Ventus – Day 130 of 135


The silence had become unbearable. The White Wind stopped walking, and settled back on her haunches. The music she had felt in her mind for weeks was gone, and with it the self-assurance that had kept her going.

She had come to the shore of a giant underground lake. Its dark waters stretched away to an unguessable distance; only this thin strip of stony path on the outskirts was lit, and it only poorly. She knew the ones she had pursued had come this way because they had left their scent; she had used that scent to negotiate a maze of pipes, and faith in it had led her into a dark shaft full of rising vessels. Now she was high above ground level.

Just minutes ago she had paced along in complete confidence, knowing she was well watched over and treading paths prepared for her by ancient and loving creators. Now all she knew was that she was deep in the bowels of a mountain whose machineries had come to an unexpected stop. Anything might happen. The waters might rise. The lights might go off.

Uneasy, she started walking again, more rapidly. An upward-sloping corridor let off the lake, and she took that. In the distance she saw daylight, and loped toward it, relieved.

Just as she reached an open valve door whose portal had been melted, maybe by laser fire, a voice bloomed in her mind.

Cease to move. You will all cease to move, even if it means your death. Do it!

The voice hit with the force of an explosion. Calandria May fell to her knees. She put out her hands to stop her fall, and saw the white fur on them, the claws. That didn’t matter–because she recognized the voice in her mind. It was 3340, whom she had helped to kill.

A sick feeling of horror came over her. She had failed. The resurrection seed named Armiger had fulfilled its mission after all.

The knowledge that every living thing on Ventus was controlled by an unseen power had once frightened Calandria. That was nothing next to what she felt now. She remembered what it had been like when, once before, she had been a servant to 3340.

She must find a way to die.

On all fours now, she bolted through the door into muddy daylight. She saw a distant cliff-edge, and began to run towards it. Halfway there, she caught the scents of Jordan Mason and Axel Chan again. She paused, in an agony of indecision.

Then she raced towards the scent.


The Titans’ Gates thrust their roots deep under the ocean. There they drew rivers of water from the cold abyss and siphoned it into vast underground reservoirs. Pipelines wider than highways led from these to the desalination stacks that filled the Gates.

Jordan could feel the stacks, vast invisible towers behind the cliffs. Galas was right, the pristine mountainside of the Gates was a mask hiding an ancient machine that moderated the water table for the entire continent. In Vision, he could see the ghostly blueprint for the desal highways that radiated out from far below his feet. These operated day and night, year-round, according to schedules and rules that came down literally from on high. Galas had been able to influence these locks and valves somewhat, in ways too minor for Diadem to notice. Her whole nation had flourished from the runoff she had been able to divert from this place.

All the inundations Galas had commanded were as nothing compared to the stockpile of water stored under the Gates. There was enough there to flood Iapysia, and the Gates could draw more water from the ocean constantly, in prodigious volumes. Standing here, Jordan knew he was in the presence of more power than he had ever conceived possible.

Jordan had thought long and hard about how to ensure that Armiger would listen to others’ wishes if he really did remake the world. If the general wanted to pave over Ventus, Jordan had hoped to oppose him, however slightly, with the only weapon he had: control of the Titans’ Gates.

“First password,” he said, “is: Emmy.”

Passwords, Ka had told him, were a different kind of safeguard than the coded protocols the Winds used for the messages they passed. Codes could be broken; an unknown password must be guessed at.

Days ago, Jordan had asked Mediation to create passworded access to the entire mechanism of the Titans’ Gates. As far as Mediation was concerned, Jordan was a Wind: it had complied.

Control is yours,” said the voice of the Titan’s Gates.

“Second password is: Steam Car.”

“The locks are ready for command.”

“Third password–“

Who is that?” It was the voice of 3340. “Relinquish control to me, now!

Jordan smiled, and with great relish said, “No.

“Third password is: They are lost.”

3340 had learned to intercept and mimic the command language of the Winds. It was as if it had forged keys to all the strongholds of Ventus. But while a key can be duplicated, a password must be learned or guessed. Against the controls Jordan had given himself, 3340 could do nothing. While Mediation treated Jordan like an equal, he had been able to command some systems deep in the mountain to tune to a single signal source once the first password was given. Now, regardless of what authorization they received, they would only obey commands from Jordan’s location.

Who are you?” asked 3340. The tone of its voice had changed, from imperious to solicitous. “You are clever. We can work together, you and I.

“Flood the valley,” Jordan told the Gates.

No! Listen, you’ll never believe what I can do for you. Here’s the best of all reasons why you should–

Jordan opened his eyes and turned to look out over the parapet. If he hadn’t known to feel for it, he might have missed the faint vibration that began to sing through the stone under his feet.

There were emergency floodgates to drain the desalination stacks in case of an emergency. Jordan had opened these, and now a white wall raced across the valley, engulfing everything under it.

Jordan stood at the parapet and watched it roll. The others stood nearby, all silent. Axel was open-mouthed, Tamsin grimly satisfied.

He didn’t at first notice that Armiger had moved, and was now standing next to him.

The red-hot thing far down the valley had plenty of time to see the water coming, but it had not yet built any mobile elements. Jordan watched bright lances of light flick out of it, felling trees in a vain attempt to divert the onrushing water. The crest of the wave rising against it was festooned with entire trees as well as boulders big as a house. The roar was bone-rattling even at this height.

“Die,” Jordan mouthed, or was it Armiger? He watched without emotion as an unstoppable hammer of water and tree trunks hit the red flower. 3340 was instantly engulfed. The water rushed on heedlessly.

Jordan heard the gods’s voice in his mind for a few more seconds–a jumbled confusion of pleas and threats. Then came inner silence, even as the majestic sound of the deluge hit the farthest peaks and came echoing back.

The roaring and surging echoes continued; directly below this parapet, huge mouths continued to empty white arcs into the valley. To Jordan, though, things remained silent for a long moment until, like crickets and frogs resuming their monologues after some night beast has slouched by, the voices of the mecha and minor Winds returned here, there, and gradually throughout the mountains and valley.

Jordan turned his attention to the raging flood below. “Do not drown the humans at the mouth of the valley,” he commanded it. “But travel where you must and churn until you have found every speck that once made up 3340’s body, and reduce it to nothing.

The water was full of mecha, and the shattered trees and the stones. It all now combined, as mecha would, to define itself as a single entity: the flood. This entity heard Jordan’s instruction, and began to act on it.

The valves in the mountainside slowly shut, leaving a hazy jumble of white water below. Steam began to rise from this, and soon the valley disappeared beneath a blanket of cloud.

Jordan felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked around.

Armiger was smiling at him.

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