For the first time since departing for the City weeks earlier, Tim considered the horrible results of success while visiting the screen. He'd been hoping with all his will that he would succeed in escaping the World of Affliction by means of this portal, but at this very moment when it appeared as though he would at last have his chance to try, he could only wish for, and must then begin to plan for, failure in the endeavor.
And such were his thoughts when he vocalized loudly for the dwellers of the City, "I denounce my strength before the Dark Prophet who guards the screen." To escape now would not be an option. His allies were eagerly awaiting him; the dark figure would incinerate them all if he were to refuse.
The Dark Prophet nodded and spoke, "Transgressor, step up upon this platform and follow me to view my screen." The boy did as he was told, sweating nervously as he followed the figure. He looked back to his companions. Drum Boy and Sicko simply nodded to him, signaling their support, as Psycho remained perfectly steadfast. Annoying, reverted from his morphed form, sat down upon the stone floor and tried to regain his breath.
Tim looked forward again and was directed by the bane. He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't even realize to look about until the cloaked being announced, "Here it is, human."
From all which he'd heard concerning the screen, Tim had done his best to piece together in his mind exactly what it would look like. He pictured a kind of gate, very much like the door through which he had entered the Bane World, but such that one could peer through it to the world beyond, images which darted about as the unfixed point of the Earthen side traversed about the physical realm. He expected, as a former god, to be able to recognize whatever method of opening this gate existed but to have to pretend not to recognize it in order to protect human Earth from the imprisoned banes.
What he viewed was nothing like this at all.
Before the two stood a large frame encasing a rectangular sheet of glass standing fifteen feet tall and a few feet wider. Appearing flush to the glass was a colorless television sitcom.
"TV?" blurted out Tim in astonishment.
"You recognize something?" interrupted the cloaked being. "Tell me at once what it is you know!"
The boy was terrified. "Let me examine it a bit!" he pleaded. "I'm not sure of anything yet!" The large bane stepped back again as Tim approached the screen.
Sure enough, what the Builders had unintentionally constructed was a signal receiver for television. A commercial came on with a woman in a kitchen, followed by another for a children's toy, none of which was accompanied by sound. Tim could now understand why the banes had been so confounded by what they viewed on the screen. Surely there were a number of greatly fictional programs which were taken to be a part of life on human Earth.
Tim looked to the side of the device. For such an immense viewing screen, its two-foot depth was incredible. Behind it was stationed an antenna which looked nothing like any he had ever before seen. Somehow, this antenna must have been built in hopes of both receiving and sending banes in the form of air signals, signals which could reach beyond the scope of the World of Affliction. He noted where lightning appeared to have struck once. If he was to try and return the screen to a functioning state, the solution would most probably lie in the antenna.
Returning to the front of the screen, he realized that the Dark Prophet had not taken his eyes off of him once, making Tim feel more uneasy than he already did. Tim forced his voice to work, "What do those do?" as he pointed to a pair of dials on the face of the frame.
"They distort and change the images. I've worked them countless times to no avail, and if you do not recognize them, I will command you not to touch them. Have you finished your inspection?"
"Uh..." He thought quickly. "Let me try and make sense of the images a bit longer." He could see that the bane had grown impatient, but Tim desperately needed this time to think and formulate an answer. If he was to simply tell the Dark Prophet that there were no means of repairing it, Tim couldn't be certain that he or his friends would live long enough to leave the City. He didn't want to disclose that the antenna may be the answer either, as, ethically, it would be better that he and his allies be destroyed than the entire Earth as an outcome of his actions. If he hoped to escape, his best, and only, chance would lie in getting near enough to the glider that they could make a break for it. Their chances were slight, and perhaps nil, but this was his only option.
"After examining... the screen... I have an idea but I'm not sure of it and I need to look at some... but, really, I, well... I have to go get my tools, you see."
"Cannot one of your friends bring them to you?" asked the bane.
"Um... only I know which ones. They're very delicate, and..."
"Hurry back, boy!" bellowed the Dark Prophet.
Tim's nervousness at this moment was comparable only to the time he went before the Circle of Seven to receive his judgment. He tried not to think about it and focus on his current situation. He noted that his allies, save Psycho, had already boarded the glider. This would simplify things as they wouldn't all be making a sudden dash for the craft.
"He's allowing you to walk away from him?" noted Psycho.
"He's under the impression I'm retrieving tools." stated Tim nervously.
"Is he now? Interesting..." Psycho followed Tim on board the glider.
"Are we clear to go?" asked Drum Boy.
"No, but we're going," replied Psycho.
"I sure hope I didn't short this..." Drum Boy's words were cut off as the glider shot upward faster than it ever had before. In preparation, they had applied both batteries to thrust for the fastest escape they could muster. "Quickly! Recharge them both!" he shouted.
Frantically winding the cranks, the group managed the glider away from the City at an awesome pace. Psycho stood at the craft's edge, looking down to where the Dark Prophet remained motionless, shrinking from sight as they ascended. "Why did you allow us to leave? What do you know that I don't, dark one?" thought Psycho, focusing his thought as best as a non-telepath could.
The Dark Prophet observed as the group boarded the glider and left without asking leave from his audience. He couldn't be seen by the other city dwellers from his position before the screen, but he was well aware of their thoughts of alarm and astonishment when he did not pursue them. Then Psycho's thought pierced his telepathic mind.
"You really aren't aware of what you're harboring, are you?" replied the Dark Prophet, fully aware of the man's inability to hear him. "Perhaps he is merely delusional, but he has the knowledge to support who he believes himself to be. I could never strike down one who was sent here by the gods to infiltrate us. If they wish to know how one of us escaped, I will allow them to know it rather than try to slay him and be next faced with an army of his peers. It is no wonder those mountain-dwelling fools are so concerned! Wait until they find out exactly what it is they are facing.
"You were an interesting one, boy. So concerned with Earth. If only your peers all put together possessed half the compassion you do, being more concerned for the relatively insignificant Earthen creatures than yourself. I only wish your thoughts had dwelled more on your past and less on your current situation. I would have gladly learned more about you. I could have slain you at any moment... but I sense some importance in you, something which doesn't permit me to interfere. Whatever it is you are destined for, good luck."
The Dark Prophet took his gaze from the disappearing glider and looked toward the antenna. "What you taught me today only condemns me further. I've tried, and this metal structure is not something I can repair on my own. I will yet have my day, however."
Once they were certain they were beyond the reach of the City, those who had worked the cranks sat down to rest. Psycho began to guide the craft's descent.
"What happened there, kid?" asked Annoying.
"Don't bother asking him now," interrupted Psycho. "We've just been through a lot, and we deserve a good rest, meal and bath, the each of us. Relax for a bit. We'll return to Castle Psycho and set to work on Plan B."
"You mean..." began Drum Boy.
"Yes, it's our only remaining choice now in this matter." Psycho set their course to his homeland as they silently drifted through the clouds above the World of Affliction.