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Saturday Crowd Scenes: II
Crouching down in the rafters, all Paxton could tell was that the collisions occurring on stage were pretty much in line with the pulsing tones slamming off of the walls of the room. Below, it was all of a melee of suited horn men and tribal drummers. Gleaming metal keyboards were tossed to and fro smashing voice coders and racks. Those hunched, birdlike Bedouins ,who had carefully dragged the massive string bass all the way from the outer settlement, slashed the thick air with cobalt daggers, holding their ground by the left platform. Bodies that had sizzled in the dance pit and cry booths were now hurling themselves full force into the action, and the cracking of glass and bone could be heard screaming out in waves. The armed guards present at all dome gatherings were having no effect . Instead, they had joined the fray with an anger that resembled wolflock cornered on the hunt. Tearing equal parts searcloth and flesh with their stun claws, they rallied around their red-branched lieutenant who had been overwhelmed by a swarm of dancers and silvercoats smashing at his cap. Paxton saw all of it, and as his fingers tightened more so around one of the coppersteel support beams that held him aloft, he phased into the desert where he had met the old man just days ago.
"Why have you come here, boy?"
Paxton nearly swallowed the tube of his air mask in shock. The scratched voice seemed to be coming from everywhere, but belonged to the dark, robed figure that had sprung from the dunes. Paxton felt himself falling, and the wind that had risen up at dawn now disappeared and left him a path of no resistance as he hit the sand.
"Why have you come here?" the figure demanded again.
Paxton had never heard such English tone in this quadrant before, and was sure that any exchange of plans would be transacted in Herdule or the trader dialect of Raswan.
"Youre......you speak....", Paxton fumbled out.
"I am many things, but none that will suit you out here, boy. Go home to your camp or your city quad, and pray that you arrive before the night breeze chills your tongue for good," said the figure, turning.
" But...I am Paxton! Ive come all the way from New Marrakech to find you. You are Ruhollah. Are you not?"
The figure stopped and pulled a small laser spec from his black cloak. The red glow of the spec caught the edge of his face and long beard and Paxton could see the mans eyes widen from their aged slump.
"You seek the Stovespring?" he asked.
Paxton jumped to his feet , "Yes, for many back home.....they feel that we are very close to the final gate. If we could secure merely a grade or two from the spring......for the Summers End Hall....they think we could reach it......we could hear THE sound.....capture it even. And then......"
"And then nothing," the old man cut in. "The vibrations that Korol seeks cannot be harnessed at will. Korol and his like dont deserve to see the OTHER side...... This carnival hypnosis will never work."
"Ive brought gold, and hydro pills. Hundreds of them! You could live for a year out here with that many!" Paxton retorted.
"Hah!" the old man laughed. " What do city quaders know about living OUT HERE?" He circled the sky with the laser spec. "Ill take you to the spring, but save your meager offers. When all of you learn to stop coming out here....it will be payment enough. It takes us the rest of the twilight to reach the caves. This way."
Paxton swallowed a hydro pill and shielded his eyes with a ragged scarf as the wind picked up again. He ran West towards the man, who was already thirty paces out front.
The metallic whir and clang of the street pavers had welcomed Paxton back to the night time streets of New Marrakech. The smells of hashscents and dog urine circled his tired skull as he made his way through the back alleys of Quad Seven towards the usual meeting place of the Hall Council. At rhythmic intervals a withered hand or shrouded cry would stab out of the darkness, begging alms or hydro pills. Paxton barely reacted at all, any petty fears having been wiped out by the day long trek back from the desert and the old mans warning of a greater doom.
"The Stovespring is not what you people think, " he had cautioned sourly at the caves. "Summers End or any other Hall is not the place for it. You will all see......"
