Tuesday, January 8, 2013

9/23/12 - How Bad It Gets, You Can't Imagine - Pt. 3 - Amporn

"To her credit, she didn't just dive into the temple," Dr. Krwi continues, handing over the whiskey bottle, as he's had more than enough by now: "Amporn stayed above, and watched as the balls of energy accumulated, again, and then went up into the top of the temple after that strange noise was heard. It took them an hour, and in that time she counted the number of white boxes those poor slaves pushed up the temple."

"Let me guess," SPYGOD says, tossing aside his glass and drinking straight from the bottle: "Same number of energy balls as boxes?"

"Exactly the same," the old man says, trying to find something to sit down upon: "So now she realizes that this is nothing to do with building, or any of the other thoughts she had, flying around the place. Now she realizes that something else is going on here."

"Good for her."

"She wanted to be thorough, for you," Krwi says, giving him that nasty look, again: "She felt she owed you a boon, and wanted it to be fully repaid."

"Again, good for her."

"And now she is dead because of it."

SPYGOD shrugs, and knocks back some of the whiskey: "She did what I told her not to do. !@#$ happens."

"I can't believe you could-"

"You were going to finish telling me the story," SPYGOD says, giving the old man a look back: "Please do."

So he sits down on the upended crate the bartender was using, and he does.

* * *

Satisfied that she is not incorrect in her assumptions, Amporn hurls herself into -- and through -- the temple under the ziggurat, allowing herself to go intangible for however long it takes.

Once through the thick bricks, all made from the same strange, white substance that everything else here is, she finds herself within a great machine. It is filled with cyclopean gears, great belts, and strange pulleys, all positioned to efficiently move the white boxes from place to place. And their constant motion is eerily silent, as though she had lost her hearing in the journey there.

The boxes are taken down from the surface to the center of the temple by a helical screw, much like a wide conveyor belt, and righted up on their narrow end. They are then deposited onto a large, rotating central plinth, like cubist candles on a birthday cake. There, they slowly rotate about for one whole turn of the wheel, only to be dropped away just before a replacement is brought forth.

And just before that happens, a ball of light escapes from the top of the box, and makes its way up into the darkened corners of the machine, most likely to find a hole to escape from. 

It takes ten minutes for a box to go around the entire circle, she sees. She also sees that there is a large hole in the center of the circle, and a strange, bright glow coming from within it. She flaps to the center of the circle and looks down.

Whats he sees makes her recoil with dread.

* * *

"A giant ball, glowing almost as bright as the sun," Dr. Krwi reveals with a slight flourish: "And while she could not be certain in the brief time she looked at it, she thought she saw something moving within it. Something moving in a perfect spiral, within it, like a fish within an egg-"

"DEROS," SPYGOD says, pounding the bottle down: "And that would just !@#$ing fit, wouldn't it?"

"What is this thing you speak of?"

"Long story short? Big, fast metal serpent from beneath the hollow Earth."

"You're joking."

"I wish I was !@#$ing joking. Large, powerful, and !@#$ing dangerous as !@#$. We thought they were Japanese weapons, back during the War, but it turns out they weren't theirs. Just some weird thing that liked to attack our ships and planes but not theirs. We started running into them again when we tangled with GORGON, back in February, before everything went to !@#$, , so it fits that the Imago are using them."

"She said she thought it was being used to power the machine. Possibly the entire temple, as well."

"She'd probably be right. Those things give off a !@#$ of a lot of power. !@#$, we've seen them them use them as generators, before. But..."

Dr. Krwi raises his eyebrows: "'But?' You have a theory?"

"Keep on with the story, please," SPYGOD says, having some more whiskey: "I think some pieces are coming together."

* * *

Ignoring for the moment the fear she feels at whatever's in the center of the rotating platform -- and the increasing likelihood of running into the Imago, here at the heart of their temple -- the Krasue decides to investigate one of the upright boxes. 

She flaps over to the one that was just deposited onto the platform and pokes her head in, ever so slowly. The inside of the box is lit up with layers of alien, hissing machinery, so she goes just that much slower, just in case it's boobytrapped or something.

