Babylon Rising, Chapter 57

Okay, everyone, here we go on the mysterious trip into the sewers!  Danger lurks around every turn!

Actually, it sorta does.  What to do about that danger is, of course, the question of the day.

Murphy and Isis venture into the ancient sewers beneath the fictional town in Saudi Arabia.  Murphy yanks open a stone slab “door” with his bare hands, because that is just the kind of rugged, manly man that he is. 

This feat will become rather less impressive as the story unfolds.

He and Isis climb down a hole that “wasn’t quite a hundred feet” deep, using the little ceramic handholds that are still intact on the walls.  Which I guess is pretty cool.  After all, Serenity has more than a few ceramic parts in her.

Murphy and Isis actually work together pretty well for about a page, as they figure out which way they want to go.  Though I’m not sure why they couldn’t have sprung for two flashlights, instead of Murphy holding the only one they have and leading the way, leaving Isis free to bump into him every time he stops.  It’s additionally troubling because Isis is the one holding the map.

But then, they find footprints!  Lots of them.  Isis has some hesitation about following the tracks, but Murph actually makes a decent point that they are one of the few leads they have right now. 

(And here is where Murphy seems a bit less like a manly-man when it comes to the stone slab door.  If these sewers are full of so many people, it would appear the slab is moved pretty frequently, instead of having stayed in place for “several centuries,” as Murphy originally assumes.)

Like a girly-girl, Isis clutches Murphy’s arm at this point, which seems particularly unwise since they are currently wandering around underground, in the dark, with but one flashlight to guide them.

They hear chanting.  Murphy doesn’t recognize the language, but Isis almost does.  As they move forward, Isis has a nice little moment, as she comes to terms with the fact that she does not expect to survive:

Had she locked her filing cabinet, the one in which she kept her private diary?  Had she remembered to return her copy of Gilroy’s commentary on the Epic of Gilgamesh to Professor Hitashi?  Had she removed all the moustraps Fiona had insisted on putting down in her office?

They stumble upon a secret chamber.  It’s a secret chamber with secret rituals that is exactly as you would expect a secret chamber with secret rituals to be.  Skulls lit up with candles (no, I’m serious), shirtless men with knives chanting and swaying, a little girl as a sacrifice.

Isis gasped as she saw the long butcher’s knife each clutched in his lap, and Murphy clapped a hand over her mouth.

She took a deep breath and he slowly took his hand away, then pointed beyond the skulls.

On the end of a pole stuck in the dirt was a thick S-shape of gleaming metal.

The middle section of the Brazen Serpent!

The italics and exclamation point are in the original.  Not my additions.  That is what gets Murphy’s attention.  That is what is most important to him and to the authors.  Not the little girl, but the piece of bronze.  Okay, I know it’s why they came in the first place, but you would think a child in danger might take precedence, at least for the time being.

Murphy pulls Isis back into the tunnel.

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Posted on August 16, 2010, in Babylon Rising, Books. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I wish Kit was there – in her current Mama Bear mode. Murphy would *pray* it was Talon instead.

  2. That’s Fiona from Burn Notice, of course. She was talked down from her original plan, which was to wire the office with claymore mines at mouse-level.

    Now, if only someone had thought to bring a submachinegun…

  3. Appropriately freaky! :O My main hope is that they can save the girl in time and get out of there before attracting too much attention from the heavies.

    • Are you certain your main hope isn’t that they actually try to save the girl, rather than letting her sacrifice act as a distraction while they steal the serpent piece?

      • With what we’ve seen of Murphy, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he’s thinking. After all, this is the Middle East; if the girl was a Westerner, they would have mentioned that. She’s just another little brown girl…

        …My stomach rebelled while typing that. 😦

      • Re what Mink said – I really hope racism doesn’t enter into Murphy’s decision-making here. It’s bad enough Murphy could indeed be thinking of letting her sacrfice be a distraction. :O

      • It will be portrayed, of course, as “There was nothing Murphy could do to save the Muslim girl.”

        And then, if GP is as good an author as he has been, Absolutely-Non-Meta Isis Persephone MacGregor will give Murphy the verbal bird, and go ahead and save the girl anyway! and will favor Murph with an absolutely scalding, vicious look as she carries the girl out, leaving Murph to retrieve the serpent. And she will not let him live this down for at least ten chapters.

        … Well, one can hope, at least.

  4. This would be a stunningly dramatic scene — Secret Rituals! Secret Rooms! Human Sacrifice! The Big McGuffin! But… only the McGuffin is important, not the GIRL ABOUT TO BE OFFERED AS A BLOOD SACRIFICE!

    To which I say unto you again: Arglebargle.

  5. And thus the authors reveal their hypocrisy: they get their panties in a twist over the thoughts of someone doing something to make Christians look bad, but they don’t bat an eye at making adherents of reconstructionist religions look bad.

    Way to go, guys.

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