Sleepless in Glie
By R. A. Stott
"Hey, are you awake?"
It was the third time that night. After a day in hell he wanted to get a full, if not at least some sleep, as he knew the morning was only going to bring more trouble to deal with.
Of course, technically it was morning. Exactly two hours and forty-five minutes into it.
"You're not helping your cause," Kinza grumbled to the intruder. "In fact, if you weren't me, I'd deck you and chuck you out the balcony window over there. Now get out of here with that report."
The second Kinza sat back on his haunches and snorted. "I don't ever remember being this surly," he huffed.
"December 16th, two years ago," the attempting-to-sleep Kinza growled. "The bachelor party for Lieutenant McKenzie that was being held in the next cabin to mine. I damn near broke through the bulkhead."
His double squatting next to the bed nodded. "Ah yes, I remember now. I ordered his fiancé to his quarters to inspect his com link to the bridge… I wonder if they ever reconciled?"
Kinza in the bed slowly sat up. "When she found that it was her bunk-mate hiding in that mockup of a Scat-Back they had in there? Little Miss Plasma-Torpedo? How they managed to build that thing in that small room, then stuff twenty midshipmen in there still boggles me."
"The fact that they though they could do that in the cabin next to the Security Chief stymies me," the other Kinza remarked as he finally sat on the floor, being tired of squatting so long. "Plus the fact that it was an unauthorized party…"
Bed Kinza whistled and shook his head. "I thought the Captain was going to keel-haul the lot of them." He looked over at the sitting version of himself.
Floor Kinza was waving a single sheet of paper up at him. "See?" he said while rustling the page. "I got it down to regulations."
The one in bed snatched it. "It's about time," he smirked. He started to read it but then looked over at his copy. "What is your relevance?" he asked as he returned to the page.
"Stardate 0712.2421," Floor Kinza stated, drawing a glance from his 0-0 Breakpoint.
"The others were from August," Bed Kinza said with surprise. "You're from December?"
He shrugged. "Read on," he suggested.
She stared up at the stars above them. Considering how completely worn out from the day's unexpected journey into Hades and back, Rakka suddenly found herself unable to sleep. Her world seemed to have been totally wracked yet again. Living in Glie at first seemed basic and almost withdrawn. Now, in less than a few years, she had been through numerous events and happenings in her life as a Haibane. First there was dealing with her own sins and realizing what they were, and learning to not be afraid of them. Then there was helping Reki with her own torments. But meeting Professor Ptolemy, the release of the angel Bakuu, the demise of Striker Aries, and the arrivals of Sol and the demon Jester seemed to have shaken everything like a rattle with one event happening after the other. She sighed at the thought that she realized that even a crashing spaceship with an alien in it had not fazed her greatly. Could this be becoming commonplace?
She examined the arm that was crossing over her belly and the boy it was attached to.
Koi... He certainly seemed to have brought even more… issues? She could not exactly figure just what she thought about him and his situation. She and Hikari had spent the night snuggled under his arms in the large Adirondack lounge chair in Old Home's courtyard. The late summer sky was brilliant with stars, which reflected off her fellow Haibane's glasses.
She was surprised to see her look over at her as her lens flashed with the refection of the moonlight.
"You're awake too?" Rakka asked.
"I hate sleeping with these on," Hikari stated tapping her rims and making them flicker again.
"You're lucky you didn't break them today," Rakka added, now feeling a bit weary as she rested her head back and remembered the journey they had taken together. "Oh look, someone put a blanket on us."
"Umm, it feels nice," Hikari agreed as she drowsily shifted herself. "Oh, he's still here?" she commented as she looked up at the sleeping boy between them.
"You just noticed?" Rakka lightly laughed. She closed her eyes hoping that her weary head would finally let her return to the comfort of sleep.
Hikari sighed and attempted to do the same. She heard the crunching of stones nearby and looked over at it source. She saw a short silhouette standing there in the dark. It was too tall and bulky for one of the young feathers, and by the sound of its footfalls, it was not one of the girls either.
Then two yellow orbs blinked in her direction, glowing in the light of the moon. The sight of Mr. Kinza's eyes at night shocked her momentarily, like when she would see a stray cat in the dark.
But something was off about them as well. They seemed sad for some reason.
"Hey you!" he whispered as he lightly stepped over to the threesome in the chair. "It's good to see you."
As odd as hearing him say something as if he had not seen them in quite a while and not just earlier in the evening, there was a feeling that swept through Hikari then that made her shiver. She quickly reached out from under the blanket to snatch the paw being held out to her.
"You're looking a bit beat," Kinza stated. "This certainly was a wild day."
"You should know it, you were there," Hikari heard Rakka say from the other side of Koi.
"Well, it has been a while ago for me." Rakka raised her head and looked over at the Kinza squatting there. He was in full uniform.
"Oh… you're one of those 'other' Kinzas, aren't you?" she asked.
"Other Kinzas? What?" a confused Hikari questioned. She was too tired. She really did not need all this now.
"Yea, I'm from down the line a bit, time wise," this Kinza admitted. He saw the perplexed look on Hikari's face and smiled. "She'll explain later," he told to her with a peck to her forehead and a gesture to her fellow Haibane. He then gently rubbed her cheek with his free paw. She was surprised at how soft it was though she could just feel the hardness of its pad and the claws it had withdrawn into it. He drew it away as he stood up.
There was something about his face that made her afraid, but for what she was unsure.
"Are… are you okay?" she asked him.
He let go of her hand and stretched, making his back make some disturbing sounds. "Just tired," he told her. "I've got to get going."
"You're leaving?" Hikari asked.
Kinza looked down at her in mid stretch. "No, I'm upstairs right now," he said. This confused Hikari further and made Rakka giggle a bit. If she had not been so tired, she may have thrown something at him for being this mischievous.
Kinza turned and walked towards the gateway. He stopped momentarily and looked back at the building behind himself. He snorted and returned to heading out. He tapped on his communicator patch as he did making it chirp. He glanced over to his left and saw a figure in the shadows.
"Hey there kiddo," he told the person. "You'll find them in the courtyard."
"There are too many of you here, sir," the bent over figure said bluntly.
He smiled. "I was just leaving," he said and vanished.
Rakka tried once again to get to sleep. But she was also waiting for the questions to start flying from Hikari on what had just occurred. Hopefully, exhaustion would take precedence, and…
"What a wreck you three are," she heard. She looked down at their feet and saw someone standing there. Please, let Hikari be asleep.
"YIEE!" Hikari shrieked rousing Koi and making Rakka wince. So much for a quiet night's slumber…
"Can't we have just a little peace and quiet around here for a little bit?" she heard from above them. She looked up and saw the cat-like face of their Kinza looking down on them. Hikari shrieked again.
"Well that's a fine howdy-do!" he grumbled. He reached over and flipped a switch that turned on the new courtyard lights, much to their eye's distain.
A hunched over and masked person was standing there. It almost looked like someone had taken Washi and squashed him from above.
"Bloodeagle?" Rakka asked the form before them. "Is that you?"
"Ah, so this is the vessel," the defrocked Haibane said ignoring the girls and leering down at the boy between them. She poked him with her staff. "I can see now what Miho sees in you, heh heh heh…" She coughed and looked up at the balcony.
"Where is the baby?" she called up to the Tomassamassa.
"If Plato were here, he'd probably have you thrown out," Kinza replied to her.
"Aren't there Town Watch outside the walls?" Rakka asked.
Bloodeagle glanced behind herself. "Are there? Maybe they were asleep."
"A lovely idea," Koi suggested as he fell back into the chair.
"Not so fast there kiddo," Kinza called down. "Things are afoot, and I mean to do some work, now that I'm awake."
"And are you going to toss me out?" Bloodeagle asked him.
Kinza smiled. "Not on your life! I need you, bright eye! Come on in and I'll see if they have any coffee in this joint!"
Bloodeagle shook her cape. "Uhh… I hope they still have my old brown coffeepot. They were always trying to make me drink their tea."
Kinza vanished back behind the balcony wall for a moment. He then popped back.
"Hey, is my ship still out there?" he asked the three in the chair.
"Last I saw, they had just moved it out of the corn a bit, so it's still under the old tree out there," Koi called back.
"Good," Kinza replied as he disappeared again. "I'm going to need some stuff from it."
Toki sat in her bed and stared out the small slit window that was in her room at the Temple of the Haibane-Renmei. Her shoulders were aching from the almost forgotten weight of the newly remounted wings on her back, and it was making sleeping a chore to her. She glanced up at her lopsided halo, which was still trying its best to find its roots over her head. The holder she was being forced to wear was also a bother in bed, as the wire that attached the ring to the gauze bandage that wrapped her head pinched her from time to time. Worse, it tangled in her hair when she would try to brush it back out of her face.
Was getting all this back really worth all the problems it was causing?
