________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #4 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The Net.Elementalist and Morph are bent over in a tunnel, surrounded by mole-like creatures, and the roof is caving in on them.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- %Why are we crying?% [Language note: %Text in %'s indicate speech in the language of the planet.% "Quotes indicates speech in our language." The fact that some speech is actually in another language means that, from the character's point of view, they can't understand what's being said.] %...to partly cloudy,% the radio blared. %The central part of the country, especially the Pit area, currently has clear skies but that condition could soon change due to an unusual influx of unseasonably cool winds sweeping down into the infamous Pit heat. Meanwhile here on the west coast the weather has continued much as it has for the last week.% The cafe bustled cheerily, the sun shining brightly down on the beach-side city. Light music warbled from the radio, setting the toes tapping on some of the cafe's patrons. Easy conversation filtered through the air inbetween the songs. Dva, currently as Silence, winced as he exited the doorway, a large rectangle that was set into a wall, where no doorway was before. It a few moments for his eyes to adjust, and he stood there, dazed, as the sounds and sights of a happy city washed over him. One of the first things he noticed was the strange people. Prejudice wasn't a strong trait in the LNH, except for maybe the Self-Righteous Preacher, but something about seeing large round faces, on larger round chubby bodies, really made him feel uncomfortable about being around them. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was their blue skin. One of two people glanced at him, but nothing deep, just idle curiosity. Dva caught sight of a familiar figure, and hurried over to Agent. "No sign of her, then?" he was asking. %Non,% the man, at least Dva assumed he was a he, replied. %Je suis de'sole', monsieur. Bonjour,% he said nodding to Dva as he passed. Dva looked at Agent with a curious expression. Agent looked back blankly. "What?" Dva waved a hand around, indicating the people in general. Agent frowned, then realised what Dva was referring to. "The blue people? Just one of the native species on this planet. Call themselves the Chubs." Dva gave an amused grin. "Don't look at me," said Agent. "I'm just working here. And, speaking of which..." Agent reached out and snared a passing Chub. "Excuse me, miss. Do you know a girl called Missy?" Although Agent obviously spoke in English, Dva again heard the reply in French. %Je regrette que non monsieur.% "French?" asked Dva, after the lady had gone. "Is it?" said Agent, somewhat distracted. "Oh, I see. Didn't think of the language problem. You see," he said, scratching at a cheek. "When I speak, people hear me in their mother tongue. I don't actually know if I'm speaking English or not, but people seem to understand me anyway, so I'm not bothered. And when people say things, I understand them. The actual language spoken is pretty much irrelevant. Unfortunately, reading doesn't work properly," Agent mused. "I can't speak French," Dva said. Agent looked at Dva with something akin to pity. "Then you're going to be in a bit of trouble then." Dva paused, holding a mental conversation, then changed from Dva-Silence, to Dva-Softcentre. "Fortunately," said Dva. "I can. Boarding school did teach me a few things," she said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. "Good, good," said Agent absentmindedly, then abruptly grabbed her shoulders. "Do not, I repeat, do *not*, do that in public around here again. These people are quite relaxed, but that sort of thing may just draw some unwanted attention to us." "What people?" asked Dva, finally turning around to take in the Chubs. "They're all blue!" "So? You're black," said Agent, bluntly, drawing a brief flash of anger from Dva. "Don't forget, we're the aliens here." Dva continued to be amazed at the sights, but remembered something. "Speaking of aliens, where're Morph and the Net.Elementalist?" Agent looked back at the wall they had come through, and Dva turned to follow his gaze. All she could see was a blank wall. _-~-_ The squat humanoid thrust his pick again into the wall beside him. He felt a quiet happiness in the cramped, dark surroundings. He was working, working in the dark, as his gods told him to. He raised his pick again, and took another chunk out of the wall. He could feel the earth all around him, wrapping him up in a cloying sense of homeliness. The walls closed in around him, supporting him with their security. As he worked, he chanted under his breath. %Won't you keep us working - working, working, working? Won't you keep us working - working down below?