OK, I know a few people are rather... upset shall we say... at leaving part 18 in the thick of things. Well, I know it took a while, but here is part 19.


Part XIX

Tiny slung a rather "borrowed" light machine gun to the opposide side. He was moving slow considering his hypered-reflexes pushing his body to limits of organic speed. Several rounds had hit him hard despite layers of armored clothing and armored tissue interwoven with his own.

Painter had taken a few rounds himself and had the welting buises to proove it. His organic muscles were fatigue ladened, causing his metal-enhanced vat growth ones to work overtime. His throat was dry and harsh from the burning of incendiaries and painted concrete. He was tired and holding back any feelings about the three drones which would never get repaired.

Whitehot's feet hurt. Harold had a wicked headache.

"Whiz way?" Tiny let his eyes flutter between the corridor to the left and the corridor to the right.

Whitehot's eyes glazzed for a moment. "Head right. The first door on the right has a stairway. Head down one floor." Painter's eyes opened from his brief reveree. The power-nap left him feeling temporarily refreshed enough to head out. "Yea, Harold, I need to learn that one too."

Tammy hadn't had this much fun in ages

They'd snuck in and eased the door shut behind them. There was a shadow in the deep recesses that they sat in cross-legged, watching the show of paranoia and panic every time Tammy loosened another wire, knocked a plug loose, or moved the coffee over just that inch so it spilled next to whoever was standing on their untied shoelaces. It would have been a lot more fun if Jessie would just chill out and stop checking Tam's pulse.

"For the last time, this place is not haunted! Check on three-seven-eight-two again."

"Self checks report A-OK, sir!"

"Damn, these guys got in deep. Where are they now?"

"Corridor F-five, E-sixteen... medics are still trying to put Wizard out. Kawasaki Rose can't get in until then."

"Check him again."

Tammy was listening ponderously. She motioned towards the door.

"Everything checks, sir."

"Damn, where's that support!"

Jessie checked a pocket computer that she'd patched into strobing cables of light and shook her head and raised her hand, indicating four more minutes. Tammy nodded.

"Cabling must have been severed in the fighting."

"Reroute to secondaries."

The controller shook her head helplessly. "No good, sir. Alternate routes are all non functional."

"Pull the board and check it all the way to the source! Find me some tin cans and string if you have to, Get Me Comm NOW!"

"Aye, sir!"

Tammy silently sighed and jiggled her head in impatience. Holding up one finger, she tapped Jessie's computer. There was a little glow as the download progress bar found sudden momentum and shot to completion. Jessie checked the contents and let out a silent, "YES!"

"Found the problem, sir. Signal cable came loose."

"Plug it in a get me backup!"

"Niner Zeta Echo. This is Foxtrot Omega, come in Niner Zeta Echo." Peaking her head back in, Tammy wiggled her fingers at the power connection, which dropped to the floor. "Terminal's gone dead!"


"What did you find out there?" Painter chucked the fire extinguisher off into the corner of the control room. Smoke and the acidic smell of scorched silicon mixed with burnt plastic into a smell that Whitehot wriggled his nose at as he rearanged cables.

Tiny shrugged. "De'z li'e the one Tam di' befo'e. Gell en da wound."

"Couldn't you not hit the panels? It's harder to patch in when the wiring gets shreded."Whitehot connected clip-on wires from his deck.

Painter shrugged. "Talk to the guy sportin' the fully-automatic lead-spreader."

"Hey! I'z rezemble that remark!"

Corridors and more corridors broken only by stairwells that just caused them to descend further down. Jessie was hard put to keep up with Tammy, who had a definite destination and, somehow, knew exactly where she was heading. Somewhere three floors up, Jessie had remembered the plastic explosives strapped to her guide. Touching the remote, she'd considered pushing the button. That had been just as the guards stomped by. Tammy had just stepped to the side and let them pass. It was if the guards couldn't see them. 'It has to be something about this girl,' Jessie thought. 'With all these guards I'm going to need her to get me out of here.'

"Did you say something?"

"Huh? Oh, which way."


Three floors and two slap patches for the pain. She'd been able to get Tam's attention long enough for her to help with a makeshift splint from the first aid station. It was klunky, but it helped. From the feel of things it wasn't too bad, but trasping all over had done bad things. The Answers could be behind any door they passed, but stopping and leaving her 'protection' wasn't a good idea. Getting Tam back to reality could have unfortunate results, so Jessie'd just have to bide her time. Who knows, wherever they were going could be the motherload.

It was a door in the middle of the hall where they stopped. Most likely just another closet or an undigested piece of pork, but then the last closet had been more than that. Tam opened it to reveal the grate of an archaic looking service elevator. Inside, the handle to indicate the elevator was to move up or down was retrofitted with a latching mechanism with five redundancies as Jessie counted them. Two looked like they'd been forced and repaired. Tammy unlatched it.

"Going down!"

The mechanism was old, but still in good repair. The jerky motion that is characteristic of service elevators shown through for the four... five... ten... stories they descended. Tam considered things for a moment then went up a floor.

"Third floor, locks stocks blocks rocks socks fox clocks knocks ox tocks and... " While Tammy chattered, Jessie pulled open the door to reveal, "a really gronkin' door."

It was a seriously strange 3 m squarish door at the end of a room just big enough to allow the door to swing out. Walking up to it, they could see it was made from cement, yet had little bits of wood and vine lashings poking out. The little bits poking out were the deep, dark red of dried blood. Jessie shivered a bit.

"I've entered a horror novel."

Tam walked up to it and ran a hand over the surface. It was rough and warm to the touch like it'd been out in the midday sun. She rapped lightly on a smoother portion. The door thudded and cracked open. "I don't know about you, but this is one dream I'm not duscussing with the shrink."

Whitehot wearilly unhooked himself. "Frag, there are some serious alarms blarin' in there. Some door just opened that shouldn't be."

"Thin'z da her?"

Whitehot shrugged, "Probably. That alarm has two hard landlines dedicated to it. Magician has got them going in circles at the moment, but those alarms are persistant. Ice enough to cut your throat on."

"Lead the way Blackandblue."

"Whitehot! Whitehot! What is so hard about that!"

They found a piece of rebarb jutting out which had been bent to form something of a handle. It took both of them, but they managed to get the door moving enough that it's momentum let it grate enough for them to get in. A warm, dusk-dew-laiden breeze came from the opening which buffed at them as they walked in.

In the center of a cubic room a little wider than the door was a cot. On the cot was a wollen blanket, probably army surplus. Behind it was a cardboard dresser with a grey sock pushing its way out the confines of a drawer. Infront of the cot was a woven mat. On the mat was a man.

The man was sun-bleached wrinkled and short-cut greyed, though it looked prematurely so. His nose was swollen as if it was still on the mend. The shirt he'd been wearing earlier had been neatly folded beside him, so they could see the numerous tatoos of animals -- racoon, hawk, wolf, rabbit, deer, iguana, and more besides the ones around the corner where they couldn't quite see. He was a little attrophied looking, though considering the space he seemed to live in they were not surprised. He opened his eyes and looked at them.

"It seems I have visitors."

He was neutral, unsure of who they were. They didn't look like the normal type that came to visit nor did they have an escort. The one was injured, which was odd, and had a gun leveled at him, which was not. The other looked strange, odd, off in some other reality.

They stayed that way, looking at each other for the time, no one moving. Jessie and Tam seemed to decide to approach him. Jessie was a little ahead and passed over a circle etched into the floor.

Tammy ran into something.

It was a hard, smooth surface in the space where Jessie had just passed. It wasn't cold nor warm nor anything she could see, but Tam could feel it there, real as life before her. Jessie checked back at hearing Tam's eek of surprize to see what looked like a mime show at the etched groove.

Tiny wasn't sure if it was the sound of gunfire still echoing down the hall or just a ringing in his ears.

Whitehot checked the display on his deck. This door, he said while opening it. Should lead us to the elevator.

It was empty space beyond. Painter looked down and was able to make out the car at the bottom of the shaft. Grabing ahold of the metal rung and giving it a tug, he nodded approvingly. "Looks like we climb."

It was there, in her way, and Tam was not happy about this. Jessie had wandered through a couple of times without effect. Tam just couldn't seem to get beyond the circle in the floor. It was really pissing her off.

The man sat there and watched.

Tam had poked and prodded to no avail. Standing back, she growled and glared at the invisible fence. Stepping into it, she swung strait into the barrier. A steely thud echoed before the sound of crackling fine crystal. Tammy fell through where the barrier was.

"You probably shouldn't have done that." The man spoke with a voice gravelly with dryness.

"Why not? Shouldn't be any barriers in my dream."

The man raised an eyebrow at Tam, carefully checking her over. "What makes you think this is a dream?"

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