Terry raced to the top floor of HQ, summoned first by the familiar whir of the teleportation pads and then the loud screeching that followed.
He was entering the four heads domain and although he had visited it on many occasions before, he felt like he was trespassing now.
Or perhaps it was more to do with the fact he felt fear for one of the few times in his life.
As he sprinted towards the main boardroom of the four heads, he skidded to a stop just before he reached the leather padded door that was now tarnished and torn.
The door was ajar, he poked his head around the corner to see what he could spy. There was no immediate sign of life, so he stepped into the room.
Steam rose off the central teleportation pad stationed in the middle of the room and circled by four large grand tables. The TV monitors that once displayed images of the outside world’s increasing misery and the City’s rapid decline, hung vacant with smashed screens that popped and sparked in protest.
The room itself was a wreck of smashed glass, overturned furniture and general disarray. Terry stepped through the clutter and sought out the presence he felt in the room. He thought about shouting out but then perhaps that is what they wanted, the great Terry Duran shouting out for them in fear with his voice reedy and small. He thought better of it; he needed to maintain his reputation right to the end if this was indeed an end.
Terry had watched with amazement the action unfolding in Geoff’s office and may have been totally distracted by it all had it not been for the noise he heard overhead. Terry had seen enough of Geoff in action to know he was on the level, along with whatever had gone on with that server, so now it was down to Terry to do his part and take the four heads, if he could find them.
He could certainly smell something, and it didn’t smell good, like iron and rotting vegetables. He was about to open the door leading to the adjoining office room when he heard a giggle from behind him.
Terry span around.
Sitting on the table opposite him was a little girl with her feet dangling over the side.
She angled her head daintily and smiled sweetly at him. She clutched a big old dolls head in her arms in an almost loving embrace and rocked back and forth with it, her eyes never leaving Terry’s.
Terry took a moment. He noted her long red hair was matted with blood and her sweet little face grubby and stained. “Who are you little lady eh?”
The little girl shrugged and giggled in response.
“What you err, doing here eh? This is no place for you ok lovely. We’ll get you out of here in a moment. Who else is here?” asked Terry as he peered around the room. The little girl shook her head slowly and muttered nobody in response.
Terry pointed at the teleportation pad which was still gently purring from recent use, “You arrived here on that eh, by accident?”
“I arrived here on the teleportation pad yes,” the little girl replied.
Terry stared at her intently. He strode towards her and she raised her hand in a stop gesture. “Patience Terry, you wouldn’t want to scare a little girl like me, would you?”
“Who are you?” he questioned again as he crept a little closer. He saw that the dolls head she was playing with was no doll at all.
It was the dismembered head of a boy as she looked at it and then to Terry, and laughed.
“Well Terry, first let me introduce you to my friend here. You’ll have to excuse the pun but this here in my delicate little arms is one of the four heads. He looks so much younger doesn’t he. But that is not much use without a body,” she giggled again. .
She then pointed to a corner of the room and to another pair of heads that probably should be with bodies, both lying lopsided and bloody like discarded toys, “They also look very young don’t they, but there is no point to youth without a fucking body is there Terry?”
Terry was struggling to compute as he looked from the heads to her and then back again. “Who are you eh!?” he demanded.
“One, two, three heads. Where is the fourth? Where is it Terry Duran? Is your mind leaping to the right conclusions yet? “
Terry’s mind tried desperately to grasp at an answer but he felt entirely discombobulated.
Mere child, this is no child thought Terry. She said my name, referred to them as the heads in a quite literal sense, but still the term of the heads was there. One two three where is the fourth? He looked at her again, looked through her. She knew his name and although a child she seemed miraculously cool in such a setting. The girl stared straight back at Terry as she smiled sarcastically.
This was no little girl.
This was him, the fourth head, the one who directed all the recruitment.
This was Geoff’s ‘Mr Stealth.’
The little girl’s eyes narrowed as she read his thoughts, “Ah Terry unusually slow for you but you got there in the end. Well done, bravo, we are the four heads, well, we were. It is just me now Terry, sweet little me.”
Terry sat down without thinking, shaking his head while he digested the latest insane turn of events. He’d seen it all now. First the building of this entire City, the genius of Lahm and teleportation, the mass of workers and high flyers, the technology along with the slow painful demise of the outside world.
Four people had manoeuvred it all, but now there was only one, and he was a little girl.
“How are you…I mean what the fuck happened to you all and why did you? Fuck me you lot are messed up,” blurted Terry.
