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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mark Loren - Tension

I sat on a large slab of stone.  The claustrophobic tunnel was made more so by the debris of fallen tunnel and DRC equipment scattered around.  A pulsing blue light emanated from the symbol on the wall.  There was a lot not being said.  The silence was deafening.

"Well, you'd think we would be used to this by now," I said hoping to get a response from somebody.

"In a sense, isn't this why we came down here?" Flora mused.  The pulsing light of the symbol reflected in her eyes.  "It reminds me of that night in Eder Gira.”

I replayed that night in my mind.  The thundering of the waterfall, the gentle glow of the lanterns, Torri's scream as Artus knocked over a pile of wicker baskets.  A joke in poor taste that lead to a discover very much like this one.

I looked to Artus.  He sat on the outer curve of what had once been the ceiling, now strewn across the tunnel floor.  His face was hidden by a shadow cast by the hood of his lantern.  He was there in the Maintainer's Nexus too; the same night the Watcher's Pub was flooded with explorers clamoring to see what would become known as the Hopi Spiral.

"Well, this certainly isn't the Hopi Spiral," said Hannah; very matter-of-factly.  Mind reader.  She was sketching in a notebook she had pulled from her pack.  "I'm not too sure what's going on with this design.  There's something about it that doesn't seem quite right.  Regardless, the Cavern Crier is going to have a field day with this."

"You sure that's a good idea?"  It was Artus who had spoken.  He sounded almost hollow; like something had broken inside him.  "What are the chances someone else will find this?"

"An informed explorer is a safe explorer," Hannah replied.

"We don't even know what this is, how can anyone be informed about it?" Artus retorted.  His posture in the shadow had changed pulling him up further into the shadow of his hooded lantern.  "Something isn't right here.  We need to stay far away from this."

"And what of the others who stumble into this?" Hannah was getting frustrated.  "Knowledge is built on previous understanding.  If we keep this a secret, everybody will be stuck at square one.". Artus said something under his breath.  "What was that?"

Artus lowered his gaze into the light and met Hannah.  "I said, there is another way."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

David Farwell - Bob O'Goobo Part 5

"You think if people find this they might get pulled into whatever Pantaleon got wrapped up in?" I asked.  I wondered if in my younger years I would have fit the bill Dalken was describing.  "If this is out there already, what exactly can any of us do?  Do we ask explorers not to explore?  Not even the DRC was able to keep people out of restricted regions of the cavern.  How do you propose we do it?"

"Information control," Dalken replied.  Terry did his best to hide a look of shock mixed with anger?  Or maybe it was something else.  "I know. I don’t much care for it either, but it's the best option for the time being," Dalken continued, adjusting his hat.  "The truth is, we don't know enough yet to find a real solution, but the appearance of the Hopi Spiral has forced our hand."

"I guess discovery of this Triple Shell wouldn't go over do well in the wake of everything so far; especially with D'ni Olympics right around the corner."

"Quite," Dalken agreed, flipping through several other KI shots.  Among them I picked out collapsed buildings in the cavern, an Eder Tomahn, a magma filled chamber, and the interior of the Path of the Shell as well as a few other things unrecognizable.  "I still have a good chunk of investigating left to do, but Jessie and I felt it was important to emphasize our reasoning for keeping everything close to the chest.”

"I've already spoken with Jeremy Reinold," Jessie added.  "He was about to share what he knew with D'veeta.  A close call, but I stopped him before their meet."

"And in the mean time," Terry began. "In the mean time, what are we supposed to do?  It's one thing to say business as usual. But we now have compromised positions and an administration that I'm half wishing could hear this whole meeting through the wall."  He had a point.  I could probably slip back in well enough; Meghan would grow tired of my dodging her questions, but Terry had to answer to Mister Magic and the rest of the Grey Hats.

“Well, if you did decide to go tell somebody, it’s not like we could really stop you at this
point,” Dalken noted rather bluntly. He pulled the brim of his hat further down his forehead. “But if any of you remember what happened the last time someone was in real danger and the whole cavern was in a riot, then you know why we need to find alternatives until we have more information.” He paused to take a deep breath. “We have to be careful about who we bring in on this. Lives could very well be at stake here.”

“I’m not so interested in telling anybody about this, this, conspiracy as much as I’m interested in how you plan to convince Mr Magic that my record is clean.”  Terry dropped his crossed arms and raised them to emphasize his point.  “Black Hats.  That’s what you’ve made us.”

“For the record, I wasn’t in on that particular detail,” Dalken defended. He started sending posts and photos to the imager to erase the more sensitive material. “But I have picked up a few tricks over the years relating to the KI and Lattice registries from a friend of mine. Dunno if it’ll be enough to fool the Grey Hats, but it should throw folks off your trail for a while at least.”

