Chapter 16 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles
"Oh, no, not now!" said Adewole. "Ofira, can your people distract the autogyros? We need time. Do not put anyone in danger, but see if you can divert them." The owl flew off, calling to the other birds. As word spread, the flocks and singletons tacked to follow her. They met the aircraft just a few hundred yards away and circled in a clogging cloud. Some of the sparrows got too close. Blood and feathers sprayed as a gyro's rotors sucked them in. It sputtered but stayed aloft. Alleine cried out, and all three machines stopped dead in the air, engines whining but rotors still; they wheeled toward the ground like injured birds. "Alleine, no, keep them aloft--there are people in them, good people," shouted Adewole.
"They hurt birds," she shouted back. She slowed the three autogyros' fall, but too late; they plummeted from sight.
They must have hit the ground hard. Adewole groaned and hid his face in his hands. "Merciful Chano. May they be spared."
"I didn't know they was gonna fall like that, I just wanted them to stop," said Alleine, miserable tears in her voice. "I let that man die, but I just wanted to stop those flying things, not kill people, even if they hurt birds. I just wanted them to stop."
"You did not mean it any more than you meant to raise the island in the first place." Those three gyros came from East Camp. Camp Turnip was closer but likely didn't have anyone ready to fly. They'd have someone in the air soon enough, especially after this disaster. He had little time before Major Berger's people arrived and shot a needle into him, and once he started the spell Alleine could not help him. He hoped they'd use an anesthetic needle, not a poison one. "Put us down," he said.
Alleine landed near the Ossuary's entrance. "They're gonna come for us, huh?"
"I fear so."
"I don't want them to hurt you, Ollie, and if I'm still here they're gonna. I don't want to hurt anyone, but if they hurt you I couldn't stand it." Alleine's prison was level with his eyes; its red light fluttered in distress. "You said you was gonna help. Do it before someone gets hurt again. You gotta let me go, Ollie."
"I do not know if I can, but I will try."
The Machine God nodded its head. "Thank you," said Alleine. "So what do we do now?"
"I suppose we say goodbye," Adewole said past the increasing tightness in his chest.
Alleine bent the Machine God down and placed its one, gentle hand on Adewole's head. "You been real nice to me, Ollie. Please don't forget me."
"Oh, child, how could I?" said Adewole. He burst into exhausted tears.
"Don't cry," soothed Alleine, "I'm already dead, ain't I? You're just sending me off to my Mam is all. It'll be better for everyone. I won't hurt any more. I want to go." Adewole thought of his own mother dead these seven years, his darling little sister, the three gyros' crewmen, the tens of thousands who'd died in the Rising of Cherholtz. His tears came faster, but he couldn't cry and sing at the same time; he mopped his eyes, stuffed down his sobs, and stuffed his handkerchief back in his trousers pocket. He never wanted to kill anyone, but the girl was right: she was already dead.
He considered an eternity trapped inside the God. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt him as it did her. He might do a great deal of good, but in the end he knew he lacked the wisdom to wield its power well. He would fly to a remote spot far from the Black Spring--far from anyone--hide himself and go to sleep. With luck, he'd sleep till the end of time.
Then again, it might all be moot. The spell might not work without the Lyre. He told her so, and added, "If it does not work, I will stay with you. We will find a place to hide, and I will stay with you until you fall asleep. Then I will work to make sure no one may awaken you again." Alleine nodded the God's enormous head. Should he tell her what might happen to him? No.
Adewole still clutched the Duet in one frozen hand. He put it in his coat pocket, flexed his cramped fingers and fished the spell out of his wallet. His legs decided they'd finished work for the day, and he eased himself down before they gave out completely, his cold muscles complaining like an old man's. "If I do this wrong, I do not know what will happen. Nothing at all might happen, or I might make it worse. Do you still wish me to try?"
"It can't get no worse," said Alleine. She dropped the Machine God's body into a clanking heap beside him; the ground shook.
It might for me, thought Adewole. He picked up the music and sang the first long, sustained note. His deep voice vibrated against the Machine God's body, and it shuddered. "I feel something," said Alleine.
"I am surprised, quite frankly." A sudden heat sprang up in his coat pocket; he pulled out the Duet. Its black crystals pulsed. Perhaps he didn't need the Lyre after all. "Does it hurt?"
"It kinda feels like bees are inside me. Keep going."
Adewole draped the Duet's chain around his neck and sang in earnest. He sang the old words that, unlike Karl, he understood. Vatterbroch's spells had conjured power, dominance, force and compulsion, and had ground against the mind; this song rang like a calm bell, rippling through the God and Adewole both. The Bone Lyre's absence turned the curse into a blessing as the Duet amplified the power of Adewole's voice. Now the song spoke of release, gratitude, peace, freedom; its words changed on their own as Adewole sang them. Alleine laid the Machine God's body down beside him and let out a long sigh. The red mist Deviatka had stuffed into the body seeped out, coalescing in a soft, eddying pool above it.
He fell into a trance as the song went on and on. The red mist picked up speed as it drained from the odd-metal form. It shifted from a flock of birds to a little girl dancing in the air and back, again and again, far different from the agitated whirlpool Deviatka had created. A whirring entered his consciousness; was it a secondary tone from the music? The wind? No--autogyros, coming from Camp Turnip in the north. They'd be in shooting range any moment, and Adewole had no illusions. They'd shoot him on sight.
A thin red string held Alleine's spirit to the Machine God now; she would be no help to him. He kept singing. Almost done, almost--
A needle hit Adewole's left shoulder; numbness creeped down his arm. Anesthetic, not poison. Berger always did like him. Another needle, this time in his left thigh, but on he sang. Another needle embedded itself in the folds of his kikoi; the coat underneath kept it from hitting his neck. Alleine laughed now, the red mist almost emptied from the Machine God's heart. The sedative crept over him; as hurt, sick and exhausted as he already was, he'd pass out soon. He sang faster, letting the music carry him as his muscles failed one by one.
The spell's last words escaped his lips. "Goodbye, Ollie," whispered Alleine's voice. The heart emptied; the red mist dissolved into the air. No longer enchanted, the Machine God's odd-metal body lost its lustrous patterning. The manuscript lay under tons of rock, and its translations were scattered on the wind. The Lyre was lost. Alleine was free, and the God was forever dead.
Adewole could no longer hold himself up, and he slumped to the ground. The autogyros landed. Their engines sent reverberations through the ground into Adewole's numb body as he drifted away. What would Minister Faber do to him? It doesn't matter, whispered the anesthetic, and he surrendered to chemical sleep.