Friday, 25 November 1994

The New Age - Chapter Twenty-Two

    Prince Aldair, son of Atlantis’ monarch, Prince Poseidon, sat in his quarters in the royal palace. Aldair had been told to stay here while his father helped Magus and Connor McCloud in in the recovery of Thomas Leacock. Aldair had received word from his father telling him of their success, but the youngster grew board. After all, he had been summoned along with his father by Magus, and so far he had done little in this war with the forces of Darkmagus.

    All of these thoughts came to Aldair as he looked out across the vastness of the city. In fact he was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he almost failed to notice something happening. Outside Atlantis’ main dome there was a huge explosion. The very foundations of the city began to shake as if an earthquake were shaking the ocean floor. At last some action Aldair thought.

    Emergency measures were carried out in order to preserve the safety of the population. Aldair now left his quarters, and outside the dome he could see what was left after the explosion. Dust and sand from the sea bed had been sent all over the place. The view was somewhat obscured. So the young prince made his way to the main entrance to the city. His father would have probably told him to stay inside the dome, but then again his father was still on the surface.

    Aldair was considered one of the best swimmers of his generation, and it didn’t take him long to reach the sand cloud. At first he could not see a thing. The cloud soon dispersed however, allowing Aldair to see what it obscured. At first he couldn’t believe his young eyes. It looked like some sort of craft. In some ways it resembled a submarine, but in others it did not. Aldair soon found a few of the windows. He peered inside but could not see anything. It was obvious that there was no power inside.
 Meanwhile, Poseidon had returned to the main dome to find his kingdom in some disarray.
    “What is happening?” he asked.
    He was soon approached by the pro-consul.
    “There was an explosion outside the dome.” he said. “It shook the entire city. We are taking the emergency procedures.”
    “Where is my son?”
    They were soon approached by another.
    “I saw your son near the main entrance. I think he went to investigate the explosion.”
    “The young fool!” said Poseidon. “Carry on here, I’m going to look for him.”

    Poseidon was soon outside the dome. By the time he was outside the sand cloud had all but gone. He soon saw Aldair swimming near the strange vessel. They were soon together.
    “You young fool!” said Poseidon. “You should have stayed in the city. There may be danger here.”
    “So far I haven’t found any.” said Aldair. “All I found is this strange ship, whatever it is.”
    Poseidon peered into the window. He saw exactly what Aldair had seen.
    “There’s no power.” said Aldair. “Probably because of the explosion.”
    “There are no vibrations, so there’s no movement inside.”

    Poseidon then swam to the other side of the vessel. He soon found what he was looking for - the entrance. Poseidon than grabbed hold of whatever he could and used his great strength to wrench the door off. He was amazed when the ocean did not go flooding into the compartment.
    “It may be some sort of airlock.” said Aldair. “Which may mean we can’t get inside.”
    “We can try.”
    Poseidon then moved forward and proved his son wrong. The two of them were soon inside the ship. Poseidon moved towards one of the control panels.
    “This panel looks familiar.” he said. “It looks like one Magus as Craigmillar.”
    Aldair walked to another part of the compartment where there was someone sitting in a chair. Aldair turned the chair around and expected to find a dead body seated there. What he did find was shocking. He called to his father, who soon joined him.
    “This is one of Darkmagus’ androids!” said Poseidon. “No wonder that panel looked familiar. It’s Istarian technology. This submarine belongs to Darkmagus!”
    “Maybe we should take it back to Atlantis.” said Aldair. “We can study it there.”
    “No. I know a better place for this craft. There are some at the Anglo-Force mansion who have a greater knowledge than out scientists. They may understand it better.”
    “Finally I get to go there again!”
    Poseidon turned and stared at his son.
    “You must learn patience. This world of outs faces a great threat. We must not run into these things blindly. Now come, we must try to restore power to this craft.”

    High above the county of Norfolk Magus flew, deep in thought. He didn’t need his powers to tell him something was wrong. He could sense great evil. The evil was coming from his destination, a small town on the north Norfolk coast.

    From the sky above he could soon see the town of Cromer. It was from Cromer he could feel this strange disturbance. But from the air everything looked normal. Magus began to swoop low over the streets. He soon passed the “Welcome to Cromer” sign. Still everything seemed normal, but wasn’t. Soon he was in the heart of the town. It was then he saw the strange sight. Every street was deserted. There was not a soul in sight. Again he got the strange feeling, the feeling of evil. It seemed to be coming from everywhere, from every building, every house.

