Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 17
Ch.17

I feel like I’m in physics class again.

Five hexagonal lab tables with sinks, mounted in a star pattern, were on the main floor of the room. Beakers and test tubes covered each table and a stage against the back half of the room, three feet off the ground, monitored the labs operations. The stage to his left had a lone computer terminal with cords running out the back between two double glass doors against the back wall.

Ben leaned against the center table as he watched Trisha search through cabinets against the right wall. Behind him were floor to ceiling windows that captured a view of the landscape surrounding the Tower. Seeing the world from inside gave Benjamin a surreal feeling about his situation but he knew this is his reality.

“So what was living in the Tower like?”

Trisha slapped the drawers shut. She took into account that she was looking in a laboratory for something edible but she was being optimistic. “It’s not such a bad deal. Depending on how you do on tests and training you’ll get treated better, and being an Ascending is somewhat like celebrity status.”

“You could get anything you wanted?” He imagined snapping his fingers to trigger a league of butlers that would bring him shellfish and mixed drinks. All of them smiling and asking him how his day went.

“Shellfish? Yes, and double yes for the mixed drinks.” She looked back and winked. “Your mind is very loud. Most people can’t convey imagery over the thought band, but then again I doubt you’ll sneak up on anyone with that brain.”

 What all has she heard?

“The all of it part.”

“I’m still sort of new to this. Half of the power I have is from Nebuchadnezzar.”

Trisha turned her head and asked, “What?”

“From Nebuchadnezzar. He gave me his power before he… a pot fell on his head.”

Seriously, what’s up with this guy? she thought. “That should have killed you. Nebuchadnezzar hated losing and he always tried that trick on people vying for his room.”

“Are you positive about that?”

“Absolutely. A sudden expansion of telekinetic energy inside someone’s brain, even a small one, turns it into mashed potatoes. Not to mention it’s strictly forbidden and isn’t taught anymore. You said he gave you some of his powers?”

“Yeah like all of it.”

She bit her bottom lip. “What did it feel like?”

“It was like the river flowing inside of me increased in flow.”

“Now there’s a river flowing inside you? Benjamin Woulms, you’re one unique guy. Maybe you’re confused about what happened.” Searching for food, she also thought of her next step with Ben. Seemingly harmless questions always work pretty good. “What do you want most in a woman?” Trisha bent over to investigate a cabinet at her feet, focusing some of her energy into her medallion as the scales around her hips brightened in hue. She felt his eyes going up and down her legs.

“I’m not picky. The quality I prefer is honesty.” She’s really hot, a thought slipped out.

“Honesty? Are you being honest?” She got on her knees and arched her back, not the most practical way of searching for food, but Ben was distracted at the moment. She then felt a small vibration in Ben’s thoughts. Everyone gets off on something, and your no exception, she thought. Trisha prodded his mind with mixed feeling of pleasure and frustration. Her mental interrogation, like an anesthetic key, unlocked the latch on his desires.

“Take me,” Ben heard in whispers within the dark recesses of lust. Resistance gave way to acceptance. He now gazed at her in a new light. Her curves looked tasty. Even from the center of the room, he could feel her warmth. Ben heard a moan bounce around in his head that promised him sexual release. “I’m right here. Take me,” another whisper said.

She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, a nonverbal agreement.

“Yes,” Ben absently said.

“Yes? Tell me what you really want.” She looked back into the cabinet. Her teeth sharpened and her pendant lightly glowed.

“I want you.” Ben stood up and let his hands hang at his sides.

“Come closer.” The tips of her fingers turned into claws.

“I want you to…be free.”

“Hmm?”

“Lilly,” his subconscious said.

Her fangs and claws disappeared. “What?”

Ben regained control from his lust high and saw that they were not alone in the room.

“Just tell me what you me-” She slid across the floor into Ben as he braced to catch her. “What’s the deal?” Trisha then saw the cabinet she sat beside cut in half, the sword sticking into the ground, and Magnus standing there before them.

“It’s pretty low to try and hurt a woman, friend. Are you the owner of this room?” he said. The height of this new enemy intimidated Ben almost as much as the metal plating covering his shoulders, knuckles, and elbows. Magnus pulled his sword from the ground then faced Ben.

