Lords of Being
Chapter 46: If I need more trouble, I’ll know where to ask
It’s late at night. Sylvia and Lead are standing by the laser with the glass teddy bear when they realize that there’s someone else with them.
Sylvia turns. It’s Shinnaniah, the Angel that delivers messages to the Elemental Knights. Sylvia greets it. Him. It looks male at the moment.
Shinnaniah nods in response. “The crisis will be coming soon.”
“We are not going to be able to prevent a certain amount of damage, though we will be able to select where the damage falls.”
“Can you tell us the nature of the crisis, the damage or the threat?”
“The crisis is the weakening of the scheme of things. This has allowed an attack by the Maskim. I have not been told the nature of the damage. You should know that degenerate Beryllium may be operating on this world. I must be going.” The Angel is gone.
Sylvia turns to Lead. “Why don’t you keep a look out here. I’ll go pass on the ‘good news’.” She calls Simon and briefs him. When she hangs up, she hits the watch and whizzes to the building. When she arrives, she announces, “It’s not just a rumor. The Maskim are threatening to attack. The crisis is about to commence. The Powers That Be will be doing what they can to mitigate the damage. We can take some consolation in the fact that they keep bringing people here where they’ll be safe.”
Suddenly the levels of blockage drops. And drops again. Somebody must be doing something fancy on the Courtier level. Though there’s still masses of blockages.
Sylvia continues, “Along with the Maskim, there may be the Black Knight. Degenerate Beryllium.”
The blockage levels go way up again.
Zabeth asks, “Beryllium?”
Sylvia nods. “The degenerate one.”
Z goes to her laptop. She finds that beryllium is the lightest metal. But nothing about degenerate beryllium.
Mabel asks Sylvia for more info about Beryllium.
“A great woman once said that every family has its ups and downs. You folks have your fallen, and we do too. Beryl’s strong and brittle.”
The blockage levels go up again. This is the highest they’ve ever been.
Zabeth asks, “What are its weaknesses?”
“Corruption is always its own weakness.”
“How can we keep him at bay? Or can we stabilize him?”
The blockage levels go down a whole lot.
Sylvia shakes her head. “No. You could also go debate philosophy with the Maskim. Those who are committed to the other side are committed to it.” She pauses, and then continues, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Beryl was doing things with sound. I don’t always do things with glass. We pick up and set aside various specialties. He’s poisonous, brittle, light.”
The blockage level goes up and then down again. The time between the changes seems to be decreasing. Mabel comments on the apparent pattern.
Zabeth asks, “Who’s providing the power for the changes?”
Rosamond notes, “We sent them a lot of cookies.”
Speaking of cookies, Sylvia asks if one of the Armenians would go to the plane and fetch her some cookies from the fellow baking on the plane. She then returns to her description of Beryllium. “We never really got along, so I don’t know much about Beryl. Lady Diamond and I get along really well. Not only are we in the same column, she was always very respectful about how well Diamond can cut glass. Beryl can do the same thing, but wasn’t ever respectful.”
Zabeth asks, “Rivalry?”
Mabel observes, “There seems to be chunks of blockages put on, and chunks removed. I’m wondering if it’s a team removing the blocks all at once.”
Rosamond replies, “Remember that Lady Diamond and Ragnison were going to set up another group. It could also be higher-ups.”
Sylvia asks, “A reliable source said that the Maskim were attacking and on their way here. Could it be them putting up the blocks?”
Mabel replies, “Blocks don’t have quality. They’re there or not. We can’t tell.”
Sylvia snarks, “Possibly the reliable source could have told you.”
While this discussion is going on, Hellgrammite has been pacing back and forth, plans for possible weapons blossoming in his head, muttering about getting to a proper scrap yard.
Sylvia asks, “How valuable would it be to have our van?”
Hellgrammite snorts. “Not as valuable as having my tool chest. It’s the truck next to the van.”
Just then, The Armenian returns with half a dozen cookies on a plate. Sylvia grabs the cookies and stuffs them in her pocket, grabs Hellgrammite, slaps the watch to stop time and starts running for Colorado.
Moments later aboard the plane, Neville’s phone rings. “How about you take your phone out on the tarmac and step away from it? About 20 feet.”
“You want me to do what?”
Sylvia’s voice repeats, “Take your phone out on the tarmac, put it down, then move about 20 feet away from it.”
