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Old 01-25-2011, 07:28 PM   #1
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Another Time, Another Place - Chapter 7

Alison and I would like to present Chapter 7.

This is where a really simple idea turned very complicated. In a good way. It's a little dark. So be warned. It's also pure fiction.

Alison would also like me to point out that this next bit was my fault idea. I just came up with it, she had to make it make sense.

_____________

Over the next two weeks, Adam, Edge, Bono and Larry managed to earn enough money to buy a soldering iron, a good supply of electrical wire, and of course, the Gibson Firebird. There was some scepticism about the necessity of the latter from Larry.

"Are you sure we really need that?" he said, eying the shining guitar (and Edge's shining expression) dubiously.

"Yes," Edge said repressively.

"You're telling me that there's no way we can possibly get home without a vintage Gibson Firebird from 1963? What luck that we managed to land here." Larry's sarcasm was unrelenting.

"It's not vintage here," Edge said, then threw up his hands. "All right, any guitar would do, but... look at it..." he said, gazing at the guitar with misty eyes.

Larry's eyes rolled expressively. "Why do you need a guitar at all?"

Edge considered how much technical detail he needed to go into. "Once I've completed the rest of the guidance circuitry, the guitar will allow me to input a more complex, coherent, dynamic and responsive signal into the system, which will go through the signal chain and all the effects units, which in turn affects the frequencies that are fed through to the flux capacitors, and temporal and spatial positioning components."

Larry and Bono had gone cross-eyed, and Adam's forehead was knotted in furious thought. "Do you mean," he said slowly, "that you can hook that guitar up to all this stuff, and you'll be able to take us to different places depending on what you play on it?"

"Yes!" Edge said, delighted that Adam had understood. "Have a cookie." He reached into the closet and pulled one out, handing it to Adam. The bassist munched happily, while Bono and Larry turned their confused faces to the closet.

"How do you keep doing that?!" Bono asked.

"Never you mind," Edge said. "Now leave me alone for a bit, I need to make some more adjustments. And don't touch anything!" he added, glaring at Bono.

Two hours later, Edge was up to his elbows in wires and wisps of smoke from the soldering iron, with half the guts of the control panel hanging out. Bono shuffled into the control room, having finally gotten tired of playing table tennis with Larry, who kept beating him.

"Can I push the Random button again?" he asked Edge hopefully.

Edge sighed and gave in. "All right, I don't suppose it can do any harm. Just wait a moment..." He started rearranging the wires that were still hanging out of the back of the control panel, trying to fit them back in some sort of order.

Bono hadn't been listening after Edge had said "All right". He pressed the button. There was a flash from where Edge still had his hands in the wires, a loud swear-word, and a smell of burning. The sound-system poured a deafening blast of heavy thrash-death-black-drone-doom-armageddon-metal through its speakers. Edge was too busy stuffing his fingers in his ears to throttle Bono.

The pyrotechnics on the screen had a slightly different quality to them this time. Adam couldn't quite put his finger on it, although they looked as trippy as ever. More so, in fact.

They landed somewhere, and the smoke on the screen gradually cleared as the music stopped. If you could even call that music, Bono thought to himself.

Outside, they saw that they had landed in the middle of a field. A small light on the control panel was blinking red.

"Why is that light blinking?" Larry asked. He was starting to get nervous. He was a little weary of all the lights and buttons.

Edge just looked at them with wide eyes.

"We're... umm... in another dimension," he whispered in an awed voice.

"Wait... what??" the three of them said.

"Don't go anywhere until I check things," Edge said as Bono's hand inched toward the "open" button.

"Air good, temperature moderate, gravity normal," he was muttering to himself.

"Can we go outside? Is it safe?" Larry asked in a semi-panicked voice.

"Calm down, Lurghy," Bono said. "Edge won't let us get in any trouble."

"Yeah, that's your job it seems, Bono," Edge said very testily. He was getting very tired of Bono always making things harder than they had to be. "Did it not enter your mind to wait for me to finish my sentence? What would have happened if we'd materialised in the middle of a town of medieval knights with sharp swords?"