She laughed at herself. Of course it was – it was a new beginning for both of them. She looked over at her husband, who seemed to be able to sleep through anything, as he snored. He seemed to have found that shoving his pillow under his chin was the answer to most of the pinching, grinding, twisting and weight issues she was having. But he had an unfair advantage – he was a man, and did not have those two sometimes inconvenient things that women have, especially when forced to lie on one's belly, as many Haibane were tend to do when sleeping. She sighed and quietly stepped out of the room to stretch her legs.
"Trouble sleeping?" a deep voice asked her as she meandered down a hallway. She smiled at the Old Communicator.
"With the weight of the world back on my shoulders, I would say yes," she kidded herself. "Having these back is strange."
Washi nodded. "Some miracles bring their own pains, indeed. But I sense that this is not the first time you have been troubled this way lately."
She gave him a wary look. "You're looking into me again, aren't you?" she asked with a smirk. "You are a nosey one, aren't you? Besides, I'm sure that I'm just a bit nervous about these being back. Plus, Chip tends to be a bit loud when he sleeps."
The Communicator grumbled. "Yes… your husband does trouble us as well."
Toki cocked her head in a questioning way. "How so?" she asked.
Washi looked at her directly. "Child, do you not remember? Granted, you and he seemed destined to be together since your arrival so long ago."
She laughed. "Well, he was my first friend then." She smiled at the memory of the small boy who would come to the old house, now abandoned, in the Western Woods near Sadako's Well. They would play for hours around the building that she shared with only one other Haibane. But soon, she was alone, left to her own when the senior had her Day of Flight. Only Chip would ease her loneliness, since for some reason, the Town Watch would never allow her to move to nearby Old Home, or any of the other nests that were around in those days. She arrived as a child and grew to be a teen. All along, Chip was there, in the fun times, the angry worse times… and all the other times, pushing her along, encouraging and assisting, helping her to cope with life's little problems. It was only natural that they would fall in love with one another as they grew older.
But for that sin, she fell and became a scar.
She became a scar…
SHE became a scar…
"Why would I forget that?" she asked herself as the smile vanished from her face. She stepped back to the doorway of their room and looked in. Chip was still on his belly, and his wing bobbed as he breathed into his pillow.
"You remember now?" the Communicator asked.
The boy she remembered ran towards her in her mind – the WINGLESS boy.
She grabbed her face and quietly jogged away from the room. She sat on a deep window sill and let out the breath she had held. She looked up at Washi with wet eyes.
"How could I forget something as important as that?" she asked him. "Chip isn't a Haibane. He's a human. It was why we were banished to the Scar's Village… it caused my sin to overwhelm my cocoon dream… I refused my Day of Flight because I didn't want to leave his side."
Washi wrapped his arm around her shoulder to comfort her. "It did allow you to take on a more normal life," he told her. "I have never seen you more at peace once you were allowed to marry him and live the life you two had chosen - Never before had such a union been allowed. Defrocked Haibane have paired up before, but never a human and a Haibane, and certainly not married."
"But, how? How did I forget that Chip was human?" she continued to ask. "And how is it possible for him to have the charcoal wings and bare a ring? Does he realize that he's not a Haibane?"
The old man sighed and released his grip on her shoulder. "We are taking a decidedly delicate approach to both of your memories," he told her. "He still does not remember that he was human just a short while ago. Technically, he still IS a human. So, until he realizes on his own, I ask you to please be careful with what you say to him while in this condition."
"Is there a problem telling him outright?" she asked him. He reached over and placed his hand on her hand.
"A shock of memory that is forced to be recalled when it does not want to be remembered can cause a schism," he told her.
"He could wind up not knowing which he was," he explained. "And in his current condition, not knowing you're one or the other could be disastrous."
"So how did he get wings?" she asked. "We were told they were from touching the Professor while trying to help the saint escape that demon."
The Communicator seemed to ponder the question a bit, possibly attempting to figure a way to phrase it properly. "Our theory on that is that since my brother was returned to us via a cocoon, he was given the traits of a Haibane briefly. But since his own vessel… his body… was not that of a Haibane, once he became intertwined in the rescue attempt, when you three came in contact with the saint at the same time, he transferred his own Haibane energy to you two. He was, in fact, attempting to give that same energy to the saint, to stop its draining of Rakka's and Koi's own energy. But since it is known that it is impossible to do such a thing, the power was redirected to you two."
"But Chip isn't a Haibane," she pointed out.
"Neither is, nor was Ptolemy," Washi added. "And since this is the case, his energy was probably transferable to him. We will just have to see if it is permanent. If it is, it raises many questions that few will be able to answer. Until then, it was decided to attempt to let you have your memory first, if possible, as you will soon have more to worry about than just loss of memory, or his not fully returning. I'm sure you feel it as well…"
She stared at him for a moment. "What do you mean?" she asked. "You mean because I haven't been able to sleep very well the last few weeks?"
The single eye turned her way. He tapped the side of the mask and looked down.
It made her squirm a bit being viewed in such a way. She fidgeted away, which caused the Communicator to stand up. He cupped his hands together in front of himself and bowed slightly towards her.
"Pardon my intrusion," he told her, sounding a bit embarrassed himself. "It was necessary. But you are roughly four to five weeks in… And recent events have created a problem that we will need to answer… and quickly."
Toki started to get a bit inpatient with this odd chat she was having with the Communicator. "Wait… please explain… I'm four or five weeks into what?" she asked.
The robed man froze momentarily, seemingly caught in mid sentence. He cleared his throat. "Umm… well… you're pregnant," he told her.
The sun was hated by the three Haibane that morning. It was bright and cheery, which was far from anything that they felt. And what with Kinza and Bloodeagle yammering and chatting all night while belting down strong cups of coffee made the guest room seem a bit steamy to them. The Tomassamassa had dragged them down to the wreck of his craft early on and had them lug some equipment for him, after which, they found themselves wandering into Koi's room, which had a decidedly appreciated window that faced away from the overly bright globe in the sky. When Kinza looked in on them, they had all crashed onto his bed and were fast asleep.
"I think we'll let them be," he told Bloodeagle as they headed to the nursery with his equipment in tow.
It took him a moment to remember that Koni would not be in the bassinet they had kept her in the first night - what with her being toddler sized now. There was an old crib across the room from it that she had been placed in. Beside it sat Doctor McManus.
"My, you're one busy person, aren't you?" Kinza jibed at her. She only glared at him for a moment.
"You didn't bring me any coffee," she stated with a slight yawn. "And your charge here is causing quite a stir."
Kinza shrugged as he set up some devices for scanning and recording. "I'm sure she is. What's the news?"
McManus watched the Scarred Communicator as she began to look over the sleeping child with her mono-eye. "Well, from what I'm hearing, the condition of Koni is drawing the wants from both sides. The attic claims her as a pure soul, while the basement says she was purged while being down there, and rightfully should be theirs. Meanwhile, there are those on both sides that say she is an abomination, and should be forthwith wiped from existence."
"Not MY Koni," Kinza growled.
McManus held up her hands and nodded. "There are always extremists on matters like this. And what with whatever this Telos character was doing to her makes things only worse. You say they were trying to put a hole in her soul?"
Kinza patted Bloodeagle on the shoulder, which made her flinch. "That's why I brought in a specialist! Besides, I'm pretty sure you wanted to see this for yourself as well."
Bloodeagle peered out from behind her mask. "I've only recently been told about vessels and such, so my… diagnostic… opinion may not satisfy you."
McManus sat back in her chair. "Anything would help. With the atmosphere still a bit ionized, our scanners could be a bit skewed still. And your unit was designed to work in this world better than ours."
"Ah, speaking of which," Kinza said as he pulled out his scanning rod and fiddled with it a bit while pointing it at the mask on Bloodeagle's face and tapping on the keyboard of some of the equipment he had assembled around the room. "There… now I'll be able to record anything you see. Give her a peek, would you please?"
McManus pointed to a flat screen she had with her as Bloodeagle began staring at the sleeping form in the bed. Kinza tapped on the rod, which dropped an image of what it was reading onto it. A POV image of Koni appeared.
"White… white wings," Bloodeagle mumbled. "She lacks the conviction of a Haibane."
Kinza stared at the image on the screen. "Conviction or knowledge?" he asked her.
Bloodeagle grunted. "Good point. I can not trace her origins like I can everyone else's."
"That rock you mediate on comes in handy at times," McManus stated as she glared at the image on the screen. "Look at the radius of energy around the wings," she pointed out.
"It's like a beacon," Kinza mumbled. McManus looked at him.
"A beacon? A beacon for what?" she asked the security chief.
He snorted, which caused Koni to stir slightly. "Come one, come all… empty soul here," he said. "And notice that there isn't any signs of the cranial energy a normal Haibane puts out? I noticed that on our little journey through hell yesterday."
"No halo-mount?" McManus surmised.
Kinza nodded in agreement. "Can you see anything of this hole in her soul?" he asked Bloodeagle.
She bent over the prone child further and tapped the side of the mask. The image on the screen blinked and switched each time until the outline of the toddler seemed to drop into itself.
