The Locust: Deception and Ordeal

This document describes the deceptions and trials of each of the three combatants sent to meet with the synthetics at the Westin Kierland in the ruins of Phoenix, Arizona on September 30, 2528.

Alyria, Second Healing Sister of Clan Tiala

Alyria is seventeen years old, and this is her first big assignment away from the Healer’s Guild in Village Tiala. She has been chosen for her outstanding biology: she can create immunities and pass them through her breast milk fasten than any other Sister in her class. She is however, romantic and naive. Cyl and Tia, the Synthetics of the Westin Kierland draw this information from her easily, and offer her a chance to help them in their work.
Fascinated, she rationalizes to herself that this offer will fulfill the purpose of her mission, given to her by First Sister Alathea. She is to analyze the food production and medical facilities available at the Kierland.
Instead, she is lured into an orgy that lasts the entire afternoon. Cyl and Tia create synthetic versions of Rintiala and Hunts-The-Ruins, and under the influence of psychedelics, expand their knowledge of Nueguan biology and psychology. Their conclusion is that Alyria, though moderately valuable to them directly, is more useful as barter to the Western Bandits. Once Alyria is put into a trance, just before supper, they alert the Western Bandits to the possibilities of a negotiation. They do not, however, share this decision with the Apache Traders, who are also still on site.

Hunts-The-Ruins, Provisional Trader for the Phoenix Apache

Cyl invites Hunts-The-Ruins (HTR) to look over the water purification and food production facilities that Cyl has recently created. ‘Recently’ means for the last fifty years if you a synthetic. This leads HTR to wonder about the timeline, but politely holds back.
Cyl has done an impressive feat of engineering. What were once artificial lakes and pools on the gold course are now used for fish and crustacean production, solar heating and water purification. Cyl explains that the Westin was designed to handle one thousand full time Sky Wanderers.
HTR asks Cyl to show him more of the civil engineering, and Cyl obliges him. Down into the boilers they go! HTR is impressed by how much Cyl has simplified and adapted Sky Wanderer technology to the era of the Empty Earth. Everything is simple and electric, no advanced computer technology, which means the Phoenix Apache can adapt this to their needs and sell it to the rest of the Apache. HTR explains that what the Apache really want is a way to manufacture the durable glass that the time of 2100 took for granted.
Cyl offers to show him where glass is manufactured. It turns out that sheets are produced and rolled, and the heat generated is pumped back into the water system. To keep the water clean, Cyl and Tia–the biologist of the duo–have bioengineered various bottom feeding fish and crustaceans, which Cyl also proudly explains are also fine dining.
Cyl invited HTR to wade into the pool, which is waist deep. He invites HTR to crouch down to look at the catfish swimming around them. “Put your head underwater, and see how they change.”
As soon as he does, the catfish bloom with bioluminescence. HTR pulls his head out of the water, to see a razor-sharp sheet of glass sliding toward him, a few inches from his throat. Cyl is nowhere to be seen.
HTR does the only thing he can, take a deep breath and dive into the water. He assumes that there must be a large drain, with a screen he can remove, but swimming around, back-lit by bioluminescence. There is a drain, with a screen, but only half the size he expected.
HTR begins to feel the effect of low oxygen, the first stage of drowning. There must be a control down here for sliding the glass back when it has finished its process, but he does not know if he can wait, having used up so much oxygen. He rolls over on his back, and lets himself sink the bottom, the catfish swimming around him, and the crustaceans starting to nibble on him. Everything starts to go dark. “Oh no, not again,”
Then his Nueguan cure starts to work on the genetics hidden in Sean Landesten’s ‘backup’ race, the Phoenix Apache. HTR’s spleen begins to pump out fresh, highly-oxygenated blood. He wakes up with several minutes of fresh oxygen. HTR swims until he finds the ‘big red button’, that Cyl had carefully covered with dead crustacean shells. The glass sheet slides back, and out comes a wet, very angry HTR.

Dianire, Second Sister of the Guild of Builders, Clan Redourine.

Tia offers Dianire a tour of the new Sugar House condominiums located near the major Olympic-length swimming pool of the Kierland.

