Entering into the town of the Church of the Sky Father Christ changed everything.
Well, at least as far as my friends yelling at me, it did. There was a presence. It was thick and palpable. So strong you could feel. So powerful you could almost see it. So omnipresent you couldn't help but breathe it. It compelled reverence, yet did not oppress. It called to you, spoke to you and soothed your soul.
Which made it all the more disturbing when your brain oh so helpfully reminded you that a couple hundred people died in this place because some things SPIT on them. That thought was even worse given our soaked stated and HOW we were soaked.
Even so, whatever I or you or anyone else might think about the beliefs of the Church of the people who built this place or the lack of caution of those same people, they did something right. This place was gorgeous, breathtakingly so, so much that even a 12 year old with a bad attitude was hushed into reverence. Even Tom, who at times wondered was ever reverent of ANYTHING. Except for the ultimate awful joke. He might be reverent once he heard that.
He might even ascend to nirvana if he heard that.
Bah, Tom. Twerp.
The roads were cobble stone. No cars were meant to travel here. Weeds had grown up between the stones and a few saplings had finally pushed through and up. The walls of the buildings were an odd mix of concrete and cut stone.
Roof lines seemed to be all angles, yet below them were sinuous curves reminding people of taxito wings or dragonfly wings from Earth. The columns were all hard squares and fluted. Yet rather than leaves at the top, it had images of people and robots and astronomic events in place. It was odd. It was like someone had taken some Japanese architecture, crashed it into Art Nouveau and then spiced with late 21st century Fractal Decorative.
Hey, I LIVE architecture.
The door to the building we wanted to enter was on the main plaza. When we walked through the plaza entrance, our breath was taken away again. We were humbled. I had seen this before, but when I was younger. And it seems the older you get, the more you appreciate when people come up with something beautiful and new. Dad said the church, really a cathedral was based on a historical church in Berkeley back in California in Earther America, but this was far, far grander and seasoned.
It took us a moment before we moved on.
Turning away, we mounted stairs to the side of the plaza entrance. It seemed the members of the Church wanted everyone to walk everywhere. There we went up to the next level over that arching stair. There was a wide, carved, bronze plated double door.
And, of course, Tom walked up and knocked on it.
"We're here to sell Scout Cookies and Popcorn!"
Gah! Did he ever stop!?!
Jackie and Rosa took one side, Veena and I took another. We all pushed. Even Tom one hand on each side.The door creaked and groaned. It moved easier than I would have thought possible if it had been left neglected for decades. I had a feeling it had been used more recently than that. Like in the last few days.
As we went in, Rosa closed her eyes and connected to her drone. It lifted up and over to us. It seemed the members of the Church had not only wanted everyone to walk everywhere, but also wanted radio signals to be blocked when inside. That was...curious.
Rosa directed the drone over around where we saw the body and blanched. Her normally latte skin turned as white as mine.
"There is a body here and its in powered armor. You guys probably don't want to see. It's pretty gruesome."
Telling some nearly teenagers to NOT look is a guarantee we WILL look! We're worse than monkeys.
And I really wish we had listened.
It was obvious our friend here at died of taxito bites but there were also a lot of dead loogers around him. He was pretty gnawed on. I was really glad I had not eaten anything for a while. I'd have made a huge mess.
Oh why, oh why did I have to look?!
If I had not, I would not have noticed though: this guy had been lain here. He had been arranged at least. That meant someone else was probably around. That meant there might be someone in the room. Someone using chameleon camouflage and we couldn't even see that person.
Great. Just great...
We all walked away. Rosa set the drone to document the site and then she needed air. We all did.
I pulled over to the side and sat down. I knew what needed to be done next. We were at the end of our adventure. It was time to call in the adults. We found what or rather who we were looking for and now we were in danger, real danger if the other person was around.
I sat down and pulled out my clean booster I'd been using. I told it to power down. Once that was complete, I pulled out a little box. Inside it was a clone of my regular booster, but powered off and kept in a faraday cage, shielded so no one could track it or find it. I booted it up and synced with it. All the world would know where I was then.
Just to be sure, I called the one person who would scalp me, but after he'd made sure I was safe and also the one person to not flip out before I could explain. But I had better explain really, really well, cuz Dad could turn into an Ogre under the right circumstances. And it was NOT pretty.
So I made the call, but I didn't notice the shadow passing over all of us until it was too late.
"I was wondering when you would turn up. I felt certain incidents had a certain someone's finger prints all over them. All that and then you and your pranksters disappear. You have a lot of explaining to do, young lady."
Bad sign when Dad calls me young lady.
"Listen, Dad. There's a lot to explain, but most importantly, I need you to send a message to the BII and the Marines. We found a body. It's a soldier and we think is Indian. The armor is and its missing the helmet. It's not pretty. We're at the Town of the Church of the Sky Father Christ. We are all fine, all five of us, Tom, Veena, Rosa, Jackie and I. We're all fine and not in trouble. We're perfectly safe..."
And that must have bee the cue the Gods must have been waiting for.
Right then, the biggest cockatrice I'd ever heard of landed between my friends, myself and the door to where the body was. The horrible, nails on chalk board roaring scream of the cockatrice drown out everything else.
Actually, we really were in trouble. Real trouble. Cockatrices were very, very rare now, but the ones that were left were extra deadly and vicious...
So we did what every smart kid would do.
With the cockatrice was in hot pursuit.