‘Lyssa? Are you in there?’
Macha’s voice echoed in the darkness, she stood at the mouth of a cavernous opening into the side of a tall, broad based hill. When she had arrived, the opening had been disguised with compulsion to look away from it. She was fairly confident that if Lyssa wasn’t inside the cave, then she was certainly nearby. With a shrug, Macha entered the cave and glanced about, her sight adjusting so that the pitch dark became as bright as day. The interior of the cave was surprisingly dry and warm and towards the rear of it was a rectangular portal. The doorway was flanked on either side by Doric marble columns, one black, the other purest white. Across them lay a heavy marble lintel. The sounds of dozens of people speaking at once wafted faintly from beyond the threshold of the pillars.
‘Well, someone obviously is.’ Macha strode between the pillars and began to march down a long paved corridor. After a time, she paused. She didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the shadowed end of the passage. Glancing back, she saw the way she came stretching off into infinity, the pillars lost from view.
‘Huh.’ There was a tinge of admiration in Macha’s voice, ‘Not bad.’
As she looked backwards and forth, the smooth surface of the walls melted like wax. As the surface flowed, it formed into distorted faces and then grasping hands began to extend from the molten surface.
‘I’m beginning to sense a little hostility here,’ called Macha, ‘stop this, or I will. And you know how much damage I’ll cause doing it.’
Abruptly the scene faded. Macha found herself in a huge chamber, the walls adorned with artifacts ranging from carefully removed cave paintings to cinema posters. The floor was thickly covered with an array of rugs and carpets. Everywhere Macha looked there were wobbling towers of books and curiosities. Sitting in a voluminous leather reclining chair was a small voluptuous woman with dark blonde hair and brown eyes. In a broad arc in front and to the sides of her were a collection of televisions, in many sizes and styles, all on, all on different channels. The entire chamber was lit only by their manic, flickering screens. After a few seconds, Macha’s eyes began to hurt.
‘How are you Lyssa?’
The woman in the chair turned to look at Macha, as if only becoming aware of her.
‘Some of my friends had left me, so I am recovering from terrible melancholy,’ she brightened visibly, ‘but, you can see they have returned, and I am full of joy once more.’ She waved her hand in the direction of the televisions as she spoke. Macha glanced at one of the screens, shuddered, and resolved to keep her attention on Lyssa.
‘We need your help Lyssa.’
Lyssa stared fixedly at one of the screens. She crooked her little finger and an agonised cry emanated from the television.
‘With what, cousin dear?’
‘The Humans are planning something precipitious.’
‘Ungrateful vermin. I said we shouldn’t help them to elevate themselves.’
‘I remember, at least you get the satisfaction of being right. When did you last see Eris?’
‘Years, I think. She decided that Humans were the most fun to play with and went to find a new toy. I haven’t seen her since. What do you want me to help with?’
‘The Humans who call themselves ‘Life Engineers’ have managed to abduct a half dozen of our weaker relations and appear to be trying to clone them.’
‘Didn’t they think we’d find out?’
Macha paused. ‘Well, we didn’t on our own. It was a Human who told us.’
‘How embarrassing. These friends are becoming tedious, perhaps it’s time to make a few more.’
She met Macha’s gaze and then drew it to the chamber wall. There was a poster of a twentieth century film where she was looking. The byline for the poster read ‘Humans are such easy prey…’ Macha grinned savagely and they both burst out laughing.
Cailte and his five remaining clones ran through the tangled forest, bounding over obstacles as they did so. The clone which was tracking their target ran in an almost straight line, only deviating from obstacles that were too large to smash through. Through their telepathic link, Cailte knew that the clone had sensed their target stopping in her headlong flight. She now appeared to be stationary. Cailte felt slightly alarmed. From what he had seen so far, he didn’t think she had stopped because she was out of breath. She was going to make a stand. Against the six of them. They continued to race towards the young woman.
‘Well, one of us has made a mistake. I just hope it’s her.’
When they were a few hundred yards distant, Cailte signalled for a halt. The clones obediently came to rest. Their target had maintained position. Cailte chewed his lower lip as he considered his options. He was struggling to ignore his ever increasing sense that something was very wrong with all of this. Tigernmas had said this was the aberrant personality responsible for the soul destruction of Sinainn, yet Cailte saw no similarities between that animalistic deviant and his current quarry. Suddenly aware of the intent stares of the clones, Cailte felt that same sensation of being measured by them.
‘I think we want to keep you boys busy.’ An idea struck him. He telepathically instructed the clones to use pack tactics and engage the aberrant personality. As they set off, Cailte wandered along behind them apparently in no great rush.
Cailte arrived as the clones were beginning their attack on the aberrant personality. They had met in a large clearing in the forest, dominated by an almost central rocky pool. Two of the clones had held back, each of them with a small bundle of fallen branches. Cailte watched in amazement as the clones grasped the limbs in their right hands and transformed them into large spears. They harried the woman with their missiles, as the other three clones cautiously closed on her, in a triangular formation. In a loose sense, she was surrounded. The woman constantly shifted her position, her eyes everywhere, dodging the thrown spears by mere inches. To Cailte’s experienced mind, she was clearly finding the rhythm of the fight and was preparing to act. He stood back and watched, absently preparing a round of tranq darts.
