Rise of Glie Chapter 18
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 17: Bawling and Screaming
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 18: Down the Tubes
"Wow," Janice says as she watches Aware come down the road from the Temple with the Communicator.
Janice and Stanley rush up to the edge of the camp and bow. "Welcome to Glie, Communicator," they say, then start making introductions.
He is unable to bow in return due to the lingering pain in his back, but looks about. The river has been restored to its original course, but otherwise everything looks the same as it did when he left. He has other big changes than himself to notice. The raging river under the treacherous rope bridge has been reduced to a tranquil trickle. He figures it would be somewhat more romantic, and far easier on his legs, to move the path and bridge downstream of the waterfall, so he doesn't have to climb all the way to the top of the cliff, and back down, to get to town. Aware's certainly getting his exercise in visiting him every day.
"So, Communicator," Janice asks respectfully, "What news from outside?"
Stanley gives her a cautioning look.
"Not much, I'm afraid," the Communicator croaks, "The Toga do not discuss anything about their trading partners. They don't say anything about us to them, which is fine and well. But likewise, they don't tell us anything about them. All you really need to know my lady," he pauses for a breath, "is that it's a far happier life in here than it is out there."
"Hello, sir," the young blonde haibane boy says, "I have something we can offer the Toga," he proffers a rather malignant looking contraption about the size of a wine grape, but with three burnt wires emerging from it. "It's supposed to be a transistor," the boy explains, "but I have no way to test it. I know it works as a diode, since it'll let the power from my battery flow one way through it, but not the other."
The Communicator has his memories of the advanced technology of Haibi. "Not today, I'm afraid," he responds, handing it back to the boy. "Haibane Fushoku, it is unlikely that the Toga won't already have something much better than that already. Keep working though, I'm sure we'll need such things, if only for our own purposes."
The boy seems a little disappointed, but the dark haired girl his age, without wings, races up to him and says, "I got them to stick together, they might be magnets, come see."
"Middle Age Electronics Incorporated," the Communicator says to Aware and Stanley as the children excitedly run off, "I wonder what the Toga will think that we've fallen so far."
"The humans are working on some more practical ideas," Stanley points, "Jabez is working on a drive shaft to try to get the river to help pump the water out of the lake. Just for our own purposes, I'm afraid we really don't have anything to offer the Toga."
"We need to push the water from the lake to the river, since that's about twenty metres height," Aware explains.
"And he'd have some rather predictable NPSH problems if he put the pump at the top," the Communicator says, "I thought a chain would work better," he speculates.
"Jabez doesn't want this beautiful fallen tree to go to waste though," Stanley says, "I think this is just his excuse to preserve it." Stanley gently puts a hand on the Communicator's shoulder, "I've been around a while, sir, and every haibane I've ever seen Fly has done so with a distinctive flower of light, but one."
The Communicator is tense, but polite.
"His name is Shiden, and if he's still around within these walls, and you find him," Stanley says, "Tell him that Stanley says he's sorry. He'll know why."
The Communicator does not reply. Stanley removes his hand from his shoulder.
"Aware, I'd best be getting back," the Communicator croaks.
Aware leans close and whispers, "I've set you up with a hiding spot so you don't need to climb that mountain twice more," then openly says, "The Haibane of Old Home would love a visit from the Communicator, first. Please, sir."
It isn't a long trip to Old Home. He finds Fushoku under the teacher's watchful eye, literally playing with fire. The Communicator notes that the pump Fushoku is operating is not blowing on the fire, that he is struggling on the upstroke. He follows the metal tubing to discern that it leads to the heart of the fire, which is in a skillfully built hearth made from pieces of the Deployment monument that was once in the centre of the courtyard. The fire blows itself quite fine, doubtless the work of Bahitsu, the haibane teenager who really knows how to play with fire.
"Middle Age Electronics hard at work," Aware smiles, then notices the approach, "Teacher Shoukai," he greets warmly.
"He's really getting into it," the teacher says, "It seems to me frighteningly tedious to smelt a tiny little bit of broken glass like that for nine hours to make one tiny little electronic switch."
"He showed us the first," Aware says, "It certainly looked like it was born in there."
"That was his eighth, actually," the teacher says, "the first that worked as a diode. He didn't even attach leads to the first four because he was trying to work out the crystal purity. He's recycled the second one into the fourth, fifth, and finally the eighth, the one he showed you."
The Communicator observes the boy with nothing less than fascination as the teacher continues, "He's absolutely convinced that God brought him here to build electronics, but I really struggle with it. His enthusiasm is wasted on something like that in this environment, where we need first, food, and fuel, and paper. There isn't a single person in Glie who can make a good rope for example."
