Chapter 17: Sumerian Robots
7.10.2002 Edited by , every Sunday.
Bjorn was tired. He had gone too long without a relaxing evening at home, without a cold glass of ginger ale and some TV documentary about blue-jays or the invention of the dome. His rigorous workout schedule was meant to prepare him for the risks and stresses of eating little pills with surprise consequences, not gallavanting across time pursued by various (surprisingly incompetent) armed antagonists.
The soldier had little sympathy for the weariness under Bjorn's eyes, however. As the American paused to decide whether he really wanted to get involved in another Mad Adventure, the man took the butt of his spear and poked it into the small of Bjorn's back.
"Ow!" said Bjorn.
"Come on," said the soldier.
Bjorn rubbed dejectedly at his back. "I'm tuckered out," he said.
"Yeah, and I'm Gilgamesh," answered Spear.
"What?" said Bjorn, confused. "I just meant I was really tir-"
"Yeah, okay, whatever mister 'please believe I'm Thiefmaster Dout of the Third Square'. Let's get moving."
"'Thiefmaster who?'" said Bjorn. "Ow!"
They began to march, Spear in the rear, two more gold-suited guards in front. Jesus walked quietly beside him, her padded boots making no sound as they crossed the broad courtyard towards the ziggurat. She had said nothing in the prior exchange, her eyes flitting silently around
"What do they want with me?" Bjorn muttered to her.
"Fucked if I know," said Jesus Christ. "But they want both of us."
"I'm Bjorn Lincoln," he said. "Are you from around here?"
Jesus shook her head, glossy black tresses swinging around her shoulders. "No, I'm from Latvia," she said. "Didn't you hear the accent?"
"Sorry," said Bjorn. "I just thought you had a speech impediment."
"I get that a lot." She smiled at him.
"So what's your name?
By the time the little group had reached the base of the ziggurat, Bjorn had been convinced that his companion's name was indeed Jesus Christ, that she had been born in the year zero, and that she had absolutely no connection to who Sunday School had taught him was the Divine Lord and Saviour. "I'm not exactly in that line of work," she had said, batting eyelashes over large, dark eyes. "Ah," had said Bjorn, unable to look away from her soft, pink tongue as it wet her soft, pink lips. He had coughed.
They stopped in front of the first of the giant stone steps. "Halt!" said Spear, aptly, if a little late. He stepped forward, separating Jesus and Bjorn, nodding his head towards the top of the pyramidal edifice. "Enki brought us this artifact," he said grimly, "and you will bring Enki glory."
Jesus nodded wordless, her lips pressed together. Bjorn saw her gaze lower, glancing at the soldier's spear-hand, then rise again to examine his face.
"You will show Enki the honour he deserves. You will call him His Brightness. You will not look him in the eye. He is grander than you both."
"Okay," said Bjorn. Sometimes his boss, Mr. Wilcox, would demand to be referred to as His Brightness, so Bjorn was used to it.
Spear gestured at the two other guards. They crouched and pressed at two of the ziggurat's engraved panels, indistinguishable from the rest. With a thunderous, groaning sound, two enormous stone blocks separated, revealing a narrow, dark alleyway. Deep within, Bjorn thought perhaps he could make out the flicker of torches. He sighed.
"Enter," said Spear. "Enki will see you. Remember what I said."
Bjorn nodded, stuck his hands in his pockets, and stepped into the darkness. He turned to look back at Jesus, and found her unmoved.
She peered after him, then slowly turned to the soldier. "What does Enki want us for?"
"To win him glory," said Spear.
"By defeating numerous robots in an eight-round tournament."
There was a silence. Lines crisscrossed over Jesus' forehead. "Ro-bots?" she asked. "Something is not right," she said. "Something is not right." She joined Bjorn just inside the gloom of the ziggurat tunnel. "This is not as I read it."
Robots! thought Bjorn. First that chevy, and then robots... This Enki character must be working for McNoHart!
"According to the travelogue scrolls," said Jesus, "Enki of Ur tops his ziggurat with an enormous ruby, not some strange metal artifact... The stories speak of battles between wild desert cats, not 'ro-bots'..."
"Go!" said Spear. "Cease your dawdling!" Behind and above him, a pterodactyl crossed the sky.
Now dinosaurs!?, thought Bjorn. This is too clumsy. Too transparent. My enemy is no fool, else he would have fooled me already. No, this isn't McNoHart's work, at least not directly...
"I do not like it," said Jesus. And then suddenly the ground began to shake. Bjorn was tossed into a wall by the violent quake, out of the corner of his eye he saw Spear and the other guards collapse in their heavy armour. With a seismic rumbling the sand directly beneath his feet metamorphosed instantly into yellow, 70's-style linoleum tile. Jesus stared at it, breathing hard, her chest rising and falling with a hypnotic grace. "This is wrong. All wrong."
"Something is wrong with time," said Bjorn.
Jesus nodded. "Come on!"
She burst out of the still-unexplored ziggurat entrance with a velvet agility, zigzagging between the slowly-rising Sumerian soldiers. Bjorn took a moment to bather his gearings and then, this done, followed at a run.
Behind him, a shout ("Halt!"), before him, Jesus' lovely shape. Could be worse, thought Bjorn.
Then he saw Gilgamesh.
By Sean Michaels