2 0 1 1 - R E V I S I O N
A Note from the author about this Remastering –
When I started this story back in 2004, all I originally had to go by was the anime, and specifically, the booklet that came with the first DVD from Pioneer/Geneon. Well, here it is, 2011 (at the time of this revision), and I find, by looking over the later chapters, I find that certain ideas tend to counter some of the earlier ones, and characters act a bit differently now that some of their backgrounds have been hammered out. So I've cleaned up some of the conflicting issues that were brought up over this time. Mind you, there was always one problem that has bothered me that will now be brutally drawn out and repaired – an issue that seemed to even hamper some of the plot to the actual anime as well – JUST WHERE THE HECK IS EVERYTHING IN GURI/GLIE? Well, now that I've found a copy of the map that appears in The Haibane Lifestyle Diary, that should help things out – hence, the stories will be rebuilt to match up with this new layout. For example, I always thought that the Main Gate was in the Eastern Wall – no, it's pretty much DUE NORTH.
Will this cause problems? Oh, you bet. I've got to figure out how to move plots about a bit. As an example, I always thought that you would pass by Abandoned Factory to the north of the center of town as you headed for the Renmei Temple – no such luck kiddos! The Factory is to the east of town, while the Temple is a bit southwest! Talk about being in two opposite directions!
Of course, this also opens up a great deal of creative changes as well – you see there never was a mention of a Scar's Village, or just where it would have been anyway! Such is the way of ABe!
So, to those who have read these stories before, you might want to try them again, for old time's sake. Locations will have shifted, and I've fleshed out some scenes to add to their drama, humor, or just plain sense.
Oh, and for those who have asked me about the little blurb before the first few stories' titles about "Original FFN Intro," originally when I was posting these chapters, I posted them as individual stories, which, in a chapter-based system, is frowned upon. Hence, the first few chapters were deleted and reposted in the format you're looking at right now.
Have fun folks!
R. A. Stott - ArkNorth – June 2011
Original FFN Intro:
Sins are the burden one must bear through life - but what if your sins are so great that you must repent on them forever? A man enters Glie, but not through the Eastern Gate. (ED: Now recognized as the Northern Gate.)
Original FFN #1936611
First published 6/28/2004
For M'Lady Shadowcat
H A I B A N E - R E N M E I :
C O R P O R A T I O N
By R. A. Stott
There was a day once that man attempted to harness the power of God.
This angered God, and he sent forth his angels to stop the foolhardy man from doing what only he was suppose to be able to do.
But man was a tricky and quick child, and did what God did not want him to do.
Man created God's Power.
The young Haibane stood and watched the man as he sat down outside the door he had just come out of. He was an elderly fellow and seemed out of breath. Sweat poured from his forehead which struck the boy as odd since the early spring air was quite crisp that day.
"Shota, what did I say about playing back there?" a voice called to the child. "That part of the factory is off limits!"
The boy looked at the man, then back at the person who had called him. "But Hyohko, someone just came out of the door!"
A person came to a running stop at the top of the stairs beside the boy. The old man could see this person was breathing hard, as if they had just been frightened by what they were told. The silhouette was covered in a fog of air being blown out in hard pants.
"Shota…" Hyohko barked at the boy. "Shota get back here now!" He glared down at the stranger. "Why are you here? Why did you come from that door?" he now addressed him. "Aren't you supposed to come in through the wall gate?"
The man laughed. "The wall gate?" he muttered. "I don't get such privileges."
Man's idea that they could control God's Power was quickly put to the test. As the angels arrived to put a stop to his folly, the created Power he had made erupted in a fountain of destruction that took on the first wave of God's servants and vanquished them to the abyss. The second and third wave of angels attempted to hold back the burgeoning overflow of energy by using their father's Powers in direct contact with the synthesized Power.
The energies did manage to cancel each other out, but only just. And some of God's children, if touched by the fake Power of man's creation, seemed to be stripped from the skies and launched downwards into the gates of hell.
Man stood aghast at what he had done, having thought that if such a run-away had occurred, all would be lost. But seeing that the overflow was being held in check, man attempted to shut down the outward rush of Power.
The man stood up and brushed himself off. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow.
"I must remember to ask for a raise for this work," he mumbled. He shook his wrist and looked at his watch. "Hey kid," he addressed to Hyohko. "What time is it locally?"
The tall boy stepped back with the younger child. "I'm… I'm not supposed to talk to you! You're a Toga, aren't you?"
The man adjusted his hat. "Do I look like a Toga? Do I have my face bound up like a mummy?" he asked. "As a Haibane, you should know better."