"What the hell is that?" McManus whispered as she checked over the readings. "It's like a waterfall pouring into her.
"Well, I wasn't expecting a physical hole in her," Kinza sarcastically told her, "but this is close enough. It's a void within her life force. Any ideas what could fit in there?"
The picture suddenly vanished. Kinza and McManus looked over to see Bloodeagle sitting cross-legged on the floor with a piece of white stone in front of her.
"Give me a moment, and I'll tell you," she told them as she took up a lotus position.
Sol sat up in bed. She looked over at the old plush chair across from her and saw the sprawled form of Jester there. He was making some strange gurgling snoring sounds, but little else. That was not what had woken her.
Someone had shouted. Someone she knew. Someone… back home in Tripoli.
She threw her bed sheets aside and stood up. It suddenly dawned on her then that even though she had a determined feeling running rampant through her, there was little she could do while she was still in Glie. And why there was one in the first place bewildered her.
She dove for the ground. It was like someone had just shouted into her ear.
"Ground on why are ney-ho?" she heard. She looked up and saw Jester yawning and stretching.
"Ney-ho?" she asked.
Jester shook his head, making an audible rattling sound. "Erm, honey… Honey I mean…"
Then something on the floor in front of her snapped. A small chip of tile in the old room broke away. From the hole popped two small leaves.
Sol gasped. Was this what caused her to hear things? Was being so close to a planting this loud to a Haibane? Then she saw a hand reaching down towards it.
"What this?" Jester asked menacingly looking as if he was about to pluck them. She quickly swatted his hand away.
"No!" she squealed. "That's a cocoon forming!"
Jester jumped back, pulling himself fully into the chair. "Cocoon? Here? This here?"
She only nodded to him. Then there was another crack. A few feet away from the first set of leaves appeared another set. Then another. Then another. Another spouted up in the middle of the bed. One popped a cup off the corner table. Two snapped the surface of the dresser.
"Forrest you breading." Jester looked at the corner of his chair and saw the seam split. "Aw, not sleepy warm spot!" Two leaves waved at him.
Sol grabbed his hand and yanked him out, making sure not to harm any of the sprouts as they headed out the doorway. She looked back and saw that Jester's comment was far from inaccurate - there were at least 10, maybe 20 little leaflets now in the room, and the first two were already showing signs of the ball that would make up the cocoon.
"Quite a crop!" Jester said. "Out here none… Oops, maybe yes…"
Sol looked down between her feet. A sprout unfurled itself there.
"Sol!" she heard, now almost afraid to move. She looked to her left. That way was to the old section of Old Home, listed as off limits and due for the next round of renovations. A man wearing a mono-eye mask was there. He was not dressed as the old Communicator, or bound like a Toga. He wore a long dark military-type jacket with a high collar.
"Honey, I hate to be the bearer of bad news," he told them, "but you'll have to return to that room, for the time being at least."
"What is it? What is happening?!" she nearly screamed as she watched another sprout pop up next to the last one between her feet.
The man stepped up to them and kneeled down to examine the leaflets. "It's called a Rainfall. It happens in only extreme rare instances, and because of really only one thing. But this one has locked onto you because of your uniqueness to this town."
"Uniqueness? What do you mean, because I'm not from here?"
The one eye looked up at her. "Exactly," he said, and gently pushed her back into the room.
"Hey! Not touch her, you don't!" the demon hiding as a Haibane barked. He suddenly had the one eye looking at him at point-blank range.
"Jester, my lad, I have always told you to be brave," he said to him. "You're taking on a responsibility no other demon, in this universe at least, has done before."
"Me you know?" he babbled as he popped into his original small green demonic form.
"Hey - hey!" the man said in a commanding voice. "None of that here! Remember, you are Sol's protector while she is in Glie."
The young 'Haibane' stood up and snorted. "Me you know!" he again said, though this time with a tone of manliness and a fist-pound to his chest - which quickly deflated as he saw Sol standing inside the room that seemed to be in need of a mowing. "So, do we what do?"
The mono-eyed man held a ring shaped device over the two sprouts that were outside the room. It made a zipping sound, and the tile of flooring surrounding the two shot a small geyser of dust. He then picked up the severed chunk of wood and ceramic and gently placed them in the room with Sol.
"I know of a way to get you out of there, dear," he told the frightened girl, "but I'm going to have to get the permission of the Corporation first. Hang in there."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. He gestured to Jester to be with her while he made his call.
"Due to an emergency, all lines are busy," it said to his ear. He grumbled as he pressed a button on the side of the device which made it chirp.
"S.A.M., system override - Triple A priority one," he told the phone.
"I don't care how you do it, get those dampers on line," the phone yelped as it broke into an existing call.
"Ah, just the man I wanted to talk to."
Ptolemy looked at his receiver for a moment. That was not the technician he had been scolding. "Who is this?" he asked the phone.
"Time will tell," was the reply.
"Crap, it's you," Ptolemy grunted as he pinched his eyes. "You do know we're kind of busy…"
"Exactly why I'm calling," he was told. "This isn't a pleasantry. I'm quite aware of what is going on, both in the outside world, and here in Glie."
Ptolemy stood up. "What are you doing in Glie?" he demanded.
"One - One - Zero - One." The Observer's code made the old scientist almost throw his phone.
"So, what are you in need of?" Ptolemy begrudged.
"Don't get surly on me Claudius," the phone snapped back. "You're having a Rainfall event, and I'm at the scene."
"Yes, yes we know," he barked back. "At this rate, Old Home will be full of landings from one end to the other."
"No, one room will be full of landings," the man retorted. "Check your readings again, and you'll see there is a convergence factor of ninety percent. You won't be able to get a better reading because of the Rainfall event causing interference, but you've got to trust me on this one."
Ptolemy looked over his wife's shoulder to see what the readings were. They confirmed what he was being told.
"Why is that?" he asked his phone. "What's causing this convergence? Is it Sol?"
The man nodded to his cell phone. "I see you understand the nuances then. Her uniqueness to this town is drawing them like a magnet. Right now, she is in her room. Now I can break that link they have on her, but that will cause them to start to scatter. You need to control them, and be ready to divert them. Here, I'll give you a feed. S.A.M., transmit this over Federation/Corporation channel forty-two."
He held the phone up and activated the camera function.
"Oh, my god, it's green in there!" Janice commented. "I can see some cocoons already."
"What if they all form in there?" a tech asked. "Can they do that?"
Ptolemy sat down with a thud. "Oh, they'll form all right. And that many, some will merge, many in the middle will fail, as they won't be able to escape their cocoon. It's just like what happened when this all started."
"Not exactly," the man on the other end of the phone broke in. "The last time, it caused structural damage, but was spread out throughout the building. This time, since it's so concentrated, it will severely damage this building. And from this density, it will do so badly."
The tech looked at the readings and saw the concentration. "Then why not have her move around a bit to spread them out?"
Ptolemy shook his head and pointed at the incoming. "I'll assume our man on the scene already knows what would happen if we tried that - there's just too many inbound. Unfortunately, where Sol was will be the starting point, thus the worst damage will be there. But that can be fixed. Spreading it about will just destroy more of the building. And I'll bet my house that he already has a plan that requires her to stay where she is."
"You trust this guy?" the tech pondered. "Why?"
Ptolemy covered the mouthpiece of the phone. "He's an Observer from the future. Why shouldn't I?" He tapped on Janice's shoulder to get her to work on the problem and not stare at the foliage on the screen. "Set the new targeting to the warehouses at the factory," he told the tech. "Try to give them as wide a gap as possible."
"Understood," he said as he started to adjust the field systems.
"What about those already in the room?" Janice asked. She saw the view wobble a bit as the person who was holding the camera had obviously placed it on the floor outside the doorway. She then saw two feet step over it.
"Okay, I'm about to break the link," the man on the monitor told them. "Let me know when you're ready."
Sol and Jester watched as the man removed a simple small box with a single red button on it from his pocket. He held it out to the girl.
"Take this, but don't press it just yet," he told her.
The little black box trembled in her hands. "What is it?"
The mono-eyed man stood back out of the room. "Just a little electronic hocus-pocus I developed a few years back. Nothing to worry about," he told her as he picked the phone back up. "How's it going on your end?" he asked it.
Ptolemy looked at the tech who nodded to him. He then checked with his wife, who looked at her board and winced. "Is there anyone we can send into there to warn them?" she asked him. She then looked over her shoulder with a scowl. "And not you - I won't authorize it."
"Yes mommy," he said to her in a semi-childish way.
"If you need someone already here, I can have Nightwatch head over there," the phone said.
"It's nice to have some folks in there who don't have any time restraints," the professor grumbled, "even if it goes against every rule in the treaty."
"I've never been a big fan of that particular treaty," the man on the phone replied. "I'll let him know."
A new seedling popped up just behind Jester's foot, making him cling to Sol tighter.