"You would have saved us," Bono said with disarming confidence.

Edge sighed. "Don't count on it," he muttered, but Bono didn't hear him.

Finally they decided it was safe to go outside, although Edge was nervous. "We have no idea what to expect," he said. "All we know is that there are no radio signals, so the technology isn't very advanced. There might not even be humans, anything could be out there..." Despite himself, Edge was curious to see what would be in an alternative dimension.

"Will we still have to be careful about not changing the course of history if this isn't our dimension?" Adam asked.

"Well, I think it would be very inconsiderate to this dimension to run around changing things willy-nilly," Edge said. "But no, it won't affect our history. We should still be careful though!"

"Yes Edge," Adam, Bono and Larry chorused.

They followed a thin plume of smoke across the bare fields, and finally came across the most pathetic, ramshackle, dirty and desperate excuse for a village Bono had seen since he'd been to Ethiopia. Two clearly malnourished children were playing in a muddy puddle, and somewhere they could hear a woman crying.

The four men stopped, staring. The houses were cobbled together out of raw timber or straw and mud, and were inexpertly thatched with anything that would do. A starving dog limped past, its ribs sticking out. It didn't even bother to growl at them.

"What is this place?" Bono asked.

At the sound of his voice, the two children looked up and saw them. To everyone's surprise, the two thin faces showed expressions of shock and horror, and they fled before any of them could say anything. Once the children were out of sight, they heard a quavering, panicked voice call out.

"Mam! Mam, they're here!!"

The four men exchanged a look. Clearly they were known here, but why would the children have run away like that?

They continued cautiously through the village. Shortly some adults appeared, peering nervously around their door frames or out of their windows. The nervous gazes were quickly averted if any of the band members caught someone's eye, and every villager, adults and children alike, were dressed in rags of varying cleanliness.

Finally they came across a blacksmith who was working outside his forge. He hadn't heard them coming, and started in surprise when Edge's shadow fell across the anvil. Like the children, he stared at them with recognition and fear, then dropped his tools and fell to his knees.

"M-my lords... My apologies, it isn't ready yet... you said you would be back in three days... it will be ready then, I swear it. Anything else is yours, of course... a gift for your patience... my lords..."

"What?" Bono blurted.

The smith took this as indignation and cowered still lower. "A thousand apologies... I will do the work free of charge, of course... it will be ready in three days, I swear... please..."

Bono, Adam, Edge and Larry exchanged another look, confusion and astonishment on their faces. Just then Bono caught the eye of a woman in the window of a hut across the muddy street, and she looked away a fraction too late. What frightened Bono was the look of pure, murderous loathing that had been twisting her face before she'd ducked out of sight.

He glanced at the others again and jerked his head in a direction that would take them out of the village, and the others agreed silently. They should get out of here and find out what on earth was going on.

"It's okay, get up," Bono said, trying to help the smith to his feet. But this seemed to fill him with even more terror, and he fell to the ground, gibbering incoherently.

"Come on," Edge said under his breath, and put his hand on Bono's arm. They all walked out of the village, feeling the fearful and occasionally hate-filled eyes of the village on their backs all the way.

"What's going on, Edge? Why were they so scared of us?" Bono asked as soon as they were on a road and away from the village. He seemed to take the villagers' reaction very personally. He was used to people criticising him, of course, they all were. But the look of hate on that woman's face, and the universal fear... that was something else.

"I don't know. Clearly there are versions of us living in this dimension, and for some reason all those people... well, they're not very fond of the versions of us that are here." Edge frowned in thought. If they had doubles here, it was probably dangerous to walk around, but then the smith had said they were supposed to come back in three days' time. Maybe it was safe enough for the moment.

In due course they came to an impressive walled town, complete with an impressive castle in the midst of it. Clearly a lot of time and money had been spent on its construction and maintenance, money that the village they had just seen desperately lacked. It smelled just as bad, though... Edge supposed that there wasn't much help for that when plumbing hadn't really been invented.

