Lords of Being
We left Neville alone in a cornfield outside of Bugtussle, Iowa where the frogfall had been recently been quelled with the clearance of a blockage on the Left Path.
Zabeth, Mabel, and Rosamund stroll into Bugtussle, passing locals who are still looking up at the sky. The three Ladies of Chaos and Order are looking for lunch, followed by Glass and Neon. They quickly reach the center of the Bugtussle, as indicated by a 2 way stop sign; the only one in town. On the far side of the center, they find "The Flowerpot Diner" on the main drag, and appropriate a table. The table features a flowerpot with an artificial daisy with a face and a switch on the side of the pot. Claude flips the switch on, and the flower hulas and sings "Tip Toe Through The Tulips." Zabeth reaches out and turns it off. The diner is abuzz with people talking about the frogfall.
Glass pulls out his phone to check on the progress of the bots that are scrubbing the net of all mention or image of the frogfall.
The waitress comes over and hands out menus, saying "Did you see those frogs?" Zabeth and Mabel suggest that it was the result of a tornado. After chatting for a bit, the waitress eventually gets around to offering them coffee. Eventually everyone orders lunch.
Once the waitress has departed, Mabel directs the conversation back to the frogfall, "That shouldn't have happened."
The group debates how this clog was different from previous clogs, and why it was necessary to be physically located at the clog to clear it. Which brings them around to how Glass and Neon were able to locate the clog. Something that the Lords of Being are not able to do.
Which brings them back to the frogs. Zabeth says, "It's not good if we have to go to where they're happening. And why frogs?"
Glass responds instantly, "Tradition! It's one of those things that Charles Fort was so fond of reporting. Mr. Fort was very taken with anomalous events occurring around the world."
"Give me an examples"
"Rains of frogs. Fort talked about poltgergist events, spontaneous fires, ball lightning…" Glass is clearly enthusiastic about this topic, though it eventually becomes apparent that he's reading details off his palmtop.
Eventually Rosamund breaks in, "Frogfalls might be a traditional anomaly, but it's also true the world needs frogs right now."
This stops Glass. "The world needs frogs?"
Zabeth replies, "The environment is out of balance."
Glass muses, "As I recall when the dinosaurs were wiped out, the little frogs and turtles survived, which is surprising since they were more vulnerable. But then I wasn't here then."
Rosamund continues, "Currently there's a lot of illness among frogs, brought on by use of pesticides, fertilizers, unnatural predators being brought in, and loss of habitat. So the frog population is falling."
Zabeth grins, "And the frogs were falling."
Rosamund matches her, "See, it all works out."
Now that they've resolved that, Zabeth turns to Glass, "You have a lot of access to correlating data. What else are we missing in this world?"
"I confess I'm a lot more familiar with technology rather than biology. But my understand is that there have been a large number of die offs in recent years."
Rosamund adds, "It would be hard to notice a spontaneous fall of bugs."
Redirecting the conversation to the topic, Zabeth says, "Consider the hack and slash in the Amazon."
Neon pipes up, "Yes, there's a lot of green missing. Miss Cyrus talks about that a lot."
"The woman I'm meeting tomorrow."
Zabeth doggedly returns to the topic: "Like that place you're from. Have they outlawed lawns there yet?"
Rosamund replies disdainfully, "No. They haven't. They use a lot of water and electricity to sustain the city."
Glass has been considering an earlier comment, "Not only wouldn't you notice a fall of bugs. You wouldn't notice lots of things. If it was a fall of plants, it would be seeds or pollen."
Rosamund start to reject this idea, "Yes. But we'd notice the blockage… Or perhaps they've been happening all along but now they're larger and causing blockages."
Zabeth reflects, "Perhaps we're missing large quantities of sea stock and never noticed."
Mabel sends the conversation in a different direction. "The event seems to have been precipitated by something we don't understand."
Rosamund answers, "I suppose it could have been precipitated by the The Breakdown."