“That’s all I ask,” Terry replied.  He took a deep breath and twirled his hand briefly in the air while speaking.  “I’ll keep my lid shut on the issue at hand.  I assume you’ll need my KI too.  I’ll leave it with Jessie here soon.  Now, I think I’m going to retire to the surface.  I’m not looking forward to the morning.”  And with that, he reltoed out.

“That’s probably as good an idea as any,” I said looking back to the two of them.  “Before I leave, I gotta know.  Maybe I don’t want to know, but I got the sense that there was more than one of these Triple Spiral things that you found.  What’s your plan?  Remove them somehow?  Ya know, what?  Don’t tell me.  I need some rest.”  I opened my Relto.  “I’ll be in touch,” I said before linking away.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

David Farwell - Bob O'Goobo Part 4

The door opened and in walked a young explorer.  His boots clicked against the stone floor of the classroom, covered from the ankles up by a pair of plain black jeans. His hat, which shaded his face down to his half-rimmed glasses, oddly reminded me of a black version of the one I’d seen Douglas Sharper wearing in photographs, especially folded up as it was on the side. The resemblance ended there, however, with a goatee in place of Sharper’s horseshoe mustache. What really caught my eye, however, was the jacket he was wearing. It was of a blue fleece, with “The Cavern Today” printed on the front in plain white lettering. On the back was the podcast’s unmistakable logo.

“Greetings, citizens,” he began with an informal salute. “Dalken Starbyne, lead reporter for The Cavern Today. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

"Dalken..."  I collected my thoughts and looked back to Jessie Pollick.

"Didn't I tell you?"  He said.  "I had a fascinating meeting with Dalken here.  He's all but confirmed my theories.

"I'm assuming Jessie’s done the heavy lifting," Dalken said, stepping forward.

"We're not at the bottom of this rabbit hole yet," Jessie responded.

Dalken retrieved a notebook from a small satchel bag he had slung over his shoulder. “As I’m sure Jessie went over with you, an explorer with the KI tag ‘Pantaleon’ came to The Cavern Today a while back,” he detailed, opening the notebook. In it was a list of locations, many of them crossed out, some with ‘X’s next to them, and at the corner was a sketch of a strange symbol I didn’t recognize. It was different from the Hopi Spiral, which was located just below that. “I wasn’t around for that interview, but when I got back to the cavern and heard about it, I felt it warranted some further investigation. A lot of exploring and a rather interesting encounter later, I’d come to some pretty concerning conclusions. Particularly about this.” He pointed at the odd symbol.

I studied the image.  Three spirals nearly conjoined at a central point.  The design reminded me something of a whirlpool.  I looked to Terry, trying to judge his reaction.  He was stoic as ever.  That said, he must believe something of this, otherwise he would have walked out long ago.  “What is it?” I asked.

“That, I believe,” Dalken replied. “Is what Pantaleon referred to as the Triple Shell.”

“Not a very original name,” Terry said looking to Jessie, Dalken, and finally to me.

“For something that isn’t one of Yeesha’s, I’m almost glad they didn’t just call it the ‘three spiral thingy,’” came Dalken’s response. “The intent behind it, however, is a lot more worrying. At least, if Pantaleon’s claims are true. And, given what the Bahro showed me in Noloben, I can understand his panic.”

That was something I did not expect.  Terry’s reaction matched my own: slack jawed, and slightly dumbfounded.  “I’m sorry, the Bahro?” I must have misheard him.

Dalken just chuckled a little. “This is why I take KI pics of everything,” he said, drawing up the aforementioned device. Then, however, his expression suddenly became very dark, a seriousness crossing it that deeply contrasted that of the man who’d just walked into the classroom a few minutes ago. “These are not to leave this room, understand?”

There was more than a tacit agreement throughout the room.  Dalken synched his KI to the imager behind the desk and pulled up his first picture.

“During my investigation, something seemed off to me about the whole thing and its supposed connection to Yeesha’s Path of the Shell. Some of the things mentioned in Pantaleon’s notes and those of his friends didn’t quite fit with how I remembered the Path of the Shell. So I decided to go back and walk it again,” he explained, stepping up to the imager so that he could point out details by hand. “That was when I was paid an unexpected visit by our winged friends. They brought me here.”

“Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone else has all the fun?” I said sarcastically.

"So, what exactly are we looking at here?" Terry asked.  "I'm not what you would call an expert in bahroglyphs."

"I don't know that anyone is," Dalken replied.  "That said, I have spent the better part of the last eight months studying these based on what we do know."  I lost focus momentarily at the thought of another academic dam release.  "I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice to say that my discovery of these bahroglyps gives more than a little credit to Pantaleon's well as a little insight into how many bags of D’nitos one can go through before the flavor starts getting old.”

