Carpathia III: Episode 17 - The Return of Phobos

Rising Falls

With the task of building his pool complete, Adell was growing bored once again of life on the island in the Rising Falls. Much of the time he spent in the pool he built was to escape the stifling heat and humidity rather than for pleasure. When he wasn't swimming or helping the old man catch fish, he was practicing his new ability levitating stones and manipulating the soil. His hope was to build something to climb out of the Rising Falls, but his progress was frustratingly slow. The size of the stones he could raise and throw was growing only marginally larger and he was only just beginning to learn how to open small cracks in the soil. Still, he practiced. He practiced not only because he had nothing else to do, but because he still had hope that he would be able leave the island and eventually the planet and hopefully find his friends along the way. His ability would no doubt help.

Artemis was faring no better. At first, he was able to practice his healing skill on the old man, whose eagerness to be a guinea pig seemed to have no boundary. However, even Artemis became alarmed after awhile at how willingly the old man would repeatedly slice open a part of his body so that he could heal it. Over the months, Adell and Artemis sometimes speculated to each other how long the old man must have been alone on the island. Both agreed that his zeal in helping Artemis practice, on top of his appearance and lack of ability to speak, likely meant that he had been there, without any kind of human contact, for decades.

Once Artemis finally refused to allow him to continue cutting himself, the old man resorted to other measures, such as purposely tripping or falling off of a rock. He was a terrible actor and his pratfalls, while comical at first, were getting stale.

Adell climbed over the jagged rocks to the end of the cliff where Artemis sat, looking as though he was lost in thought. Since he finished working on Deimos, the cliff was his favorite place to go to be alone. They were both now so accustomed to the roar of the water that neither of them noticed it anymore and Artemis heard Adell coming up behind him. He hastily wiped his hands with a small towel which he normally used to clean his computer screen and spoke to Adell without turning to look.

Artemis: We're going to be here forever, just like the old man.

Adell: Not forever, but it's going to be a long time before I can build a way out of here with rocks.

Artemis stuffed the towel in his pocket as he turned. He saw Adell standing before him but nobody else. He glanced around, looking for the old man.

Adell: I told Deimos to keep the old man company. I don't know if that will be good enough, but it's worth a try.

Artemis: Well, that's just great, isn't it? Another problem solved, and the only problem that matters is the one I can't solve! I swear my brain is going to atrophy if we stay here any longer! How long will we be here? Years? My computer battery only lasts five. What will I do then? We'll both end up like the old man before long!

Adell: I'm still trying to move bigger rocks. Maybe I'll have a sudden breakthrough or something.

Artemis: Well, keep practicing then. However long it takes, you'll be able to do it.

Artemis spoke as Adell reached up to take care of an itch on the side of his head. Suddenly, he froze in mid-scratch and looked at Artemis in astonishment.

Artemis: What?

Adell: Did you just say something... supportive?

Artemis: Gah! Um... no... No, I would never do that!

Adell: You just did.

Artemis: I did not!

Adell: Well, anyway...

Just then, Adell felt a tug on his pant leg. Thinking that Deimos left the old man alone, he turned quickly, but was surprised to see Phobos standing behind him.

Artemis: There you are!

Phobos took a step backwards as Artemis bent down to retrieve him.

Phobos: Master Artemis, Master Adell, I found something.

Artemis froze in his tracks and they both listened to him in rapt attention.

Adell: What did you find?

Phobos: If you could follow me, I will show you.

Phobos turned and trotted deftly over the jagged rocks towards the path that lead down the peak. Artemis started to follow, but Adell stopped him. He smiled and pointed at Artemis's shirt.

Adell: By the way, you missed a spot.

Artemis looked at his shirt and emitted a tiny squeak of embarrassment. He quickly pulled out his little towel and wiped his shirt with it.

Artemis: You didn't see that!

With that, Artemis chased after Phobos, navigating the tops of the rocks with cat-like agility. Adell sighed, wishing he could climb over the rocks so easily before finally plodding after them.

At the bottom of the hill, they met up with Deimos and the old man, who promptly slipped and fell in the gravel path in melodramatic fashion. Artemis rolled his eyes and checked the old man for injuries. After healing a few cuts and scrapes, they continued to follow Phobos further down the path.

Finally, they crossed the rocks to the smaller island where the monument and gravestones stood. Phobos lead them to a stone mausoleum and leaped on top of it. This one was different from the others. The others were large enough to walk inside and had large stone doors indicating their entryways. The one upon which Phobos stood was much smaller and was not nearly as elaborate. It looked as though it were simply an above ground grave that nobody bothered to bury. An ancient seam ran along the top edge leading them to suspect that, unlike the others, this one had a lid rather than a door.

