Searching for a way of freeing Algernon from whatever has control of his mind and memories the group have arrived at the city of Harmonious. As the skyline and urban spaces of the city dissolved into focus around them, each of the party members needed to decide how this recursion would shape them.
The first few moments of any new recursion were always the most disconcerting, you never knew what you would be made into. Ruk with its reliance on highly biomechanical technology was no exception. Still, the seasoned hoppers of Bruce, Rain, and Peggy had no idea what Ruk would make of them until their conscious’ became aware. Bruce was clad in a thick military-grade armour made of a synthetic that was lighter than his laminated kevlar but seemed just as tough. He took a breath and listened to his own thoughts for a moment, pleased to find that they were indeed his and not modified somehow by the recursion.
Looking around he found the group had landed on the edge of a city busy plaza, hundreds of people busily going about their lives, surrounded by clean lines made of steel, glass and other artificial materials. Flanking the plaza, escalators led up to a monorail track that carried even more people around to other parts of the city in carriages that looked almost biological or at least part grown for their task. Above it all, a fractal night sky swirled menacingly, like the tentacles of a boundless elder god.
His keen eye first picked up the sudden movement of Rain, currently wearing a cross between a pinstripe suit and iridescent partywear, stumbling into Algernon also decked out in a long black coat, slicked hair, and dark glasses. Rain’s left hand reached out and grabbed Algernon’s. Before Bruce even realised there was a knife in Rain’s hand, both palms were cut open, Rain pressing them together, their mingled blood seeping through their fingers.
“Remember…brothers… not just in name… but in blood…Remember.” Rain was saying low and with effort as if each word was a fight to say.
“Yes,” Algernon agreed, concern and surprise mingling on his face before everything dropped away. Both he and Rain fell into a trance as the Allsong took them.
Bruce was about to ask Peggy, what she thought was going on when he turned to where Peggy should be and she was nowhere to be seen. In her place, hovering at about head height was an ever-evolving box of silicone metal. As it spun, taking in its surroundings, parts of it opened, revealed bright energy within and closing again. The whole process reminded Bruce of Rain’s puzzlebox as he flicked it open and closed. From a small speaker on one side Peggy’s voice was distant and tinny,
“Don’t look at me.”
A talking box on his left, his other two companions bleeding and comatose to his right, Bruce shook his head slowly in dismay, “Ah, shit!”
Algernon’s eyes flickered open a short while later once his consciousness had reestablished a connection to the world-wide data link called the Allsong.
“Mr Bruce, do you have a bandage?” He asked, and Bruce pulled out his first aid kit, which now included a spray-on wound sealant. As he applied the spray to Algernon’s bloodied hand, he thought to ask Algernon a few questions.
“What now? In the middle of the concourse?” Algernon glanced around at the crowds of brightly dressed and well-heeled individuals. This was Harmonious, the bright and shining jewel of Ruk and here was the centre of the entertainment district where the well to do amused themselves. This was not the place to discuss the type of underhanded activities he associated with his life in Ruk.
“Where do you suggest?” Bruce asked as he finished strapping up Algernon and continued onto the still insensible Rain.
“Ah..over at the Allsong communal.” Algernon pointed to one of the lounges. Taking Rain by the arm they guided him to a set of comfortable beanbag like seats and tried to blend in. Peggy’s reshaping box followed along, a silent drone waiting on its masters’ orders.
“So, this person controlling you, is it Peggy?” Bruce asked by way of a test question.
“No, “Algernon replied adamantly, almost insulted.
“Scientists? Ones that made…cloned you?”
“Probably,” He admitted furtively, carefully watching the crowd and the Allsong for eavesdroppers.
“Back…home, you said it was obvious who was controlling you?”
“Yes..” The questioning was getting closer and closer to topics Algernon did not want to contemplate and he started deflecting the discussion, “Last time I was here I had to use an umbilical to contact the Allsong and now I don’t.”
As he said this, something on the Allsong noticed his presence. He didn’t know what it was, but it signalled the start of a counter on their time here in Ruk.
