FHD Remix Chapter 48
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 47: The True Clock; Origin of Glie
Chapter 48: The Deployment Story
[The Scott Pagano video for the Brian Transeau song Antikythera Mechanism could be interpreted as a depiction of the events in this chapter. Your humble author found this video by accident and watched it for the first time eight days after writing this chapter.]
Four raven sit in the dark interior of the Beaver Butch. They are actually pissed off at God. After over a year of successful running, the miraculously protected electronics suddenly failed, and Julie Jensen knew it was delta radiation that fried them.
All they heard from God was that it was no longer needed.
Jack stood on the archway of Old Home, holding Tatakai's nametag.
"Not again," Tsunami says as she flips her own name tag to return from a field trip with Kurai and Yurushi, who feels it bounce off his halo when Jack drops it and starts blowing snow at them with his wings.
"You seem a bit upset, Jack," Kurai notes.
<You aren't kidding!!> Jack fumes in his thoughts.
Shimoni returns to Old Home this morning, somewhat exhausted. She doesn't bother flipping her nametag as she goes to the battery house to load up the crane. The batteries she finds are half discharged, and she's in such a flat rush that she fails to even notice the three kids and the flustered raven. As soon as she's about ready to roll the crane, Jack lands on the pip in front of her, dangling Tatakai's name tag from his beak. His slight weight makes the hook swing just a bit.
"You look pissed," Shimoni says in concern.
<That's more like it,> he thinks.
"Tatakai's downtown right now," Shimoni explains.
Jack first notices that Shimoni regards him with a new respect, much the same way as she does Joe and Tatakai, as though she somehow has fully realized that he's a sentient ex-human warrior.
Suddenly she blurts out, "I loved your hair, Jack."
That statement turns his anger into curiosity. If she somehow has an appreciation for his human hair (which he had never worn much of), then perhaps however she found out has rendered the Beaver Butch completely moot.
After returning Tatakai's nametag to Tsunami, he stands on the window railing as Shimoni takes the crane into town, down a road that it barely fits.
"The Soul Cube..." she starts. She notices that Jack is not only familiar with the concept, but that he's surprised that she knows.
Jack notices that Shimoni is fighting tears; her reality has been shaken by her discovery that there ever was such a thing as a Soul Cube. It seems as though she needs to gather her strength to say anything more. Jack is worried that it must be big news.
After trudging the crane most of the way into town, annoyed that she has to keep adding power to overcome the resistance of the snow. She decides that it will never get easier to say it until after she's said it a few times.
"Jack, the Soul Cube created Glie."
The bird slips off the cabin rail and falls onto his back on the deck outside with an ignominous clunk. Shimoni stops the crane and looks out the window. Jack lies on his back and flexes his feet in Toganese, "No joke?"
Shimoni picks him up, brushes him off, then, when she's pretty sure he can stand on his own, sets him back on the window railing, "You going to be alright, Jack?" she asks.
The raven, still shaken at the news, extends his right wing for a few seconds. He had just enough clues to suggest that Glie had something to do with the Martian ancients, and so the news was just barely believable. If it weren't he would simply have thought that Shimoni had been mistaken. There were common ornaments, like the Communicator's mask, and the wings above the Great Gate suggested the ancient featherwing society. There was also the Beaver Butch failure weighing on his mind. Jack sees the damage in the distance, suddenly realizes what the crane is probably for and flies off to the clock tower.
Tatakai would recognize his raven voice, so he calls gently for her into the shop.
"Jack, come on in," she says from the basement under the tower.
Pausing at the fallen clock, he sees its broken weight and pendulum lying on the floor of the sub-level, then descends into it, having assumed that Tatakai was down there with a lantern. He was brought up short and rested in Tatakai's hands as he read his old record. The system does not know he had come back as a raven.
"Play the deployment sequence," Tatakai softly asks.