Neville yawns. “OK. Give me a minute.”
This is definitely one of the weirder requests. He walks down the rear stairway and about 30 feet from the plane. “OK, I’m going to put the phone down now. Give me a moment to move away from it.” He places the phone on the ground, and backs away.
A truck appears above the phone. The doors open, and Sylvia gets out. The truck starts, and Hellgrammite drives off. (He and Sylvia have just teleported back from running all the way to Colorado in stopped time. Good thing they don’t tire.)
Neville shakes his head and retrieves his phone. It’s unharmed.
There are two more increases of blockage, followed by a decrease.
Zabeth plays with her laptop, trying to find a pattern to the blockage changes.
There is a massive blockage decrease.
Sylvia calls Ragnison. “I had a visit. I have it on very good authority that the Maskim are behind what’s been going on. With the bad weather and the like.”
“Are you doing anything to knock down the blockage level?”
“No. We’re busy with other things. Did I tell you about Hanuman?”
“In a way. One of you did. Is it alright if I told other members of the Courts what you’ve just told me?”
“It’s quite something when the boss shows up and says, ‘the crisis is about to start’. It’s nice to know that we didn’t have one already.”
“You don’t think the upping and downing is a crisis?”
“Well, if I need any more trouble, I’ll know who to ask.” Ragnison rings off.
Hellgrammite turns out of the base and drives along for a short while when he realizes that the blockage level has been holding for a while. Suddenly there’s an animal in the middle of the road. It’s a raccoon. It’s stopped in the middle of the road. He drives around it, and it doesn’t move. He stops and backs up. The raccoon is still there. Unmoving. He looks at the clock on the dash. It’s still moving. But there’s no wind. He rolls down the window. There’s no animal noises. No sound whatsoever. He pulls out his phone. There’s no cell signal. He shrugs and continues on his way.
Zabeth is still working on the numbers when she loses her network connection.
Mabel is walking the perimeter with the dogs when a fellow comes striding up wearing buckskin. He’s got a spear which he’s using as a walking stick. “Good evening. Have you seen a large quantity of mammoths?”
“Can you tell me which way they went?”
She points in that direction.
“Thank you very much.” He walks off and fades away.
Mabel looks down. Hookie and Roper are on either side of her, pressing close to her legs, with their hackles raised. They’re staring in the direction the buckskin-clad gentleman went and standing very still. For the rest of the patrol the dogs remain VERY close to Mabel.
Sylvia wants to participate in the interrogation of our prisoner, but doesn’t want to leave the gun unmanned. She gives her phone to the glass teddy bear, and tells it to call her and clap if anything happens. Speaking of “call her,” there’s no bars.
Sylvia calls Simon. “Check your cell coverage.”
“Don’t got none.”
“That’s not good.”
Simon pulls out the specs and scans the area in all available spectra. He sees nothing unusual. And it’s not unusually dark on any frequency either. He offers to hover over the gun so the teddy can contact him, and pass on an alert.
On her way to the building, Sylvia goes to the plane looking for Catalyst. “The phones are out. All of the phones. Can you ask the wood elves to patrol the woods around here?”
“Certainly, ma’am. I’ll also ask the gnomes who hang around with the dwarves.”
Rosamund has had the injured young Indian moved to the cell the dwarves have constructed. Once there, she allows him to regain consciousness. Captain Barron, Lead, and Rosamund are there when he awakens.
Sylvia looms over the prisoner, grins and says, “Hello. Remember me?” in abysmal Hindi.
He gets terrified. She storms out of the room. Captain Barron asks Rosamond, “Is there anything in particular you wanted to know from this gentleman? For example how he tracked you here?”
Rosamond replies, “What they were planning to do with ‘the fragment of chaos.’”
Of course, none of them speak Hindi. Shortly, Simon arrives and says in fluent Hindi, “You seem to have annoyed my sister. What can you tell me about your mission here?”
“Our master Hanuman was after a treasure of Chaos. He wanted to use the treasure to build his power. He was going to raise up a great… empire? A great seat. A great throne.”
“To any particular purpose?”
“For his own greater glory.”
“He didn’t speak about any particular threats?”
“Only from the Tyrants of Order who were going to freeze the world into the shapes of death.”
Simon passes this on. Rosamond suggests that he pass on that she’s a Lady of Chaos.
