Short Story D: “Penny Dreadful” Part 1 1st Draft

The day had been a long one for Daniel Wolfe, both satisfying and tiring. Daniel had been working with the Chroniclers, at the nearby university, in an effort to recreate a scene from the early colonisation of the moon. The buildings were recreated from the old architect’s plans and the activities of the settlers were simulated using carefully crafted Synthetics. Throughout the day, there had been a pressure building behind Daniel’s eyes. As he strolled through the broad, pleasing avenues of apple and cherry blossom, he resolved to try out the new Harmoniser he had been given.
Daniel arrived at the spiral tower he currently called home. Though constructed using the latest technology, the building resembled nothing so much as a conch shell resting on its widest end. Daniel waved his hand past the identity sensor and entered the tower. As he searched for the new Harmoniser, the building’s AI informed him that his wife was visiting the Psychonaut who lived a few buildings down the street. Daniel finally located the Harmoniser and sat down on a comfortable seat, the machine on his lap. He squirmed in the seat as it adjusted itself to his body. The pressure continued to build behind Daniel’s eyes, he groaned slightly, in discomfort. He activated the Harmoniser and waited while it performed its initial diagnosis. Through hazy vision, Daniel stared in disbelief at the readings. The display indicated that all of his major systems were disharmonised and growing more so with each passing second. Daniel gave a shriek of pain and twisted off the chair, to land, convulsing, on the floor. The Harmoniser exploded, giving out a gout of smoke which activated the tower’s fire control apparatus. Internal sprinklers showered flame retardant chemicals onto the machine and the thrashing form of Daniel.
Dinarzade regarded the timepiece on her wall. In about thirty seconds her client would snap out of her Entheogen induced trance. Perfectly on cue, Alicia Wolfe’s eyes opened and she peered owlishly around the room.
‘You’ll get your bearings back in a minute,’ Dinarzade said in soothing tones, ‘was your experience helpful?’
Alicia’s eyes came into sharp focus. She smiled at the Psychonaut.
‘It was actually, I feel…more intelligent?’ This time it was Dinarzade’s turn to smile.
‘Under controlled conditions, Entheogen is proven to improve cognitive function. You should be able to greatly increase your grasp of Astro Physics now and, eventually, that will benefit all of us.’
Suddenly, Dinarzade doubled over in pain. Through the corridors of her mind a vast psychic scream echoed. A trickle of blood dripped from her nose.
‘What is it? What’s wrong?’
‘Outsider,’ gasped Dinarzade, ‘very close, we must get help!’
The two women moved towards the street entrance of Dinarzade’s building, the small, dark Psychonaut supported by the tall, red haired Alicia. Outside the building, in the street, they spotted a group of young men returning from a Pilota game. Alicia waved frantically to them, as Dinarzade attempted to restore her internal balance.
As the young men approached the two women, Dinarzade pointed towards a conch shell shaped building up the street.
‘It’s in there, an Outsider, we have to stop it!’
The colour drained from Alicia’s face as she saw the building Dinarzade was pointing at. With a cry, she set off towards it at a sprint.
‘Get after her’ said the Psychonaut weakly, leaning against her home for support. The group rushed after Alicia, with Dinarzade following them on wobbly legs.
Daniel rolled helplessly on the ground. He could feel his body warping, his muscle mass increasing, his limbs elongating. Then he felt it. Suddenly there was a presence in his mind, an entity of great power. Then there was a great scream, vocally and psychically as Daniel Wolfe’s soul was displaced from his body and cast into darkness.
Alicia Wolfe arrived just in time to see the last traces of what was once Daniel Wolfe fade from the body on the floor. As she stood there in horror, the form on the floor slowly stood up. There was no part of the figure that was Daniel. This man was half a foot taller than Daniel had been, with longer limbs and eyes that reflected red light. Metal claws adorned his fingers and he slowly smiled, exposing needle sharp teeth.
‘Good evening my dear, you have the singular misfortune to be both in the wrong place and to have arrived at the wrong time. My name is Jack, and I will be your serial killer for what remains of your evening.’ With that, Jack sprang effortlessly across the room and delivered a diagonal slash to Alicia’s torso, her top rapidly turned crimson. Jack picked her up by the neck in his left hand, and held her effortlessly off the ground. As he raised his right hand to deliver a killing blow, the young athletes arrived. Jack threw Alicia aside, like a rag doll and was in turn almost bowled over when one of the Pilota players shoulder charged him. He responded with a ferocious backhand that sent the young man crashing into a wall four feet away. As the others began to spread out to rush him, Jack exhaled a cloud of blue-white flame, dropping the men to the ground, each of them spasming uncontrollably. Jack picked his way through the prone bodies, taking the time to deliver a savage kick to the head of the athlete who had charged him. The man’s head flopped onto his chest, his neck broken. Jack turned to the semi conscious Alicia.
‘Well, that was irritating. I’m going to have to come back for you later. Feel free to move to a different house, I like a challenge!’ Jack considered the writhing bodies of the Pilota players. ‘It’s time you people enjoyed a good old fashioned reign of terror, there doesn’t seem to be much of that at the moment. You must all be quite bored by now, well, don’t you worry I’m here now and I have a keen interest in terror.’
Jack turned from Alicia and strolled towards the door, this time making no effort not to stand on the prone figures. He exited the building and then moved towards a maglev train, where he sprang onto the roof, with ease comparable to stepping onto a doorstep. From the shadows of the Wolfe residence, the dark eyes of Dinarzade followed his progress, until he passed from view.