% It was a kind of hymn, that he and all his friends sung, asking the gods to keep them busy below ground, where they belonged. A tap on his shoulder startled him, the pick nearly flying out of his hands. He turned to see two very strange creatures. Both were taller than him, and therefore stooping due to the low ceiling. One was wearing all black, something he approved of. Never could go wrong with black. The other wore a red outfit, covering him as completely as the other stranger's outfit covered him. The worker blinked a few times at them, gripping his pick, not knowing quite what to do. "Excusez-moi, pouvez vous m'indiquer, ou~ sommes-nous?" one said, effectively emitting a stream of sound the worker didn't understand in the slightest. He gripped his pick tighter, and wished these strange people were somewhere else. "Bonjour? Vous me comprendez?" "Je pense que non. En fait, il a l'air effraye'," the other one babbled. The one who first spoke, the one wearing red, hunched down. "Ne vous inquie^tez pas, nous ne vous faites pas de mal." The worker now didn't care where the strangers were, he just hoped he was somewhere else, where they weren't. "Maintenant, quelque chose difficile." The one in red concentrated fiercely. The worker backed up, bumping into the wall behind him all too soon. "Bonjourno?... Ni hao?... Zdravstvoetye?..." %Hello?% %H..Hello,% the worker replied, not sure what to expect. %Ah, don't worry. we aren't going to hurt you,% the red one said. %We arrived here by accident. Could you tell us where we are?% "Qu'est c'est que t'as dit?" the black one asked. %One moment, please.% Red blinked a few times. "C'est Franc,ais." "Quand as-tu gagne' cet don des langues?" "Linguist Lass me l'a appris. Cela me prend de temps pour le retrouver." "Je suis _alle'_ aux classes pendant trois ans, mais il y a quelques ans." Red turned back. %Sorry about that. He doesn't understand. Anyway, my name is Morph, and he's known as the Net.Elementalist.% The worker stared back, uncertain. %Do you have a name?% %Markeb,% Markeb replied, his nose twitching slightly. %Where... where did you come from?% Red scratched his head. %I don't think the answer would be very helpful. Can you tell us where we are?% %You are here.% Red grinned, putting Markeb on edge with such clean teeth. This was obviously no Mohelmot. The lack of a proper cloak to protect against the dust was enough evidence for that realisation, but all Mohelmot's knew where they were. %Not exactly the answer I was hoping for.% %Where would you like to be?% asked Markeb politely. Perhaps if they went away, he could get back to work. %Out of here. Above all this dirt.% Red looked panicked for a moment. %We can get out, can't we?% Markeb nodded, more puzzled than ever. %Yes, but why?% %I don't like being underground too much. Too confined.% Markeb was astonished. %But.. but..% He was unable to express his thoughts about this completely abnormal idea. To go above? Into the light? Volunteerily? %Please?% Markeb relented. These strange people did not belong down here, and the sooner he got them out, the sooner he could be left alone. %Follow me,% he said, moving carefully past Red and Black, and moving down the tunnel. He looked back to see to see Red shrinking. Morph didn't know why he didn't think of this before. Much easier than stooping. He grinned at the Net.Elementalist, uncomfortably bent over. Net.Elementalist returned a grimace. "Come on," Morph said. "He's taking us to the surface." "I wonder where the others are. No sign of them so far." "Try the bracelet," Morph suggested, leaving the Net.Elementalist to slap himself on his forehead as Morph followed Markeb. Morph studied the little creature as they walked. About half as tall as he was, the creature appeared shrunken, although there was no way to tell for sure due to the long, old mucky cloak it wore. A snout sprouted out the front of the hood, with little whiskers growing from it. What Morph could see of its eyes, they were very large, and pale, obviously adapted to this underground environment. The word 'mole' occurred to Morph, and it wouldn't go away. "Agent? Silence?" he heard the Net.Elementalist say, then cursing as the Net.Elementalist's head bumped into the roof. Morph grinned again. Like the mole, he was able to enlarge his eyes to make full use of what little light had filtered down here. "Ow," complained the Net.Elementalist, hitting his head again. "Try some light," Morph offered. "Flame!" Red light, and heat, burst into the tunnel. The sudden burst took Morph by surprise, and he quickly adjusted his vision to the new level. However, a worse reaction inflicted itself on their guide. It squealed, and curled up into a ball, its head protectively buried in its robes. %Are you all right?