Sugar House is Tia’s crowning achievement, a building completely powered by solar energy, through growing a translucent cactus, with highly-enriched sucrose running up and down its tubules. The sucrose crystal stores the solar energy in the form of piezoelectricity. Carbon superconducting cables keep the entire building complex running; Tia explains that Cyl will finish the engineering task, making sure that carbon fibre technology is used instead of metal. Tia finally brags about adapting Sky Wanderer technology to grow, rather than manufacturing the cables. “We got this from your creator Sean Landesten. We thought this was his finest creation, then we met Rintiala.”
Dianire asks what kind of defenses do the synthetics have against the Western Bandits, and Tia goes quiet for a moment. “We are undefended, ever since Rintiala proved our engineered diseases are no longer effective. Worse yet, the Super Dogs are deserting us, after the death of Tili. We called you here as a last resort, before the Western Bandits overwhelm us. They still fear the Apache Police, however, and were willing to negotiate an agreement.”
Dianire states her case. “Give me complete information on what kind of Sky Wanderer’s weapons you have, and where other caches of their weapons are stored on Empty Earth. Then we have a deal. We will leave you alone and the Kierland undisturbed. That is the offer from First Sister Alathea, First Among Firsts, and Finds-Water, First among the Apache Traders.”
Tia agrees. “Let’s do a tour of this beautiful building now, and we’ll have supper by the pool to celebrate our agreement. Dianire nods her head, thinking nothing of it.” Tia bows, allowing to Dianire ascend the winding staircase at the ground floor. Tia invites Dianire to look all the way to the stained glass, which is showering Dianire’s face with endless beautiful colors.
Dianire, suspecting nothing, does look up. She turns around to share her admiration of the building’s beauty. But Tia is gone, bars sliding across the doors and windows. Dianire has been trapped.
Tia’s gentle Korean voice wafts down from above. “It is time for your revelation, Dianire. Meet me at the top of the stairs. Open the stain glass door, and meet the future of the Empty Earth.”

Dianires’s Three Trials: Body, Mind, and Emotion.

Body: The floor of the first landing falls out, and Dianire must catch a rope suddenly flung by Tia from the ceiling of the first floor. Dianire hauls herself up through a hole in the ceiling to a large empty room on the second floor, where she is surrounded by nine servitor robots, all armed with differing types of weapons. She uses Wushu Kung Fu to defeat them. Heavily choregraphed. She is victorious, but imprisoned.

Mind: There is only one way out of the second floor room, and it leads up by a narrow, winding staircase to a dusty room filled with old books in English and Spanish. The doors and windows of this room become armored with the same sharp, curved metal that was used for the staircase, and again, there is enough electric current running through the metal to fry Dianire alive. There is only one book that can answer the riddle of leaving this room, and emerging on the roof of Sugar House, the voice of Tia speaks through an old-fashioned megaphone mounted on a wall. Tia gives Dianire only one clue: it is the one that laughs at the lies we cling to.

Dianire scans the titles of the books. Most are old nineteenth-century books on mathematics and physics, but there is a small second devoted to fiction. Those are mostly science-fiction novels from the early twentieth century, but one book is out-of-place: a 1615 first edition hard-bound copy of Cervante’s ‘Don Quixote’. As Dianire thumbs through it, one of the feathers from Tia’s earrings falls out of the beginning of Chapter Six: The Destruction of Don Quixote’s Library.

The answer to the riddle is found by tracing the woodcuts of Edmond Cervante’s ‘Don Quixote’, specifically the woodcut of the burning of the fantasy books in the city square. Dianire’s superior vision can see just the hint of a medieval dragon traced across the fire the only half-devours half of the books. “Excellent!” Tia exclaims. “There is some truth in lies, after all.”

Emotion: The final trial occurs when Dianire is faced with a synthetic Rintiala, who explains the needs and goals of the synthetics, and then offers Dianire a devil’s bargain, which Dianire rejects.

Dianire performs a ‘backward swan’ dive into the Olympic pool below, twisting so that she can land in the deep end. From six stories up, however, the effect is the same as hitting concrete.

Dianire shatters her left scapula and left clavicle; tearing into her left lung and filling it with blood. Instead of dying at the bottom of the pool, however, her transformation into the Dark Queen begins. Her bones begin to grow dense carbon fibres, beginning at her sternum and branching out all the way to fingers, toes and skulls. The pain is beyond excruciating, but in her agony she realizes that the synthetics were telling her the truth. Only by the most intense agony will the Dark Queen emerge.

Dianire swims to the shallow end of the pool, ready to destroy all the synthetics in her rage. Instead, the synthetics and their servitors are clapping and applauding her transformation. The pool was used to record and sample every tiny instance of the emergence of the Dark Queen, giving the synthetics the added knowledge that they needed.

“If you need to destroy us, do so,” Cyl and Tia speak in unison. “But look at what we have given you! If there was another way, we would have found it, but we did not. Hail to you, Dark Queen Dianire!”