Thursday, April 30, 2009


((9 - Ghost Hardware))

Spider, Zebra, and Giraffe were a little bit further behind, narrowly dodging the crystal spikes. Up ahead in the tunnel, they could see Goat, Skunk, and Owl running full tilt. As they reached the end, Goat threw himself bodily from the crystal face--

Skunk skidded to a stop, but the ever-inattentive Owl bowled straight into her. Both plummeted out.

The other three managed to stop, looking out. To their side was the city of Face, a city falling apart. Crystal cracked around them. Beyond that, the beasts were emerging from the crystal, taking flight, still glowing red. There was a sound like a thousand thunderbolts crashing as one, and their crystal world exploded around them.

Millions of shards flew, slicing their faces and clothes, as they were thrown out into the abyss. Below, they could just make out Goat, Owl, and Skunk, falling beyond--

--falling towards a large chunk of crystal that almost seemed to hang in the air--

--they hit it with a flash of inky shadow, and then vanished.

Falling. Falling.

The world, collapsed, broken, shattered.

Suddenly, a new sound cut in. A sound of metal on metal, of dozens of bits over each other, rattering. Something enormous and gray-silver came out of the hailstorm, plummeting down to match their speed. An aerial beast of gears, cogs, brass and wood, with four glowing boosters attached to what might be described as the four corners. On the either side of the craft were two massive, bat-like mechanical wings, clearly for stabilization. The machine was open on the top, the control deck exposed to the open air. It matched pace with them, then cut in sharply at their angle, catching them.

One after another, with absurd accuracy it matched up and caught each of them, all of whom landed firmly into a cockpit that didn't look terribly different from the exterior. A domed metal shutter snapped sharply into place above them, keeping out the falling crystal shards.

"Ow, FUCK!" Spider exclaimed as she landed not too gently into the compartment. Out of frustration more than confusion, she hit the walls around her.

Familiar plants of varying sizes and species lined the walls, making for an odd contrast with the brass and hardwood of the surroundings. A young man was seated alone at the helm, surrounded by gears and knobs and levers and dials. He was concentrating VERY HARD on not killing all of them by driving the contraption into one of the falling crystal glaciers.

"Ow..." Zebra focused on making sure she was okay for a second before looking around. "Well, I'm glad we were caught, but... where are we?"

"What the hell? Giant...flying...thing?" Spider looked around, steadying her heartbeat and taking in the surroundings.

"How do you steer this thing and how do you keep it up!?" Giraffe asked hurriedly.

"Hello!" The man at the dials seemed to shout over the din of the shattering crystal. Oddly enough, he seemed... excited? Ecstatic?

Giraffe glowered at the man for not answering her question.

Kasby turned to her, before quickly looking back to his controls. "Ah-...oops! Um, it's kind of like... channeling system.." He seemed to be trying very hard to both answer her question and keep the crystals from ripping them all to pieces. He obviously had a lot on his mind.

Spider sat on the floor cross-legged, looking around nervously and trying to hold onto the floor for support. She didn't look very pleased. A spiderweb of cuts was laced across her arms and chest. "Greaaaat..." She looked at her companions, but they seemed more or less unharmed.

"Huh." Giraffe continued to stare at the controls, trying to figure them out. Zebra walked over to observe them as well.

Amidst a whirl of lever-pulls and knob-twirling, all the while gripping those wooden controls tightly, they seemed for the most part break free of the crystal hailstorm. Kasby let out a deep sigh of relief. "Oh... well... never done that before!" he said, turning to them and laughing lazily.

Giraffe frowned at him. "Who are you? What are you doing here? Mister man."

Zebra cut in. "I'm gonna repeat my question: Where are we? In fact, I'll add one more: What just happened?"

The young spindly girl finally got the courage to stand up, after the worst of the shaking had stopped. Spider grabbed her thick spiky web of black and hair and shouted, "GET ME ON LANNNNNNNNND!" She paused for breath, then continued, "OUR WORLD EXPLODED!"

Zebra rolled her eyes. "Thanks, I got that. I was more wondering why and, if the world exploded, where are we now?"

"And why did the crystals stop...?" Giraffe mused.

Kasby looked around the circle, darting his head between faces. He seemed to be, for the most part, ignoring the questions, and more enthused by just their presence. He was a decently tall fellow, draped in what looked like a longcoat- probably some kind of rough leather, with plates of metal sewn into the fabric. His mirrored goggles, which were previously tight around his eyes, now rested on his forehead, but did nothing to lessen the wildness of his copper hair. "You... you are all very much alive."