“That’s a good thing,” Bruce encouraged Algernon, pulling his thoughts out of the Allsong and back to the material world, “So, you know where you’re going to find your Doctor Strangelove?”
This time Bruce did not miss the sudden twitch Algernon gave at saying his old mistresses name.
“You know, what I’m gonna miss is the bacon.” Replied the black-clad fugitive.
“Where is Strangelove’s laboratory?”
“I don’t know.”
“ In the city?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you been to other places in Ruk?”
“Yes, I’ve been around.” At this question Algernon gave a start as he suddenly remembered something, “There’s someplace we should go.”
“To see if something is still there.”
A movement from Rain caught both of the men’s attention. Almost straight away it was clear that something was not normal with the smaller man. Still and speechless, Rain stared blindly out at the bustling city around him without interest.
“Er…Rain?” Bruce said holding a hand out to touch Rain. His hand hovered inches from Rain’s arm unsure if to wake what looked like a sleeping walker.
Rain turned, his violet eyes focused on Bruces, but there was no expression, none of the life usually present, “Yes, Bruce?”
“You spaced out there for a while, are you okay?”
“This one is beside you, “ Rain replied in a monotone voice that held no intonation, no life at all, “This one is currently working within expected parameters.”
“Ah, he’s uploaded at least part of his consciousness to the Allsong,” Algernon explained as he too linked wirelessly, looking for Rain.
“Right…” Sighing, Bruce covered his face with his gloved hand, “Did you at least hear the conversation we just had?”
Rain stood for a moment, his head cocked to one side as if listening to something that no one else could hear, “This one was unaware of a recent information exchange.”
Standing, Bruce bent down so his face was on a level with Rain’s he growled, “We are going to have words when we get back.” He stared at the unresponsive face of his friend with a looked that showed he really wanted to knock a little sense into the fool.
“Can this one be of service, Bruce?” Rain asked, again in the empty monotone voice.
Bruce turned to Algernon, “Yes, we will be leaving as soon as possible.”
At the same time, Algernon was scanning through the Allsong. He hadn’t been in Ruk for more than twelve months and scanned for information about recent developments. He never got a chance to go out much, usually just dawdling back from one mission or another, but he was surprised that so little had changed Or maybe it was he had changed so much.
So as not to leave a trace he carefully searched for the movements of one Doctor Strangelove. From all reports, it seemed that the Doctor was off-world having left in a hurry. He breathed a little easier knowing that she would be out of range of the Allsong and dropped the search. Next, he found Rain and made contact creating a virtual private network between the two of them.
Bloodbrother, He called accepting the ritual that Rain had started as they translated.
Rain responded immediately.
Ah, password, And the word was added to the security of the VPN. Algernon nodded, pleased to think that Rain understood.
Out in the physical world, Bruce was taking in the ever-shifting shape of Peggy’s new form.
“And how are you going?” He asked, feeling like an idiot for talking to a floating box. Peggy’s tinny voice replied,
“All good, considering I’m a silicon construct.”
“Bruce, you do not look happy,” Algernon commented after completing his tasks online.
“Yeah,” Bruce flicked a look at his friend, “We need Rain’s people skills and he’s switched half his brain off,” Bruce confessed, “Rain, could you at least look up Doctor Strangelove?”
Rain’s head tilted as if he were again listening to something unheard by everyone else, “Apologies, this one is unable to find that information at this time.” Came back the response.
“Ready to go?” Algernon asked as he too rose ready to get moving.
“Go where?” Bruce asked, “You haven’t said.”
“The scar, come on.” Algernon ushered them along sure that any moment black-clad figures would descend and take them all. People very much like he once used to be.
“Why?” Bruce started again with the twenty questions.
“I left something there.”
“I’m not sure what it is.” He responded truthfully, he really couldn’t remember.
“Will it help us find Doctor Strangelove?” Bruce asked and Algernon physically winced at the sound of the name.
“Possibly,” He didn’t know, and he really wished Bruce would stop saying the name out loud.
