For this to work I have to be have all my ducks, kind of, in a row. I climbed off of the elevator and back to the doors and put my ear to them and extended my mind as far as I could. My fears were solidified when I heard and felt the presence of at least twenty of the psychopaths on the floor around me. I felt dirty touching their minds. Death and hunger seemed to drive them, an insatiable need to feed the Dark Lord with sacrifice. They rivalled the feeling whatever it was in the underground had put out. Sheer animalistic menace.
It made my plan easier to justify.
I climbed back onto the top of the car and found the entrance hatch on top and opened it with as much stealth as I could muster. This was going to have to be done swiftly and efficiently if I still a chance of surviving. I dropped in and cloaked myself like John had taught me. Deep breaths. Deep calming breaths like Josef had shown me to use to gather all of my will and focus. This had a fifty percent chance of either being fucking awesome or my dying a horrendous death.
I had never tried anything like this. For one I had just learned the cloaking technique. And second this was gonna take a massive burst of energy. More than I had ever tried before. I gathered all my strength and sent out a signal of distress to the birds nesting above me. I did my best to get them all. At first I felt nothing but soon I heard the beginning rumbles of a cacophony of anger above me. As it boiled to ahead and I felt I had gotten the message across I jammed the door open button on the elevator and goaded the birds into action by mimicking the terror of a hatchling on the floor itself. Sent flashes of humans in masks torturing it and breaking eggs.
Please work. I threw myself into the corner of the elevator as the door opened and prayed to the Silence it was enough.
It was glorious. The door opened with a chime that sent the already agitated birds into a frenzy of bloodlust. They came through the open hatch like a murder swarm and out onto the cultists that came running to the open elevator in hopes of a blood feast. And boy did they get one. The sight of fifteen or twenty of them in their masks running to the elevator right as at least forty pissed off pirahna birds flew down the hatch was one of the most disturbing and satisfying images of my life. Or at least the thirty seconds of mayhem and terror I could stand before hitting the door close button was. Thank you Mr Harrison for your rambling biology class in high school. He was the one that had taught me about the territorial nature of the pirahna bird. I think he would have stayed to see the destruction from a scientific point of view. I didn’t like to dissect the mice so the viscera I saw in the short half a minute was far too much to handle. They were true killing machines.
And it looked like the Dark Lord had gotten his sacrifice as well. Forty birds, two stones. Or twenty savages. Whatever. I probed the shaft above me and found it pretty much empty of life. Pretty much, except for some hatchlings unable to make the dive bomb run. Hopefully nothing I couldn’t handle as I began to climb the ladder again. I kept a steady probe going as realized the things that had seemed so hard the last couple months were becoming ingrained and natural. The action and necessity made them almost second nature. Not like convincing the rats to leave the bar which had seemed like a chore to do. Maybe when John showed me the way to cloak myself it had made a connection in my brain that this wasn’t an unused nusance but a part of who I am now. Something I think I had been fighting. This is a part of me and one I need to utilize to it’s fullest if I am going to enacy the change needed.
It was chaos on the floors. The birds slaughter was sending shockwaves throughout the floors above. Confusion as to why it happened was going to turn into investigation before long. I needed to be gone before it led them to see what had driven the birds mad and how they had gotten onto the floor. I wondered how many people lived here. The plans said there were one thousand rooms in the hotel, four hundred for guests to stay in plus meeting rooms, the two ballrooms on the third floor I had managed to avoid, assorted gyms and employee areas and the rooftop pools. Even with my juiced up strength I was getting exhausted from the climb. And a pounding headache was developing behind my eyes from the stress of the constant probing and cloaking I had been doing. This was a good test if what I could do but I felt the limits rapidly approaching. A quick flash of my light showed I was at floor nineteen.
And the dawning that even if these twisted bastards weren’t the smartest I. The eventually they would question how the birds got onto the floor to commence their slaughter. Someone was going to decide to brave it and check the elevator shaft I was hiding in. It was just a matter of time.
Thank the Silence these weren’t glass elevators.
As the thought entered my mind I heard the sounds of a door being pried open below me. Right below me. I cloaked again and nearly lost my hold on the ladder as wave of dizziness swept across me. I felt something wet on my face and tasted copper. I think I must have hit my wall in juice. This is the first time I have gotten a bloody nose since training with Josef. Bad fucking timing which seems to be part for the course for me. Have to push through this.
