|Mark awakens with a number of sharp pains all over his body.|
|The worst one is his shoulder, where the attacker had struck while aiming for Mark’s head. Had he been a few years younger, Mark would have avoided the strike completely. He tries to make sense of what Jimmy is frantically saying to him over the bells still ringing loudly in his head. Has something happened to Faith? Mark slowly gets up and stands on his unsteady feet. He took quite a beating. He quietly wonders to himself whether he ever hit that hard.|
|Mark waves Jimmy off and stumbles to where Doc has tied the mystery attacker to a tree. Mark stands eye-to-eye with the man and puts on his best interrogation face. But it does not last long. He knows this sim. The coffee-colored skin, jet-black hair, amber eyes …and the same unhinged rage Mark used to know so well. Mark closes his eyes and turns his back rather than show the emotion he is feeling. Limping away, he instructs Doc to untie the man.|
|Daring not to argue with Mark in this dire situation, he does what he is asked. Mark faces the man again and states that he has picked one hell of a time to do this. The man angrily shouts a death threat in response. Mark grumbles that he wouldn’t do it now any more than he would have done it a few minutes ago. He looks the man square in the eyes and calmly says (for the benefit of Jimmy and Doc) that his attacker has burned off his rage during the fight, and might actually be willing to talk now.|
|Mark has practiced what he would say in this situation a million times. But none of it seems very useful right now. Mark takes a deep and trembling breath, first looking at Jimmy, then Doc, then regarding only the mysterious dark-skinned man. Mark sighs a deep and weighty sigh. Then, in a distant voice, he explains that he was presented a choice between two paths many years ago. The first path was to sneak a young woman and her infant son away from a village and remove them from the horrors created by hate and violence. The second was to satisfy his own hatred against a man who had killed is mother and brother. Calling him by his given name, Mark asks Khaliq’s forgiveness for making the wrong choice.|
|Faith emerges at the opposite end of the underground waterway and into a dark and damp cave. There should be no light here, yet the cavern is illuminated by a soft, white glow from some unseen source. The weight of her grandfather’s ancient weapon slung across her shoulder provides a small bit of comfort as she takes a few tentative first steps into the cavern. A shroud of dense fog obscures the floor, forcing her to walk with carefully placed steps that create thick, swirling eddies; similar to footprints in fresh snow.|
|She continues like this in silence, toward a brighter section of the cavern that reveals itself to be a chiseled corridor. It goes on for a very long distance, but at its end, there is a dim white light source. Anxious, but not afraid, Faith continues her slow-motion progress through the dark tunnel and the dense fog that hovers over the floor like a carpet. As for how long she continues like this, she is not sure. The tunnel eventually connects to a massive cavern, which she finds to be bathed in a cool, dim light from somewhere above.|
|The sound of labored breathing cuts through the silence. Faith’s heart races. Thank goodness, she is not too late. Faith gently calls out to the sim, saying she has come to help. The only response is the pathetic whimper of a woman’s voice crying. The sound of such desperation nearly causes Faith to break down herself, but she overcomes her empathy and moves toward the sound.|
|Faith’s foot gets caught on something laying on the floor under the fog. She slowly reaches out and feels something soft, like fabric, between her fingers. She lifts it up out of the mist and brings it close to her face to get a better look in the dim lighting. Her shrill and sudden scream reverberates throughout the cavern as the skull, still encased in a bulky, white helmet, clatters onto the floor; along with the skeletal remains of a sim who died wearing some kind of protective, white gear. Nearly hyperventilating now, Faith moves quickly toward the crying woman’s voice. A portion of the cavern has collapsed here, forming a gigantic underground rock slide.|
|And that is how Faith finds her; entombed beneath countless tons of rock and rubble. It is a wisp of her shining, silvery hair that first catches Faith’s attention. Then a pair of startling blue eyes, fraught with despair, peering through small fishers in the rock and rubble. She is frozen in place with mere millimeters to spare between her body and the surrounding strata. This is the source of the muffled cries. As Faith clamours closer, she ponders how the sim is alive at all. Faith kneels down so that she is at eye level with the trapped sim. Drops of condensed fog, sticky and sweet like honey, glisten off of the rocks here and drip freely into the spaces where this sim has somehow been trapped without being crushed. Faith whispers that she has come to help and will find a way to extract her.|