Dumb founded, Trisha was taking in the fact that her life was saved by Ben. Before she was completely lost for thought she said, “Ben, this guy’s not an Ascending member.”

Magnus pointed his sword at them and measured the battle to come.

“If you’re not from around here then what are you doing?” Ben asked.

“I am here to eliminate all Ascending members. Stand and fight me,” he said.

“Get behind me,” Ben told Trisha. He stood up and took a few steps forward. The flow of the river ran down the back of his neck. Even with powers, standing against this guy seems unfair.

Magnus tightened his, put his left foot out in front, bent his knees slightly, and assumed his fighting stance.

“Sorry to tell you this, but I’m not an Ascending member. Neither is she, anymore.” Why is it that everyone I meet wants to rip my head off? “Is there any way we can resolve this without anyone getting hurt?”

“You surrender?”

Ben relaxed a little. “Can’t surrender to something I’m not doing. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things today and now some samurai is trying to kill all Ascending members, which we’re not. What are you even doing this for?”

“I am Magnus, sent here to eliminate all Ascending members. Lying and stalling are not a very honorable way to die.”

“Cutting up a girl with a sword isn’t honorable either, especially if you’re sneaking up on her.”

They stood, staring at each other, both parties expecting an offensive strike.

“You say I was sneaking up on that girl, but you are blinded. She was using a temptress skill on you. I merely stepped in, unsure of your affiliation, but since you used your powers to save your captor, I can tell now the relationship you two share.”

Temptress skill? One moment she was looking for food and the next, he saw Magnus. “I've seen one person die today and I'd rather not let it happen again.”

Trisha walked up behind Ben and said, “He's got screws loose.” She then licked at his ear lobe. “I think he's chauvinistic to.” She licked at his earlobe again.

“Cut it out this is serious.”

“I'm just being coy.” She wrapped her arms around Ben's chest and held onto him.

“Guard yourself.” Magnus leaped forward and drew his sword back.

A flash of green light consumed Ben as the grip around his chest tightened. Ben's feet then dangled beneath him and he heard heavy, deep breaths. Two large wings forcefully flapped at Magnus, repelling the samurai back to where he started. He did a flip to catch himself where he then reassumed his fighting stance.

This one's mine,” Ishtar said.

“You can walk away now if you'd like,” Ben commented.

Magnus put his sword in front of his face and held the hilt with both hands. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “It is an easy decision to make. I will not allow myself to walk away so the only option is to fight.” His eyes opened. “Bring on the fire and I will weather your maelstrom, dragon.”

Ishtar roared and dropped Ben. He landed on his face and looked up to see her in a full sprint. Quickly reaching out with her claws, she withdrew just as fast. Magnus took the bait and swung at the air cutting the neck of a nearby table sink in half.

She then grabbed his hand and lifted him off his feet. This didn't work as well as she had hoped.

Magnus kicked both his feet and connected the foot of his boots with her chin. She whined but shrugged it off. Another kick from Magnus hit the elbow of the arm holding him, but she still held on.

She drew her head back and opened her mouth. Each sharp tooth could cut through his flesh without a problem, but his titanium-alloyed bones would just have to be gnawed on. He tossed his sword to his other hand and took a swipe at her open maw. She let him go and jumped backwards as she pumped her wings, sending a heap of lab equipment exploding against the wall.

Magnus had to steady himself so as not to fall over from the wind speeds. By the time Ishtar landed, Magnus was already mounting a counter attack. He jumped atop the tables and began leaping from one to the other, his sword at his side ready for an upward thrust. Ishtar roared again.

“This is the end, dragon.”

Ishtar laughed and brought her right hand back.

A gunshot went off and the battle paused. Standing at the end of the room, on stage, was a young man in a lab coat brandishing a pistol. “Why the hell are all of you in my lab destroying everything?” The young man had red hair and a freckled face. He wore thick glasses and a nametag that said, Prof. J, pinned to his shirt. “Ishtar? Are these your guests? Damn you. And you,” pointing with his gun at Magnus, “are you in cahoots with the trespassers? You are aren't you?”

Prof. J lined up a shot and pulled the trigger, but the hammer wouldn't budge. Prof. J looked at the gun and saw the safety was on. “What? Stupid firearm.” He flipped the safety off, but just as he did, it flipped back to safe.

