Night City(17): Medical Trouble
(Instant Karma: the thugs are all pretty tense, but not suspiciously so, Engada is about to blow a blood vessel, the slim guy is nervous, but not as much as the thugs, and the blonde guy is cool and relaxed.)
There is a tense moment of silence, then Engada bursts out laughing. He sits down, apparently relieved, but still tense. He takes a tissue from his pocket and wipes a tear from his eye, still chuckling.
"Oh, lady, oh... you... [chuckle]... you just don't have a clue what's going on, do you? Grendel? Kill me?" Engada laughs again for a while.
"Oh, and I thought you were serious. [chuckle]"
"Okay, lady, I like you. I let you walk out of here with all of your fingers. I think you mean well, you just kind of stupid, right? But hey, you just a woman, so that's no big deal, I kinda like 'em that way. [chuckle] I tell you what, you're so concerned for my health and my relationship with my business partners, I give you a job, heh? Yeah, you can go through walls, that's pretty handy. Want a job, ghost lady? Make some real money? 'Cause I tell you right now... [chuckle]... you make a lousy superhero if you think Grendel's gonna come after ME."
Engada cracks up laughing again, and his thugs relax enough to smile and chuckle a little, although it's obvious they aren't sure what's so funny.
Engada slams his fist on the table, and no one is laughing anymore.
"Listen bitch! I know that bastard Oberon killed Marguerite because he sent me the FUCKING VIDEO! You want to do some GOOD, miss stupid bitch ghost?"
Engada stands up and leans forward across the table, his neck and face turning a deep beet-red shade.
"You want to save somebody's life? Go find that bastard and tell him to hide his ass in the deepest hole he can find, because when I find him I tear his FUCKING HEART OUT! YOU HEAR ME? I TEAR OUT HIS FUCKING HEART AND EAT IT!"
Kakker doesn't deign to dignify Prism's denial.
As for finding Arachne, Kakker snags his big flashlight and crash kit from his truck (broken and bloody woman being dragged through the sewer; can you say septic infection?) and heads down through the manhole, flipping the lid upside down with the smooth, flush side up. Kakker sees Prism plodding out, excuse me, mysterious footprints sinking into the lawn, :P and stops long enough to shout, "I can't stop you from following, Prism, but you'd damn well better stay clear of me!"
As for following Arachne, Kakker follows the trail of blade-gouges and disturbed debris.
"Don't worry, Kakker," a toneless voice says from midair above those mysterious footprints, "I don't care who finds her, as long as somebody does. Believe me or don't; I don't much care either way."
If there is an obvious trail -- at least, one that is obvious to Prism's thoroughly average senses, or one that Kakker seems able to discern and follow -- Prism will follow it, staying a good distance behind Kakker just to avoid further incidents as long as possible. Otherwise, whichever way Kakker goes, Prism will go the other, so as to cover more ground...or, rather, sewage.
Glimmer is silent for half a moment.
"look, engada. i'm a bitch, but not a stupid bitch. and your people aren't doing their jobs.
"your man there" -- she indicates the slim guy -- " is supposed to tell you what's true and what's a lie, right? so ask him to tell you whether what i'm saying now is true.
"grendel killed marguerite. i witnessed it.
"grendel is on his way here to kill you.
"that video is a fake.
"oh, and one more: you won't live another day without my help."
She allows the slim guy to verify her statements -- all of which she believes to be true.
Krane is a little shocked at Ron's arrival and even moreso at Kakker's outburst. Everyone (Ron & Glimmer) seem so concerned with public opinion and what people think. Maybe being in Vanguard involves too much posturing.
When Kakker finishes, and everyone starts stalking out of the room, Krane says, "Prism you might have overreacted but I don't think you were far off the mark, I support you and stand behind your actions."
Then he turns to Ron. "No one has pressed charges, I don't see what the big deal is unless someone elects to make it into a big deal. Tempers flared, there was an accident. I find it hard to believe that charges will be filed and the press is only an issue if we elect to talk to them. There's no reason to air our dirty laundry to the public."
How fascinatingly, frustratingly, completely unpredictable life can be. So unlike the sublte but bounded interplay of the chess pieces. So chaotic.
As someone accustomed to reacting to circumstances, Adaptor's understanding of cause and effect was being sorely tested by the events of the day. It took him only a moment to consider the responses of the individuals involved:
Prism: His outburst had unnerved Adaptor for a moment, but despite the gleaming behemoth's unpredictability, Adaptor was concerned for him. He had obviously been wounded by the Prosthetic's attacks (he no longer thought of Dr. Redgrave as the motive force behind those monstrous appendages). Hopefully his pride and desire to prove hiself right would not get him in over his head down below the city streets.
Kakker: HIs reaction was not entirely unexpected. He seemed to cling to older ways. The frequency with which he invoked his past even as Prism tried hard to forget his own was intriguing. Adaptor wondered whether he could... well... adapt to the changing rules that seemed to govern Vanguard's interaction with the world. Hopefully he would not get into too much trouble either, and could be convinced to return and work things out.
Mr. Park: A simple man, unused to our culture. He reacted exactly as a man of his simple moral character would be expected to. His reaction to his injuries betrays some kind of training in dealing with trauma, however, probably martial arts of some kind, if Emerald's abilities were any indication.