|The job of moving all of this earth would be monumental, even with the rock smashing weapon. Surely all of Sunset Valley would have felt such a displacement of earth below its surface. But the only seismic activity in this area occurred more than fifteen years ago. There is no telling how long the woman has been trapped down here, or how much longer she can survive. Time is both scarce and precious. Frustration sets in, and Faith quietly repeats the word No, then louder and louder, until she is shouting. She cannot let this sim die.|
|Perhaps Faith cannot move the landslide, but faith can accomplish anything…|
|She does not think for a moment that it is either her or the rock-smasher making it happen. But it happens nonetheless.|
|Mark nearly falls over as the ground below him shakes. Khaliq, who has been listening emotionless, does not move to help. But neither does he move to take advantage of the opportunity to attack again. Jimmy rushes to help Mark. He apologizes for interrupting the elder Barimen, but what he as to say cannot wait.|
|Jimmy’s face is panicked as he tells the Mark about Faith diving into the underwater cave. He leaps up, despite the searing pain, and angrily shouts at Jimmy, demanding why he didn’t say something earlier. Jimmy, nearly paralyzed in fear, only musters a babble of consonant sounds.|
|Doc gently puts a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder and faces Mark, fighting is own urge to back down and stare at the ground. But Faith is in trouble. Doc finally manages to tell him calmly that the boy did try; but was rudely dismissed. Mark grunts. Then after a short pause he begins to pace, trying to think of what to do. Neither Doc nor Jimmy have the physical conditioning necessary to survive the swim to the cave entrance. It is impossible for him to do himself with the injuries.|
|Mark stops; slowly turning to Khaliq and leveling an intense, narrowed-eyed glare at his estranged son. Then, quite plainly, Mark tells Khaliq that he has a niece to save.|
|Faith gently lifts the emaciated woman from her bed of rubble; both of them coughing from the dust filling the cavern. Something catches her eye under the loose stones where the woman was laying. It is unlike anything she had ever seen before. The sharp thunder of gigantic boulders shifting overhead gives her a start; prompting her to begin the long walk to the tunnel entrance. This whole cavern could come down at any moment. Faith struggles under the dead weight of the chrome-haired woman. But she manages to get her to the relative safety of the tunnel. Then she does something monumentally stupid.|
|Despite her own objections, Faith rushes back into the cavern to get another look at whatever that thing was. Crouching on the floor, she reaches out to touch it. It is neither technology nor biology …but somehow both. She begins to clear some of the rocks to uncover more of what she has found. Is it some kind of …computer? Although rocks from the ceiling begin to fall, Faith cannot seem to pull herself away from the fascination of what she has found.|
|She kneels here like this, uncovering the thing bit by bit, as if oblivious to the rumbling under her feet or the earth from above pummeling the cavern floor around her. It is beautiful, dangerous, and powerful; and it seems strangely alive under her careful touch. Almost trance-like, she caresses its organic lines; feeling the algorithmic music singing through her entire body. The sensation is not unpleasant, and Faith becomes fully absorbed in the experience.|
Faith hears the gentle whisper of the woman whom she has just saved; only there are hundreds of her. She feels calm and empowered, as she is carried swiftly with them through some kind of current. They stop and hover for a short time, visiting a younger Hope giving birth. Then she sees Hope again at the hospital, beaten and bruised. Faith whispers to her mother that she loves her. She moves again in the current, then she sees him. She realizes this the act of her conception. He is the father she has been wanting to know. He is crude, frightening, and brutal. His dark skin is adorned with self-inflicted scars and savage tattoos. Hoops, hooks, and studs poke out from various parts of his anatomy. But it is his soul, which stinks from the wickedness in his heart, that causes her to recoil. She finds that she cannot bring herself to look at him.