    He continued further into the town, towards the school. It was there that he saw what he was looking for, the place where his senses had told him to go. The huge school playing field was filled with people, and not all of them were alive. The bodies of every man and woman born in Cromer in the last thirty years was there. They were all dead. They had all been connected to the android that Darkmagus had sent there, the android of Doctor Arthur Symons. Magus could see that there was much distress in the field. Men and women were crying. Then he saw the man who had brought him here, James Watt. He stood, motionless, silent, because it had been his actions that had indirectly caused all of their deaths. He was the only one standing in the field that knew this. Watt looked around and saw his parents consoling each other. Watt wanted to go to them but for some reason he couldn’t. Then Watt noticed some of the gathered crowd look upwards as they saw Magus land in the field. Some of them began to run away.
    “Magus!” said Watt. “I’m afraid you’re too late. There is nothing you can do here.”
    “I believe there is.” said Magus. “There is more here than meets the eye James. We may yet be able to save their souls.”
    “How? Tell me Magus. I’ll do anything to save them.”
    “Guard your words James.” said Magus. “What I propose may cost you your mortal soul. You soul could give strength to those who wait on the other side.”
    “Don’t waste my time with riddles Magus. I’m not interesting in delaying these people. I want to save. You said there was a way to do that. Now tell me how!”
    “I speak in riddles because it is what we face here. There is a great lie in this affair, and I’m not sure exactly what it is. But to learn the truth you must face the lie, and to do that you must cross over.”
    “You mean I must die?”
    “That is one term for it.” Magus replied. “I can send you to the place these parted souls now inhabit. But there you will have no powers. There is the danger, the chance that the living energy of your own soul might dissipate. Are you prepared to take that risk with only my word that you may return?”
    There was no waiting for Watt’s answer.
    It happened instantly. Watt soon found himself on what could only be described as a ghostly plain, the plain that looked just like the streets of Cromer.
    “Magus!” he called. “What is this place?”
    There was no answer. Watt looked around. Everything looked exactly like Cromer, down to the last detail. The streets were filled with people, people who seemed unaware of where they were, thinking that they were alive. As he looked around he hard a voice behind him calling his name. He turned around and saw Samantha Hetrick approaching him. She, too, seemed unaware of where she was.
    “Sam! You’re here! You’re alright!”
    “Why shouldn’t I be? Nothing bad ever happens in Cromer! But what brings you here Jim?”
    Watt did not answer. He seemed a little put off by what was happening.
    “I didn’t know what you were coming.” said Hetrick. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen your parents. How are they? Are they okay?”
    Watt was again surprised. It seemed that Hetrick had no memory of what had happened. Then Watt again heard his named being called, this time from above. He looked up to see Magus floating in the sky.
    “Say nothing James. These wraiths never see or hear me. I am still on the other side, monitoring their mortal forms. There are unnatural forces at work here. This whole ghostly town hangs in limbo between the real world and the spirit place. Such things are not uncommon as brief transient events. But the duration of this phenomenon disturbs  me. I have never known a manifestation to last so long.”
    Hetrick noticed Watt looking towards the sky.
    “What’s wrong?” she said. “Why have you stopped?”
    “Tell her nothing.” said Magus. “Keep your eyes and ears open. Be on the alert for anything which, even in this place, seems out of the ordinary.”
    Hetrick once again turned to Watt.
    “Jim? Are you okay?”
    “Yeah, sorry about that Sam. My mind was on other things. What were you saying just now?”
    Before Hetrick answered Watt again heard his name being called by yet another voice, this time to his left. He turned to his left and was surprised at what he saw. It was Symons, the android form of Arthur Symons.
    “What are you doing here?”
    “Machines can also possess souls.”
    Watt began to usher Samantha away.
    “What’s wrong? You’re not making any sense!”
    “Stay back Sam. I don’t know what he’s up to.”
    “Indeed you don’t James.” said Symons. “Just as you don’t know that Samantha, and all of the others, see me in my human guise. To their eyes I am still old Doctor Symons. They will not even see me do this!”
    The android raised his arm and struck Watt. Because he didn’t have any powers the blow hurt.
    “You are finished now James. This is my realm! My mind shapes it! My will bends it! You have no powers here. There is no way for you to resist me unless I allow it!”
    Symons continued to beat Watt, Watt felt weak, as if he didn’t have any strength.
    “You have dared venture unto the realm of the dead Watt. Here you shall now stay!”
    Watt was totally powerless. There was nothing he could do. His strength had drained away. Symons was about to finish Watt off when something happened. A huge voice boomed out from seemingly everywhere. Watt recognised that voice. He looked up and could not believe what he saw. What he saw was the giant form of Magus.   
    “Hold, android!” he boomed. “You have tipped your hand too soon! Not is the time of reckoning!”
    The giant form of Magus reached down and scooped up Symons. He then held him tightly in his hand.
    “This is not the true spirit place.” he boomed. “It is a clever simulacrum, clever enough to have fooled me, for a little while!”
    “No!” Symons cried.
    Magus held Symons high above his head.
    “That time is now past!” he boomed. “Now I know this place for what it truly is! I have power here, and your black scheme is now dust!”
    And with that Magus hurled Symons back into the street and right into the pavement. Then Magus began to shrink, and he began to move Symons.
    “Now android, learn the full extent of my power as I use my powers to possess you!”
    A strange energy began to enter Symons. He began to shake about. Then he began to claw away at this chest, scratching away at his breast plate, showing his internal circuits. Then he exploded.
    The next thing Watt knew he was again standing in the field. He held his head as he felt slightly groggy. Magus was standing beside him.
    “Welcome back James.” he said.
    “What happened?” asked Watt. “Did it…?”
    Suddenly a scream came from one of the crowd. She pointed to the bodies.
    Suddenly the bodies began to stir, they began to move. They were…alive!
    “How did this happen?” asked Watt.
    “They were never truly dead.” said Magus. “But come. Let us depart this place before the joy these people feel is replaced by curiosity we will not wish to satisfy.”

