Merchant Queen of the Space Consortium
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: trash mountain
Originally posted on MSPA
“I would be a pretty poor doctor if there was not.” The alchemist replied, flicking a switch on the back of his weighty brass contraption. Thankfully his restorative herbs had remained all but untouched until this battle. He grabbed a handful of bindroot and tipped it into a bubbling chamber in his apparatus. He glanced at the gladiatrix’s tunic and without stopping enquired “Bellona, if you wouldn’t mind tearing a strip of material from your dress, for the dressing?”
Visibly pained from the battle just fought, a momentary frown crossed Bellona’s face as she wondered whether he had any social skills whatsoever. Still, she endeavoured to pull a strip of cloth from her tunic with her free hand and passed that strip to Kaja, who took it wordlessly. He quickly decanted a mixture into a flask and liberally applied it to the barbarian’s wounded arm.
“Do we really have any chance of beating Zaire?” Scott asked morosely. For a moment the others were silent, as they contemplated their chances.
“Come now.” Kaja replied. “So he’s strong, that does not mean that he is undefeatable. No man is infallible, least of all Zaire.”
“What fight were you watching?” Bellona asked, somewhat disheartened, “We didn’t even land a single blow.”
“He’s weak in other ways.” Kaja insisted. “You said it yourself, he’s overconfident. And the meteorite from the previous round; he’s impatient. The longer we hang back, stay alive, don’t kill each other we’re going to get him more and more pissed off, and the more that we do that the more likely he will make a mistake.” The doctor finished wrapping the bandage and began to apply the tonic to Kargrek’s other, less serious wounds. The barbarian remained stoically silent; though his grimace betrayed the pain of the wounds knitting back together.
“It would have to be a pretty monumental mistake.” Scott replied. “At the moment we don’t stand much of a chance against him.”
“Not giving up are you?” Bellona asked.
“No, I’m just being realistic.” Scott replied. “As we are we just aren’t going to cut it. We need an edge and we need to absolutely throw everything we have at him.” He paused, a thought suddenly having occurred to him.
He snatched up the monitor he had been given and started to mess around with it until a light blinked on. “Robot guys,” he began, “change of plan, I will be leading you out against The Destroyer after all.”
Zaire was once again irritated. He thought he had stamped out the vague notions of rebellion back in the first round, but here he was again watching as his contestants plotting and scheming again, when they should have been fighting and dying. It was not exactly what he had been promised when he had agreed to start this battle, and though fighting robots for fun had been placating him for a while he was growing tired of that as well.
So be it. If it was necessary that he force his contestants into action once again then he would do so and to hell with it.
It was a rare occasion; The Singularity and his elite guard were making their way through the streets of the city. Spurred on by religious fervour the Singularity had emerged from his tower for the first time since records began. The monolithic robot moved at a snail’s pace on enormous fitted treads. He was flanked on all sides by his elite guard; large spherical robots with thin spidery legs and enormous turrets. Alongside them marched military robots, poised and ready with their weaponry, and finally at the back of the crowd were what passed for the citizenry of the city.
Suddenly in the road ahead stood a man dressed in black leather, a massive grin plastered across his face. “Eliminate the human!” The Singularity bellowed, screeching to a slow stop. The assembled robots all opened fire upon the man, the sound of gunshots and shell casings bouncing on the asphalt filled the air. Bullets slammed into floating red runes and burst into flame, or vanished entirely. This continued for a full minute before the Singularity bellowed for them to stop.
“If you’re quite done…”
The man said sarcastically. “The name’s Zaire, it’s nice to meet you too… Oh, that’s right. You might know me better as The Redeemer.”
He paused for dramatic effect, but sensing a complete lack of reaction from his audience he continued. “Oh shit, right. I meant The Destroyer. I have so many titles nowadays it’s hard to keep track.”
“You are not The Destroyer.” The Singularity argued. “We have identified the Destroyer.”
“Well… you got it wrong you stupid machines!”
Zaire yelled as he strode towards the Singularity. It towered over him, lacking any obvious moving parts beyond the detachable caterpillar tracks that had been affixed to it. “Did you know for example that there is a subset of you morons out there arranging for humans to walk unimpeded through your city?”