“You’ll be glad to know that a full ¾ of the hosts present are Lords and Ladies of Chaos and none of them are pleased with you and Hanuman.” Switching to English, he continues, “I think Hanuman was just being a nuisance. Clisk on the other hand was worrying about the Maskim.”
The prison replies (in fluent English). “I saw him fall, but surely he will rise again.”
“Not in your lifetime. Remember I said that ¾ of the hosts present are Lords and Ladies of Chaos? I had their advice on how to make sure he’d be gone for a long, long time.”
“I… I see.”
“I’m more concerned about the cell phones.” Simon goes stomping off. Whether it’s because the prisoner is fluent in English or that cell service is out is unknown.
Hellgrammite is still driving towards the scrap yard. He passes a small flock of bats. They’re hanging above the road. Motionless. As he gets closer to town, he comes across some cars in the road. They’re motionless, but the lights are glowing. He stops next to one. There’s no engine noise. He ponders this for a moment, shrugs, and continues on his way.
He gets to the scrap yard and digs in. He looks for camcorders that will pickup infrared and ultraviolet, as well as the parts for a plasma gun. And an active camouflaging system. Then he fills all the spare space in the truck with other bits and pieces he might need. He returns to the base, past the same frozen raccoon, etc.
Simon goes out to the road and climbs the nearest phone pole. He taps into the lines. There’s no dial tone.
Mabel is still out patrolling. Catalyst comes up with a bunch of elves. “Ma’am? The elves are upset. They noticed that there’s no wind at all. Then they noticed that the stars aren’t rising and setting. I thought I should tell someone.”
“It seems that the mundane realm has stopped. So I guess the crisis is upon us.”
Simon comes in from the road and joins. “The land lines are out as well as the cell.”
Mabel replies, “Let’s just say they stopped. Working. The wind isn’t blowing. The world isn’t turning.”
Simon stomps off towards the gun emplacement, yelling. “Sylvia what the hell did you do with the watch!” They start yelling at each other. Nobody else can figure out what they’re saying.
Rosamund is still talking with the prisoner. His name is Soong, and he’s having a life crisis. She’s telling him what’s going on, and explaining that they’re fighting the forces of evil. And that Angels have been dropping off refugees.
Soong tells her that Hanuman had told them about Order and Chaos. He regarded Order contemptuously. He got more upset after the Breakdown. And then Hanuman heard about a piece of primal Chaos that was available.
Rosamond breaks in, “That was a part of one of the higher Lords. And he wanted it back. You don’t take a piece of a Chaos Lord for your own use. Chaos and Order are both needed. It’s like night and day. It is like being hungry and eating. What we want to know if Hanuman was working to his own ends, or if he was allied with anyone.”
“Hanuman never spoke about any allies, let alone superiors.”
Zabeth pokes her head in. “Have you noticed anything different? Like the world being different?”
Rosamond replies, “I’ve been in this room.” She turns to Soong. “I’ve done what I can for your wounds.” Rosamond stands, and follows Zabeth out, without locking the door. Lead and Captain Barron are still in the room. Captain Barron picks up Rosamond’s story about what’s been going on.
Zabeth leads Rosamond outside. “Do you notice things that aren’t happening here?”
Rosamond extends her senses. The only living things around are all close by. Beyond a hundred yards or so, things stop being alive. She heads out to the woods. It’s not that there’s no living things. It’s like they’ve stopped. They’re not dead. They’ve just stopped.
Zabeth presses, “I’m not crazy right?”
“That’s a very different question. Things aren’t dead. They’re in stasis.”
Zabeth considers this, and realizes that it’s been 31 minutes since there’s been any change in the blockage level. And now that she thinks about it, that’s when the net connection dropped, too.
Having gotten the watch for Sylvia, Simon goes to the house across the road from our base. Entering a locked house is easy when you can be a single atom. The residents of the house appear to be asleep. Uh, no. They’re not breathing. He speeds up time. Nope, definitely not breathing. He examines things closely. There’s a serious lack of time here. He returns to the base. Time is moving normally here. He finds Rosamond, Zabeth, Mabel and Catalyst in a group near the woods.
Rosamond says, “Everything’s stopped.”
Simon nods. “Except here.”
“You went off the base, and it didn’t affect you. It’s not affecting here, because we’re protected. It’s not affecting us because we’re metaphysical.”
