Daemons

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UKHoneyB
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Daemons

Post by UKHoneyB » Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:27 pm

A/N: Because apparently His Dark Materials has become the little black dress of fandom. For those not in the known, in His Dark Materials peoples' souls have a physical representation called a dæmon which takes the shape of a non-human -- before puberty dæmons can take a variety of shapes; during the dæmon settles into a form which is representative of your true self. Almost all dæmons are the opposite sex to their person; a dæmon being the same sex as their person is not unheard of, but reasons why are not completely clear.

There is a strict taboo about touching other peoples' dæmons without permission, and that is usually only given in intimate relationships. Dæmons can freely touch other dæmons, however, although like with people this can be considered an intrusion if the two dæmons are not familiar with each other. Dæmons cannot be more than a few yards away from their person; some people in the HDM world go through a process to allow them and their dæmons to extend this distance, but it's not relevant here.

Use of the dæmons used in this story are a combination of their symbolism and the noted social behaviour of the real-world animals. Also, this goes across various thoughts and ideas for the main Redux series, both past and future; there are some hints and a spoiler around the middle of this story but nothing that I would deem major enough to really be able to tell what's going to happen.

Dæmons

Uncle Jeff's dæmon was huge. At four years old Josh was a good few inches taller than the dog, but it was still unnerving to be at almost face level with it. Sephronia was calm and mellow despite her imposing size but it still took a good number of months for Josh to be anything other than cautious about her; on their first meeting Olesia had cowered on Josh's shoulder, a tiny little mouse looking down at the imposing dog.

Sephronia seemed to take her duties as guard to include that of guarding Josh; his first night at Uncle Jeff's new huge house he'd woken up at a little past three as his glowing clock told him. He'd made to step out of his room, Olesia a rat on his shoulder, and go exploring somewhere, but Sephronia was asleep in front of the doorway. There was no way for Josh to get past without brushing by her, and so he closed his door and headed back to bed.

He didn't know how, but every time for the next few months when he attempted a late-night wander Sephronia was always in front of his door. It was only as he grew older that he realised that the distance between where Jefferson's room was and where his room was was well over the few yards he and Olesia could be apart without pain.


[ - ]


Pete's dæmon Demetria settled into an otter. He was the last of them to settle; Olesia had settled into a coyote when Josh was at the very young age of nine (earning him some concern and trips to a psychiatrist to ensure everything was okay; Jefferson was reassured that young settling wasn't unheard of but that she would appreciate talking to Josh on a regular basis) and Nimilien into a gold frog shortly before Laura entered high school.

Pete, by contrast, was almost seventeen by the time Demetria settled, and he had been getting concerned -- only a handful of people in high school had yet to have their dæmons settle, and he had already been receiving some pointed laughter and muttered comments from other people. Still, Pete was happy that Demetria had finally settled...if only he was as happy about her chosen form.


[ - ]


Josh didn't know what was more frightening -- the metal-faced man in front of him or the coal-black crow that had swooped down to land on the man's right shoulder. The crow dæmon had stayed utterly silent, fixing its stare at Olesia solely while the man looked at Josh. Olesia growled, her hackles raised and teeth bared, a warning to stay away. She'd already received injuries, the man not caring that he was touching another person's dæmon.

The man stepped forwards, the crow spreading its wings and taking flight. The crow his Olesia almost at the same instant the man sent Josh hurtling back towards the tank and into unconsciousness.

When he woke, it was to intense pain and seeing that both he and Olesia were covered in the green substance which had been held in the tank.


[ - ]


Despite them both being covered in the green goop that held the nanoprobes, Olesia seemed to come out unaffected. She had no increased strength, no increased endurance, nothing that Josh now had. Over time, however, they did find out that she had gained an uncanny knack for remembering people, places, anything -- a photographic memory.


[ - ]


Rachel's dæmon was, at first glance, seemingly completely unfit for a spy. An elk that towered over everyone in the room -- hell, everyone in the building -- didn't exactly scream 'subtle'. However, the more he found out about both Rachel and Corcoran the more it seemed to make sense. Despite his lumbering appearance Corcoran was fast and dangerous; he saw some of the wounds people received from being gouged by his horns, and the size of her dæmon made sure that people backed out of the way when she approached for fear of accidentally brushing past him.

The sheer size of Corcoran did make undercover missions a little tricky, but by the time Max had come onto the scene she was angling for a position higher up in the hierarchy which naturally came with less field time. Still, when he saw some of the injuries L'Etranger had picked up during the time he'd been with the hostages, marks that were most evidently from Corcoran's horns, Max smiled.