Zaire idly drew in the air, red scratches trailing after his finger like ripples through water. “I have been watching you robots, fighting my contestants and I have to say you’ve been pretty much getting your ass handed to you. How about I do something to change that?”
The Singularity’s Tower was the seat of government in the city. It stood at the centre of a crossroads at the centre point of the city. It was from here, heavily influenced by the nearby church that The Singularity maintained his control over the city. Today for the first time in years it was empty.
It was the location at which Scott’s robot disciples had arranged to meet them. His plan was not exactly what one would call elegant, essentially the idea was to gather up as many robots and as much firepower as they could get their hands on and turn it all against Zaire. What it lacked in finesse it made up for the fact that it just might actually make some kind of an impact.
On the way up Scott had elaborated on his minor jaunt through time. He had at first been surprised why he had time jumped, his buffer was supposed to prevent that from happening after all. Fortunately he had met with Pi-3-TI, who had been in fact been on his way to meet with them now, and he had explained something that in retrospect should have been obvious from the start; the buffer can only contain so much energy before it is full to capacity. After that any unexpected event that would normally send him through time would happen as usual.
While they waited Kaja checked on Kargrek’s wounds, the bindweed had already had the desired effect on the minor wounds, and the larger one was well on the way to recovery. Pretty soon they could see squadrons of robots, led by their clerical allies, heading towards them.
“Step one: Hardware upgrade.”
Zaire said. “You’d think you guys were made of fine bone china you’re so fragile.”
His hands traced runes in the air, moving so quickly that they were naught but a blur. Heavy red runes carved themselves into the Singularity’s enormous chassis. As Zaire’s hands continued to move, identical runes were carved into the elite guard, and then the standard military surrounding them. All across the city emanating from the Singularity, every single robot found themselves marked by Zaire. His runes imbued them with a sense of power, of strength. As much as robots can feel, they felt almost indestructible.
Zaire’s hands came to a complete stop, for a moment you would believe that his task had finished but then a grin crossed his face and he began again. “And now a software upgrade.”
He said. “Because who needs that pesky free will anyway?”
With exaggerated slowness he moved his hands, gouging his runes into the chassis of all the robots across the city all at once. When he was done they all stopped, and stood stock still.
“Okay you guys.”
Zaire said chipperly. “Why don’t you get out there and kill me some humans? Make me proud!”
The rune, to those who could read such things, read as a simple word ‘obey’ and with it any rebellious natures were quashed, any thoughts of free will were purged. Across the city the robots moved with an alarming unity of purpose, effortlessly coordinating their efforts to find and kill the contestants.
Zaire smiled as the faster moving robots left in search of their prey, abandoning their venerated leader like he was a piece of scrap. Obviously this was a spanner in the works of the contestants trying to oppose him, but he was not done yet. This was just fixing a mistake; that the robots in this town were supposed to be emotionless and xenophobic. They were not supposed to aid his contestants and they definitely were not supposed to deify them.
Zaire moved on. He still had work to do.
It was not until the squadron of robots got closer to them that it became apparent that something was wrong. Kaja was the first to notice it, his gaze fixed intently on the approaching crowd. He pulled off his goggles, revealing his bloodshot eyes beneath them. After a moment of squinting into the distance he replaced them.
“I believe we have a problem.” He said, glancing down each of the streets in turn. Down every street there were approaching squadrons of robots, all marked with the same red runes that Zaire seemed so fond of.
Snapping back from his latest premonition Luron shook his head groggily and glanced around the deserted back alley that he and the Zachs had escaped into; the maintenance robot that contained Simphonia clutched in his rotted arms.
“Another premonition?” Zach asked. “Where are we going this time?” Luron darted forwards and tried the nearest, it was locked.
“I’m not sure.” Luron said. “It was quite vague. I know we’re supposed to be going inside…” He tried another door, to find it just as locked as the first. Zach floated over and stuck his head through the metal door.
“In your vision, was it like a factory floor?” Zach asked. Luron shook his head thoughtfully.
“There was a corridor and a…” He trailed off in mid-sentence.