Hyohko's hat and backpack conveniently covered the most noticeable parts of a Haibane – his wings and halo. He took two steps back, turned and ran off with Shota in tow.
"Was it something I said?" the man asked the long departed boys. He snorted and looked around the building he was in. "We didn't bother to clean this part up much, did we?" he mumbled to himself. He picked up a gym bag he had and found a small smoldering burn on the side of it that he quickly swatted out with his hand. He stepped outside the room he had entered through and snatched up a handful of snow to rub across the singed section.
He examined the luggage. The letters TWA, once red and white, were now brown and gray.
"Damn it, I liked this bag too…" he groused as he headed for the front gate.
He saw the hole in the fence off to his right. He would have to get down low to make it through that – no way. He pulled a set of keys from his pocket and examined the padlocked gate.
"HEY!" a young girl's voice yelled at him. "What are you doing there?"
The man looked back. A girl about the age that the older boy had been was glaring at him. Her wings gave a flap of distrust and her halo seemed to glow a bit brighter than the others who were looking on in the bright daylight.
He found the right key. "I am on an errand, dear," he told her as he popped the lock on the gate. When he looked back, she now had the same shocked look on her face the boy had earlier.
"You… you opened the gate!" she stammered. "Hyohko was right! You're not Toga… you're not even a Communicator… you're… you're the… What are you doing here at Abandoned Factory?"
He smiled as he swung the gate open. "Who ever said that this facility was ever abandoned?"
God saw that man, even in his haste, was attempting to help. His children were loosing the fight against this artificially produced Power and he sent down a divine light of guidance to the two groups – cooperation was the only way to prevent total annihilation of all.
Man saw the light and understood what to do. Man ejected the core to his Power into space following the light with the hopes that they would escape the deathblow it would create when it lost final control.
The eruption took place away from the plane of the world, but the energy was drawn back by the Source of the Power. Man died and was reborn in an instant.
The Power shattered, scattering to seven locations around his old world. Man, in turn, was put into these places, leaving little else of his existence outside these holy sites of walls and serenity.
But God saw a more troubling issue. Angels he had sent to defend his powers, having been defiled by the false Power of Man, were also falling into these worlds. They would take root there, deprived of their ethereal powers, unable to escape.
This angered God, and he looked down on man.
The man opened a cell phone and pressed a code. Pushing a button on its side, he made it chirp.
"Glie – arrival complete. Entering the town at O-two-hundred-thirty hours GMT," he said to the device. He nodded to the unheard voice that responded. "Understood. I'll return within five hours GMT. Out." He slapped the phone shut, closed, but did not lock the gate, and started for town.
Hyohko ran up to the petrified girl as she watched the old man make his way down the road. "Midori, is it true?" he asked her. "Is he…"
"…Corporation," was all she said. They stood and watched him head down the hill towards the town center.
"I'm sorry sir," the haloed-woman at the door said as he attempted to enter. "The library closes at three."
The man grumbled. "Just a moment," he said as he rummaged through his jacket. He pulled out a billfold wallet that he snapped open revealing a badge with what looked like a leaf on it. It had a number running across its center. "I need to see the chief librarian," he said.
"He has a what, Nemu?" Sumika asked.
Nemu noticed the odd look her friend was giving her and she shook. Something wasn't right about this stranger. She felt it in her wings.
"A badge of some sorts, Sumika," she said. "It had a leaf and words across it and a series of numbers…"
The librarian looked at the door to her office at the man standing outside it. She held her breath.
"Ptolemy!" she whispered.
He tipped his hat to her. "It's that time again… time to put things into balance. Can we start?"
Man sat before God, bereaved that the catastrophic event had now unraveled the bonds of Heaven and Earth. He sat cowered to the all-mighty awaiting his punishment.
God watch the aftermath of the event. Souls meant to ascend were dropping back to the ground, pulled by the magnetic draw of the seven zones on the Mother Earth. God's anger grew as he saw that his children were now being held in bondage to a world they were supposed to vacate after their trials of life there. Wrath lay ahead for man.
"Nay," a voice from below said, "for I am in the same hindrance as thee."
Lucifer stood before God. It was he that noted that the path of souls now diverged to the seven sites on the Mother Earth. Ascending or falling now had weigh-stations. The Lord of Hell also made note that not all was Man's fault.
God stood before man and considered this new revelation. He then laid down his decree – Man shall protect his children, caring for them as payment for his sins – until the day shall come for them to take flight once again. Those that would join them henceforth would be judged by their time within these stations.
Lucifer smiled and settled back into the fires of Hades again as the judgment on man had been made.