Krane: As usual, the contemplative martial artist had not given in to the emotion of the moment, and provided the most lucid account of the facts as they were. He would be the best of any of them to speak to the authorities when they arrived.
Powersurge: Little more than a child; eager but in a situation she seemed ill-prepared to deal with. Removing her from the premises had been wise.
And finally, himself, and the problematic experience with Ron and the rest of Vanguard. Adaptor had been sure that it was simply leadership that was lacking and that Ron's presence would stabilize the situation and provide a basis for planning, as he always had for Adaptor. He hadn't counted on Ron's lack of group social skills being a factor, as he had no experience with Ron in such a situation. By the reaction of his teammates, they were outraged by his suggestions, as logical and utilitarian as they were. Even Prism and Kakker, ready to begin fighting each other, seemed in agreement that neither wanted anything to do with him. Perhaps Ron's solution was not the most efficient. It caused him exactly 2.3 seconds of indecision before he came to the conclusion that other options besides the one his teacher offered must be considered.
All of these thoughts, as well as specualtion on a means of revivng Dryad, collating of the History files, and a moment by moment replay of the fight with Dr. Redgrave polayed through Adaptor's synapses in the time it took him to return from the door he had walked out of to watch Ron depart.
He was nothing if not adaptable.
"Krane, I believe you are right. The most prudent course of action would seem to be to not offer any information that is not required of us. I will remain and attempt to discover some information that may be helpful to our situation. Please solicit my aid if it is required."
With that, Adaptor returns to study the scene of the attack, searching for any minutia that may give them a clue: some of Dr. Redgrave's blood, or a broken piece of her arms (unlikely, given their apparent tensile strength), or a piece sheared off of Prism. Anything he finds that may look useful he will collect and deposit in a relatively safe place for later study by Kakker. When the authorities arrive, he will answer any questions in his deadpan, factual matter, saying "I cannot say" in response to any question that may incriminate any member of the group, and by association, him.
He also opens his comm ring and says to whomever may be listening, "If either of you need aid, call us here. I will keep my communicator open, and we will render assistance as soon as possible." He doesn't expect a response, and doesn't wait for one before going about his business...
The paramedics wrap up Mr. Park, put him on a stretcher, and away they go, leaving behind Adaptor, Krane, Powersurge (maybe), and Stacy. Stacy says she wants to drive along with them, but the paramedics say no, but they're going to Sentara General and that she can meet them there. She starts heading for her car, then stops.
"Um, did anyone else want to come to the hospital with me? Without his granddaughter, I don't think he has any family to look out for him, and I think someone ought to be there."
She will wait, briefly, before heading out.
Engada sits back, relaxes, smiles.
"You just don't listen. I tell you, Grendel's not gonna kill me. I know this: this is a fact. But I think I'm tired of listening to you chatter and talk about things you don't know. You're not funny anymore. Time for you to go, I think." Engada turns to the crew-cut guy on his left and snaps his fingers. The man stands up, smiling from ear to ear.
"You'll never guess what I can do," the man says.
Glimmer readies a wry comeback, but it gets stuck in her throat before she can get it out.
"AARG... GRAKK... HHAKKK..."
Blood spurts out of Glimmer's nose and throat, and she doubles over with her hands to her face, her throat, trying to breathe, trying and failing. She coughs, gags, snorts. She really should go desolid, she knows, but she can't BREATHE!
[Glimmer loses 2 Body and 4 Stun, no defense (yes, I know she has a force field). Glimmer also loses one Phase for surprise. This *is* a surprise, I would think.]
The blood doesn't fall to the floor. It twists in the air like bright red ribbons, dancing in front of her like brilliant wet cords. The man holds out his hand, and the ruby red ribbons wrap around it like reins. He jerks backward, hard, and Glimmer is yanked forward, nearly yanked off her feet, by strands of her own blood. And still she CAN'T BREATHE!
[Glimmer loses 3 Body and 11 Stun, no defense. Don't try this at home, kids.]
Engada laughs. "I don't think she has so much to say now, eh Hemorrhage? I think she has her mouth full, huh?"
Engada and the blonde man -- Hemorrhage -- laugh some more.
Glimmer pushes her body into its intangible state and crawls through the wall. As soon as she's back in open air, she returns to solidity and...breathes.
[ I hope. Assuming that works... ]
Then it's more of the same as she retreats to her previous position in the alley.
She's come to her senses now. Engada dies. Everybody dies. Who gives a shit?
"Rot in hell, Rico." The voice is sincere and honest. It's her real voice, after all.
She spits blood. "Rot in fucking hell."
Behind her, she can still hear them laughing.
"I see you met Hemorrhage," a smooth voice says from somewhere above her. "Would you like a kerchief?"
Glimmer's force barrier obscures her image, as always, but the arm-hand-and-finger gesture she makes toward Grendel is not a complicated one. Its subleties -- though blurred -- are not lost.
Having declared her opinion, she walks down the alley. Away from Grendel, away from Fedrico Engada and away from the ridiculous caricature she was becoming.