"Anyway, that brings us back here."  Dalken swapped to a new image on his KI.  It was a match to the previously unknown symbol he had showed us in his notebook, except for the fact that the symbol had been etched into a stone wall and glowed with a faint blue.  "While your involvement began with the Hopi Spiral, my own began last January in Descent, when I snapped this image.”

There was a nervousness that was shared between Terry and myself.  I could see it despite his best attempts to remain stonefaced.  The evidence was mounting, and it didn't look good.  Dalken's pause had been well timed to let it sink in.  "I can't be the only explorer who digs around every crevice down here, but I imagine our ranks are bolstered since the Hopi Spiral became public knowledge.  Hopi Spirals are not the threat.  This is," Dalken said sternly, gesturing to the image on the wall.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

David Farwell - Bob O'Goobo Part 3

"Is that?"  I started.

"Pantaleon's notebook?"  Jessie finished for me.  "Sadly no, " he said, flipping through it.  "It's one of mine.   No less important though."  He flipped through it replacing his marker after a moment and placed it closed on his desk.  That threw me off.

"Takotah II is far from the condemned building we are led to believe it is.  The night of your rather impressive Dr. Watson hologram, the same night the Hopi Spiral was sighted in the Watcher's Pub, I was able to sneak into the old building.  I found Pantaleon's apartment."

"And you know this how?"  I could feel my browline mirroring my question.

"Well, I wasn't certain at first," he responded.  "But it was clear that someone had lived here."  Jessie fiddled with his KI and brought up an image on the imager behind him.  He flipped to the next.  It was a desk covered in notes.  "From this desk I found some clues as to whose room I was in.  Notice anything?"

That you missed your calling as a detective?  "I see KI shots of Bahro Glyps and a copy of Words," I offered.

"There's a Yeesha seal on that book."  Terry was paying closer attention than I was.  "Can't say I recognize the binding."

"It has a Guild of Greeters seal on it,"  Jessie said.  "Yeesha's Journals.  I believe it is their own printing."  He swapped to the next picture.  "It was clear that several people had lived here.  Aside from the two alcoves along the wall, there were also a few cots scattered around the room.

"Reminds me of my first apartment," I chuckled.

"It does have something of a collegiate feel to it," Jessie responded.  I thought back to those years of my life when communal living was the only way to get by and shook it off remembering the reason I had come here in the first place.  Jessie looked down for a moment in thought.  "I had only just started investigating the room when I heard something echoing down the hall."  Beat.  "I remember looking to Jeremy Reinold who had accompanied me inside.  He heard it too.

"Quickly and quietly we moved out of the room in search of the noise.  Most of the rooms in the building were bare; some were shut and locked, perhaps from the inside.  Moving down the hall I heard the sound again.  It was distinctly a chair scooting across the stone floor."  Jessie paused to gauge our response.  "I approached the room and peered the corner.  For a moment I saw a man.  Tattered Yeesha shirt; the smell of the desert.  He linked away before I could say anything," Jessie concluded.

Game.  Set.  Match.  Everything carefully timed and executed.  Some things connected; others did not.  There were too many questions, but I could almost see where this was headed.  I waited for Jessie to wrap up.

"The room he was in was filled with trinkets.  Odds and ends mostly: a terrarium filled with Teledahn mushrooms; a book shelf with titles by Plato, and Aristotle just to name a few; maps of the ages, mostly hand drawn; and a single parchment identical to the one handed to me by Jeremy Reinold.  Shortly after my KI began lighting up with messages from everyone about the discovery in the Watcher's Pub.  A few days later I released my paper on the Hopi Spiral, which brings us almost up to date."

Terry chewed on his response for a moment.  "So, I take it your release came as 'let's fan the flames' kinda moment?"

"You've heard the rumors," Jessie responded.  "There are some in the cavern who believe that Yeesha has returned.  They think this symbol holds the key to her new Journey.  That kind of thinking can be incredibly dangerous; especially if my suspicions are correct.  Rather than have explorers getting in the way, I shared what information I had in hopes of keeping them out of the more unstable regions of the cavern.  Another DRC cover up is far from what we need."

"Not sure how much good you did," I added.  "For weeks people were searching the ages for anything different.  They must have found Hopi Spirals in every accessible age."

"The Hopi Spiral isn't what worries me," Jessie said sternly.  "Our Mysterious Stranger, whoever it may be, is leaving these symbols around the cavern; usually in difficult to reach locations.  Why?  I don't think it's a coincidence that the Yeesha camp is driven to find these symbols when they are so cleverly hidden.

"Furthermore, the findings inside Pantaleon's room give credit to his own story.  Which makes me wonder, is Pantaleon's story so ridiculous?  There's clearly a connection between him, the Mysterious Stranger, and the Hopi Spirals."

I gave it a moment before I spoke.  " that's... An awful lot to digest," I said.  "How can you be sure?"

Jessie nudged his journal across the desk toward me and beckoned me to open it.  There was a kick at the door.  Then four more.  "Gentlemen," Jessie addressed us.  "There is somebody I want you to meet."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

David Farwell - Bob O'Goobo Part 2

“Pantleon?  That tied up in cavern blue?  I thought that was just an urban legend.”  I said, I had a hard time believing it was anything more than a catchy rhyme that spread around the cavern.

“Parts of it, though I doubt you’ll believe me at my word if I were to tell you my suspicions.”  Jessie had said that with a straight face.  More than that, he had leveled his eyes at mine and was unflinching in his conviction.

“Try me.”  Terry wasn’t buying it.  He crossed his arms and waited.

After a moment, Jessie began digging through a stack of papers to his left; eventually uncovering a report he made last month.  “I’ve been studying the symbols that tie Journeys together for years.  Yeesha Hand, Path of the Shell, Garden Spiral, they all share similar characteristics.”  He flipped through the report until a loose piece of parchment fell from between the pages.  He picked it up and handed it to me.

“Hopi Spiral?”

“This was given to me by Jeremy Reinold on October 9th; nearly a month before it appeared in the Watcher’s Pub.  He said a strange person in a distressed Yeesha shirt gave it to him.”  I held the page up to the light and studied how the light made the discolorations in the parchment light up.  I passed it to Terry who took and said nothing.  Jessie continued.

The passing of time brings the path to the gathered.

“Words 1:38”  Terry caught both of us by surprise.  “What?” he said, finally broken from his stern stoicism.  “Words is a hobby.”

A breach has been cut, and now the paths are joined,”  Jessie answered.

“Yes, yes; and the giving of gifts heals the wound of the builder.  Words 1:39-40   Now, what does any of this have to do with our mystery man?”  Right to the point, I thought.

“If Jeremy’s account is accurate, these are the words spoken by this figure just before he vanished.”

“He linked away?” I asked.

“There was no linking sound.  Just there one moment and gone the next.”

“Believing that, what does any of this mean?”

“This is where we return to Pantaleon.”  Jessie said.  “I told you I have been studying these symbols for a long time; ever since my arrival in the cavern I have been hearing stories about Yeesha; the DRC; and most recently, Panta in Takotah II.  I am a cultural anthropologist by trade; so when I say that communities are defined by the stories they tell I mean to say that the people of this cavern are drawn together by more than an affinity for cavern tours and ahyoheek.

“This phenomena referred to as The Call has led us all either directly or tangentially to this ancient city.”  He was starting to lose me.  “Let me put it this way.  Fantastic things happen here every day; we chalk them up to quantum mechanics; others relegate them to parable.  Our records tell us one story, and we each interpret them differently, but continue to retell the stories.  Why?  Because they resonate with us for innumerable reasons.  Some because of personal connection; sometimes just a desire to connect.  That said, I turn to our records.

“December 19, 2006.  It was on this day that the scream of a Bahro could be heard throughout the ages; and all explorers were linked back to their relto.  The books were reset and it was almost as if the journeys of before hadn’t even happened.  Concerning as this may be, there were structural changes to the cavern; the DRC restricted access to parts of the cavern with the concern that some regions had become unstable.  Furthermore, the Watcher’s Pub changed; Access to the Great Tree and by proxy; explorers were cut off from The Path of the Shell.

“Thanks for the history lesson, but you still haven’t answered our question?”  Terry was growing impatient again.

“Right, and in that spirit I ask again: What do you know about Pantaleon?”

“Aside from the aforementioned cavern blue story, just that he got laughed out of The Cavern Today for sharing some ridiculous story.”

“Was it really so ridiculous?”  Jessie asked.  He was dead serious.  I remembered vaguely when the incident involving Pantaleon occurred, but had never paid it much attention.  It’s rare that the cavern community becomes poisonous, and when it does I have found it best to steer clear.  That’s part of the reason I came to Pahrahtehs.

Jessie continued.  “Pantaleon claimed that his friends had been tricked into taking a journey they believed was meant to restore the Path of the Shell but would ultimately leave the cavern vulnerable to invasion from a conquering race.”  He paused as we let it sink in.  “Why is this any more ridiculous than an ancient underground city inhabited by beings with the ability to write worlds?

“During his time in the cavern, Pantaleon lived in Takotah II; and for these reasons, I needed to get inside to see for myself.  I needed something more before I could choose to either write off his tale or digest the weight of it.

“This is ridiculous,”  Terry said dismissing Jessie’s point.  “All this, to satisfy a whim?”

Jessie held up a notebook. “Don’t you want to know what I found?”