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 Post subject: Interlude 3
PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 12:28 am 
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While Parliament vehemently denies that the British government has an interment camp where they hold political dissidents in such obvious Whitehall mouthpieces such as The Metropolitan Guardian, we at the Republican Star have recently discovered otherwise. We have discovered the terrible truth behind the lies of Whitehall. Although this camp has been closed and its prisoners dispersed in light of its discovery, sources have stepped forward to tell their stories.

The following accounts are true, although the names of these innocent victims of Imperial captivity have been changed to protect our sources. All of those who have spoken out are in hiding, fearful for their lives and the lives of those they love. The Republican Star respects their wishes to remain anonymous to our reading public, and hopes that you understand their plight.

“I was once a working man, like many of you, struggling to stay afloat in a world which only seemed to wish to keep me down. I made one mistake, however. I cared. I stepped in to curb unwarranted abuse when no one else would. I did what no one else could. A young woman of a low profession, but still a human being all the same, was being accosted by a wealthy member of the Whitehall gentry. I stepped in and prevented the fellow from damaging that girl any further than he already had with his cane and his leering taunts towards her womanhood. He’d cut her badly by the time I stopped him, and all the while others had passed by in full sight of the man doing his evil deeds and continued on for fear of him and what he represents. Not I. Even the lowliest whore has a right to live. And for my troubles, for my caring, I was locked away for months in that place. No magistrate, no justice, no trial. I was beaten, I was fed a minimal amount in order to keep me alive, I was treated as little more than a beast. I was dehumanized and marginalized. I was left to rot. If not for the bravery and daring of one man, who had the courage to fight back against our oppressors and lead us to escape that nightmarish hell, I would have been dead for certain.” – Dr. Allen Caine

“Yeh, that’s right, I was the singer for [name of band omitted to protect the other former members]. Yeh, we protested the treatment of minorities, women and children in this ‘ere Kingdom. An’ I even wrote a song about The Great Uprising. An’ that’s wot got me in the camp, see? The Imperial scum, they couldn’t have that, couldn’t have someone who saw the truth tell it to everyone. If it ain’t in the party line, see? If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today tellin’ ya this nor breathin’, see?” – Regina Red

[Translated] “I am Chinese. I spoke for Chinese interests in the Great Metropolis. I spoke out against the industrialists who sought to exploit my people. This is enough for me to know pain. To know the camp was to know pain. A man guided me from that pain, made me feel human again. He has my undying gratitude.” – Du Tian

And the accounts continue further on the following pages. We recount in this special expository issue the accounts of over thirty victims of the as yet unnamed interment camp. But the one thing repeated consistently in all of the accounts of the former prisoners we have interviewed is the fact that one man lead them to escape its confines and reveal its existence to the public. Who is this man? The Guardian has released many sketches of him, as has Whitehall itself. When asked, all of those interviewed said that he gave no name, and was referred to only by a number while he was within the camp.

-Excerpted from The Republican Star, Vol.4 Issue 24, June 12th, 1984


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 Post subject: 22.
PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 2:07 am 
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It’s been three days since my escape from the Redcoats upon the rooftops of Huyton. I’ve wandered the streets since then, always keeping and eye over my shoulder and my head down. I keep coming back to this place, though.

My foot shifts through the rubble of the abandoned textile mill, as my mind shifts through the rubble of my childhood. I had resolved, once I had acquired my apprenticeship with the Association of Licensed Scriveners, never to return here. Some memories are better left behind, I had thought.

And yet I owe Waineswright Workhouse a debt of gratitude. Life within these walls steeled me for life beyond them. I learned of pain here, and of loss. But I am sure now that I have lost some of those lessons since I became a Scrivener.

As I walk the empty work floor, once populated by great milling machines and a swarm of personnel, I try to harden myself again. The pistol in my jacket pocket weighs as heavily as my memories of the past. My hand clenches the packet of cigarettes I purchased hours ago, and shakes free one fag which looks little like the others. Before I bought these cigarettes, I had found an urchin with something more potent.

Tornado, they call it. It keeps me awake. It keeps me moving. I light the fag with a match, suck in the smoke deeply. My nerves crystallize, and a burst of wakeful energy fills me. I can keep going again for a little while longer now. I keep telling myself that I can.

My collection of Scope tabs has dwindled greatly in the past three days. I’ve sold several to bankroll myself in various clubs which profess to cater to the counterculture of the Great Metropolis. Of the ones that I haven’t sold, I’ve largely used up in my nightly Etherscope runs.

I’ve been trying to find the looking glass Cassius spoke of. I’ve been trying to find more information about what is happening to me, more information about who is after me. There is no one else to look after me now. So I’ve taken care of myself as best I can. I’ve eaten refuse and steaks, drank rainwater and wine in my three day quest. And still, every night, I keep coming back here.

The sound of feet moving across the workroom floor draws my attention. I knew that this moment would come. I’ve been expecting it, waiting for it. I draw deeply upon the Tornado, exhaling the acrid smoke. My senses rush into life rapidly.

“Hello, Sarah. I knew you would come. I’ve been waiting for you.”

“I tried to think of where you might have disappeared to, Michael. There wasn’t anyplace else I could think of where you would go. They wanted to search your apartment, though, and I couldn’t convince them there wasn’t going to be anything there.”

“You’re right, of course,” I say between hoarse laughter, “There’s nothing there for me anymore. I might as well have left it all behind.”

“Someone else had already been through it, Michael. There are others looking for you. MI-6. The Koyekh Gang. The Scriveners. The Redcoats. The Metropolis Constabulary. The NRM. A private investigator. Maybe more, I’m not sure. What happened, what started your troubles?”

I hear a note of tenderness, of concern, has entered her voice now.

“Michael, I knew you were happy with your life. I never would have asked you to join the cause. I’ve watched you, you know. I wanted to see you. I missed you.”

“You missed me so much that all these years you’ve let me continue to believe you were dead? You wanted to see me so much that you’ve come to my door calling? You were so concerned with how I was doing that you asked?” I can’t keep the bitterness from my own voice.

“I was waiting, Michael. I was waiting for the moment to be right. I was-”

“You were thinking more of your glorious revolution is what. I could ask the same of you, you know. What started your troubles.”

I finally turn to face my sister whom I have thought lost these many years. The look of surprise upon her face when she sees me is not exactly what I expected. She has grown into a beautiful young woman, with the same golden hair and brilliant green eyes that she had when I last saw her, the same heart-shaped face, the same only older. She wears a green beret perched cockily upon her head, an affectation of many NRM sympathizers and members.

“Oh my God, Michael, you look awful!”

I have to laugh.

“I’ve been shot, run my legs off, hounded by everyone who wants something from me or thinks I have something that belongs to them, starved and I haven’t been sleeping much. I apologize, I simply haven’t had the time for renewing my neglected personal grooming habits.”

She looks hurt by the venom in my words. My eyes glance over the gleaming steamwork limb that she now wears to replace the arm lost in the industrial accident which took her from me. Her eyes look sad when mine meet them.

“They wanted me to tell you that they have your girl. Rexelle. They want you to give the documents that you were supposed to acquire to me. They will kill her if you don’t. And I can’t stop them, Michael.”

“I know, Sarah. But I don’t have them; they were stolen from me when I tried to steal them. I am still trying to find the man who did so”

“They want you to come with me to meet them, Michael. I don’t think they mean for you to say no.”

I laugh again.

“What more can they do to me? I am already damned, if as many people are looking for me as you say are. What are they going to fight all of my seekers off?”

“They want you to do more work for them, Michael. They want you to help the revolution begin.”

“I am weary of the revolution and what it’s cost me so far,” I reply.

Sarah nods as though she expected the answer.

“Let’s get dinner and discuss this, big brother. You look starved.”

The Tornado kills my appetite though. I take my last drag upon the fag, and drop it to the ground. Something’s going to happen.

“That sounds like a great idea, little sister,” I lie.


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 Post subject: 23.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 9:34 am 
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Thirteen years is quite a bit of catching up. We sit in the small public house common room Sarah has taken me to for several hours and it’s very late in the morning now. My lack of sleep is taking its toll, and my thoughts turn towards the pack of cigarettes in my hip pocket and their contents. I’ve got to stay awake, alert.

I excuse myself to the water closet, and Sarah nods. Walking across the bar, I see a man whose eyes follow me. Once in the water closet, my eyes scan the small privy room. I find a mop and jam its handle under the door knob at an angle, hopeful that it will block the entrance while I take care of my need.

The acrid smoke enters my lungs as I drag on the Tornado. Its effects are swift, sending my head spinning for a moment until my mind begins to clear and focus. A slight euphoric tingling begins to build up from the base of my spine. I finish the fag quickly, and then light another. Three left, I note to myself as I drag on the second.

I pace the close privvy space, collecting my thoughts. I can understand now Sarah’s hatred for the system. Her story has left me with a deep sense of sorrow, and revulsion. She has been to the blackest depths of human degredation, and has been there since she was a child. The van which had taken her from my life after her accident had taken her to a cyber doc.

They had replaced her arm not with a massive, industrial grade limb so that she could continue her work at another workhouse, but with an aesthetic grade limb so as to retain its appearance as closely similar to a human limb as possible. Little did any who worked in the workhouse know, Sarah had been earmarked for purchase. She was a beautiful child, and it was known she would grow into a beautiful woman.

After her repair, as it were, in the chop shop with expensive equipment designed for the cream of Metropolis society, Sarah had been transported elsewhere. At eight years of age, she had learned of the variegated tastes of certain members of the aristocracy. Her time in the brothel was harsh, until she reached ten years of age and caught the fancy of a gentleman.

He gave her toys and candy, books and clothing, art and jewelry, and in return he took her nightly. He had made her exclusively his, healthily padding the brothel’s income with his briberies. He won her over with his gifts and his words of love. She thought of him as her knight, her rescuer from the brothel’s cruelty. Never in that time did she think once of how improper his purported love of her was.

Then, as she began to physically mature, the padding was spent elsewhere on a younger child. Her knight no longer visited her, and his gifts no longer came. She was abandoned, and left to the cruel mercies of the brothel’s jealous personnel and the whims of the madam there. She was broken.

It had been a year before the NRM had discovered the brothel and its purpose, and she had suffered during that time. The Movement had decided to bomb the building when a large preponderance of its clientele was within the place. In the aftermath of the explosion, Lucas Storm, the leader of the cell, had discovered her lying wounded and brought her into his care. She reminded him of the daughter he’d lost long ago.

So it was that she had begun her indoctrination into the Northumbrian Republican Movement, and fought for a free and independent Northern England since at Lucas Storm’s side. And it is at his directive that she seeks now to bring me over. I am certain that despite his kindness in rescuing and raising my sister as he would his own daughter, Storm’s methods are not my own.