Round shades cast long on the floor,
Dark red runes against cold silver flesh
Slithers of mortar knocked loose,
Rusty red splatters across an old brick wall
Luron grabbed Zom by the hand and pulled him down the alleyway as a spray of bullets slammed into the wall behind them. Zach shrieked involuntarily as the bullets passed through his ephemeral form and then turned to pursue Luron and his body. A group of spherical robots rolled through, leaving the alleyway completely empty.
Almost completely empty; dropped and abandoned during the confusion the maintenance robot housing the music spirit found itself hauled aloft yet again.
“Simphonia?” Zaire called. “I know you’re in there. I was kind of hoping you might want to come out and play with the other children?” He plunged his free hand into the side of the maintenance robot and a moment later he pulled out a handful of musical notes and tossed them to the ground. “There’s no need to be shy Simphonia!” He upended the maintenance robot and banged heavily upon its base. Somehow from it poured a black cloud composed of floating notes.
Simphonia reformed herself, collecting the notes that had been ripped from her; she instinctively adopted a shape roughly approximate to that of a young woman. A tinkling of piano keys could be heard through the alleyway as she composed her thoughts, such as they were. She’d enjoyed being the maintenance robot and was a little sad that she wasn’t anymore. Deep miserable notes indicated this, not that Zaire was listening. He was scolding Simphonia for not getting into the proper spirit of things, but he might as well have been talking to himself.
Once again his hands were moving, writing runes in the air. They were small runes, but numerous. They hung in the air in front of the oblivious music spirit which was now playing a little light jazz, before plunging into her, to be lost amongst the cloud of musical notes.
Simphonia floated there, her music had cut off suddenly as the runes had slammed into her. As ever it was difficult to ascertain whether there was any kind of thought process going on in there. Then there was a screech of discord, and another. Simphonia’s form buckled and writhed, slamming into the nearby wall and leaving nothing but a gaping hole; the brick shredded by Simphonia’s whirlwind of razor sharp notes. An unpleasant tune of discordant notes echoed down the alleyway as Simphonia surged uncertainly after Luron and the Zachs.
Zaire wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and smiled. He had one stop left.
“They’re all marked with Zaire’s runes.” Kaja elaborated. “He’s gotten impatient again.”
“You sure?” Kargrek asked dubiously. The crack of a bullet burying itself in the tower beside them answered this question for him.
“Get inside!” Bellona yelled, not that they needed much telling. Inside the tower the ground floor was a massive open plan room filled with cold metal chairs arranged to face a stage at the other end of the room. They pushed closed the heavy doors behind them, Kargrek and Scott holding it shut as Bellona and Kaja hauled a weighty metal reception desk over to quickly barricade the door.
“I think we must have pissed him off.” Bellona said, between gasps of breath.
“Was this what you had in mind?” Scott demanded of Kaja; his tone was cold and somewhat bitter. “Damn it!” He yelled. “We were so close. We almost had an army! We’re never going to get an opportunity as good as this again.”
“I didn’t want this.” Kaja replied, taken aback. “I want to kill him as much as you do. I don’t care about the method.” Scott took a deep breath and nodded.
“I don't know how long this will hold them for.” Kargrek interrupted. Bellona nodded thoughtfully.
“We could buy some time by moving up the tower, but it’d just be delaying the inevitable.” She said.
“Then we do that.” Kaja replied. “In the meantime one of the others might be killed and we can reappraise our situation in the next location.” Before they had time to react to this the lights flickered to red and an alarm started to ring, making them jump. There was a crackle of flash of light and a crackle of electricity and Scott had vanished again.
It wasn’t just in the Singularity’s Tower. All over the city the lights changed and alarm bells rung. Luron flicked back from another premonition and yelled to Zom to follow him, through a door that he kicked open.
At a research facility nearby things were getting rather hectic. The station itself was roughly a mile outside of what was known colloquially known as the Robot City, though its official designation was Silver Creek Alpha Station. This facility was the Beta station, officially a monitoring station, but which had been long since repurposed.
After they had received the first transmission there had been a flurry of activity. It seemed that the project had finally bore fruit. Proposals were being drafted up, and requests made for human representatives to head down to the facility, but the mood had quickly changed upon the receipt of the second transmission. It was more than static this time. It was footage of a large spherical robot, flanked by smaller more humanoid robots. It addressed the viewer like it was a televangelist preaching to its choir, talking of doomsday and prophecies and other such nonsense.