"Her field of deflection is getting tighter," the man stated. "Are you ready?"
Janice threw her hands wide in exasperation at her board. "All targeting systems are set. Let's see what this magician can do."
"Ready," Ptolemy barked at the phone.
The man stood back. "Jester, hold on to her tightly. Sol, press the button."
On Janice's screen, the tracking falls of incoming souls shifted to the new headings they had attempted. Ptolemy nodded.
"Successful transfer," he told the receiver.
The one-eyed man gestured to Sol and Jester to step out of the room. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Doorknob device and started to adjust it. "Keep holding that button while I get this thing ready," he told her. And DON'T let go of her, son!" he added to the demon clinging to her shoulder.
"What is this thing?" she asked the man, unsure of what had just happened, or just what this box she was holding was doing.
The man reached over with his white-gloved hand and tried to tap her in the shoulder. A spark of energy bounced his hand back and made both under it flinch.
"Short term deflector shield," he explained as he returned to fiddling with the Doorknob device. "The last one I used had an on switch that wouldn't turn off until the battery died. I got an earful from Shadsie about that one . This one has a momentary switch instead. It's a little less confining, and saves on power life. There… ready. Now then… the difference between that beastie and this doohickey is that the deflector box repels all energy and signals, while this guy will only block the frequency that is drawing all these New Feathers to you. But, we need to do this quickly, so get ready. On the count of three, I want you to release the button. I'll then put this over your head and I'll turn it on. Okay?"
Sol shivered as she tried to understand anything this strange man was telling her, so she simply nodded in agreement. He stretched a neck chain that it hung from wide in preparation for his next task.
"Right," he said with an anticipating shuffle of his feet, "one - two - THREE!"
He bounced off the deflector and landed on his back side. His mask nearly fell off, and Sol could now see an eye looking a bit dazed back at her.
"On three, you release the button," he reminded her.
"S-Sorry," she winced and bowed slightly in an apology. He collected himself and reset his mask. He then gathered up the necklace and checked if it was still functional.
"Okay… let's take this from the top." He stood with the necklace stretched out wide again. "One - two - THREE!"
This time, he waited and watched the thumb that was crushing the momentary switch on the box. Again, it failed to move.
He dropped his shoulders and stood upright. "Sol, sweetheart… release the switch," he calmly told her.
She blinked at him. She then felt Jester's hand take her thumb and lift it off the button. She then found the masked man leaping over her head to set the Doorknob device around her neck. He gave it a quick twist and motioned for the demon to step back.
"What are your readings?" he called to his phone.
Janice was furiously attempting to redirect as many of the incoming apogee reports as she could handle. Without their original pulling source, the incoming lines were deflecting across the map of Glie.
"It's like you kicked over a beehive," Ptolemy told him. "But it does look as if we're getting the new arrivals to go to other locations without trouble."
"Says you," Janice harped.
The man drew in a deep breath. He looked at a watch on his wrist and shook his head.
"Good, because it's about to get a whole lot worse."
Ptolemy looked at the map screens of the Earth, and at the location of the mass launchings. "What's happened? What's causing all this?" he asked the man on the phone.
Gather Damon slammed his gavel on the desk as the two sides in the courtroom screamed and yelled at one another. Across from him sat his future replacement listening to his communicator with a distressed face. Below him were the members of the Corporation as they tried to assess what had just occurred on the planet they were charged to protect. Dante sat back in his chair with tears in his eyes as he tried to ascertain what he had just been told by Sun Tzu's security report. He cleared his throat and looked about. He glared at the bickering deities on his left, then at the howling demons on his right. He picked up a pair of heavy law books that were on his table. He first hurled one to his left and then to his right, striking the face of each side's boxes.
"SHUT UP!" he screamed, which effectively silenced the room. "Do you know what you're doing?! Do you know what you've done? DO YOU EVEN CARE?!" His outburst had caused everyone to stare at the man who normally would be simply their arbitrator. He looked around the room with an angry glare.
"You do understand," he told them in a harsh raspy tone, "that whenever your two sides disagree, it influences the souls that inhabit the Earth, correct? That disputes, when allowed to fester and degrade into something as simple as shouting matches between your sides can cause the humans to react violently? You DO UNDERSTAND that, RIGHT?!"
Gather Damon coughed. "It would please the bench if you were to explain, Mr. Alighieri. What has happened?" he asked. Across from him Captain Strom stood up and tapped his communicator patch.
"At 9:00 AM eastern standard time, a terrorist group drove a van full of fertilizer and oil into the courtyard of an elementary school in suburban WashingtonDC," he reported as calmly as possible. "A phone call was sent to a local television station stating that this was a revenge attack on the civilized world. The call ended when the truck was detonated, leveling the school and four buildings surrounding it."
"It's about to get worse," the man on the other end of Ptolemy's phone said. "Much - much worse."
A bell rang on the map board. A positioning crosshair centered on a spot swinging towards Western Europe.
"It's a grade school in Oxfordshire," the tech reported as lines started to lift off the surface of the planet.
"Oh my god, look at them all!" Janice whispered. She stared at the screen as she seemed to mindlessly work the controls of her console.
A large hand fell upon her shoulder. She looked up to see the chairman standing there.
"We can not take the full brunt of this," Plato told her. "Set for War Standards 1." He looked over at her husband. "Tell your friend on the phone thank you, and see if he can do something to alleviate the issues in that room at Old Home."
The man looked into the room and shook his head. "I can move some, but many are already too far along their germination process to shift. Let me get back to you." He slapped his phone shut and reached inside his jacket. He seemed to tap his chest.
"S.A.M. System, priority," he said to no one in particular, which confused Jester and Sol even further.
There was a chime. "This is the S.A.M. System - which S.A.M. do you wish to communicate with?" a mild woman's voice replied.
"S.A.M.-1 please," the man answered.
"Thank you… Please stand by while I route your communication."
Towards the middle of the room, two of the cocoons rapidly seemed to consume one another as they merged. Gray particles splattered across the ceiling.
"S.A.M.-System 1, UNS Forrestal command com," a familiar male voice announced. "Please verify rank and serial number."
The man seemed to stiffen up. "Admiral, number Alpha - Alpha - Beta - Epsilon - One - Tango - Seven - Two - Three - Zero, discreet."
There was a slight moment of silence while two more spheres in the room conjoined in a wisp of gray dust.
"Voice print verified, but I require a retinal scan for verification of higher commands."
The man tapped his mono-eye mask. "I have a scanner unit on right now - scan for linkup and use it."
There was another brief moment of silence. In the room, a gray fog was starting to form from all the cocoons swelling. From behind the mask, Jester and Sol saw a red line run up the man's face.
"Confirmed," the disembodied voice told the man. "How may I serve you, Admiral?"
With that, the man moved into the room and looked about. "S.A.M., I need access to Forrestal's transmats. I will assume you are about to tell me that they won't work outside the barrier over Glie, correct?"
"That is correct, sir. The ship would either need to be sitting right on the barrier for a seventy-five percent functionality, or come through the barrier for full function.
The man looked beyond the growing orbs at the far window and saw the daylight and sighed.
"There's not going to be any way to hide this one," he mumbled. "Okay S.A.M., relay the orders under configuration of Observer's Rule One - One - Zero - One and start a slow approach to the barrier. I'll get it opened for you."
"Understood. Commencing now."
The phone came out again. He pressed the side and made it chirp.
"Yes?" Ptolemy said in an almost frantic tone. The map before him was only getting worse. The order that Plato had given was to assist with launches, in direct violation of the treaty. The basement was not going to be pleased.
"I need the barrier over Glie opened."
This was not going to help.
"Sir, helm control has been taken over by the computer," yelled Tolefson from his seat from the forward section of the starship's bridge.
"DON'T TOUCH ANY CONTROLS," he was told. He looked back towards the command loft above him at the Commander on Deck. Mr. Button, the COD on duty, was reading a monitor in front of himself. He nodded down at the communications officer.
"Marcy, give me the intercraft, please," he told her.
"Open, sir," she replied.
"Attention, this is the bridge," Button said in an authoritative monotone which belied his normally high squeaky voice. "We are under a One - One - Zero - One order. All stations are to be manned, but left unhindered as they will be under computer control. Do not take any notes - do not make any reports until further notice. Do not make any adjustments unless authorized by the bridge. For the time being, allow S.A.M. to run the ship. Only S.A.M. is to be recording at this time. All stations stand by. Bridge out."
"Sir, we are approaching the Glie Barrier," the helm reported.
"Are we now? That's fascinating," the commander said as he sat back in his chair.
Tolefson looked back and forth between his readings and the command loft. "Sir, that's an energy barrier. If we hit that, we'll start to burn up!"
"Relax Lieutenant," he was told. "I think you're about to see something you hadn't expected!"
"Transmat… you want to use the ship's transmats to move the seedlings?" Ptolemy blankly asked his phone.
"Have you a better solution?" it asked him. "And you'd better make your mind up quickly - I'm sure S.A.M. is probably almost at the outer field as we speak.
