[This one took a turn that I didn't really plan for, so it wound up shorter than I'd planned - we'll be back sooner with the next one to compensate, I think. Simulcast at Patchwork Earth!]
It is said, at the time of the founding of the Capitalized Lands, that there were two great figures, The Author and The Architect. One would weave the story, and the other would bring it to life. The buildings would rise from the mire as though birthed; utopia with a fare, sliding along the surface of a set of catacombs, and adrift from the dying world.
Rocky, Nick, Naomi, and others, they were children born to the Capitalized Lands, taught at the Camps, and knew only the roles they'd been chosen to play, the only history was the history of their city: The Cola Wars, the First Ride of the Monorail.
But The Author no longer spoke, and without him The Architect had no balance. Great works rose and never finished, entertainments no longer drew from the old myths, and shadows were cast by the structures where before the sun had lit every work evenly. It was as in the story that Rocky knew best, when a lasso of chain was wound about the sun and tied to a place, a lone mortal, below: brilliant, but static, and so thus unable to grow. For without the passing of the sun, time stopped and the ages ended.
It was, perhaps, the drugs that came first. Nick had taken to them all too easily. But it was not that sin that drove them apart, but rather Naomi: the discovery of her royalty.
For an instant, as Rocky's fingers trailed along the borderground's walls and fences, catching on thorns and chain link, he thought he glimpsed her torn gown through a portal, but it was gone too fast, as it ever was. Even as he passed through a vault into the tunnels, he could hear the voice of the lawman growing louder.
“No! Benton! I don't want to hear about debts! Benton, listen – I want you to explain it to them very, very slowly, so they understand it. Yes, we're aware. Yes, we'll be closing the old cases. No, I didn't lose the evidence, I stored it. Because! Because, Benton, when you're called to the... to here, you don't really argue, do you? No. No. Benton, listen to me. I'm about to meet with somebody, okay. No, I don't really... no. You know how this stuff works. All but brought here in a duffel bag. A pizza box. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, buddy. You, too. Don't get captured.”
Max Mann, le détective terrible, put the talkcard away, looked over at the plinth in the center of the plaza. It was old, older than most of the things here in the center of the C.L. A child was sitting on it earlier, until a security man came from – where? Behind a bush? - and dragged him of by his ear. Now somebody had left an empty cup there, where it was being explored by a bird. He could still, however, make out the inscription.
“To all those who once passed through.
To all those who built what once was.
To all those who still stand atop our shoulders.”
He rubbed at his nose a little and headed for the magic shop down the path, where Little Lyons met Dreamworld. Where the avenue split, an old green sign was rusted and curled around, which would take the strength of too many not to be noticed. Someone had hung a fresh map sleeve on the knotted steel with something approaching irony, which was in short supply here. He slipped a map free and into his pocket, next to what he believed was the only firearm on the grounds.