Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 21
Ch.21

“What's the quality you like most about me?” Ever since he kissed her, Ben graduated from sap to seductive.

The interior design of the Tower changed again. The ceiling took on a more industrial appearance. Pipes and wires lined themselves above the lights that were now hanging individually instead of housed in a two-bulb compartment. The walls were grey and the floors were dull. A stale smell hung in the air.

“Your voice,” Ben said.

Trisha smiled and tugged on one of his jacket's sleeves. “Really?”

“Yeah, like when I heard it less. Muhahaha.” Ben exaggerated his evil laugh to get the joke across.

She slapped his shoulder and crossed her arms. “My name's Ben and I think I'm so funny,” she said in a mocking voice. “For real, what about me is the best?”

Ben was still trying to reach the top of the Tower, but with all that has happened he welcomed her conversations more so than before. “Come to think of it, your kookiness.”

“Kookiness?”

“Yeah you’re all chirpy and full of life. Then there's that really cool dragon ability that you have. I wish I had wings.” Red curtains came around Ben on both sides and closed in front of him. He turned around and saw Trisha's gleaming smile and folded arms as her body remained human.

He reached out to one of the wings and felt the thick, leather membrane between their digits. He looked up and saw the sharp thumbs of her wings pointing at the ceiling. “Nice.”

“Thanks. You want to know what I like most about you?” They met each other’s gaze, her eyes a lighter green than his. Ben checked her pupils but they didn’t contract. “You do, I can tell. You were cautious at first, but you really want to know.”

“Reading my mind again?”

“I read your eyes. They give you away every time I look into them.”

“Right.” He turned away and parted her wings. “Any info on where we’re at?”

“Hey, get back here.” Trisha’s pendant flashed green and her wings were gone. “What’s up, Ben? Is it something I said? Your eyes look really nice.”

They continued to walk, and Ben looked forward as he talked. “You know how people always have a place to go inside their head, where no one else can follow them? I feel like I was gypped when it came to that part of being human.”

“What do you have to hide?”

“Nothing really, but some privacy would be nice.”

She nodded and said, “Yeah I know what you mean, but being alone is overrated. I would take five minutes talking to you over a whole year chilling in my room.”

“First time I’ve heard that. The Ascending members don’t seem like social people, why’s that?”

Trisha shrugged. “Once you get your own room you get to design it however which way you like, and most of our time is spent running tests for the Dr. whenever he needs more data. So it’s like going home from work to a physical replica of that place inside your head. Weekends are off so I usually stay in my room and watch movies, and neglect to study geography.”

“And talk to yourself.”

“Very funny. I guess in a way we’ve all been locked up and you were locked out.”

He smiled a little, glad that he had company, but he didn’t fool himself. A small part of his subconscious was always on the lookout for another seduction trick. “What’s Dr. Chen’s end game?”

She thought about it, picking out small fragments of memories from the past. “I’m not sure. I just sit around and look pretty.”

The compliment, “You’ve gotten good at that,” fell from his mouth.

She could feel herself blush. “Another question, how long was your longest relationship?”

“Can’t really remember.” Yikes. That was a horrible lie.

“Yikes. That was a horrible lie,” Trisha said, in unison with Ben’s thought. “Spill the beans. How long did your longest last?”

“I don’t have one.”

Trisha stopped walking and cocked her head to the left. “What?”

“I never really had one of those relationship things. It was a very small town and I might have the jacket, but I wasn’t the Fonz of my high school.”

“Benjamin. Benjamin. Benjamin,” she looked at him in a whole other light. “You still have your cherry?”

He shrugged.

Trisha held back laughter and said, “What was that? It’s a yes or no. Wow, you’re like a unicorn you know?”

“A unicorn?”

“Yeah you’re rare. Teens usually throw away their V card like candy bar wrappers, but not Ben. Ben just wants to be different. Yep that's Benjamin Woulms.”