An alarm sounded of an approaching sold object to the Glie Barrier. A LARGE solid object!
Ptolemy shook. "Damn you, we've never let anything like that into any of the barriers before! How do you expect us to simply 'drop' it? We'd loose the atmosphere!"
"You don't have to," the man told him. "Simply give S.A.M. the frequency of the barrier. He's on channel nine waiting your signal."
Ptolemy looked at Plato. He simply nodded to do it.
"It's better than loosing Old Home," the director told him.
Bloodeagle stepped onto the porch of the little house within Sinner's Rock. "Miho!" she called out. "Of all the times to be hiding," she muttered to herself as she looked for the wandering soul.
"Now is the time most of all," she heard behind herself. She found the small sprit girl curled up in a nook beside the porch's doorway.
"Why are you hiding there?" she asked her. "Come on... I need you."
Miho shook her head. She only stared at the river that ran beyond the bridge past the porch. "I can not... Rainfall is coming... Rainfall..."
Bloodeagle reached down to lift her up, but could not grasp her.
"Miho, what is this?" she asked. "Why won't you come with me? I need your assistance identifying a hole in a soul."
"The baby," Miho said as she twisted tighter in her fetal position. "The baby is the key to his future. The baby is everything."
"His future?" Bloodeagle asked as she bent down to listen closer to the girl. "Whose future? Why is there a hole in the baby's soul?"
"Why else would there be a hole?" Miho whispered. "It is to be filled."
The world seemed to become drenched at that moment. Rainfall had indeed come to them. Bloodeagle was forced to withdraw as Miho refused to be dislodged from her hole.
"Sir," Tolefson called out. "Telemetry coming in for shield frequency modulation. The computer has raised our shields."
"And this is how you breach the barrier without hitting it straight on," Mr. Button smiled. "You merge with it!"
The starship plunged into the barrier. On their monitors, the orange-red space they had been in was wiped away, replaced by blue skies and clouds.
On a bright sunny morning in the center of Glie, a thunderclap was heard almost directly over the clock tower that shook the town and caused a bell to ring with a dull tone. In the newspaper office, Sato, a Haibane pressman from Abandoned Factory, looked out the back door of the print house to see what had made such a noise.
"Oh damn, here we go again!" he cursed as he spun around and darted through the shop to the editor's office. He had made a slight ruckus a while back when he had claimed to have taken a picture of someone's Day of Flight*, so when he reached in and snagged the old Speed Graphic camera, his boss was not about to let that happen again.
[* See THE TOWN OF GLIE RPG on Charcoal Feathers of Glie & Surrounding Territories Forum here on FFN.]
"Hang on son," he barked as Sato checked on the photo pack on the back of the camera. "I've got enough troubles with Koi right now, I don't need more. What are you doing with my camera this time?"
"Boss, didn't you hear that boom just now?" Sato asked while adjusting the lens settings and shutter speeds to match the film's grade. He then swapped out the wide angle lens that he found on it for the standard, and redid his settings and shutter setup.
"That was just the bakery blowing out their steamer again, wasn't it?" he asked seeing the expression on the young Haibane's face.
"There's no way anyone's going to say I made this one up!" Sato grumbled. "You'd better come and see this!" He dashed out of the office and back through the press house with the editor close behind him.
"Tell me I'm imagining THAT!" he yelled as he swung the large format camera over his head and aimed the large wire-frame that was attached to the front of it at his target and threw the trigger.
The editor stepped slowly up beside the youth. He looked about at some other people around the town square, all of whom seemed as dazed as he felt. They all had a strange blank stare with their mouths agape as they looked into the sky above them at what seemed to be a building… no, a series of buildings hanging there. On one end was a slightly trapezoidal shaped one, which butted up against a long rectangular one, and ended with a large boxy one. But then a series of lighted plates illuminated the shaded area that was facing them, revealing yet another building seemingly stuck to the bottom of the long rectangle.
"Underbellies have fired," the helmsman reported to Mr. Button. "It looks like we're holding at just under sixteen thousand feet. We're just under the barrier level… check that… I'm reading transient space, sir." He looked up a bit bewildered at the Commander.
"It's a dimensional barrier, Lieutenant, he answered his perplexed look. "We could have entered at nearly any level it wanted to spit us out, and we can now probably travel upwards if needed now without going through it again, but I think we'd get an earful if we did. Mind your station. And remember, no recording any of this."
Tolefson turned back in his seat. "Yes sir," he could only answer.
"Okay," the man in the mask said as he began to scurry about the room with the ring device he had used earlier. "SAM, auto read mode please. Set transmat to remove all seedlings I release with my cutter here."
Affirmative, it replied. "Where should I transmat them to?"
"Get your coordinates from the Corporation reps on the other end of my phone, please," he told it as he sliced the floor around the first few. "Have them ready the old cabin out in the Western Woods again. Tell Ptolemy that he should get his 'brother' to send some of the Toga out there as quickly as possible."
"Understood." With that, the first few seedlings vanished in a shimmer.
"Won't that hurt the young sprouts?" Sol asked. "Uprooting them like that?"
The man shook his head as he sliced some more away from the tiled floor. "They don't actually 'root' themselves," he told them. "It's only about a quarter inch deep at the most… Otherwise, they'd have roots dangling out of the ceilings on the first floor. No, once the cocoon ball starts to form, the seedling pretty much gives way to it."
Sol looked at the ever growing cocoons towards where her bed once sat. "What about those that already have formed?"
"They are pretty much stuck where they landed," the man replied as he pressed on with his work. "Once there is a large fluid mass, they can't be moved, even with transmats."
Sol looked at all the small orbs around. There were at least a dozen or more in that condition just around the doorway. And they were all much too close to one another.
"We've got to find a way to move these others!" she remarked as she bent down and examined a tennis ball-sized one in a small field of golf ball-sized ones. A large hand came down on her hand as she reached for it.
"You know you can't do that," the masked man told her as he quickly returned to his work. "Like I said, once the cocoon has settled and started, it can not be moved, period. To move it will disturb the internal fluids, and the vessel contained within could distort and wither. This is a very fragile point in its existence."
In the rear of the room, three cocoons merged in a small cloud of dust.
"Won't letting them slam into one another like that harm them as well?" she pointed out in a nearly angry tone. She saw the single eye of the stranger look at the gray cloud then at her.
"Actually, no," he said as he returned to slicing the floor. "It can be harmful in some cases, but it seems to work out better than moving them physically."
"Know that do how you?" Jester asked.
The man never stopped, though he did seem to wince attempting to decipher that question's terminology. He kept on slicing.
"I was part of the Observers who witnessed that first series of landings," he told them as he stood up and looked about. "It was called Terminus EventOne, and you're witnessing it all over again, right here, right now." He squeezed between two large Cocoons and zipped the floor around another set of leaves. They vanished in a shimmer of light.
He slipped out from between the orbs and dusted himself off. "And that's all I can do here," he told them as he gestured for them to follow him out of the room. They looked a bit bewildered at him as he stepped to the next room and opened the door there.
"Ah… great," they heard him complain and watched as he entered the room. They followed behind.
In the room they found another set of large cocoons abutting the wall facing Sol's dorm. There were a number of scattered leaflets and snowball-sized orbs surrounding them in a semi-circle. Sol looked down the hallway at the door on the other side of her own room and scampered to its door. When she tried to look in, a cloud of gray dust greeted her as the handle smacked an obstruction behind it.
"What is going to happen?" she asked aloud.
The mysterious man looked over her shoulder and shook his head. He gestured down the hallway. "The far end of here - the southeastern end of Old Home, have you seen it from the outside?" he asked her.
Her eyes grew wide. Just the other day, she and Jester had been back there as they were examining their new home. The southeast corner of the old building was a crumbled mess.
"It ruined is," Jester juxtaposed. "Reason old not age?"
The man stood back and looked down the hall. "Not at first. If you looked closely at the wreckage, you'll see it lies splayed away from the foundations. It was burst by the rainfall that was Event One. And now we have it happening again in these three rooms with greater concentration. What is directly below this section?"
Sol looked at her feet and gasped. "Their Young Feather's Nursery!"
"I suggest you find Mr. Kinza as quickly as you can and evacuate the children from here then," the man told them. Sol smacked the floor with her foot in disgust. They could not do anything more than just that. She raised a cloud of dust in the process.
"Fast is he," Jester noted as they looked about and saw the man missing.
"What, you thought I left you just yet?" they heard from Sol's room. They looked in and found him holding up a tape measure. In the brief time they had been away, the cocoons had nearly filled it wall-to-wall.
"You had better hurry," he told them. "This floor won't hold that much liquid weight for very long."
"What is that noise?" Kinza asked as his large round cat ears twitched. Dr. McManus looked at him and shook her head. Bloodeagle woke from her trance and snatched the chunk of rock, clutching it to her chest. The Doctor was about to mention that she did not hear anything, when a discernable groan that a wooden beam under stress would make rattled the room. Dust started to seep from a crack that formed along the edge of the wall and the ceiling.