The guards on the gate jumped to attention as they approached, and let them through with only a "My Lords" and a surprised look. If any of the locals thought they were dressed oddly, none of them mentioned it.

The same thing happened all the way through the town. Shopkeepers and citizens and richly-dressed people who were probably nobility all flinched or bowed or doffed their caps or otherwise demonstrated every respect and no small amount of fear as they passed. Bono was goggling openly, Adam appeared bemused, and Larry was scowling furiously. For his part, Edge did his best to take it all in his stride, although it was very unnerving.

Finally they arrived at the castle gates, where two guards wearing fancy uniforms with gold buttons snapped to attention.

"My Lords, you were not expected to return so soon," one of them said. "I will arrange for your rooms to be made ready." And he snapped his fingers, summoning a boy that Edge took to be a page. Soon the lad was scurrying back to the castle with orders to make everything fit for the lords' return. Edge wondered how unfit things could have gotten since their doppelgangers had left.

The castle boasted four tall towers around a central court, which was lined with stables and a smithy and a bakery and all manner of other essential buildings. It was in good repair and sumptuously decorated, every detail dripping wealth and privilege. It soon became apparent that each of their doubles had rooms in separate towers, and didn't often travel together.

"We will retire to our rooms before, er... dinner," Edge announced to the servants, trying to play a part he didn't know.

"Of course my lord," said a senior servant of some sort. The direction he bowed in seemed to indicate to Edge that he was expected to head for the north-west tower.

"Just pick one," Edge hissed to his band-mates on his way past. "If other versions of you picked them out, you'll probably be right."

Bono went for the north-east tower, and when none of the servants gave him a funny look, he climbed the stairs more confidently. Adam and Larry looked at each other before Larry started hesitantly towards the south-east one, but seeing the widened eyes of the senior servant, he quickly changed direction and Adam strolled to the south-east tower instead.

In the south-west tower, Larry found himself in a huge chamber filled with fabulously rich furniture. The four-poster bed was immense, gilded and studded with jewels. Behind it, hanging from the wall, was a shield, bearing a design that Larry took to be the heraldic device of his counterpart. Two swords were crossed behind the shield, and the design showed a set of scales, weighed down on one side by a stack of gold coins. The hangings around the bed and on the windows looked like cloth-of-gold, and almost every chair, sofa, chest of drawers, wardrobe and shelf was similarly decorated. There were golden braziers and lamp stands everywhere, and silk draped over half of them. Enormous and amazingly detailed silk tapestries covered the walls, depicting battles and hunts and treasures and looting and sumptuously dressed figures.

The floor was covered in thick, luxurious carpet that certainly didn't seem normal for a medieval castle, but Larry was quickly forming the impression that the inhabitant of this room spared no expense for his own comfort, provided that it didn't significantly diminish his vast wealth.

Thinking about the reaction of the villagers, Larry wondered if most of these objects hadn't been stolen or looted or else given under threat of dire consequences.

And thinking about the abject poverty of the village, the starving children, Larry looked at the wealth around him and began to feel sick.

"Are you well, my lord?" said a voice, and Larry started violently. He hadn't noticed the servant, camouflaged as he was amid the number of items filling the room. There were several large, heavy-looking chests with large, serious-looking locks on them at the foot of the bed. Larry could guess what was in them.

"Ehm, yes, I'm fine thank you," he stammered. What was he supposed to do with a servant?

The servant bent slightly at the waist, although Larry caught a flash of uncertainty in his eyes. "Shall I draw my lord a hot bath? I shall shave my lord afterwards, as my lord wishes," he continued.

"No, no that's fine, I don't need a bath. Er... I just want to lie down for a while. Ehm. You may go," he added, trying to act the way the servant might expect him to.

The servant betrayed no further surprise, but bowed himself out of the room.