The wry expression on his face said it all.

She turned away and giggled, “I don’t mean anything by it.”

“I think you’re trying to imply something.” He was keeping his anger in check, but it was right beneath the surface.

“Look at it from my angle. Some new guy comes along in my life, and so far is very impressive, who is nice enough to let me tag along on his journey, and denies all of my advances. You’re chasing after Lilly, who is like a six on the scale compared to my obvious nine, if not ten, but says she’s not your girlfriend.” The allegations of yesteryear were coming for him again. “I just want to know something.”

Here it comes, Ben thought.

“Are you one of those virgin by choice people?”

“Not by my choice.”

“Sweet, you were about to lose cool points. Then what’s up, Ben? How come you haven’t put you D in my V?”

“Have you ever heard of the phrase, too good to be true? This is kind of it. I’m in a strange place, there’s people trying to kill me, I’m in the middle of a war that I want nothing to do with, and I have some crazy dragon lady offering up some sex on the side.”

Trisha laughed.

“I’m glad one of us finds it funny.”

“You look like you’re having fun to me.”

Ben rolled his eyes and said, “let’s talk about this later.”

By now the levels were completely different. There was no wallpaper and the floors were without tiles. The interior was similar to a parking garage, concrete surfaces all around, and the temperature dropped to a slight chill.

Ben noticed Trisha was behaving serene for once. “So where are we?”

“Some maintenance area. We’re going to stick to this hallway and get out of here.”

“All right, but is there something we can find in this area that would help us out? I could go for something to eat right now.”

“No.”

“Ok I guess.” They reached the end of the hall to a corner that lead to another corridor, stretching along the length of the Tower. To his right he saw yellow capital letters spelling out warning along the walls. “Are you sure this is the maintenance area?”

“We just need to get to the end of the hall.”

“Hey.” She stopped herself from looking back. “Trisha.” He gently grabbed her elbow and tugged back.

“Ben, we need to move.”

“Tell me what’s going on.” She bit her bottom lip and thought of a lie. “Tell the truth.”

“This is the prison level, Ben. We stuff all the rejects in here and there’s one in particular that murdered a Demon member.”

“Demon member?”

“We haven’t come across them yet. Demon members are the ones who live at the top levels of the Tower. They lead the Ascending and they’re a lot stronger than any of us.” She walked on, guiding Ben towards the exit.

“How many of these Demon’s are there?”

“Currently three. Two years ago, there were five, but once he snapped and killed Dagon, the psychopath was thrown in here. You don't want to bother with him or the Styx.”

“Styx? Hold on. Just explain what we’re dealing with here please.”

Trisha turned around and cleared her throat. “So far we've come across most of the Ascending members in the Tower. We've climbed so high that we've reached the divide. Once an Ascending member attains enough power to get a room this high in the tower, they’re not too far from gaining Demon status. In order to obtain Demon status there's a ritual you must perform and members who don’t make the cut are kept here, the prison level. Their bodies are twisted and their minds become dependent on Ascension Serum. If they don't get their serum fix they develop mental disorders and become violent. It's not pretty.”

Ben gave her an unsure look.

“Trust me, you don't want to deal with them. I mean, they’re still normal people who want normal things but they've been treated like animals ever since they failed at becoming a Demon member.”

“Where do the deformities come into play?”

She smiled and said, “Ben, sometimes you just ask too many questions. Follow me and look handsome Ok?” She grabbed his jacket sleeve and pulled. “If you really want to know, ask me later. Right now we need to make like a tree and get the hell out of here.”

 

For taking up most of the square feet of the level, the prison only imprisoned one soul. All the Styx members were told that they were the officers and their only job was to keep the prisoner in his cell. Gratuity for their job was the serum they craved so dearly and as time passed, they believed it.

Every time there was a new Styx member, they would bother him. The other Styx would laugh and wait for their prisoner to snap, but the oldest members knew that nothing would happen. No matter what they said, he sat there at the center of his cell and over time became anonymous to them.