% asked Morph, kneeling down beside it. %Light.. light..% it whimpered. "Turn the light down," Morph hissed. The brightness obligingly dimmed, but Morph was left with a few dancing images before his eyes. He shook his head to clear his vision. %Better? The light's gone.% The creature slowly unfurled. It whimpered a few more times, its nose twitching in fright, but it straightened up. %Better,% it said. Their trip continued with little more incidents. As they progressed through the tunnels, Morph began to see other moles, similarly dressed. They looked at the Net.Elementalist and himself furtively, before disappearing into the darkness. Suddenly, they heard a loud CRACK!, and a flash of brightness lit the way in front of them. Markeb cried out again, but Morph thought he saw daylight ahead. He pushed passed Markeb, and continued ahead. A gust of wind hit him, throwing him backwards. Another CRACK! rent the air, and Morph realised that there was a thunderstorm outside, a particularly vicious one, if it could make that kind of noise. Another flash of light burnt into his sight, and he stopped to let his eyes adjust. He heard the Net.Elementalist making his way up behind him. "Sounds bad!" the Net.Elementalist yelled, the wind really pushing at them now. The earth around them jumped in time with another CRACK! The lightening jag had hit the ground with enough force to shake it. This time, Morph was ready for the accompanying flash. "Really really bad!" Morph agreed, yelling back. There was one final blast, before the storm lessened, but this one caused the roof to shake, and actual clods of dirt to fall on them. Behind them, they could hear a scream or two as much larger chunks were torn free. When Morph glanced back, he could see the moles clinging to one another, and he heard the whispers, more plaintive hopes than actual assurances. %It's stopped, hasn't it?% %The gods have stopped.% %We're back to the calm, aren't we?% %So it is as it was before. Isn't it?% %Isn't it?% %Isn't it?% _-~-_ Agent and Dva were sitting in the cafe, letting the cheeriness lift their spirits. Dva tried once again with her communication bracelet, but still got nothing. "Don't worry," said Agent. "I'm sure it's nothing serious." "I hope so," Dva replied. "What are we... You know," said Dva, twisting in her seat to look at the radio, or equivalent thereof on this planet, "that music is really... blank. Nothing to it." "Lift music," said Agent. "Meant to please the ears, but that's it. Pretty much sums up this culture, though," said Agent, glancing around. "Very superficial people, really." "What are we doing here then?" Something caught Agent's attention, and he held up a hand. Dva listened, and heard that the music had been cut off. Good so far, she thought. %We interrupt our regular program for this special announcement,% the radio reported. %Our telometer is reporting that a large storm has developed in the vicinity of the Pit area. Any travelers who might be headed towards that distant region are encouraged to delay further plans until this storm has passed.% The light muzak returned, and Dva switched off. "Sounds ominous," she said. Agent nodded. "Still, it's nothing that concerns us." "I wonder if that's where the boys are." _-~-_ Morph stood above ground, drawing in lungfuls of air. The sky overhead was darkening threateningly, ready to followup on its violent promise, but Morph felt good to get out from underground. The ground looked dry and broken, burnt by too much heat from the sun. Morph could understand why the moles wanted to keep off it. "I don't like the look of this weather," said the Net.Elementalist, his head turned upwards. "Looks like a very bad storm." "We already had a very bad storm," said Morph, shivering slightly in the too cool air. He thickened his skin. "Not much worse could happen." To prove him wrong, he felt splashes hit his body, and he also looked up, and saw rain starting to pour. "We'd better get back inside," said the Net.Elementalist, the wind picking up again and moving his hair about. Morph felt a twinge of unease at seeing the back of the visor that was grafted onto the back of the Net.Elementalist's head. He said he didn't feel it, but it looked spooky, all the same, to Morph. "Not too far," Morph said, letting the Net.Elementalist lead the way. They entered the main tunnel, although there were several entrances leading downwards. After taking a couple of steps in, Morph turned to watch as a trickle of water crept inside. As he stood there, he heard the rain pick up, now coming down in bucketfuls. Before his eyes, the rivulet grew, and the water quickened. "Uh, I think we could be in a bit of trouble here," said Morph, nearly burning