Light slowly began to leak into the shaft as the doors started to open and I slid down the ladder until I was right next them. In a panic I took one of the carbon blades from my jacket and jammed it into the track. A sound of frustration as the doors stopped moving.
“It won’t open! Fucking thing is stuck again!” a high pitched voice shouted.
“Out of the way little one, let a man take over,” a deep and booming voice intoned.
“Be my guest moron. Ain’t like anyone is dumb enough to climb the pirahna bird nest anyway. I’m tellin ya, those idiots on twelve we’re after eggs. Dark Lord take every last one of them for fools. Now we have the Silence be damned things all over. All the way up to fifteen is sealed off.”
“The Mistress say do it. We do it. If meat is out there we get meat for Mistress.”
“Or we tell her we looked and didn’t see shit. Between you, me and the Dark Lord. C’mon Mong, I wanna get down to fifteen and get some of the good chunks before they are all gone.”
There was one more push on the door but the blade held.
“You’re right. I’m hungry too. No one dumb enough to risk the bird nests. You tell her though.”
“Sounds good my friend. Let’s eat first.”
The sounds of laughter faded as they walked away and I pulled my knife out of the frame and returned it to the sheathe in my jacket. I am too shaky with the pistol to do much good but I can use my blades. But that is a fools game against so many. I need to train. And aspirin. This headache is a distraction and that is something I cannot afford. I hook my right arm through the ladder and use my hand to pinch the cluster in my left hand between the thumb and forefinger. Immediate relief floods through my aching skull. It isn’t enough that I can risk my abilities but enough that I don’t feel like I am going to vomit. Once I am only seeing double I climb to the rooftop pool exit and decide I need to risk leaving the shaft.
The door barely opens halfway, rust has built up all around it. From a couple.floirs beneath me I can hear another door being opened and the sound of the elevator motor revving up. No time like the present to ditch this bird shit covered place I think as I jump through the opening not a moment too soon.
The first thing I notice is the blinding light. The impossibly blinding light. There is no way the roof could be lit up like this or the entire city would see it. Which leads to the second thing I see, or don’t see. The City is gone. What the hell. I look around once my eyes adjust to the illumination and realize I am in a garden of some kind. Lush vegetation and bushes shaped like animals surround me. And marble statues of naked men with swords and shields. Sweet scents assault my nose, I can only guess it is the flowers that seem to be growing everywhere. Is this what it is like in the country outside the City? If so I could learn to like it.
Focus Gear. But this grass is awfully soft and I did just climb through a Satanist filled hotel with booby traps and carnivorous birds. Maybe just a couple more moments wouldn’t hurt anything.
“Hello Mr Dreary. We have been waiting for you,” a warm female voice drifted from the greenery surrounding me.
“About damn time. Take the scenic route through moron convention?” a second, not quite as inviting voice uttered.
“Be nice to him Marie, he has clearly been through a lot on his way up here. Poor dear has a bloody nose from his little game with the birds.” a third voice intoned.
And three ladies in white dresses came strolling down a path I hadn’t noticed towards me. I quickly got to my feet and tensed up for a fight. If today taught me anything it was to be ready for a skin mask or explosion.
“Relax Gear, we are the ones you came to see. We are the Seers. My name is Sophie,” the first voice now had a face. She is gorgeous, light brown skinned with those deep chocolate eyes you just sort of find yourself falling into.
“Do you realize what a pain in the ass it was to keep those birds in that elevator shaft? Now they are flying all around and shitting on everything,” the second voice belonged to an equally lovely, if not angrier, fair skinned woman.
“Marie, enough. Jeez. I think he was more focused on living than a little bird poo. Here you go dear, clean yourself up a little. You surprised us with your clever climb. No one has managed that path so far. We will have to take steps to prevent that for the next visitor,” the third woman responded as she held out a wet towel to me. She smiled and it lit the area even brighter. Her blue eyes sparkling with kindness. “And my name is Patty.”
I accepted the towel and scrubbed my face while taking in the garden around me and trying not stare at them. “Thank you. Now where the hell are we?”
Marie chuckled at that and answered, “The rooftop pool. Didn’t you read that before opening the door?”
“Fair enough. What do you mean prevent that for the next visitor?”
Patty looked chagrined and replied, “There has to always be a cost to reach us, let’s call it a quest. If you could just ride the elevator up and ask us for knowledge it would be a, what is the term? Cluster fuck.”
