Episode 214: Voices of the Dead
"It's not much further." Rico said. The beeping of the tracking beacon was steadily speeding up. They were getting closer to Dizzy's location. Rico's stomach had been doing flips ever since she had been grabbed by the predators and carried away. Despite their personal problems he would never stop thinking about her...never stop loving her. It had been a slight relief when he had managed to establish contact with her on the commlink.
"She's not alone." Haley said.
Rico was about to ask her how she knew but realized, a split second before he spoke, the stupidity of his question. "You mean she's with those creatures?"
Haley paused......."No....not the creatures exactly..something..someone else."
Rico looked back behind them at the maze of watery tunnels they had come through. The predators that had attacked them and carried Dizzy away, couldn't be that far behind. The deeper they went into the maze the farther they were away from back up should they get attacked again.
They walked along the tunnels until they came to a ledge where they could climb out of the watery tunnels into an oxygen atmosphere. They had to be close now, Rico thought.
"Goss?..can you read us?" Rico said over the commlink. There was a static sound and a faint transmission. The rock and water no doubt made radio communication fairly useless.
"...hear you barely....pretty deep....luck finding Diz?..out." was all Rico heard of Gossard's reply, intermittent with static.
"We're pretty much on our own." Rico said to Haley. He may have acted like a Lieutenant on the outside but Haley could see the worry in his eyes, the thoughts in his mind and heart. It was too obvious to block out. Call it empathy more than telepathy if you like. You couldn't be any kind of psy without being receptive to the thoughts and feelings of those around you.
Haley might not have been very strong in the telepathic disciplines but she knew the basics. She could feel the overwhelming concern Rico felt especially for Dizzy's safety...she felt that kind of concern herself but for someone else...Carl. She knew he was no longer here but as they walked along the tunnels she brushed her hands along the rocky walls...she knew that at one time he had been here, in these very same tunnels, perhaps a prisoner like Dizzy. Despite the helpful training under Freeman back at the Academy, she was still having some difficulty gauging the ages of the psychic impression of things that she read. For all she could guess they had just missed his departure. She could feel a kind of faint sound in the rocks...calling to her and yet it's magnitude was dimmed by the force of Rico's emotions.
What if he had never got to see her again, Rico thought. Their last words were spoken in anger.
"We're coming Diz." Rico whispered to himself.
Haley blocked out the sounds emanating from the rocky walls and thought about Carl. It was him they'd be coming for next.
Dizzy continued to run her fingers over the writings carved into the walls of the large underground chamber. She had never seen anything like it before. It was almost hypnotic to look at...compelling her to look at it even thought she had no understanding of it's meaning. At least in the vast cavern she could keep her claustrophobia at bay.
"DIZ!" a voice said from behind.
Rico ran into the room... "Dizzy! Are you okay?". He could not help showing his relief at finding her alive and unharmed.
In recent typical response, Dizzy shied away from him. "Yes...I'm okay." she said flatly.
Haley followed Rico, taking notice of the stranger in their midst and immediately raising her Morita, She pointed it towards the watchful jailer. "Don't move." she said. The jailer did nothing but close his large glassy eyes, seemingly unaware or unconcerned with her defensive action. This was the creature she had sensed with Dizzy and yet she was unable to read anything in his mind. It was closed shut...or telepathically blocked somehow.
"It's okay" Dizzy said to Haley pushing past Rico, "He's a friend. He kept me safe from the others...and brought me here...." She held her arms out, hands towards the ceilings, and looked about the cavern eager to recount the story that the Jailer had told her.
Haley looked up at the alien markings along the walls. Were the sounds coming from them? It was certainly louder in the chamber than it had been in the tunnels. The runes seemed to be pulsing. No, she must be imagining things. The tingling sounds continued as Haley shied away from the walls and tried to concentrate on the conversation at hand.
Dizzy walked up and touched one of the walls. "We were supposed to come here. This place is the key...it has some importance to..."
Dizzy was interrupted when the jailer suddenly spoke. "Johnny...Dizzy...." They both turned to face the jailer, his amphibious eyes seemingly hollow and unaware he had spoken their names.
Rico, suspiciously raised his handgun. "How did you know my name?" he asked.
Haley's heart skipped. She immediately knew why...It was Carl....another psychic implant "dead-drop"...another breadcrumb left for them to follow, like the one Rico had told her about that Carl had implanted in T'Phai back on Tophet and the second one left in the bar tender at Magellan Augustiae.
The jailer continued. "Hello fellow treasure hunters...missed me again..." It was the definitely the jailer's voice and yet they all recognized that it was not his words.
Haley bit her lip. They had missed him again...so close. She could only hope the psychic message he implanted in the jailer would give them a clue to his next destination.
