(Ten)

(16, 17)

Finger tried to see Macro for several days, to warn him of the danger and make plans but the Supreme Commander was closeted up with Brad; gloating over his successful coup no doubt. And with Fractal still gone, the tower seemed a lonely place. Fin spent most of the time with the tower guard. He had them run several disaster drills and was confident they, at least, would be prepared. One of the tower captains, a girl called Ginger, wanted to know just how Finger knew something was going to happen.

The question took him by surprise—he couldn't very well admit that the foundation of his theory was a few chipped roof tiles, flickering lights and a spilled cup of hot chocolate. He told her it was common sense that something was bound to happen sooner or later and it was best to be prepared. She seemed satisfied, but Fin was not. He wondered, not for the first time, why others were so oblivious to the world around them. Why did he know…without a doubt that something was going to happen?

He could feel it in the tightness of his chest, taste it in the air…sure enough a noticeable quake hit sometime after lunch and several lesser tumblers followed. Chandeliers shook and books toppled off shelves but, in general, the populace of the tower went about their lives oblivious. Fin was surprised how unfazed everyone was. Sheep, Savage had called them, and presently Fin thought it an apt comparison. What would it take to wake kid-kind from their perpetual state of somnolence? He wondered.

The quake hit outlying areas harder and refugees began slowly trickling in through the open check points. The tower guard quietly saw they had places to stay and ample food but most of the tower-kids ignored the newcomers completely. Finger felt relieved to know the guards were alert and knew what to do if things turned ugly.

Finger was patrolling the tower district; dusk was falling when his route finally ended at the Brad Exchange. The mercantile center of the world did not stop just because the chandeliers trembled a bit. He went inside to have a look around. All manner of things were bought sold or bartered here. Hawkers and charlatans both filled the air with their cries urging kids to but…buy…BUY! There were rows upon rows of tables containing everything from Food and clothing, to crafts and trinkets. There were toys, games, souvenirs, books and anything a kid could want or even imagine. Most of what the pirates collected had at one time been stolen or smuggled out of the Brad Exchange.

Fin was examining a copy of a book called 'The Prince' by some a kid named Machiavelli when a breathless Fractal sprinted up coattails flying and grabbed him by the arm.

Finger had never imagined the nearsighted genius knew how to sprint, seeing him do so was a bit disconcerting. "Good to see you back." The commander squeezed his friends forearm in greeting and tried to gently disentangle himself from the other boy's grasp but in his excitement Fractal clung tight.

"I've had the most amazing adventure...You wouldn't believe me if I told you…we had a run in with pirates!" He said eyes shining bright with excitement.

"Where is Media?" The commander asked circumspectly.

"Gone to see Macro of course…She's gotten rid of Jay. There was a crystal in the lighthouse just like the one in the cave. She pushed him into it…just like you did. I guess not even Jay could stand touching the crystal twice, he disappeared—POOF—just like that. We saw him in the other world through the crystal there were big people and kids together! There was even a girl that looked like Alpha. She's very smart you know…not like that other boy and that that goes around with them—"

"Flash" Fin quietly supplied the name. "His name is Flash, and he's hard-headed, not stupid." Fractal barely noticed the comment, let alone the distinction his friend had made. Most kids judged his monitors that way, why should the genius be any different?

Fractal continued his excited ramblings. "—It seems the big folk decorate their domicile with strips of brightly colored paper and cook food right in the serving dish on the table. Clearly they had, what appeared to be, a cake and there were tiny flames right on top! Can you imagine such a thing? Perhaps the big folk are capable of digesting fire. I've read some of them exhibit something called 'heartburn,' perhaps that is the cause. Some things in that world are quite bizarre…others frighteningly familiar. Do you suppose there is someone like me there… or you? Can you imagine what it must be like?" the kid scientist gushed not really giving his friend a chance to respond. Fin wasn't sure what he would say if he had.

+O+

The earth quakes worsened and storms raged. Kids from all corners of the world descended on the tower demanding answers and calling for Brad to save them. Macro was beside himself. He shut himself in his play room and refused to come out, the halls resounded with his drumming for nearly an hour. Some time later he addressed the people over the tower video feed. Finger had been surprised by the speech it was far more…heartfelt than the usual spin-doctoring Macro went for. Fin could not help but wonder who had written it for him.

Meanwhile the monitors and tower guard were doing an admirable job of crowd control. All the emergency measures Finger had planned were executed perfectly and the influx of people from the surrounding countryside were provisioned, given any necessary medical care, shuttled off to general quarters where they could rest and get cleaned up and when they emerged into the halls of power they were in a much better, more cooperative, frame of mind. They were told that once the storms and earthquakes eased they could go back to their usual territories and things would slowly get back to normal.