Eyeing the tiny window out into the alley from the privy, I think about Elle. Storm has been explicit in his threat to her life should I choose not to join him and his movement. I have to free her from his clutches, and after that I will find Cassius.

I stub out the fag, and open the window. I’ve lost enough weight to slip through it fairly easily. As I rise and brush the filth of the alleyway from my clothing, I am greeted by a growl of a voice.

“’Ere, now, where d’ye think ye’re going, little man?”

A pair of hulking men in paramilitary gear wearing green berets stands before me.


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 Post subject: 24.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:36 pm 
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Lucas Storm, the leader of the NRM cell I’ve been coerced into supporting, sits before me. He looks a stern man, a harsh man, a man dealt many blows in life, and rarely given joy. Hs surname fits him well; he looks like something out of a Norse saga. A great, thickly-muscled man with a heroic profile, Lucas is steely grey of both gaze and hairline. He sits astride a chair which looks like nothing less than a throne.

I am instantly wary of him. His followers look upon him with adoration; there is nothing that they would not do for this man. They would kill me where I stand upon his order. And, as I look to Sarah, a cold realization dawns upon me. She is no different than the rest of these people in that respect.

“I should have her killed, and perhaps even you as well, for your failure-” he begins.

I step forward and speak, interrupting him.

“But you won’t do either, and I think we both know why. As long as I am alive, and I am motivated, I have skills you need for your revolution.”

My voice is calm, cool, lacking any sort of desperation or fear that I am certain this man has come to expect from those he thinks he has by the scruff. Sarah and the others look at me, horrified by my lack of respect for interrupting their leader. My look tells them that I don’t care at all.

“I am going to be quite frank with you, Storm. I don’t give a damn about your revolution, and I don’t give a damn about you,” I say as I flick a match to light the Tornado stick between my thumb and forefinger.

Taking a deep drag, I see his mouth open to speak again. I quickly blow out the smoke and plant my feet firmly against the spin of the drug taking its effect.

“I have something you want, plainly, and I know exactly what it is. But, in order for you to get that thing you want, I will be the one calling the shots from now on. There’s no one else, no one, Storm, who could provide you with what I have. Kill me, and I can ensure your glorious revolution’s failure. Kill Rexelle and I will ensure it.”

Storm looks like he is considering something. He’s never been spoken to this way before, unused to being issued commands himself. We’re on equal ground there, because I am unused to giving them. But I am tired of this, tired of being someone’s tool. I will have what I want out of being used.

“Well, then,” Storm begins, “What is it you want?”

“I want Rexelle freed, I will need her to help me,” I state with an unquestionable air to my words.

“I cannot do that, she is the only insurance I have that you will perform what it is I need.”

“You are wrong, Storm. You have my sister.”

“I-”

“I want her back too, when I am through. I want you to relinquish your hold on her. I want her free of you.”

“Look at all of you,” I say to the people who dote on Storm’s whim, “You are all just a bunch of sheep. Your revolution will not lead you anywhere at this man’s hands. You follow his word just as blindly as the most devoted Imperial citizen does that of the Royal Family. There’s no difference, not that I expect you to understand that at all. But I want you all to understand one thing. I help you out of my fear for Rexelle’s well being and the well being of my sister. Not for love of your bombs, guns, and change. Nothing good will come of these things, and I don’t trust this man to be any different than the men he claims to despise and seeks to supplant.”

Angry eyes meet mine, and I know many of them want to shoot me down now. But they are sheep, waiting for the word of their shepherd, and he knows my value and will not give it. Even though his eyes are just as angry.

“We have plans to make, you and I,” he says to me, rising from his throne, “Come.”

I follow him, though something has changed inside of me. I am not the man I was. I do not seek to obey and keep my head down and follow orders, meeting no ones’ eyes and hoping that I do not rock the boat. My head is high, and I am fearless now. Once everything is taken from you, what is left to fear?


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 Post subject: 25.
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:32 pm 
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In the few short hours since my audience with Lucas Storm, leader of the NRM cell which has sucked my sister Sarah into its black, hate-filled depths and taken captive Rexelle, my co-worker and possibly a lady of interest, I have sold off the remainder of my Scope tabs. The beaten, aged wood of the Scope point I’ve acquired as a part of my dealings with these revolutionaries lies smooth in my hands.

I look down upon the coiled cable and the inch long jack of shining steel leading from it. My hand begins to traverse the distance between the plug and the back of my head, where the Scope jack lies awaiting the union I am about to provide it with. The connection is seamless, and I feel a slight tingle of anticipation as my senses begin their inevitable conversion as I fall into the Etherscope. Jacking in is so much quicker than dropping tabs, and the connection so much cleaner as well.

I open my eyes to the small room which has been prepared for me. The desk at which I sit is old, darkened maple and it is covered in aged manila envelopes. These files contain the tasks set before me by the Northumbrian Republican Movement. Across from me is the doorway out of this tiny Wall domain into the Scope city of Centropolis. The American Etherscope equivalent of New London, I am to meet my contact here and proceed on with my tasks.

I rise from the desk, and step to the smaller doors to my left of the armoire which contains my working gear. I’ve had a new set of programs readied, a bit more effective for what I am to do upon this particular trip. Stealth will be paramount.

I grin as I pull forth the suit within. It’s made from leather, black, and close fitting as I shrug into it. It will serve as both my armour here and as an aid in moving undetected. I smooth back my hair as I pull on the snug cap which will cover most of my head. A harness sits upon a peg, light leather straps weighted by its contents. A pair of holsters house twin autopistols with silencers attached.

I slip the leather jacket on over the harness, pull the boots on, and see one last object resting upon the floor of the armoire. A pair of small, circular-lensed spectacles gleams up at me, their mirrored surfaces reflecting my bemused gaze. I slip them onto my face.

I reach into the inside pocket of the jacket, and pull out a picture. The girl in the picture looks something like a parochial school child, with long braids and a pleated plaid skirt. The sweater is pulled tight over full firm breasts and her smile is one with a slight hint of the promise of sin. American women. They’ve no sense of propriety. Or so I’ve always been told, anyhow. This will be the first time I’ve met one.

I head out the front door and pull the small plastic card from my hip pocket. The glowing neon line directs me to my quarry. She awaits me in a club called Wonderland. The American Scope city of Centropolis is so unlike that of New London, I realize as I stride through the streets purposefully. Where New London is clean, its streets neatly laid out and its populace one of restraint, I instantly understand that anything goes here.

I pass by lovers making their caresses in alleys, gunmen calling each other out in pubs, women promising the secrets of heaven and a few men doing the same, gamblers rolling dice against broken walls for a few dollars, barbershop quartets singing in the street, and bawdyhouses catering to every imaginable need on my way to Wonderland.

Alexander dashes to my heels, nervously, from the shadows.

“I don’t like this place, Michael,” he tells me.

“I can certainly understand why. It’s got no reason to it. It’s so very-”

“Chaotic, is that the word you were looking for?” a high, girlish voice asks me.

“Yes,” the girl says as I turn to face her, “I’ve found few British folk that do find it to their tastes. But still, we’ve got a job to do don’t we?”

“Of course,” I reply in a faultless German accent with a smile, “Although I am not certain, young lady, to what you refer. I am just a visitor in from Berlin.”

“Ooh, I see,” she replies as she slips a slender arm into mine, “ ‘I big strong German man.’ I do so love your type. Would you like to dance with me?”

She ushers me into the club, and I am awash in a cacophony of electronic sound and heavy drum beats. Hypnotic, and tribal; bodies swirl in motion around us as we walk in. She grabs me and pulls me close to her, breasts rubbing against my ribs. Her nipples are hard, and I feel almost as though they scrape my skin even through the leather jacket. She gives me that smile.

We are pulled apart by the horde of bodies, and then come back together again. Her lithe and supple frame, a dancer’s body, taunts me. Her eyes tease me.

“Just tup her quickly and get it over with,” I hear Alexander in the back of my mind, “Although I don’t think Rexelle would care for it much!”

“It’s not like she’s my mate,” I respond dryly to the cat following me.

I am tense, wound tightly from a combination of nervousness, desperation, and now this girl’s flaunted charms. She smiles, running her hands over me, knowing I want her. I watch as she pulls the bottom edge of her sweater up and ties it in a knot just beneath her breasts. Beads of perspiration trail down her taut midsection as we gyrate against one another. Her hands move up my sides, under my shirt, and her nails begin to drag a trail down my ribs. I shudder with delight.

The song stops, presumably to give these overly-energetic dancers a breath. In the space of that breath, she speaks to me with a smouldering look in her eyes.

“So, do you wanna f*ck, or don’t you?”

“Didn’t we have some business to attend to?” I ask, never letting the German accent drop.

“Sure, but you want to. We can be quick. I can tell how bad you want me, baby.”

She takes my hand and leads me to the water closets. In a flash, she’s backed herself against the wall and is showing me that she’s got nothing on beneath the short plaid skirt. She rips my pants open fiercely, clutching at me and grinding her lips against mine. She guides me to her, and we are joined. It’s all rather fast, surprising and primal.

We’ve barely finished our carnal act and she’s pushing me out the door and taking me to a booth. She lights a cigarette, takes a long drag, and then hands it to me. I am still out of breath from the ferocity of it all, but I drag on the cigarette and pass it to her.

“I’m Simone. There’s a package I am supposed to give you. It’s got all of the access codes you will need.”

I nod, wiping the sweat from my brow. For a virtual experience, it seems even more real than the real thing.

“That’s because you’ve never had the real thing,” Alexander finds the time to smugly remind me.

We order drinks, and then after finishing those and awaiting the arrival of a second round, she smiles at me.

“You were good, lover. The package will be here any minute now, don’t get nervous or anything. I think I will freshen up, you stay right here.”

I simply nod in return. As I wait, the music begins again, like thunder. I watch the people move madly past me on the dance floor, taken by the rhythm. A few moments of watching the dancers, and I see Simone returning. A young man follows behind her. They are speaking, although I can’t hear them over the music.

Simone sits beside me closely, and the young man takes a seat across from me. He shouts something to me, proffering a small daypack. I nod and take it. I am thinking that it’s time to forge on, so I rise. As I do, the music stops and I hear the young man speaking.

“So, another one of your Brit contacts, Simon?”

Ashen-faced, I turn back towards the pair. “Simone” just smiles and shrugs at me. I feel my stomach turn.

“You mean to tell me-” I start as my bile rises.

“You liked it, you know you did. Besides, in here we can be whatever the hell we want, right? It felt like real pussy to you, didn’t it? And it is real here.”