“You can put the gun down.” Ben had his hand out in front of him as he walked to Ishtar's side. He then touched his pinky finger to his palm and the pistol’s magazine fell to the floor.

“And here we have some Ascending member initiate who thinks he can take on a full-fledged member? Ishtar, are you and this little boy helping the invaders?”

What are you going on about J?

Prof. J tossed his gun then repositioned his glasses. “You idiot. There’s a group of people invading the Tower and they’ve been slaughtering everyone they’ve come across. Your sword-wielding buddy is part of the group. What are you doing with those two?”

Ishtar hissed laughter as she approached him. Her lips came back, revealing a smile full of razors.

“What are you doing?”

Enough questions.

Prof. J ran for the doors leading into his bedroom, followed by Ishtar at his back.

Invaders slaughtering everyone? Ben thought.

“Since you kept your brethren from firing upon me,” Magnus stepped down from the table and stabbed his sword into the floor, “I’ll only use my limbs to fight you. Consider this an honor.” He popped his knuckles and cracked his neck as he assumed his fighting stance.

“Was what that guy said true? Are you and some other group of people just killing everyone in this Tower?”

“I must complete my mission.”

The river flowed past his heart and reached the palm of his hands faster than normal. “What give you the right to do that?” Grasping the accumulated power surging through his body, the focal point of his energy syphoned into this hands. “I might not be good at fighting, but I won’t let you kill again if I can help it.”

The two of them squared off as Magnus made the first move. A quick left jab followed by a right hook caught Ben by the ear and then by the meat of his arm. He countered with a telekinetically charged forward punch, knocking Magnus back a few feet. The blow made a change to Magnus’s fighting technique, lighter now on his feet. He circled Ben just out of arms reach, taunting him, making him swing at nothing. After every missed strike, Magnus would sneak in a jab against Ben’s jaw, leading him into his ploy.

Ben made the mistake of stepping backwards. Magnus exploited this as he lunged forward, raining down a flurry of fists at Ben with both hands. He tried to defend himself, but the stinging sensation populated all over his body and head. The punches came in faster than he could attempt to react, which Ben found himself being pushed back farther, keeping him off balance.

Magnus breathed easy with the stamina demands of his barrage. He would only have to wait now. The implants in his head kicked his circulatory system into high gear and the special lining in his lungs perfuse every molecule of oxygen inhaled.

Ben became desperate. I can’t lose here, not to this murderer.

 He clenched his fists tight as a telekinetic vice grip restrained Magnus’s body. The samurai struggled but the energy held his movements. Ben fell back and threw his hands out above his head and behind his body, sending Magnus hurtling through one of the room’s windows into the open air. 

Magnus didn’t scream, that was for cowards. He saw the ground above by the way he fell rapidly coming up to greet him. He drew his second sword and kicked his body upright. The levels of the Tower zoomed by at his front. “I must complete my mission,” he said.

Ben ran to the broken glass and dropped to his knees. He leaned over the edge and could see his enemy. At first, he felt dread from killing someone, but now fear took on a whole other meaning when he could see Magnus looking back up at him. The samurai jabbed his second sword into the side of the Tower now hanging by its hilt. The cold air helped Magnus’s gaze chill Ben’s heart.

I have to let this guy know I’m not scared, or at least pretend not to be, Ben thought. He went away from the ledge and returned with Magnus’s sword.

“Better luck next time,” Ben yelled. He dropped the sword just out the window and let it fall to its owner. As the weapon reached Magnus, he snatched it from free fall, easily hanging from one arm. Ben looked down at Magnus and gave him the peace sign then left to find Trisha.

Ben followed the path that Prof. J took to escape Trisha, and found a bedroom with a kitchen to his left. The bed was flipped and in pieces, the mattress reduced to two chunks. Claw marks ran along the walls where the bed used to be and into the kitchen. The fridge was on its side with all its contents onto the floor. The stovetop dented in and ripped from its shelf in the kitchen, most the cupboards above hung open. Pieces of glass covered a part of the floor from a busted ceiling light.

Ishtar came from a hidden hallway carved into the far wall. Even though he’s seen her like this before it was still an alarming site. Ishtar approached Ben, turned back to human form, and fell on him naked.

