During our final session together before our unplanned hiatus, I told Andrea about my strange vision in meditation. She thought it was intriguing and possibly loaded with important information for my healing, so she set me up with some needles to help me go deeper into a relaxed state, played the Deus Ex soundtrack on my phone, and left me to go back into that world. Upon entering I immediately found myself in the driver seat of the formerly hovering vehicle, now converted back into a truck, pulling into the mouth of a large cave. The three of us hopped out and Id reached into the bed of the truck to sling the now awake barmaid over his shoulder with monstrous ease. There was a small maintenance shack a few yards further into the cave, so we opened it up and tied the barmaid to a chair inside.
“You can’t leave me here.” She said as I prepared a cloth gag for her mouth.
“Someone will probably be along soon to get you. We’ve got other stuff to do.” I responded.
“Yeah, I know. So, you can’t leave me here.” She snapped back.
Ignoring her, I fastened the gag around her mouth and left, locking the door behind me.
The three of us moved further into the smooth-walled cave which was surprisingly well-lit due to glowing yellow crystals that were scattered about. As we walked, we saw the strange, time-worn carvings of glyphs from what I knew to be an ancient civilization. Some stretched down the walls of the cave in bands, while others were arranged in clusters; Ego said the clusters reminded him of control panels. Eventually the cave ended at what appeared to be a flat wall, but on closer examination it seemed more like a door. I noticed that some of the lines of glyphs were cut off at the edifice, so in putting two and two together, I asked Ego if he could work the panels; he said no, and Id suggested we try the barmaid. I thought about what she said before I gagged her, and the way she said it, and it was obvious to me that she knew something that us men didn’t.
We went back to the shed and released the barmaid by everything but her hands and fastened a lead around her wrists. I took the guide rope and lead her to the “control panel” closest to the rear of the cave so that she could instruct Ego which keys to press and how. She told Ego the glyphs to touch in which order, and after he did so the designs lit up and a holographic projection of them glowed in the air an inch or two from the wall. He tried to press one, but the whole display flashed red. Suddenly, giant beetles the size of house cats poured out of holes in the cave walls, as well as anthropomorphized beetle-creatures carrying crude muskets. We all took cover behind rocky outcroppings along the trail. The smaller bugs dove at us and were easily dispatched by our guns, but the beetle people were shooting at us with decent accuracy and weren’t going down as easily as the smaller bugs.
Ego and I returned fire with our rifles as Id threw rocks with deadly precision. The barmaid demanded I set her free and give her a weapon. Reluctantly, I agreed, cut her binds with the blue magic, and handed her my sidearm. The four of us fought back the baddies together and when the last one fell, we regrouped by the control panel. (Yes, this entire scene synched with the music I was listening to as well.)
Despite the fact that she helped us in the fire fight, Ego didn’t like or trust her, which was evident when he insisted that we bind her again. I shot his idea down, but I warned her that if she crossed us, I would have Id eat her head, to which he grinned, widely. The barmaid rolled her eyes before resetting the control panel and activating the proper keys, which caused the wall at the back of the cave to slide open, revealing a long, and winding path that stretched ever further down into the planet.
It was obvious to us that she was the only person who could activate and control this ancient tech, which was tied directly into the planet itself and, with the control panels, the barmaid could remake the world physical space immediately around her as she saw fit. As we walked deeper into the cave, every time we came to a chasm or dead end, the barmaid would activate a panel and doors would open out of walls, or bridges would appear over chasms as the rock reshaped itself to obey her command. We eventually came to a large, rounded outcropping that was set against a huge void. She activated a panel that caused part of it to peel open like an orange and extend over the gap as a curved drawbridge.
We stepped over the enormous lip, and as we rounded the bend, we found ourselves to be inside a massive domed arena. Before us a gargantuan cybernetic beetle came down from the ceiling, as well as a nine-foot-tall man in a metallic, beetle-like exosuit. The battle music started playing and we spread out around the arena. This time I gave the barmaid a weapon from the outset - a grenade launcher I had had in my pack.
In the arena there wasn’t much cover, but I managed to summon the blue magic to act as a crude shield to deflect the shots fired by our opponents, which was exceedingly helpful. Our enemies were tough, but it was very quickly apparent that the two creatures were neurologically linked, as they seemed to move in sync with each other. Despite its size, we figured that the beetle was not going to be as powerful as the man in the exosuit, so we all focused our firepower on it until a cracked formed in the armor on its left side.
I signaled to the barmaid who ran towards me and jumped as high as she could. I grabbed her foot and tossed her higher into the air, giving her the right vantage point to fire a blast into the crack, causing a large explosion within the beetle’s carapace to blow it in half and it died instantly. We hoped that because the two were neurologically linked it would cause the man in the power suit to die as well, but it appeared that he had severed the connection right before the bug died. Crippled, but alive, he fired off rocket thrusters from his back and took off into a hole in the roof of the arena and disappeared.
As the battle music ended and a more serene song played, we settled in for a rest around a campfire that Id started. Ego then pressed the barmaid for answers.
“Who are you? How can you activate these control panels?” he asked.
“How is it you guys can leap around so high, move so fast, and are so strong and powerful?” She said with a shrug.
“It’s just…how we are. We are strong.” I answered.
“And this is just how I am.” She responded.
She then said something that stayed with me, ever since.
“We all have our story to tell.”
Stunned, all I could say was, “We better rest up. We have a long way to go.”
We all rolled over to rest. I closed my eyes in the vision and began to drift to sleep when I was suddenly awoken to the sound of a doorknob in the real world. It was Andrea coming back into the room to remove the needles with creepily perfect timing.