I am so tempted to reach over and smack “her” across the face, but my gut is churning violently, and I begin to rush towards the water closet. The daypack dangling from my hand smacks into a couple making their way to the bar nearby, and the man becomes indignant. His delaying me from my path ends badly. I throw up on his shoes.

His punch sends me sprawling across the bar, shattering bottles and glasses. I try to rise, and notice the daypack lying on the floor. Someone kicks it away as they pass it by, oblivious. As the indignant patron grips my jacket collar, I feel my stomach heave again. I empty the contents into his face noisily. The bar patrons give revolted noises and begin to rush away.

My eyes follow the pack, and find Alexander gripping its strap in his mouth. He is on the outer periphery of the bar and the developing brawl which I am the center of. Silently I admonish him to wait there.

The bar patron’s eyes glare madly at me as he wipes away my vomit. His fists are bunched into white-knuckled balls. I still feel sickly, but the threat of violence raises my hackles and sharpens my senses. He throws a punch; he’s large, and strong, but I am too fast. His motion seems to be slowed down as I sidestep the blow. I deliver a precise blow of the side of my hand to his Adam’s apple, and he falls away gagging. His woman is screaming loudly.

Before I realize what’s happening, two immensely burly men are gripping me by each of my arms and dragging me to the front door. They throw me through it roughly, and I fall across the grimy cobblestones.

“And don’t come back, motherfucker!” shouts one of the men.

The daypack is dropped into my lap as I roll into a sitting position.

“A great first night in Centropolis, eh, mate?” Alexander asks me with something that looks remarkably like a grin on his feline face.

I growl at him.

“Hahaha, it’s not MY fault you couldn’t tell, don’t get mad at me!”


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 Post subject: 26.
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:54 pm 
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Revolution. The thought of the word puts a bad taste in my mouth. Bad enough the taste after what’s just happened with my meet with “Simone”. I spit upon the cobblestones, but the taste doesn’t go away.

I stroll through the streets of Centropolis, seeking my next stop along this path I have chosen which is most certainly divergent from the path imagined for me by all those who would use me. But I will no longer be controlled. Alexander struts beside me, grinning enthusiastically. He is pleased with my choice. I am not, but there is little room left for me to manouevre in.

Somewhere, far from the road my mind now travels, my body sends me warning signals of need. It is tired from its long stint of abuse. I need to make this quick, so that I can get some rest. Or find some more Tornado, to keep me going until I can.

I remember, months ago, securing some very sensitive documents with Grigson’s guidance. His watchful eye never left me as I performed my job. But I remember well the location of as well as the stiffness of the security placed upon the documents. For the past few hours, I’ve run the security measures’ code through my mind in ceaseless analysis.

The notes I’ve acquired from “Simone” will assist me in breaking the security of Milplex 1112. I’m not at all certain what may be contained within the documents I secured then, but I am sure they will be of interest to Lucas Storm and his revolutionaries. I am equally sure that they will be of interest to Cassius.

The carefully laid word of my intentions, couched in the cunning code used by Scope Riders, brought me into contact with the American CIA, and to “Simone”. To save myself, I have become a traitor to my country. Exactly what I have been accused of unjustly already, so it matters less to me now that I am actually performing such deeds.

I’m ready now.

The walls of Centropolis stretch before me, and beyond them, the endless reaches of Etherspace. The cracks in the walls are readily visible; they are strong enough to keep out the wild currents of Etherspace, but not designed to keep things in. I reach out my hand towards the cracks, and my arm stiffens.

Even as I imagine it so, my arm becomes a great steam-drill, boring into the crack I’ve set the bit into with a loud whine. The grinding grate of steel upon stone becomes louder as the bit digs in. The stone crumbles beneath my onslaught, creating a hole large enough for me to slip through.

“Take a deep breath, Michael,” Alexander whispers besides me, “This could get scary.”

I nod, and draw both automatics into white-knuckled grips. We slip through the hole in the wall together and into the dark, formless void beyond.


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 Post subject: 27.
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:43 pm 
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Something’s wrong. I know as soon as I’ve stepped from the portal I’ve opened in the wall of Centropolis. It’s so dark, I can’t see what it may be, and I struggle to activate my lighting program built into the glasses I am wearing. My breath is caught short. My lungs have become leaden.

The sound of something moving along the wall behind me catches my ears.

“Michael, look out!” Alexander exclaims loudly.

His warning comes too late. Something slams into me bodily and knocks the glasses from my head even as the lighting ignites. As they spin lazily through blank space, the light beams cross over shapes moving towards me in the void. Papery grey skin stretched taut over gaunt forms moving, almost bonelessly through the void towards me. Hooked limbs reach for me.

I open my mouth to scream as a hook tears into my side, sending a spray of blood to float upon the emptiness. I’ve no breath to do so. I hear Alexander howl as he leaps upon one of the creatures nearest to me. The flare of my automatics firing into the void as my fingers jerk upon the triggers illuminates creatures of nightmare merest inches from my face.

A hideous face is before mine, thin with dark black eyes looking at me from the sides of its head, mouthless and with great wet holes flaring widely in the middle. I feel agonizing pain in my thigh as a hooked claw rips into it. I raise my automatics to the face and squeeze my triggers, and the face falls from my vision in a cloud of stinking black ichor.

Ejected shell casings float aimlessly away on the winds of the void. I try to jerk myself free of the grasp of the creatures swarming around me, but there are too many. There must be a score of them. My pistols cough in my grasp, over and over again.

A hook pierces my left forearm through, and I cry out and release the automatic in my hand. Tenatively, a quivering hook moves almost tenderly along my chest now, its sharpness enough to split the leather encasing me. It rears back, eager for my flesh, a new face slobbering before me.

Something moves through the dark, and the face is cut wide open and its owner falls from me. Groaning, I fire my pistol into the hook which has pierced my arm. It explodes, and I pull my arm away. A form moves among my attackers, like lightning.

I move back, into the hole I’ve made in the wall behind me. Alexander lands inside as well at my feet. The hook embedded in my forearm dissolves away, leaving my raw wound visible. A brief moment passes, and a figure presses through the hole, stooped and bent. I raise my remaining pistol shakily.

An impossibly tall and whipcord thin man steps in before me, wearing a very tall top hat and a grey houndstooth suit. His smile is thin too.

“Elle told me you might be in trouble.”

I struggle to catch my breath.

“Lungscratchers, my friend. A common hazard when jumping the rails. She told me you’d never done this before, so I offered to give you a hand,” the stranger offers as he jerks a thumb towards the portal.

“Who…who are you?” I rasp.

“Oh, apologies, greetings and salutations, I am Jack. Jack Sprat, to be precise. Do forgive my rudeness, old boy.”

“There’s a rather simple way to clear a path if you suspect that there are some lungscratchers knocking at your door.”

I watch as he pulls a small ball from his pocket, and I see his finger slip into a ring at the top of it. My eyes widen as he turns to the portal, and I shield my eyes with my good arm and turn my head, throwing myself flat upon the cobblestones.

The explosion does not reach us, however.

“I do believe these are yours, old boy,” Jack Sprat says.

I face him again, and he is holding my glasses and my other automatic in his hands with that thin smile in place.

“Thanks,” I reply warily, “but I’ve got to know, what exactly are you in this for?”

The thin smile turns flat.

“I’ve my own reasons, yes, but they are not yours, so don’t you worry yourself over them. Elle called in a favor, and that’s all you really need know for now.”

“I hope you don’t mind too much if I don’t entirely trust you,” I retort.

“Well, now, I suppose that would be fine. But rather than arguing, perhaps we should get ourselves going now. There will be more of those coming, you know, after that; it’s only a matter of time. And your target isn’t sitting still waiting for you, after all.”

“What do you know about my target, what did Elle tell you exactly?”

But this Jack Sprat has already leapt through the portal.

Sighing, I holster my automatics, and gesture for Alexander to follow. Placing the glasses back on my face, I step through the portal again.


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 Post subject: 28.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:19 am 
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With my goggles lighting the way, Jack, Alexander and I move through the black void of Etherspace. I lead cautiously, for I’ve no wish to stumble upon those creatures we encountered just a bit ago again. Lungscratchers? Yes, that’s what Jack called them.

We glide through the emptiness surrounding us, and find ourselves at the domain of Milplex 1112. It floats in the blackness before us, a bloated ball encapsulating the most sensitive secrets of the British Empire. I’ve heard tell that no one has ever broken into it, and lived to tell about it. I am determined to prove everyone wrong today.

I pull out the notes “Simone” gave me, and look for a certain page that had captured my attentions earlier. The chink in the armor of this Goliath. The Achilles Heel, so to speak. I smile, and Jack grips the page from my hand and whips it away to gaze upon it with a curious look on his face.

“Hrm, this doesn’t add up,” Jack mutters.

“What?” I reply incredulously.

I had thought I’d found the weakness, I have studied this hologram of the construct which was stolen from British agents by the CIA. How could this man so quickly disprove me with but a cursory glance?

“It’s all in the numbers, Michael. Just look at it, see. Add up 1112, and you get five…but there are three levels here, so I need to take that and account for it as well. I’d thought it five previously, which lead me to believe this monstrosity was created for some type of forward-moving event, action in the Empire’s inertia! But if you take five and add three it becomes eight. Eight signifies sacrifice, Michael. What does this mean?”

“What in the bloody hell are you talking about Jack? I’ve found the backdoor that the original architect of this place left! It’s right here!”

I jab my index finger at the map, pointing to the cleverly hidden passage.

“What, oh that old thing? Yes, yes, for certain, it’s a back door put there by somebody. Any simpleton could see that, Mikey. But what is the significance this change will have for us? What does it mean?”

“What are you talking about? The numbers crap you are spouting, are you daft? Shall we get on with this if you truly are here to help?”

“There’s a hidden meaning behind everything, Michael,” he says, looking very seriously at me, “You just have to study the relation of numbers to everything. Mathematics is the key, and numbers have a meaning far deeper than we ascribe to them.”

“Oh, Christ, you are one of those numberology blokes, are you?” I sigh.

I met one once, one of my co-workers, at a Christmas function for Building 203. He was drunk on Guiness and talking crazy, saying that numbers determined everything about a person.

Jack Sprat looks at me with something akin to consternation.

“If you understood the relations of numbers with all things, be it people, places, things, what have you, and how the names of these things can be broken down into their component numbers, you wouldn’t think I was so nutters, mate.”

“I’ve read Burroughs,” I warn him, “and I wasn’t impressed.”

“But he had it all right! At least bits of it, anyways. He needed-“

“Good lord, man, we’ve no time for a numero-philosophical mumbo-jumbo! I need to get this started. Can we cut the small talk and just break in here?” I say in exasperation.