himself as he picked at the Net.Elementalist's arm. "The water's coming in." "So? Must happen all the time. I'm sure the people here considered that sort of thing before building this entire underground complex." "Oh yeah? And what do you base that assumption on? It feels rather hot, despite this cooling rain. I doubt they've ever had to bother with rain." Morph listened closely, and heard a quiet crooning from further down the tunnel. "They don't appear to be too happy about this." Morph stood at the edge of the tunnel, but the water had increased, and now kept his feet wet. "In fact, I think it would be wise if we started getting those people out of here. It can't be safe." "Listen," the Net.Elementalist said. Morph stood silent, water rushing freely over his feet. From the down the tunnels, he heard panicked calls. %The tunnels!% %The tunnels are filling!% "We've got to help," said Morph. "The lower tunnels are filling up." "What? That can't be possible," said the Net.Elementalist. "You saw the number of entrances they have. If the water is as bad as this," Morph pointed to the water, now creeping up to his knees, "I'm not surprised the lower chambers are getting water clogged." "All right, let's see what we can do," the Net.Elementalist strode off, and Morph moved to follow him, but hesitated. "You coming, or not?" asked the Net.Elementalist. "Yeah," said Morph. "Yeah," he repeated, not so confidently this time. Going down... into the earth... people needed help, but... The Net.Elementalist could see his struggle. "Stay here," said the Net.Elementalist. "Make sure these people get out." Some of the moles were already passing them, some holding what must be children, clutched tightly to their chests. "I'll see what can be done lower." Morph felt relieved, but also ashamed as the Net.Elementalist moved off, yelling "Net!" What a way to let people down. Turning to his task, trying to forget what he had just done, Morph shouted. %Out! Get out! You'll be safer outside!% The moles were slow to move, hesitant of going outside, and also suspicious of this newcomer, but Morph gave them a push, and yelled at them some more. Eventually, they moved. By now, the water was up to his waist. Shapes continued to move past him, the moles in mass exodus now. %Go! Go on!% Morph wondered what where the Net.Elementalist was, but had to give the thought up, now with the water up to his own chest, he knew he had to get out himself, or risk drowning. Outside, the rain was a solid sheet of water, but still very warm. Morph could barely see a foot in front of him, but could make out several shapes of moles huddled together. One, it could have been Markeb, for all Morph knew, was crying, and Morph could just hear him over the pounding rain. %Our home... gone... our home...% Morph needed a solution to this problem, and one came to him. Knowing that it wasn't going to be easy, Morph pushed himself to stretch up and outwards, in a disk shape. To make up for not being able to help below, he made himself as thin as possible, and stretched himself out as far as possible, covering the moles from the rain above. Directly below him, he could see some looking up in wonder at this sudden cessation of torment, and others pointed at him, whispering among themselves. It hurt to be so spread out like this, but Morph kept it up. Surprise overcame him as some of his edge bumped into something. Moving his eyes around, he found that several parts of himself were touching earth, and Morph realised that he was in a giant kind of pit. And what had happened in the tunnels was merely a precursor to what would inevitably occur here, as Morph couldn't block all the rain out. Forming mouths in many places, he called out %Up. Climb up. Get out of the pit!% It took a few moments for his words to sink in, but already several moles were grabbing at the sides of the pit, and hauling themselves up. Morph could do little but try to shelter as many as possible as they all struggled for the sides, and for escape. A small disturbance altered Morph, and he focused his attention to see the Net.Elementalist flying out of one of the tunnel mouths, which was now almost fill, his suit white. He was holding some of the moles, and he set them carefully down. "We're in a kind of pit," Morph yelled. "Get them out!" The Net.Elementalist nodded, and headed over to a wall. Once there, Morph saw the rain slow slightly, while the moles' movements quickened. Judicious use of lag, Morph thought. Finally, Morph was able to retract himself, as most of the moles had escaped. He easily extended himself to the top of the pit, but once there sat down exhaustedly, away from the edge. The earth had turned to mud in the torrent, which was still continuing, and parts of the banks were crumbling. He saw moles huddled together, looking forlornly at their previous home. A red figure moved through the rain, and warmth announced the presence of the Net.Elementalist, now in control of the flame element. The Net.Elementalist sat down beside him, water steaming as he kept the heat high. "I wonder what happens now," the Net.Elementalist said. "This place was their home," said Morph. "What would you do if your home for all your life was destroyed." "Yeah," said the Net.Elementalist, a far-away look in his eye. "I kinda know what it's like to lose your home." Morph heard a commotion around him, and stood up. %Come gather!