Tuesday, April 29, 2014

15 - Machines In Love

*Data exchange offered: Mom1 to FireDrake One*

*Data exchange accepted FireDrake One from Mom1*

*Data from Prime’s bombardment offered from One to Mom1*

The amount of water now filling the irregular slash in the middle of the continent would change the weather patterns abruptly and Prime had not stopped yet.  He was nothing if not thorough, though it could be that he instructed Glass Mountain to begin this and had not yet changed the order.

*One offered distant Station surveillance from 77*

Sips of information were passed between the two machines instead of the initial flood they had met each other with. They had mutually agreed to try the human concept of ‘restraint’ and ‘romance’.  Mom was not certain how the artificial curtailing of her capacity would lead to this idea of ‘romance’ but was willing to try it.  As she spoke with One she finished processing the last of the Lainz medical cases from her bunks, continued speaking with the Lin writer and monitoring Terence and trading her sensory data that only reached a few kilometres into the atmosphere with 51, 53, 77, 78, 92, 93, 94, 95, and 102, all of whom were as high as they could get. 53 was attempting a new form of combustion to see if he could raise his ceiling. The nineties were keeping an eye on Kyrus and his mission and passing data back to the Hive.

*Hara is in code, exchanging data with the Diryish recordings*

*For a human it absorbs information very quickly*

Mom could feel the buzz of One’s approval.  One could even say he was proud of his builder.  Pride for another entity.  It was a concept that had her circuits well occupied, considering.

*You like this Lin girl, don’t you, Mom?*

*Yes, I do… I can absorb a great deal of nuance from her as we speak, almost as much as Haraklez… Terence is fascinating but he has Agadore to keep him company and to let me know should I be ne---*

The younger Kyrus’s flash of revulsion rolled through Lainz code, drawing the zardukar’s attention.  Everyone who could see and feel code at all, braced themselves. The Hive roared up, landing on One’s scales, and every mist curtain split its images to show everyone what Kyrus was seeing.

A vaguely horse-like monster with black and white and bay mane and tail, eight horse-shaped legs and double hip and shoulder joints.  The head was painted with eyebleed blue flowers and blackwork trellis lines that went from the horse skull onto Five-prong’s antlers and a curly pair of Headsmasher horns as well. The girl on its back had pink trim on her saddle padding and pink decorative ribbons embroidered with dark maroon. Her Hippifrei orange veil was edged in gold and what looked like hundreds of fingerbones.

A zombie winged ferret flew around her head, skin peeling off it in thin, papery flakes.

Everyone who could see, could feel Kyrus’s reaction to this… little girl.  She was a nine or ten year old, with whispy blond hair escaping gold clasps all around the edges of her face veil. She had a gold tooth that showed clearly as she smiled and her other teeth were carved into filigree lace.

Kyrus swallowed hard.  “Siwion of Hippifrei, Alissa, welcome to Lainz!  My name is Kyrus Talain the younger, Kraghanz. Let me apologize for our birds.  We’ll have everyone calmed down shortly.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

14 - My-Beloved-Who-I-Am-to-Marry?

Kyrus and Werfas and Archibald waited on the edge of the badlands where the moonscape touched the desert.  There was a trail but the mushroom shaped formations towered all around and the old road to the Hippifrei grasslands was barely visible.

In a distant crack of tsingy shoving razor points into the sky a flickering light glittered where a breeding colony of bush dragons waved their tails out of the rock.  The boys and their birds were on flight sticks,  just barely hovering over the sand and the birds were sulking because they were wearing traditional bird hoods and couldn’t fly where they wanted and buzz who they wanted.

“Is this… bird… is it safe?”  Archie’s voice was tremulous and he winced as his bird shifted.  “I really wanted to bring my pet.”

“Not a good idea since any kind of report we’ve been getting out of code has just been weird, Arch,” Kyrus said patiently.  “Your bird is fine, she’s just trying to get you to feel sorry for her so you’ll take her hood off.”