Jack pulls the brim of his top hat down and covers his eyes. His silence is surely indicative of his displeasure with my scoffing at his numerology. I am not in the mood to deal with this, though, I just want to get this done and quickly. I haven’t much more time.

I watch as he moves to the cleverly hidden backdoor. He pulls something from his jacket pocket, and flicks it open to reveal a short, gleaming, ghostly silver blade. With care and precision, he moves the blade around the edges of the hidden door. As he is doing so, I pull from my bag the Etheric analyzer I’ve procured for just this purpose, and hook its resistors into one of the cracks.

“What’s that?” Jack asks curiously.

“Etheric analyzer, it’ll read the door’s structure and translate it into something human-readable, so that I can crack it. Much easier than your knife.”

“My knife’s faster,” Jack complains.

The code analyzer’s cathode turns green as he says this, and I begin to type on it’s keypad in response to what I am reading. The door cracks open, and I grin at Jack.

“You were saying?”

“Chaos,” he mutters.

“What’s that?”

“Chaos. Flux. Reaction. That’s you; Michael is 4, 9, 3, 8, 5, 3, 33, 3, and 3 all added together, and that makes 6. Change, lad, that’s you.”

“Dammit, enough with that shite.”

Alexander mews behind me, stressing his agreement with me.

As we stride in, I refer to the map one last time before folding it away in my coat.

“Put that up,” I say to Jack, referring to the gleam of his knife,” It will attract attention.”

“Oh, and I suppose you have thought of how to deal with that already too?”

“Surely, Sprat. Here, put this on.”

I reach into my bag and throw him the stealth mask I designed earlier while reading up on this place. I’ve found that Ether is a remarkable medium for my creative talents, and I seem able to build a construct here almost at whim when I desire it. The stealth mask will obfuscate our avatars from observers. Or at least that’s what I have designed it to do. I slip mine on over my face.

“Now, all you need to do is be quiet. And follow me.”

Jack’s face is covered by the mask now, so I can’t tell what expression he is wearing. But I am certain that it’s not pleasant. I can tell he does not take to instruction well.

Nevertheless, he does indeed comply with my instructions. At least for the first leg of our trip, anyway. Slipping through the first level is easy, and finding the conduit to the second very quick. The second is going to prove much more difficult, I soon realize as I assess the number of gremlin guardians and traps laid out before us.

I can hear Jack muttering a steady stream of numbers under his breath as we pause before the hallway which leads deeper into the second level.

“Shut up,” I mouth to him.

“‘52, the year the developer of this particular stretch of the Etherscope was born. Five plus two equals seven, which denotes intelligence, Michael. He’s a clever bastard, he is. We should be very careful upon proceeding.”

Looking ahead into the hallway, I see a chair along the wall, seemingly randomly placed.

“So,” I say to Jack, “Does ‘chair’ mean ‘death machine’?”

“Actually,” Jack’s face brightens, “No, if you break down ‘chair’, it comes to 3, or neutrality. This must be a safe point!”

I merely sigh, and approach the construct of the chair.

As I do so, two gigantic gremlins in the form of great cyborgs begin to walk towards me down the hall. I stand against the wall, stock still, hoping that my stealth mask will perform as I expect. Jack slips into the seat of the chair, crossing his legs and sprawling restfully.

He’s trusting in his numbers. I don’t trust anything. My breath catches as one of the cyborgs push past the chair, it’s leg brushing almost against Jack’s. But it does not, and the cyborg does not seem to detect his presence. I flatten against the wall, and they pass by me. I turn to look for Alexander, but he isn’t there. Turning my head back towards Jack, I see he’s picked Alexander up, and the cat is lounging on his lap.

I release my breath as the cyborgs pass through the conduit to the first level of this domain.

“You see?” Jack beams.

“Christ,” I say under my breath in response.

“Look, I am telling you, it’s all got bearing.”

“I don’t want to hear this, let’s keep going.”

"Take, for example when someone says someone else is "the sh*t"...sh*t is a four letter word, and when you take the numbers behind the letters you get 19, which reduces to 10 and then further to 1, 8, 9, 20, which reduces to 2; add them up and you get 20, which again reduces to, well, what do you call sh*t? Number two! But it also means someone who is highly individualistic and aggressive at pursuing their goals as well! Thus, "the sh*t"!

“So what does ‘f*ck you’ mean?” I mutter, exasperated.

“Hrm, 24, which in turn reduces to 6. I’d say you are being reactionary, and very stubborn in not accepting the numerological truths that face you.”

I hadn’t thought he’d heard me. I pull my lips in a tight grimace, trying to contain myself.

Quickly, I move through sensors designed to detect intruders. I grin. The masks were designed to broadcast a broad-range spectrum of neutralizing Etheric emissions which I had found would conceal an avatar’s Etheric pattern, after I discovered that the system used here relies largely on pattern sensors.

We slip into the long series of transport tubes which lead to the third level. Avatars which are visiting access the highest level of Milplex 1112 here, and the scanners run along the lengths of them.

I plant a series of flash-bombs in concealed locations along the side of the tubes, then hand some more to Jack to plant along the other side. And then I let Alexander work his magic with his claws on the cabling of the transports. We are ready to go up now.

The trek to Records is almost boring. My creation is almost too good. We slide like ghosts in through the doorway. Immediately my senses are on alert.

Instead of the security I’ve expected to face, Records is empty of gremlins. My gaze swiftly shifts across the room, only to meet with that of Grigson.

The Head Scrivener stands before us, protectively over my goal. A locked chest is at his feet, containing the documents I secured here.

“Well, well, boy. I have been expecting you to arrive,” he says with an air of superiority.

“How did you know, Grigson?” I question, stepping into a defensive posture.

“The broad spectrum radiations I’ve been seeing here gave it away. They have a masking effect, but who was it masking, I asked myself. No coincidences, my boy.”

Grigson takes up his stance, ready to once again punish me for my transgressions. He doesn’t know that I have learned since my first venture. I recognize his stance, even more so than I did when first I saw it. I recognize it, and I mirror it. His eyes narrow.

With a martial cry, he launches himself towards me. I step aside as his fists move towards my chest, narrowly dodging his blow. It is the same attack that sent me sprawling the first time we met in Etherspace, and the same attack that dealt my avatar a slow death.

“Grigson equals 8; power…be careful!” I hear Jack Sprat call out.

I grin, and deliver the killing blow to Grigson’s avatar with the heels of my hands planted firmly into his solar plexus, up and shattering sternum and piercing lungs and slicing heart. Just as he had once done to me.

His eyes are a mirror of his shock as I look down into them while he falls to the ground gasping.

“In your own words, it also means sacrifice,” I say as I look back to an astonished Jack Sprat.

Grigson’s avatar falls into a pool of its Etheric components. I reach down to open the chest, my mind running through the means to disable the security I had placed upon it.

“Don’t open that yet,” a familiar voice calls from the doorway.

Without turning, I greet my visitor.

“Hello, Cassius. I thought you would come for this, sooner or later.”

He is the real reason I am here, after all. He’s destroyed me, ruined my life. Now it’s time to make him pay. I look back to Jack, whose face is white as he looks upon the man at the entrance.

“You are Cassius?” Jack says in a small voice.

Cassius nods to him with a slight smile.

I move into a defensive posture.

“This is it. You tried to steal this, and I killed you in your attempt. As your avatar died, I sent a tracking gremlin to find your personal domain, where you log in, based upon its algorithmic translations of the signal from your avatar and your Scope jack’s connection. I win. I get my life back. And Jack here witnesses it all.” I say to Cassius with a cold smile.

“What about Grigson?” Cassius asks with a smile of his own, though it is oddly warm and almost seemingly friendly.

“I know where his personal domain is. Elle is headed to the place where he’s jacked in from. She has a present for him, and soon I won’t have to worry about him at all.”

“So you have really thought of everything, then, haven’t you, little brother.”

“Yes, you asshole, I have,” I spit at him.

I watched him too, the last time I encountered him. I watched him kill Grigson’s avatar. I know his moves as well.

“You can’t win, Michael!” Jack shouts at me.

I rush towards Cassius, on the offensive, with death in my eyes.

“Cassius; 3 + 1 + 19 (10) (1) + 19 (10) (1) + 9 + 21 (3) + 19 (10) (1) = 10 (1), equals one; absolute, the All!” I hear Jack shout again, rapidly, as he backs out of the door of Records with terror in his eyes.


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 Post subject: Interlude 4.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 12:33 pm 
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The battle for my very soul that day was fierce, indeed. And yet, like all battles for something so elusive in definition, it was a losing battle. For Cassius was not human, I came to realize as we fought. He was powerful, and faster than any living thing had a right to be. His blows struck home again and again as he shrugged off my own like the bites of gnats. In the end, I was to be defeated.

As I lay broken and bleeding upon the floor of Milplex 1112, the inhuman creature that was Cassius observed me coolly.

“Your body is dying as well,” he noted, “And soon all you have been fighting for will also die. The NRM has Elle. She is being interrogated now, in an effort to find where you have hidden yourself. The Scriveners are attempting to track you, for with my aid you have disappeared from their sight. They will find you soon enough once I allow them to. And if they don’t, the foolish revolutionaries who are looking for you will find you.”

I had assumed that I was pushing myself towards death, for I was wasted with hunger and ravaged by lack of sleep and addled with drugs, driven as I was by
vengeance. But what he said hit home. Thoughts of Elle and my sister scurried madly through my head.

"I can save you from all of this; I can give you what you need, what you have been searching for all of your life. I can give you absolution, and hope for a future, for a life, free from this vile oppression. And all you need do is kneel before me, and drink from me, and swear yourself to me," Cassius said then, looking down at me as he opened his wrist with one fingernail.

The blood dripped down from his wrist, spotting upon the pristine white marble floor.

"Just save her," I replied miserably, "Save Elle, and I will do whatever it is you want."

He nodded, with a smile which chilled my bones.

And I found myself rising to my knees before this veritable god, trembling, and fastening my lips upon his wrist. And as his blood passed between my lips and into my mouth, I felt warm and whole.

“Cassius is reduced to 10, true. Your friend was incorrect in his numerology, however. He should have known this much; 10 is not reduced further, and it means… rebirth,” his last reflective words sank into me as I lost consciousness, floating back to my material self.


Last edited by maded on Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Interlude 4.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 12:33 pm 
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The battle for my very soul that day was fierce, indeed. And yet, like all battles for something so elusive in definition, it was a losing battle. For Cassius was not human, I came to realize as we fought. He was powerful, and faster than any living thing had a right to be. His blows struck home again and again as he shrugged off my own like the bites of gnats. In the end, I was to be defeated.

