"Don't know which is worse: watching her slowly rage towards you like an impeccably styled earthquake or popping out of nowhere like a sudden, seething landslide."
―Robin Stark, Black Guard Officer AKA Colleague-in-Suffering
Zipper can be nice, Zipper can be amiable, Zipper can be the bloody saint-anointed mascot of good cheer and easy charm - when she remembers to be, and her memory has a tendency to rapidly deteriorate when faced with the laundry list of perceived grievances that reality has seen fit to inflict on her. She hates small talk, she hates physical contact, she hates bureaucracy, she hates puppies and kittens and children, all huge eyes and mewling wastes of space. She hates the idea that anyone can make an appointment, a cherished mutually-agreed social contract if there ever was one, and dare fail to be punctual. She hates the little delays in life, the little, lost trills that add up to not-so-little lost bits that, in turn, swell into breaks and trials that she will never get back. She hates that people come in a thousand and one varieties, and she hates that they don’t perform and behave in a predictable, rational manner. She hates the gods, a hate that far transcends mere etzorian propaganda, and above all else, she hates unseemliness and untidiness; she hates that dirt and grime and murk and ill-conceived decor can’t actually be bullied into assisted suicide. She hates and she hates and she hates-
When Zipper says she despises everything, it is only mild hyperbole.
Other people have moods; Zipper almost exclusively has states of wrath: icy courtesy, stern professionalism, quiet hostility, thinly veiled annoyance, surly grumpiness, seething exasperation, simmering anger, frothing rage, an almost zen tantrum trance that has been unfavorably likened to what a volcano would look and sound like if it decided to become a serial rapist, and then there's something beyond that, something so terrible it reaches high into the divine and roots deep into Faldrun’s domain of absolute turmoil: the complete and utter silence of someone who has truly snapped.
Wrath is her bludgeon and her cudgel, her rusted razor and assassin's dagger, her carrot and stick, her sword and shield - she’s a one-trick social pony, and one with a lame hoof at that, but she knows how to use her solo means of expression as a well-honed swiss knife: to bully, to mock, to intimidate, to threaten, to pressure, to shame, to rally, to mislead others into thinking she's nothing more than a short-sighted, volatile hothead guided by short-sighted, volatile impulses.
Well, she is - but we all have depths, no?
If there’s a sliver of real joy inside her, it ain’t ever showing through. Catching her in an actual good way is like trying to catch a unicorn: going on a fool’s quest to hunt for something both clearly mythological and extremely patronizing to virgins. But what happens when you do find the fabled beast and open it from breast to groin? Do you find a young woman so determined to treat the world the way it has treated her and hers that she knows no other way to confront it? Do you find a studious, book-smart girl hiding no small amount of social awkwardness behind social hostility, opting to face every day in a guise of strength rather than weakness, to project some semblance of control lest she admits that she has none? Do you find a little lady trying to make sense of a world bent on contradiction? Or is there simply nothing underneath the ire: just a rotten claw reaching out from a hollow pit where the dead go to die, trying to cling to the one thing that feels like it could be real to the rest of the world? Could one brand of social dysfunction be brandished to hide another much, much more alien one?
Maybe there's a bit of gospel to each of it, but the unifying source for it all might just be a bit more bizarre.
In truth, Zipper could be the poster child for the developmental dangers of an initiation too early. An etherist since she was seven, her worldview has been more wholly shaped by the rigours of Transmutation than they have by her childhood peers in the Etzos orphanage. She sees the world in terms of the expressed truths of qualities and hated flaws - and there are way too many flaws to suffer it as it is right now. The ratio is unbalanced. The world isn't spinning as fast as it could go. Half the cogs are rusted, the other half turning in the wrong direction. There's dirt and grime and mud clogging up the framework of the world - needless conflict, naked diversions of venality, power serving for the sake of power, petty violence, wasted resources, ignorance unending, the bowing and scraping before undeserved authority, and the blind leading the blind. There's a poison in the foundation of the world, she thinks, and it urgently needs an antidote.
There's no good and bad in Zipper's world, only efficiency and the absence of it, only solutions and the problems they solve, only assets and liabilities, only knowledge and how its applied, only self-actualized potential and those that give themselves over to parasitism and excess. Anything less than that... just isn't real enough for her - and she desperately needs the world to be real, to be more than the meaningless, misused byproduct of Emea's exhaust pipe. To be more than a cycle of a necrosis, a status quo of rot replacing rot replacing rot replacing rot.
