Twilight Patrol #7: Builders of the New Babel


The shadow of the tower rolled all the way to the horizon, and was spreading its darkness over the rest of the world.

Another monstrous threat to civilization!  Hadn’t he just disposed of one?  And the one before that.  And the one before that.  The ravenous flies.  The disintegrating blight.  The apocalyptic dragon.  The cities of annihilation.  The malignant pact.  It was starting to get monotonous, all this monstrousness.  But that seemed to be the way this universe was constructed.  The monstrous insurmountable problems would never end.

In a sense, Wootin was partly responsible for this new abomination.  He and Hollister Congrieve had caused the collapse of the powerful medical science sect known as the Pact.  And the Pact held the Mysteriarchs of the Abyss in check.  Freed of the torments and suppressions of the Pact, the Mysteriarchs of the Abyss had devoted their considerable energies to producing this… this… thing

Wootin understood the forces that were at work here, and what had happened to this part of the world while he was off in the Far East.  Wootin wasn’t what you’d call a believer, but he knew his Bible and he recognized the structure for what it was.  An old story about the price of perfection and measures needed to attain it.  Everyone knew how the story was going to end.  The builders were getting closer and closer to having a perfect picture of what was really going on—someone’s idea of Heaven or Olympus or whatever label you want to place on having all the answers—and the unfolding revelations were already proving to be too much to handle.  It was confounding their tongues.

 The biblical implications increased Wootin’s sense of dread.  A very old story, indeed, and Wootin wished he could run away from it.  But the thing was so tall, so immensely vast, there was no away to run to.

How could he possibly mount a fight against this thing he had helped to bring about?  He had bombs, a few bombs, and some sticks of dynamite.  Maybe he could blast the tower at some precious, critical juncture—a keystone pivot point—that would bring the whole thing tumbling down.  Perhaps this colossal, absurd, impossibly huge structure might yield if someone simply dared to oppose it.  It was a vain wish.  A nightmare of hopelessness masquerading as hope.     


Out of the tunnel. The Queen’s triplane whipped into a paroxysm of uncontrolled gyrations. The air around the trestle flared with infernal rage. She surged ahead, blasting away at the train, spewing crimson around her. She had gone on the attack, loosing bombs. But the winds were too strong, and the trestle presented a narrow target. The bombs skittered close to the lurching trestle, but continued falling, down through the countless distances below, disappearing into the surrounding cloud carpet. 

She swooped, strafing the exterior of the trundling coaches.
What had happened? What had set her off? What had she seen in the darkness? What had she seen in the blinding light?

We need to talk.  We desperately need to talk.

You probably think I’m going to kill you.  It is the most obvious motive for all the time and attention I’ve spent in trying to track you down, in forcing this confrontation you have so strenuously avoided all of these years.  How many years—how many long years?  I think I could kill you, if I wanted to.  I have you at a disadvantage, I think.  But I don’t know for certain.  I’m looking for answers only you can provide.  Perhaps those answers might come immediately to me if I killed you—according to old traditions—according to the old legends.  I would rather talk, simply talk.  We have so much to talk about.

Rooke Howard’s reconstructed Tower of Babel was supposed to serve a totemic function. It was to be a vehicle for joining the conflicting sects of the Mysteriarchs of the Abyss. It was supposed to connect them, as the corpus collosum connects the hemispheres of a brain. But in its new manifestation, the ancient Tower was doing the opposite. Rather than connecting and reconciling the sects, the new Tower agitated them. It revealed them plainly in infuriating ways, and the sight of one another drove them both to fight for dominance.
The tower has become a totem decorated by symbols of the worst attributes of both sects. Imagine, if you will, a myth turned to the purpose of advertising. Myths are intended for better use. Being true in their falseness, myths mediate between contradictions. They mediate between the dream world and the waking.
Albadore has been sowing chaos in his later years, severing connections between the sects, turning sides against each other so they would depend on him as intermediary, even knowing he was about to be gone. His rule became an operation, like the cutting of the corpus collosum. Sometimes the severing of the nerve bundle is effective in controlling seizures, though it can lead to mutism, or alien hand syndrome, where one hand may function without conscious manifestation of who is in control.
He gloried in uncertainty. That worked for a time. But one era’s solutions are another’s problems.
There is no escaping uncertainty. There is an order to things, and uncertainty is part of the order. That isn’t necessarily a flaw in the design of the world. Uncertainty pushes us toward an ideal. It constantly challenges us and makes us stronger.
The tower is a sensory manifestation of an ancient story, but the structure has no meaning and no purpose without the story it embodies. Think of it this way, the story is about attaining perfection, and the price of perfection is the many mistakes that is the process of building the tower.
Rooke Howard had originally been drawn into the Order by its seductive promises of profound changes in the human condition. She saw the near boundless power of the Order’s magic. Patiently, she insinuated herself into the Order’s hierarchy and exploited its resources. She carefully planned to revamp the Order so that its values would more closely approximate those of the Americans—a balance between diversity and solidarity, between equality and freedom, between competition and cooperation, between the value of process and the value of rank. This kind of balance, she believed, would be more likely brought about under a woman’s guidance. The order has never been led by a woman before.
Are you starting to understand me yet, Mr. Wootin? This isn’t poetry for poetry’s sake. I’m trying to communicate vitally important ideas. It might sound like a muddle, but it isn’t. There’s a complexity here that I can’t avoid. We have two radically different perspectives but we both have to deal with the same set of problems. Hear me out. Try to use some of the knowledge and magic you stole from my father to make yourself understand.
Herein lies the essence of communication and confusion. The dual hemispheres of your own brain can function independently. They don’t even understand one another though they share a common skull. Yet somehow, they manage to coordinate for a certain duration, at least long enough to keep you alive, when it is necessary.
Unity and separateness. The survival of the design often depends on the sacrifice of some of the details.
No—I didn’t mean it that way. I wasn’t making a threat.
The hemispheres of the brain joined by a single band of tissue—separate kingdoms, independent, but joined. Consciousness is the product of the dialogue between the two. Separate hemispheres of the brain. Or members of a family. One identity when all together. Multiple identities when apart. A hive consciousness made of many different bodies. Like the eyes of a fly. Compound I’s. An entirely different identity when separated into individual constituents. Both are real.
A bi-cameral perspective exists within each person, a microscopic version of the structure of the universe. The feeling self, the observing self. The two hemispheres of the brain. One linked to the ego, the individual. The other linked to the design. Information trying to understand itself. That which seems to be the observing self is linked to the surrounding consciousness, which is formed of separate selves that seem to be differentiated but which depend on being both individuated and inextricably conjoined.

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