    It was later that evening that Watt sat with his parents at their home. Samantha Hetrick was also there. They sat talking when Magus entered.
    “These people want to hear the rest of the story.” said Watt. “The explanation of all that’s happened here.”
    Mrs. Watt turned to Mr. Watt.
    “So this is Magus then?” she whispered. “Doesn’t look all that impressive, does he?”
    Mr. Watt motioned for his wife to be silent.
    “What I can’t believe is all these terrible things that have been going on right under our noses all of these years.” he said.
    “Merely an indication of the thoroughness of Darkmagus, Mr. Watt.” said Magus. “Remember, Miss Hetrick and the others had no idea they were being used in this fashion. There was nothing in their behaviour to expose their master’s plans.”
    “That’s the part I’m finding the most difficult to comprehend, Doctor.” said Samantha. “I have no memory of leaving Cromer, going to London. None of it.”
    “Nor are you ever likely to Miss Hetrick.” said Magus. “Darkmagus created in you…and the others…a duplicate personality. Possessed of all the knowledge and experience of the original, but subservient to him. Thus you have no recollection of what you did under Darkmagus’ influence. For all intents and purposes that was not really you.”
    “But I still have my memories of my friendship with Jim, and many other things.”
    “You remember those because you were not under Darkmagus’ control all of the time.” said Magus. “But I am afraid the others will not. They will not recall, either, their experience in the spirit world, since that, too, was a creation of Darkmagus.”
    “Yes Magus, I see that now.” said Watt. “It was all part of his overall plan to keep me busy, out of the way, to have me wasting my time mourning for all my ‘dead’ friends, while his forces continued with their plot against the Acolytes. They thought they’d covered every contingency, everything, in fact, except the timely arrival of a certain Phineas Magus.”
    “And speaking of the Acolytes, James, it is time we departed. There will doubtless have been considerable activity while we have been here.”
    “You’re right Magus. At least I can leave knowing things are back to normal here.”
    A few seconds later Watt and Magus took to the sky, being watched by the others as they left.
    “Take care!” said Mr. Watt.
    “I will Dad.” said Watt. “Take care of Sam for me.”
    “We must hurry James.” said Magus. “I sense great trials ahead.”
    And so the two of them flew off into the distance.

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