"Damn injectors are getting out of alignment again," Ptolemy said as he was guided to the display room with the petrified books.
"I don't understand," Nemu said. "No one has been able to decipher these books. What are they?"
Ptolemy removed a pad-like device from his bag and started keying in a code on a keyboard that appeared on its surface. He then waved the back of it over the exposed text on the first book. The rock hard surface softened and the pages opened freely. Nemu gasped at seeing them free at last.
"You've got to tell those 'scholars' you have here to stop playing with these things," Ptolemy stated. "If they break any more of these front pages, we'll be in real trouble."
Nemu's puzzled expression caught his attention. He laughed.
"I'm sorry," he said. "You probably have no idea what these are for."
Nemu swallowed and looked at the book that Ptolemy was leafing through. "No… we've been trying to decipher it for some time…"
Ptolemy added another laugh. "Good luck to you then, especially since those front pages aren't letters. They're scanning information…" He scanned a second page, then a third before closing the pages back to the way they had been. He then waved the pad over it once again, and the book returned to stone.
"How did you do that?" Nemu asked astonished by the trick played on the text.
"You'd be surprised what you can do with God's Power," Ptolemy noted under his breath. He plugged the scanner into his phone and keyed up the device again. He held it up and waited as they beeped a few times. He then placed the phone to his ear.
"Reception okay?" he asked and nodded. "Okay, I need to check on the saints now. - Understood. - Do we need a scan reading there as well? - Very well. - I'll need to talk to that old rascal Washi then. - Okay… Pull the yolk on the main stage and be ready for interface again on my next call. - Right. - Upper setting five through twelve I think. - Right…"
Nemu stood with a perplexed look on her face as Ptolemy finished his phone call and slapped his cell phone shut. He looked around as if he had just realized he was in a library.
"Thank you," he told her as he placed his beat up hat back on. "I am finished here. I need to go to the Temple now."
Man looked over what he had wrought. The creation of God's Power and the subsequent over blast had laid waste the lands of Mother Earth. None stood, save that which was preserved within the Holy Sites. This made both Man and God sad. The children of the Father had been decimated in a thoughtless act of science, save for those within the seven circles of hope.
Thus it was decreed that the seven would be removed from time and space and the world restored. God moved the seven holy circles above the land and swept it clean of the devastation that had befallen it. Forty days it took.
On the forty-first day, those who had been misplaced by the event were returned to the lands and cities that had been placed upon the ruins of the past, their minds cleansed of the horror that had been inflicted upon them.
Finally, the seven Holy Sites were once again placed upon the world, though evenly scattered across the Earth so as to lessen the burden upon one area alone. It was then made clear that Man would be responsible for the care and upkeep of these walled lands and to those that they would bear. Those within would remain so, charged with the protection of the falling souls that would take root there. There would be those on the outside as well who were to do the same, as there would be some who would dare attempt to breech the walls to learn their secrets. God could see through Lucifer's guile. Between the two would be those who created these places, charged with managing them all.
And so it has been…
Ptolemy stood before the doorway of the temple and tapped on a long bell with the end of a pen he carried. As he slipped it back into his shirt pocket, four men with staffs surrounded him.
"Gentlemen," he signed with his fingers, "it is time for the realignment."
He heard a slight tinkle of a bell to his right. He looked over his shoulder to see a young Haibane girl with communication bells on her wings and in her hands. He tipped his hat to her and returned to the men surrounding him.
They stood with their staffs pointed at his head. He grunted.
"Are you looking to get fired?" he signed. "I want Com-One, and I want him here, NOW!"
The Haibane jumped back. She had never seen anyone sign with such a gesture before. Shouting with your hands must be an art.
"Don't worry kid," Ptolemy said over to her in a low rumbling tone from the corner of his mouth. "These guys are just being stubborn."
He reached into his jacket and pulled out his badge again. The first guard that saw it fell to his knees. The second followed suit. The third stepped back slightly then dashed off towards the Communicator's Office. The forth though remained steadfast with his staff pointed at Ptolemy's head.
"Put the staff down, or I'll start TALKING to you," he signed, almost slapping the rod in the process. The last guard reluctantly did as he was told as his fellow Toga was yanking on his skirt while prostrating himself.
Something beeped in Ptolemy's pocket. He pulled his phone out and popped it open.
"Yes?" he loudly asked the communications unit, which surprised those around him. "Inbound? - How many? - Two? - Can the system handle it? - Are you sure? - Okay, I'll get the final data as quickly as I can, but keep those injectors cool until I do. - Right. - Location?"
There was a moment of silence.