As they walked, the mind of Rain was busy surfing through the bewildering tangle of information that was the Allsong. He followed links and hints until he found a contact with the Quiet Cabal, a group that was known to be on friendly relations with the Earth and worked with The Estate. The headquarters of the Quiet Cabal in Harmonious was in the opposite direction to the way they were going. He made a mental note of the address and sent a message via the Allsong.
Members of The Estate enquire about speaking in person. Is this appropriate, please advise.
Off to the side, Bruce asked Peggy if she could do a search for Doctor Strangelove as the other two seemed unable or unwilling. Though her identity had been saved to a floating metal cube, she did not link to the Allsong like the Algernon and Rain and had no access to its information. She still had her link to the Strange so, as they walked along the city street, she focused her thoughts on the swirling mass of stars and clouds only just above her head.
Where is Doctor Strangelove, She asked and was frustrated once more by its cryptic reply.
Off chasing something interesting, It said in her voice, making her swear in computer code, a jarring mess of machine language that blurted out her tinny speaker.
As the group walked through the streets of Harmonious they passed several groups of heavily armoured guards watching the citizenry, checking IDs of individuals and making the presence felt. These were the Myriand, a highly trained and equipped form of police and Algernon took careful note of each and every checkpoint that the group moved through.
“So what is this Allsong, what is it like?” Bruce asked after they’d been walking a while. He knew that Algernon and Rain were constantly linked to it, but had been frustrated with having to find information second hand through the unreliable or the possible untrustworthy.
“You can link to it at an Allsong Communal, “Algernon pointed one out, “You’ll need to use an umbilical, but many on Ruk do just that.”
Stopping at another cafe lounge-style establishment, this time Bruce and Peggy both attached to leads that either plugged into ports (as in Peggy’s case) or encased the head as with Bruce.
“So, do I know Kung Fu?” Bruce quipped as the umbilical engaged and opened his conscience to the Allsong. He was oblivious to the stares he received as his mind fell into the Allsong. The sardonic smile soon left his face as he found himself drowning in sensation, not just visual and auditory, but scents, touch and even taste. He could smell a song being played by a virtuoso across the Allsong, taste the colours of an advertisement for the Zal Corporation, hear the flavours of a variety of products brought from the Grey Forests. With a force of will, he pushed through his request for information on Doctor Strangelove and was rewarded with a number of locations, the rumour of a secret lab, registrations of various vehicles owned by the doctor and information about the doctor’s membership to the Karum, a faction opposed to Earth dominance and focused on its destruction as a way of advancing Ruk. He tucked that information away and disengaged from the Allsong.
“Why did you have such a tough time finding that information,” He asked the unresponsive Rain, “I found it very easy to find her address.”
Rain made a very human shrug, “This one is still navigating the Allsong, Bruce.”
Now with the information, Bruce felt that now they had a course of action apart from the vague and dubious directions given by Algernon.
“We can now go and visit Doctor Strangelove.” He said, watching as Algernon twitched.
“Great,” Algernon replied, and once more started directing them towards The Scar.
Turning to Rain, Bruce gained his attention, “If needed, can you get access to all of Rain’s skills?”
Immediately Rain responded, “This one is fully functional.”
“No, you’re not and if you were you’d know why I want them.”
Rain remained silent, awaiting input.
“I want,” Bruce finally relented, describing his plan, “to negotiate with Strangelove for Algernon’s contract.”
A pause from Rain as the all familiar head tilt as Rain listened to the Allsong.
“This…is one possible solution to Algernon Balthazar Theobald’s problem.” Came the response that was as far as the limited personality of Rain could express doubt.
In the private connection, a message as fast as thought moved from Rain to Algernon,
The plan that Bruce has outlined, is this an appropriate process?
I’m currently trying to work out how to block Bruce’s future links to the Allsong, Came Algernon’s irritated response.
