Illumination: 5.1: Persephone Squad

Partial Record of Persephone Squad’s Exploration of Tower Di, Carta Record 782356

Savannah the Prowler’s voice, over a black screen: “I’m almost certain nobody’s in there. I’m going in. Jeni, you stay here; Mac, you’re with me.”

The camera, mounted on Savannah’s helmet, activated. From the outside, Tower Di looked like a flower instead of Tower A’s blade, and it wasn’t nearly as tall. What looked like horizontal windmills rotated lazily at the point of each petal. The curtain wall was peppered with holes. Some looked like breakages, the ruination of time, elements and warfare. Other holes were far too regular: round, oval and at least three perfect squares.

Savannah moved forward, climbing over some rocks and a tangle of storm-tumbled trees that there was nobody to clean up. She ignored the incongruously-closed front doors and went to a round hole right beside them, stepping into near-darkness.

In addition to the recording equipment, Mac and Savannah each had a high-powered flashlight attached to the long-barreled guns, which they switched on. The light played across the internal walls, which were covered in the same alien writing that decorated the home tower. Here, it was a vivid purple instead of light blue. “We’ll want to make sure the words haven’t changed. At a glance, it looks like the same stuff as last time I was here. Not quite as uplifting as the wishes left behind at A, but I’ve seen far worse.” She strode on, turning her head and the camera slowly. “So far this looks normal for Tower Di.”

Lights flickered here and there, pale echoes of the sculptures that illuminated Tower A. All of the humanization of Tower A was missing: no courtyards, no kitchen, no doors designed for human convenience. The whole tower was like the upper levels of Tower A.

Savannah passed through a large room full of tanks. Each tank contained a single glowing mote drifting around a small, shadowed shape. Her footsteps echoed in the chamber and the motes hummed as she passed, each one a different tone.

Beyond the tank room was a poorly implemented crematorium, with the remains of half-burned wildlife laying in the ashes that coated the floor.

Savannah pointed down. “Ah. Human tracks.” She followed them to the other side of the crematorium, where the ashy tracks led into another tank chamber. This one looked abandoned, dusty and unlit. “I smell something bitter, and something briney. Stronger than elsewhere.”

The ashy footprints wandered through the room, and Savannah’s camera and light captured where the trail paused at dust-covered biomechanical tanks. Somebody had rubbed circles in the dust to peer inside. A smiley face had been drawn on one. Another had been smashed open and a wash of something now evaporated wiped away both dust and trail.

Beyond the second tank chamber was a room barely recognizable as a portal chamber. Three round pools of liquid, each one set under a complex machine that came to a point, seemed to serve as the potential portals. The dust here had been thoroughly disturbed, drifting into tiny dunes in the corners of the room. Savannah paced out shapes. “Bedrolls here, I think. And a fire. They had a regular little campout. At least four bedrolls.” She crouched down, and the camera refocused. “And blood here.” She glanced up, visually following the trail before moving after it. There were three exits from the hall, and the drops of blood led toward the back.

Beyond was a small lift. The lift itself was covered in blood, and Savannah backed away hastily. “I want to find the core and see what the AI has to say. I remember that this door was sealed before.”

Mac said, “In terms of native dangers, this Tower is very clean. They scoured it. No sign of living wildlife at all.”

“Yet they’re not here. Come on.” Savannah went through the one exit she hadn’t yet tried, and down a long hall. Broken wheels of a variety of materials began to appear on the walls, and when she went through an archway, the room beyond was covered in wheels of all sizes. The floor itself was a giant spoked wheel, slowly turning, and in the center was a column of faint light.

“Greetings!” Kentigern’s voice came from the column. “Greetings—” and it switched to an alien warbling. “I wish—” Savannah waited patiently through the extensive warbling that followed.

“Good afternoon, Di. Do you remember me?”

“Green and gold. Eyes and lights.” Then, in a voice eerily similar to Savannah’s, it said, “Do you remember me? You don’t want to be alone. Where did you go?”

“Good,” said Savannah, as if this made sense. “Can you tell me about who was here before?”

More warbling, interspersed with phrases in English. “Red and black. Shadow and desire. Tears. Agony. They brought words with them.”

“Can you show them to me?”

“You took my eyes,” said the column of light, plaintively. “My eyes and my fingers. Why do you ask for what you know I can’t do?”

“That’s terrible,” said Savannah calmly. “Can I return them to you?”

“No,” said Di, sadly. “All gone now. It was very interesting, watching the youngest give birth. It was like she was a tank. I wanted to see how it worked, but the lightning asked me not to. So I didn’t. I hope they come back. I liked being defended.” It paused, then said, “The land has changed.” Then it was back to alien singing again.

Savannah said, “I have another request for you, Di. Can you open a portal to an emergence point?”

“No! No, I can’t. The lightning bridged the gap, and with the lightning gone, I can’t find it anymore. Earth… We hear the whispers of Earth. Dreams and shadows. A shining world.”

“Did you provide them with latchkey devices to return to you?”

“They had their own. All modified, according to the archive instructions.”

Quickly, Savannah said, “Archive? Where are the archive instructions now?”

“Gone. All the architectural plans, gone. They are going to build something else. So many of my processes and supplies were damaged. But things can be replaced. It’s just a matter of time.”

The column of light lowered its voice, as if tired, or confiding something. “And then, I won’t be necessary anymore. Won’t that be nice?”

 

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