The captain strolled down the great hall reading the latest dispatches from his men. As far as he was concerned they had managed to avert any crisis and baring anything unforeseen the general response could only be thought of as a glowing success. He was smiling and humming to himself when in a heart beat… everything changed. Media sauntered down the stairs, stopping him in his tracks. Fin became uncomfortably aware of the blood throbbing in his veins. He'd done his best to avoid her but there was nowhere to run this time.

Her gaze was locked on him. She approached with the certainty and gracefulness of a storm cloud. Fin watched transfixed as she stretched out her hand and lay gently on his breast. He caught his breath sharply and it was if the word went still. Till that instant he never realized that in a thousand little ways he's always been fully aware what was going on around him. It was that wild awareness that made him just a bit stronger, a bit more cunning, a bit quicker, more decisive that the rest. It gave him an edge. His instinct was what made Fin…Fin.

Now, he found the silence deafening. For him, nothing existed but those intensely dark eyes. Closer and closer…Media leaned in then her lips were touching his. He felt her breath on his cheek and then he fainted.

--(Epilogue)--

Waking was surreal and Fin felt oddly disconnected not knowing where he was or, in point of fact, how he had gotten there. His surroundings served only to confuse matters more. Shear curtains draped the room in great multi-colored swaths. There was no furniture in the recognizable sense of the word. He lay on some sort large leather mattress that had been sealed and filled with some sort of liquid or jell. It cradled his body the way his hammock did yet was not as rigid. Pillows and cushions lay helter-skelter about the room and as best he could describe it, he lay in a veritable nest of expensive silks and velvets. Fin struggled weakly to sit up but a hand stayed him—her hand.

Media firmly guided his head down once more…into her lap, deftly loosing his hair from its tail and running her fingers through it. "You are something of a surprise." She purred softly… her voice achingly familiar. 'Sara,' When Fin had found himself in the hospital after the accident he had torn the wires and hoses from his flesh and went seeking her in those seemingly endless white halls. Fin wondered if after he was released Mick had ever gone to see her. The memory of her lying there, so still, brought tears to his eyes. Media wiped them away unhesitatingly, but made no comment. Perhaps she was accustomed to having that affect on people.

"Do you know what this is?" she asked unfastening a chain wound twice around her wrist she held it up so he could examine the bauble intricately wrought of silver studded with gems. The item seemed so familiar, like something he'd seen reflected in a store window. It was Mick's memory, not his own, that named the thing, a 'present.' The thought slipped away from him like water in his grasp. Fin shook his head 'no' not trusting his voice.

The exquisite enchantress smiled as she explained. "Think of it as a compass…accepting that it doesn't point north. Instead it shows me what ever I want…and that, dear boy, is power." She caressed his cheek so tenderly it evoked images of Angel, Mick's mother. None but she had held him so close. None but she dared to soothe his hurts away. Fin's throat was so dry he found it difficult to swallow. He forced himself from Media's grasp and backed away till he was kneeling before her, somehow helpless to retreat any farther away. His thoughts flicked back to his captivity when he first learned it served no purpose to strain against his bonds, steal would not yield. No chain bound him now but the thought lingered just a bit, before it too trickled away.

"When I first came to the tower things were quite clear," Media continued her explanation. I held my pendulum high, like so, and I asked. 'Where is the power?' And it pointed me to Brad straight away. Later I asked, 'What threatens the power?' and it the pendulum swung to direct me unerringly to Jay.

I've taken care of Jay…he is no longer an issue and Brad is quickly becoming…irrelevant. I was more than content to rule at Macro's side; till today. He disappointed me badly in dealing with this crisis. So today, I took out my pendulum again and loosed my power into it."

Fin could feel the energy suddenly crackling in the air around the two of them. "Who is the power in the tower?" Media asked again and this time the teardrop shaped artifact was not an inert thing in her hand it swung, alive with purpose. Like a load-stone drawn to iron the pendulum pulled on its chain till it defied gravity and pointed directly at Fin. But Media wasn't quite finished her 'demonstration' "What threatens it?" She asked again. The pendulum swung around in a tight circle as if reorienting itself when it pointed again it was aimed directly at him. "Now, what am I supposed to make of that?" the dark haired young woman asked. Finger had no answer. "I'm going out for a bit. You be good." She told him and planted a soft kiss on his forehead.

+O+

Fin sat where she had left him for what seemed a long while. His mind struggled vainly to explain what had happened… Make some sense of what he felt. But no answers came.

Finally a quiet scratching on the door drew his attention and without a thought he mumbled, "The knob Savage. Turn the knob." His headache lifted some as he massaged the bridge of his nose.