The Scar was recognisable as a feature in the city long before they got to the entrance. Great random pieces of city, scaffolding, blocking, twisted glass. All the elements that made up a city seemingly growing at random as if the construction coding, the city’s DNA had been lost or jumbled up for this section. The Scar was a deep cut through the centre of the city and went all the way down, to the Undercity, a place where those who could not afford to live on the surface, existed. The entrance to The Scar was a twisted metal wall looking like a giant’s broken set of piled up pick-up-sticks. Here, loitering around, the group noticed three Myriand troopers. As they came close, however, the three troopers moved on as if on business of their own.
Algernon watched the troopers with interest as Peggy’s attention was drawn to the metal wall. Deep within the structure, she saw the telltale shimmer of the Strange, and with a little careful movement of her new silicone form, she edged through the random construction of the wall and picked up three cyphers. While Peggy fought her way back through the tangle, Bruce continued his questioning of Algernon.
‘What is this thing we’re getting?
“Something that may have come into my possession by…unusual means.”
“Is it stolen?”
“Well, they didn’t give it to me if that’s what you’re asking?”
“Is it safe?” Bruce asked, an echo to Algernon’s well-asked question, they both smirked.
“There’s safe and there’s safe, “ Algernon replied and looked to Rain who he knew would have appreciated the response…at any other time, “Safe enough.”
“Could we use it to negotiate your release? What do you think it would go for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think it’s even possible?” Bruce said almost to himself when he remembered that the Doctor was a member of the Karum. She will not want Algernon’s memory released so he can help save Earth. But, if the deal was sweet enough, would her greed override her principles?
He looked at Rain, beside him. His usually lively lavender eyes were dull and lifeless only taking in the world passively instead of absorbing the wonders and sights all around. He had to admit he was feeling very lost without the little man’s insights into human nature, his easy way of seeing an opportunity or his intuitive leaps in reasoning. Even though they stood side by side, Bruce felt was alone.
Right now I can’t yell at you, it would mean nothing. But just wait until we get back, Mr Bigby.
Peggy, her treasures stowed within her silicone shell, the group continued down the metal gangplanks into the random artificial jungle that was The Scar. Indeed, now having found the cyphers ‘growing’ in the tangle, she felt emboldened joined in the conversation.
“Algernon, what does the Doctor find interesting?” She asked through her tiny speaker.
“Her experiments,” Algernon suggested, not really sure what made such creatures as the Doctor, tick.
“What does she experiment on?”
“Particle physics, portals, Strange matter…” He remembered that training well, he had often assisted her in her experiments in those fields.
“And what sort of experiments on you?”
“On me?” Algernon thought this was a topic that had come up before, at least now he had to admit to himself that something wasn’t right, “Nothing I can remember.”
He glanced at Rain and found his friend staring at him, the Spiral dust tinted eyes looking through him in a blank stare that was unnerving. Through their link he could…feel that Rain was collecting data on his body language, tone of voice, language use and expression, but for what purpose Algernon couldn’t tell. The eyes blinked, the blank expression didn’t change and eventually, the eyes returned to looking forward once more. Had a decision been made? Just as he was about to ask, Algernon’s sense went blank.
For a moment he wasn’t sure what was going on. He was sure he was still standing on the sloping catwalk of The Scar, but he couldn’t feel the slope, see the path, hear his companions or taste the rusty metallic tang of the air. Slowing, like a computer booting up first one application, then another, his senses returned and he saw Rain collapsed and sliding down the ramp in front of him.
“We’ve lost connection with the Allsong,” Algernon said looking up and realised that they were now covered by the interlacing network of metal. Like the branches of ancient trees in old-growth woods, the girder and twisted metal blocked out light. No signal could penetrate that amount of metal and though his identity was fully within his own mind, the breaking of the link was a significant loss.
As Bruce reached the unconscious Rain, his eyelids flew open and he sat up with a jerk.
“Connection to the Allsong lost, offline protocol now established.”
Bruce’s teeth ground audibly, but he said nothing, instead helped Rain to his feet.
Not long after, the metal grating they were walking on levelled out and over the side of the walkway, a huge chamber opened up below. Ahead, a nexus of paths provided an open space where vines of metal and other artificial materials hung down from the girders and scaffolding twisted above.
