Chapter VI

     It had, in fact, been eleven years since the Builders witnessed as their brother passed through the screen and the Dark Prophet was vanquished by his own power. It was almost two months later when word finally spread about the ordeal. Banes awaiting the return of the Builders with tasks for them in mind sought them out and discovered all the work they had done, constructing as best they could the dwellings which they observed through the enchanted screen. As word spread like wildfire across the Bane World of the oxymoronic "failed success" of the screen, nearly every bane made the pilgrimage, and a majority stayed to observe. Thus, the skyscrapers which the Builders instinctively, and continually improvingly, erected were put to the test almost immediately.
     However, it was no more than three years before the place became a battleground. Only the strongest claimed the right to be near the screen, and anyone who contested them was destroyed. The entire City experienced a slow ripple-effect, with the strongest living nearer to the center. Those who could not compete or simply did not wish to either moved out with acceptance that there was nothing to be gained by the screen, or they were killed by those who considered it a right of power to live where they did.
     Thus, on this day as the travelers descended to see the screen for themselves, the screen represented to those who were near it a symbol of their own personal power, and to wish to see it was a direct challenge of that power.
     This, Sicko learned rather quickly from a resident with spidery limbs. The bane was not very strong, but could avoid the dangers which came his way with his agility. He only wished to offer the two travelers advice in the matter of the City, and warned them to go back from where they came, and then he himself departed to within his haven, leaping to the side of a building and grappling his way up to the fourteenth floor.
     "I never expected so many abandoned buildings here," spoke Psycho, studying the structures they passed by. "They really have driven out the weak and made a silly game of it all."
     "The place seems to have a reputation, too," added Sicko. "Nowadays, it would probably attract the strong just for the sake of proving themselves. I don't think any one of us would stand a chance in approaching our target."
     "Yes, it would appear that even courtesy would do us no good here. If we wanted to see the screen, we'd have to fight for that right, and probably die for it as well. Even if I was skilled enough to manage myself, there is no way we could get Tim there alive."
     Psycho's thoughts were interrupted by the sudden approach of a frantic bane waving a knife. "I am Charles!" he cried, "Bane of Fr..."
     As Psycho moved his hand to the handle of his axe, the man's approach was cut short as a figure stepped out from behind a corner and clubbed him over the head. "I am Sultan, the Bane of Charles," he spoke to them, darting up the wall of the building. Charles got up and pursued Sultan instead.
     Sicko and Psycho looked to one another. Psycho removed his hand from his blade. This was exactly the kind of disarray he had tried to expel from his part of the Bane World, banes attacking one another for no reason. There was no peace or happiness to be found in such a lifestyle, and he knew this well. It was exactly how he had lived for his first several centuries following the great condemnation to the World of Affliction.
     "I hope the others are alright," declared Sicko.
     "They won't be found up there. No one lived in that entire building," assured Psycho. "It's odd, though. It appeared to be one of their later ones, being as tall and sturdy as it was."
     "Of course it was one of their later ones. It's on the outskirts of the City. The first ones they made, when they were least educated in their construction, were the ones closest to the screen, the ones which have been destroyed in the skirmishes of the city dwellers."
     "You pick up on things fast for someone who's lived in the forest the last couple of centuries," admonished Psycho.
     "I bet there are aspects to dat building which even Earth hasn't developed," suggested Sicko. "But our concern lies elsewhere at the moment."
     "Right. Is there any way we can approach without early detection?" pondered Psycho. "The buildings thin out as you near the screen, so there isn't much we can do with them."
     "How about this?" asked Sicko, pointing to a manhole cover set within the street with words printed on it. "What do you make of it?"
     "Hmm... `street access.' It looks like there may be an underground system here," noted Psycho. "There's no telling what may live down there, though."
     "Shall we give it a look?" suggested Sicko. Psycho took out his axe and used the handle to pry the lid off. What he found, however, was that only solid concrete existed below. "But why..." began Sicko.
     "Perhaps the Builders made them without any idea as to why they should have been there," discerned Psycho. "They built what they observed on the screen. On Earth there must be tunnels below the streets, but not in this replica."
     "So we're back where we started then."
     Suddenly, Psycho turned and grabbed a figure whom had approached silently behind him. The short creature was shocked to be taken so roughly at the collar and thrown before the two banes.
     "And exactly what were you just plotting?" demanded Psycho.
     "I-I-I..." stammered the being. "I just wanted t-to see your weapon, kind sir!"
     "See or steal?" grilled the man.
     "N-no! I, I didn't mean to... I just..." The being was horrified.
     "Who are you?" interrogated Sicko kindly.
     "I-I collect weapons." The small man suddenly looked more terrified than before. "But I don't steal them! Really!" He was pleading directly to Psycho now. "I didn't mean to..."
     "How do you usually get your weapons, then?" asked Psycho sternly. "Who here makes them?"
     "N-no one! I... I take them from the bodies of those wh-who come to challenge! They don't need them anymore, s-so I just take them!"
     "I see..." thought Psycho. "And would you be interested in selling any?"
     "I... pardon me?"
     "If we were to see your collection of weapons, would you then be willing to trade for something more useful to you?"
     "H-how do I know I can trust you?"
     "How do we know we can trust you?" asked Sicko.
     "Good point..." spoke the being, contemplating the offer. "But what do you have to offer me?"
     "We have many general supplies, some other smaller weapons, harpoons back with the other bigger stuff, some food, a little..." listed Sicko as he recalled the items.
     "Food?" interrupted the small man. "What kind of food?" As he spoke, the two witnessed saliva forming near his chapped lips.
     "Mostly fruit, I'm afraid," replied Psycho.
     "Ah! Fruit will do nicely!" The mans eyes were shining in expectation. "Follow me!" The small figure speedily and silently made off in a direction away from where they had been headed. Psycho and Sicko set off after him, finding it to be almost difficult to keep up with the excited individual.

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Last page update: 4-18-99