Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Out of the frying pan....

It has been just a few days since I left New Babbage, it seems like so much longer, it feels so good to be back.

I left on Sunday, bright and early, the Hippocampus carrying our deadly cargo with it. I had heard of a volcanic isle far to the south that might serve my purpose, and then Capt. Smythe had suggested the mystical Black Swan atoll. It was to the Atoll I headed first, it was a long journey and I passed the beautiful island of Straylight perhaps one of the most beautiful places early on Monday and stopped to rest and check my charts.

A small volcanic fissure existed on the island, visible from the sea and so I ventured inland to see if it would serve my purpose. The heat from the lava was intense but the flow shallow and fast moving, I feared that this would not create the enormous temperatures that I sought, and to be perfectly honest, I did not dare risk contaminating such a place of beauty and natural wonder.

Next stop was meant to be Black Swan, I travelled throughout the day Monday and into the evening until I had the Atoll within my sight. As I surfaced to approach the atoll a small mechanical device approached me. A loud but distorted and scratchy recording played out through the devices trumpet like nose announcing that due to a recent incident involving a diseased carcass being burnt at the skeletal altar the island was imposing a quarantine regime, no strangers could make land fall without clearance. The voice made it quite clear that any attempt to land would be met with force. This seemed strange, "a diseased carcase", what a strange coincidence. The device whirred, turned and paddled back to shore. I chose not to test their resolve. I still had my original plan, the abandoned volcanic island. I headed back on a nor'westerly bearing, Black Swan had seemed promising and worth the extra distance but now it was time to get this finished.

The sun had set two hours or more before I arrived at the island, finding a cove to bring the Hippocampus into I came ashore. A large cave opened before me, inside the lava flows moved beneath ornate bridges built by the now long gone residents, had this been active when they were here? surely not, but then why the bridges? A puzzle that would have to remain for another day. The flows inside the cave were unfortunately too shallow, the same problem as I had found on Straylight, I hoped that the crater itself might serve me better. I took some ropes and clambered up the rocky mountain, the hot rocks burning my hands as I climbed ensuring that I never stopped too long in any one place. At the top I found what I was after, a deep lava pool and better still a stable rock platform from which to work. I rigged a pulley and feeding rope around the pulley descended back to the ground to attach the casket. There was no way that I was going to be able to carry that weight, so I used the Hippocampus to pull the rope and hoist the casket high up to the rock ledge.

I climbed back up to the ledge and removed the ropes from the casket, it lay poised for its plunge. Resting for a moment to take in the situation I sat down upon the casket. Catching my breath once again I composed myself and then with an almighty shove pushed the casket down into the pool of lava that bubbled beneath me. The powerful heat and the stench of sulphur filled the air, and stung my eyes despite my goggles which served only to give me the appearance of a panda when I later removed them.

The casket slid away dropping into the lava on end then tipping over crashed down into the pool of molten rock.

I watched as the casket melted into nothing, looking for a green haze or other hint of the abhorrent plague but none appeared. I had done it. It was time to return to the Hippocampus sub which waited patiently below.

I packed quickly, and left the island not caring to look back for too long. I piloted the sub back towards home and it was not long before I cam once more to the shores of Straylight. I rested a while, allowing the cool fresh waters of the mountain springs to wash the soot and sweat from my skin. It was here that the relief overtook me, the realisation that my ill conceived plan to bury the finger in a noble attempt to rid New Babbage of this plague, the theft and damage, the leak... the leak that could so easily have killed my friends and neighbours; it was finished, over. I admit to you, my diary, I broke down, calling out to Tali; it is not strange that I feel her loss at times like this, but what would she have made of it all?

I washed and scrubbed until I was clean once again, turning things over in my mind.

and then I sat, letting the waters run over me.

I don't know how long I stayed like that but all of a sudden the melancholy lifted, I felt free of the burden, the waters had washed away the dirt and the guilt. I stood up, walked to the edge of the high rocks and ....

with a jump, dived into the deep pool below.

Resting briefly at the foot of a giant tree, I dressed and returned to the Sub, heading back to Babbage, my home.

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