#26 – The Comet Knight

“Greeting, Ipsissimus. I trust your leg is feeling better.”

The comet knight heard the voice from within his head, yet he opened his eyes to look about. The room was the size of a paragon’s residence, with a transparent wall blending up from the floor. From the bed, the knight could only the spires and peaks of the city below. He was alone, with a black mirror aglow on the opposite end. When the knight tilted his head to see, a realization donned on him. “You know my name?”

“I read it off of your armor.” The mirror flashed, and the voice emanated from within his armor. “There was a time when I could name every soul inhabiting your home. The ‘Kingdom’, you still call it, yes?”

“‘The Kingdom Above’.” Ipsissimus said as he stretched his legs. “I was told you knew everything.”

The mirror became a blur of orange, “Oh, much more than anyone could hope to, but over the past few decades, ‘The Kingdom Above’ hasn’t spoken to me.”

Ipsissimus was dubious. “It speaks?”

“Not anymore.” The voice was curious. “Tell me please, how many people does the hub-station support.”

The Knight thought about it, and his suit fetched the most recent data, and listed the numbers on the side of his vision field. Before he could answer, the black mirror thanked him.

“Oh perfect, that’s much easier. I had expected a similar figure.” The personality switched into a smoother tone. “I do apologize for not letting you get your bearings. I had gotten so excited to catch up on my history, that I turned rather forceful. I’m sure you have questions and a reason for coming. What do you wish from your time here?”

“I came for Tanchuck’s suit.”

“Oh, you wish to appropriate his suit’s memory. We can accommodate that. To what end, may I ask?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happens after? Do you have intentions for the years ahead?”

“No, not exactly. I-”

The voice’s volume burst with force, interrupting the knight. “You are aimless! How fortunate for us, as a man of your skills and tools is needed. Do you have an interest in doing great things? Do you wish to follow in Tanchuck’s depressions?”

“I don’t wish to follow anyone. I’m here to learn about… I’m here to get…” In the knight’s mind, his first days were being replayed. He thought of the fall, and the soldiers of the six valley cities. He remembered the crop thieves, sheltering in the ruins. The words of the valley commanders rung in his ears. His hands flexed, reminiscing about the long run to the jungle lands, and the gortesquerie of the cannibals. The comet knight looked up to the mirror. There was no face there, but it was where he felt the eyes coming from. “How can I get back up there?”

There was a long silence, which was eventually broken by a drawn out hum. “Hmmm. It’s not an appropriate task for one man. A craft and fuel would take hundreds of hours, and the facilities would take years to get operational. You might survive a magnetic sling, if you could build one… Let me ponder that longer.”

“How did people get up there in the first place?”

“Have you truly been denied your own history? How tragic!” The voice changed to a grizzled elder. “All the materials needed to supply the hub-station and colony ships were once elevated within the six tethers.” The voice returned to a young man’s “They were brought down centuries ago. A true shame, and not my decision. I had always appreciated how they webbed over the sky. A monument that reminded all under it’s stretching arms that we were connected. Young ones were taught to navigate using them, and old ones could tell exactly where they were in the world, only seeing the sky… But they are extinct, and so is that method of transport.”

“Is there nothing you can do?”

“Oh, you are asking for my help? “There is nothing I can do personally. They call me a ‘brain-in-a-box’. I don’t have the hands to build you a rocket, or a sling, but… the city might.” After a pause, the mirror informed. “What I can do, is let you access Tanchuck’s armor. Someone is using it, but she shouldn’t mind you reading the information off of it.” A ponderous hum sounded, “If you are willing to give us some of your time and effort, I believe the city can provide recompense. Finding a way to send one man up there is a much easier task with the help of thousands.”

“Is this blackmail? I have to do something for you, before you do something for me?”

“Oh no, not at all. If you desire to lounge about, ‘petting the wereshrooms’ you are free to do so. After time, whichever parties that are interested in sending you into orbit will get around to it. I know some of our inhabitants would love to have a reason to blast a man into the sky. I reasoned that as it would take a long time before the vessel or sling was ready, you wouldn’t mind keeping occupied. That idea remains, and you strike me as a man who needs to keep moving. I can’t picture you reclined from dawn to dusk.”

The knight considered the prospect. “I’ll need more time to think about it.”

The image on the screen shifted to a windy sand dune. “Time is the least we can give you, to thank you for brave actions in the battle.”

“Brave actions?” Ipsissimus was doubtful, “Something tells me, you people were never in danger.”

“Danger? I’ve nearly forgotten that term.” The screen chuckled at it’s own words. “You have relieved us of a great inconvenience. It would have taken weeks or more before the Sun-Stained gave up, and you had them broken in four days. The freedom you expedited is certainly appreciated by the council. Don’t take it too personally if the common folk don’t see it the same way. The sight of the gore you left in your wake has disturbed some. That, and there was a episode with the previous knight who was here. Some of the more meritous folk are quite old, and remember well.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” The knight said, before he understood the significance. “Wait, so I’m free to be in the city?”

“Eventually, yes. For now, you will be staying in the visitor’s quarters with your traveling companions. They are quite keen to hear from you. A Golden Throat named Jules will address any further queries on your way back.”

Two painted eyes formed on the mirror, looking straight, then off to the side. By impulse, the knight followed the gaze, and found the Golden Throat standing in a doorway. He spoke with the same voice as the mirror. “Please follow me at whatever pace is comfortable.” the Golden Throat exited the room. A slowly fading, teal light tailed him upon the floor.

As Ipsissimus rose to follow, he noticed his ankle has been sealed and pressed back into it’s old shape. He looked back to the mirror, which was dark again. It sounded it’s last words. “Good manners never hurt, and please come back if you desire conversation, or if you wish to be useful.”

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