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December 16 – Yes, Virginia, There is a Tomorrow (Dark Aether)

((This is very rough, but I wanted to get it down and posted while it was still somewhat clear in my mind.  I’m sure other will write their perspectives to add to this basic picture.))

Bookworm sat at the bar in Brunel Hall, sipping a glass of wine.  It was evening, Friday evening, and she was still alive.  And so were the inhabitants of New Babbage.  Against all odds, they’d prevailed.

It had started early in the afternoon at the Clockhaven Power Station.  She and several other New Babbagers had gathered there at the behest of Miss Falcon.  There, they saw a strange symbol inscribed in the snow of the small walkway.  After some time, the Malkuth knight, Sebastian, had finally arrived, demanding candles…and insisting that they needed people to be ready to fly.  Bookworm had rolled her eyes, wondering why he hadn’t mentioned such details before, and helped the others to scrounge enough candles for their purpose.  That done, the arcane ritual started with Sebastian placing a small box in the center.  Chanting and exhortations to a goddess followed, making Bookworm feel rather uncomfortable.

But there was no denying that something happened.  The box mysteriously opened by itself, and a bolt of electricity shot out.  After a moment, Sebastian pronounced the ritual a success.  He finally explained that his goddess and the spirit of New Babbage had worked together to call Cloud Angels to the skies above them.  Now it was time for those with airships to go and find them.

Bookworm had never piloted an airship before, so she stayed on the ground, waiting for the others to find what they needed.  She met Miss Falcon, Mr. Melnik, Commodore Dagger, and Loki Eliot at the Imperial Theater.  They had one of the Cloud Angels, so they went inside to test it on the canister there.  While the others ran interference with the crab creatures, Mr. Melnik approached the canister and set down the cloud angel.

With a shower of sparks and smoke, and a truly hideous sound, the canister exploded, leaving behind only the pile of rubble that showed where it had pushed through.  Cheered by their success, the hunters made sure the other canisters around town met the same fate.  Bookworm especially saw to the one by her own home, watching its destruction with Nat, Arnold, Miss Hermit, and Gadget.

That done, they met back at City Hall, finding Sebastian there.  Before they could learn, or decide, what their next step would be, that choice was taken from them.  Mr. Hopkins of the Van Creed arrived, livid at what they had done.  Sebastian confronted him, and, to the horror of those assembled, Hopkins pulled out a gun and shot Sebastian!

Some of the group, including Commodore Dagger, Miss Falcon, and Arnold, ran after Mr. Hopkins, who was heading toward the Van Creed building.  Bookworm, though, stayed by Sebastian, hoping to somehow help Dr. Sonnerstein save him.  He was wounded too badly, though.  With his dying breaths, he told them that one last Cloud Angel was in the Malkuth crypt, one that Jimmy would have to get himself.  And then he told them that at least one good thing had come from this–they were no longer on the Writer’s path.

With that small consolation, Bookworm and the others, escorted Jimmy to the crypt, making sure no Van Creed members were around.  Inside, Jimmy found the bag containing the Cloud Angel on one of the tombs, which he snatched up immediately.  Upon their exit from the crypt, they found Arnold, panting from his run from the Van Creed building.  He told them Moriarty was there, and had convinced Hopkins to start up their machinery immediately.  He was also keeping the New Babbagers at bay.

That sent Bookworm, Jimmy, and their group scurrying for the Van Creed building as quickly as possible.  They dashed inside and down the hall.  Bookworm was in the lead, and told them to wait, as she peered around the corner.  She could hear the machinery humming, and Moriarty boasting.  Suddenly, a terrifying figure faded into view before them, towering to the ceiling, with tentacles and a terrible eye fixed upon those below.

“Now, Jimmy!” Bookworm yelled, dashing inside to keep him covered.  Jimmy ran in and pulled the Cloud Angel out of the bag, releasing it against the horror before them.  Its release had an effect Bookworm hadn’t anticipated, as she heard Moriarty yell, “What have you done to my powers?!  What is happening?”

“We’re spoiling your story!” Bookworm couldn’t resist yelling, as she watched the monster before them disintegrate.  Unfortunately, the building also began disintegrating, prompting Bookworm and Commodore Dagger to try to herd everyone out.  Emphasis on try, as Gadget and Miss Falcon were trapped on the upper level with Moriarty.  Both Nat and Dr. Sonnerstein went in after them–with Nat even expressing a desire to rescue Moriarty, who was lying senseless.  Bookworm yelled at him to leave Moriarty there, but he wouldn’t listen, and Bookworm had to fall back, driven out by smoke and falling debris.