As I lay broken and bleeding upon the floor of Milplex 1112, the inhuman creature that was Cassius observed me coolly.

“Your body is dying as well,” he noted, “And soon all you have been fighting for will also die. The NRM has Elle. She is being interrogated now, in an effort to find where you have hidden yourself. The Scriveners are attempting to track you, for with my aid you have disappeared from their sight. They will find you soon enough once I allow them to. And if they don’t, the foolish revolutionaries who are looking for you will find you.”

I had assumed that I was pushing myself towards death, for I was wasted with hunger and ravaged by lack of sleep and addled with drugs, driven as I was by
vengeance. But what he said hit home. Thoughts of Elle and my sister scurried madly through my head.

"I can save you from all of this; I can give you what you need, what you have been searching for all of your life. I can give you absolution, and hope for a future, for a life, free from this vile oppression. And all you need do is kneel before me, and drink from me, and swear yourself to me," Cassius said then, looking down at me as he opened his wrist with one fingernail.

The blood dripped down from his wrist, spotting upon the pristine white marble floor.

"Just save her," I replied miserably, "Save Elle, and I will do whatever it is you want."

He nodded, with a smile which chilled my bones.

And I found myself rising to my knees before this veritable god, trembling, and fastening my lips upon his wrist. And as his blood passed between my lips and into my mouth, I felt warm and whole.

“Cassius is reduced to 10, true. Your friend was incorrect in his numerology, however. He should have known this much; 10 is not reduced further, and it means… rebirth,” his last reflective words sank into me as I lost consciousness, floating back to my material self.


Last edited by maded on Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: 29.
PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 4:30 pm 
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I awaken to a chill ache set deep into my bones. The roof here is leaking, and my body has been drenched in my absence. The flash of lightning overhead guides me to the hole in the roof of the shanty, and a shadow moves over it.

I pull myself upright, reaching for the cheap street pistol in my pocket. Creaks upon the rooftop alert me to the presence of others. Someone's found my hidey hole. My hand trembles as I reach into my pocket to pull out the last Tornado fag. I push the end into my lips and grip it as tightly with my teeth as my hand holds the pistol's grip.

Something clatters across the floor to my left, and I see a small rounded object bouncing towards me. I leap across the small room of the broken shanty I have hidden myself in, pushing myself through a crack in the wall and into the alley behind it. An acrid scent fills my nostrils, and smoke rises from between the boards. They aren't trying to kill me, at least.

Pausing for a moment, I light the Tornado stick hanging from my lips and take a deep drag. My head spins for a moment, and then I find clarity. I've got to move.

"Dammit!" I hear someone shout behind me, "He got out!"

An American. What is an American doing looking for me? I clamour across the cobblestones, dragging in more of my drug to awaken me. My breath is coming in ragged gasps as I rush around the corner and deeper into the alley. Running, always running. Something in my mind says no more running. The alley stretches out in a cul de sac dead end before me.

Garbage strewn everywhere. Footsteps, coming down the alley. I reach down into sacks filled with refuse, and push my body flat on the ground as I can as I cover myself in waste. A glass bottle hits the cobblestones before me with a dull glassy clunk, and I breathe a sigh of relief that it has not shattered.

In my filthy camouflage, I await my pursuers. The first rounds the corner; he is not dressed as an Englishman would. Indeed, he's barely dressed as any self-respecting man would be. He's close, not noticing me yet, and I shrink back closer to the curb.

A noxious wave of fumes assails my nostrils. There is a grate here, rank with the smell of sewage. My fight or flight instinct tells me perhaps this a good escape route as the next man rounds the corner. The first is headed to a doorway, and this one follows.

As they enter, one more fellow comes around, more cautiously than his companions before him. His eyes scan the area, and something tells him that something is not right. As he passes closer to me, I can see the suspicion in his eyes.

My foot whips out to catch him behind his ankle. The man barely has time to let out a small part of his cry before he falls heavily onto his back. His skull strikes the cobblestones with a wet crunch, and I can see his blood begin to leak out and down between the cracks. He makes a gurgling noise, too slight really to catch someone's attention, but I gag him with some rotten banana peels all the same.

He's wet himself. This somehow strikes me as funny. I have to supress an urge to giggle like a mad schoolgirl.

That's when I hear the footsteps coming back through the doorway. The first man steps around, and I raise the cheap pistol and fire in the same motion. The bullet strikes him high in the throat, close to his jawline. A thick arterial spray of blood jets from between the fingers he clasps to his neck.

I am laughing. God help me, I am laughing. The other fellow is pulling something out of his jacket pocket. So I shoot him too. I am aiming for his head, but he seems to twist just right and catches the bullet in his elbow instead. He gives a little scream, which seems to thrill me quite handily, and flops onto the ground.

Something drives me to stride to him, while putting another bullet into his kneecap. He howls again. My other hand grips a rotten, threadbare scarf, and I jam it into his mouth to silence him.

"Now, I am going to talk, and you are going to listen, my friend," I growl at him.

Looking over at the man whose throat is jettisoning his life, I see he is still kicking and choking. I turn my captive audience's head to watch, and the point my pistol at the man's heart. I pull the trigger, and am appalled at my terrible aim. It seems I've struck him in the groin, causing him more pain. A wicked grin crosses my face for a moment.

I pull the trigger again, and the bullet spreads the back of the man's head across the cobblestones. The gent I am holding retches noisomely, and I club him across the face with the butt of my pistol.

"You are getting me all filthy with that wretched puking, you bastard!" I cackle.

My hands move through his pockets as I speak.

"I am leaving you alive for a reason, you little sh*t," I growl.

He whimpers.

"I want you to tell whoever it is that sent you after me that they need to stay the f*ck away from me. I am tired of running, now. I am going to bite back!"

He's got a knife in his pocket, some nifty little folding job made of chrome; it's long, definitely longer than legal. It flicks open at my touch, and my eyes are drawn to its razor-honed length. Beads of sweat course down the man's forehead and cheeks in testament to his pain and fear.

I smile to him, leaning closer.

"Such a pretty, sharp friend you have here," I mutter. The voice almost doesn't sound as though it is mine.

The man tries to clamour away, broken as he is.

"It glitters, so pretty, gleams so lovely," I note in amazement. Then I notice he's moving away.

I slice open the back of his heel, the knife cutting deeply, severing his achilles tendon. He howls mutedly.

"Oh, it hurts, does it? Well, let's see how it feels for you to have little pieces taken out of you for a change. You've been picking me apart for some time now, haven't you? Picking and picking, cutting and cutting, and oh it's time for someone else to hurt."

He's crying. I hear his sobs. The knife flashes. The air is decorated with lovely flying scarlet dots.

I smile.


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 Post subject: 30.
PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 11:08 pm 
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There is a secret place I’ve long had within my mind. It is a retreat, a place of comfort, a place where I can take solace. It is a home away from my own mind, and has been a place away from many of the horrors I have been presented with in my brief time upon this thing most call life.

I think I have always known that Alexander was there, watching. We never spoke until recently, when my troubles began, but he has been my constant companion since my earliest conscious days. Now, however, we are speaking more than before in this secret place.

Although events that have occurred in the past have created within me a longing to retreat, nothing so much has quite frightened me like this has. I’ve seen in my younger days the horrors of industrial accidents leading to gruesome death and agonizing dismemberment, the mind-numbing days of repetitive labor. I’ve seen itinerant farmers gunned down ruthlessly by landowners when attempting to acquire food to give their starving families. I’ve seen street people cut each other open over cigarette butts. And I’ve even seen what the Scriveners do to scope riders they catch intruding in their systems.

All horrifying on some level, and yet none are anything compared to this.

I have been invaded, you see. I am no longer myself.

I’ve seen myself shooting another man in the head, and cutting another man into bloody chunks while interrogating him now. But it wasn’t me at the helm. I wasn’t the pilot, wasn’t in the driver’s seat.

It isn’t me now, skulking towards the home of Lucas Storm’s family deep in the night. It isn’t me with the knives clenched in my fists, thinking of the delicious sounds they will make as I flay the skin in delicate layers from their bones. I am certainly not the one thinking about raping my own sister just so that I can see the look in her eyes as her brother force fucks her.

I’m raging inside, in my secret space. I am seething at the damage that the creature who has taken my body intends to do.

“Patience, Michael. The thing will slip, it doesn’t understand this world. It doesn’t understand the people fully. It will slip, and then you will have your chance to cast it out,” Alexander tells me softly as I pace within my mind.

“How the hell can I get it out? How? It’s controlling me! Completely controlling me.”

“We are still here aren’t we, Michael. Still where we have always been able to find ourselves. Most people wouldn’t be, you know. But you aren’t most people.”

“And what the hell does that mean exactly?”

“I think you’ve known all along that you aren’t like most people, Michael. There is definitely something different about you, and it’s much more than you even suspect.”

I laugh.

“But you know, and you are about to tell me, aren’t you?” I spit out sarcastically.

“Oh, why yes, I know, Michael. I know all of the truth. Because I am that part of you that you don’t recognize. But truth is always something that the seeker must find on their own, it cannot be fed to them otherwise they often deny it even if it is plain to them that it is, indeed, truth. So no, I will not tell you. You wouldn’t allow me.”

Alexander begins to evince his infuriating habit of licking between his legs when he’s avoiding answering a question. I grumble, though I know it will be to no effect.

I have to think of something, before this demon makes me do more things I do not wish to do. I have to come up with something to save my sister and Elle from its depredations to be perpetrated by my own hands. And I have to come up with an idea to keep it from getting me killed before I can come up with the answers to all of my riddles.

It is quite unhappy that I have this space, and it rails and pushes against my walls. But it cannot get in. And suddenly, a light which I had not seen before begins to shine.

I have an idea.


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 Post subject: 31.
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 12:33 am 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Church bells ring from nearby; the sound is vaguely disturbing to my current house guest, although I can’t say I truly feel sorry for him. He is, after all, a parasite. A parasite who has taken my body from me. No, no sympathies whatsoever.

I feel the moments slip away through my mind as my body moves of an alien accord, to an agenda that is not my own. It’s rather a disturbing thing, believe me. Yet I feel a wave of calm come over me. I hope and pray that this calm will carry me when the time comes. And that time will be soon.

I’m in the house of Lucas Storm, leader of the Northumbrian Republican Movement, revolutionary and murderer. My feet slide soundlessly over the family flat’s wooden floor with a skill I’ve never possessed. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill everyone here, but it won’t be me that does the killing. Calm, I must remain calm and not let panic take over or else the beast that is now me will have won.