Adell: The grave?

Phobos: This one is not a grave. It is empty and I am detecting stairs and a tunnel within.

All three of them looked at each other and then back to the mausoleum. They crowded around it to look for a way to penetrate its stone exterior.

Artemis: Do we have any tools that can break this open?

Adell: Hmmm... I've only been lifting and throwing rocks before, but never breaking them. I can try. Stand back.

Artemis and the old man took several steps backwards, joining Deimos who was observing them. Phobos remained where he was.

Adell: You too, Phobos. I don't know what's going to happen.

Phobos jumped down from the mausoleum and joined the others. Adell, satisfied that they were all far enough away, placed his hands on the rough-hewn stone and began to concentrate. He ran his fingers over the the pits and imperfections of its surface. As he did so, he found he could memorize every pit, every inconsistency in the stone. In his mind, he felt as though he was transported inside the very stone itself and he pushed upon the innards of the rock. There was a loud crack and tiny shards of stone flew out from the top of the mausoleum. The others stepped back further. There was another crack, and another, and more shards erupted from the stone lid as though exploded with tiny detonators.

They watched for several minutes as Adell continued to break up the stone slab and were alarmed when some of the stone shards hit him on his face and arms. On one occasion, Artemis stepped forward so that he could attempt to heal the many cuts that were being etched into his face, but Adell waved him away. He wanted to finish. He was worried that if he stopped, he would have trouble mustering the concentration again to continue.

Finally, there was a tremendous crack and the stone slab wobbled in its foundation. Another crack, and the slab collapsed down the hole within, the large stone pieces tumbling somewhere far below. Adell lowered his hands and peered inside as the others rushed up and did the same.

They could only see a short distance inside as the pitch black darkness overwhelmed the opening a short distance inside. All they could see were the top few stairs descending into the darkness.

Phobos: The stairs are deep and the tunnel is long. I cannot say for certain how long it is. The end is outside of my range.

Artemis: It must lead somewhere. After all, someone built these things here.

Adell: Artemis, now would be a good time for you to practice healing.

Artemis looked up at Adell's bloody face and arms.

Artemis: Oh, right. Sorry.

Adell reached up with his hands and once again, a soft, green light emanated from them. One by one, the cuts on Adell's face and arms closed until all that was left was the blood that they left behind.

Adell: Thanks. Man, that was draining. I'd love to leave right now, but I think I'm going to have to sleep first.

Adell let out a big yawn.

Artemis: We'll need a couple of days to get ready anyway. I need to pack my things and we'll need plenty of food and water to go with us. You heard Phobos. We don't know how long this tunnel is. We might be down there for days before we find an exit. How about it, old man, you're coming with us right?

They all turned to the old man, whose face had either a look of horror or astonishment on it, which it was they could not tell. Finally, he closed his eyes and shakily shook his head.

Adell: What? You're not coming?

The old man shook his head again. He pointed at the ground and then held his hands to his heart. He started to point somewhere else, but quickly became frustrated, flailing his arms around, unsure of what to do. Finally he stopped and smiled sadly. He stepped to each of them, giving them a hug, first to Adell, and then to Artemis. He pointed at both of them and then to the tunnel and clapped his hands. He then pointed to himself and then to the ground. Saddened, Adell decided in what few hours remained to them on the island he would work to try to convince the old man to come with them.

Adell: Well, we're not leaving right away, so you have time to think about it, okay?

The old man pointed towards the water and then held his hands to his mouth, pretending to eat something. Then he spread his arms wide and pointed back to his house. The meaning of this, at least, was clear to both of them. He intended to prepare a large feast before they left.

Artemis: Okay, I'm hungry anyway.

The old man turned and walked down the path, followed by the others. Artemis was surprised when Phobos leaped onto his back and climbed up and sat on his shoulder.

Phobos: Are you going to erase me?

Artemis felt his stomach churn and his tail prickle.

Artemis: Well, that is... I... um...

Adell: Bad idea to do that. It was because of his independence that we have a way out of here now.

Artemis looked back and forth between Adell and Phobos several times before giving in.

Artemis: No, I am not going to erase you.

To his surprise, Phobos smiled.

Phobos: Thank you. Can I call you "Dad?"

Both Artemis's tail and ears stood straight up.

Artemis: What?!

Adell put his hand over his mouth and giggled.

Adell: Hee hee.

Artemis, his mind a whirlwind of thoughts, lost the will to argue with the two of them.

Artemis: Oh, all right. You can call me whatever you want.

Phobos leaned over and wrapped his little arms gently around Artemis's neck.

Phobos: I love you, Dad.

Artemis: GAH! Okay, that's it! Stop talking now! You're freaking me out!

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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