Spider glared at him, and smacked her lips.

Giraffe tapped her heavily-clad foot, waiting for the man to answer her questions, her face becoming even more pointed as she became impatient. "Yes, we know that!"

"Yeah, we're alive," Spider said quietly, "unlike the rest of our whole city." She seemed more ticked off than actually sad, or in shock. As her heart rate slowed, she gathered her composure.

Tired of being ignored, Zebra sat down and waited.

Spider's last comment seemed to land on ears that were previously deaf. His eyes fell and his head lowered a bit. "Yes... I'm... sorry. Really sorry. By the time I got there..." He looked up, the previous glow in his eyes much diminished. "Well, it was a miracle I could save you three.

"Everyone had spikes through them..." Spider finished for him, under her breath.

Giraffe stared at the man. "What do you know?"

He turned to Giraffe. "Um... quite a bit, I expect?"

"Care to explain?"

Zebra was not amused. "Then I would suggest you start sharing."

"Look, what happened out there is kind of complicated. I can show you, but... well, not here." Kasby said earnestly.

Giraffe frowned again. "Well, where then?"

"Where else is there?" Zebra asked.

Kasby raised a finger: one minute. He tapped a few buttons on the console, and a few lights came on. Zebra raised an eyebrow at that. The dome that had previously covered the cockpit split open, revealing the fog of the Void thick around them.

"Wha--!" "Shit-!" Giraffe and Zebra exclaimed in unison. Spider simply looked up, cocking an eyebrow.

"So, uh, thankfully, your cryst-- your city wasn't terribly far..." Kasby said.

"From what? We never saw anything else!" Giraffe shot back.

Kasby kept on tapping buttons, occasionally pulling a lever. The aircraft to dip down, plummeting through the fog of the void. Off in the distance, high above them, a diagonal edge of crystal could be seen, flashing past in the fog.

Giraffe let out a scared yelp, and Zebra wrapped her arms around herself.

Kasby pushed in on a wooden handle, and the entire vessel made a sharp turn to the left. Spider fell over again, obviously very out of place in the air. She latched her whole self onto the back of Kasby's chair and clung on for dear life.

Giraffe felt around for any hand or foot hold, settling for Zebra. Zebra, meanwhile, had braced herself in a corner.

"So, I don't think I really got to introduce myself, what with all the crystals..." Kasby started, seemingly unfazed by the zooming and swerving of the aircraft as it sought its destination.

"Spider." She stuck her hand over Kasby's shoulder, still crawled up on his chair.


"Giraffe," she grunted.

"I... I really can't tell you how nice it is to meet you all!" he seemed to mean this very genuinely. The ship made another sharp turn.

"Why do you keep doing that?!" Giraffe yelped.

"I don't care!" Spider shouted in his ear as the...thing changed direction. "Get me on something that doesn't MOVE!"

Zebra reached a hand over to Giraffe to help her get a better position.

"In case any of you are wondering..." he continued. The aircraft suddenly swung diagonally up. "My name is Kasby..." he said, standing up from the controls and raising his arms.

"Stay near the controls, I don't wanna die like this," Giraffe muttered.

"And this... is The Corkscrew!" he remarked. In front of the ship, they could see a colossal shape peek out beyond the fog. It looked quite a bit like the Archimedes in basic elements, but that was where the similarity ended. It may have been made of wood and gears and brass, but the only adequate way of describing this behemoth would be a flying castle. A massive, mobile fort, barely smaller than Face itself.

Spider gaped. "What."

"How does that figure..." Giraffe stared.

Spider frowned, and stood up again. "Why isn't it attached to something," she said, positively distressed. "WHY ISN'T IT STANDING STILL?"

As the Archimedes started to approach the floating behemoth, they all got an idea of how big this thing was. And how mobile. It was very unlike anything they'd ever seen.

Kasby grinned at Spider. "Doesn't need to be!" he said excitedly.

Something large and dark and leathery slowly detached itself from the bottom of the Corkscrew, dropping out into the void with a quiet sigh.

"I like my cities attached to something! Against the face, not where it could fall into the void!" It took Spider a moment to realize the phrase 'cities' came off of her tongue. Wait. Another city? "Where's its support?" she muttered to herself, puzzling now.

"Boosters on the bottom, channeling demonic energy out of filled crystals themselves from the Deep Engine Room!" Kasby began to elaborate, but it really just sounded like babbling to them all. He branched on to some subject of fusion reactions, almost talking to himself at this point.