From somewhere back in the recesses of his mind Algernon recognised the vines as a nutritional source, a food supply of sorts. Bruce’s head jerked to the left as his keen senses heard something that the others failed to pick up.
“I can hear something…kid, do you know what that is?” He asked and Algernon focused on the sounds around them. A faint cry an odd squeak, maybe the movement of rusty parts of The Scar? Again from the dark recesses of his mind, he dredged out a name.
“Vat rejects,” He said, rejected clone set loose in The Scar by unscrupulous creators. No one knew their real origins, but as the Zal corporation made most of the clones, it was assumed that the Vat rejects were something to do with them. “Extremely violent and dangerous.”
“Is it a Wil Robertson?” Asked Rain.
They ran or hovered as fast as they could down the opposite passage as the creatures emerged into the dim light of the crossroad. No two were alike, and none of them humanoid. Armoured in a chitinous carapace, the vat rejects were covered in spikes and protrusions that they used to skewer and smash into each other.
Looking back, the group could see that the vat rejects weren’t interested in them at all, instead, all their attention was on the vines. Tearing at the strands, the creatures lapped up a thick milky sap that dripped out. When one grabbed a juicy piece of vine and snapped it off, the group attacked them on mass lashing out to be the one to possess the treat. The feeding frenzy continued until a brightly lit blaster bolt sliced through the group of vat rejects hitting one. The shot had come from up the path, back into the city and the vat rejects turned, ignoring their feast to attack the new intruder. The group didn’t stick around to watch anymore and continued on their way.
It was unfair to think that Rain was not aware of what was around him. In fact, his mind was as active as always. Now his mind wondered and theorised without the external processing of information, the others were used to. It certainly didn’t come without the emotional baggage he’d been inflicted since confirming his story, which was the whole point
As they continued into the depths of The Scar, his thoughts turned to uses that the Scar was put to by the citizen of Ruk. For all its randomness, it seemed a place of great opportunities, cypers waiting for the picking, direct and unobserved ways around the city. Though there were the occasional surveys sent down to understand The Scar, maybe the odd salvage team, it was mostly a forgotten place to hide mistakes, like the vat rejects or as in Algernon’s case, a good place to hide a secret.
It was Peggy who noticed the vibrations first. As she floated above the metal walkway by magnetic repulsion, she was keenly aware of a deep buzzing throughout the structure before the others noticed.
“Algernon…?” She queried as if he had something to do with it. Suddenly, the whole section of walkway she hovered above shot four metres into the air. Quick reflexes and the control of her magnetic body ensured she didn’t fall off, but the others were now trapped, blocked off from the path that now continued where she hovered.
“I think we need to go this way, “ She said from above, and without a word, Bruce and Rain started climbing the metal structure and Algernon levitated up to join her. They continued on the new path opened up by The Scar.
Algernon knew they were getting close to where he hid the item, he stopped to look around him as Bruce came up and placed a meaty hand on his shoulder.
“We can do this, together,” Bruce suggested, but Algernon sensed another message in the gesture.
“Mr Bruce, I’m not going to run away.”
“I know you won’t.”
“I think I’m close, I just need to look around,” He stepped off the path and started climbing through the latticework of twisted metal.
“Use all your senses to see, “ Came the cryptic advice of Rain, accompanied by the frisson of his encouragement. Algernon scanned the space around them and picked up a movement, behind them just off the path. The individual was big, as big as Bruce in his heavy armour and moved more subtly that the vat rejects. It was a member of the Myriand, a veteran to judge by his skill. If it hadn’t been for him searching for the item, he’d have never spotted the watching eyes behind. He passed the information back through the connection with Rain who quietly informed the others.
“A cop? What’s so interesting about this thing?” Bruce asked, purposefully not turning to see where the Myriand was.
“That is information, this one would be interested in as well,” Rain replied as he tried to look around Bruce to where the officer of the law hid.
“Look, I don’t have to get it,” Algernon said as he climbed back through the metalwork, “We’ll just walk away.”
“This thing is important, it was the first thing you thought of when we got here.” Bruce protested as he moved to walk away, exposing the all too curious look of Rain.