% he heard. %I have something to say!% Motioning to the Net.Elementalist, Morph made his way carefully over the mud, and found a congregation of moles, all looking at one in particular, who didn't look that special to Morph. %There is no home where we reside, if there is nothing down deep inside,% the creature pronounced. %Except a serpent sitting beside a promise of nothing except suicide.% Moles moaned, identifying with the image presented. The speaker held up a hand, continuing. %I have been told,% the creature continued, %deep in my dreams, that there is hope, and that it seems all that we seek was seen by the sea; yes, safety and comfort do dwell by the sea.% %The sea, the sea.% It was taken up, as a kind of chant. %The sea, the sea.% Morph looked around, amazed. These people's homes had just been destroyed, and they were already talking about founding a new home, by some sea. %The sea! The sea!% The moles moved away, all heading in one direction. Morph and the Net.Elementalist followed, more out of curiosity than anything else, Morph explaining what he heard. All the moles were present now, a huge mass in the pouring rain. All walking, walking for the sea. "Shall we follow?" asked Morph. The Net.Elementalist shrugged. "Why not? This way seems as good as any. Until we can find the others, we may as well stay with them." Morph nodded, and they joined the mole migration, heading for the sea. _-~-_ The rain lessened as the day passed on, and the sun burst out. The Moles were forced to take cover from the light, and the Net.Elementalist and Morph took the opportunity for a quiet sit. Their feet were sore, though Morph toughened his against the constant thudding of walking. "They've got a really low tolerance to light, don't they?" the Net.Elementalist commented. "If they've been underground most of their lives, I'm not surprised," replied Morph. Something distracted him, and he turned to see a hand beckoning him into nearby cover. Morph rose to his feet, motioned to the Net.Elementalist to stay seated, and moved over to the hand. %Why do you come with us?% a mole asked. Morph decided that it must be Markeb, as no-one else had ever talked to them. %We don't know where we are,% Morph admitted. %We have friends somewhere, and are hoping to get in contact with them soon.% %The sea will help you. The sea has everything.% %And you have nothing?% There was a pause, and Morph wondered if he had offended it. %Yes. Everything we had. Never before had so much water fallen. Our Pit was hot. No water fell. Nothing like that happened before.% Morph kept a respectful silence, looking at the sun, slowly dropping towards the horizon. %Why can't you go back? The water will drain away.% %The Pit is ruined. No, now we go to the sea. The others are there. They will help us.% %Others? Others like you?% Morph asked. %No, not like us. They build cities, and live in the sun. I do not know how they survive. They don't work!% The mole said this as if it was blasphemy. Perhaps it was. %How long will this take?% %We don't know. None of us have gone to the sea before. We travel as we can, when the darkness cloaks us.% Four hours later, the sun was dipping below the trees, and the Moles rose from their hiding places. A cool evening breeze played over them as they started their journey towards the sea. Morph heard them laughing and joking amongst themselves. They had one life taken away from them, but they had also been given the chance at another. Morph and the Net.Elementalist kept to the back, not feeling like they were part of the group. The Net.Elementalist continually scanned around them. "Do you think we're going to be attacked or something?" Morph whispered. The Net.Elementalist shrugged. "Maybe. They might be safe in the dark, but I can't see where I'm going. I can't exactly light up, can I?" Morph nodded. Not after the result of last time. Not when they needed the moles' help. "Stay here," the Net.Elementalist said suddenly, looking in one direction. Morph followed his gaze, and saw something moving, silhouetted by the sunset. "What is it?" "That's what I'm going to find out. Thread!" The Net.Elementalist took off, and Morph watched him fly towards the source of the movement. He turned back to the tramp, then a thought hit him. How the hell was the Net.Elementalist going to find them again? _-~-_ The old man sat down on a rock, over looking the long valley that the Moles were passing through. He had been protected from the force of the storm by his height, but he had seen the devastation. Something flashed, but before he could react, a man, or at least, man looking, landed beside him. The newcomer's skin was white, unlike his clue, but then it faded to black. "Bonjour," said the stranger. %P..Pardon?