"Oh, that's not good," he continued. "Apogee must have been off on that one. - Is there a chance to redirect? - Umm, I thought so. - Where is it going to plant? - Oh god, that's out in the boonies! - That's almost the southern wall! - Okay, when? - Then I probably will have to stay longer then. - Right. - We'll see. - The saints come first. - That's correct. - The saints. - No, the saints. - Yes. - Yes, that's right. - Love you too…"
He slapped the phone shut and looked at those around him. The three guards looked as if they were going to be ill from hearing all the words he had just spoken aloud. The girl just stood in awe of the stranger who would dare do such a thing at the temple.
"Are you from Old Home?" Ptolemy asked the girl.
She stepped back, coughing slightly at the shock of suddenly being asked such a question. "Umm, err, yes?" she meekly answered.
"If you're not busy, could you do an errand for me then?" the man asked in a kind way that wasn't like the way he had talked to the others, even if it had been with his hands. "A newborn is on the way, but it is way off course."
The girl looked startled at the man. "But… but we just had a pair of twins just the other week! They haven't even hatched yet!" she cried.
Ptolemy looked at a small notebook he pulled from his jacket. "Yes, it's become quite busy around here suddenly – probably because of the injector failure…"
"What did you mean by way off course?" the girl asked.
Ptolemy looked at the child and smiled. "What is your name dear?" he asked.
"Hi… Hikari sir," she said. "I'm here to pick up Rakka and the halo mold…"
Ptolemy almost burst out laughing. He leaned over and whispered "No making pancakes with it again, you hear?"
Hikari jumped and turned scarlet. How did this man know that?
"To answer your question, we are tracking an inbound Haibane, but it's heading to an unguided landing spot," he said as he stood up. "It will plant itself somewhere between the dry well and the wall in about a day and a half. For its protection, I suggest that you inform the others at Old Home to watch the skies carefully around that time to find it. We wouldn't want some stray critter eating the seedling, now would we?"
"N-no sir… What about the other one?" she hardly managed to ask.
"Huh, it's okay," he said as he looked at the temple. "It's landing at the factory, so it will be cared for."
Hikari tried to catch her breath. "But… but how do you know these things?"
"Because he is from The Corporation," the deep voice of the Communicator said, "and they see all before even the Renmei."
Ptolemy shook his head. "Speaking aloud again? Didn't we have this discussion the last time?"
The Communicator laughed. "I sometimes find it easier to chat with the children – my hearing isn't what it used to be, and my eyesight needs adjusting."
Ptolemy looked closely at the mask on the Communicator's face. "The mono-eye is probably in the same shape as our injectors… want me to have the guys work on it?"
The Communicator nodded. "It would be appreciated," he said, then turned towards Hikari. "You would best be heading back with the news child. Rakka will not be with you tonight."
Hikari started to answer with the bells until she realized she had been addressed directly. "Umm, she won't?"
"No," the Communicator said. "She will be needed to guide my brother through the canal." He turned and walked Ptolemy towards the Temple.
"Living out of time is the pits, you know?" Hikari heard the stranger joke as he scratched his head. "Janice is about to throttle me, I'm sure of it!"
And so it was found that those souls of the angels first sent to stop man were buried within the walls of the seven Holy Sites. Special care would be needed for these, as they were guardians of the lands that held them. But, because of their bonds, they became easy prey for the demons from below. Their powers stripped, Lucifer saw fit to send his leaches to attempt to ascertain and corrupt these imprisoned angels.
Man saw the growth on these monuments and constructed a path below them to stop the onslaught. Holy water was filled and blessed so as to prevent the leaches from massing unmercifully on those unable to defend themselves.
Man then made sure that the sacrifice these angels had made did not go unheralded. Regular care and upkeep of their resting places was kept as to keep the lesser demons from encroaching further.
And so it has been.
Rakka looked over the elderly man with the Communicator with a worried expression. She had just come up from the canal having finished her daily chores – now she had to take this stranger down to the raft again.
Ptolemy also looked at the girl with a perplexed expression. "That's one of our radiation suits, right?" he asked Washi, who was standing beside him. "It's been so long that I've forgotten."
"Radia…?" Rakka tried to say. "A what?"
"Modified," the Communicator said. "After all, she is a Haibane."
Ptolemy bent down and examined Rakka closely. "Wouldn't she be better protected with a full face shield?" he asked as she leaned back on her heels.
There were a few moments of discussion over the protection of the Haibane when in the lower levels that confused Rakka. But she soon found herself guiding the two of them down the long stairs to her round raft.
"Ah, I forgot about that Six Flags thing," Ptolemy grunted as he saw it bobbing at its mooring station.
"I will leave you two then," the Communicator said. "Rakka, please take him where he wishes."
"Err… yes sir," she said as the stranger climbed aboard her raft. She found it odd that the man wasn't wearing the same garments she was – the Communicator had warned her that no one was to go down into the canal area without one. She sighed and pushed off.
The skiff slowly moved down the canal in silence, save the occasional dropping of water and the slight hum coming from the illuminated plaques along the walls. Rakka could not get the feeling out of her head that this man was looking at her from time to time – not in a threatening way, but… almost as if he were examining her. She shook the thought off and continued to punt them down stream.
"So, you're the New Feather from last year," Ptolemy finally broke the silence with, which made her flinch. He had been busy tinkering with a device he had pulled from his gym bag for a few minutes. "Rakka isn't it?"
"Er, yes sir," she nervously replied. "May I ask why we are here?"
"Um… I guess I could say I'm here to hopefully right a wrong," he said as he rubbed his neck and stretched. "I've got some saints to look after."
Rakka looked about. "Saints?"
Years passed. Man continued to work to set the angels free of their bonds. As time moved on, man created ways to prevent the plantings and limit their stay by ways of a shield. Thus many of the souls destined to head out on their sacred journeys, be it hell or heaven, would pass on unobstructed.
It was determined that when a soul was released from its bonds, it launches from the Earthly plane and must achieve escape velocity or the gravity would draw it back to the seven sites. Research found that the soul would most likely escape to their destinations as long as the body-vessel followed a natural course, and velocity was at its maximum.
But, in cases when something obstructed the path the soul needed to take, escape would not occur. Man set up a center of reporting on these souls that reached an apogee.
An Apogee Report meant that a new plant would soon sprout in one of the seven sites. Local controllers would then attempt to guide the fallen spirits to a location within the holy sites that would be the temporary homes of these pre-angels. In the early days of the zones, angels fell to any spot and sprouted where they may. The controller system meant that the angels would be concentrated within sections of the Holy Sites. Accuracy though, once the angel was within the shield, could not be guaranteed.
The reasons for their strange arrival in the holy sites is still unknown – first a plant, then a cocoon as if an insect but surrounded in fluid like a fish - then finally as a pre-angel human – it is said that this was just some of God's handiwork. Others have guessed that these represent the many species in the world, many of whom ceased existence with the cataclysm that befouled the world.
And so it has been.
"Chilly down here," Ptolemy said as they slipped up to a large tag he asked to be brought to. He stepped off the raft and held it until Rakka tied it up.
"Sir?" she asked as she watched him look over the tag. "The Communicator told me that I should never come down here without one of these robes on, or anyone else for that matter…"
He nodded as he started to scan the plaque. "That is correct," he replied while looking over his glasses at his device.
"Umm… but shouldn't you be, you know…" She blushed and looked down. "I'm sorry… I'm being out of place, aren't I?"
"Not at all," Ptolemy said as he looked closely at a light leaf that was peeling away from the wall. "You're simply showing concern for others. As for the suit, I don't need one. The radiation down here can not harm me." He looked over at her then back at the leaf fragment.
"Pardon me," he said as he suddenly was waving the device he carried over Rakka's head, then back at the wall. "Humm… Twenty percent reduction on the upper theta waves. That's actually good…"
"Good?" Rakka asked.
"Umm… the demons aren't getting at the saints as much now." He pulled a small cartridge from his pocket and added it to the device and gave the wall another sweeping scan. The unit beeped once and he removed the square piece then shook it hard. Rakka just stared as he held it up looking for something to back light it. He finally held it close to a cluster of the illuminated leaves on the wall. He shook his head and looked about for his bag. Rakka found a large flashlight being handed to her.
"Hold this up," he told her as he examined the cube against the light.
"Typical," he grumbled. "Just as the injectors go on the fritz, these guys finally get to a level that we just might be able to get them out of here…"
"Pardon?" Rakka asked.
Ptolemy placed his bare hand against the tag and smiled. "Inside these are angels, Rakka dear," he told her. "You see, these are the original Haibane."
Rakka's eye flew wide. She stared at the tags she had been busy tending. "The first Haibane?"
Ptolemy stroked the plate. "Umm, we call them the saints. The first priority of The Corporation is to free the saints. It looks like it might be soon."
Rakka looked down the tunnel behind her towards the wall on the far ledge. "Does that mean Kuu is a saint?"
She turned back to see Ptolemy with a puzzled look on his face. "Kuu? You mean the Haibane that took flight last year?"
Rakka nodded. "I know I've heard her voice from down there," she said as she pointed towards a tag across the way.
Ptolemy looked over to where she was pointing. "Really? Let's go see…"
If the dream is broken, the angel falls.
The seven Holy Sites capture the broken dreams.
Remembering their dreams is the sign that a fallen angel will soon be freed of the burden of this plane of existence, but only if the dream does not leave them sin-bound.
Some can be quick, other can take years.
To some, it never comes at all.
To these come added burdens that they alone must deal with.
A congregation of fallen angels lives to the west of the center of the town of Glie in an area near the wall that remains dark and foreboding. They remain in waiting for the day that they leave this peaceful world, their wings stripped, their halos rusted disks in the dirt. Some say they become Toga, others say that since flight has abandoned them, only the lord of flames and torment await them, and they must fall.
All for the matter of a dream.
It is said that some meet up with demons and leave through a secret doorway in the southern wall opposite that of the one on the northern side. God saw this and requested man to watch over these children as well. Thus was formed the Renmei, a guardian group that observes the Haibane, the Charcoal Feathers of this world, and those else who wither within these walls.
The raft bounced against the wall and Ptolemy stepped off. Rakka followed after him, quickly tying it up to the landing.
"Ah, I see what you mean," the man said as he examined the tag. "It looks like this saint is almost ready for flight."
"Really?" Rakka looked at the symbols and saw what she thought was Kuu's name in the stylized letters. She watched as Ptolemy placed his bare hand against the tag and closed his eyes.
"Oh yes, the contact is high with this one," he said. "She's giving off a strong contact signal."
Rakka nearly placed her own hand on the tag, but drew it back as she thought of what the Communicator had said about creatures that might be down there with them. She looked at the way Ptolemy was dressed and wondered whether he had been correct.
Ptolemy looked down at her and smiled. "You need not be afraid," he told her. "Would you like to see?"
Rakka stepped back, not sure of what he meant.
"Just place your hand on the back of mine," he told her. "But only your hand on mine - don't touch the plate without your glove on."
Rakka looked at his large hand on the tag and swallowed. She looked at her own hand and then at his. She reached up and almost touched it when he tapped it with his free hand.
"You have to take your glove off," he told her.
"Oh," she said. She slowly removed her right gauntlet and reached up to touch his hand. She felt a tingle through her fingers as they passed over the tag. It felt like static electricity that was playing off them.
"Get ready," Ptolemy said as she placed her hand on his.
Air blasted her face, and she felt her hair snap and wave in the wind. She opened her eyes to see clouds streaking by and the world far below her feet. She was free of the heavy robes and garments she had been wearing and was now in a familiar white soft cloth dress. She nearly lost her breath at the velocity she was doing. And unlike the last time she felt this air blast her face, she was climbing, not falling.
Something thumped on her back. And each time it did, she felt herself lift higher. She saw a glow over herself she had not seen before either. A glance up told her that her halo was shining bright. A look back told her that this was certainly not Glie she was over as her wings were now huge and white.
She found that they were capable of carrying her now, as they pushed the air away quite well. Each beat caused her to increase in speed, and the cloud banks were now far in the distance.
She heard someone laugh. She spun about to see where it had come from.
She recognized that laugh.
"KUU!" she cried. "KUUUU!"
Another cloud burst by her, and she saw a vast open land below of golden fields. She then saw a shadow over the grass and trees. It took her a moment of quick scanning of the area around her to see that she was not alone in the sky. Below her but ahead were angels. They were flying in a V-formation much like a flock of geese.
"KUU!" she yelled again as she dove for the line. But she burst through without touching a single one. She looked at her hands, having covered her face as she had barreled through them expecting a hard crash. She looked up and saw they had never seen or felt her – she had merely passed through them.
She didn't recognize anyone at first. She only saw them laughing and giggling with each other. But one laugh caught her attention. It was coming from a woman with long blond hair and beautiful blue eyes.
"Kuu!" Rakka exclaimed seeing the older girl who had been only a child when she had her day of flight. She had never thought of her in a long dress of silk and layers. The tomboy look she was used to had been completely shattered as they flew on.
"Hey!" another called. Rakka noticed that the person she was sure was Kuu turn and look at the far end of the line of angels. She smiled and waved to the woman at the trailing edge of the flight.
"Oh! Reki!" Rakka exclaimed. She had not changed much at all, though with her hair all flowing back, she seemed different. She seemed happy though, and to Rakka, that was all that mattered.
Something yanked on her. Rakka found herself being pulled involuntarily backwards away from the playful scene she had been witnessing. It was fast and nearly as breathtaking as the entry into this world as she found herself suddenly back in the tunnel. She blinked and saw Ptolemy looking down at her and smiling.