"That's not good," the security officer barked. "Get her out of here!" McManus gathered up the child and hurried out the door with Bloodeagle close behind. Kinza pulled memory cores out of his equipment and started to follow them, but was bowled over by Jester as he came charging into the room.
"Captain! Officer! Cat-man! Coco-cocoo… ABANDON SHIP!" he bellowed while bouncing up and down on Kinza's belly. Fortunately, in his panic, the demon had shrunk down to his 'normal' green self.
The security officer took the advantage of the demon's long ears to grab him and hold him off himself. "Lad, you'd be best not giving me CPR when I'M STILL BREATHING! Now what is going on?!"
"Man - ONE-EYE - Washi like, but not!" Jester babbled. "RAINFALL he said!"
Kinza sat up and looked Jester in the eye. "Rainfall? Are you sure he said Rainfall?" He looked behind the demon and saw Sol standing there out of breath.
"Rainfall, yes", she confirmed.
Kinza quickly stood up and allowed Jester to reform into his 'Haibane' shape. "How bad? Where?" the officer asked Sol.
"My room. It's concentrated between there and the two rooms on either side. He said we have to evacuate the children!"
Kinza tapped his chest patch. "Alert all systems… Construction Foreman to the main entrance! Evacuate Old Home! Evacuate Old Home!" He reached into the kitchen and grabbed a pot and ladle and started whopping it loudly.
"OUT! OUT! OUT! EVERYONE OUT!" he bellowed as he went door-to-door.
"Gracious lord, what are you making such a ruckus about?" the Housemother asked as she stormed out of her apartment.
"We have a Rainfall event happening right now, ma'am," he yelled while continuing to bang the pot. "Everyone has to get out! NOW!"
She was about to complain that he was being foolish when a loud crack was heard, and a room nearby billowed dust out of its door. She found her hand being grabbed and she was dragged forcibly out into the courtyard. When she looked back, Mr. Kinza had released her and was running back into the building with the Foreman of the construction crew close behind. In her hands she found the pot and ladle.
"What is all that noise?" Rakka asked as she groggily sat up. For some reason, the room seemed hazy to her. Also, maybe a little bit brighter.
"HUH!" she heard. She looked over at where she remembered Hikari had been when the three of them had slumped into Koi's room and crashed. She saw her there looking shocked at the ceiling. Why was she looking shocked at the ceiling? She rubbed her eyes and looked up.
Ah... there was no ceiling to look at, just some blue sky and a gray something.
"Damn!" she heard Koi yelp. "That's the biggest cocoon I've ever seen!"
Rakka shook herself. Dust poured off her head. She was finally awake enough to understand what he had just said. She looked up again at what appeared like the surface of the moon just on the other side of what was left of Koi's far wall.
"Incredible..." was all she could say at the sight. A moment later found the remainder of the wall being shoved at them as the gray orb continued to swell. Creaking of rafters also told them that it was not on their floor yet.
"We've got to get out of here!" Koi announced, waking her out of her stupor. They jumped out of his bed just as some of the ceiling fell down. Looking up, they saw that the roof had not been removed, but had been yanked upwards by a snagged beam that was following the rise of the cocoon as it grew. Soon it would reach an angle that would allow it to fall back in on them!
There was a pounding on the door, and it opened only slightly. It was pinned by the awkward angle that its frame had been twisted by the weight that was being exerted against it. They heard someone on the other side yell "Put your foot into it!" This was followed by a loud bang as it lurched a few more inches inwards by a pair of heels slamming its far side. Koi grabbed it and began yanking as hard as he could as the kickers slammed it again. This time Mr. Kinza tumbled in with his follow-through and landed at Hikari's feet.
He looked up at the exposed sky, the teetering ceiling and the massive cocoon that was about to crush that section of Old Home. He saw Hikari reaching down to assist him up. Too slow... much too slow!
He sprung up and grabbed her arm and flung her and Rakka out the door into Koi and the Foreman's arms. He then looked about at the remaining section of what had been the first newly rebuilt room. He saw a gap in the wall under the growing cocoon.
"Get these three out of here," he ordered the Foreman. "I'm going through there into the nursery to make sure everyone's out! GO!"
Before Hikari could call out, Kinza had dove through the hole just as the ceiling had finally slipped free of the side of the cocoon and crushed the bed they had been in.
The dust poured out the doorway into the hall, forcing them to head towards the front entrance. They saw the walls were bowing inwards, and that the nursery's door seemed particularly bent. The window in it had literally popped out of its frame and was leaning against the far wall.
"You weren't looking for us; you were looking for a way in there!" Koi stated which brought a startled look from the girls as they exited the building.
"You got that right, kid," the Foreman told them. "Now I've got to get back in there."
"They're going to need help," Koi said as the Foreman darted back into the vestibule. "Rakka, Hikari, get a head count out here. We have to know who might still be in there. Find Nemu, Kana and BW... Where are the Twins?"
Rakka thought for a moment. "They were supposed to be staying over at the old school teacher's house this week for lessons," she stated. "I'll start over at the posting board to see who's supposed to be here and who isn't. Come on Hikari!"
She stood there staring into the open doorway. "What about Mr. Kinza?" she asked quietly. She found Koi's face right in hers.
"He's a professional," he told her. "He's doing what he's been trained to do. Don't make it harder for him by going back in there, okay?"
She stared at him. She had been thinking of going back in. She stood momentarily then burst in to tears.
Koi stood back unsure what to do now. He looked over at Rakka and handed her over to her as he headed back into the building.
Kinza squeezed along the narrow space left between the collapsed far wall and the remaining main load-bearing one. He waved his scanning rod about as he checked under the beds. The rod made a chirp. He pointed at where it had found something and read its readout. There were two faint life-forms near a bed under the wreckage just where the door would have been if it had not been blocked. He shimmied into the area and found that a dresser was still holding a small section up. There he saw a pair of legs and a familiar dress.
"Nemu!" he called out as he climbed over the beams and joists that were lying across the dresser. When he got down to her, he quickly ran a scan over her and slapped his patch.
"Doc... Doc McManus, do you read me?" he barked to the communicator as he slowly turned her to examine her head. It was then that he found two sets of eyes looking back at him from under her.
"Oh, hey kids!" he whispered as he changed his demeanor and looked at his rod again. He tapped it again and scanned the area. Now it showed three life forms. He gritted his teeth and cursed technology for being flawed at times like this!
"Mr. Cat-Man!" a little girl chirped. "What happened?"
"Is Miss Nemu gonna be all right?" asked the other child, a boy, who started to cry.
"The building had a little crunchy," he told them. "But I'm here to get you out. But first, I have to see how Miss Nemu is. Okay?"
"Nemu jumped on us and made the room fall!" the girl announced almost accusingly. Kinza nearly laughed at that thought but was too busy gingerly looking over Nemu's head wounds the collapse had caused.
"Oh, trust me pun'kin, she didn't make the room fall. She was protecting you." He tapped his patch again. Seeing that the Doctor was not replying to his hail, he switched to "Any station reply... medical emergency, this location."
A beep and a tone pulse greeted him. "This is S.A.M.-System-1. We are currently operating under Observer Rule One - One - Zero - One."
Kinza snorted. "That makes two of us," he commented under his breath.
"Understood," the computer replied. "What is your current situation?"
Kinza waved his scanning rod over the prone Haibane. "I have three souls trapped under a building collapse - two children and one young adult. The young adult has sustained numerous injuries, including a skull fracture, two broken bones in her left forearm and right leg and multiple cuts and wounds, including possible internal injuries."
"Understood," the computer again replied. "Stand by for transmat."
"Transmat?" Kinza asked in surprise. "How can you do that? S.A.M., is the ship inside the barrier shield?"
"One – one – zero - one," S.A.M. answered bluntly. "Number to transmat?"
He sat back on his haunches and laughed at his luck. "S.A.M., scan this area under this cocoon field. We have four to transmat directly to sick bay at this location. If you scan anyone else under this cocoon, no matter their condition, t-mat them up as well. Got that?"
"Understood." The computer was never much for words.
"Okay kids," he said as he bent over and put his paws over their backs, "get ready… We're going for a ride!"
"Where are we going?" the boy asked.
Kinza looked upwards. "If I'm right, to the nearest thing to heaven you'll see for a while... here we go!"
The children gave shrill screams as they felt as if someone was tickling them all over their bodies. When the sensation finally ended, they opened their eyes to a bright room full of tables and people.
"Excuse me, but where am I?"
Kinza looked up from his bent over position at Koi and the Foreman, both of whom had joined them in their move from under the cocoon to the ship's sick bay via the transmat. But what was behind them became priority before explanation.
"Koi, take care of these two!" he barked, trying to keep the children from seeing what he was seeing. "Doctors, over here, NOW!" He scurried across the floor to behind the two confused unexpected passengers to two badly injured Young Feathers who the computer had found and teleported with them. "S.A.M., stasis lock these two STAT!"
The room became a frantic conflagration of people running about and yelling orders. Koi quickly grabbed the two children who had come up with the adult victim who he could not recognize, and moved them towards what looked like a door. A plaque beside it said 'Waiting Room' which he quickly determined was a better place to be than in the maelstrom that was happening behind them. He was surprised that the door slid aside rather than open normally. He was given another shock when he found someone standing behind it.
"Where are they?" Katherine asked.
"T-they?" Koi asked a bit dumfounded. He gestured behind himself, as if that was the answer she should be looking for. It must have been so, as she thanked him and entered the fray. He shuffled the boy and girl along, finding that they were in a room lined with bench chairs and a closed window that dominated the wall across from the doorway.
"Where are we?" he pondered. As he did, the little boy started to explore the strange, if spartan room they were in now. He found a button on the wall next to the window, and like any little boy would, smacked it with the palm of his hand. The window slid open.
"Look at that!" he chirped. "We're over the wall!"
Koi slowly stepped up to the opening and looked out... then down. They were high over a town. It must have been Glie - he could see the Northern Gate. How had they wound up in such a position to get the opportunity to see such a sight? They could see over the wall! Or could they? All he saw was haze.
They were actually too high. The cloud layer was obscuring the view of anything beyond the wall. He sighed and looked around the room. He finally saw that there was a sign beside the door. It read "U.N.S. FORRESTAL - F2-662 - Welcome Aboard - View Port 57."
"This... is a ship?" he pondered. "This must be HIS ship!" he then exclaimed, when he remembered what Kinza had said about being from a starship. But what was it doing sitting over the town like this?
"Where is Doc McManus?" Kinza barked as he assisted the orderlies in lifting the injured Haibane to the operating table.
"We're trying to get hold of her," a nurse replied as she started a full scan of Nemu's injuries. "Her communicator seems to be faulty."
Kinza growled as he spun a wound healer about in his paw. "Blast the coms! S.A.M., unless you can see that she's busy with something critical, t-mat her here right now - Security Chief's priority!"
"We need order here NOW!" McManus was yelling over the crying Little Feathers, the distraught Housemother, and now a com patch that was not cooperating. She could see Forrestal hanging over the center of town, and cursed the fact that they could be so close, and yet still out of touch. She put Koni down and slapped her com patch again.
"Doctor! Doctor!" she heard coming from the area around the main gate. Rakka was running towards her. "Doctor, Nemu's tag... it says she's still here!"
"Nemu?" the Housemother asked with a stuttered realization. "She was working with the Young Feathers this morning... in the nursery!"
McManus looked back at the wreckage that had once been that section of Old Home. She finally had enough of balky technology. She took her thumb and jammed the nail squarely into the center of the patch.
"System reset! McManus, six three one!" she ordered. There was an audible beep.
"S.A.M.-System com link now established," it replied. "All data prior to reset lost. Rebooting... rebooting... rebooting..."
"Come on, you piece of junk com..." she mumbled. "I've been hearing bits and pieces of something going on in there," she told them.
"BLEEP!" the patch yapped. "Emergency medical event in sick bay… Dr. Abigail McManus is required for transmat immediately. Stand by!"
"Status - what is the emergency?" she asked.
"Critical injured persons - building collapse," it replied. "Two children, one adult."
She looked back at Rakka. She held out her hand.
"I'm going to need you," she said taking her hand. "S.A.M., transmat two directly to sick bay."
"Sick bay is too crowed to safely transmat," it told her. She gritted her teeth.
"Then put us in the waiting room!" she yelled.
"Umm," Rakka tentatively asked. "Are we going somewhere?"
She was answered by the world becoming a swirling mass of lights and spots. Old Home and a large group of shocked expressions vanished, replaced by a buff-tan wall with a carpeted floor.
"Rakka! Doctor!" they heard behind them. Koi stepped up with a strange puzzled look on his face. "How... where... what happened?"
"Rakka!" the children cried as they ran up to her and smothered her legs in hugs and tears. "Rakka, Nemu's hurt!"
The blood drained from her face as the Doctor let go of her hand. She numbly turned and watched her walk through a sliding door in what seemed to her as slow motion. As it opened wide, she could see Kinza at a table with many people - Katherine was there as well. How strange, was that not Gabrella coming in from the far end of the room?
Then she saw a familiar skirt draped down the end of the table that had obviously been cut from its wearer. It was covered in red spots.
The door slid shut.
Hyohko stood on a deck overlooking the vast empty warehouse that was used by the Haibane at Abandoned Factory as an indoor gymnasium. He snorted as he spun the soccer ball he and a bunch of the other boys were going to use for an afternoon's match in his hands.
The old steel door creaked behind him as Midori joined him on the deck. "What the hell…" she gasped as she looked down as well.
"So much for today's game," Hyohko told her while looking over the evenly laid out floor of spheres that were growing before them. "I guess we're going to be gardening instead."
Nightwatch huffed as he slowly stepped through the growing field of orbs. This was only the beginning.
Ptolemy sat and watched the inrush of the Rainfall. He tapped his phone on the hard surface of the desk in front of himself. "Hey," he said to the receiver.
"Yo," came the reply.
"You said this was going to get worse..."
He leaned back in his chair and looked up at Mabel's new cage. "How? When?"
There was a brief crackle in the line. "Well, you know I can't say just when," came the reply. "But I can say that in the next few hours, the coup de grâce will be when someone sets off a dirty bomb in the heart of Paris."
Ptolemy stared at the wall in amazement. "You know that will happen, yet you'll do nothing to prevent it?"
"I'm an Observer… worse, I'm an Observer from the future," the man said over the phone. "It's my history. And it's not like we haven't check to see what would happen if we did prevent this…"
Ptolemy almost dropped the phone. "You're kidding me – you mean to tell me that you've figured that something good would come out of this?"
"I never said that," was the retort. "It is all a matter of checks and balances. As a matter of fact, this incident could be what prevents something worse. We would be informed by future communications if we were incorrect…"
"As long as there was a future to send such a message back, that is," Ptolemy shot back.
"That's temporal logic for ya," the man said as he crunched along the path away from the cataclysm happening behind him. "Besides, if we were to actually lose contact with our future selves, that alone would tell us that we needed to do something now. And just to let you know, there are still variables at work."
Ptolemy sat up. "What variables?" he barked.
He heard a sigh. "You have the choice of sending men to Paris in an attempt to prevent the detonation, pull everyone out you can, or leave history to run its course."
Ptolemy smashed the receiver against the wall.
"Commence the evacuation of our Paris crews," Plato ordered.
Kinza glanced briefly as the doctors around him feverishly worked on the three most injured from the collapse. Nemu was at least starting to look better with their heavy use of their wound healers on her smashed body. But the two children on the other tables seemed beyond help. Before the stasis field had been raised, he had felt no pulse in either. And as for the patient he was working on, he silently prayed that the damage to her head was not permanent. He drew in a deep breath and concentrated on the limb he was assigned.
There suddenly was a scream behind him from one of the tables. He looked back to find one of the children moving within the stasis field. The child gave a shrill cry of pain that hurt his ears.
"Scragg, how is that possible?" he grimaced as he quickly jumped on the stasis controls and raised them two more notches. The child returned to its non-moving state.
Someone grabbed his arm. He turned to find it was Nemu. She was looking right at him through her injuries.
"DOCTOR!" he barked. McManus rapidly pulled out her hypo and pumped Nemu with sedatives. She settled down and released her grip. Kinza stepped back and looked about at the bodies on the tables.
"Okay doc, explain! How can any of these people be moving this way?" he demanded. He looked over and saw Katherine and Gabrella shaking their heads. The Goddess seemed displeased, while the Demon seemed simply disgusted.
"These vessels are Haibane," Gabrella told him. "They can't be killed this way."
"After all, they have already died," Katherine said with a quiver in her voice. "This body they have here is supposed to be only temporary."
Kinza gaped at them. "You're kidding. You mean to tell me that if they're injured, they have to LIVE with that injury while in the sites?!"
Gabrella shrugged and looked at the floor. "You've met Bloodeagle," she said. "She's only 22. But you get what you've seen when you attempt suicide twice by breaking every bone in your body from high heights." She looked up and found Kinza snarling with anger.
"I'll be damned if I'm letting Nemu or these kids look like Quasimodo for the rest of their time here!" he thundered. He slapped his patch-communicator.
"I need the scanning disk library," he told it. "Then ready the transmats. We're doing some reconstructive surgery."
Bloodeagle panted. The last time she had to run anywhere like she just had, was to avoid some Toga and Town Watch guards who were after her for tossing raw eggs at the wall. What with all the destruction and crying young feathers down at Old Home, she needed to collect herself.
But what was it with that child of the alien? The hole she saw in its soul looked like Miho could easily slip into it.
"She sure could," she heard. "How are you doing Setsu?"