% the old man asked, not understanding. The stranger then muttered something else he couldn't hear. %Hello. I friend.% Hmm, couldn't talk properly. Must have something wrong with him, the man decided. %What are you doing here?% the man asked, but saw only puzzlement on the stranger's face. The man sighed. %Why... you... here...?% asked the man slowly, gesturing at him, and indicating the ground. %Them,% the stranger replied, pointing down into the valley. The man returned to his contemplation of the shadows. He could see them moving, and knew that the Moles were on their way. He considered the journey that lay ahead of them especially their reception. %Tell them to look out,% he said. %I lived out there, with the others. Long time ago.% The man could see that the stranger couldn't keep up with him, but continued to talk. %I was kicked out. Hah! Me. I've lived a long life, and done many things. I have been deceived. I have murdered, and I have seen the soul of an unborn lamb. It can burn a hole in a guilty man, but it cannot stand in a distant land. %And this land is very distant, indeed. %Tell them, good luck. They'll need it.% The man turned away from the newcomer, with his weird changing skin. He could sense the stranger for a while, but nothing more was said. Eventually, the stranger must have decided he had had enough, and shouted something that sounded like "Reseau!" but the man couldn't be sure. When the man saw the stranger pass by again, his skin was once again white. _-~-_ Morph continued to walk, now feeling tiredness sweeping in. The day had been busy, and he was fairly exhausted even before he arrived here, although he wouldn't admit it. The moles were smiling, moving with a fresh bounce in their step. Morph envied their lack of fatigue. They also sang. Eight words, over and over. The Net.Elementalist touched down beside him. "Weird guy," the Net.Elementalist said, "but he seemed harmless enough. I think he said 'Good luck'." Morph glanced at him. "You should think about picking up some other languages." "I managed to say 'Hello'," replied the Net.Elementalist, sounding miffed, but unable to hide a smile. Then unable to stifle a yawn. "I know," said Morph. "It's getting to me, too. Doesn't seem to be affecting them." The Net.Elementalist looked over the moles. "What are they singing?" "'Let our children live in a holy land'," Morph translated. "It seems to be a hymn." "How religious of them." "They are a very religious people," said Morph. "According to their gods, they must work, and not live in plenty." The Net.Elementalist made a sour face. "Great. Freedom to the people," he said, sarcastically. Morph shrugged. If that's the way they lived, he wouldn't interfere. Another voice caught his attention. Someone else, a mole, was saying something. %We have left our lives, we have left our land, we have left behind all we understand. Now we must cry out, yes we must demand: Let my children live in a land that's low, where the holes are deeper than light can go. Let them have not pride but instead a soul that can see the shame of the hands that glow.% This new chant was taken up, and repeated. Morph felt a shiver run down his spine at their determination. Heaven help anyone who got in their way. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Can anyone not see what's coming? The Moles meet the Chubs, but can they get along? And what happens if they can't? Find out in _The Alt.Riders #5_! Credit: ------- The Alt.Riders are mine, but the rest are developed from pre-established concepts. Some lines taken from "Mark of the Mole." Much thanks, also, to Anita Easton for helping me with ze fronch. Notes: No, this is not The Grapes of Wrath. This story is based on an album by the (IMO) greatest band of all time: The Residents! To fully appreciate this story, get "Mark of the Mole," (the album this story is based on) "The Tunes of Two Cities" (music representing the two cultures) and "The Big Bubble." (More music representing the two cultures.) Actually, get all their albums. Some of the weirdest stuff you'll ever hear. (I also plan on doing an arc in _World Tales_ based on another Resident's album.)Back to the Index.