"The decision to end custody and deploy was made on SCD-0yr Nov 01," A matured edition of Ruby's voice says as it shows the route the Soul Cube used to scan first the Sahara desert, then the Himalayas, trying to find a suitable location. "It was a sad decision because of how we abandoned Jack and Devon Campbell without notice, but it was necessary. Our previous decision was to wait until they had decided to surrender, and doubtless they would have sent us away with their blessing. Even as the Final War dragged on to its inevitable conclusion, we realized first, that they would never surrender, at best continuing to survive as fugitives, at worst, being killed in action. We dilly-dallied for quite a while despite the fact that we knew once they surrendered, they would be summarily executed. We also did not dare give them the information about Deployment because of its potential to be compromized to the enemy."
The map zoomed in on Siberia, and selected a spot east of Lake Baikal, where the nearest human city would be an abandoned ruin called Chita. That must be that depression Jack floated around in. The delta vector near the bottom was so dense, that Jack was able to float in it, and couldn't reach the bottom. Today, the lake was dried right up, the radiation was so strong that it caused the plastic cases of Enforcer rounds to disintegrate, and their brass bases would turn green and degrade into hairy puffs as they slowly sank to the bottom of the depression.
"Deployment would initially have a population of 144,000 including 4512 featherwings, or, as we would later call them, ashfeathers, after their new form," the voice sounded so sad as it said this. The terrain in the image was rugged and barren, with only a few trees and scrubs, much as Jack remembered hatching into ten months before. "The first task was to create an exclusion zone that could keep out enemy attacks using energy while the perimeter wall was constructed. The wall was a proud and simple design we had worked on for almost four thousand years. It took twenty four hours to construct the basic structure using the Soul Cube quantum teleporter."
The Soul Cube had struck the landscape like a meteor, and extended the outer edge of the resulting crater upward from the terrain, then began to construct the wall at the edge of the cone-shaped depression. What would have been ejecta if this were a normal meteor is braked and falls into a wide ridge no further than twice the crater's final radius. The enemy would know immediately, but it would be a logistical impossibility to bring anything significant to attack it in the first two days. <Did they know I was still on the rampage?> Jack thinks, remembering all the frantic traffic on the radios the night before he died in action.
"In the first forty-eight hours, we concentrated on building the wall, its basic design enhanced with functionality for dealing with delta radiation and delta vector quantities based on the water transmode virus effects expected over the distant future, and how it would sustain Earth's now hellspawn population for thousands of years to come. We had expected Deployment to endure periods of both peace and war, but considered that it was inevitable that the then-incipient problem of delta vector would eventually come to dominate the entire planet, including a concentrated settled mass several metres deep just outside our wall."
In the centre of the depression, which is considerably deeper than what is currently Glie, a large stone slab formed, and, when it reached a radius of a thousand metres, one edge extended to the East Gate, today known as the Great Gate, on heading 090 of the wall. Jack is now only one of four souls in the entire world to even know of its existence. Glie's foundations are far, far stronger than those of "Site 3", the Ancients' ruin on Mars, which needed the enormous Intermediate Dimension (ID) Hell Gate to compromise. To be certain of its integrity, the Soul Cube extended a thin, but very strong stone layer beyond this, connecting the entire wall. It then filled this entire basin with several metres of soil, the ejecta of the original landing, teleported from the immediate vicinity. The Central Tower came up from the middle of the slab as a tall square pyramid. On top of the soil, another slab, much smaller than the main foundation, formed, and on this was built, in the ancient architecture, housing, infrastructure, and business spaces for 144,000 inhabitants. The wall had stopped a river, which was then ducted in, ran through the outer zone, and then exited downstream to the east. Not one, but six defensive access towers were built. Only one, at heading 240, is still working. It is now better known as the Haibane Renmei Temple. Every multi-storey tower was an enormous refuge and defensive emplacement designed not only to maintain the walls, but to act as emergency shelters and hospitals in the event of a major break of the wall and the flooding of the central basin with delta vector. The design exhibited shocking foresight and prudence.
