Jochek and Lenny had just arrived at the airport.
She was in the passenger seat.
They had no luggage
"We would be together too..."
Jochek made a cutting motion with her hands
"Flanagan said no link: means no link.
Besides, we can't move it through the link."
Lenny gripped the wheel tighter
Jochek grabbed his shoulder
His tension released
He let out a sigh
"Half the time, and the three of us would be together now.
Do you know how long a plane trip between here and Romania is."
Jochek smiled, and air-quoted
Jochek leaned in closer
But we're going to be quick...
We'll find some people close to her, put them in our bodies while we get back to New York."
" 'I' put a lot of work into this body - it's mine if I say it is."
She pressed a finger into his chest
"I am not my body, neither are you."
She loved getting him flustered
"I didn't say I was, I'm saying I expended a lot of energy to..."
She pulled him into a kiss.
Then into something deeper
The creature humans are cells to.
It was and was the not Relux, with a missing third....
Jochek and Lenny of the Lux slid in the Link
"Talking is so faulty - so inefficient...
So many syllables..."
Felix twisted the fellow around
Whom was momentarily offended
Felix then placed his phone in their face
It was the 9th time
"Look at this for me."
Kent watched the stranger's eye twitch.
Felix using his phone irked Kent.
He had what happened to Tom still fresh in his mind
'Keep it cool Kent...'
'It was earlier...
No, it was yesterday morning.'
Felix was just asking a question, and putting a memory of the thief's face in their brain.
A memory extracted from Felix - then encoded into his phone, and finally implanted into another brain.
It wasn't mind control
'How long have I been awake...'
Kent silently fumed
'Or so he tells me...'
The 10th person pointed down the street
'I had nothing better, it was this or blind searching.'
Felix turned to Kent and gestured with his head to hurry up
It went on like that, about one in ten would have seen him, pointing to where they last saw him go
'Brain hacking: is a good word for this.'
They walked around a corner, down another street
'How far can he go, he has a shopping cart...'
The cityscape looming above them.
They were directed into an alley.
There he was: leaning over his cart
He pushed his shopping cart down the alley towards kent
He had just come out of some line - leading to a makeshift structure Kent had a poor view of
Felix fiddled with his phone, then reached up to push it in the thief's face
Kent snatched the phone out of Felix's grip
"No, none of that."
"What the fuck!
How else are you going to get that syringe?"
Kent put the phone in his pocket
"That was your syringe.
I thought it was just another street syringe."
"We want it back!"
"Did you take it?"
"Did I take it?!
A street syringe?
I didn't stick no street syringe, that would be crazy!"
"Do you have it with you?"
"I took that shit to my chemist friend, he going to reverse engineer that shit and make us a billion dollars, baby!"
"A billion dollars?"
"You see that color it is?
It's ain't a natural color."
"Where's your chemist friend?"
Kent leaned to his right to get a better view around the man
Behind was a line of homeless, exchanging things at a window in the cardboard.
The cardboard structure was several dozen refrigerator-sized (or larger) boxes attached in a row.
The alley was bowed, and from the street looking in: it was near invisible
"He's right back there: in the refrigerator boxes."
Kent looked closer at the window.
Everything and anything was being exchanged: for cash
'The fuck am I looking at here.'
"You want a cut of the billion dollars?"
"How about you take us to your chemist, and we have a nice chat?"
There was a brief pause
"What you got ulterior motives or something, or you just want the syringe?"
"Cause if I shout - all the gangs are going to come."
"No, we just want the syringe."
They entered the cardboard structure though a side 'door'
It was guarded
Kent surrendered Felix's phone to his protest
Inside, beyond piles of things, cardboard hallways, piles of cash, and several zoned out people, was the Chemist.
The chemist, a short balding man, sat in a yellow sofa in the back, watching things attached to a fan spin above him.
He was the only one in the room, which was filled with various household chemicals.
The floor was still asphalt, but it had a large rug, red and gold, covering most of the room
"Right, then this way."
The homeless man turned his cart around and exited the way they came
"So these are the owners of that syringe - come to have a little chat, I'll just see myself out."
Kent looked more around the room.
Things he took for scrapes of metal and glass on the desk to the right were actually improvised beakers and distilling gear
"We'll be on our way shortly.
Once we have it back."
A steel door in a brick building was one of the walls
Felix walked up to the chemist
The chemist lay there unmoving, staring at the spinning items on strings attached to the fan blades.