* * *
Cailte had hiked for several days before he came to the valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. He paused on a low ridge to take in the scene. The valley was thickly carpeted with trees, predominantly evergreens. From roughly the centre of the forest the apex of a gleaming metallic pyramid could be seen, over the tops of the tallest trees. The valley was nestled between steep rock face on three sides and numerous small waterways could be seen from Cailte’s position. As he descended into the valley, he was quite aware that his presence would have been noted by the inhabitants of the pyramid. Cailte began a leisurely descent into the valley, wondering how long it would be before he was intercepted.
Cailte had been walking for about half a day before someone from the pyramid found him. He had paused by a small stream to drink and refill his canteen. As he knelt to fill the flask, a shadow fell across him. Cailte slowly stood and turned to face the newcomer. He found himself facing a short, powerfully built man, with fair curly hair and an intense stare.
‘Achilles,’ said Cailte, ‘that was quick, run all the way?’
Achilles nodded. ‘You have been dishonoured, brother. Should your enemy cross my path, I will make sure to keep him alive as long as possible.’
‘You’re very bloodthirsty, Achilles,’ he replied, ‘is this all we are?’
The shorter man laughed aloud and clapped Cailte on the shoulder. ‘Now, you have been out of things for a while so we shall run back to the pyramid. You’ll benefit from the exercise.’
With that, Achilles set off at a determined run, weaving round and leaping over obstacles. Cailte considered his pack. Deciding there was nothing there that couldn’t be replaced; he abandoned it and set off after the other man. Cailte ran noticeably slower than the fleet footed Achilles.
Gasping to draw breath, Cailte at last came into clear view of the great shining pyramid. Its mirrored sides reflected the woodland greens and browns, making it seem part of the landscape. In fact the pyramid had stood for over a century and the forest had been created round it by Geo Engineers. Cailte walked up the entrance ramp, leading to an opening a third of the way up the pyramid. Waiting in the cool shadows of the doorway was Achilles,
‘When you’ve finished wheezing like an old man, you should probably check in with Raoul.’ Achilles shook his head mockingly as he watched Cailte struggle to regain his poise. ‘See you in training.’
Raoul and Cailte silently regarded each other. Though both men were tall, Raoul was lean and wiry, while Cailte was more heavily built and had a silvery scar tracing the length of his jaw. Raoul was the first to break the silence.
‘I’m glad you’ve come back to us, Cailte, you were well missed.’
Cailte grunted in acknowledgement and continued to stare into the middle distance.
‘Obviously, the circumstances are regrettable but you’ve made the right choice, the Community needs you.’
Cailte glanced at Raoul, his eyes devoid of any emotion.
‘What else would I do? Where else would I go? This is not a society for the likes of me.’
‘That’s a little negative,’ murmured Raoul ‘the role you play in the Community is a vital one, these people are soft and, without you and I, would be once more living under the boot of the aberrant personalities.’
Cailte shrugged, ‘In time, even what we do will become unnecessary.’
‘I certainly hope so,’ replied Raoul ‘now, it’s been a while since you were in active service, so there are a couple of small tests….’
Raoul paused. ‘Are you ready?’
Cailte shrugged again and Raoul frowned slightly. Raoul flicked his index finger and a heavy wrench spun off his table, turning end over end before striking Cailte in the forehead. The two men stared at each other.
‘You’re not ready.’ said Raoul simply. He rose from his chair, turned his back on Cailte, and considered the view out the window. As Raoul looked out the window, suddenly Cailte’s eyes began to burn. In one fluid motion he stooped, grabbed the wrench and hurled it at the back of Raoul’s head. The spinning tool froze in the air, about an inch from Raoul, who slowly turned with a triumphant smile.
‘That’s the spirit soldier! Now, let’s get you back in the program.’ Raoul went into a drawer on his desk and produced a brightly coloured handful of capsules. He thrust his hand out, the capsules in the palm of his hand. ‘You better start with these….’
In the early evening, Raoul found Cailte waiting to see one of the Psychonauts that attended to the inhabitants of the pyramid.
‘Cailte!’ he greeted him, ‘I have some excellent news, there’s a job for you.’
‘I need to see the Psychonaut.’ Responded Cailte distantly.
‘No, dammit man! You need to get back in the field. Come with me, I have a communication from Tigernmas in the British District. It’s exactly what you need.’
Raoul more or less dragged Cailte to the ‘Net chamber. Once there; they viewed a terse message from the fierce eyed, hook nosed Tigernmas.
‘We need a Mechanic. Approximately two hours ago an unauthorised reincarnation took place in the principle Thames Valley settlement of Camelot. Surviving witnesses describe an assailant who is almost certainly an Outsider. A local Psychonaut has established a link with it, so it should be easy to track. The host body has a Configuration count of thirty nine, so expect significant resistance. And make it quick please.’
Cailte turned to face Raoul and raised his eyebrow. ‘Camelot?’
Raoul grinned, ‘Settlement was founded by Chroniclers who felt that our society was a worthy successor to Arthur’s enlightened rule, so they named the place Camelot as a kind of tribute.’
‘So where is it?’
‘It’s a couple of kilometres from the western edge of old London. I suggest you go and grab your weapons, the Community needs you.’

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