Without warning, the Archimedes shook hard to the right.

Giraffe raised an eyebrow. "Did you do that? 'Cause you'd better fix it if you didn't."

He spilled to the side, catching onto one of the wooden railings. "Um, no, that certainly wasn't me.

Spider cursed, and jumped onto Kasby. Zebra almost lost her hold, but stayed where she was. No time to help Giraffe, though.

A horrible shrieking noise came from below the ship. One leathery hand clawed its way up, grasping at the railing, all black fur and angry spikes.

"Just... give me one second!" said Kasby, walking his way up the now-slanted deck to the controls. He hardly noticed Spider clinging to him. This guy must get a lot of exercise.

Giraffe tried to back into the corner, forgetting Zebra was there. Zebra pushed Giraffe away from her, taking a look over Giraffe's shoulder.

The hand grasped about, scrabbling for purchase. After a moment, it was joined by a second hand, then a third.

"I want to go home," Spider wailed, stomping on the floor.

"There is no home!" Giraffe shot back.

"I don't think this is the time for such debates!" Kasby said, urgently trying to reach the control console.

"Then what is it time for?" Zebra scowled.

When she saw the...thing, Spider jumped up onto a wall of control panels as far as possible. "WHAT IS IT?" She managed to get up the slope easily, and offered Kasby a hand.

The claws snaked out, wrapping around Zebra. "Shit!" she cursed. They began to squeeze, dragging her back across the ship's deck, towards the edge.

Giraffe began going into hysterics. "We're all just stuck here and going to die because of that thing!" She pointed at the claw around Zebra.

"Shit ow fuck fuck ow ow ow!" Zebra clawed at he floor, cursing all the while.

Kasby gladly accepted Spider's hand, swinging himself up to the control panel. "My dear, it is the time for THIS!" He yanked down a lever, hard.

"FRICK!" Spider said, about to leap towards Zebra--

There was an agonized SHRIEK and the claw let go.

Giraffe grabbed Zebra's hand, pulling her back, and continued holding on to her for dear life as they scuttled to the other side of the cockpit.

The smell of burning flesh and the sound of pain came screaming up from below as the Archimedes lurched back upright. From beneath the ship, they could hear the wooshing sound of afterburners.

The creature, a mass of black leather and too many wings, shook its way up, in full view of the crew of the good ship.

Spider sat down, very slowly, and watched the thing fly.

Its mouths opened wide, giving a full view of row upon row of angry teeth. It swooped down towards them--

Giraffe's eyes widened. "OH shit."

Kasby, quick as a whip, drew from the holster on his side a small contraption of wood and gears and pointed it at the beast. Twang! Twang! Two crystals whizzed through the air towards the beast.

They thudded into its flesh, bringing forth another horrific wail. The beast stood still in the air, its momentum countered by the shards. Suddenly, it began to glow with a sickening black light, streaming from within it.

Giraffe stared on in awe and fear. Zebra did the same, panting heavily, heart racing.

Kasby moved again, even faster than before. His face was a picture of calm, even as he snatched the stunned creature by two of its arms and slammed it down onto the deck. It shrieked, writhing angrily, but it seemed unable to move, as if restrained by the black light playing over its flesh.

Spider got in a position, ready to pounce. But the look on her face was that of expectancy... to be shocked, confused.

There was a click and a whirring noise from the device in Kasby's hand as he held the creature onto the deck. Two more twangs sounded out.

The black light ripped through it, shredding it from the inside out with a horrific sound like a thousand hearts breaking.

Giraffe backed away, still staring. Zebra stood up warily, flattening herself against the back wall. Spider clutched her stomach as she watched the blackness tear the creature apart.

Where it had been, four crystals now lay, each pulsing with that same nauseous un-light. Kasby bent down and gingerly picked up each of the crystals before slipping them into a leather pouch on one of his belts.

"What just happened...?" Giraffe asked in a small voice.

"Erm, sorry about that. Normally, they don't get that bold this close to the Corkscrew. Kind of ruined the whole dramatic entrance I had going..." Kasby remarked, almost sheepishly.

Spider sat quietly, her mouth pressed to one side, eyes locked on Kasby.

Giraffe took a couple deep breaths. "So, is now the time for an explanation?" She slid down the wall, clutching her knees as she stared at the young man.

Slowly, the aircraft closed with the great floating base, drifting to an indentation in one side. There was a hissing noise as the Archimedes locked in place with the Corkscrew.