The little girl laughed with delight as her feet swung back and forth over the table edge with excitement. She plopped herself down from the table as she dismissively threw the severed head to the corner of the room. Terry cringed slightly at the faint sound of the dismembered head thudding and slapping against the wall.
“So many questions Terry but let me spare you the bumbling. Lahm did so much work for us and he didn’t stop at teleportation. His last work wasn’t the unfinished vision of our immortality. He worked on something else entirely in the background and in secret. You know how we love our secrets Terry and Lahm was no different. He worked on youth and if you remember Terry, which you do, we brought in a lot of children for Lahm to play with, the dirty little pervert. Ooh how he loved the kids and he would have loved me,” she giggled provocatively and licked her lips.
Terry felt the urge to race over to her and throw her through the window. He could see clearly what lay beneath and would not be ignorant to that fact.
“So, we grabbed a few kids back and completed Lahm’s secret work, making us young again. We wanted immortality but thought that dream had died with Lahm, but he couldn’t help leaving behind his secret work to be discovered and so full of detailed instructions. I mean, a child could follow the process. My former brother in arms over there found it before we destroyed the cave. We can live life all over again, right from scratch. Rejuvenation at its finest wouldn’t you agree?”
Terry shook his head absently in disagreement.
“Well Terry, too late to grow your morals now my friend. You knew what we were like and how far we would go. You saw what we could do but pretended not to. All so you could earn your money and play the big fish here in a new world. You were no stronger or smarter than anyone else in our City. Greed and ignorance were your two best friends and just like everybody else, we gave them to you. So, get off your fucking high horse and take that look off your face. You still work for me!” she screeched.
Terry stepped back a little. The shell of the little girl had all the presence of the man that drove it although her appearance and cute ditsy smiles unsettled Terry deeply.
Terry felt a sickening crushing tide of responsibility for all that had taken place here. Waves of nausea hit him. The girl was right, and he had himself turned a blind eye to all that went on and now he was trying to do something about it, it was far too late.
All the immeasurable damage had been done and any actions now would feel inconsequential.
Terry sat down on the table as the little girl skipped gently towards him, her calculating hard eyes never leaving Terry’s. “Aww, don’t feel too bad Terry.” she tittered. “You were great at what you did, that was why I recruited you silly.”
“Why did you murder the other heads, those so-called partners of yours?”
Mr, or rather young Ms Stealth, hopped and skipped gently around the room, “Oh Terry, my you are shaken up asking me dull questions like that. Why? Why because I could of course. When the four of us went on the rampage the other night, buzzing here there and everywhere, tearing down all our secret places, we planned one more stop that not even you, naughty watchful you, would know about. Lahm may have died before we could grasp the real plan for immortality but once we discovered his other work, well that was a real bonus. Once the process was complete, we could disappear with our wealth for a while and operate from afar again. The City as I’m sure you noticed has more than run its course though I like how it looks now, fire, brimstone, and lunatics. Soon, outsiders would come and shut it down, so we planned to live as children and operate that way undetected and unsuspected. But I got to thinking Terry, why should I share any of it? The other three would have been thinking the same and it was only ever a matter of time before we betrayed each other. So, I got in first. When we used Lahm’s delightful creation to possess the bodies of our selected children, I made sure I went last. Once the three of them emerged anew, I a grown man and so much stronger, murdered them. I took their heads as a memento, a sort of ironic joke for my own amusement. The shared wealth is all mine and when I’m ready I’ll rise and demonise the world again, this time as a sexy sultry lady,” she added before blowing a little kiss at Terry and laughing.
“You sick sons of bitches,” grumbled Terry.
“I think you mean bitch, Terry, bitch. There is just me now and I plan to be a wicked ‘ickle lickle’ witch when I am all ‘growded’ up. We only ever feared death and ageing. Now that they are dead and I am young again, I need not fear either for some considerable time.”
“And what now?” asked Terry.
The girl clambered up on the table beside Terry and held his listless defeated hand. She stroked his hair and smiled. “Well Terry, I need a daddy in the big wide world, for appearances sake and certain practical issues. Do you want to be my Daddy? You will be the world’s richest father to the world’s most powerful human. You can come with me; leave this place and we start again.”
Terry shook his hand free of her mini grip and laughed dryly. “I could never trust you, never. It’s absurd and insulting you even ask.”
“Terry of course you could never trust me,” she cooed in reply. “Talk about obvious but what choice do you have Daddy Duran? Mmm? If you refuse, then you must die here. If you comply then you will live to fight another day and who knows, you may even grow to love me. So, what do you say?”