"It doesn't make any sense," Aware says, "We'd be trading for electronics with those outside, if they didn't get wiped out like we did. They wouldn't have lost their entire technology base unless-"
"No, the light that defends us doesn't go all the way around the world," the Communicator says, "There must be some other reason. Don't fret, brother, even I have twenty or thirty years left to ponder this one."
The Communicator sleeps in his uniform, having tucked away in an empty supply closet in the North Wing, Aware and he rouse the very earliest, well before first light, and slowly march around the northern edge of the lake.
"It's been about three years since I took this path," the Communicator grumbles, "I'm glad it didn't sink on its own." The Communicator is more sure of his footing than Aware, and so he says, "Come now, it supported a two tonne cart convoy just fine. It can handle a couple of grumbly merchants.
The Market Square seems overrun with weeds, and it is hard to find where the old paving ends and the mud of the flood begins as it descends towards the lake that has buried the ancient city.
A Toga emerges curiously from the gate as it cracks open. He leaps in surprise and starts waving frantically back through the opening. The Communicator is standing only a few metres away. Several Toga emerge from the gate and regard the strangely dressed Glie-jin curiously. They seem most perplexed that his wings aren't real. Aware has held back and is unable to make out any of this, and couldn't understand it even if he did.
The Communicator raises his hands and starts signing in fluent Toganese, "For a moment, I naively thought I could tell what you changed from. Wraith, Brat, Imp, Hellknight. It's swell that I can't."
The first one that came through the gate signs back, "We are just Toga. And as just Toga, we are happy."
"I would pray that the Saviour's blood was not wasted on you if I did not give him my wings," the Communicator signs.
"Then it's true?" the Toga asks with trembling hands, "You became one of us to show his faith and that of..."
The Communicator waits patiently.
"What do you call this place, Communicator?" the Toga signs.
"Glie," the Communicator signs.
"I don't understand," the Toga responds.
The Communicator takes out from under his arm a scroll, which he unrolls and places in the spokesman's hand, then signs, "Sound catalog for forming words that are not in our language."
The Toga beholds a bewildering array of Toganese, hiragana, katakana, and latin characters. He rolls up the scroll and signs, "If our Saviour didn't give it to us, I'm sure it can wait."
"So what brings you here?" the Communicator signs.
"We were hoping to find advanced goods," the Toga signs. He presents a small object, two halves hinged together.
As the Communicator holds it in his hand, he opens it and finds that the lower half is a keypad with sixteen buttons, and the upper half is a display screen with an elaborate glowing pattern, which includes a couple of Latin numeric digits. He presses some of the buttons on the lower half, expecting some response, but gets none. The strange pattern on the screen does not change.
"It doesn't work," the Toga signs, "The devices like that are failing all over the world, and our partners can't make new ones. They haven't been able to for fifteen years. They try very hard. Those outside are being reduced to this."
The Toga presents a small glass tube. He holds it next to the other device.
"The tube has a vacuum pulled inside it. It is very fragile, can't survive being dropped, unlike the folding device," the Toga explains. "It is one digital switch. The pin in the middle of its base controls the flow of electrons between the other two. It can also be used to magnify an electronic wave pattern, but it is the digital switch form that most interests our partners."
The Communicator sees no resemblance between this carefully constructed glass tube and the orcish looking "transistor" offered to him by Fushoku except that each has three wires.
"It is hard to make anything useful and small enough to carry with only a few such tubes," the Toga laments, "The folding device has about twenty billion such switches."
The Communicator slowly lowers his hands, holding the two devices in one.
"The advanced device has a different type of switch. Somehow all of them are etched into a little piece of metal. Windows are also made from this metal's oxide," he explains.
The Communicator sets down the devices, then signs, "Etched, did you say?"
"Yes. That might not be the right word, but it is the one we understand," the Toga signs, "As long as we live, we will come at the same time every Tuesday, as has been our custom since the first Toga. The Saviour tells me that was ninety-five years ago. We don't always have to trade, but will gladly be here every week just to see the fingers of the one who lost his wings to show us the Saviour's love."
"How long have you been Toga?" Communicator asks.
"The longest among us is eight months," the Toga answers, "You know what we were before. It hasn't been long that there has been reason to let us live."
On that sad note, the Toga step back, leaving the two devices with the Communicator, "Pray that we live yet another week, Saviour-spawn and brother." The gate closes.
The Communicator stares at the two devices in his hands.
"How'd it go?" Aware asks as he returns to his side.
"Oops," the Washi breathlessly gasps.
"What do you mean, Master?" Aware asks.
"Fushoku really did have something to offer the Toga."
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 19: Return of the Crow