“It’s like…that documentary, the Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they have to get it, but they don’t know why?”
“They were on a mission from God, “ Bruce corrected as the group started moving away, oblivious to what was going on behind, “Do you think you’re on a mission from God?”
“I guess I missed that bit.”
Rain’s less than subtle scanning of the path behind had drawn the Myriand’s attention. Knowing now he had been discovered, the veteran left his hiding spot and walked purposefully down the path towards the group.
“Why is the Myriand guy walking towards us?” Peggy asked and everyone stopped to allow the officer to catch up.
“Now we don’t need any trouble, “Obviously the officer was expecting trouble from Algernon as he looked straight at him, only taking a cursory glance Bruce and Rain, “Just hand over the device.”
“What device?” Algernon asked in his standard innocent schoolboy manner, “I’m just a kid.” Dressed as something from the Matrix it didn’t wash with the Myriand. It never really had.
“The one you stole. Hand it over,” The officer was now taking in the other two, calculating his chances.
Algernon stepped behind the group, and focused his thoughts on the Myriand and tried to find the undoing, his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Sensing the movement in the Strange and the nature of Algernon’s power, Rain stepped in front of the officer.
“What is the nature of your information? We believe it to be faulty.” He said, drawing attention away from Algernon and onto himself.
“Oh, yeah? And what do you say you’re doing down here in The Scar?” He asked, more than capable of keeping his attention on two suspects at a time.
“We are on a survey to understand The Scar, “ Rain gestured to Peggy, the folding and unfolding metal cube that the officer, until that moment, had disregarded, “Peggy herself has found unique items that the Scar seems to be creating.”
With a whistler and shudder, Peggy’s drone formed a light-emitting crystal and a hologram of Peggy herself was projected amongst the party. Wearing her usual lab coat, she looked very much like the mad scientist that dominated society here in Ruk.
“Urgh, that’s weird.” She said, looking down at her shimmering body of light.
“Ah, are you associated with this one?” The Myriand asked pointing at Algernon.
“Sometimes, though he dislikes being associated with me, shame.” She replied in her usual matter of fact style, “We do know that Algernon has gaps in his memory, it is entirely reasonable that he may have stolen something, but unfortunately he may have no recollection of the item or where to find it.”
In the meantime, Algernon had his information and was sharing it silently with Rain over their private link. Myriand were modified human’s, with specialised senses to detect lies and dissemblement. They were also linked to a hive mind, via the Allsong. What one knew they all knew.
He won’t have fallen for your story, Rain.
Irrelevant, it was a distraction for your process. Rain emotionless thoughts returned via the link, He can not talk to his collective as he too is unable to link to the Allsong at this time. If you wished to destroy this Myriand, now would be the ideal time.
It was unsure what Algernon thought of the suggestion of murder from Rain as Peggy’s conversation had returned the attention of the officer back to him.
“Do you recall stealing the prototype?” He said and there was an internal sigh of relief as Algernon could truthfully reply.
“I definitely do not remember taking it?”
Here Algernon was on dangerous ground. His lie would be detected before he could even say the words. At that moment, he felt the frisson of the Strange as Rain spoke.
“You can do this, remember well.” The words said, but the Strange energy was Rain’s familiar encouragement. Bolstered , Algernon confidently turned to the officer, “I do not remember.”
The Myriand blinked, surprised by the ring of truth in the words. Now it was Peggy and Bruce’s turn to go on the attack.
“We understand he worked for some individuals, would you happen to know any of his previous associates?” Peggy asked innocently enough, probing for information that the officer was not willing to hand over.
“Some,” The officer hedged. This was his interrogation, when did he need to answer questions?
“Is it possible that these other individuals have the item in question?”
“Possible, “ He hedged again, looking more and more likely that his information was not complete.
“This is an appropriate line of questioning, “ Rain said to the officer, but this time Peggy felt the sizzle of The Strange.
“Also, I was wondering if mind control was a legally sanctioned practice here in Harmonious?” Bruce asked. He’d been quiet up until that point, ready to attack if needed, but it was a point he wanted to make. The officer looked uncomfortable.
