Awwww look at the baby. Isn't it sweet. Now I've written some horrible things about babies. I meant every word of them. I will not be taking them back. They are a menace. Tiny little self centered psychopaths who ruin lives just for the shear joy of it. However I've just discovered that babies are internet gold. If your baby goes viral doing something psychotic then you're made for life. Therefore I'm undertaking an extensive reappraisal of my baby hatred. Each little baby is a tiny miracle after all. A completely blank slate with near limitless potential. Then us adults get hold of it and fuck it right up, as is our duty. There are two main ways to fuck a baby up. One is to crush all it's hopes and dreams, by teaching it that it's a worthless failure fit for nothing. To deprive it of anything that might allow it to achieve. The other way is to spoil it rotten and give it unrealistic dreams. Tell that child it can do anything it sets it's mind to. A moron can become a scientist and a dwarf can become a professional basketball player. The only thing stopping it, is other people discriminating against it. For reasons. When you do it that way you have to ensure you give it as many excuses as possible to claim victimhood. Fill it's head with shit and remove every trace of self awareness. So they have no idea that it's their fault they are a cluster fuck waiting to happen. Then send them out into the world. Just like your parents did.
(The copyright to this image is the property of Today Show.)
"Bloody typical." Scarlet snapped, reaching for her firewave. "I spend 30 years studying ancient and alien cultures and you come along and find shit by accident. Have you any idea how annoying that is?"
"No, but I'm guessing it's somewhere between extremely and excessively. Not that this will make anything better, but I only switched mine on by accident." He paused. "Now that I've said that I wish I hadn't. It's actually made it worse."
She narrowed her eyes, then broke into a smile.
"It's annoying. Excessively doesn't even come near to how annoying it is. It's useful though."
She'd finally pulled her own device out. Turning it on as soon as she did. Jake glanced at his. The message was still there.
"Anything happening?" He inquired.
She stared at hers, concentrating.
"Well, whatever's happening here the data from this is being downloaded. It's taking its time though. This could be a bad thing. I don't think it will be. Whoever built this place was long gone before humans ever came into this area in any numbers. They'd have been hunter gatherers at most. Maybe Neanderthals, Denisovans or some earlier human species."
"When you say bad, what kind of bad do you mean?"
"It could be any kind. It might even be that all they want is the data and that's it. Once they have it the whole place might shut down. Use your imagination."
"I wish you hadn't said that. My imagination has just thought up teleportation and probing. We could be transported from her to some lab where they dissect us. Should we prepare for anything? As in get our weapons ready."
"What use would they be? Whoever built this was at least as technologically advanced as modern man. They'll have beam weapons at the very least."
"That's not as comforting as you'd think."
"It wasn't meant to be comforting."
"Alright. It's not as comforting as I wanted it to be. You could just have said no need. Then I could have fooled myself that everything was alright."
"Okay. Everything will be fine. Nothing bad will happen. Only we still have to get out of here, find the others and rescue them. Does that make you feel better?"
"Not really. I know you're lying. I'm wondering why it, whatever it is, didn't bother downloading from my firewave?"
Scarlet was still watching her screen. She looked up at him, one eyebrow raised.
"What have you got on it?"
"What it came with plus a few episodes of Potato Hunter and other stuff it downloaded. If I'm honest I never really checked."
"Well there's answer. They're obviously up to date with Potato Hunter." Her head cocked to one side again. "Is it me or has that noise changed?"
Fetu shrugged. Jake listened to it, instead of ignoring it as he had been.
"I think you're right. Hermes?"
"The sound has reduced in power and tone. I think this is benign. Whatever is happening they're trying not to hurt you."
"How do you mean?" An splitting shriek made his fillings vibrate as red hot metal spikes were driven into his ears.
He wasn't the only one to have suffered. Both the others were in pain as well.
"Sorry about that." A voice from behind them said. "It's so difficult gauging these things. Is that better?"
The tone reduced to a whine that while unpleasant, wasn't painful. The three of them turned round to the voice. In Jake's case he thought he'd see a screen or something. He couldn't speak for the others or guess how surprised they were. There was a giant squid standing there. At least as tall as Fetu. Eight limbs. Two of which looked to be serving as arms while the other six were kind of clothed and acting as legs. It was the weird eyes that attracted his attention though. The pupils of an octopus. Scarlet shook her head experimentally.
"Much better thanks. I'm Scarlet. This is Fetu and the stupid one is Jake."
This was like water off a ducks back to her. Meanwhile Jake was looking at that beak of a mouth and wondering where the anus was. He might be wrong about it, but he was sure that on at least some cephalopods the mouth and anus were right next to each other. He wasn't going to say anything until he knew whether or not they were going to be dissected or probed. Teleportation looked to be off the agenda.
"We know all about him." The octopus stated. "We know all about you as well. Thank you for the data by the way. My name is Saitano. At least that's the nearest your languages can come to saying it. I expect you have a lot of questions."
"Indeed we do." Scarlet replied.
"Most of them I cannot answer and the others will have to wait. You have 3 companions in need of rescuing. That must be our top priority."
Jake put his hand up hesitantly.
"Are you actually here, or are you a projection?"
"It's a little bit of both. My essence as it were, all that is me, has been stored here. This structure is me. The projection is of what I once was. Before I transmigrated. The rest of my people have left. Moved on to the mirror universes initially and then out into the multiverse. We transcended the need for corporeal existence over half a million years ago. Although some, like myself, chose to remain in bodies until relatively recently. Tell me, is this helping you rescue your friends?"
Scarlet glowered at Jake.
"No it isn't. You can ignore him Saitano. He's purely here for comic relief and his uncanny ability to accidentally discover things. As yet we don't even know where our friends are. We're also trapped in here with natives outside."
The projection did a wobble.
"That was me laughing." Saitano explained. "Not at you. I appreciated your joke Scarlet. He really is very annoying. I am aware of all current circumstances. Let me show you."
The hologram didn't do anything except stand there, the walls vanished around them. To be replaced by one big viewing screen. Showing various scenes. The images of separate places merging into each other. There was a high definition vista of the hundred or so pygmies outside. With them were around a dozen bandits. Another patch showed Colin cursing out more of the natives. Next to that was an image of the bound, and still unconscious forms of their comrades. Overlaid in some mysterious way was a map. Which also showed what appeared to be a huge system of tunnels or corridors throughout the local area and probably beyond.
"This is very good of you." Scarlet thanked the squid.
"No need." Saitano responded. "This is almost entirely self serving on my part. You see those other humans are mining their way along a seam of cavalite. It's a metallic element only found in this mountain range. A remnant of our power systems that has corroded over the years. The problem is that they are heading towards a node. Cavalite is poisonous to your forms. The local natives are particularly sensitive to it. That's why they are dying in such large numbers. Should they reach the still operative node they will all die instantly. Along with everything within a thousand miles. Not an explosion. A release of a huge amount of quantum energy. That will vaporize the immediate area and sterilize almost 5% of this continent. I myself will not be harmed. It will destroy all of this though. All of my work and all of the data I've collected. I'll also be stranded in this dimension without the means to escape it. Though not entirely selfish my main aim is to prevent that. Your circumstances are entirely secondary to me. I just want you to stop them mining."
Scarlet wasn't particularly disturbed by the cold logic.
"We're still very grateful to you Saitano. You have technology here we couldn't even imagine though. Couldn't you do this yourself?"
"That would be impossible. Our species has been noncoporeal for millions of years. We had little capacity for violence when we were living beings. Now we have none. Weapons are something we know of only intellectually. Besides which they are situated in a section of this complex which has not functioned properly for an immensely long period. I could project my image anywhere and previously that was all I had to do to frighten the locals off. The arrival of Colin some years ago changed that. He knew my image was a projection. Through random acts of violence he chanced upon the projector for that area, rendering it unservicable. It's self repairing, but all he has to do is destroy it again. That's the reason the natives kowtow to him. They had numerous legends about me. Most of them either wild exaggerations or complete fiction. To them I was a vengeful god who prevented them from traversing large sections of the caverns. Although the natives are relatively primitive I was conscious that they might discover technology that would be inappropriate for their new born culture. From this point on I can only provide information and access to the tunnel system. How you rescue your friends and prevent further mining is entirely up to you. I possess neither the knowledge nor the skills to plan anything of that nature."
Scarlet nodded all the way through his explanation. His pragmatism wouldn't have worried her at all. They needed to free Pengelly, Pip and Daisy. He needed to prevent the destruction of his home. Their needs coincided.
"This cavalite? Why are they mining it?"
"It's an almost limitless source of power in its pure form. After it corrodes that is reduced by a factor of several hundred. It is still usable as a power source. There are mines all along the other side of this range of mountains. The small amounts of degraded cavalite are extremely valuable. It's akin to wiring, the cavalite that is. Fine strands of it are being excavated. They use the small humans because the only way to access the wiring is through what was a ventilation shaft."
She was smiling now. Not a nice comforting smile. The kind of smile, that if it were aimed at Jake, would cause him to shit himself. Scarlet was in the throes of making up a plan that Colin and his allies would be at the sharp end of. If there were any survivors among them this would end up being yet another legend. Only this time it would be 100% factual.