Hvs.tCF 54:1/Text

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The word "TIMELESS" flashed in Parson's red/blue vision. He caught that one. He also thought he saw "VIGILANCE," "SELF," "PHENOMENAL," "LOCUS," "PARTICULAR," "ESSENTIAL," "MONOLITH," and "ORDER," among many others that were blipping and disappearing in the space where his 3-D glasses normally displayed a unit's stats.

He took them away from his eyes again, squinting up at the enormous gray head protruding into the bright blue morning sky.

"I'm... pretty sure it's not a unit," he said, and gestured up at it with the paper spectacles. "Tool, does that feel like a unit to you? Can you sense any upkeep on it, or anything?"

Standing at Parson's side, the little Overlord aimed an uncertain frown up at the tower. "Nah," he said after a moment. "Still looks like a tower to me. Hey, is that as ugly as you could make it?"

Parson bit his lip in thought. "It's pretty ugly," he said. "We had these in my world. These, uh... Easter Island heads. Maui? Mowie?"

He thought about the Signamancy of that. What did he remember? Something about the islanders depleting their resources to build the heads, then dying out. He also remembered a haunted tiki idol from the Brady Bunch episode where they went to Hawaii.[1] That was cheesy, but he couldn't rule it out. Especially because it was cheesy, actually. What else was there? Something else... but he couldn't remember.

Maggie, Ace and Sizemore were still holding hands, standing in the street in front of the steps to the tower statue they had built (carved?). The link-up remained in effect, leaving them in a weird and fragile mental state. "Casters," said Parson carefully, "what is it? What did you make?"

"It is what it was," said Maggie, her voice a dreary monotone.

"Yeah, I know," said Stanley, with irritation. "It's still a tower. Big whoop."

"It's more of a tower now than it was before," said Sizemore. He looked a bit more focused, more animated than the other two.

Parson folded the paper glasses carefully and slipped them into the pouch of his new hoodie.[2] Then he walked around to the other side of the three casters, to face them directly. Over their shoulder, he could see dozens of guards standing in a big, disorganized knot in the middle of the broad street. They were awaiting their orders to return to the tower, from which he had evacuated them in order to run the experiment. He wasn't sure if it would be a wise thing to order them back in yet or not.

"Why, Dirtamancer?" he asked, avoiding saying Sizemore's name. "What can it do?"

"It can be," said Sizemore, dreamily.

"Be what?"

"Be," he repeated.

"Everything can be!" said Stanley, still looking skyward. "That's no trick. I'm being right now! What happened to my office? Do I have to live in the hat?"

"Tool..." warned Parson softly.

"You will like it, Lord," said Maggie.

"I better," said Stanley. The Ruler dropped into a quiet pout, absently swinging the Arkenhammer in a pendulum motion by his feet.

"I guess I'm asking," continued Parson to the linked casters, focusing on Maggie "if it can do anything, uh, militarily. What capabilities did it gain?"

"Sentinel," said Ace.

Parson raised an eyebrow at the Dollamancer. "Okay... so it's aware? Can it speak?"

"It can be," said Sizemore.

Parson rolled his eyes. "Yes. I know. Be... what?"

"Be the tower," said Ace.

"Be the city," said Sizemore.

"Be itself," said Maggie.

"Okay, but everything can be itself," said Parson. He was catching a little bit of the boss' irritation now. "I mean, right?"

"Few things can be themselves as much as this tower can, Lord," said Maggie.

Parson looked up at the giant stone nose poking out many stories overhead. "Um... okay. Do we need to do anything with it?" he asked. "Does it... I dunno, want anything?"

"It will see to itself, Lord," said Maggie. "You will understand."

"Yeah. I'd like that," said the Chief Warlord. "That would be really refreshing."

"Hamster," said Stanley, "you said we'd have a giant golem."

"Yeah, I was hoping for Ultraman or Voltron or something. I dunno," said Parson, putting his hands on his hips and looking up. "Definitely not Squidward's house."

That was the one he couldn't remember.

"So was this a dumb thing?" asked Stanley. "Were you dumb, Hamster?"

Parson looked at the Tool. An argument was forming on the tip of his tongue as to why the tower experiment was worth running and might still lead to something interesting. But he had learned a few simple rules for being managed by Stanley, and one of those was: when the boss insults you, just agree and amplify.

Notes

  • ^Brady Bunch  "Hawaii Bound", Season 4, Episode 1, aired on September 22, 1972
  • ^Duds  See Hvs.tCF 43, which was also where the tower golem was first proposed