Raoul marched towards the large geodesic dome which housed the Chroniclers on the University campus. The building housed the many projects and dioramas they were working on, as well as their considerable research facilities. As Raoul approached one of the entrances, he delved into one of his pockets and produced a pill case. From that he shook a half dozen brightly coloured gel capsules. Without breaking stride, he swallowed them in one gulp, and examined his wrist mounted projectile thrower.
‘Now,’ he muttered, ‘what’ve we got? Hmm, three tranqs, two concussion, one flame and four explosive. I guess that’ll have to do then.’ Raoul placed the darts in the thrower and turned off the auto sequencer, so he could more easily vary the missile fired. Raoul marched through the open doors and almost immediately middle aged man in what appeared to be a toga, was upon him.
‘May I enquire as to your business here, sir’ began the man in the toga.
‘Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you, you bastard. My business will remain my own. You are not ready to learn the things that I know.’
The older man looked affronted. ‘We Chroniclers are custodians of great knowledge, I’m sure I’m quite ready to learn anything you know.’
‘So, you think you’re ready, do you?’ snarled Raoul. His knee shot forward like a piston, crunching into the older man’s groin. The man in the toga slid to the ground, gurgling slightly.
‘Jackass!’ snapped Raoul, ‘You’re wasting valuable time, have you any idea how important this is? Listen carefully. Where will I find Brandon Horne?’
With herculean effort the tightly curled form of the older man gasped out ‘Second level, Lewis Carroll Diorama.’
Raoul considered the great cylindrical glass elevator which ran up the centre of the building. ‘Evacuate the building then have that thing deactivated and seal all the stairwells after I go up.’ He regarded the slowly rising figure of the Chronicler, ‘Hurry up man, there’s a lot riding on this.’ With that, Raoul ran towards the nearest stairs and bounded up them, three at a time. As he did so, he established mental contact with the Life Engineer telepath stationed a half mile away. He concentrated and then broadcast a thought at the telepath,
‘Target location is the second floor, can you confirm?’ Almost instantly there was a response.
‘Target confirmed on second floor. Be aware, there is some kind of distortion partially blocking my Sight.’
Raoul cautiously moved through the door from the stairs onto the second floor. He found himself in an idyllic rural scene. Here and there were scattered oak and willow trees, the area criss crossed with hedgerows. A small river bubbled past and in the near distance three Synthetics were going through a picnic routine. One of them was styled as a bookish looking man; the other two were fashioned as small girls. The Synthetics went through their motions, completely oblivious to Raoul. He scrutinised the room, with his Entheogen enhanced vision. The physical structure of the Diorama was supplemented by numerous three dimensional holograms, being projected from a range of positions. Beneath one of the hedgerows, there was a largish hole. Raoul could clearly perceive space-time being stretched around the hole.
‘Heh, got a warp generator have we?’ he muttered
As Raoul completed his survey of the Diorama, he was surprised to see a man in a badly fitting, furry white suit with a hood appear from behind a small copse of willow trees. The man was holding a small electronic tool kit. The new arrival squatted behind the male Synthetic and tinkered with the data input port behind its ear. Raoul took in the scene, shrugged and raised the arm with the projectile thrower. He cleared his throat loudly, catching the attention of the other man.
‘We both know why I’m here, now drop the tool kit and step away from the Synthetics.’
The other man stood up and solemnly pulled his hood over his head. A large floppy ear protruded from either side of the hood.
‘Jesus, man! Have a little dignity!’ snapped Raoul, firing a tranq as he did so. In a blur of movement, the larger Synthetic rose and took the dart in the chest. The man in the white rabbit suit cackled with glee, spun round and dived for the hole under the hedgerow. Raoul sprinted forward and the three Synthetics reached into the picnic basket to produce long, sharp kitchen knives. They advanced to meet Raoul in a semi circle formation, the larger Synthetic in the middle. The smaller Synthetic on Raoul’s left, darted forward blade raised for a strike. Relieved to have swallowed his drugs before entering the building, Raoul made a sweeping gesture with his right hand. The small Synthetic was picked up and sent spinning into the path of the larger Synthetic. Both crashed to the ground as Raoul dodged past the remaining Synthetic and somersaulted over the tangle of Synthetics on the ground. In two strides and a dive, he went head first down the hole.
Raoul seemed to float endlessly through the darkness, with no real sense of up and down. His heightened senses told him he was under the influence of a warp generator, and that the actual distance travelled and time taken, was, in reality very small. He was also aware of the fact that his mental contact with the telepath had been broken, presumably by the warp generator.
With the gentlest of landings, Raoul found himself sitting in a small pile of leaves. A dimly lit corridor stretched ahead of him. Raoul rose and dusted himself off, with a quick glance at his projectile thrower; he walked carefully down the corridor. The corridor terminated in a large hall, its walls lined with many wooden doors, illuminated by lamps suspended from the ceiling. Raoul tried a few of the doors, finding them to be locked. He glanced about the room and spotted a small glass table, with a tiny golden key on it. just visible in the wall behind the table was a tiny wooden door.
‘Yeah, right.’ he muttered and then stepped towards a large door and kicked it using all of his chemically enhanced strength. The door exploded inwards, the door frame splintering from the force of the blow. Raoul strode through the wreckage of the door and looked around. He was in a scene of giant sized flowers and blades of grass, dotted with giant multicoloured mushrooms. Perched atop a nearby mushroom was a Synthetic in the form of a giant caterpillar. It was inhaling from a water pipe and puffing out smoke rings in various hues.
‘Who-‘ it began,
‘If you ask me who I am, I will smash you into tiny pieces you Synthetic monster,’ snarled Raoul, ‘Where the hell is Brandon Horne?’ The caterpillar offered no response other than to produce another smoke ring. Raoul attempted to re-establish mental contact with the telepath outside the building. They seemed separated by a vast gulf, but after a few seconds he felt a tickle in his mind. In the air above the ground an enormous grinning mouth appeared. Rapidly a large ginger cat formed around it.
‘I’m struggling to maintain contact,’ the cat said, ‘what’s the situation?’
‘He’s reprogrammed the Synthetics to attack or otherwise annoy humans,’ replied Raoul, scowling at the caterpillar ‘and he’s hiding in the Diorama. All stairs and the glass elevator have been closed off. I just need to find the pigfucker, don’t think he’s a fighter.’
The ginger cat began to fade from view, the mental contact between the two weakening. ‘I’ll take a booster and try to re-establish…’ it said as it faded from view.
Raoul considered the caterpillar.
‘Right, you swine, we’ll do it your way! Where’s the damn white rabbit?’
The caterpillar responded with a prodigious smoke ring, which encircled Raoul before drifting lazily away.
‘You objectionable bastard.’ Raoul raised his projectile thrower and a dart thudded into the caterpillar’s chest. He glanced about, his altered perceptions easily picking out the three concealed doors leading to other parts of the Diorama. As he marched purposefully towards the nearest exit, there was an explosion, followed by the sound of bits of caterpillar falling softly to the ground.
The door opened into a corridor not dissimilar to the first one Raoul had encountered. When he had travelled it’s length he discovered that it opened onto a scene of an enormous, ornate garden, replete with statuary and magnificent fountains. Here and there were Synthetics, designed to look like playing cards with limbs and a head, were painting white rose blooms with red paint. Raoul moved carefully forward, into the garden. The Synthetics seemed completely absorbed in their task. He noted, however, that they were armed with quite authentic looking swords.
Following the sounds of conversation, Raoul came upon a bizarre game being played by more of the Synthetics. The game appeared to be being played by Synthetics designed to resemble the ‘face’ cards. They were clutching upside down flamingoes in their hands and were using them to sent rolled up hedgehogs between square hoops formed of number card Synthetics. Capering around the Queen of Hearts was the man in the white rabbit suit.
Raoul raised his weapon and fired at the back of the suited man. The dart sank into the back of his neck and he folded to the ground. The Queen of Hearts looked at Raoul, pointed at him and cried,
‘Off with his head!’
The number cards leapt from their gymnastic positions and charged forward, brandishing their swords. Raoul fired a dart into the middle of the group and danced backwards. The dart detonated with a concussive wave with knocked the Synthetics to the ground, and dissipated a foot from Raoul. He swooped down to grab one of the swords, took two steps and then leapt forward, to land thirty feet away, in front of the Queen. He swung the blade in an upwards motion, slicing the Synthetic almost in two.
‘Your Majesty.’ he mumbled. In a swift move he sent the sword turning end over end, to embed itself in the nearby Knave of Hearts. The Synthetic crumpled to the ground. Raoul crouched and placed the white rabbit’s hands behind his back before attaching thumb and wrist restraints. He picked up the unconscious man and threw him over his shoulder.
The Synthetics rising from the ground were flattened once more as Raoul barged past them running for the scene with the caterpillar. The Entheogen he had taken had worn off; he could no longer see the hidden door. Raising his weapon in the general direction of the exit he fired another dart, which generated a violent explosion when it impacted with the wall. Abruptly, several of the hologram projectors cut out and the fire suppressant measures activated. Through the fine spray from above, Raoul could see the door, now no longer concealed by a hologram. He ran for the exit, pursued by the playing card Synthetics, and as he passed through he fired another dart at the floor. A pool of liquid fire erupted, the leaping flames filling the door frame.
Raoul could feel the various drugs he had taken beginning to wear off. The man in the rabbit suit was becoming heavier, Raoul’s reflexes were slowing to human levels and his enhanced endurance was fading. As he dragged the prone body through the corridor leading to the hole, he looked back to see two heavy set twin male Synthetics, each armed with a sledgehammer. They marched inexorably down the corridor after him.
He wrestled the rabbit suited man onto the pile of leaves, and suddenly experienced the sensation of endless falling through the darkness. He maintained a firm grip on the white rabbit even when they were both spat out the hole in the hedgerow. Without hesitation he snapped of another explosive dart at the Synthetic picnickers and then, once they were clear, the other dart at the hole. The explosion ripped through the hedgerow and destroyed the concealed warp generator, trapping the Synthetics on the other side of the wall.
Raoul paused. He studied the man in the white rabbit suit and then judiciously shot him with another tranq dart. He carefully placed a bag over the man’s head and then dragged him by his foot towards the stairs.
Outside, Raoul was greeted by a concerned throng of Chroniclers. They all spoke in a great clamour and Raoul raised his hand for silence. Behind him, smoke billowed from several levels of the building.
‘During the course of my business here, I was forced to make a few structural alterations. I’m sure you people can adapt to the changes. Now, get out of my way!’
Raoul strode away, dragging the white rabbit, whose head bounced rhythmically on the ground.