Outside, she had to carefully pick her way around pieces of the building that had fallen.  It took several minutes before she got clear and joined the ones who had finally heeded their warnings, and several more before she was able to cough her lungs clear.  She turned to look back at what was left of the Van Creed building, but thankfully, before she could start to worry too much, she saw the missing members of their party emerging from the wreckage.  Her thankfulness, though, diminished when she saw what Gadget was dragging–a stretcher with the body of Moriarty on it.

Commodore Dagger caught her attention then, though, asking if she knew the fate of Mr. Hopkins.  Bookworm had asked the others that same question, and learned that he’d run out of the building as quickly as possible, and disappeared.  Ms. Dagger told her to alert the transportation hubs, and make sure nothing left without being sure Mr. Hopkins was on it.  Bookworm left to carry out those orders, though she was sure he probably had his own ways of arriving and departing.

And after that, Bookworm took a little time to clean up and change, and go to Brunel Hall for the party–the party that could now proceed in safety.

Bookworm sipped at her wine again, thinking of her own actions and motives throughout the day.  She wasn’t at all happy that they hadn’t been able to stop the murder of Sebastian; surely she could have stepped in sooner.  And when she thought of how she’d urged those inside the Van Creed building to leave Moriarty there…well, she flushed with shame at her lack of compassion.  And leaving them inside hadn’t been very heroic, even if Commodore Dagger had been ordering her out along with everyone else.

She shook her head as she finished her wine.  ‘I still have a lot to learn,’ she thought.

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  1. Nat Merit Nat Merit December 17, 2011

    That wasn’t quite what happened in the warehouse…

    While the chaos ensued, I’d followed Jimmy inside with my dapper zapper ready to take down any crabs that got in his way. But as the cloud angel wrought its destruction, I found myself trapped within the falling debris of the aether pump. I struggled towards the sound of people shouting to get out, but rubble blocked my way. I heard someone distantly say they thought that was everyone safe and in a panic that I was being abandoned I ran in the only direction that was clear, up some stairs, directly into the still breathing body of Jason Moriarty.

    From where I stood, I could see a clear path to the exit if I dropped from the stairs to the ground a few feet below. I could hear the others shouting for me to leave, but Moriarty’s unconscious face was level with mine and all I could see was how young and helpless he looked …and all I could think of was his story to the hanged man and the way his fellow urchins had treated him, how they’d made him so hurt and hateful. There was no logic to it, I just knew I couldn’t leave him, so I stayed rooted to the spot, shouting at the top of my lungs for someone to come and save him, while dust and rubble fell around me and familiar voices screamed for me to leave him to his fate.

    Eventually two men pushed past me, in the chaos I couldn’t even tell who they were, but the spell of Moriarty’s childlike face was broken. I stumbled from the steps to the ground and somehow managed to get out despite it seeming like the walls were falling around me.

    I wasn’t sure what I felt as Moriarty’s still breathing but barely living body was dragged from the wreckage. But after he was transferred to Gadget’s lab and the others passed the time as Gadget worked by debating the morality and ethics of what was being done, I felt increasingly panicked. I just kept telling myself that I couldn’t have left him to die, that it hadn’t been my decision, my choice to do this. I just kept thinking of his face and how young and innocent and …human he had looked unconscious on the stairs. No one couldn’t have left there, I told myself. This isn’t my fault…

    Then Gadget called us all to witness his success, how Moriarty had been stripped of all of the humanity I’d seen and ‘saved’ as a brain and a pair of horrific staring accusing eyeballs. How the monster had been caged in a programmed clank. And as the enslaved Moriarty was ordered to perform tricks on command, the true horror of what had happened became clear. With a nauseous feeling, I wondered if it would have been kinder, more humane …more human to allow him to die in the warehouse…

  2. Gadget Starsider Gadget Starsider December 17, 2011

    Oh but Nat you should rejoice! An evil man bent on the destruction of us all ‘as instead done us a great service! ‘e ‘as paved the way for a new era for mankind! Moriarty is just the prototype, soon I shall work on my plans to create more advanced clanks for every man, woman, child and beloved pet! We could create vast citys of clanks were death is a thing of the past! Where folk ‘ave cast off their disease ridden, decaying organic flesh for shiny new upgraded bodies! It is wonderous Nat! It’s a Brave New World!

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