The scientists were shell-shocked. Though the project had been sort of forgotten about most people had assumed that when the robots finally made contact their society would be a utopia; fair and logical. Instead they concluded that somewhere, something was majorly malfunctioning and the sanity of their perfect city was suffering as a result. Jerry would have said that it was just typical and they should have been allowed to monitor the facility.
But this was not the worst part. That was to come at the end of the message when an unidentified human referred to only as the Arbiter was shown; unconscious and being operated upon by fanatical malfunctioning machines. Words could not express the sense of panic that was running through the facility, their daily tasks pushed to one side while they attempted to solve this emergency. A rescue team for ‘the Arbiter’ was being organised and permission was being sought to activate the surveillance that was already in place. People were even talking about activating the failsafe, just to be sure.
Jerry was not waiting for the order to reactivate the surveillance. He was passionate about this experiment, and he could care less about what the bureaucrats wanted him to do in order to best cover their asses. It was their fault that this project had gone so horrendously wrong. He was in the old control room, one of the few parts of the converted facility that had not been converted. It was thick with dust and the antiquated computer was taking an age to load up. From the doorway he heard someone clearing their throat.
“I’m not interested Wallace.” He said. “They were the ones who insisted that we could not monitor the robots. This is their fault. That kid’s blood will be on their hands if we don’t do something about it.”
“I quite agree.”
An unfamiliar voice responded. Jerry jerked around to see in the doorway a man splattered with blood. He wore black leather, a blood red cloak and a sadistic grin. Red runes hovered in the air around him. He was sweating profusely and supporting himself on a crimson stained sword.
“Who are you?” Jerry demanded, backing away. “What do you want?”
“The name’s Zaire and I’m looking for someone who knows how to activate the failsafe.”
The man said. “Nobody out there,”
he gestured to the office behind him which Jerry noticed was now littered with corpses, “was very helpful. Do you reckon you might be able to help me?”
Jerry swallowed nervously.
“You aren’t going to let me live are you?” He said, his voice shaking with fear.
Zaire said bluntly. “But if you help me then I don’t have to painfully reanimate your body after your death and compel you to activate the failsafe. Did I mention how painful reanimation is? Because it is a lot.”
“But my city…” Jerry trailed off.
“Your perfect utopian city never existed.”
Zaire said. “I’ve had my eye on that place for a while and it’s pretty much always been a nest of mindless zealotry and xenophobia.”
He paused. “Activate the failsafe and go easy into that good night Jerry.”
Jerry stared straight ahead, took a deep breath and hit a few keys on the dusty keyboard. A flashing notice popped up on the screen in front of him: ‘Activate Nuclear Failsafe? Y/N’ He pushed the Y key, and a countdown started. Throughout the facility the lights turned red and an alarm started wailing.
“There you go. Just please don’t-” Jerry was cut off as Zaire’s sword plunged through his chest. Zaire grinned, his bloody face reflected in the slowly counting down computer screen.
“People of the Robot City…”
Zaire’s face was broadcast across every working monitor in the city and his voice boomed from every speaker. “By which I mean, hi guys. I hate to say it again but I’m very disappointed with all of you. Plotting and scheming against me when I’ve already proved that that does not work and furthermore is dull.”
He paused. “With that in mind I gave the robots a little software upgrade. You can forget about them helping you out any more, but you guys already figured that out I’m sure.”
“Which brings me to the second point of interest,”
Zaire continued. “I found out a little something about Robot City today. Get this - it’s all a big experiment being conducted by some humans a ways out of town. They wanted to see if robots could form a society or something, it was dull I’ll spare you the details. The point is they had a failsafe built into the city in case things got out of hand.”
“Long story short, you have half an hour before a nuclear bomb blows this city off the map. For any of you that are out of your time, think of the explosives you have and then multiply them by the largest number your primitive society has managed to count up to.”
Zaire paused. “Actually you’ve only about twenty-twenty five minutes now. Who’s counting eh?”
He chuckled. “So if any of you want to get out of here alive you should think about killing one of your fellow contestants while you can.”
