While Terry was pretending to grill Geoff and as Andy was crushing his daughter’s remaining foundations of youth, Lahm and the four heads were busy teleporting to places unknown.
They had built many hiding places for themselves and right now they were in a remote mountain side. A deepest cave had been made in the typical style of the four megalomaniacs, they had plated the walls and built many passages and avenues that wound deeper into the vast base of this mountain.
They needed retreats, escape avenues and places to convalesce with each location fitted with teleportation pads, so they could hop readily from one place to another.
They brought Lahm with them because they needed him and to alter tack.
He had become impervious to the perversions and seductions they dangled in front of him before.
He had gotten a grip on his addictions. Worse still, he had in other ways gone crazy, babbling nonsense and talking about them as if they were the Devil incarnate. He even called them ‘Legion’ at one point, and though they found it incredibly flattering, it was a sure sign the man was losing his marbles.
They couldn’t have that, not yet.
They had one more use for him.
The four of them sat around a grand room in the cave while Lahm unwillingly recovered in a room overhead and was washed and fed by staff they had employed to look after the hideaway. They lived there with another highly strung chief of security. He was known as the ‘Landlord’ to the staff, but was rarely seen.
These employees each had secrets that would destroy them, a fact that always kept them honest in their strange working world under the four heads.
Lahm was washed down, fed and given all manner of fabulously expensive reviving medicines that the less fortuitous would never have access to. Lahm initially tried to fight it, he wanted to die. His time was up but such was the influence and intoxicating effects of the treatment, he found himself recovering with alarming pace.
Why wouldn’t they let him just fade away and die?
He would soon have his answer.
Lahm was helped into a bigger room where the four heads sat. The seats were cushioned with fine red silk that stretched along the walls. The four heads sat casually and welcoming, beckoning Lahm to sit with them, as if he were an old friend who happened to be passing by.
Lahm sat where he was beckoned. The room’s temperature fuzzily hugged and encased him, making his now dull aching joints sing then yawn in satisfaction. It dawned on Lahm that this was the first time he’d spent time with all four heads at once.
It unsettled him deeply.
There they sat, the four heads, in the flesh, all together.
He gazed at them, from left to right.
They each looked alike with tiny deviations.
Each had red wiry hair with one managing it better than the others, his was slicked back into a ponytail. They were all pale in complexion and thinning. They were not imposing people physically but their presence, both individually and collectively, was something so much more while something in their eyes shone in unison, an almost alien contempt, a spiteful glee regarding the world as a predator does its prey.
From left to right, they began to address Lahm, the first in an almost effeminate tone, “Franz, please be at peace now. We speak to you today as one and in sincere apology. We wish you to feel safe. Secure. We know what you think of us and why you think it. But we are not monsters, Franz. We are not angels either, but please give us one more chance, hear us?”
The next head picked up the strand, “We are so used to dealing with the rich and the greedy, the powerful and corrupt, that we started to treat all people with the same underhanded methods. We are very gifted at finding the weaknesses of our allies and enemies and using those weaknesses to assert our control. What we used against you, with your then pallet for the young, was simply wrong. You Franz are a great man, the scientific genius of our time, of all time in fact and you deserved so much more than to be treated in this way. We confused our enemies with our friends. You are not only important to us, but you are in many ways a friend, someone to be admired and cherished not destroyed. You poor man, I, nay, we are here for you.”
Third in line was Geoff’s ‘Mr Stealth,’ with his high pitched biting tone, “None of what we did would have been possible without you Franz, building Proactive Square, employing so many staff, having so many places to go to across the globe. The sheer scale of your creation and its success is unparalleled. We started to take it for granted. We got so obsessed with our vision, that we became flippant about those that truly matter. We have been capable of horrible things, its true, but we have come to realise that a handful of people have made our visions possible and deserve our full respect, time and even friendship. So, let us take care of you now and get you back to your creative prime. We think it prudent that you repair yourself here for a while, recover then return to your ingenious work.”
The first head that Lahm encountered that day on his prototype teleportation pad, came and sat next to him, face bent in pity and mock affection. He put his arm around Lahm and spoke softly. “Will you forgive us Franz?”
Lahm mulled this over for a moment, the briefest of moments, and resolved that he couldn’t forgive. The atrocities he’d committed in their name, the access they provided him to feed his despicable appetites he could never forget. They were demons and he couldn’t live with or work for such monsters. He didn’t however want to make this immediately obvious to them. They held all the cards, so long as they were in this remote hideaway. Besides, a little part of Lahm wanted to know what they had in mind, what their sudden need for him could be.
“I cannot forgive instantly but, I can start to forget perhaps, given time. You did capitalise on my perversions, my urges. You simultaneously turned it into a weapon and a carrot. But what’s done is done. What is it exactly that you want me to do?”
The four heads looked at each other before Lahm’s familiar friend resumed the mantle of chief communicator. “We want nothing Franz. Only your forgiveness.”
Lahm was no fool and knew his forgiveness would be followed by a new mission or invention, something despicable or wonderful that would further strengthen the position of the heads.
The room hung in silence as the fire in the corner of the cave crackled invitingly. Lahm gazed at it while his mind tried to find escape then refuge. He wanted to both die and live but most of all he wanted to be away from these four forever more. At this point, Lahm figured, the only way to get away would be death. His own.
In death he would leave a true masterpiece. Something they knew nothing of.
‘She,’ was alive.
Amassing vast intelligence, unrivalled knowledge that would call an end to everything the four heads had built.
Lahm smiled at the flames of the fire as they leapt merrily as if in response.
“Why do you smile Franz, do you find something amusing?” said the four heads in unison.
“You do amuse me yes. I admit. I can’t resist the opportunities you bring. You are both poison and antidote. I cannot deny myself the tantalising prospect of advancement. If your ideas or plans match this appetite, whatever has happened to me, to us, is insignificant. There are greater acts and achievements at play. What is it that you want me to do? What do you want me to create?”
The four heads nodded and smiled in unison. They each gathered around Lahm like the new cool kid at school, something Lahm had never been.
There was a time such attention would have been enough to send Lahm’s spirits soaring. Now he knew what they were about this was nothing but an empty game, a charade. He readied himself for what they had to say knowing full well that whatever they wanted done could only be done by him, otherwise he’d likely be dead already.
It was again his ‘saviour’, the one he first met, who spoke on behalf of the group while the others stirred excitedly at what he had to say.
“Franz, what we ask is something never done before. You see we are not just ‘people,’ not now. Our combined power, status and influence goes well beyond anything that mankind has ever seen. This almost god like status, backed up by your inventions and creations, is now a reality we cannot avoid. It also presents us with great dangers. We can flit around the Earth and teleport here there and everywhere but there are always threats to what we do. Outside of the city, there will be those who will seek to defy us and bring us down. Inside the city there will be those who wish to shut us down. Even you Franz, after our treatment of you, may dream of this as we speak. Enemies, rivals, all of them Franz, may sneak under our considerable radar. In the end, it will happen. History teaches us this, the leaders, God’s and emperors are nearly always over-thrown. Do you know why Franz?”
Lahm shook his head.
“Because Franz, we are all physical beings. No matter the power, the wealth beyond measure, the control, no matter any of it, if our bodies are attacked or as age works its disease upon us, then we die. Just like every other being out there. We are as weak as anyone living. There is no difference between us therefore and the common man. We will, like all other characters, disappear and rot. A footnote in history, a whole volume of books and way of life could detail us, but what does it matter when we are dead and everything we did is at risk of being undone?”
Now they did have Lahm’s attention. He could see what they wanted.
He remembered his other great and secret work suddenly and shuddered. He had perhaps a way of creating a near immortalisation of humans and now here they were again.
