"No! This isn't how it was supposed to happen!" Dalle pressed back against the bedroom's far wall, looking suddenly small and naked. "There were rituals! I was going to teach you!"
Asha wasn't interested in his so-called rituals. She suspected they were largely for ceremony and his perverse enjoyment. The real process was happening right now. And it only took a few carefully coded words commanded to the temples.
Asha saw things—images and text that seemed to hover in the air in front of her. She suspected they were projections from the temples. Maybe Dalle could see them; or maybe they were only visible in her sight. Whether Vai-script or her native tongue, she understood them all the same. The translation worked better interfacing directly with her mind.
/ System Administration Privileges accessed /
/ Onoarius Coordination Administration status approved /
/ Updating… /
There was an inherent familiarity in it. Almost like the screen in her family's estate that controlled the lights, the temperature, and the various scattered nolos from the kitchen to the laundry suite. It wasn't magic after all, she decided. Simply powerful machinery. Divinely powerful machinery.
Asha gasped, a surge of warmth and strength exploding throughout her body. She saw blue lights swirling around her arms and legs. Every part of her glowed, the light streaking across the room with the same ferocity that it pulsed through her veins. She felt glorious.
Images and concepts came alive in her mind. She found with a simple thought she could drift off the bed, propelled by distant force fields that bent to her will. They revealed many new things all around her. It was almost too much to comprehend.
She did notice the swirling symbols and details centered on Dalle. Now she understood why he cowered. There was power here to revoke his Wing—his Admin Privileges, as they were called. Could all Sephy exercise this power on one other? Why hadn't he exercised it against her?
They don't understand. They really do think they're angels.
Asha smiled, pleased with herself. She revoked his Privileges. Dalle sobbed, a washed out blue light sweeping across his body. The glow in his features diminished. He kept the chiseled body and beautiful complexion, but Asha doubted they would last. He was as mortal as she had been moments ago.
"You've played with this power far too long," said Asha. Her voice roared like the wind. "But you can stay in the Keep if you like. I have no need for it."
Asha accessed the temple network; found the movement mechanics that transported her to and from the temple. She now had access to move anywhere about the whole of Onoarius.
It was a vast world.
First she went to Kailyn's room. Her sister screamed when Asha appeared. "What has he done with you!"
"Only let slip what he didn't understand." Asha extended a hand. "Come. I'm taking you back to the estate."
Kailyn shied back. It occurred to Asha that even in her simple outdoor clothing she still looked the part of a Sephy. Floating in the air didn't help. She hadn't looked in a mirror yet, but she was terrified at the prospect. What other changes were these powers making to her? Was she as beautiful and terrifying as Dalle?
Fortunately, those details seemed more cosmetic than essential. She found the root command in her mind's eye of the control menu and summoned back her original appearance. That visibly calmed Kailyn.
"Are you a Sephy?" she asked.
Asha bit her lip. "Yes. But the Sephy don't really understand what they are. Now come. I'm taking you home."
Kailyn was hesitant, but she finally accepted Asha's outstretched hand. Asha instantaneously moved them back to Kailyn's room in their home estate. From proximity awareness in her Wing, she saw that Mother and Father were out. Probably at the Assembly, waiting for word from Dalle that their sacrifice was accepted.
That was a strange matter. What would happen now that Dalle was mortal? He had no more access to the systems and powers that gave him any leverage. Could he make the passage from Kallis? Perhaps his Sephy friends would look out for him; maybe revive him to his former authority. Asha would have to see about revoking those codes.
Kailyn hesitated, her eyes betraying her worship of Asha. Never mind that Ashe looked like her older self. "Will we bring you Kept now?"
Asha grunted. "Never. I'm taking no contractual dominion over the empire. They can argue with Dalle if he still wants the job. I'm leaving."
"You could have anything you wanted. You could do anything. Why leave us?"
Asha only faintly heard the question. Inside her mind, she saw Juncture-37. It wasn't a temple; simply an access station for the massive network system maintaining Onoarius. One of several thousand. Now that she saw maps and diagrams, the world looked to be a strange place. Layers upon layers. Kallis was in the same world—but below it, geometrically speaking. As if the planet was a hollow sphere in a hollow sphere…in a hollow sphere.
Was it all artificial? All created, organized, and built long before mortals dwelt in it? Who built it, then? The Overmakers? Maybe their gods were real after all. Maybe they'd intended the Sephy to be its caretakers, but that responsibility got lost in the endless eons since. For such an efficient and vast world, the truth and purpose of its design appeared lost.
But maybe it could be found again.
"I think we've worshipped the Sephy for far too long," said Asha. "And we know so little about this world made for us. I'm going to find the truth."
Kailyn had no response, collapsing back against her bed. Poor thing. Her whole world was collapsing.
Asha's was just beginning.