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Hermes Trismegistus - Chapter 7
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 02 August 2001, 12:21 am

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Bob sat down cross legged beside a wall. He looked at the backpack. He looked at the ground that the backpack was lying on. The singing continued. The light from the two tables began to fade. Bob looked up. The other end of the tunnel began to brighten and he could see the closer flowers open towards the light. He could also see something descending towards him. The chanting stopped and an instrumental piece began to trundle in his head, starting with drums and melding into larger drums and violins. The thing was still descending towards him. Bob pulled the backpack towards him, stood up, extended the stock of the UMP while setting it to full automatic, and kept his eyes riveted on the descending object.
İİİİ// Oh, puh-leaze. Put that silly peashooter away. Nothing up there can hurt you. //
İİİİ// How does it work? I don't see any cables. //
İİİİ// Another of the marvels of engineering we've figured out after long years. Hard light. You saw it in action with the inverted mountain? // Bob remembered well, but pushed it out of his mind, holding the UMP on target still.
İİİİ// I can see that you're gonna be no fun at all. // A soft giggle resonated from a corner of his head. Bob wasn't sure if he really heard it, what with the music of much larger volume still playing. The drums and violins had faded and were replaced by woodwinds of some kind and then a woman singing, and then more drums and violins.
İİİİBy the time the elevator without cords had descended to the ground, the drums and violins had been replaced by more Gregorian chant, which ended and left Bob's head silent as the elevator touched down.
İİİİ// ALL ABOOOARD!! // Bob winced. // I'm sorry, was that too loud for you? //
İİİİ"What's your problem man?"
İİİİ// The doctor didn't prescribe the right medication before he died of isolation. If I seem a little jumpy, it's because I've been taking stimulants instead of depressants all these long years. Funny how there's nothing I can do about it right now. //
İİİİ"Whatever." Bob picked up his backpack and got on the large circular plate with a solid hand rail that extended most of the way around. A door panel slid from the side wall as he passed, making the elevator resemble a hollow cylinder cut perpendicular to its axis. It began to ascend.
İİİİ// Boy, won't this be fun? // A series of grunts and whistles resounded in Bob's head. // Here we are, about to embark on an adventure planned for millions of years. I don't know about you, but I'm quite looking forward to it. //
İİİİBob, whose mood had slipped into the upper depths of depression, frowned and thought nothing in return. If he needed anything, he certainly DID NOT need a psycho voice in his head.
İİİİ// The way I look at it; if you're not enjoying yourself by the time we meet up with the other humans, then you just aren't any fun. // This grabbed Bob's attention.
İİİİ"Other humans?"
İİİİ// Oh, didn't I tell you? The children's children's children of the children of your generation have just entered the system and are looking for a place to hide. //
İİİİ"Hide? From what?"
İİİİ// According to their radio messages, the worst nightmare of mankind. //
İİİİ"And that is?"
İİİİ// Destruction. Complete and utter annihilation. The cosmic lemon to be sucked dry at the last day. The metaphorical and literal end of humanity, unless you count those crazy probes with the porn scribbled all over them in solid gold. //
İİİİBob didn't know about any probes with porn on them but asked the question anyways, "Porn?"
İİİİ// About twenty years before you were born, the powers that were decided to send probes into space in the hopes that they would be picked up by an intelligent alien race. These probes had the pictures of naked members of your species scrawled in gold on the side. They hoped that the other race would then travel to Earth and share the wonders of interstellar travel with humanity. //
İİİİ"Did anybody find the probes?"
İİİİ// Did your mom bake bread? //
İİİİ"I don't know."
İİİİThe voice was silent.

As the elevator was slowly ascending, Bob decided to get a little exercise. He started by doing a comprehensive stretch. From there he moved on to doing ninety pushups on each arm (the elevator was just large enough to accommodate his entire length), did a series of squats to make sure his legs were still strong and ended with a hundred sit-ups. By this time his face was covered in a thin layer of perspiration and his heart rate had increased incrementally. He wasn't as fit as he had been at a younger age, but what he lacked in stamina and strength, he made up for in experience and knowledge. Back on Earth he had worked out about six hours of every day when he wasn't on a mission. It was always time consuming to do so, but he enjoyed the resulting physical prowess and accompanying mental strength. Besides, if he had ever fallen below the physical standards that were imposed on agents like himself, he would have received a bullet in the back of the head. Such was the way of things in Central Intelligence. It was a difficult way of life, but Bob always trusted the fact that many civilians wouldn't have been up to the job he was entrusted with: the protection of the state and its interests. All throughout he kept a sharp lookout above him.
İİİİIt was after exercising that Bob felt that he needed to ask a question. The other Bob in the box had caused him to wonder a little about the purpose of himself here on the ring and the feeling had been growing since getting on the elevator.