Paxton had hoped for less of such lectures and more stories of the old mans survival skills or of his supposed involvement with the ancient gem cults. Nothing had been offered, however, beyond one shortcut that Paxton had not yet used through the Conom Hills. He reached the weathered, purple door of the old spice market lightheaded and ready to deliver his mission. As the door pushed open, Paxton could see that he was late. Even the reclusive elders had arrived, and they were looking cross as they noticed his entry. The elders controlled almost every aspect of these meetings, but they were not the ones who had approached Paxton with the Stovespring plan. The real leader was Korol and he, in fact, smiled as Paxton entered the chamber. He poured some tea, and extended his long, ringed fingers towards the ceiling in a gesture of welcome. His thick Raswan accent wrapped itself around quadrant English.
"Ah... young Paxton, what a wonderful sight. Come and tell us of the old man," he smiled.
A beta servant shut the door to the street , and Paxton stepped forward to the large, mosaic table before him.
"People! Embrace that which is greater!" Korols voice boomed through the on-stage voice coders. "Tonight, the Summers End shall reveal to us its greatness."
Paxton leaned heavily against the tea bar at the back of the dome. He silently wished that the hashscents he had taken an hour ago were the weaker French sort, the kind that would make him more likely to deal with the horrible masses before him. The camp whores and the pickmen were out in full force this Saturns eve, and beyond the usual bumps and pushes of a packed tea bar, Paxton was bombarded by their proposals.
"Double-time for slave girls?"
It was too much for Paxton to take, and the bazaar music that boomed out of the upper electros made him sweat all the more. He left the bar and headed for the upper levels
and the laser coop as Korol continued his introduction.
"Yes! Tonight we shall all see it!!!!...for we shall all hear it!!! For the coders will gain their power from...." Korol reached into his gold vest. "The STOVESPRING!!!!"
He held the ration that Paxton had escorted aloft, and as the bazaar music cut out, a collective room gasp turned into staccato clap chanting.
Korol savored the cheers and waved his prize to the crowd. He turned slowly on his heels so that everyone in the dome could behold his generosity. He presided regally over the moment, with every bit of the flair of a man who conspired to be the states quad judge. He crouched down at the conclusion of his dramatic turn, and placed the tube into the fuel box of the main electro coder in the stage floor. The dome held in silence, and the fuel box glowed a pale green that lit Korols priestly gesture. The triple stacked pneumatic electros that jutted out towards the crowd pa-RACKED to life and began to emit a steady current hum that built to a roar. Right on cue, the seven Sinai musicians took their place at their horn and drum risers alongside the Bedouin bassmen and the vocal silvercoats. A larger than usual line of dancers and whipswitchers snaked through the audience and Korol himself began to gyrate madly as the performers launched into the loudest rendition of "Mars Sunrise Coda" that Paxton had ever heard.
Immediately, the entire dome shook. Paxton was all of the way past the laser coop and up into the rafters for what he thought would be the best view of the kinetic revelations. The horns trilled in the familiar eastern "get" patterns and the bass and drums THAL-umped as an Indian metronome. The view screen hovered above, and as Korol pointed aloft to what he planned would be the painted vibrations of his loyal followers, he saw only the yellowed glow of the old mans wizened eyes. A granite doorblock thrown by an unknown Raswan whipswitcher smashed Korols forehead. The raga chorus burned with lightning beats. Korol realized that Ruholla had destroyed him just as blood began to flow from his brow to his lips. The "six-TEEN....seVENteen..." of the key plunked turnaround exploded the stage into a free for all. Somehow the music continued, louder and louder. Korols fueled concerto brought no revelations or power to his way, but left him forgotten and trampled upon as the patrons tore into the stage and each other with the will of possessed herdsmen. Chairs and wallstaffs flew from every side and the pulse and crash of each enchanting note fired the confusion and mayhem. The wailing hum of the security corps alarm rippled through Paxtons teeth as he watched from above. He knew not why, but in all of this horror, Paxton somehow felt an eager glee of participation. Beyond the dome, Summers End engulfed New Marrakech, and the booming sounds of the enraged music disappeared into the great sands, beneath a crescent moon.
@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan Unver. Third issue. Summer 2000, New York