The scientist was a bit relieved, all in all... it lessened all the awkwardness hanging in the air. He couldn't help but feel just a little uncomfortable with all the eyes looking his way. "Um... that's what it's like, alot of the time, out here. Most of the time, for me." he said, a bit quietly. "Please, come inside. Everything will feel a bit more stable. It's not home, but... it's something."

"Fantastic," Spider said, too spent for true sarcasm. She stood and moved to the ladder down from the deck.

Zebra didn't move. "Where is this, then?"

Giraffe shakily stood, waiting for an answer to Zebra's question.

Kasby looked down at her. "What?"

"Where are we?" Zebra repeated. "'Corkscrew' tells us nothing."

"It looks like..." Spider said slowly, "we're in the middle of the void."

"We're in Sector Seven, of the Void Nebula... although I doubt that tells you much either," he said. "Around the middle, but not quite."

Zebra sighed. "You're right, that does tell me nothing."

"Fuck it, I'm going inside the thing," Spider said. She turned and climbed down the ladder ahead of everyone.

Giraffe looked at Kasby skeptically. "What were you doing by Face?"

"Please?" asked Kasby. "Just... I'll try to explain more inside. And there's... food, a-and water..."

Giraffe dashed down after Spider. "WATER!!!!"

Zebra blinked at Giraffe's exit. "Okay, guess that settles it..." She followed her down the ladder.

"Oh!" Kasby said, briefly. He reached under the seat of the Archimedes, grabbing a small black book before following after them. "On my way!"

Spider lead the way as usual, boldly and ignorantly into her new surroundings.

The Corkscrew was a grand old base, a beautiful contraption of... confusion. Pipes and wires and conduits guarded every door, warding shadows off into the side-rooms. Here and there a light flickered half-heartedly, illuminating empty bedrooms and hallways. The place felt like a home for hundreds... not one.

But in places there were signs of past fighting. Scars and pits in the metal bulkheads. Tubes overhead ripped open. Melted sections of doorways and charred wood. Every hall, every room, every nook and cranny... lay dead and empty. Not a sign of life anywhere.

Giraffe stumbled around trying to take in everything. She didn't want any more surprises. She shuddered at the lack of life.

Spider had been expecting to see more people in a place of this size. "Where is everyone?" she asked, examining the strange architecture.

Kasby watched his feet very aptly, his mouth open as if to say something at Spider's comment. He finally settled on "Not here." He was very clearly uncomfortable on the subject.

Their footsteps echoed tinnily through the metal corridors, coming back around behind them. Occasionally, a window would offer a glimpse out into... more nothingness. The floor they were on seemed to be just bedchambers and halls, nothing more. Eventually they came to a gray wall.

"Where are they?" Spider asked again, pointedly, not caring at all about being sensitive.

"I just told you." said Kasby, before hitting a button on the wall. It slid open with a hiss, revealing a small round room beyond.

"He likes to give answers that don't mean much," Zebra muttered snidely.

Spider spun on him. "No, you didn't! You think you can just... plop us out of the sky with your...giant thing..."

"Saved you. I saved you." He said, walking into the small round room that had opened in the wall. "C'mon. Get in."

"None of this makes sense," she hissed, her jaw clenched around each syllable like a fist. "Stop being cryptic, and explain it." She followed him in, obviously pissed.

Giraffe rolled her eyes at Kasby. "Yes you saved us, big whoop, but we could be in more danger now!"

Kasby looked back at them, anger in his eyes for the first time- nothing like that seemed to exist when he was fighting the monstrous thing from before. He clutched the black book from before tightly to his side. "I saved your lives, all of them, risked my own life and my ship, and this is how you all show your gratitude?!" He seemed genuinely upset.

Spider stared him right back, her black eyes not wavering. "No one asked you to," she said quietly.

His anger quickly melted into... sadness? Nostalgia? Disappointment? They could see them all there.

Spider rolled her eyes, and began to examine what was around her again. Mindless examination. The wall started to slide shut behind them--

Kasby put a hand in the doorway, stopping the wall from sliding shut all the way. He promptly slammed his hand down on the door open button. It slid back open with a hiss. "Food and water are downstairs. Take the lift," he said quietly. He reached inside and pushed a button, setting the coordinates, before stalking off down the hallways, book clenched tight.

Spider grumbled, rubbing her sliced arms. She winced. "Great guy," she muttered, once he was gone. "Exceptionally charming." She glanced at her two companions.