“Now that we’re alone again,” she said. “Let’s have some fun.”

He saw her approach this time. Her irises brightened and pupils contracted. She went to kiss him but he interrupted her. “Hell yeah.” He rolled her over and held her shoulders down. She smiled with her lips, hiding her teeth sharpening to fine points. She put her hands behind his back as they turned to claws. “Are you ready?” Ben asked.

“Mmm hmm.”

He placed one hand on her neck and the other at her side. A grin came across his face.

“Wait, don’t you want to take your pants of-” He dug into the fold of her neck and tickled her unsuspecting ribs. “Stop. Stop. Stop.” Her concentration broke and her hands and teeth returned to normal. A wave of scales, like ripples in a small pool, crossed over her body. “Ben I mean it.”

“You asked for it, now you’re getting it.”

He jumped off her then grabbed one of her ankles and reached for her sole.

No.” She quickly turned into Ishtar and clawed away from Ben. She turned back to Trisha, scaled clothing and all, and exhaled a sigh of relief. “You just think you’re so cute, don’t you?”

“I was going to say the same to you with the whole seduction act.”

“What do you mean?” She smiled and walked towards Ben.

“Is it going to be like this the whole time or are you going to stop fucking around?”

The expression on Ben's face brought her to an abrupt stop. The smile left her face and the thought of turning back to Ishtar crossed her mind. “What's the deal Ben?”

“You tell me. I think you’re up to something. I don't know why you would agree to come with me just to screw me over but I really think that's what's going on. If you’re not going to help me just stay out of my way.”

That little shit. He thinks he's better than me or something. That's why he hasn't made a pass at me. I should rip him to pieces right here.

“You can try it.” Her jaw dropped and she marched over to him. She went to slap him, but he caught her hand. “Is this what you want to do? You want to fight?” Ben said.

Trisha pulled her hand away and placed both of them on her hips. She glared at Ben then looked away, repeatedly saying, I hate you, in her head loud enough for him to hear.

“I need you right now.”

“Oh now you change your tune.”

Ben reached out and gave her a hug. Her guard dropped and her hands fell from her hips. “You've been helping me out a lot and I appreciate you not ripping my head off. I probably wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for you, but you have to stop trying to mess with my head.”

His hug was tight. “You’re just trying to diffuse me. You think you’re so cool don't you?”

“I'm scared.”

“What?” She pulled Ben back and looked at him. He still had the same face as before.

“You think I've gotten use to this already? I saw someone die right in front of me, and I almost killed someone by throwing him out a window. I almost saw you get shot, and now some freak samurai guy is going to come back later and chop my head off. This is a lot to take it at once. Not to mention there's a whole team of those dudes out there and who the hell knows what their capable of.”

She looked into his eyes, and knew he was telling the truth. This whole time she thought he was confident and sure of himself. “Ben, I promise I'll behave.” Then she pointed in the air with her eyes closed and said, “But a women feels unappreciated when a guy doesn't drool over her, and you've been nothing but rude to me.”

Ben placed his hand behind her ear and gently tugged her head forward. Their lips met and with that, time and space curved around them, suspending her reality in a soft embrace. A few seconds passed that felt like minutes. Ben meant for it to be harmless, but she had never been kissed in such a way. It was absent of lust, and all of her anger and irritation subsided. When his lips parted from hers, it was like the clouds parting for the sun to shine.

She opened her eyes at the same time he opened his. He gave her a soft smile then turned to walk around the room. “So where did Prof. J go?”

Trisha stood there, her lips slightly parted.

Ben looked back at her still standing there. “Well? Are we going to have to worry about more people sneaking up on us later?”

“You're trying to seduce me.”

Ben laughed and said, “You’re impossible, did you know that?”

“You, but I, er…” Trisha shook her head to clear her thoughts. “I'm on to your schemes.”

“Are you now?”

“Yes, and don't worry about J, he had a secret escape passage in his bathroom. He's probably running off to cry to Dr. Chen.”

“At least we don't have to worry about him for a while. Let's keep moving.”

She followed Ben, still captured by his kiss. I don't see how he would pick Lilly over me. She has shoulders like a man.

“I heard that.”

 

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