Grendel chuckles, and a soft rustle accompanies Glimmer down the alley.
"Well, don't let it be said I didn't offer a lady a kerchief when she needed one. As long as you're here, there is something I'd like to know, and if you tell me, then I'll tell you something *you* don't know."
"I want to know what passed between you and the esteemed Mr. Engada, if anything, concerning myself."
As Glimmer heads toward... where?... she hears police sirens in the distance.
Glimmer stops. Shoulders and head slumped, she addresses Grendel without turning.
"i told him you were coming after him. i offered to save his ass. fortunately, he convinced me that he's not worth the effort."
Grendel comes closer, creeping along the rooftop. Glimmer can see his sillouette from the corner of her eye.
"Did he believe you?" Grendel asks earnestly. "Did he take the threat of my attack seriously? Was he afraid?"
Glimmer spins to face Grendel.
Her voice is earthquake-loud.
"I TOLD FEDRICO ENGADA THAT YOU'RE HERE TO KILL HIM! BUT HE DIDN'T BELIEVE ME! I ALSO TOLD HIM ABOUT YOU AND MARGUERITE AT THE PRISON! FRANKLY, GRENDEL, I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE MADE OF THAT AND I DON'T CARE! ALL I CARE ABOUT IS THAT THE PEOPLE IN THIS AREA GET CLEAR RIGHT AWAY SO THEY AREN'T HURT WHEN YOU... KILL... FEDRICO... ENGADA!"
The echoes of her voice carry for a considerable length of time.
"now. is there something you were going to tell me?"
Krane will ride to the hospital with Stacy. He and Mr. Park never did get off on the right foot (not from lack of trying), but Krane feels that it's the right thing to do.
On the ride over Krane will make one attempt at small talk with Stacy. "So is this more of less excitement than you are used to? I'm sure working with Vanguard must have provided some very interesting events."
"Well," Stacy says, shifting the Neon's gears as she tries to keep up with the ambulance, "I've only been doing it -- working at Vanguard, that is -- for about three months. My degree is in business management, really, but it's been so hard finding work. I went to a temp agency hoping it would lead to something permanent, and the temp agency sent me here. It seemed like a fun thing to do at the time, and it pays really well. It *was* fun for a while, too, up until... well, that thing in the park where everybody, you know, died. Everything has gotten really weird since then."
Stacy grimaces as the Neon skids around a corner, still following the speeding ambulance.
"Where are they going?" she asks in an annoyed tone. "They passed the on-ramp for I-5, and Sentara's the other way."
"He didn't believe you."
Grendel sighs... pleased?
"Thank you, Glimmer. You have done me a great favor. And if it's any consolation to you, you actually *have* 'saved his ass'. If he doesn't believe that I would kill him, then there's no need to."
Grendel stirs and heads away from the edge of the roof, leaving Glimmer to puzzle out the meaning behind that little paradox.
"Ah, and one more thing," his voice comes from very far away, much softer than anyone but Glimmer would be able to hear.
"Something quite... odd... has happened to your partner. 'Brightstar', was it? Turn left at the street up ahead and go down a block: you'll see him. I would hurry, if I were you..."
Adaptor, recalling his offer to join Amanda in her meeting that afternoon, considers his options for a moment.
"Powersurge, if it is at all possible to postpone your meeting or even have your friend come here instead, I suggest you do. I feel it would be imprudent to leave this place deserted with Dr. Redgrave still at large. I also advise against you travelling alone, given your recent encounter with Mesmeron. If you feel the meeting is vital, I will not attempt to stop you, but I must defer from accompanying you. I'm sorry..."
Whatever Amanda's response, Adaptor politely declines any pleas, and begins a thorugh tour of the base, starting with Dr. Redgrave's room, taking however long may be needed to get into it...
Amanda heads off for her meeting, wondering if she is doing the right thing by leaving Jerrod behind. Well, Adaptor is there to look after him, and he does seem to be one of the saner ones....
Adaptor starts making a tour of the base, stopping first to check on the little boy, Amanda's brother. Ah, he's sleeping. Good. Now, on to the Doctor's room...
Kakker climbs down the manhole and lands in the pitch black sewer drain. The sewer is a long, cylindrical concrete tunnel just small enough so that Kakker has to stoop to avoid hitting his head.
The tunnel is dry as a bone. Watermarks on the sides of the tunnel show how high the water rose during the previous week-long Los Angeles rain, and old, faded candy wrappers crunch beneath Kakker's feet as he looks for some trace of the fleeing Dr. Redgrave. The tunnel goes east and west. Mentally flipping a coin, Kakker heads east.
As he walks, the scenes of the past few minutes play themselves over and over in Kakker's head. His fury at the blatant deception proposed by Adaptor's "mentor". His surprise and anger at Prism's ambush of Doctor Redgrave. The chill, silty currents of the fjords that ran between his organs and his spine when he saw the wreckage in Doctor Redgrave's laboratory... and what was left of Rasputin.
Admittedly, Dr. Redgrave was, as he had said to Prism, "a little unhinged", but the sheer brutality of Prism's attack...
... wasn't enough to stop her.