The door slid shut, sealing on the the three girls with a quiet snap. There was a feeling of motion for a moment. The door slid back open again, onto a much larger chamber than any they had seen so far.

"Eee!" Spider glared at the floor, and at the suddenly new surrounding. "What...?"

The room stretched easily two hundred meters off, lined with long mess-hall style tables and crude metal stools. A counter opened at the far end, with a door on one side. There was a dirty tray sitting on one of the nearby tables, with a half-eaten meal on it. Everywhere else was covered with dust.

"Gone," Spider said, then looked at Zebra and Giraffe, who had followed quietly. "They're all gone." She stalked off to the other side of the room in search of some food. "Too bad Goat isn't here to make us sandwiches."

The door to the side of the counter opened into what was clearly a kitchen. "Don't all start making conversation at once!" she called back over her shoulder, almost bitterly. Then she disappeared inside the door, hoping to find some familiar food.

Zebra followed her, scowling. "Fine. What should we talk about? The fact that we don't know where we are, and the only man who knows refuses to say? The fact that our companions and family are probably dead? Really, it's your choice."

Giraffe brought up the lead into the small room on the far side of the great hall. One side of the room was full of crates of plants--the same plants as back home, back in Face. The other side had several large tanks, each with a spigot. Various bits of tableware filled the remainder, along with a sink.

Spider grabbed a familiar-looking green, and chomped on it. She examined the spigot suspiciously, and then turned it. Water spilled out, siphoning down into a drain below. Giraffe darted past her, grabbing a cup from beside the container and filling it, gulping down water.

Spider grabbed herself some water and shut off the spigot, before finally replying to Zebra. "Well, at least we're not falling." She tried for a smile.

Zebra sarcastically smiled back. "And that's all we need, right?"

"Food helps," Spider said, stuffing the rest of the green thing in her mouth.

Giraffe looked up from her cup. "Yeah, and we do have some form of sustenance!"

Spider smiled. "There we go!"


"The food... uh, nevermind." Spider examined the sink, and turned the water spout. "How does this irrigation system work?" She marveled, examining the strange pipes. A substance that wasn't quite water poured out--a little slimier, with bits of rainbow mixed in. "Woah..." Spider stuck her tongue under the flow.

"That is gross and pretty at the same time," Giraffe said. "How's it taste?"

It tasted like icky. Also like burning on her tongue. Spider made a face, and began to lick her arm to get the stuff off, frantically cursing incoherently. "BLAH!" She let her tongue get some air, and then grabbed the nearest plant and rubbed it against her tongue.

"I wonder what the other taps have in them..." Giraffe mused.

Quietly, the sound of the elevator door sliding open came from the main dining hall.

Ignoring the door, Giraffe grabbed a clean cup and turned on a random spigot, connected to one of the other large containers. Pure water flowed out.

After Spider cleansed her tongue, she began to look in all the cabinets and under everything. They were full of basic kitchen things--pipes, utensils, and so on. Bored, Spider moved to head back to the main room.

Kasby knocked on the wall of the kitchen, standing in the doorway. He looked a bit detached, if a bit more fresh-faced; his hair was wet, and he was wearing new clothes. "Done?" he asked blankly.

Spider bumped into Kasby, bouncing off of him as if he were a solid rock. She side-stepped him, squeezing through the narrow doorway without looking at him.

He watched her slip past and didn't do much to stop her. He stepped the rest of the way out of the doorway as Giraffe and Zebra followed Spider back into the main hall, joining her at the table. Spider began munching on the leafy dinner she had assembled.

"Y'know, I tried to stop what happened. Your world, the shattering... It's why I came out there in the first place." He didn't seem to be talking to any one of them in particular.

"You failed, it seems." Zebra said quietly.

"So did we," Spider said. She pulled her bag off her back, and began to make inventory of what she still had. Her climbing hooks had been lost in the fall, but she still had her changes of clothes.

Giraffe stared off into space, pretending to ignore the conversation.

Kasby opened his mouth to say something, finally simply closing his mouth and walking to the head of their table. "I have answers. You want to know what happened, where you are... I can tell you. Show you. If nothing else."

Giraffe's head snapped around to stare at Kasby. "Share please."

"Whatever," Spider mumbled. She let out a sigh of relief, and pocketed what looked like a rock.

Zebra sighed. "By all means, then, tell us."

Despite that detached expression he was wearing, it's obvious that he wasn't fed up or pissed off at them... if anything, he was a bit desperate. He nodded and led them back over to the elevator, calling it and stepping inside. He motioned for them to follow.