"I cannot tell you where I have gone but the information I have uncovered here is crucial. This information I now pass to you to keep safe. The writings you see about you in this cavern are in fact a code...actually they are THE code...the DNA blueprints of the bugs race, including the queen..."
Rico and Dizzy looked at each other wide eyed. This was not only crucial information but extremely dangerous as well...in the wrong hands, disastrous.
"I am sorry I couldn't stay but..."" there was a pause as the jailers eyelids flipped shut for a second. He didn't continue. Haley slung her Morita across her back and walked up to the jailer who stood silently blinking..his dark orbs still vacant.
"Please...go on..." she said quietly prompting him.
The jailer did not speak. She placed a hand on the jailer's shoulder
It seemed the psychic message Carl had planted was deep within this creatures subconscious. She could feel him frustrated, unconsciously struggling, trying to override the psychic implantations and retake control of his body. At one time, possibly generations ago, his kind had been telepathic, a skill lost with time. Yet, even without these abilities he retained some natural ability to block psychic manipulation.
"Why did he stop?" Dizzy asked, "What's wrong...we need the rest of the message."
Haley waved her hand at Dizzy to be quiet for a second while she concentrated. She didn't know how or what to do to get the jailer to continue so she changed strategies. Carl had once shown her how to calm a mind...and let the thoughts flow freely. The jailer's mind was acting defensively only and it was not his intentions to disrupt the message Carl had implanted...it was a defense mechanism.
The jailer did not move but his eyes closed as Haley attempted to relax his mind.
"...I had to leave. I am getting closer to the help that I need...that WE need." the jailer finally continued..
Haley sighed. It worked.
Rico and Dizzy assumed the "we" Carl referred to was of course them. Haley somehow sensed differently. Carl was not alone any more..where ever he was, he had new allies.
".....the location of these blueprints must not fall into the hands of Freeman's army. I don't need to tell you the consequences those actions would bring about."
"What would that matter...we can't read them anyways. They're in some ancient form of writing that not even the predators or the creatures such as the jailer can understand," Dizzy said.
"Maybe Freeman has something at his disposal that could crack the code." Rico replied. "Maybe that's why he was gathering all the psychics together...perhaps one of them holds the key to unlocking the secret."
Dizzy looked at the jailer. He was still in the grips of Carl's psychic message...he was still fighting the implant and Haley, who had been standing by him only moments earlier, was no longer there to help. Dizzy swung around. Haley was standing on the far side of the cavern looking upwards at some of the hieroglyphic writings carved into the wall.
"Haley?" Dizzy said.
Haley didn't answer. She stood frozen her eyes scanning the walls.
"Haley!" Dizzy said again trying to get the psychic's attention. "What's up girl?"
Rico kept a watchful eye on the jailer as Dizzy walked across the large cavern to where Haley stood. "The jailer is frozen again...he's fighting the implant and we need the rest of the information Carl left us."
At the sound of Carl's name Haley turned around. "Carl?" she whispered. "Can you hear it?" She was looking right at Dizzy and yet there was no awareness in her eyes that she recognized Dizzy.
"Carl? Dizzy said confused. "He's not here Haley." Dizzy reached and put her hand on Haley's shoulder to try to shake her out of her trance. "Rico...something's wrong with her."
Rico looked back and forth from the jailer to Haley, seemingly both caught in their own psychic trances. "What the devil is going on here?" Rico said. He had always hated the idea of people with psychic powers. His own best friend Carl had creeped him out on more than one occasion. Somehow, trapped underwater, on an alien planet ruled by bloodthirsty creatures, with his ex-wife and a seemingly comatose Private, in a cavern full of eerie ancient writing was just too much for him to bear. Too much and yet he did bear it. He swallowed hard and tried to maintain control of himself since he was so NOT in control of the situation.
Dizzy shook Haley by the shoulders "Snap out of it...we need your help!" Dizzy yelled.
"It's so strange...so......unique." Haley whispered. She shoved Dizzy away and placed her hand on the cavern wall. "Can't you hear the sounds?" Haley traced her fingers along the wall, slowly moving her fingers over the ripples and indents in the rock. Each groove she ran her fingers over sang out. Each curve, each line along the wall was a harmony of psychic sounds left there thousands of years ago.
"Please Haley." Dizzy pleaded, "You're scaring us. What's happening? I don't hear anything?"
Still Haley continued to ignore Rico and Dizzy as she moved faster along the wall tracing the hieroglyphs like a blind man tracing brail. The sounds broke into a wave of melody unlike any she'd ever heard. It was like the sound itself was triggered by her contact with the rock walls.