A straight razor had taken care of the guards outside of the flat quickly and quietly. Yet there are no guards here inside. I find it strange, remembering how protective of their leader the fanatical NRM members I had met before were. So strange that I think something is amiss. But my current motivational force doesn’t seem to either recognize that or care.

My suspicion is confirmed as I am forced to enter the first of the three small bedrooms in the flat. There’s no one there. The room is devoid of occupants or the accoutrements of occupancy. Then there is a sound at the front door. My body slides into shadow, pressing deep into the corner of the small bedroom.

“Looks like a razor did it,” someone says.

“Go upstairs and wake up Storm, someone’s here,” says another.

The sound of the shuffle of feet, the front door closing, and the breathing of another man in the small family room fill my ears. So now they know that I am here.

“It’s almost time,” Alexander says, “You know how we are going to have to play this, don’t you Michael?”

I nod, deep inside of myself.

And then I feel my body launch soundlessly towards the family room. I am like a blur, and the man never sees me coming as he works on laying out his dead friend upon the couch. The razor blade slips under his chin and opens his throat. He falls to the ground face first, rolls there clutching at his neck and trying to stem the tide of his spilling life for a few moments, then drops back still as a stone.

He’s a nice little pepperbox in his pocket, which I am lifting in my right hand, testing the weight of, and smiling over. But wait, there’s more! His gloves, they have some nice little lead pellet-filled pockets around the knuckles. I strip them from him and don them myself. Then I pick up his dapper little derby from where it dropped on the floor and put it on, pulling the brim down a bit. I try to strip his leather duster from him, but it’s soaked in blood. Not very useful for a disguise. This will have to do, my controller decides.

It’s getting very bold now, this thing that calls itself Cassius. It’s planning on walking right into Storm’s room. This is surely going to get me killed. I can’t deduce exactly what it must be thinking. I’m too busy trying to remain calm. But Alexander pipes up, as always.

“It doesn’t care if you get killed and likely I think it wants you to die. Michael, all it has to do is get close enough for you to touch Storm before you die, and then it’s going to move from you to him.”

The thought of the havoc such a demon could wreak with such zealous followers stuns me for a moment. Then I let calm slip over me.

“Two birds with one stone, Michael,” Alexander says, smiling.

I am outside of myself again, watching as I climb from the window onto the ledge outside and move to grip a rainpipe. The demon swings my body with agility and strength, climbing up the pipe and to the next floor. I feel its rage pumping through my body, readying me to keep going until its purpose is served.

I see the family room as I look cautiously over the lip of the window. Storm is there, as is my sister Sarah, and three other men. Rexelle, my lovely Elle, she is tied to a chair. I’ve almost forgotten what was going on before all of this began. They are holding her captive to ensure that I’ve performed a task for them, the theft of highly sensitive military documents from the Scope.

Then the front door opens. A man speaks hurriedly, gestures to the other men in the room, and they draw weapons, large, ugly, box-shaped automatics gripped in white-knuckled fists. The demon who calls itself Cassius chooses this time to act. While their backs are still turned to it, it launches my body up and into the window, through it.

The crash of glass and the thunder of the pepperbox in my right hand draws their attentions swiftly, but two of the men are spun back around by the force of the bullets from the little pepperbox. Storm is reaching for what looks like an autorifle. I lean over with impossible grace and lash out with my left hand. The razor slices through skin, muscle, tendon, and jars into bone. Lucas Storm screams, drawing his hand back, and I yank the razor away roughly.

An impact strikes my left shoulder. I look up to see the man in the doorway, holding a small revolver. The pepperbox answers, and his head is reduced to a bloody mess, mostly smearing over the wall behind him.

Rexelle utters a muffled scream. Sarah, too, screams. She screams my name.

Lucas is rolling away from me, and I club him over the head with the pepperbox before he can roll too far. A shot sounds, a burning pain in my right side, and I see the last guard has fired upon me. Closing the distance, I slash across his eyes. He screams and falls. The razor descends across his belly, opening him.

“No, Michael, no, you can’t do this, you can’t!”

Sarah has leapt upon my back, her fingers clawing at my eyes. I reach up and back with the razor, and she falls away with a moan. Cassius notes within my head that he is going to f*ck her with the razor. He’s laughing.

She’s clutching the side of her neck and cheek, scrambling backwards on the floor away from the evil grin I am sure is frightening her as Cassius is using my mouth to tell Sarah what he’s just told me.

I crack the door open just a bit. Cassius is intent. He doesn’t seem to notice.

There’s a crash to the left. Elle has fallen, the chair splintering, and she’s desperately trying to untie herself. Cassius notices that, and swings me towards her. He wants her now. And there’s a deafening roar, and the weight of a zeppelin crashes into my back, and I am toppling forward.

Lucas Storm lies on the floor across from me as I kick myself onto my back to look for my assailant. He’s shot me in the back. Sarah is reaching for a pistol on the floor. The pepperbox speaks again, and Sarah jerks as her midsection begins to spill blood over the floor.

Then Storm is on me, a knife coming down. My arm moves to catch it just in time, hand dropping the pepperbox to catch his wrist. My other hand comes across, moving to slice away a good portion of his earlobe. He’s forcing his hand down, pushing the knife towards my face, and that’s when I see it. Cassius is gathering his energy to make the transfer.

I let the door in my mind fly open wide, calling Cassius out. He turns, sees the look on my face and then knows what I am going to do next. So I do it. I don’t really know how to describe it, I just flex. And Cassius is suddenly in the space within my mind. I close that door and lock it. He shrieks his rage at his sudden captivity.

Storm’s knife sinks into my chest. Now I feel pain. I can cry out. I can also lift up the straight razor with what strength I have left and slash the blade hard over Storm’s throat. He falls heavily over me, warming me with his blood.

Elle rolls him away.

“Oh, Jesus, oh Michael, oh, you’re dying, you’ve gone and gotten yourself killed, oh!”

She is crying. I reach up weakly to brush away the tears. Her hand curls over the hilt of the combat knife in my chest. I try to bat it away.

“Leave it!” I rasp, “No time.”

“But it’s got to come out!”

I shake my head.

“Is there a zepcar here?” I wheeze to her.

She nods, confusion in her eyes.

“You have to take me somewhere. You have to take me somewhere, and keep me awake, Elle, my darling,” I smile at her weakly.

“Help me up.”

She struggles with me, but I rise. I see Sarah, lying there in a pool of her own blood. She’s not breathing. I tell myself I will have to weep later. We stagger to the zepcar outside. Fortunately there are no more guards, but I’ve picked up a pair of autopistols on the way out just in case. My left leg doesn’t seem to work right, it drags the ground limply.

Elle’s still crying. She helps me into the zepcar, closes the door after fastening me in, then gets in on the driver’s side. There are keys in her hand but in the haze of grey that’s come over me I don’t remember where she got them.

“Where are we going? Where?”

I can barely speak. She leans over, and nods at my hoarse whisper of an address. And my need for a tab.

“Mother Ghedri,” I croak as blood fills my mouth.

“Keep me awake, please,” I say, but she can’t hear me.

The darkness is sliding in.

“Don’t worry Michael,” Alexander says, “I’ll watch after things in here. Rest.”

And I let the tide take me into its cool embrace.


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 Post subject: 32.
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:15 am 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
It’s June 9, 1984. Or so the ragged remnants of the calendar on the wall of this run-down coffin building in Makersfield tells me. It’s been four months since Mother Ghedri exorcised the thing that calls itself Cassius from my body. It’s not dead; who knows for sure if demons can die? I intend to find out.

My body is wasted and scarred from the demon’s usage. I’ve just managed to stand again, and walking is a painful task. When confronted by Mother Ghedri, Cassius broke free of the prison I had built for him of my mind. Enraged, he had nearly torn my body asunder in attempting to physically embody himself in the Prime. Alexander and I had fought him off as best we could during his attempts to manifest, but it was Mother Ghedri who had stood unwaveringly in the face of Cassius’ assault and finally won out.

Four months is a long time to lay in a bed, incapable of moving, and Roxelle has cared for me all this time. By hiding out in an abandoned building in the worst slum of the Great Metropolis, we’ve rendered ourselves practically invisible. And, although my body has nearly been destroyed, my mind is sharpened by my ordeal. Despite my confinement to a bed, I have not lain idle.

In the ‘Scope, I can walk, and talk without stuttering. In the ‘Scope, I can be whatever I want to be, do whatever I want to do. And what I want to do is find a way to get to the truth. The truth behind why this has happened. The truth behind what is going on. The data contained in the file I stole for the NRM holds that truth.

It’s in the hands of the government again. A daring raid upon a suspected NRM cell’s bolt-hole recovered stolen information vital to the Empire and the Redcoats’ bravery in the line of fire ended another terrorist threat to our Great Nation, or so said the National News a few days after I killed Lucas Storm and his patsies while under demonic influence. I’m not yet sure where it’s being stored, but I am sending out feelers.

I’ve given up tabs, since Roxelle has provided me with a beaten but serviceable portable Scope point. Tornado was a hard thing to beat, becoming reliant as I was upon its effects to perform. My body likely can’t stand the punishment it delivers now, anyway.

Roxelle has friends who are helping us stay under the government’s sight. Friends like Jack Sprat. I don’t blame the man for running from Cassius any longer. If I had even an inkling of what the creature was, or perhaps had not been so full of hubris, I would have too.

While Jack and his ‘Scope rider friends are in awe of my story, and of the raw talent I show while I am in the ‘Scope, they have the experience and skills I need to find the truth. I’ve been learning a lot from them. The gang and I have been spending a lot of time together.

There’s Little Mary, a Catholic school girl from a good industrialist family who sneaks away from home at night to run the ‘Scope. There’s Wei, a Chinese expatriate who won’t talk about his past but specializes in ‘Scope combat to an extent that can only be described as military training. There’s Bobby Z, an American code cracker extraordinaire. And then there’s Roxelle, who’s been living a double life as a Scrivener while riding the ‘Scope on her off time.

We’ve made a few practice runs as a team now. I think we can handle whatever security the Association of Licensed Scriveners can throw at us and prevail. And if the data is in the hands of the government again, that’s who we will most certainly have to hit to find it again. I haven’t told anyone my plan yet. But Roxelle knows deep down that this is what we will have to do.

Tomorrow night. I talk to the group tonight, tell them everything that’s going on in my head. And then tomorrow night, the truth shall set me free.


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 Post subject: 33.
PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:21 am 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
The Bubble Club, New London. The group assembled before me consists of several of the most skilled scope riders in the world. Or so Jack tells me.

Roxelle sits beside me, hand in mine under the table. Jack’s across from me; he’s been listening to my plan, all the while scribbling on a notepad furiously. Little Mary sits across from me; she’s been making eyes at me this whole time. Wei is ultra-cool in his dark grey business suit and mirrored sunglasses beside Jack, none of what I’ve said seeming to ruffle him in the slightest. Only Bobby Z, as he sits across from Roxelle, seems even in the slightest nervous.