If nothing else, Zipper is principled. Morally vacant, sure, but, perhaps paradoxically, possessed of some pretty rigid principles. One could say she's honourable even, for a given definition of the term. She deeply values responsibility, loyalty, charity, excellence, discipline, gratitude, even the rare friendship here and there - but there's always a bit of an alien slant to each of it. Always something off to her very special interpretation of what one would call a code of ethics. It's often calculated, ritualistic, and completely ignorant or unconcerned with the spirit of the concept - at the best of times. Zipper is capable of doing a great deal of good - and all the reasons are the wrong ones. Not necessarily bad ones, just the wrong ones.
Because Zipper's not a sociopath, no, no, no, she's something so much more destructive than a two-dimensional psycho in the thrall of a mental ailment that keeps them small: she's an idealist. Worse: she's an idealist that thinks she can fix the world in its entirety. Underneath all her bite and sourness and rampant cynicism is someone who genuinely believes in change for the greater good. In fact, Zipper's an idealist that maybe -just maybe- one day might possess the tools to take a genuine shot at utopia - and inevitably fail. Because where it really, really, really matters, compromise is poison to Zipper. Because there is no all-solving hammer of a solution to the world, and Zipper will never accept that. Because anything Zipper creates will dismiss the human element as arbitrary crap. Because her motives for fixing the world are simply an extension of her anal sense of technical perfection, and there is not a single shred of altruism in it. Because Zipper has no interest in rulership; she's an architect that grows and builds and fixes and if that isn't enough, if it doesn't hit the standards despite all that, then the project was flawed to begin with: off to the trash bin and back to the drawing board. Because Transmutation is more than qualities and flaws, it's also steeped in shaping and unmaking - and she sees no relevant difference between either, sees no actual distinction between the healing doctor and the slaying assassin.
A tool for every task. A man -or woman- for every job. Nothing more - and in a perfect world, in a better world, she would be every tool for every task. Alas, no person can play every role. Let's add one more item onto the laundry list of spite in light of that: Zipper hates delegation; she hates that she needs it.
But ultimately, the real reason she won't tell herself is this: Zipper's a hypocrite of the highest order.
Strip Zipper of her neurotic whining and her preening and her amorality and the posturing about a better, cleaner world. Strip her of technical excellence and her rage and her brother and all her talk about pragmatism and every other color that makes the woman till you get a blank slate with a smudge on it. That's level 1, that's the foundation, that's the stone the rest of tower was built upon.
And Zipper's foundation is built upon a 7 arc old girl fighting an ether missile while it drives her deeper and deeper into Emea. Zipper's foundation is built upon the joy and relief when she smashed through, tears and pain, and came out an etherist.
And then the subsequent dissatisfaction.
She misses it. She will always miss it. She misses that turbulence that was the forge of her creation. Zipper will never succeed because there are no victory conditions for her; the struggle is life itself. The struggle is the struggle for its own sake. Her belligerent nature towards everything is founded upon wanting to jump back into the scorch and chill of the Emean swirl, and her nigh-combative approach to everything in life is a semi-subconscious attempt at recreating it.
In the end, Zipper is a Transmutator and a Transmutator seeks the truth - and her truth is progress through a baptism of fire, the truth of her is the dragonslayer - and she is nothing if there are no dragons -good or bad, real or imagined- to slay. Because Zipper will try to cook up a dragon in a lab before admitting there's nothing left to put to the sword. Because, deep down in her heart of hearts, Zipper knows she will never be content standing on the ashes of her foes big and small; it's never, ever been about them. It's her. It's always been her: climbing, climbing, climbing, looking for a peak that says "okay, that's enough. This is it. The be all and end all."
Power's just a word, what she wants is something much, much more abstract. What she wants she just doesn't know how to express or obtain. What she wants is to defy causality with a bang, to inscribe the fact of herself into-
No. It's not love, you fuckwit.
For all her intelligence, for all her potential, for all the personal power she aspires to and will wield, for all of her inner mental posturing about Transmutation's ability to grasp the world in its truest form, about its place above both the other domain magics and the divine scraps they call blessings, Fiona Zippomaria O'Connor ultimately-
Just. Doesn't. Get It.
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