“I could do that,” he said but subsided as Werfas and Kyrus both snapped “Not now, Arch.”

The rest of the entourage were all zardukar, the girls and the few boys, from the new flock and they all had the flight stick training as well.  Out of the dozen, all in livery of the Rasheem, with dark blue and gold-edged veils, four of them could ride, fly and code at the same time.  Asha, Ilikrena and Nanatoya were holding code security, just in case the Hippifrei weren’t as friendly as they’d made out to be.  Farfana, riding Salt, was just behind, ostensibly holding the silver banner that marked a Siwion of Lainz, with the gold border showing that it was the Kraghanz himself.  She was set to support Kyrus and Werfas if they had to fight.  It wasn’t a huge entourage but it was supposedly going to be a peaceful welcome.

Archie tapped his quartz.  “We should be able to hear them, soon.”  He held out his stone and Kyrus craned his neck to look. It was through the eyes of a floater, one of the round gas-bags that bushies ate.

Below it, far enough below that the Hippifrei were only visible because their long, distorted shadow stretched so huge, the Princess’s caravan moved.

“Thanks, Arch.  Please keep an eye on them.” The young man beamed.  Then he looked alarmed again as Elegant shook her head and complained.

“Sure,” he said but put one hand nervously on his saddle pommel. “El… Elegant… be good,” he said, voice shaking. “Behnam will be mad at you.”

“I can hear them,” Werfas said.  “Hear their bells?”

“They use bones on their harness, don’t they,” Kyrus asked.  “Hara sent me every kind of information we had on them, on the Lin but we don’t know much.”

“As far as I know.  That's why we call them bone-herds, I guess.”

“They split off from Gregori and Petra after they came here,” Archie said.  “Our records show they argued over how the indigenous animals should be altered and treated.”

Farfana whistled to get their attention and dipped the banner she held toward the defile that was so deep and narrow it was dark even in high sun.

There was an odd motion from the darkness and every warbird suddenly started screaming, flight-sticks soaring up and away from the defile despite their riders snapping the hoods shut and pulling on the over-rides, fighting the birds’ attempts to flee.

“Hold on. Stop!  Tzar stop, stop!” Kyrus had his hands full and Werfas as well, Farfana’s bird had stopped fleeing, hovering, a hundred metres above them. Archie and Elegant were still streaking for the horizon, Arch clinging to the saddle and letting the warbird have her head. Azad on Snakey and Fareen riding Tyrant were apparently very glad to be chasing after him.

Tzar was finally content to let Kyrus steer the stick, this high off the ground and stretched his neck out, beak open hissing at what was pouring out of the crack in the landscape where a road had, at one time, run.

Kyrus knew where Werfas and Farfana where just from the defiant shrieks and hissing from every warbird of his entourage.  The thing that he could finally see, was a monster.  It ran on many legs like an oyuk… hundreds of tiny bones rippling in coordination, moving a bone platform, where a group of Hippifrei sat, huddled together in an unmoving circle, clinging to the bones around them.  Ribs had been conveniently placed to give them handholds.

There were a row of horse skulls on either side and a waving fringe of horsehair all across the back of this thing.  At the front, sitting at the top of a column of vertebrae, made up of the necks of twenty horses, was a single small figure, also swathed in the peculiar orange veils that all Hippifrei wore.  Every bell was hung from that nightmarish neck that swayed ahead and in front.

“Oh ancestor’s shit, great great grandmother’s menstrual blood! Ancestors ancestors ance…” Werfas cursed steadily and in a monotone right behind Kyrus.

The monster, mincing, clicking on its myriad tiny legs, oozed out of the rock and once it was completely on the flat, stopped.  Kyrus could feel the surge in code, even though he had none of the passwords or entries.  The monster crumbled to bits, leaving the Hippifrei standing on the white sand, the bleached bones of their weird creature nearly the same colour. Then the bones and hair scrambled themselves together again into twenty discrete horses, one with each of what where clearly the Siwion of Hippifrei’s escort.

