It has been a crazy busy day. We spent most of it running errands from the moment I got up. As a result this is the first time I have sat down at my computer. No writing yet today but yesterday I managed to push through to 15198 and finish up chapter nine. Hopefully I will find the will to write today and get another few chapters. However even if I do not, I can pretty much write all day tomorrow.
8 – Dragon Bone
“This just can’t be” remarked a woman staring blankly at a readout on a lcd screen. Pico had been pouring over the same readings for two hours, analyzing them in every possible way trying to make her conclusion not be true. However many times she did it she ended up with exactly the same results. The ward strength had fallen by roughly 11% in the last day. At first she thought it was a fluctuation, like had happened before after an event. However the levels were not recovering. The wards were seemingly permanently weakened.
Reaching over to the intercom she hovered her finger over the switch that had been labelled “Farragut” with masking tape and sharpie letters. She took a breath in and pressed it. Within seconds the com channel snapped to life. “Yes Pico? What is it?” the man on the other side questioned. “Sir, you are going to need to come see this. I can’t really explain this over the com.” She replied tenatively, dreading the news she was about to deliver. The com channel clicked closed. Farragut recognized the fear in her voice, and knew this was not going to be good.
Pico preferred to keep her offices as far away from anyone else as possible. The lab was a room lit only by the momentary flashes of colored text against black screen. When they had found her, she was had been running a little racket, using her ability to sidestep to build a rather large and unofficial bitcoin mining operation. She had bots within bots catching tidbits of information floating around the net, and then extorting when she found something that should have been kept secret.
The watch had changed that, given her a purpose, a reason to care about the fact that the world was rapidly going to hell in a handbasket. They told her about the wards. Ancient machines buried within the earth, submerged within underground rivers. She knew she could do what she could do, but she never knew why until they told her that she was a betweener, someone who lives between the two worlds not really a true part of either. Since that day she had been the director of the analytical weapons division here deep under the Texas soil at Lone Star watch base. It was here that she made the first breakthroughs in decades on creating the calculation matrix weapons, and here she tried to unlock secrets of the dragon bone matrix deep beneath the earth.
It took a few minutes for Farragut to reach the dungeon, as Pico lovingly referred to it. He opened the door with a very worried look on his face and stepped into the dim light. “What happened? I heard the “something very wrong” tone in your voice”. Pico spun around in her chair and oriented to look up at him. “I’ve gone over the data as many ways as I know how to… but I keep getting the same results.” She turned slightly and within a few mouse clicks brought up a line graph on her monitor. “You see this big drop? This aligns precisely to the moment Chief Aimes ordered the dropping of the Lovelace device. Then each of these” she pointed to a number of smaller drops in the line “Relates to the moment that a calculation matrix round was discharged.”
“What are we looking at Pico? What does that line represent?” he replied the concern on his face growing. “Today we strength of the wards dropped permanently by 11%. Instead of protecting the wards, we destroyed a piece of them. We can’t risk ever using them again… the Ward levels are already down below 60% now.” She said with an almost somber reverence. Farragut let out a deep sigh acknowledging the news. “What does this mean Pico?” He asked with an edge of desperation.
She turned and grabbed a ancient looking leatherbound book from a nearby shelf, the sound of the vellum cracking and straining as she opened it to a specific passage. “We don’t know who created the wards, but for as long as the watch history goes back they have protected humanity from the chaotic influence of the shadowlands.” flipping to a another page “It was the watch’s great engineer Babbage that first devised a way to measure the strength of the wards. He recorded the first drops in their strength. As the signal of the wards have weakened so too has increased the chaotic influence on our own world.”
Farragut nodded “I’ve read the debriefings, increased frequency and severity of weather patterns.” Pico shook her head in acknowledgement “But there is more than just that” she clicked her mouse and opened a program on her desktop. “This is a model that I have created, while I cannot say with any certainty how long we have… but when the wards the earth itself will buckle under the forces of the two worlds merging. The model indicates it will be an extinction level event.” A cold look of fear crossed the others face, they had just sped up that clock by a very significant amount. “Those weapons can never be used again, but that leaves us defenseless as well.” Farragut found himself feeling a little weak, so he took a seat on a nearby stool.
“Babbage didn’t have the models we do, but he came to this same conclusion. The difference engine was his attempt to create a man made ward. Other ward engineers have followed in his footsteps, but we have so far to go. The recent improvements exhibited with the Oakridge Titan, still product less than one one-hundredths of the raw computational field exerted by one of the wards.” Grabbing an even older tome from her shelf, she flipped slowly to the last page. This book was written on that shimmered in the light, almost rippling as she touched it. “This book pre-dates the founding of the watch by several centuries. It mentions something called the Order of Merlin, and a magical colony called Brittagus.”
She held the book up showing an illustration to Farragut. “This is a diagram of the wards, the components needed to create one, and the incantations needed to start the computational core.” Pico let the words sink for a moment “The wards came from the other world, they list components like dragon bone. We have to find this order of merlin, they may be able to repair the wards.” Farragut was not sure exactly what she was suggesting “Surely you aren’t saying we need to send someone into the shadowlands are you?”
“That is precisely what I am suggesting, we are still hundreds of years away from the computational power needing to build our own wards. We have to find a way to repair them, or at the present rate of decay they will not last our lifetimes.” Farragut stood pacing around the room a moment before responding. “This is going to have to be confirmed by other groups, and we will have to convene the high council” his words trailed off lost in the list of things that had to be done before he could order action. “Pico… please make sure the weapons are destroyed. I will work on the council and see what can be done.” He looked at her with a sadness in his eyes “We have to do what we have to do…” He walked out of the room and Pico returned to her screens. She thought to herself “Now we just have to find a way to get there”.