The man with the mono-eye was seated on top of Sinner's Rock. He reached up and removed his mask.
"Thido!" she cried. "Thido! Thido! Thido! Are you a sight for sore eyes!" It took her a moment to think about this situation though.
"Wait a minute… you HAD your Day of Flight… What are you doing here? And what are you doing sitting on MY rock?"
He counted off on his fingers. "One, I didn't really have a Day of Flight, since I wasn't really a Haibane. Second, I need your help, because this Rainfall event it about to get much, much worse. And third, this rock of yours doesn't do a thing for me. Besides, isn't this just a sheet of marble that came off someone's mantle?"
She laughed. "I suppose it is. I needed something made of the same material as the real rock…"
Thido looked at his feet. "…Which is about six feet below us," he finished for her. "I know. I like how Gabrella used a cannon's muzzle as the contact between these two, though it seems you've broken off the end."
She pulled the severed section out of her robes. "It comes in handy when I need a remote access," she smiled. "So, you were never a Haibane?"
He gave her a wickedly wide grin. "Nope," he replied.
"And, you faked being one because…?"
"Undercover work. I'm an Observer."
"I see…" She slowly started to walk around the clearing. She lowered her mask and peeked at him, which caused her to stop in her tracks. The visor showed her nothing when she looked through it, as if he was not there. But as soon as she raised it, she could definitely see him there. She reached out with her staff and poked him. He certainly was solid enough.
"The mask has circuits that are easily bypassed by our technology," he explained to her puzzled expression.
"Hiding in plain sight – it's certainly a novelty," she commented. "Maybe that was why I liked you so much!"
Thido pointed at her. "Ah, maybe this will help." He pressed something near his belt. The long dark coat vanished. It was replaced by simple used clothing, a satchel of tools, a pair of wings and a halo. The only thing out of place with this version of the man she knew was the fact that he still had a mono-eye mask in his hands. "How's that?"
She snorted as she stepped onto the stone beside him. "Wasn't really a Haibane, ea? Maybe that would explain why you put on so much weight." She poked him in the belly, making him flinch.
"Does the stone look like its sinking?" he asked as they sat down. He then pinched his nose and made a motion that looked like diving.
"Everybody into the pool!" he announced. Bloodeagle watched as the person she knew as Thido dropped into a lotus-seated trance.
"Geeze, is that what I look like when I do this?" She quickly followed him.
As she felt herself fall into the stone, she found herself being stopped at what she felt seemed too soon. She looked at her arm and found someone holding it. She looked back and found a thinner, younger Thido standing there in a white lab jacket. She also found she looked like she had as a Haibane, sans the halo and wings.
Thido bent down and pointed to something ahead of them. "Who is that?" he asked.
She followed his gesture and expected to see Miho and her house near the river and rice fields. But what she found was a bald man doing an odd dance of sorts.
"Phoenix?" she said aloud. "What is that clown doing?"
Thido nodded. "Sorry for holding you like this – while I am, he can't see us… at least as long as we keep our distance…"
She shrugged. "Better you than a member of the town watch. Sheesh, he's a lousy dancer!"
"You can do any better?" Thido pointed out. "By the way… do you see anything wrong with what we're looking at right now?"
"Bad taste?" she suggested, which Thido had to shrug in agreement.
"Actually… you and I are seated on the stone up there, right?"
She looked back at him confused. "What?" she asked.
"Oh come on," he said. "I know you looked at me before coming as well. We are in here mentally only. Physically, we're sitting on the top of that stone up there. But try putting on your mask. See if you can find twinkle-toes up there anywhere."
She slid the mono-eye over her face and looked back to where their bodies were. She searched the trees all around the stone. There was no sign of the bird in the branches. She looked back at the man in front of them and was nearly blinded by his glow. She removed her mask and scowled.
"It's completely in here? Physically in the stone?" she asked Thido.
"Impressive, isn't it?" he said. "I mean, I could probably do the same, but the transmat would just make me a gooey mess by doing that."
Bloodeagle shook her head. "I don't get it. And where is Miho?"
Thido pointed over to something way off in the distance that Bloodeagle could not discern. "What is that?" she asked.
"That would be our little soul from in here," Thido told her as he handed her a small set of binoculars he had pulled from the lab coat's pocket. She saw an old-style glass milk bottle there. "Miho is a threat to him, so he put her on hold while he's in here."
She gritted her teeth at the thought of Miho being stuck in the bottle. "So what's it doing in here?"
"Hiding, I suspect," Thido told her. "Ah, let's get out of here for a moment."
She saw that Thido was looking back up from where they were seated above. There was a flash of light and she found herself in her body again. Thido grabbed her hand and motioned her to follow him quietly. He led them behind a derelict machine at the edge of the junk yard.
"What are we…" she started, but he hushed her and pointed over to the opening to the stone's clearing. A man was standing there.
"Who is that?" she whispered.
"Shhh… watch," Thido said.
The stone began to shine brightly. A fiery bird sprouted from it and lighted on a branch briefly. It then launched itself, looping once in mid air as it dove at and into the midsection of the man.
"DAMN!" she whispered to herself. "What did it just do?"
Thido laughed slightly. "It just answered your question."
"My question?" she asked.
"Of course… what do you do with a hole in your soul?" he told her. "You carry something valuable. And I certainly hope you were taking notes."
She shook her head. "Why should I be…" she started, but found that Thido's last comment was not direct towards herself, but to a slick-dressed individual who was hiding behind another machine next to theirs.
"Amethyst?" she asked.
 See AFTER CHRONICLES: YEAR OF THE CAT here on FFN
Author's Note: As of THIS chapter, the story will continue on its restructured, remastered course. As noted in the new intro to Chapter One, the story required a rebuild, as locations I had been using in my stories did not match to described realities, as presented on the map of Guri/Glie from The Haibane Lifestyle Diary. From this point on, they will. And of course, the earlier stories have been revamped to get it straight finally. What fun! Mind you, for those interested in the ORIGINAL versions of those chapters, they will remain posted on my off-FFN sites, such as TRHQ2 and AnimeMangaWorld! over on the YukuForum Boards. These places can be found via good old Giggle… I mean Google…
MEANWHILE, in this story, I gave one of my characters a tweak. For anyone familiar with the RPG Sadako's Well running over on my AnimeMangaWorld!forum-board (and who would? No one other than Shadsie and myself ever have posted anything on it – grumble grumble…) where I introduced the characters of Toki and Chip, would know that Toki was originally a young Haibane, and Chip was her secret Scar boyfriend. She was young enough not to have to work daily, so they would play in the Sinner's Junkyard – an early version of what became the junkyard and Sinner's Rock in these stories. But, as I was going over the rebuild, rereading the plots and reworking the twists and turns, I realized I never had actually said that Chip was a Scar in THIS story – only that Toki had been one (keeping her Haibane name after going to the Village as noted in Jester). So in these stories, Chip will be a local human farm boy who grew up with Toki, a Haibane girl who was born roughly the same age as he was at the time (roughly 9 or 10). Being the last Haibane deposited at the old cabin in the Western Woods near Sadako's Well, remaking Chip into a human works, since, as in the original version of these stories, the RPG has the same issues with locations, and they reared their ugly heads. The whole plot was originally placed in the northeast section of Glie, which, as it turns out, would have plunked it slap dab in the area that the map shows to be part of the main town, to the right of the northern gate. And since the Scar's Village now resides in the northwest, near the Temple, with the junkyard nearby that, making Scar Chip skirt the breath of Glie to play with his southwestern girlfriend made no sense. So, now he becomes the child of the Southern Farmer, who would shirk his duties to play with his feathered girlfriend. Not only does that fit the plot better, it allows for more input on characters like said farmer, who has only made brief cameos so far.
Humm… all this sounds like we need another side-story - Maybe someday - Or maybe someone just MIGHT actually play the RPG… grumble…
- R. A. Stott - ArkNorth – July 2011
Play the RPG Sadako's Well on AnimeMangaWorld! – E ! ! – eMail or Google for the address
Join the Renmei – Visit the C2 Community and Discussion Forums of Charcoal Feathers of Glie & SurroundingTerritories here on FFN!
Captain Roy Strom, Doctor Abigail McManus, The Observers, Nightwatch, Gather Damon, Elb Kinza Farley, Koni, Scanning Rods, GENUINE Doorknobs, U.N.S. FORRESTAL, S.A.M. & S.A.M.-System ©2011 Denivan Media Services – Used With Permission
"After Chronicles – YEAR OF THE CAT" ©2011 The Lugia Project II/Denivan Media Services – Used with Permission
Lady Bloodeagle, Shadsie (Shadowcat) ©2011 S. E. Nordwall – Used with Permission
Gabrella ©2011 The Lugia Project/DMS – Used with Permission
Characters from Haibane-Renmei ©2011 Yoshitoshi ABe
Haibane-Renmei: CORPORATION ©2011 The Golden Halo Project/DMS