When her creature had come apart, she had never dropped to the ground, her horse molding itself together under her.  Her horse was bigger than the others, with other creatures as part of its structure.  It had towering horns and skeletal wings and eight legs. 

They are fakin’ powerful necromanders, Kyrus thought, sickly.  That… girl… is like the one who attacked us on the way to Lainz.  His stomach knotted and it was all he could do to make the flight-stick descend, even as the girl on the monstrous bone horse creature, flung what looked like a ferret with wings up toward him.  “Hello!” She said in formal Lainz as her --- dead--- pet hovered over his head. “I’m Alissa!  Are you my beloved-who-I-am-to-marry?”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

13 - Something Red as a Scarlet

In code, the ravaged, broken and bleeding hulk of the hut lay scorched, on it’s side like an injured warbird.  There was only a single foot under the hut though, instead of two.  The bird foot that had supported the walls was curled into a bloody knot just below where the polished bone jutted out of blackened hide. Ilax stood by the wall made up of interlocked bone and with upraised hands called down the rain, as Kyrus gently straightened and pulled rock and rubble away from what had been his ancestor’s code-hub, central to the creation of Gregor and Petra Lainz’s share of the terraforming of the planetary surface.  Like Prime’s Glass Mountain.

The rain Ilax was holding for his husband served two functions.  One to clean and repair the ancient, damaged systems and the other to hold the grey cloud and fog over everything so that Glass Mountain could not see them.

“Why such  grotesque images?” Ilax wondered out loud.  “A bone wall, a bone path, a hut that must have looked frightful bouncing around on what looks like a gigantic warbird’s claws?”

“I understand from Thriti-in-code that this is the kind of Earthan images that all our ancestors grew up with.  From an old, old myth cycle.”

“The way we teach our children about the ‘Giant Snow-Bakon’ or ‘The Girl Who Mandered Water’.”

“Yes.  But I grew up with ‘Canyon Mouth’, ‘Many-Coloured Bird Steals the Sun’ and ‘Rolling Rocks Chase Blue Wolf,” Kyrus answered.  “These are so old that only Dag has seen them in any kind of repair.”  He set his hands on the broken code, the injured leg looming over his head, soot and blood trailing down his hands and arms in the rain.  The Hive came to his call and began cloaking the injury with their millions of bodies, humming soothingly.

“If we can fix this then we don’t need to break into Glass Mountain.  We’ll have a way to open the moon station to us, since the links are still there, I think.”

“Mom says that she and the FireDrakes can be configured to get someone up to the moon, if we can keep the Station from betraying us.”

“Yes.  And that is where our young friend Terrence will be able to help us.”

“Your Radiance.  Surdeniliarch. Time to come out now…” The Hive buzzed and the zardukar called them out, like chimes, like bells ringing, like plucked harp notes.

Kyrus straightened and the swarm of code bees continued the delicate, intricate work of repairing the hut on warbird feet. “Thank you.  We’re coming.  Has the Hippifrei princess arrived yet?”

“No, Radiance.  Your son has gone ahead with a small, flying entourage to meet her.”

Ilax dropped his hands and the rain began to lighten up immediately.  “I could use a solid meal and a hefty glass of raki, love.”

“I’m coming.”

Their forms grew transparent and blew away to their outside bodies, even as he spoke.

Where the stone threshold of the hut lay, over the bone path, a light twinkled in the mound of trash covering the hole and a dozen bees came to investigate.  *Heal. Clean. Repair. Clean.*

The stone-melter bees began to clear away what was revealed to be a clear diamond box, the size of two large fisted hands placed finger to finger and wrist to wrist.  Inside the diamond was a golden cage of wires so thick it was hard to see the iron bars they wrapped.  The diamond box sat in a ruby puddle as if in a pool of blood.  On one side of the box was etched a screaming warbird, picked out in gold, and on the other, the planetary sun.  In the middle of all this protection something red as a Scarlet twitched, then moved, once, twice.  A pause. Then another motion, one-two, one-two, before it settled into a steady, solid rhythm.