Terry slid off the table and faced his little nemesis, this demon safely contained in such a tiny body. He briefly wondered if the real little girl, whoever she was, still was in there somewhere or was dead and long gone. She cocked her to head one side as an explosion roared from the lower building and battle cries echoed their way up through the corridors and vents.
“Do you hear that Terry? The end is nigh my Eco warrior and there is nothing you can do about that. So, will you die in this place or live and prosper with me?”
Terry tentatively made his way to the teleportation pad while she spoke to him. “No Terry, no you don’t. That pad won’t operate for you and I would suggest you use the other pads available, but I’ve taken them off-line. They don’t work. Besides, I will shoot you if you move another fucking inch. K?”
Terry turned to face her and noted she had a cute little revolver in her hand that pointed squarely at his head from across the room. Terry smiled and gathered himself.
“I’m afraid I’ll take voluntary redundancy on this occasion, disgustingly intriguing as your offer is. You are right of course; I did take part in all of this, no matter how unwittingly with certain aspects eh? But I never pretended to be anything but a bit of a cunt, never. I draw the line here though.”
The little girl sighed then smiled with such innocence and charm that Terry again had to fight another wave of nausea. She waved her gun and gestured for him to back away from the teleportation pad and made her own way there in his place. “That is a pity Terry dearest but what must be must be. I will return to the world as someone new. Now, any last words Terry? Look at me Terry and say your final words or beg for your life, I always enjoy the latter so much more.”
“I have just one thing to say before you pull the trigger,” Terry replied smiling.
The little girl’s excitement was palpable as she gently started to squeeze on the trigger, “Go on,” she urged.
Terry nodded before that steely look in his eye, the one that shattered the nerves of so many, returned with a vengeance. He now knew and understood Geoff’s role and that incredible living server that had somehow combined with him. “You don’t have any wealth left you silly wretched brat! You’ve been royally fucked my ginger little friend and you have nothing left, no wealth, no money, nothing. After you kill me, check it out eh? See what you’ve got, and you’ll find it’s nothing. Fuck all!”
The little girls face screwed up in confusion. “You’re stalling and you know nothing of the sort you desperate man you. I always thought you’d die with honour but this? Oh, it’s cheap Terry, pathetic.”
Terry leered at her with joy and hatred. “See for yourself after you’ve killed me. You’ll see I’m quite right, Annie or whatever the fuck you call yourself now.” Terry started to laugh, a raucous hearty laughter that boomed around the room. “Annie, fucking Annie eh? Your ginger locks and little freckles won’t save you now. Tomorrow! Tomorrow…Is only a dayyyyyy ahhhhh wayyyyyy. Eh! Eh? Tomorrow for you is fucked little lady. You’ve been emptied of everything, while you were busy killing off all your secrets and your partners, your wealth was taken from you, gone. Now you can kill me you sick fuck.”
The little girl lowered her aim and squeezed the trigger, firing off a bullet that burst through Terry’s knee and took him down in white strains of agony.
She ran to the adjoining room where the heads monitored their wealth. She went through their many gathered filtered and laundered pots, and she saw there was nothing. It had all gone. She bit her lip till it bled as tears started to roll down her cheeks. She returned to where Terry lay, still laughing despite the searing pain.
He wasn’t a hundred per cent sure Geoff and ‘She’ had done what he said but the girl’s expression validated his hopes. They had done it and whatever happened here, there was hope on the outside.
“You fucking bastards,” she shrieked as the gun pointed down at Terry and wobbled in her little hands. She stepped onto the teleportation pad never taking her sights off Terry. “I will find a way Terry” she pouted. “They didn’t quite get everything.”
Terry’s face was one of total calm and peace. “But they got most didn’t they and quite frankly, whether you rise again or not doesn’t matter to me. Not one fucking bit. They will stop you again.”
“Who are they exactly?”
“You’ll find out in time and trust me Lahm had another secret that meant you weren’t the only four holding all the cards. He betrayed you and made something and someone far more powerful than even you can imagine.”
“What did he do? Answer me, tell me, who or what has he made, what did he fucking do Terry!?” she yelled as she fired another shot, this one into his stomach.
Terry smiled through the pain and choked back the blood filling his lungs, “Fuck ……. you……eh,” managed Terry before she screamed and shot him one final time through the head.
Young Ms Stealth let out a cry of frustration then pondered whether to stay or go.
She opted for staying just a little longer.
Little Ms Stealth needed to know her enemy before fleeing.