“You’re crazy,” he says.

I smile back at him.

“Perhaps,” I reply, “but you’ve got to admit it will work if we stick to the plan. And when we are finished, anything you find of value is yours to keep.”

His eyes tell me that it’s definitely something he considers worthwhile to attempt, but he’s still not sure if it can be done.

“Never tried to crack the Association before, should be interesting. Their drones are top-notch. Even if we do go in from the inside, it’ll be tough.”

“So are you in, then?” I reply, letting a bit of impatience show through in my tone.

Bobby Z nods

“Everyone?” I ask, meeting the eyes of each around the table one by one.

“Sure,” Little Mary drawls, the tip of her pink tongue darting out over her pouting lips as she looks into my eyes.

Wei nods almost imperceptibly.

Jack’s broad grin assures me of his intentions.

Roxelle’s hand squeezes mine in reassurance.

“Then let’s go shopping,” I say to them with a wide grin.

“We meet back here tomorrow night at nine,” Roxelle says as she slides out of the booth.

Everyone rises, and slips out of the bar one by one. Roxelle takes my hand. She smiles nervously at me.

“Michael,” she says breathlessly, looking into my eyes.

I wait for her to continue.

“There’s something we have to do before we go back.”

I look at her curiously.

“Just take my hand, and come with me.”

She leads me from the bar, and through the streets of New London. We walk for a good while, holding hands. She brushes up against me, arm sliding about my waist, as we arrive at the New London Excelsior. It’s a virtual hotel, catering to the needs of the ultra-wealthy while they stay in the ‘Scope.

“Smith,” she says to the clerk as we reach the desk.

Her fingers, entwined in mine, are shaking slightly. He hands her a key, with a slight smile at the two of us.

“Enjoy your stay at the Excelsior,” he says with a hint of suggestion.

I follow Roxelle to the elevator, and into the room once it reaches our floor. She turns to face me, eyes looking into mine.

“I want to be with you, Michael,” she says huskily.

I can only nod in reply. My body’s too wasted for this. Only here in the ‘Scope can we actually realize the passions we hold for each other. Here, I can make love to Roxelle. And I take her into my arms, our lips meeting finally, to drink deeply of each other. My foot pushes the door shut behind us.


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 Post subject: 4215-0831.34
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:58 am 
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And so it’s all come down to this moment in time. The six of us stand here, nerves on ragged edge and jumpy, looking up the glittering length of the New London Central Administration Tower. Droplets of rain fall down from the midnight sky, spattering upon our scope leathers.

The vast majority of the civil servants who populate this place during the daylight hours in the Prime have gone home, or are otherwise out for the night. This definitely doesn’t mean the place is empty, however. The security measures will be tighter than ever.

Looking to my left, I see Jack Sprat in his carefully tailored evening suit of leather and dapper top hat. His eyes sparkle, and his lips are moving silently in the never-ending utterance of numeric evaluations which are his obsession.

To Jack’s left stands Wei, in a close fitting jumpsuit with his hood pulled down to his mirrored goggles, and a leather half-mask in place over his face below his eyes. A long leather coat covers his twin automatic pistols and the straight sword he carries.

Bobby Z is ahead and to the right of me. He’s got a sneer of disdain on his face as he looks up the Tower. He’s waiting for Little Mary, who stands beside him, to make her move.

She stands at the base of the Tower, hands running over the stone wall. Dressed in an extremely short, dark plaid schoolgirl’s skirt and a close-fitted black blouse, which ensemble accentuates her slim yet sensual figure, she looks back to Z with a crooked grin. Little Mary then jumps up, and as she’s planting her feet on the side of the building, begins to walk straight up the side of it.

Roxelle grabs my arm as we walk to the side of the building. I look deep into her lovely eyes, and she leans in and kisses me gently upon the lips. She tastes of strawberries.

“Be careful, m’love,” she whispers in my ear as her teeth run over the lobe.

I squeeze her hand, smile reassuringly.

And then we follow Little Mary, walking up the side of the Tower.

Indirect access such as this to a place which I used to access routinely from a desk in Chorlton-Cum-Hary, Building 203, has got me on end. I remember well the security measures of the Association. Breaking into the physical building itself and accessing from there might have been easier, perhaps, but Bobby Z was in New York, and I would barely have been able to walk there myself.

Fortunately, I had been able to acquire through a proxy a stealth program from Comstock, a rather skilled program-crafter whose acquaintance I had made some time ago. Although Comstock had written in some protections, it had been a breeze for Bobby Z to crack and then replicate the program. I’m fair certain that this program will be the key to our success this night.

The cool night air chills my neck, and I pull my collar closer. Alexander wriggles within my coat, pressing himself closer to me. Roxelle’s fingers find and then close about my own as we ascend.

The 68th floor.

That’s where Little Mary stops, and we all circle a window. The glass is mirrored and we can’t see in. Bobby Z takes his place, kneeling at the ledge of the window. From his coat, Bobby takes out a glass cutter and a large suction cup, and begins his work. Wei stands over him, at the ready, drawing his large automatics and screwing on a pair of silencers.

After agonizing moments of painstaking caution, Bobby pulls away a large circle of glass. Wei dives into the room beyond, guns first. After a few moments, he quietly signals us to enter. One by one, we dive into the room. Bobby Z is last, replacing the glass he had removed and carefully again sealing it back to the window.

This is my Scrivener office in the ‘Scope. The room is much as I had last left it, though it was surely assigned to someone new by this time. The desk was neatly arranged with stacks of file folders of documents ready to be filed away at the start of the next business day. Jack moved to the folders, scanning them quickly.

Part of the deal was to the victors go the spoils, and anything in the Tower is fair game. There’s nothing here that attracts his attention, though. He looks to me and shrugs. I know there’s not much likelihood that the new clerk who would have taken my position would have been assigned anything too important just yet.

The security cameras in the room are already disabled. Having heard no alert, I can assume that the stealth program is just as effective as Comstock had claimed, and that Wei had disabled them with ease and economy. The Chinaman stands by the door to the room at alert. A door I had never opened myself in all the time I had worked for the Association.

Sucking in a breath, I drop to my knees at the door and reach into my overcoat. In the inside pocket is the drone I had designed for surveillance. Upon the tip of my glove, it looks like little more than a speck of dust. I push my finger against the base of the door, and the mote-drone slips between the tiny crack and out into the hallway.

Closing my eyes and concentrating, I initiate its search subroutine and direct it to the Hall of Records. The tiny drone’s eyes become mine, and I see what it sees as it floats down the hallway towards its goal. The security along its pathway is just as I remember it, with little change. It slips through the cracks effortlessly.

While the drone performs its search, we are readying ourselves for the assault on the surveillance center keyed to watch over the Hall of Records. While it is largely run by drones, the surveillance center always has one human operator overseeing it. This is where speed will be of the essence, and surprise the key.

I move my hands over my scope leathers slowly, bleeding away the black coloration and bleaching them white. They become looser, and begin to take on the shape and consistency of a cloth smock, with bold black numbers upon the front and back of it. My face shifts, and I see my companions watching me closely as I transform.

I am Grigson now. I take hold of the door handle and swing it open, stepping out into the hallway. After a few minutes of walking, it takes me to the surveillance center. I step in arrogantly, matching the swagger of the man I am impersonating. The fellow watching the surveillance cameras seems surprised at my presence.

“Mr. Grigson, sir! I certainly wasn’t expecting you tonight!”

He’s not watching the cameras. I smile inside as my eyes cross the Scope channel he’s watching, Indigo Starr Entertainment. Porn. A typical nightwatchman from the penny dreadfuls. I let my face fall into a frown.

“Havershad, is it?” I say to him as I eye his ID badge, “Just what in hell do you think you are doing? I’ve a mind to report you forthwith, but as I am feeling forgiving today and I’ve quite a bit of work to do, I’ll pay this no mind for now. Log off, son. I’m about to run a full-spectrum test of the security measures, and I don’t want anyone getting in the way or getting hurt.”

My tone brooks no back-talk, or interference. I’m hoping I sound enough like Grigson to cow this man. He rises, nodding furiously, a rat in a corner.

“Y-y-yes, Sir, I’ll log off right now, Sir!”

“And son – report to me in the morning. We’ll be having a few words, you and I.”

The fellow makes himself scarce swiftly. I keep a watch on his presence as he fades from the ‘Scope, releasing his consciousness back to the Prime. I then set to logging Havershad back into the surveillance system’s registry. After that is completed, I begin setting all of the surveillance cameras to loop their recording of the last ten seconds indefinitely, and disable all of the laser tripwires.

I rise from the command chair, and begin to make my way over to the Hall of Records, and rap at the door to my former office to draw my companion’s attention. As they exit to join me on my walk, my drone reports back that it has found files relevant to my set search parameters.

“Search is done, security disabled,” I tell my companions.

Bobby Z breaks away from the group to head for the surveillance center. Within moments, he will slip in the code he’s designed to crash the system. We’ll have about five minutes to find what we came in here for.

As we approach the Hall of Records, Jack Sprat initiates his Glitch drone. It’s designed to crash other drones, and appears as a small ball of crackling lightning. It rounds the bend ahead of us, seeking out its target.

Wei draws his straight sword and moves in first. Little Mary follows close behind him. The sounds of combat have already begun as Jack, Roxelle and I turn the corner.

A great double door of studded iron stands before us. On either side of the doorway is a large suit of shining archaic plate armor. Each of the guardians has moved away from the doorway slightly to engage Wei and Little Mary. They are Hardwalls programmed to block egress to the Hall of Records to any save a very specific list of persons.

Wei and Little Mary are distracting their opponents well enough so that the Hardwalls do not notice Jack’s Glitch moving to the door itself. It touches the doors and, with a crackle of electrical sparks, joins with them. A split second later, the great iron doorway shudders and fades from existence.

Wei needs no assistance with his drone. He ducks beneath an arced slash of the great knight’s blade, then ducks in quickly to slice the drone in half at the waist. Little Mary, however, is not so fortunate. As she cartwheels to try and escape her knight’s wrath, its blade takes her left arm from the shoulder, and she sprawls across the hallway floor crying out in pain.

I step forward, my automatics drawn, and unleash a salvo at the Hardwall. Two of the bullets whine off its armor, but one punches through its midsection and another through the gorget guarding its throat. The drone stumbles backwards through the now-opened doorway.

Roxelle moves to help Little Mary, while Jack dashes through the doorway and among the vast labyrinth of filing cabinets that is the Hall of Records. Wei finishes off the Hardwall with a quick thrust of his straight sword through the visor of its helmet, and it crashes, fading from view.

