Tigernmas leisurely popped a capsule into his mouth. As it dissolved on his tongue, a warm numbness crept over his body and pinwheels of light danced about his vision. He leaned back, his chair adjusting itself to offer maximum comfort and support. He stared dreamily at the holo display on the wall, with its ever changing fractal display. As he stared, the display rearranged itself into the form of the Mechanic Raoul. Marvelling at his imaginative prowess, Tigernmas considered the translucent figure. He had the impression that the figure was speaking. Screwing up his eyes, he could definitely see the lips moving. With some interest, he continued to stare at the illusion his mind had created.
* * *
Raoul looked angrily at his wrist communicator. Tigernmas continued to stare blankly out at him. The Mechanic looked at the group of hard faced men and women who stood around him.
‘Right, this is the situation. Some kind of Outsider has entered the facility and deactivated part of the containment system. About two hundred aberrant personalities are free and roaming the complex trying to find a way out. We need to herd the Outsider in the direction of the nearest exit, while at the same time taking out as many Reds as possible. Any questions?’
‘What about fatalities?’ asked one of the other Mechanics.
Raoul shrugged. ‘Obviously we’ll want to keep that to a minimum. You know the drill, softly, softly and so on.’
There was a moments silence while the Mechanics stared at each other. Then they burst out in gales of laughter.
‘I’m kidding,’ grinned Raoul ‘kill them all, you boys and girls could do with a treat. In fact since this is something of a special occassion, choose your weapons freely. Head down to storage; this place is a maze, there should be plenty of time to pick up some decent kit and still rack up a good body count. Well? What are you waiting for? Go kill somebody.’
* * *
By the time Raoul reached the chamber he used as an office, most of the Mechanics were in the storage area that the archaic weapons were kept in. Raoul went to a drawer in his compact desk and began rapidly searching through it, throwing discarded items over his shoulder. As he did, he noted with interest which weapons his fellow Mechanics selected over the monitor system. Raoul grinned as he saw the bulk of the group selecting genuinely archaic weapons, swords were the dominant choice.
‘Very old school,’ muttered Raoul, ‘keep it up close and personal. Ah, there you are!’ Raoul produced a large, gleaming hand gun from the recesses of his drawer. Continuing to root about, he swiftly found a packet of cigarettes and a small cigarette holder. A moment later he found his antique lighter and a small box of bullets. Raoul swallowed a large handful of pills, Entheogen and combat drugs, and then set off at a trot. He didn’t want to miss any of the fun.
* * *
Lyssa led her charges in the direction she believed the transport elevators lay in. The six disorientated Illumined trailed after her.
‘What happened to you? Why are you all so feeble? I had hoped to teleport out of here, but I can’t carry all of you while we’re in this pyramid. This is much less fun than it should have been. Are you listening to me? You’re spoiling my fun! Zelus, we’re almost family. Why would you ruin my fun?’
Zelus waved his hand vaguely, but did not reply. The Illumined known as Tenjin spoke up.
‘Distant Cousin, this weakness of ours is not an attempt to raise your ire. Our captors have taken much of our strength during their experiments on us. They partook of our essence to create cloned versions of ourselves.’
‘Clones? Of us? But we can’t be cloned. How incredibly rude! I hate it when people aren’t polite.’
Lyssa paused. In front of them were two figures, a short brawny blond man with a bronze shortspear and a taller, dark haired woman who only appeared to be armed with the Mechanics dart thrower. The man blurred forward, taking a few loping steps before launching himself through the air, his spear raised for a downward strike. Lyssa extended her hand, palm outward and the man froze in midair.
‘Ok, next!’ grinned Lyssa. ‘And yes, the hand thing is just for show. Well, get on with it.’
The dark haired Mechanic shook her head.
‘No, I know who you are. My apologies mighty Lyssa, Achilles here is an..uncomplicated sort of person. He didn’t recognise you, please be merciful.’
Lyssa narrowed her eyes, speculatively.
‘You look familiar. It’s Medea isn’t it?’
‘How do we get to the observation platform at the top of the pyramid?’
‘It would be an honour to facilitate your escape, please follow me.’
Lyssa directed her attention at the suspended Achilles.
‘Following this ok? Now behave yourself, or you’ll be joining me as a companion. Do I make myself clear?’
Achilles remained motionless in the air.
‘Oh, right.’ muttered Lyssa. Achilles was suddenly released, dropping to the ground as the force was removed. He briefly nodded his assent and he and Medea began to guide the Illumined in the correct direction for the platform.
* * *
Chingis closed his eyes and let his consciousness drift around. He sensed the presence of three souls nearby, all charged with confusion and panic. He opened his eyes and glanced at his companion.
‘Looks like three Reds are about to corner themselves. We should get over there before they realise.’
Musashi glanced up. He had been lost in rapt consideration of the katana he was holding.
‘Excellent. You know, I really miss using this. Centuries later, and the edge is still exquisite.’
Chingis grunted. ‘ I appreciate a good blade, but let’s not get carried away.’
Musashi rolled his eyes, ‘A weapon should be an extension of a true warriors body. Surely it makes sense to obtain the best possible?’
‘That makes sense. Oh, I tried reading your book. I think the subtlety of it might have been lost on me.’
Musashi looked pleased. ‘I’m happy you gave it a go. A lot is lost in the translation, I think. The basic thrust of it is quite straightforward, though.’
The two men rounded the corner into a corridor which appeared to be a dead end. At the end of the corridor were three men clad in the Bio gowns which allowed them to be held in suspended animation by the Life Engineers. One of the three stepped forward and called out to the two Mechanics.
‘I realise you probably hear this alot, but, there’s been a mistake. We’re not aberrant personalities, we we’re taken by mistake.’
With their Entheogen enhanced senses, both Musashi and Chingis heard the ring of truth in the man’s voice. The Mechanics didn’t slow their pace. Musashi continued to speak.
‘You can distill it down to this simple truth. Hit them in the face.’ As he spoke the last sentence, Musashi leapt the final twenty feet of the corridor and brought his katana down on the head of the man who had spoken. It split like a melon. In his peripheral vision he saw Chingis thrust his sabre deep into the chest of one of the other gowned men. Musashi kicked the body of the man he had just killed into Chingis’ path and swiftly decapitated the third man.
‘That’s two for me.’
Chingis nodded solemnly. ‘That is both simple and profound. Hit them in the face. Those, my friend, are words to live by.’
The two Mechanics paused to clean their swords on the gowns of the butchered men, then continued their sweep of the area.
* * *
Raoul stepped into an alcove, sensing the approach of one of the escapees. A grin split his face as he realised who it was. A moment passed, then a large man with a bushy moustache ran past, not seeing the concealed Mechanic in his haste to find an exit. Still grinning, Raoul stepped silently out behind him and levelled his pistol. He fired twice, hitting the fugitive once in the back of each knee. The man gave a bellow of pain and collapsed to the ground. Raoul inserted another cigarette into the holder and lit it. He then ambled towards the prone man, twirling his gun as he did so. As the Mechanic approached, the wounded man managed to sit up slightly, his face ashen.
‘That was careless of you,’ remarked Raoul, ‘I always assumed that you paranoid types snuck about rather than run blindly. You live and learn.’
The wounded man glared at Raoul but remained silent.
‘Cat got your tongue? Okay then, I’ll talk. First though, I have to know – what is it with dictators and stupid moustaches? I mean seriously, is it like a badge or something?’
The prone man snarled a response at Raoul.
‘Ah, still speaking the mother tongue eh? Unfortunately I don’t speak Russian, so perhaps we could insult each other in English? Tell me though, I’m curious. How did you manage to keep coming back as the ruler of the same country? Pretty neat trick considering the fact that the Mnemosyne Device hadn’t been invented.’
A slow, cruel smile spread across the wounded man’s face. He spat out two words in response.
‘Well, I know those words. You made a deal with Baba Yaga. Interesting. Deal still in place?’
The Russian remained silent, a strange look in his eyes. Suddenly Raoul felt nervous. He narrowed his eyes.
‘Okay, give her my best.’ Raoul fired his pistol twice more and the Russian slumped to the ground, a pool of blood slowly spreading outwards.
‘Hmm, not good.’ A look of contemplation on his face, Raoul abandoned his hunt and set off towards his office.
* * *
Macha and CuChulainn crept along the winding, rocky trail which led to the summit of Mount Tahat. Ahead lay the first watch post, and something was nagging at CuChulainn.
‘I can’t sense any people up ahead,’ he said in a low voice, ‘that probably means they’re shielded. I suggest we make a bit of noise, see if we can’t tempt them out.’
Macha frowned, a distant expression on her face.
‘I don’t sense anyone other than us on the entire mountain. The Community doesn’t have the technology to conceal people from me, there’s something strange going on.’
‘This has all the hallmarks of a trap, I think they know we’re coming.’
‘Well, let’s not disappoint them.’
The pair proceeded along the trail, hugging the side of the mountain as they did. After a short time they could see the Bio Engineered watch post. Shaped as a tower, the watchpost seemed to grow organically out of the mountain. It completely blocked the trail ahead, the only way past was to go through the tower itself. They scrutinised the tower for signs of life, but all was eerily still.
‘That’s weird,’ whispered CuChulainn, ‘I can sense the ambient life energy of the tower but nothing else.’
‘We can’t hang about here all night, we’ve a distraction to be getting on with. Lets knock on the door and see if anyone’s home.’
The two burst into a run, heading directly towards the tower. As they approached, CuChulainn raised the arm his dart thrower was fastened to and fired four of the small missiles. The darts struck the entrance of the tower and exploded violently in a cloud of flame. The entrance was vapourised by the impact and he and Macha stormed into the tower, she wielding a silvery sword which had appeared in her hand as she ran and CuChulainn brandishing the barbed spear known as the Gae-Bolg. Their momentum slowed somewhat when no one came out to resist them. They exchanged concerned glances and swiftly set about searching the damaged watch post. It took them a matter of moments to confirm that the tower was unoccupied.
Deeply puzzled, Macha blew the tower exit open with an absent wave of her hand. Moving with caution, they left the abandoned watch post and continued along the trail. As they travelled up the mountain, Macha suddenly spotted a small object on the path. They stood for a moment, while they considered what they had found. It was a severed human foot. Macha picked it up.
‘This was bitten off,’ she said quietly.
‘It looks like someone has cleared the way for us.’
CuChulainn squinted up towards the summit of the mountain.
‘This seems to be degenerating into a long walk with no fighting. Very disappointing.’
The air was suddenly split with a thunderous roar from the direction of the summit. CuChulainn covered his ears and small rocks were dislodged from the mountain from the force of the sound. Macha paled slightly.
‘It looks like you’re going to get your fight.’ she said grimly.
‘What was that? That was noisy as hell.’
‘That, was Typhon. The reason it was so loud is because he has a hundred heads.’
CuChulainn grinned tightly.
‘Right then, let’s get a move on. I haven’t killed a monster for centuries.’
Macha returned the grin, her eyes glowing red.