Inside the box is a wizened, old woman -- shrunken and sere. Her eyes are filled with cataracts, her teeth have fallen out of her mouth, and she's drooling all over herself. Her brain doesn't seem to be working so well, anymore; dementia, perhaps, or maybe she's so run down that she doesn't care to dignify her surroundings with any kind of response. 

Around her are white wires, wrapped all over her like vines over a ruined statue, deep in the jungle. Along those wires are small lights that slowly rise and lower in intensity, seemingly in time with her breathing. Thin, clear tubes snake in and out of her clothing, going to small, white boxes placed around the front of the box, with liquids of varying color and consistency sluicing to and away from her.

In front of the old woman's face is a screen. On that screen is a smiling little girl, dressed in a peasant girl's dress, and talking of her life in the town of Chiang Mai. She talks about school and friends and her favorite toys, and how sad she was when her cat was run over by a tuk-tuk, and that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up just like her mommy and...

And and and. She keeps talking like she has diarrhea of the brain, or someone is having her speak non-stop about herself for as long as she can.

As the girl prattles on, Amporn sees that the old woman is crying. She also sees that the lights on the wires are glowing a little brighter with each cycle.

She also realizes that the old woman must be related to the little girl, as their bone structure is eerily identical. Also her hairstyle, and the dress they're both wearing.

Amporn hears the little girl laugh, and she tips her hair back to reveal a small, puckered scar across her forehead. And then she looks to the old woman, and sees the same exact scar there, reflected under the lights.

* * *

SPYGOD spits up the mouthful of whiskey: "No !@#$ing way," he says, wiping his mouth.

"That is what she saw. And when she went from box to box, she realized that it was the same thing, over and over again. The children were in those boxes, watching themselves on the screens, and they had all become incredibly old and frail.

"Some were more mentally gone than others, of course. Some were actively sobbing, or begging the Gods for help. Others were like the first girl, missing behind the eyes..."

"And the lights came out of the boxes," SPYGOD says, after a moment's reflection: "So whatever they were doing with them, it was taking the life energy out of them."

"Yes," Dr. Krwi says, handing him a rag to clean up with: "And that light became a ball of energy that went up to the temple's surface, and joined the others."

"Holy !@#$," SPYGOD says, having another swig from the bottle, and then another right on its heels.

"It gets better, my friend," the old man says: "Because that was when she decided it was time to leave..."

* * *

She flies up and up as fast as she can, slipping through the gears and wheels and belts, the white glowing bricks, the schools of light. She gets past them all as quickly as her lungwings will carry her, now understanding how ordinary people must feel when they see her. 

She had no idea - no !@#$ idea. She didn't know they could make machines that stole lives like this. She didn't believe that you could turn a child into a whispering ghost, wrapped in papery flesh, without sinking your fangs into their necks. She didn't know it then and she doesn't want to know it now, either. 

She just wants to get out of here. Now. 

The wall of the box looms ahead of her. She increases her speed and prepares to fly through it, eager to be gone and away.

And then she's splatting up against something -- something unseen and painful -- and she's screaming and falling, her wings fighting to right herself as she fights off the numbness and strain and hopes no one heard that.

Of course, they did.

* * *

"Twenty Imago," Dr. Krwi says: "All of them literally came from nowhere, surrounding her as she fell. They did their usual greeting, and she was as well-spoken and polite as ever-"

"Which essentially means she told them to go !@#$ a blender," SPYGOD says, having another swig: "Something tells me they didn't !@#$ing appreciate that."

"Not exactly, no. She collected herself before she struck the ground, and tried to phase through it. But she encountered the same painful field there, too. Only this time she couldn't fall down, as she was already there."

"So she splattered"

"Badly. And then they were upon her..."

"And I bet that didn't end !@#$ing well."

"No," Dr. Krwi says: "Not at all."

(SPYGOD is listening to Evaporation (Shriekback) and having some more Wild Turkey )

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