The three followed, Giraffe letting out a sigh. "I hate curiosity."

"Um, what is this?" Spider asked, as they stepped into the contraption and the wall slid shut once more behind them.

"Elevator. Goes up, goes down." responded Kasby simply. He pressed another button on the inside of the elevator.

"How?" She looked around for any weight system, but it must have been on the outside. "Is it safe?" She gripped the walls.

Again, the feeling of motion, of... controlled falling. This time for considerably longer before they stopped with a gentle hiss, and the door slid open.

"Pulley system, run by electricity." Kasby said, seeming to actually fall back into his older voice, the one they met him with. Voice of curiosity. Bewilderment.

Beyond the doorways was a long hallway, lined with shelves. Each shelf was stacked high with leatherbound... boxy things.

"Uhh... what's electricity?" Spider raised her eyebrows, trying to take in everything at once. She went up to one of the shelves and picked up the... thing. Kasby had one in his hand earlier, she remembered. It was wrapped most of the way around with leather, but the inside was full of lots of paper. The paper was covered with... scribble after scribble, like tiny mysterious doodles and pictures of... nothing.

"Power source... like heat, I guess." said Kasby, slipping more and more away from that detached state per word. He obviously wasn't very good at being cold.

"And this is showing us... how? Are we supposed to chuck these boxy things at you?" Giraffe asked, sarcasm dripping off of every word. "What are these things? They look rather pointless."

Spider was holding the book upside-down, not that that mattered much. Her eyes grew wide with amazement, and then confusion. "What are these squiggles?"

Kasby ignored Giraffe's sarcastic comment and instead pounced on the questions. "Those are books! And letters. Specifically, I suppose, they're my journal from a few years ago. You can read, of course?" he asked.

"Read? Letters? Huh?" Giraffe stared, eyes flat.

"Uhuh." Spider sniffed the book. "What are you supposed to do with it?"

"Well, they record information. You can use them to keep records, or hold facts, or even tell stories!" he informed them, adding a happier note onto the last one.

"We can tell stories..." Spider pressed her ear to the book.

Giraffe didn't seem impressed. "Interesting, and how do they help us?"

Spider frowned. "I don't hear any stories..."

"Maybe if you shake it."

"Well... it's a kind of... picture system, I suppose." Kasby tried to explain.

"I don't get it." Spider dropped the book on the floor.

Kasby held up the book he had had earlier, then tucked it onto one of the shelves. "This is my journal, but the library is full of them! From all the hundreds who used to be here, back when this city was alive," he remarked. He started it all off happy, but hit a hard chord at the end. "It... doesn't really matter. I think I have something better anyways." said Kasby.

"Alive......." Giraffe's voice trailed off.

"So this is a city," Spider mused.

"Sure. Used to be. A kind of base, for people like me." He motioned for them to follow as he started to walk down the shelves.

Giraffe rolled her eyes. "Oh joy, better, something better than something else we can't understand." She followed any, Zebra tagging along after.

After a few winding corridors of shelves, the space opened up. In the center of the space was a metal pedastal, with a sort of glass spiked ball sitting atop it. A series of buttons and controls lined the edge just below it. The walls of the circular room were flat and gray, except for one space that had a second control panel.

Kasby strode over and started to manipulate the controls. As he did, the glass slowly raised up on a spit, and began to glow. "A year ago, they would have had three people at least working on this thing." said Kasby, busy calibrating things. "It was a little hard to learn them without any formal training."

The lights in the room dimmed, giving way to tendrils of light hesitantly snaking their way out of the crystal. The tendrils filled the room, slowly resolving into thousands of points of light. Each one winked, then dimmed, becoming a quiet marker hanging in the air.

Spider stared in awe. ""

Giraffe moved her hand away from shielding her eyes. "And once again, how does this help us?"

The markers seemed to get denser closer to the center of the room. One in particular flashed red, and another right nearby it glowed and rotated. Kasby walked through the room until he reached a crystal not terribly far from the very center, the one glowing red. He tapped it with a finger. A line of the scribbles sprawled out of it, hanging in the air.

"Whattttttttttttttttttttttt." Spider's head fell to the side as the pieces fell into place.

"So, this was your crystal." Kasby swallowed. "Until, you know. the shattering."

Spider raised her hand, pointing, opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again. Sighed. She looked completely dumbfounded. At long last she spoke, mostly to herself. "I totally called it."