033 Those Who Watch the Sky - 33


 33 – Children Changing with the Sky 8

The density of the city became all the more apparent the closer to it that Link, Elliot, and Melody drew. Of more immediate importance though was the lesser wall that separated the peasant quarters from the denser interior. It was not a solid wall as the stone structure that stood several meters even above the twenty-five-meter-tall Dolmen that Elliot piloted had an entry tunnel that was large enough for several Dolmen. The corridor was bookended by portcullises and was clogged with the late morning traffic of farm wagons and primitive steam trucks. The entire scene was watched over from the parapets of the wall and two fortified towers on either side of the portcullises. Also standing watch were two silver colored Dolmens of the same potbellied and armor built to the skeleton design as the one Elliot piloted. Unlike Elliot’s rather scruffy Dolmen with its shattered head though these were also marked by the tri-cross of the Cardinal church upon the breast and shoulders. As Elliot’s Dolmen neared the two Cardinal Church Dolmens stepped forward from the wall and lowered their massive lances towards his.

- Cease operation of your Dolmen immediately and state your intentions for your visit travelers -

“I don’t think that’s a good idea!”

Cupping her hands to her mouth Link yelled up at the church Dolmens. It was an unnecessary action as the equipment of the Dolmen’s could easily pick out her voice from down near the feet of Elliot’s Dolmen. Link didn’t really care and wanted to make herself heard, though she did pull away at least her left hand to point back at Elliot’s Dolmen and the corpse of the White One dragged by the tail behind it.

“If he turns it off he’ll have to drop that and it doesn’t look safe to do so!”

“How can Link just yell at total strangers like that?”

Ducking as much into the cockpit as she could while peering out from the partially open chest plate of the Dolmen, Melody tried to comprehend Link’s casual approach to addressing the Dolmen pilots. Elliot was less curious and more exasperated.

“She always does this. It didn’t matter who came to Cross she would start pestering them with no concern for procedure. I don’t know how she hopes to convince the Cardinal Church to help us with that approach of hers. I better cover for her before things get out of hand.”

Reaching up to one of the dangling keypads above him in the cockpit Elliot turned on his Dolmen’s exterior speakers.

- You’ll have to forgive me for not being able to power down the AGG safely as I’m an amateur pilot. I can kneel down if that’s acceptable however, though you should be aware that this model is equipped with an AGG revolver stored in the left thigh. -

“U~gh! Why’d you have to tell them that Elliot. You need to keep some secrets when you have to bargain.”

Returning her right hand to her sword strap and placing her left on her hip Link looked back at the Dolmen and pouted at Elliot within. As much as Link groaned about Elliot’s approach his more tactful response netted him a response from the other pilots. Drawn by the crackling of their external speakers Link looked back at them as they addressed Elliot.

- An amateur? Are we to presume then that you and your traveling companions are infected? -

 - That is correct. Icarus’ Eyes were half open when we were infected and have closed once since. Our possession of the Dolmen was by chance and necessity to slay the beast that I currently have with us. It was our hope that arriving by Dolmen with our vanquished foe in tow would be enough to prove our worth to the Cardinal Church. -

The exchange of Dialog between Elliot and the other Dolmen pilots elicited a most interesting response in Link’s opinion as they started spreading away as if pushed out by some invisible force. The parting of the crowds however allowed the necessary room to lay down the massive body of the White One and one of the two Dolmen pilot’s gave Elliot the go ahead.

- Your situation is understood. Proceed to kneel the Dolmen and then vacate it. -

- Understood. –

Acknowledging the command of the Dolmen pilot, Elliot commanded his Dolmen to kneel and lowered the corpse of the White One to the ground with utmost care. With the White One safely on the ground Elliot began the shutdown process for the Dolmen. The machine grew dark and a loud hiss of hydraulic gasses emitted from the machine as it fully opened the chest plate exposing Elliot and Melody to the careful watch of the other Dolmen pilots. Melody’s appearance elicited an immediate response from the Dolmen pilots and she leapt back fearfully, bumping into Elliot as he exited the cockpit.

- Explain the presence of the monster immediately! –

“El~liot…!”

Melody whined out Elliot’s name fearfully as she tried to press into his chest for protection. Elliot wrapped his left arm around her protectively but was beat to explaining Melody’s presence by Link, who sounded none too pleased.

“Who are you calling a monster you idiots Melody is our friend and made this whole crazy trip with us!”

“Li~nk…”

Breathing out Link’s name warily Elliot grew anxious as she berated the Dolmen pilots. It was an incredulous sight on its own to see someone who was barely more than a meter and a half tall themselves yelling at the twenty-five-meter tall mechs, but Link naturally made it an even more incredulous scene as she strode forward to confront them. The pilots of the Dolmens were far from inexperienced and legitimately took Link as a threat turning their lances on her.

- Cease you approach immediately traveler! -

“Link!”

Terrified for Link’s well being Melody moved to attempt to get to her but was held fast by Elliot.

“Don’t Melody.”

“But–!”

“If we give them a reason to act then this whole trip will not end well.”

His attention shifting from keeping Melody in check Elliot grimaced as he looked out past the end of the Dolmen’s chest plate to where he could clearly see Link below squaring off against the church Dolmens.

“Still, you just had to have your confrontational tendencies come out now didn’t you Link?”