Kakker shook away the thought, and rekindled the cold fury he felt toward the crystalline "hero". What he did was inexcusable! And now Dr. Redgrave was probably down here, somewhere, bleeding, maybe dying, maybe...
... waching him? A peculiar feeling nestled between Kakker's shoulderblades, just at the base of his neck.
Kakker spun around, shining his Mag-Lite behind him. Nothing. The various side tunnels were too small for a human being to squeeze through; there was nowhere anyone could be hiding to spy on him. Maybe Prism -- he knew that Prism could turn invisible. He turned back to follow the tunnel. Let the murdering bastard [would Kakker say "bastard"?] follow him. He'd just better stay out of the way, that's all.
A glint caught Kakker's eye: he crouched down and shone the light on it. A fresh scratch in the concrete. She had come this way. He stood and pointed the light down ahead. The tunnel seemed to go for miles, the flashlight's beam eventually giving in to the darkness. He hunched his shoulders and trudged on.
Meanwhile, several hundred yards away, Prism was heading the other direction. He didn't see any trace of Arachne, but he didn't see anywhere she could have gone but straight. So he went straight.
It had really seemed a good idea at the time. Every time she opened her mouth, Arachne had gone further and further over the edge. Finally, the wreck in the lab, killing Rasputin -- it was the last straw. She was obviously out of control. Why couldn't Kakker see that? He was sorry about Mr. Park, of course. Maybe he should have waited until he was alone with Arachne. Maybe he should have made sure no one vulnerable was nearby. He didn't think she'd be able to hurt anyone but him; he'd forgotten just how long those damn tentacles were. Maybe he should have talked it over with the others. Maybe Kakker would have helped, or had a better idea, maybe some way to disable her cybernetics....
Maybe, maybe, maybe. What's done is done. Now she's down here, on the loose and probably out of her mind, the exact *opposite* of what Prism had wanted to accomplish. On top of that, the only place he had almost felt at home since the... accident... at Vectronix was probably -- almost certainly -- gone forever. He silently wished he had died in that accident, instead of this. This was hell, and it wasn't getting any better. He thought bitterly about the bums he'd stayed with... Red, Crazy Alice, Bob, Old Ray... they were as down as down could get, but they had each other. He didn't have anyone, now.
Prism trudged forward into the darkness, blind and alone.
"...was it?" Past tense.
Glimmer runs around the corner into the street, and it looks like a street party. People are running everywhere: some toward her, some away. No one seems to know what's going on, and everyone seems either excited or terrified.
She plows through the milling throng and makes her way down the block.
At first, she thinks someone has set up floodlights. Everything is lit blindlingly white, with deep, sharp shadows. Glimmer looks in the sky, but there's no floodlight. She gets closer, and she realizes that the lighting isn't unusual, the color of everything around her is. It has all been bleached white; the "shadows" are just areas where objects retain their natural color.
Glimmer had read once that when they dropped the A-Bomb on Japan, shadows of people were left on buildings where they blocked the blast of the bomb. This area of the street looked like that. Where signs, cars, or people had blocked the blast of... whatever it was, they left "shadows". Everything else was white.
A police car, sirens blaring, parks next to Glimmer; the officers get out of the car, warning people to stay away from the bizarre bleached area. Glimmer ignores them and keeps walking, not sure what to make of it. Brightstar? Could he have done this?
Then she saw him. She ran to his side and kneeled next to him. He was face-down, the blue of his costume a beacon in the barren landscape of the white, white grass. She turned him over, gasping involuntarily. He was white. His skin, his clothes, his hair, his eyes were all white. He was alive: she could hear his ragged breathing, and the faint beat of his heart. He was staring blindly up at the sky, and showed no awareness that she was there.
"GET AN AMBULANCE!" she shouted at the police, her voice shaking the glass in the nearby apartment building. "HE"S STILL ALIVE!"
They didn't move, just staring at her, the red and blue lights of their car strobing eerily across the alien landscape. She didn't know what to do. Brightstar's breathing was slowing, his heartbeat becoming weaker. She held her breath, straining to hear his heart. As long as she could hear it, he was still alive... THUMP... THUMP.... THUMP.....
And then nothing.
Kakker will keep speilunking down the storm drain (thank god! not a sewer after all!) and hunting for the injured Arachne. He suspects all he'll find is the place she left the tunnels, but whatthehell, he's used to it.
[I am interested in why everyone seems to assume Rasputin was alive. Nothing Kakker's seen or heard suggests it was more than an exceptionally sophisticated machine.]
ANTHROPOMORPHISM, attribution of human form or qualities to that which is not human. Specifically, anthropomorphism is the depiction of God in a human image, with human bodily form and emotions, such as jealousy, wrath, or love. Whereas mythology is exclusively concerned with anthropomorphic gods, more sophisticated religious thought holds that it is inappropriate to regard an omnipotent, omnipresent God as human. In order to speak of God, however, metaphorical language must be employed. In philosophy and theology, seemingly anthropomorphic concepts and language are used because it is impossible to think of God without attributing to him some human traits. In the Bible, for example, God is endowed with physical characteristics and human emotions, but at the same time he is understood to be transcendent. In art and literature, anthropomorphism is the depiction of natural objects, such as animals or plants, as talking, reasoning, sentient, humanlike beings. (Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia)
While we're looking things up in electronic reference materials (in this case, "Infopedia" from SoftKey's $15 bargain, "10 Great CD-ROM Titles"), we should note that the pro- and anti-anthropomorphism argument has been going on for a LONG time. Homer the Younger (3rd century BC) was fer it. Xenophanes (early 5th century BC) and Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (aka Maimonides, late 11th century ) were ag'in' it.
Glimmer, whose exposure to supercomputers has been limited to Kubrick films and Star Trek reruns, considers Rasputin to be something like a loyal pet. She will -- when she finds out about Arachne's actions -- think of Rasputin as an animal, needlessly slaughtered.
If story purposes dictate that Kakker 's pursuit of Arachne is not resolved until other things happen, perhaps he will become a bit contemplative and try to reassemble some facts he may have overlooked, as well as taking out his windshield-wiper/cyberlimb jammer gadget and do a little work on it as he tries hard to think of where to look next.
...trudging through the dry, dark sewers of Los Angeles. He stops every few minutes to listen, straining to hear anything at all other than the distant rumble of traffic above. Occasional side tunnels lead off, but none of them are big enough for him to fit into; he thinks they're too small for Arachne's tentacles to have scuttled her into, and hopes he's right.
After somewhere between thirty and forty-five minutes of this, he stops abruptly again. "This is fucking _stupid_, Steve," he announces to himself. He glances backward for a moment - not that it looks any better than the tunnel ahead of him - and begins ambling forward again. This time, though, he is looking for a ladder or some sign of a manhole above, and place where he can at least look outside and get his bearings, and maybe just give up entirely.
Arachne's long gone, unless Kakker has found her. If he survives the first meeting, he'll surely patch her up, he thinks, meaning any hope I had of making it back to Vanguard is history. If nothing else, he hopes he can find a phone topside and call the base for any news.
As he peers into the darkness, Prism sees a dim light grow ahead of him. At the same time, he realizes that the sides and floor of the storm drain have grown rough, uneven. It's almost as though he has wandered into a natural cave.
As he peers into the darkness, Kakker is blinded by a sudden flare of light. He only sees the light for a moment before squeezing his eyes tightly shut against the glare, but the impression he gets is that of being suddenly standing in a wide open space, flooded by a white light brighter and harsher than any he has seen before.
Prism immediately becomes more cautious; if Arachne DID come this way, this is almost certainly where she wound up. Willing his body back to transparency, he begins to edge forward quietly (as quietly as an 800-kilo crystal man can edge, anyway). Testing each step before butting his weight down - he may be invisible, but a fall would certainly make enough noise to give him away - he makes his way forward to try to determine the source of the light, not to mention see what it illuminates.
Prism creeps transparently forward, moving toward the light ahead of him. He can now see that it's an opening in the tunnel. As he gets closer to the opening, the light around him grows, and he can see the rough cave around him. Pits and pools and tiny stagmites are crunched under his feet, and spiky stalctites points down at his invisible skull.
A few more steps, and he stands at the edge of the opening, a ragged hole in the side of an enormous cliff. Far above, he can see rugged bluffs, clung to by small, persistent shrubs. Above that, a sky from an Ansel Adams painting. Below, the trickle of water coming from his cave drips and drops down to the lush green valley a mile below.
Prism looks out over the valley. Hills and mounds of green stretch into the misty horizon. Rough, sharp peaks poke through the green canopy, their tops tipped with silver. His own cave seems to be set in the side of just such a peak.
Above the valley, stretching as far him as his own cave is above the valley, is an enormous mountian. It beggars description. It's very scale makes Prism feel like a tiny mote on a pebbel at the feet of a god.
The wind blows, and rain, and centuries pass. The valley goes green, and brown, and green again. The great mountain above him is worn away by time and weather, exposing edges and formations hidden in the rock. Night and day pass like flickering fireflies, and the sun and moon make gold and silver arcs across the sky.
Ridges are thrust up through the green. Volcanoes erupt, and hills sink into the earth. Prism's cave trembles with the forces that shape the earth. The great mountain above is worn into a bowl-like shape, with a high, broad peak above, and sloping down in two long ridges to the valley below. Hurricanes lash the face of Prism's cliff. Centuries pass.
The valley is populated by great beasts. Monstrous lizards hunt and howl below. Leathery shadows swoop and dive for prey. One sweeps down on Prism, but the passing of time catches it and it is extinct before it pounces. In the the great mountain dominating the sky, a form can now be seen: a man, or something in the shape of a man, sitting in a the mountain like a throne. Great horns twist from his head, his hands are the size of nations, and his face is a jagged cliff without eyes or mouth.
The green in the valley turns to grey. The sun and moon are long since dark, leaving the great exapanse of sky lit by dying red stars. The wind dies, and Prism can hear the earth and sky reverberate with one voice.
When we last left Krane & Stacy they were trying to keep up with the Ambulance transporting Mr. Park. The ambulance was trying not to cooperate by driving at an excessive rate of speed in the wrong direction.
"Try to keep up," Krane whispers to Stacy, "I think we're probably getting a clue as to what happened to Emerald.
"Don't let them get out of sight."
After assuring himself that the child seems to be sleeping normally, Adaptor begins his search for clues, starting with Dr. Redgrave's bedroom. Perhaps there he can find some insight. He ponders wether she would have kept a diary or anything else so obvious. Unlikely, but not impossible. He pads silently down the hall, staff in hand, just in case, and heads for her door...
Prism stares, utterly uncomprehending, at the scene before and around him, its scale several orders of magnitude beyond epic. Lacking muscles to relax, his jaw does not hang open, but the look in his eyes certainly suggests that it would if it could. As the scene fades to infinite night, Prism takes a few decades to turn and look behind him, wondering if, depite all logic, the cave he entered through is still behind him. Then again, logic seems to have no relation to what he has just seen.
If the cave is still there, he will take a few tentative steps towards it, constantly looking back at the massive landscape to see what else it may be doing or bringing forth.
If not, he will shrug his cerebrum and begin trying to find a way down the mountain.
Prism turns around and takes a few steps back toward the cave. The earth and sky rumble with the voice of an entire world... or worlds.
"SO YOU ARE THE ONE THE HOST SEEKS. HMMMMMM... YOU ARE... SMALLER... THAN I EXPECTED."
The voice is quite literally earth-shaking, but nothing stops Prism from heading back the way he came.
...except, perhaps, the twin demons of curiosity and pride. When the Mother Of All Voices addresses him (well, not addresses, perhaps, but certainly acknowledges him), the crystalline hero stops in his tracks and turns around. For a moment, his expression suggests that he is about to say, "Are you talkin' to me?" -- but it's difficult to do a good DeNiro with a voice-box of resonant crystal. Instead, he looks up at the monstrous lanscape-cum-silhouette, cups his hands, and yells in his loudest voice, "WHAT HOST?" After a moment, he adds, "AND WHY IS HE, SHE OR IT SEEKING ME? AND JUST WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?"
Stacy skids around a corner, trying to keep up with the "ambulance".
"I'm trying to keep up, Krane, but this isn't really what this car was designed for, you know?"
The ambulance takes on off-ramp, and Stacy follows. It heads down into a desolate neighborhood, where rows of empty houses stand staring with broken windows like empty eye sockets. It skids to stop, and so does Stacy.
"Uh-oh," she says. "Now what do we do?"
Adaptor gently opens Doctor Redgrave's bedroom door and enters. It is spotless and flawlessly organized, like the Doctor herself. Rows of cosmetics are aligned to the edges of the furniture, and Adaptor's sure he could bounce a quarter off the bed linen. Gently, he opens her drawers and starts looking for answers, or at least clues, to the Doctor's recent behavior....
Krane's mind races as the neighborhoods get worse and worse.
Calmly he speaks into his Vanguard communicator, "This is Krane, I'm with Stacy, following the Ambulance with Mr. Park in it. I know a lot is going on right now (with everyone) but I don't think this is a real ambulance. I have a feeling we're about to find out what happened to Emerald." He will give the others his location as best he can (he's a native of the area so he should probably be able to do a fair job).
That done, Krane faces Stacy. "If things get hairy I want you to get out of here. Don't worry about me, I can take care of myself."
When the ambulance stops Krane prepares to leap out of the car, but he's waiting to make sure that they won't just drive away as soon as he gets out. He leaves his communicator on, so he can broadcast what's going on to the others.
Kakker's left arm whips up over his eyes as his left hides the antenna he was working on behind him. Damn, Kakker thinks, it'll be wrecked! A split-second later, Kakker thinks to wonder if _he_ will be wrecked, the only thing he can recall being this bright would be nuclear...
Kakker will keep his eys covered until he can reasonably expect to see again, meanwhile backing toward the tunnel he was recently occupying.
Man, what a busy week. What a busy MONTH! Okay, let's see if we can get everybody caught up. In a nutshell:
Adaptor: rummaging through Dr. Redgrave's room. (perv)
Glimmer: kneeling over Brightstar's dead body. (alas, poor Brightstar...)
Kakker: Bright light! Bright light! (alas, poor Kakker)
Krane: facing off against two EMT's (with Stacy).
Powersurge: went to the doughnut shop (I hope she comes back).
Prism: enjoying the scenery (Tom Thumb).
Wow. This is the first time since the beginning of the game that every single player has been off on their own.
Dr. Redgrave's room. Looking through her softly scented dresser drawers, carefully lifting out and replacing delicate silk blouses, sheer lace underthings, and cloud-blue satin pajamas, Adaptor had a hard time thinking of this as "Dr. Redgrave's room". What was her first name? The analytical computer his mind had become popped up the answer: "Carlotta". The picture of Carlotta painted by her belongings was quite different from the Dr. Redgrave Adaptor knew.
He pushed the drawer closed.
Turning to her desk, he felt he was in more familiar territory: every pen, every paperclip was in perfect order. The notepad was perfectly aligned with the desktop, and the picture on the desk was at a precise 30 degree angle from the edge of the desk. Adaptor picked up the picture. Here, again, was that other woman, "Carlotta": an athletic woman in her late 20's, with fashion-model features and long blonde hair, smiling next to a white-haired man. They were wearing shorts and polo shirts, laughing on the bridge of a sailboat. Who was the white-haired man? Looking closer at the picture, Adaptor saw the man's eyes were pink: an albino. His hair and pale skin made him look older than he was; Adaptor estimated he was in his late 40's, perhaps early fifties. Adaptor scanned his memory for references to albinos, but nothing appropriate was forthcoming. Adaptor filed the image away in his mind for later examination, and placed the picture back on the desk, at a precise 30 degree angle from the edge.
[What does Adaptor do?]
[Nothing new for Glimmer, other than Frederick/Hermes's great new job. What does Glimmer do?]
As soon as Kakker brings his arm up to block his face from the glaring white light, the light is gone. Spots of blue and yellow dance across Kakker's retinas as he readjusts to the gloom of the storm drain. In the darkness, he sees movement in front of him: a woman.
Kakker aims the flashlight at her, pinning her in the Maglite's beam. She holds up a hand to shield her eyes. Kakker vaguely recognizes her from somewhere: pretty, vaguely Italian, maybe 30 or so with long brown hair. It's Julia Louis Dreyfus. [She's on Seinfeld, and she also used to be on Saturday Night Live. If nothing else, Kakker might have seen her in an ad for hair coloring.]
"Hello," she says. "I hope I'm not interrupting something. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
[What does Kakker do?]
The ambulance doors open at the same time Krane gets out of Stacy's car, and the two EMT's roll out on either side. As they do, their blue jumpsuits waver and ripple, like a reflection in water. Their uniforms become grey body armor, and their ball caps become full-head helmets (rather like motorcycle helmets). They are both armed with some kind of compact energy pistol, and as they open fire it becomes obvious they aren't afraid to use them.
Kakker avoids the opening volley easily enough, and tries to lead their fire away from the car and Stacy. He can tell from the lag as their fire tracks him that he's significantly faster than they are. But there are two of them, one on either side of the ambulance, and only one of him. What if they decide to shoot at Stacy? And what of Mr. Park?
[What does Krane do?]
[Powersurge flies off to the doughnut shop. I don't want to go to all the trouble of typing that scene out until I get some reassurrance that Konji hasn't vanished. It's so hard, keeping good players....]
[Prism has yet to respond to the earth-shaking voice. What does Prism do?]
Everyone hears Glimmer's and Krane's messages over their communicators, if they have them on.
That about catches everyone up, I think. Any questions?
In other news, I've finally updated the Throttle web site. Once I finish tinkering with Warlock and uploading the current version of that to our web site, my next project will be updating and uploading all the Night City files, complete with that new picture of Adaptor I promised a few MONTHS ago. I really should get pictures uploaded for Kakker and Krane, too.
Adaptor grabs for the phone in Dr. Redgrave's room and dials 911. He calmly and succinctly reports to the operator the nature of the Emergency occurring in Krane's vicinity. The police should arrive before he could even hope to get close, and assist Krane. Weighing the abilities of the others to take care of business, he decides with little effort to remain at the base, watching for the return of any trouble, and keeping am eye on the child.
Retreating from Dr. Redgrave's room, he heads for the Monitor Station, hoping to track the progress of the others a little more accurately than simple voice communication will allow, as well as to determine wether he can learn anything about the base he didn't know from there. When he arrives, his first action will be to attempt to somehow locate the positions of the various team members on a map of some kind, assuming there's a way to home in on thier com rings...
Two of them, one of me. Stacy and Mr. Park throw in an extra level of difficulty. Krane silently files away the need for some kind of ranged weapon to add to his arsenal.
In his days as a Vanguard member Krane has learned that inaction is definitely a bad thing. So he acts.
Moving quickly he heads directly for one guard, hoping to take him out (or at least disarm him) almost immediately. Then (hopefully) he'll move on to the other thug.
With any luck, Stacy will try to get away (as he instructed/requested).
Krane, knowing he has only moments before the second EMT comes around the back of the ambulance, moves in on the EMT that came out the passenger's door. Stepping inside the man's reach, Krane grabs the man's weapon -- some kind of snubby sub-machinegun, it looks like -- and twists it out of his grasp. The armored man reacts smoothy, taking a step backward then executing a skilled, if not perfect, spinning side kick.
Krane avoids it easily.
Feeling he has the measure of his opponent, Krane moves in. A quick strike to the abdomen with the man's own gun knocks him back on his heels. Krane follows up with a punishing blow to the side of the man's helmet, and one opponent is down. Just in time, too.
The scorch smell of burning plastic adds insult to the injury. The other EMT has rounded the back of the van and using it for cover. Krane ducks behind the front of the ambulance and considers his options. He can't see through the back of the ambulance: the glass is darkened. Krane briefly hopes that Mr. Park is OK.
Krane is about to move when he hears a CRUNCH and a scream from the back of the ambulance.
[There's not much fun stuff for Adaptor here, I'm afraid.]
There's a holoprojector, but it isn't working without Rasputin doing the number-crunching. There's a scanner and hi-tech radio, and a display that shows which comm links are assigned to who, and which ones are active. There's also an indicator for signal strength.
********** Adaptor Arachne Brightstar El Langosto Emerald ****** Kakker ****** Krane *** Hawthorne Prism ****** Sanchez **** [Unknown] (Glimmer) ******* [Unknown] (Powersurge) ** [Unknown] (Unknown)
[What does Adaptor do?]
"The Host. There is no other."
The voice is different now, not earth-shaking. It sounds like thunder in the distance, an approaching hurricane perhaps, just over the horizon.
"They seek the Eye. And thus, you. You gain nothing from feigning ignorance with me, little Power: The Lord of the Inner Dark has no interest in trinkets, even the Eye of Samael."
"Why have come to my Realm, little Power? My aid has a high price, and though the Host has no power over Me, to incur their wrath so soon is not in My Plan. Unless you wish to ally yourself with Me, your sojourn is for naught."
After completing his call to the police to assist Krane in whatever it is that's happening with the Ambulance, Adaptor exmaines the board more closely.
Speaking into his own communicator, he says... "Kakker, can you hear me? This is Adaptor. I may have found some equipment that will help us. Unfortuantely, I don't have the technical expertise to modify it. Could you return to Headquarters and assist?" [Adaptor deliberately doesn't go into detail fro fear someone else may be 'listening in'. --Player question: Adaptor is lingering around the base because of the kid. I *am* the only one still here, right? Also, I assume by the readout that we *haven't* heard what's been happneing to Prism, no?]
Settling in to examine the monitor more closely for further information, he awaits Kakker's response...
Given time, energy, and inclination Krane could probably see through the ambulance but he has none of the above. When he hears the scream he abandons all thoughts of dropping to the ground and looking for feet. Instead he leaps on top of the ambulance (as quietly as possible) and runs for the back door (hoping to catch whoever might be there with a surprise attack from above).
Thoughts of tactics and relative risk flee from Krane's mind, and his yoga-trained relexes take over. In an instant, he has vaulted over the hood of the ambulance and is crouched over the rear of the vehicle. He isn't thinking: he doesn't need to think. All of the thinking he needs to do has long since been made a part of him, a part that knows what to do, what muscles to move, how to breathe and when not to breathe. He is prepared for anything, except what he sees.
The lime-green Neon has rear-ended the ambulance, crushing the legs of the EMT-turned-kidnapper. The armored man is sprawled on the hood of the Neon, his legs bent at an unnatural angle, and he isn't moving. There is a weapon similar to the pistol the other agent was carrying laying on the ground next to the car, far out of the agent's reach should he awaken. Krane can't see Stacy.
Jumping down well clear of the trapped agent, Krane moves to check on Stacy. As he does so her head pops up behind the dashboard. She sees Krane and smiles, giving him a "thumbs up".
Kakker is bumfuzzled by this apparently impossible vision. He nervously resumes tinkering with his wiper-antenna as he looks around for any cluse as to what happened. It should still be possible to make the high-output oscillator snav wavelengths and amplify any sympathic frequencies instead of jamming them, as he had hoped to do in order to disable Arachne's prosthetics.
Kakker explores his surroundings with some new trepidation, wondering if he should not immediately return to Europe, where this sort of thing never happens....
Kakker tries to blink away the vision, but it stays there: he's in a storm drain, holding a windshield wiper-turned-neuroelectronic jammer, talking to Julia-Louis Dreyfus.
'Okay,' he thinks to himself. 'It isn't *necessarily* her, it may just be a woman who looks like her. And sounds like her. And even if it *is* her, it's not *impossible* that she'd be down here. Right? Yeah, right.'
"Don't be afraid," she says. "I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you for a minute, and ask you a couple of questions. Okay? And I'm really in kind of a hurry, so it'll only take a minute. Then you can get back to... whatever it is you're doing down here."
She looks around her at the storm drain with an "oh, gross" expression. "Um, if you don't mind my asking, just what *are* you doing down here, anyway?"
Kakker decides to go with the flow, but plays it cagey. "I'm looking for a friend. She's badly hurt, scared, and probably very lost. Have you seen her? And, go ahead, what can I do for you?"
Carbon monoxide! That must be it, here we are in a low area, lots of cars nearby, it must be lowering the oxygen content in my bloodstream, Kakker thinks. Taking a quick snort from the oxygen cylinder in his pocket acetylene torch, Kakker waits for the apparition to answer or dissolve.
"A hurt friend? Here?" She looks around again with an expression of profound distaste.
"I haven't seen anyone down here but you, me, and the bugs. If your friend was down here, she's long gone." Her expression makes it clear that she wishes *she* were long gone, too.
"I'm looking for a woman, she sometimes goes by the name of Xanadu. If you've seen her I'm sure you'd remember."
"Julia" pulls a snapshot from her brown leather purse and hands it to Kakker. It's a photo of a scantily-clad grey-skinned woman with bat wings and ram's horns. As Kakker looks at the picture, it seems to come alive; the grey vixen's breasts rise and fall with her breathing, and Kakker can almost see the glistening of saliva on her tongue as it runs across her razor-sharp teeth.
"Keep in mind that sometimes she doesn't wear this body. I mean, she *looks* differently, but you can tell it's her, if you know what I mean. She *feels* the same. Have you seen her recently?"