She reached a place in the wall where the sounds abruptly stopped. There was nothing...not a peep...not a ding...complete and utter silence. It was almost painful for Haley to feel in comparison to the wondrous sounds the rest of the carvings emitted...like a void where her abilities were sucked away rather than amplified. She tried to hold back her tears as she soaked up the emptiness of the symbol, longing to hear the compelling music once again. She pulled her hand away quickly as if it had been burned and looked back at Dizzy.
"There's something here." Haley said flatly.
Rico snapped around and looked back down the passageway from where they had entered the cavern not knowing if Haley was talking about the wall or a possible attack. The last thing they needed was another confrontation with the Predators.
"Something?" Dizzy asked. "What's going on Haley...please..." Dizzy could hear a kind of sadness in Haley's voice...almost like Haley had suffered a great loss. It was like the sound of her own voice after her son had died. She glanced over at Rico for a brief second.
"This symbol is a key." Haley replied. "I can feel it...it has no sound." She didn't want to touch the symbol again but she knew that its absence of tone was significant. She placed her hand back on the symbol. It felt cold to the touch...dead. She pressed hard.
"I don't understand." Haley said. "Every groove of every symbol in this room has a psychic residue...an sound or tone that it emits except this one. Whoever, whatever built this room left this one blank...empty." She turned around to look at Dizzy. "I thought it was a key to something."
Dizzy forced a smile onto her face for Haley's sake. Unlike Carl's psychic abilities where he would often prove himself time and time again in the old days by warning the squad prior to a bug attack, Haley's abilities were largely mysterious and, to most non-psys, not readily believable. "Come on Haley...it's okay...we need your help with the jailer."
Haley withdrew her hand from the wall. The tingling sounds started up again calling her to touch the runes again. She silently walked over to the jailer who still stood frozen, his eyes now dried over from his lack of blinking. She placed a hand on the jailers forehead and tried the calming technique she had used earlier to get the jailer to relax and allow the telepathic message Jenkins had left for them to flow from him again.
It was then that an idea struck Haley. "Wait a second...." she said as she grabbed the jailer by the hand and led him over towards the wall where the strange soundless symbol was. "This was never meant to be activated by a human."
"You mean it IS a key?" Rico asked. He joined Dizzy and watched as Haley stood the jailer in front of the symbol and pulled his hand out to touch it.
"Yes...." Haley replied, "And the jailer is the key...only a descendent of the ones who created this place would be able to unlock this...someone with a recognizable psyche to that of this room's creators.."
The instant the jailer touched the symbol; they all heard a faint grinding sound. It came from behind the rock.
"Do you believe me now?" Haley said to Dizzy.
Dizzy blushed as she realized that Haley had caught her earlier thoughts doubting Haley's claims.
She nodded. "Is it a door?"
"I don't know." Haley replied. She ran her fingers down the wall. There was no signs of an opening.
Dizzy reached out and pulled the jailer's hand away from the symbol where it still covered the symbol. Some fine sand sifted down from above and a louder grinding sound was heard.
"Look!" Rico said.
At the top of the cavern was a small opening, big enough for a human or a creature such as the jailer but not a predator.
"I guess this place was filled with water at one time and the ancient ones could swim up to the opening." Haley said.
Rico was fixing his Morita's lizard line. "Any one up for a climb?"
"What about him?" Dizzy asked pointing at the jailer who still stood comatose. "We need him to finish the message."
Haley placed her hand back on the jailer's forehead and performed the relaxing techniques once again. Within a minute the jailer starts to speak again.
"There is a key to unlocking the codes of the ancients of this world...a key that will allow the DNA blueprints to be deciphered. However it is far too dangerous at present for me to tell you where that key is."
"Too late buddy!" Rico said all smiles at defeating his best friends cleverness. "We already found it...uh.....I think."
"My guess is the key to unlocking the hieroglyphs is in that chamber up above," Haley added. She strapped herself to the line and started her slow ascent up to the hole in the ceiling. The rock in the cavern was very old and crumbly and it was doubtful the line would be secure enough to hold much more weight.
"I hope so," Dizzy said. "Whatever is up there, someone went through a great deal of trouble to keep it hidden."
"My only hope is that in time after the threat has passed we might be able to return and study the information about the bugs origin...Farewell, my friends, I shall see you soon."
That's a terribly optimistic sentiment, Rico thought, fearing that they might not catch up to Carl in time...they might not be so clever in following his next trail of breadcrumbs. After all, their discovery here was almost by complete accident. If Haley hadn't been with them they would have never received all of Carl's' message nor found the secret room.