Mabel continues her analysis, "Perhaps the Breakdown occurred due to something we don't understand which might be a faction or entity or force we're not familiar with. And this has caused the resistance to clearing we've seen in this blockage. Have there been other anomalous things we should consider?"
Rosamund replies, "We've already run across something we're not familiar with." And stares across the table at Glass and Neon.
Neon breaks the silence to ask, "The blue sugar, or the yellow sugar?"
Glass is sipping his lemonade and playing with his phone.
Zabeth adds "Good point." And there are more concerned stares.
Before the trio of Ladies can drag an answer out of the other two, the waitress arrives with lunch.
Once the waitress has gone, Zabeth demands, "How do you know about our blockages? And where did you come from?"
Neon calmly observes, "That's several questions."
Glass gives a more useful answer, "You haven't seen us before because there haven't been localized anomalies."
Neon interjects, "I was brought here."
Zabeth pounces on this, "By who?"
Zabeth looks perplexed for a moment and the pulls out her phone and calls Loois to quiz him about the two strangers. Unfortunately, the best that Loois can tell her is that his knowledge of them is less than two hours old. And to ask her to share any information she may come by.
After concluding her conversation with Loois, Zabeth resumes her interrogation by pointing at Glass and asking, "Did you cause this?"
"No. I was endeavoring to fix it."
"You knew where it was."
"Since it was localized, I could explore it. The previous ones weren't localized, so I couldn't study them. This was the first one I could examine."
This is the first time that they've mentioned previous clogs. Mabel asks, "How many times have you noticed these anomalies?"
"Oh, I never counted. They happened a dozen to a score times a year for as long as I can remember."
Mabel presses, "And how long is that?"
"Since I was first here."
With a grimace, Rosamund says "So you don't care to tip your hand. But you seem to know our names."
"Not very much. I was told that there were… difficulties with the anomalies. It was you folk who would be dealing with it, and I should render any assistance possible."
"Oh so you're here to help us?"
"Yes I was briefed."
In chorus, "By who?"
This produces an echoing silence, into which Neon says "I do think I like the yellow, Si. It has less of an aftertaste. Why are we being so coy? These people (and I use the term people loosely) are aware of things. And we're things, so to speak."
"It's just habit."
"You've been using those high security toys too much."
"The rules have always been do your job, don't draw any attention to it, and don't get noticed."
Zabeth replies, "Yes, those are the rules."
Glass continues, "It seemed to me that asymmetric briefings indicated a certain level of security."
Zabeth turns to Neon, "You're here to help?"
"Tell me about yourself."
"I've a very successful lighting design business in Las Vegas."
"Are you partners?" When Claude hesitates, she adds, "I'm from San Francisco, it's OK."
Neon gives her a look, "I haven't seen him in 30 to 40 years."
"How old are you?"
"First there was Hydrogen, and then Helium came along…"
Glass interrupts with "Younger than her."
" Yes, we're younger than you. I keep forgetting that there was a before."
"Give me some of your essence."
"Never on a first date."
"I have a need. Just a little. In a ball. I have something it goes with really good with."
Rosamund interject, "I'm getting a little lost here. What do you think they are??
"They're not us. But they're… elemental."
"You mean like fire, water, earth and air?"
Mabel suggests, "Like Hydrogen, Helium, etc."
Zabeth points at Claude, "He's Neon." She shifts to Si "And he's Silcon."
"I've been Silvester Glass since I was born."
Rosamund asks, "You were born?"
She looks at Claude, "So like we're of chaos and order, you're of neon?"
" 'Are' is a lot closer than 'of'."
He turns and looks at Glass, "I really hate this. There's no reason to be coy."
Zabeth sighs. "Just spill it. If we're going to work together, just spill it."
"I am Neon."
Mabel asks, "Are you all of Neon? Or all of Neon in this region?"
"I am anthropomorphically manifesting. It's much more fun this way." He flips the flower back on and sings along with it.
Rosamund attempts to get her mind around this, "So. You're Neon personified."
She turns to Glass and prompts, "And you're…"
"You kept saying call me Si. How would you spell that??