[ - ]


Max's first thoughts upon seeing Kat's dæmon was "a Kat with a cat. Funny".

It wasn't so funny when he was pinned by Kat after their first sparring match, Olesia similarly pinned by Kaitel. Kaitel was much smaller than Olesia but it didn't stop him from being able to pin the other dæmon down effectively, a cat-like grin on his face.

Kat commented about skill beating power and let Max get up; Kaital gave a couple of nips to Olesia's ear, Olesia yelping and complaining in protest but Kaital only let her up when he decided it was good enough. With a haughty trot Kaital held his tail up high and in a couple of jumps landed on Kat's shoulder where he settled, purring absently as Kat ran a hand through his fur. Olesia muttered a complaint to Kaitel which was very pointedly ignored.


[ - ]


It took Max weeks to finally see Berto's dæmon, and during that time had assumed his was a small insect for all the attention it drew. Only when one late-night call-in to INTEC necessitated Max pulling Berto out of the lab that he actually saw that his dæmon was a very small monkey; a pygmy marmoset Berto had later informed him.

Berto's dæmon didn't settle for years, Max had been told. Even among people of his own age he was still the one teen whose dæmon hadn't settled, and it was made all the worse by the fact that he was at university by the age of twelve. He was surrounded by people with settled dæmons, all confident of who they were, that it only served to highlight the fact that compared to them he was still a little kid.

His proudest moment had been when he'd been at INTEC a week and Bronwyn settled.


[ - ]


Dragonelle scared him.

Really scared him.

The first time he had met her, albeit unknowingly, her dæmon was in the form of Sophia's dæmon, a grey fox.

The next time he met her, she had an elk.

The third time he met her, she had a crocodile.

They didn't know her age but could easily approximate it, and of their estimations no one had ever had an unsettled dæmon before at her age.

No one.

Max didn't know Sophia's dæmon that well (didn't even know his name) so the characteristic behaviour of him was unknown to Max. Considering how well Dragonelle had managed to copy Rachel, and her dæmon Corcoran, he suspected that even if he had known Sophia exceedingly well he still wouldn't have been able to tell Dragonelle apart from the real Sophia.

Impersonation was almost an impossible game in the world -- no matter how well you could imitate a person, there was always their dæmon to think about, and almost never were two dæmons the same, even if it was just by fur or feather or scale patterns. Movies had taken to computer generating dæmons to avoid the obvious evidence that despite two characters being completely different, their dæmons were exactly the same. Before CGI, dæmons had been 'made' using either green screen effects, puppets or, in the very early days of cinema, clever but still obvious use of mirrors to hide the actor's dæmon and the acting dæmon's human partner.

Yet Dragonelle had the ability to not only impersonate someone, but to have her dæmon impersonate that person's dæmon, which made her one of the most dangerous people around.


[ - ]


He could see the shape of the dæmon through the dust; injured, weakened, but still there. The presense of the dæmon showed him that she was still alive, still with him.

Then Corcoran closed his eyes, half-collapsed down onto the floor, and began to shiver.


[ - ]


He hadn't really spared a thought when he'd seen that Mairot's dæmon was a rat -- they were known for their intelligence and for him to be heading up a division of INTEC it fitted very nicely.

When he turned on Max, shocked him into unconsciousness, and delivered him into Dread's waiting hands, that was when Max remembered that the rat was also a symbol of deviousness and scheming.

Dread's dæmon was just as chilling -- a vampire bat. The life-sucker of the animal world and one who does it so effectively that you never know it's going to happen until it already is. The bat was also incredibly small, so small that Dread had to get up very close to Max before the latter even had a chance to see it, helped by the dark clothing that Dread was wearing.

Olesia had been chained down next to him and she had been pacing for who knew how long, constantly tugging at the length of chain tying her to the area. She was right on the edge of where it was comfortable for them to be separated, and her pacing caused Max to flinch whenever she got too close to the boundary.

Dread chortled, commented, making easy talk as Mairot and the dæmons stayed silent. Dread mused on about an old friend he knew, someone who he had not seen in almost twenty years.

"Someone who bore a rather striking familiarity to you, Joshua McGrath."

If the fact that Max looked a lot like Jim wasn't enough, Dread had added, the fact that Max's dæmon was identical to Josh's was very telling. Dread had apparently been using people to keep tabs on Jefferson, and by extension Josh, and had seen when the boy's dæmon had settled.


[ - ]


Nimilien had changed. Not physically -- he was still the same as he had been when Laura left but he acted differently. Josh wondered if the dæmon was snubbing him, but no, Laura was acting the same way. She had barely acknowledged him, barely told him that she was back in Del Oro beyond a courtesy text informing him of the fact; she offered no plans to meet up and chat about what had happened during the past year, and the next time Josh saw her it was a random occurrence on a street -- him on one side of the road, her on the other, talking to someone he didn't recognise.

