FHD Remix Chapter 31
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 30: A Bird's Eye View
Chapter 31: Names For The Birds
[A character extends a ladder into the ventilation system in the third stage of Doom 3. Can you spot him? He is the only bit character from the game to appear in Glie's world. The other victims of I Mars to appear in Glie's world are the author's own embellishments.]
The bird stands on one foot, talons curled around one of the many tines of an old fashioned rack antenna, mounted to the roof of Bubba's New Goods, which relies on trade with the Toga. The bird knows that most of what Bubba sells is not new at all, but because of Glie's sad regression in technology, only seem newer than the new goods actually produced in Glie.
Jack has managed to figure out that the horseshoe-shaped Abandoned Factory, the half-finished plant now inhabited by the ostracized little angels, was supposed to be a microchip factory. He can tell because its third floor plenum is utterly dominated by air ducts and other evidence that this building was supposed to filter an emormous throughput of air, but the blowers and filters have all been raided for other buildings. He could even find some of them in the North District. Why the factory's construction was halted is a total mystery.
He loves watching the Haibane of Old Home. Since he can't get into the interspace of the wall, he rarely sees Devon's light of war live in action, but he is fascinated by the other lights the Saviour has granted. Vanessa wields the light of healing. Helen wields the light of rain, a rather ironic turn of phrase, thinks Jack. He sees this one in action most often, as she goes about filling rain barrels and watering trees and gardens every evening. She also goes about the far more complicated task of building houses and fixing the wind turbines every morning.
Oh. Jack suddenly remembers that the Toga are due for a visit, in about two hours. He flies away. Not only is it so interesting to watch the trade between the Toga and the town, but the Toga usually leave something of the animals they butcher after the trade: a tasty meal for a raven like Jack. The delta radiation only destroys human bodies; those of humans, featherwings, and haibane. These leftovers also keep all week because of the delta radiation, but the dry stuff is chewy. The ravens can almost be counted on to gather at the old quarry to the north on Mondays to get some high quality grit for their crops.
Ravens can't cry, but Jack would if he had the proper glands. The demons have finally decided that the best way to attack the sudden city is to infiltrate it by using the Toga. Actually, this has been something they've itched to do probably since Glie first appeared. Why they haven't? The Saviour finds some way to thwart them every time. The Toga flee in every direction as the demons attack, lead by the enormous red monster Erebus. Seven of the injured prisoners, they let live. The demons camp outside the Great Gate and lay a permanent siege to Glie. About thirty or forty Toga get away, but they won't be able to get back to Glie until the siege is lifted. This will probably happen when another of the many disasters poured out upon Earth comes again.
It seems to be an annoying cycle. The demons try to attack, then some disaster drives them away: Plagues of tumours, killer locusts, hundred-pound hail, a sudden propensity to suffer massive sunburns, etc.. The latest one fascinates Jack the most: two winters before he reappeared, they attempted to use a Guardian, bred to have its own senses and not require the seekers, as a battering ram to break through the wall into the West Wood. Jack managed to uncover a detailed campaign fed by intelligence given by treacherous ravens who stole maps from within the city. They had it all worked out. The hapless Guardian smashed herself against the wall for five months, and mere days before the anticipated breakthrough, the Saviour's light bloomed at the site of the attack and in the space of just four minutes, slew the Guardian and her forces, and repaired all the damage it had done.
That was Devon's first night on the job as Glie's defender. Jack sleeps half his nights comfortably atop the wall there, basking in the love of the Saviour, smiling at his bizarre sense of humor, dreaming of teenager-apparent Devon Campbell, totally unarmed, wearing a plain white robe, decorative white wings and a tiny halo singing, of all things, the ancient drum-chant Indestructible, written by one of the best drum-chanting bands, Disturbed, shining the light of war for the first time.
Jack realizes that the demons have managed to screw themselves yet again in this latest bizarre twist. By slaying the Haibane Renmei, Toga and Communicator in Glie's temple, they left their worst nightmare next in the pecking order to greet them at the Great Gate.
Devon, Vanessa and Helen, now with white wings, stand there waiting. Jack knew that the seven Toga, and the few dozen wraiths that were going to steal into Glie with them, were going to be a few minutes late. Jack decides now is as good a time as ever, to swoop down in front of these three to make introductions. He knew that Devon would have read through many of the eyes-only Communicator manuscripts, and therefore would know that the ravens were sentient.
Jack lands in front of Devon. He's never been this close to any inhabitant of Glie before. She smiles. Jack recognizes that this is probably one of those smiles she doesn't even realize she's making, that smile that made her waste every good poker hand she ever had.
Anyway, Jack starts scratching in the stone near her feet, a symbol she should recognize, that of her Saviour. As he starts the second line of his cross, she crouches to get a closer look.
"Who are you?" she whispers softly in Japanese.
Jack shakes off his sore bill, realizing that he can't draw much more than the simple cross in the stone without doing major damage to his beak, so he decides to spell their name in the air. Not in English, he decides: Katakana. He actually feels pretty silly doing it, the four Japanese characters that spell their common name. After he repeats the embarrassing dance four times, she whispers, in proper sounding English,
Jack hears the clunk of the gate's latch and flies away, frustrated that he couldn't accomplish more.
Jack doesn't understand the exchange of hand signals, probably couldn't from the top of the wall even if he knew the language. What he does understand is that the Toga are increasingly afraid of Devon, even though thus far she has appeared to be polite to a fault. Vanessa is itching to use her light of healing on the badly hurt Toga, but Devon is keeping her on a tight leash.