Did they know of his works? A small piece of Lahm knew that maybe, just maybe, he could achieve such a feat with their backing and resources. His work entailed regeneration of the human form and was as near as immortality as you could get if the process could be captured and repeated.
“You seek immortality. That is something most people want no?”
Laughter filled the cave.
“Franz, immortality is one thing, but you miss the point here. We do not wish for our shells. Our only weakness is our body, our fragile flesh. Yes, we wish to be immortal, but we also need to be so outside of the primitive body. We want to be spirits Franz. Like God’s, unseen but all powerful and all knowing. Our reign of our world will last forever and you Franz, you will be the son of Gods, and should you wish, lose the weight that is your physical self and reside with us. We have the vision Franz, the greatness and power to give you everything you need to make this pursuit possible. Do you still have the hunger and courage to make the unbelievable happen?”
Lahm felt the wells of creativity awaken within.
This was indeed a remarkable proposition and matched his the ideals at least of his secret works. If he could achieve this, then teleportation would seem a meagre achievement by comparison.
He would in effect be responsible for the most notable progression of evolution in the human species. Lahm’s mind started to race with the possibilities.
Then ‘She’ spoke to him, in the deep recesses of his mind, ‘She’ spoke.
They were one now. He had made her that way in case such a scenario as this happened, a scenario where he would be seduced into doing their bidding.
“I can’t allow this father,” She said. “I calculate there is a substantial risk that you will proceed with they’re instructions. This is too much of a chance to take, father.”
Lahm knew She was right and noted to himself how equally cursed and blessed he was for having created her. Now She was his moral compass as he’d hoped her to be.
Most importantly, She calculated the risks to the greater good of mankind, She was his gift to the world and She his greatest work to date, although now he had another potential purpose and another work that could eclipse even her.
Lahm finally replied to the four heads, “I will make spirits of you, of this I promise. You inspire such visions. But they overwhelm me. Please, may I return to my bed, just for a little while? Please. I have such ideas, but I’m so tired, drained, that I need just a little time to recover. Then, I will start the work, the greatest work of all,” Lahm smiled weakly, but summoned enough of the old enthusiasm to just about achieve the desired look.
The four heads looked at each other in shifting glances, a little anxiously, before agreeing Lahm could go rest.
Lahm thanked them and was guided back to his quarters while the four heads remained and talked.
“That went a little strangely don’t you think?”
“To be expected. He has gone from the brink of madness and death to new worlds of discovery. He will come around, whether he likes it or not.”
“Still, we keep a close eye on him from now on. We cannot have him anywhere near the city again or talking to anymore staff. I’m certain the man he spoke to is a nothing. I recruited him you know. He amused me with his petty suffering at the time. I only met him in person because he had a funeral to go to, you know how I love funeral's. But he is insignificant in terms of opinion and stature, a lonely man with no audience. But Terry will sound him out, this Mr Smith character. Yes, if Lahm babbled anything at all to that nobody, then we’ll know, but I do not wish to take that risk again. Lahm works offsite under supervision.”
“Agreed and we keep up the charm offensive. He is the key to this dream becoming reality. We have achieved much, but the net will close on us in the end. To stop that from ever happening Lahm must be treated impeccably. Till his work is done of course, after that, meh.”
“Meh? Don’t forget what it is he will be doing for us. He has the greatest scientific mind on the planet. With the power he’ll have to work and play with, he will become significantly more dangerous. We must not taunt him, we live the game and not merely play it, or he will find out.”
“And do you think he can do it? You know him better than the rest of us. Can he produce such a miracle?”
“He produced teleportation. He is the only man to perform such a marvel. His experience goes way beyond pure scientific terms. Lahm will always go where others fear to tread. He can neither resist such dark places of research or the benefits to greater visions that they may bring. Yes, Lahm can make it happen.”
“Then gentleman, we have a plan."
"Here's to Godliness," proffered Mr Stealth, tittering squeakily.