"The first two letters of Silvester. S I."
She turns to the other Lords of Being and sums up, "Collectively, we personify chaos and order. They just do their personification individually." She turns back to the two others, "So what have you been doing with yourself these last 13 billion years?"
Glass responds, "That's a long story. More recently, I'm an angel"
Rosamund is visibly startled, "Angel?"
"I finance entrepreneurs."
"Oh, Finance!" says Rosamund with relief. "That kind of angel."
"If you were from Silicon Valley, you'd know my name."
"So how many other folk off the Periodic Table are around here? Loois and Ragnison mentioned a 'Lady Diamond'."
"I don't really know. We don't usually work cooperatively. Presumably your friend was referring to the Diamond I know. I haven't seen her in a while." Glass places his phone in his pocket, "That just about does it."
Zabeth asks, "Have they forgotten everything?"
"I can't make the people forget, but the databases are cleansed."
"So where do we go from here?"
The waitress bustles over and asks, "Does anyone want dessert?" Everyone declines, and Zabeth hands her a bill to cover the party and a generous tip.
Once the waitress is gone, Clause asks, "Is there any reason to stay?"
Zabeth responds, "I don't think so. The only thing that bothers me is that this one was localized."
"I have no idea why."
"Here's my card. Call me the next time one localizes." The group leaves the diner and head out into Bugtussle. Zabeth calls Loois for a lift home. He's had a hard day, but zaps the three Lords of Being to their destinations. The other two have their own ways to return.
After finding himself alone, Neville drives back to Ames. When he arrives home, he opens the trunk to find rocks in the cages where he put the frogs. He takes them inside and examines them closely. Interestingly, there is no evidence of the rock being shaped. It's as if the stone eroded into the shape of the frogs that they replaced.
Then he inspects the corn. The edges where it broke are cleanly broken. Which is odd, because corn stalks don't break that way. It's almost as if the corn stalk was dipped into a vat of liquid nitrogen and then broken. But they certainly weren't cold when he picked them up, and there's no evidence of freezing.
Then he tries to load the pictures off of his camera. Unfortunately, whatever glitched his camera also destroyed the memory chip. His computer can't access it all.
Bringing up a browser window, he trolls the net for reports of the events in Bugtussle. What little is there certainly doesn't match what he saw. And the pictures that drew him to Bugtussle are mysteriously missing. There are complaints about missing videos of frogs. In fact, there's a lot of complaints about pictures and videos that disappeared. People are reporting that their camera lenses were destroyed and that the pictures on their cameras vanished when they connected them to their computers. It certainly sounds like someone is trying to cover up this incident.
Neville googles "Claude Neon" in Las Vegas and finds the email address for a lighting designer. It seems like a longshot, but he sends an email message:
Dear Mr Neon.
There's no reply.
Mabel reports on the events in Bugtussle and inquires if the other agents of Order or Chaos have ever seen a resistant blockage. Nobody has, and the consensus is that it's a result of The Breakdown. She also reports on her encounter with Neon and Glass. There's one other Courtier who has encountered one of these odd manifestations. David Ragnison has met Dame Diamond. She showed up demanding his assistance because "He's the best paranormal investigator among the Courtiers."
Mabel passes this on to Zabeth and Rosamund. Zabeth requests additional details from Ragnison, who replies:
Zabeth forwards this to Mabel and Rosamund, and then grins wickedly and composes a new message:
Dear Mr. Neville Carrols.
With a snicker, she clicks the "Send" key.
Later in the day, her terminal pings with a reply:
Yes, I know of Ragnison, but not personally. However I don't know a Dame Diamond. I've seen many odd things. Why do you ask?
Both Glass and Hellgrammite are monitoring Neville's mail and record this exchange. Glass is not amused and sends an IM to Loois to ask if being so forthcoming is wise.
Loois: *sigh* Zabeth likes to play. It's not unprecedented. One of us has gone native in Holland and has a family who know all about him.
Last Updated: Jan 23, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved