Jack reached them just in time.

“Garian! What have you done this time?” he yelled, “You know its not supposed to…”

“… End up like this,” Garian finished for him, his voice a thin whisper, full of barely disguised hatred. Oh my God, I sound just like Carbon Garian. But then, I'm not doing much that's different. Running around, breaking things on purpose to see what happens. Killing people. Breaking girls' hearts…

“Garian, what's wrong with you? Look, I'm sorry I left you behind for so long. I had urgent work to do. Top secret Agency work.”

“Snakebirds only, huh?” asked Garian.

“Now, don't start on the ridiculous conspiracy theories!”

“All this paranoia, its hardly surprising. Communication is just terrible between the Agency and the rest of the world these days, isn't it?”

“Kurtliegen?” asked Jack. It was difficult to see what was going on in the pitch dark. Tracy hadn't said she'd turned off all the lights here as well!

Suddenly, his senses picked up something that made his tail feathers stand on end. He threw up a maximum level force field, at the same time preparing an attack that would plane straight through the middle of the timeline of any stupid enough to attack him. The glowing blue light had the secondary effect of lighting up the area around him. He could see three Garians, one slightly faulty, the Warden and…


“Jack, I know what you're thinking but I'm not infected and I demand an audience with the Court of the Air this instant,” she said, “I've been out of the circle for a long time and I have a right to know what's going on…”

“Step away from her!” ordered Jack, before dropping into a barrel roll that sent a vortex of energy spinning towards the other bird. She darted out of the way, the force from the attack still slicing off some of her feathers. Dipping her wings, she dove straight through the floor, emerging from the ceiling behind him, as Garian-2 had seen glitch-Garian do. Then she flapped her wings and sent a dust-storm of pixels flying at Jack. A few of them hit him, causing his image to break up momentarily. He cried out in pain but stabilised almost immediately, his force field blocking Perdix's attack as she flew towards him, attempting to wing him with a golden blade of force.

Garian-2 had never seen snakebirds fight before. With their agility and perfect flight control alone, they would make formidable opponents. They used forces more primal than the elements. Few people wielded elemental magic, fewer still could control raw energy. He had fought a few psychics and mages himself. Sean was one of the most powerful living psychics. He was mildly psychic himself but he only knew how to telementally control fire for short periods in battle. He had heard rumours that Snakebirds could control time and fate. He had even seen Jack turn back time, although he had assumed that was some weakness in the flow of time in the Parallels, not Jack'sown ability. He supposed Kaiser could be controlling the data memory system through some kind of fate magic. This was something different again. They ducked and dove in and out of time, appearing before they had left to strike at each other from behind, cancelling each other's attacks, cutting years from each other's lives. Space was rippling around them, time was slowing down and speeding back up in jerky movements, like lag. He wondered if he was putting himself in danger by standing so close, like accidentally ageing twenty years. This is a battle for deities, not mortals.

He backed off towards the corner of the room – he was in the Lavian Ruins again, specifically the room with the four pedestals and the cupboard that functioned as a holding cell and/or desk. Kurtliegen was trying to edge around the side and get to the door but Jack had spotted him and erected a force field around the door. Occasionally, the bird would slap him back away from the door as he flew past, to briefly halt his repeated attempts to electrocute the barrier into submission. So, thought Garian-2, Jack really is trying to keep Kurtliegen out. Why would he be worried about the Warden finding whatever he was hiding, rather than, say, Tracy? Come to think of it, Tracy wasn't there at all. The cupboard was still intact. Garian-1 had begun absent-mindedly knocking on the wall where the cavity was. Had she been in the cupboard, she would have responded, unless she was having one of her fainting fits.

There was an almighty crash of thunder and blue lightning filled the room, followed by a shower of blue feathers. Jack shot past Garian-2's head, almost catching his claws in the man's hair. The shield of energy around him was crumbling. He squawked something at her in their own language, which she immediately followed by what sounded like a cutting remark. Then she darted straight at him again. She fought a little like glitch-Garian had done, clipping through the borders of reality, disappearing through the walls and floor like a stage magician (he wondered whether that was how his clone had walked through the stage in the first place… but hadn't he found the lost items BEHIND the stage?).While Jack's strength was superior, he clearly wasn't expecting her to fight like this. The blue Snakebird flapped his wings and Garian heard a familiar noise as the room began to flash blue again. He ran to the far corner of the room, hoping that the effect had a limited range.

“What the… Jack, that's cheating!”

“So? You were cheating too!”

“That's not a bug, its a feature!”

“This isn't a friendly competition anyway. I'm fighting to save the Universe, so anything goes!”

“Save the Universe, my a…”

The yellow bird's insult was cut off as a blue blur darted towards her. Where before he had simply been fast for a bird of his size, he was now practically invisible to the naked eye. At first Perdix was surprised and darted back, her force field flickering as she took a glancing blow from the furious attack. Half a second later, she was going at the same unreadable speed.