"Enjoy the trip?" he asked as he picked up the dropped glove Rakka had released during her flight. "We can thank the angel Bakuu for our tour."
"Bakuu?" Rakka repeated as she shook the cobwebs from her head and slid the gauntlet back into place. "I thought those letters on top spelled just Kuu…"
Ptolemy laughed and pointed to the right. "You read it this way, right to left – top to bottom. This crazy digi-glyphic system is worse than Japanese or Chinese in their use of Kanji-like letters." He pointed with his finger as he went along. "This long part here starts 'Here lies the Angel Ba…" He then drew his finger back to the top and the larger middle row of text. "…kuu of the Seventh Realm." He stood back and pondered the text as Rakka just stared at the man who could read them. "Huh… seventh… this is one old angel… good thing time doesn't mean anything to them…"
Rakka looked at the tag. "The Communicator said that the names change their meaning though…"
Ptolemy scanned the tag with his device and plugged it into his phone. "They do. All you have to do is change the inflection slightly, and Bakuu changes ever so slightly… I believe my brother would say that it becomes its true meaning…"
Rakka snapped up and looked Ptolemy in the face. "Brother? He is your brother?"
The catacomb rattled with the bellowing deep laugh of Ptolemy as he chortled. "Well, yes and no," he finally was able to reply. "He and I have been at this together for so long that we call ourselves brothers." His face then sank from laughter to almost sadness. "I have no idea what became of my brother, and he doesn't remember who he was before coming here, so…" he trailed off. He then shrugged his shoulders and put the scanner away. "The computers say there's a seventy-five percent chance that he may indeed be my brother, but only God knows… and he's not in a very talkative mood right now…" He walked over to the raft and climbed aboard. He looked back at Rakka and tipped his hat to her.
"Do me a favor, would you?" he asked.
"Umm, sir?" she replied.
"Don't tell anyone that I touched the tag, will you?" he asked with a slight smile. "There's nothing down here that could harm me, but there is that could harm you. Just knowing that something could have attacked you…"
"Th…There IS!" Rakka yelped.
"Not while you wear that suit there isn't, and certainly not while you're here with me," Ptolemy noted as he gestured her to climb aboard.
"But… I can't tell the others I saw Reki and Kuu?" Rakka asked almost pleading.
Ptolemy shook his head. "That may not have been Kuu you know. Besides, there is a good chance that they don't even remember their lives here. Even I'm not allowed to know that. This is only a weigh station, not a permanent memory. This is almost as peaceful a Purgatory one could get. Not bad for one created by man for you Haibane…"
The walk back towards Abandoned Factory was nearly somber. Ptolemy had spent many minutes talking on his phone and sending more data back to whomever was receiving it. Rakka had merely followed along out of wonderment since Old Home was in the opposite direction.
A late spring snow had started to fall bringing a silence to their walk.
"I want to thank you for your help," Ptolemy finally broke the solitude with. "I find it interesting that my brother would have a Haibane doing the work that you do. He must think very highly of you to do so."
Rakka shrugged and almost blushed. "I just collect the light leaves and clean the tags," she modestly said. She saw Ptolemy shaking his head.
"It takes skill, dear," he said. "A human could do your work as well, but only a Haibane can see when a light leaf is ready to be harvested properly."
He stopped in this tracks and looked back at the small girl and sighed.
"It also means that you will be here for a long time," he quietly said. "The Communicator would not have given such a job to a Haibane if he did not know this to be true. Your day of flight will not be for some time I'm afraid to say."
Rakka stood and stared for a moment, but then smiled. "That's okay, I knew I wasn't leaving any time soon… Besides, I like it here."
She opened her eyes to see Ptolemy looking at her with a trickle running down his cheek. He pulled her close to his chest and hugged her.
"I'm glad to hear that child… so very glad," he said through a spate of tears.
Rakka could not understand why this man was crying. It was as if her being here was… his fault?
His phone beeped. He let Rakka go and pulled it from its holster.
"Oh its Dante… What's he want?" he grumbled as he wiped his nose and tried to compose himself.
The remainder of the walk to the Factory was an almost humorous conversation with someone wanting to know counts of rads and magnetic currents. Just outside the gate Ptolemy barked, "I'm only a few minutes from home, I'll give you the numbers with everyone else!" He slapped the phone shut and looked at Rakka.
"Some people are so impatient!" he smirked. He looked over at the still unlocked gateway and the small group of residents of the Factory that had gathered there.