One of the clones maneuvered behind the young woman and instantly leapt forward, leading with his decorated spear. As he did so, one of the clones facing her also leapt forward. The young woman pivoted and twisted slightly, grabbing each spear just past the head. With little apparent effort she tore them from the grip of each clone and plunged them into the chest of his fellow. Both clones staggered heavily, attempting to pull out the embedded weapons. The woman made a sharp gesture, and with a spurt of blood, the third clone’s head rolled from his shoulders. A powerfully thrown spear grazed her shoulder, sending her spinning. As she regained her balance, she gestured again. The circlets on the clones heads shattered.
Cailte had watched this brief exchange in amazement, horrified at the ease at which the aberrant personality was dispatching the clones. His concerns about the clones proved justified. As soon as the circlets were broken, the clones went berserk. The one closest to Cailte spun to face him and launched itself at him, snarling and baring its teeth. The two crashed to the ground, Cailte furiously working his hand in an attempt to keep the clone from tearing out his throat with its now fang like teeth. Flailing, his other hand found a reasonably large stone and he brought it up with all of his enhanced strength to connect with the clone’s head. A normal skull would have been crushed by such an impact, the clone however, was merely stunned long enough for Cailte to get from under it. He frantically began to reload his dart thrower. As the clone began to rise, he stepped forward and kicked it in the face, toppling it backwards. Oblivious to the injury it had sustained, the clone sprang to its feet, four darts embedding themselves in its chest as it did so. The clone paused and looked down then at Cailte. He gave a small wave and then the clone exploded in a ball of flame. The smouldering remnants fell to the ground across the clearing. Looking over, Cailte saw that the other clones had been dismembered. The young woman stood with her arms folded across her chest. Cailte sent a salvo of tranq darts at the woman. A couple of feet from her, they each swerved so as to avoid striking her.
‘That wasn’t too bright.’
‘Seems not,’ agreed Cailte, ‘you’ll appreciate, I had to try.’
‘Ill mannered too, as I recall when we last met I indicated I would be unhappy if you raised a weapon at me again.’
‘When did we meet before?’
‘Typical, even when gifted with the experiences of a hundred lifetimes, you still don’t remember the important bits. Perhaps this will remind you…’
He felt it like a physical blow. An overpowering fear, a desperate urge to run away, to be anywhere but there. Just as he had enough control of himself to actually flee, the sensation completely vanished. Cailte sank to his knees, drained, all enhancements burned from his system.
‘Nemhain,’ he gasped, ‘Goddess, my apologies.’
‘Goddess isn’t at all accurate, though I appreciate the compliment. Now that you’ve remembered your place in the grand scheme of things, why don’t you explain your extraordinary behaviour? You are a Mechanic, I presume?’
‘Yes Mistress, I’m a Mechanic.’
‘Enough with that, Nemhain will be fine. Now tell me what they told you.’
Cailte summarized the information the Life Engineers had given him, starting with the Outsider’s attack on the facility and the incarnation of the aberrant personality and ending with the vague origins of the slaughtered clones around them.
‘And you believe all that?’
‘No, they went a step too far. They said you were the aberrant personality who destroyed my Soul Partner. As if I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s actually a bit insulting.’
‘The next question then, is, where do your loyalties truly lie? Are you a true Mechanic who lives to protect the Community, or are you just a borderline aberrant personality yourself, putting your impulses to useful purpose?’
‘Sometimes, I’m not sure.’
‘Good answer! I knew we’d picked a good one with you.’
‘What do you mean?
‘The scar. The one you always have. That’s our mark, so we can recognise you through incarnations. It suits you.’
Unconciously, Cailte’s hand went to the silvery scar on his jaw.
‘You branded me?’
‘If you like.’
‘Was that necessary?
‘It kept you alive today, if I hadn’t seen that scar you’d be in bits on the ground.’
‘Fair enough. Do you want to tell me what’s actually going on?’
‘Do you want to help?’
‘If I can.’
‘Alright then, first of all, there was no Outsider. The facility was attacked by one of my relatives, Macha. It was a distraction, but, there was no aberrant personality. I used a Mnemosyne Device to incarnate someone into my body.’
‘That doesn’t make sense, that causes Soul Displacement.’
‘In a Human, my people are capable of carrying a passenger, if you see what I mean.’
‘Don’t fixate on that, I’m not going to explain if you don’t already know. Anyway, the soul I’m carrying is that of Heru Seleem, I assume you know who that is?’
‘Of course, why didn’t he use one of his clones?’
‘Because the LIfe Engineers destroyed them. Most of them anyway, there are a few left but they’re under guard.’
‘Why didn’t they just destroy all of them?’
‘They can’t physically get to these ones, they’re in Heru’s mountain sanctum in Africa. Only the original cabal know how to get into it, and they’re all absent, at the moment because the Life Engineers are blocking their reincarnation.’
Cailte digested this. ‘What do you need me to do?’
‘We’ll discuss that soon, we’re about to have company.’
About ten minutes later, they were joined by tall, red eyed Macha and the diminutive Lyssa. Lyssa eyed Cailte in a predatory manner.
‘A new friend?’
Nemhain spoke sharply, ‘He’s one of ours, Lyssa, you can see the mark. Leave him alone.’
‘He is weak, what purpose does he serve?’
‘He’s a well known Mechanic, as such, he can go almost anywhere unchallenged. He’s perfect for the plan.’
Macha laughed aloud, ‘You do love your plans.’
Nemhain smiled and made a slow pass with her hand. There was a shimmer in the air and a small image of a mountain and its surrounding terrain appeared.
‘This is what we’re going to do…’