The glimmer caught Kent's eye.
It was the same glimmer he had seen before, that impossible color
Kent pointed to the spinning fan
'Hm... all that cash and this...'
An alarm buzzed.
The Chemist jumped up and pulled the string to stop the fan
He noticed Kent and Felix
'Just take it and go?'
The Chemist plucked the vial of strange liquid and placed it on his desk.
He moved a prism and shown a light though both the vial and the prism.
He took notes in a pad to his right
"Hello, what can I do you for?"
"What you have there, is ours actually..."
Felix raised his arm out to stop Kent
Interesting, Then you know what this stuff is?"
The chemist held the vial up to them
Kent looked around but did not see the original syringe.
A few cardboard boxes tall, a tower supported a desk fan - wet rags attached to the grill
"What is it?"
The roof was cardboard
'Two fans, wait? a ceiling fan?!'
'How does it support the weight?'
The chemist put it back on the table and swept it between the light and the prism
The vial's shadow on the rainbow was not an absence of light - but an inversion of the color, a photo-negative
"I'mm'a be real with you, first though: if you don't know what this is: where the hell did you get it?"
"Took it from a cult, they wanted me to take it, not steal it, take it..."
The chemist's hand paused
"Alice Glass made it."
The chemist reached in a cardboard box next to the table
After some rummaging the chemist had on gloves
"Did she now?"
"So you know what this is?"
"We were heading to Flanagan's to take it to get analyzed."
"Why are we telling you so much?"
Kent looked up
"That would be the truth mist."
'The wet rags attached to the fan...'
The chemist let out a cough
Kent looked at his hands
He didn't feel different, not to himself at least
"Strictly speaking not just a truth mist...
And gets you a little high."
He held out a syringe
"Anyways - This stuff."
Kent looked around the cardboard room
"This: it's giving off the wrong colors, ."
'I see a lot of cardboard...
He has to be bullshitting.
Where is the equipment?'
The chemist pointed to inverted section of the rainbow
"And you can tell all this, how?"
"You know what color is..."
The chemist tilted his head
"Yeah, I've seen trees of green..."
He added flatly
"Red roses too."
The chemist leaned in
"Color happens in our brain.
The photon never reaches our brain.
Instead a photon hits one of our photoreceptor, travels as an electrical signal to the back of the brain..."
As he spoke, the Chemist moved the prism over the vial, and the vial over the paper to demonstrate the effect
"And that signal - is color, it is our brain picking up a signal - and as you can see, it is the opposite of what we would expect.
Where we expect dark there is light, expect a color and get the inversion."
"I'll have results from the lab soon, I've only had this ten minutes."
"Right in the building we're attached to."
"Is your lab?"
Kent looked to Felix, who shrugged
"What, you think I work out of here."
"Also: what is this place?"
A cardboard front."
"A front to what?"
A door opened to their right
"I'm a chemist.
It's a front for chemistry."
"That would be one of my assistants with the spectrometry report."
"You did tests that fast?"
'Yep, speech is slurred...'
Kent was curious, but he was tired, the 'truth mist' wasn't helping him stay awake
"This is a clandestine lab - not the dmv, now: want to see?"
Felix shook his head
The chemist shook his head
"Now, you mean me any harm?"
Felix paused, then reached out his hand
Shadows swam in the corner of Kent's vision
"I am aware, not awake, but aware...
I intend to stay that way."
The chemist gave Felix a hard stare
"We intended to bring back that."
Kent balled his hands and pushed his nails into his palms
Only to keep himself awake
The chemist handed Felix the vial.
Felix nodded slowly
Kent's fingers loosened
"We can both get what we intend."
The chemist pointed to his lab entrance
His knees no longer had the strength
Kent fell down
He slipped into sleep with his face resting on a persian rug layed out on the asphalt
"Now that that's done, shall we?"
Martha walked down the book alley, to a clearing
To Martha's right was the console prompt rossin had made for her
spear = Self.Hands (left).Objects
doesExist(ref), (ref)=> spear.heart = ref
'Okay now for a timer...'
^Collision=>spear, wait (1 second)=>
).filter(x=> x != Martha Crisp)
She let her focus drift forward, bringing her closer to the present moment
The console faded from view
She felt the hand pulling her into the clearing
She went over everything in her head, again
'Okay, is that it?'
She entered the clearing.
Flanagan was by her side
In front of her was herself, reading a book, next to a woman.
The woman was ancient, crumpled by time, and a stranger to the sun
As She and Flanagan stepped forward the woman vanished
Flanagan wore a frown
Martha and Flanagan approached herself
Herself was sitting at the corner window table.
As they drew near, the rest of Martha's view became an echo, a projected reflection of herself
'That should be it...'
Martha nodded and stepped forward
"We're here at the edge, through here is our target."
Herself was a door, all around her
"Why is it here at all, at this book store, where I am?"
Which she stepped though, Flanagan holding her hand
They were in the book store still, now outside of Martha's head.
The shelves shimmered softly - the shifting projections of minds looking at those books were in subtle conflict.
It was open currently, 7:30PM, and people were in the aisles.
Martha saw though their eyes, a projected map of the store..
It was filled out with memories of what the rest looked like..
Dreams of what it should look like.
All alined to make a landscape as solid as shifting scarves
Martha waded through the floor, following Flanagan
She concentrated and iterations of the floor, the aisles, fell away.
She saw only what other's saw of the store.
And the floor was solid, but incomplete.
Instead of filling out the idea, patching an unseen bit of floor with a memory, there was nothing but a hole.
The hole from her childhood dreams
A twisting, undulating mass slithered in the empty black
Both known and impossible to see
Flanagan was at her side, looking at the darkness.
They stood at a ledge into that void, a broken bit of floor and wall unseen in the corner
"I found it."
"It hasn't seen us yet."
Martha nodded and tightened her grip on her spear
"We can't assume we'll be lucky, at some point it will see us.
Follow behind me: I'll distract it.
You go around and poke it."
Martha and Flanagan fell into darkness
The instinctual part of her panicked - going from stability to this.
It wasn't merely a void - but an inevitably.
There was no hallway, no bookstore left, all directions pointed to al-tok
Flanagan and Martha fell some distance
Obeying strange laws of gravity, regardless of the direction they were falling - they were getting closer
Flanagan nodded to her and shouted in the void
Martha pushed off of him and fell to her left
Still falling towards Al-tok.
Flanagan grew more noticeable, brighter.
He was both behind her where she left him, and all around her - in some reflected pattern
Around her tentacles shot towards Flanagan
They were barbarous and leaking something corrosive
He conjured lines of blinding yellow light
Wrapping the tentacles together.
Martha kept as still as she could and silently fell towards her target
A tentacle nearly collided with her and forced her to move
As she twirled in the blackness she readied her spear
A tentacle slammed into Flanagan - who screamed
"To your left, hurry!"
The yellow lines of light faded, then surged
Flanagan was screaming, not in pain but in rage
The yellow lines started melting, coating the tentacles with a rubbery glue
Martha took a breath. Aimed. Then threw her spear.
It flew forward - breaking into a fractal all around her as it did so
'They are as painful as they look.'
She was forming the grammar to summon one and saw Flanagan with out
'Damn jet-pack would be convenient about now...'
'Or I could just give myself flying.'
It was what every dream said it would be, as such, she flew with years of dreamt precision.
She kept her eye on the descending spear
A tentacle shot out in its path.
The spear glanced off at the ^collision, twisting off angle
She felt the impact in her heart.
And her heart dropped, that was just a glancing blow - and in a second
Martha faltered in time with Flanagan.
The spear slammed on it's side, bouncing uselessly against a thick carapace
Martha knew Flanagan felt that impact
She looked back at him
She couldn't affect the spear, out of her grasp - on the thing in front of her.
She had to get to that spear, she raced through some options in her mind
She flew down to get it
'He thinks it is only him.'
She was almost there, having dodged every tentacle easily thus far
'Okay, force-field, and something grabby!'
She hesitated, but decided against summoning anything, keeping it ready in her mind
She paused just before touching the surface
All around her tentacles shifted like:
'Maybe that will draw attention to me?'
From this perspective everything in the horizon was al-tok, Flanagan a lonely figure in the distance.
Long strands stretched from all around her toward Flanagan, focused entirely on him
She grabbed the spear, gripped the handle and stabbed down at the carapace
A clink echoed throughout, reverberating a wave through the surface of al-tok.
It didn't penetrate
She took the spear and moved across the surface
A short while later she noticed activity where she had been.
She was getting noticed
Okay, something tougher than super-sharp carbon-fiber...'
'Now or never!'
shield = Globals.fantasy.enchantments[
Around her a faint hum started, and her vision was slightly clouded by blue
Around her, tentacles started to shift.
She looked up
Toward her, tentacles out of Flanagan's reach raced toward her
She slammed the spear down
There was a terrible screeching sound
It slid in
dome-shield = Globals.fan^-@$%
She felt her rib crack
^A Tentacle sent her flying to the side
While her shield was impenetrable, it had no particular force distribution... so while the thorn/tooth did not puncture her, it had an sharp edge
Her breath shot out from her
As she flew away from the spear, she could see it was still attached
She landed in a thud, against al-tok
The carapace morphed into a black liquid pool thick as molasses
Each struggle to get out, pushed her further down
She looked over at the spear - it was still attached, un-noticed
She saw Flanagan falter, then fall, succumb to the effects of the sudden rush of Algera
Martha looked closer
She saw Flanagan fall on to some sort of ball - they were too far too see, but he didn't bounce
It was flying toward her, dodging the tentacles on it's way down
But it wasn't going to make it in time.
She was half stuck in the tar-like fluid
She stopped struggling
It was heading directly for her.
As it drew closer she could see it was clear, and it held two men, one along the floor and one in the center piloting.
She recognized him, the Captain's first officer, Gerald
The bubble was zipping toward her
He sat in a chair in the center of the bubble, a victorian contraption attached him to the floor of the bubble.
That was the last she saw before she was engulfed
She held her breath
Her rib seared in pain, like a burning knife was still stuck
Something slithered around her ankle and pulled her down further.
Martha held her mouth and nose closed and sunk deeper
She felt nothing against her skin directly.
Still, she didn't want to take the chance of anything getting in her lungs to a misplaced cough
Martha still felt the slight tugging in her hand
She thought of the bubble she saw him fall into.
She saw her hand disintegrate and that unraveling expanded to the rest of her
'He is holding my hand...'
The next thing she knew she was on the floor next to Flanagan, who was unconscious.
Her vision was still a faint blue, her shield still around her
Gerald pulled on a lever next to the seat he was in
She felt heavier as the gravity shifted
A tentacle tried to impale the bubble, but it just spun
The interior platform Martha and Gerald were standing on stayed stationary
"Good, I don't have to come get you."
Gerald pulled down on a lever next to him.
They shot outwards from al-tok
Martha saw distant tentacles attached to different thoughts, ideas....
It wasn't just in her book store, she saw... but it was attached to memories of libraries, and university studies.
She got the sense it was searching for something
"None of that now."
Flanagan was at her feet, wounded
Martha tried to breath, instead she coughed.
She touched at her side
It was tender
'It was doing this all while we were down there...'
['Do I need to go to a hospital?', 'Am I an idea here, can I just fix myself?']
And it worked
Her bones let out a snap as they bound together
Heat rushed into her bruised rib, her stomach and her heart .
It healed rapidly, but she was immediately hungry, worse... starving.
She was breathing rapidly.
She had not accounted for the energy use of healing, there's a reason people stay in bed for it.
She felt her skin as if it were fire.
Everything that could easily burn away for fuel was done so, at such a rapid pace martha started coughing up large bits of a dark grey matter
She stopped heaving and lay still for a while
Much thinner than what she had been, but now with a healed bone
"Are you alright?"
Gerald looked her over and saw her condition
"I am, hungry."
He had a hand on his stomach
He pushed down on the lever to his right and got out of the chair
It seemed to be on some automatic setting.
Martha looked around and saw they were about to land on a familiar ship
Gerald took a knife
He spoke words and oddly, she didn't hear them
"Good excuse to lose some of this."
Martha nodded her head
"I'm going to give you some of my fat: free energy."
She did so, and winced when he took the blade across his hand.
He made a small incision on her side and placed his hand there
His arm rippled and bulged as did her side.
Each breath she took was a little easier, her thoughts clearer
She sat up.
He wiped at his hand and the cut was gone, he did the same at her side to the same effect
"Lower your shield."
He stepped out of the bubble
The thin layer wobbled back and forth with his passing
She looked back to Flanagan
"You've got a lot to learn.
But considering you started yesterday...
I'd say you're off to a good start."
She pointed to Flanagan
"Quickly, we don't have all day, I'm afraid."
Martha checked his pulse
Which was fine
She stepped out of the bubble
"We'll take care of him.
Just get to the captain."