“You aren’t the first to climb the elevator, so we added those terrible little birds,” Sophie added.
“So you set the traps? And filled the hotel with Satanists?”
“They are just the latest in road blocks we have employed,” Patty answered.
“But why? None of this makes sense to me. You ladies look to be around my age but Brad knew you. What is really going on here?”
“That is a long story. Our power is great, and must be earned through quest, test or sacrifice. Long ago we tried to help everyone. And it turned into more than we could possibly handle. So we created a set of rules to cut down the chaff,” Sophie said, her sif voice carrying a hint of steel.
“Plus there is always that one asshole that thinks he can just kidnap us and use our abilities. It helps deter those bastards. So don’t even think about it, you may be cute but…” Marie threatened. But the crinkle of a smile almost showed in the corner of her eye. Nearly.
“How many people actually make it up here?” I asked trying to absorb everything.
“One in fifty, maybe in a hundred. It requires great means or need. I remember another that was nearly as vexing as you with his ease of ascent. I liked him,” Patty said, her smile clear and present.
“Are you the same seers from the myths?”
“Now that is a tricky question Gear, tricky indeed. Would you believe us if we said yes?” Patty answered.
“Then it doesn’t matter. Now to business. You have come to us to see the path you walk, correct?” Marie asked.
“I am looking for a girl. She was kidnapped.”
“Is that your problem, or that just a symptom of a greater ill?” Sophie questioned me.
That was a great question. One I had not really considered.
“Who was the other that vexed you?”
“That is your question? Are you stupid?” Marie snarled.
“No. Just curious.”
“A real fool named Phlegm Hardly. He was a lot like you. Stupid around the edges but with a decent core. I liked him, sort of,” Marie muttered.
Patty stepped forward and snapped her fingers. Silence fell over the garden.
She looked around for a second and made a motion with her left hand and the garden, flexed around her. A large mushroom grew into the form of a chair and she sat down. Sophie and Marie moved to stand at either of her shoulders. The complete lack of sound seemed to freeze everything. A gentle wind rustled leaves on the topiary but muted.
She looked at me and gently smiled. There was a tinge of sorrow to it.
Her voice broke the quiet,
“We are the oracles of this age. Throughout history there have been three seers, able to view the mist and discern the truth hidden from human eyes. They stood at Delphi and the people took their words as from the gods themselves.
As man moved forward the elder seers passed on the mantle to new aspects. The industrial age came and the seers spoke through machinery. The turning gears spoke of the knowledge behind the veil. They helped those on their journeys for a very long time.
And then age of electronic dreams began. We are the incarnation of this era. The world has tightened with the advent of the web that connects all knowledge. We view the ebbs and flow of electricity and data and see that which is invisible.
We watched the rise of City States from the wreckage of antiquated governments. Helped shift the paradigm to the world as it exists today. The reliance on former technology nearly destroyed the globe. We now shuffle through the debris in an effort to bring a new dawning of prosperity to the planet.
You stand at the cusp of preventing something terrible Mr Dreary. All the disparate threads are leading to a collision. You have been swept along with unseen machinations for longer than you know. They seek to shape you into the vessel of their attempt to conquer. First the City you love and then like dominos the rest of the world.
It all has led you here. Seemingly innocuous movements, molding and changing you into something more. Or less. This is the crossroads you stand at. Your burgeoning power is the key, the application of it your choice. You have forged bonds, new and old that shall help you to shatter the chains or reinforce them. An easy path was not laid upon your shoulders, but that is nothing you have not seen for yourself.
And it all comes to a head with the search for a girl. An innocent pawn in a game that has been playing for decades.”
She stared at me with solid blue orbs, it felt like she was looking through me, into me. Sophie and Marie’s eyes had turned the same deep blue that encompasses the entire socket, crackling with energy. I could feel the power and weight of the words on my mind.
This was no tall tale, no fable of mythology. They were beyond the human forms they wore. It doesn’t happen often but I was speechless, caught in the web like a fly. For a brief flash I saw the garden as a series of pulsating white lights coming from everywhere. Not just the City but the entire world. All culminating on this place and flowing directly into them. It was overwhelming in the millisecond of clarity and I found myself sitting in the now thick green grass.
I knew we were not in a garden any longer, never were, it was just a construction to make me feel more at ease. This was another place entirely, a space in the world and the web at one time. I tried to make words but my tongue felt like it was made of plastisteel. I could only sit and listen.
“Your parents knew you had the potential for so much. And it scared them. They chose to live at the edge of the City to keep you from the inner struggles that would shape your destiny. To keep you safe from the forces that they knew would battle to control you. We did our best to protect them. To hide you. But the powers that be have many tendrils to search. They laid a trap and you fell into it unwittingly. They pull the strings of an invisible web.
The answers you seek and the mission you are on are the same. These hidden architects are behind it all. Now you must make the choice, do you cut the strings and forge your own path? Or will you let them continue to control you?”
I sat forward, the weight of her words suffocating at the immensity they carried. “How do I cut the strings I didn’t know existed? Why did they select me?”
“At last you begin to see. Somethings remain hidden, even from us. But you were marked from an early age. Something caught their interest but nothing stands out. It is unusual for us to lack information.”
“Do you mean I spent the day coming here for answers you cannot give? That for all your epic fantasies you are as blind as I am of the machinations pulling me?”
“Yes. There is a void that surrounds you. An absence of information. As if you have been cloaked by the same people that seek to use you. In masking their actions that have masked you as well.”
“And you knew this before I arrived?”
“We thought it was interference. It wasn’t until you were in front of us we realized how deeply affected you have been. Whole chunks of your life remain shrouded in shadow. Your childhood at the fringe is tinged with tendrils of nothing. Your school results, your medical history all seem to be erased. It makes no sense, seemingly at random events of your life are nowhere. Your adolescence is clear because of the footprints your friends have created. They shine light on some of the missing parts. But once your parents died you vanish again.
The painstaking detail to scrub you from the flow of information hints at an importance we cannot find. You are a ghost in this modern age Gear. A mystery to us. This same shroud covers the Delamars as well. This is why we contacted your friend Brad. We had to see you for ourselves. To be able to see for ourselves and determine the cause.”
“So this little trip was to satisfy your curiousity? Not to help me out, but to appease your craving for knowledge? That is bullshit! A little girl is out there alone and you only care about fucking gaps in your vision. And I wasted all day for nothing.”
I stood to leave. Anger making my hand shake. Patty stood and extended her hand to stop me. I ignored it and made my way past them, back to the elevator shaft and the long climb back down. I felt her hand on my shoulder and stopped and gave her my best you are gonna lose that fucking hand stare.
“You are right. It was our hubris that brought you here. The belief nothing should be invisible from our sight. Please accept our apologies. We may still have a way to help you. But it comes a time a price. Are you willing to pay for our gift?”
“Why should I trust you now? I don’t have time for more games. I have work to do. A girl to save. And apparently a fucking cabal out to use me. I’m tired of being used. Being beaten and tricked into doing what I am told. Don’t think I will let you do the same. It has been a real treat meeting you, oh epic seers with no answers but I need to go.”
Her hand never left my shoulder though I saw her flinch from my words. “Agree to the price and we can help you. Give you access to knowledge. Let us help you.”
“Because we stand at the cusp of everything ending. This era can bring about great things if allowed to flourish. And that is your duty. To keep this age alive.”
“And what is the price for this help?”
“Your left eye.”
“Are you fucking crazy? My eye for your help? I already nearly got blown up and eaten by those electric satanists and now you need an eye?”
“An eye for an eye Mr Dreary. A deal as old as time.”
I just stood there, staring at them in disbelief. My day had gone from looking for one little girl to the fate of the modern age resting on my shoulders by three ladies with no knowledge to help. And now they want to take my left eye.
“I appreciate the offer. And the cardio getting up here but I don’t think so. Let’s do this again sometime.”
I shrugged her hand off of my shoulder and walked back towards the elevator. Which was no longer there. Nice dramatic walk away.
I turned back and asked, “Little help here?”
“You will be back Gear. And the offer stands,” Sophie said kindly. A wave of her hands and the elevator opened up from the trunk of a tree. The car was waiting and looked brand new compared to the one I had seen earlier. I stepped in and hit the lobby button and hoped no moron in a skin mask decided to join me.
None did. I was hunched down ready to attack when the doors slid open but the only thing that hreeted me was the smell of blood from the blown up antler headed man from this morning. I stayed low and made my way back to the tunnel and then to the parking garage. What a wasted day I thought as I walked back to Our Bar.
And no where closer to Rae. Just more questions.