"Sorry kids," he called, "but I've got to lock the gate again."
"Aww, but why?" a young feather cried much to Hyohko and Midori's shuddering.
"Because something could get out," Ptolemy said as he winked at Rakka.
"What about the hole in the fence?" the one called Shota added.
Ptolemy shook his head as he picked up the chain and lock. "Naa… it's too large to get through that, and it can't jump."
The young feathers started looking about as if there could be something in there with them. "What is it?" some where yelling while others ran around wildly.
"It's me," Ptolemy said as he padlocked the gate. He opened his phone and pressed a button on its side making it chirp. "Gate secured," he told it.
"Testing," it replied. "Roger that – gate secured. Ionization functional. You may return."
"Thank you honey – see you soon – oh, how's the injectors?"
"On line again… well done."
Ptolemy smiled. "Good. Love you." He gently closed the lid to his phone and slid it into the bag this time, along with some papers he had and a few other items. He looked up and saw Rakka curiously looking at him.
"That was my wife Janice," he said with a grin. "She puts up with so much… Maybe I'll bring her some day. She's always wanted to see this place."
"We'd love to have her," Rakka smiled back as they walked to the rear of the Factory. He held his hand up for her to stop.
"This is as far as you can come dear," he said to her. He bent down and looked at her again. "Listen, I told you what I did for a reason."
Rakka blinked at him. "You did?" she asked.
He sighed. "Kuu was only here for two short years," he said. "You will be here for much longer than that. You should be ready for many Kuus to pass through your life here."
Rakka looked worried at the man. "Are you saying I should not make friends with them?"
He shook his head. "No dear, that's not it at all. Make as many friends as you like. But, you'll need to be their guide, much like Reki and Nemu were yours. You will need to teach them, love them, and let them know that the future for them is theirs to choose. But you will also have to overcome the sadness of seeing many of your friends depart before it is your own day of flight."
Rakka smiled. "It's okay, really… I've learned that a good Haibane will always have their day of flight. And you've shown me that it is wonderful."
"The wings are amazing, aren't they? If only you could see them from where I've seen them," Ptolemy commented. He looked down and smiled at her. "Just be wary of those whose wings fall out and tails grow, hear?"
He stood up after tweaking her chin and kissing her on her forehead.
"Bless you child." He then turned and stepped down to the lower level and opened a door.
Rakka felt a strange sensation as Ptolemy stepped in. Both a flash of heat and cold swept over her, and she could have sworn she heard cackling.
"Demon's Gate portal now active," a woman said from a control seat. The monitors around her showed readings of power flux and aural levels. She adjusted some settings as she saw the approach of a life form in the stream.
A door behind her opened. Ptolemy stepped out, but his bag yanked him back.
"I-TOLD-YOU-THAT-THERE'S-NOTHING-IN-THERE-FOR-YOU!" he barked as he yanked the satchel from the grasp of something that was screaming and laughing in the dark green atmosphere he had just exited. The door slid shut pinching the finger of the creature that had attempted to take the bag. Ptolemy smacked a small smoldering ember off his jacket and grumbled. He looked at the woman and hugged her as she stepped up to him.
"How are things?" he asked her.
"Anti-Matter injectors are all back on line and the system is normal again," she replied.
"Good, we'll need them working when Bakuu is released," he said. He sat down and caught his breath. "I'd love to be there when that happens… That will be some show."
Janice sat beside him and rubbed his hand in hers. "Are you okay?" she asked.
He smiled and laughed. "Coming through the gate always takes it out of me," he said to her. "But, that's what I get for playing with God's Power, now isn't it?"
Janice shook her head and looked at the table behind them. "Speaking of which, we received a telegram from him while you were out."
"Oh?" Ptolemy asked as he put on some reading glasses. "What's the boss want now?"
He opened the telegram and burst out laughing.
Janice looked puzzled at her husband. "What does it say?"
He leaned over and kissed his wife. "Happy anniversary," he replied then looked at it again. "Happy two hundred fifteenth anniversary!" he corrected.
A bell chimed and Janice turned to the console. "Apogee Report," she said.
Ptolemy looked over the readings. "Redirect it to one of the other sites. Glie is already getting four soon… with those twins still in cocoon and the other two inbound… let someone else have the fun of a Haibane. What's our schedule for tomorrow?"
She tapped a screen and flipped a digital schedule up. "We have two Days of Flight… one in Tripoli, the other in Glie… uh… the one in Glie is at four in the morning our time…"
Ptolemy rubbed her shoulders. "I'll set the alarm," he told her. "I'll get supper going."
They adjusted a few settings then called it a night.
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