Constantly covering both forearms and his body from the waist down was light-yellow material. The wraps would never encumber his movements though. This material was in a spiral pattern from wrist to elbow, five inches thick on his arms. The waist was the same pattern only two inches thick, acting as his pants. He didn’t bother with shoes, and the only real article of clothing he wore was a yellow v neck t-shirt.

The prisoner never spoke to them. He only mumbled to himself from time to time.

A wave of telekinetic energy from above, followed by another wave from below, stirred his attention. The first wave was strong and familiar. He could identify her brainwave out of a crowd of thousands. “Must be that time of the month,” he said. He had only seen Lilly in Demon mode once, and figured she wouldn’t want to risk destroying the entire community again. “But who’s this clown?” The second wave was like a flute playing in the other room. “Inexperienced. A little bit of strength. Naïve. Male.” He looked past the bars in his cell and saw the Styx meandering around.

“Melino, did you feel that?”

“Quiet, Quennell. I want to sleep.”

“You sleep all day. What makes you think there isn't anything to do around here?” Quennell said.

“Because there isn't anything to do you dip shit.”

“Rhadaman, she's being a lazy bitch again.”

“Don't call me a bitch, freak.”

He knew their schedule all too well.

In the morning, they would argue over who should get breakfast for the group. During the day, Melino would sleep. Rhadaman would run around in circles trying to perform pointless tasks. Quennell would cry for no reason or team up with Rhadaman when he would nag at one of the other Styx members. Royx, the last of the Styx, would randomly walk up to any of the others and begin talking about anything that came to mind. They all shared themselves with each other throughout the night.

There was a fifth member of Styx but he died from a heart problem. He used to spend most of his days masturbating and a day came when he didn’t take his daily serum dosage and his heart gave out. It took the staff four months to get rid of the body.

“The universe is a compilation of many universes lying on top of each other. So my actions are the actions of thousands of myself across the rest of the many universes out there. All of those other Royx’s making decisions are really my decisions. You just really have to think about it,” Royx said to a face he drew on the wall that morning.

A ringing sound crashed their daily routines. “Calling all rejects,” Shax said through the intercom system. “The opportunity of a lifetime is in your grasp. While none of you may know, there is an infestation within the Tower. Yes while all of you were pissing and shitting on each other a group of cyborgs broke in and are now killing Ascending members. Do you know what that means? There's rooms available. So go out there and do your duty, and you will be the proud owner of your very own room. They haven't passed the prison level yet but they'll soon be there. Get them while they last. That is all, retards.” The intercom system died and they were left to their own devices.

“I can have my own room. My own bed. My own shower. I'll sleep as much as I want,” Melino said. Quennell and Rhadaman started making out, a form of celebration. Royx held himself and layghed. The entrance unlocked and all of them immediately left the prison level.

The former Demon still sat there in his cell, measuring his options. While thinking, he detected Trisha's brainwave close by. “I wonder what she's doing with that guy.”

 

“Something’s wrong,” Trisha said.

“What’s up? Is someone fighting?” Ben asked.

“Shh.” She grabbed Ben’s hand and led him forward. Beyond a turn to their right, was a door to the ladder well. She sensed the Styx making their way down the corridor into their part of the hall. Not enough time to slip by, she thought.

Voices came from the hall to their right, talking over each other.

“Rhadaman hold up.”

“I’ll kill five of them. Then I’ll get five rooms.”

“I want two beds.”

The flow of energy came to Ben’s palms. “What’s going on, Trisha?”

“Don’t do that. Stay quiet and please be still.” She wrapped her arms around Ben, one holding his head, the other around his back, and closed her eyes.