“Four minutes!” I shout to the group as we spread out in the depths of the maze, homing in on my search-drone’s blinking light.

Roxelle and Little Mary find it first, calling out to the rest of us so that we can find them. Three minutes and counting. Wei stands guard whilst I pull the fat file from the cabinet, and begin to scan it. Roxelle has bound Little Mary’s wounded arm, and the poor little girl grimaces in pain as she leans on Roxelle’s shoulder.

But the file’s not all here. There’s great chunks of it missing, the important chunks. They are scrambled, filed elsewhere as a further security measure. Jack steps in to initiate a search for the missing portions while I complete the download of the remainder.

The sudden sound of Wei’s steel clearing its scabbard draws my attention.

He is softly whispering, “Trouble.”

I look up to see a trio of huge clockwork golems moving through the labyrinth of filing cabinets, inexorably moving towards us. They are wearing gleaming steel red coats. I’ve heard of them but never once seen one. My task done, I draw my automatics again to stand ready with Wei. Jack continues his search, a frown on his face. Roxelle gently sets Little Mary down on the ground beside Jack to move beside me with a pair of straight razors in her hands.

Redcoat Scope combat operatives. And they’ve seen us. There’s only one reason they would be here. Someone knew we were coming.

“MilTech industrial domain,” Jack mutters.

“Is there a door to there in here somewhere?” I snap in reply.

The Redcoats are approaching swiftly. Out of the corner of my eye, a shadow flits across the top of the filing cabinets.

“We’ll have to jump the rails to get there,” Jack replies grimly.

“You’ve got to go; give me your guns, I’ll hold them off,” Little Mary says to me in a pained voice.

“We will,” Wei replies, his eyes set on the advancing golems.

I nod, handing Little Mary my automatics, and then grabbing Roxelle’s hands.

“What about Bobby Z?” Jack asks me.

“He’ll have his own problems if he can’t get out of here in two minutes or less. But we have to get the rest of that file now!”

With that, I head in the opposite direction of the Redcoats into the labyrinth of filing cabinets. Grigson’s office is on the other end somewhere, and perhaps there we will find a door to the MilTech domain. Or at least any exit, before this system comes crashing down.

Roxelle’s hand tightens on mine at the sound of my automatics firing behind us. We hear Wei let out a loud battle cry. The crashing thunder of the Redcoats’ guns is deafening. Roxelle winces, a tear in the corner of one eye. Jack’s footsteps are right behind us as we round the last corner, and stand before Grigson’s office. The door is standing wide open.

“Something’s not right,” Jack offers, putting a hand to my shoulder as I am about to step through the doorway.

He puts on his spectrograph goggles, begins to analyze the doorway. A shrill, girlish scream punctuates the end of a long burst of autogun fire behind us.

“Sabotage,” Jack mutters as he grinds his teeth.

He then begins rattling off a long stream of numbers which seem completely unconnected to me as his hands pass over the doorway. They begin to gleam with a silvery light, as does the air in the doorway. Roxelle and I step back warily as Jack begins to move chunks of glowing air.

“Gotcha, you bastid,” he says, a grin spreading across his face.

And then the doorway explodes in his face, splintering into a cloud of thousands of whirling shards of wood and metal. I throw my cloak over myself and turn to cover Roxelle, and we are lifted up and off of our feet. My arms feel crushed by the impact against the filing cabinets behind us, and we both groan as we rise from the floor to our feet.

Jack’s avatar is nowhere to be seen. He’s crashed.

“Goddammit!” I shout over the din of the autoguns behind us.

Looking over my shoulder, I see only one Redcoat remains standing. Before us, the shattered door to Grigson’s office hangs open. Through his window stretches the lights of New London.

In the shimmering light of a portal beyond and to the left stands a figure. It looks back at us. My own face is grinning back at me. Upon the stark white cotton suit shirt “I” am wearing, I can read the numbers 4215-0831 quite plainly.


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 Post subject: 4215-0831.35
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 9:27 am 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
Bobby Z = 2 + 15 (6) + 2 + 2 + 25 (7) + 26 (8) = 27 = 9 = Completion; everything’s come full circle with the moment he walked into the MilTech system’s doorway.

What you don’t know can, in fact, hurt you. Badly.

But sometimes, the smallest things can save you.

For instance, Jack hadn’t known at the time he’d assembled his group of Scope rider friends that one among them was an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency who had been on the trail of the same document which we were coming to this very spot in the ‘Scope to liberate. Nor had any of us known this same individual had instigated the entire chain of events which had lead to our gathering through their impersonation of me five months ago.

My head is spinning as I lie here on the floor of the hovel in Makersfield. The body stretched across my lap is still warm, my hands trembling and aching from choking the life from the still form but moments ago. My heart still hammers with rage. The sirens are outside now, and I know that they have come for me. I can’t escape them; not only is it too late to run, but my scarred and wasted body cannot carry me much farther in any case.

I swallow the hard lump in my throat, close my eyes, and lean back against the bed I had fallen from in my struggle to live one more day, to find the truth, to find my answers. It’s all over now and, although the answers have been right in front of my face this whole time, every shred of evidence points directly to me as the culprit.

As my hand reaches up to lift the skull-net I have been recording my experiences and memories with from my brow, I flood my thoughts with memories of the moments just before this. Memories that begin with looking into my own eyes across a doorway in etherspace.

Roxelle and I leapt for the doorway in time with one another, intent upon discovering the identity of my impersonator as well as recovering what we had come here for before he did. He had swept her aside with ease as though she were but a waif. I, however, had forced my way past him and into the room beyond.

I had known that I must defeat him before any attempts at finding my prize, but as I said before, sometimes the little things save you. Alexander had jumped free of my coat and disappeared among the rows of carefully-stacked file boxes. It had been his intention to search while I fought this imposter.

Roxelle had remained sprawled across the floor in a heap, and so I had positioned myself between her and the fellow. He grinned at me; it had been most uncanny to see my own eyes look upon me with hatred and malign intent. His motions, indeed, seemed to mirror mine as we struck blow for blow and blocking each with an ease gained through some inner knowledge of what each would do next.

“I have it, Michael!” Alexander had called out.

I had not been able to respond, exerting myself so thoroughly as I was with, well… myself.

And then, Bobby Z had walked in through the door, with a cocky grin.

“I’ve managed to-”

And that was when the shot had taken him in the throat. But it had not been from outside of the MilTech system’s doorway. As he had fallen through the doorway, avatar fading rapidly as blood poured from the wound in his neck, my gaze had sought out the source of that shot even as I defended myself from another strike.

I am sure that my eyes had echoed the confusion in my soul at that moment. And a small smile of victory curved over the lips of the one who had been my tormentor all along.

Continuing my lessons from Jack Sprat:

Roxelle = 18 (9) + 15 (6) + 24 (6) + 5 + 12 (3) + 12 (3) + 5 = 10. Which, curiously, if one were using Cassius’ previously-presented rulings upon numerological study, would end at 10 and thus represent Rebirth. Or, using Jack’s method, would reduce to 1, representing an aggressor, or… instigator.

She had leveled her pistol at me then, finger poised upon the trigger.

“Sorry, Michael,” she had said, finger tensing.

“If you kill me here, we’re only a few feet away from each other at home. I’ll-”

I never got to finish my retort. Laughing, she had pulled the trigger.

I had come to in the hovel with only moments to spare. What Roxelle didn’t know is that, although I had broken myself of my usage of Tornado, I still kept a small vial of Go, a powdered form of Tornado, on my person. Although I would never have suspected her, I have been extremely paranoid throughout my ordeal.

I could not have completed my task without Alexander’s aid. Whilst I slid onto the floor at the foot of my bed, he ran Roxelle in a merry chase for the file she had been set to acquire. She had thought me too weak to do anything. And what she hadn’t known, I had used to hurt her. She’d been too late to stop me in her arrogance.

Alexander would be waiting for me when I jacked in again. He would be waiting for me with the file. But now the first of the Redcoats enters the hovel, sees me with Roxelle’s body draped across my lap. He sweeps his autogun’s ugly black, stubby barrel up to face me, and I can see eternity down its length.

“Don’t move!”

One of my hands lets the upload capsule which has stored all of this surreptitiously slide from my fingertips and into a crack in the floor. The other pulls free the skull-net.

Black.


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 Post subject: Epilogue
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:57 am 
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Location: Somewhere in the CAS
A figure slides through the New London alleyway. It moves swiftly across the spotless flagstones, a long shadow behind it. Next to the long shadow, a smaller one moves.

“So where are we going now?” a small, soft voice whispers.

“Well, I’m done with politics for a while. Time to relax a bit. I thought we’d go to Paris, perhaps.”

“What would we be doing now if you hadn’t swallowed those tabs before the Redcoats showed up?” the smaller shadow whispers, rubbing up against the larger.

“Don’t know about you, but I would probably be dead inside that prison,” the larger replies with a bit of sarcasm.

“So who were those people you met with in Haven, the ones who set you up to be transferred to the camp and escape?”

The larger pauses for a moment, looking thoughtful.

“Friends, Alexander. I’m sure they were friends. The girl said her name was Hattie. Hattie Clintock. They knew about the file, and about the camp. They knew about the people that were being held there. Those people were just like me. Just like us. And so was Hattie.”

“What was that place, Michael?”

“All I know for certain is that it was bad. Experiments, nasty experiments. But we are done with that now.”

“Well, we have to do something to keep you in tabs now, smart guy. They took your implant, after all.”

“I’m sure I will think of something. In the meantime, stop calling me Michael. That’s not my name anymore. I’ve destroyed everything that ever documented my old life and we’ve now a chance at a new one, and I am definitely not going to mux that up by giving myself the same damned name and others the chance to track me down with it.”

“Well, I can’t go around calling you arsehole all the time, can I?”

Their jaunt reaches the very ends of New London, with the Wall stretching before them.

The man who used to be called Michael reaches up to his chest.

“Whoops, forgot something; don’t really need this anymore.”

He takes something from around his neck, and flings it away as the two of them step through to float in the Ether.

As the card floats upon the Ether flow, an eight-digit number can be read upon its surface.

As the two move deeper into the darkness ahead of them, the man pushes a pair of goggles down over his eyes.

“So do you think anyone’s found your story yet?”

The man turns suddenly, the light from his goggles a blinding flash which you barely avoid by putting one hand up to your eyes. Just as suddenly they flicker out, and in the darkness, all you can see is the flash of the man’s white teeth for a mere moment before the two have disappeared.

“I think so, Alexander. I do, indeed,” replies the man’s fading voice.


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