The jailer, released from the implanted message, tried to blink but after the long trance his eyes had dried out. Rico curled his lips back with an "Ugh" as the jailer slipped his long tongue out and licked his own eyeballs to provide them with enough moisture for them to close again.
"What has transpired?" the jailer asked.
Dizzy held out her hand to the amphibious creature. "Our friend left a psychic message implanted in your mind for us to find."
The jailer nodded. "He told me as much. He believes that this place holds some significance to his quest."
"Indeed it does!" they heard Haley say from above as she squeezed through the small hole in the ceiling holding nothing but her torch.
There was a few moments of silence...anticipation.
"Haley?" Rico called up. "Are you okay!"
Haley popped her head out through the opening. Dangling upside down Dizzy, Rico and the jailer could see a grin ear to ear on her face, "It's unbelievable! It's a tiny chamber with more writing."
"Is the key up there?" Rico asked impatient to get out of the cavern and back to the ship.
"Oh yah...back in a sec." Haley called down as she disappeared once more into the chamber above.
"HALEY!" Rico yelled. He wanted some more information but she already gone.
In the tiny chamber Haley could barely stand up. It was like standing in a fishbowl...the walls curved like a sphere. The beautiful sound she heard before down in the cavern emanating from the hieroglyphs was nothing compared to the harmony drifting from the carvings in the tiny chamber where she now stood. Rather than a cacophony of different tones and pitches in the cavern, the chamber seemed to be playing the sounds one at a time. Each symbol was a clear and defined tone.
"My god...these creatures were geniuses." Haley whispered to herself. This chamber was indeed what she had suspected and Carl had alluded too.... it was the key to deciphering the hieroglyphs below in the cavern.
Not only did her studies in archeology help her recognize the "Rosetta stone" that lay before her but without her sensitivity to the psychic impressions she would not have discovered that the code was locked in the form of musical tones only psychic's would be able to hear. The "keys" were in fact keys similar to that on a musical scale. It made sense, as music was, in fact, the most mathematical of all the arts, after all. Quite ingenious really, and quite dangerous in the wrong hands.
Rico stood below. Watching for Haley's return. Dizzy helped the jailer to a rock where he could rest and recover from the rather exhausting battle between his own psyche and the psychic message that Carl had implanted.
The commlink jumped to life,"...zzzz....zzzzbapt....LT....trouble.....need you back here....." Being so deep below the surface the commlink was jumbled at best. It sounded like trouble...for either them of for the rest of the Roughnecks back at the gate, Rico wasn't sure of which. Either way, they had to get out fast. Something big was brewing. It was only a matter of time before their unwelcome presence on this water planet would become critical.
"HALEY!" Rico called up..."WE HAVE TO GO NOW!!!"
Haley took quick note of the few dozen keys and committed them to memory. They would have to come back to spend the time to actually translate the codes in the cavern...the blueprints to the entire bug race.
"Got it!" She popped her head back into the cavern, "I'm coming back down." It pained her to leave the wonderful discovery. Every bone in her body itched to stay and uncover the mystery. She wanted to surround herself in the joyous sounds that the ancient ones had left for her to find. Instead, she slipped onto the line and slid back down to the cavern floor.
The line's moorings finally gave under the strain of Haley's weight and in a shower of dirt and rock. Haley found herself plummeting back down towards the cavern floor. Luckily she wasn't far from the ground and her powersuit protected her from injury.
She stood up and brushed herself off as Dizzy came to her aid.
"You okay?" Dizzy said.
"I guess so." Haley replied, "under the circumstances and all." Dizzy raised and eyebrow but didn't pursue the comment any further.
"Dizzy...Haley..." Rico interrupted, "There's trouble coming. We have to get back to the others.
They both nodded.
".....zzzz.....zzzz..LT.....back up......fast.......pulling out." Rico could barely distinguish Gossard's voice over the radio.
"Copy, Gossard," Rico replied not knowing if his transmission could be heard. "We're on our way back now."
"Did you find what you came for?" the jailer asked
Haley smiled. "Yes...well...part of it anyways." As beautiful and enticing was the psychic codes left in the chamber she would trade it all in for a chance to have Carl returned to her
Dizzy knew the look as Haley's smile faded. "Thank you my friend for all you help." Dizzy said to the jailer as Rico prepared to embark back up the tunnels to the gate with Haley close behind. "I never did ask your name."
"Unfortunately, in the air we cannot even pronounce our own names, and underwater I am sure you would not be able to speak it."
Dizzy laughed at the jailer's odd humor. "Will you be okay?" She heard Rico call her from down the passageway.
He nodded and then ushered her out into the tunnel after her comrades.
It was a short passageway back to the pool where they would be submerged once again until they reached the gate.
Next Episode: 215: Breakthrough