Chapter 27: Recovery
Inside the apartment Vee sat next to the unconscious form of Bolt staring at the TV as Ellie tore away Tuition’s dog tags and wrapped the chain tightly around her wrist. She quickly looked down as Bolt began to stir.
She wiped her eyes, put a tired smile on her face, and spoke in a quiet calm voice. “Hey there, how’re you feeling?”
Bolt groaned and massaged her temples. “It feels like my brain was sucked out of my skull by a vacuum cleaner.”
“That was real stupid of you, y’know, you should have waited for the others.” Her tone was stern.
Bolt unconsciously scratched her nose. “You know me; I was never one to wait for those slower than me.”
Vee raised an eyebrow. “Baby, that’s the kind of thinking that gets people killed. That’s the kind of thinking that got you killed.”
“Yeah.” Bolt looked sheepish.
She sat up, surveying her new world, it was much smaller than she remembered.
“Well I guess I’m stuck here now.”
Vee got up and sat on the nearby futon. “Perhaps…”
“Huh?” Bolt got up and sat beside her.
“Wulf is taking your body to Banthu, hopefully Ellie will follow soon after, we might be able to get you back in your body.”
Vee shook her head. “No Bolt, you don’t want to be here.” She looked sadly around the apartment. “Look at what it’s done to Kid, she sleeps over twenty-two hours a day, she’s little more than a zombie. We’re all grateful to still be alive but we’re stuck here, I don’t want you to be stuck with us as well. We’re going to have Banthu repair the damages to your physical body and then we’re going to try until the end of time to get you back in it.”
Bolt slumped in defeat, she looked over at Kid sleeping in the bed, her skin was pale, she almost looked haggard. Looking closer at Vee she could see that her cheeks were hollow and her skin sallow, the spark that she once had was dimming.
“We’re trying to improve things in here, but I doubt it will be enough to cater to four of us, five including Ellie. Please don’t tell her any of this, the last thing she needs are more problems.”
“Ok, for you,” Bolt said quietly.
On the screen the two could see the Sons’ ATTV carefully rolling through the battlefield towards Ellie, as it pulled up the two could see the side door open and Juvinea wave Ellie over. Ellie took one final look at Tuition and gently laid him on the ground.
Ellie pulled herself inside the ATTV and slumped to the ground inside the large storage bay, she pushed herself to the back wall. Juvinea shakily walked over and sat beside Ellie.
She placed a hand on Ellie’s massive shoulder. “Hey.”
Ellie’s voice was quiet. “Hey.”
Ellie let her head slump. “It’s all so stupid… nobody had to die… we didn’t want anybody to die.”
“Oh, sweetie, it wasn’t your fault.”
“I talked to those men who talked to Burke. It’s my fault that this all happened.”
Juvinea’s tone was firm. “This would have happened regardless of who you talked to, all that’d’ve changed was who pulled the trigger. Talking to Burke was the right choice, now he’s gone and Schultz is defeated.”
“He’s not acting like it.”
“Well of course not, he has to keep up appearances, but he’s ours. Things will get better, just watch.”
Ellie only grunted in acknowledgment and let the shaking of the ATTV jostle her around. After several minutes the vehicle came to a slow stop once more, the door opened and the rest of the Indra climbed aboard, their mood sullen.
Ghost and Pixia sat flanking Ellie and Juvinea while the rest settled against the various walls of the storage bay, all were exhausted. A terse silence hung in the air only to be broken by Anon slumping to the ground, dead to the world.
“That’s my line,” muttered Lethe before promptly slumping over.
Juvinea looked around at the wilted Indra. “How about you all get some rest, you’ve more than earned it.”
Ghost leaned in close to Juvinea, disregarding her attempts to get up. “That’s an excellent idea.” She was asleep before she even finished the sentence.
Juvinea tried to push herself up but Ghost had her pinned down.
Juvinea sighed. “Oh well, I suppose it could be worse.” She side eyed Wall. “C’mere, let’s get you comfy.” She pulled the unconscious Ghost in closer, wrapping her arm around her shoulder.
Juvinea felt a strange rumbling coming from Ghost and Ellie, not quite audible; it almost resembled the purring of a massive cat. Finally resigning herself to her fate of rest she cuddled into Ellie’s massive arm and closed her eyes.
Juvinea awoke to an incredibly stiff neck, Ellie and Ghost were gone and she was wrapped up in a utility blanket. She struggled from the massive cover startling the cleaning technician who was reclining in the driver’s seat.
“Whoa! Where did you come from?”
“I was taking a nap.” She quickly torqued her neck from side to side, sharp cracking bounced through the cargo bay.
The technician cringed. “You alright?”
“Oh, that felt wonderful.” She unsteadily stood up. “Do you know where the Indra went?” She gently leaned against the wall.
“Erm, I know a few went up to Mr. Schultz’ office and a few are in engineering, I’m afraid I’m not really privy to the goings on around here.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling.” She threw open the cargo door and stepped out into the massive loading bay. Before she went off in search of the Indra she called back into the ATTV. “Are the elevators back up?”
“Nope! Sorry, you’ll have to take the stairs.”
She meandered down the beige corridors, occasionally peeking into the doorways, most were vacant though some contained engineers and scientists bustling away as if everything was normal. Juvinea reflected on the past several days. She paused… Several days? It felt so much longer.
She pushed open the door to the stairwell, the sounds of conversation and footsteps echoed throughout the massive tube of concrete. Looking up and down she could see spirals of stairs stretching to infinity. Up it is. After no less than twenty-five minutes of clambering up the stairs Juvinea’s legs were burning. Only a few floors to go, when this was all over… elliptical!
She pushed open the door to Engineering level 7 and made her way to her sister’s workroom. Peeking her head around the empty doorframe she saw that the room was empty. Marjorie’s office? Empty. The lounge? Empty. Her own workroom? Empty. There was no way in hell that she was going to brave the stairs again so she sat down at one of her worktables and began tinkering. Eventually she wadded up an old burlap sack she had for some reason and rested her head on it and fell back asleep.
Many floors beneath Juvinea’s feet a motley crew made their way toward the central computer core. Schultz and Marjorie, with Ghost, Pixia, and Death escorting them, picked their way through the gag inducing wreckage of the Protos.
Pixia gave Ghost a little nudge. “I’d recognize your signature anywhere.”
“You should’ve seen it; it put the Horsemen’s fight with Schultz to shame. Thirty of ‘em all at once!” Marjorie was getting excited at the memory.
Death metaphorically cleared his throat, interrupting Marjorie’s exaggerated recollection. “Yes, we all know what Ghost is capable of.”
Pixia made a soft seething noise. “Ooh, that felt passive aggressive.”
Death cocked his head in confusion. “Wait… what? No…” He nearly tripped on a small pile of shredded steel.
“Are you jealous?” There was a coy edge to Pixia’s tone.
Ghost put a calming hand on Pixia’s shoulder. “Down honey.”
“Sorry, it’s just that things have been so serious these past couple of days, I haven’t been able to let loose in a while.” She gave her wings an impatient ruffle.
Death gave her a hearty clap on the shoulder. “Soon, but right now things are still all business.”
“You have until sundown,” Pixia intoned ominously.
“Good god, I wish my cabinet could sort things out as fast as you lot.” Schultz let out a chuckle. “There really is something to be said about camaraderie.”
“It’s not your cabinet anymore Laverne, you’re just the mouthpiece, a mascot.”
Schultz let out a sigh. “I had intended on resisting the change… but it seems Burke, in his infinite stupidity, made up my mind for me.”
Ghost spoke before Pixia could snap of a snarky remark. “I overheard your conversation yesterday in the camp; you said that you trusted Burke.”
“That I did. He was contacted by my enemies, perhaps even conspired with them, and yet he still stood by my side and took my side in the end, even after I’d lost. The actions he took in the crater were his alone, I do not condone them, I simply cannot, such wanton slaughter is repugnant.”
“What about Knossos?”
“Oh, that.” Schultz looked wistful. “Probably my greatest success believe it or not. I sacked the city without firing a single shot, and I razed it long after the people had all left. The moment those people unwillingly entered my care their quality of life increased dramatically. The opinions of history have not been quite so kind to what I did, but I feel the ends justified the means, if only just that once. When the foundations were finally laid, I let those who yearned for a different life leave, though most wished to stay.”
Death shook his head. “History is rarely kind. I wonder what those who came after us thought of what we were and what we did.”
Pixia shrugged. “Well they never brought us out of retirement so they either forgot or figured it was best we stayed buried.”
“Yeah, we did some pretty messed up stuff… just thinking of what they had Famine do.” Death shuddered, “sickening.”
Everything was quiet for a moment, save for the click of Schultz heels on the tiled floor. Finally Schultz spoke. “Death, when we get a moment, I’d like for you to tell me about the past, what it was like back when you Indra were in operation. I’ve always been curious but I never found the dry official writings to be quite engaging enough, I’d like to hear your story.”
“I’d gladly do that, when there’s time of course.”
“I hope you two don’t mind if I eavesdrop,” said Marjorie.
“I have no objections.”
They turned the corner and were faced with the long hallway to the computer core. The walls were shredded and the floors were covered in a strange powdery substance. Ghost crouched and whisked up a small amount of the powder with her finger, she gave it a sniff.
“Ooh, Schultz that’s just dirty, Flouro’s a cheap shot. And I was wondering why my feet have been itching.”
“Cheap but effective, to be fair, I never actually expected anyone to try and attempt what you lot did, almost all of this was for show. Even the door, it’s not mounted to anything, just drywall and a few girders.”
Pixia began picking her way through the mess; the hallway was too small to take flight. “Laverne, you’re a regular peacock.”
Schultz sighed. “We both know I have no idea what that is.”
Ghost lifted Marjorie while Death picked up Schultz; carefully they made their way through the bitter smelling powder, making sure not to let any of it touch their skin.
Marjorie let out a tired sigh. “AA and Flouro, what’s next?”
Schultz’ eyes widened slightly. “Oh, is that what you were after in the arsenal? Wow you really weren’t messing around.”
Death put down Schultz in the wrecked doorway. “Indeed, if all else failed we intended of detonating it, and you by proxy.”
“Hopefully not all at once.”
“No, Scorn talked us out of that.” Death patted his hands around his waist. He stopped. “Um, the detonator was on my belt, Marjorie, did you happen to see it anywhere?”
The group stopped.
Marjorie’s eyes were wide though her voice was dangerously calm. “Death, I want you to retrace your steps, right back to the crater, it might have fallen off when you threw away your weapons to fight.”
It was Ghost’s turn to stiffen. “Oh no… Burke. I took him back to the center after I got him, he seemed rather squirmy for a second.”
Without a word Death and Ghost took off running down the corridor.
Death yelled over his shoulder. “You three finish up here and meet us back in the holding cells!”
Schultz, Marjorie, and Pixia ran to the control console. Marjorie input a complicated series of commands and spit on an exposed sensor. Several lights turned green and a low hum reverberated around the chamber.
“I’m starting her in dummy mode, voice commands won’t work, but the lights, computer network, and elevators will be up and running. Laverne, we’ll have to come back later to scour your voice imprint from her.”
A dull thud echoed down the hallway and through the destroyed doorframe.
Pixia took flight. “And that’s our cue to get moving! Schultz I’m throwing you across.”
“Fine by me!”
Pixia lifted Schultz and flew full speed at the doorway, she stopped suddenly, launching Schultz over the Flouro covered floor. Marjorie came sprinting after them, virtually leaping into Pixia’s waiting arms. The group sprinted down the corridor to the waiting elevators. The door opened with a cheerful ding revealing a shredded mess of bullet holes and a massive hole punched in the floor.
“Ellie’s handiwork, we’re not waiting for the next one.” Schultz squeezed along the edge of the hole, digging his fingers into the metal. “I already fell down this shaft once, and I’m not eager to do so again.”
Pixia straddled the hole and kept Marjorie pushed against the side.
“Detention level A!” Schultz yelled.
Marjorie shook her head. “Voice commands aren’t on, you’ll have to select it manually.”
“What’s the code for the detention levels?”
She let out an exasperated sigh. “Oh let me do this.”
Marjorie squirmed along the wall until she was within arm’s reach of the floor selector; flipping through a small colorful menu she selected ‘Detention Level A’ on the touchscreen. She looked over at Schultz “We haven’t used the code system in a long time.”
The elevator jerked into life and began lifting the three up to the detention levels.
Marjorie tapped at the screen a few more times, inputting a code. “Alright, we shouldn’t be stopped I set priority on our floor.”
Schultz grunted in approval. “You’ve really been busy.”
“Laverne, honey, I basically run this building, how do you think we took everything down so easily? I even built escape tunnels and nobody questioned it.”
Pixia spoke up. “And yet another lesson in putting too much power in the hands of one person has been learned, thank goodness you’re mostly benevolent.”
Marjorie scoffed. “Pfft! Me benevolent? Not on your life sweetheart.” She could feel Pixia pushing her tighter into the wall. “Oi, don’t get any ideas.”
Pixia’s voice was the epitome of innocent. “Hmm? I’d never do that.”
The doors opened on a scene of absolute chaos. A massive, near spherical space had been evaporated from the inside of the building, leaking into the floors above and below.
“Yep, that woulda killed me real quick,” Schultz muttered.
Death ran over to the three. “Burke’s gone, he was playing up his meltdown do keep us off guard, he had the AA detonator. We don’t know where he is, by now he could be anywhere in the building!”
“I’ll scope out the tunnels, I can get there the fastest!” Pixia turned around and pulled the doors apart, she neatly jumped through the hole in the floor of the elevator, plummeting down the shaft.
Marjorie shook her head. “He knows the layout of this place as well as I do, there are more ways out of here than you Indra can cover. He could be halfway across the city by now.” She turned to look at Schultz. “Is the military still guarding the border?”
Schultz shook his head. “No, we pulled everyone for the meeting; nobody’s guarding anything for a while.”
Marjorie pulled off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “I’m sorry Death, but he’s gone.”
“Dammit!” Death smashed his fist into the nearest wall.
She hurriedly put her glasses back on and put a reassuring hand on Death’s shoulder. “He can’t hide forever, the communications network will find him eventually, all we have to do is wait for him to pop back up.”
Schultz turned back to the elevator. “There’s nothing more we can do here, let the repair teams do their thing. I’d like to speak to my grandson about reestablishing trade with the Shalti, do either on you know where he’d be?”
Death shrugged. “Probably in the guest quarters. I’m due down in Banthu’s lab, we need to see if Bolt can get back into her body, but we’ll get you settled with your grandson first.”
Marjorie furrowed her eyebrows. “What happened to Bolt.”
“She went and got herself killed.” Death said nonchalantly.
“You don’t sound very surprised about that.”
“Honestly I’m not, the way she’s been going it almost feels like that’s what she’s be angling for.”
“You can fill us in on the way up!” Schultz yelled from the elevator.
Unaware of the events taking place in the floors above, the bulk of the Indra crowded around the small doorway leading to Banthu’s tiny lab. Inside the room Banthu was hunched over the still body of Bolt, carefully inspecting the wound. He carefully felt around inside the hole, feeling for something. Ellie was kneeling nearby waiting for the prognosis.
Inside the apartment, Bolt was staring intently at every movement Banthu made. Vee sat next to her cross-legged on the arm of the futon.
A small scowl was plastered on her face. “Does he have to be so…” She made vague hand gestures.” Eh, about it?”
Vee raised an eyebrow. “If by ‘eh’ you mean careful, then yes. He’s probably inspecting the hole to make sure your board wasn’t damaged.”
Katrine sank into the futon next to Bolt. “It’s a matter of life and purgatory; of course he’s going to be careful about it.”
Bolt squinted her eyes. “He’s totally enjoying this, look at that glint in his eyes.”
Vee massaged the bridge of her nose. “That’s called determination sweetie. You really don’t get out much.”
Her scowl deepened. “It’s just weird is all.”
“Bolt, look at what you are, where you are, I think him poking around your dead body is the most normal thing about this situation.”
Bolt sighed. “You and your damned logic.”
Vee poked Bolt in the forehead. “Maybe if you started using this you might find you have a bit of logic in there as well.”
Bolt swatted the finger away. “Stop poking me.”
“Oh? And what’ll you do if I don’t?” Vee started poking Bolt all over. “I will poke you till the end of time!”
Katrine watched as the two devolved into a mess of giggling and poking. Pretty soon Bolt began poking back, eventually the two fell onto the floor laughing.
Kid poked her head around the corner, making eye contact with Katrine. “And this is why I stay away from my extended family! Ya’ll’re weird!” She ducked back around the corner.
Katrine looked back at the TV, quickly she reached for the remote as she saw Banthu talking to Ellie.
His tinny voice filled the room. “-while the board is completely undamaged the bulk of her fiber optics have been severed. If she’d been hit anywhere else the damage would be irreparable, but I think I have enough resources to fix the cabling, the biomass will fill in over time, I used up my last fixing Wall’s arm.”
Ellie nodded. “Do it.”
Banthu got up, his joints popping. “Now this is a deceptively simple procedure. I must be careful to make sure each thread goes to the proper output, otherwise when she goes to move her leg she could wind up swinging her arm, she could adapt but it would be best to keep things the way they were.” He shuffled to a small bubbling tank and pulled out a thick wad of stringy fiber optics. “Now as soon as I complete this you’ll have to send her back immediately to see if the threading takes. We might have to do this several times.” He looked over at Ellie. “Are you ready?”
Ellie nodded somberly.
“All right then.” With neither pomp nor circumstance Banthu wadded the stringy mass up and shoved it Bolt’s chest cavity. “Done.”
Ellie scrambled up. “Wait, what about what you just said?”
Banthu cackled. “I was just messing with you, no, you Indra are foolproof. Get her back in there and the wiring with rethread perfectly. That little chip in your head built you once, and it can do so again.”
Ellie could hear Wall chuckling, she looked over at him. “Wait you knew?”
Wall shrugged. “Well yeah, he did the same thing with my arm. I was just wondering how long he’d play it up for.”
Wulf reached up and gave Wall a slap on the back of the head.
Wall turned around and looked at the others. “Alright who did that?”
The Indra were silent.
Ellie let out a small huff then a small chuckle. “Alright, let’s get this over with. When we’re done here we’ll have to see about getting War back in his body.”
“Oh, what happened to War?” Banthu’s voice was sad.
“Well, for lack of better phrasing, he got cut in half. Marjorie removed his board t—“
“Wait she removed his board?!”
“Well that made a simple restoration job into a full blown reconstruction. I don’t have enough biomass for something like that.”
Lethe pushed his way into the room. “Also, doctor, where did you get your biomass from?”
“Well, most of it is synthetic, lab grown proteins and amino acids, to be honest I stole most of it. There were several compounds that couldn’t be synthesized but were readily available in my rabbit stock.”
“You breed rabbits?”
“I’ve been known to dabble, I’m a geneticist by trade and you Indra are just a hobby.”
“I was worried that you were doing things the old fashioned way.”
Banthu curled his lip. “Ugh! Never, that’s simply barbaric.”
“Well that addresses one of the elephants in the room, but there’s still one more.”
“Oh? Ask away.”
“Katrine, how did you get her brain?”
“Hmm, yes I can see how that would be suspicious. I think it was mostly pity that led me to choose her. She died of natural causes, brain aneurism; she just dropped dead in her lab. I snuck into the morgue; I had business in the hospital and secured her brain.”
“Wouldn’t it be damaged from being dead for so long?”
“Normally yes, but experiments on rabbit brains led me to discover that the biomass would ‘fill in the blanks’, which would account for how some things seem permanent in her mind. You told me that there is an entire apartment that she can manifest in, that’s because of the biomass. She’s almost as much an Indra as any of you are.” He turned to Ellie. “Now go on and get Bolt back in there.”
Ellie stood and moved over to where Bolt’s body lay. She placed her hand on Bolt’s forehead and waited.
Inside the apartment Bolt stood in front of the door, tightly hugging Vee.
Vee began pushing Bolt towards the door. “It’s not like you’ll never see me again, stop being so clingy.”
“I think at this point you’re the one hugging me.” Bolt raised her arms to show Vee hadn’t let go.
Katrine had snuck up behind the two and had silently opened the door.
“You let your guard down…” Vee said quietly.
Vee hurled Bolt from the apartment where she quickly melted into the darkness of the void.
With a start, Bolt woke up in her own body. What struck her first was not the pain, but the inability to move her body.
Banthu was suddenly above her. “Just keep trying to use your body, the more you work at it the faster things will mend.”
Bolt focused on her left arm, just trying to raise it. She heard a soft snap from her chest and her left arm raised up. Then she tried the elbow, then the wrist. A cascade of snapping filled the room as the cabling snapped into place. Bolt pushed herself up dangling her legs over the edge of the table; it seems death had left her body no worse for wear, apart from the massive hole in her chest.
Ellie came over and pulled her from the table, Bolt landed solidly on her feet. She gave them a few stamps in approval, the contents of a nearby shelf rattled slightly.
Bolt began stretching; she was still a bit stiff. “Well then, I’d say my resurrection has been a resounding success.”
Banthu cleared his throat. “Indeed, though I’d recommend testing your body somewhere that isn’t my lab.” He turned to look at Ellie, specifically her leg. “Now we just have to get you back in once piece and we’ll be golden.”
Ellie leaned back against the wall. “I don’t want it back.”
Banthu scowled. “What?”
“I’ve gotten used to it, actually I rather prefer it. All I need right now is a suitable crutch.”
“You wish to remain crippled?” Banthu’s voice was monotone with disbelief.
Banthu sighed. “Well, you are your own person, you can make your own choices, but if you do reconsider…”
“I’ll know where to find you.”
The slapping of bare feet could be heard moving through the corridors. Pixia blitzed around the corner and ran to the others.
“Burke got away!” she yelled.
The Indra stirred, those that were sitting down leapt to their feet.
Ellie thrust her head through the open doorway. “What!? How did he manage that!?”
“The little shit got his hands on the AA detonator, he used it in the holding cells and slipped away while everyone was distracted.”
Banthu spoke before the others could get too worked up. “If he’s loose in the building then that means he could be anywhere. When did he escape, roughly speaking?”
“About twenty-five minutes ago.”
“There is no way on this good green earth that you’ll be able to find him, not even if there were fifty of you. Let the communications network and Intelligence do their thing, he’ll be found eventually. It’s no use worrying about it.”
“But I am worrying!”
Banthu groaned in annoyance. “Then keep looking, you’ll never find him.”
Pixia ran off, followed by several others, Famine, Lethe, Ellie, and Bolt stayed behind.
“And the rational ones have been revealed.” Banthu muttered.
“Oh, no,” said Bolt, “I’d be right there behind them but the horrendous pain in my chest is a bit of a limiting factor.”
“No, no, I’d say that still makes you one of the rational ones.”
Ellie gently clapped her hands together. “Well, I’m going off to the lounge; I’m long overdue for a good night’s sleep, and call me crazy but you all are as well.”
Lethe shrugged. “Yeah, fair enough.”
Ellie looked down at Bolt. “Feel up for a little walk?”
“Sounds like fun.”
Chapter 28: Follow Your Dreams
A week passed and Burke was never found. It was assumed that he escaped into the flatlands, or went deep into hiding somewhere in Alcadon. Ellie was languishing in the lounge as she’d done so many times before, struggling to find something to do. She withdrew into the apartment; she grabbed the crutch leaning on the doorframe and plunked down on the futon next to Vee, who was getting her portrait done by Katrine. The floor and walls were covered in sketch paper and the new door in the far wall was still barred. Kid was napping on the bed as per usual.
“Careful!” Katrine whisper-yelled. “Don’t disturb her, I’m almost done.” With a few more flourishes Katrine put down the pencil. “Alright, come and take a look.”
Ellie and Vee got up and peered at the drawing. Immediately Vee began slapping at Katrine, the drawing was of a horse.
“You butt! You made me sit still for over an hour!”
Katrine shielded herself from the slaps. “What? I think it looks pretty good, I think I nailed the head shape.”
Vee began chasing Katrine around the apartment. She lunged and caught Katrine around the waist; they tumbled to the ground near the bed laughing. Kid emerged like an ancient sea creature from the covers and swan dived into the scuffle.
All the air left Katrine’s lungs as Kid landed on her. “Pooh! Oh, Kid, heavy, too heavy!”
“Ten outta ten!” yelled Vee.
Ellie hobbled over and sat on the bed. “It’s nice to know you guys are keeping yourselves entertained.”
Katrine struggled to her feet, still breathing heavily. “Yeah, almost dying every day really makes you appreciate the little things. How are things outside?”
“Oh, well things are going back to normal, a couple of the Indra left, Wulf and Scorn returned to the north, though what Scorn intends to do up there is anybody’s guess.”
Vee nodded her head. “Maybe trying to patch things up with the Tch’Gough? What about Bolt, did she decide to stick around?”
Ellie shook her head. “Nah, you know Bolt better than any of us. She said she was going to travel far south to Shiim, Wall decided to accompany her, though chaperone would likely be a more appropriate word.”
Vee laughed. “Oh, I can just imagine the arguments. They’ll do alright. What about everybody else?”
“Everybody else is sticking around for the time being. Hmm, lemme think, uh, Lethe is basically Schultz’ official ‘minder’, whatever that means, and Xypia’s his bodyguard.”
Katrine screwed her face up in confusion. “Didn’t Schultz break Xypia’s neck?”
Vee looked back at Katrine, a devious glint in her eyes. “He’s probably waiting for the perfect time to strike… Like right now!”
“Eh, fair enou- Wha!”
Vee threw Katrine over her shoulder, where she landed heavily on the floor.
Katrine’s voice was strained. “That was a dick move.”
Vee laughed. “And don’t I know it.”
“You two should really take up wrestling or something.”
Katrine peeled herself off the carpet. “I think we already have. How’s Lethe doing with Juvinea?”
Ellie shrugged. “He won’t say, he just clams up and changes the subject.”
Katrine put Vee in a surprise headlock. “Aww, he’s totally in love. What about our other lovebirds?”
“Actually they’ve settled down, their trying to live a normal life in the city, if such a thing is even possible.”
“They’re so cute together.” Katrine gave Vee a rough noogie.
“Um, do you two need some time to yourselves?”
“No, I think we’re done.” Katrine released Vee and fell back onto the floor breathing heavily. “You’re getting slow.”
Vee’s face was red as a tomato. “Hey, to be fair I’m a little rusty.” She coughed a few times and went to the kitchen to get some water. “What about the Three Amigos?”
“They’re working with law enforcement now, doin’ a damn good job of it too. From what I’ve been hearing, Nicky Town is almost habitable again.”
Vee took a long drink. “Ey, that’s great. Oh, what about Anon?”
“He’s going to university, something about becoming a surgeon, and a chef.”
Vee went back to the futon and stretched out. “Y’know that’s what he was initially meant to be, back in the old days. Sadly he stood out too much, I think it’s great that’s he’s back pursuing his old passion.”
“Wait, a surgeon or a chef?”
“Yeah, that makes a bit more sense.”
“And what about you?”
Ellie threw her arms up. “I have no idea.”
Katrine sat down next to Vee. “Eh, we’ll figure something out.”
There was a knocking on the door.
Katrine gestured for Ellie to go. “Better see who it is, we’re not presentable right now.”
Ellie returned to her body, Ghost was standing over her.
“Hey Ellie, could you give me a hand with something?”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
Ghost leaned down and whispered something.
“Wait, you want me to do what?” Ellie was very confused by Ghost’s request.
“No please, hear me out…” Ghost held out a small grey box with a long metal protrusion.
“You want me to go to a bar with this?”
“Yes… it’ll give a molecular reading on the alcohol. I was hoping Katrine could do me a favor and mix a few drinks for me.”
Ellie sighed deeply. “Just a moment, I need to speak to her about this.” Ellie sat down and with drew into her thoughts.
She entered the apartment where Vee and Katrine were just getting up from the futon.
“Well what do you think? Could you do it?” asked Ellie.
“Well it depends on the complexity of the drink. I doubt any of them are as complex as those antibiotics I made earlier, and as you can see I’ve been practicing.” She gestured the immense amount of paper everywhere.
Vee spoke up. “Ghost has been after alcohol for a very long time, since before we were put under. I’d say she’s waited long enough, let’s humor her.”
“Alright we’re agreed?” Ellie looked over at Kid. “I hear no objections, let’s do this.”
Ellie left the apartment.
“Alright Ghost, we’re all agreed, let’s take you drinking.”
“Excellent! I know just the place.” Ghost grabbed her cloak, and rushed for the door.
She threw the door open, smashing it into Pixia who promptly fell backwards rubbing her chin.
“Oi, watch where you’re swinging that thing, I only got one ‘a these.”
“Sorry!” Ghost barely looked down she was so eager to be off.
Ellie hobbled behind her, stopping next to Pixia. “You OK?
“Yeah, what’s gotten into her?”
“I’m taking her drinking.”
“Hah! Of course she’d be excited over that.” She sighed, pulling herself up. “Don’t let her overdo it; I want my cuddle buddy back in one piece.”
“I’ll try.” Ellie quickly hobbled after Ghost who had just rushed around the corner. “Damn, wait up!”
Ellie stared at Ghost with a sense of Puzzlement. Nicky Town, midnight, hood down. Ghost was nearly running down the sidewalk. The amount of stares the pair were drawing would have made anyone cower in embarrassment.
“So do we need to bribe you with alcohol to get you out of that cloak now?” Ellie called after Ghost who was now jogging down the sidewalk.
“Perhaps…” Ghost poked her head down several dark alleys until turning sharply into the fifth. “This way!”
Ghost rushed down the alley, stopping at a small set of stairs. She leapt down the stairs, and threw open the door.
“My precious!” She gazed longingly at the glimmering wall of booze.
The patrons of the bar turned in absolute shock. The bartender’s jaw was completely slack. Ellie squeezed through the door behind Ghost, giving her a little nudge to get her moving. Ghost moved as if in a trance to the bar, Ellie following closely.
Ghost sat at one of the empty stools while Ellie, due to her size, stood.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this moment.” Ghost’s voice was quiet.
The bartender, after some stuttering, found his voice. “Erm, can I help you ladies with anything?”
“Yes, we’d like a few drinks.”
“It’s not my place to point out, but neither of you have mouths.”
“We have a way.”
The bartender sighed. “Alright, what’ll you have?”
Ellie placed a hand on Ghost’s shoulder. “Restraint.”
In the end there were fourteen small glasses of alcohol on the counter in front of the two, with colors ranging from green to red to purple.
“Alright, I’ll get Katrine on it.” Ellie looked to the bartender. “I’m sorry but we may be blocking the counter for a while.”
The bartender pulled out a tray and placed the glasses on it. “Here, let’s get you to a booth.”
“That’s an excellent idea.”
Ghost sat in the booth, bouncing eagerly. Ellie followed the bartender back to the bar.
“There is a chance that this will actually make her drunk, it’s slight but possible. Do you have anything that’ll sober her up?”
A thin smile spread across the bartender’s face. “That I do, I never thought I’d see an Indra take it though, here lemme mix it real quick.” As he was mixing he remarked. “I’ve never seen her out of that cloak.”
“Yeah, it seems the only way to get her out of her shell is through alcohol.”
“I’d recommend curbin’ that habit.”
“Ellie! What’s the holdup!?” Ghost called across the room.
“Nothing!” She dipped the metal rod into the small glass of brown sludge and stared at the readout for a minute. She thanked the bartender and then made her way back to Ghost.
Half an hour later all of the drinks had been analyzed and Ghost made her way to the apartment, where all fourteen were lined up on the counter in the kitchen.
Katrine had her arms crossed. “Now, I would please ask you to exercise restraint, and don’t trash the place,” she said sternly.
Ghost approached the glasses, eyes wide. “Which do I choose?”
“Whichever one’s prettiest,” blurted Kid.
“That’ll work…” Ghost picked up a glass filled with a bright green liquid and downed it in a single gulp.
She stood stock still, her eyes bugging out. “Sour… Very sour.” Her voice was raspy. She placed the glass back on the counter and picked up a beep burgundy one, which she also downed in a single gulp. Still again, then stiff as a board she tipped over face first.
“I think she’s having trouble comprehending what’s going on,” said Vee as Ghost pushed herself off the floor.
She placed the glass on the counter. “I really liked that one.” She grabbed another.
Soon all of the glasses were empty and Ghost was passed out on the floor piss drunk. Ellie pulled one last shot glass from the fridge; it contained a thick grey liquid.
“I think it’s time we woke her up.”
Vee looked dubious. “Honestly I doubt it’s going to do anything, I’ve heard that an electrolyte megadose is the best for something like this.”
Katrine looked a little worried. “I know a little about some of the stuff in that. I’d recommend as soon as she downs it to get her the hell out of here.”
Vee looked to Katrine. “That bad huh?”
Vee turned to look at Ghost eyes wide.
Ellie crouched down and gave Ghost a few slaps to the cheek, Ghost roused from her drunken stupor.
“One more, then we’re leaving.”
A drunken grin was plastered on her face. “Mmm-hmmm.”
Ghost opened her mouth and swallowed the wake up shot. As soon as she swallowed Ellie lifted her and sprinted to the door. Both Indra came back to their bodies, and Ellie did the same as in the apartment.
The barkeep and patrons were surprised by this sudden movement.
“She took the wake up shot, and I don’t want her to be in here when it hits!” Ellie shouted to the bar.
Ghost began convulsing in her arms.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no!”
Ellie laid Ghost down in the alley. The barkeep and patrons crowded around the door to watch the show. A sickly pink aura enveloped Ghost as she shook and wiggled on the ground. The power of her thrashing actually cracked the concrete as she spasmodically smashed it with her open palms. As quickly as it started the shaking stopped.
Ghost peeled herself from the ground and jumped up and down arms raised. “Whoo-hoo! That was fucking awesome.” Her voice was still slurred with inebriation; she stumbled forward a few steps and fell flat.
“D’you wanna give her another wake up shot?” called the bartender from the doorway.
“I think she’s had enough for tonight. What do I owe you for the drinks?”
The bartender thought for a moment. “Given how strange this situation is, I’ll give’m to you on the house.”
“I appreciate it.” Ellie kneeled and threw Ghost over her should and hobbled out of the alleyway.
If the two drew strange looks before, things were now on a whole new level. The mumbling, incoherent, shouting from Ghost didn’t help matters.
“We’ve gotta find you a hobby. I don’t think alcoholism’s your forte.”
“What are you looking at you stupid bird!” Ghost yelled at a stray cat.
Pixia flitted nervously around the Schultz building, waiting for Ghost and Ellie to return. After what felt like an age she finally saw Ellie emerge from one of the many side streets, coming towards the Schultz building. Her relief quickly turned to confusion and then fear as she saw the mostly limp Ghost slung over Ellie’s shoulder. She sped toward the two.
“Well… she got drunk, at least she’s a fun drunk if that’s any consolation.”
Pixia cradled Ghost’s head. “Oh, baby, next time I’m coming with you.”
Ghost muttered something drunkenly, it vaguely resembled something like, “lub ya too sweaty.”
Ellie began moving toward the front door. “Let’s get her inside, someplace where she can’t yell at animals. Please don’t make a scene.”
“No promises!” yelled Ghost.
Death, Famine, Pixia, and Pestilence all crowded around the barely conscious Ghost.
Death looked incredulously at the drunk and slurring Ghost. “Well I’d say this is unexpected but…” He threw his arms up in a shrug and shook his head.
“I think she wet herself,” said Pestilence.
Death looked over, metaphorical eyebrow raised. “And how would you know?”
“Call it intuition.”
“Yes, let’s.” Death looked over to Ellie. “I appreciate you doing this for her, she’s been trying for this for years, and maybe now she can shut up about it. But I think you may have gone a bit overboard, fourteen shots if far too much even for the strongest of humans.”
Pixia looked up sharply. “Fourteen! She should have known better than that.”
Ellie shrugged. “I had no basis for her alcohol tolerance. But… she doesn’t have to be the only one to give alcohol a taste.” Ellie tapped her temple. “Free bar.”
“I’m game,” blurted Pixia.
“Sounds like fun,” said Pestilence.
Famine nodded its head. “I too am curious at the human’s affinity for alcohol. I think I’ll have a small taste.”
Ellie looked to Death. “C’mon, live a little.”
“The irony…. alright.”
The four entered the apartment.
Katrine stood before them the table had been moved to make a mock bar. “Alright ladies, gentleman, children, and…” She looked at famine. ”… others, bar’s open! My personal recommendation is this.” She slid forward four glasses filled with a small amount of a deep burgundy liquid.
Death squinted his eyes. “Don’t think we can’t see that wicked smile on your face Katrine.”
Katrine plastered a look of innocence on her face as the four picked up the glasses and in unison gulped them down.
One by one, looks of shock twisted their faces; Kid had her face buried in a pillow to muffle her wild belly laughs. Pixia fell first, stiff as a board straight on the floor, followed by Pestilence and Death. Famine stayed standing; they shook their head as their features relaxed.
“Refreshing,” Famine said as they placed the glass back on the table.”I think I’ll have another.”
Banthu swept through the halls and rooms of the Department of Engineering and Archaeology. He was lucky, lucky that the new government allowed him to keep his position at the facility. He let out a small sigh and set back to work, feeling satisfied in his safety. In the distance Banthu heard a door open and shut.
How odd, there shouldn’t be anybody here, especially at such a late hour, all the overnight staff were on the upper floors. Another door, and another, Banthu could hear faint footfalls, not the soft click of shoes but the slap of bare feet. This was getting very uncomfortable, Banthu began shuffling for the nearest room to hide, clearly one of the crazies from outside had gotten in somehow. Just as he was about to open the door to the nearest lab Banthu heard the door to the hallway open… and shut, the footfalls sped up.
“Doctor Banthu!” It was a woman’s voice.
Banthu turned to face this intruder. He immediately wished he hadn’t. The woman’s thin body was clad in nothing but a ragged cloak, and her face was a twisted ruin. It was as if somebody had slit her cheeks, widening her mouth. Across her face was a wicked gash, completely destroying her left eye, but the right was still there, burning fiercely. Despite her frail form the woman walked with power and elegance, her footfalls seemed to shake the ground Banthu stood on. No, she was shaking the ground with each step; the pane of glass in the door shook and rattled with every footfall. What was this woman?
As she drew up to Banthu, standing a good six inches over him, she spoke again. “Are you Doctor Banthu?” As she spoke, Banthu could see rows of small, sharp, black teeth filling her massive mouth.
“Y-yes, I am Banthu. What do you want with me?” He shrunk against the door.
“Make me like her.”
“Make me like my sister, like Ellie.”
Banthu’s eyes widened. “Medusa?”
“Yes,” She hissed.
“But Ellie told me you died to kill Havoc, was she lying?”
“No,” Medusa snapped, “as far as she knows I am dead, and I hope to keep it that way.”
Banthu ignored the thinly veiled threat. “How do you want me to make you like her?”
“I want a brain. I want a brain like Ellie; I don’t want to be… this.” She gestured to her whole body. A thin stream of tears was running from her good eye.
“There is no guarantee that such a thing would work, your chip has been overheated and shorted for so long that it might be irreversibly damaged.”
“Do it anyway! The only thing keeping me from tearing you and everybody else in this building to shreds is that piece of her still inside of me.”
“The part you tore from her at Knossos?”
“Yes, it has changed me, given me thought.” She paused then shook her head. “I feel alien in my own thoughts!”
Banthu let out a long sigh. “Very well, I know where to get a brain, let me take you to my lab and we’ll make preparations there.”
Hours later, deep beneath the Schultz building, through winding tunnels and tight corridors a tiny light shone from beneath one of the rusted doors. Inside the small room were two heavy tables, upon one lay a body, covered in a white sheet, the donor, upon the other was Medusa. As he was getting ready Banthu filled Medusa in on the events that had taken place in Alcadon over the past month, he seemed unusually chatty.
“OK we’re ready to begin. First I need to locate your chip and isolate it, the tricky part will be getting through your skin, I’m not sure if any of my tools can get through it. I might have to break out my circular saw.”
“Don’t worry doctor; I can help you with this part.” Medusa raised her arm and positioned her hand over the bottom of her sternum. She pulled down hard and punched through the skin. Groaning in pain she said, “Alright doctor, the rest is up to you.” She felt herself drift away as the doctor set to work.
Several hours had passed before Medusa awoke. Immediately thunderous pain rocketed across her body, it felt as if somebody had hollowed out her chest. Craning her neck to see her midsection she saw that her stomach and chest had been bandaged, turning her head she saw the other table was now empty. Banthu sat at his tiny desk, head in his hands.
“Doctor?” Medusa’s voice was raspy. “Was it successful?”
Banthu turned around and looked at her, his eyes glossy and tired. “It’ll take time, the brain took no problem, but whether that changes anything? Only time will tell. Medusa, I don’t think you could be called an Indra anymore. You’re so much more… you have lungs, a digestive system, oh if I had the time to study you… You’re almost…” He trailed off. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go, I still have a job to do on the surface.” Banthu got up to leave.
“Doctor, who was she?”
Banthu turned in the doorway. “She was my daughter.” He left the room.
Medusa sat in stunned silence, his own daughter? Medusa jumped off the table to go after him but the pain brought her to her knees. Medusa hobbled to the door, looking outside she saw only dark corridors in either direction, the doctor was nowhere to be seen. Turning around Medusa saw something on the small desk, a photograph. The picture was of a much younger Banthu and a young woman, presumably his daughter, sitting in a small boat laughing. Medusa turned the picture over, there were several splatters on the back where tears had hit the paper, written in pen was ‘the day of’. Medusa didn’t know what this meant but clearly this picture meant a lot to him, as did his daughter.
Scanning the room some more Medusa saw her old cloak and a set of clothes. Medusa put them on, they were a bit snug but they would do for now, she pulled a small circuit board from one of the pockets of the cloak and left it on the desk. She left the room, turning off the light as she went. As she made her way through the maze of tunnels she felt a weight on her chest, was it the brain? It must be, the thought of a life being taken for her made Medusa feel something she was unaccustomed to, sadness. A life had been taken for her; the one that died had no say in it. Medusa thought back to her rampage at Khim and her sadness swelled even more.
“So this is what it’s like… how everybody else views the world… I am a monster.”
Medusa soldiered on, swallowed up by the murky darkness.
The merchant’s mouths were agape; could such things really have happened? Could this stranger’s story be true? The sky was brightening, dawn was approaching.
“I’m terribly sorry my friends, it seems my story has cost you a night’s rest.” The traveler stood up and stretched. “I’m afraid this is where I take my leave, I wish you the best of luck in your business ventures but I must be on my way.” She made to leave.
“Wait! Is your story true?” One of the merchants asked.
“Every damn word.” The traveler replied.
“How could you know? You weren’t there, you couldn’t have been there.”
She left them, speechless. The group got up to go after her with more questions but she was already gone, as if she vanished into thin air.
This may be the end of this particular story, but there will be more… so many more.