Web of Chaos
Crawling out of the Delaware River exhausted, Joe laid down on the mud and cement of the river bank. “No one’s going to figure I’d swim downstream for miles before getting out,” he thought.
Noticing the putrid smell of the mud, Joe got up. “Better get cleaned off before I get sick.” He trudged over a broad, muddy field. Old parts of machinery and buildings stuck up out of the ground. The first intact buildings he made it too sat atop giant concrete pillars.
He crept under a building into the pitch black beneath it. “No way I can be quiet in this muck. Can’t see.” As his anxiety built in fear of being attacked in the dark, he felt around in an attempt to make sure he did not walk into something.
However, he did stumble into a sharp chunk of metal sticking out of the ground at an angle right into his chest. Feeling the point of it scratch him, he stopped. “Shh…” It stung and made him bleed. Grabbing onto it, he moved around it, feeling around with his feet and his free arm for anything else. “This is going to take forever. No one’s going to find me… Though that could be good or bad.“
Joe heard squishing footsteps coming toward him. He froze and waited.
“Greetings. Are you in need of assistance?”
Sounding as if ten feet away, the voice had a soft breathing out sound to it. Joe pictured a filth covered, scraggly-haired old man in his mind. He felt pretending to be invisible would be silly. “Yes. Thank you. I fell and do not know how to get out of here.”
“Yes, too dark for you. I apologize for not having a means of contacting an ambulance for you. When we get to the road, perhaps someone will assist you.”
Joe did not want an ambulance, or the police called. “Thank you. I’m sure once I get to the road I’ll be fine.”
“You sound injured.”
“Hurt my jaw. In the fall.”
“Yes, of course you are injured. Let me assist you. I will approach now. Ok?”
A sitting duck, Joe figured he would have been dead if he got mugged in the dark anyway. “Yes… Ok.”
“Here. Take my hand.”
“Thank you.” Joe reached out, and the person held his hand. It felt as though they wore a leather glove. “Makes sense with the sharp metal around down here,” thought Joe.
The person led Joe along with no light source. They trudged along at a good pace, and Joe became suspicious. “How can he know where to go at this speed without being able to see? Does he have on goggles? No way he has bionic eyes or an exo-helmet in this neighborhood and wandering around down here… Why is he under the building?“
Coming out to the poorly lit street Joe saw his rescuer. With horse-like legs and scaly skin, the humanoid Anemoi smiled, sharp pointy teeth showing. Joe took a step back. He knew how they got out of the pitch black under the building so fast. The Anemoi could see in the infrared; they could differentiate the slightest change in temperature.
The Anemoi pointed to some stairs. “You can get to the upper street there. Please be careful though. A human gang has been assaulting anyone going up or down. The police seldom look for bodies down here. Though, since you are human, they may very well let you pass unharmed if you give them something.”
The Anemoi reached out his leathery hand.
Joe stepped closer and shook his hand.
“Well, then, I hope you make it home safe.”
“Yeah, Thanks. I really should hurry,” said Joe heading to the stairs.
The Anemoi faded away into the darkness.
Ascending the stairs strewn with litter, Joe kept stopping and searching for any sign of people hiding. Almost to the upper street, Joe rounded the corner of the fourth story stair landing. A small woman sat on the stairs. Joe stood still watching her, waiting.
“Yo,” she said too loud to be talking to Joe.
Eight guys jumped down onto the stairs from the street above. One of the guys smacked a metal pipe in his hand. “There’s a toll.”
“As you can see, I don’t have anything.”
“Don’t even have money to transfer man. No way you’re living down there with no assistance.”
Joe’s face turned to intense anger. “I’m not living down there. I’m G.E. Got into a fight. Lucky to be alive.”
“Oh yeah. What kind of alien messed you up man?”
“Not an alien. Humans working for Anlon.”
“Oh, shit man. Some story.”
The woman stepped up to the man and grabbed his arm, pulling. “Come on, let’s not mess with this.”
“Shit. He’s bluffing. Just some homeless loser crawling up out of the mud.”
Joe took a deep breath. “Look, if you take me to any G.E you might have heard of, you will be rewarded.”
“And how am I suppose to know where any G.E are if you don’t.”
“You’re small-time, but still, you didn’t hear any local rumors?”
“Fuck you. Yeah, we heard rumors of something nearby. Seems a military ship just took them out. It’s all over the news.”
“Look. This is getting tedious. If you’re willing to attack a G.E and hope no one comes hunting for you, then let’s go at it. Otherwise, let me pass.”
The woman pulled on the man’s arm again. “Come on. He has nothing, and if what he says is true it’s not worth it to get nothing.”
“Fine. Get out of here.”
Joe negotiated up the stairs through the crowd of thugs.
“I see you around the neighborhood looking the way you do now. We’re coming after you.”
Not looking back, Joe continued to the upper street.
After putting Sydnie to bed, Gill headed out to his car and contacted Alexander. “Hello. Any luck?”
“We lost the target. Could have really used you.”
“Disabled tracker. He might be drowned in the Delaware River, or he escaped. Either way, we have no idea where he is.”
“Ok. I’ll look at police reports in case anyone found a body. Send me the coordinates of where the tracker went dead, and I’ll start looking for him.”
“Ok. You want us to pick you up?”
“No. I’ll look for Joe Williams while you stay on alert for the Onslaught.”
“Understood.” Alexander disconnected the com channel.
Gill got in his car and set it to drive to the address matching the coordinates Alexander sent him. He thought out a message to send to Yori Sato. “Hand Sute Achikita over to the police. Keep an eye and ear out for that exo-armor or any mention of an Arkvee. Continue keeping an eye on Sute Achikita as well. She may not be detained for long… Send to Yori Sato.” Gill’s Aivot sent the message.
As the car drove to Camden New Jersey, Gill accessed CCTV databases and set an AI program to search through them for Joe. He decided to look through for any detected movement from cameras along the Delaware River.
Taking a deep breath, he hoped spending his time with Sydnie wouldn’t end up costing an innocent person their life. The best lead he had vanished. Doubt crept into his mind. Did he make the right choice going to see Sydnie? If he had been with Martial Call at the time, could he have prevented Joe from getting out of sight? Surely, Gill thought, keeping her safe took precedence overseeing her. No ones kids were safe with a war machine nearby, he thought, wanting to save all those he viewed as kids from the giant coming to get them.
While Wendy told workers what to do attaching a part to the Onslaught Arkvee, Diesel walked up to her. “You need to speak louder.”
Glancing up at him she did not say anything. She didn’t want to tell them what to do, to begin with.
On the verge of crying, she had no idea how much longer she could endure her hardship. “Though,” she thought, “I’m sure I understood what I studied well enough. A good thing I suppose. Guess I imagined it would be harder because it’s Military maybe. Requires more people and resources is all. Not like I’m doing something from scratch. The groundwork’s there from those who figured it out in the first place.“
Diesel put his hand on top of her head and shook her. “Wake up and keep working. We need this done now.”
Wendy shoved his hand off her. “I’m going.”
Waking up, Snorri realized he no longer wore his exo-armor. Scrambling up he looked around in shock. “Where had his armor gone? Where was he?” He hurried over to the door, grabbed the handle, and pulled. Locked in, he yanked on the handle harder; it broke off in his hand. Throwing it, he stomped over to the bed, picked it up, and threw it at the door. The bed splintered into pieces, but the door stood strong. Feeling betrayed, growling in fury, Snorri ran at the door and burst it to pieces on impact.
Out in the hallway, two Chrysomallus guards stumbled back in surprise. Someone made a big mistake in their understanding of the human-made door’s strength or of Snorri’s when going berserk.
Snorri swung at the first guard. With a crack, they flew seven feet landing on the floor and writhed in pain screaming. The other guard drew a gun. Snorri grabbed the guard’s hand and weapon; squeezing he crushed the guards hand against the metal gun like a juicer. Howling in pain, the guard lurched back hard. What remained of his hand tore off. Raising his arm, Snorri brought the weapon down on the Chrysomallus’s head snapping one horn off and knocking the guard out.
The weapons were too small for Snorri to use, so he left them and ran. Someone walked in front of him caught unaware. Snorri plowed right into them breaking their bones and knocking them out of his way.
Seeing someone he recognized, Snorri grabbed them by the neck and lifted them up. The person lifted their weapon, but Snorri held it aimed at the floor with his other hand. “Snorri wants Malphas?”
“He’s not here.”
“Snorri want to know where?”
“I don’t know, something about Anlon’s Marines. It’s all over the news.”
Snorri thought for a second about letting the person live. After all, they did tell Snorri what he wanted to know. Squeezing, Snorri crushed the person’s neck and dropped the body. Running out of the underground complex, Snorri had only one violent thought repeating itself over and over. “Kill Malphas for betrayal.“
In the back seat, Malphas looked out the window of his car as the streets of Camden New Jersey flowed by. He made faces of disgust.
A human man stepped out into the street and walked in front of the car. The man figured an expensive looking car such as Malphas had would be self-driving and automatically avoid him. It did not. With a crunch, the man’s legs broke, and he tumbled into the windshield with crack. The windshield did not break, and the man flipped over the top of the car falling dead onto the asphalt. The car continued on its way.
“Make sure you clean the filth off the car the first chance you get.”
“Yes, Sir,” said the driver.
A few blocks later. “There. Pull over.”
The driver did not know where but pulled over to the sidewalk.
Malphas opened the door and motioned to Joe to get in.
Joe walked up to the car. “Sir. You can’t be here. There are cameras everywhere.”
“I know that damn well idiot. They are disabled for now. Get in.”
“Yeah,” said Joe looking down at the ground. He walked to the other side of the car and got in.
About ready to kill the filth covered Joe, Malphas gritted his teeth. “We need to get you back to your partner.”
“How did you find me?”
“Never mind that. Without me, you all would not accomplish a thing. Get the plan back on track. Get in that Arkvee and do your job.”
“Yes, Sir. I will.” Joe felt miserable; a loser. Doubt crept into his mind and his drive to do the so-called job faded.
His car driving down the street, Gill’s spirits were up. The AI program had multiple hits of Joe on CCTV cameras on this street. In a short while, he would have him in site. The CCTV database Gill had logged into went offline, and he hustled to send his small drones out. They zipped up and away from his car as he hit the steering wheel in frustration. “What the hell?”
Copyright Conrad Brubaker 2018