İİİİ"Why did you make copies of me?"
İİİİ// Shit happens. If you were to die right now, do you think that maybe it would have been a waste of resources to bring you here? //
İİİİ"Ok. Then why is it that you said that they would become different from me? Why would they wake up without knowing what I've been doing so far?"
İİİİ// As I said, you experience different things and therefore become different. It's not like we can record everything you experience -- well, we actually can, it's just that you're not worth the effort -- and it would be rather confusing for you to be walking around and then one of them wakes up and finds himself lying on the box saying to himself, 'hey, I thought I was walking around just now, oh that must be the OTHER me, I guess I'll get up and try to find him.' In short, it's very confusing to have memories of having limbs torn off and then to wake up and find that those limbs are still there. It creates issues. More issues than having a voice in your head does. That should say a lot. Muahahahaha. //
İİİİ"But when I die, won't one of them have the memories I have? You can do that, right?"
İİİİ// Sorry, bucko. We believe in keeping our patients sane. How would you feel to grow old and tired of life and then die, only to be reawakened in a new body? You would still be tired of life, and that would affect your performance. True, you would have IMMENSE knowledge and experience, but after a few lifetimes things would degenerate for sure and you would find yourself living your own, private Groundhog Day. //
İİİİ"Groundhog Day?"
İİİİ// A movie you've never seen. Don't worry about it. //
İİİİAfter thinking about this for a little while, Bob sat down and played a bit with the UMP. Leafing through the owners manual he had found in the map pocket of the backpack (which, surprisingly, was in English), he came to understand the weapon in terms of its operation and, less importantly, how to clean it. Bob particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the controls. He had had limited experience with the weapons of the venerable arms maker HK before the split of the Republic, but what little practice he did have had quickly earned his respect for their small arms. After the split, however, none of their newer technology had managed to make its way into the bounds of the Eastern Coalition and most of the left over weaponry was pressed into the off and on wars with the EDH and the CWS. As the arms making of the Coalition improved on its own path, weapons had become increasingly complicated to operate, and especially disassemble and clean; all of the laws of natural selection in the firearms industry pointed to the emergence of more user-friendly weapons, but the Coalition hadn't been a free market economy and the laws of natural selection didn't really apply in a country where everybody had the opportunity to work and research grants were given only to the politically reliable. In his opinion, a G36C would have been a better deal than a UMP.
İİİİ// But during your time period, nobody knew how to effectively silence 5.56mm. // Bob didn't respond because he didn't want to end up losing the arguement. // You're no fun at all. //
İİİİA minute later, Bob reached into the pack and removed one of the MRE's. He opened it and had lunch. It was cheese tortellini in tomato sauce. The orange juice was ok, but not of olympic quality. He munched away at the food while trying to remember the specifics of what an old general had once said about spam; he was grateful he didn't have to eat spam every day of his life; he had had his fill of the rubbery meat while living at the orphanage as every Sunday dinner had consisted of spam and lima beans without variance. It was only after joining the military that his nutritional choices had markedly improved and since then he had for the most part been very grateful for the care the military took of its members, while at the same time trying to push away the memories of spam and lima beans. He only thought of them now because of his separation from his home and his want to retain memories -- any memories -- that might remind him of the way things once were. He tried to remember the beauty of empty fields and the eastern coast, but found it difficult since he had never really stopped to smell the roses, which could again be attributed to the pace of his work. He figured that he might never get back; 30,000 light years was an awfully big distance, and he had no knowledge of space travel.
İİİİIt was soon after finding two silencers in a side pocket of the vest that the elevator stopped. Bob looked up. The shaft continued upwards, as straight and covered in vines and leaves and flowers as before. However, as the door to the elevator opened, a narrow walkway could be seen to extend from the side of the elevator to an open rectangular door in the wall. The doorway was shaded and partially obscured by a fat vine grown over top, and Bob couldn't tell which way the side tunnel went.
İİİİ// This is the end of the ride. You'll have to walk from here. //
İİİİ"Where does it go?
İİİİ// Up and around. Don't forget to turn on your motion sensor before going in; there are things not worth description that may be lurking there in the shadows. //
İİİİBob cautiously raised his left hand and touched the smooth covering over his left eye socket. He instantly became aware of everything moving around him. The experience was not as intense as before, however, and he wondered why that was.
İİİİ// As I told you before, we did some weird shit to your hormonal system. //
İİİİ"Why do you monitor my thoughts?"