To Ben it looked like they were standing out in the open, and just as he heard Trisha draw a deep breath, the Styx revealed themselves from around the corner. Their bodies more mutated than he had imagined and their pungent body odor filled his nostrils. Each article of clothing they wore stained and faded in color. Grease reflected off their hair from the lighting. The four mutants scrambled by without giving them any attention, and continued out of sight, leaving in their wake a disturbing memory for Benjamin.

Trisha gasped for air and her hug had gone limp. He held on to her and eased down to one knee, altering all four of the Styx’s perceptions took a toll on her.

“Hey are you all right?”

“Yeah. I’ll be fine. That was a close one.”

He smiled at her. “Thanks. Those people looked like they could have ripped me apart.” Ben gave her a hug and got to his feet. Offering his hand, he said, “Tell you what, when we get out of her I’ll buy you some chocolate.”

Trisha took his hand. “Chocolate? I do like chocolate, don’t get me wrong, but I think I should get more than that.”

“You could make me a sandwich.”

“How the hell is that repaying me?”

“So chocolate it is then.” Ben walked past her and pointed down the hallway. “So is that our exit?”

“Yep. Past here we’ll be able to travel a few more levels, but after that my memory gets a little fuzzy.”

She got to her feet and walked with Ben to the stairwell door. As he reached out for the handle, he heard a voice in his head. Your searching for Lilly aren’t you?

Ben looked over at Trisha with a questioning face.

She looked to her left then back at Ben. “What?”

She’s been acting strange since she’s come back to the Tower. Then two days later you arrive and a flash shock wave emits from her room.

“Ben, is there something wrong?”

He stood there holding the door handle. “Someone’s communicating to me telepathically.”

That’s right, one night only, the Tower’s favorite convict is inviting you to his humble abode.

“He’s trying to get me to enter the prison.”

Trisha’s eyes popped and she shook her head. “No way. We’re going to leave, right now.” She opened the door for Ben and walked to the other side, holding it open. “Come on we’re not sticking around here any longer.”

I have a feeling you and I should have a talk. The things I could tell you about Lilly. A small chuckle echoed inside Ben’s head. And about the blonde dime you have there.

Trisha still held the door open for Ben. She waved him forward, but he said, “What if he has information that we need?”

Hook. He felt a strange sensation in his head behind his eyes. There you are Trisha. Line.

“Wait. He’s up to something,” Ben said. The door slammed shut and the lock engaged. A small pink light at the top-center of the door lit up. “Trisha.”

“Ben.”

I have you now, he heard.

They both focused their powers on the lock, but their telekinesis had no effect.

The pink light means the door is lined with a strip of telekinetic chain material. You’re going to have to come to my cell and get the key from me if you want to go through that door.

“Dammit. Ben, I told you to follow me.” Trisha grabbed her pendant and turned into Ishtar. “I’m going to find another way onto the prison level. Stay away from, Samael.” With that, Ishtar took off.

“What do you want from me?”

I already told you. I want to talk.

“Why do I get the feeling that’s not all you want?”

You must be a brain surgeon.

Ben winced in a slight rush of anger. I can’t have any more distractions, he thought. “What do you have to discuss with me?”

I'll tell you when you get here. Just go down the hallway the A-team came from and enter the only door on the right. You'll find me there.

“What if I just sit here and wait for Trisha?”

I could come out there and get you, your choice.

Not only was Magnus still on his trail, but now an ex-Demon had invited him to a one on one conversation. “Looks like you’re going to get what you asked for.”

“I like confidence in an ass beating,” Samael said to himself. He sat in his cell staring off into space. After he discontinued the link with Ben, Samael stood and rolled his shoulders. The wraps adjusted themselves and sat in a different position than before, same pattern, still covering his forearms. “It’s been a while.”

Samael made a fist with his left hand and pointed at a cell bar twenty-five feet away. The end of the wrapping came undone and covered the distance in half a second, cracking the solid steel bar in half at point of impact. “Could use some improvement.” The tendril retracted just as fast. “Should work fine against flesh and bone for now.”

 

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