The man had a brilliantly coloured bird of paradise perched on his left shoulder, Nimilien was on Laura's right, the two dæmons in close contact and chatting while Laura and the man did so as well. Laura had absently looked up and seen Josh looking at her; he looked away and began walking but a few moments later someone grabbed his wrist.

He and Laura exchanged a very brief conversation then, their dæmons deliberately and obviously ignoring each other. Laura had said things were good; Josh said the same. That was the last real conversation they had with each other.


[ - ]


It took Kat a while to be anything other than cautious around Zafirah; she was just lucky Leigh couldn't see her otherwise he would have been commenting about and asking questions that she would either have to ignore or lie about...and frankly, she was sick of needing to lie and grateful that she could mostly be herself around Leigh.

Mostly.

There were things she couldn't discuss with Max, no matter how much he asked, pleaded, or downright demanded. All right, make that wouldn't -- as much as he liked to be on the side of the good guys, pretend that history didn't matter, Mairot had changed all of that, and for him to know of her past would change things majorly.

Leigh...he knew her past, knew her secrets, and their chance encounter roughly a year ago had enabled her to discuss things from her past that she couldn't with anyone else. She could talk to him about Tianna and Beinar, Lemar and Carmelia, Cole and Eula, and not only not get judged for what she said or had done, but even get complimentary stories about them, a side of them that she didn't know.

He told stories of them before she arrived, and she told stories of after he left. Lemar and Carmelia getting in over their heads in rival territory, a warning carved in Carmelia's body, fur shaved off; Tianna shooting herself up to death, Beinar fading away and disappeared by the time someone found her; Cole and Eula disappearing, just like Leigh and Zafirah.

When it came to what she did, she naturally lied. Sports equipment tester for N-Tek. Nothing remotely interesting ("then why do you need to jet off halfway across the world on such short notice?"). She daren't suggest security clearance for Leigh to let him know because she'd run the risk of too many things resurfacing -- her juvenile records were sealed, but Leigh's actions had run well into his post-eighteen life and not only it would all come out but it would be linked to her as well.

So the next time Zafirah asked when she was going after getting a page from INTEC, she smiled and lied, the dæmon watching intently as she left.


[ - ]


Everyone -- human and dæmon alike -- were okay. INTEC was ruined, the transphasic generator barely distinguishable from the rubble that surrounded it. Psycho and his crow dæmon were still there, Psycho pinned down by a hunk of concrete and his dæmon not daring to move away. Bio-Con had disappeared through a make-shift tunnel, and Dread...

Well, no sign of a dæmon meant that he had either escaped as well, or that he had died and his body was somewhere in INTEC, likely to be dragged out when a clean-up crew arrived.

Unfortunately the FBI arrived instead, INTEC full to the gills with agents and their dæmons, all various animal types and colours.


[ - ]


Olesia was in pain. She was shivering and gasping for breath, her fur dank and matted. Despite not having many additional abilities, the lack of transphasic energy affected her just as it affected him, and with only the portable generator around they were not getting enough energy. Berto had muttered under his breath that maybe if Josh didn't have a dæmon he might have been okay, but with glares from both Olesia and Branwyn he quickly shut up about it and never mentioned it again.

They'd been okay at the beginning, but over time the effects gradually worsened. Berto had explained it using Josh's cell phone at one time -- with a good charge, the battery worked fine and used up power as expected. With inefficient charging the expected energy source wasn't there any more, and eventually without proper charge the battery became less and less efficient. Even with a proper charge, the battery would never regain a hundred percent of its previous capabilities.

The unspoken fact was that even if they could get Josh a full charge, his system was already damaged. He already was spending more and more time plugged into the portable generator, doing his best to keep the probes charged to a reasonable level.

Of course, anyone who saw Olesia knew how futile the whole thing was getting.


[ - ]


The fact that Leigh was so casually stroking Kaitel didn't go unnoticed by Max as he watched Leigh and Kat talking on the pier. Leigh's dæmon had settled herself around Kat's arm, and if anyone watching didn't know they would have thought the snake was hers and the cat his. The two looked relaxed, Kat's eyes half-closed as the slight breeze ruffled her fringe, Leigh looking out into nothing but with a look of adoration on his face -- Max knew that it was intended for Kat, and when she looked up and saw Leigh's expression she smiled faintly.

"Ready?"

Josh turned to look at the woman who'd spoken and smiled.

"Ready."