The door opened suddenly and the wild boy, who had been leaning against it at the time, tumbled through landing in a heap among the pillows. "Nice digs!" he grinned wolfishly and picked up a piece of silk –sniffing it experimentally and made a face at the lingering perfume. "I could get used to it I suppose." Savage romped around in the pillows and material a bit and tugged on the fringe and tassels that decorated the pillows and held back the curtains. "I like your nest Fin…Why don't we have one like this in the office at headquarters? I know!" Savage observed belatedly, "the other boys 'ud be jealous." Finally he pounced on the water mattress and rolled over causing waves that nearly knocked Finger from the bed.

"Gently Savage, Careful," the captain cautioned. "Don't break it!"

"Careful," Savage grumbled. He didn't WANT to be careful. He was excited. The captain should be excited too. Why wasn't the captain excited? Savage frowned. He was getting ahead of himself again. That had to be it. The formerly wild boy stood up and bit his lip in concentration. Fin watched him stand on one foot, flamingo-like, with the other foot resting on his opposite knee. The pose looked ludicrous but it proved an affective method for slowing his mind down so he could focus.

Savage breathed deeply and counted to five a few times to remind himself he wasn't a wild beast anymore. Then it came to him, the reason he'd come to the tower in the first place. "I didn't tell you what we found." Savage sighed chagrinned that he'd forgotten something so important.

"What did you find?" Fin encouraged gently.

"A bone, a great big bone; it is as big as me, big enough to climb on." Savage said getting excited again, but this time he was a bit more prepared to keep his 'wild' emotions in check. "During one of he earth shivers a whole part of a cliff face sheared away and there it was. The guys sent me to bring you to see it—because I'm the fastest." Savage grinned proudly, showing sharp teeth.

"How did you find me?" Finger asked.

Savage looked perplexed. He cocked his head sideways then gave his captain a crooked grin, "Silly question, you're right there!" The wild boy pointed at him and scoffed.

Fin shook his head knowing that was the best answer he was likely to get. So, he changed the subject. "A really big bone you say? What does it look like?"

"Well it sort of sticks out in the front and back, you know triangularly. And there is a bit that stands up at the back." Savage motioned expansively with his hands. "And the middle part is kind-a hollow; Makes a nice chair actually," he explained then noticing Fin still hadn't gotten up he asked, "Aren't you going to come see?"

"Fin smiled. "Of course I'll come." He said holding out his gloved hand and Savage grabbed a hold of it and eagerly pulled the commander to his feet. Fin continued his musing aloud, "Your bone sounds like it could be a neck bone from a sea serpent."

"See-Ser-Pent?" Savage said as if tasting the word.

"Yes, the land used to be teeming with all sorts of amazing creatures. The great serpents were just one of them. The tower archives mentions that our world was once very different than it is now. It used to be a place of magic. We shared the neverland with mer-folk, pixies, neverbugs and many others too. But that was a long time ago. It is said things started to decline when the Heirs of Pan II lost their power and the Lord of the Flies took control. It was a dark time. The ban on bang-a-rang altered the shape of our world. The wall rose up and the big folk were banished together to the other side. With out lost-boys to contend, with they gave up their war paint and pirate games, stopped dreaming, and became grown-ups." Fin explained with a diffident shrug. He knew it was mostly a fruitless exercise. Most kids just didn't share his interested in history.

Fin was taken by surprise when Savage asked, "What happened to the rest; the neverbugs and magic things?"

"I think they mostly got sick and died. Some, like the pixies just faded away when people stopped believing in them. Now, we're pretty much all that's left." Fin told him sadly.

The two-some was almost to the tower gate when Savage stopped in his tracks suddenly. "Sir?" the boy asked; his brow creased in a frown.

"Yes Savage?" Finger stopped as well wondering what could be the matter.

"Do you think we'll fade away if people stop believing in us?" the wild boy asked forlornly.

"I don't know." Fin admitted. He'd never thought about it before. If Mick forgot all about down-land and his connection to the other world were severed…what then? The captain shook his head hoping to banish those dark musings. Fin had never seen Savage look so sad. The contemplative caption did what he could to dispel the boy's fears. He nudged Savage's shoulder and said, "Don't you worry about it though; I'll always believe in you."

"Good." Savage smiled suddenly, his moss green eyes no longer dark with brooding. "I believe in you too Fin. Er, um Finger…I mean Sir."

"Fin is fine Savage. You can call me Fin, especially when it's just us." The captain said ruffling the boy's unruly dark hair.

Savage pressed against Fin's palm like a puppy. "Thank you Sir…Fin." he smiled.

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So what do you think? Are Fin and his friend worth believing in? Do you want more of the story or should they fade away to be forgotten as so dreams are?

A big thank you goes out to the few who have supported me in this endeavor… Voiletkitty, Age, Tpal your encouragement means a lot! But for the rest, if you want more, RESPOND! That means review people, tell me what you think. –Please—

Or write your own versions, I like to read too you know. 