---

In the north-west tower opposite, Bono faced a slightly different dilemma. His room boasted a generous four-poster bed as well, complete with a little set of steps, as it was set so high off the ground. The shield hanging behind it, flanked by battle-axes, showed a red pick and a shovel, crossed on a black background. Bono wondered what that was meant to signify, but was soon distracted by the rest of the room. There were tapestries lining the walls, predominantly in shades of red, and most of the furniture was painted a glossy black, with the occasional dark ruby set into the wood. Something resembling a lute was hung on the wall, next to a very large wardrobe. Several tall bookshelves stood against one wall, filled with leather-bound volumes. A variety of rugs and animal skins covered the floor, although the stone beneath could be seen in places.

On the wall opposite the lute, a scabbarded sword was mounted. It looked more ceremonial than practical, the black scabbard inlaid with gold and rubies and garnets, and the hilt wrought into a many-pointed and frightening shape.

What had really floored Bono, however, were the two serving boys who had been waiting in his room. They'd both bowed low when he'd come in, and said "Welcome home, my lord" in a well-rehearsed sort of way. They looked about ten years old, and were dressed in stark black tunics, with a red band around one arm. The pick-and-shovel symbol was embroidered on their tunics. One offered him a jeweled goblet full of wine that looked the colour of blood. Bono had sniffed it carefully to be sure, but to his relief it was only wine. Very good wine, too, he realised as he sipped it.

He sat down on a cushioned chair, and immediately the other boy bent to remove his shoes. Startled, Bono thought that he should try to play along, and watched as the boy struggled with the laces on his creepers. Shortly the boy started shaking, and Bono realised he was crying, and scared out of his wits.

"Here, let me..." Bono pulled his foot gently away from the boy, and undid the laces. The boy looked up with a tear-streaked face, before quickly bowing it down again.

"I'm sorry my lord," he hiccuped. "I .. I have not seen these sort of boots before..."

"It's okay," Bono smiled, trying to sound reassuring. "Let me show you how they work..." He demonstrated on the laces of his other shoe, and then stopped. What was he doing? Showing a child servant how to take off his shoes for him?!

"You know what, I can take off my own shoes from now on. I'm a big boy, after all," he winked. But his words did not have the effect he hoped. The boy looked horror-struck, and was unable to stop himself from dissolving into tears completely.

"Please my lord, don't send me away, don't send me back... I swear I will do better next time, I know how they work now... please my lord..."

Bono was stunned, and looked from one boy to the other. The one who had given him the wine was standing stony-faced, but Bono thought the two of them must be friends. He must have wanted to say something in his friend's defense, but he stayed silent, betraying no emotion. What had these kids been through?

"It's all right, I won't send you away," Bono said, because that's what the boy seemed to want to hear. He fell to his face on the floor, grovelling and thanking Bono with a shaking voice. Clearly he thought he'd just had a very narrow escape, but Bono couldn't discover what from without giving away his own ignorance. "We can find something else for you to do instead of taking my shoes off, okay?"

But the child was too scared to accept Bono's kindness, and woodenly took his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe. The wardrobe was full of rich looking black clothes, velvet and leather and silk, most of them blazoned with the pick-and-shovel device. The only splash of colour on any of them was red.

---

There were no servants waiting to offer wine and remove his clothes in Adam's room in the south-east tower. Wide bay windows, extravagantly fitted with glass panes, offered a sweeping view over green fields to distant mountains, and the floor was covered with luxurious thick furs. Adam went to look out the window for a minute, then turned again and tried to absorb the other contents of the room.

There was a large four-poster bed, hung with red and gold, and long, black, nasty-looking whip was mounted onto the wall near it. Behind and above it hung a shield, a long broadsword fastened diagonally to the back. The shield showed a large letter "A" inside a circle in the background, and over the top was a black chain complete with a manacle on one end. Adam tore his eyes off that and noticed the tapestries opposite the bed showed scene after scene of naked women, doing all sorts of things to several very happy-looking naked men. Some of the things they were doing turned Adam's stomach and again he looked quickly away. There was an assortment of comfortable-looking furniture, including several low couches that looked made to be laid on. It wasn't hard to imagine the predominant activity that took place in this room, and Adam was ashamed to catch himself wondering if there would be a harem full of nubile women in the next room. He opened a door, but tried not to be disappointed to find only a steaming copper bath.