Peggy’s official look and the party’s all-round relaxed demeanour, plus the fact that the suspect in question could not be found to have lied finally convinced the officer, at least for the time being.
“I will need to keep in contact with you, where do you live?”
“No abode at this moment,“ Rain added, “This one is sure you can keep in contact via the Allsong until accommodation arrangements have been made.”
Having noted the names of each of the party members, the officer left, walking back the way he had come. The party stayed where they were until they were sure he was well out of sight.
“Peggy, that was amazing, I didn’t think anyone could stare down a Myriand,” Algernon congratulated her and even her hologram flushed from the unaccustomed thanks.
“Well, ah…your welcome,” She replied shyly, and smiled, making her look younger than her 25 years.
After the scare with the Myriand, Algernon was taking no chances. Pulling a cypher from his backpack, he set it off. Nothing seemed to happen, but Algernon relaxed.
“It’s a blackout, no one will be able to listen in on what we’re doing, “ He explained before heading back into the tangle of metal that was The Scar.
He hadn’t been far wrong in his estimations and soon returned with a metal suitcase, a metre long and half a metre wide. On a metal label on one side were the words, Project Nephilim. Prototype 1. The Zal Corporation logo was prominently stamped on the case.
“Nephilim, …when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:1-4, “ Rain quoted, to the group like a talking dictionary.
“Should we open it?” Algernon asked the group, looking around for an appropriate place.
“Better than walking out of here with that case, I’m thinking,” Bruce replied and Algernon moved a little ahead to where an uneven doorway seemed to give way to a small living space. Once the home to some destitute, Algernon carried the case towards it perceived safety.
Before Algernon knew what was happening, he felt a hand push him down into the hovel, as Rain stepped in above him, dagger drawn. In one smooth movement, the dagger was thrown, not at Algernon but above the door where a giant metal spider perched, ready to ambush the unwary. The knife did no damage, but it pinned one of the creature’s legs between the wall and the flat of the knife blade. As it struggled to free itself,
Bruce swung his metal pinch bar up he struck the spider, cracking its metal carapace. A milky substance ooze out the breech. Having been granted time to act by his friends, Algernon swung around his huge crossbow, here equipt with robotic limbs that pre-tensioned the line, ready to fire. He did, the bolt slipped inside the crack made by Bruce and pinned the creature to the wall for good.
“Metal spiders, that’s a new one, “Bruce commented taking a close look as the body dripped white ooze.
“Chaos spider, like the vat rejects, “ Algernon explained returning to the case and finding the latches, “Leftovers from other’s failed experiments.”
The latches clicked under Algernon’s fingers and he slowly lifted the lid.
Inside, folded one on top of the other were a pair of mechanical wings and harness designed to fit an average human. Algernon lifted them out of their case and examined them closely before handing them to Bruce.
“Query,” Rain asked pulling his knife off the spider and slipping it away unseen, “Why would this be so desirable? By whom?”
No one answered. It was a marvellous machine but was just that. Even Earth had similar tech, though nothing so advanced. In the end, Peggy, using the materials around her in The Scar, fashioned a new case, a vaguely machine looking piece of metal with a cavity for the wings to hide. Strapping the whole thing to his back, Bruce carried it back out of The Scar, Algernon careful to go another way.
When the two boys hit daylight once more the Allsong reconnected and Rain received a message from the Quiet Cabal.
We have heard about your team. Yes, we should meet.
“Algernon, could you take us to the following address. The Quiet Cabal has heard of us and wishes to speak,” He informed the group of his previous message, before entering The Scar.
“Yes, this is a good idea, “ Bruce said, making a connection from the information he’d gathered about Doctor Strangelove. “The Doctor is a member of the opposing faction. They may be willing to help.”
“In-deed,” Rain said, turning his blank eyes on Bruce. If Bruce didn’t know better he would have sworn that those two syllables were computer Rain’s attempt at sarcasm.
“Yes, very much, indeed.”
To be continued….