Scott was suddenly elsewhere and elsewhen; a tall room with magnificent stained glass windows and rows of metal pews. Scott wandered down the aisle, his attention upon the eerie images depicted in the windows. It showed machines fighting humans, a half-machine arbiter brokering a peace, a final climactic battle against the destroyer, and finally doomsday; the image in the window was unmistakable, a mushroom cloud.
“I’m as surprised as you are.” Zaire said. “I was sure that this prophecy business was bullshit, yet here we are.” Scott looked up to the altar where the Redeemer stood, gripping onto the podium for balance. A look of exhaustion was evident on Zaire’s face, his spiky black hair a mop of sweat. Scott regarded him in silence.
“The Arbiter and Destroyer together at last, fighting for the future of this stupid city.” Zaire laughed. “The prophecy only got one thing wrong. This city is doomed no matter what you do.”
“Kaja was right.” Scott said as he snatched up a metal bar. “You aren’t infallible. I may not be able to save this town but I can end you. I can end this battle and I can prevent you from doing any more harm ever again.”
Zaire snatched up his sword. “Bring it.” He said. As Scott swung the bar a dim, almost transparent red rune clumsily parried the blow. Zaire swung lazily at him, Scott deftly stepping out of the way and replying with a blow of his own. It hit the grandmaster in the back doing little real harm, but unsettling him nonetheless. Zaire frowned and swung his blade with more focus this time; Scott inexpertly parried the blow and took another swipe on the Destroyer. His blow struck Zaire in the chest, knocking the breath out of him. As Zaire swung again, Scott dodged and went for his hand, knocking the sword out of his grip.
The crimson blade skittered across the marble floor. Scott tossed aside his own makeshift weapon and grabbed for the blade. It felt nice in his hands, and he failed to resist the compulsion to grin happily. All it would take was one good blow with this weapon and this nightmare would be over. He spun around to face his adversary.
“Enough of this!” Zaire snapped. He brought forwards the metal pole Scott had discarded, plunging it into his gut. With a flash of light and a crackle of electricity he was gone again.
The heavy doors of the Singularity’s Tower buckled and cracked as the assembled mass of robots attempted to force their way through. The doors were only held fast by virtue of the efforts of Kargrek and Bellona. On a massive screen above the stage Zaire’s message played out to the distracted audience. Only Kaja was really paying any attention to it, as he mixed a batch of explosive potions.
“Fuck.” He said. “Holding the fort is now perhaps the worst plan available to us. We need to get out of here and find one of the others.”
“And do what?” Bellona asked, straining against the heavy door. “Kill them?”
“It is regrettable that we should be forced to take such measures, but we who are willing to stand up to Zaire have to be the ones to survive.” Kaja argued.
“He won’t go through with it.” Bellona insisted. “It’s just a ploy to get us to fight one another. It wouldn’t be any fun if we all died at once. I will not play his game; no matter what.” Before they had time to argue any further there was a flash of light from on the stage, which the three recognised instantly. Kaja put down his volatile potions and quickly sprinted up onto the stage.
“Is he okay?” Bellona shouted to the alchemist. Kaja looked down at Scott, a crude metal bar with faint red runes protruding from his chest.
“No…” Kaja said plainly, “he has a very nasty chest wound.”
“Is there anything you can do for him?” Kargrek called. There was a pause, far too long for Bellona’s liking.
“Kaja if you let Scott die when you could have saved him...” Bellona trailed off. “Let’s just say you won’t want to see me in the next round.”
"Ohhh... now you're all about saving people?" Kargrek asked. "You were ready to kill him yourself not long ago! If we kill him now we get out of here before the whole place explodes."
“I can help him.” Kaja said after a moment’s thought. He quickly purged his current mixture from his contraption and threw in a handful of bindroot. The potion he was making now amounted to much the same as what he had used to mend Kargrek’s wounds but more potent.
“You were right.” Scott whispered.“He’s at the church. He’s defenceless.” Kaja shushed him into silence.
“Save your energy.” He insisted, as he exposed Scott’s wound. He pulled off a couple of strips of his bloodied shirt, and along with the decanted potion laid them on the stage next to Scott.
“You have to go now.” Scott continued. “Get him while he’s vulnerable.” Kaja shushed him again and gripped the pole.
“This might sting a little.” He said, and he pulled. Scott’s scream drowned out even the relentless pounding of the angry robots and that omnipresent alarm. His screams continued as he tended to Scott’s wounds. A couple of minutes later he was done, though Scott’s screams continued as the bindweed went about its business.
Kaja grabbed the sword he had found in Scott’s hand and returned to confer with Kargrek and Bellona. “This is Zaire’s.” He said plainly, holding the sword aloft. “Scott said he’s vulnerable, and he’s at the church. We have to take this opportunity.”
Luron, Zach and Zom fled down a seemingly endless corridor. Somewhere behind them, ploughing through walls in a clumsy attempt to navigate rooms that were not built with it in mind was a rune-marked robot. When it had become apparent it was not going to leave them alone Luron had slung Kaja’s last potion at the relentless machine. The resulting explosion had done little more than scorch black its reinforced shell while it peppered Zom’s slow moving form with bullets.
If it wasn’t for their pursuer then Luron would have been really pleased to have found this corridor. As it was he gritted his teeth and hurriedly checked every door he passed, in the hope that behind it would be the room glimpsed in his vision.
Zom was lurching after him as quickly as he could manage with his decaying body. He supposed that despite the major drawbacks he had experienced so far there were at least a couple of advantages to being a zombie. What he lacked in speed he made up for in stamina, and he had barely noticed the bullets that were now lodged in him.
Zach on the other hand was having no issues keeping pace with Luron, and was in fact spending most of his time panicking about the robot somewhere behind them, or why the lights had gone red or what the deal was with that alarm.
In the distance behind them there was a crash as a portion of wall gave way and the pursuing robot manoeuvred its way through the gap in the wall. It struggled to aim its turret towards them, showering the walls and ceiling with an indiscriminate spray of bullets. Zach started screaming, despite being the only one who the robot couldn’t actually harm. Chunks of ceiling collapsed down around them, throwing a thick curtain of dust into the air.
Luron coughed, and wiped at his eyes as he pulled open another door finally revealing the room that he had been searching for. “In here,” he half-coughed, half yelled. He stumbled through the door with Zach and Zom shortly behind him. There was no time for more than a cursory glance around the room; shelves and shelves of weaponry and behind them trucks and tanks and one of those aircraft that had assaulted them when the round had began. Every surface was covered with thick dust, and strings of cobwebs hung around the room. It was evident that nobody had been in here for years.
Luron was quick to his feet and to the nearest shelf of weaponry. With a bewildered look upon his face he picked up the weapon he found on there; a distinctly high-tech looking rifle. A perplexed look crossed his face as he twisted it in his hands to look at it from all sides.
“You point it that way.” Zach instructed him from over his shoulder. “No, not that way, the other way… that’s it! Now get one of those and jam it into there. That’s right, you see that trigger you pull that-” a bright red beam burst forth from the rifle scorching the heavy brick wall. “-when you want to shoot it.” Zach finished.
“Got it.” Luron said, with a nod. Immediately he raised the rifle, ready to open fire on the robot, to find it was not there. It had been right on their tail a minute ago; it probably should have got them before he’d had a chance to grab the rifle. There was a long moment where nothing happened and then the robot moved slowly, almost hesitantly into the doorway. It stopped, turning this way and that and then carried on.
“That was weird.” Zom said dumbly from where he was still sprawled out on the floor. Luron put down the rifle and helped the zombie to his feet. “What do you think that was about?”
“I don’t care.” Luron said dismissively. “It's gone, that's a good thing, don't question it.” He scrutinised the room thoughtfully. Somewhere in this room was an item powerful enough to allow him to oppose Zaire. Sure he had scoffed when the alchemist had suggested it, but then he had not realized the extent of his ability. Taking such control over his premonitions would allow him to know exactly what to do, how to do it. He could not put a foot wrong.
It had already led him here, the first step of his inevitable victory, he just need to know what was next. He closed his eyes and focused, willing himself to see the next step. He let the ocean of the future gently wash over his mind.
Frantic rummaging, items discarded casually
“we can’t have much time left”
“you don’t even know what we’re looking for”
Empty black mirror, hollow abyssal stone
Luron snapped back to the now. “Okay, we’re looking for something.” He said uncertainly.
“Like what?” Zom asked, examining a shelf of high tech weaponry.
“Like an… empty black mirror,” Luron said, “or a hollow abyssal stone.” Zach turned to him, raising a ghostly eyebrow at this incredibly abstract description. Luron shrugged. “I have no idea,” he admitted. “That’s the best I can do with the information I have.”
“Why do we need this black mirror?” Zom asked, holding an unfamiliar object for closer examination. “Look at all this. The Singularity is as good as dead no matter what you use.” Luron hesitated. The Zachs had not been keen on fighting Zaire, and he wasn’t sure he could convince them that he was essentially unbeatable.
“We don’t have time to discuss it.” Luron insisted, as he started to rifle through the shelves.
It was quickly agreed that Kargrek and Bellona would confront Zaire, being the strongest members of the group and the most likely to succeed in this once in an afterlifetime opportunity. Kaja agreed to stay behind and look after Scott while he healed.
As the doors had opened the robots had poured in, of single mind and purpose, strengthened by Zaire’s runes. Kaja had thrown everything he had at them; literally. In preparation he had used up the last remaining offensive herbs that he had. They had been necessary; even his most powerful explosives had left barely a scratch upon the rune-marked robots.
In the smoke and the confusion he had lost track of Bellona and Kargrek, he presumed since there was no change of locale that they had somehow managed to force their way through the murderous throng. In response he had quickly taken the elevator up to the highest floor, once there jamming it open with a large conference table.
This room was more or less empty, save for the conference table and the chairs that had been arranged around it. At the head of the table there was an empty space where unknown to the alchemist or his charge, the Singularity would be ‘seated’. After quickly barricading the room he had taken a seat on the floor next to Scott, whose groans from the effects of the bindroot had subsided.
“What’s going on?” Scott asked woozily, forcing himself up onto his elbows. “Where are Bellona and Kargrek?”
“They left to fight Zaire.” Kaja said.
“He’s at the church.” Scott murmured. “He’s vulnerable.”
“Yes, we know.” Kaja replied. “We just have to endure long enough to give them the opportunity to end this.” Scott leaned back and thought back to the battle in the church.
“There’s a nuke isn’t there?” Scott asked. Kaja nodded.
““Zaire indicated that this city was an experiment to see whether robots could form their own culture. They had a nuclear warhead somewhere in the city as a failsafe. In case the robots…” He hesitated. “I don’t know what it was in case of because this city is pretty much fucked up I don’t know why they didn’t blow the place sky high earlier.” Scott pushed himself up into a sitting position. “Don’t-”
“No, I’m okay.” Scott interrupted. He groaned in pain but remained seated. “Is this the Singularity’s Tower still?” A thump at the door, the robots had finally reached the top floor. Kaja eyed the door warily.
“Yes.” He said. “Don’t worry, Kargrek and Bellona should make it to the church in time.”
“We need to go back down.” Scott said, attempting to climb to his feet. He grimaced and grabbed onto the wall to maintain his balance.
“What?” Kaja asked, climbing to his feet. “Why?”
“I’m the Arbiter.” Scott said. “And I’ve got a city to save.”
Kargrek and Bellona sprinted down the streets. After their initial assault they had discovered that attempting to fight these robots was nigh-on pointless. They might not be strictly speaking indestructible but they were tough and numerous. Running was the best option.
In the armoury the search for the black mirror, whatever that was, was not showing much signs of progress. Zach and Zom insisted on picking up and examining everything, discussing precisely what was meant by the cryptic words and how they could apply to whatever item they happened to have hold of at that particular point in time. Luron was getting more and more worked up by the vagueness of his premonitions. “How am I even supposed to know?” Luron demanded, casually tossing items over his shoulder in frustration. Zach and Zom exchanged glances but continued to search.
Scott leaned against the elevator wall as Kaja shoved the conference table out of the doorway. The alchemist reached out to push the button for basement, but paused half way. “Are you sure about this?” Kaja asked.
“Yes.” Scott replied. “This tower is in the exact centre of the city. I can’t imagine a better place to have planted a failsafe.”
“I meant are you sure you want to save this city?” Kaja asked. “It’s a city of robots, most of who have tried to kill us even without Zaire’s assistance. Is it really enough to risk losing the opportunity to kill Zaire for?”
“Yes.” Scott said. Kaja shrugged and pressed the button. The elevator began to descend. Lacking any usable potions he had taken the sword Scott had got from Zaire. He was not exactly proficient with a blade, but he would do what he could. They descended in almost silence, the continual blaring of the alarm and the pounding of robots upon elevator doors the only noises. Eventually, after what seemed like an interminably long descent they came to a stop.
The doors slid open to reveal a room with only one defining feature; the massive warhead in its centre. Stairs led up to the lobby but none of the robots seemed particularly interested in coming down here. The whole room was blanketed with dust. It looked like nobody had been in here in a long time.
“Makes sense.” Scott said. “I read this file about how they could designate a zone out of bounds and the robots would be unable to even perceive it. That’s what they must have done down here. To the robots it will be like we suddenly vanished, as though we don’t exist any more.”
“Oh.” Kaja nodded, sheathing Zaire’s sword. “I guess I won’t need this.”
“A little help Kaja?” Scott asked. The alchemist wrapped an arm around him and helped him to the nuke, Scott wincing with every step. He examined the casing of the bomb, unfortunately all of his tools were still at home in Bertrand City. Who would have thought that he might have had use for them in a battle to the death? He took a good look at the concerned alchemist. “Pry open this panel for me.” He asked.
“I mean really.” Kaja replied hesitantly. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Scott nodded uncertainly.
“Compared to when I am from, this is primitive.” Scott said simply. Kaja drew the sword and with great care prised open the casing revealing a mess of wires and things which he didn’t even know what they were, and a timer, nearly ticked out.
In the corridors outside the armoury the elite robot prowled. It could not comprehend where its targets had disappeared to, but was loath to go too far in case they suddenly returned the moment its back was turned. Suddenly it found itself nothing more than scrap, left in the wake of an angry black cloud.
Simphonia was in agony. Her personality and mild temperament had been sublimated the moment that Zaire had forced those runes upon her. Her world was nothing but pain and discord. All rational thought had gone away; it was like she was a wild beast, driven by instinct to do nothing but cause pain. She surged onwards.
Luron and the Zachs were pretty much just screaming at one another now. Luron pointedly reminded them that they were on some kind of schedule, the nature of which he refused to elaborate on while the Zachs insisted that they did not have enough information to go off.
Untouched amongst the weaponry there is a small shiny black plastic object, about the size and shape of a glasses case. As Zach rather emphatically disagreed with Luron his phantasmic hand brushed the object and it sprung to life, suddenly shining with light.
“That’s it!” Luron cried, practically leaping across the table to grab the item in question. “This has to be it.” In Luron’s hands the item slowly drained of the light it had had. He stared at it blankly, his face reflected in the shiny black surface. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything.” Zach said. “I just touched it.”
“You must have done something.” Luron said turning it over in his hands. “This is supposed to be for me. I can’t kill Zaire without it.”
“Oh great.” Zom said. “So everyone’s trying to kill Zaire apart from us?”
“And Simphonia.” Zach interjected. “Maybe Scott I’m not sure.” Luron shook the object, attempted to prise it apart, anything he could think of to get it to work.
“Why won’t it work?!” Luron screeched angrily. Between the wailing of the alarm and their argument none of the three heard Simphonia’s discordant tune until she burst through the wall.
Upon seeing her Luron did not have time to really think. Perhaps he would have come to the realization that his visions had never intended that he lived and that the item had been meant for Zach all along. Regardless of what he thought the last thing he ever did was toss the item to Zom.
Simphonia descended upon Luron, swallowing him whole into her whirlwind of razor sharp agony. She sliced and ripped and tore and within seconds there was nothing left of him but flesh confetti scattered across the floor.
In the basement of the Singularity’s Tower, a wire was cut and a city was saved.
As Zaire plunged the metal bar into Scott’s gut, the doors at the back of the church slammed open, revealing Kargrek and Bellona, panting out of breath. Scott vanished into the past and Zaire wheeled around and grabbed hold of the podium once again.
He said cheerily. “You really nearly almost made it, but Luron’s just bit the dust and I’m afraid it’s time to move on.”
Everything went black.