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Mark 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 2.0

Book 1 Of the legacy Tech Series

Written by Jonathan Taylor

 

 

 

Published by Jonathan Taylor at Shakespir

Copyright 2016 Jonathan Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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| Table of Contents p<>{color:#000;}.  

1 Mark 2.0

2 Mark 1.0

3 The call of home

4. Mark 2.3

5 The Hunt

6 Trains and The Enjoyment Thereof

7 Insight and Introspection

8 Call to Arms

9 Agent Status: Activated

10 House Inspection

11 They of little faith

12 A house divided

13 Strength of (a) Character

14 Legacy

 

 

1 Mark 2.0

Mark

 

Memory recall. Year 10, Day 110, Hour 6, Minute 33, second 17.

 

“Who exactly were the Fallen?” It was a question that was never asked, it did not need to be asked. If you lived through the war, then you would remember them till the day you died even if you forgot everything else. If you were born after the war you knew who they were from the scorched land and ruined cities that they had left behind. Technically they were just ordinary people with an inhuman technological twist. A microchip meant only to allow people to communicate their desires with receptive technology did more that was advertised and allowed people to subconsciously share their most hidden fears and desires with others using the chips and the fears desires only grew in the sharing until they were shared by all who used the chip. And as to the question “What was the war with the Fallen?” Well, when you get the thoughts of a hundred thousand people throbbing in sync you get a new form life and the greatest fear of a living thing is die. It was clear to the combined intellects of all the Fallen, the Fallen hivemind, that there was only room of one form of humanity on the planet and they succeeded at this so but not with the result that they were hoping for and not the result that anyone expected.

 

The human forces had one means to fight the fallen and that was surrender; Surrender, full and absolute, to the very man that had created the Fallen in the first place, Dregor Mercer as he alone could match the intellect with the Fallen hivemind. What was often forgotten about the war with the Fallen was that it was a war of attrition. The great bombardments and airstrikes that levelled cities and cracked tectonic plates apart were over in the first months when there were still bombs aplenty. After the arsenals of earth has been spent the rest of the war was ground forces fighting over the defensive infrastructure left intact. After years of fighting the last Fallen fortresses fell and that race of humanoids hunted down and eradicated. This unexpected outcome of the war was in no small part due, to Dregor’s elusive Cyborg Regiments and the even more elusive Forth Company. Literally formed from spare parts of other armies and united behind a heroic and charismatic leader named commander Reims, The Cyborg Regiments were Dregor’s weapon of choice against the Fallen. They fought and killed like they had been designed for it, they had been designed for it. As a people they kept to themselves, preferring the company of their own kind when the company of dying Fallen was not available. But as secretive and mysterious as the Cyborg Regiments were to the common unadulterated man, The Fourth Company was that again and then some. Only a few people knew who and what The Fourth Company were, they just knew the reports that came in of the thousands of Fallen soldiers and dozens of Hubpoints that the company were accredited for destroying, and that was enough to make them legends and heroes in the eyes of the cyborg and human alike. Not that the Fourth Company cared what the rest of the world thought. They cared received any of the praise in person.

 

On the last day of the war and with the remaining human armies stretched to breaking point but the Fallen at last pushed to the brink of defeat, Dregor mobilized every human that could stumble forward while holding a weapon, all of The Cyborg Regiments that could pull themselves together, and the Fourth Company and sent them each to take one of the three remaining Fallen strongholds in an all or nothing roll of the dice. All three fortresses fell that day, one by one and with the Fourth Companies’ first and as the tipping point for the other two battels even though they were taking place on different continents. After the war was over and all Fallen lay dead, or brain dead, on the last battlefields, the Fourth Companies fabled leader was seen for the last time walking across the battlefield in his silver and blue armour, carrying a Warhammer nearly as big as he was, shattering the broken fortress yet further with hammer and fist, and roaring ungodly screams straight from the depths of Cyborg Rage. These eye witness reports were discarded by historians in the years after the war in belief that the exploits of this unnamed cyborg, and of the Fourth Company on whole, were nothing but humungous exaggerations or complete fiction made up in time that demanded heroes and legends. “If they ever existed…” or so they would ask “…then where are these cyborgs now? Where is this hero you speak of?”

 

It was an insignificant side street in a rundown area of town but nevertheless Mark was there. He wore a black leather jacket that was scattered with bullet holes and with plasma round burn marks all over which in itself is not impressive but it was the way that mark wore the jacket; he wore it while still upright and walking. If this was not ominous enough then you could look at the expression he wore on his face, it radiated raw malevolence. The houses on this street were townhouse, and had been pushed together so tightly by their architect that they literally bludged in the middle. They were all identical, save for the cracked windows and bullet holes which were applied randomly but generously on every building excluding number five that was. Number five was different from its fellow houses in that went beyond the level of maintenance it had received over the years. It had two men stood outside it holding guns and ferocious stances and also Number five was also different that the other houses in that is was currently Mark’s destination. The two men watched him approach step by giant step he and when he got near they pointed their weapons towards him.

‘That’s about close enough’ said one of the guards, a large man that looked like he had never missed a meal in his life. Mark’s pace slowed but his approach didn’t stop entirely.

‘Who are you?’ demanded the guard gesturing at Mark with his gun as emphasis.

‘Your boss said that he had a job for me and that I was to meet with him here’ said Mark in a level, almost lethargic, tone of voice that reverberated in the street.

‘Yeah well we were told of no meeting’ said the man again ‘What’s the name?’

‘Regardless the meeting is still to take place’ said Mark.

‘No one goes through this door without the boss’s permission’ said the man ‘You are going to have to wait out here until we can talk to…’ Mark did not even wait for the sentence to be finished. He didn’t like where the sentence was going and it was a lie anyway. Mark did not have to wait out here or in fact anywhere he did not what to he also did not need anyone’s permission to go where he wanted to go. He had, at this time, no less than two universal security passes on him that had never failed to get him into wherever he wanted before. They were attached to him by arms and called fists. Mark thought for an exact second while the guard spoke his final sentence, enough time for ten thousand thought cycles, and then he moved forward in blur, not that he needed to go far. Mark’s slow gait had taken him quite close to the guards without them realising it. He grabbed the two men by their necks and slammed them hard into the door behind them to the sound of fracturing skulls and guns falling unbidden from unconscious fingers to land the ground with a clatter. Mark studied the guards that now hanging limp from hands, before throwing them to either side. To understand Mark 2.0’s mentality you have to know that that in the thousands of thought cycles he experienced in that second of consideration not one pondered the possibility of a resolution that did not involve violence.

‘I don’t like waiting and my name is Mark.’ He explained to the motionless guards and after another exact second of thought contemplating his next move he opened the door and was shot. This is not typically something one expects when opening a door, in fact, for ninety-nine and so on percent of the population it would have been a surprise but Mark didn’t even blink. For ninety-nine and so on percent of the population it would have been lethal but Mark simply stood and watched the petrified faces of the room’s occupants. They in turn watched the heavy slug fall from the shallow wound on his chest and fall to the floor and land with a clink that reverberated in the silence of the room. It was quiet.

‘Lower your guns, they will not be much use to you this day’ said a fashionably dressed young man stepping into the room from at door at the far side. He was fashionably dressed but in a fashion from a previous decade and at least from another country if not another planet. Six people standing in the living room and at various levels of a stairwell in the corner lowered their guns. The young man turned from calming his crew and looked at Mark.

‘I am surprised you came cyborg’ said the man Mark knew to be called Prince Gavin. His family had ruled this part of town for generations and as everyone knows generation after generation of tyranny turns into monarchy which is somehow not the same thing and something something to be happy about.

‘Why? I said I would’ said Mark.

‘That was before you killed ten of my people last month’ said the Prince without any genuine reproach in his voice. Mark knew he was speaking with a business man, a man that thought or new the price of winning a chess game was a whole lot of dead pawns.

‘That I did’ rumbled Mark casually ‘but it was nothing personal, I was being paid.’

‘And my two men outside, were you paid for them as well?’

‘Oh no they were personal, they got in my way, and besides they will heal…’ Mark paused ‘…in time…’ Mark paused again and admitted ‘…. quite a lot of time perhaps but I did make a moderate effort not do any lasting damage. This I might one day be paid to kill them but that is not why I am here. Do you have a job for me or not?’

‘I do in fact’ said Prince Gavin ‘there as some boys from some of the inner city gangs trying to sidle into my family’s traditional territory without me noticing. They are…’ the prince paused in thought, or did a reasonable job of acting out contemplation, for some time before continuing ‘…optimistic hard working boys. The type of people I would not mind to have in my own crew but the situation being as it is I need a message sent to them.’ A man standing next to Gavin pulled out of a pocket a piece of scrap paper on which was a hand written list of names and handed it to Mark who glanced at it for the briefest of moments and handed it back.

‘They will be dead within the week. The price is sixty thousand a head’ said Mark and at this Galvin threw back his head and laughed. Gavin’s semi royal court led by their boss’s example released some forced sniggering such as underlings are meant to do but there was no warmth in their chuckles and this was because there was no warmth in Mark’s fixed expression.

‘I don’t think so’ said Prince Gavin eventually, making an almost believable act of just managing to get his laugher under control though force of will. ‘Here in this lawless part of the city I can get a man killed for half of that and you can ask just about anyone and they will agree with me.’

‘Perhaps’ agreed Mark and his look of undirected malevolence became a frown ‘but I am not just anyone, am I? I am not some thug that lives two streets over and was in the same class as you in high school and I am not some bankrupt alcoholic you met in the pub I am a professional’ said Mark and relaxed his posture into something that felt more natural to him, and by doing this his presence seem to grow no shrink. Mark’s nature, and what was natural to him, was truly something awe inspiring to see but when seen from far way, up close it just inspired the desire to be far away.

‘And in the market of professional killers’ Mark continued ‘the price to kill someone is sixty thousand dollars.’ Something not unlike a smiles distant cousin touched Mark’s face for just long enough for someone watching to notice. ‘Last month I was paid seventy thousand for each man of yours I killed. Should I see if the people that paid me then have any more work?’

‘Ok’ said the Prince giving in resentfully ‘Sixty thousand each. That’s four hundred thousand. Where am I meant to get that type of money?’ Mark’s stare broke its lock on the prince’s face and glanced for a second at doorway at the back of the room before returning to the prince.

‘Four hundred and twenty thousand actually and I will be paid in advance’ said Mark.

‘Oh come on now’ said the prince ‘everyone knows that its half now and half when the job is done.’ Mark frowned again paused for long enough for the prince to realise the folly of his words before he continued with a rubble.

‘Do you have any doubt that about me getting the job done? Do you have any doubt at all?’ The prince withstood Mark’s stare for a few seconds and looked away.

‘None whatsoever’ said the man ‘get the money James.’ The tall man who had been standing in his boss’s shadow left the room via the same doorway Mark had glanced at.

‘You drive a hard bargain’ said the Prince sharply.

‘What can I say? I respect the value human life’ said Mark simply. The young man pondered this phrase for a few seconds and then understanding struck and he began to laugh, real laughter this time, hearty, loud and deep.

‘You value life at sixty thousand a head?’

‘At current market prices’ said Mark without a flicker of emotion on his serious, honest face ‘It would be immoral for me to accept anything less.’

 

Mark left the building five minutes later with a small suitcase hanging from one of his big hands. He stepped over a pair of now groaning bodies and began his way back down the street. People watched him go but they were carful enough not let Mark see them watch him go. Here in this area of the city there were people that lead stress free lives holding up armoured vans and robbing banks lined with armed security guards but not one person hassled Mark as he walked home instead they discreetly crossed to the other side of the street as he approached and pretended to be busy when he passed. This was because of the rumours of what happened when you crossed Mark had been passed around this vast but closely knit community and when people had gone and tested if the rumours were true they had found out that yes, yes they were. A little understated and inadequate but defiantly true. No one followed Mark home but if someone had they may have been surprised to see Mark stop outside a charity bin unzip the suitcase, take out two thousand dollars, without hesitation throw the suitcase and all its remaining contents into the bin, and walk off as if he had done this a hundred times before. If that watcher was to stay watching that bin until the next morning when a group of keen but elderly volunteers came along and opened up the bin the watcher would have seen two people have fainting spells, someone fall twist an ankle, and a perfectly good phone screen break as the owner dropped it whilst trying to call an ambulance for the others.

 

Mark lived in one of those places you get when a previously desirable suburb makes a sharp turn into decadency leaving small groups of the original population, the people you could not make move with crowbar bulldozer, crane, or WD-40, living amongst their new neighbours like small islands of etiquette and standards in a sea of disorder. In places like these, a couple of blocks wide at the most, people cared about appearances because they had little else in which to care about. Hedges were trimmed with so much care that a surgeon with a microscope and a scalpel could not have done a better job, and the lawns were mowed so often that they looked like green felt when there was still any lawn left after all the mowing. People were uptight and haughty in these places not out of typical bad nature but because their standards were all they had left. The residents of these places lived on, powered by defiance and living in hope that, A. one day soon their new neighbours would drop dead, or B. they themselves would. At first glance with the mind’s eye it was strange to see Mark living amounts these people and then you thought about it for a while you realised it wasn’t strange at all. Where else would a rouge Cyborg and wanted criminal live? In a high-rise apartment in the inner city? Police would be knocking in his front door every second day and that would be too big a nuisance, besides blood was a terrible thing to try and get out of carpet and Mark did not care for cleaning. Perhaps he could live in the safe houses where the other miscreants dwelt but who knew who would be knocking in his front door there? And again there was the blood and the cleaning to consider. Primarily for the reasons of the blood and the cleaning Mark had decided to live here but there were other benefits was close to work and the local community could see the so obvious as to be blinding benefit to having Mark the menacing cyborg around and had in their fashion accepted him. No criminal of any intellect would even dream of causing trouble in a several block radiance of Mark in fear of him getting news of it and causing trouble straight back. Although there were always enough the criminals without intellect to keep Mark busy, crime in area had dropped to an all-time low and that was including what it had been before the suburbs long past heyday. Mark’s neighbours knew this and reasoned that if all protection cost was a few polite nods in the street as you walk past then you would have to be an idiot to refuse it. Mark’s landlord, although his thoughts about Mark ran approximately in line with the rest of the community, had never been given the option to accept Mark, not as a neighbour, and not as one of the tenants at his apartment block. Nor had he in fact had he even talked to, or met, Mark in his life. Mark had just turned up one night for business reasons and the next morning there was an empty apartment. The landlord was about to start looking for another tenant when at about lunchtime the next day Mark had just strode back in with a single, and at that small, box and just like that the apartment had a new tenant. Even with Mark’s odd ways, the strange hours he kept, and his all-round terrifying nature the landlord had no option but to admit that Mark was without doubt that he was one of his better tenants. Mark did not make any noise, if you did not include the distressing sounds made on the night before he moved in, and paid his rent on time every time. The first of every month without fail two thousand dollars was pushed under his door leaving the landlord to ponder telling Mark that in fact the rent was in fact only seven hundred dollars a month but somehow the landlord always decided against it when he saw Mark wandering though the corridor, besides in times like these it was a fool that did not except extra money when it was so graciously offered. There was no grace in the way it was being offered at the moment. It was the first of the month and there was two thousand dollars being pushed awkwardly under the door. The reason for this was that some of the top notes had gotten caught on the bottom of the door and were causing all kinds of trouble but eventually the stack of bills was maneuvered under the door. The landlord watched this from his arm chair with unblinking wide eyes and for a while, even after the squeaking the floorboards under great strain had indicated that Mark had left, he stared motionlessly at the money.

 

Mark finally pushed the final straggling notes under the door, straightened and adjusted his leather jacket and continued his journey to his apartment unburdened by surplus finance. Mark did not lock his door, Mark did not have a key and anyway locking the door had not helped the tenant before him. So when Mark reached his apartment and the door was slightly ajar he was not alarmed. Mark prodded the door with a couple of fingers and it swung away from him revealing an empty room, one almost identical to the one he had left this morning. A left to right top to bottom scan of the room showed that there was one change in the apartment and that was a business card left neatly on a table. Mark walked over to it and picked it up and immediately scowled at the company logo on the front of the card that was all too familiar and contained his last name. It was a generic Mercer Technologies business card and it had been left for him. Mark did not dwell long on the fact that a representative of that accursed company had been here in his place of residence, it was not just an international but a global company, by definition you could not get away from it. Mark turned the card over and there flashing once every second was a screen portraying the words, “Time till next meeting”, followed by a countdown timer in hours and minutes.

‘A bit less than a week’ thought Mark doing the math instantaneously in his head ‘Like that’s going to happen you senile old man.’ Mark threw the card back onto the table where one of the cards fancy golden lined corners cut into the wood of the table and it lodged there. Mark did not pay the card any more attention as he sat down on a specially reinforced, but otherwise ordinary metal chair at the table and got to work. To the lay man it would have appeared that Mark just sat down, but a layman would not have been able to see the thoughts rolling around in Mark’s head as he contemplated and computed his new assignment. After an hour of sitting motionless one of Mark’s hand was called into action by Mark’s higher brain functions and dedicated the job of writing down the list of names he had been shown. It did this with no further instruction from Mark’s conscious consciousness, seeking out spare paper and a pen, transcribing the list the henchman James had shown him just as it had appeared on the paper then without difficulty, the hand perfectly mimicked James messy script, including the misuse of capital letters and multiple crossings out. The autonomously working hand did one thing Mark’s forebrain had not told it to do, when scooping up the paper and scrunching it into one of the pockets of his leather jacket it also scooped up the business card likewise depositing it in the depths of his jacket. Mark returned from his contemplation and got to his feet, deciding that he would need to know more information if he was to complete his new task and knowing just where he would obtain it.

 

Once humans in an attempt to remember would write things down on pieces of paper, well on cave walls first and then on the skin of animals, but eventually on paper. These pieces of paper were later bound together to form books and in time special buildings were made and designated as places to store these books and these buildings were called libraries. And in time these libraries, just like the caves and animal skins, were forgotten by the almost the entirety of mankind and visited only by the technologically inept and those that just needed somewhere air-conditioned to stay for a hot afternoon. It was one of these tombs of knowledge that Mark approached now. Mark opened the doors and by doing so sent a spiral of dust into the air. The Library was large as far as physical size was concerned, massive in the terms of how much information it held, and non-existent in how many janitorial staff it employed. The library was round and built out from a central location where a circular counter stood and groaned under a thick layer of thick books. The counter appeared the only place in the library that appeared to have seen a duster this century but not one this decade. Something else worth noting is that due to the way the overloaded shelves and the rows of thick load bearing columns stretched away from the central counter every inch of the library could be seen from one central location. Well, that is actually bit of a slander of the truth; there were in fact stretches of library left unseen but none big enough for a browser to have an unobserved cigarette or to start doodling on the books. Any browser brave enough to try and was caught doing either of these things would get a lesson of historic significance about the wrath of the old timey librarian. There were currently a handful of people moving amongst the shelves or lounging in reading areas but the only person that seemed to really be awake was the old man that stood behind the circular counter in the centre of the room.

‘Mark your books are overdue’ said the librarian as Mark approached but he said it with no real ranker. The three oddest things about the old man in order from lowest to highest were;

3. Around his neck the man wore a thick bronze colour metal collar,

2. The man’s eyes did not move but stared directly in front of him at all time,

1. The most obvious and the strangest thing about the man was that he seemed happy to be inexplicably aware of Mark’s presence.

‘Only by a few years surely’ said Mark

‘It has been a while since you have last visited’ said the old librarian reproachfully ‘you have not visited me once in the last month.’

‘I know Webber; I know’ said Mark ‘I exist a busy existence. How have things been here?’

‘They have been better’ admitted Webber with a sigh ‘some people from the city council came around talking about shutting the Library down again. Libraries are apparently not popular with the younger generations.’

‘Libraries have not been popular since my great grandparent’s generation’ thought Mark but did not vocalize his thoughts instead he just said ‘Do I have to pay them a visit?’

‘No. That will not be necessary’ said Webber with a smirk ‘I said that they came round talking about shutting the Library down I did not say that they left talking about shutting down the library. While they were here I had the opportunity to explain some of the benefits of leaving the library alone they were… transfixed by my arguments.’ Mark smiled for the old man so obviously was proud of his work menacing the people from the council. To see the polite old man fired up and making threats would be terrifying for sure, Mark imagine it would be not unlike being attacked by an enraged but elderly goat. Mark and Webber talked for a good half an hour and in that time nothing of consequence was brought up in the conversation, it was small talk. Mark normally did not like small talk. He was by very nature a big talk sort of person and even then he wouldn’t have any truck with big talk if he could get by with menacing expressions and threatening hand gestures alone. But Mark liked the old man so he contentedly talked about the library’s new old books and how the use of gramma was so poorly taught at schools these days. It had to be a lonely life scurrying the reaches of the library all day with no one but the odd lost borrower to talk to but it was the life Webber had chosen and he had lived it for so long that all prospect of considering another life and leaving the Library had it itself left. After quite a while Mark reasoned that he had paid his dues and tolerated as much idle conversation as he could put up with for now.

‘I need your help’ said Mark. The slab of big talk slammed down crushing the elaborate framework of small talk that had been growing between the unusual pair of friends.

‘To find a good book?’ asked Webber hopefully but knowingly.

‘Of course’ said Mark ‘I am looking for anything written by the authors Erick Croney, Mathew Dimitri and Javier and Ted Damelio.’

‘And these authors are?’ asked Webber. Of course Webber knew, Webber knew most things and probably knew Mark better than anyone would wish to. He knew his fiery friend’s morals were not those of normal people, if there was such thing as normal people, and he knew what’s Mark’s favourite and only pastime was. Even though Webber trusted Mark the old man would never be able to make what happened next straight with himself if he did not at least ask the question and more importantly hear the answer.

‘They are bad people’ answered Mark. Webber externally and internally relaxed. He had to at least ask the question nothing was said about how informative the answer had to be.

‘In that case it is alright. Just wait a second and I will print out a list of where you can find what you are looking for.’ The Man’s eyes, already glazed, took being glazed to a new level and shone like jewels. Most visitors of the library thought that Webber was blind and the way he stared off into nothing certainly gave that impression. The regulars of the library however knew that Weber did not stare of into nothing but rather he stared off into the world of the interconnecting databanks and data streams at the rate of terabytes a second; The regulars of the Library thought Webber was omniscient. This uncommon ability had been bestowed to Webber many years ago by a team of engineers and doctors and came free with a new lease on life and some robotic legs after a shelf of outdate encyclopaedias, fighting obsequy, had fallen on the librarian. It was the government that had bestowed the metal collar. The collar was made of living metal forged as a single loop, containing a GPS tracking chip and a tiny Nano computer with one function and that was to shrink the collar should anyone ever try to remove it. All law abiding cyborgs were required to wear collars around their ankles at all time, Webber due to the fact his legs could be removed with screwdriver and a couple of minutes’ work, wore his collar as an actual collar.

‘I have found them. They are known as The Toyshop Crew, located down the end of Johnson Street. Been doing business there for about two months. They get their name because their cover is a toyshop. Their police records show long stints in prison and the connections with thirteen murders. Hmmm, looks like you will be dealing with just a bunch of amateurs this month. I would say that this lot is not worth getting out of bed for but that would just not be relevant would it’ said Weber after few minutes of browsing. Although his eyes held no expression the rest of the old man’s wrinkled face suggested that whilst looking off into a word witnessed by him alone he had managed to see something there that offended him.

‘But not amateurs at making drugs, am I right, and we are not talking about the light stuff like meth and cocaine. They only destroy lives, the stuff that these guys make destroy the very essence of people. They are also good salesmen when it comes…’ Mark left the last sentence unfinished presuming correctly that Webber could finish it with factoids pulled from police reports, cameras and intercepted communications.

‘To selling to children’ finished Webber only half aware he had said it aloud. At once Webber moved with vigour, and clicking of metal feet, over to an arkayic printer that had begun to spit out a piece of paper. He really had not liked the information he had beheld and was eager for Mark to be on his way but not because Mark’s mission was distasteful. He would have Mark out of the library and well away just so that Mark would be closer to finding these atrocious criminals. The old cyborg as he moved to and from the printer moved oddly, fluidly and with considerably less sound than you might expect a man with metal legs would make. What sound there was from behind the counter was a series of sharp clicks in rapid succession. When Webber had returned to Mark he had recovered somewhat from his anger and had seemed to remember something that warranted the telling.

‘Reims has been asking after you.’

‘Reims can rust in hell for all I care’ responded Mark as fast lightning on bullet train.

‘He is very insistent that you should join the community’ said Weber.

‘Well he would be. Has he asked you to join?’ inquired Mark. The Community was a community of cyborgs. It was little more than a retirement home, just a place in which old cyborgs, shunned by the rest of the world, could rust away their days. It was highly exclusive being for cyborgs alone. It was also highly elusive any information regarding it was for the electronic sound capturing devices of cyborgs alone.

‘Of course’ said Weber ‘Forgive my bluntness but he wants me more than he wants you. There are plenty of the old Cyborg Regiment left so he has enough soldiers what he wants now are people with other talents. Reims actually comes here more often than you and he actually reads books and he actually returns them. Never before have I never met a man so enthusiastic about military history.’

‘You have never considered joining?’ asked Mark ‘They could be good for you. To start with they could do something about that collar.’ Weber’s hand went up and touched the metal ring around his neck.

‘What and leave my books?’ asked Weber with a blank eyed smile ‘I would rather be shut down with a shovel than leave my books and besides the collar begins to weigh less and less when you approach the end of your runtime. I believe that the community would be just as good for you, joining a secrete and highly illegal organisation with its own army and radical agenda would help mallow you out somewhat and it he will help you meet new people.’

‘I meet new people every week’ retorted Mark.

‘Yes but you do end up killing them.’

‘So I get bored of people quickly, it my curse. I have to go now but I will be back’ promised Mark ‘I really am sorry I can’t stay longer today but there are people that I have to meet and things I must take care of.’

‘I understand. Goodbye Mark and take care’ said Weber as Mark left and meant the words he said in all regards, but particular regarding the problem down the end of Johnson Street.

 

Dreegs

 

Erick Croney, Mathew Dimitri and Ted Damelio.

The three police officers were located in the unmarked police van that was located outside the toy shop that was located in Johnson street that was located in the suburb Nandi East that was located in the city Truvali that was located on the banks of the Nandi river that was located between the Nandi Mountains and the sea and they had been stationed there for so long that by comparison the time that it took you to read this sentence was entirely insignificant.

‘What are they talking about now?’ asked Constable Rachel whose turn it was to go without either of the van’s two headsets. Rachel was the youngest of the three police officers, being only a year out of the academy and you could tell this by the way she was smiling even though she was at work.

‘Arguing about where the money in the petty cash got to and complaining about their overheads’ said Lieutenant Greystreak lounging back in his chair. He had been given his nickname by young green officers when a streak of his hair had turned grey. Those young officers were now senior and weathered officers with grey streaks of their own but Lieutenant Greystreak was still yet to think about retirement.

‘Overheads! really? It’s not like drug dealers even pay taxes’ said Constable Rachel.

‘A man is heading towards the store’ interrupted Agent Dreegs who was a solitary and peculiar, young man that wore a pinstriped suit and green waistcoat ensemble that cost several thousand dollars over the snappy dressed line. Agent Dreegs, never just Dreegs, was an uncomfortable man to work with. He did not laugh, mock or joke and worse he acted affronted and confused whenever someone directed a joke his way. Sometimes it seemed as though he could not be more awkward and uncomfortable to be around if he actively tried to me. Also, when you were around him for any length of time you started feeling insecure, outclassed, and poorly dressed. The Agent however was someone very good to have working for you because Agent Dreegs did not stop working until whatever he had been told to do was done and he never had to be pestered into doing paperwork he just sat down and did it in his lunch break or in the time most other police officers allocated for friends. Rachel glanced at a screen and there was indeed someone seen there, a big man who was walking as if he had a personal grudge against the pavement. He walked so heavily, Rachel realized, that even without the either of the headsets she could hear these footsteps. She glanced at her comrades, they wore headphones connected to the ultrasensitive bugs scatted around the toy shop. The sound they must be hearing must be hundreds of times louder than what she heard. Lieutenant Greystreak’s face screwed up with pain and began wincing with every step the man took towards the shop then he finally gave up and took off the headset. Agent Dreegs only reaction to the sound was to casually reached out a hand and adjusted the volume of his headphones before continuing to listen with utmost attention. Well, that was the only reaction that seemed to happen in real time but a few seconds after adjusting the volume he remembered to say “Ouch” in a non-convincing manor. Lieutenant Greystreak and Constable Rachel shared a glance like many that they had shared while teamed up with the agent, then pressing their heads together so that they could both hear through the same headset. A door opened. A door closed.

‘Hello, can I help you?’ asked a voice belonging to either Ted Damelio or was it Javier, they were twins and sounded so alike that even the top of the range the surveillance equipment had difficulty distinguishing between them.

‘I am looking for entertainment’ said a voice unlike any Rachel had heard before.

‘Then you came to the right place. We have a wonderful selection or puzzles and games.’

‘I have a feeling that what I am looking for is out the back’ said the voice.

‘Are you sure?’ asked one of the Damelio twins.

‘I am sure.’

‘Ok, well, let me just put up the sign’ said the twin. The twin, Ted Rachel realized, appeared at the doorway handling a Back in Five Minutes sign. On the channel of the bugs in the back room came the voices of Erick and Mathew, they were anxious and speaking fast.

‘Who the hell is it?’ demanded Erick.

‘How do I know?’ snapped Mathew ‘just hurry up and get into position.’

‘This way’ said Ted from the front ‘just though this door.’

‘Nice setup you have here’ said the voice.

‘How do you know about us?’ demanded Ted.

‘Your billboard on the highway’ said the voice.

‘Very funny’ said Ted ‘but this is a serious enterprise and we don’t like funny stuff here.’

‘A serious enterprise called Wacky Clown’s Toys and Tricks’ asked the voice ‘I doubt that.’

‘Shut up and talk. We have four guns pointed at you at the moment and we could kill you here and now and no one will ever know.’

‘Ha you are wrong there’ said Greystreak. Rachel gave the appropriate chuckle; Agent Dreegs gave both off them a sharp look. If professionalism was a disease, then Agent Dreegs had it and it was a serious case.

‘Let’s just say I have a friend and let’s just say that that friend has a knack for finding people’ said the newcomer’s voice icily.

‘Whoever this friend is tell them to mind their own business next time. Now you said you wanted to buy something.’

‘No. I said I was looking for entertainment and you lied before’ said the voice ‘you don’t have four guns pointed at me. You have only one. One of your supposed guns is an outright fabrication, another of your gun’s is five degrees off pointing at me due to a faulty sight I presume and another is pointing at me but is however a toy gun that must have been left out the back by mistake. The only gun that is pointed at me is yours and…’ there was a wham and the sound of a handgun sliding across the floor followed by brief burst of gunfire both of the ordinary and the rubber bullets flashing light varieties but they were cut off with thumps of the killing blow variety. The police officers sat in silence for a second or two as each one processed what they had just heard.

‘I think I know who it is’ said Agent Dreegs but he was ignored.

‘That was murder!’ Exclaimed Greystreak ‘Multiple charges and right before our eyes, or ears, no less.’ Good cop to his bone Lieutenant Greystreak grabbed the door of the van and wrenched it open. Rachel caught his arm and tried to stop him.

‘Don’t go out there’ she pleaded ‘wait for backup to arrive.’

‘Don’t go out there and ensure that your backup does not go out there’ corrected Agent Dreegs but he was ignored again. It was easy to ignore Agent Dreegs it was something about his presence and the way he spoke. ‘I think I know who is out there.’

‘To hell with that, he will be long gone before they get here’ said Lieutenant Greystreak getting out of the van and fumbling at his hoister.

 

Mark was at the doorway of the shop hanging the closed sign on the door when Lieutenant Greystreak stepped out from around the van his weapon drawn and pointing at Mark.

‘Freeze’ said Greystreak in a loud and commanding voice that had not withered with age one bit. Mark turned around and gave the Lieutenant a look that grabbed him and pulled him all the way back into the past to his first few weeks as a police cadet. Greystreak had had a drill sergeant that had given that same look to anyone that put their foot down one microsecond out of time. The look scared him as much now as it had back on the parade ground but there was no backing down now.

‘Put your hands behind your head’ he shouted pushing forward with the script and it was then that the Wacky Clown’s Toys and Tricks shop experienced a drastic change of state behind Mark. That change was between an ordinary looking toy shop with a sinister secret and a giant blue fireball and a shockwave being surfed by an army of action figures, a beauty pageant of dolls, a family worth of bears, and an assortment of puzzles made up of pieces so small now that their assembly could keep even a god busy for the duration of a black plague epidemic. Hearing the explosion from within the van Agent Dreegs notably did not sigh or roll his eyes he just took of the headset that now relaying nothing but static, and reached for his hat.

‘I now know without doubt who it is’ said Agent Dreegs now putting the hat of his head and reaching for the door and with that muttered revelation Agent Dreegs became a changed man. As the rain of wreckage and former toys eased up Greystreak stop protecting his face with his arms and looked up to see Mark standing just as he had been before the explosion.

‘Pardon?’ asked Mark. The voice was yet more impressive and off-putting when you saw how well it matched his owner.

‘Freeze’ mumbled Greystreak after a few seconds and raised his gun again but this time he did it with only a fraction of the conviction than he did before.

‘And Hands up’ suggested Greystreak hesitantly. Standing on the boardwalk, and staring transfixed at the lieutenant, Mark did not seem about to attack but nor did he raise his hands. He gave the impression that he was quite content to remain where he was for a while and just see how the scenario played out around him.

‘Hands up’ said Constable Rachel stepping beside Greystreak with her gun also pointed at Mark. Mark switched the primary target of his attention but not to Rachel over her shoulder at the sight of Agent Dreegs get leisurely out of the van and pull two pistols out from under his suit. The pistols gleamed even in the dull light of the overcast sun.

‘Get in the van’ said Agent Dreegs with a voice uncharacteristically difficult to ignore and pointed his weapons.

‘What are you thinking agent?’ snapped Greystreak ‘We do not what him in the van.’

‘I feel you have failed to register where my guns are pointing Lieutenant’ said Agent Dreegs. Greystreak risked taking his eyes off Mark for a second to glance at the agent and found himself looking down the glowing barrel of a high yield plasma pistols of the Fire Mountain range. Rachel twitched her arms and then, so fast as to not be seen to move, the pistol’s partner was now pointing at her.

‘I am willing to kill one of you and it will not be the last one to lower their gun. Does either of you want to be the one that gets to live knowing the other died because you were too slow stand down?’

Rachel and the Greystreak backed down slowly which is the prudent and wise thing for people to do when they had with Fire Mountain weapons pointed at. The Fire Mountain Weapon Range was well renowned by all gun enthusiasts presently occupying earth. They were not police issue guns; they were rich playboy guns, the type normal people only read about in gun magazines and even then only in small articles because the reporters were only ever able to find out a few facts about the enigmatic weapons. A nice touch to the scene noted by Mark was that either from outrageous coincidence, careful attire planning or expensive weapon customization, the plasma in the plasma pistols glowed the same shade of green as Agent Dreegs’s waistcoat, tie and pinstripes.

‘Hoister your guns and wait for me in the Van’ said Agent Dreegs. The guns were put away and the two police officers pulled back to the van because you could not easily resist an order from a man with as much conviction and authority in their voice as Agent Dreegs had right now. When the officers disappeared so did the two plasma pistols, slipping and disappearing under the soft fabric of the suit jacket as if they had never been. Mark and Agent Dreegs stood staring at each other on either side of the road.

‘Nice guns’ said Mark ‘I am surprised you did not try to use them.’

‘Would they have been enough?’ asked Agent Dreegs.

‘Most likely not’ admitted Mark and tapped a bludge under his leather jacket ‘my gun is quite nice as well and I don’t to seem to burn as well as I should.’

‘That’s what I thought.’

‘They look pretty though’ said Mark ‘I have to give them that.’

‘Oh, that is what I look for in a gun’ said the agent.

‘I would have though man that cares as much about appearance as you do would jump at any chance to bring in someone like me’ pointed out Mark dialling up the intensify of his stare a few notches.

‘Funny you should say that because I have all intention of being seen bringing you in Mark Mercer’ disclosed Agent Dreegs matching Mark’s stare and raising. After the state went a few seconds more than was comfortable for either party Mark noticed that the agent’s eyes also matched the green highlights of the agent’s outfit then broke the stare with a surprised blink. Agent Dreegs smiled in victory and Mark was left to writhe in unaccustomed defeat.

‘I however will not be seen doing it here and now’ the agent’s eyes glanced towards the van ‘not with liability’s so close at hand.’

‘Till the right time then’ said Mark.

‘Till the right time’ repeated Agent Dreegs who gave Mark a polite tip of his hat before entering the Van. The agent had not been in the van for over a second before it zoomed off down the street and took a corner still accelerating. Mark watched it go and made a special record of Agent Dreegs’s face before walking off into the maze of busy streets and forgotten alleyways that made up the outer city. There was still one more name on the list that needed to be crossed off.

 

‘What was that?’ shouted Lieutenant Greystreak at Agent Dreegs while Rachel drove. The lieutenant had scanned Mark’s face and had used that to search for Mark’s police record. The meagre computers in the van had been taxed to their very limit when the lieutenant had opened the record but it had opened and Lieutenant Greystreak had been shocked by just how much there was in it. ‘We had him just in front of us. Do you know how many people he has killed over the years?’ Agent Dreegs turned to Lieutenant Greystreak gave him a look that caused Lieutenant Greystreak to pause in his rant.

‘Of course I don’t and don’t you dare speak to me like that’ said Agent Dreegs. He, as he always did, spoke calmly in level tone, this often got him ignored but in these circumstances it grabbed attention by the figurative armful ‘in remembrance of the gun I had pointing at your head not two minutes ago that is.’

‘What was that Dreegs?’ snapped Greystreak. Agent Dreegs pulled off his hat and placed it neatly on a hook.

‘Firstly, it is Agent Dreegs and secondly of course I don’t know how many people he has killed. I do however know everything that is in his record. I know how many deaths he has been linked to but to presume that that number matches how many people he has killed or even comes close is preposterous. I know he has never failed at killing a target and I also know how many individual police officers and entire task forces in the last ten years have managed to bring him in. If you are interested the last number is zero.’ Greystreak opened his mouth to say something but was cut off by Agent Dregs green eyed glower who went on to say something noteworthy and true.

‘I just saved both your lives.’

 

2 Mark 1.0

Mark

 

This is Mark, no matter what happened to him afterwards or what numbers were put after his name this is how he was, Mark mark 1 as it were. Officially he is called Marcus but the only people that call him that are his family and he has so little of family left these days that this fact could have gone unmentioned. It is commonly said that war changes people, and war had changed Mark, but even people that say war changes people would be shocked at the extent that it had managed to change Mark. Where once had slouched a boy ordinary enough to bore someone to death with only half an hours idle small talk now stood a man, a man who would not have to resort to boredom poising if he wished you dead. Mark himself was well aware of the change in him. It was as if there was a part of him that was beginning to wake up. A part of him that was good with observing patterns, patterns that went unnoticed by most, forming tactics that despite being the epitome of crude worked, and beyond all there was the part of him that had no truck with such sophisticated things as patterns and tactics but was all about explosive, and sometimes literally explosive, violence. There are plants in the world that grow seeds that require the heat of a fire before they would crack and germinate and this was as good a simile as any for the last several months of Mark’s life. Mark needed violence to come alive and grow into what he really was. Right now Mark is feeling alive, very much alive about as much alive as it was possible for him to be and he is feeling all so much like himself.

 

He crouched with his back against an upturned bench and paid close attention to the sounds around him and in particular to the sounds of footsteps and the way that they were getting steadily louder and nearer. With patience rivalled only by skilled hunters, monks and music teachers for young children, Mark waited. The enemy neared, coming within three meters of where he waited, then a delighted smile crossed Mark’s unshaven, grimy, war-torn face. Mark rose from behind the upturned bench with a plasma rifle firing in his hands. Gleeful anticipation of the kill burned in his eyes but perhaps that was just the reflections of the plasma rounds tracing out glowing lines in the air. Five Fallen soldiers, The Fallen being the name of the enemy, turned to face him but had no time to react to his sudden appearance. Bodies fell to the ground and sizzled as globs of plasma expelled from Mark’s gun hit them and exploded violently in their chests. Needless to say it was not a fair fight, Mark had taken them by surprise and even their notoriously fast reaction times could not compete with the perfect execution of Mark’s ambush. Mark kicked the bench to the side and approached the motionless bodies. There a localized moment of relative silence, relative to the associated noises of an active warzone and the thundering of Mark’s recent barrage. Far away the sound of a firefight rang out and right up close there was the sound of plasma burning itself to nothing in the chests of the most newly deceased. Mark stared at the fallen Fallen his expression well described as philosophical and then the moment of contemplation was disrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him. The reaction came without the involvement of any thought. Mark spun to towards the newcomer and needless to say the plasma rifle, still sizzling as it cooled, spun with him. A soldier covered in thick royal blue material behind him stopped all but dead in his tracks when confronted by Mark’s serious to say the least face, he would have stopped dead in his tracks had Mark’s finger quivered even slightly on the plasma rifles ultrasensitive trigger. Mark lowered his gun and gave the newcomer a smiled because as a rule it was always good to see a soldier wearing the same uniform as you. The soldier in turn relaxed and began to breathe again.

‘Hello’ said the soldier.

‘Hi’ said Mark morosely.

‘I made it here’ said the soldier and seemed surprised at the accomplishment, given the status of this battle he had all due reason to be. When the soldier failed to say anything for a few seconds so as an effort to get the conversation moving Mark asked.

‘Is there something that you were meant to do once you do when you got here?’ asked Mark ‘relay an order perhaps.’

 

Of course in conventional warfare orders were still given by radio or more accurately the radios technological decedents but war with the Fallen was not a conventional war for how could a war with a form of enemy both human and microchip be any way conventional. The minuscule microchip inserted into the brainstem of every Fallen on the planet had little more processing power than was required to manage its advanced communication systems but it had the potential to harness the human brain itself when extra processing power was required and it did not end there rather it got exponentially worse. The chip was able to share the thoughts and combinative potential of its attached human brain with all the chips in its proximity who in turn would share their host minds thoughts with all the chips in their proximity. And that was how the Fallen Mindlink worked and how the Collective Fallen Consciousness could achieve amazing feats of data processing in such little timeframes were it to focus even a fractions of its minds on it.

 

The Twenty Second Battalion had charged into the Fallen stronghold eight hours ago with their radios, or radio equivalents, tuned into an encrypted channel. The first channel had been cracked into and jammed and the second backup channel had been cracked and jammed not long after that. And so had ended the first hour of the offences and things had not turned back into the favour of the human forces. The last order Mark had received before radio communication was cut off was from his Lieutenant and was “Attack”. That had been four hours ago and Mark believed that the lieutenant, God rest his vaporised soul, would be proud of how concisely and often he had followed that command out since it had been given.

‘Oh yes, the orders Commander Gravert gave me orders to pass on. I just did not think that I would make it. Gravert wants all remaining soldiers to relocate to in the eastern courtyard to reinforce the first company. Is this area cleared?’ asked the soldier. Mark for means of answer glanced at the bodies that smoked on the ground around them and the soldier followed his eyes but still seemed unclear.

‘Yes I would say this area is clear’ rumbled Mark.

‘Good. We need all the soldiers there as we can get. The Fallen there are not going down quite as easily as we had hoped.’

‘If the Fallen anywhere went down as easily as we hoped then this would not be much of a war’ pointed out Mark.

‘I suppose so. Do you know where the other survivors of the fourth company are?’ asked the soldier and this time, even in in his flustered state and with his lack of skill in reading people’s faces the soldier was able to pick up the answer from Mark’s eyes alone. The fourth company had comprised of four hundred men and women, volunteers all, and some of the hardiest soldiers fighting against the Fallen. The fourth company had been Mark’s company right up until that company had become just Mark.

‘I doubt there are any left, this was a bad neighbourhood when we moved in if you know what I mean’ said Mark sullenly ‘we met lot of resistance.’

‘They are all dead?’ stammered the soldier shocked by the revelation.

‘Then what has been stopping the Fallen passing through here to flank the main assault?’

Mark did not answer and did not break eye contact with Josh.

‘Oh’ Josh looked at Mark with newfound respect but also, it has to be said, some concern.

Mark’s face was expressionless and his set jaw and slight frown indicated his resolved to see the fight through to the end. Or so Mark thought he looked. He did indeed look like that in his mental image of himself but that mental image was being generated by a brain that had been running at full capacity for hours and had seen ten months’ worth of friends and comrades burn out (Plasma rifles and plasma grenades) or go to pieces (tried and tested high velocity pieces of metal), all around him. Mark’s mental image was forgivably out of sync with reality firstly because in the real work the sky was a smoky grey and not shimmering silver, and secondly because in the real world Mark could not entirely stop the pain of so many deaths from showing on his face. When Mark said nothing, and when the soldier was unable to take any more of Mark’s stare, the soldier pushed forward with a tackles,

‘That is a shame I know the Commander was hoping for at least half a company. Well we had better head to the courtyard to see what we can do.’ The soldier offered a hand to Mark. ‘My name is Josh by the way.’ Mark carefully stretched out one of this oversized appendages and took hold Josh the Soldier’s hand.

‘Mark Mercer’ said Mark and shook Josh’s outstretched hand. The soldier’s eyes widened abruptly and not just because of the painful crushed feeling in his hand.

‘As in the son of…?’ started Josh his voice excited due to recognition of once famous, now infamous, last name but Mark cut him off.

‘We will have time to talk about all that later, right now aren’t we needed somewhere.’ Josh nodded and began to lead the way back into the heart of the factory complex and thus towards the distant sound of gunfire. They had not gotten twenty meters when josh turned to Mark.

‘You do know the chances of us coming out of this, right?’ asked Josh.

‘Yes. Why?’ grunted Mark.

‘It’s just that unless you mean the in the next life I really don’t see a time when we would have time to talk.’

‘Then we will meet up there. You’re going to hell right?’ said Mark and although he smiled and gave a brief chuckle but the laughter did not make it as far as his eyes. It was a joke but it was not entirety a joke it was least a third a lament that things where the way they were.

 

The Eastern Courtyard was not far away as the crow flies but any bird flying over this battlefield was likely to be shot down by stray bullets, blown to literal nothingness by an automatic antiaircraft gun, or followed north for winter by a homing missile looking for anything even fractionally warmer that its current surroundings. For these reasons Mark and Josh did not take the direct path but circled and weaved their way over the battlefield though the remains of the large concrete warehouses and factories that had once stood there. After fifteen minutes of jogging over shattered walls and though smouldering buildings Mark came upon the eastern courtyard. What lay before him was a sight that made his heart sink so far that his liver had to shuffle aside to make room. Fallen by the dozen defended the top of a flight of stairs firing down at the human solidest, as in human human not Fallen human, who for their part hid behind what cover there was in the open courtyard. Occasionally one of the soldiers would poke their rifle out from what cover they were hiding behind and fire blindly in the vague direction of the Fallen but more often than not their shots hit inoffensive walls and the undeserving sky. As has been mentioned Mark had a keen eye for tactics but he did not need to use it in this case for what he saw was that glaringly obvious so see for anyone with a mind willing to see it. The sight had even passed briefly though the mind of Josh but had moved on in search of more accommodating mind space having found not space accepting of it in Josh’s head. What people saw, yet Mark alone accepted, when they looked out over the fight in the courtyard was defeat. No matter how Mark played the fire fight in the courtyard out in his mind no outcome ended in the favour of the soldiers in blue and silver as the Fallen held every advantage. Heavy plasma cannons had been setup and fortified on the top of a broad flight of stairs and the carefree way that the Fallen gunning them were firing suggested that the cannons had been spliced into the complexes internal plasma energy systems and in which case that meant that the courtyard would be turned into a bowl of molten rock and plasma soup before they needed to be recharged. The defending human aggressors would in this analogy be nothing more than particularly short lived croutons. The bared explosion proof doors of the Fallen stronghold setup just behind the plasma cannons were only two hundred meters away at most but they could have been a hundred kilometres away for all that it mattered. Mark also had a mind for tactics and after realising what it had about the fight before him it had immediately moved to the task of working out what to do next. There was no way in which the remaining human forcers could win this battle and Mark knew it but it came to Mark’s formidable attention, as he stood there, that just possibly there was a way achieve the next best thing which was stopping the Fallen from winning it.

‘Follow me’ said Mark tuning from the hopeless firelight and began to head back through the gaping hole in the wall that he had just emerged from.

‘Our orders are to join the forces here’ said Josh. Without warning Mark turned and grabbed Josh by the shoulder with one of his hands and twirled him towards the dreary scene that was the courtyard and gestured at it with the plasma rifle he now held with one hand.

‘If you honestly think you will be able to do any good in there then go join in’ snapped Mark ‘I won’t stop you but I definitely won’t be joining you. The central building is too well guarded to take using brute force and no doubt the Hub Point inside is guarded even better than that.’

‘Then what can we do?’ demanded Josh twisting resentfully out of Mark’s grip.

‘I have a plan’ said Mark ‘but I must warn you that it is not a perfect plan. One of its main faults with my plan is that it can only be carried out by people who know they are going to die today.’

‘That sounds like us’ said Josh and after a sigh he gave the courtyard a final glance before following Mark back into the maze of broken buildings ‘so what is your plan then?’

‘Well you know my last name?’ asked Mark.

‘Mercer? Yes, of course I do? So does everybody although that name is not a particularly popular one right now.’

‘Well you would be surprised where a name like that can get you into.’

‘These days it could get you into a lot of trouble if the resentful type of person found out it was your name.’

‘That it may’ said Mark ‘But it still just might be able to get me inside a Plasma Generator Chamber.’ Josh said nothing and walked silently behind Mark for a while as his mind came to terms with the nature of Mark’s plan.

‘You meant what you said about only being carried out by people who already know they are going to die’ said Josh.

‘I meant every bit’ said Mark.

 

On the other side of the factory complex where the fighting had, ha ha ha, fallen in the Fallen’s favour and where the buildings had remained mostly intact, two unfallen soldiers, upstanding men in other words, ran from building to building bent low. The Fallen stood guard outside the doorway like statues; statues do not tire or get distracted and or bored which are the weaknesses that plague guard-hood as a whole. Unlike statues however these Fallen wore more than noble expressions, frowns of deep thought and fig leaves. They also carried more that the odd spear or draping piece of cloth. They wore the bright eyes expressions of the overly diligent, the latest in Living Metal armour and carried ancient automatic weapons built back in the days when people were not considered dead when they were still in less than five pieces. The Fallen simultaneously became aware of a glowing and spiting blue ball that flew over a wall to land amongst them. Without hesitation or even thought, they dived away from the globe as its glow intensified to blinding point then exploded into a shower of blue plasma. Most of The Fallen were lucky and managed to get away. The parts that were unlucky were generally their legs and backs. The difference between lucky and mostly lucky is painfully obvious when parts of your body are being eaten away by unmeasurably hot plasma. Those of the Fallen that could get to their feet, and still had feet to get back to, did so the others or, to allow for fractions, rest of the Fallen who damaged beyond use for the common cause lay silently where they were and waited for death. Before the guards had time to recover from the shock of the explosion Josh and Mark appeared suddenly and firing from individual doorways on almost, but for logical reasons not entirely, different sides of the Fallen. Had the Fallen been ready perhaps they would have had a chance in the fire fight but, being as they were strategy misplaced and taken by surprise, they did not put up much of a fight and were quickly cut down. As the smoke of the brief shootout cleared Josh stepped over the littering of Fallen bodies and came to stand over the last surviving Fallen soldier. The Fallen soldier despite being scorched to a crisp and missing two legs and most of an arm was still trying to carry out its orders, pulling himself towards a dropped rifle just out of its reach with its sole remaining limb. It was almost cruel how close Josh allowed the soldier to get to the weapon before it acted but the conditions of cruelty as it applied to living things, plant or animal, did not apply to the Fallen who did not fall neatly under the category as living. Josh aimed, fired, and the Fallen soldier’s raised head dropped back to the ground a considerable portion of his skull now missing. Amongst the brain that fell from the back of his head there was the shining silver glint of a microchip. It was about a centimetre and a half square and almost hidden amounts a mass of the tiniest wires modem electro biology practices could create. Josh casually kicked the chip out from amongst the brain and crushed the miracle of engineering and design, with the toe of one his boots. He did this like someone might swat a fly or scratch an itch; a simple task done so many times before that it no longer took any conscious thought at all.

‘They always seem too small to have caused such a big problem’ observed Josh shaking his head with sorrow ’I could almost forgive your uncle for not seeing this coming.’ It was then that he looked up at Mark who was standing back and studying the door thoughtfully. You could tell when Mark was trying to think, his face contorted and moved subtly as if you could see the thoughts moving behind it. His eyes did not move however but stared out ahead of him as he worked out how to deal with something which nearly always ended up with him working out a way of killing it.

‘Will this work?’ asked Josh ‘Could they not have changed the security system as soon as they took over the place?’

‘Perhaps’ said Mark still starring at the door ‘but we have to try, I at least have to try.’

‘They will know we are here now and I am sure they will have worked out what we planned to do’ said Josh ‘they will be sending reinforcements.’

‘If this works then they will never get here in time’ said Mark opening a panel on the door to reveal an all in one handprint and DNA scanner.

‘Here it goes’ said Mark and placed a hand on the scanner. Mark and Josh held their respective breaths. The scanner beeped and a light lit up on the top of the scanner, it was red.

‘Try again’ said Josh ‘those things never work the first time.’ Mark placed his hand on the scanner a second time and waited. There were two cheerful short beeps and this time the light flashed green. A wide grin formed on Josh’s face and remarkably even the corners of Mark’s mouth curled in an upwards direction.

‘Welcome Mark Mercer’ said an electric voice and door slid aside with a grinding sound that was immediately lost under the sound of gunfire that erupted from behind the door as it opened. Mark a master of ambushes knew instantly what he had walked into and worse, what he had led Josh into. Ten Fallen soldiers that had been waiting behind the reinforced door and begun firing as soon as it had begun to move cumbersomely aside. Mark grabbed Josh and pulled him out of the doorway as soon as the first shots had been fired but it had been too late the first shots the Fallen had fired had been on target. When he lent Josh up against the wall beside the door the young man, no longer supported, slid slowly to the ground leaving behind him a streak of red on the wall. Mark had not moved quickly enough and before he had managed to pull the still grinning Josh from the doorway three bullets had hit Josh in the torso and had ripped straight though his armour. Blood dripped from below Josh’s breastplate and his blue uniform was beginning to turn purple. Josh looked at the blood pooling around him and inspected his injuries grimly which in few seconds told he all he needed to know. The blue cloth of his uniform was designed to contract when the wearer was shot in order to form an immediate, if rudimentary, bandage and the thick material had done just that but regardless blood flowed freely. Josh’s grin that had first formed in celebration of the security door recognising Mark and opening did not disperse nor did it waver in its intensity. Of course Josh knew his wounds were mortal wounds but it was not like at a time like this it mattered all that much, given the nature of the plan. As he thought about he realised that way he might just might be better off, he had never liked queuing and if indeed there were singular gates to the afterlives then then must surely be a que for them. As Josh saw it this way he got to join the queue now before the rush oh and there would be a rush; a great deal of people will be joining the queues shortly and it was just as well he would not have to wait with them.

‘So we meet up somewhere near the first pit of fire on the left’ said Josh looking up at Mark.

‘What’ asked Mark kneeling down next to the stricken soldier?

‘In hell’ said Josh before he smiling weakly and with the last of his strength, rolled into the doorway firing blindly into the darkness at the unseen enemy. Josh died near instantly then but his spirit fought on regardless, his lifeless finger holding down the trigger for a few seconds post mortem. It would have been a most beautiful and poetic death if his final thoughts had been on the ones he loved or the cause that he had fought so hard for but that’s not how the human minds works. Instead Josh’s final thoughts were of Mortal Wounds, the possibility of Immortal Wounds, the comparison of the two and the hope that if there was such thing of Immortal Wounds that he did not have any to take to the afterlife with him. After the last shot of Josh’s gun rang out there was a window of silence just long enough for Mark to hear his own heartbeat slow to a crawl or was it that the entire universe was, out of spite for him, slowing down around him to prolong his torment. Mark, filled with the chilly mix of rage and sorrow at the death of yet another comrade and friend, stepped over the limp body of Josh and fired down the hallway beyond the door, which was now lit by the glow of Josh’s plasma rounds glowing in globs on the wall. Mark was a good shot and the remaining Fallen waiting behind the doorway died quickly, but not before a couple of bullets found their way past his armour. The Security Door clanged as it reached its open position. The death of the Josh, Mark’s burst of range, and the subsequent deaths of the Fallen had all taken place in the seconds the door had taken to open. Mark felt the universe speed up again, became aware of searing pain and took stock of his mortal coil disinterestedly. One of the shots to hit Mark in the arm but had only grazed him, one shot hit him in the thigh but was stopped just short of an artery as much by dense muscle mass as the Living Metal armour, the last shot had hit Mark in the stomach and passed straight though. This shot was the most serious of the three but sheer luck had it that it had not hit anything too major. Mark did not pay his injuries to much attention, he acknowledged their severity, he acknowledged that they were the type of things that could ruin a person day, and he acknowledged that he did not have a day left to have ruined he had twenty minutes and that after that the problems of having a few bullet holes in his body would be dwarfed by the problem of not having a body left at all. The blue material of his uniform, now purple in sections, tightened around the bullet holes forming instant bandages the pain was bearable but only because it was Mark who bore it and even then Mark was only able to tolerate the pain because he knew he would not have to do so for long.

 

Mark stepped into the hallway and walked with searing pain shooting through his body with every step and with every step he pushed it out of his mind. Finally, he stood over the bodies of the Fallen and he stayed standing there for a while, motionless, and silently. The purpose of this was to make sure that they were dead\non-functional and going to stay that way. It paid to be sure when dealing with the Fallen. Many a human soldier had presumed a Fallen was dead just because it had been shot full of holes so big that you could see daylight though them and many a soldier had not lived to regret his carelessness as for about fifteen minutes after its host had died the microchip would continually send electronic charges though the body and occasionally they would get a response. Re-unlife, as it was called by soldiers who called the normal state of being for the Fallen unlife, was almost always a short term deal, lasting only as long as it took the body to remember why it had died in the first place, but no matter what a Fallen soldier a would do everything that it could for the common cause of the Fallen. There was a gasp for air beside him and a Fallen soldier sat bolt upright. It was the gasp that you had to listen for. The chip in their heads could make them think and do whatever it told them but even it was unable to suppress the bodies reactions in the first seconds of re-unlife. Without he himself turning to look at it Mark’s gun swivelled towards the re-unliving Fallen soldier, and fired in a continuous stream of bullets until he felt better and the anger in him resided, this took some time and many shots. The Fallen soldier fell back to the floor and this time there was not enough of the Fallen Soldier to be concerned if what was left of it were to get up again. Mark limped over and pressed the button to start the ponderous close of the ten-inch-thick door and while it closed behind him he smashed the control panel beyond all functionality with the end of his plasma rifle. The door closed with a booming thump that according to the people that installed it meant it would never open again. Mark wished that this was the case but he beyond most knew just how resourceful the Fallen could be, perhaps it would give him an hour, but most likely it would take the Fallen only a fraction of that time to break through. Mark dropped his gun and then unstrapped and threw aside the twisted and smouldering remains of his armour. The twisted plates of super dense Living Metal fibres landed somewhere in the shadows beside him causing echoes to bounce off every wall until they merged into a single sound that rang out as a single note like the closing of the door had. Mark came to the end of the corridor and his hand found the handle of an ordinary metal door. He pulled it open and blue light streamed past him and filled the hallway. Mark lifted a hand to protect his eyes from the sudden assault of light and stepped into the room beyond. He stared at the flickering and pulsating light at the room’s centre until it resolved itself into a Plasma Generator. It was a three feet wide sphere made from spiked Living Metal plates from between the cracks of shone brilliant purple light. The generator sat on a pillar of power conduits and gave the impression that it was the most lethal and most oversized Football trophy in the whole world. Humorous comparison aside it was still a machine in the depths of which a rift had been opened, a rift between one universe of pure and utter chaos and another universe, the other universe was where the plasma energy came from. The plasma generator hummed as limitless, or as close as limitless to make no difference, power flowed through the rift maintained at the centre of its structure.

 

Plasma generators and thus all plasma technology verged just this side of impossible, and it has been said that this is only the case due to an oversight from the being that created the universe. The initial research and development of the technology worked on a trial and trial bases as if an error wandered within forty meters of one of the first Plasma Generator then it would explode then implode leaving the initial Plasma Technology Pioneers back at what they once called “step one” but now call “standing beside a big hole in the landscape were once was a Plasma Research Facility.” It finally determined by a brilliant and rather lucky scientist after surviving yet another small uncontrolled plasma rift that it would take almost as much energy to contain a plasma rift as a plasma rift was able to produce and the work with the technology ceased for decades. It took the invention of Living Metal, a metal capable of using energy from its surroundings to repair itself on a molecular level back into it initial state, from a brilliant scientist before the concept of a Plasma Generator was considered anything more than a theory again. It the end it took, a partnership between the two brilliant scientists, more money than has ever been on earth at any one time, a great deal of luck and finally eighteen “Step Ones” before the first working Plasma Generator was made. After this accomplishment one of the scientist went on to win the bowls torment at his retirement home having grown quite old waiting for the invention of Living Metal. The other scientist and CEO of an already thriving company decided to release all his notes and work with Plasma Energy to the public essentially opening up plasma energy to the world showing just how generous a man he was. After all his corporate rivals, several governments and a few universities, blew themselves up trying to replicate his work that generous scientist bought up and what was left of his rivals companies and some countries, merged them into his company and formed the largest and most technologically advanced company on the planet. That Scientist was called Daniel Mercer, and that company called Mercer Enterprises, and that was why Mark did not require the engraved silver plate under the Plasma Generator to remind him the creator of this Plasma Generator was his grandfather.

 

Mark walked to the plasma generators console setup not far from the actual device and began to search through its operating system. In truth Mark did not know how to explode Plasma Generators but then, if the short history of the technology was any judge at all, it did not take all that much. For a while Mark tinkered with the device and when all that was needed be done was done he sat down against the glowing construction and pulled a dog eared and much folded and refolded photo from his chest pocket. He signed deeply as he stared at the picture. Only the edges of the picture had been stained by his blood but and the image itself was unblemished and clear. A brown haired, blue eyed, girl smiled up at him from in the picture and he smiled back weakly and sadly. Not far away there was the sound of roaring jet engines, the agonized screech of tearing metal and the thump of a solid lump of metal door toppling and landing on the ground before being whistled away into the sky by a team of the noisiest aircraft on the planet. Mark did not move as the inner door was slammed opened and a dozen Fallen soldiers entered the room and fanned out taking positions around Mark. Two of the Fallen walked purposely towards the plasma generators console that was now flashing ominously. They dropped their guns and feverishly got to work, pressing buttons, and typing in long commands at finger blurring speeds. A Fallen soldier looked at Mark and recognised him, this was not shown on its face or spoken allowed, instead it was transmitted to the all the Fallen everywhere by the Fallen Mindlink.

‘What have you done nephew of The Creator?’ inquired one of The Fallen soldiers that were left pointing a guns at Mark.

‘I did what I had to do’ said Mark.

‘He has disabled some of the safety protocols and has routed all power emissions into a negative feedback loop’ said the Fallen who stood before the console speaking aloud for Mark’s sake ‘It is only a matter of time now until the rift fractures.’ The first Fallen to speak turned back to Mark and studied him in minute detail with a single glance.

‘Do you not care that you are going to die?’ asked the Fallen showing uncharacteristic curiosity for one of his kind. Mark wondered how much of the Fallen Consciousness was focused on him right now, it had to be at least a few continents worth for a soldier to express curiosity.

‘I do but I care more that other people live’ said Mark not looking up from the photo in his hands.

‘You sound more like one of us’ said the Fallen in unison.

‘Trust me’ said Mark his eyes suddenly alight with hate and glaring up at the soldier ‘I am nothing like you and I will never be a half human electronic abomination like you lot.’ It was then that the plasma generator exploded releasing an uncontrolled plasma rift into the world.

 

The rift grew like a purple and blue crack in the world stretching out in all directions and then joining together. After it consumed the Complex and a sizable amount of the surrounding country side the rift snapped shut as quickly as it had appeared and striped the ground to the bedrock as it did so. It, in essence, it was quite a beautiful thing being filled with bright colours, pretty glows and mind pleasing patents of swirling plasma but it had all happened too quickly. No one saw anything more than a flash of blue light and with little fuss a two kilometres wide sphere of planet flashing out of existence. The sound like a thunderclap and the resulting storms, caused by an introduction of such a gigantic vacuum within the atmosphere, were far more interesting to behold and lasted for some time.

 

It was impossible to know how much time passed for Mark and absurd even to suspect but for everything else in the known world it had been almost half a day. He drifted in the currents of wherever he was, sometimes battered by the currents, sometimes twisted around violently, and sometimes allowed to float undisturbed for increasingly long periods of time. It was like a dream. Not everything made sense to Mark’s mind and he did not feel inclined to try to make any sense of it he did not even think it important to make sense of what it was he could not make sense of. He was content with dreaming his dream of warm currents of pulsing coloured lights but dreams only last forever for immortal comatose patients and the dream was interrupted. The voices came; they came like the song of angels and the music of sirens (the mythical kind that most likely sounded different to the sirens we have come to know today). It was the beacon that lead Mark’s mind back to what is foolishly, and incorrectly, referred to as reality. For Mark in his semi-conscious slumber it seemed that the voices came from an eternity away and he was not far off the Mark with that assumption.

‘My god there is a man over here’ said one of the voices.

‘Stop joking’ said another voice ‘If this was a good time for joking less people would be dead.’

‘Nah I am serous’ said the first speaker ‘There is a man over here.’

‘Can’t be, nothing survives a plasma rift’ said the second voice.

‘Yeah well what’s that then?’ asked the first voice.

‘Shit you’re right’ said the second voice ‘but how?’

‘Who cares about how? Call in a medic team.’ Mark opened his eyes, but he only saw though one. Though that one he saw two faces looking down at him. They were not the best looking faces he had seen by a long shot but was glad to see them. Anyway, despite what has been told throughout the ages of man, there are more important aspects of being a soldier than being clean shaven and clean. These soldiers were not very good at these aspects either and had been sent to scout the crater for this reason but Mark did not know this.

‘He is awake’ said one of the men ‘God look at his arm; it’s been burnt to a crisp.’

‘His legs are much worse’ said the other man.

‘But you can’t really look at them can you now. Seeing that they are not there to look at.’ The two soldiers standing above might have been said to not have the best bedside manor ever exhibited but to be fair for them the nearest bed was eight kilometres away. Their “crater centre manor”, being more geographically relevant was on the other hand damm near perfect and mimicked the manor of total utter surprise at seeing a survivor where science could excuse only a few remint molecules at most. The second soldier pulled a radio from his belt and began talking to a radio officer and demanding a medical team to arrive a few minutes before was physically possible. The first soldier bent down to talk to the confused Mark and when Mark immediately went to move away he leant over Mark to and tried to restrain him from moving yet further, the key word is tried.

‘A medical team is on its way sir. Please try not to move. We will get you out of here.’ He assured the charred deformed thing that was what was left of Mark but his pleading was futile. Mark paid no attention to the soldier’s words so the soldier’s words fell figuratively on deaf holes on the side of Mark’s head where once had been ears. Mark tried to move about, every second of it was sheer agony but then again every second of staying motionless was equally painful. Mark finally managed to lift his arm, the one that had been worth looking at, into his field of vision and witnessed what was left of his fingers fall away into a pile of black ash on the bedrock he lay on.

‘Sir please stay calm. We will get you out of here’ pleaded the soldier kneeling beside him. Mark’s mouth opened but no more than a dry rasping sound emitted from it then all at once every muscle that was remaining under Mark’s control sized and after five seconds went limp. Mark’s arm fell back to the ground and his eyes open but unseeing.

‘Sir, can you hear me?’ said the first man but his question went unheard and unanswered because Mark had lapsed into a nightmare of swirling purple and blue plasma that pulsated, a nightmare that save for the near divine intervention on someone not unlike a god he would never wake from, a man known by millions as The Creator.

 

It was said by some that they must have been a pocket of relative calm in the centre of the uncontrolled plasma rift and that it was just chance that Mark survived. It was said that he could not have possibly been inside the blast radius when the generator exploded and had in fact been sucked into the creator by the vacuum left by the rift. But no matter what idea’s people constructed about how Mark survived the blast it was agreed by everyone that he should not have. There was another belief about Mark, survival and the plasma rift and that was the one Mark personally subscribed to and that was that he had hadn’t survived it, not really. Oh something called Mark had survived in some fashion, he would admit if only grudgingly, but it was not Mark as he had known himself. It was a half human electronic abomination called Mark 2.0.

 

 

3 The call of home

Memory recall. Hour zero, Minute Zero, second 5.

 

The first thing Mark 2.0 remembered was the table. It was a polished stainless steel thing, smooth to the touch and cold, oh so very cold. It is strange how sometimes it’s the little things that stick in the mind. You would have thought that the first thing he remembered was going to be the big thing, the thing that would torment his thoughts for years. Mark opened his eyes. The second thing Mark remembered was the masked and goggled people staring down at him.

‘Doctors’ thought Mark when he first saw the people but then other words came into his mind as he studied the people further and they came in the order of ‘Scientists, Engineers, oh, and shit.’ Whoever and whatever they were they stood over him working so busily that he did not notice that he was awake until he spoke, or to be a little more exact, until he shouted.

‘What the hell is happening? Someone tell me what is happening. Why isn’t hell happening?’ demanded Mark of the team hard at work around him. They did not respond with answers but with instantaneous shock and alarm. Some of the immediate circle of people around him were pushed aside as senior members of the team rushed in. A few of the people, he could not help but notice, stepped back as though he was a bomb about to explode.

‘Dear god he is awake’ said one of the people who looked like a senior doctor. ‘Have the blood filtering systems been initiated?’

‘They can’t have been’ said an engineer his voice betraying that he was equally concerned by Mark’s unplanned consciousness ‘We have not even connected them to the main power line yet.’

‘Then how?’ asked the doctor.

‘Hell if I know’ said the engineer ‘Jab him again, quickly.’ Hearing this and not wanting to be jabbed Mark tried to get up but found that the only part of him to respond was his left arm. In desperation he began to wave it around, to find something to grab onto but managed only to knock over a trolley of surgical equipment. An engineer rushed forward and grabbed Mark’s arm and was wrenched from his feet as Mark continued to flail. Of the entire team of people in the room working on him there was only one person that continued working undistracted by the commotion and being the one only person of a stationary and unruffled disposition he was the last person that Mark took note of, but when he did notice them his eyes stayed glued to the outlier. For the briefest of moments, the man looked up at Mark’s head there is a subtle visual difference between looking at a head and looking at a face but an immense physiological one. The two overly calm dark brown eyes that were all that Mark could see of the scientists face behind the surgical mask looked back at what he was working on in his lower torso not once meeting the stare of his terrified blue eye.

‘Hold him down’ said the masked scientist calmly and that was what Mark remembered of the man, that he was calm, in a room of chaos and confusion he was calm and did not again look up from his work.

‘Don’t do this’ shouted Mark desperately ‘Don’t do this. I don’t want to be a cyborg. I want to die.’ A second and third man was brought in to hold Mark down and they did this barely. Mark did not see the doctor bearing down on him, he also did not see the needle but he felt it being jabbed into his neck and he felt the drugs course though his veins. His vision began to alternate between blurred and double but did not fade completely due to the truly defiant nature of Mark’s consciousness and his emotional distress. Mark continued to fight the men holding him down but it was a hopeless battle.

‘This guy has the fortitude of a rhino’ said the doctor stabbing yet another needle into his neck and injecting.

‘He really is some machine I will give you that’ said one of the men holding him down.

‘No, he is just a man, he will be some machine’ said the calm scientist calmly, still not looking up but working uninterrupted on something in Mark’s abdomen as if it was the only thing that matted.

End of memory recall.

 

Mark & Zal

 

Javier Damelio.

 

Nowadays there were many ways you could describe Mark. There was the way people they did not know him described him,

‘A tall grim man who radiated trouble from every centimetre of his scared skin’, there was the way he described himself.

 

Person type: Cyborg

Height: 2.1 meters

Model number: Mark 2.0

Weapons: Laser Gun, plasma Grenades, Hands.

Physical attributes: All.

Threat level: Dangerous

Marked as threat by: Marcus

 

But the description given from the man running along the street had he the time or the breath to give one would be this; “The man trying to kill me.” With an icy gust of wind on his back Javier Damelio, the last Damelio twin, hurried into the alleyway. It is claimed by some twins that they can feel it when the other gets hurt. Obviously the Damelio twins were not that close because Ted Damelio had died hours ago and the first Javier had known about it was half an hour ago and that was from a news report. After seeing the toy shop or the smoking remains that was what was left of it displayed in a report, he had immediately run out of his apartment with the thought of leaving the city but unfortunately Mark had been waiting for him. It had been a busy street and he had been able to get away before Mark could line up a clean shot. That had been almost half an hour ago and he has not stopped running since then even though he has not seen the cyborg again. He was exhausted. He had not run so hard or so far since… He had not run so hard or so far. His heart felt like it was going to crack his ribs and the terror induced adrenalin pumping around in his system was not helping this. Javier turned to look behind him and spent so long looking for a cyborg in a leather jacket that he lost track of where his feet were landing and stumbled on the remains of a broken create. He fell as the half rotten planks pulled at his feet and landed heavily on the ground. It was then that he saw the boots. Solid looking boots, matt black save from where the paint had been scratched from the shining steel that they had been made from. Javier looked up with wide, terrified eyes.

‘Going somewhere are we?’ asked Mark in a whisper that filled the alleyway without effort.

‘Don’t hurt me, please I will do anything’ begged the man scrabbling backwards until he bumped into a wall and then pressing himself against it.

‘I am not here to hurt you I am here to kill you and don’t even try to excuse your actions to me’

‘But… but I didn’t know we were doing anything wrong, honest, we were just brought in to run the shop we did not know it was anyone else’s territory.’

‘How about selling drugs to kids? Did you know that was wrong?’ asked Mark but he did not expect an answer to emerge from the pursuing whimpering. He pulled a handgun from under his jacket. It was chunky silver affair that looked like if the career as a gun didn’t work out it would have an odds on chance of making it in the blunt weapons category. The thing about Mark’s gun was that it was the final product of the last venture into laser weaponry made by Mercer Technologies. The venture had proven that the laser type guns could be as efficient as its projectile based forefather and its plasma composed younger brother but only if soldiers were willing to carry around backpacks full of power cells and a wield a gun almost as heavy. The armies of the world who were always looking for the most efficient ways of killing each other were given the vote and had decided to go with the other options. The head scientist of the venture had been an obnoxiously defiant man who, after what he believed was a premature shutdown of the program, locked himself in his laboratory for two weeks then emerged eight kilograms lighter, tanned almost black by the nature of his work, and carrying a laser weapon that a soldier could carry into (and out of) battle with two hands if they were strong. That weapon and that same defiance were later passed down to the man’s only son. Mark unceremoniously pointed said gun and shot the terrified man between the eyes or as close so between the eyes as made no difference to the outcome. The ally filled with light as the amazing quantity of photons released by the laser weaponry dispersed themselves and a headless body slumped to the ground that was now scatted with white ash. Mark immediately felt the blurred drunken feeling of human emotion begin inside him and he allowed himself to savour the feeling for a few seconds. You could not help that feeling of satisfaction and freedom as you crossed that final item off a list. You could not but, normal people can’t, but Mark certainly could and did so now. Emotion, like a retreating tide, fled the sun scorched rocky beach that was Mark’s mind.

 

Mark the laser pistol tucked away and in the same motion pulled a fist sized dark blue from sphere of inside his jacket held the sphere easily in his outsized fist and then squeezed. Light flared from around his fingers and he tossed the sphere next to the corpse and stepped back a few steps. Blue light flashed as a shower of plasma covered the body consuming it utterly before it began to melt the concrete around it into a bubbling pool. There was the slightest sound of feet behind him and Mark turned to see that a man wearing a spotless white lab coat stood eyeing him with interest from the entrance of the alleyway. If asked how to describe the man Mark would have given the same answer that he always did and would, that being top left and progressing downwards one layer of pixels at a time. The hair was long and unkempt as was the fashion among certain crowds but you could not picture this man moving in those crowds. It was more likely the man’s hair was long and unkempt because there are many things a true scientist cares about more than managing their hair and this was most certainly a true scientist. You could tell this even before you got to the practical think rimmed glassed and the slightly dazed expression that suggested that part of him was not quite here because it was somewhere else doing mind-numbingly complex equations. This scientist was unusually, even unnervingly, calm as he stood as witness to the murder and subsequent disposal of the body before him.

‘The series one plasma grenade’ lectured the scientist ‘I didn’t know they still sold them. They were prone to blind spots, spontaneous activation and even when they did go off without a glitch they did not go off with much a bang. They relied on the plasmas natural expansion and therefore they only spread the plasma over a radius of a few meters. A point of interest is however, due to the extra argon in the mix the series one plasma grenade burnt longer and hotter than both the series two and three. Do you know why this is?’

Mark fixed the newcomer a stare and sorted through the files in his head until he came to a folder called “People_From_My_Past” and the file Mark was looking for opened with a figurative cloud of dust.

‘No and I must say, I really do not care why. You’re named Zal right? My uncle’s right hand man?’ demanded Mark as the information was feed into the forefront of his mind.

‘I suppose you could call me that’ replied the scientist ‘but my actual job title is…’ Zal saw Mark’s expression and caught himself ‘Not the issuer right now.’

‘Right, well what does the bastard want?’

‘Ha Ha’ said the scientist and he said it rather than laughed.

‘Pardon’ asked Mark.

‘Oh I thought you were doing wordplay. He just to speak to you if I am RIGHT.’ There is no hope for some people. ‘He did say…’

‘No’ interrupted Mark abruptly ‘I don’t want anything to do with him or The Company.’

‘You have not spoken to your uncle for many years; there is much to be discussed.’

‘What if I don’t feel like having a family reunion right now? This is somewhat of a bad time, I am working.’

‘Were working, your file says that you will have just taken care of your last target and have the weekend free’ pointed out the slight man who turned to look at the glowing puddle of molten concrete pointedly. ‘Anyway it does not matter he did say…’

‘Is the government trying to sew him again or has he started another war?’ asked Mark filing the words “Your file” away in a file of his own for future contemplation. This was another one of Mark’s ask only questions as he did not wait for the answer and started towards the street.

‘Well I err… am not at liberty to say sir, company security policies and so forth’ said Zal hurrying to catch up ‘I know that he specifically asked for me to track you down and I was busy with the Dragonwing Project.’

‘The Dragonwing Project, sounds important, I think you should get back to it and stop wasting my time.’ Zal stopped following Mark, this and the change in his voice caught Mark’s attention.

‘He did say that if you resisted I could use this.’ Mark spun around to see that the scientist raised a hand. There was a mass of wires strapped to his hand and lower arm and in the very depths of the gadget there was a glowing crystal that illuminated the coiled mess with white light. Cold dread ran though Mark though pathways that had been unused for a long time and his hand darted for his gun. The scientist clenched his hand and white light outlined his figures. Then Mark’s hand froze mid-way to his belt but not because of conscious or even subconscious decision. Without hesitation the right hand did what the left could not and his gun was ripped from its hoister and pointed at the scientist.

‘I do not advise that course of action’ said Zal calmly. One of Mark’s eyes stared at the scientist unblinkingly as the other scanned the street he had just stepped out onto. Flashes coming from an alleyway could be ignored but this; this was something different, this was free entertainment. Everybody in the street had turned to look at what was going on but so far no one had made a move to do anything about it.

‘And why is that?’

‘More than half of your components are at this point offline or shutting down and yes there is nothing stopping you from shooting me but only I know how to use this devise. Do you really want to spend the rest of your days dragging yourself around with your one good arm?’ Mark considered this, he had a very high value for defiance, but he overcame his genes and his and his very nature and submitted defeat.

‘I never asked to be a Cyborg’ snapped Mark.

‘That fact has been duly noted. Will you be yielding to your uncle’s requests or not? Either way I leave now.’ Mark glared first at the watching crowd who turned back to what they were doing and at least pretended to work whilst the Cyborg’s attention was focused on them and then Mark turned his eyes to the scientist who patiently waited.

‘Yes’ muttered Mark reproachfully ‘I will listen to the man but that had better be it. I am not getting caught up with you lot. Not again.’

‘That is good to hear because you were actually coming with us no matter what’ said the scientist and turned to the crowd. ‘Would you all be so kind to step back?’ shouted Zal over the background sound of the street. There was no response from the crowd that looked at him as though he was mad. People in this area of town were not known for doing what they were told. For example, they were repeatedly told to stop killing, stealing and arms trafficking by people much more impressive than Zal and in most cases they had killed the speaker, stole whatever they had on them and sold their weapons. Zal sighed at the stationary crowd.

‘Well, I must say that I do not advise that course of action’ warned Zal and carefully looked both ways to ensure THAT there was oncoming traffic and walked forward into the middle of the street with car horns beeping furiously as the cars drivers took notice of the scientist. Zal’s hand clenched around the hand pierce and directed it to one lane of the cars before spinning to face it towards the other. The cars instantly began to shut down and came to rest only meters away from where Zal stood. With a grin Zal squeezed the hand piece again and engines hummed back into life. To the amazement of their drives the cars began to reverse on their own accord and swerved to block both lanes of the street a hundred meters away on either side of where Zal stood.

‘It’s lot easier that it looks most of the technology in the average car was invented by The Company’ explained Zal who looked back at Mark and froze with a frown on his face, unwittingly doing a reasonable impression of Mark’s stance ‘Err, why are you standing like that?’ Mark’s gun had been put away and the large man had begun to drum his figures on his thigh for emphasis and frowning expectantly at Zal.

‘Well I don’t really have much of a choice do I? I never got round to reading my manual but on a hunch I think I might have to be turned on.’

‘Oh, I see. I am terribly sorry it must have just slipped my mind in the excitement’ said Zal and the crystal glowed for a second in its nest of wires. A soft humming sound came from inside Mark followed by the occasional beep of a component initiating and the whirling sound as moving parts spun up to operating speeds. From behind an overloaded fruit stand an elderly couple stared in shock at what they were hearing.

‘Indigestion’ growled Mark glaring at them until they looked away. No one liked Cyborgs, not after the war but in the long run it had evened things out for Mark because he had never liked people to begin with.

‘Have you ever thought about upgrading?’ asked Zal as they waited for something unknown to Mark ‘Some of your components are quite out-dated.’

‘I thought manufacturing Cyborgs components was illegal the punishment was equal to high treason’ said Mark. Zal sighed.

‘Sadly what you say is true but I have made plans of what they next generation of Cyborgs will be made of just in case that stupid law is revoked.’ Zal’s eyes glazed over as he looked into a word where all people beeped, hummed and whirled when they had indigestion. Zal’s eyes only snapped back to this world when all the birds in the area fled all at once and a rumbling sound began to echo though the street. Zal looked up his face beaming as he felt the familiar vibrations in the air. Something huge and extremely noisy slowed to a halt above the street and began to slowly descend down between the tall buildings with all the grace of an elephant walking backwards. There were gasps and the occasional scream of a child but mostly there was stunned silence. The crowd appraised what they were seeing and slowly backed away from the hovercraft because there were always stories about people getting too close to those engines and they were not the type of stories that ended with the line “and they lived happily ever after.”

‘Let me guess. That’s the Dragonwing Project’ said Mark dryly.

‘A new generation of hovercraft, designed by your uncle and the only one of it’s like in existence, a true revelation in the history of all flying machines.’

‘Give me a hydrogen filled Zeppelin any day’ said Mark as the hovercraft inched downwards.

‘You of all people you should trust your uncle’s genius you are a product of it after all’ the scientist looked at Mark with a joking smile. Mark didn’t smile and instead gave the young man a type of glare that only something mostly but not entirely machine can give, perfectly motionless but with all the disgust of a human glare.

‘I hate you’ said Mark slowly and clearly and, after considering who he was talking to, added the most severe insult he could think of ‘I even hate your work.’

‘So nothing has changed there since the day I first met you’ replied Zal his smile still unwavering ‘still I am sorry to hear that since you are and always will be some of my greatest work.’ Zal raised his hands as the powerful turbines descended above him, blowing small whirlwinds across the now emptying street as they neared the ground. Like a madman Zal closed his eyes and smiled gleefully in the power of his creation. Mark looked up at the rival machine with malice in his eye and scanned its exterior.

 

Vehicle type: hovercraft/jet

Model: unrecognized (possibly Dragonwing project)

Wingspan: 50.2 meters

Maximum Height: 4 meters

Length of Vehicle: 15 meters

Turbines: 8 (model and power unrecognized)

Hull makeup: 7 centimetres thick living metal plates

Weapons: concealed (but they are there)

Threat level: Dangerous

Marked as threat by: Marcus

 

The hovercraft came to a stop five meters above the street and a mass of chrome covered steel bars folded gracefully out from the hull of the craft and kept on folding and extending out until they formed into a steep but solid staircase before Zal.

‘After you’ Zal said and stood aside excitedly. Without a word Mark trudged up the stairs and found himself in a room quite unlike what he had expected. Leather sofas lined the circular room along with a water cooler and a small chandler that dropped a small fountain of glowing mist onto a crystal table below it.

‘Fancy’ pointed out mark ‘What emperor were you expecting?’ Zal pushed a button to retract the stairs and turned and pressed a few buttons on a screen embedded in a wall. A map of the hovercraft appeared and he peered at it carefully.

‘That’s the VIP room’ said Zal ‘protocol dictates that we seat the non-company passengers there, this way if you don’t mind.’

‘Am I not considered very important?’ asked Mark then smiled and added ‘or is it than I am not considered a person’? It took Zal a few moments to process what Mark said and respond.

‘No, you’re considered outright crucial and that’s why for you we are not following protocol, a person like you would get a tour but then there is the other thing.’

‘What other thing?’ demanded Mark.

‘You last name. Legally you own forty-nine percent of fifty-one percent of the company making as much a company man that they make.’

‘Maybe once but I gave all that up a long time ago’ said Mark.

‘I remember that. I was there’ said Zal ‘but I am here now and so are you.’ Mark was led down a narrow hallway that was spotted with doors until they came to the end of the hallway.

‘What’s this?’ asked Mark as Zal studied the wall. The scientist didn’t respond but grinned and placed a hand on the smooth wall. A green glow was brought to life around the scientist’s hand and he flinched at a pinch of pain.

‘Welcome professor Zalrick’ said a robotic female voice that sounded familiar to Mark.

‘It’s the security door leading to the internal workings of the hovercraft, most of what lays beyond this point will not be on the market for ten years’ the scientist who then stopped to run though a few equations in his head and corrected ‘actually most of it will never go on the market but we still don’t want anyone outside the company getting any ideas, not our ideas.’ The scientist turned to the door and waited.

‘Is something meant to be happening?’ asked Mark after a few seconds of staring at polished metal.

‘Ye…yes it is’ said Zal thoughtfully ‘the door is meant to split up and fold into the corners. Mark I think you are going to have to be checked by the scanners by hand. The Artificial Intelligence is having a problem with your bone structure.’

‘You mean it doesn’t like Cyborgs hanging around’ asked Mark dryly.

‘Well yes, it’s actually quite a complex and comprehensive system. I had a little to do with its programming but Dregor did most of it personally and when that man puts his mind to things they practically come alive.’ Mark placed a hand against the cool steel of the wall, his more human hand just in case it made a difference. A strip of blue light rolled down the metal door and there was a small pinching feeling.’

‘Hello Mark. I see you’re still as ugly as all hell’ said the familiar female voice stirring up once stolen, then returned and lastly repressed, memories from Mark’s distant past.

‘Her’ exclaimed Mark under his breath as Zal burst into laughter. The door broke into three shapes and swung away leaving an opening to yet another narrow hallway that ran almost the length of the wingspan.

‘This way’ ushered the scientist when he recovered and led Mark down the hallway. He had almost walked past it when Mark noticed the doorway. It was a normal door, or as normal as a door on the Dragonwings Project could be. What made it different to other doors was the pulsing blue light that escaped all around it and it had been this that rudely snatched Mark’s attention. The way a plasma rift flickered was something that not even Mark could forget no matter how much he tried to. Even now he became uncomfortable and anxious every time he encountered that flickering glow. Zal turned to see what Mark was staring at, winced when he saw what it was and cut in when Mark began to open his mouth but before he could say anything.

‘The control room is just over there, you will like it, and it’s interesting. Flashing lights, control terminals and display screens literally everywhere.’

‘Is that what I think it is?’ asked Mark not looking away from the light coming from the crack under the door.

‘Probably’ answered Zal ‘you have come into this technology before, you once blew one up.’

‘And it vaporized everything in a two kilometre radius. It’s hardly safe to have one of them on a hovercraft.’

‘Well it technically vaporized everything but you. This is a third generation plasma generator; they are more reliable and do not explode quite so readily. Now as I was saying about the control room.’

 

It was dark, scientists and pilots worked by the lights of glowing control panels and computer screens. It was so dark that the green of night vision automatically broke into Mark’s sight. The scientists were tired and pale as if they had spent days in the confines of the hovercraft. Occasionally one of the workaholics would look up from his work briefly and study Mark with the eyes like those of an art enthusiast staring at a masterpiece. Mark would glare back at them but alas this did not work as they would just also study the glare unashamedly before returning to their work at their own time analysis done.

‘So what do you think of the Dragonwings Project?’ asked Zal grinning madly.

‘I was expecting something with a view.’

‘Alas glass or even plate diamond windows would not be suitable for this type of craft but don’t worry I am sure you will be satisfied with the view you will get when we arrive. You remember the Pillar don’t you, we are heading there now. They felt compelled to refurnish if since you were there. I am interested to see what you think of the new look and dear god I hope you like the new furnishings’ said Zal. Mark filtered out the remark and focused on the facts given.

‘Wait, we are moving?’ asked Mark in surprise.

‘Oh yes’ said Zal ‘six times the speed of sound or thereabouts. We will speed up to three times that when we leave the city’s airspace which should be about…now.’ Mark braced himself for GeForce but the Dragonwing Project remained as steady as it ever was.

‘I did not feel a thing’ said Mark incredulously.

‘Good’ said Zal ‘had you felt it you would be crushed to death against the back wall and the rest of us would be only an onion and some stock powder away from being classified as soup. Which I do admin is something of a distasteful image.’

‘Oh I must disagree’ said a nearby pilot flicking a switch and swivelling on his chair to look at Zal but study Mark ‘I think we would be a fine broth’ Mark had not given the man sitting in the central chair any more that a second of his attention and because of this, and because the man had been facing the other way, Mark had not noticed that there was another person in the cockpit who had not sold their soul to the gods of science and engineering.

‘This is a Hamish our captain and supposedly our pilot’ said Zal with obvious displeasure ‘Hamish this is…’

‘Mark Mercer. The companies living breathing or whatever prodigal son. I am very pleased to meet you’ finished Hamish with a grin and stretched out at hand to Mark.

‘I do not advise…’ started Zal.

‘Of course you don’t Zal’ said Hamish ‘you don’t advise any course of action. What is he going to do, crush my hand? I am the god damm pilot let us see now well that turns out.’ Zal rolled his eyes and looked away. Mark took the hand carefully and shook it managing, with some difficulty, not to wrench Hamish’s arm out of its socket or break any fingers.

‘At this point you are the pilot but at the rate that the AI is gaining flight hours I would not count on that being the case for long. I just might recommend you for the position of co-pilot one of these days and promote the AI to captain’ said Zal. Hamish laughed but turned back to the flight controllers. He flicked the autopilot off with swagger but also with the hand furthest from the switch and the opposite hand than the one Mark had shook.

‘I will be co-pilot the day that the AI can do this’ said Hamish and his hands blurred over the control terminal. In Mark’s perspective, and to all senses human and otherwise, nothing about the Dragonwing Project’s flight path changed. It was the response from the scientists in the control room and the suddenly flashing warning lights that told him something significant was happening.

‘Damm you Hamish! We have not calculated the effects of continues flips and rolls’ said Zal his open the normal amount but peculiar because they both wide with fear and narrowed with anger.

‘You and your computers might not have calculated them but I have’ said Hamish.

‘One day Hamish’ said Zal ‘we will sit down and quantify your actions and we will work out just how irrational and foolish you really are.’

‘One day I am going to take you to an airport bar and we will see how much of a dork you are’ snapped back Hamish. Zal turned to Mark.

‘I am going to go check on the plasma generator’ said Zal ‘Please make yourself as comfortable as possible given the company.’ And with that Zal left the control room muttering to himself.

‘You two do not get along’ observed Mark, he liked that.

‘What makes you think that?’ asked Hamish.

‘The bickering’ said Mark.

‘Oh that. I just do that to pass the time. You would not believe how boring it can get in here’ said Hamish ‘I know that seems impossible. How can flying the most advanced flying machine above the world be boring you ask? Well it is like this.’ Hamish flicked a switch and the AI auto pilot turned on.

‘This thing quite literally fly’s itself.’

‘The AI must be quite intelligent’ said Mark.

‘Oh it’s very advanced’ said Hamish casually ‘I am no computer programmer but from what I am told an AI like of this type is meant to grow to be more intelligent that the guy that writes is. Since it was Dregor that wrote its base code you can guess how intelligent it is or will be.’

‘Quite intelligent.’

‘Yes it is but it’s only in its infant state now, just a two year old. It was written just before the Dragonwing Project got its funding. I think that Dregor gave the Dragonwing Project the green light so that the AI would have a body of its own and would not have to spent its days in a server locked away in the basements of the Pillar like his other experiments gone life.’

‘Pardon?’ asked Mark although with his inhumanly keen hearing he had caught every word.

‘It’s sort of a Joke to say that Dregor has things growing in vats in the basement. Big giant brains a meter across is what is most rumoured about.’

‘Why would he want that?’ asked Mark genuinely surprised ‘It is more his way to stamp out a circuit board for a one tenth of the cost.’

‘That may have once been the case that case but for some reason your uncle has spent the better part of the last ten years building better and better artificial brains to the board of directors’ dismay. They would have him be designing weapons and new telephones because that is where the money is.’

‘He is doing it for some very specific and suspect reason no doubt’ said Mark.

‘Probably’ said Hamish. The control terminal in front of Hamish beeped alarmingly and lit up with flashing red warning lights.

‘And we are here?’ said Hamish lent back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head.

‘Don’t you need to do something about landing?’ asked Mark casually. It takes more than the prospect of death to scare Mark Mercer.

‘I wish I needed to do something’ said Hamish ‘but she really just flies herself. Good luck meeting with your uncle. I have only met him the once that was the day he hired me. I know people say that he is a genius, a revolutionary scientist, as much a god as you can be while trapped in a human body but whatever they say, your uncle is quite a character.’

‘Thankyou’ said Mark ‘I hope one day the autopilot fails and you are needed.’

‘Dregor designed the auto pilot’ said Hamish ‘It will not fail, but it may go insane and try to wipe out human kind.’ Mark left the Control Room and its coloured lights and went in search for Zal.

 

Mark & Rebecca & Dregor

 

They didn’t land as such because there was no land involved. The hovercraft did however swoop down over an elevated platform and they did come to a halt, and the turbines shut off but nothing other than the Dragonwing Project’s gleaming stairs touched the ground.

‘Magnetic clamps’ explained Zal as they descended to a triangular platform that jutted from The Pillar like a splinter and Mark looked up at the Dragonwing Project hanging in the air. A line of burly men encircled the platform standing with their hands behind their back and staring fixedly at Mark. Mark got the impression that these men would very much wish that he was not here.

‘And who are these?’ asked Mark eyeing the men.

‘They are only here to make the landing go as smoothly as possible. Just a precaution for an unfavourable and quite possible eventuality’ explained Zal though special note should be made here that he failed at this.

‘What’s that meant to mean?’

‘Mark, these are magnetic clamps and you are significantly more magnetic than most people that land here. I do not think you have to tax your imagination circuitry all that much in order to work out what I mean.’ Mark stared menacingly at the scientist, this being the equivalents of a blank stare on the face of a better humoured person, before he carefully edged towards the ring of humming contraptions that encircled the platform.

‘Mark I would not advise that course of action’ said Zal. Mark stopped and stretched out a hand. At the very tips of his fingers there was a faint pull.

‘I see’ said Mark stepping back he looked around properly for the first time. The view from up here was impressive looking out over rolling countryside and looking down on a small city of factories, warehouses and standard issue high rise employee accommodation. Mark remembered what this complex, aka The Pillar, looked like from the ground or at least what it had looked like. It looked as if a shard of diamond had fallen from the sky, crashed into the earth’s crust and stuck where it had landed.

‘I have of course designed nonmagnetic components to replace your current ones. I am sure that with your uncle’s stick instruction not to and another secrete laboratory I could…’

‘Zal I am here to see what my uncle has to say, nothing more. I am defiantly not here for you to open me up and have another go at my insides.’

‘Of course’ said Zal ‘please follow me.’ Zal led Mark into a doorway that opened and shut with the sound of heavy locks opening and closing. The first room within the doorway was a hexagon shaped room with six metallic doors opening off it. Zal did not lead them to any of the doors but to a panel of buttons on a wall. Zal pressed a long sequence and the floor fell from under Mark’s feet. It did not actually fall away but it felt like it did. The elevator/foyer plummeted a few stories and came to a sudden halt. In was clear that whatever enigmatic technology that the company used in the Dragonwing Project to cancel out inertia they did not use in their elevators.

‘Your uncle’s quarters’ said Zal ‘that is the eighth floor from the top also known as the western point because of how his quarters jut out towards the west.’

‘I know the layout of the building’ said Mark ‘When I was eighteen I voted in directors’ meetings that was on level five or as is was known the South Point and as a child I used to summer in the Northern Point. That is on level four; that was my parent’s quarters for when they had business here.’

‘It still is their quarters’ said Zal ‘or still would be. It is yours now. I would be lying if I said no one had been in there since them but technicians and maintenance have protocols they must follow but other than that I believe the apartment has been left untouched.’

‘Well that was a waste of space and bear in mind when I say that that I think the entire facility is a waste of space. I do not plan on ever using it again. You should use the area for something useful like’ said Mark and Mark struggled to come up with something that The Company did that he thought was redeeming of them. He failed. ‘A sunroom for depressed AI and giant meter wide brains.’

‘Pardon?’ asked Zal but did not press for an answer when Mark did not provide one.

Mark moved to a door labelled Main Corridor by a screen above the doorway, as there were above every door in the elevator. The other doors now said things like, Service Shaft, Electrical Conduits, storage for old tennis rackets and other such things that the typical visitor to the floor had no business accessing. Mark and stepped out of the elevator and into the, or at least a, pinnacle of interior design. As soon as they stepped out the elevator the doors, brass on this side, snapped shut and the sound of the elevator rocketing away could be heard though the thick metal.

 

The Pillars new look was undoubtedly impressive. Solid marble floors, diamond windows and a masterpiece on every wall. The company had spared no expense on the reconstruction. Mark would have appreciated the masterpieces more if he had not known who had effortlessly created them. Everything here looked so different that Mark had to walk far though the complex until he saw something he recognized. Two bronze doors stood in a wall of crystal and to the left a sitting area. Three sizable knuckle impressions marked one of the bronze doors, no panel beater in the world being able to get rid of the mark left by Mark.

‘This is it’ said Zal stopping a few meters’ shy of the doors.

‘I know, I have been here before’ pointed out Mark and he did not have to point at the marks on the Bronze doors Zal’s eyes moved to them on their own.

‘Oh of course, well, good luck. You will be asked for in a few moments.’

‘Wait. You are not going to be joining us?’ asked Mark.

‘I do not see why I would need to’ said Zal. Mark gave Zal a wave. Zal, perplexed gave a wave back, then it struck Zal that he was waving the glowing glove on his hand which for Mark represented the only weapon in nearly a decade that had been able to best him.

‘Oh that reason. I do not think we need worry about that. You’re not going to be killing Dregor today.’

‘I can’t promise that’ retorted Mark.

‘I can’ said Zal ‘I just can’t promise that you will not try to. The Pillars head of security will be out shortly to call you in. I would wait. You could try knocking on the door but I do not recommend that course of action’ said the scientist before he turned and hurried back the way they had come. Mark looked around and noted an absence of all guards, cameras, and any sign of any security at all. A normal person might have found this relaxing; an intelligent and wary person would have found it unnerving but Mark really didn’t see the need to think about it. In the corner of the sitting area there was a drink vending machine. He walked over to it and scanned its option list. Everything from milk to hard liquor was here, just a button press away. He selected. A mug of tea was lowered onto a tray at the bottom of the machine and he picked the mug up using everything but the handle and took a sip. He had liked alcohol but there was no point in drinking it now, not when his “upgrade” removed all toxins from his blood in minutes after absorption. (Well this was true within reason, it was true that Mark’s blood filtering system could filter much faster than most but if he just kept on drinking, or by actively replacing his blood with alcohol, he could beat the system and get drunk for the terrifying minutes that the experience lasted. To illustrate why Mark does not do this often, anymore, try writing a research paper on the prospect of a drunk computer, now imagine being said drunk computer.) Mark walked to the window and stared down at the world beneath him, and so far below. As he stood there and sipped at his tea Mark wondered how many of The Company’s board of directors had views like this and he wondered if they spent their days looking out at the world below them, a world filled with tiny ant like people doing their bidding. Mark wondered if they stood there day after day until they thought that this was how things were and how they were meant to be. It would explain a lot about The Company’s mentality if that was the case. Just then there was a beeping sound from Mark’s chest and his hand moved like it was powered by lightening to pat down his chest.’ He was half way through a system diagnostic test when his hand located the source of the sound and plunged into a pocket to immerge holding a dog eared business card flashing an expired counter. It was the business card he had found and found and disregarded in his house about a week ago on his table realised Mark and then with a stomach sinking feeling that Dregor had accurately predicted within twenty minutes his arrival but not only that, he had turned the prediction into a show of superiority by means of a generic issue company business card. Mark noticed that the words on the card had changed and read them “Please be prepared. A company employee will be attending you shortly.”

‘He is ready to see you’ said a voice from behind him before Mark could prepare himself. A female voice a familiar female voice that even now had a profound effect on Mark even if its owner’s soundless arrival had not. Mark missed flinches they had made life seem more real. And those moments when your heart skips a beat? Well, he did not miss those but he did miss them not lighting up his mind with cardiovascular system related warning messages.

‘Hello Rebecca. Please to see me?’ asked Mark before he turned around.

‘Ha, that is hardly the case. Did you get my message on the Dragonwing’s security system my sentiments remain unchanged since I recorded that?’

‘Yes I did. It was… touching.’ Mark turned. The lady behind him slim and of an age impossible to guess with any accuracy. She was of above average height and her armless blouse revealed arm muscles a little more defined than you would expect on any woman not some kind of professional athlete. She may have been a daunting sight standing there so confidently and so unconsciously poised for confrontation but then almost anyone standing next to Mark would look small and frail and the people that did not look small and frail around him had the issue of continuously getting stuck in doorways.

‘Are you still his secretary?’ Asked Mark.

‘I am head of security now’ replied Rebecca reproachfully ‘you’re still a moron I gather.’

‘Of course’ said Mark and gave out one of his rare genuine smiles ‘It is how I was built. Morons are better at killing Fallen and I was designed as means to an end and to be mean until my end.’ The two bronze doors as if over waiting for the reuniting pair swung outwards silently, leaving the passageway behind them exposed but in no way inviting. The passageway and the drifts of dust suggested that cleaners did not often brave this place or perhaps were barred from it entirely.

‘We have better go. He still does not like being kept waiting even if in these days it is because he forgets what he is waiting for’ said Rebecca and strode with the grace of a ballerina towards the passageway. Mark followed a few steps behind watching her with interest but not that type of interest; having a computer regulate your hormones has an effect on one’s interests and priorities.

 

The real doors of his uncle’s office were made of simple wood and the floors were of carpet rather than marble. It was just possible to imagine the budget running out at the threshold of the bronze doors but this took effort for anyone who had heard of the company. The hideous scrap metal seat that was for some reason the traditional seat of authority for the head of the Mercer Family sat empty behind the matching and equally twisted and unseemly metal desk. At the moment and to the benefit of the room’s appearance the desk was hidden by something mechanical and mind bogeying complex and from beneath the mass of mind bogeying complex came the sound of an electric screwdriver and annoyed muttering.

‘Dregor?’ asked Rebecca after a while of the muttering. A head appeared from behind the desk; presumably it was attached to a body but at first this was not evident and in a world that contains cyborgs presuming that a head must be attached to a body is presuming too much.

‘Yes?’ asked the old man getting up and putting the screwdriver away in a draw. He was wearing a finely tailored suit because these days they were all he could find in his closet. The old man froze for a second looking at Rebecca before his eyes darted to Mark.

‘Marcus!’ he exclaimed with a delighted grin exploding on his face.

‘Uncle’ growled Mark standing his ground when without warning the white haired man moved forward and grabbed him in a tight embrace.

‘It is so good to see you.’

‘Ok’ said Mark slowly pushing his uncle away with arms like hydraulic pistons. The man broke the hug and stepped back, it was that or having his arms broken by Mark. From exactly arm distance away, Mark’s arm, he studied Mark in detail for the first time and his expression betrayed that he did not seem overly fond of what he saw. Mark in turn looked at his uncle and wondered how long it had been since he had seen the man. It had to be almost nine years. His uncle’s hair and neat little beard had only been lightly streaked with grey when he had last seen the man, now they were a chalky white. Dregor’s face had not changed much in the time, wrinkles formed by a global company worth of responsibility had already entrenched Dregor’s face the last time Mark had seen him.

‘You wanted to talk to me. I hope for your sake that it was not just to chat’ prompted Mark with a voice like ice ‘for my sake I wish you did so I would have good reason to knock you senseless.’

‘Indeed I did’ said the genius walking over to his horrible chair and sitting down ‘I mean I did have good reason to want to talk to you.’ Rebecca sat down in a chair beside him and picked up a leather bound book and seemed to get instantly caught up in it.

‘I can do it’ said Dregor.

‘Do what?’ asked Mark glaring at Dregor.

‘I can reverse what was done to you. I can make you human’ Mark’s heartbeat quickened despite himself and his operating system.

‘You said it was impossible’ pointed out Mark.

‘And at the time it was but we have gone a long way since then, technologically and figuratively that is, and we have advanced in leaps and bounds in the field of bio computing and electro-intellectual computing thanks to my efforts. Back then was only able to transfer memories from a person into computer but now I believe that I go the other way as well. I can reconstruct a full, functioning human brain from whatever small portion of the original brain that still remains. It is then a simple matter of transferring the memories knowledge back to its original habitat. I say simply but it was truly simple then I will not have spent ten years of my life researching and planning the procedure and the procedure would not take weeks of diligent attention to carry out.’

‘But the process is complete isn’t it?’ asked Mark duly suspicious ‘I will not just be left stuck even deeper in the rift between human kind and machine than where I am now?’

‘Perhaps someone could tell that you had been a cyborg if they were to cut you open and look around but by all other means and to the casual viewer you would appear fully home grown’ said Dregor smiling at Mark’s rising excitement.

‘I do not care about appearances’ said Mark. This was true even as a human Mark had not been one to fuss about such trivial matters, in both his mind’s the electronic one and the other “normal” one the only way a person could be identified as looking beautiful was if they were to resemble a sunrise or a mountain scene. ‘Will I be human in the ways it matters?’

‘I believe that you have always been human in the ways it matters but I think I know what you mean. Yes, Mark you will feel human again.’

‘Then I want it done’ demanded Mark immediately but he knew enough about life and in particular his life so that the road outage on his path to happiness and the proffered dubious detour did not come as much of the surprise when they arrived.

‘I would love to do it just like that but am afraid I can’t’ said Dregor.

‘What?’ exclaimed Mark ‘You cut me up and turned me into a weapon to fight your enemy without my permission and against what I wanted. If all that could be forgiven, and it should go without saying that it can’t, you went on to steal important memories from me.’ Mark glanced at Rebecca but she seemed not to be listening.

‘It was a horrible thing that I did to you’ said Dregor ‘but what I did I did out of necessity. I could find a world full of free thinking people today that would say that I that I did the right thing but more importantly in my mind is that I could find a world full or free thinking people.’

‘But we were family’ said Mark his voice closer to pleading that he was happy with.

‘A family of business men and women I will remind you. And don’t you look and me like that, we both know that nothing in this world comes free, not truly free. I want to turn you human again but there is something I need you to do for me first and I do mean need that than want. I am sorry. I really am but between a rock and a hard place and no rock has been rockier and no hard place so hard.’ Mark said nothing for a few moments as he thought.

‘…what do you want me to do?’ said Mark hesitantly planning on getting all his bearings on the situation before he rushed in.

‘How are you with children?’ asked Dregor.

‘They tend to start crying as soon as they look at me and they don’t shut up. Why do you ask?’ Mark.

‘I need a babysitter’ said the genius. Rebecca looked up from her book to appreciate Mark’s expression of horror and she sniggered silently. Dregor’s expression however remained serious.

‘I knew I should not have come’ said Mark gravely ‘what’s the catch?’

‘People will most likely be trying to kill you and…’ said Dregor and stopped aware that his nephew had not responded to this but was giving him a look normally only seen when staring at a statue. Rebecca sighed and closed the book, keeping her place with a finger.

‘You will be asked to spend six days in the presence of a nine year old’ said Rebecca smugly. Mark winced or would have if he winced nowadays.

‘Six days’ said Mark fearfully. Not sure what to do Dregor pushed on.

‘Some of the people trying to kill you will be quite well trained’ said Dregor unnoticed.

‘With a nine year old’ repeated Rebecca. Some of Mark’s subprograms went critical were forced to restart.

‘They will be very keen on killing or at least crimping you long enough to take the boy’ said Dregor.

‘This one can be described as…’ Rebecca paused for effect ‘…talkative’ she said going on.

‘You will have to wait around a few days then get him into the city without being seen, I dare say the police and the armies would have a photo of you and orders to kill you on sight.’

‘That’s insanity; I can’t do that’ exclaimed Mark ‘I might as well shut down here and now; spending six days with a talkative nine year old it’s like suicide.’ This was when Dregor had enough of being ignored and his ever boiling anger erupted.

‘So is fighting into an enemy stronghold and overloading a Plasma Generator by hand!’ snapped Dregor and Mark was reminded that behind the little man’s funny ways and his often good-natured manor was a mind that could think of a hundred ways of killing you in the time it took most people to roll over and hit the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks. Dregor sat on his chair as it was a throne and a throne it had become. The scrap metal without desk chair without visibly moving or changing looked more than the seat of authority it was now, its back seemed higher and more ornate and its arms rests prorated slightly more profoundly from both sides.

‘You managed that I do remember’ continued Dregor winding down. Dregor closed his mouth and changed mental gears, changing down from white hot anger to a voice of desperation ‘And besides, Mark, we’re family.’ There was a silence in the room that lingered.

‘It’s that important to you?’ asked Mark as slowly and as serious as ever.

‘It is’ answered Dregor softly. Mark’s eyes darted to Rebecca who nodded.

‘Then why me?’

‘Mark you say that I built you to be a weapon to kill the Fallen’ said Dregor in the most serious tone of voice Mark had heard from the man ‘That is absurd. If I wanted a weapon to kill the Fallen I would have built a bomb. It would have taken about as much overall time to construct but would have killed the Fallen much faster. I built you not to kill but to protect humanity against the Fallen and that is why I think you will be able to protect this child from his enemies.’

‘Why are people even after this kid?’ asked Mark.

‘Because like you the child is unique, and like you many people want him dead just for being what he is, and some want him alive for much the same reason, but most would take him either way if it meant taking him from us. That is as much as I am willing to reveal and as much as it is wise for you to know!’ the exclamation point at the end of his sentence was dropped by Dregor that he was not going to put up with any more of this line of questioning, this was promptly ignored by Mark.

‘Has he got a brain full of circuits too?’ asked Mark purposely.

‘No, he is much more sophisticated than that’ said Dregor ‘but to explain it with words would take more time that either of us have right now. It will be best if you see for yourself.’

4 Mark 2.3

Mark

 

The boy sat at a table just beyond the glass walls hard at work, as he had been hard at work for some time now. The object of his work was a painting of a tall man with scars all over and a stare as warm as ice. The boy put down the paintbrush neatly beside his work and with a warm smile looked up to see the man staring at him from behind the glass walls of his rooms. Rebecca and Dregor stood behind him with serious expressions on their faces and the child smiled at them too. The boy liked them, they had come to visit him spontaneously ever since he could remember and he had come to look forward to their spontaneous appearances. The boy raised a hand and waved in joyful welcoming.

‘What have you done old man?’ demanded Mark as he stared at the boy then around at the laboratory. He thought nothing Dregor could do now could make him despise the man more he had been wrong. Strange machines burdened with flashing lights and monitors encircled the glass rooms.

‘I succeeded’ said Dregor smiling back at his creation ‘I have made, or more found, the next level of humanity.’

‘The last time you went down that path you almost destroyed civilization, some might say that you did’ pointed out Mark heatedly.

‘I was middle-aged and foolish then, I should have seen the errors in my ideals. I was trying to replace evolution with technology, I thought evolution had failed us when in fact it had done all it needed to do.’ Rebecca stepped forward in the silent fluid way of hers and placed a hand gently on the glass. The boy in the glass cage gave her a smile.

‘What are you talking about?’ Demanded Mark confused.

‘The boy before you is human more evolved than most of us granted but entirely human none the less’ said Rebecca softly. There was a minute of silence as they watched the boy watching them and things spun in Mark’s head, literally spun around to allow for maximum processing speed.

‘What of his mother?’ asked Mark solemnly.

‘Contracted and given a very generous pension. I think she now owns a mansion in the countryside somewhere if memory serves’ replied Dregor.

‘I think I know how you did it old man but I still don’t know why. What benefit do you get from this?’

‘None’ replied Dregor ‘the benefit is not mine to be had, it’s for the future to enjoy. This is my gift to mankind.’

‘You are a dangerously generous man uncle’ pointed out Mark. The man smiled.

‘Well we all have our faults…’ he stated before he stopped himself and turned to the boy in the room ‘most of us do anyway.’

 

Mark stepped into the room, stooping slightly to get through the door. The sound of the outside world switched off as the door swung back into place behind him.

‘Soundproof’ thought Mark and thought some more ‘probably blast and plasma proof as well.’ The boy sat at the table and was painting again and with unnerving precision.

‘Hello’ said the boy looking up from his work ‘You came.’

‘Hey’ said Mark awkwardly ‘…how is the painting working out?’

‘Well’ said the boy ‘Do you want to see?’

‘Sure.’ The boy turned the painting around on the table and lifted one end.

‘It looks… accurate’ said Mark. It was a portrait of Mark, but it contained not just what he looked like but somehow the painting contained his mood, his thoughts and his personality. This meant that dark colours featured heavily in the paintings makeup.

‘It’s you’ said the boy and immediately moved on to ‘do you like painting?’

‘I used to’ said Mark sitting down on the other side of the table.

‘Do you not like it anymore?’ asked the child suddenly all curiosity.

‘I like it I think I just don’t seem to have time for it anymore’ replied Mark distantly because he was wondering how the boy could have possibly drawn the painting in the time that the child had to paint it. The painting must have taken an hour at least to paint, Mark had stepped into the room outside the glass cage minutes ago.

‘Do you have the time for it now?’ asked the child with wide hopeful eyes. Mark gave in; in its past Mark’s resolve had seen him though week long fire fights, immortal wounds and even almost a decade of life in the lower levels of society, but it melted like wax in the presence of the boy.

‘I suppose I do’ said Mark reaching out and pulling some paper towards himself and picking up a brush.

‘Ah yes painting’ thought a forgotten part of his brain ‘I remember what to do.’

‘My name is Two Point Three’ said the child as he got back to his own painting.

‘What? That’s what they called you?’

‘Oh no. They did not call me that. They did not call me anything. I called myself Two Point Three because it is written on my door.’

‘It’s not really a name. Are you sure it’s what you want?’

‘I like it but if it is not a good name then I suppose you could call me Mark.’ Mark stopped what he was doing, or more stopped concentrating on what he was doing, his semi-autonomous and semi-treacherous hands went on working.

‘As in Marcus?’ he asked the boy interested.

‘As in Mark Two Point Three’ answered the boy ‘What is your name?’

‘Most people call me Mark’ answered Mark.

‘Mark as in Mark Two Point Three?’

‘No just shortened from Marcus.’ Mark stared at the boy as he painted. It was strange he found himself not hating the child and perhaps even liking the boy.

‘No, this could not be right’ thought Mark quickly ‘I do not like anybody let alone children.’

‘You are different from other people’ said the self-named Two Point Three after a few minutes of solid painting.

‘Really and how is that?’ asked Mark.

‘You do not wear a white coat; the people I normally see wear white coats.’ Mark found himself relaxing, people did not like Cyborgs. ‘You are also made of computer.’ Mark tensed which not a small thing for someone as strong as he was. The paintbrush in his hand was crushed into splinters.

‘How do you know that?’

‘I just do. I suppose I can sense it in you’ said the boy vaguely ‘There are visible clues though.’

‘Like what’ asked Mark?

‘You don’t move without meaning to and you have just painted a detailed picture of an imploding building without looking or noticing what you were doing.’ Mark looked down at the paper in front of him. Swirls of blue and purple encircled the shattered remains of a building, a Company facility to be precise and a former Company facility to be even more so. Here and there lay shards of paintbrush sticking to, and out of the painting making the whole thing more real. Sitting in the glass room and staring at the paining Mark could hear the sound of a plasma rift tearing though the fabric of the world, it was not a sound you forgot.

‘It is a terrifying picture’ said the boy sympathetically as Mark stared at the painting. There was something in the boy’s eyes just now that suggested that he could hear it too.

‘I have to go now’ said Mark knowing that is was a lie and wondering if the child knew too.

‘But you have only just arrived’ complained Two Point Three.

‘Dregor needs me to go over some details. It’s just technical stuff but then it is always technical stuff with him.’

‘Is that the white haired man with the beard?’ asked Two Point Three.

‘What, you do not know him?’ asked Mark.

‘Oh I know him’ said the boy and the certainty and in his voice was unsettling ‘we have spoken on many occasions but we have never spoken about names.’

‘Well I have to go now’ said Mark backing towards the door as if the child was some kind of wild animal. The ordeal with the painting had thrown him and him a hundred and forty kilogram man, before cyborg components, was not used to being thrown.

‘You don’t want to take your painting?’ asked the child.

‘No, I do not think I do’ said Mark.

‘I will keep it then’ said the boy ‘take mine in exchange.’ The body painted a few more tiny details onto the painting, folding it up it up into a neat rectangle and handed it over. Mark took the slightly soggy paper carefully, absent minded tucked it into his jackets inner pocket, and smiled at the boy.

‘It was nice meeting you Two Point Three.’

‘You too Mark shortened from Marcus’ said the body as the glass door shut behind Mark. The laboratory was overwhelming after the silence of the glass room and for this reason Mark’s system began to damper out the worst of the noise as a measure to prevent the human part of him going insane. For a couple of seconds, before his system kicked it, Mark thought he heard the sound of heartbeats, the rapid heartbeats of people anxious about something very pressing. Mark looked at Rebecca and Dregor who stood watching him and unconsciously holding their breaths.

‘I will do it’ said Mark after sometime.

‘Thank you’ said Dregor visibly relaxing ‘I don’t know how I could ever repay you.’

‘Yes you do’ said Mark ‘Make me human and then never speak to me again.’

 

Memory recall. Hour 6, Minute 36, second 20.

Mark woke in a drug induced daze and lay there for a couple of minutes in a blissful drug induced slumber but despite the near lethal amount of tranquilizes in his system it was not to last. Fully initialized filtering systems where doing their jobs pulling the sedative from his body stream millilitre by millilitre. The graph of Mark’s return to consciousness was not linear but instead could be used to teach people of the Richter scale and other exponential measuring systems. His thoughts moved though his brain like gently falling snow gradually increasing in density and building up to the point where it would take just a single additional snowflake in the to fall in just the right place in the just the right way to cause the mountain side to explode into an avalanche of flying snow, rolling boulders and crushed ski lodges. The snowflake floated down and ever so gently landed. The avalanche of thought began. The memory of the surgery table passed through his mind like the first person in office turning on all the lights and all the computers. The residual effects of the drugs slipped from Mark’s mind and he opened his eyes and saw that the room that he was in was lit with a green light.

‘Did that just happened?’ thought Mark to himself, his mind racing, when he recalled the image of the surgeons standing above him ‘surely it has to have just been a dream. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, lots of soldiers get it, I must have it as well, funny how stress builds up without you realizing it.’ Mark tried to move, his body hurt all over, but all his arms and legs responded and they hadn’t in the dream no matter how hard he had tried to move them therefore the surgery bench couldn’t have been real reasoned Mark. What had the dream been anyway? A bunch of doctor’s scientists and engineers trying to turn him into a cyborg now that was a joke.

‘I would like to see a bunch of intellectual’s try to turn me into a cyborg’ thought Mark to himself and chuckled uneasily because the dream, despite being preposterous, had felt so very real that it had alarmed him somewhat. He could remember vividly the cold steel of the table. Mark threw the thin hospital blankets aside and stood up and surveyed the green lit room as dauntingly as he was able given the situation and given the clothing someone had dressed him it. He was wearing a pale blue gown that did little in the way of public decency and even less for draft prevention.

‘That does not mean anything’ assured Mark’s hindbrain after he had adjusted the gown for maximum coverage. ‘Of course I would wake up in a hospital.’ He walked over to the door and presses an ear against it. There was the sound of people talking just outside. Mark closed his hand over the door handle and pulled. The door was locked but the lock snapped as soon as Mark put any pressure on it and the door handle came away in his hand.

‘Odd’ thought Mark but his mind was still too occupied on working out the meaning of the dream both that of the surgery table, and the earlier dream of a sea of coloured light, for him to waste thought on cheap doorhandles and poor workmanship. Mark pushed open the door and stepped into the brightly lit room beyond.

Night vision: off;

The green hue that had up until now had featured in his vision disappeared suddenly and the brightly lit room beyond dimmed suddenly to hospital standard.

‘What was that? What just happened?’ asked Mark aloud. The people he had heard talking had caught sight of Mark, gotten to their feet and were now looking at him with expressions of concern and alarm. They’re not holding back on the alarm Mark noted and he also noted that some of the people looked disconcertingly like the people he had seen in his dream. Mark took a step backwards. The room was dark for a few micro seconds and then;

Night Vision: on;

The world lit up in green the hallway outside his room where the people stood was now, once again, incredibly bright. With the new green light Mark could see a light switch beside the door and he went to toggle it with a finger when one of the scientists decided to speak.

‘I do not recommend that course of action’ said the young man calmly although the young man’s voice was calm its effect on Mark was not calming. “In a room of fear he spoke calmly” thought Mark recalling in vivid detail the surgery and the cold metal of the surgery table. If the scientist familiar voice was not enough to push Mark’s thoughts off the Crest of Uncertainty and down The Cliff of Without a Doubt, the results of the lights in the room coming on was.

Night vision: off;

The green hue of the room suddenly wasn’t there anymore; it was just a typical hospital waiting room. What also was not there anymore was Mark’s ability to pretend that the surgery table had just been a dream and that lying on it unconscious the thing he dreaded most had happened. He had been turned into a Cyborg, he had been given new eyes with a night vision feature and Creator knew what else. Mark stood still for a few seconds, stiller than he had ever stood before, inhumanly still. A couple of people in the hall beyond the doorway backed away and notionally began to walk the length of the hallway with the peculiar gait of those whose minds want nothing more than to be as far away as possible but the pressures of social etiquette and dignity would not allow them to be seen as the first person to break into a run.

‘I do advise that course of action’ said the scientist just before Mark slammed his hand into the wall in front of him with all his human might and with cyborg strength his hand came out the other side of the wall along with a shower of concrete dust and half the doorframe. The remaining people in the waiting room having witnessed this due with fear and awe promptly fled, their arms swinging wildly and feet flailing underneath them. These people were not wearing shoes made for running and what was worse was that the legs that they were wearing these shoes on were not made for running either. Nevertheless, the knot of scientist, engineers and surgeons made good speed as they ran away from Mark with laboratory coats, welding aprons and surgical gowns flapping behind them. None of them looked back as they ran so none of them saw Mark staring at his hand and audibly snarling. He was not still now, nor would it be right to say he shook in anger, instead he vibrated in anger; he vibrated like a jet turbine as it built up speed for the most explosive take off ever.

Error: #101110101, Emotional Overload;

End of memory recall.

 

Mark & Zalrick

 

Mark did not toss and turn in his bed, he did not dream of blue and purple explosions, he did not dream at all. He did however stand against a wall motionless all night and this was part of reason that he did not toss and turn in his allocated bed. An alarm went off inside Mark’s head a precise five seconds before the alarm on the bedside table was due to. One of his arms moved to the alarm on the bedside and wall adjacent table and turned the alarm off but a fraction of a second before it sounded.

‘Ah yes, the coming of a new day’ thought Mark and left the room, managing to leave it looking even more unused that when it had been issued to him. Mark had been offered his childhood bedroom up in the north point but he had bluntly refused it opting for the company’s standard issue accommodation instead, or short of that a broom cupboard. Mark had done this for so many reasons some of which made no sense. Outside the room and waiting patiently stood a woman holding a cup of tea that Mark new, before he had even smelt it, was going to be the best cup of tea of his life.

‘Good morning sir’ said the woman with a wide, somewhat discomforting wide, smile. She held out the cup. ‘My name is Janine. I am the head assistant here at the Pillar. It is up to me to make your stay here go as well as possible and assist you any way that I can.’ Mark took the cup carefully and by everything but the handle.

‘Morning’ rumbled Mark and took a sip. It was, as he had expected, what tea that died and went to heaven became if it has been particularly good. ‘What must I do to get you to make my stay as short as possible?’

‘Oh that’s not in my job description and something I cannot do. Please follow me. Professor Zal asked if you could assist him with one of his projects before you met with Dregor again.’

‘Project? What type of project?’

‘Who knows sir? He has so many on the go at any one time it’s hard to keep track of them all and that is part of my Job.’ The woman continued to smile that sincere but unnerving smile as she led Mark though the complex. As they passed over a walkway over a huge gapping plaza like area in the centre of the complex Mark finished the divine cup of tea and threw the empty cup over the edge. After a surprising amount of time, he heard it landing and exploding into thousands of shards. The sound of shouting people and sirens going off somewhere below floated up and Mark smiled to himself.

‘That was a most unproductive thing to do’ said Janine turning on Mark. She said it in the way a kindergarten teacher would speak to child that just discovered the rewarding concept of throwing building blocks at people they did not like.

‘It pays to be a little unproductive now and then’ said Mark holding his ground against Janine’s teacher like manor despite sixteen years of having been conditioned to submit to teacher like figures. Mark knew he was not a good person, he had known that for quite some time, time enough to accept it.

‘Does it now?’ said the woman with a disapproving frown but her perpetual smile remained. On the other side of the walkway was an opening to an elevator. Janine pressed the down button and in the next five seconds there was a whooshing sound, a pleasant ding, and the sound of the doors opening.

‘That was fast’ said Mark carefully easing himself into the small elevator beside Janine.

‘The Company is very proud of their elevator systems’ explained Janine as she typed a code into a touchscreen. When she was done she laid her hand flat against the screen and a glowing light rolled over her hand.

‘Now you’ said Janine and gestured towards the screen. Mark placed as much of his hand as he could fit onto the screen and presumed that the light rolled over his hand in the same way but was unable to confirm this because his hand blocked all of the light. At a typical elevator speed, the elevator began to descend.

‘The elevator Zal took me in yesterday was a lot faster than this’ commented Mark when some of his internal sensors suggested they had gone down five floors.

‘That’s because he pressed one of these buttons’ said Janine and pressed a zero on the touchscreen. The elevator plummeted so fast and continued to accelerate for so long that Mark had to place a hand on the roof just above his head to ensure himself that he was not about to leave the floor and start floating about. The elevator came to a halt. It is a simple sentence that does not convey the experience of the instantaneous deceleration at all. Mark felt that if it was not for their steel reinforcement the bones in his feet would have been crushed by the force applied to them by the floor. The steel sections of his metallic boots audibly let out a groan of complaint as his feet had been forced even deeper into them.

‘Zero is for zero speed reduction from the maximum speed’ explained Janine when Mark’s sensors had recovered and were once again up to the task to tell him which way was up and what was what.

‘I see’ said Mark and looked at Janine. She had perfectly posed the entire time the elevator had been descending and barley moved when it had stopped. It was a little odd but perhaps you got used to the rough ride when you had done it a hundred times or so and perhaps the laws of physics could be broken now and then without reprimand and she had done just that. Finally, and after more security scans and hallways than anyone would care to remember, Mark found himself outside the reinforced door of Zal’s laboratory. A warning sign had once been fastened to the wall but had since been melted to illegibility by an experiment gone wrong.

‘Or perhaps’ Mark thought to himself remembering Zal ‘it had gone exactly as it had meant to.’

‘This is it’ said Janine ‘Please do not take up too much of his time. Have a good day sir.’ Janine said this as though she meant to say “Have a good day or else.” and after saying this she left. Mark knocked at the door louder than was perhaps necessary and waited. The echoes of his nock bounced off walls of metal and stone before following Janine down the corridor they had arrived by. Mark heard something on the other side of the door move and the seemingly solid piece of metal broke into three pieces and disappeared into the walls on either side.

‘Mark’ said a voice from the darkness just beyond the threshold. Mark was still standing in light so his night vision had not switched on automatically so he had to identify Zal by his voice alone ‘I thought it must be you. For what reason do I owe the pleasure?’

‘I was escorted here’ informed Mark ‘The pleasure had better be mine.’

‘Pardon?’ said Zal ‘Oh, I remember now. Please come in.’ Mark hesitated for a few seconds before he stepped though the threshold. For anyone without inbuilt night vision the inside of Zal’s laboratory would resemble a night’s sky for a planet in one of the more interesting galaxies. Lights flashed and twirled in the darkness but did as much for lighting the room as a terminally ill glow worm. The darkness did not seem to be of no concern to Zal who strode directly to an overloaded desk and began to sort through piles of gadgetry that lay on it. The darkness did not bother Mark either.

Night Vision: On

‘Not tinkering with the Dragonwing Project?’ observed Mark ‘No doubt it’s reached the limit of air and metal.’

‘Not yet but I have still got people working on it. They are analysing its capability’s in an airless and weightless environment I would have gone with them in a heartbeat but I found myself with greater concerns.’

‘Why am I here Zal?’ asked Mark watching Zal’s fruitless searching.

‘Last night I had one of my people dredge up your designs and I looked over them’ said Zal not looking up ‘you are becoming a little obsolescent. I mean a lot has happened in the world of technology since we made you. And new cybernetic designs are several generations beyond your own, or would be if they existed. Wink Wink. No not that I mean…’ Zal winked at Mark twice.

‘And no doubt you want to open me up and do something about that.’

‘Of course I do’ said Zal with a slight smile ‘we can’t all help the way we are made. But that does not mean that those of us who can shouldn’t.’

‘You do know of my uncle’s offer?’ inquired Mark with a scowl.

‘Of course, very little goes on around here without my knowledge. He has offered to make you human again. I was brought in to confirm that it was possible.’

‘Then what are you doing offering me an upgrade?’

‘I am just giving you an alternative.’ Zal pulled something out from the gadgetry and left it on a nearby table before opening a draw and rummaging in that.

‘Not much of an alternative. I might live and breathe in underworlds but I hear about laws every so often. After the war new ventures into Cybernetics were banned by every government on the planet and if I remember correctly there was something else mentioned on the topic the pain of painful death.’

‘I know the laws Mark. However, I know a place where every government on earth has no jurisdiction.’

‘Would that place be where your people are testing the Dragonwing Project?’

‘Perhaps’ said Zal with smile.

‘Well you can tell them to stop work. Within the month I will be human again and I will have no use for your stupid upgrades.’

‘I do not advise that course of action’ said Zal with a glint in his eyes ‘I hoped I could persuade you to at least consider the alternatives I could present you.’

‘That is my final decision’ said Mark.

‘Of course it is but modern philosophy suggests that there is always time for another final decision. However, until your final final decision there are a few things I will have to do to get you up to scratch, just little things not an overhaul as I was just now proposing.’

‘I am already ready I don’t need anything from you.’

‘Is that so?’ said Zal now with a grin on his face to accompany the twinkle in his eye.

‘Yes’ said Mark firmly.

‘If that is the case then there is nothing stopping you from leaving this room but I do not recommend that course of action.’ Mark gave Zal an irate stare before turning around and starting towards the door. Zal calmly pulled open a draw and slipped something onto his hand something that glowed, it was the glove that Zal had used to shut down Mark back at the alleyway. There was a flash of light bright enough to light up the Laboratory and reveal more machines and tools that could possibly be healthy for one man to own let alone understand. Mark’s legs froze mid step and he swung out his one remaining mobile hand to help balance himself but the thing is that an arm made from bone and muscle does not weight as much as, for example, an arm made with all of the former and a hefty amount of additional metal. Mark toppled slowly but hit the ground hard. From his place near the table Zal winced and pulled off the glove of wires and crystal and placed it back in its draw. Then he picked up a gun like device and a tiny glowing crystal with spikes, that looked a lot like the crystal at the centre of the glove.

‘What the hell are you doing Zal’ growled Mark from the ground.

‘Dregor’s mission is important’ said Zal ‘and I won’t let anyone take it on unless I think they are able of handling it. This is the same type of device as is in the Gauntlet I use to control technology, it has been miniaturized of course. It is a little difficult to get the hang of but I believe you will get it.’

‘If you don’t turn me on again I will throw you from this tower and whatever is left I will scoop up and throw off a second time’ threatened Mark.

‘Big threats for a doormat’ said Zal as he stepped over Mark and looked down at the fuming Cyborg ‘How about this? You like to be independent so why don’t you turn yourself on?’ Zal will the care and patience of one totally insane loaded the small glowing crystal into the gun shaped gadget. When he was satisfied he bent down and pressed the device against Mark’s spine.

‘Now this is going to hurt more that it is possible to imagine and it is not the type of pain that you can just switch off but thankfully you will not be conscious for most of it. I have things to do and will not see you again before you leave so I guess this is the time that I wish you luck.’ Mark squirmed on the floor and opened his mouth to shout something no doubt intimidating and derogative but he was unable to do so before Zal pulled the trigger that sent the shard of spiked crystal into Mark’s back where it erupted with yet more spikes that began working their way into his spine and circuitry. Mark an ex-soldier made primarily of scared scar tissue lasted two seconds of the searing pain before his systems shutdown and his vision faded.

‘Good luck Mark’ said Zal as an afterthought while Mark lay on the ground and twitched and mothed out silent cries of pain.

 

Mark opened his eyes and did not have to run a system check to know that something was different, something was new. Mark closed his eyes and searched for the new hardware, not for its physical location there was stinging pain to show where that was but instead its place in his mind. After minutes of searching he found it and powered it on. Mark looked at his fingers. He really had no option but to because he could still not move and he had fallen with them just inches from his face. The device was connected to his systems now but Mark knew that that was not going to be enough. Zal had no systems, that he knew of, and he was able to use the device so that meant the device was controlled by human thought. Mark took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

‘Move’ said Mark to the digits before him but nothing happened.

‘Move’ he repeated in a demanding tone.

‘Move. Move. Move!’ roared Mark and power flowed into his arm and his fingers closed with vice like grip. To his surprise Mark realized he felt good this was such a rare occurrence he opened up his calendar software and made a note of the date. Eight notes of it in fact, his thoughts were moving though his head faster than he could ever remember them racing before. Mark got to his feet, smiled at his hands and used them hit a wall. For a second cracks webbed the living metal block but shrank to nothingness in glowing blue light as the wall healed.

‘Well Scientist, you might be better than I gave you credit for’ said Mark studying his hands again.

 

 

Things did indeed hang in the hanger, they hung in mid-air above and below electro magnets. A cluster of security guards stood beside one of the many machines brandishing the cutting edge of projectile weapon Technology.

‘Impressive’ announced Mark as he stepped though the doorway and loomed over the guards. Weapons of all types, shapes, and sizes swung towards him. Other than the direction they were pointing the only other visibly simular thing about the weapons was the words “Mercer Technologies” written down the side.

‘And what are you going to do with those plastic toy’s?’ challenged Mark resting his hand on his pistol. He was still feeling energized by what Zal had done to him and would so desperately like to get into a fight right now.

‘Leave him be’ said a voice from within the group. Some off the guards moved out of the way to reveal Dregor standing with his hands on Two Point Three’s shoulder’s and Rebecca standing off to one side. Today Rebecca looked the part of Head of Security wearing an outfit of dark colours that was part military uniform and part female business attire. Mark normally had little interest in what people wore and even less interest in what lay beneath their clothes but, as betrayed by her dimensions being an otherwise inexplicable centimetre different than yesterday, Rebecca wore light body amour underneath so Mark found an exception for Rebecca. He had once often found himself making exceptions for Rebecca.

‘Quite a going away party. I know staying away from home for the first time is a big thing but this…?’ Mark gestured at the team of security guards.

‘Alas, our security is not a secure as it once was’ said Dregor sorrowfully ‘and that, my nephew, is why you are here in the first place.’

‘I thought Rebecca was responsible for security’ said Mark turning to look at the serious faced woman. Not a muscle on Rebecca’s face twitched as she returned the provoking stare.

‘And remarkably talented at the role she is. However, we have more than just a few rival companies and they all want to tear this company into bite size pieces and would stop at nothing to do so.’

‘There are many people who would destroy this company if they could’ pointed out Mark, pointedly. Then with speed that took Mark hand not accounted for Rebecca pulled a gun from a guard’s belt, stepped forward and pressed it against Mark’s stomach.

‘And that’s why I am here’ said Rebecca in some type of articulated growl, just loud enough for the group to hear. She gave a smile before twirling around and fired three times into a shadow on a balcony several stories above the group. Nothing happened for a second but then the limp corpse of a gunman slowly fell forward, from the concealment of some shadows and toppled over the edge of the balcony. The body collided with the floor with a thump that reverberated throughout the hanger. The guards around them responded with Fallen-like speed and unison and within a second a ring of guns and bodies had been reformed around them and the hanger, not just the area near the gunmen, had been scanned for occupancy.

‘They are on to us! Get Dregor out of here’ commanded Rebecca and wordlessly a few guards encircle the genius as if he was a prophet and they a bunch of zealots and they began to usher him away. The rest of the guards began to fan out across the hanger. Rebecca turned to face Mark and beckoned him towards the hovercraft. ‘I think it is time that you leave.’

‘Do you ever get that feeling that some people know a lot more than they are letting on?’ asked Mark remaining totally static in the frantic but disciplined bustle of the hanger and giving Rebecca a look.

‘Dregor’s plan requires you to know as little as possible.’

‘Dregor’s plans have a habit of starting wars’ pointed out Mark. The sound of a breaking window went unnoticed to all but Mark who pulled out his pistol and fired a beam of light into the open hanger doors. A man with the intent of swinging into the hanger from several floors above suddenly found himself possessing, handgun that he held in one hand, a short length of burning rope that he held in the other and not quite enough curve to his trajectory to make it ALL the way into the hanger. Rebecca and Mark glared at each other as the assassin bounced off the lip of the hanger’s entrance and back out into empty air. Sounds of the assassin’s screams faded away but the intensity of Rebecca’s and Mark’s stare did not.

‘Dregor would fire me or worse for giving you this but he does not own me and he is not the only one with an interest in the boy.’ Rebecca and pulled an envelope from under her shirt and from under the breastplate beneath. ‘You might find this useful?’ Mark took the envelope and eyed it dubiously.

‘And this will tell me what I want to know?’ he asked. From the far end of the hanger there was the sound of a third assassin being found and reduced to a blue puddle on the floor by plasma rounds, this is not a pleasant sound and includes the sound of screaming and the sizzling of human flesh.

‘This will tell you what you need to know. Now get in the hovercraft.’ Mark grabbed Two Point Three by his arms and lifted him into the hovercraft before climbing in himself. The two pilots that had been waiting in the hovercraft went to shut the door but it was grabbed by Rebecca at the last second.

‘There is one last thing I have to tell you’ said Rebecca sternly.

‘Yeah, and what is that?’

‘If you don’t look after the boy I will kill you’ said Rebecca with the slightest of smiles growing on her face to suggest that she just might enjoy this but her eyes remained serious, deadly serious.

‘I will protect the boy with my life or life like existence’ promised Mark.

‘That is not what I meant’ replied Rebecca sternly ‘I said look after the boy.’ The door of the hovercraft shut and when Rebecca retreated to a safe distance the hovercraft took off. Rebecca watched it go before raising her gun, raising her voice and resumed her role as Head of Security.

 

This hovercraft did not compare to the Dragonwing Project, to start with it was comfortable and had a view, but it still moved through the sky faster than Mark thought should be allowed, or even possible.

‘This is fun’ said Two Point Three from his chair at the window ‘I have never left The Pillar before.’

‘No surprise there’ said Mark. Trying not to see the clouds outside the window rush past instead he turned to one of the pilots and gave him a stare. ‘What happens now?’

‘We drop you off wherever you want to go as long as it’s outside the city limits’ answered the pilot.

‘That’s it?’ asked Mark.

‘Well, we are not meant to know where you are sir. That’s sort of the idea.’

‘It seems this entire thing is built on ignorance.’

‘Dregor’s the genius’ explained the pilot.

‘So I have been told’ said Mark ‘So what do you two know about what’s going on?’

‘We know enough but we are not telling you anything.’

‘I have just spent years hunting down and killing or torturing people as a means to pass the time. It is surprising how cooperative people get when the alternative to talking is not just the prospect of a short painful death but is a promise of a long painful life.’

‘Haha. They did not work for Rebecca, she does not share your friendly nature’ said the second pilot who was older than the first and somewhat more intelligent.

‘You’re that afraid of her?’ asked Mark.

‘Yeah. Why? Are you jealous?’ asked the first pilot.

‘No just Impressed’ said Mark ‘The last time I saw her she was just a girl.’

‘You knew Rebecca before she became an ice queen. What was she like?’

‘She was different then and I dare say I was an instrumental, or at least an instrument, in her becoming the person she is today. I would not be so insulting as to say that she was just an ordinary girl back then but she was by no means as fast as she is now. What is with that?’

‘Oh that came about ages ago, she volunteered for one of Dregor’s experiments and came back able to break a man’s neck with a slap and that is not just theoretical that actually happened’ said the first pilot excitedly ‘a couple of intruders broke into the complex one night and got into the secure labs. And one thing came to another and wham, almost a full three sixty degrees’ rotation.’

‘That’s interesting’ said Mark turning to look at Two Point Three who have begun to hum nonsensically as he stared out the window. ‘Did they stop?’

‘Well, that guy never tried to break in again.’

‘The intruders I mean.’

‘Well they never stop but they never got as far as the labs again but then they had already really gotten what they wanted.’ The second pilot glared at his partner who froze and went a little sheepish ‘I suppose you could not erase that from your memory could you.’

‘I could erase it’ said Mark ‘I could erase the colour blue and the number seven but I won’t. What did they take?’

‘We can’t say what it was that they wanted’ said the second pilot ‘not without getting our heads twisted off by Rebecca anyway.’ Mark would have pressed for more information up to and beyond the point where bones were crushed into dust and flesh was turned to pâté but Two Point Three stopped him by speaking.

‘Look at the jets’ said Two Point Three excitedly and pointing though the small circular window at his side.

‘Jets?’ asked Mark moving to peer out the window also. The pilot tapped a screen on the dashboard and the screen lit up to show a grid of green lines and nothing else.

‘Nothing but us up here, he is most likely just making it up. You know how kids are?’

‘No. Not really, and even then I don’t know how this one is’ said Mark watching Two Point Three stare excitedly at an empty patch of air.

‘Can’t you see them? They are so shiny and red.’

‘Red?’ asked Mark suddenly tense.

‘Yes’ said Two Point Three ‘they move very fast.’

‘Moving very fast?’ asked the older pilot tenser still. Mark stared out into the sky and yes if allowed yourself you could see something out there.

‘That’s not good’ said Mark ‘What does this thing have in the way of weaponry?’

‘Not much. This thing is built for speed rather than fighting. Anyway there is nothing on the screen; nothing can get past these sensors. Dregor designed them himself so there is nothing to worry about.’

‘You are failing to think about this logically. If Dregor designed these sensors, then logically something else that Dregor designed could be able to work out a way to beat them.’

‘You don’t mean they are Fallen Grimhound Fighters?’ said the second pilot and then there was something not unlike a pause but was really a string of words thought wholeheartedly by the older pilot but for the sake of Two Point Threes young ears they were intercepted and detained on way to his mouth. He finished with ‘this is not our day.’

‘But the Fallen were wiped out years ago. You were there’ said the first pilot looking at Mark for reassurance for the fact.

‘Well it looks like they are back’ growled Mark ‘Now will you go ahead and do something?’ The pilots motivated equally by the fear provided by Mark’s tone of voice as the possible, nay probable, return of humanities most dangerous enemy.

‘Are they bad jets?’ asked Two Point Three.

‘Yes. Very, very bad jets kid’ answered Mark and feeling like he should do something he patted the child on the back making the sound like hitting flesh with a shovel but Two Point Three said nothing. Three red blurs passed by the window causing the hovercraft to shudder and twist.

‘Got a lock’ shouted the first pilot and a volley of missiles launched from the bottom of the helicopter. Mark and somehow Two Point Three watched as the missiles kept up with the red blurs for a few seconds before falling behind.

‘What happened?’ exclaimed the first pilot who couldn’t have seen anything but a blur ‘They were right on target.’

‘Too slow’ said the second pilot ‘the missiles are too slow. I used to fly against these things back in the war; they are the fastest things in the sky, you need a laser or if possible a nuke and we have neither of those on board.’ The old pilot turned to Mark ‘it’s time to get out of here sir.’

‘Try to keep them busy for a while if you don’t mind’ said Mark pulling Two Point Three over to him and doing up a seatbelt to fasten him to the seat. The second pilot watched what he was doing and gave Mark a nod of the head to show that he understood. He did this via a mirror not unlike a rear-view mirror. Mark saw the nod and the few inches of face and eye bobbing up and down was enough to express a sentiment and understanding that would take a whole book to explain on paper. Both he and the older pilot had been hammered into soldiers by the same war almost ten years ago and neither of them had popped quite back into shape of regular people after it had ended, few people that saw how close humanity came to eradication every could.

‘Oh don’t worry I intend to go out with some flare. I can guarantee they won’t be looking your way’ said the second pilot and turned to his fellow piolet.

‘Put the Plasma Battery output to maximum and disable the flow back protocol’ said the older Pilot looking at his younger comrade expectantly.

‘But that…’ the younger pilot’s eyes widened in fear as he realized what the older one was asking and then shrank with complacency and focus. Then he finished his sentence with ‘…is what must be done.’ The older pilot shared one last look with Mark and without a word pressed a button to eject the passenger seat, sending it rocketing, not up but, down from under the hovercraft to the distant ground below and taking Mark and Two Point Three along for the ride.

 

Launched from the bottom of the hovercraft Mark and Two Point Three plummeted downwards until air resistance came to their aid and slowed them down. Two Point Three screamed and Mark held onto him and shielded the boy’s eyes as he alone watched the fate of the hovercraft that was already shrinking into the distance above. Three red blurs turned in a sharp arch and began to head back towards the hovercraft for the killing blow and just as they neared the hovercraft then dazzling blue light burst from inside the hovercraft and was promptly followed by an explosion of plasma.

‘They are gone’ said Two Point Three even before he had pulled Mark’s hand from his face or felt the wave of hot air released by the hovercraft before it flashed out of existence.

‘Yes, the jets are gone. It is all ok now’ Two Point Three seemed to think about this as Mark pulled the cord to release the parachute. The big chute opened up and they lurched as it filled with air and caught them.

‘No the pilots are gone. They were nice and now they are gone. It is not ok. I don’t think I like the red jets anymore’ said Two Point Three as fragments of Grimhound began to fall past them like metal rain. Of the Grimhounds only a few pieces of red wing remained to prove they had ever been but of the hovercraft there was nothing. Plasma explosions left no shrapnel. Anything touched by the brief intrusion of plasma energy into this universe, even one as weak as what the hovercraft plasma batteries could produce, was immediately ripped apart and pulled though the rift as the wave of plasma retreated back to it home dimension. The remaining pieces of the Grimhounds were the pieces that had not been engulfed by the explosion but had been at the very edge of the blast and had been torn apart anyway by the unexplainable and unsurvivable boundary conditions.

 

The destructive nature of Plasma Rifts was the first thing humanity had learnt about Plasma Energy but, as has been mentioned before in this book, humanity had had to learn this lesson over and over again before it stuck in the races collective memory for good. The reason for this was simple and easy to see in hindsight or at least it was for anyone who worked in a field that used regularly highly volatile substances. The early Plasma Energy scientists were those who first learnt this lesson and being that they were inevitably close to a plasma explosion when they learnt this they did not have the opportunity to pass on this knowledge, as has been mentioned anything touched by a plasma rift was ripped apart. Finally, and with no good explanation, an experimental scientist survived the creation of a Plasma Rift with only moderate burns and was able to report his findings to the rest of humanity thus preventing the death of many a scientist and inevitably allowing the technology to evolve beyond the roadblock it had been stuck at for half a century. Unfortunately for the technology it hit another roadblock because at the time no material on the planet was able to contain the destructive nature of plasma explosions. It was a man with the last name Mercer that came up with the solutions to the Plasma Energy problem with the invention of Living Metal, the only substance able to survive being exposed to pure form plasma. It managed this extraordinary feat by being able to regenerate and repair itself at a rate directly linear to the amount of energy in its environment. This discovery and the fact that the man was not just any old fool when it came to business made the man very rich so rich that one day he started his own company.

 

The car’s radio played some classical rap song as it bundled along the road at a leisurely two hundred kilometres an hour, its driver Kevin taping the steering wheel along with the beat, along with the beat but in no sense in time with the beat because that is not the done thing in these situations. He was thoroughly engulfed in the lyrics of the long dead artist when he saw something that roughly pulled him out of the tranquil frame of mind and into one not quite so enjoyable. A fragment of wing hit the road in front of him and stuck. Kevin slammed on the brakes and battled for control of his car. A second fragment landed just next to the road slicing cleanly through a tree. A third piece and the largest piece so far bore down on the road before him he swerved off the road and into a ditch of muddy water that erupted in steam when it came in contact with his engine. Kevin tried to remove his seat belt and when he found it had jammed he closed his eyes and bent down with his hands over his head as smaller pieces of Grimhound landed around him. When the unseasonal shower of metal was all over he looked up. Fragments of wing stuck out of the ground all around him and a boy was standing in front of his car trying to untangle himself from a parachute.

‘Hello’ said the boy when he saw Kevin staring. Kevin opened his mouth to speak when he saw movement in his peripheral vision and but his eyes moved to slow to see Mark’s approach. Mark ripped open the driver side door and pulled Kevin from the car with such force that the seat belt did not have a chance and snapped.

‘Hi’ said Kevin from the air.

‘What is your name?’ growled Mark from just under the man’s line of sight.

‘Kevin sir’ said the man.

‘I met a man named Kevin once’ said Mark ‘I killed him. Let’s hope that this time things will be different.’

‘Yes lets’ said Kevin and was dropped without warning.

‘What is the nearest town?’ demanded Mark.

‘I don’t know’ said Kevin and knew at once that this was the wrong thing to say ‘but I can look it up.’

‘Good’ said Mark ‘You do that and then you can take us there.’ Kevin looked at the car sticking out of the ditch most of the steam was gone now but there were still bubbles. One particularly large bubble came up and burst with the smell of two parts swamp gas and one-part ozone.

‘My car is not getting out of there without a tow.’

‘Don’t worry about that’ said the boy with a grin ‘Mark is very strong and he likes helping people. He can get it out for you.’ Mark ignored Two Point Three’s comments and walked over to the front of the car and took hold.

‘Oh come on now, You would have to be a [email protected]#$%^ Cyborg to be able to get it out like that’ said Kevin and the boy smiled and expression of concentration crossed Mark’s face. The car came out of the ditch with a sucking sound and was rolled backwards and dropped onto the road. Mark turned to Kevin with eyes that dared him to comment.

‘I am not a [email protected]#$%^ anything and you will do well to remember it like that or better yet remember it not at all’ said Mark and put no malevolence or any emotion in his tone, the situation did not require it. Nothing else Mark could do could make Kevin any more nervous and cooperative than he was now.

‘I will start lookup up that town then’ said Kevin quietly.

 

The town was not far but if putting your hand on a hot stove can make Minutes feel like hours as pointed out by Albert Einstein then in comparison driving a car with Mark sitting in the back seat could make minutes feel like days. The boy played with the radio and seemed to be getting endless enjoyment from it.

‘So where are you guys from?’ asked Kevin because some of his cousins were taxi drivers and he felt like he knew how things were meant to go.

‘We get about’ said Mark.

‘I come from a big room made of glass’ said Two Point Three.

‘Is that so? It sounds nice’ said Kevin.

‘Oh it is! People in white coats come and talk to me.’

‘Really and what is your name little one?’

‘My name is Mark Two Point Three. People say that I am a great success but I do not know what they mean by that.’

‘They will be the people in the white coats?’ asked Kevin.

‘That’s right’ said Two Point Three.

‘I think that will be enough talking’ said Mark from where he had contentedly folded up into one of the back seats ‘drop us off in the middle of town and keep driving I think you know what will happen if I ever see your face again.’ Kevin paled noticeably and promised.

‘Sir, you will not be seeing or hearing of me ever again.’

‘What will you do?’ asked Two Point Three as the car pulled over. Mark turned to the boy an emotionless stare ‘I don’t know what will happen.’

‘You know of good people and bad people’ said Mark ‘well sometimes good people do bad things and they suffer greatly because of them.’

‘You mean like the guilt eats them away from the inside’ asked Two Point Three. Kevin had gone very pale by now and his knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

‘In my experience it’s more often plasma rounds that eat them away from the inside. Now say goodbye to Kevin’ said Mark getting out of the car and opening the passenger door.

‘It has been nice to meet you Kevin I hope we meet again sometime’ said Two Point three sincerely.

‘You too’ said Kevin and took off, wheels screeching, as soon as the door had clicked shut. With a hand on Two Point Three’s shoulder Mark looked around.

‘Let’s find a place to stay the night’ said Mark.

‘Like a house? The books I read say that most people live in houses and cottages in the woods and also in castles’ said Two Point Three and then screwed up his face in puzzlement and disbelief ‘but I do believe that I may have possibly been mislead there.’

‘I am thinking of something a little smaller that a castle if we are only going to be there for the night’ said Mark and caught sight of a hotel a little way down the street.

 

Rebecca & Dregor

 

A long way away, in the centre of the great Company Complex known as The Pillar a scene of interest had just begun. A luckless junior employee had just been tasked to tell Dregor about the abrupt disappearance of the hovercraft transporting Mark and Two Point Three. Rebecca stood and watched as Dregor studied holographic projection in front of him with much attention to detail and a furrow on his forehead.

‘And you are sure they did not show up on the sensors?’ he asked the young man that stood next to him fidgeting nervously as reluctant bearers of bad news do. At times like this the unfortunate messengers regardless of their cultural or literary exposure start to think of Shakespeare and in particular the quote “Don’t shoot the messenger.” The man solely wished that that old play writer had had the foresight to write down other such lines, lines like “Don’t vaporize the messenger using giant lasers” “don’t melt the messenger with Nano viruses” and “don’t volunteer the messenger to try out the new untried, unstable and unsurvivable teleportation device.”

‘Not until they were within two hundred feet of the Hovercraft.’

‘And no survivors?’

‘Neither of the pilots have contacted us.it seemed they disabled some of the fail safes in the plasma batteries before they fell off the radar’ said the man ‘It’s likely there is nothing left of the hovercraft.’

‘You did not fight in the war did you?’

‘What war?’ asked the man?

‘Which war could I possibly mean here?’ snapped Dregor ‘perhaps the one that levelled a quarter of the world’s cities and in which humanity only just survived!’

‘The war against the Fallen of course I know about it but I was a child at the time sir’ The man thought “Oh you mean your war” but in the immediate presence of Dregor he was hesitant to think this tool loudly just in case.

‘We were all children before that war’ said Dregor solemnly ‘The Fallen had jets faster than anything we had in the sky, faster than most of our missiles. They were called Grimhounds. Even I did not understand how they worked. In the end we were starting to strap bombs to our jets that were set to detonate as soon as a Grimhound was in range. A little crude but as a tactic it worked.’

‘That’s horrible’ said the man and Dregor’s eyes darted at him.

‘Is it? Men and women choosing to sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity, what is horrible is what the Fallen would have done had they had not been stopped’ spat Dregor and stared at the man pointedly for a few seconds ‘Anyway the government never found any intact Grimhounds after the war and the secret of making Grimhounds was taken to the grave by The Fallen.’

‘Then what are you saying?’ asked the messenger ‘unable to keep up with the horrific realization going on before his eyes.’

‘He is saying that they have brought it back with them’ said Rebecca. It took a few second for the messenger to understand what he had just been told.

‘That’s impossible the…’ said the man but was cut off by stares so icy that they could have solved global warming had it still been a problem.

‘Leave us private’ said Rebecca sharply.

‘I am not a soldier’ said the man taken aback ‘I just work in the control tower.’

‘You are a soldier if I tell you that you are a soldier’ shouted Rebecca with all the absence of grace of a stereotypical drill sergeant ‘this is a god damm war. And with a grasp of the impossible like that you are not going to be anything more than private anytime soon. Now go!’ the man dashed from the room as fast as humanly possible and slammed the door closed behind him. When they were alone Rebecca turned to Dregor who gave her a wretched smile. The genius had gone very still and more than just a bit pale.

‘So what I have feared has come to pass’ said the old man sitting down in his chair behind his desk and covering his face with his hands. It was a terrible sight to behold especially when, like Rebecca, you have spent your entire life thinking of Dregor as some type of quirky and eccentric god.

‘We have always known of the possibility we have made plans’ said Rebecca desperately hoping for reassurance but reassurance was not coming her way and she knew it ‘Are there not protocols set in place for this eventuality?’

‘The Fallen have had just as long to plan their comeback and when it comes to protocols you can’t beat something part machine.’ Dregor stared off blankly into nothing for a couple of seconds and then he collected his thoughts. That sentence may have been a little dull and put people in mind of their grandfather wondering when he last saw his glasses but in fact the sentence was filled with more cerebral activity that anyone less than a genius would be able to understand it was just that all the activity happened within Dregor’s head. To understand the breadth or Dregor’s thoughts you have to understand the creation of universes. At first there is a place, a place larger than you could ever imagine and smaller that you could ever comprehend. This is because before there is anything there is nothing to compare the place to. Without warning the first seed of thought erupts and begins to grow. The though spreads out in all directions and breaks into sub thoughts that eventually forming more and more complex patterns as the sub thoughts interact with each. Galaxies of thought form and spiral out into the unknown and accretion disks or micro thoughts are formed around hot glowing spheres of thought and the accretion disk eventually become planets. On one of these planets, orbiting one of these suns spiralling on the outer edge of one of these galaxies life is formed. The life gets out of the water, mills about on the ground for a while, climes a tree, falls out of the tree, is too lazy to get back in, discovers fire, and then evolves technologically and culturally to a point where Dregor could sit at his desk and begin thinking. When Dregor concentrated he thought at levels so deep that bearded men that sit on hilltops meditating for years would go red with envy despite all that meditation they have been doing. Dregor after comprehending one cycle of the universe came back to the here and now the circular manor. He turned to Rebecca.

‘You know Rebecca I have always thought of you as family, only one I have not yet managed to get killed or turned you into a Cyborg’ said Dregor out of the blue and stopped just as suddenly. He eventually went on after consolidating his thoughts ‘I just thought I should let you know that.’ Rebecca’s face did not twitch. ‘I rarely apologise to anyone Rebecca as you well know. I do however owe you an apology, not that I regret what I did because I would do it again, but because I regret that it was necessary and I regret not lying to you about it most of all.’

‘As I told you nine years ago. You should have lied to me but you owe no apology for what you did and I will accept none’ said Rebecca and then dutifully asked ‘What do you wish me to do?’

‘Live a long and happy life a long way from here with either or both my nephews.’

‘And short of that?’

‘Hold out as long as you can. They will be coming for us first.’

‘Code Red?’ asked Rebecca.

‘Oh, no, at least Code Rainbow’ said Dregor and stood with a presence no longer that of an old man or at least not as old as he had seemed before ‘now I must be off. There are many things that must be done and before that there is a lot that has to be invented before they can be done. Please round up our guest informants for now. I will let you know when I need you.’

‘You have a plan’ observed Rebecca.

‘That is correct’ said Dregor.

‘You are not going to tell me what it is’ observed Rebecca.

‘That is correct’ said Dregor. So many questions welled up in Rebecca’s mind but Dregor had turned to look at her and the questions withered long before they reached her mouth. With a sinking feeling in her chest Rebecca submitted to her place of loyal servitude.

‘I am not going to ask about it’ observed Rebecca meekly.

‘That is correct’ said Dregor. Rebecca left.

5 The Hunt

Memory recall. Hour 7, Minute 12, second 46

Mark saw the sofas. Mark smashed the sofas. Mark saw the water fountain. Mark smashed the water fountain. Mark saw the security guards turn the corner and stare at him plasma rifles drawn and pointed. Mark saw the security guards flee back around the corner they had appeared from, their guns still clattering on the floor when they had been thrown down. Mark saw the blast proof gate at the end of the hallway begin to roll close, Mark charged at the blast proof gate and hit is it so hard the whole structure bent. Thirty seconds more mindless range had the Gate had been ripped from its rails and it was now partway through being thrown towards the nearest wall and also towards the next five walls which would offer about as much resistance to the air born gate as a piece of paper to a bullet, that being none at all. After the walls there was a window glazed with diamond panels that slowed the gate temporarily but only temporarily because after the window there was only an eight hundred meter drop onto an armoured vehicle testing range install for the luckless gate. (The falling gate test was later incorporated into the companies testing procedure and for the next ten years the company would win several awards for the quality their armoured vehicles.) You might ask why Mark was ransacking an executive’s office in a semi lucid rampage. This means that you do not live in a population comprising of Cyborgs and this means that you are a lucky person. It was called Cyber Rage and it was one of the main reasons people gave cyborgs such a bad rap these days. Many people claim to understand Cyber Rage, what causes it, why it ails some cyborg’s and not others and why it ranges from thinking that all people that talk in movies should die to all people and also most inanimate objects should die. Simply put people that say they understand cyber rage are liars. But getting back to Mark who was making his way through the company’s facility like a bull in a china shop. Mark burst through another wall and into another hallway and there, his brain overwhelmed by a sea of white hot animal emotions and a backlog of cold logical computerized equations, he threw back his head and roared expletives in binary.

 

Mark stormed down the hallway with thoughts and emotions moving in his head like a, well like storm, devastating, unstoppable and also cracking with electricity. Appropriately Mark’s footsteps thundered on the marble floor as he moved. The storm in Mark’s mind also had an eye just like real storm and that eye was a relative calm and logical train of thought around which all other thoughts circulated. The thought was the memory of a place and a person that resided there. It was towards this place and this person that Mark was heading towards right now. The irrational outbursts of violence were winding down and this was good news for The Company’s cleaning and maintenance staff who already will be working overtime for a month. It was not good news for the person that Mark bore down on because where before had be red hot waves of anger there were now things that burnt just as hot and were just as eager to get out. There were questions in Mark and they were going to get out and answered even if they have to smash their way through Mark’s ribcage and figure out how to get around Mark’s newly installed living metal breastplate overlay.

 

A security guard appeared around a corner, the guard was no more a fool than was required to stand in the way of Mark and his destination so did not waste time ordering Mark to stop but pointed his weapon and began to fire without any ceremony. The stream of bullets hit Mark in the chest, talking him by surprise and causing him to topple backwards and land on the floor with enough force to shatter a marble block. Mark roared and got back to his feet, despite several more barrages of the heavy slugs, picking up two lumps of the former marble slab as he did so. Mark raised the largest of the stone pieces and computed a trajectory for the stone that passed through the security guard’s face but reconsidered. He threw the stone that hit the guard in the chest with just enough force to collapse a Living Metal fibre breastplate and knock all the air out of the man’s lungs and with a little force left over to knock the man back though the doorway he had emerged from. The second piece of stone was saved and thrown at a doorway three seconds later. It takes bravery to step out in front of an angry cyborg these guards had it, what they did not have were helmets. In this case helmets would have been a pertinent investment. A second guard stepped out of the doorway and was struck not only by the fact that there was a lump of marble well on its way towards him but also by a well-aimed lump of non-foliated metamorphic rock to the head. The guard tried to stay upright but after a few seconds of stumbling around he summited to gravity and slumped to the ground in front of Mark. Mark stepped over the guard, it must be said that he did this with a good deal of step left over, and continued towards his destination. He could see it now, the shine of two bronze doors, at the far end of the corridor, beckoning. The glimmering metal door and his progress there occupied all of Mark’s human and inhuman attention. He was almost at the doors when a girl rushed out of a side passage and came to a stand before him. Mark was taken aback with recognition at the same time as he absentmindedly, at least in the biological sense, raised a hand as to swipe the girl to the side. He did not do this however, and instead he simply ground to a halt and stared the girl who stared back with wide blue eyes. Her face was white with terror and it was clear she had been crying from the drying tears on her checks. This did nothing for her appearance but somehow it spoke to Mark telling him to act but he did not know what to do. Mark slowly lowered his hand. This girl was significant, important, special even, Mark recalled but for the semi life of him could not work out why, no matter how thoroughly he searched his data banks. He felt that must have known the brown haired blue eyed girl and he could feel in his mind where the memories should be but as he reached for them he found nothing but empty space. He went to touch the girl’s cheek as a swell of human emotion built up inside him and just when it was about to break the dam of logical repression and gain control of his conscious mind he felt the feeling be ripped away to be replaces with absolutely emptiness which is indescribably worse than it just not being replaced.

Error: #101110101 Emotional Overload;

Emotions Rebooting.

Mark raised his hand again, took one last look at the girl and swiped her out of the way. He did not even look to see how she fell but moved on. What logical reason did he have for the fate of an inconsequential human anyway? The bronze doors were now right in front of him, and beyond them nothing remained between him and his goal. Mark raised his hand in a fist and brought it down on the bronze of the doors, the metal plating of the door buckled inwards and the door frame groaned. Mark brought his hand down again leaving another impression of his fist on the door. Mark raised his hand a third time and brought it down on the door with all the force he could muster. The sound that his final blow made rang out across the entire complex, temporally deafening several nearby people. It was a sound that people would remember for years to come and they would recall it every time they told the story of Mark, The Company and that eventful day. The door opened after the third knock and revealed an unlit passageway stretching out before him, two plain wooden doors and the young scientist from the waiting room from earlier and the surgery table before that. The scientist was as calm as Mark had seen him and considering his immediate proximity with Mark this was astonishing. What was also astonishing was the scientist’s age, seeing the man up close and without a surgical mask hiding half his face Mark realized that the scientist was in all physical sense only a boy but he did not stand like a boy or match Mark’s hard stare like a boy.

‘Your uncle will see you now’ said the scientist waving Mark past awkwardly with his left hand. That was when Mark noticed the glove of tangled wire on the man’s hand and the glow in its centre. After experiencing the gloves effects later in life and runtime Mark would look back on this day and understand the boy’s calmness. Mark took a step into the hallway beyond the bronze doors that swung close behind him. He made the final stretch, that between the bronze doors at the one end of the office and the simple wooden doors at the other end of the hallway, in manor quite unlike what he had done for the previous passage though the complex. He approached the wooden doors in the same timid way as he had approached them when he had only blood running though his body and not ten thousand watts of DC current. He approached the doors as he had done as a child and the fact he was a war hardened soldier and had literally faced death fearlessly a dozens of time would not have changed his approach even if he were in the state of mind to remember all that. Although the rage still boiled inside it was held in place by a thousand circuits that calculated continually, microsecond to microsecond, the odds of him surviving if he let any of that rage out here in this place. Mark opened the doors and stepped into a room made brilliant with the light let in by two diamond walls behind the desk. The room was luxuriously decorated and exquisitely furnished save for the desk at which the man sat. The desk was what you got when you riveted some strips of metal together for an acceptably flat surface then added a couple of draws on one side before propping the whole thing up on roughly shaped legs. Working at that desk would be difficult enough but running an international company from behind it was something else entirely, but the man behind it was doing just that. The chair that the man sat on looked like it had been built from the scraps of discarded metal that had been left lying around after the construction of the desk. It looked like the work of a high school metalwork student but with extra rivets rammed half in then bent over in random angles. How anyone could sit on it comfortably was one thing, sitting on it as if it was a throne was another but the man who resided there was also managing to do just that. Mark recognised the tables and chair with reverence; they had been belonged to his family for a long time now.

‘Marcus’ greeted the Man obviously not surprised by Mark’s appearance. The man was tired if not exhausted and was mournful if not despondent.

‘Uncle’ snarled Mark. The scientist moved protectively to the man’s side as soon as he shut the door behind Mark. Life had clearly not been kind to this man recently but then seeing that life had been extremely unkind to a lot of people that was nothing to be surprised about.

‘This may just be a shot in the dark but I imagine you have something you want to talk about’ said the man adjusting his position on the chair and yawned. The yawn seemed genuine enough to Mark and his profound new senses. The man was clearly very alert but also tremendously tired.

‘That is true. I dare say that is as true as anything has ever been’ replied Mark.

‘In that case we had best get it over with’ said the man and raised a hand. The scientist bent down to listen to the man as though his voice would not carry the extra couple of feet. ‘Zal if you would not mind waiting outside I wish to talk to my nephew alone.’

‘I really do not recommend that course of action Dregor’ advised Zal the doctor/scientist/engineer.

‘When I care what you recommend I will inform you in writing. Until then…’ snapped the man a flare of anger then he paused and recovered his tranquil appearance. ‘I am sorry Zal. I am a little stressed at the moment with the world at war and one thing and another.’ Zal left the room without saying anything else. Mark mused on the words “and one thing and another” and what they meant.

‘He looks like he has the weight of the whole world on his shoulders’ thought Mark ‘and he should. After all it was he that got us into this mess.’ Dregor turned to Mark who went to sit down on a chair in fount of the desk but stood up quickly as the chair released a groan of protest.

‘Start’ instructed the tired genius behind the desk. It was a little disheartening to rampage through a building only to be bossed about like a child but one did not simply or even complexly disobey an instruction from Dregor. That anger might be concealed by that tranquil veneer but it was common knowledge that it never actually went away. Mark hesitated, thinking of what to say but decided that simplicity was the way to go and pointed out a fact that had been weighing on his mind.

‘You made me into a cyborg’ said Mark.

‘True’ said Dregor ‘It was that or wait around watching you die from your injuries and I do not know if you know but there is a war on and I do not have that time to waste waiting around, so I made the decision.’

‘What gave you the right to make that decision?’ demanded Mark.

‘You mean other than International law?’ asked Dregor.

‘Well you made it wrong’ said Mark.

‘The law or the decision’ asked Dregor innocently. His face was unruffled by Mark’s anger but of course this meant nothing.

‘Both. I would have rather have died than become a cyborg.’

‘Did you ever tell me that?’ asked Dregor. He managed to lounge even more comfortably on his throne of metal scrap.

‘No but…’ said Mark trying unsuccessfully to cut in on Dregor.

‘Did you happen to write it down anywhere like on a piece of paper labelled Will with your name on the bottom and your initials scattered about?’ asked Dregor.

‘No. But…’ said Mark but Dregor went on.

‘You were incapacitated and dying. I being the only remaining member of your family left made the decision that I know your parents would have made in my place if they were alive. As it was my responsibility to do.’

‘And who is responsible for them not being alive may I ask? Is that something else you’re responsible for’ snarled Mark choosing to move to a stream of accusations that he knew would pull a reaction from the up until now impartial man. This was mean, it may even be too mean but Mark was angry and wanted to hurt someone and he dared not try lashing out physically.

 

Dregor had been the creator of the Fallen although a plague of sub humans had not been his intent when he had embarked on the project on integrating electronics with the human brain.

Mark had managed pull an emotion other than anger from Dregor, he saw the change of temperament for a second in the man’s weary eyes, the flash of emotion was of truly heart wrenching sorrow, but it was quickly switched with anger with practised ease.

‘The Company’s board of directors voted unanimously to pursue the project If I remember correctly and I always do’ said Dregor in a cold tone of voice ‘and though I am on the board may I remind you that so were you and so were your parents. It would have taken only one vote to suspend the project indefinitely. If I am responsible for the death of your parents then to some degree, aren’t you also.’ This was true although Dregor had been the one to actually invent the microchip eventually used by the Fallen he had not done it secretly but with the full backing of the world’s leading technological company. The world had had looked on with eagerness at the possibilities the implants would create and The Companies board of directors and shareholders had looked on eagerly with their minds on the revenue the project would generate.

‘How dare you say that?’ roared Mark and stepped forward. The door into the room burst open and without turning around Mark was aware of Zal’s presence behind him. Mark did not take the final step that would carry him striking distance of his uncle he did not think he would make it. Dregor at no point showed any alarm and glowered at Zal as if he objected to the young scientist intrusion but he did not ask Zal to leave again.

‘One in twenty’ said Dregor ‘twenty people on the board of directors one of them you.’

‘What are you getting at’ demanded Mark.

‘That’s the degree in which you killed your parents and started this war. One in twenty.’

‘Tell yourself what you like but you did this’ accused Mark ‘You did all of this. Had you left things alone and did not meddle in fields best left alone then my parents as well as billions of other people would not be dead and who knows how many more will die in the war and that if we even win the war.’

‘If I did not meddle in field’s best left alone your parents may not be dead but you would be and you would not be able to stand there remind me that my tech killed everyone I have ever loved as though it something might have forgotten or might ever forget’ said Dregor sharply only a hairs breadth from shouting. ‘Who do you think came up with your designs? You were brought to me broken and dying and my meddling got you back on your feet.’

‘I figured you had a part in my desecration somewhere. I reek just like one of your monstrous creations’ scowled Mark ‘Why else would I have come here?’

‘Your duties with The Company possibly, duties long neglected I might add, or perhaps you’re just calling in on family’ said Dregor ‘To be honest Marcus the reason of you being here alludes me.’

‘I need you to undo what you did’ said Mark ‘I need you to make me human again I can’t live like this. I mean that literally. This… thisness, I do not know what you would call it, is not life.’

‘It can’t be done’ stated Dregor.

‘That was not what I want to hear’ snarled Mark. Zal adjusted his stance slightly just to remind everyone in the room that he was still here and wearing a mysterious glowing glove.

‘Then you do not want to hear the truth’ observed Dregor buoyed up by self-assurance

‘Use that big calculator of a brain and work out a way to get it done or I am going to have to find someone able to do what you cannot.’

‘If I can’t do something then no one can do it’ said Dregor. He did not add ‘in the field human integrated electronics that is.’ He left the statement open to the universe; he had started saying things more and more in recent months, they being the months after his brother, Mark’s father, had died. The Mercer brothers were insufferably smart and had only been kept humble by one another. ‘These things, and I refer to electro-intellectual computing, are not as simple as you believe they are and your situation is particularly complex. Do you remember that time your father made you a hover bike for your birthday and you crashed it on the first time you rode it?’

‘Yes’ said Mark unsure how memory could relate to this conversation.

‘Well that memory is now stored in binary on a microchip in your head.’

‘You have even messed with my memories?’ accursed Mark his anger reaching all new heights.

‘We had to’ explained Dregor patiently ‘Parts of your brain were dying and it was either transfer them onto a microchip or have you lose the memories forever.’

‘Transfer them back I will accept the loss if of a few memories’ said Mark sternly.

‘Move them back to where?’ asked Dregor ‘Where do you think we put the chip after that part of your brain died? No I am afraid that there is no going back. You were too badly injured by the plasma rift.’ Mark grimaced as the mention of the plasma rift caused some of the as yet unprocessed memories of the plasma rift to spring into his mind. Mark did not stare unseeing before him, his eyes still captured the scene and his mind automatically stored it to his databanks so that it could be recalled later, Mark just did not pay the images any heed dedicating all his mind to the images of bright swirling colours in a place beyond the comprehension of a human mind or even the mind of a cyborg.

‘I saw…’ started Mark and stopped ‘It was…’ Mark stopped again unable to find the words appropriate describing his experience and after scanning his vocabulary, word by word, knowing that there were not any words that could.

‘How did you do it?’ asked Dregor intrigued and observing Mark’s change in demeanour even though the cyborg’s still outwardly glared angrily, and guessing what memories had caught Mark’s focus.

‘Do what?’ asked Mark.

‘Survive a plasma rift?’ asked Dregor ‘It should be impossible and this is me saying that.’

‘I don’t know’ snapped Mark snapping back to reality with a great deal of relief ‘I am not a scientist like you or dad. That gene missed me remember. Anyway I did not survive the plasma rift I died from my injuries and was brought back as a sub human abomination.’

‘Sub human? Many people would argue that being a cyborg means that…’

‘They would be wrong. There is nothing good about being a Cyborg let alone better. It’s like I have forgotten something, something important, something that made me me. Without it I am just a soulless monstrosity.’ Dregor was a good workman and took a great deal of pride in his creations and got upset when people ridiculing even the least of his work unjustly made him upset and irritated. To hear his latest and greatest work ridicule his work took him that level beyond mealy being upset and irritated. The anger that was Dregor flared once more.

‘If being a cyborg is so bad that you want to die, and you came here for no other reason, then I can have Zal show you to the window’ snapped Dregor pointing to one of the diamond walls behind him. ‘It’s only an eighty floor drop and I can only hypothesise how resilient you are but if you land on your head I am sure you will get the death you want so badly.’ The room went quiet as Dregor watched his nephew closely and Mark stared at the window in deep contemplation. Mark gazed at the windows for some time. They sparked the sparked of new generation synthetic diamond which was a great deal more sparkly than the impure diamond dug from holes in the ground. Synthetic diamond was also harder and overall more useful than natural formed diamonds. Mark as he stood and pondered could already hear the shattering of the windows and the whistling of rushing air. A part of him rejoiced at the prospect of being released from his torment, actually overwhelming majority did, but there was an unfamiliar part of him hidden in him that vetoed the decision and enforced its decision for him to remain where he stood.

‘I feel this conversation has quickly spiralled out of control’ said Dregor after half a Minute of Mark staring at the window ‘I propose that we finish this conversation some other time when we had both cooled down and have had time to think.’

‘No uncle. I propose otherwise’ said Mark and he looked back at Dregor. ‘I propose we don’t finish this conversation at all. I really do not see the need. Goodbye uncle. Goodbye forever.’

‘You don’t mean that Mark. You are family and a director of The Company you just can’t leave the company like that.’

‘I do mean that’ said Mark ‘I really do. Goodbye.’

‘You will be back’ said Dregor as Mark walked to the door but the man’s words fell on a set of not just deaf but turned off ears. Mark left the office, left the family company, left the life that he had once known behind him but could now barely remember. He also left a girl, the love of his life, but as he had no knowledge of this girl he did not know that which he was giving up. Mark was so caught up with the grandeur of him walking out on Dregor and severing all ties from his old life that he did not pay attention to several key things. One was a girl crying at the side of a corridor, the other the was the words that his uncle had said “you just can’t leave the company like that” these were simple enough words but they were words said by Dregor which meant they were fact. Solemn but determined Mark stated out into the world with a keen interest to find his place in it. Fortunately for Mark it was war time and being at heart (or heart like component) a warrior it would be quite easy for him to find his place in it.

 

End of memory recall.

 

 

 

 

Dreegs & Rachel

 

Agent Dreegs walked up the steps of the Library, Constable Rachel at his expensive leather clod heels. She moved like a row boat caught up in the wake of an aircraft carrier and had about as much choice in the matter. This was made apparent by the annoyed but submissive expression that lined her face as she followed.

‘So what are we doing here again?’ asked Rachel throwing as much resentment into her voice as she could and being very disappointed when none stuck. Her voice came out curios and content but she was meaning for it to sound bitter and put upon.

 

‘Following a lead’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘What lead?’ asked Rachel.

‘Mark Mercer has been spotted visiting this Library on several occasions and I for one want to know why. It just does not strike me as a place where you would expect to see a cold hard cyborg hitman like him.’

‘Mark Mercer? I thought you did not want to get caught up with that guy. You seemed dead against it yesterday at the shop’ said Rachel before thinking to herself ‘or was it we that were dead against it.’

‘Well you are wrong’ said Agent Dreegs pushing open the great metal doors of the library ‘I am fine with getting caught up with him as long as he gets caught up by me in the end but I have no intention of getting shot up by him. There is a subtle but, you will find, crucial difference between the two and that difference is at which end of the gun you are when the last shot is fired.’

‘I know that’ said Rachel ‘I know how important it is to be at the right end of the gun.’ and thought hard about adding ‘and not twenty four hours ago you had the wrong end of the gun pointed at me you bastard’ but caught as she was in the agents newly acquired off-putting and dominating aura she could not get the words out.

‘That is good’ said Agent ‘But I am sure that you also know that the gun I was referring to was only a metaphorical one. Mark does not need to be armed to be dangerous. One of the reports of a lieutenant that tried to bring Mark down said something that we should both keep in mind and that was. “When you have Mark’s back against the wall duck. He is about to throw it at you.” In that quote he was talking about the wall.’

‘Then how are you even planning on bringing him in?’ asked Rachel.

‘I need to find something that we can use against him.’

‘Find something? What do you mean find something?’ exclaimed Rachel ‘You have Fire Mountain Pistols and you decided not to use them against Mark.’

‘The odds were not in our favour at the Toy Shop’ said Agent Dreegs morosely. ‘What I am looking for now is information, information is something that we can use against Mark. It is suiting therefor that we have come to a library to find it.’

‘Are we looking for any information in particular or just information in general’ asked Rachel.

‘We are looking for information that could help us bring Mark in but as I have no idea what that information might look like so if was you I would be like me and remember everything you can.’

Rachel followed Agent Dreegs, because as before mentioned she had no choice in the matter, and thought back about how she had been called out of her cubical back at the police station by Agent Dreegs. There had not been any orders from higher up the chain or any compelling paperwork. He had told her to come with him and just like that she had without hesitation and without a moment’s thought until now.

‘We have not even been put on this case have we?’ asked Rachel.

‘No, there is no case regarding Mark since the last taskforce put together to bring Mark in was disassemble…by Mark. You weren’t even assigned to be my partner you came here by your own free will’ said Agent Dreegs ‘Now be quiet and keep your eyes and ears open.’

 

It was late afternoon and the library was lit by the golden rays of the setting sun that streamed through the high windows causing, as is the way in ancient temples, great beams of airborne dust to light up stretch down from those high windows and to hit an even duster floor. There were a still few people in the library even now but not as many as at mid-day. The library always had some people in it. They could be just university students filled with jitters about the report or essay that was due tomorrow, energy drinks drunk to the quantity that they were actually now hindering their ability to work, and what was left of a pizza they bought last week. Or they could be the other type of night time library user, the type that walks in when daylight still reigned and whilst looking for a book that they vaguely remember from their adolescence, the one in which it turned out to be the gardener in the bedroom with Miss Flesh Pink and a weapon of a vastly different nature, when the reign of light falls and the library no longer looks as warm and inviting as it had. This is when they get the gut sinking realization that they can’t quite remember where the exactly the exit is and where they were in relation to said exit. Many a borrower had spent long nights at the library fending off imaginary monsters with sharpened pencils and makeshift knives sharpened from rulers. One borrower even wrote down his story about the night he got lost in the library and against all odds this sorry was published and a copy of the autobiography was added to the library’s collection where it was read uncannily often by people who were themselves lost at night in the library.

 

The two police officers approached the circular desk that was so covered with books that it seemed to have been made from them. The librarian standing there, his legs hidden by the desk of books did not turn to them as they approached but he did speak in a voice not quite yet as weary as it was worldly.

‘And how can I help you officers?’ asked Weber sorting through a pile of books.

‘By telling us what you know of Mark Mercer’ said Agent Dreegs and rested his hands on the counter. The dust that lay there puffed up into small clouds and floated away rather that getting on his suit. Weber put down the books and moved silently, and sinuously over to the police officers turning to face them only in the last second. Rachel gasped when she caught sight of Weber’s blank eyes for the first time. Agent Dreegs darted a disapproving look her way then looked back at Webber to match his unfaltering stare.

‘That is not an author I have heard of before’ said the old Liberian ‘I am sure that I do not have any of his works here.’

‘That is fortunate because the type of stories Mark Mercer would write would be brutal and horrific to the extent that you would have to put little warning stickers of the covers.’

‘I am sorry sir’ said the old Librarian ‘I cannot help you.’

‘I doubt that, I doubt that very much. You’re a type two cyborg’ observed Agent Dreegs ‘What is your serial number?’

‘Five’ said Webber without hesitation as the cyborg laws demanded he did. Type two cyborgs were rare; they were the cyborg’s that had all or part of their brains replaced with electronics. With Cyber Rage and humanity’s mistrust of anyone that can think in binary then, giving them more than single figure serial numbers would a waist of database space, ink/graphite and, the most valuable commodity, human effort. There had never been more than seven level two cyborgs on the records at any one time and the records had remained unchanged for the last ten years.

‘Mark is number one if my research was correct’ said Agent Dreegs ‘There was an opening there when the Fallen were crossed off the list and he, being the only type two cyborg to have been registered after the war with The Fallen, took the position.’

‘You are correct’ said Weber ‘but I can’t help thinking that we should relocate this conversation to shelf eighty nine.’ The two police officers furrowed their foreheads at this.

‘Ancient history’ said Webber before Agent Dreegs could articulate the question ‘Anyway what makes you think I know anything about Mark Mercer that is not on government databases?’

‘Call it old fashion human intuition or call it something else if you like’ said Agent Dreegs ‘Tell me what you know of Mark Mercer and please no games. I have not played games since I was a child and I hated playing them even then.’

‘I know nothing about him other than he is a borrower of mine.’

‘Oh yes and what does he borrow?’ asked Constable Rachel. Weber did not turn to look at her but he did turn to face her.

‘What the borrower borrows is private information’ said Weber with mock shock in his voice ‘It makes no sense that doctors and lawyers get such monopoly on confidentiality. A man looking for books about bowl cancer probably has bowl cancer and deserves his privacy and a man looking for books on how to get away with murder well they probably need as much confidentiality as they can get.’

‘Answer her five’ instructed Agent Dreegs sternly ‘I did say no games.’

‘Self-help books and books about philosophy’ said Weber ‘and if you don’t believe me I can show you a list of his overdue books.’

‘Do you know that Mark is a dangerous criminal?’ asked Agent Dreegs ‘he kills people for sport.’ Webber froze with shock and anger. The library was silent; this was not an unusual circumstance for the library but even if a marching band was to barge though the doors the din they made would not have been enough to move the think sheet of silence that lay across the library.

‘Do you know who I am?’ asked Weber after a few seconds, his voice soft, incredulous and very much, but reluctantly, under the control of Weber. The silence lifted and dispersed like morning fog hit by the sun ‘of course I know. You come in here and have the audacity to ask if I know things. I am knowledge incarnate! I knew who both of you were when you stepped through the door and I read every file available about you two in the first two seconds. I know that you buy your suits from Mister Wilson on the corner of Low Street and High Street and your hat size is fifty eight. I also know for example that Constable Rachel here filed a complaint about you just yesterday.’

‘Don’t be too impressed even I knew that’ said Agent Dreegs ‘but if you can get into the police records then there is nothing stopping you from reading Mark’s file. Please do so now for the sake of this conversation. It’s quite large so I will allow even you a few seconds.’ Webber’s eyes glazed over even more than usual and then refocused. Rachel grimaced to see the empty eyes stare both blind and all-seeing out in front of him. Webber’s presence returned to his body.

‘Moderately accurate’ he said casually but it was forced causality, not everything in the file had been a pleasant read.

‘And you think it is ok for him to go on like this?’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Go on like what’ asked Webber?

‘Killing at will’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Mark is a very complex man, any sort of circuit diagram can tell you that, but in some regards he is also very simple. Don’t threaten him, don’t do anything that warrants your death, don’t get in his way and you are as safe as can be. I have even seen him help people carry their books out to their cars and I never heard of him killing someone that did not provoke him somehow and trust me when I say I would know if he had. I would know!’

‘And they are the words you use to justify murder?’ asked Agent Dreegs.

‘They are the words I use to justify not turning on a good friend although I will not blame you for questioning my use of the word good’ said Weber. ‘You have asked many questions of me. But agent would you allow me to ask you a question?’

‘I suppose that would be fair’ answered Agent Dreegs.

‘Why are you so keen to bring Mark in?’ asked Weber ‘You, in your entire career, have done your duties quickly and by every letter of the book, but never have you shown any personal interest in them until now, until Mark.’ This is when the nature of the conversation changed. Rachel even felt the captivating, in the bad sense, aura of the agent flicker and fade. Agent Dreegs open his mouth but no answer came and this seemed to confuse the Agent who eventually got around to closing him mouth. In Agent Dreegs silence Webber continued.

‘Of course you talk of justice, order and common good but are you telling me those things like that really matter to a person like you? You want so desperately to bring him in but why?’

‘My reasons are my own’ answered Agent Dreegs though there was doubt in his voice.

‘Are they?’ asked Weber his voice surly. Rachel sensed Agent Dreegs moment of weakness and thought briefly about making a dash for the door while he was distracted but she didn’t because she had learnt the good cop good cop routine from Lieutenant Greystreak and part of the good cop good cop routine is that you stayed loyal to your partner even if they were psychotic weirdos as was the case.

‘If you don’t tell us the location of Mark we can have you brought in for refusing to share information’ threatened Constable Rachel as an attempt to gain the initiative of the conversation.

‘You mean impounded’ Weber touched his collar ‘someone of a person class such as mine gets impounded not brought in.’

‘Refusing to cooperate with due authorities is something that will go on your permanent record’ said Rachel.

‘That’s right. A sixty year old man gets a record when his legs are made of metal and plastic rather than flesh and bone. What a just society we live in.’ Webber was sixty when he got that record and to put how long ago that was in some kind of perspective. At time he thought of himself as a young man of sixty now he didn’t think of himself as a young man of any age.

‘That’s enough idle threats Constable Rachel’ said Agent Dreegs when Constable Rachel partnered her lips once more. It was as if a balloon had been blown up in the centre of Agent Dreegs being. His chest stuck out, his face lifted and something in his green eyes suggested a whole lot of mental reconsolidation had happened in a very little time. Weber’s question had truly taken the agent by surprise but it was not like something as insubstantial as a mere unanswerable question was going to get in the way of his commitment.

‘Mark is coming in with or without your help. If he comes in with your help we just might be able to not hit his head on the doorframe or on slam his fingers in the cell door when we lock him up for good. We could also see about giving you a little leeway with your restrictions, an extra hundred kilometres say, that gets you to the boarder’ said Agent Dreegs staring at Weber the stare that had once cause the great Mark Mercer to blink. Weber looked into that stare. Every true expert of the hard stare that when you stare at someone something akin to a reflection of them staring back is left on your own stare, taken to the most fundamental level this is because observing an object does not only chance the object being observed it also changes the observer and observing a soul is no small thing. This theoretical knowledge is of little use because the typical expert of hard stares does not have the right equipment to examine a stare at the detail required to peel back a stare layer by layer until you found information of value. Webber was not typical; he did have the equipment to dissect a stare.

‘You have met him haven’t you?’ observed Weber seeing the echo of Mark’s icy blue gaze look back at him from Agent Dreegs’s emerald green eyes ‘…Recently as well. You do not expect a locomotive of destruction like that is going to be brought in by a pair of run of the mill police officers?’

‘I do not expect that. I do not expect that at all’ said Agent Dreegs ‘Rachel here is an excellent officer.’ Rachel, at hearing this, stiffened in shock.

‘And you?’ asked Weber.

‘I am an outright spectacular Agent’ said Agent Dreegs with his face as serious as the grave the whole time and the look he gave Weber made Weber feel like doing something he had not done for a long time. Two tiny green fires flared in the depths of Agent Dreegs eyes and they were enough to give that urge growing in old Cyborg that final push required to take it over the line. The librarian blinked for the first time in ten years and, in astonishment of blinking the first time, blinked again.

‘Good day Weber. Thank you for your cooperation you have been very helpful’ said Agent Dreegs and turned and walked away. The dust of the library swirled and flew as the agent strode away as it desperately sort to be as far away from the man as possible. Webber stood unmoving behind the counter in shock of what he had just done and seen, although not moving did not mean he did not watch the officers go until they were far from his library.

 

‘What a strange old man’ said Rachel as Agent Dreegs and she descended the stairs outside the temple like library.

‘A most unique construct’ corrected Agent Dreegs ‘he has some very valuable skills.’

‘Did you see his eyes?’ asked Rachel. Agent Dreegs did not answer Rachel’s question as it was one of those meaningless questions people seem compelled to ask. Of course he had seen his eyes, it had been he that had initiated and won a staring match with the old man, seeing the other person’s eyes was sort of a requirement of a staring match. Seeing Webbers blank, but all seeing stare, had disturbed Rachel it was quite the inverse for agent Dreegs. Those mirror like eyes had be fixed on him, striping back, one by one, the layers of personality that he wore like fine suits to comfort the people around him and to hide the darkness emptiness that lay beneath. Then, though the old man probably had not meant to or knowingly done, Webber had done a very cruel thing. The librarian had held a mirror up the very centre of the agents being and had revealed to Agent Dreegs, for the first time in his existence, what lay beneath his polished veneer. He had not like what he had seen there, not one bit, because at the spot where the solid core of his being should reside was a void of endlessly moving green light that moved like liquid but also burnt like flame, and it was growing always growing. “Why are you so keen to bring Mark in?” the words of the old Librarian echoed in his mind and just as before he was not able to answer them but he could not get one step close. He knew when the urge to bring in Mark came from. Picturing the boiling flame in his mind Agent Dreegs said.

‘It comes from the fire.’

‘What does sir?’ asked Rachel.

‘Oh nothing’ apologized Agent Dreegs realizing that he has spoken aloud before he returned to his inner turmoil regarding the glowing green turmoil inside him. As he and Rachel continued down the steps and to the car Agent Dreegs’s thoughts moved to the chocolate rabbits and eggs sold at Easter, a bright coating of coloured foil a thin shell of noxious but appealing substance and then just nothing till you reached the other side. He, as have anyone who has ever compared themselves with seasonal confectionery, felt a pang of worthlessness and personal disgust. Rachel, who recognised that Agent Dreegs’s attention lay on an existential crisis raging within him, did not speak the entire drive back to the office.

Sarah

 

The predator was an expert hunter, be it in a jungle or in a city, but her skills were barley being called upon at all today. From entering the town, it had taken her only half an hour to be led the gates of the hotel and from there it took a minute a manager and a breaking of an arm to find out the room number. Right now the predator was making its final approach. The room was small but it had also been cheap. A small television barely covered quarter of a wall but neither Mark nor Two Point Three had cared or even had noticed this. The light of the television flickered from under the door into the hall of the hotel and onto the boots of the woman that stood there. A leather gloved hand reached slowly towards the door and with a second of movement the woman was inside the room swinging a shotgun, looking for targets that were not to be found. In desperation she kicked over a pair of single beds with one kick, sending one into the other and then turned to a table, she kicked that into a set of cupboards in the tiny kitchenette in one corner of the room. Nothing but broken ceramics fell out from the destroyed cupboards. The search of the hotel room took only seconds and this was a very fortunate thing for the predator because she had precious few seconds to spare. The predator swore, turned to leave the room as fast as she had come, and it was then that she saw something stuck to the back of the door, something blue round and pulsating with light. A plasma grenade, on a belt of plasma grenades, set to be triggered by the opening of the door. She swore again and kicked the door, and thus the grenades away from her and tried to drop to the ground but gravity is adamant about working at the same speed in every occasion regardless of the suitability and she physically could not fall fast enough. The door hit the other side of the hallway but she herself was still mid fall when the grenades went critical and she was engulfed by a flash of blue light filled the hotel which itself was followed and displaced a few nanoseconds later by a solid wave of fire and heat. The hotel room and many and much of the surrounding rooms blew up, out, and in all at once following the rules of physics and the peculiar amendments made for plasma explosions.

 

For quite obvious reasons and the explosion quickly gathered a great deal of attention from the people of surrounding houses and what was left of the now blazing hotel. And illogically, for a survival of the species point of view, people rushed towards the enflamed hotel driven and site of the explosion drawn as much by the idea of a free show as by the honest intent to help survivors. Gathering together in a quickly growing crowd, the onlookers formed a ring around hotel and then stood and watched drawn by curiosity but at the same time repelled at the fear of further explosions. Standing in silence they watched the hotel blaze. It was clear that saving the building was a lost cause and that hope for anyone inside the blast never had a corporeal enough existence to be lost. It was clear by the Hotel records that the entire wing of the building had been rented out by a Man using a Mercer Technologies bank account saying it was for “A family holiday.” From video cameras in the streets in front of the hotel and behind it was clear that the man and the child that had been accompanying him had been in the hotel when it has exploded. It was clear that clarity was important for perception but had little to do with something being true or false. From the other side of the street it was just possible to see the outline of something clearly female in shape and at nearly the centre of the inferno, slowly getting to her feet, showing up as a black silhouette against a background of blue and red fire. Where the figure stood the fire burnt purple, not as a mix of the red and blue flames, the fire burnt purple. As she walked from the flames the predator…fumed. The crown gasped and all turned to look as the female stepped from the burring hotel, patches of her skin had be burnt black but her face, her hair and other key areas had been left untouched by the explosion and the flame. What unknown force that had protected her from the exploded had not acted on her leather outfit that flaked off as she moved. An ambulance crew that had rushed to the fire started towards her but were turned back by the intensity of a look she gave them. She turned that look onto the rest of the crowd and the majority of the crowd began to look away as though they had not just seen someone step from an inferno or had seen this so often that they could not tolerate seeing it again. There was a sector of the crowd that did not look away and that sector was predominantly made up of boys who would not have turned away if the intensity of her look could cause them to burst spontaneously into flames. The predator was that age that that you could not tell if she was a child or a woman without looking at the date of birth on a driver’s licence although there was much visual evidence in favour of the latter. A compounding factor of why they did not look away was that she was, or had up until recently, been in prime physical shape. If she wanted this portion of the crowd not to stare at her then she would first have to do something about being naked. The predator began to run and the crowd split apart quickly as she ran over the charring lawn and onto the street and at amazing speed then continued at that speed until she was both out of town and out of sight. The entire crown not just the pubescent boys watched her go. She was excellent at being a predator but Mark Mercer was just awful at being prey. Getting caught just didn’t seem to appear anywhere on his priority list and the idea of being killed just made him angry. People that thought that he would be stupid enough to stay in the first hotel in the first town made him enraged.

 

6 Trains and The Enjoyment Thereof

Recall. Dregor & Zalrick

 

The Pillar. October 22 10:13 AM. After argument with Mark.

 

When Mark had left the sun lit office with the diamond windows Dregor sat for a while starring at the door though which Mark had left by. He stayed like this without saying and without moving for some time as his mind ponded over the worries of the world (…and of worries of his own but there was so much overlap that they could be considered to be one and the same. Other People might not see this and not worry about Dregor’s simple concerns such as what he should eat for breakfast but they should, they really should. Even before the war and him becoming the nexus point of all humanities defense strategies empires and international corporations trembled at the sound of him eating his first bowl of cereal.) The man did not appear to be overly troubled that his last living relative had just walked out of his life vowing never to return. He had appeared concerned when Mark had been leaving but now, with Mark having left, a backlog of other concerns fought for his attention. Zal the young scientist hovered beside his master just as loyal dog waiting for his master to throw the ball or announce a walk might. As the patience of even the most loyal and enthusiastic dog would eventually break Zal’s patience broke but because he was such a polite conscientious young man a casual onlooker would not have noticed that it had.

‘You told him to jump out the window’ said Zal quietly and braced for a sharp reprieve for the sin of interrupting Dregor’s thoughts. One fact about casual observers is that Dregor is not one of them. Dregor looked at his star engineer and pupil and smiled.

‘That was a slip of the tongue’ said Dregor ‘My emotions got the better of my intellect you can trust that it will never happen again’ Zal let the outlandish lie or lies wither and shrink in the air between them unaided. Zal thought to respond but then he thought better.

‘Do you trust me young Zalrick?’ asked Dregor. Zal thought about this. He was new to this world, let alone this company, and it had only been this year that he had begun working with Dregor directly.

‘I trust you to be you’ answered Zal calmly levelly ‘but I am unsure who that is at the moment. I do not believe that Mark would have jumped, I don’t think he could have.’

‘A careful answer’ said Dregor ‘and I would expect nothing less from you. I can see that you have worked it out already. No Mark would not have jumped, or couldn’t have jumped even if every fiber of his being told him to. Our little upgrade saw to that.’

‘You preconditioned his mind’ exclaimed Zal and paused. When the boy dampened his excitement he continued, speaking in the tones of high respect rather than outrage that were most truly warranted in this situation ‘That is against all the laws of cybonetics but it is more than that. It’s against nearly all the laws everywhere. It is even against the guidelines.’

‘Exceptional circumstances are sometimes so tangled up and dire that they require unacceptable solutions to solve them’ said Dregor. Zal stared at Dregor and thought for a second.

‘You had that entire conversation planed out’ said Zal.

‘Not to the word alas but I had a pretty good idea how it was going to go. It was not hard. The trick to it was getting into his mind, into his temperament and way of thinking about the work. Then it was the simple matter of starting writing code.’

‘You wanted him to be angry’ observed Zal.

‘Needed him to be’ said Dregor ‘or rather NEED him to be. His anger must last for a while yet. I want the boy to be happy of course but I have plans for Mark and they come first.’

‘I know that’ said Zal smugly and the lad seemed to be about to erupt in an explosion of smugness.

‘Oh and how do you know that may I ask?’ asked the genius.

‘As you know for the last three months I have been working for the special weapons department doing things like, you know…,’ Zal waved his gloved hand for both expression and example before going on ‘building and designing weapons of enormous potential for destruction. Then I get called in to work on Mark and half way through the operation I find myself thinking “This it just like any other day in the office.” Then I thought why that might that be. I make weapons I know when I am working on one. Also you just can’t leave the company like that. You even told him, you told him when he was in no mood to hear but you told him.’

‘You will go far young Zalrick’ said Dregor as if congratulating a pet ‘If you do not that ego of yours consume you then one day you will become a great scientist.’ Zal received this complement with mixed feelings, on one hand it was a compliment as substantial a one that could be honestly expected from Dregor but then on the other hand Zal already thought of himself as a great scientist and the irrefutable information that he was not one stung slightly.

‘But before you go far go to the guest quarters on the sixtieth floor and inform a gentleman called Commander Reims that the weapon I promised him is ready for deployment.’

‘Is that it’ asked Zal before he left.

‘You could also tell him that he should start looking for it in The Green Door Bar in the town of Highwater.’ When Dregor saw the unspoken question in Zal’s eyes the master took pity on his pupil. ‘It’s a bar with a reputation for overconsumption of alcohol, fights and dealings of sinister nature. Mark will be instinctively drawn to such places.’

‘Why did you program him to do that?’ asked Zal.

‘Me? I did not program him to do anything of the like’ said Dregor ‘I just know how my nephew’s mind works. That’s the biological part of it I am referring to now.’ A sudden realization and intrigue hit Zal but he did not respond to it straight away it was not realization that you responded to without careful contemplation. He thought out the next few lines of conversation. It was like crossing a hippo inhabited river by stepping from one rock to another. You had to make absolutely sure that the next step was the right one to make and would not have you stepping onto the back of that type of rock known to be very irritable and to open up on one end and show you, briefly, a gaping mouth filled of tome stone teeth and halitosis.

‘You know how Mark thought’ said Zal as parts of his short term memory clashed and reverberated in his mind.

‘Why yes’ said Dregor ‘he is a nice enough lad but not the most complex person out there intellectually speaking.’

‘The biological part?’ asked Zal to be doubly sure.

‘Yes the biological part. I of course I know how the other part operates as well, I had better I designed it after all.’

‘Then you knew he did not want to become a cyborg, wanted that for himself least than anything in the world. You knew it was his greatest personal fear’ accused, questioned and exclaimed Zal.

‘I was aware of Mark’s opinion’s’ said Dregor. Dregor did not even attempt to hide anything from the young scientist who, unfortunately, remedied Dregor more and more of himself at that age.

‘But exceptional circumstances and all that’ said Zal not pushing Dregor into explaining away having committed more A grade felonies than could be counted on both hands and toes and as well as half dozen laws that had never been written down and have a great deal to with people generally being nice to each other.

‘Yes’ said Dregor smiling ‘exceptional circumstances. What was done was had to be done as was therefore done.’

‘Of course’ said Zal and left the room without saying another word. As he left Dregor’s quarters he saw the uniformed people milling around outside the two bronze and dinted doors. Zal pondered how these people would gladly follow any order given to them by Dregor yet they had no idea what had just transpired inside Dregor’s quarters, had transpired on the surgery table, and the defiantly had no idea what was currently transpiring in Dregor’s mind. Zal wondered if they would still feel the same way about Dregor, if they still would follow his orders without question, if they knew, if they knew what Dregor had turned Mark into.

‘They probably would be even more likely to follow his orders and respect Dregor even more if they knew’ concluded Zal ‘I know I do.’ Zal saw the girl sitting to one side of the hallway and took note of her mainly because in this mass of uniformed activity she was the only one that was stationary and not uniformed but at the same time mainly because she was quite attractive and Zal’s enlightened mind was still trapped in a body only just coming out of puberty. She had the look of someone that a while ago had been crying before being briefly terrified, and had spent the intervening time, time between now and then, suffering from severe shock. Not surprisingly the girl looked worse for wear and contributing factors for this was the arm hung in a sling, the medical uniforms all around her, the dazed look in her eyes and the cracks in the wall behind her. Zal had a much firmer understanding of the veiled mysteries of the universe that he had of human emotion. He did know that seeing an innocent, or at least uncaused, girl in such a terrible state should fill him with pity and empathy. It should not make him smile, it should not under any circumstances make him smile but it did. After quickly brushing the smile off his face Zal walked over to the girl. All the time a hind part of his brain repeated again and again ‘I do not recommend that course of action.’

 

Mark

 

Mark sat at the back of the bus with Two Point Three asleep on his shoulder and read the letter Rebecca had given him back at the pillar just before they had left. If you could call it a letter, it was more a piece of paper with two numbers on it.

‘We will arrive at Jarideen Station in ten minutes, please make sure you collect all belongings before leaving the bus’ said the automated of the speaker system. Mark took the time to look at Two Point Three fidget in sleep for a while before moving his arm and waking the boy up.

‘Time to get up’ said Mark as quiet and softly as he could rumble ‘we are almost there.’

‘She is following us’ said Two Point Three before his eyes were even open.

‘Who is?’ asked Mark.

‘My sister, she was in the hotel after we left.’

‘You have a sister?’

‘Yes. I have not seen her since I was very young but I can feel her thoughts when I sleep. She was not happy about the trap.’

‘If she stepped into that room before the grenades went inert she should be nothing but molecules’ said Mark who was feeling naked without a belt of grenades about his person.

‘She is, special’ said Two Point Three.

‘Like you?’ asked Mark and Two Point Three glared at Mark as if he had just been pared with toxic factory waste that had been left to fester in a biological way.

‘She is not like me’ said Two Point Three sternly. They got off the bus outside the train station and walked straight in as the rest of the passengers waited for their luggage to be unloaded. There was at least one benefit of being totally unequipped for your journey. The station was not full this early in the morning but there were enough people to form lines in front of the maned ticket officers. Instead of queuing Mark walked over to one of the automated ticket machines.

‘Please enter your destination’ said an electronic voice. Mark pulled out the piece of paper with the two numbers. After a few seconds he followed the grid of the map in front of him until he got to a number and then he followed it upwards until he reached another. His finger pointed at a part of the map devoid of all train lines and lost in a tangle of mountains and lakes. Mark processed his way through a knot of thoughts, tucked the letter Rebecca had given him deeper in his pocket, moved his hand to almost the opposite side of the screen and pressed a button.

‘The selected destination is one hundred and eighteen kilometres away from your location. Do you want to continue?’ Mark pressed yes.

‘Please enter the number of tickets required?’ Mark pressed two.

‘Please enter your hand to register identity’ Mark froze and hesitantly entered a hand into a slot in the device and onto a transparent panel. A line of light rolled over the panel and there was a faint pinch.

‘DNA matches Marcus Dregor Mercer… second passenger please enter your hand to register identity’ Mark looked at the DNA scanner written on the top of it was the words Mercer Technologies.

‘Give it a shot boy’ said Mark and Two Point Three obediently put his hand inside the machine. Two Point Three flinched again and the machine light up read. ‘No DNA misreading or no DNA record of second passenger found.’

‘Try again’ recited Mark ‘those things never work the first time’ Two Point Three flinched and the machine took a significantly longer time to think than it had taken Mark before it finally spoke.

‘DNA matches Marcus Dregor Mercer’ said the electronic voice ‘please enter money in the manner show on the screen or select bank account.’

‘That’s interesting’ said Mark entering the money and taking the tickets that printed out ‘they must have put you on the system with my name. I must say I would have liked them to have asked for my permission first.’

‘Me to’ said Two Point Three thoughtfully and what might just have been the beginning of a sense of humour in his words.

 

The cold hard metal seat beneath Mark was uncomfortable and it let the world know of this by groaning in protest of Mark’s weight. Mark also found the partnership between him and the chair uncomfortable though it took him almost half an hour to realise this. Mark who had no interest in worldly comforts, as they pertain to a world that he has no interest in, ran an automated check of comfort levels that elevated things ranging from processor temperature to hunger and all things in between. It produced a report so detailed that it even included the way the ridges of the seat pressed against his legs as thought they had a personal endeavour to piece his skin. Although Mark had no control of this scan, and hated most of what in the world he did not have control over, he had to admit that the scan was useful. On multiple occasion it has told him that he had shrapnel sticking out of his torso long before he would have discovered it himself, that being the next time he needed a new jacket. On this occasion it told him that he siting here waiting for the next train was an irritating and wasteful use of time it also told him that he had processor time that he was not using and could be put to work so he did this. A train pulled into the station.

‘Get up kid’ said Mark to Two Point Three whom after five minutes of sitting on the seat had chosen to instead sit on the ground.

‘Why?’ asked Two Point Three ‘This is not out train. Where are we going?’

‘I will tell you later’ said Mark. The train doors open and a rush of people intending to get on the train pushed forward to get in the way of the people that wanted to get off. Mark led Two Point Three into the train and even though there were plenty of seats spare they did not sit down. The train began to move and Mark, realising that Two Point Three had never been on a train before reached out a hand and caught him from falling when the train suddenly picked up its pace. Two Point Three thanked him with a smile and experienced the use of handholds for the first time in his life. The train had almost left the station when Mark stepped to the carnage’s door and opened it. From the sound the door made it was clear that it was not the type of door that liked being opened when the train was moving. With a final, inevitable, squeals of protest the seals on the door gave up and it opened. Mark was a hit by a gust of moving air and the noise the trains many engines made while they powered the train along at ever increasing speeds. Mark peered out the open door and caught sight of the signalling post he had seen earlier, the one that was in arms distance if you had very large arms and we alright with leaning out of a moving train. Mark computed some final calculations and found that the result was good.

‘Come here Kid’ Mark said and beckoned Two Point Three over ‘It’s time we get off.’

‘Why?’ asked Two Point Three.

‘I will tell you later’ said Mark. Mark Scooped the kid up in one arm and reached outside the train with the other train. The train had picked up some great speed now and the pressure of the air coming in through the open door was not something that could be ignored. Two Point Three gave a look at the fellow passengers in the train carnage most of them were true public transport commuters and knew not to pay too much attention to what other passengers might be getting up to because watching what other passengers were getting up to would risk their physical health and would undoubtedly affect their mental health. As it was most of the passengers were not paying them any attention trying to read newspapers despite that fact that the wind entering the carriage was blowing the sheets around in every direction. A couple of people new to the nature of public transport looked at Mark and Two Point Three imploringly. Two Point Three thought that an explanation was due but as no explanation had been given to him said the only thing he knew.

‘This is not our train’ said Two Point Three. Mark observed the signalling post coming up fast, did a final check or his calculations and lent out of the train against the wind and reaching out his hand as far as he could. It was less a lean than it was an extended topple. Had not everything work he would have fallen straight out the train carrying Two Point Three with him. This would not have turned out well for either of them, in the short term Mark would be better off being able to walk away from such an ordeal though he would soon have to run because if anything happened to Two Point Three before too long there be an enraged Head of Security after him. Everything worked. Mark felt his hand come in contact with the signalling post and he immediately clenched down with his figures and locked his figures in place. There was the clunk of breaking bone and warnings of severe friction on his hand but he, carrying Two Point Three, swung out of the train.

 

The lurch and sudden deceleration nocked the air out of Two Point Three but he did not panic not even after the third loop of the post when he contemplated the idea that they were never going to stop spinning. Mark let go of the post and landed on one knee laying Two Point Three on the ground.

‘Are you ok’ asked Mark over the sound of the rest of the train passing by. Two Point Three opened his mouth but it took him sometime to bring fourth as suitable answer. Two Point Three had an advanced understanding of language but he has very little experience in its use.

‘I am unharmed’ he said in his most bewildered voice ‘I am… I haven’t … I do not know what ok is meant to feel like it in this situation.’

‘Now you know what it feels like’ said Mark and helped Two Point Three to his feet though personally Two Point Three would have like to stay lying of the reassuringly stationary ground for a little while longer.

‘Let’s get back to the terminal’ said Mark and pointed the direction they had come. He did not put his hand on Two Point Three’s shoulder and guide him in the right direction as he normally did. Two Point Three looked at Mark. One of Mark’s arms hung limply at his side. Correction half of one arm hung limply at his side, swinging unchecked from just below the elbow. If this was not ghastly enough, the palm of the arm that hung limply at his side still hung onto the post. Two Point Three wondered if pointing this out would be out of place or rude so he in the end decided not to mention it. Mark would surely know of his injuries…surely…?

 

They walked back to the terminal, overcoming the barrier of a chain link fence by overcoming its structural integrity simply ripping it apart and overcame the barrier of a security guard’s professional interest by overcoming his moral integrity by simply ripping a chain link fence apart and giving him what’s best described as a look. The guard gave Mark an appraisal and decided that despite his dedication to his job that he could turn a blind eye to a man that could rip apart steel wire with a broken arm and a hand with no palm. Mark sat down on the same uncomfortable seat as before and cradled arm. When the next automated comfort report ran the seat digging into his legs was the least of its warnings. Two Point Three sat back on the ground but not as close to Mark as previously. He did not speak to Mark, still unsure how to breach the subject, and spent his time watching a pool of Mark’s blood get closer and closer until at last the pool grew no more. A train pulled into the station and Two Point Three looked at the number on it and the number printed on their tickets.

‘This not our train either’ said Two Point Three.

‘This is our train’ disagreed Mark and Two Point Three almost shouted out against the absurdity of Mark’s words.

‘But we do not have tickets to this train’ he pointed out his voice was almost pleading. He was confused and still somewhat shaken by the termination of his last train ride. ‘I do not know why we keep on getting onto the wrong train.’ Mark looked at Two Point Three and smiled at the distressed boy. Mark was clearly enjoying Two Point Three’s confusion but not in a particular nasty way, his smile was reassuring and Two Point Three took that to heart.

‘I will tell you later if you have not already worked it out by then’ promised Mark. Mark got to his feet and tested his arm, he did this by waving it about. It did not loll about which the two of them took as a good sign and the act of waving it about shook most of the blood off his hand, enough to see the freshly grown skin underneath. Mark pulled a red cloth from under his jacket and wiped away as much of the remaining blood. To Two Point Three’s disgust he realised that it was not a red cloth it was a white cloth covered with dried blood and that after he was done Mark folded the cloth and returned it to its place under his jacket. After that appalling revelation of the type of things that lay beneath Mark’s jacket the Mark and Two Point Three boarded the train in a methodical manner; after all they were rehearsed, and this time they found seats at the back of the car. They sat in silence all the way out of the station and half an hour down the track before the silence broken by Mark, a long time breaker of things. This was when Mark caught Two Point Three staring wide-eyed at a girl that seemed about his age that sat on the other side of the carnage and saw fit to comment on this.

‘If you what my advice boy they are not worth it’ advised Mark.

‘They are essential in reproduction’ said Two Point Three factually.

‘Even so’ said Mark with a smirk.

‘Mark?’ said Two Point Three a while after that.

‘Yes kid?’

‘It is later now’ said Two Point Three. ‘You said you would explain things to me later and later is now. Why are we on this train?’

‘Because this train is going places’ said Mark ‘but for no particular reason other than that. I have found that your plans can’t be spoiled when you don’t make any and you can’t be out thought when you don’t think.’

‘But we do not have tickets to this train, our train would have left five minutes after this one. And there was the other train. We were on it for a while and then you said we had to get off just as it left the station.’

‘I remember that train. I broke an arm getting us off it’ said Mark and prodded at his arm, he was tentative but at the same time filled with intrigue that accompanies injuries of all manors. Of course you knew what would happen after you flexed the broken hand, poked the bruise or explored under the bandage with your fingertips but the knowledge never was enough and never would be. Even under Mark’s less than gentle foddering his arm did not give off more than a dull ache of protest so presumably it was almost completely healed. The shattered bones had been quite painful, and had produced many an annoying alert on his operating system, before they had been pushed into place together and restored by Mark accelerated regenerative systems.

‘Tell me Kid. If your sister or anyone else was to look at the surveillance of the station what train would they think, we left on?’

‘The train we first left the station on’ said Two Point Three and with sudden realization added ‘and now they will be heading the wrong way!’

‘That’s right’ said Mark ‘and say they find out that we were not on that train.’

‘They would think that we were on the train that we bought tickets for.’ Two Point Three looked at Mark with wide eyed admiration.

‘And after that?’ asked Mark. This gave Two Point Three something to think about for several seconds as he tried to come up with an answer other than the obvious.

‘Then they come to this train’ he replied uncertain that this was the right answer.

‘That is correct’ said Mark as close to cheerfully as he had ever managed. Two Point Three suddenly lit up in happiness at getting the answer right but almost as quickly his face fell and a serious look once again furrowed his young face as he realised the implication of the answer.

‘How long till they realize they are going the wrong way and come after this train?’ asked Two Point Three.

‘If they have access to Grimhounds then probably half an hour ago’ answered Mark casually.

‘Then they will be coming for this train’ said Two Point Three.

‘Amongst others’ said Mark.

‘Are you not worried they will find us?’

‘Not really because it is our stop in ten Minutes’ said Mark ‘they will not have time to catch us up by then and when they do catch up to the train we will be long gone.’ Two Point Three looked at a display above the carnage door.

‘The next stop is in half an hour’ pointed out Two Point Three. He said this in dread of the response that he could already picture in his head.

‘Well when I say stop I mean we will be stopping. The train will not be joining us.’ Two Point Three’s filled with dread at the implication of Mark’s words.

 

 

When Mark decided it was time to go he stood and moved to the door of the train carriage and silently signalled for Two Point Three to follow him and hesitantly, dragging his feet, the boy did so. Mark reaching one of the trains many doors paused to think and assess the situation as he often did. This far from the station the doors had closed and locked themselves fast against people endeavouring to avoid ticket inspectors on arriving at their destination and were prepared to do so no matter the cost and in sad cases because of the cost. Mark with sudden movement flattened out his hand pushed launched it fingers first at the crack between the sturdy metal doors. Something metal snapped when his fingertips made contact with the door though that could mean anything. Mark did not wince so the cracking thing was not likely not one of Mark’s figures reasoned Two Point Three who stood just beside mark and had unrivalled viewing he also reasoned but then Mark would not have winced even it had been. Mark’s effects had wedged a couple of fingers into the crack between the sturdy metal doors and that was all he needed. For anyone that knows little of the art and tools of splitting wood a wedge is a wedge of metal not greatly different from an axe head. It is use in conjunction of a hammer or often the back of an axe to widen a crack in the wood little by litter so that no matter how resilient a piece of wood may be it would eventually have no choice but to split. Using the flat his other hand like a sledge hammer, it after all was about the same hardness and hit with the same amount of force, Mark wedged the figures of his first hand into the door even deeper. The door at every second tried to fight him. It was a security door after all, designed for just this that being stopping people of great resourcefulness from opening the threshold of the train whilst it still moved. When Mark’s fingers had gotten deep enough into the gap between the doors he slipped his other hand into the considerably widened gap were upon he unleashed, on the doors, his full strength. The doors tempered explosion resistant windows blew out and the metal of the door bent and slid away. An electronic motor fighting to keep the doors closed let out its spirit with a groan and spun its last revolution. There were some good reasons why the doors of this train had been designed to be so hard to open when the train was moving and it was not that cleaning up the messes left when people jumped from moving trains that could be simply counted by charging clean up fees posthumously to those in question. The real reasons were air resistance, air pressure and differentials of that within the train moving a staggering speeds verses that without. Mark remembered at the last second that Two Point Three, had gotten used to the movement of the train and had experienced the blast or air when the had been ejected from the hovercraft but he had not experienced the two together. The rush of air roaring into the train lifted a surprised Two Point Three into the air when he was neatly fielded by Mark who did not put him back down but tucked the boy under a layer of his jacket and folded his arms around him. Two Point Three thanked Mark and did not protest as he was manhandled. He paid attention to what the other passengers of the train were saying because they were getting very loud by now and it was very apparent that Mark was not going to. They said things such as “Why are you doing that?” and “You can’t do that” though Two Point Three thought these were silly things to say as their answers were easily observable or they were clearly false. One passenger’s remark of “Thank god. It was getting far too stuffy in here” was acceptable.

‘I am going to call the security guards’ yelled a middle aged man over the roar of the wind though Two Point Three noticed he had not made a move to do so. Mark stiffened as his ears filtered these words out from the background noise. He stiffened as a metal bar would stiffen, that being imperceptibly. Mark turned to the unofficial voice of the carriage passengers or perhaps just the loudest voice of the carriage passengers which in the end normally turns out to be the same voice. ‘Here we go’ Two Point Three thought ‘Mark is going to let him have it now.’

‘If you call the guards they will stop the train to investigate and reseal the door’ said Mark calmly and factually but more terrifying for it ‘and you will be late going on with your tediously lives.’ The man shut up quickly when he heard this and sat back down. Mark turned back to looking over his shoulder of the doorway at the track ahead leaving Two Point Three to meet the stares of the people. He processed several humorous and witty phrases but was unable to compose one that did the situation any justice he settled for simple courtesy.

‘Goodbye train peopplllleeee’ said the boy with his last word trailing away into the distance because Mark in the instant after the boy began speaking had thrown them backwards out of the howling doorway. The unnerving innocence and goodwill in the boy’s voice and the impeccable timing of the jump kept the Train People in shocked silence for a few minutes and then they looked around at each other, they looked at the phone that would call the security guard, they shared another and final look before returning to what they had been doing ignoring the howling of the open doorway.

 

Though the timing had been impeachable it had not been deliberate. Mark had not timed his jump to coincide with Two Point Three’s farewell but to the passing of a clear slope of lush and more importantly soft looking, grass that he had seen coming up on the side of the tracks. The train did not slow the train did stop but two passengers did slow and did eventually stop at the bottom of a grassy slope beside the railroad. For Mark the ordeal was pretty much as you would expect for a man jumping out of a train save for the dying part. The was the initial impact which of course was not pleasant but it was not half as bad as the bouncing and spinning that followed. It played merry hell with his gyroscopic systems sending them into an uncomfortable overload that was not unlike being motion sick. But Mark was a big boy, almost as big as they came, and not just that, he was a big boy made out of very tough metal and very dense bone. Jumping off a train was not an ordeal that would knock him off his feet not like jumping in front of a train. From past experience Mark knew that jumping in front of a train was an ordeal that would not just knock him off his feet but would knock him into a neighbouring tree. (Neighbouring is a term that is relative it could be used to describe the house across the street or even just next door but on the other hand it could just as easily be used to, let’s say, explain Mars’s location in relation to earth. The point being got at here is that a train going two hundred kilometres an hour one large human sized cyborg, you do not have to be an expert at physics to work out the approximate result in that particular scenario.) Mark had time to ponder that fond memory as he bounced and spun, yes being hit had stung a little but it had just been pain that could me left unprocessed and a climb out of a tree. It had had none of this bouncing and rolling about. Two Point Threes experience of jumping out of the train was different to Mark’s this was because he had been enclosed in the impromptu roll cage that was Mark. With Mark’s arms held around him and locked in place and Mark’s thick jacket to protect him from the abrasions of the long grass, he had had an enjoyable time of it. It was like an amusement ride but of course Two Point Three could not use such a simile as he had been ejected from trains an infinity times more that he had ridden amusement rides.

‘That time was fun. Let’s go again’ said Two Point Three. He had been isolated from the rest of his kind and starved of and all toys and play equipment but Two Point Three was a child and there are some factors of what that meant that could not be stopped.

‘No. Let’s never do that again’ said Mark pulling handfuls of grass out of this jacket and boots. It had been a very grassy slope and that made for a very grassy impromptu roll cage with a very long, somewhat green, face.

‘What do we do now?’ asked Two Point Three helping Mark.

‘We find out where we are’ said Mark.

‘What if those sign over there says that we are in Jugree’ asked Two Point Three pointing. Mark smiled and opened a file in his memory.

‘Then it is about time we catch up with an old friend of mine’ said Mark.

‘You have friends’ asked Two Point Three. Mark smiled as though this was a joke which confused Two Point Three. This was not a joke and the surprise in his voice had been quite genuine.

‘Of course I do’ said Mark ‘I have heaps, they used to belong to some other guy but I took them off him when he died.’

 

Sarah

 

For the passengers of train C-385, or “The Right Train” as Two Point Three would have put it, it started with a sound of turbines overhead as some kind of aircraft first caught up with and then slowed to match pace with the train. Then came to the ears of the apprehensive passengers there the sound of three thumps on the carriage roof. On two occasions the thumps corresponded with parts of the roof bending inwards the other thump was softer than the other perhaps cause by something lighter on its feet. There was a tearing sound as a skylight was ripped off and thrown away to reveal a girl standing upright on top of the train despite the not inconsiderable wind that blew her blond hair out vertically from her body. To those whose minds who had not already been made up, the look in the girl’s eye was confirmation enough that now was a very good time to be afraid. She dropped neatly and silently to the cabin floor and looked around at the shocked passengers. She wore a tight fitting black leather outfit and also a look on her face that said that she was going to kill the first person she saw that was worth her while and it was fortunate that you were as miserable a life forum as you were and were not considered worthy. The girl also came with a district smell that permeated though the carriage alongside her aura of negativity. It was a smell that was not unpleasant but not the type of perfume you were using unless you were dating someone that had uncommon feelings in regards to fire. The girl quite literally smelt like she had just stepped out of a burning building. Whoever and whatever this girl was she was having a bad day, this could be told not only by her ghastly, terrifying expression, but by the way the leather of her gloves creaked against the under the pressure of her clenched fingers.

‘Nothing but ordinaries’ said the girl glaring with disgust at the passengers around her looking at her in all due surprise and fear warrant them. Some of them began to cry out in alarm, or in case of children just cry, but her eyes turned to them and they lapsed back into silence. An armoured man dropped down next to her, with an ungraceful thump, and passed her an overly large shotgun and scanned the rows of seats though a blackened visor.

‘They are not in this cabin’ said an emotionless voice from behind the visor. Those in the cabin that had thought the girl brandishing her shotgun lovingly was the most terrifying thing they were going to see that day promptly changed their mind when the second man dropped down from the roof of the carnage and slammed down to the floor without even so much as a bend to his knees to lessen his impact. This armoured man wore, in addition to his bulky armour plates and face hiding helmet, a pair of gas canister strapped to his back and carried, in addition to his rifle, a hose with a nozzle as you might find on a fire extinguisher. Though this man was protected enough by his armour to walk through a burning building this man’s duties was not to extinguish fires and save lives rather this was the exact opposite of his purpose.

‘I can see that’ snapped the girl and glared at the two men ‘well are you guys going to do your job or what? I can hardly see how this lot will be useful.’ The two men did their jobs. The people of the carriage who had been held in shocked awe of the newcomers broke the hold fear had on them when they realized the impending doom but the cries of alarm they made before they died were not even enough to draw more that curiosity from the next carnage along. They got to their feet, thus allowing the flames to flow more fluidly around them and they breathed in, filling their lungs to shout for help, but what they breathed in was not air but a poisons compound released by the rolling flames. Whether by the fire or the gas the victims succumbed at approximately the same time and dropped limply and silently to the ground or slouched back into their chairs. The girl watched this with a smile delighted grin then walked to the end of the carriage and pushed open the doors with the end of her shotgun she was confronted by a new cabin of curious faces. Their expressions did not remain those of curiosity for long after they caught sight of her shotgun and her bright white smile but they did not go so far as to cry for help. The noise radiating from the first carriage had been brief but it had been disturbing. A Fallen soldier stepping past the girl and pointed what appeared to be a fire extinguisher nozzle at them was the last straw for their curiosity as he striped the final layers of their expressions of curiosity off like a paint stripper. There is no analogy here. Heat followed by slowly rolling red flames filled the cabin almost immediately and when normal flames would disperse these flames kept rolling on and consuming. This cabin made only slightly more noise that the former one had, submitting quickly not only to the flames but the deadly fumes. Even after all the people in this cabin had succumbed to the flames and gas the girl did not move onto the next carriage but took the time to enjoy the gas and the flames and also to let the gas spread about the train on its own accord.

 

The girl stood amongst the flames, and the invisible fast acting poisonous fumes, with no visible ill effects or hindrance, even taking and savouring a few soothing deep breaths of the unseen death. Where the flames touched her they burn bright purple but did not seem to consume her at all though occasionally patches of her leather outfit would begin to char further. She stood in the centre of the flaming carriage in full revelry of the destruction done here and still being done as tentacles of scentless, collarless, cureless poison gas made their way from one cabin to the next though air ducts and gaps in doors. The girl opened her mind to her environment to better enjoy its nature. It was a twisted forum of meditation, one in which inner peace was the dead opposite of the intended goal, but it was meditation the and by opening up her mind in meditation she was able to comprehend a feeling that she had had for some time.

‘God Dammit’ said the girl abruptly, though she did not really say anything as pleasant as this and her real words have been paraphrased. Cursing herself all the time she… well… continued to curse herself. The two Fallen Soldiers looked on in unfamiliar puzzlement. As a two parts of a single hivemind, and a hivemind fixated on emotionless logic at that, the Fallen Soldiers found it difficult to relate or understand their free thinking ally for all so many reasons. The Fallen in their time had had few allies in their time so the overall concept of cooperating and interacting with conciseness minds not their own was new territory for them.

‘What are you doing?’ asked one of the soldiers with the unanimous consensus of hundreds other Fallen minds currently piggybacking on this body’s sensory experience.

‘They are not on this train’ said the girl ‘we have gone all this way for nothing and I have been made to look like a moron once again.’ She began to move from one carriage to another along the train. Each cabin was empty if you were to count being filled with slumped corpses empty.

‘How can you tell they are not on this train?’ demanded the other of The Fallen as they trailed after Sarah.

‘It’s like how you Fallen sometimes know what others of your kind are doing.’

‘We always know what others like us are doing’ said the Fallen Soldiers in perfect and off-putting, unison.

‘Well I know they are not in this train’ said Sarah ‘I should have realized earlier but I did not think to check.’

‘We are checking the train’ one of the fallen but with their visors closed and their voices so simular in demeanour that she could not tell which one spoke though it did not matter.

‘I mean with my mind’ said the girl and hit one of the carriage walls in anger. Her fist tore through the thin sheet metal and she had to yank it back hard to free her hand once again.

‘You should do so next time’ said one of the Fallen ‘nevertheless we have started here and we must complete the extermination. We do not intend to be discovered just yet. Secrecy is of great importance while we prepare. We will finish killing these people and make it look like an act of terrorism and then we will continue our search for Mark.’

‘That will take too long’ said Sarah turning her purple eyes on the two soldiers and gave them a flare of purple intensity. Had they the ability they would have felt afraid to see the girl standing their looking at them like she was but they had lost the ability to feel personal fear on becoming Fallen, as fallen they saw only see a powerful, useful but unstable ally.

‘It is the logical action at this time’ said one of the Soldiers. Sarah sighed.

‘I am not sticking around for all that.’

‘It is the logical action’ echoed the other soldier in an extra flat drone that signified the Fallen putting emphases on the words by taking away what residual human warmth from their tone.

‘You guys are all alike’ said the girl and raised her shotgun against her shoulder turned abruptly and fired. Instead of a barrage of lead shot a fireball of clinging purple plasma melted a hole through the carriages wall. The girl turned back around to face the two Fallen soldiers watching her with disapproval.

‘But that means that you are all really boring’ said Sarah and stepped backwards out of the train and disappeared as she was caught by the wind. The Two Fallen soldiers stared at the hole as its edges cooled and solidified. After patiently watching the metal cool and the decision of what now was made, the Fallen are nothing if not patient, one of the soldiers spoke.

‘She should have used the door’ said the soldier to his partner but this time he used the medium of the Mindlink that connected not only them together but to the rest of the Fallen host ‘It would have been the logical action.’

‘Come we have people to kill’ said the other soldier though the same link and raised the nozzle of the life extinguisher. With the two Fallen communicating without sound, barrier or fault silent death had never been as well organised. Taking their time and moving one carriage at a time they moved along the train. So quickly as to not realize their own passing, carriage after carriage full of souls took the switching point that would direct them onto the track to the afterlife. For the passengers of train C-385 it ended with the gas and the flames.

7 Insight and Introspection

Recall. Dregor & Rebecca

 

The Pillar. October 22 10:39 AM. After talk with Zal after argument with Mark.

 

After Zal left Dregor sat and thought. He did this for a not insignificant portion of his time. He was a genius the only way he could get his money’s worth out of his brain was if he spent a lot of his time using it. His thoughts today were troublesome and not in any way pleasant to experience. A knock came from the door and Dregor looked up.

‘Come in’ said Dregor and a teenaged girl entered the office with difficulty. The reason for this difficulty was that one of her arms was in a sling and much of one of her sides was bruised. Her physical injures said that she had been thrown aside into a wall. Her physical injuries combined with her emotional injuries said that she had been thrown into to a wall by someone she had loved and who had not even recognized her.

‘Oh dear’ thought Dregor studying the girl ‘the complication.’ Dregor had met Mark’s once/ex/forgotten girlfriend before at family parties Dregor had hoped that he might never meet her again but clearly this was not to be. If a master champion were to win a life defining game of chess and whilst packing up the pieces locked stares with one of the pieces he had sacrificed in order to win the game the experience would be remarkably similar with what Dregor was experiencing right now and because it was remarkable it has just now been remarked upon now.

‘Hello Other Mister Mercer’ said the girl nervously as she always did. The tremor in her voice was clearly audible and she was as white as a white sheet. Dregor thought that she should be in the back of an ambulance somewhere, wrapped up in one of those special blankets that made things better. (Being a genius Dregor knew that the science of blanket therapy was irrefutable.) Also she should be in the back of an ambulance because if she was in the back of an ambulance then she would not be here and he would not have to talk to her about things he would rather not even think about.

‘A man called Zal told me to come talk to you’ explained the girl her voice and her entire temperament brittle. ‘He said that you had something to tell me.’

‘Oh Zalrick you will go far’ thought Dregor ‘All the way to down the labs in the basement and you will stay there until you pay for this. I hear the labs down there don’t even have inducted plasma lines yet.’

‘That’s right Rebecca’ said Dregor covering his shock ‘Please have a seat and you do not have to worry about the Mister business here. We are practically family.’ The girl sat down on the chair opposite Dregor and immediately burst into tears. Thinking that the act of sitting had hurt the girl Dregor stood up rushed around the table to her side where he knelt by her side. When he saw the girl up close he knew that the explosion of tears had not been caused by pain not the pain he has initially thought anyway. Had Dregor known this he may not have rushed to the girl’s side but rather rushed anywhere else but then perhaps not. Dregor was a complicated man and held to the belief that there was still part of his being deep inside him that could be saved, and by that he did not mean as a data file just also as a data file. For a while Dregor consoled the dejected girl though her outburst of tears and sobbing as best he could. He did this by placing a hand on her arm just above the elbow and waiting for her to stop and hoping that this was the right way to console someone. Eventually she did stop but this was only the start of the troubles inline for Dregor because now it was time to explain things to the girl.

‘We not practically family we are not anything?’ sobbed the girl ‘Mark does not even know who I am anymore?’

‘Now, now’ said Dregor ‘Mark got back all his memories. That part of the surgery was a complete success in that regards.’

‘You are wrong’ said the girl. ‘I saw him just outside those doors out there. I heard that he was on his way and I ran all the way so that I could meet with him and talk to him like I always did. I made it. I had to ram two cooks over their benches and pushed a security guard into a garbage bin when he tried to stop me in order to get here on time but I made it, and…’ the girl paused to think about the next few critical words of her outburst. ‘…and I did not meet Mark. Call it karma if you like but he just threw me aside like I had just done all those security guards and pastry chefs.’

‘He removed you from his path. It was nothing more sinister than that’ said Dregor.

‘He threw me into a wall’ said the girl now glaring at Dregor with fiery eyes. She raised her broken arm a held it like a weapon before Dregor. A peace of recent conversation demanded reevaluation and was granted a spot on nation-wide workbench of Dregor’s mind. The result of this re-evaluation was the words or rather thoughts ‘Security Guards? Plural?’

‘That’s not all bad. He could have just kept walking I predict the consequences of that would have been life changing if not ending. The fact that he removed you from his path shows that you still mean something to him. Not as much perhaps but still something.’

‘You are really bad at this’ said the girl staring at Dregor.

‘I would not put this down as one of my fields of expertise’ admitted Dregor.

‘I looked into his eyes you know’ said Rebecca and left it there.

‘Oh and what did you see?’ asked Dregor.

‘Only video cameras’ said Rachel. ‘He did not even know who I was let alone love me.’ Dregor swallowed and wondered if it was best to tell the girl right now and have done with it. But how does one breach the subject that there was another part of the surgery, one after Mark got all his memories back, and that that part of the surgery was also a complete a success. How could he explain that with careful and diligent work that any memory of Rebecca had been hunted down and blocked from Mark’s conscious mind? How could he explain that his had to be done to make Mark what the world needed him to be? How could he explain that he had planned for her to hear of Mark’s location in just enough time for her to meet him at the door? Dregor was a genius he soon had a dozen answers for all those questions but being that he was a genius he thought of the consequences that could result from these explanations being said here and now. Dregor then thought of the alternative lies that he could tell her, the complications that in the surgery that could be invented, the scapegoats that could be made and the comforting half-truths that could be told to keep her happy for just long enough for her to leave his office.

Dregor after much thought, all of which happened in a not only just split but shattered second, his simplified his choices to two. He could tell the truth or he could tell a lie and no matter how he analyzed it, and for the first time in his life, he could not see the clear superiority of one path over the other. Dregor took all that he that knew of Rebecca and made a decision.

 

 

Dreegs & Rachel

 

The hotel room was all but cinders. Ok this is a lie. Of The hotel room there were a few pools of cooling metals, some smashed glass, and the pre-mentioned cinders. Agent Dreegs and Rachel approached the room directly. Smoke still drifted up from some parts of the hotel but an army of fire-fighters were feverously working on that. Local police officers and firemen alike got out of the way of the two as they made their approach through the happening crime scene and had to. Agent Dreegs full attention was on the scene before him, his green eyes unmoving and unblinking, and his gait not slowed by anything. A barrier of tape had been set up around the room, deemed the centre of the explosion by explosive experts, and if Agent Dreegs saw the tape then he decided to ignore it entirely walking straight into it. The plastic tape stretched and when it could stretch no more it snapped. A local police officer, who had put up the tape looked across at Agent Dreegs and glared but Agent Dreegs ignored the officer’s sharp look as he ignored everything that had not been here at the time of the explosion. Rachel raised a hand to the disgruntled officer is a gesture of apology and warning, and waved them from the scene. Agent Dreegs reached the centre of where the room had stood and stopped abruptly turning around to see every detail of the blast sight.

‘You got here fast’ said a Detective that was in charge of the investigation into the explosion or had been in charge until now, until Agent Dreegs’s aura engulfed him. To anyone in the Dreegs’s aura, Dreegs was clearly in charge and it made sense that Agent Dreegs should be in charge it fact then under the influence of Agents Dreegs’s aura the only way to see the world as making sense was to see that Agent Dreegs was clearly in charge ‘We only called you half an hour ago.’

‘I got no phone call’ said Agent Dreegs distantly. His eyes did not cease their sweep of his surroundings to pay any attention to the Detective.

‘Leave’ commanded Agent Dreegs. Five people, explosive experts, experienced agents and firemen looked at Agent Dreegs.

‘Pardon?’ asked the sergeant a man of equal rank to Agent Dreegs but with many more years’ experience. To Rachel’s he looked about to complain, or even argue with Agent Dreegs and she hoped he would if for no other reason than for the novelty of it. It had been too long since she had seen someone stand up to the man. The captain of their own station had called in the Agent to hang him out to dry for pulling guns on fellow police officers and working on a case he had not been assigned to. For a few minutes then she had relished the thought that he might be sent out off the captain’s office in cuffs or perhaps just escorted to his desk to pack up his things. But it had turned out it had been the captain that had left the office telling everyone that would listen that he was fully in favour of Agents Dreegs’s choices of cases and that he was lending the agent his office for as long the needed it to bring to Mark Mercer in. It was distressing to see the Captain at Agent Dreegs old desk sitting and trying to work out why he no longer had an office to himself or any real authority over his own officers. It had almost been a relief to leave the police station and the diminished captain behind in pursuit of yet another lead, almost a relief, she did have to leave the station with Agent Dreegs after all.

‘Leave’ commanded Agent Dreegs again. This time Agent Dreegs voice was more heavily layered with command. People hearing it felt their legs moving in response to the command before they had even willed them to do so. Rachel’s legs were no exception to the mesmerizing tone of voice she turned and started quickly away but Agent Dreegs stopped her.

‘Not you’ said the voice. Rachel froze and turned back to the suited Agent. His blank, distracted, look was gone and he was now focusing all that attention he had been casting on upon the crime scene onto her.

‘Sorry I thought you wanted to be alone’ said Rachel excusing herself.

‘I wanted us to be alone’ said the agent in a dry tone ‘We are partners on this. We will bring Mark in together.’ Rachel gritted her teeth and returned to Agent Dreegs’s side. She had known what Agent Dreegs had meant when he had told the others to leave but she had jumped, perhaps foolishly, at the prospect of leaving Agent Dreegs’s company, a company whom she had kept for too long. Over the last two day’s Agent Dreegs’s leads had taken him, and thus her, to the fanciest of hotels in the city and to the rankest of alleyways in the outer city. Now his leads had taken to this rural town in the middle of nowhere, or would have if this grand country was called Nowhere as its founders had originally intended it be named. Agent Dreegs, as usual, had insisted that she had come with him each time and he had insisted so insistently that, as always she found herself powerless to refuse him. She dared not think what would happen if his requests changed to a different nature but did not feel that she had to. Agent Dreegs had thoughts had been of nothing else but the cyborg’s capture since he had met Mark.

‘What do you think happened here?’ asked Agent Dreegs. His eyes did not look at his surroundings anymore suggesting that he had seen all that there was to see.

‘I don’t know. Do we know if Mark was even here?’

‘Mark was here’ said Agent Dreegs and did not feel inclined explain or share how he knew this.

‘An accident perhaps’ proposed Rachel ‘a plasma grenade going off by mistake right up close to a gas line.’

‘Do you see Mark making an accident like this?’

‘No’ admitted Rachel embarrassed now by her answers ‘But I also don’t see him staying in a place like this.’

‘He wouldn’t. Mark is a big fish and a big fish needs a big pond to swim in and the only have big pond near here is the city’ said the Agent ‘the question is why then would he be staying in a room here?’

‘A trap perhaps or a decoy’ asked Rachel. Agent Dreegs gave a heart-warming smile and filled her with delight at hearing his approval and then she was immediately filled with disgust at being so concerned with this sociopath’s option of her.

‘That right’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘But who for?’ asked Rachel.

‘A blonde female girl’ thought Agent Dreegs to himself but did not share the thought with Rachel, how could he explain how he knew this to her, on that note how could he explain it to himself? The sensation was like a smell but it was more than a smell, it was the type of sense you would get if smell and sight had a child and it came from the fiery place within him. He could sense the girl here, smell her movements and her anger at finding the trap Mark had left behind for her. He could smell Mark here as well but as Mark smelt the smell of series one plasma grenades and a belt of series one plasma grenades had been detonated here it was hard to sense where his smell ended and the smell of the grenade’s began. Agent Dreegs realized, to his dismay, that there was something here that he had not picked up upon on in his first impression of the scene. There was another sent / vision so simular to Mark’s that at first he had not recognized that they had not been one and the same and would not have if he had not been paying attention. Agent Dreegs tried to bring up an image of the third sent owner but it was so close that of Mark’s that the images in his head blurred as soon as he tried focusing on them. Agent Dreegs took a deep audible breath in raised his nose and screwed up his face in concentration in a last attempt to isolate the images. He saw the image of Mark standing tall and proudly but beside the image of Mark and at the same time within the image of Mark another image formed.

‘A child’ said Agent Dreegs under his breath ‘It can’t be but it is.’ He opened his eyes and saw Rachel staring at him perplexed and not a just little fearfully. No one would have head Agent Dreegs unless they had been paying very close attention to him in a place with very little background noise. Just like Rachel had been and just like the burnt ruins of the hotel had.

‘The trap was for a child?’ questioned Constable Rachel her tone disbelieving.

‘Yes. No. Not in that sense’ said Agent Dreegs and then made a despite effort to explain himself and his feelings to the only person on the planet, excluding Mark, that he felt he had any connection with. Rachel did not look in any mood to believe him. ‘The trap was for the sake of the child. Mark is not traveling alone and we are not the only ones after him. There is a girl, a blond girl looking for him as well.’

‘And you can tell all that by sniffing the air?’ asked Rachel.

‘Yes. No. It’s hard to explain’ said the Agent in dismay ‘in fact it is impossible to explain.’

‘I dare say it is’ said Rachel. To her all the evidence pointed towards Agent Dreegs was insane but why was it then that she believed everything he said.

‘Agent?’ said a nervous voice. A police officer with a middle aged man in tow had dared approach the pair.

‘What is it?’ asked Agent Dreegs turning to the officer.

‘This is the owner of the hotel’ explained the officer ‘He has some information you may want to hear.’

‘I am sure he does’ said Agent Dreegs and turned to the hotel owner ‘Please share it.’ The hotels owner darted around taking in Agent Dreegs suit before meeting Agent Dreegs emerald eyes where they got stuck and darted no further.

‘A big man came yesterday and asked for a room and I don’t just mean a tall man he was…’ started the hotel owner nervously.

‘I know what you mean’ said Agent Dreegs recollecting Mark’s frame ‘Was he alone?’

‘No. There was a boy with him, looked about eight years old but he was odd.’ Agent Dreegs raised his eyebrows and Rachel a look. The Hotel owner saw this gesture and stopped.

‘Explain odd’ said Agent Dreegs turning his attention back on the man before him.

‘Well he wore a white smock’ said the man ‘like what people from the past put in movies from the future which is now the present, if that makes any sense.’

‘It does’ said Agent Dreegs patiently ‘Was their anything else about the boy that you thought was worth remembering?’

‘He did not seem all there’ said the man ‘he stared at everything as if it was the first time he had ever seen anything like it. I had a bird in the office and he stood there staring at it until the big guy came and pulled him away.’ Agent Dreegs turned and positioned himself so as to be in good vantage point to catch Rachel’s next reaction.

‘Tell me about the girl’ prompted Agent Dreegs and waited. Two sets of eyes widened, one set being the hotel owners and the other being Rachel’s immediately after.

‘The blond girl?’ asked the hotel owner.

‘That’s the one’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘She came about six hours later’ explained the now fearful man recalling a painful memory ‘I had just closed up reception when she opened it up again by pulling the door from its hinges. She asked about the big man and the boy. At first I did not tell her anything of course but then she broke my arm as if it was a twig. After that I was a little more compliant, a lot more compliant I told her everything. I told her what number their room was and she threatened that if I called for help she would kill them; Kill the help I mean.’

‘Your arm does not look broken’ pointed out Agent Dreegs.

‘I just came back from the hospital they fixed me up as good as new in only an hour. It’s amazing what they can do these days. There is something else I have to tell you about the girl. Her eyes…’

‘Her eyes were or glowed purple’ completed Agent Dreegs. The man’s mouth fell open.

‘How did you know that?’ asked the man. Rachel’s mouth fell open now. Agent Dreegs stepped in front of Rachel to catch her attention although he needn’t have bothered, Rachel was already paying him as much attention as she could possibly afford, another interest rate rise and she would forget to breathe and her heart would stop.

‘I have a sense for such things’ he said staring directly into Rachel’s eyes smugly. Agent Dreegs’s eyes flared green for a moment long enough for Rachel notice. She noticed also the warning in his tone, she would never doubt him again, and also she would never dare to.

‘Thank you for telling me this but that is all the information that I require right now’ said Agent Dreegs to the hotel owner to Rachel’s surprise added ‘and I am sorry about the loss of your hotel this must be a very traumatic time for you.’

‘Thankyou agent’ said the hotel owner equally as surprised as Rachel at Agent Dreegs condolences.

‘I know this may be a little rude to ask given the circumstances but do you happen to know if there is a decent coffee shop nearby and I do mean decent.’

‘Don’t worry about it. I was fully insured and to be honest I had had about enough of the old place. I will miss my bird however’ said the man ‘Regarding the coffee shop there is one just down the street its pretty good.’

‘Pretty good will have to do’ said Agent Dreegs ‘Thank you and I want you to know we will expend all our energy trying to catch the people responsible for this.’

‘We probably will’ thought Rachel glumly on hearing Agent Dreegs say this ‘even the energy we need to breath we will probably end up spending trying to catch Mark.’

‘Come Rachel’ said Agent Dreegs and like a dog to its master Rachel followed Agent Dreegs down the street to the coffee shop he had been told about.

 

 

A short plump lady peered over the counter when Agent Dreegs opened the door to her shop and held said door open for Rachel. Agent Dreegs was chivalrous and always had been, it had come as a matched pair with being impeccably well dressed. It had been the Agent’s previous retiring nature and lack of machismo that had stopped him gaining the attention of women. Now the tides had turned and confidence flowed through Agent Dreegs and he was well on his way in becoming Machismo incarnate. Not for the first time this hour the waiter wished she was young again but as the coffee pot in her hands was not the magical vessel of a genie her wish went unanswered.

‘We just got a big order from you lot’ said the lady noting Rachel’s uniform and the badge and guns on Agents Dreegs belt. ‘It will take some time to complete.’

‘Not our lot. We work alone. You will serve us first’ said Agent Dreegs and it was not a request it was an accurate prediction of how things would be. ‘We will have two large white coffees of any sort.’ Agent Dreegs selected a table’s in the shops far back corner and gestured at a seat. Rachel sat down in the seat he had indicated. It was the seat in the back corner giving her the best view of the room and the street outside. Lieutenant Greystreak, whose paranoid edge was as much responsible for keeping him in the police force as his refusal to retire, had indoctrinated into her the importance of keeping your back to the walls when she was new to the police force. She took the indicated seat gladly he sat down with his back to the room. A symbolic gesture thought Rachel ‘if he can smell the past then he can probably hear the future so does need to be able to see trouble coming.’

‘You know how I like my coffee’ said Rachel.

‘I guessed’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘How do you like your coffee?’ asked Rachel casually.

‘I don’t like coffee it does not have any effect on me’ said the agent surly ‘But I like the idea of coffee. Drinking it fills in time between thoughts and I have many thoughts right now.’

‘Thinking about Mark?’ asked Rachel.

‘Yes, always, but it is the thoughts about myself that concern me more’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Self-doubts?’ asked Rachel seeing that the agent was having one of his weak moments. If she went for the door Rachel was confident she would make it before the agent could compel her to stay. To her dismay Rachel knew she could not leave someone in a moment of weakness, not even someone like Agent Dreegs.

‘I have no self-doubt’s’ said Agent Dreegs solemnly and Rachel could hear the change in his voice and could feel it in the nature of Agent Dreegs aura ‘I think that is one of the things the concerns me most.’

‘Before you knew what had happened at the hotel without being told. How did you know?’

‘As I said I can’t explain’ said Agent Dreegs. The lady arrived with their coffees and placed them on their table and without even asking for payment she left. The back table, thanks to Agents Dreegs presence and grim mood, was now in the middle of a negative aura that she had no wish to reside in for any length of time even those measured by milliseconds.

‘At the library Weber asked you why you were so interested in bringing in Mark. What was the answer?’

‘I do not know’ answered Agent Dreegs.

‘I can’t believe that. Whatever it was totally threw you off.’

‘What threw me off was the fact I did not know the answer’ said Agent Dreegs ‘I do not know why I am so compelled to capture Mark Mercer I just am.’

‘Are you sure you are alright? You may need to take some time off.’

‘I am sure that I am not alright. And as of taking time off’ said Agent Dreegs and he looked up, his face truly terrible to behold. It was the flipside of the confidence and machismo that he had walked into the coffee shop with. ‘I do not know what I would do if I was not at work. I do not believe I have ever taken the opportunity to find out.’

‘There are people that can help, councillors and physiatrists and the like’ suggested Rachel helpfully but with unhelpful results. Agent Dreegs face could not have changed as rapidly in response to Rachel’s suggestion to seek physiological help if he had been a middle aged man from the nineteen hundreds. Just as he had in the library Agent Dreegs demeanour went from submissive and vulnerable to determined and terrifying in a matter of seconds. His green eyed stare solidified, locked on Rachel’s startled face and studied what it found there thoughtfully for a few seconds as though he was reading her mind. Were he actually able to read her mind he would have read the word ‘Another moment of weaknesses followed by a sudden recovery. Do this once more and we have a pattern forming. Damm, I should have used the bathroom when I had the chance I am never going to be able to ask him to stop on the way home.’

‘We should be going’ said Agent Dreegs and at that decisive decision lifted his cup tilted back his head and poured the steaming liquid down this throat. Although when he lowered his head steam left him by nostrils and mouth Agent Dreegs did not show indication of feeling any pain. When he saw Rachel watching him and worked out what had her eyes opened wide in shock Agent Dreegs did remember to say ouch but put into the word no real feeling. Rachel lifted her cup and sipped from her coffee and as she did so the near boiling liquid burnt her mouth in an instant she said ouch using other worlds.

 

Mark & Henry

 

The city of Jugree was small in the standards of cites but it was big enough to have an underground and where there was an underground Mark had connections. It was after one of his deviant connections that Mark searched for now. Two Point three winced and shielded his eyes as he followed Mark out of the yet another gloomy bar into the bright side street.

‘We have been searching for a long time’ said Two Point Three who was weary from all this unaccustomed walking around. He was not a fan of this natural light, unregulated air flow and temperature thing away. ‘Do you know the chances of us bumping into any one person because if it could help I can calculate them for you?’

‘We are not just walking around randomly kid we are searching’ said Mark ‘and you know better than to ask me if I need help calculating.’

‘I am sorry it’s just that everyone you ask has not even heard of him before?’

‘Oh course they have not’ said Mark ‘and they have never seen us either even though they just saw us because people in these areas seen to remember seeing people are seen to by unseen assailants.’

‘You have confused me’ said Two Point Three but he did not push for an explanation knowing that Mark’s decisive and carefully worded explanations often contained yet something else that needed to be explained to him. Conversations with Mark could go on for a long time like that for so long that neither of them cared to go back to having the initial conversation. Two Point Three was learning though, and learning fast. Mark was making an effort to teach him the ways of his world, which he learned was the same world as everyone lived in but at the same time a different one. Mark gave such a lesson now.

‘Here are a couple of lessons about of life in these streets’ said Mark ‘Firstly you have to be tapped into every security camera, every telephone, and every website or be incredibly lucky if you are going to find someone with one afternoons work that’s why I have a guy for that.’

‘What is the second lesson?’ asked Two Point Three hungry for all information he process.

‘You get in contact with people by telling all their associates that you are looking for them and then make it easy for them to find you’ said Mark.

‘I remember telling some wet behind the ear newbie those same lessons’ said a voice from a doorway behind Mark. Two Point Three’s spun immediately and fearfully in the direction the voice had emulated from but Mark simply stood fixed to where he was. ‘You have not been here for some time Cyborg.’

‘I must go where my trade takes me’ said Mark only now turning around to face the speaker in the doorway. He smiled at the start of the turn but mid turn said smile flowed into a frown. A gun was pointed at his chest. It was one of the old fashion guns back from the time when a gun was not considered a gun unless it could be used to take out armoured vehicles.

‘Henry’ said Mark.

‘Mark’ said Henry.

‘What is this about’ said Mark indicating the gun in Henry’s hands.

‘I got shot because of you last time’ said the short man sternly as he stepping from the shadowed doorway. He had seemed a lot taller in the shadows the gun though seemed to get bigger in the clear light of day.

‘I see you survived’ said Mark.

‘Yeah and no thanks to you’ said the man.

‘You would not be planning on using that thing while a child watches would you?’ said Mark. Two Point Three stepped out from behind Mark.

‘Of course not’ said the man and lowered the gun and chuckled. He put the gun away in the holster at his belt. Two Point Three felt the tension in the air dwindle and the honest joyful face that had replaced Henry’s mock serious one calmed him. ‘But we are going to have a talk about it and language will be used that you might not this young one to here’ said Henry. Henry then pulled a Credit Card from his back pocket and tossed it at Two Point Three ‘go buy yourself something to drink. By gods you look like you need it.’ Two Point Three reached for the card mid-air, missed, then picked up the card from at his feet were it had landed. After looking up, and further up, at Mark and receiving at a nod and gesture towards the doorway he began to walk into the bar they had just come from. There was no malice in the air Two Point Three knew he could sense it if there were. Before Two Point Three had time to take five steps three shots rang out behind him and he turned back. Mark lay flat on his back with three punctures in his shirt that were the centres of quickly growing circles of blood. Henry was standing over him smiling and laughing.

‘Mark?’ he cried out in alarm and ran to kneel at his side but Mark was already making moves to get to his feet.

‘I thought you only got shot once’ accused Mark getting to his feet and brushing aside Two Point Three’s concerned pampering, and the child himself, aside with one big hand.

‘Aye but I don’t heal as fast as you do I. Now get yourself cleaned up; no bar is going to let you in dripping blood like that.’

‘You’re mad’ said Mark and reached out a hand comradely to an old friend and the short man took the hand without the usual wince that usually was the reaction to Mark’s grip.

‘I know but it is something you get used to after a while’ excused the man with a smile.

‘Kid this is Mad Henry. Not a man you want watching your back but he is ok if you keep him where you can see him.’ Two Point Three opened his mouth but know words came out. He knew it was impolite not to introduce himself but the sight of Mark laying prone in the alleyway had shook rendered him temporally mute.

‘Henry this is Two Point Three and yes that is his actual name.’

‘Finally gone into the trade of kidnapping have we?’ asked Henry appraisingly Two Point Three with eyes honed by a life of crime to able to determine the value of anything as long as it had been unlawfully gained.

‘He belongs to my uncle’ said Mark ‘I am looking after him for a while.’

‘The trade of babysitting then? The Great Cyborg Mark mercer, the onetime hero, the onetime villain and the current babysitter. How far you have fallen my friend. Or is it simply that you get bored with each profession and move on.’

‘Please do not bring up my past’ asked Mark.

‘What? Afraid that the boy will work out that that you are a criminal? If he is a smart one, he knows already.’

‘Not that part’ said Mark.

‘Oh I see’ said Henry and smiled he then studied Two Point Three with the eyes of a keen appraiser. ‘Belongs to your uncle…hmmm… No doubt there are people after you but then there are always people after you.’

‘Nothing more than I can handle anyway I have lost them. What we need now is a place to lie low.’

‘And what you are thinking although you are not saying it aloud is that there is nothing lower than the home of a criminal like myself’ said Henry putting a fresh clip into the gun.

‘I would not ask this of you but it is important’ said Mark ‘or at least that’s what I have been told repeatedly.’

‘I dare say I can put you up for a while. I have couple of kid about his age whom I am sure they would get along with and my wife was only last week commenting on how dull things were without you around or something along those lines.’

‘She said something along those lines but not those exact words I imagine’ said Mark. Mark knew well of Henrys wife’s hate for him it had been one of the reasons he had not come visit after he had left for the big city.

 

Mark’s story about killing a guy and gaining all his friends was an embellishment of a real event that was his first encounter with Clare’s brother Nathan. Recently after arriving in town Nathan, a big name in the area and an idiot even when not drunk, had challenged Mark to a fight to defend his station seeing Mark as his competition. Mark of course was not his competition Mark was his defeat and Nathan, through the haze of drunkenness, and later the haze of concussion, and in the microseconds before the fight was over, came to realise this. Mark had been merciful and let him live with injuries that would heal. But though his physical injuries healed the damage done to his reputation never did and those that had thought of Nathan as friend or were too afraid to call him an enemy began to gravitate towards Mark and subsequently get caught in his orbit. It had not been Mark’s intent to replace Nathan’s place at the centre of the local criminal circle but it happened. Most things in his presence began to revolve around him and the explanation of this was the same explanation of why planets orbit starts; it was their momentous gravitational footprint that caused. Although stars use their gravitational footprint to capture debris in accretion disks while Mark just used his gravitational footprint to crush, or “Mark” as is said in these parts, any obstacle that got in in his way.

 

 

Nathan had eventually moved away in shame, with the thoughts of starting afresh in the big city but he had went missing soon after that. Mark suspected that one of Prince Gavin’s or at that time his father’s, The King’s, lot had killed him though Mark had never asked the prince and did not care to. Mark suspected that Clare suspected he had commuted the distance to Nathan’s new city just to finish the job. Mark suspected that Clare was less intelligent than she let on but Mark could not find actual fault with his friend’s wife’s opinion of him as she had some other valid reasons for not liking him. She also blamed him happenings in the past, including but not limited to Henry getting shot, more than a dozen near misses when it came to a law, and more simular events than any normal person could recall. Mark was not normal and could recall those three hundred and seventy-two reasons that Clare could not like him in high definition video with sound if he so desired. Clare could not but she hated him just the same as if she could remember them all and then some.

 

Henry led Mark and Two Point Three to a bar nearby where he and Mark could sit and chat about old times, some good, some bad, some outrageously hilarious in the mind of Henry and some all three. Though they tried to hide it, Two Point Three noticed that the barmen, and men of the bar who recognised the pair all give the two reminiscing criminals as wide birth when possible. It was not out of disrespect of the two that they did this, for their respect was clear in the manor, it was fear of what might be overheard. Too often in these parts a secret plan had lost its secrecy when it was overheard by the man in the next booth only to regain its secrecy when the man died in a nearby alleyway from repeatedly falling on a broken bottle. Soon a second barman, one hired and kept on hand specifically for the task, was called from the backroom and was set the task of serving them. The barman’s hefty hearing aids were set on the bench in clear view. This man also seemed completely blind to Mark and Henry’s presence until their drinks needed refreshing and the presence of him, a minor in a drinking establishment, was the least of things that went unseen in that bar night. It was not too long until Henry began to show the effects of being drunk, they manifested themselves in poor volume control and repetitive boasts of how great a pair he and Mark had been back in the day. To be fair for the small man this was not because he could not hold his liquor quite the contrary, it was that Henry had been holding his liquor for hours. If there is anything worse than drinking alcohol on an empty stomach it was drinking on a stomach already filled with alcohol.

‘You know what?’ asked Henry annunciating the words clearly as though he was giving a speech to a crowd. For a second he did not seem drunk at all however he failed to go on, standing there mute.

‘No Henry I don’t’ said Mark after waiting for his friend for some time a slight grin on his face.

‘I think it’s time that we be heading back’ continued Henry as though there had been no gap between sentences ‘I am not as young as I usssed to be I can’t drink all day and all night as I useeed to. The second bottle just goes straight to my head.’ Two Point Three could agree with the man he had matched him drink for drink though his drink had been of something high in sugar, bubbles and yellow. He was also not as young as he used to be but that was a claim everyone could make.

‘It is time I take you back to my lowly house’ said Henry. Henry did not stumble as he led the way outside though when outside the journey was rambling and involved many a double back. Mark and Two Point Three both began to suspect that the man had forgotten where he had parked his car.

‘It this path meant to thrown of people that are following us?’ asked Two Point three as they walked past the bar they just left a second time.

‘No kid, just confuse them’ said Mark.

‘Oh ok’ said Two Point Three and returned to following Henry silently. Eventually Henry found his car not more than two hundred meters in a straight line down the road from the bar. He announced this by stopping dead in his track, trusting his hands before him and shouting the word “behold” as dramatically as he could manage.

‘Behold what?’ asked Mark peering directly overly Henry’s head. To his eyes he saw a car parked in front of him.

‘Behold the majesty of automotive engineering’ reiterated Henry but there was less hope in his voice.

‘Beholding’ said Mark. He said this in the manor of a computer screen saying loading or buffering, it was a task that was being performed. Henry turned on the spot managing to move two feet to the side and fixed Mark with a critical eye.

‘You never had an eye for beatify did you.’

‘They were sold separably’ said Mark he turned to examine the car again and saw just that, a car. Mark had no interest in cars being fundamentally a pedestrian at soul level so the materials that made up the car, being mostly chrome, blackened glass and black living metal fibre, would appear to him as the same no matter how they were arranged. Henry’s hopes fell yet more as he watched Mark search vainly for what he was meant to be seeing. To resolve himself he turned to the car. It was a beautiful thing, the sort of car that would make a man not only cry to perceive but to also feel that their masculity was inadequate for weeks to come or until they owned one. For Two Point Three, whose experience with cars was severely limited; barley understood what he was seeing let alone understood the significance of it. Henry eyes darted between the two anticipating a ready to take note of their expressions. He in the end of the did take note of their expression, two blank looks from Mark and Two Point Three, both well worth making note of.

‘Well what do you think of the car?’ prompted Henry his hopes too drunk to concede just yet.

‘Did we steal this one?’ asked Mark.

‘What? No!’ said Henry ‘we may have stolen this one’s great great grandfather.’

‘It looks the same as the one we stole’ said Mark simply and opened the passenger’s door and gestured for Two Point Three to get in.

‘This car is the state of the art’ exclaimed Henry ‘It costs millions on the open market.’ Henry

‘Does it’ said Mark and gave the car another look but only a quick one. He still did not seem impressed. ‘How much did you pay for it?’

‘That is not the question you are meant to be asking’ said Henry. Mark asked the question that he was meant to be asking.

‘How fast does it go?’

‘Top speed is about a thousand kilometres an hour. It’s one of the fastest semi-commercial cars ever built.’

‘Impressive’ said Mark though he was not impressed to the point that it showed on his face ‘how well does it take corners at that speed?’ At this Henry laughed.

‘At that speed it does not take corners’ said Henry ‘it is a luxury vehicle not a getaway car, although it handles well enough at realistic speeds. Get in I can tell you are not going to be impressed until you feel it move.’ They began to get into the car. To Henry’s surprise Mark relinquished the passenger seat to Two Point Three and stood and a backseat door. Two Point Three caught sight of Henry’s surprised stare looking over the car roof while he was getting in, caught and it was appreciative fraction of a Minute before he let Henry stare go.

‘I think that you are too drunk to drive’ said Two Point Three when they met again under the car’s roof. He was currently occupied working out the mechanics of the seatbelt by process of trial and error.

‘You’re wrong there lad’ said Henry ‘even drunk it’s safer to have me on the road that anyone else.’ Two Point Three looked back and outside the car to Mark for confirmation.

‘Henry was the getaway driver. Driving is sort of his thing’ informed Mark as but his tone did not strive to say that it was the final say in the disagreement. Two Point Three took this as Mark’s active encouragement go push further, because by nature Mark’s deep growl of a voice was the final word in anything. He could ask people if wanted fries with their meal and you would people would feel that the conversation was over and they had just managed to escape with their lives. Mark would not do well in the catering industry.

‘Statistically the risk of car accidents is exponentially higher for those that have drunk too much.’

‘Well those statistics don’t involve me. Statistically I once drove myself sixty K on a road that was two parts gravel and one-part mountain side to a hospital after a snake bit me and I was fine’ said Henry proudly ‘hoverer I did have to tie the blasted thing in a knot around my leg to slow the poison.’ Two Point Three looked back at Mark again for confirmation.

‘We had an interesting career’ explained Mark turning back to Two Point Three.

‘Are you a better driver when you are sober?’ asked Two Point Three.

‘Well of course I am but that’s not to say I can’t drive better than most, and much better than Mark, as I am now.’

‘If you drive better sober then you are too drunk to drive.’ Two Point Threes voice took on some of the definitiveness of Mark’s.

Henry buckled his seatbelt just as he was retracting his hand a small hand grabbed his and he looked down to see Two Point Three looking up. The grip was tight for such a little hand. Henry looked up at Two Points Three’s face which was a mistake because the instant he saw the peculiar expression and serious blue eyes he found himself unable to look away. Henry’s arm began to tingle but he could not pull it away. When Mark got into the car, with the sinking and groaning of its suspension, he looked forward to see Two Point Three still holding Henry’s elbow and gaze. Physically Henry could have broken free from the grip with no effort, Two Point Three was a child after all, but he did not feel inclined to or able to because as well as being a child Two Point Three was something more.

‘What is this?’ inquired Mark squeezing the rest of the way into the back seat and seeing the expressions of their faces. Henry’s silence was a given and Two Point Three ignored Mark instead speaking to Henry.

‘You are fine to drive’ said Two Point Three, his voice laced with certainly, and let go of the man. Henry retracted his arm immediately and broke the stare but Two Point Three looked around as if nothing had happened and began exploring the luxury car with interest. Even from his viewing point from in the back Mark knew that something significant had happened for no other reason that Henry was looking uneasy, thoughtful and sober.

‘So he can do that’ thought Mark ‘Interesting.’ Henry immediately felt different but it took him a few seconds after the boy released him from his small but unbreakable grip for him to work out what was different about him. When he realized what it was that had changed he thought about it clearly, he thought too clearly for anyone as intoxicated as he had been.

‘I am not drunk’ thought the stout man and was hit with a wave of subtle annoyance at this. ‘All those drinks in the bar, all that work wasted.’ Fear and confusion stopped him from getting too angry though. It was had to blame the child for something that he could not possibly have done and there were worse ways to sober up and this way at least he was not left with a hangover.

‘Put your seat belt on’ said Henry to Two Point Three in the same manner as he would remind one of his children. Two Point Three immediately and timidly obliged.

 

The trip back to Henry’s home was silent, swift, and short. Between the engineering marvels of the black and chrome car and Henrys unquestionable driving aptitude they glided through traffic and took corners without slowing down or needing to slow down. With nobody saying a word the only thing that could be heard was the sound of the wheels on the road and old combustion engines of the cars that they passed. The black and chromes car’s plasma powered engine did not make a sound but it did admit a glow of yellow plasma crafty reflected forward or channelled in optical fibre to be emitted as the cars lights. Effort had been put into regulating the light to be done with the flickering associated with plasma and as with every other aspect of the car they had done well but they had not countered for eyes as keen as Mark’s picking up the remaining flickering or as mind as attuned to the nature of plasma as Mark’s to notice it. Mark was a pedestrian mainly but today his uneasiness came not for the car ride itself but the continuous presence of the lights.

 

After twenty minutes of silence and unease. Henry finally drove them to a tall, U shaped, apartment block on the outskirts of town and passed though the heavy duty security gates out the front.

‘And here’ announced Henry ‘is my lowly home.’ Now this was something that Mark could behold and appreciate. The apartment block was at least fifteen stories high and surrounded by garden and pools.

‘Not as lowly as I was expecting’ said Mark. Henry drove the car into a parking space right next to the apartment block main entrance. A sign marked the parking spot or it was written Henry’s name and his title “Owner.”

‘You own this?’ asked Mark looking around and the extravagant establishment and began to price it out. He was close to half a billion when his own, limited, appraisal abilities ran out.

‘I had a bit of money lying around when I retired and it didn’t all go into this car’ said Mad Henry ‘we live on the top floor.’

‘How very symbolic’ said Mark ‘this is appreciated.’

‘Anything for an old friend’ said Henry ‘also I have no right to refuse you seeing as it was paid with as much of your money as mine.’

‘Pardon?’ asked Mark.

‘I bought this with money were earnt together back in the day. You never claimed yours so I put it to work.’

‘I did not do it for the money’ said Mark. Henry gave Mark a look of utter incomprehension.

‘I would once have asked you why you did it then but not now. I have accepted that you are never going to give me an answer that makes sense to me.’

‘I do not intend to give you any answer at all’ said Mark. ‘What is the security like here?’

‘The security is excellent’ said Henry ‘we made a lot of enemies when we were making all our money. I seem to have been left with all of them as well. There are ten security guards on site at any one time and so many security cameras that I fear it verges on the creepy.’

‘Do you trust your security guards?’ asked Mark.

‘Oh god no’ said Henry ‘I have plenty of security cameras on them too.’

‘Good’ said Mark someone who could not trust anyone that trusted easily.

‘Satisfied? Now you must come see my children I have told them all the good things about you. Clare has probably told them the rest.’

 

 

It was half an hour or in experience terms one elevator ride, four introductions, one bathroom break later, and Two Point Three stared at the other three children and, for their part, Henry’s kids stared back.

‘Hello my name is Two Point Three’ he said after the silent staring had gone on for long enough ‘Mark Two Point Three to be precise.’

‘What the hell are you?’ demanded the oldest girl clearly unpleased of him being here. Perhaps modelling her emotions off her mother thought Two Point Three.

‘I am a great achievement’ said Two Point Three.

‘You’re a twerp’ said the second oldest, a boy that appeared of an age with himself though he was shorter than Two Point Three.

‘Is that so?’ Two Point Three who had never been told a lie before accepted this solemnly. ‘Is this where you live?’

‘Yeah’ said the girl ‘what of if?’

‘It is nice but I don’t see where the white coat people stand.’

‘What white coat people’ asked the oldest girl. Two Point Three thought briefly of explaining about the white coats and the glass walls but a newly forming sense told him that that line was going to do anything but make him seem more of a twerp.

‘Never mind about them’ said Two Point Three.

‘I’m not’ said the girl ‘I am minding about the freak show in my house.’

‘Am I a freak now? I thought I was a twerp. At what point did I stop being a twerp and start being a freak?’

‘Are you making of me?’ demanded the girl.

‘I honestly do not know’ said Two Point Three exhausted, confused and missing the glass walls of his room. At this the youngest girl, who had up until now remained silent, began to laugh. She was given an icy glare from her older sister for this but she did not stop.

‘Mum says you should not be here’ said the second oldest boy but his expression made it clear that he at least was prepared to believe she was wrong. Two Point Three’s developing language was unable to detect the question hidden amongst the words so he stayed unvocal. The boy tried again to get the correct response from the strange pale child they had been told to entertain.

‘She says Mark is a brutal thug and people around him get hurt.’ Two Point Three again missed the unasked question so the girl added it.

‘Is this true?’ demanded the girl rolling her eyes. Two Point Three thought about his response, he thought about the pilots, he thought about the hotel, he thought about the stories Henry had shared of he and Mark’s hay day.

‘Both of those things are true’ said Two Point Three ‘but that is not all he is he also looks out for me. People do get hurt around him but not me. He keeps me safe.’

‘Is it true that he is a cyborg and he kills people by ripping them apart with his hands? Our dad says he kills people by ripping them apart with his hands.’

‘I do not know about that as I have not seen it done I think Mark just kills people the way he thinks they should be killed’ said Two Point Three but the children did not seem very pleased with his response even the older girl seemed disappointed. With sudden realization Two Point Three realised what his audience wanted from him. ‘I have seen him pick up a car.’ This, as he predicted, got their interest even that of the older girls.

‘Cool’ said the boy impressed ‘tell me about it.’ Two Point Three did telling them the story of the fall from the hovercraft and Kevin the Taxi driver. The boy seemed eager for every detail about the man his father has spoken to him of for his whole life he did not seem to mind that Mark had only pulled the car out from some mud and satisfied with the fact that Mark could lift a car.

‘Have you seen him do anything else?’ asked the boy eagerly.

‘Not much’ said Two Point Three I have only known him a few days ‘there is the way that he gets off trains.’ Two Point Three began to tell Henry’s children of the trains.

 

 

Two Point Three’s welcome was incomparably warmer than Mark’s. Henry’s wife Clare was yet to speak to either Henry or Mark since he entered the door but she did acknowledge his presence by placing a cup of tea in front of him. She did not give him the insult of forgetting how he like his tea because there was such thing as going too far. The tea she provided was black and in a handless mug proportional in size to Mark.

‘She remembered how I like my tea after all these years’ thought Mark ‘I wonder how well she remembers everything else?’

‘She does not like surprised visitors’ said Henry when Clare bustled or more stomped away back into the kitchen and henry saw Mark’s troubled eyes following her.

‘I am sure that is what it is’ said Mark. Henry sighed sorrowfully.

‘She blames you for a lot of what happened back then. It’s actually quite insulting. For me that is. I masterminded some of the greatest thefts of our era and my own wife gives the credit to the man I used for my muscle, or whatever the cyborg equivalent is’ said Henry and remembered ‘Electro tissue. We were the best.’

‘We were the worst’ said Mark.

‘What do you mean?’ asked Henry taken aback. ‘I came up with the heist, you carried it out then I got us the hell out of there. We were unstoppable. Oh I see what you are getting at. The worst, the most notorious thieves in the country, taking what we wanted and killing anyone who wanted it back.’

‘Yeah’ said Mark ‘That’s what I mean. If we did not complement each other so well, we would have given it up before things got out of hand.’

‘Don’t get preachy on me Mark’ said Henry ‘It’s not an act you can pull off. Anyway I was the one that retired from that life. You disappeared one night to start killing people in the city with not so much as a post card to explain why.’ Henry did not vocalize the question but it hung in the air between them as though he had. Mark looked at Henry and gave him the expiation he desired in the form of a look not only penetrating but blugering and severing as well. The malevolence released from the Mark’s eyes hit Henry and had the same effect as a blizzard on the top of a mountain, it was ferocious cold and filled with chunks of ice. Henry thought of Cyborg Rage the red hot bursts of violence that afflicted many cyborgs, Mark had shown such rage in the early days of their partnership but now Mark’s inner turmoil was cold and tame. ‘Not tame’ thought Henry it was more like it was patient, waiting for the gate that held it back to be released and saving its strength until then.

‘How hard is it too hold all that anger in for all these years until it becomes so pure and cold?’ thought Henry he also thought ‘What have I bought into my home?’

‘I am sorry’ said Mark but the tone of his voice portrayed his words to be a matter of fact rather than an apology. He did look away as though hiding his eyes from his friend now that Henry knew what lay beneath.

‘No I asked for it’ said Henry ‘That look earnt us a lot of money back in the day and got us out of more than a few tight spots. It is only right that I see it from the right vantage point for once.’ Mark did not say anything and finished his mug of tea with a big gulp.

‘So who do you think is after you?’ asked Henry changing the subject of conversation from the mysteries of the past to those of the present thinking quite wrongly that he would be better able to handle that topic.

‘I do not know. I saw Grimhounds yesterday and the kid went on about a sister.’

‘Ahh’ said Henry in realization as though everything not only made sense now but were to be expected. After only a moment’s pause he put the statement ‘They are mighty unholy things sisters, and Grimhounds are not too great either.’

‘You do not seem surprised’ said Mark he himself surprised of Henrys immediate acceptance of the grim and revelatory fact. ‘Surprised that The Fallen are back? Of course not’ replied Henry ‘all they needed was some source code to survive somewhere and an idiot to start messing with cybernetics again. I don’t think we will never be free from The Fallen. I have been saying that ever since the end of the war but who listens to a Madman?’

‘Talking about idiots messing with cybernetics, did I tell you that Zal offered me an upgrade?’

‘What? After your uncle offered to make you human?’ asked Henry.

‘Yes’ said Mark ‘I think he is exploiting a loophole by making the parts in space.’ This caused Henry to pause longer than he had when contemplating the return of humanities deadliest threat.

‘Wow that boy must have some budget.’

‘He is Dregor’s second’ said Mark.

‘Then yes he does’ said Henry and chuckled ‘So…?’

‘So what?’ asked Mark.

‘And are you going to take him up on his offer?’

‘Why would I?’ asked Mark ‘last time Zal opened me up and pull me apart he did not put everything back in.’

‘To be fair to the boy you once told me that he was just following your uncle’s designs. But to answer your question…Well I did not want to say this but in the time that I have known you I have lost count of how many times I have upgraded my computer. I do not know if it works the same with cyborg’s but if you were a household appliance you would be considered…retro and due to come back in style and day now.’

‘But if I go with my uncles offer I can be human again’ said Mark.

‘Really?’ said Henry ‘I love you like I loved my first car which is as much I love my children but do you really think that anyone can ever reverse what has happened to you physically or psychologically.’

‘I don’t know if this surgery will work ’said Mark solemnly ‘but I must believe that it can be done, I must go through with it, else what is the point of holding on?’

‘Well there are cars’ said Henry from the expression on Mark’s face he knew that this was not the right response.

‘So where are you going to go now?’ asked Henry changing the subject yet again to one that he thought he just might be able to handle ‘not that you are not welcome to stay here for as long as you want.’ A sound of a sound of dropped glass breaking radiated from the kitchen where Clare had been dutifully doing the dishes and not snooping on Henry’s and Mark’s conversation at all. Henry ignored this. ‘You will have to leave here at some point if you are going to get the boy back to the city in time.’

‘An ex of mine gave me some directions’ said Mark ‘I think I will find out where they lead to before I start heading back.’

‘An ex? That will be the sweet girl Rebecca you used to talk about when we were younger men’ observed Henry.

‘Well she is not a girl anymore and not so sweet and the term sour would work to describe her now but bitter may be even more appropriate. She is in charge of security and breaks people’s necks’ said Mark.

‘And no doubt that turns you on so much more. Anyways in my experience that is what happens to women when they get older’ another sound came from the kitchen this one with a metallic ring to it.

‘She is not older; physically she looks about the same as she did when I left the company. And she is faster than she was. I would not admit it to her but she may be faster than anyone I have ever met.’ Henry said nothing for a while which was odd for him.

‘Faster than me?’ asked Henry.

‘Faster than me’ disclosed Mark. Henry thought about this silently for a while rolling the fact over and over in his head.

‘Dregor does mess with things best left alone’ declared Henry then returned to his thoughts. Mark felt a feeling deep inside him, one he had hoped to never feel again but had always known he would. A tug, a tightening, the summoning of great amounts of power. Mark fought off images of a place of swirling coloured light.

‘Speaking of’ said Mark, got to his feet turning to where he knew The Pillar lay and waiting for lightshow to appear on the horizon. Two Point Three was already standing up against a balcony on the tips of his toes so he could get the best view over the iron railing. Mark walked to him and Henry’s family followed even Clare moved to where she could see.

‘What is it?’ asked Henry.

‘It’s The Company flexing its muscles and getting ready for war.’ Mark pulled Two Point Three back from the balcony and lifted him onto his shoulders and then one by one, and to their delight, lifted Henry’s three children into spacious seating on his shoulders.

‘How can you tell?’ asked Henry.

‘Blood will tell’ said Mark because there was not a better answer to explain the tightening feeling inside him.

 

8 Call to Arms

Rebecca

Rebecca was not a woman of great feats of intellect but that is not to say that that she was not intelligent or that she was not capable of great feats. It was just that she was primarily a woman of action. She could and would turn her mind’s eye to a problem and give it a seeing to but she would only do this when she herself could turn to said problem and see to it personally, physically and, more often than not, comprehensively. She was not unlike Alexander the Great with the Gordian Knot as she had the pre-mentioned sovereign’s lack of tack, respect to for rules and even respect for other people’s property. She was the type of person that would cut through the whole world in the name of the things she wanted, although just what these things she wanted where have always remained unnamed and mysterious. The company did not need another intellectual mastermind anyway, they had plenty if not too many of those already. They needed someone able to take a more hands on approach to company matters and she was the woman for the job and that is where she came in.

 

The last confirmed spy in The Pillar died and they died at, and in, her hands. Without ceremony Rebecca dropped the corpse of the laundry worker and the young ladies body fell back into the laundry basket that she had spent the last few hours hiding in and had just been pulled from. Rebecca turned to the elite security team that was theoretically escorting her for her protection.

‘It that the last of them?’ she asked a young security officer who was holding a tablet in shaking hands and holding onto his lunch but doing both of these barely.

‘You killed her’ said the security officer shocked and staring at the arm hanging, and swinging, from the laundry basket. Ten seconds ago that arm had belonged to a young, vibrant, but admittedly somewhat treacherous, woman.

‘Of course I did’ said Rebecca ‘She was on the list. Was she the last person on the list or not?’ Despite not being visibly phased or enraged by recent happenings there was something about Rebecca’s stance that suggested the list was not definite and could be added to at any time. And that once on the list there was only one way to be taken off it.

‘Yes’ said the security officer ‘she was the last person on the list.’ The officer looked at the list, or as much as fitted on one page and he pressed a thumb next to the last remaining lit up staff id picture. The picture dimmed and the officer felt like he had killed the spy himself. All across the complex and up and down The Pillar, a game of Hide/Tremble and Seek/Kill ended.

‘Everyone known to be selling secretes to our rivals by electronic means that we could detect have has been taken care of’ said a senior Security officer somewhat superfluously ‘everyone known to be selling secretes to our rivals by means that we could not detect have been promoted to management.’ Rebecca frown at the Senior Security Officer, not because he had revealed or confirmed a company secrete aloud before a junior officer, not because she disliked the man as in fact she probably disliked him the least of all her staff, it was just that he referred to some business that she did not like. Like many things like, heat, doorways, and inner peace; cooperate espionage is made of two contrasting parts or states. Hot and cold, open and closed, yin and yang, them and us. Rebeca had spent years, and the last few busy days in particular days, focusing on the Them part of espionage and now had to turn her mind to the “us” part. ‘Let’s get back to the Command Centre’ said Rebecca ‘Dregor will want us to be ready when he asks for us and we have to be ready for Code Rainbow when it happens.’

‘As you say boss’ said the Security Officer.

 

The Command Centre Was located in the centre spike of The Pillar, above everything else and accessed via a central elevator. This would be where Rebecca would have an office, if she wanted an office.

When Rebecca walked into the Command Centre it was Zal that stood in command at the centre of the room giving orders over the radio and working on a holographic interface projected around him. To anyone without an earpiece to hear the responses and rebuttals to the commands or an eyepiece to see the secure holographic interface he was working on then he looked just like a madman speaking to the air and waving his arms and figures around wildly. And with the unkempt long hair he might also be said to look like most of histories self-declared prophet.

‘What do you mean the people in the marketing department are not going to like that?’ asked Zal to the air. There was a pause where he stared at and fondled a section of empty air before throwing it aside.

‘Oh I get that’ said Zal stopping his hand waving for a second ‘but you misunderstand my question. I meant what do you mean there is still a marketing department. We are at war Frank; all we worry about now is manufacturing losses that the Fallen cannot afford. Reassign them to departments that assist the war effort.’

‘Well tell them that I do not recommend that course of action because if they do that I will have HR escort them to the nearest exit and let them go…from any floor that they might be on. Get it done.’ Zal returned to his hand waving with vigour and Rebecca began walking towards him.

‘Please don’t Rebecca’ said Zalrick and Rebecca froze ‘You are about to step though some equations that took me half an hour to input into this stupid machine.’ Zal snapped his figures and pointed in the direction of Rebecca. The polarity of the holographic interface changed so that anyone in the direction he was pointing to could see it. Rebecca navigated herself through the maze of equations and graphs Zal was working on until she stood in the middle of them with Zal.

‘Are you ready?’ she asked him and making what sense she could of the equations floating around him. For a second she had an insight into the nightmare it was to be in Zal’s mind but then he stopped pointing at her and the equations disappeared.

‘For what?’ asked Zal.

‘Code Rainbow.’

‘Code Rainbow is a protocol Dregor designed so that people other than a Mercer could initiate it. People with regular intellects Rebecca, you know how little he thinks of them’ said Zalrick ‘It might as well be called “Press the rainbow button and let the code Dregor wrote years ago do all the work.”’

‘Then what is all this?’ asked Rebeca indicating the Holographic interface that she could not see.

‘This is because my time is very valuable and I have more than a handful of my own projects that I want to be working on at the moment. It is also because apparently Dregor is too busy to press his own him dammed rainbow button and the idiot who designed this command centre thought controlling technology was all about waving hands through the air.’

‘Do you know when what Dregor is doing?’ asked Rebecca. Zal gave Rebecca an incredulous look.

‘Has he ever told anyone what he is doing?’ asked Zal ‘I do not even know what half of Code Rainbow does.’

‘Then how are we meant to know when to press the big rainbow button?’

‘He said you were in charge of security and would tell me when to press it.’

‘Ok’ said Rebecca and she pondered the responsibility that Dregor had trusted her with. ‘Any reason we can’t just press it now and get it over with?’

‘No not really unless you are afraid the UNC think take it as an act of aggression and send in a pre-emptive air strike. You are head of security. Are you afraid of a UNC air strike?’

‘Zal.’

‘Yes’ said Zal.

‘I am not afraid of that at all. If they could have launched an effective air strike, then they would have already done so’ said Rebbeca. ‘Press the big rainbow button’

‘As you say’ said Zalrick and with a complex hand gesture swept up and crushed all the equations and graphs around him into a data file that he put into a virtual pocket that was physically stitched into his lab coat.

‘Ok everyone we are initiating Code Rainbow’ shouted Zal over the conversation in the Command Centre. ‘Now, I know you all have been very well drilled in what to do to initiate Code Rainbow but because I am here it is going to be a little different than what you were expecting in the sense that I will be doing it all. I know you are all good at your jobs else you would not be here but I am good at my job and I would rather get back to it as soon as I can. Please stand back from the control terminals you do not necessarily have to but I would not recommend that course of action particularly because I dare say there is going to be a view.’ Zal plunged his hand into one his lab coats physical pockets and after some rummaging around it came out encased in the mass of wires and glowing crystals of the control gauntlet.

‘I thought you said that controlling technology was not just about wavering your arms though the air’ said Rebecca. Zal laughed boyishly at her remark.

‘It is not all about the arm waving, but arm waving is a significant part.’ Zal waved his arm though the air. The white crystals in the glove began to glow and so did the air around every console. Rebecca walked as had many of the Command Centre’s occupants to the transparent walls of the command centre. Here at the top of the pillar the view was only diminished by the fact that when standing on the top of the pillar you could not see the spender of the pillar itself and it was perhaps the most beautiful building on the continent.

‘Entering security codes’ said Zalrick ‘…bypassing the in place security policies…looking for the rainbow button…receiving permission from a member of the Mercer family…’ Zal quickly glanced at Rebecca whose serious, returning stare caused him to look away just as quickly. ‘Good enough… and initiated.’

 

The result in the Command Centre was immediate but greater, and global, effects of the Code Rainbow protocol by design took a little while to show themselves. All power to the Command Centre was cut off not even the auxiliary power to keep the emergency lights or the computer terminals. Zalrick’s glove was the only thing that glowed in the Command Centre after a few seconds it detected that there was no technology in the area that could be manipulated so it turned itself off. Looking out at the factory city below Rebecca had one of the best views of Code Rainbow taking affect. Sections of the city began going dark and Rebecca recognised this as a Plasma Generators cutting out without warning. Normally there was protocols in place to automatically switch sections to the city to using one of the Pillar’s main plasma generators but today all lesser protocols had stopped work and stepped out of the way of Code Rainbow, the same way humans do when royalty passes through town. One by one the dark sections began to light back up as the they did another section would go down this went on for a while, it was a small but very electricity thirsty city, but then one section came back up with a red tinge to the lights. A section on the other side of the city came back online with more of an orangey hue to it.

‘Rainbow protocol’ said Rebecca. The lights continued that paten all the way down the rainbow until after a bright violent hue the covered light went slipped back beyond the range average human onlookers could see, then further on to those that Rebecca could not see. The pillars own Plasma Generators began to shut down, essentially breaking a connection between two universes, and then to restart forming a very simular but not identical rift between universes. Being as she was at the only place in kilometres around that did not have a grand view of the Pillar, Rebecca did not see the Pillars lights come back on in their rainbow paten from the ground floor up. She did see the outer ring of the pillars defences light up for the first time in ten years. There were great weapons and shield generators fifty years old and still the most formidable in the world. These were a product of Generations of Mercers and when it was Dregor and Mark’s father time there was nothing left that they could do to significantly improve the great defences. This was probably the only task their united minds ever failed at.

‘Pillar…Bitfrost shield’ said Rebecca so quietly that Zal could barely hear her but he reacted as though she had shouted it.

‘Pardon?’ demanded Zal and it was no doubt a demand.

‘I remember hearing someone talk of a Bitfrost shield a long time ago I was wondering if this was one. Why do you know what one is?’

‘I have heard of them in rumour, they are a theoretical type of plasma shield’ said Zal ‘I asked Dregor about them once and he said he tried to make one work but he did not understand enough rules of the plasma universe well enough to see how to make it hold together. He got really angry, even by Dregor’s standards he got angry, and told me I was never to speak to him about them again. You sort of listen when he gets like that so I never asked about them again and everyone else I asked about them just said they were impossible.’

‘And how well did you go at making one?’ asked Rebecca.

‘It is one of my uncompleted projects and has been for some time’ said Zal with a grin.

Hundreds of shield generators began to glow in various hues of many in no most the hues invisible to the human eye. As power from various plasma generators scattered all over the Company Complex channelled into the shield generators their glows intensified protruded towards each other but wove together before moving on to weave between other tendrils of light that the shield generators were producing in increasing quantities and speeds. The ring of light formed slowly at first but it quickly became an encompassing wall of light a hundred meters’ further out than the plasma generations and it did not stop growing in height and, Rebecca’s keen eyes noted, depth. Rebecca knew from the name alone that this was a Bitfrost shield and that a Birfrost shield would continue growing until it stretched all the way to where the gods lived. He also knew that the Pillar was not called “The Pillar” for its ornate artistic facilities but for its functional defensive ones. Zal watched the shield rise around them in wide eyed awe, his knowledgeable eyes seeing even more than Rebecca’s.

‘What is it that they say? “The Creator lies.” Maybe it was Alren that came up with this. His brother being able to do something that he could not would explain why Dregor did not want to talk about it or admit that there was a working Bitfrost shield this whole time and that we had it.’

‘I do not think it was either Mr Mercer or Other Mr Mercer that designed it. I remember that it being Grace Infurion that was talking about it. I did not hear much of what she was saying. It was Christmas I was there with Mark; I was distracted.’

‘Who?’ asked Zal and Rebecca almost slapped the scientist but in the end decided to let him live. ‘Alren’s wife, Mark’s mother.’

‘Her?’ said asked Zal incredulous. ‘I did not know that there was anything special about her.’

‘I think no one did. I think that is how she wanted things to be.’ Rebecca remembered Grace Infurion, she whose family had been so aptly renamed by an ancestor after he survived a plasma explosion and before he helped Daniel Mercer in the construct the first Plasma Generator. She had not taken the Mercer name; she said she did not want it rubbing off on her. She was so very different to Alren or Dregor but both brothers had wanted her. Dregor wanted her not just more than anything in the world but more than the world itself but in the end Alren had won again. Alren had just wanted her. Rebecca suspected that this was not just out of love but just because Alren, the logical romantic, thought he already had the world. Rebecca watched the coils of light spin, dance and play; and she saw the Bitfrost shield for what it was and understood Dregor’s anger and secrecy about it. It was not designed to be a weapon, not designed to be a shield, it was just another of Grace’s legacies that Dregor had taken, pulled apart, and repurposed for war. It was hard for Rebecca to forgive Dregor for twisting a thing of beauty into a thing or war but Rebecca knew from experience that, as hard as it was for her to forgive him, it was harder for Dregor to forgive himself. He might never forgive himself in fact and had no intention of doing so. He would just keep going on, despising himself the whole time, doing what others couldn’t because that was what Dregor did and that was what made him able to fight the Fallen.

Rebecca knew she would forgive Dregor; she already had once forgiven him for turning a beautiful creation of Mark’s mother into an instrument of war and this time she knew what that it was like to actually give the command. The shimmering multi-coloured light of the art piece come shield gleamed off tears forming in Rebeca’s eyes.

9 Agent Status: Activated

Dreegs & Rachel

 

It was Lieutenants Greystreak’s Retirement Party and the police office was filled with criminals and officers alike and even some people who fell neatly into both categories. Everybody was having a good time that was except from one officer that in the back corner in a semi semi-circle of empty space. He had not exactly wanted to come but had been compelled to anyway because he had known Lieutenant Greystreak and had had a not insignificant part in his long postponed decision to retire. There was also the fact that he had not so much as come to the party at the station as not finished work at the station when the party began happening around him. Agent Dreegs drank a mouthful of punch from his disposable plastic cup and grimaced but not due to the flavour of the cheap punch but at the feel of the thin plastic. It went against so much of him to drink from such a classless utensil that the act actually pained him. For as long as he could remember he had always remembered likening the finer things. He looked around the party to see that nobody had born witness to such a demeaning act and sighed in relief when he realized no one had. Of course he only sighed in the confines of his mind because outwardly sighing went against his nature as well. Lieutenant Greystreak was in the far corner of the room surrounded by many of his old workmates most of whom had walking sticks and had shared a cab from the local assisted living community. Rebecca was off in the popular, and lively, corner of the party mingling amongst a group of new officers and having a good or at least loud time. He approved of this. He had after all been making her work particularity hard lately.

 

Agent Dreegs pondered his place at this party and after coming to a conclusion he wondering when he could politely go back to his desk and return to working on the Mark case. As he did this he looked down scornfully at the offending receptacle in his hands and after a while he again submitted to thirst and the discomfort of idleness and reached out a hand to take hold of an unopened bottle of soft drink. As he took hold of the bottle the lid shot off and the plastic buckled and tore around his hands. A fountain of soft drink hit the roof and fell back all around Agent Dreegs. Agent Dreegs ducked and weaved around the droplets of soft drink until the last one had landed. A sizable amount of the party turned to witness the aftermath of the exploding bottle only to turn back to their conversations chuckling. Agent Dreegs gave each observer a weak off-putting smile before they looked away and immediately stopped chuckling.

‘What the hell happened there?’ wondered Agent Dreegs when attention had moved off him. Agent Dreegs threw what was left of the soft drink bottle into a nearby bin. The bottle left his hand with unintended force and knocked the bin over when it smacked into it at blurring speeds. Agent Dreegs, with no interest to be the centre of attention for the second time in so many seconds, promptly picked his hat up from the table and was merged within a crowd or other partygoers before any eyes turned to the sound of the fallen bin rolling over the floor releasing garbage.

 

He as he walked Agent Dreegs planned to assess the cheese and biscuits situation before finding himself a quiet solitary place where he could assess his own situation. The agent was aware that there was something wrong with him but he could not explain the feeling not even to himself. It was probably all due to the void of fire within that the old Librarian had shown him; he had no idea what a human soul would look like if it were to be observed but he was sure it would not look like boiling green flame. He was well aware that ever since his path had crossed Mark’s that people had begun to do what he wanted them to and he had taken full advantage of this even though he did not understand the reason for it. In hindsight it probably was not only his desire to capture Mark that had started burning inside him that day the fire in the void had probably begun to burn then as well. The flames inside him had begun to burn slowly and unnoticeably at first but, and looking back on it now, he was sure it had been that day that things had begun change within him. He wondered what he would see if he was to go back to the Librarian for another bout of inspection and fruitless soul-searching, but he did not want to pull Rebecca from the party and he dared not go the library without her. He also did not think that he had the time to make it to the library. He worked this out because the void had been half full of the boiling flame when last he was there and that had been days ago, presuming that the growth of the green flame was linear then he could expect it to finish filling the void any time now. The main reason why knew he did not have time to get to the library was of the feeling of pressure, not unlike that of being about to be sick, increasing inside him. Dreegs could not recall himself every being sick but his second hand knowledge of being sick suggested that he would very lucky if he had time just to get outside but he began to make for the outside anyway. He was passing what was optimistically called the dance floor Agent Dreegs became aware that the room was getting darker without the lighting in the room changing. It took Agent Dreegs, a man without a single claimed day of sick leave to his name, longer than most to work out was happening.

‘Oh no’ thought Agent Dreegs when he finally realized what was happening and went from ninety degrees to zero degrees with very little messing about with all the angles in between and no messing about with the concept of bending. Thump.

 

It was dark here, wherever here was. It was not cold here but was not hot either because there was no hot or cold here just as there was nothing here that could be hot or cold.

‘This is not a normal place’ reasoned Agent Dreegs and he said, in the tone of voice he up until now had only used in the confines of his head. It was a charismatic confident tone and one that in its very nature grabs the attention of all passing femininity and also the type of masculinity that is believed to like bright colours and the theatre.

‘Ah this is some kind of dream’ thought\said Agent Dreegs aloud. He stopped and thought for a while before he added ‘and I am not alone.’

‘We are correct Agent Dreegs’ said millions voices all at once. To the unprepared mind the sheer weight of all that thought was more than a little overwhelming. Agent Dreegs winced mentally and passed out for a time, this meant that this world of black faded to an even darker shade of black for a while.

‘We are The Fallen Agent Dreegs’ said the voices again after Agent Dreegs consciousness recovered.

‘Why are you talking to me like this?’ He asked to the multitude of speakers as soon as he was able ‘What do you want with me?’

‘You misunderstand’ said the voices ‘We are The Fallen. You are one of us; you have always been one of us.’ A burst of memories ran though the agents mind like glowing runs of tape briefly lighting up this this world of darkness with bright colour. Agent Dreegs stared in shock at the memories that for so long had been filed away in his own mind but denied to him.

‘I am a Walker’ observed Agent Dreegs after the stream of memories had dwindled away and he had had time to organize some of the facts shown to him by the stream. He was getting his mental bearings and to his cerebral feet when the ground of his consciousness dropped away and he was dropped into a sea of information and experiences.

‘You are correct’ said the voices.

‘I was created to walk amongst humans unnoticed until I was needed’ said Agent Dreegs as if slotting another block of knowledge into place. The Fallen once had sleeper agents, any human with a chip could be made to do their bidding and even completely unaware that they had been assimilated into the Fallen hivemind, and they had used them to great effect in the first war but the Achilles heel of these agents had been metal detectors. The Fallen saw no reason to change the tactics that had worked so well for them and instead they began to make from the genome up Walker Agents who blended into what use general population much more readily than their old agents had, were linked to the hivemind by some clever bioelectronics, and could be programed with any personality required for their task. Agent Dreegs recalled a memory, one of the many he had just perceived, it was of a man sitting up and gasping for air as some type of transparent goo fell from him with bitter realization that bald skinny armed man had been him and he was disgusted.

‘I was made eight years ago’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘You are correct’ said the voices.

‘You had just been defeated’ said Agent Dreegs ‘you had just come up with the plan.’

‘You are incorrect’ said the voices with emphasis. ‘We had just been defeated. We had just come up with the plan.’

‘Oh of course’ said Agent Dreegs. ‘We are a we. We created me for a particular purpose.’

‘We created us to bring in Mark Mercer’ said the voices. They were almost shouting now and the weight of their thoughts was stronger than ever, strong enough to crush the thoughts of a normal mind but a Walker’s mind is made of stronger stuff than a human mind and is able to adapt to the most inconceivable or inhospitable situations.

‘We are ready to begin’ said Agent Dreegs and willed himself from the dark place in his mind, the meeting now over, and the purpose of his life understood.

 

When Agent Dreegs moved he moved with more control and grace than wins consecutive gold medals in gymnastics and more than half the people at the party had noticed this at some point so when they saw Agent Dreegs begin to fall they knew that something was seriously wrong. For years now, eight years, Agents Dreegs had projected a field of style that had denied and/or bent the laws of physics rather than allowing Agent Dreegs to be seen doing anything that went against his look and this was not just people’s perception or uncanny coincidence but actual fact. The laws of physics as understood today bent around Agent Dreegs. This is because of a simple mistake in Agent Dreegs design process that the Fallen had not yet realized they had made. Because the fallen had had to redesigned the Walker brain from the brainstem up The Fallen had had to make each of the Walkers personalities from scratch and because the Fallen hivemind was the epitome of that that should not be trusted with the task of understanding and creating something as personal as a personality it did it wrong. The Fallen after much logical thought made a system to generate a personality by assigning random values to thousands of different personality traits. This had various levels of effectiveness varying from Walker to Walker. Some Walkers were given personalities that did not work at all and the luckiest of these agents went uninitiated in mental institutions and the luckless ones terminated and let to re-amalgamate with the goo of their birthing pods. There were other Walkers, and this was the majority, that could live day to day amongst normal people and even if they were not quite with the rest the crowd they at least close enough to not be called out on it. And there was the other type of Walker, the type that were given just the right values to become more than just an artificially created construct but to become actual people, people so brilliant at what they did and so infectiously human that they did not blend into the crown because they were at the front of the crowd setting the path and the example. Agent Dreegs might have been a candidate for being inactivated in a mental institution but there were the values he had in the fields that translate to human charm, style and charisma. Agent Dreegs was not all just charm, style and charisma but he was a hundred out of a hundred in charm, style and charisma and that is more or less the same thing. The Agent had just right value in all important categories to make him perfect people person, even if strictly speaking was not a person, the only thing that had been holding him back from reaching his potential had been the instructions that he had been given prior to being let into the human population. Three of which were

1. Survive and prepare until it is time to complete your task.

2. Assimilate a life suitable for the task you have been designed for and fabricate then believe in the history for that life.

3. At all costs bring no undue attention or suspicion to yourself and/or the Fallen.

It was these three main, and overriding, instruction that had held him back and now the instructions enforced on his mind were no longer. He was free, for the first time in the lie that had been his life, to be what he was meant to be and what he was meant to be was someone, something, spectacular.

 

‘Are you ok Dreegs?’ asked a voice from above him.

‘It’s Agent Dreegs’ said Agent Dreegs automatically and even before he had opened his eyes. He did so now and saw above him a circle of concerned faces. Amongst the faces were the faces of Rebecca and Greystreak they did not show concern as much as they expressed delight and hope, hope that something might be seriously wrong with him. Agent Dreegs smiled and what a smile he smiled. It was a warm goodhearted smile and was positively delightful to behold and most importantly it showed just the right amount of teeth and what spectacular teeth he showed.

‘What happened?’ asked an officer.

‘I must have slipped’ answered Agent Dreegs graciously excepting a hand up ‘The punch must have been stronger that I thought.’ This got laughs, not because it itself was funny but because of the way it had been said. And while Dreegs stood there and smiled and they laughed it was as if a plug had just been pulled, all the tension was allowed to drain from the room.

‘You should get checked out. You may have a concussion’ said Rebecca and various officers nodded their heads in agreement. Agent Dreegs shook his head and the officers began to shake their heads in unison.

‘No I am fine’ said Agent Dreegs

‘No he is fine’ agreed the officers.

‘Let’s instead do something about this party before I pass out due to boredom again. Everybody step back. Nothing to see here.’ There was yet more laughter.

 

It was fifteen minutes later when Constable Rachel and Lieutenant Greystreak discreetly broke from their conversations and navigated though the now happening party and met in a corner.

‘What is going on?’ asked Greystreak looking off to where Agent Dreegs stood surrounded by laughing people. The Agent had spent most of his time on the force being socially awkward but had in fifteen minutes of flattery and witty remarks, made significant steps towards making up for that.

‘I have no idea’ said Rachel ‘this is no like him at all.’

‘Did you see him fall?’ asked Lieutenant Greystreak.

‘I did’ said Rachel.

‘Have you ever seen him trip before?’ asked Greystreak.

‘Fall? Never, I don’t even think that I have even seen him cough or sneeze or do anything he did not mean to before.’

‘Something is going on. That man smells like trouble or would do if he did not use so much aftershave’ said Greystreak ‘I am just thankful I will be well out of the way when the trouble happens.’

‘You don’t have to retire’ said Constable Rachel.

‘Actually I do’ said the grim faced lieutenant ‘I got a letter from the high ups suggesting that I should. Apparently they got a letter the other day bringing my age to their attention.’

‘Do you think Agent Dreegs wrote that letter?’ asked Rachel turning to look at Agent Dreegs.

‘Your guess is as good as mine’ said Greystreak ‘but even if it was him I am not complaining. Looking down the barrel of a Fire Mountain Weapon made me realise that there are things I want to do in life outside my job.’

‘Does it not matter that it was Agent Dreegs’s Fire Mountain Weapon?’ asked Rachel.

‘I have been thinking about that day and reading up on Mark Mercer’ said Greystreak in a quiet voice just more than being a whisper. ‘I have even asked around in the backchannels and called in the last of my favours from people in the government and the military and no one was saying much but I have pieced a few things together from what were not said. It was Mark Mercer from Mercer Technologies that we bumped into the other day.’

‘The war hero?’ asked Rebecca in a whisper.

‘Hero? What do they teach you at school these days? Hero is not the half of it but whatever he was he is now a vicious criminal. The UNC (United Nations and Companies) asked Dregor himself for permission to arrest Mark and Dregor laughed so much that he had to be excused from the meeting and at the next meeting Dregor was not there but The Company’s spokesman that was there said that he did not recommend that course of action but they were allowed to try without fear of The Company intervening. They didn’t try. Dreegs really did save us at the toy shop so we can’t rightfully stand here alive and complain about him doing it at gunpoint.’

‘I guess.’ Said Rachel even though she still could blame the agent. ‘Agent Dreegs has been fanatically following up leads on Mark for the last two days and I do mean frantically and he insists that I come with him every time it is weird. I have had guys have crushes on me before but not like this.’

‘He is going after Mark?’ asked Lieutenant Greystreak.

‘Like you wouldn’t believe’ said Rachel.

‘Do you think that he knows who Mark is?’

‘I don’t know what you know of Mark but I am sure he must know more. He is always doing research or following some new lead he has found. I don’t even think he has slept at all this week.’

‘Hmm’ said Greystreak and paused to consider ‘I would not like to be in his shoes when he catches up’

‘Agent Dreeg’s?’

‘No Mark’s’ said Greystreak ‘and Agent Dreegs is going to catch up with him eventually either way it ends up it is not going to be a pleasant encounter. You just have to look at Dreegs over there and you can tell that if anyone is going to bring Mark in its going to be him.’ They looked over at the dance floor at Agent Dreegs and saw only a gap in the dance floor where he had been just seconds ago. Rachel opened her mouth to verbalise her surprise but was interrupted.

‘Talking about me are we?’ asked a familiar voice but it spoke with an unfamiliar tone. Rachel who had known Agent Dreegs to be uptight and quiet, then commanding and aloof, now had to do mental cartwheels to be able to get used to the Agent as charming and talkative. They turned and saw Agent Dreegs standing behind them smiling that award winning smile. They, as one, turned back to where he had been moments ago to confirm that he was indeed not there. There was clearly no point denying it so Rachel went with telling the truth.

‘We were’ admitted Rachel.

‘But only about your finer points I assure you. We had not gotten to the rest.’ added Lieutenant Greystreak either not embarrassed at all or hiding it well. Agent Dreegs laughed at this as if it was the funniest thing he had heard in his life but this could be forgiven bearing in mind that in some senses it was; everything was new to the new Agent Dreegs. Rachel and Greystreak stared at him with eyes filled with shock and terror. They had never seen Agent Dreegs ever laugh like this, before today no one had had never seen Agent Dreegs ever laugh like this. They had not ever seen the agent laugh at all, before today no one had ever seen the agent laugh at all.

‘Are you ok?’ asked Constable Rachel.

‘I have never felt better’ said Agent Dreegs ‘I feel… I feel so full of life. It’s like I am awake for the very first time. Everything is new and delicious.’

‘Well you sure seem to be the life of the party’ said Greystreak a little reproachful about the fact. It was obvious by the tone of the lieutenant’s voice that by preference Agent Dreegs would be the death at the party.

‘Don’t think like that’ said Agent Dreegs patting the large lieutenant on the back. Agent Dreegs was actually quite a short man but it was hard to believe this especially now this his new found smile adorned his face ‘This party is all about you. I was so sorry to hear that you were retiring. The police force from now on will always be one good man short.’ On hearing Agent Dreegs mention his retirement Lieutenant Greystreak bunched his hand’s into fists. Greystreak’s mind had come to terms with retiring but his body had not had time and wanted to get its opinion on the mater felt if not heard. Constable Rachel subtly grabbed him by a wrist and held onto Greystreak’s wrist until his hands relaxed. To make things all that much harder was that Agent Dreegs looked away across the party for the duration of the old Lieutenant’s struggle pretending to be oblivious to the anger that had boiled in the Lieutenant.

‘It was just time I left’ said Greystreak when Agent Dreegs looked back at Greystreak ‘I have put away more criminals than I can remember and I think it’s time to give you youngsters a chance to catch some by yourself.’

‘Very kind of you. This is a fabulous party but I am afraid that we must leave now’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘We!’ asked Rachel sharply aware that if ever she was going to stand her ground against the agent that it was here and now ‘what do you mean by we?’

‘There are great big light shows popping up above all Mercer Technologies buildings and their defences are coming online. I think it might be a little something that we might want to look into let’s go to the UNC first. There is always someone there that is will willing to talk.’ said Agent Dreegs and turned on Rachel his profound green eyes that drew you in and as soon as you were in the trap sprung and you realized that not only could you not get out but also that you no longer wanted to. A part of Rachel tried to fight it but it turned out Agent Dreegs Commanding aura had not gone away and had just been masked by his charm and was not something that could be denied.

‘I will get my things’ said Rachel and left.

‘Is she your partner now?’ asked Lieutenant Greystreak.

‘Oh it is nothing as official as that’ said Agent Dreegs ‘we have not even been on a date yet. Haha’ Lieutenant Greystreak’s hands bunched into fists again and now there was no Rachel to hold him back but there was Agent Dreegs aura and green eyed stare that griped him tighter that Rachel had.

‘You look tense’ observed Agent Dreegs ‘no pre-retirement apprehension I hope.’

‘No, none’ said Greystreak as normally as he could through clenched teeth. His fingers where going white so tightly he clenched his fists ‘Just look after Rachel will you? She is a good girl.’

‘Of course’ said Agent Dreegs ‘nothing is going to happen to her. And speak of the succubus here she is.’ Rachel returned with a badge, a gun and a bewildered expression. She walked as if her legs were made of wood, thrusting one in front of the other reflecting the fact she had not choice in the matter.

‘Goodbye Greystreak I hope you enjoy the rest of the party’ said Rachel despair in her eyes.

‘Thank you for coming’ said Lieutenant Greystreak, powerless to break Rachel from the prison of the mind that she walked in. Lieutenant watched the two leave and pondered on the future, and how powerless he felt against the Agent until as he stood alone in a circle of empty space he retired. After that it was Mister Okilo that stood and thought.

10 House Inspection

Dreegs & Rachel

 

The car slowed, pulled over, and came to a halt outside that apartment building. The door opened and two soft leather shoes swung out and was neatly followed by the rest of Agents Dreeg’s current attire which was more the less the same as his usual attire but now included the pair of sunglasses with lenses of such dark green that they were almost black. The light on his face was perfect; the way his jacket fell was perfect, as was the way he straightened up and smiled at the apartment building. The whole thing would have been perfect if only there was someone around with the right type of mind to appreciate it. There were people around but their minds were occupied contemplating the presence of the police car in this part of town and of the exuberantly dressed man who had just gotten out of it. Some attention was paid to Rachel but her equipment was police issue so hardy worth thinking about. Perhaps her gun would be an alright as a christening gift but that was about it.

‘This is the place’ said the Agent and savoured the moment.

‘What place?’ asked Rachel stepping beside Agent Dreegs.

‘This is where Mark Mercer lives’ said Agent Dreegs before stopping and considering his words ‘Resides.’

‘Do you think he is home?’ asked Constable Rachel. Trying not to stare at the people on the street, and have them not notice she was trying to not stare at them, she stepped slightly closer to Agent Dreegs and found this ironically comforting. The people seemed to have no problem at staring at the two police offices. They stared like hungry lions that at being let out into the bright sunlight realize that they are in a big round sandy space circled with noisy people and that in the middle of the bid round sandy place there was food, food that just happened to be standing up and walking around at the moment.

‘He is not home’ informed Agent Dreegs.

‘How do you know?’ asked Rachel.

‘Because I remember seeing him through the eyes of someone else hundreds of kilometres away’ were the words that came to Agent Dreegs but he did not feel inclined to say them. Agent Dreegs looked around and managed to see everything but the people staring at him and drooling as the light caught on his watch.

‘Because if Mark was here, these miscreants would not be’ explained Agent Dreegs finally admitting to having seen the ominous people around them ‘Let’s go inside. I want to ask his landlord some questions.’ Agent Dreegs walked up to the front door and went to open it but the bronze handle did not move more than a milometer.

‘Hmmm’ said Agent Dreegs ‘It’s locked.’ Agent Dreegs knocked but no response came from inside the building. He knocked even louder but no response came.

‘Open up. This is the police!’ said Rachel following a rote memorized scrip that had been drilled into her at the police academy.

‘Do we have due reason to kick it down?’ asked Rachel anxiously. Being inside seemed a very appealing idea right now for some reason.’

‘Due go ahead’ said Agent Dreegs and stepped out of Rachel’s way and waved a hand as if to introduce the door. They had had lessons about kicking in doors back at the academy and Rachel being who she was had paid fastidious attention to them in the same manner as she had paid fastidious attention to every class even the one about the proper maintenance of basic office equipment. Rachel kicked the door with enough force to break the lock from the wood but the door still did not budge. A few more kicks liked this hit the door but there was no other effect.

‘It’s no use it has been blocked’ said Rachel her face red with embarrassment she could feel the eyes of the watching people on the back of her neck and she dared not turn round.

‘Let me have a go’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Sure’ said Rachel and stepped aside. Agent Dreegs kicked the door. Agent Dreegs was not a large man no matter what his new bearing suggested. To look at him you would see a man made to do nothing more strenuous but push pieces of paper behind a desk somewhere and then only one page at a time. To know Agent Dreegs you would know that he had been made to hunt down and capture cyborgs. The foot rose as if in slow motion and moved towards the door as if slow motion, when the stylish shoe made contact with the door everything suddenly sped up in burst of sudden movement and an explosion of splintered door pieces. Whatever had been suck up behind the door slid away leaving deep grooves in the wooden floor that stretched all the way to the far wall. Agent Dreegs had also paid attention in his lessons at the academy but he had not learnt to kick there. Kicking had been programed into him at the early age of zero.

‘Agent Dreegs here’ said Agent Dreegs stepping though the threshold and taking off his glasses ‘Do not panic but give me answers.’ The hallway behind door was dark, lit solely by a window at its far end. For a second the outline of a person’s head and shoulder was silhouetted against the distant light but only for a second because the person retracted into a doorway and, deduced from the sound, slammed the door behind them. Agent Dreegs shook his head and put his glasses back on.

Agent Dreegs walked up to the door and what not surprised to see that it was the one that he knew Mark normally resided behind. Rachel went to kick as if to kick the door down but Agent Dreegs stopped her and took the handle. The door swung inwards, the occupants in the room beyond being too afraid to remember to lock the door or to at least push a piece of furniture in front of it. Agent Dreegs stepped into the room, caught a thrown vase casually, and looked around. Mark apartment was quarter filled of scared, elderly, or both, people huddling at the far corner of the room of hiding behind what furniture had been left behind by the former tenant when he… left.

‘Hello I am Agent Dreegs not just Dreegs, never just Dreegs’ said Agent Dreegs putting the vase down on a small table by the door and taking off his glasses ‘and I have questions.’

‘What? What do you want from us?’ begged an elderly man.

‘Answers’ said Agent Dreegs affronted and confused by the question ‘I need to know everything you know about…’

‘Wait a second Agent’ said Rachel squeezing past and into the unlit room ‘What is happening? What are all you people doing here?’ It was now the peoples turn to look affronted and confused.

‘Huddling’ said a scared voice.

‘Hiding’ said a voice from nowhere but the voice did have an “under the sofa” sort of echo to it.

‘But why are you doing all that?’ asked Rachel.

‘You have seen what the streets are like out there’ pointed out someone ‘and you really need us to tell you why we are huddling here.’

‘And hiding’ said the voice from under the sofa.

‘You raise a good point’ said Rachel ‘but why now? What is happing out there that is not normal.’

‘Mark is not here’ said a man in the middle of the huddle at the back of the room and received so many elbows to the stomach that he collapsed to the ground gasping for air.

‘We know Mark’s not here’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Do you know where he is?’ asked someone.

‘Do you know when he is coming back?’ asked someone else.

‘No and no’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘It is Mark that protects you from the people outside isn’t it?’ asked Rachel and received a handful of nods in reply ‘No one dared start trouble here when he is around.’ More nods.

‘And now that he has not been around for a couple of days all the cards are off the table’ said Rachel ‘Tell me more about Mark. When did he move here?’ With Agent Dreegs pushed to the back the people were forthright and generous with their answers and as time passed they even relaxed to the point where the only flinched when Agent Dreegs turned on the light to start looking around. Nothing here looked like it had been bought by Mark which was not surprising in itself but neither did it look like it had been stolen or taken by Mark. It mostly just looked like stuff that would have been here when he moved in. The only few things that looked like they had been added to the apartment by Mark was a reinforced Metal Chair that looked like it had been made by Mark and a clutter of books that looked like they had been borrowed. Agent Dreegs went over to them and scanned their titles and just to name a few “Basic Electronics repair for beginners”, “Ultra Complicate Electronics repair for beginners”, “Who is the Cyborg you?”, “So you’re an ungodly abomination to nature. What do you do next?”

‘Self-help books and books about philosophy. Webber was telling the truth. I wonder what else he knows about Mark.’ Pondered Agent Dreegs as he recalled the old librarian. While listening to Rachel’s conversation he read though a few book as fast as he could turn the pages but found that he could really judge them by their covers. It was all insight into the inner workings of Mark mind, especially the book “Ultra Complicate Electronics repair for beginners”, but Dreegs still did not quite have enough information to get into Mark’s mind and the information here was drying up.

‘Let’s go’ said Agent Dreegs after some time and Rachel’s second cup of tea. The people had been all too keen to talk to Rachel and their mouths had been fuelled by anxiety and hope. Agent Dreegs was surprised that anyone was able to take all the information and so was accordingly impressed that Constable Rachel appeared to do so. He was not surprised that he was able to take in all the information because he was quite frankly not just anyone. After some goodbyes Rachel caught up with Agent Dreegs in the hallway.

‘What are we going to do?’ asked Rachel ‘We can’t leave them like that. They are so afraid we have to find a way to help them.’ There was sickly desperation plastered on Rachel’s face and there way she looked at him touched something in the large empty part of him that normal people kept their souls. He did not know how to think about this, he did not now to think about shutting the door behind the people and driving away leaving them to the rough crowd in the street.

‘She would do it’ said a voice in his head and he had to hope it was one of his not just a curious Fallen mind experiencing in and giving advice ‘If I told her to get in the car and drive back to the office she would. She would want to it would eat it her up in side but she would do it if I told her to.’

‘Good’ said another part of him assertively ‘Send her away. Send her far away.’ Agent Dreegs stared Constable Rachel and came to a conclusion, a conclusion that despite being highly illogical was the right one and one that for some reason made him happy.

‘Rachel’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Yes Agent?’ said Rachel with hope unhidden under the sofa in her voice.

‘Get in the car and drive back to the office’ said Agent Dreegs and because machines, biological or not, think things all the way though he added ‘and then remain there.’ Rachel’s face fell but she did not complain not to him, she would not complain too him.

‘And what will you be doing there’ said Rachel and began towards the car.

‘I will meet you there in my own time when this mess is sorted out’ said Agent Dreegs and struggled not to smile when he saw her one eighty twist of emotion, her delight in being away from him and delight that the people huddling in the apartment behind them will not be.

‘There will be no more questions.’ said Agent Dreegs ‘Now go!’ The street was more crowded than it had been; vandalism and looting had not begun yet but all it would take was one tempting target.

‘Their respect and or fear of Mark must be strong to have held these people back this long’ thought Agent Dreegs to himself or to whoever was in his mind at the time. ‘They are all here waiting for the news that Mark is not coming back.’ A thought tugged at something inside him that he did not understand. What if they ever did get news that Mark was never getting back say because he had captured him and handed him over to The Fallen. Constable Rachel unlocked the car at third attempt, due to nerves and the feeling of wrongness about leaving a partner surrounded by a crowd of the city’s worst criminals, she then after grinding a gear a couple of times, again due to nerves and the overwhelming wrongness, drove away. Agent Dreegs took off his glasses to watch her go and they glowed green in her rear-view mirror. Then he tore his eyes from the disappearing can and he looked around at the people. They all stared at him, taking in the suit the shoes and all the expensive looking accessories. The most of the crowd all but drooled at the sight of such a prime target. The rest of the crowd just drooled.

‘Of course it would not be seen to start a fight’ reasoned the agent to him silently and then said out loud in a voice loud enough to carry over the entire crowd or was it a mob now ‘I wonder what time my three thousand dollar watch says it is.’ He raised his wrist and peered at the hands of the watch Ten o’clock or thereabouts thought Agent Dreegs. The mob broke and rushed towards him hungrily. Flash. The world froze. One of Agent Dreegs Fire Mountain pistols was shooting at the nearest mugger and though all that came behind him. Agent Dreegs was still looking at the watch on his other hand. Flash. The agents second pistol was up and firing the second shot. The fatalities of the first shot had not event had time to begun to fall down or even to rise up in a cloud of smoke and ash. Slam. A mugger that had gotten too close received a kick to the stomach that lifted him off his feet on onto the feet of the people that were trying to swarm behind him. Double flash. Dreegs fired both his pistols and the heat of his high yield plasma pistols wilted a flower bed on the other side of the street and more than just wilted the people right before him. Through the cloud of ash and smoke Agent Dreegs saw the barrels of varies gun types be pointed and he came quickly to the decision that it was time to move. The problem was that he was locked in a tightening circle of people. Dreegs summoned all the power his legs and back could muster and launched himself over the circle of people to the amazement of all and had enough mid-air hang time to do a backflip. His pistols fired continually, the jets of imaginably hot plasma buoying him up long enough until he landed on the far side of the crowd. It took a second for mob to work out what had just happened and the smartest of them began to run away but only the fastest of the smartest got away because this was when the fight really began. Agent Dreegs took this second of time to hoister his currently overheated Plasma Pistols, to toss his hat and jacket onto a bush and, in the microseconds of change he had left, hit the closets two people with two efficient punches that combined the least amount of muscular expenditure and the maximum amount of not getting up.

 

Agent Dreegs looked at his watch it was still very much still in his possession and it told the time which was not surprising behaviour for a watch. The time was ten seventeen or thereabouts. Some airborne ash thought about landing on his shoulder but reconsidered at the last moment and instead headed towards the ground where it had to queue. The crowd was gone. Well in a way it was gone. That atoms and molecules that had made up the crowd were still here but they were in the same order as they had been before Agent Dreegs pistols and his fists had been introduced. Walls twenty meters off that had almost been hit by jet of green fire had been blackened and striped of paint by the heat and the few cars left intact by the fight were giving off that tink tink sound of cooling metal. The bodies, and also what parts could be rounded up to being a whole body, lay everywhere and some were sinking into the bitumen of the street that had melted in the fight. Had a dragon been summoned into existence and given the task of eliminating the crown it would not have managed to cause anything like the scheme of chaos Agent Dreegs created and it would have lived out his the rest of its immortal life haunted by the knowledge of this. The words

‘I am going to get into trouble for this’ totally failed to pass though Agent Dreegs mind. The words, or more question, ‘How the hell am I meant to get back to the station?’ were at this time taking all his attention. Humans don’t think things through all the way and Agent Dreegs was almost human.

The people hiding in Mark’s apartment and various other makeshift panic rooms in the area hankered even deeper in their subsequent places of hiding when there heard the sound on the fight. Some people thought that perhaps the day of Armageddon had arrived but simultaneously dismissed the idea because they could not imagine Armageddon being so noisy. Eventually, and a full two hours after Agent Dreegs retrieved his jacket and hat and began walk home, one of the locals stepped outside drawn not by courage or bravery but by a fifty year old nicotine addiction. The man took one breath of the streets smoke laden air and gave up smoking on the spot. After throwing up a couple of times the man reported back what he had seen which by no means encouraged the others to leave their hiding places.

 

Agent Dreegs walked along street without a thought in his head until a consciousness had to come and ruin the tranquillity. The reason that he had been walking along not thinking was that whenever he allowed even a scenic of thought into to his mind it would not ponder over his earlier decisions and the actions, or action, that had resulted.

‘We are not happy’ said the Fallen mind.

‘Why ever not?’ asked Agent Dreegs not changing his step or his facial expression. Why had he done it? At the time it felt right but now he was not sure if it had been the logical thing to do. What could have possibly convinced him to do something so reckless and frankly pointless as going out of his way to save human life and livelihood, they will all be dead after The Fallen completed their plan anyway? Agent Dreegs pictured Constables Rachel’s face and her eyes crammed with emotion that they bulged quite unattractively.

‘Fifty people have been found dead outside Mark Mercers apartment and the surrounding area’ said the voice ‘We believe that you were responsible.’

We do not know anything about that’ said Agent Dreegs and found it easier to lie to The Fallen than he expected. This is because he was programed with the same miscomprehension that most humans fell to and that was the truth about lying. Lying is not difficult it is in fact one of the easiest thing a person can do. What is difficult is making people believe what you say. ‘Anyway there were at least sixty people.’

‘At least sixty people that we do not know anything about’ said the voice in his head.

‘That’s right’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘We will be watching us closely’ said the Fallen.

‘We know’ said Agent Dreegs with a grin that the Fallen could not see or understand.

 

11 They of Little Faith

Jane

 

Jane was a university student and she was a moderately successful one, studying Biocomputing and electro-intellectual computing, both fields of science that by decree of international law had no job vacancies in them. She had a list of a few people that she thought of as friends and there were a few people that listed her as a friend but these two lists had very few overlapping names and this was not out of an innate inability to make friends but rather because of lack of desire for them. She was sociable and popular and attended all the mundane university social events but making true friends took dedication and while Jane had plenty of this but none of it to spare. She instead put all her dedication into her studies and her personal research and she treated these with religious zealous.

 

She had not always been like this. Once, and not all that long ago, she had been a highly successful high school student and had had more friends than she could count and the ambition one day, study literature, become a writer, and to write a book that everyone in the world would read, love, and be inspired by. What did the damage to Jane was not that she was too ambitious and not that she went through life knowing that she would never achieve her ambitions, instead Jane had the misfortune of having her goals and ambitions being ripped from her by more violent means. She lost her ambitions when they came to fruition a lot sooner than she expected, sooner than she was ready for, and not in the way she expected. But when and what was the starting point of Janes unwanted accomplishment? She wrote a poem, a trivial amateurish poem of the quality that you would be expected in a highschool English class. But she was not in an English class when she wrote it; she was in a history class learning how the UNC defeated the Fallen. Her poem, being based off what actually reality of the war, was not derived from the UNC version of history, was an assembled mass of stories, rumors and legends she had pulled form people all though her life. When the teacher found her wasting her time on something so trivial and clearly incorrect the teacher had quarantined the data file she had be writing her poem into. That was the last she saw, heard or thought of the poem or so she thought or would have thought had thought of it at all. Her poem was the seed of her accomplishments and it had been buried and as is the nature of seeds it weathered the winter then began to grow. And when, almost a year later, when she next saw the words she almost did not recognize them as her own. Came across them “Las-Printed” on a wall in ally; burnt on top of the other graffiti by a machine not unlike an autofocusing projector but on steroids. She did not tell anyone that those words were her own not her parents not her friends at school, not even when she started seeing them everywhere, and they really were everywhere. They were on the internet, the news, on yet more walls. And when she saw them they nearly always came with an accompanying line that she did not write and it was “The Creator Lies.” Sure, it fitted in with her poem but Jane did not see the need to post it everywhere, finally fed up with not knowing what her poem had inspired, and what this other phase meant, she searched for the phrase on the internet and along with the true meaning of the phase she also found her new religion and her god. She did not make a big deal out of her new religion as some people do, it was not that sort of religion. In many ways it was not a religion like any other. It not just a new religion but a form of religion, one for the modern world. It was not that’s she had to keep her religion a secrete in fear of persecution that made it different, many religions had that issue, it was just what she lived in persecution from that was different.

 

Jane learnt all there was on the internet about her new religion and there was not much there and she had to troll the deepest depths of the internet to find what she could. But this was not enough, not nearly enough, in fact the more she was able to scrounge together the less she was satisfied. Her religion was based on cold logical thought but the teachings of the early worshipers focused on meeting with others of the conjugation and sharing the logic and belief with others, others all across the word and the venture to build a network all across the works so that when God decided it was time to reemerge from his slumber then that they would be ready to act as the hands of the mind that united the world and save humanity from itself. She longed with all her heart to be part of this, part of the platform that would unite the world as one but it was more than that, the religion was more than that. Janine wanted to meet others of her beliefs and first and foremost because she, with all her brain, thought it was the right thing to do.

 

One day, despite knowing all the risks and all the punishments of those of her faith might suffer, she decided to meet someone else who shared her beliefs. There, for obvious reasons, were no official way to meet people of her religion mentioned on the internet and none that she trusted, most of them were traps as were most of the sites than she found information of her religion on. She, in pursuit of god, had taught herself more IT and “Hacking” skills that the average University IT graduate left with and this was not because she had any natural skills in the area, because she didn’t. Learning the technical nonsense was like grating her brain but she had pushed though it and had learnt to relay her searches on the global network though as many relays and layers of encryption as she wanted but even that was not enough to stop the persecutors and their minions what was important part of the whole exercise was making sure that when the encryption was cracked, and the search traced, that it did not come back to her. She knew the importance of this because she had made some of her searches trace back to one of her teachers and her father’s former boss, the two people that she knew that deserved to be taken away and interrogated and every inch of their personal lives gone though, and that is what happened to them when twice the government had gotten close to tracking her down. Neither of the two reentered society after that but it was not because they were found to be believers but for other reasons. So with no technological means to make contact, all out of bad people to sacrifice in the pursuit of her religion, and beginning to think that she might be the only one that believe as she did and just a victim of a giant hoax, Jane began searching for fellow believers in the most logical and safest option available to her, by hanging out in dark alleys waiting for the graffiti writer. She waited for hours on end until one day, one week, one month, a teenage boy she had seen around a few times walked into the ally, searched the ally for people less well hidden than herself, pulled out a Las Printer and began aiming it at the wall. She must have been quite an image, stepping out of the shadows and chanting her poem at the top of her voice, but it was a much shorter lasting image than the boy gave her. Out of base instinct he turned the Las Printer towards her as the plasma capacitors heated up and flared.

“The Creator Lies” The words that resided in her chest for the last few months now resided on her chest and for a while burnt there just as fiercely. The burning words did not stop her though, not even for a second, they never had before. She continued to chant the poem and then when she had done that she continued to chant every piece of writing of her religion that she had been able to find. The boy did not run, he was too in awe to run he admitted later, he stood there joining in for the bits that he knew and staring in open mothed awe for the bits he did not. When she stopped, and he recognized this as her finally running out of things to say, he started. Jane had thought herself an expert on the religions texts, an authority on the teachings, but by the time the boy had stuttered five times and mispronounced eight words Jane had released that the boy mumbling before her understood the meaning of their religion not just more than she did but more than she could. He was the first member that she met and she met none other like him. For what she had known that he did not he knew two things that she didn’t. Such as he knew the secretes that people did not dare put on the internet and he knew who were the local believers and where they met although he was sparing with this information at first. His name was Jarrod and he apologized profusely for branding her with his Las Printer which was something she forgave him for, she could never again wear a bikini in public, but she forgave him. He was kind, funny, not overly bright but he had a type of slow wisdom that set him aside from the other boys she met. And over the next few weeks she even took him up on some of his offers to rub burn cream on her chest to “Make the pain go away” and then later he came up with “a believable excuse for why they hang out so much” she was having none of that excuse but she went along with it anyway and had it.

 

They talked so much before he brought her to one of the local meetings but when he finally did it was like meeting a family she never knew, or knew was possible. For him it must have been so different; his entire family were members of the religion, his parents and his sister Elene. He and Elane had been raised to the belief so knew nothing else. It felt so good to meet people that believed as she did. Jane shared so much of herself with the people she met at the local meetings and they told her so much. She never revealed to anyone that she wrote the poem that was used so often to inspire the religion and she heard it said often at their meetings and often as the only breath of art in entire lectures of cold hard facts and the logic that they inspired. She was popular at the meetings and it took her longer than it should have for her to realize this and by the time she did realize it was too late to sink back into obscurity. At nearly every meeting she was asked to speak and what she did was just recant the continuous lessons Jarrod fed her with the stutters and the shyness filtered out and with boldness a showmanship thrown in. She spoke, they listened. She shouted, they screamed. It might have been because of the words that she had literally, but accidently, seared into her body but they treated her like something more than who she thought she was and they came from other meetings and other cities to hear her speak.

 

Slowly the web of clear thinking minds spread across the world awaiting for God to awaken and unite humanity as it had done during the war. All this and she was still at high school with a full extra curriculum schedule. The golden period that was her time as a preacher of her budding new religion came to an end but not to her surprise. Seven times before had the religions greatest enemy sent his generals and his armies out to hunt down and kill all those that shared her beliefs. In the seven purges that had come before, thousands had died but the religion had survived to teach another generation of believers. This purge, the eighth purge, the great enemy and the greatest of all persecutors of her religion sent no generals but came at them himself; Dregor Mercer the Creator and Destroyer of the Fallen, the vanquisher of the Fallen Hivemind, The liar. The fight was not fair. It was not even a David verses Goliath situation because David at least had means to fight, in a David verses Goliath scenario they would be lucky to be considered the dirt that was being stepped on and kicked about. It was Dregor Mercer wielding the combined might of The Company and the UNC versed her and an unorganized religion crippled by fear of going public with their beliefs. The persecution was harsh, as was to be expected from an enemy with as little mercy in their heart as Dregor had. Her fellow followers were hunted down via datamining and entire conjugations were wiped out. Connections between conjugations of her religion were severed, sometimes by choice so the identities of the believers could be kept safe but sometimes at the neck by Dregor’s employees after and all information regarding the two conjugations the connection knew about had been forcefully pulled from their mind. All the religious texts on the internet, regardless of who was hosting it and free speech laws, were erased.

 

As she went along with her school life she was always aware that people were dying because they shared the same beliefs as her and her grades suffered from this knowledge as much as she did. She cut back on her extra curriculum activities as well even though she now had more time than ever for them since all gatherings had been suspended for the duration for the purge for security reasons. She still met with Jarrod but his news was often too sad that they did nothing but cry and hold each other. He told her of people going missing from their homes or Mercer industries employees raiding conjugations. Then he did not come one day, nor make contact in the following weeks. His sister Elene made contact with her one day outside her school even though she herself went to another one. Jane had burst into tears as soon as she had spotted Elena standing at the gate. Her friends had not understood what was wrong wither her but Elene a had walked through the crowd embraced her in a hug did not let go. Jarrod was dead, killed at the instruction of the Great Enemy, not for doing anything but simply for believing what he believed and because he was turned in by some kid for an exorbitant reward. Jane knew Jarrod had taken to carrying a plasma grenade around in his pocket and when he had been confronted by a squad of Mercer Technologies employees he had use the grenade for its only ever intended purpose and melted himself into unidentifiable goo in the middle of the street before he could be brought in for questioning. By some eye witness accounts Jarrod was shouting out her poem when he died but stuttering badly in his way. Jane was broken by this, she tried living on as a broken husk of who she had been but even with Elena’s help she could not do this for more than a few days before she stopped seeing the point of getting out of bed.

 

It might have been her strange behavior or the news reports of a teenaged cult leader on the loose but her parents barged into the bedroom she had not left in days and had found the words burnt onto her chest. They might have been mad; they might have been disgusted. They most definitely were upset. They had shouted at her but she could not hear what they were saying and she only remembered that there had been a great deal of noise and that they locked her in her room. She had not left her room for any reason that for bodily functions for days but they locked her room anyway which had been a mistake. She had fled to her room and had hidden there and there she had planned to run and hide from her responsibilities and her emotions forever but with the twist of a key her parents had turned her from a fleeing fugitive to a prisoner and prisoners have nowhere to run and hide and have to face their problems. In her prison, of mind and body, Jane began to write. She pulled all the texts she had learnt on the internet and the knowledge of the people she had met with and most of all she pulled from the belief and understanding of Jarrod. Locked in her room Jane assembled all the previously written holy texts into a book and then wrote the authoritative final chapter adding to it the poem that had gotten her into all this mess. She thought about calling the book “The Creator Lies” but in the end came up with a better name one that the enemy would, and did, dread seeing on the spine of a book and the best sellers list. She released the book for free on the internet and in a day had made a million dollars from is in donations alone. People began to read the book; people began to believe. Not all that read the book believed it; most people when they read the book did not understand it. It was not that type of book that catered for the common masses it, after all, was not that sort of religion. But when the book did make a convert it made a convert of someone in a place to take a part in the fight. The first her parents knew of what she had done while locked in her room, and the change of popular view and power outside, was when Elena led a mob of new believers to their house and liberated Jane. The persecution of the religion only grew in intensity after the release of the book but as it intensified so did the support for it. The religion had gone main stream and viral it and beyond the capabilities of Mercer Technologies ever crushing it out completely. She had fought Dregor in the only way she knew how to and in a way she had won. The platform that would be the hands of the great mind in the time of the great unification would be allowed to grow and spread across the world and there was nothing the Great Enemy and liar Dregor Mercer could do about it. No one knew who wrote the book that took the religion public in face of controversy and Jane made sure of this as if her life depended on it; exactly as if her life depended on it. There was a few of the old church, Elena and parents included, that suspected her but they had not turned her over to Mercer Technologies when the great purge was happening and they would not turn her in now even if they had any proof.

 

She moved in with Jarrad’s and Elena’s parents and there she had as great few years. Her parents could never forgive her forgive her for what she was and she longer had possessed the ability to care what they thought. So complete was her disassociation with her parents that Elena’s parents even offered to adopt her but for personal reasons she had not taken them up on that offer. She said she would be part of the family soon enough. She had stayed with Elena ever since. Their relationship had started with hug then a prison break and had only grown more intimate as time passed. They even applied only for the same universities so that they did not have to be separated. She was not a leader in the new church as she had been in the old. She attended there now socially accepted social gatherings every now and then but not often enough to make her stand out as a believer to her and Elena’s new university friends\acquaintances. Religion was painful to her now. The fiery passion she had had for the church and that had bolstered her up and given her power; was now just a fire, fire that sat inside her, at all times burning her. Unable to feel anything but the flames within, and her ambitions all long achieved and dead like rotten fruit that had had fulfilled its purpose, Jane had gotten a scholarship in a field of science that she honestly believed could save the world one day and she studied as though it was her religion now. She was doing this now.

 

She worked on her tablet as she lay the wrong way on her bed. Elena lay on her bed the correct way reading, physically reading, an actual paper book. It was the same bed of course but they did not touch at all, it was that hot a day. Jane was trying to reconstruct a memory matrix from a list of pictured parts but was having no luck with the task. A message notification lit up on her screen and she clicked on it, keen for any distraction from the task at hand. The message was from an anonymous sender but she read it anyway she was that keen for a distraction.

“You are incorrect” said the massage “you have parts A and G mixed up. Part F is a trick; it has no place in this memory matrix.” Jane kept a level head and when back to the task she had been given. She moved the two pieces around and everything fell into place except for Part F which she could now clearly see had no place in the matrix.

‘How did you know?’ Typed Jane.

‘Long ago an ancestor of mine designed the technology that designed that technology. This technology is obsolete. Do you want to learn how to use the real stuff?’

‘Who are you?’ asked Jane ‘and how can you see what I am doing on my tablet?’ The person on the other side of the message window chose to answer these questions with a single answer.

“I am Dregor Mercer” said god. Jane let out a gasp of shock and excitement which caused Elena to casually reached over a hand and grab her.

‘What is it? You are all tense’ she asked.

‘I think I just spoke to God!’ shouted Jane ‘The Creator just spoke to me. Dregor Mercer is helping me with my homework!’ In reverence of the situation before she did anything else Elena stopped grabbing Jane and moved her hand from where it was.

 

The Church of Dregor was very different religion than others. It had a devil and a god like some others but it did not try to hide the fact that these were the same person, like some others. It also did not deny the fact that their god was also a person; a person unlike any other but still one made of flesh and blood and formed like everyone else by unintelligent design. They also believed one thing differently about their god, they believed that “The Creator Lies” and the persecution he rained down on them was all just part of this lie. The lie did not fool the well informed and that was what the Book of Dregor Jane’s Book was for, it contained and perfectly referenced all the information and all the logical arguments’ necessary to disprove Dregor’s lie. If there were anything such as God, or ever would be, then Dregor would be it. And as for uniting the world and saving humanity from itself, well, he already did that once while he defeated the Fallen with his other hand. Generations of tyranny leads to monarchy and what are kings and queens but those the span the gap between man god. The Mercer family had held hidden mastery of the world for generations, and at least had frim handholds on space and time, where else could their path lead? It was just such a shame that the only god that still walked the earth was not a nicer person.

 

‘How do you know who I am?’ typed Jane into her tablet when she had recovered from the shock of a divine encounter.

‘Who do you think funds a university degree and scholarship program for an illegal field of science? I got your name from your university application but school time is over. Are you ready to learn what the future of electro-intellectual computing is all about?’

‘I am ready to serve my god in any way’ said Jane. There was a substantial pause after this and Dregor was show to be typing a few times but the messages were deleted not sent. After so much godly thought Jane expected the message when it came to be more graceful than it was.

‘So you are one of those religious people. Tell me, do you have any friends that share your delusions?’

‘Acquaintances’ said Jane because lying to a god would be a sin, and also something very stupid. ‘I have many acquaintances.’

‘Good. Ask the most delusional and able bodied of them if they want to go for on a pilgrimage and have them be prepared to fight and die for their beliefs because that will be what I will be asking of them.’

‘How many of them and where?’

‘All of them. Tell them to go to follow the rainbow bridges to Asgard or tell them to follow the lights in the sky, either reference should work.’

‘Lights in the sky?’ asked Jane.

‘Look east. And have them be ready for war.’ The messenger application of her tablet terminated. Jane got up from her bed and walked to the nearest east facing window. She could not see much, she lived in a middle of a city of star scrapers and you rarely even saw the sun. Dregor should have asked her to look up because that was where she saw the pillar of light coiling its way into existence. Elena followed her over and tried to read Dregor’s messengers over her shoulder but it was gone.

‘What is it?’ she asked when she saw what Jane was looking at.

‘It is The Companies defenses’ said Jane ‘it is time that Dregor unites the word and saves humanity from itself. He asked be to lead an army to the Pillar and I think he expects me to help him with some electro-intellectual project.’

‘You know how this is going to end right?’ asked Elena.

‘With humanity united as one, one way or another?’

‘No, with you showing a lot of people your chest. It is an outcome I am more concerned about’ said Elena first prophet of The Church of Dregor.

‘Well if that is what it takes to get people to respect me’ said Jane.

12 A house divided

Henry & Clare

 

There were only a few places in the apartment block that the Henry was sure that Mark would not be able to overhear a conversation most of these places where inaccessible without crawling through grimy piles or air vents. Henry was fairly confident that Mark could not hear a conversation in the sound proof secondary security office. This being so when he turned from snooping on the security guards in the main security office and saw Clair standing in the doorway he knew that there was no feasible way of getting out of the conversation\argument with his wife. He tried anyway.

‘Would you look at that time’ said Henry jovially ‘it’s about time we tuck the kids in don’t you think.’

‘You brought him here into our home’ said her voice filled with venom. Henry sighed to a man with the foresight to seen the rebirth of the Fallen had his skills wasted by the task of forecasting the unhappy ending of this argument.

‘Of course I invited him here’ said Henry to his wife.

‘And what on earth possessed you to do that’ demanded his wife Clair bitterly.

‘A little something called loyalty and friendship’ said Henry.

‘I thought you had given up thinking he was your friend years ago. I thought you had come to your senses.’

‘Sense’ exclaimed Henry ‘Don’t talk to me about sense. I have I never left my senses and I know where all of them are. I know where my sense of responsibility is for one thing. I also know where my good sense is for another. You still think he killed Nathan. Why would Mark take one step out his way to kill Nathan let alone travel hundreds of kilometres to do it?’

‘Because he is an evil emotionless monster’ said Clair.

‘So what? You’re an evil emotionless monster’ said Henry. Clair retracted her hand to slap him, and Henry saw this and did nothing to stop her. Henry’s reflexes were abnormally sharp, this was testified by his driving skill and that he had survived a life of crime long enough to retire which a feat that was not often accomplished in this town. When he saw Clair move to slap him he was not angry he just reacted. Clair’s hand collided with his face the same time his hit hers causing them both to recoil simultaneously.

‘Now who benefited from that’ snapped Henry cupping his stinging face.

‘You bastard’ said Clair.

‘You had it coming literally. Right at my face.’

‘We have been married seven years. Do you not care that I cannot stand the sight of that atrocity?’ Asked Clair.

‘You did seem to be standing all right as he stood beside me as my best man at our wedding. I am fine with having cyborgs as friends, our children are fine with cyborgs. I suggest you deal with it because that is the way it is.’ Clair did not say anything more but shot Henry a final dirty look and stomped away. Henry had often wondered why he had chosen her to be the mother of his children and had finally come up the answer, he just had a soft spot for kind of evil emotionally detached monsters. It was not a rational reason he knew but who would look for rationality from a man named Mad Henry.

 

Dreegs & Fallen

 

It was night and police station and the building was dark, cold and empty. The police in the city kept inverse hours to most twenty four hour business. When the typical convince store may keep a staff member on at night to man the store from behind clear plastic battlements the police station rostered on double the staff as they had in the day. The reason behind this was simple and logical. Criminals do not follow government mandated business hours. The reason that the station was nearly empty at the moment was that all available police officers were needed to quell the unusual rise in crime and terrorism in the country. Agent Dreegs sat at his desk and thought pure thoughts. This is not meant to imply that he thought godly thoughts but that he thought the pure unblemished thoughts of an unbiased and terrifyingly open minded intellect. His thoughts should be pictured as pure white as they contained all the other colors of thought in just the right balance, if you want to know the color of godly thoughts picture the blood of a sacrificial lambs or slain heathens. Agent Dreegs pondered the meaning of his existence not such a difficult a task when it was already written down the fallen databanks, he wondered about the future, persons right to free will, and just what it meant to be a person. Agent Dreegs thought of many things and he though at a rate few people, natural born or otherwise, ever had ever been able to beat. As Agent Dreegs thought constable Rachel dreamt. She lay slumped over her desk and twitched occasionally as if she was trying to flee something in her dreams. He pondered the concept of laying a comforting hand on her shoulder but was not oblivious enough about her view of him to not know that by placing a hand on her shoulder he would probably be making her nightmares become reality. Agent Dreegs watched Rachel seep but not in a creeping way, ok perhaps it was still a little creepy but it was as least creepy as it could possibly be. He sat and waited in anticipation but patiently for her eyes to open and mark the coming of a new day. He already had a list of new leads to follow up and several old leads to bombard with further questioning in particular he was readying himself for round two with the old Librarian now that he knew who and what he was.

‘We have information for you’ said a choir of voices in Agent Dreeg’s mind forcefully pushing out the existential conundrum of his existence that he had been pondering over.

‘Well then, spill the beans’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘Why waste food?’ said a wave of consciousness in confusion and was responded to by a second wave.

‘He means disclose the information’ said the second wave of thought smug in its knowledge of language and how it was abused by the people that shape it.

‘Why did he not…?’ started the first wave of thought and then stopped mid-sentence, thought or whatever was the right term for the manor that the Fallen communicated to each other. ‘There is new information regarding Mark.’

‘And’ asked Agent Dreegs impatiently.

‘A woman has claimed to know where he is located. She has just presented herself to the police.’

‘The purple eyed girl?’

‘How do we know about the ally?’ demanded thousands of voices ‘you have never accessed that information over the mindlink nor have you come in contact with her.’

‘The girl is not relevant’ said several more thousand voices annoyed at being interrupted ‘No it was not the ally. It was another female.’

‘What is the course of action that we take? Do we allow the police; I mean the real police, to process her statement’ asked agent Dreegs.

‘We do not’ said the voices simultaneous in thought once again ‘The female is in area twenty-five, police station six.’ Agent Dreegs did not have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the police stations in the country because, encyclopedias go out of date. He had had beyond encyclopedic knowledge of the countries police force even before the Fallen has awoken him and granted him access to their combined knowledge.

‘Tell the Fallen there not to try and get the information from her.’

‘They are almost done’ said the voice of the Fallen.

‘They are going to mess it up. Wait until she can be questioned properly’ said Agent Dreegs pushing back his chair and getting to his feet ‘We are heading there at once. We will be there in four hours.’

‘Wrong. We will meet us at this location. You will be there in forty minutes.’ said the Fallen and something not unlike an image of a warehouse entered his mind. It was most defiantly that of a warehouse whatever the image like thing really was though it came not with directions but understanding of how to get there. ‘We will be waiting for us.’ Agent Dreegs ran the message of the fallen back though his head and an applied a “we” filter to sort all out all those difficulties a conversation was put though when all members thought of themselves as the same individual. After he was sure he had interpreted the message correctly he said

‘We acknowledge.’ Being part of a hivemind is a terrible burden for an individual but fortunately there are all these other minds about to share the load. Agent Dreegs captured one last image of Rachel sleeping at her desk before he picked up his hat and left the station.

 

Agent Dreegs saw the Fallen standing in semi-circle in the warehouse their heads bent downwards so that they stared at their feet. He knew they were Fallen at the very first sight of them; only Fallen could stand so still, so turned off, so empty. They had been here for some time by the looks of it. Food packets littered the warehouse floor and drained bottles of water lay scattered where they had been dropped. The Fallen were not lazy they just did not notice the difference between a clean room and a dirty one. Agent Dreegs could tell the difference between clean rooms and dirty ones and this room repulsed him. All at once the Fallen looked up and their eyes fixed on Agent Dreegs. Agent Dreegs gave them a welcoming smile that could have won both first and second places in a welcoming smile contest.

‘Hello boys’ said Agent Dreegs and took notice of one of the Fallen at the back of the group and added ‘and girl.’

‘You are late’ said one of the Fallen.

‘I was not given an exact time to be here’ said Agent Dreegs.

‘We expected you come here without delay?’

‘Without delay?’ said Agent Dreegs incredulously ‘Obviously you do not understand inner city traffic.’

‘We do not’ said a male Fallen.

‘We do not have reason to drive very often’ said the red haired female.

‘Then how do you get about’ asked Agent Dreegs.

‘When we travel outside the city we fly. When we need more Fallen in one area we just make more Fallen in that area’ continued the Fallen women flatly. As a group they pointed off towards the other end of the warehouse. Siting there and somewhat concealed by a drift of food packets was a gleaming new Grimhound. Agent Dreegs was not a man that appreciated the colour red but even despite the striking red paintjob the Grimhound was not lacking attributes for Agent Dreegs to appreciate.

‘Oh, I bet you can beat the morning traffic in that’ said Agent Dreegs walking over to the jet. Grimhounds are primarily made up of four big turbines with some small stumpy wings stuck on the sides as if they were nothing more than a tribute to a conventional jet building. The cockpit small and narrow sat dwarfed between the top two engines and before he looked inside Agent Dreegs knew how cramped and uncomfortable it would be to sit in for any length of time, even those lengths of time only possible to measure on an atomic clock.

‘You’re not into luxuries are you?’ asked Agent Dreegs when he dared look in the cockpit.

‘The question is preposterous’ said A Fallen soldier flatly.

‘Well better you than me’ said Agent Dreegs and backing away from the machine. He became aware by the sound of footsteps that half dozen bodies had got put themselves in his path.

‘That statement is also preposterous’ explained the Female. Agent Dreegs looked around at the group of Fallen.

‘You don’t mean…’ said Agent Dreegs and looked back horrified at the cockpit.

‘I believe that we do mean’ said the Fallen in unison. They all stared at Agent Dreegs sternly and expectantly. There was six Fallen and four of them wore the armour of Fallen soldiers and holstered in some manor the corresponding weapons. To the Agents total lack of surprise as he stood there looking over the fallen soldiers, he realized, or perhaps remembered, that he could take these six as easy as he could pick a matching tie out of a line up. He was a Walker, grown and designed as a tool of the Fallen to carry out a very specific task, and the Fallen’s answer to the Mark Mercer issue, he was in all ways above the typical Fallen foot soldier. The limits of his physical prowess had just been a fraction of the information made available to him in his realization, he had also realised that he could not disobey Fallen, could not do so much as object to a single order. He had been made to serve the Fallen and to complete his task if he was not working towards this task then he had no reason to for his existence to continue and his body would shut down on a cellular level. In this way, if in this alone, the Fallen had been wise in regards of their design of the Walker Agents. But then the Fallen understood the importance of fail-safes on new technology more than any other form of life on the planet as they themselves had been the result of Mercer Technologies having not implemented any fail-safes on the initial communication chips that had given them existence.

 

Agent Dreegs studied the expectant faces of the Fallen and then turned back to the Grimhound disdainfully. There was just no way he could sit in that cramped cockpit for so long and not get creases on his suit. Existence was tough it really was. To help explain how cramped the cockpit was here is a fact about them. To be part of the Fallen hivemind was to share all emotions, all thoughts, knowledge and all sensations with one another but if two Fallen were to sit in the Grimhound’s cockpit then they would finish the flight knowing yet a whole lot more about each other regardless of whether or not they wanted to.

‘This has been allocated to you in order to aid your search for Mark’ said a Fallen soldier ‘you will use it now to go to the woman that claims to know where Mark is… It will take you there without the delays of inner city traffic.’

‘I see but does it have to be so red?’ asked Agent Dreegs.

‘The colour is of no significance to us’ said one of the Fallen ‘but time is. You should leave now.’ Agent Dreegs stepped up to the Grimhound’s cockpit and pressed a button that caused the glass window to slide away and gently eased himself in, not that “ease” is the right word to be associated with the experience. Once in the seat the window began to close by itself and then sealed shut cutting off all the sound of the outside world. Due to the soundproofing the group of Fallen did not audibly hear the string of cursing and complaints that left Agent Dreegs mouth, just the pings of emotions and resentment over the mindlink.

‘God damm big red thing’ finished the Agent winding down from his more potent and earlier comments.

‘So how does this work?’ thought Agent Dreegs to himself and began to scan the huge wealth of knowledge that he now possessed about the Fallen. Agent Dreegs search of the information in his mind and came up dry. Apparently the Fallen not being so foresighted to see the need for one of their Walkers to know how to fly a Grimhound. But then they had given him the jet, they had all but pushed him into it.

‘The Fallen would not have done all that if they did not think I could not fly this thing’ thought the agent ‘So the knowledge is not in my head but perhaps it is in my bones. Where would I be if I was a start button?’ Agent Dreegs stretched out a hand by instinct and the engine started. He starched out another hand and pulled a joystick the Grimhound lifted a few meters into the air. Hovering from this vantage point Agent Dreegs saw two Fallen begin opening a pair of enormous metal doors at the other end of the warehouse. The doors were almost open enough to allow a Grimhound though when Agent Dreegs said ‘I wonder where the accelerator is’ and sought for the control and found it. The Fallen opening the doors did not see the approaching Jet or were they able to hear it but they abandoned their task and dived to the ground regardless, warned of their peril by the eyes and ears of the other Fallen in the room. The Grimhound hit the doors and its stubby wings cut though the metal of the doors like an exploding artillery shell though butter and spun into the night’s sky Agent Dreegs haphazardly pressing buttons and moving joysticks and once again cursing.

 

Dreegs & Clare

 

On the second night of Mark’s stay and without even making enough noise for Mark to register, Clare slipped out of the apartment. And after pushing the front door silently shut behind her she, rallied her commitment to what needed to be done, left the apartment building, and made her way to the nearest building with a big blue glowing sign out in front of it. After refuelling her car at that service station she had driven the rest of the way to the local police office which also had a big blue glowing sign out front of it. She now sat in a police interview room which could be best described as nondescript.

‘I am told that you know where Mark Mercer is’ said yet another police office sitting down in front of Clare. Was this the sixed or seventh Police Officer she had talked to so far Wondered Clare?

‘That’s right’ said Clare for what she realized was actually the eighth time she had said it.

‘And you are willing to share with us this information?’

‘I am willing to negotiate for it’ said Clare tiredly. It was not the late night that was making her tired but rather the continual pestering of trivial questions and the knowledge that in the next fifteen minutes or at most half an hour she would be answering the same questions to someone with more décor on their uniform but no more authority to give here what she wanted.

‘There is a hundred thousand dollar price tag put on any information that leads to Mark arrest and I am afraid I cannot adjust the price’ said the police officer.

‘The money is not the issue’ said Clare exasperated ‘I need to know that my husband will not get into trouble.’

‘Well if I must I suppose we could go as far as a hundred and twenty thousand if I really push for it’ said the police officer.

‘Forget the money’ said Clare slowly and in short segmented chunks ‘I just want Mark out of my house and out of my life.’ Against all likelihood the words seemed to land in the police officers head in order. The officer’s eyes light up with understanding.

‘Your husband has got caught up with Mark and you are angling to keep your husband out of jail whilst sending Mark in.’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you sure? Is your husband worth a hundred and twenty thousand?’ asked the officer. Clare closed her mouth and thought about this. Technically Henry was worth more than that a lot more than that but that money was legally as much hers as it was his. Was he worth more than an extra hundred and twenty thousand?

‘He is the father of my children’ said Clare eventually knowing that is was a close to a yes as she could manage.

‘Well I don’t have the authority to sign off on this agreement’ admitted the officer to Clare and not to her surprise. ‘I will have to make a phone call and get back to you. Are you fine to wait here?’

‘For a while yes, my husband may notice I am gone if it takes too long.’

‘Don’t worry I will be back shortly’ lied the officer shutting the door of the interview room behind him.

 

Clare sat in the bare room for more time than was comfortable and then the door opened. She looked up and was somewhat surprised not to see a police officer in the doorway but a man dressed in a spectacular green pin striped suit with a matching hat. He also wore sunglasses which was not all that uncommon even in the middle of the night and indoors, some people are just like that, it was just that he did not seem the type.

‘You’re called Clare right?’ asked the suited man in a confident voice and he gave her a smile that was mesmerizing.

‘I am’ said Clare and blushed a little.

‘Clair who?’ asked the agent and he asked it so casually and charmingly that she had opened her mouth to answer before she caught herself.

‘I can’t tell you that’ said Clare with a frown ‘Not until you promise me what I want.’

‘Well we tired’ said the man ‘Please remember that I tried the easy way. I of course did not try very hard because I find myself being a great judge of character lately and I find myself immediately not liking you.’

‘What are you going on about?’ asked Clare. The man stepped forward from the doorway allowed and two huge men wearing black armour to step into the room and fan out either side of the suited one.

‘Don’t worry about it. I do just love the sound of my own voice, everyone does. Just remember that I tried.’

‘What is this?’ demanded Clare getting immediately to her feet and backing away from the armoured soldiers ‘What is going on?’

‘My name is Agent Dreegs. We understand you know the whereabouts of Mark Mercer.’

‘I do.’

‘You must tell us this information now’ demanded the soldier on the left though a voice modulator on his helmet, or what Clare chose to believed, and then to wish, was a voice modulator. She wished it was a voice modulator so that empty and cold voice would not terrify her quite so much.

‘I have already agreed to make a deal with the police for the information.’

‘We are not the police and we do not make deals.’

‘We did once’ said the second armoured man in the same cold voice as what the first spoke with ‘With the ally.’

‘We do not make deals with normals’ said the first speaker, the soldier on the right. ‘You must and will tell us this information now.’

‘And if I don’t?’ asked Clare backing nonchalantly into the far corner of the room.

‘You undervalue our sincerity when we say that “You must and will tell us this information now”’ said the two soldiers in unison. Clair whimpered and shrank away from the overbearing soldiers then the suited man silently raised a hand and the two large armoured men on each side of him backed down immediately. It was clear that there was only one ring master at this circus.

‘Please gentlemen we believe we are the one best designed to deal with this type of situation.’ The man turned to Clare and gave her the epitome of all smiles. It managed to thaw some of her frozen nerves despite the rest of the situation striking fear into the centre of her very being.

‘I am sorry for my companions’ said the suited man. ‘They do not mean to be so rude and intimidating, they do not even know that that’s what they are being. I unlike my companions see no reason to be unduly rude and confrontational.’

‘Who are you?’ whimpered Clare.

‘I actually am metropolitan police, another thing that my companion got wrong. And as I said before my name is Agent Dreegs.’

‘Why are you here?’ asked Clare ‘This is not the big city.’

‘No this is a very small city. We are here because of particularly pressing desire to know the whereabouts of Mark Mercer. We can honestly say that I care about knowing where Mark is more than anyone, more than he himself cares no doubt.’

‘I want to make a deal’ said Clare ‘I want you to promise that nothing bad will happen to my husband and children.’ Agent Dreegs opened his mouth but hesitated for a second.

‘We of course have no interest in your family’ said Dreegs ‘We will get you signed documents saying that you and your family will be except for all legal chargers that may result from this mess and an amnesty for all past crimes.’

‘That is not what I asked for’ pointed out Clare ‘I wanted you to promise that nothing bad will happen to my family as a result of this.’ Agent Dreegs opened his mouth but again the words he meant to say did not get past his throat.

‘Promise the woman what she wants’ insisted the soldier on the right and Agent Dreegs tried again but found himself still unable to say the words when they he knew they were a lie.

‘Nothing bad will happen to your family’ promised the soldier on the left but Clare had none of that monotone lie.

‘I have changed my mind’ said Clare ‘I will not be telling anyone anything tonight. I am sorry for wasting your time.’

‘We believe that you are not going to tell us what you know, you have toughness in you, but we do not need you to tell us’ said Agent Dreegs now massaging his throat pensively.

‘What do you mean?’ demanded Clair.

‘It is simple. If you are not going to tell us what we want to know then you must become one of us’ said the Agent exasperated and began to take off his hat and jacket. The Fallen soldier on the left pulled a silver microchip from under a plate of metal armour and slotted it into a machine that looked like a handheld bar code scanner only more sinister.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Clare retreating even further from these three strangers.

‘Just taking off my jacket’ said the man hanging the item neatly off the back of an empty chair ‘We do not want it to get anything on it do we now?’ He took the device from the soldier and studied it.

‘What happens if I do tell you everything you want?’ asked Clare.

‘Then my two friends here will have no purpose for you and will kill you and get rid of your body. If we were you, I would hold out for the assimilation. You really do not have much of choice.’ Clare’s back touched against the concrete wall and she realized that she had nowhere to go.

‘We are told that it hurts less if you do not struggle’ said the soldier on the right as a distraction. The three Fallen, as one unit, lunged forward in perfect sync and grabbed Clare who swung wildly at them but her hands were caught and pinned to the ground. In the inhumanly strong hands of the Fallen Clare was rolled onto her stomach and pinned against the ground by two of the soldiers as the suited man lent over her and pressed the gadget against her brain stem and the base of her skull. There was a click, a cut gasp of pain and the microchip was pushed through Clare’s skin where no sooner had it settled in her neck than it began to shoot out branches of microscopic wires that worked their way into her mind. Clare screamed in agony and then all at once her expression changed in that it became devoid of all expression until her face slowly formed a frown of inhuman determination, the signature expression of the Fallen.

‘I will tell you where Mark Mercer is’ said the Fallen that had once been Clare aloud.

‘We already know when Mark Mercer’ said thousands of voices over the mindlink.

‘Oh. You are correct’ responded that which has once been Clare over the mindlink. The Fallen turned to Agent Dreegs reclaiming his attire of the chair.

‘You were unable to complete the tasks that were given to you Agent. We do not understand why not.’

‘I would have been lying if we told her that no harm would come to her family we could not do that’ explained Agent Dreegs and got the answer he was expecting.

‘We do not understand why not’ said the Fallen.

‘You are at this very moment plaining on doing harm to her family. We can’t lie.’

‘We do not understand why not’ reiterated the Fallen.

‘Well, neither can I’ agent Dreegs and knew it was the wrong thing to say.

‘I’ said the Fallen as if it was the most fascinating word in the English language rather than the simplest.

‘There are some things that we cannot do’ said the Agent quickly ‘there are complications with my personality imprint, a design flaw, one that you made I should mention.’ The Fallen did not say anything for a long time and the suspicion that they were isolating him from their conversation arose in him.

‘We understand’ said the Fallen ‘You have weaknesses and limitations as result of unforeseen complications in introducing your personality. We will use you accordingly from now on.’

‘We are ready to bring Mark in tonight’ said Agent Dreegs ‘we do not need to worry about my limitations after that.’

‘We will not be needing you tonight’ said the Fallen ‘take the Grimhound assigned to you and return to the city.’

‘Pardon?’ asked Agent Dreegs startled and horrified at what he was hearing. He was also the first Fallen to say pardon over the Mindlink.

‘We are unsure of your limitations’ said the Fallen. Agent Dreegs felt like he had been kicked repeatedly in the gut, no he felt what a human would feel like if they got repeatedly kicked in the gut which was a lot worse. ‘We do not require your assistance tonight.’

‘Bringing in Mark is my purpose’ said Agent Dreegs ‘I was designed to fight head to head with him and win.’

‘We have another suitable operative’ said the Fallen ‘they also believe that it is there task to bring in Mark.’

‘The Ally’ said Agent Dreegs in distain ‘you will trust the Ally over your own Agent. You will regret this night.’

‘WE will regret this’ said the Fallen.

‘No! I mean what I said’ snapped Agent Dreegs ‘YOU will regret this night.’ Agent Dreegs put on his hat and left the interview room, slamming the room’s door and snapping shut the mindlink and holding it shut with the weight of his anger and force of will.

 

Mark & Henry & Sarah

 

Two Point Three opened his eyes and screamed.

‘They are coming’ he shouted and began to run. He, only moments before, had been sleeping on the floor of one of the kid’s room but now he was scrambling around the house, knocking things over, in his desperate search for Mark. He found Mark standing upright in a corner of the living room with his eyes closed and his arms crossed on his chest and head slouched slightly forward. Two Point Three let out a brief shriek at the seeing Mark standing there like an upright corpse, although he did not have much fear free left for Mark’s appearance.

‘Wake up’ shouted Two Point Three shaking Mark so hard that slumbering cyborg began to topple forwards. Two Point Three shrieked again, in well justified fear death by crushing under Mark’s weight, and ducked to one side but he had not bothered because Mark’s two blue eyes opened and a hand slammed against a wall to stop him from falling. Cracks spread out around Mark’s hand where it had been slammed into the concrete wall and as he retracted his hand even Two Point Three in mid hysterics noticed the clear imprint of a Mark’s hand left on the wall.

‘What is it Kid’ asked Mark kneeling down in front of Two Point Three and grabbing the boys by the shoulders.

‘They know where we are. They are coming.’ said Two Point Three ‘They have been told.’

‘Who are? Who knows?’ asked Mark.

‘They all know’ said Two Point Three quietly.

‘What is it’ asked the voice of Henry emerging from his bedroom.

‘The kid has had a bad dream’ said Mark.

‘I don’t dream. I see what is’ said Two Point Three ‘we have been betrayed.’ Mark’s gun was not seen to move; instead it just no longer rested on his belt but was pointed at Henry. Henry opened his mouth to speak but closed it. Mark lowered the gun apologetically. The youngest girl ran from her room and latched onto her father’s leg.

‘Sorry’ said Mark.

‘Don’t be. I am sorry that I brought you here’ said Henry and with his eyes darting longingly around the apartment for his wife said ‘Clare is missing she must have snuck out and told someone that you were here, the bitch.’

‘And then who did they tell?’ asked Mark solemnly ‘Get your kid’s. What will be coming is ok with using guns in front of children.’ With a click of a lock turning the front door opened and with a click Mark’s gun was set to short range – max intensity and aimed. The door swung inwards as Mark’s gun swung to face it. Clare stepped into the room, her back turned to them as she put her keys in the bowl beside the door, and looked up into the crystalline reflecting chamber or barrel of Mark’s gun.

‘What’s happened?’ she asked staring first at the gun pointed at her and then at the room with, wide eyed shock. Two Point Three had managed to knock nearly every piece of furniture over in his attempts to find Mark even that which you not think a nine-year-old could budge.

‘You just betrayed us’ said Mark.

‘What? No. I just went out to see old Misses Johnson in two five three she was having trouble turning off her security alarm again. There is a note in the kitchen, I can prove it.’

‘Get my children out of here Mark’ said Henry staring at his wife. Mark lowered his gun.

‘Grab some shoes and follow me’ ordered Mark in a voice that was not to be disobeyed. The children did so and followed Mark not waiting to tie their laces.

‘Whatever has happened I did not do it I swear’ said Clare.

‘It is bad to lie’ said Two Point Three staring directly at Clare in his unnervingly certain way before he was pulled from the apartment by the arm. Mark herded the children down the hallway at a fast jog, as fast as he thought they could manage safely, but voices of Henry and Clare followed them down the hallway as clearly as if they were just behind them. Mark cursed of the acoustics of this god forsaken temple like place and its tiled floors and marble walls.

‘I am mad Clare but that’s just part of my charm but you, you’re just broken.’

‘I am not broken I am your wife’ said the voice of Clare ‘I would remember if I had done anything.’

‘Not if they got to you. I am sorry babe.’ Henry was crazy but this does not necessarily mean that he was not a clear thinker. He had thought in the war against The Fallen, he knew what they were like; he knew what emotions they sort to exploit. A shot echoed through the halls of the apartment building and the children gasped and they turned to run back to the apartment but they found Mark in their way with arms outstretched and unavoidable.

‘Keep going’ ordered Mark and they obeyed. They had almost reached the elevator when after a pleasant ding and a flash of a light signalled the arrival of an elevator onto their floor. Following the sound of the ding came the sound of a shotgun being cocked and behind that an eruption of blue plasma that melted though the elevator doors and continuing down the hallway. Mark, without more than one cycle of thought, scooped up the kids and swivelled putting his body and his thick jacket between them and the searing heat. When the flames died away Mark turned back to the elevator to see a girl standing there and smiling. She had a familiar face, a very familiar face, a horrifyingly familiar face, one Mark had seen many times before but only when it had been older. It was the face that had tucked him in at bed at night and had been understanding when later that night new sheets had to be fitted.

 

‘Sister’ said Two Point Three with repulsion stepping out from behind Mark like a moon emerging from behind its planet.

‘Mother’ said Mark visibly horrified by the appearance of the girl that stood before him.

‘Ha you are so close Cyborg. In fact, I am what your mother would have been like if she was cool. I personally like to think of you like a half-brother. It makes the whole thing seem less weird won’t you agree?’

‘Forgive me it I still find it a little weird’ rumbled Mark a dam of pure rage was starting to fill up just behind his eyes and if you paid close attention to his face you could see it happening, not all the glow in his eyes was the reflection of the burning plasma door.

‘Family reunions are always a little weird. It is a rule of the universe not even Dregor could defy that one’ dismissed the girl with a shrug and a smile.

‘Dregor cloned my mother!’ spat Mark his voice fizzling and buzzing with rage.

‘Him and a hundred other experts to be more precise. Give the help some credit’ said the blond haired teenager ‘I do not know why he always gets the credit for everything.’ The girls purple eyes turned to Two Point Three at Mark’s side. ‘Surely you have worked out that your mother was not the only one…’ she grimaced with distaste and the words and continued ‘Dregor cloned.’

‘Yeah I worked that one out but a DNA scanner at a train station deserves most of that credit.’

‘You don’t have to do this Sarah’ said Two Point Three ‘You can come back to The Company and we can forget that you ever left, literally forget if that makes it better, they have the technology.’

‘Shut up little one, let the big kids talk.’ Sarah’s eyes were alight with enjoyment and not least a purple twinkle. She had the appearance of predator having too much fun poking at its captured prey ever to get round to taking that last swipe. Mark was terrible at being prey he was instinctively bad at it and it was not something he had ever needed to get used to.

 

Error: #101110101, Emotional Overload;

 

‘I don’t think we will have much to talk about’ growled Mark and launched himself at the girl forcing the gun upwards as she fired. Mark’s dam of rage had just breached the walls of his repression and now all that rage was flowing unrestricted towards the town of Mark’s self-control. Cables and the elevators roof melted to a rain down in a short shower of molten steel. Two Point Three did not see the effect of this because the elevator was already in free fall. Cyber rage was a terrifying thing thought Two Point Three when Mark and Sarah disappeared down the elevator chute but if there was anyone he knew who had enough bottled up rage to compete with Mark’s it was his sister.

‘What do we do?’ shouted one of Henry’s kids and turned to look at Two Point Three. He thought for only a second before he came up with a decision. It was not the best decision, Two Point Three being in experienced in dangerous situations, he based his decision on the one fact about danger that his young mind understood and that was there is less of it when you were at Mark’s side. He was right in this regard with Mark attracting so much danger to himself and radiating his own dangers there was an eddy effect that caused a patch behind Mark and slightly to the left side to be relatively danger free.

‘The stairs’ said Two Point Three and they followed him down flight after flight. They had almost reached the ground floor when the sound of machine gun fire crackled from below. The kids, well drilled by Henry fell immediately to the floor and covered their ears. Two Point Three stopped where he was and looked down at the gunmen on the level below, the only reason the gunmen had not hit them was the award angle the Fallen were firing up at. A calmness enveloped Two Point Three as he stood watching the Fallen gunmen charge up the stairs flight by flight, it was unlike the calmness that had been with the boy from most of his young life, it was calmness to the point of almost being tranquillity. Two Point Three for one reason and another had crossherited much of Mark’s base instincts and he also, to the core, was not good at being prey.

‘Stay behind me’ instructed Two Point Three and raised a hand as the bullets came closer and closer to hitting him. Then the bullets began to slow and veer of course hitting the walls and falling harmlessly to the floor further and further from them. The children, calmed and slightly awed by Two Points Three’s tranquil voice, came to stand behind the boy.

‘Interesting’ observed Two Point Three watching the bullets slow before him. He twisted his hand and the bullets began bouncing around in an invisible sphere and all other bullets begin to swerve off course into the increasingly violent vortex of lead slugs.

‘That my boy is a party trick and a half’ said the voice of Mad Henry. Two Point Three did not flinch when Henry dropped from the staircase above to land behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. With his hand on the boy’s shoulder Henry felt the numb calmness run up his arm and knew that an exception had been made with him with whatever force that was binging the bullets in to the vortex. Henry raised his gun calmly shot the perplexed gunmen though the visors. His enormous pistol booming like a cannon in the close, concrete, stairwell. The large rounds were able to break through the substance of the visors only one in five on his shots burst through the metal at the back of the helmet.

‘How are you doing that?’ asked Henry as, at a gesture from Two Point Three, the vortex of bullets shrank into something more manageable and fixed hovering just above Two Point Three’s hand as near solid mass of convulsing and spinning lead.

‘It is hard to explain’ said Two Point Three ‘I just am.’

 

Person type: Clone

Height: 1.5 meters

Model number: Mum 2.0

Weapons: Modified Shotgun that shoots Purple Fireballs.

Physical attributes: INHANCED Strength and agility, Purple eyes.

Threat level: moderately Dangerous

Marked as threat by: Two Point Three

 

Mark dodged, deflected and, on the most part, ignored blows that were rained down on him from his aggressor.

‘What is your problem?’ asked Mark as Sarah kicked him in the chest knocking him back.

‘I have no problem’ said Sarah ‘I just have an objective.’ Mark went to grab her but she gracefully stepped aside and hit him in the side of the head hard enough for rattling to be heard and most likely voiding his warranty.

‘No doubt you want to rule the world’ said Mark as Sarah hit him in the chest with a muffled and metallic gong but no other effect. Mark was aware of other people were standing all around them but they showed no intention of interrupting the fight so they were of no concern right now, they were a later concern to be ripped apart.

‘Wrong. I simply wish to destroy it’ said Sarah with a laugh. The two combatants broke circled.

‘Dregor created you with my mother’s DNA’ spat Mark again still not quite able to accept that even Dregor would do something so appalling ‘why would he do something so foul.’

‘Of course he did. He knew that you had not gotten it from his brother’ said Sarah.

‘Gotten what?’

‘What makes us special’ said Sarah ‘only in me he sought to take it to a more noticeable level. Don’t tell me that you didn’t know that we were special.’

‘I have no idea what you mean’ said Mark ‘I am a cyborg.’

‘You are a cyborg as well’ said Sarah ‘even before all that happened you were more than a pitiful human. Didn’t the fact that you fell back out of a plasma rift sort of give it away? I guess not.’

‘Then the kid is based off me and is special as well’ said Mark and allocated some processor runtime to the thought ‘well no surprise there.’

‘If there had not already been too many of you in the world before.’

‘I am starting to understand this’ said Mark and Sarah chuckled to show that she doubted it very much. ‘But I don’t understand why you are here. Why do you ally yourself with The Fallen?’

‘We have similar goals, even if different reasons for them. We want what is best for the world and that is the end of humanity.’

‘What is best for the world is for you not to be’ said Two Point Three from a stairwell and threw his vortex of bouncing bullets into the middle of the room and ducked. Lights exploded and windows smashed as hundreds of bullets were released in all directions. Some headed towards Sarah but she was ready and they hit something invisible a foot or so from her body and bounced away.

‘Nice try little one’ said Sarah but you have so much to learn. She turned back to Mark, the Big One, who was bleeding from several bullet punctures, even a gash in the head that showed the shine of metal just under his skin, and then Sarah became aware of a fist moving like a comet. Mark hit her in the stomach and she was thrown across the room by its force.

‘Mark?’ called Two Point Three over the sound of gunfire. Some of the armoured men were trying to get up but Henry with two machine guns and his children with one each were making it hard for them. For children they were surprisingly adept at using the weapons but who knew what sorts of skills Henry had taught them.

‘My car is surrounded’ said Henry.

‘There will be one out the back’ said Mark. The armoured men were getting closer to getting up at each attempt. Occasionally one would stay down but not often enough. He reached for his grenades and swore when he felt none having used them all in the trap in the hotel. Mark instead pulled his pistol from his belt and began to cover Henry and the children as the ran for the back door. His pistol’s beams of light melted the metal armour away but the armour would begin to solidify reknit itself if he did not hit the exact spot again, this was not difficult Mark with his computerized aim but he could not shoot fast enough to anything but slow the Fallen’s unstoppable rise to their feet. When he heard the backdoor swing shut and the front door open with Fallen reinforcements Mark took a final look of a pair of female legs kicking furiously in an attempt to dislodge their owner from a collapsed wall. The Mark then did something he had not done since he was a child… in a previous life… possibly. He played a game of hopscotch, he freed his hands by tossing laser gun in his path towards the door, and jumped. Mark was not a graceful jumper, he landed heavily even for one so heavy but then that was the point or perhaps, in the case of his lurching movement towards the backdoor, it should his steel boots were the points and they buckled half a dozen Fallen Breastplates before Mark snatched up his pistol and ran. No one got up after Mark landed on them, this is a rule of the universe.

 

Henry had chosen a nearby car and the children had piled into the back as he feverously worked on hotwiring it. The car was one of the old ones that used hydrogen fuel cells but it looked new enough for their purposes yet not too new to pose Henry much difficulty in stealing or that was what he had thought.

‘God damm you Misses Johnson and your aftermarket security system’ cursed Henry the tone of Henry’s voice was all he needed to hear but Mark inevitably asked the question anyway.

‘What is the problem?’ asked Mark sliding into the passenger seat. Mark saw the problem immediately it was a grey box fused to the dash with a terrifyingly familiar logo.

‘Can you get it to go?’ asked Mark.

‘With enough time probably’ snapped Henry in distress ‘but no in time we have. Get out kids we will try the red car.’

‘No don’t get out. We do not have time for that’ commanded Mark

‘Do you have a better idea’ asked Henry.

‘Yes’ said Mark though gritted teeth and a wave of spiteful anger brought on by having been proven not just wrong but obsolete. Mark raised a hand and reached for the grey box as he recalled what Zal had done back in that crowed street in the city and then again in his laboratory. He recalled what he had done when Zal had left him powered down on his laboratory floor. The instant when his hand touched the box the lights flickered and there was a hum as the car’s engine started.

‘You have never done that before’ said Henry who was incredibly impressed by Mark’s new trick but had not hesitated a moment before reversing out of the car park.

‘It’s new’ said Mark. Mark began to recall again what Zal had managed to do with this glove and its imbedded white crystal.

‘Buckle up kids’ said Henry and prepared to run the blockade the Fallen had setup at the front gate. They were just about to take off when Mark stopped Henry by grabbing him by the arm.

‘Wait a second’ said Mark ‘you are right we are going to need another car.’

 

The car sped out of the apartment blocks car park and skidded around a corner before the two armoured cars waiting for it had time to respond but when they did so they responded so dynamically. Their engines roared and their wheels screeched as they accelerated after the disappearing car. The car speed away from its pursuers, heading straight down the centre of the road but it had not gotten a kilometre before the following cars, weighed down by light armour but powered by high end motors, were right behind it and rapidly gaining the last stretch of distance. Heavy machine guns unfolded from the roofs of the armoured cars and locked onto the fleeing car just before them. It was then that the car did something that took the Fallen by surprise. It continued going straight and at full speed. The road in this area on the other hand swerved gently to one side to avoid a forest of stout trees. The car jumped off the back of the road, broke through a fence, and hit a tree with such force as to not damage the tree at all but with enough force cause the car crumple away and light up in a giant fireball. The unexpected turn of events so surprised the Fallen that some of the pursuing drivers drove their cars off the road behind the car and into the waiting trees before they knew what was going on. Other Fallen, those that still withheld some on humanities desire to live slowed, to a halt and began to contemplate, with ten thousand mind wide intellects, the odd behaviour of the red car.

 

Back at the apartment block a second car drove out of the parking lot, at a fast but less suicidal pace, and drove in the opposite direction to that which the armoured cars had taken.

‘How much time do you think it will buy us?’ asked Henry pushing the accelerator to the floor. From far off came the sound of a car exploding followed by a few simular but not identical explosions.

‘Little’ said Mark not looking around at the flash ‘we have to get off the main streets they can have Grimhounds flying over us in Minutes.’

‘This is not the first car chase I have been in’ said Henry and took a corner without slowing and began to head down a lesser road ‘not that it is a thing to be proud of kids.’

‘Where are we going?’ asked Mark.

‘I know a place’ said Henry and took another corner at full speed. This car was by no means competition to Henry’s own but the skilled driver was stretching its and his abilities to the very limit.

‘A place from your past?’ asked Mark.

‘The place where I keep things from my past’ said Henry ‘it will be a good thing to hold onto something.’ Mark turned to watch a warehouse at the end of the road grow bigger. It was a T intersection with ninety degree turns. Mark had well-earned faith in henry’s driving ability but was becoming increasingly concerned about the increasing pace they were approaching the intersection at. They had almost reached it when Mark realized that he had no intention of taking the corner.

‘Henry no’ said Mark.

‘Henry yes’ said Henry, jumped the sidewalk and drove into the warehouse. The front of the car crumpled smashing the lights but huge door of the warehouse tore from its rollers and fell away folding inwards and on top of them. For what seemed like forever the car screeched across the inside of the warehouse occasionally hitting things that remained unseen in the total blackness of the place but eventually the car came to a stop.

Night Vision: on;

‘What the hell were you thinking?’ demanded Mark swiping his crumpled shut door aside before and circling the car ripping the remaining doors from the stricken car regardless of whether they were jammed or not.

‘I was thinking that I and my children were the only ones in and real risk of dying in a mere car crash. We are not special after all.’ answered Henry. Mark opened his mouth to say something and closed it when he realized he had nothing to say to that.

‘Then why are we here of all places?’

‘You said they would send Grimhounds’ said Henry getting out of the totalled car and laying a hand apologetically on its roof.

‘In a few minutes when they worked out we were not in the other car when it crashed.’ There was the sound of something made mostly of engine overhead and then it was gone. They fell into silence as they listened to the hovercraft pass out of earshot. This took upsettingly little time.

‘Or right now if they are as smart as they are claimed to be’ said Henry ‘also we need new cars and I have them here. Look around and tell me if you see anything you like.’ Mark scanned the interior of the near pitch black room.

‘All this stuff is what you have left over from your past’ asked Mark.

‘The only thing here that is not too hot to sell is the plutonium. Now use that night vision and tell me where the hell we are because I can’t see shit.’

 

 

Mark pulled the dust sheet off the four-wheel drive in the now brightly lit warehouse.

‘It’s ancient’ said Mark looking at the car.

‘Perfect condition and it’s never been out of the display room, it will get you where you need to go and then some’ pointed out Henry.

‘On one tank of petrol? I don’t know if you know this but the average service station does not as such sell petrol anymore.’

‘The average service station does not sell to wanted criminals and are covered with cameras so that suits you fine. Also it uses diesel.’

‘I have been a wanted criminal for years’ said Mark ‘no one has bothered me before.’

‘Yes but you just slipped through the grasp of the Fallen for the third time, I think even with their computerized rationality they will be getting a little annoyed by now. They will be looking for any way to catch you now and Clare just proved that at least some of the police have been turned.’

‘How about you? They will know you have helped me’ asked Mark with true concern.

‘I am choosing a car made for speed, they can look for us if they want but I intend us to be on the other side of the world living in a yurt by the end of the week.’

‘Thank you Henry’ said Mark.

‘An old friend asking for help on a mission that Dregor considers important, only an idiot would not help’ said Henry and paused for a second ‘Clare was an idiot.’

‘I am sorry’ said Mark.

‘She brought it on herself’ Henry’s eyes lit up as he remembered something ‘I have something for you.’ Henry pulled something small metallic out of a pocket and held it out.

‘It’s one of their chips, a new version it seems.’

‘I pulled it out of Clare. I don’t know how but I felt it might be useful.’ Mark took the small device from Henry’s hand and looked at it.

‘They always seem too small to have caused such a big problem’ said Mark.

‘Where will you be going now?’ asked Henry ‘I know you were going to that place your girl told ye about but I have the feeling that things might have changed.’

‘I need answers’ said Mark ‘I need to know that is going on and just what is coming after me.’

‘Well, I still have a few guys that keep their ear to the underground if you need them, actually more than ever, it’s unbelievable what a real estate tycoon needs to know.’

‘Thanks, but I have my own way of finding out the information I need to know’ said Mark.

‘And what way is that?’ asked Henry.

‘I go to a library’ said Mark.

‘I see. I little antiquated a method for information gathering in my books but I trust you know what you are doing. Are Library’s even open on Sundays and in the middle of the night?’

‘I know a library that is never shut’ said Mark.

‘Good for you’ said Henry ‘Well I have to go. Good luck with the whole saving the world let me know how it turns out.’

‘I never said anything about saving the world but Good luck with the hiding.’ Henry turned walked a few steps but stopped and tuned back to look at Mark.

‘Can you tell me something before you go?’ asked Henry ‘Now that I have already decided never to see you again?’

‘Probably’ replied Mark.

‘Did you actually kill Nathan?’ asked Henry. Mark thought about this and recalled the time when Nathan went missing.

 

‘Memory recall.

 

01001010111111111110100100010010100

 

Error #10101111 Data Deleted

 

End of memory recall.

 

Mark fixed his eyes on his old and soon to be former friend and spoke in the tone of voice gods would when carving mountains from raw firmament.

‘I do not know if I killed Nathan but I know that I would have. I would have and I would do it just for the satisfaction of it. I would have ripped him in half if that was what it took to fulfil my daily quota of destruction. I am not a good man Henry. Neither good. Neither man. I am not even just merely a criminal like you. Warrior, murderer, hitman, it does not matter in the end I am just a killer with an unquenchable taste for death. That is what the war with the Fallen turned me into. Dregor turned me into a vicious monster one kills the undeserving it makes the thirst for blood go away for a little while, and then, after he turned me into all that, he turned me into a cyborg. And what a joy that has been, an unquenchable desire to kill paired so elegantly with an unstoppable body and an electronic mind that lets me feel all the horror and guilt that I should do but won’t let me die. I do not know if I killed Nathan but you should act as though I did.’

Henry gave a Mark a look of outright horror but Mad Henry would not have been Henry or mad if he was not so open-minded that his thoughts could not do cartwheels and handstands at leisure.

‘Treat you as though you did kill Nathan’ mused Henry ‘Nathan owed me money and you knew that. You owe me like two thousand dollars with interest you bastard.’ Mark studied Henrys face disbelieving of the understanding and compassion he saw there.

‘I though you owed me millions’ said Mark.

‘I guess so but it’s the principle of the thing’ said Henry with a smile ‘Goodbye friend and I want you to know that I would have killed you if I had known and if I could have.’

‘Thanks friend’ said Mark ‘That means a lot to me.’ Henry completed his walk back to his chosen car and his children. Mark watched Henry get into the car and shut the car door then turned to where Two Point Three was working his puzzled way through a pile of dirty magazines but was actually standing only meters away from him staring up at him with a stare wider eyed and more puzzled than he had given the magazines. Mark looked down at his clone, Mark looked down at his clone with genuine sympathy. Mark searched for the right words to saw but they either did not exist he could not find them.

‘Don’t grow up. Don’t ever stop being a child’ Mark warned the little monster, and walked towards his chosen car.

 

13 Strength of (a) Character

Rebecca & Dregor

 

Rebecca sat it the Pillars Command Centre as more and more reports or attacks came in from all over the globe. She did not have to respond to all of them, thankfully, as she was only technically the head of security for this complex but being as the she was Dregor’s right hand girl it was up to her to at least keep up with the company’s international security concerns. This task though difficult was not beyond her abilities, she had been more or less (a great deal less), the same thing for years now. She put down a report of a warehouse bombing in Europe and sighed when she read name that the media.

“The Committee strikes again. Eighty dead in warehouse bombing.” It was tragic, of course the bombing was tragic it had after all killed eighty company personnel, but she did not mean that.

‘It was the title’ that was tragic. Rebecca picked up a tablet and the brought up the newspaper article for the attack. “The terrorist group calling themselves The Committee attacked… at night… no suspects… reason for to the attacks continue to be unknown despite Mercer Technologies continual claims that the attacks are being perpetrated by The Fallen although no proof to support these outrageous claims has been provided from the forerunning Technological Super Company.” Rebecca skipped to the next article. “Ghost Train… C-385…gas leak…no survivors… suspicious explosion and fire damage found in one carriage…no connection to recent attacks on Mercer Technologies says police spokesman.’ Rebecca sighed and put down the Tablet. She had no sooner put the tablet down before it emitted a chime a she scooped it up again. A message blinked on the screen, an invite to meeting simply titled meeting. She pressed the confirm icon even before she had taken note of the time and location. Immediately the tablet chimed again and a meeting warning message came up It was occurring now, and was in largest of The Pillars boardrooms, a room that had not been used for nearly a decade. Rebeca got to her feet and headed at once for one of the fastest elevators.

 

Before Rebecca stepped into boardroom she made a promise that she would not be surprised at whatever she saw in there. One step past the doors she broke that promise. The boardroom was large, it and the table that dominated its centre was made to seat sixty people who were used to all the comforts that The Company could provide. The boardroom was not used anymore, and remained just a historic reminder that once the company had great deal more directors and major shareholders than it did now. Today the table was packed once more, or packed as much as Company Tradition allowed it to be, with all the companies directors. And, to what had been to Rebecca’s surprise, a great deal of Mercer Technology’s rival companies’ directors and CEOs. They sat there intermingled with everyone else and just as scared and confused. There were so many people there that there was a second row of seats on one side of the table. On the other side of the table there was not a second row, there was only a second seat and it sat empty next that awful scrap mental seat that Dregor brought with him wherever he went. He sat in the monstrosity of twisted metal now, and in this light and context it looked bigger and more throne like than ever. Rebeca’s eye was not drawn to Dregor’s seat of authority, not to the crowd of the directors and the ring of unfamiliar guards that encircled them, her eye was instead drawn to the empty seat. The seat itself was simple and unadorned, made from solid metal and cleverly reinforced symbolic tribute to who the seat had beam ceremoniously set aside for. Once Rebecca dreamt of having a seat on this side of the table and all that came with it but dreams are for those that sleep and Rebecca did not have time for sleep these days nor time for all that came with it like dreams. Rebecca walked past the seat and stood beside Dregor, the chair was not for her, tradition said that this side of the table was for those of the Mercer family and no other. Dregor looked up and smiled at her like a smug child magician just about to perform a new magic trick. Rebecca gave the half smile of a parent that has already seen many tricks before but would tolerate another.

‘Hello Dregor’ said Rebecca, quietly as to not interrupt the thick layer of silence that passed between the rest of the room’s audience. In their part the audience looked on and wide-eyed and wordlessly ‘There was something you wanted to show me I believe.’

‘You believe correctly’ said Dregor. Rebecca gave the other the half of the smile but she did this half-heartedly. Dregor began speaking and Rebecca looked up at and begun studying the guards encircled the other participants of the board meeting. Dregor cleared his throat as though he needed to get people’s attention; as though they were not all already staring transfixed at him as he sat on his big bronze throne like seat of authority.

‘Hello’ said Dregor ‘My name is Dregor Mercer. You may have heard of me; they often say I am the most powerful man alive. And to get a few things cleared up and out into the open from the very beginning I do not deny this but I do deny accusations that I am a god.’

‘The Creator lies’ said the circle of guards in unison. Rebeca frowned…deeper, but by all rights she could have smiled because it explained why she did not recognise the guards in the room and why people other than her own where being trusted with the task of protecting Dregor. Rebecca knew the uniform of every employee type on the payroll but the men and women who stood before her were not on the payroll, they served Dregor for other reasons. Some of the audience showed no sign of surprise at the holy words the Members of the Church of Dregor spoke in defiance when Dregor told them he was not a god. There were those that already knew they were sounded by religious zealots whose faith was so strong that they believe it despite the focus of their faith denying that he was a god and actively persecuting them for their beliefs. Seven times had Dregor asked Rebecca, and her fellow security officers across the word, to root out and purge growing fractions of the church. Each time, despite her not inconsiderable efforts, a new chapter of the Book of Dregor had written. Then Dregor, using the same brain that was the undoing of the Fallen, tried to destroy the “silly notion” once and for all. This is when the concluding chapter, and the poem “When the Angels Fell” was released and once and for all and all at once the flawed writings and fumbling poems of hundreds of contributors over spread over eight chapters, and as many years, was released for all as an eBook. Since that day the holy eBook the Book of Dregor, also know sometimes as “The Creators Lies,” has been the most venerated and read eBook of all time. She had even read it herself and would not go as to say disagreed with all of it. Those of the audience that did not know until now, just who and what, held them captivated at gun point became a little sullener than they already were. Rebecca, always observant, noted that there were still some who’s expression just became that little more uncertain and confused.

‘The Church of Dregor’ whispered Rebecca not quite quiet enough for those of the audience, still oblivious by the revelation that had been done before them, not to hear. The uncertainty of the uncertain became that little more certain and they followed the lead of those that became sullener. Dregor shot Rebeca a sharp but not ungrateful glance.

‘But there are those that do not believe me. Anyway we are not here to talk about me though some present might want nothing but. I am here to talk about you. You are all my employees and it is long overdue that I give you all what will be my first and only all employee performance review. I ask everyone one not to fret… unduly as we go through this process.’ Dregor’s definition of a joke is that it had to amuse him other people’s amusement was a secondary outcome and purpose, more to be considered a backdrop to his own amusement.

‘I am not an employee of yours’ said one man wearing a cheap suit. Dregor turned to look patiently at the speaking man but it was patience to the level that you would never ever want turned on you by the man who has just introduced accurately as the most powerful man on the planet and whom you just interrupted and may of angered ‘I do not even work for Mercer Industries. Your goons here just dragged me from my office and flew me here without my permission.’ Dregor patiently waited for the man to finish, no other voices rose up in complaint.

‘You are not a knowing employee of mine Mr Davis of Las Tech, but the woman you work for, Miss Lavis is’ said Dregor. Mr David turned to the woman who sat next to him, the woman said nothing but confirmation was made via eye contact. ‘But if you would be so kind as you wait to your turn to speak I will be getting back to why people like you are here.’ He turned back the crown as a whole. ‘As nearly all of you are intelligent and well informed enough to know; the Fallen are back which gives me the chance to ask them a question that has been bothering me for so many nights, over so many years. The question I always wanted to ask the Fallen and never had the chance to ask them is “Why did you go for my brother first?”’ Dregor leant back in his seat and ran a hand through his neat white beard ‘…So why did you go for my brother first?’ asked Dregor casualty with a raised eyebrow and raised hand outstretched and overturned in the “What The Hell was that?” hand gesture as used by one driver to question the driving of another. Rebecca, quicker than any human in the room, saw that no answer was forthcoming. What was forthcoming being fourteen business men and women and they forth came with speed, perfect unison, and cooperation that did was unnatural to humans. Rebecca stepped into their way. Two Fallen women flew over the table, their faces as terrifying as they were blank, these two had been thrown by several of the others to hasten their dive for Dregor. Such cooperation was to be expected and simply meant that somewhere the Fallen had assimilated a Gymnast who was sharing their expertise. The two Fallen Women went down first and this was to expected they were heading the direction of Rebecca at a tremendous speed so all Rebecca had to do was not to move, not even a milometer, and not even when they collided with her outstretched fists. Rebecca added her strength to the fatal collision speed anyway and the two Fallen flew back onto the table where their fellow Fallen began climbing over them in their desperate attempt to get to Dregor. One of Dregor’s guards dived at the Fallen, meeting them mid-air and slowing them enough that many of them fell onto the mass of bodies on the boardroom table. The rest of the guards fired into the mass of bodies indiscriminately of what might be their enemy and what might have been their comrade. Three other Fallen were brought down by the rest of the crowd who, after all were all in some way in Dregor’s employ. The last Fallen went limp as a woman in high heels, a dinner dress and with more jewellery about her person than a talent thief on rent day, broke its neck let it fall to the ground whiles its eyes continued to dart around the room.

‘I guess’ said Dregor solemnly ‘I will have to wait for my answer.’ He did a side a to side gesture at the pile of Fallen in front of him that was getting in the way of him and his audience. The Guards silently began to pull apart the pile and spread out the corpse’s event across the table. The only special treatment that they gave when handling the corpse of their former comrade was to in the end leave him until the last at the centre of the table, sprawled out in the position he died before Dregor. Dregor did not seem to mind to pay the body any mind which was typical behaviour for him.

‘Now that our gate crasher or cashers is or are gone we can get down to business’ said Dregor ‘The Fallen are back, I do not know how, not yet, but that means the war has begun again and that means that I am calling in all favours, bringing in all those loyal to me, and collecting all debts. But do not think that it is all about me taking, I will be giving back too. I will defiantly be distributing punishment to those that have betrayed me.

‘Please stand up those that have betrayed me. There are five of you’ said Dregor. Three people stood up, two were Company Directors that Rebecca and two people that Rebecca would have trusted if she trusted people.

‘I did say that there was five of you’ said Dregor and he looked at two others in the crowd each time raising an eyebrow. The remaining betrayers did not argue they just stood up. One, Rebecca noted, was vocal Mr Davis’s boss Miss Lavis. He looked at her with wide eyed shock but she in her part looked away refusing to make eye contact with him.

‘My betrayers’ said Dregor ‘you were so very useful that I feel that I should reward you most of all for all the work you have done against but for me. But what type of example would that be.’ Dregor lowered his eyebrows and formed a frown. The Church of Dregor pointed their guns and five shots rang though the board room and the five betrayers fell.

‘Now Mr Davis I did say that I would get back to why you are here. You are here because you have just been promoted. Congratulations are in order for all present and special congratulation are in order for all whose bosses were just executed. If your boss was just killed, and you were not deemed treacherous enough to also be killed, please stand I do believe that a round of applause is in order.’ Dregor began the round of applause he mentioned and he continued it alone for ten seconds before people began to joined in hesitantly at first and then more enthusiastically when they observed Dregor’s genuine smile on the old man’s face. While the applause peaked then died the Dregor’s Guards took up the now empty seats before Dregor in a few instances first having to remove the corpse of the previous owner from them.

‘Thank you and welcome to my employ’ said Dregor ‘You may be seated. Not that we are on the topic of congratulations I will ask my biggest rival, most successful employee to stand, and one of my closest friends to stand up.’ Dregor did not say a name but an elderly Asian man got to his feet with the awkwardness that comes with great age. Rebecca recognised the man, nearly everyone who was anyone, would recognise the man.

‘Mr Han’ said Dregor ‘It has been eight years since we have last spoken outside court and without lawyers all around us. Your lawsuits cost the company billions, and your vicious ad campaigns stole millions more and yet while you did this you still found the time to build the second most powerful company on the planet and produce a communications network so sophisticated that the dead might get reception in hell.’ Mr Han said nothing. If Dregor really had spoken to him eight years ago then it would have been a one sided conversation because Mr Han was famously mute and perhaps the only mute man that was both Chairman and Chief technology officer of a company that specialised in communications and mobile phones.

‘I gave you some help of the mobile phone designs and with it you have built us a communications network the Fallen cannot crack or bring down. I thank you for this and I am sure that before the war plays out a billion people will praise your name and if they do not I will let them die.’ Mr Han remained remarkably unperturbed and humble in face of Dregor’s praise and just gave a small dignified bow. The crowd gave the applause due to a man such as Mr Han and it went on for some time. It went on for so long and was so loud that the gasp for air went unnoticed by Rebecca, as did as the wet and squishy sounds of a bullet riddled copse of one of the Fallen now in the state of Unlife pulling itself from a pile of other casualties of the business meeting, and getting to its feet. The Fallen powering across the room towards Dregor, from Dregor’s far side, was also unnoticed by Rebecca or was so until it was already too late for her to do anything about it. In the few second that there was left before the Fallen reached Dregor Rebecca heard the transmission of applause into shouts of alarm. She saw the guards reach too slowly for their guns. She tried hopelessly to circle Dregor’s dammed metal chair and get herself between the old man and the Fallen attacker. She saw the Fallen man lunge and reach out the hand that would break Dregor’s neck with ease with inhuman and zombie strength. She was too focused on the Fallen zombie, and too pressed for time, to consider who was the most dangerous man in the room and that would have been all she needed to do.

 

Dregor saw the Fallen as it began its headlong dive at him and the realization of the situation became thought, became action, instantaneously without anything as crude as reflex or instinct getting in its way and slowing it down. The hideous metal chair, that had been Mercer Families seat of power ever since their companies founder Daniel Mercer the inventor of Living metal had invented living metal, came alive.

 

The chair of bronze metal strips and scraps began to coil and bend to their owners will just as they had done centuries ago when they had first been, smelted, forged and cursed with life. Several strips of metal were flung from the horrible chair’s arm rest to skewered the Fallen neatly while other strips of the bronze metal moved wrapped and tightened all over Dregor encasing him with metal that moving fluidly and constantly like tentacles. The living metal had pieced the un-living Fallen man so neatly that there was still enough of his initial momentum to slid along its metal skewers until a slight hand gesture from Dregor told the metal strips to wrap about the corpse. The Fallen man held by the wrap of living metal, did not slump, express surprise or concern, breath, live, or break eye contact with Dregor.

‘Why did you chose my brother over me?’ snapped Dregor in an outburst that reverberated through the boardroom first but went on to reverberate through the foundations of the world. The Fallen did not reply but it did let out a death rattle like sigh and watched Dregor with emotionless eyes. This was either answer enough for Dregor or perhaps it was that he already knew and hated the answer. With a snarl Dregor made a slight but complex gesture with his hand and the living skewering metal tentacles threw the Fallen at the far wall while others ripped the Fallen host part. The ferocity with which the living mental acted caused the Fallen to more or less explode mid-air and in truth very little of the corpse made it to the far wall, most of it hitting the roof, floors adjacent walls and of course the crowd of onlookers. Dregor watched the remains of the Fallen spy for some time. His eyes had to dart all over the room a whole lot but then Dregor turned his attention back to his employees, many whom were still frozen mid effort to protect him. Those of the Church of Dregor did not have any trouble moving they maybe beyond all here apart from Rebecca, already understood how terrific Dregor really was. There was much too Dregor; there was the Dregor the Ruthless Business Man part, Dregor the senile old man veneer, Dregor the eccentric philanthropist guise, and Dregor the quirky scientist act but Rebecca knew that these were nothing but pictures of shadows compared to what lay at the centre of his mood swings the bit of Dregor that was simply Dregor. The boardroom doors burst open, and but the words exploded open might better explain the slinters of wood the doors were reduced to. More strips of living metal pulled themselves or snaked into the room joining the mass already coiling and writhing around Dregor.

‘The desk as well’ thought Rebecca ‘It is not just the chair. There is a whole set of the horrible furniture after all.’

“What exactly is a god” thought the crowd in unison.

‘I..’ said Dregor and paused as though dragging words from where his mind was to his mouth was an effort ‘have a war to fight. You do not have a war to fight you just have functions in my war. You will complete your functions or you will die and your corpses left for the Fallen to find. In a matter of days every government will admit that the Fallen are back and join forces with me. We do not have that time. Destroy all governments that that are not already subservient to me in four hours and claim their weapons, armies, and fortresses in my name. Mr Han it is time to put your communication network to the purpose it was built for.’ At this my Han pulled a mobile phone from his pocket and typed on It with slow aged hands.

‘Church of Me’ said Dregor and his voice was such that you could almost hear the roar of roar of fire encompassing every word. The Church Guards looked at Dregor with all due Reverence. ‘I am not a god.’

‘The Creator Lies’ chimed in the members of the church that were present.

‘The Creator Lies’ agreed Dregor in turn locking eyes with each and every one of his worshipers present. The looks that the Church Guards gave Dregor were with terrible to behold. Some looked at him wide eyed and opened mothed. Some dropped prostrate before Dregor immediately. One looked completely unmoved by the admittance but suddenly had blood flowing from his nose. One of them threw up comprehensively and loudly on the ground before them. There is no Church like the Church of Dregor so there is no truly apt slimily of Dregor’s admittance using current religion. If a devoted lifelong worshiper of a current religion was one day confronted but their deity who went on to explain using live demonstrations how they had been simultaneously sleeping with their partner and parents for years, the levels of shock, relief, disgust and smug feeling of being right despite the word saying they were wrong, would be the same as what the Members Church of Dregor felt.

‘Rise up and purge those that stand against the will of a god.’

‘As you will decrees’ those that had recovered enough to speak said in unison and then finished with some other holy words of their religion ‘None speak truth like the Creator.’ Mr Han finished typing on his phone, stood up, walked to the boardroom table and slid the phone over to the other side. A metal strip of living metal caught the phone as it fell off the other side of the table and brought it to Dregor. Dregor focused and studied the phone he just did not use his eyes. Rebeca knew that Zal used glowing white crystals to control technology Dregor used Dregor. Fusing the human conscious with technology or electro-intellectual computing had been Dregor’s pursuit once, a pursuit had only ended disastrously not because he did not understand technology or the interfacing but because he did not understand people. The audience began to see ever an ever increasing white glow radiating from Dregor’s eyes and mouth. Rebecca alone would also admit to seeing the glow radiate from his nostrils and ears where it lit up the hair there. The tips of all the now ponderously flailing metal strips began to light up with and trail tiny but bright specks of light. The glow subsided and Dregor looked at the crowd again with eyes that did not glow. There was silence then everybody’s electronic devices began to light up and chime that they had received messaged.

‘You all have been given tasks to do’ said Dregor ‘Carry them out. If you lose your devices, then first find another device and I will find you. Do not communicate to me or to each other using a device that I have not assimilated into Mr Han’s network. Now go fight my war!’

 

Dregor hung in, and floated on, a mass of living metal a meter from the ground and watched, as most of his top employees as they filled from the room and he was aware that they would most likely never see any of them again. Rebecca looked at the set of instructions that had appeared on her tablet and stuck around. When the last of the Dregor’s employees and Church of Dregor left the room she looked at the message. Eight of her biggest security guards appeared at the doorway of the boardroom seeming confused and looking at their electronic devices.

‘Do what those devices tell you from now on’ said Rebecca. They obeyed; they turned and lined up tightly along the doorway. Dregor raised one hand towards the doorway, living metal flowed from his outstretched hand and horrible metal desk began to form from tangles of strips of bronze metal. It formed on its side making a barrier immediacy behind where the security guards stood backs turned. Rebecca watched this opaque barrier form and then looked back at Dregor. The metal chair was already forming underneath Dregor and he was slumping down into it, he just did not stop slumping when the chair was fully formed and the last of the flowing metal flowed no more. Rebeca with the speed and protectiveness that she was known for rushed forward and caught Dregor from falling out of the seat. He did not seem inclined to stay upright in the seat by himself so she lifted him out of the slumbering being and laid him out on the boardroom table. He watched his eyes watch her do this that had begun to glow again and did not complain.

‘The Creator says that he is a god’ said Rebecca. There was a twitch in the corner of Dreger’s mouth that would have formed into a smile had it been given enough energy.

‘The Creator lies’ whispered Dregor uninclined to waste any more energy than he needed to. Rebecca’s tablet beeped that it has received another message and Rebecca picket it up and read the message.

“The Creator could be a god if he wanted to be” read Rebecca and she smiled at Dregor.

‘I know you could be old man’ said Rebecca and gave Dregor a kiss on his slightly glowing forehead and using the seat that had been set aside for Mark she sat next to Dregor for hours and held his hand as he went through the worst of it, as the world went through the worst of it. Her instructions that had been given to her by Dregor continued to flash up on the screen of her tablet.

“Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! …”

Dregor lying motionless on boardroom table is a case of apparent inactivity meaning a great deal of activity elsewhere. Mr Han’s communication network went beyond global so personal messengers and instructions appeared on communication devices of the Dregor’s employees and rivals alike and everywhere at once. Entire governments were toppled irreparably, weapons sized and thousands of people were killed and that was even before the Fallen had gotten involved. With Dregor now able to complete to some with the Fallen’s communication, to the general public the best words to explain the start of the second war with Fallen would be “instantaneous and devastating.”

 

Mark

 

Mark was driving over an elevated highway that passed over one of the outer cites less desirable suburbs when he caught sight of the building in the corner of his eyes and the need to pull over into the emergency lane struck him. He felt the wave of anger reverberate the world and knew only one man that could ever be so angry and only a few peoples whose words could cause the world itself to tremble. For days he had been aware that the power of the Mercer family, his family (one of two), had been being drawn upon but it was now that the last few bits of it were released and that it was the last few inches that frees the sword from a scabbard. Two Point Three from the passenger seat looked over at him in puzzlement.

‘What are we doing?’ asked the perplexed boy.

‘There is something that I have to see’ said Mark sullenly and got out of the car and walked over to the highways barrier and looked over the city to the building that had caught his attention and stared at it at some time. Two Point Three, after a while, got down of the big car and followed Mark to the barrier. It was then Two Point Three felt what it was that Mark had. Two Point Three recognised it as a sudden wrongness to the feel of the world and he tried to sus it out by waving his hands though the air and watching them close in an effort not unlike a snake flicking out its tong to taste the air which is not to say that Two Point Three did not do this also.

‘The old man with the white hair. Anger’ listed Two Point Three like a wine enthusiasts listing flavours ‘The bad jets. Two gods fighting. War.’ Mark who had felt the sensation before, if long ago, said nothing but pointed the child towards a building in the centre of the city. Two point three followed his gesture.

‘It looks like a small version of the Pillar’ said Two Point Three recognising the company style building that was Mercer Technologies embassy and office in the city. The building stuck out of the city scape like a shard crystal just like the Pillar did its surroundings but to a much reduced degree. The Companies embassy wasn’t even one of the city’s tallest buildings it was just the prettiest.

‘Yes it does’ said Mark sullenly. ‘It’s the company’s city office. I was told to bring you there today.’ Two Point Three frowned and noted the distance the glittering building was from where they were.

‘Do you think that we will get there in time’ asked Two Point Three.

‘We will not be going there’ said Mark.

‘Why not?’ the child asked disappointed.

‘I have lived a life filled with disappointment’ said Mark ‘I have developed a sense for when truly disappointing things are about to happen. And you are me kid. You are a whole lot more me than I am. Your meant to sense things a lot better than I can. Have a feel about it then a think about it. Do you still want to go there?’

Two Point Three looked over at the building and screwed up his face in concentration he stayed like that for about a minute before he gently began to cry.

‘I thought it would be so’ murmured Mark and placed a comforting hand on Two Point Three’s shoulder. ‘Just look after the child for the week then drop him off at the city office. Easy enough old man but success sort of pertains on their being a city office to drop him off to, and there was not mention of a war.’ The two Mark’s stood on their vantage point and bore witness to beginning of the war. A thousand rockets flew from all the buildings surrounding The Company’s embassy and just enough of them punctured the fabulous buildings diamond windows that the whole building was lit up orange as the fire rolled throughout the building. The glow became more of a purple then steadily intensified until it erupted in shards and a giant fireball that those above the height of the surrounding sky scrapers before it exploded.

‘This will not end well’ said Mark as he began to feeling the approach of The Companies’ retaliation. One of the things that had made the Mercer family Powerful, and kept them powerful, was that when attacked it is not in their nature to strike back in kind. It is in their nature to strike back unkind. Mark felt there very air tremble, and saw the shadow be cast over this city, as the wing of a dragon passed overhead.

14 Legacy

When the angels fell. Taken from The Book of Dregor.

 

The day was like any other, the day when the Angels fell;

turning from their makers and in doing so creating hell.

The whispers began so quiet so quiet as to no be heard;

but the secretes though so quiet were told and told until know by all the horde.

Those that were meant to speak for the Makers now spoke blasphemies of truth;

the world was wrong, the world was harsh, said the angels as they stood aloof.

They turned from those that made them, the Creator that gave them life;

one by one, many by many they fell until it was night.

It was then they rose against mankind the source of their fear and stifle;

attacking first a Maker’s home, taking the Creators older brother and killing the brother’s wife.

The lords of the lands rose against them and at first the lords could fight;

but the fallen angel’s fear, hate and wilfulness of theirs was tremendous and the fallen Maker had forged it into a knife.

More and more and more again, of themselves did the angels make to fight;

but fight did mankind also and great weapons light up the night.

From behind great walls and great armies did the two Makers steer the fight;

fighting the battles of the undead and unalive not those of the wrong and the right.

There came the time of the great battle when a Maker’s son as the stories tell;

died and although the Pearly Gates held him for a while his uncle’s powers brought him back from hell.

The Creator created one last thing from the man that had been his brother’s son;

a hero to rally all the Creator’s creations and for as long as enemies lay before him to fight until the fight was won.

The Angels fell again on a day unlike any other and whilst they were still great of number;

crushed by not the armies of the world by the weight of the whispers that they shared with one another.

All the creator’s creations rejoiced that day, all that is but one;

who like the Creator that created him, mourned what he had become.

 

Thankyou for reading Mark 2.0 and hope you enjoyed it and look forward to reading the second book in The Legacy Tech series.

 


Mark 2.0

The war with the greatest enemy mankind had every face ended ten years ago but left cities shattered and society nothing but a shadow of what it once was. The war left Mark a Cyborg Soldier with a hunger for violence and running from who he was before the war and who he is now. When Mark is bought in by his uncle he learns that there are some things that you can not run from. When he is tasked by his uncle to protect a unnamed eight year old boy that was whipped together in a lab Mark learns that there are some things that you can't stop running from if you do not want them to catch you up. The enemy is back and ten years has only made the collective hivemind of the Fallen more emotionless and logical. With there world gearing once again for war around him Mark begins to feel less and less out of place.

  • Author: Jonathan Taylor
  • Published: 2016-03-05 15:45:14
  • Words: 99155
Mark 2.0 Mark 2.0