“Conversely, perhaps we’re moving through time fantastically fast.”
“Can you contact Sy other than by telephone?”
“I try not to.” Simon concentrates a moment. “… He’s there, but I don’t think he’s happy.”
Rosamond pushes the blockage. It’s an ordinary blockage. The blockage level drops one quantum. She reports this to Simon.
Simon calls Sy to him. He’s definitely grumpy. “Have you been screwing with the watch?”
Simon explains that it’s Sylvia who’s been messing with the watch. And it’s happening everywhere except where Lead’s protecting them.
Rosamond muses, “Things have been blocked so long… neither Order or Chaos is coming into this world.”
Simon replies, “You nudged it. No one else is. If all the rest of the Courtiers are okay, they should be working to remove the blockages. And they’re not.”
“They might be busy. Or out of power. I believe that with neither Order nor Chaos coming into the world, it’s stuck.”
Zabeth suggests, “Let’s get a pile of cookies and try to clear this.”
Catalyst heads off the plane at a run.
Sy steps out of Diamond’s phone. Diamond is conversing with Ragnison. Sy remarks, “You’re moving. How odd.”
Ragnison asks, “Has the blockage level started going down?”
“That would be Rosamond’s doing. We were afraid that you weren’t pushing because you couldn’t.”
“We’ve been busy. Look at this!” Ragnison pulls a book from one of the shelves that line the walls, and then releases it. The book hangs in the air. “Things only move when we interact with them.”
“It took us a while to notice. There appears to be a bubble of protection at the air field.”
Lady Diamond adds, “I want to show you something similar to the book, only more profound.” She goes to the window. There’s a pigeon, frozen on the ledge outside. She opens the window, reaches out and picks up the bird. As soon as she touches it, the pigeon starts moving. She strokes it a moment, and then puts it down on Ragnison’s desk. The pigeon freezes once more, in mid-coo.
“Now watch this.” She has a small gerbil riding on her shoulder. She puts it down on the desk with the pigeon. The gerbil keeps moving. “It is very curious.”
“Maybe because it’s yours?”
“Perhaps. The next question is how local is this effect?”
The blockage level is being chipped away at, presumably by the team at the airbase. There’s a lot of blockage to clear.
Sy grabs a stone bookend, holds it out. It hangs in mid air. He recites the list of known facts. “Photons move. Organic things don’t. Live things don’t, Things that have been manufactured don’t. Bother.”
Plink. Plink. The blockage level continues to lower. The other Courtiers around the world appear to be joining in.
Ragnison, a Lord of Order, looks at the pigeon on his desk with distaste. “Please don’t leave that there.”
Zabeth determines that the moon is moving, but at about 1/28th the speed it should. The Earth is not rotating, but the moon is continuing to orbit the Earth. And she deduces that the Earth is continuing in its orbit, or else the Moon would leave it behind.
Simon insists, “It’s an attack!”
Zabeth replies, “It could be an attack. It could a puzzling, a pausing, a provocation, or something annoying for our amusement or pleasure. I don’t see it as an attack. Yet.”
Captain Barron comes walking up. Simon tells him, “I recommend you stay on property. If you must leave property, I suggest you do it very fast.”
“Leaving seems to be popular. These scary guys in uniforms have been showing up and taking people away. They seem happy to go.”
Simon runs to the building. It’s pretty empty. The Armenians are here, but most of the others are gone. A fellow in a blue uniform strides up to the laptop and opens it.
Simon hits the watch and puts his hand on the laptop, slamming it shut.
The guy in the uniform lifts Simon’s hand from the laptop, and opens it again. “It’s quite all right. I’ve come to take the children the rest of the way.”
“Please do us the courtesy of telling us when there’s a crisis of earth-shattering proportions unfolding on top of us!”
Three children followed by Rene come tumbling out of the screen, giggling. Two of them are holding glowing staves, one pink, one violet. One yells, “Fear my pink line!” The two start… jousting? The Angel beckons, and the children quickly stop their playing and line up in front of him. He whisks them away.
Simon says, “Rene? The corporal there is taking the people away. The implication is that it’s no longer safe here.”
“I realize that.” Rene shrugs. “But I’m already dead.”
“It could still get worse,” Simon warns.
One of the Armenians offers, “Perhaps I can clear things up…”
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2010
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved