WAYLAND CYBERSMITH (WAYCYBER) STRONGHOLD : EXODUS : - 2) WARRIOR, MAY 4

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by WaylandCybersmith

 

Warrior: May 4

NSC HQ: Section 14, Medium-Security Detention 03.47 

Shade and Hesse dragged the semi-conscious body of Mario Rossi back to his cell and threw him on the bunk. 

“I forgive you.” Rossi’s voice was weak and cracked. 

Hesse stopped in his tracks, turned, and glared at Rossi. “What did you say?” 

“I said, ‘I forgive you’. God bless you and your families.” 

Hesse was about to drag Rossi out of the cell again, but Shade stopped him. “Look, let’s just go home, eh? We can have more fun with him tonight.” 

“Hear that, Yank? We’ll be back for you tonight.”

THE HOME OF DAVID BONNAR: 06.07 

Bonnar lay on his bed, hands clasped behind his head, listening to Beethoven’s Opus 91 on his radio. He felt alert. He felt focused. They thought he was trapped. They thought he was their puppet, forced to do whatever it was they wanted. He smiled. He knew better. He took five patches out of their box, placed them in a plastic evidence bag, and went to the conservatory. He removed a Gloxinia from its pot and placed the bag at the bottom before putting the plant back. Just then, his earphone rang, and he put it on.

“Ah, Mr. Bonnar. You remember me from last night? I saved your life, I think. I trust you are fully recovered from your ordeal?”

“Who is this?”

“That is not the question you should be asking. All you need to say is. 'What do you want me to do?’”

“OK, what do you want me to do?”

“Miss Folana is in the care of Section 20. She has them quite perplexed.”

“How is she?”

“She seems to be the picture of health. And that is the nature of the problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“Having lost her talents, she is of no use to us.”

“So, you’re going to sack her?”

“Now, you know it does not work like that. Especially with what Miss Folana knows. I’m afraid her recovery is destined to be short lived. She is not expected to last the morning.”

“You’re going to kill her?”

“She will die because of what Joshua did. At least, that is what you will inform your team. And it will be true, in a way.”

“If anyone harms her, I'll—”

“You’ll do what? Surely, I do not need to remind you what a very vulnerable position you are in, do I? You will go directly to London as planned. You will not contact anyone about Miss Folana. I do not need to spell out the consequences if you disobey.”

“Look. I know Aden is behind this. Tell him—”

“Mr. Bonnar, you have no idea who you are dealing with.”

The phone went dead.

Jean’s in danger, thought Bonnar. They will be monitoring all phone calls and email. Maybe there is one thing they have not thought of.

NSC HQ: Section 20, Jean Folana’s room 07.19 

Jean was dying. She knew it. There was no pain. She just felt as if she was getting smaller and smaller. She could hear the pa-thump, pa-thump of her heart. Pa-thump, pa-, pa. Then nothing but peace. 

She did not hear the shrill scream of the monitor alarm. She did not feel the hands that lifted her out of bed onto a Gurney. She was unaware as she was wheeled down the corridor to the morgue. 

It was so easy, so restful. All Jean had to do was let go and drift away. 

Cassie Ander’s burst into Jean’s room to see a nurse clearing away the monitor equipment. She grabbed the nurse by the arm. “Where’s Jean?” 

“I’m sorry. She died not long ago.” 

“Where did they take her?” 

“The morgue.”

Cassie ran down the corridor. She threw open the morgue door surprising two white coated attendants either side of Jean’s Gurney. She tried to get to Jean's body, but one man grabbed her, trying to turn her out of the door. “It’s too late; there is nothing anyone can do.” 

Cassie broke free, looked at him straight in the eyes and said “Afaz nua mishka!” 

She stepped away and he stayed fixed in the position. Then she pointed to both men and said “Dutay la somn!” 

They fell to the floor, asleep. She approached the Gurney and reached out with her thoughts. Jean was still in there. There was a chance. Cassie focused on Jean’s heart and squeezed it gently with the power of her mind. She did it again, and again. 

Suddenly, Jean’s eyes opened, she gasped a huge lungful of air and sat up. Cassie helped her into a wheelchair and pushed her calmly to the elevator. Jean was getting stronger all the time. When they entered the team room, Jean saw a blue figure sitting at the table. She dissolved into laughter. “Is that my Nano?” 

“Yes. I think he’s got your look just right, don’t you?” 

“How?” 

“Beats me, but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to check up on you. Look. I don’t think it’s safe for you here. I’m going to get you out. Are you up to riding pillion on my motorcycle?” 

“I guess we’ll find out.” 

LONDON: The Home of Lord Louis Seaver 08.29 

Lord Seaver sat back in his chair and gave a sigh of satisfaction. Breakfast was his favourite meal and his servants had learned how to prepare it to perfection. He dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin as they cleared the table. Opposite, his guest watched him with barely concealed amusement. 

“Do you wish to say something, Aden? Some comment on my dietary habits perhaps?” 

“Not at all my lord.” 

“They say, ‘To enjoy good health one should breakfast like a lord, lunch like a king and dine like a pauper’. A concept I heartily agree with. And if you did likewise, you would not be so terribly thin.” 

“My – appetites – are my concern alone my lord. Nonetheless, I am completely able to fulfil my duties.” 

“On that score, my dear Aden. How goes the operation?” 

“Our – friends – are being remarkably co-operative. Soon, they will have gathered together in Granhurst.” 

“Do you think your people will play their part?” 

“I have every confidence in them, my lord. They will be convinced that they are dealing with a threat to the very fabric of our society, and whatever I ask of them, it will seem fully justified.” 

“You were always skilled at making people see things your way. You could charm the very fruit from a tree.” 

“High praise from you indeed, my lord.” 

“What about those Freaks of yours?” 

“We’ve lost the trickster, and I’m concerned about Bonnar, but we have one that is totally ours.” 

“What is it about Bonnar that concerns you? I thought he would be the least of your problems.” 

“We control his supply of Soma-420, but we don’t control him. I had thought he would be more compliant. Soma-420 appears to have enhanced his abilities, maybe enough to thwart our ultimate goal.” 

“That is regrettable. If he is not on our side, then he must be eliminated. Does he pose a threat to our current activities?” 

“Not at all.” 

“Give him a chance to serve us.” 

“I believe I have the very thing.” 

“Good. I leave the details to you. Just get on with it. And Aden?” 

“Yes, my lord?” 

“When all this is over, make sure that all the loose ends are securely tied up.” 

“Of course, my lord. On that subject, the good doctor is no longer with us.” 

“Oh?” 

“Yes. It seems his landlady found him dead in his room, from an overdose of one of his own concoctions, I believe.” 

“Ah. He served us well. If that is all, please, don’t let me detain you. Fitzroy!” 

“Fitzroy!”

LONDON: Danny Friedner Centre 09.0

 Two blue-coated cleaners were washing paintwork and polishing the floor. They were distracted by uniformed officers with dogs and hand-held devices. The officers inspected closets, ventilation ducts, and roof voids. The dogs sniffed at everything they came near, including the cleaners. 

After some time, the officers disappeared into an adjoining corridor. One of the cleaners, a short stocky man with fox like features, turned to his companion and said; “Do you know who they are, Mr. Beth?” 

Mr. Beth was taller and broader and was more like a bear. “NSC men, Mr. Mernans?”

“That’s right Mr. Beth. These particular men are known as the Alley Cats.”

A puzzled look froze on the face of the one called Mr. Beth “If they’re cats, Mr. Mernans, why do they have dogs?”

“An essential part of their team, Mr. Beth. You see, the Alley Cats are bomb disposal experts and the dogs are used to find explosives.”

“Can they do that, Mr. Mernans?”

“Oh yes. Those dogs can smell TNT, Semtex, C4, many different kinds, and not just explosives. They can sniff out all sorts of dangerous substances.”

“Should we be concerned, Mr. Mernans?

“Not at all, Mr. Beth.”

The two went back to their cleaning.

NSC HQ: Section 14, Medium-Security Detention 09.11 

William Ferrel gave Rossi a change of clothes, watched him get dressed, and then led him to a waiting room. Rows of metal seats were bolted to the floor. Armed guards watched all the exits, protected by bulletproof booths. Rossi saw a young woman dressed in violet sitting close by. She looked furtively around, then came and sat next to him.

“Hi, I’m Cassie. Who are you?”

“Mario.”

“American, huh? What are you? Illegal?”

“Yeah. Just trying to find a place to live in peace.”

“How did you get over here?”

“Friends and people they know.”

“Where were you headed?”

“Friends and people they know.”

Ferrel returned for Rossi and led him into an interview room where he shackled Rossi’s legs to the floor and fastened his arms with chains that came through the table surface. After a few minutes, Philip Beltran came and sat opposite Rossi. 

“Let’s see. Mario Rossi. American. Born in the Bronx. Orphaned at ten. Raised by your Aunt Francesca.”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“We’ll get to that. Sorry for all this bother, I’m sure you didn’t expect any of this when you came to our country. How are you feeling?”

“Fine after your goons stopped working me over.”

“Worked you over? How do you mean?”

“Made me stand all night and hit me with shock sticks.”

“Mr. Rossi. This is a civilized country. We don’t do things like that. Are you sure you weren’t having a nightmare?”

Rossi lifted his t-shirt. His chest was mottled with bruises. “How do you think I got these then?” 

“Maybe you threw yourself around in your sleep. You could be a self-harmer. We get a lot of that in our jails. It isn’t significant.” 

Rossi decided not to say any more on the subject. 

“OK. You came over with four others, transported by Captain Niska, an old friend of ours. You were headed for a community somewhere in the Midlands.” 

“I never told you any of that.” 

“You told her.” Cassie walked in and stood beside Beltran. 

“So, you and Paul Martin are best buds, eh?” Cassie. 

“Do you know him?” 

“Not before you thought of him. You’re an open book to me, I know about New York, the gangs, how you were brought up by your aunt.” 

“How?” 

“While you were outside, you were thinking a lot about how you came to be here. I can read your thoughts. You will tell us what we want to know. You can try lying to him, but you can’t lie to me.” 

“I got nothing to hide. What do you want to know?” 

“Who is Joshua, and what did he do to Jean Folana?” 

“I don’t know either of them. All I know is, I was in the John in a café in Wales. Then this old man comes in, says something, and the next thing I know I’m looking at myself. Even down to the clothes. He shot me with something that knocked me out. When I came to, I was in the back of one of your cars wearing cuffs.” 

“Who were you supposed to meet in the café?”

“Look. I don’t care what you do to me, but I’m not getting anyone else into trouble.”

“We already know about Gareth. Who else was involved?”

“I’m saying nothing more. If you can really read my thoughts, do it,”

Cassie signaled for Beltran to speak to her out of earshot. “I don’t know what’s happened. It’s like a shutter has come down in his mind.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t reach him any more”

“Do you think he’s been trained to resist telepathy?”

“He’s just a punk. Why would anyone bother?”

“I don’t know. Keep trying, maybe you will find a crack.” 

“Sure. Fine. Whatever.”

Beltran turned back to Rossi. “Well, Mr. Rossi, What are we going to do with you? Let’s consider your mental condition.”

“I’m fine.”

“We shall see, shall we? You’re a Christian?”

“Yeah. Born again, baptised and Spirit filled.”

“Oh dear. So, you believe that God talks to you?”

“Sometimes.”

“Psychotic. Do you believe that God loves you?”

“Definitely.”

“Narcissistic. Have you ever suffered from persecution?”

“You mean like being almost chased out of New York?”

“Paranoid. Do you have a partner?”

“What do you mean?”

“A girlfriend or maybe a boyfriend?”

“Look. I’m not gay, and I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Don’t you like sex then?”

“Yes, but now I’m a believer I’m going to wait until I’m married.”

“That’s schizoid then. Do you have any special powers?”

“Well, I’ve prayed and people have been healed.”

“Schizotypal. Well, Mr. Rossi. That’s quite a catalogue of personality disorders. I think we should get you onto a treatment program right away. We will take you back to your cell, and you can think about this question. If God exists, and He loves you, why isn’t He helping you now?”

“But He is.”

“We have a place for delusional people like you on the Isle of Wight. We could send you there with all the other loonies. You will beg us to ship you back to the States. Oh, and try not to injure yourself tonight.”

DANNY FRIEDNER CENTRE: Johnny Barbour Suite 09.47

Lamb ran down the steps of the conference centre His eyes blazed with fury. He stabbed at his earphone. “Bonnar!” 

“What is it, Neville? And please don’t yell into the phone.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me Jean was dead?” 

“What? She isn’t.” 

“Don’t lie to me, Bonnar. I know she’s dead, and I know who did it.” 

“Hold up, Neville. What are you going to do?” 

“That man Cassie saw? He’s called Joshua King, and he killed Jean. He’s at the Eutopia Hotel. It ain’t far from here.” 

“Look. Meet me outside. Wait for me.” 

Lamb ran down a side street. Up ahead, he saw Joshua talking to a man who was wearing a dark suit, hat and sunglasses. He waited.

Bonnar had almost caught up with Lamb, but he was too late. Joshua was alone now. Lamb charged with the speed of a missile and the force of a pile driver, his fist raised to strike the deathblow. Joshua turned; his face a mask of surprise as Lamb bore down on him. 

The fist fell – and was caught. Lamb’s rage became confusion. His fist was being gripped, quite easily, by a man half again as tall as Lamb. This man was dressed completely in white and smiled gently. He tried to pull free, but it was no good. He struck with his other fist. That, too, was caught. When Lamb finally stopped struggling, the figure bent down and whispered in his ear. “This one is protected. Leave him in peace.” 

Joshua said something to his rescuer and walked off. Bonnar was still trying to catch his breath when Lamb came over to him, bewildered and confused. “What happened, Neville? I was afraid you were going to kill him.” 

“I was, until that man stopped me.” 

“What man? There were just you and Joshua.” 

“You didn’t see a jitu taller than me in a white suit?” 

“I think I would have noticed.”

“Bonnar. There ain’t no one stronger or faster than me. You know that. I know that. So what just happened?” 

“I don’t know. I didn’t see.” 

“That spook was playing with me. I was like a baby to him. No one gets the better of me. No-one.” 

“There’s Archer.” 

“He cheats. Some martial arts trick or something.” 

“Look, Neville, you need to call Cassie. Right now.” 

Lamb tapped his earphone. “10-43. Cassie? It’s Neville. Look. I need to know about Jean.” As Cassie told him what had happened that morning, he felt relief, then guilt at what he had been about to do. After the phone call, Lamb turned back to Bonnar.

“What’s going on, Bonnar?”

“I don’t know yet. Now, who told you about Jean and how did you know to find Joshua here?”

“It was one of the Grunts. He told me at the conference centre”

“Let’s get back there. I will do what I can, but we have work to do. Don’t tell anyone about what’s happened here or about Jean. Her life may depend on it.”

DANNY FRIEDNER CENTRE: Fiona Milton Suite 11.17

Rocky studied Cobra’s face. Cobra – Patrick Doohan – was young, confident, sometimes reckless. “So, You think you can do this?” 

“Of course I can. I hold the highest rank in twelve martial arts. What does he have?” 

Archer knocked on the door and strolled in. When he saw Cobra, he smiled. “What’s this about, Rocky?” 

“Cobra here thinks you might be a little rusty.” 

“Fancy your chances do you, Paddy?” 

Cobra smiled. “Yeah, I think so. Do you want to go for a few rounds in the gym?” 

“I don’t beat up children, Paddy.” 

“And I don’t beat up old men. So, what do you say?” 

“Why not here? Why not now? I’m sure Rocky won’t mind if we trash his office. I tell you what,” Archer produced a blue ball from his yellow fishing jacket. “If you can take this off me in less than a minute, I will give you a session in the gym. If not, we forget about this nonsense and get on with the job. OK with you, Rocky?” 

“Don’t mind me. Go ahead.” 

“Right, Paddy. One minute from – Now!” 

Cobra leaped at Archer, grasping for the ball, but Archer’s reflexes were far superior. The ball was out of reach of Cobra again. Cobra went to sweep Archer’s legs from under him, but Archer merely stepped to one side. Then, Cobra’s right hand shot out at the ball, Archer avoided it, but Cobra’s left hand was waiting, and he grabbed hold of the ball, snatching it from Archer’s grasp. 

As Cobra held his prize up, it crumbled into dust and reformed in Archer’s hand. 

“Sorry, Paddy. Time’s up. You lose.” 

Cobra looked at his hand, then at Archer’s hand. Archer had cheated. Rocky shook his head and, smiling, gave a slow clap as Archer strolled away.

HERITAGE HOUSE: 12.13 

Una had discovered a lawn with a white metal seat on it. An elderly man was sitting there, fast asleep. Una sat down beside him as quietly as she could. 

“Amen!” 

“What?” 

“Oh. Sorry. I was praying.” 

“You sounded like you were snoring.” 

“Yes. Well. You’re one of the people that came yesterday, aren’t you?” 

“Yes. I’m Una Sallis.” 

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Dennis Steadfast. You know, this bench is my favourite spot.” 

“I can see why. It’s a wonderful view.” 

“Well, it’s time for me to be off. See you around, Una.” 

Alone now, Una looked out over the North Tibworth hills. She closed her eyes, feeling the breeze on her face, listening to it rustle the leaves in the trees. Suddenly, she felt a vibration through the bench. Una opened her eyes and saw Dorothy. She was rocking her legs back and forth, gripping the edge of the bench and grinning at Una, eyes screwed up and chin sticking out. 

“Hello, Dorothy.” 

“Hello. What’s your name?” 

“I’m Una.” 

“Why do you talk like that?” 

“What, my accent?” 

“Yes.” 

“Well, I’m from a place called Texas.” 

Dorothy looked around, feet going back and forth, back and forth. “Wanna meet my friends, Una?”

“OK.”

Dorothy grabbed Una’s hand and led her down a path, through a gate and up a slope. As they reached the top, Una saw a huge gold and white marquee. There were queues to standpipes and toilets. Dorothy led Una into the marquee itself. At one end was a row of cookers. Teams of people were serving meals to hundreds of people that stood in more queues. Mattresses, air-beds, and rolled-up sleeping bags were stacked up at the other end of the marquee. It was like some of the camps she had seen across America after the disasters.

“What is all this, Dorothy?”

“Oh, they made us leave our homes, and we had to come here.”

“That’s terrible.”

“No it isn’t. It wasn’t nice at home. People were nasty to us and called us names. I hated school. They all picked on me.”

“So, you’re all living here now?”

“We’re not going to stay here, silly. We’re going to our new home soon. Come on, my friends are out back.”

Dorothy pulled Una to a wooded area behind the marquee where a dozen or so children were racing around, screaming and laughing.

“Hey, guys. Can my friend Una play?”

“She’s a bit old, isn’t she?”

“Una, want to play Kick the Can?”

“Great. That’s my favourite. You’re never too old for Kick the Can.”

“OK, Una. You’re it!”

DANNY FRIEDNER CENTRE: Connor Rhodes Suite 13.03 

Howard Charles, known as “Felix”, was the Alley Cats commander. He had performed over 300 bomb disposal missions and had come close to dying eight times. That is how he got his nickname, because he kept on walking. He was now a veteran, no longer involved in actual disposals. His place was directing and advising the others. The search teams and sniffer dogs had done their part and found nothing. The elite team was now using their experience and instincts, which often proved more reliable than canine senses. 

“Check in time, lads. Progress reports, please.” 

“Board room clear, Felix.” This was “Iron Mike” Burghoff, trained by the Royal Navy, a veteran of the Worrong Bond crisis in the South Pacific. A refugee camp had been carpeted with mines. Burghoff led the team that made them safe. 

“I swear you’re slowing down, Mike. That’s taken you an hour.” 

“You can’t rush it when lives are at risk, you know that.” 

“I’m not saying to rush it, but there’s a lot of building to cover.” 

“Diamond here. Elevator rooms clear.” Solomon Zingel – “Diamond” was like a younger version of Burghoff. He had learned his craft in the Israeli army. He had made safe almost as many bombs as Burghoff, yet was ten years younger. 

“OK, Diamond. Move up to the roof area.” 

“Felix, we have a problem.” This was “Mad Jack” Rowlands, 

“What is it Jack? One of your jokes?”

“Now, Felix. I take some things seriously. You know that. And if I say we have a problem, then we have a problem.”

“Sorry. Go ahead, Jack. What is it?”

“I’ve done a thorough check of the dining areas and kitchen.”

“And?”

“Absolutely no cream soda. Anywhere.”

“Jack, get on with it, please.”

“McCray here.” Raleigh McCray was the oldest member of the team. He had been there when the Slough Bomber’s reign was at its height. He was forced to withdraw when an operation went wrong. Twenty-three innocent people lost their lives that day.

“Go ahead Mac.”

“I want to recheck the auditorium. I’m not happy.”

“Mac, I know you. If you have checked the auditorium, then it’s safe.”

“It’s a feeling I’ve got. Look. There’s too much at stake here. I’ve seen too many people die because something has been missed. People are counting on us. I have to be sure.” 

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll send Jack to help you.”

“Jack is a clown. Unreliable. Get me one of the others.”

“He does his job. Just like you, Mac. He may be a crazy squirrel head, but he’s good at what he does.”

TRÉGRYSTYON: Gwaytyans, Katartizo Offices 14.29 

The offices were packed. The Katartizo crew was chatting, drinking their teas, coffees and chocolates, and eating as many biscuits as they could get their hands on. Simon “Encourager” poured out the last five coffees and passed them around. Rafiq “Ready” rubbed at the lip of his mug. “How is it that we can’t be anywhere without at least one chipped mug?”

“Dunno.” This was Matthew “Dauntless”. “The magic of community living maybe.”

Rafiq looked through the stack of sheets in front of him, flipping the pages noisily. His team leaders watched him silently, not daring to say anything. After Rafiq turned the last page, he slammed the stack on his desk.

“This is not good enough, Matthew. We have less than a week, why is there still so much to do?”

“Well, some of the deliveries were late, and then there were the changes to the plans.”

“I don’t want excuses. I want solutions. Anyone? Well, lads.” 

“Harrumph.”

“Sorry Maire, lads and lasses, this is the last push before everyone moves in. We need to sort out the leaks in three Cüfter and six Clórder. I want a report on all the houses. Take check-lists and see to it. Anything else? Yes, Clive?”

“The houses are almost ready. It’s the industrial areas that are giving us problems.”

“What about furniture?”

“That’s here. It’s in the Ynjýn warehouse.”

“As soon as a house is signed off, move the furniture in. OK, Matthew, Let’s check off the areas, starting with this one. Do we have everything we need?”

“We’re low on solar panels. One of the automatic fork lifts has packed up.”

“OK, Matthew. Lowender?”

“The clothes racking is installed, so are the sewing and knitting machines. The dyeing vats haven’t arrived yet.”

“Hüvelder?”

“Chemical storage finished. Most of the laundry machines are plumbed in. Still waiting for polishing gear.”

“Crés?”

“Still waiting for the two-post lifts to be delivered and installed. We have the diagnostic computer.”

“Kerensa?”

“Finished two weeks ago.”

“Everything? A&E, intensive care, dentists? Everything? Double-check that. Perthyans?”

“That is all ready.”

“So, we’ll have home grown food. Clórder?”

“That is all done. Classroom and lecture room screens all fitted. Lab equipment arrived last week.”

“Skentoleth?”

“All offices and meeting rooms done. The terminals are set up and ready.”

“Fydhyans?”

“Water processing complete. Biogas all ready to be fired up. Five Histapis VAWTs to erect.”

“Cüfter?”

“Cold storage, ovens, ranges and cleaning facilities all installed. We have enough food distribution packs at least to start with.”

“And Dader?”

“Lighting and cameras done. The sound studio is almost complete. Printing facilities should be here next week. The IT guys have finished sorting out the application server and virtual machines.”

“Anything else?”

“The transport units. We have two of the units not working, and eight induction loop chargers have failed.”

“Is that it?”

“We’ve had another message. Same as before. ‘Get out or die’.”

“Unsigned as usual?”

“As usual.”

“Well, we aren’t getting out, so it looks like we’re all going to die, folks! Ha ha! Seriously, keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If you see something, don’t touch it. Call me or one of the team leaders.”

DANNY FRIEDNER CENTRE: Jack Gaunt Auditorium 15.53 

Mad Jack had found a box. It was a meter high, a meter wide and two meters long. It was under the auditorium. The search teams and sniffer dogs had not detected it. Rowlands’ sharp eyes had noticed some jelly around a screw hole. He put a dab of it on his tongue. 

“It’s definitely Navlas. No wonder the dogs couldn’t smell it. Game on, guys! Get everyone out and get Billy Rubin down here with the gear.” Mad Jack was referring to the youngest and the least experienced member of the team. 

Minutes later, the object was surrounded by cold lights, gas sniffers, thermocouples, magnetometers, and an assortment of other devices. They put blast absorbers around walls, doors, and structural supports. Rubin wore goggles, padded armour, and a helmet. 

“OK, Felix. Time me. The record stands at eighteen minutes fifty-two seconds.” 

Rubin gulped hard. Rowlands reached over into his toolbox and slowly produced a large hammer. Rubin’s eyes widened in terror as Mad Jack swung it down and stopped it within a centimetre of the casing. A foul smell filled the air. Rowlands leaned over to Rubin until their noses were almost touching. Rowlands closed his eyes and sniffed, like a connoisseur smelling the bouquet of a fine wine. Then his eyes sprang open again. He smiled broadly, and said “Gotcha!” 

Mad Jack began whistling tunelessly as he took the device apart, casually glancing at the components as he went. Occasionally, he would examine something he had dismantled, and then throw it over his shoulder. Then he came to two glass vials. He pointed at each in turn and recited, “Inky, binky, bonky, daddy had a donkey, donkey died, daddy cried. Inky, binky, bonky.” At which he yanked both vials out at the same time. Rubin threw up. 

“Absodoobry fantablastic! OK, Felix. Stop the clock.” 

“Twenty-seven minutes twenty-two. The record stands. What did you have?” 

“It was a binary. Tropic Blaster. Nasty combination. Get the Toddies down here to pick up the pieces. Maybe they’ll find out where it came from.” 

“Jack?” 

“Yes, sir, Mr. Rubin, sir.” 

“What would have happened if you got that wrong?” 

“Felix? One for you, I think.” 

“I was defusing a bomb in a shopping centre about five years ago. There were two wires. A black one and a green one. I cut the black one.” 

“What happened then?” 

“The bomb blew up, sent me one hundred meters, straight through a plate glass window.” 

“Did you get hurt?” 

“Burns and breaks. I recovered, but that’s why we wear all this protection. It may seem uncomfortable, but it could save your life.” 

“But why doesn’t Jack...?” 

Rowlands signaled for Rubin to keep quiet. He could never work in body armour .

“Zing, zang, zoony.” Whispered Jack. “Life’s a little loony!”

LONDON: Eutopia Hotel, Arcadia Suite 16.09 

The RRK members were sitting around a conference table with their customary cups of tea. There was a knock on the door and a middle-aged, smartly dressed man walked in. 

“Your Highness.” 

“Mr. Anden, how many times do we go through this? That was my father. I am Mr. Windsor, or better still, just Arthur.” 

“Sorry, Arthur, but being the last Duke of Cornwall, you’re the nearest thing to royalty we have. The largest land owner, as well.” 

“Not for much longer. I can’t be bothered with all that. When all this is settled, I’m just going to run my own farm.” 

“So, what is the latest news?” 

“I have a meeting with the presidents tomorrow, but I believe that they will confirm our independence from Britain.” 

“You say ‘Our independence’, but you’re Sawsnek.” 

“English, Jowan? I’m a bit of a mixture actually, but I know what you mean. What’s the problem?” 

“Why are you up for independence so much?” 

“Let’s just say that Yow Kernow has the possibility of being a beacon of hope where hope is being snuffed out in many parts of the world. That can only happen after independence. Being a part of it is important to me. I have seen so much that is good being ruined in this country, and I hope to help build an alternative. Somewhere where people don’t need to be afraid of each other.” 

“That’s some dream you have, Arthur, but you know there are people in Yow Kernow that see you and your plans as threats.” 

“You mean the Marracks, don’t you, Morcant?” 

“They’ll be hard to convince.” 

“Nevertheless, it must be done.” 

“Your village is stirring up a lot of ill feelings in the area.” 

“That’s one reason for this meeting. If I can convince all of you, then perhaps we can all convince the others.” 

“Is this your price for getting us freedom?” 

“No. It’s what will make the freedom mean something.”

HERITAGE HOUSE: 17.41

Una sat on her bed, looking out over the trees and hills. Anne Barry knocked on the door and came in. Una didn’t move.

“Are you all right, Una?”

“It was terrible bad, Anne.”

“What’s that?”

“All those people in that tent thing. They got no homes. Government got them kicked out.”

“They’ll be OK. Just wait and see.”

“But I got this room, and they only got a tent. Maybe I should go with them.”

“That would only make it worse. These are good people, and they’re caring for us. Just take what’s given for now. It’ll all work out. It always does.”

“That don’t make me feel better none.”

“I know, but let it be for now. Come down for dinner. They’re serving.”

DANNY FRIEDNER CENTRE: Staff Restaurant 19.49 

Mernans was reading a newspaper and drinking a mug of coffee. Beth was finishing off the third of five ice cream cones. 

“Mr. Mernans?” 

“Yes, Mr. Beth.” 

“Do you think they’ve found it yet?” 

“They’re very clever. By now, they will have found it and dealt with it. They’re probably feeling very smug and self-satisfied.” 

“Mr. Mernans?” 

“Yes, Mr. Beth?” 

“Why did we do that?” 

“What do you mean, Mr. Beth?” 

“Why did you make it if you knew they were going to find it?” 

Mernans laid his paper carefully on the table. “If you hear a noise in your house, what do you do?” 

“Go and see what it is, I suppose.” 

“And if you see, say, a cat wandering around. What do you do?” 

“Kill it and dump it in the bin, I suppose.” 

“And you wouldn’t think to look any further, would you?” 

“Why should I? The cat’s dead.” 

“Exactly, Mr. Beth.” 

“I don’t get it Mr. Mernans.” 

“That, Mr. Beth, is why I do the thinking.” Mernans continued to read his newspaper. 

NORTH TIBWORTH: 

The Home of Cassie Anders 20.29 

Cassie was in a small room, lit by three candles. She was arranging herbs in bags. She was on the last one when her earphone rang.“Hey, Cassie.” 

“Hi, Neville.”

“You know why I can’t call Jean?”

“Perhaps her phone isn’t working.”

“You know where she is? I gotta see her.”

“Sorry, I can’t help you. Tell you what, Neville, meet me at my place tomorrow morning, and we can talk about it.”

“Jean’s with you?”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Just get here before work.”

As Cassie came out with her completed bags, she met Jean in the hallway. “Was that Neville, Cassie?”

“That’s who he said he was, at least.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look, Jean, I had to bring you back to life this morning. Someone wants you dead and, until we can sort that out, you’re in danger. I’ll get you two back together. Just trust me.”

THE HOME OF DAVID BONNAR: 22.13 

Bonnar had switched off the screen and was walking up the stairs when his earphone rang. He had been expecting this call. He was just surprised it had taken so long. 

“Ah, good evening Mr. Bonnar.” 

“Ah. It’s you again. I thought it might be.” 

“Indeed. I’m afraid you are becoming somewhat tiresome.” 

“In what way?” 

“Well, it seems Miss Folana failed to die as expected. And she is nowhere to be found.” 

“I see. And you believe me to be responsible?” 

“We have no direct evidence. However, Miss Anders, by some amazing – let’s be generous here – coincidence, arrived in the morgue, knocked out two innocent technicians, revived Miss Folana, and removed her from Section 20.” 

“There you are. Cassie – Miss Anders – was obviously concerned about her colleague and friend, went to check on her, and arrived in time to save her. That sounds like a coincidence to me.” 

“Quite so. Quite so. My superiors are of the same opinion. I, however, am not.” 

“Why is that?” 

“Let us just say that one of Mr. Archer’s robots showed a most unusual – and fortuitous – artistic bent. I am certain that you were responsible, but I cannot prove it – yet. Should I do so, well, you are aware of the consequences?” 

“What’s going to happen to Cassie?” 

“We have accepted her explanation, that she put the technicians to sleep to prevent them interfering with her resuscitation of Miss Folana. They were unharmed. In fact, the rest did them a power of good. We will take no further action on that matter. She insisted that she took Miss Folana to her room and, when she called back there later, her colleague had vanished.” 

“Good. And the fact that Jean is alive, well, and safe pleases me no end.” 

“It shouldn’t do. Your next mission, Mr. Bonnar, and you will accept it, is to find Miss Folana, and kill her. You have two days.” 

“I don’t kill people, especially friends. You can’t ask me to do that.” 

“I believe I already have done. You have a simple choice. Kill, or be killed. Good night Mr. Bonnar. Sleep well.” 

Bonnar checked his Soma-420 box. It had been full that morning, but now there were just two patches left. He went out to the conservatory and removed the Gloxinia from its pot. The bag containing his spare patches had gone.

THE HOME OF CASSIE ANDERS: 22.51 

Cassie had taken to leaving lights on all around the house. It was getting harder and harder to sleep. 

“I’ll get him, I’ll get him.” 

“Why don’t they listen?” 

As she relaxed, her telepathic sensitivity increased. She could hear more and more voices. 

“Oh, God. Why does it hurt so? Why doesn’t it stop?” 

“You’re mine, Cassie, and you always will be. Look what I’ve taught you! Look at the power you have! Did you think it came cheaply? Why do you struggle against me? Give in. It’s so easy.” 

“They’ve found out. I know they’ve found out. What am I going to do?” 

“Just one more. No-one will know.” 

Sometimes, when the voices were too much to bear, Cassie would watch shows on the screen all through the night. If that didn’t help, she tried drowning them out with music, taking sleeping pills, and drinking super-strong cider. 

“Why doesn’t she love me? After all I’ve done, she should love me. Why doesn’t she love me?” 

“So cold. I’m so cold.” 

It was worse than ever tonight. She sat in an armchair, her knees drawn up under her chin. The heels of her hands were pressed hard against her temples. Her face was clenched in agony. The voices of so many people were loud in her mind. Then there was the other voice. A guide given to her when she was a child. 

When Cassie was seven, she had a nervous disorder. Doctors had put her on a powerful sedative, and she had to be hospitalized for three months. Several of her family were spiritualists, and one went to a distant healer on Cassie’s behalf. The disorder stopped and, when she was taken off the sedatives, there were no withdrawal symptoms. What she did have was an invisible friend called Viraji Toare. It gave her powers and instructed her in the use of magic and ESP. Eight years later, the NSC brought her into one of their elite teams. Now Viraji Toare was driving her crazy. It had compelled her to do many things she was ashamed of, and she had grown to know and fear the power it had over her. 

A knife floated in from the kitchen and settled on the table beside her. “It’s time for you to come to me. Just take the knife and cut your wrists. It will be over soon, and we will be together for ever.” 

Cassie screamed “No! Get out of my head!” 

Jean ran in from the guest room. The sight of Cassie in this state shocked her. Jean was used to the confident, assertive Cassie. Now she seemed like a frightened child. Jean did not know about this side. She threw the knife to the other side of the room and took Cassie by the wrists. 

“Look at me, Cassie. Open your eyes and look at me.” 

Cassie tried to struggle out of Jean’s grip. Jean took Cassie’s hands and pulled them away from her head. “Cassie, look at me.” 

Cassie tore her hands away and hugged her legs to her chest.

“What’s going on, Cassie? What’s this all about?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it. If you want to help, then sit and just keep me company. Please.” 

“What shall we do?” 

“I don’t know. Anything. Watch a film. Tell me about you and Neville maybe. What you did before you became a Freak? Anything.” 

“There’s a Jack Sidnal season on the screen. They’re showing Valkyries on Venus, Soul Sisters 2000, Arriving in England, and I Saw You Last Wednesday.” 

“OK, let’s watch that, but no horror films. I have enough of them in my head.”

NSC HQ: Section 14, Medium-Security Detention 23.33 

Mario Rossi’s cell door was thrown open and Hesse and Shade rushed in. They took hold of Rossi by the arms and legs, and carried him out. 

“Miss us, Yank?” Hesse flashed Rossi an evil smile.

They threw him into a shower cubicle and turned the water on. It was freezing cold. It soaked through Rossi’s clothes. He squeezed his eyes shut against the torrent and spat out the water that got into his mouth. After a few minutes, they grabbed his arms, dragged him backwards to another room, and strapped him into a chair. 

Hesse pressed his forehead menacingly against Rossi’s. “We’re going to play a game with you, Yank. You Christians have to forgive people, don’t you?” 

“Yeah.” 

“So, whatever we do to you, you have to forgive us. True?” 

“Yeah.” 

They rammed a hood over his head as they had done the previous night and fastened the strap. 

Hesse punched Rossi in the face. “Oh. I hit you. Please forgive me.” 

“I do. I forgive you.” 

“Do you forgive this?” Shade punched Rossi in the stomach. Rossi doubled up in pain. Hesse pulled his head upright. 

“The man asked you a question. Do you forgive him? Say, ‘I forgive you’. Just like you did last night.” 

“I forgive you.” 

Shade brought over a shock stick. Rossi was still soaking wet from the shower. Shade jabbed Rossi with it. Rossi screamed in pain. “I forgive you. I forgive you.” 

“This is good for you, ain’t it Yank? Think how pleased your God will be. All this forgiving your doing.” Hesse and Shade struck Rossi time after time. Rossi writhed and screamed as each jolt of electricity ripped through him. After a while, Hesse and Shade were getting bored. They went to a corner of the room and spoke quietly to each other.”

Hesse examined the various implements that hung on the wall. “What shall we do next? Knives? The shock sticks again?” 

“We gotta be careful. We can’t hurt him too much. He’s got questions to answer.” 

Rossi sat up straight and shouted “Thank you, Lord, that you count me worthy to endure this. Glorify Your Name, Lord. Your will be done.” 

“That’s it. Get the shock sticks.” 

Hesse and Shade hit Rossi with the shock sticks again, but nothing happened. Rossi just sat there. 

“What’s going on?” Hesse touched his shock stick and his hand shot back from the force of the electricity. He hit Rossi with it again. Nothing. Then they noticed that the straps that had bound Rossi to the chair were all undone, as was the hood. 

“What the sturm is going on?” 

Rossi stood up, removed the hood from his head, smiled at his stunned torturers and said, “I forgive you. God bless you and your families.” He walked back to his cell and closed the door behind him. Then he collapsed on his bunk.

TRÉGRYSTYON: 23.51

The streets of the village were bathed in a moonlight glow from LEDs mounted on the side of the buildings. Grey clad figures darted silently from place to place, taking shelter in what little shadow they found. Once beyond the confines of the village, they headed for the main road, where a black MPV waited. Leaning against it, binoculars in hand was the figure that had watched the village earlier. He looked at the gathering, their faces hidden by ski masks. He smiled, and said quietly “Boom.”

 

 

© Colin Nelson www.waycyber.com

© WaylandCybersmith 2011

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