Jack, once again, is startled off his perch as Devon cuts loose the light of war. Jack notices as he flies over the outside of the wall, that the BFG 9000 that Erebus was holding before is no longer to be seen. Erebus is whispering into a talking box. Why the demons never called them radios probably has something to do with hiding from their masses how they really work and what their limitations are.
Jack remembers how easy it is to rig the Big Featherwing Gun to explode, and so, with that thought flies back over to the Glie side of the wall and begins a rapid descent towards the haibane, landing on Devon's right wing and chattering up a storm, not oblivious to the improved condition of the Toga, doubtless due to Vanessa's touch. You have to be very quick with your fingers to disarm it, and Jack is genuinely concerned that Devon, with the limited memory of a haibane, might not remember quick enough, how to bring the Big Featherwing Gun to heel when it is set as a trap.
"I'll be careful then," she responds, her eyes assure the bird that she indeed is ready for what she is getting into. She carefully leans down and lifts up the corner of the cart's tarp. Jack hears the tarp pull the clip from the weapon's trigger and splits, just in case he's wrong.
Devon's arm slips under the tarp quick as a snake's strike as the BFG starts beeping its overload tone. She has just three seconds, but stops it in two. The new Devon still knows how to leash the beast. She pulls away the tarp, revealing an old defibulator, some old pneumatic construction tools, and the Big Featherwing Gun 9000. It scrapes angrily as she lifts it from the cart and keeps it pointed towards the wall, away from the outer gate.
"Someone out there is trying hard!" she huffs. Her hand left hand leaves the second handle of the weapon, and Jack can tell that she remembers. Does she remember that this enormous, angry looking device is the closest thing she had to a wedding ring?
"This device," she snorts as she pops open the ammo cover, ejecting the glowing green plasma cell back onto the cart, "is useless." Angrily, she releases the cannon and just after it settles back onto the cart, starts waving her fingers at the Toga again. All Jack can tell is that she is ticked! Moments later, she claps, and the community watch gatekeepers, now at her command, take the six Toga under arrest.
Six? thinks Jack as he settles back to the top of the gate, weren't there seven Toga? Oh, well, Devon can look after herself, obviously. One of them probably got wasted by the Saviour's light of war, probably the one that was so friendly with Erebus before the attack on the Toga. Jack sleeps well that night, knowing that the defenses of sudden city are in such capable hands.
The following night, Jack is busy flying back and forth to the top of the wall, building up a tick-silk rope connected to the BFG plasma bottle. He recruited a traitor among the ticks. The five foot long spider demons who grew tired of being sent through the tiniest cracks in the wall around Glie, only to be promptly blasted out of existence by what they call Flash Killer in their simple language of clicks and wiggles. Not that they weren't scared of Messy Red (Probably Rakka, Jack thinks), but getting skewered on the boat puller at least was something they could wrap their small minds around.
Nobody seems to notice as Jack pedals his crude little pulley, lifting the plasma bottle from the cart, clanking against the wall, glowing for all to see, one hundred metres, all the way to the top of the wall, dangling from a thread of tick filament. After rolling it several metres across the top, Jack watches his little winch unwind as plasma bottle tinks down the tapered outside of the wall. It tears from its flimsy mount as the bird intended, having reached the end of its tick-silk rope, it falls the last two metres to the sand outside the wall. The broken little pulley lands beside it several seconds later. Even without a purpose for it, Jack wasn't about to leave such a huge quantity of pressurized delta vector lying around in Glie. He has more in mind for it, however.
The tick picks it up and carries it to the overgrown Beaver Butch, and simply dumps it into the hatch of the old tank. Jack and the tick salute each other, contract fulfilled. At this point, another raven taps the ring of the hatch and shakes its head at Jack. It jumps down into the tank and skillfully unscrews a panel with its bill. Jack enters and starts clearing away moss, their unspoken agreement being that Jack won't touch any of the wires.
The second raven soon has the plasma bottle hooked up to the computer's power supply. It taps the power switch on the computer and the inside of the tank comes to life ... sort of. The raven has skillfully isolated this tiny computer. Once again, the clock reads midnight, 1 January 2130, but finally, it is running. The third raven taps a few keys on the keyboard and the report from Tatakai is replaced by a blank screen.
She taps out her name, "Julie Jensen"
The second raven taps out his name, "Ryan Roland." Jack recognizes the name. His body was found in an air duct in Mars City after I Mars.
Jack jumps onto the wrist bar of the old computer, and looks at the other two, who blink curiously. <Are you ready for this?> he thinks.
Jack taps his first name with his bill, presses the space with his right foot, then types in his last name.
Julie immediately jumps onto the keyboard and runs a query. Jack stares in amazement as his picture and basic biographical details appear on the screen, those of his human life. It was last updated at the beginning of that final, six month war ... massacre, more like. The picture shows him in the short grey hair he grew at his wife's insistence.
Jack returns the computer to its blank prompt and types, "Op Tat", calling up the report that it displayed when it first booted up. Commanding it to print, he flies to the small printer and waits for it to come out, skillfully cuts off the printed report from the printer and stuffs it into an old shotgun shell. He manages to bite a hole in its neck, thread a length of the tick-silk through it, gets it royally tangled up in the talons of his right foot, and flies away, carrying it to Glie.
Julie taps in a query on Tatakai and brings up a much older edition of a face that they have both seen, that of the haibane of the same name in Glie.
Two more drops of raven poop land on the floor of the tank.
FHD Remix Chapter 14: A New Bird; An Old Trap; The Light Of Rain
FHD Remix Chapter 17: Seven Weeks Without Toga; Transmission Received
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 32: It's Up To You Now