**The story below is a draft **
Jack sat slumped in the corner of the vast room with his knees tucked up under his chin and his arms held around himself. He was alone.
After he’d escaped from Neptune’s chamber he’d fled as fast as he could away from that twisted place, the shouts and screams of his new found friends ringing out down the corridors as he made his escape. He’d ran and ran until the voices were far behind him and only the memory of them continued to chase him.
His eyes could produce no more tears now as he sat silent in this dark place with only the slow hum of some unseen machinery to keep him company and as he sat still, motionless, one phrase ran itself ragged around his head over and over.
“You’re a coward”
“You’re a coward”
“You’re a coward. You’re a coward. You’re a coward. You’re a coward. You’re a coward.”
Over and over it repeated itself to him and his dry eyes once more found a well from which to draw fresh tears as he clenched his fists and rapped the taught pink knuckles against his head.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, he thought to himself, Since the moment he’d set out on this adventure he’d been overcome with a sense of purpose and destiny but like when waking from a dream reality seemed now to be rushing in and the magic and wonder of his quest was fading into the dank gloom before him.
What could he have done, he asked himself again, what could he have done against the malevolent force that was the AI Neptune? It’s metallic tendrils had whipped and pushed out, killing, wounding and capturing with ease, it was only luck that had kept Jack from them and instinct that had sent him running.
‘Running like a Coward’
“You’re a coward
“You’re a coward You’re a coward. You’re a coward. You’re a cow….”
“Courage is often something we find, not something we possess”
Jack stiffened and his breathing stopped as his body reacted to the voice that had suddenly emanated from the darkness as if it could prevent his detection by becoming still and without presence. To anyone who now strained to listen however, his now pounding heart easily betrayed him though.
He listened. He could hear nothing. Where once had been the slow hum of some unknown machinery there now was only silence. Try as he might he could not detect any audible sign of the body that had spoke to him, if there even was a body to hold it. Maybe it had been the grand AI toying with him from some hiden speaker but the voice had been far warmer than the icy tones of Neptune.
“I am neither friend nor foe young Jack.”
His heart skipped a beat and his body tensed as before. It knew his name.
“Who are you?” He demanded into the darkness, the words shooting from his mouth before his brain could stop them.
“I. I am an echo of a memory.”
As his eyes strained to see into the darkness he could now discern more of the room in which he’d taken refuge. He could make out large structures and strange polygonal shapes in the darkness, it felt like it could be machinery of some kind, maybe it was a lab for experiments or but these were just guesses, in this strange place it could be anything, he thought.
“What do you want?” He asked with a tremble in his voice, he was not sure he wanted to know the answer.
“I wish for many things but from you I want nothing more than you to remain true to the path you have set out on”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that which I have said, you begun a journey Jack but it has halted, to be still is to be dead, you must regain your life again and move forward, that is what I wish from you and that is what I am here for”
From the impermeable darkness Jack detected movement and slowly but surely a shadowed figure began to emerge from the black. A light tan robe was drawn about them that covered their frame from foot to head, with it pulled across the face of the mysterious figure allowing only part of their features to show and from Jacks dejected place upon the floor he could not tell if the figure was male or female. It drew slow and winding path amongst the shadows as it drew nearer. Jack scrambled backwards preparing himself to give flughtvif he had to and with, growing courage, declared to the figure.
“Stay there. I want to know, who are you??”
The figure paused for a moment before it raised its hands to the half-hood that cloaked it and then drew it back as it stepped into the light.
Jack drew in a sharp breath. The face of the mysterious figure, now revealed, was incomplete and the part that was had a smooth and non-descript appearance, like that of a doll with no hair, the other half was devoid of skin and hrome components of some metal skeleton gleaned in the light and set deep in the eye socket of this unmade visage was a piercing yellow eye.
“Do not be afraid. Time, as always, has forced my hand and it is at this moment that I must reveal myself to you, even though I am not yet ready.”
“You… you’re a machine, like him! Like that creature Neptune.”
“We are all machines Jack but I am made of metal and more, you of water and flesh. But who I am? I am very different to the AI that rules this place, though one I was not so, but that is a story you do not need know, all that you need know now Jack is that you must continue your journey, fulfil the destiny that calls to you and to stop Neptune from fully awakening.”
“What…What can I do?”
“You must find again the courage you once had and move forward once again and if you choose to do so know that I will help you when I can, whether you see me nar or not.”
“My friends… I.. I… they’re dead because of me. How can I go on?”
“Only you can find the reason why, your friends all had the courage to see where their paths led them, they played their part in a great story, some may yet so, and perhaps it is in that spirit that you will find the strength to rise once more.”
Jack sat in silence looking down at his dirt covered hands. In the strange light of the room it seemed to him it could as well have been blood they were covered in and at the thought of it he clenched his fits tightly, feeling a red heat rise up from them and spread across his arms and then his chest, finally it reached his heart.
“I don’t care what happens to me any more, no-one has ever cared about me in my life, but I won’t just sit here in the dark and fade away, I want my friends to know, they were important to me, and for Neptune, I want him to burn.”
“Then rise Jack. Rise and challenge your destiny”
For hours he had sat in this dark place and as he tried to draw his legs to him he thought for a moment that perhaps they had forgotten and lost the strength they once had but it swiftly returned as he found his footing and carefully stood up, rising to his full height with hands still gripped tight.
“Tell me how to defeat him”