Adam had no idea what to do with himself until dinner, and supposed that he might as well have a bath. The tiny shower in the lemon really was inadequate, he thought. He looked around for some towels, and thought that it would probably be a good idea if he changed into some clothes that weren't from the 21st century while he was at it.

He pulled back the hangings that were around the bed, and yelled in surprise and pain as a bare foot slammed into his belly. Adam sat down hard, gasping, trying to get air back into his lungs. He stared up at a furious-looking woman, who was only barely dressed in scraps of transparent silk. There were manacles on one wrist and ankle, and heavy chains attached these to the wall near the bed. She herself had only a thin pallet on the stone floor to rest on. Fresh scars covered her legs, and an ugly brand was burned into her upper thigh. It was an "A" inside a circle, just like the one on the shield.

"I don't care what you do to me!" she shouted defiantly, although there was fear behind the hate in her eyes. "It was worth it to see the look on your face." And she spat on the floor between Adam's feet. Her dark eyes stabbed into him accusingly, and a cascade of black hair flowed down her back. She was beautiful.

Adam couldn't find any words at all, and stayed on the floor, gaping up at the woman. What sort of person lived in this room? What sort of person did this woman think he was?

---

Edge's room in the north-east tower was similarly devoid of servants, although there were guards stationed on the stairs leading to it, as had been the case with all the towers. There were several lutes or guitars in one corner, and the usual four-poster bed and rich furnishings. The shield over the bed was flanked by two wicked-looking polearms, and bore the device of two crossed swords, point-down. However this room was dominated by several large wooden work benches, each of which was covered in an array of metal and wooden tools and objects, the purpose of which was not readily apparent. There were a couple of tapestries on the walls, but much of the space was covered in plans and diagrams and schematics of a huge range of devices, large and small. Edge went closer to one and inspected it... it seemed to be a plan for some sort of siege engine, like a mangonel, but with two throwing arms. It seemed designed to throw under-arm rather than lobbing things high into the air... there was another diagram below it showing two round boulders or metal balls, connected by a chain bristling with sharp blades and points. Another diagram depicted the machine in action, the two balls bowling across the ground, the chain stretched taut and scything through an army on the field, massacring hundreds in one blow.

Edge felt sick. He looked at the other walls, and realised that the tapestries showed other war machines in action, and next to that was another showing a series of scenes from a torture chamber. He looked again at the objects on the work benches, and noticed that most of them had sharp edges or cruel spikes. All the obvious delight this room's occupant took in science and technology and invention and engineering had been turned to spreading violence and pain.

Edge sank into a plush chair and wiped the cold sweat off his forehead. He didn't want to think about the uses to which his doppelganger's inventions had been put, or whether he used them himself or not. He didn't want to think about how an alternative version of himself could be capable of even imagining such things, let alone building them and using them. How had this happened? Was everyone in this dimension morally corrupt, or was it just him? And maybe the others... he wondered what they had found in their rooms. Edge wanted to talk to them, but he'd told the servants he'd be here until dinner... well, if he was a lord, he could change his mind. Edge wanted to spend as little time in this room as he possibly could. But first, he needed to change his clothes to something more appropriate...
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Old 01-26-2011, 07:20 PM   #2
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I'm very terrfied of how the doppelgangers might be. That was so creepy!
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Old 01-26-2011, 08:57 PM   #3
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Thank you for commenting!! I thought no one was going to...

Creepy was exactly what we were going for..
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:13 AM   #4
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Wow this is... I like it, but it is a bit scary! Waiting eagerly for next chapter (and every chapter after that)
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Old 01-27-2011, 01:25 PM   #5
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Are they gonna get confronted with their doppelgangers?
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 01-27-2011, 06:08 PM   #6
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Wow this is... I like it, but it is a bit scary! Waiting eagerly for next chapter (and every chapter after that)
Thanks for commenting! I can't wait to post the next few chapters..

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Are they gonna get confronted with their doppelgangers?
maybe........
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