Elliot’s words and his and Melody’s concerns were extremely unlikely to reach Link who was well ahead of the Dolmen. She was also indignant and had no intention of backing down.

“Do your worst you presumptuous idiots! But know that if you kill me here or send me away then you won’t learn what I know about Hazel Sycamore’s current whereabouts! And trust me, I’m not just throwing that name out there to distract you! My infection is a direct result of his experiments on a Foreigner!”

Elliot and Melody both paled in shock as Link threw her father’s name out there considering the truths they had learned about him after the destruction of their hometown. Those two were not the only ones to be shocked as even the withdrawn cords grew silent at the invoking of the name of one of the two Sowers of Chaos. Link however did not seem surprised in the least that her father’s name elicited such a powerful response. What surprised her was the voice from the corridor through the wall into the city proper that suddenly piped up.

“Did something happen Why’d everyone clam up!”

- Sir! –

The voices of both pilots acknowledged the arrival of the speaker though they did not withdraw their lances. The man who they addressed did not seem particularly fond of the respectful recognition of his authority and groaned.

“I swear. I’ve been in Foothold for way to long if you guys can recognize me by my voice alone. Anyway, everyone try not to make anything worse until I can get a looksie at whatever mess you’re making.”

- Sir–-

“Ah, ah, ah… What did I just say? Do you have any idea how much strain I’m putting on my throat yelling from down here? What a relief this tunnel carries my voice so well or I’d really be straining.”

“Elliot, why does it sound like the person in charge isn’t very smart…?”

“I honestly find myself not trusting them already. This was not how I imagined reaching another town going at all…”

Off as his predictions were about how their arrival at any town would go, Elliot found the appearance of the man who emerged from the tunnel as the portcullis raised to be deserving of his distrust. He was not particularly different from any other adult, icaran man of average build in his mid-twenties, but his short black hair with long and wild bangs obscuring eyes so narrow as to appear closed did not make him appear trustworthy at all. His expression implied though that he was used to being annoyed resulting in a gait that made him look an ill fit for his uniform. His uniform however was what marked him as an important individual despite its simplicity. A cream blazer over white shirt with black tie and trousers with the tri-cross of the Cardinal Church emblazoned upon a shield shaped badge on his left breast. He was no member of the clergy to be sure and that made the authority he had all the more frightening. His slouched posture with his left hand on the back of his head and right in his trouser pocket however seriously undermined him. He was quite comfortable however with himself and approached the situation and Link before him with the confidence and ease afforded by that comfort.

“Yeesh. Here I heard reports of a Dolmen of the same make and model of the church with no markings approaching and thought I’d have to deal with a really weird mess. Instead I’m seeing a bunch of kids, an old heap of junk, and one unnecessary corpse that is way too oversized.”

“Who are you calling a kid

“That would be you girly. Though I hadn’t realized that the infected had taken to exhibitionism nowadays. What exactly is the church teaching people these days?”

“Eh– You can tell that I’m not…?”

Trailing off as embarrassment washed over her, Link feebly and ineffectually attempted to cover herself. The man who so causally humiliated her withdrew his hand from his pocket and pointed at his eyes as he answered her question.

“My eyes may look closed but they actually are open you know. I can see just fine thank you very much. Yeesh, this job doesn’t pay me enough to deal with bratty kids…”

“That wasn’t what I meant…”

Pouting Link tried to retort but didn’t have enough knowledge to try. The way she trailed off however the man picked up as due to her not knowing his name. Sighing loudly, he returned his hand to his pocket and roughly rubbed the back of his head with the other.

“Right. The name is Bird Yuri girly.”

“Don’t call me girly–”

“There are other things I could call an exhibitionist like you girly so you should be happy that I’m settling on that.”

“There’s my name if that didn’t occur to you, you jerk.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re all officially church property now and will either end up dead and forgotten or will become Sa·B·ers and will need new names anyway to remind you of who you will be. Right now though you’re all just slabs of infected flesh, well except for maybe the mouse up there.”

Near imperceptibly squinting as he looked up at Elliot and Melody, the man who introduced himself as Bird studied her with just a hint of curiosity. Melody did not like his gaze upon her but had nowhere to retreat and no authority to. To her relief Bird did not keep her under his scrutiny for long and turned his back on the lot of them. Returning towards whence he came he did not even bother looking back as he continued to address Link, Elliot, and Melody.

“Come on now. Don’t just stand there gawking. We’ve got interviews to conduct to determine if any of you are worth washing in the Light of her Eminence. Of course even if we make that distinction it’s still up to her to save you regardless. Though that may not matter for you girly. If what you said is true… well, let’s just say you may end up being a big help to me.”

Bird did not add anything more and with his back to Link, Elliot, and Melody they could not see the relieved expression that crossed his face.

~ Naivete.
It blinds us to change.
That change which we undergo unknowingly and that which we must achieve to survive.
It leaves us unprepared for the changes the world will thrust upon us.
It leaves us vulnerable to change both benevolent and malicious.
It leaves us open to curiosity and drives us to adventure.
With naivete’s death bitterness or hope fills the void.
For adventures, even false hope is Enough to escape the bitterness of naivete’s death.
With it they continue to yearn for the open sky and the possibilities beneath it. ~



Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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