Chapter V

     "Ah! Now this looks better!" The reflection which greeted Ryan as he peered into the water trough was far more handsome than the wrinkled, horrible face he held in his hands. With his regeneration complete, the old face which he had carved off from himself, the one which formed along with his current head in the river, began to turn brittle and to crumble. "I'm glad to know no one else has to see this," he muttered to himself.
     Getting out of the well had not been an easy task. He first attempted to climb the brick edges, which was tiring at the least, and had only managed to crawl halfway up the shaft when his concentration was interrupted by the prophets, reprimanding him at his failure and alerting their followers to Gawron's demise. This break of his thought processes had caused him to plummet in alarm back to the well's watery bottom. Only then did he discover the small outlet to a subterranean pool, the source of the well's supply. It wasn't an easy squeeze through. In fact, it cost him an arm, but he reached back for it and was able to fully reattach the limb within a half of an hour.
     He had wandered the system of passages for hours, feeling the damp, water-carved walls in nearly complete darkness and solitude until coming upon a nest of some animal. Recognizing that there must have been an exit to the surface nearby, he raided the nest for food and began enlarging the small tunnels in the dirt near it until light could be seen through one of them. Vigorously scooping away dirt and gravel, he inadvertently buried what was left of the nest and finally found himself able to emerge from the dank catacombs.
     Ryan smiled to his new reflection once more and took in his surroundings for a second time. He wasn't certain what dwelling this was upon which he stumbled after leaving the underground, or even in what direction the town with the well could be found, but he understood his target not to be in that place any longer as it was. His current location came across as more of a stable than anything else, probably home to some butacow. Perhaps if the resident was in, Ryan could convince him to offer a change of clothes. Muddy and damp threads didn't suit a man with such a wonderful, new face.
     Approaching what he perceived to be the living quarters of the plot of land, he, prepared to throw open the door and demand new furnishings when the door opened before him.
     "And just who are you?" greeted the owner harshly.
     "Uh..." Startled as he was, Ryan almost forgot to command the person to bring him new clothing. "I've... oh, I've come to take your clothes!" It didn't come across as forcefully as he'd planned.
     "Hey... I recognize you! I'd know that dumb, tattered cloak anywhere. You're that regenerative people keep throwing in the water! And now you're coming here, to my home, to demand I give you things. Hold on..."
     Ryan stood dumbfounded as the owner disappeared for a moment, then to be greeted again by a spear point between his eyes and out through the back of his head. Ryan fell to the ground, momentarily deceased once more.
     "Hope you weren't too fond of that new face of yours," spoke Aries, the Bane of Pimpin', dragging the corpse away from the door.

     It was almost a full day's time later when Ryan awoke within the water trough to purge liquid from his head, but in the meantime, events were occurring elsewhere in the World of Affliction...

     Tim was about to remove the cranks from the landed craft when Psycho directed him to charge the batteries first.
     "But why? We don't want anyone else taking the thing, do we?"
     "No, but we don't want to have to charge them upon our return if it's a hasty one, either. One of is is going to stay here to guard the craft while the rest seek the screen with you."
     "With all due respect," interrupted Drum Boy, "there isn't one among us who is going to forfeit his chance to witness..."
     Psycho cut him off with a motion of his hand. "Annoying, you're the hired help. Watch the glider."
     "No, way! You ain't leaving me up here by myself in this place!" argued the Bane of Annoyance.
     "Look, you've got your protractor with you," reasoned Drum Boy, "and if you want MY portion of the claim to the kill of Gawron, you're gonna make sure we all get out of here alive, got it? Now guard the craft."
     Annoying reluctantly agreed. Sicko was peering over the edge of the building to the ruins below. Tim looked over as well.
     "Don't lean too far, kid," spoke Sicko, grabbing Tim's shoulder and startling the boy. "Don't want anything to happen to you, and especially not when we haven't even reached the dangerous part yet." He observed some passers-by a hundred stories below. "What a waste. They all stay here, waiting in vain for the possibility of passage to someplace better. If they would only realize they could live their lives in joy in the meantime. I wish I could help them." Sicko turned to Tim again. "Why are you so determined to leave, anyway? Is Earth really so much better?"
     "I'm just trying to stay alive," explained Tim. "As long as I stay here, the Prophets are going to continue to search for me."
     "True," agreed Sicko. "I suppose dat would merit haste." The bane continued to observe the sorry people moping the streets below. "They're definitely in no hurry for anything, however. I wonder how long they live here before they're struck down by someone more powerful, and I wonder how many times they return to wait in vain once more, endlessly living their unhappy lives..."
     "You make it sound like the thing's been there forever," interrupted Drum Boy. "It hasn't been more than ten years. Anybody killed twice is still waiting to return. Don't be so melodramatic."
     "Really?" asked Tim. "It sounded like the thing was old."
     "It's old news, anyway," spoke Psycho, joining the group at the roof's edge. "Most banes have had their share of the empty promises of the screen, but we, for once, have a reason to visit. We shouldn't get our hopes up, but I'm more than interested in what you can tell us about it once you've seen it with your human eyes. Perhaps, with your help, the Builders could get it right with a second try. You never know. In any case, we need to discuss strategy for this particular moment. It won't be long before it's nightfall, and I suggest that we make our approach in darkness. Would anyone be interested, before all that, in joining me for a quick scout of the area?"
     "I'd ask you if you were serious, but I know the answer," spoke Drum Boy. "Why, when we're so close, do you want to risk your neck?"
     "We'd fare better with a bit of experience of the area," explained Psycho, polishing his axe. "We don't even have to approach the screen, but to simply look about. See what kind of a reception some foreigners bring. Look for a concealed means of reaching the screen for tonight."
     "Then I bid you good luck," spoke Drum Boy. "I've walked those streets before, and I can assure you that any suspicion you arouse will only bring you harm from these people."
     "You were here as part of an army trying to destroy their sacred monument. I am a mere bane walking the street. I'll take my chances," spoke Psycho, emphasizing his criticism.
     "I, for one, will join you," offered Sicko. "I'm intrigued by these people and how they must live."
     "Just remember, the closer you get to the screen, the more protective they are of their territory," warned Drum Boy. "I'll stay here with Tim and the morpher."
     "Don't hesitate to take off in the glider if there's any danger," directed Psycho. "We can manage ourselves for a day or two on our own until you return."
     "Quit playing the valiant one and go do your exploring," suggested Drum Boy. Psycho ignored the remark and beckoned for Sicko to follow him.
     "You take care of yourself, Tim." The two departed within the building.



[Chapter IV] [Chapter VI]


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Last page update: 4-18-99