Even at the velocity they were reaching, Jack still found time to put up the force field around the door again. Garian-2 heard a thump as Kurtliegen forgot he had already tried it, not realising that Jack had rolled back time. The Warden snarled and clenched his fist, then made a sweeping movement downwards with his arm. Like monstrous vines, a series of large black cables burst through the ceiling, picked up the obelisks and flung them at the barrier. By the smell, they had been something to do with the floodgates in the sewage system. They rebounded with a crash. One of them almost fell right on top of glitch-Garian. The other two almost hit the birds, upon which the force field around them caused it to explode violently.

The dust never cleared. In the middle of the suddenly stationary cloud of debris, a black shape flew towards them. A portal closed upon behind him.

“Jack, exactly WHAT do you think you're doing?”

Garian-2 tried to laugh but discovered he physically couldn't – he was rooted to the ground. He was aware of the conversation but he couldn't interact with his surroundings, even his own body. Jack looked as if he was having similar issues. He was stuck with the same action over and over again – flapping his wings and opening and closing his beak. Only Kaiser was moving. The two birds were communicating somehow, even though Jack couldn't form words. So it was true. Snakebirds had their own way of communicating, different again from their unhackable Data Memory electronic network or their way of interpreting each other's body language. A way that required no movements whatsoever.

He mentally sighed and waited for them to finish.

Are you determined to destroy what is left of the local space-time continuum? The physical structural damage alone is enough to collapse the place! Are you aware that this is a vital stress point in the Inner Barrier?

Kaiser, this is an emergency! Look… dammit, did you timestop me? You big hypocrite!

I stopped space. Time is still going. If you don't tell me the truth, I'm just going to leave you there. You'd still age if I did that, you know.

Just look over at the other bird, moron! Do you know who that bird even is? Or was it too long ago for your goldfish memory?

Is that…?

Perdix. The bird who got lost, then became infected.

Was presumed to be infected! And I'm not!

That's just what an infected bird would say if they wanted to save their own ass!

At the expense of the entire Universe? Some of us aren't like you, Jack!

Will you two kindly not descend into bickering like barely hatched fledglings squabbling over their mother's attention?

Does that mean I have your attention? Could I, perchance, be allowed a proper trial instead of this lunatic trying to erase me from the timestream?

You know I can't let you out of this room if there's a chance you're infected, never mind into the courtroom where you can infect every other bird.

How many of us are even left, Kaiser?

Only three, the bird's feathers visibly drooped, which is why I consider the lives of Jack and Regina so precious.

Where is Regina? That was Jack speaking.

On her mission, which is to be kept private from you. She has also just been told not to approach any other birds until I personally tell her it is safe. If we are infected, she is under orders to use the Kill Switch.

Why do you even have that thing running? Listen, I… guess I can't prove I'm not infected… you've got all the fancy machinery. I've been trapped in an area of unused space for several thousand years. By the way, do you really think I would put myself through that kind of hell if I was the sort of bird who would lie about being infected by the Enemy?

If you have no way to measure infection, its entirely possible you don't even realise you're infected. A major infection would be obvious to you but a small, subtle infection could lie dormant for thousands of years without you noticing. I've been patching small holes in the prison, they show up on the scanner way before they're big enough to become detectable by our senses.

Then how do you know you're not infected, Jack?

Do NOT start finger-pointing at each other! Jack checks himself constantly with the machines, that's how we know!

Then check me as well!

Don't! She's not safe to allow any further away from the Barrier!

I'll be the judge of that! Perdix… you said you'd been in an 'unused space''?

That's right. After being hit, I retreated there without realising there was no way for me to get back out. And before you ask, there was no way the space could have been infected. Its a prototype that has never been updated since long before the Enemy was brought here.

I'm more worried about whether the Enemy infected you directly when it hit you! It must have done you some major paradox damage! You would have been left wide open to corruption!

That's why I retreated so quickly. The Enemy couldn't find me any more and believed me futurekilled.

It could only have taken a moment…


What is it now, Jack? Don't yell!

Kurtliegen escaped your space-stop!

Why, so he has! I wonder how he did that…

You… you let him walk right into where I was keeping him away from!

What's with your obsession with keeping people out of Two Alternate Alpha? Who cares what the Warden does?

Yeah, Jack, we were all wondering just the same thing ourselves!

It… its the end of the Universe… do what you like with Perdix. She won't leave this Island. Nobody will, any more. Not until everything ceases to exist. Which will be in… let me see… about half an hour's time.

soh17.txt · Last modified: 2011/07/26 22:51 by doan
Recent changes RSS feed Creative Commons License Donate Powered by PHP Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki