Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Episode Fifteen: There

Episode Fifteen

The Factory

"A dozen more questions occurred to me. Not to mention twenty-two possible solutions to each one, sixteen resulting hypotheses and counter-theorems, eight abstract speculations, a quadrilateral equation, two axioms, and a limerick. That's raw intelligence for you."
-The Djinni Bartimaeus

   Ice cold wind tore down from the northern mountains, ripped through the abandoned fields and jerked open Lucas' coat. He grimaced and bent into his stomach.

   "Lovely weather, eh?" Marie smirked over the top of her binoculars.

   "Not one bit." Lucas suppressed a shiver. "Man, this is unbelievable. I'm freezing!"

   "Stop whining. Let's you know you're alive."
   "Oh, I know I'm alive." Lucas crouched lower against the crumbling rock wall outside the facility. "Just not so sure about my feet...Or nose..." He glanced up at Marie with a sniff. "How are you standing this?"

   "I have a turtle neck.”

   "That’s thinner than an under shirt."

   Marie rested her elbows on the stones of the old rock wall that circled the area and eclipsed them from anyone, or anything that might be looking, and pointed the lenses back at the smaller storehouses below. "Always been a hot blooded gal. Now shush."

   Lucas wrapped the coat tighter around him and stared down at his shiny leather shoes; made more so with the ice laden northern countryside, and counted to ten. He gazed over at Marie. "Still nothing?"

   "Not nothing," she hissed, scanning the small cluster of abandoned warehouses below them. "It's never nothing."

   "Right." Lucas pulled a crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights out of his coat's inside pocket. "If it weren't for bad luck we'd have no luck at all."

   Marie lowered the binoculars with a frown. "I'm not picking up any movements. And you aren’t getting anything either?"

   "Nada." He stuck a cigarette in his mouth then fished in his pocket for the lighter.

   Marie sat back on her heels, binoculars in her lap. "Maybe it was a fluke after all..."

   "Even The Factory can make mistakes. They’re only human." He chuckled, finding his lighter and cupping the cigarette. "The people around here are pretty easily spooked." The lighter stuttered, not catching. "Probably just a runaway or overly superstitious farm--"

   Marie gasped, jolting upright and leaning over the stones. Lucas joined her. A jagged shadow leapt from one end of the largest warehouse, where a pile of old machinery stood rusting, and flipped into a smashed out window. Before it vanished, Lucas was certain he caught, in the veils of swirling darkness, the pink fleshy tones of a small foot.

   Beyond the window, in the shocked silence that followed, came a soft wail; like that of a frightened child.

   Lucas was on his feet, cigarette discarded.

   Marie grabbed his arm and yanked him down; or tried too. The sleeve of his coat slipped off his shoulder. "Sit down."

   "But you heard..."

   "I heard what could be a False Sense. Now sit. That's an order."

   "It sounded like a..."

   "I know exactly what it sounded like."

   "Don't give me that! That was an act of...." he racked his brain. "Of something that allows us to investigate further, Marie!" He snapped his fingers. "Of defiance and daring if it was a False Sense. It was a challenge!"

   She leveled him with an icy stare, much colder there the surrounding mountains. "Really? Don't quote text to me, Alt--no matter how badly. We are here to observe and report."

   "But we just..."

   "Observe and re--"

   "Yeah, yeah. I heard ya." Lucas sat heavily, straightening his coat as Marie set a small receiver in her ear and dialed her cell phone. He squirmed, feeling something under him. Reaching down he pulled up his cigarette. Snapped in two.

   "That's odd."

   "What's up?" Lucas tossed the useless stick into the wind.

   "I'm not getting through..."

   "Busy day at command I guess."

   "It's not a busy signal you idiot. All I'm getting is static." She pulled the receiver from her ear and picked up her binoculars.

   Lucas sighed. "When's Bert outta the Hospital?"

   "Robert will be released when the medics release him."

   "Bet The Factory is the only place that deems illness a crime. Usually patients are discharged, aren't they?"

   Marie's focus on the warehouse seemed to increase, creasing her forehead with worry.

   "What's he got any---?"

   She stood, clipping the binoculars to her belt. "We’re going in."

   "Huh?" She was already over the wall when Lucas looked up. "Marie! Wait a sec, will ya?" Jogging, he caught up with her near the entrance to the main building. He grasped her arm. "Don't just charge down in not even half open!"

   Marie glared at him. His hand drooped from her arm. Hers slid to the door knob. “Do your job, Alt.”

   Lucas edged closer, pulled off a glove and closed his eyes a moment, laying a hand on the wall beside the door, fingertips scarping the metal surface.

   "It's quiet. But..." He opened his eyes. "There is movement. It’s so muted it could just be rats or an alley cat…Or something suppressing its presence.”

   Marie nodded. Her hand twisted the door knob. Lucas pressed in behind her. Marie shoved the door open and in one quick movement vanished inside to the left. Lucia followed just as fast, heading right. They stood a few feet apart in what looked like a gloomy but ordinary warehouse, if not disused and abandoned. Lucas stood very still, his gaze taking in the empty pallet racks and rows of dusty shelves. A few large crates littered the floor and rose out of the gloom in the back where his eye sight failed and turn everything to muddy shadows.

   "Dark in here."

   "Yeah," Lucas grinned at her. "Too dark."

   "Cut it out, Luc and turn on your eyes."

   Lucas' fingers touched his forelock. "Roger, Roger."

   "Keep formation and move quietly."

   The shadows shimmered as the second construct fell away at Lucas’ inward command. The warehouse sharpened. Soft silvery lines wafted in the air a few feet back towards the large crates he could barely make out before.

   "Confirming a recently used Line," he said, pointing.


   "Not yet."

   Marie pushed passed him. "How old?"

   "A few hours, but wait a sec! Let me check--"

   "Check faster," Marie said, glaring over her shoulder.

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