"Deployment was designed for the contingency that its inhabitants may eventually forget its context and operation, a precedent set by the Featherwing Brotherhood on Earth in the twentieth century Anno Domini, when they almost completely forgot how their wings operated, and nearly became extinct as a result. It was thought that such an occurrence would be impossible, but after observing humanity on Earth, it was decided that all essential functions be made to operate with little to no maintenance for up to one thousand years. This was confirmed as prudent when the Toga were able to negotiate trade between Deployment and the hellspawn outside, enabling a society ignorant of Deployment's defensive operation to remain stable because of the resulting peace. The Deployment event was completed at 48 hours, and at hour 90, the last of the Soul Cube inhabitants had been reconstructed, effectively ending its existence. Now, at seventeen years into Deployment's existence, we are somewhat happy, again in a stable society of humans and ashfeathers, defending itself and continuing to await the Saviour's return."
"It took me a while," says Tatakai as the video ends, "to figure out that something nasty happened to Deployment at 76 years. No records in this system, other than those automatically recorded by the wall, exist that are any newer than that." She wipes a tear from her eyes and points with a willow stick that the kiosk's touchscreen doesn't respond to, at the river, "I think this dyke broke one spring and flooded the city, killing most of its population. The remainder hid out in the towers for that spring, and eventually rebuilt the dyke from soil, joining it again to the exit near Abandoned Factory. The moat was empty, and no one entered the wall until Glie and the Communicators were reestablished, whenever that was. This was when Deployment ended and Glie began. All these kiosks were buried or destroyed. Im pretty sure that yesterday was the first time anyone has been in this room in almost twelve hundred years."
Jack flew up to the edge of the hole and found what he had expected to see, a fatigue bloom in the break, where he thought the heavy weight of the clock had landed. This foundation had been pounded on. People were testing it, trying to break it. They probably even tried explosive charges, but it took over a thousand years of the steady swinging of the pendulum and the lifting of the huge weight that ran Glie's clock to finally defeat the hardy material. He was looking at an extraordinarily advanced alloy that passed itself off as stone.
"Looks like we showed up just in time for the whole works to start coming down on its own from age," Tatakai says. Finally she stands and says, "Just in case the return of the Saviour is still another 1260 years off, I'm going to use his light to anneal the entire wall. I, for one, am sure glad these guys took the long view."
Jack goes to the top of the kiosk and sees a curious little recess, perhaps a maintenance panel release. He sticks his bill into it and pushes hard, releasing it. A screen rises out of the top of it.and flips over it, He stands on it. It can sense him. He starts fiddling around. The main screen starts responding. Tatakai is surprised to see a Toganese interface light up, Toganese script opens. As he suspected, this system has a tag registry! It takes Jack some practice to get it to read his Toganese, but he soon calls up, "Earth Ancient Bible," and yet another language, Greek. He's flustered, nobody knows Greek. Fortunately, he brings up the language directory and calls up Japanese. What he's looking for appears:
"Revelation 6:9 When he opens the fifth seal [of the scroll qv 5:1], I see under the altar those who had been slain because of the word of God, the testimony they had maintained, 10 calling out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the Earth and avenge our blood?' 11 Each of them is given a white robe, and is told to wait a little longer, until the number was fulfilled, of their fellow servants and brothers were to be killed as they were."
"This number is down to two figures," Jack signs.
Tatakai quivers, she can feel it in her bones, that he is right. If she hadn't been waiting for the Toga the previous Tuesday, that would have been it. She smiles.
"Why are you happy?" Jack asks.
"Night before last, just before I found the clock tower collapsed," she sighs, "Ten more Toga appeared in the interspace. Maledict, whatever you do, you lose. You either lose more souls to the Saviour's cause, or you cause his return. No wonder you're hiding here."
A yellow wisp emerges from the top of the kiosk and startles Jack as it brushes his tail feathers.
She chuckles, "I'm still going to anneal the wall, just in case it really takes you another 1260 years to murder a couple dozen Saviour-spawn."
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 49: Operation Tatakai