Thankfully, she is lifted away with the other voices as they continue through the current. She sees the chrome-haired woman many times, in different places. There is a cemetery on the beach where she walks in such grief, that it can be seen coming from her in waves. The voices have all joined together in a beautiful chorus. They are actually comforting her. Faith smiles and joins in, whispering quietly that she will be okay; and that faith will someday save her.
Now they are at the hospital again. But the voices are not gentle now. They are panicked, shouting for “Kacey” to get out of bed and leave the hospital before “they” find her. Faith is carried away as they visit Kacey in the hospital bed many times, the voices soothing her and gently giving comfort through their sweet song. Faith wonders for how long she had been sick. Another swift movement through the current shows Kacey with the man from the pictures; a young David Barimen. The voices grow quiet here, as if afraid of something. Then they are in the cavern again. David Barimen, barely in his twenties, lie bleeding and dying on the cave floor.
She sees Kacey too, crying again, pleading with a sim whom Faith cannot see. Are the voices blocking Faith from seeing this other sim? Are they protecting her? She may not be able to see him, but she does hear him. His voice is wild and unstable. The chrome-haired woman begs him, calling him Reid, not to kill David. He demands that she venture into the “continuum” and return when the device has finished calculating the algorithm. With any luck, she’ll be back in time to save David from bleeding to death. She pitifully argues that it could take the most powerful computer hundreds of years to calculate the algorithm. His only response is a hideous and maniacal laugh…
|She emerges abruptly from the encounter, shrieking with fear as her name is shouted from a voice she does not recognise. Chaos is unleashing around her. She stands, sweating profusely, her still chest heaving. She faces a menacing dark-skinned man. Two primal instincts fight for dominance in her mind, fight or run. The dark-skinned man tells her that they must leave. Faith takes a minute step backward. He reaches out his hand and tells her that he is her uncle, and if she wants to understand how, then she must follow him …NOW! There is only a short pause as larger rocks now begin to rain down.|
|Faith slowly reaches out her hand, then disappears with him into the thick dust and fog of the collapsing cavern.|
|“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
– Matt. 17:20
|Author’s Note – This post begins to pull a bunch of loose ends together. Below are a few posts that may help clear up what is happening.
Chapter 2.22 – Madness
Chapter 3.7 – Shrapnel
Chapter 3.10 – Stud
Chapter 3.?? – Voices
Chapter 4.12 – Secret
Chapter 4.20 – Angel
Chapter 5.13 – Future
6 thoughts on “Chapter 5.19 – Khaliq”
Very curious to see what Kacey has to say about all of this! I was wondering when Mark’s son would join the story again, perfect timing.
Like tipix, I was wondering when Kaliq would show up. I figured the time was near a few posts ago, but I’ll be interested to see how you approach this.
The moment when Faith saw the many Kaceys was stunning. Not only was the writing superb, but the image was beautiful and it was awesome to see so many ends tied together! This is probably the biggest “joining piece” you’ve written so far, and it was interesting and got my mind spinning!
I can’t wait for the next update, not only for hat I mentioned earlier, but for the possible (if any) repercussions of the earthquake Faith caused.
Loved the imagery of her name in this update. Additonally, the Bible verse was great, a favorite of mine!
I’m really, really anticipating more!
Aye, this post has been waiting a long time to be written. But keep in mind that nothing is ever as simple as it seems…
Thanks for the comment!
Really, this is great! I can’t imagine how much effort and work went into making this whole chapter – that cavern is absolutely breathtaking! I can’t wait for the next chapter! I’m practically shaking!
Thanks! Believe it or not, the cavern “stage” was actually petty small. The image of the underground cavern was “borrowed” from Champions-Online again. I know it’s tantamount to cheating, but it was the perfect representation of what was in my head.
Heh, I won’t tell! It definitely helped with the imagery, that’s for sure. 😀