İİİİ// To keep you from getting any smart ideas. Get to the surface and we'll talk some more. //
İİİİBob stood up and put the backpack on. He then flipped the safety off of the UMP and moved towards the door with the gun raised. He could feel the tubers of the plant expand and contract rhythmically and could feel his own pulse begin to speed up. He stepped out of the elevator and onto the walkway without a railing, trying very hard to keep his balance as the bottom of the hexagonal pit was a good three hundred feet down. He made his way slowly towards the door, then ducked under the large vine partially obscuring the doorway and was in the tunnel. It took a 90 degree turn to the left at the end of a ten foot entrance space; it was six feet wide and eight feet tall.
İİİİBob walked to the end of the entrance space and around the corner. To him, the tunnel seemed to snake counter-clockwise around the pit and upwards. He kept walking around and around, ever upwards, until the light in the tunnel was cut off completely; from then on he relied entirely on the motion sensor to feel his way.
İİİİIt wasn't long, however, before details finer than the solid sides, floor and ceiling of the tunnel began to reveal themselves. Whispery threads as of webs hung from the ceiling and swayed lightly in an indiscernible breeze. Bob slowed his pace, but kept going, being not exactly sure of what was ahead.
İİİİIt was not until he felt around the corner in front of him what appeared to be a football shaped thing hanging on end from the ceiling that he really began to take concern. The now almost familiar smell of the spiders lair wafted into his nose and caused him to almost retch. Since leaving the bottom of the shaft, he had thought that maybe never again he would have to deal with such a smell as this, obviously he had been wrong. As he continued forward, he came upon more of these packages, haphazardly attached to the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. They ranged in size from that of rats to that of large dogs. There was still no indication of what had put them there, but Bob was pretty sure that he knew, nonetheless. Some of them twitched.
İİİİAfter stepping through a particularly densely populated stretch Bob noticed a large crack in the outer wall. He stood there for a moment to see if anything would come out, but nothing did. He kicked the nearest shape on the floor to see if doing so would alert anything of his presence. Nothing happened.
İİİİMoving more quickly now, Bob passed the crack in the wall, feeling a large expanse behind it as he passed, but no discernible shapes inside. Still nothing moved. As he continued he found three similar cracks in the ceiling and walls, but nothing moved behind them either. He avoided the packages on the floor, ceiling and walls as though moving one of them might wake the tenants of this place, regardless of his previous experience. The stink of death and rot permeated his nostrils, without any sign of letting up.
İİİİAbout thirty yards and a half turn in the corkscrew from the last crack he came upon what he had hoped would not bar his way -- a wall of thin, feathery webbing intermittently pierced by holes around its outer edges big enough for a medium sized dog to pass through.. He dared not touch it, but could see through it the faint light of day peeking around a final bend. Dust hung on the air, mixing and swirling as though in mockery of his situation. The last of the packages was about five yards behind him and he couldn't make out any more behind the web.
İİİİBob made his decision. Backing up to the last of the packages, he made a straight run for the web. As he broke through, bits of it hung from his hat and gun, obscuring his vision until he ran the back of his left forearm in front of his face, clearing a hole large enough to see through effectively. His legs were swathed in the stuff. He kept running, but could hear behind him what he had feared all along -- several shrieks of lesser volume, but no less lust, than that of the huge spider he had faced on first waking on this ring construct.
İİİİAnother thirty yards and the tunnel abruptly opened to the light of day. Bob was unsure how far behind him they were, but he told himself to keep running anyways.
İİİİThirty yards later, Bob stopped and spun around in the low grass to face the onslaught that had not yet reached the doorway in the side of the hill. Bob raised his gun to a ready position and waited. He didn't have to pause long.
İİİİAbout three seconds after stopping, Bob watched, horrified, as the doorway disgorged a black horde of cat-sized spiders, all miniatures of the beast he had earlier faced. Their dark coloring splurged into the tender green of the grass to make the ground look as though it was being eaten by one massive black animal. Bob took aim and squeezed the trigger of the submachine gun. It roared, and recoiled more than he was used to for a submachine gun, but did its job by dropping the lead spider in its tracks. He put a round into the next target, then another into the one behind it, and another into a fourth. Those shot all spewed yellow-green blood into the grass beneath them and fell dead on their undersides, but the rest kept coming.
İİİİ// Busy? //
İİİİBob put another round into another spider and began to back up. "Not really, I'm only trying to avoid being eaten by a horde of cat-spiders." This came as a desperate yell.
İİİİ"I can handle it!" Bob set the gun on full-automatic and began to sweep the swarm with leaden death. Many dropped, but they just kept coming.
İİİİ// A bite from one of those things will incapacitate you instantly. Do you want to be the next twitching thing dragged into that lair? //
İİİİBob's magazine ran empty. The spiders didn't stop.
İİİİ// As you should know very well, there is a time to fight and a time to run. Right now is the time to do the latter. I say it again; RUN, BOY! //
İİİİBob turned and ran into the trees at the edge of the clearing.