on."

He taps yes and the hologram vanishes. For several moments, nothing happens.

"Uh… is it broken?"

A distant and guttural rumbling begins to become audible from somewhere far below Sam. The Citadel begins to tremble and suddenly a wave of energy bursts up from through the floor and continues upwards. As the wave progresses, every electrical device from lights to the elevator platforms comes back to life. Sam looks up in awe as the power flows towards the top of the Citadel.

"Damn… now THAT was cool."

Suddenly, a shimmering light flies past Sam and heads upwards through the elevator shaft.

"What the hell…? Oh crap, I bet that's a fragment!"

Sam hops on an elevator platform and sends it rocketing upwards. In addition to the rushing wind around the platform, the level of noise in general starts to quickly rise as the Citadel comes back to life. A half a mile above the fast-rising elevator, the light arrives at the top of the Citadel and disappears off to one side.

"Dammit! Go faster!"

Instead, the platform begins to slow down as it approaches the top level itself.

"Or do that I guess…"

The elevator quietly arrives and Sam steps off. He looks around and notices that the doors leading to the control room are standing open, and a faint glowing light can be seen coming from the far end of the corridor. Contrary to moments before, it is now completely silent.

"Is that…?"

"I think it is."

Sam's alter-ego materializes next to Sam, startling him.

"GAH! What the hell are YOU doing here?"

"Just dropped by to spectate."

"Great…"

Sam begins to walk towards the light with his alternate close behind. As the two near the control room, the light increases in strength and is soon revealed to be a small holographic white emerald floating in mid-air.

"As I predicted: a fragment. Seems fitting that it's hiding up here."

Sam reaches out and touches the floating image. It flashes brightly and then vanishes.

"Fragment positively identified. Compiling."

"So I guess I've gotta find another one somewhere in here…"

"I guess. Have fun!"

Sam's alter-ego disappears with a disturbing laugh that echoes throughout the area.

"…jerk. Now if I were the second fragment, where would I be hiding?"

"Compiling complete. One fragment remains."

"Computer, can the memory be opened now?"

"Memory viewing is possible, but not recommended. Gaps in the timeline will exist."

Sam takes a seat in the control room's central chair and goes into deep thought.

"Gaps… the memory won't be complete… but I want- no, I NEED to know what happened… even if I only get the general idea…"

He gets up from the chair and takes a deep breath.

"Load memory sequence three."

"Warning: memory sequence three is fragmented. If viewed, the timeline will be incomplete."

"Load anyway."

"Initializing."

The Citadel slowly fades away around Sam, leaving him floating in an endless black void.

"Please work…"

The void flickers several times.

"Come on!"

An environment slowly begins to materialize around Sam. The atrium of the real life Citadel takes shape, though bits and pieces of the room are outright missing, exposing the black void beyond. There are large banquet tables set up and the central elevator platforms have been turned into a stage of sorts. Suddenly the room is illuminated by chandeliers hanging from poorly-rendered temporary scaffolds near the ceiling. The sound of rushing wind picks up and with it, all the sounds of a large party come to life, with music, chatting and the sound of plates and glasses.

"Multiple rendering errors. Attempting to-"

Sam looks around, confused at the abrupt cutoff of the Animi's voice. People now begin to suddenly pop into view, either sitting at tables or dancing in front of the stage. The completed scene flickers and grows fuzzy several times before finally starting to play out.

"This doesn't look particularly unusual."

Only a few seconds into the memory, the partygoers suddenly freeze and look up as a platform descends from the upper levels of the Citadel. The room's lights flicker out and an orange and yellow glow begins to emanate from the elevator.

"What the hell…?"

Sam turns and sees that Colin is right next to him, looking at the elevator in bewilderment. Alarms begin to go off all around, and the expression quickly changes to panic.

"…Sam? WAIT, WAIT NO!"

A shockwave of energy bursts out in all directions from the elevator, tossing entire tables and their guests into the air in an avalanche of chaos. The cables holding up the chandeliers snap and they come crashing down, followed by the scaffolding above them. A vortex of broken glass and debris begins to form around the elevator. Through all the flying objects, Sam can make out what looks vaguely like his alter-ego standing at the center, with a glowing spherical object in his right hand.

"M-me…? Oh god! THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!"

He looks around as people are injured or killed in every corner of the atrium. A swarm of sentinels enters from above, but they are immediately sucked into the vortex and violently ejected back out in the direction of surviving partiers.

"Evacuate immediately! Evacuate immediately!"

A panicking and disorganized mob of people begin to flee towards the hall of statues and main entrance, with debris and exploding sentinels being hurled after them. As they run for the exit, the scene begins to fall apart and crumble into the black void. Within seconds, the memory ends and Sam is thrown back into the control room of the virtual Citadel. He stays on the floor for a moment, catching his breath.

"I-I…"

"Wow. That was even more vivid than my own memory of it. And it wasn't even complete! Oh I can't wait for you to find the second fragment!"

Sam looks up at his grinning alter-ego, disgusted.

"You! YOU DID THIS!"

"Oh no my dear delusional counterpart, YOU managed that piece of work all on your own. I didn't come into existence until the immediate aftermath of that memory."

Sam lowers his head back to the floor and begins crying profusely.

"You are so pathetic sometimes. I'm going to go do something… or rather anything, else. Let me know when you've gotten it together and found the second fragment."


Exploring the Grey Citadel:

"Journey in the Dark" – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack by Howard Shore


The First Fragment:

"The Shadow of the Past" – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack by Howard Shore