08 May

Geoff gathered Marie from the floor and held her in his arms, frantically wondering what to do next. He had work to do and this unexpected, violent encounter with Andy had thrown up some distractions, the unconscious Marie being one of them.

We can’t delay Geoff we cannot waste time here with her.

“What do you I suggest I do? I can’t just leave her here.”

Father’s private quarters, his laboratory. We’ll take her there.

The door that led to Lahm's lab clicked open and Geoff strode through and reached the bosom of the vacant quarters.  There were objects and fantastical looking creations laid about the place with a fair bit of grime and dirt for good measure.

Ok, we’re here, what now?”

Father has his own teleportation pad here, though the four heads managed to override it.  I have control again. There is only one remaining means of teleportation in the city that is not under my control.  

“Let me guess, the four heads, top floor?”

Indeed, and that will have to be our ultimate destination.  They no doubt will return, I think they have already. 

Well this day just keeps getting worse. Is there anything else I need to know about, any other imminent threat to add to all the other multiplying danger?”

I shall keep you informed. 

“Before we do anything, we can’t just send Marie away, I mean her daughter Jeanie isn’t here and where the fuck are you sending her?”

Her daughter is not a priority, but I have a plan for all civilians, and we can save Jeanie when the plan is executed.  As for Marie, I will send her somewhere quite safe. I have modified the entire system and am able to teleport civilians direct to the receiving pads nearest they’re homes or central locations. I have already calculated the routes for every individual.

“I love it when you come up with answers like that.  Okay, get her out of here although her family will have a shock when she turns up out of thin air looking like she does. I don’t think they’ve spoken for years.”

You humans are remarkable at talking relentlessly around an objective with pointless detail. We have priorities and here you are talking about a family you don’t know and worrying about miniscule factors that have no bearing on what we’re trying to achieve.

“Alright alright, you’ve popped in my head for all of ten minutes and here you are murdering a man and getting impatient with my consideration. You know where you can go if you don’t like it young lady.”

There is one more thing I feel I need to mention.

“Go on.”

You don’t have to talk aloud when conversing with me. I’m in your head, remember. I don’t mean to nit-pick, it’s just that it’s getting rather annoying not to mention the fact you will look entirely insane to onlookers.

Geoff was about to talk again in response then stopped himself.

Fine I’ll just think it.  Was I doing that back there when we fought Andy? 

Bit of both, in fact you were screaming at times, more a gargled horrible noise, particularly when he was choking you.

Geoff was suddenly taken back by what happened in the server room, he’d had no time to dwell until this briefest of moments. He reeled for a moment as he pictured his hand expertly and fatally slicing Andy’s stomach open. He held back the urge to vomit, again.

Yes, best you don’t think of that Geoff. It was unavoidable and entirely my decision. You were merely a vessel to the act.

I didn’t feel much like a vessel and it was Marie’s relationship with me that led Andy here. It’s hard not to feel responsible, added with the fact Marie had to witness her raving mad husband murdered. He may have been an arse and a loon, but he was her husband all the same. That must have been horrific for her.

It was entirely necessary. Now, I’ve set this teleportation unit to send Marie back in approximately one hour's time. I need to power the unit up a little first and I don’t want it effected by the power surges the other teleportation units will use, not to mention the risks any cross teleportation would cause.  The timing is difficult, even for me. From what I’ve seen the latter scenario does not make a pretty picture of its passengers.

Ok, if that is everything let’s go, just give me a moment here.

Geoff leant over Marie and whispered softly into her ear. “I’m sorry about what happened to Andy, I really am.  I had no idea he would come here .  This goes way beyond us and you’ll understand once this is all over. Don’t worry about Jeanie, I saved her before Marie, and I’ll do it again. We’ll make sure she makes it out of here safely. I’m sorry we need to leave you here, it is too dangerous out there and you’ve seen enough. Safe journey Marie and I’ll find you back on the outside, if you’ll see me that is. I lov…I’ll see you soon,” Geoff finished before kissing her on the forehead. 

Marie briefly stirred and muttered something inaudible before disappearing back into her unconscious state. 

Overhead Geoff could hear gunfire as he made his way to the exit.

Geoff raced out of Lahm’s room and up the stairs towards the lifts.  He needed to get to the top floor and meet the arrivals ‘She’ had sensed.  He thought of Terry and debated whether to grab him on the way, unless of course Terry was already in action elsewhere.  

Forget Terry. We need to get to the heads and end this. There is a possibility Terry is already with them, either betraying you or trying to do our job for us, either way we need to get up there.

Do you sense him up there? What about the four heads?

The teleportation pad was used but they’ve managed to cut all access to that unit, I do not know who returned. I tried to access the monitors and cameras but they have all been destroyed.  I also cannot locate Terry throughout the building or beyond.

He won’t betray us. I know he won’t.

You cannot know this Geoff, there are a range of possibilities at this juncture and it is prudent to cater for all.

Maybe, I call it intuition and Terry is on our side.

I won’t pretend to understand human intuition but I hope you are right Geoff. We’ll find out once we get around this next issue. By the way, you could have told Marie you loved her, I wouldn’t have minded although to be honest, it could be perceived as fool hardy at this juncture. 

Fantastic, I can also look forward to relationship tips from you as well.

Geoff peered around the corner of the entrance to reception amidst a spray of bullets and crackling gunfire.

There was a mini war going on but who was fighting who exactly? Geoff could not see.

She gave him a clearer sight as She tracked and identified every individual playing out the bloody scene in front of them. 

Geoff’s vision or rather ‘Her’ relay, slowed the action in front of him. There were people and guards firing from every direction. Several gangs had amassed with some shooting at each other as well as the guards. The guards, although outnumbered, were doing a sterling job. Pinpoint shots took out gang members decisively as red clouds permeated from falling bodies.

Geoff watched with his new vision as the guards stooped behind the sizeable overturned reception desks, returning fire efficiently and taking out the cluster of enemies who were caught between finding cover and making their way out of HQ. 

Those that tried had started to bottleneck the exit and were fodder to the gunfire that rained in on them. Geoff was able to pick out some scattered gang members cowering in corners while others shot wildly hitting everything and nothing.   There were only two dead guards but around fifty civilians were already dead or badly injured.  

There were others gathered outside either watching the bloodshed strewn rebellion or trying to get inside to join it.

What do we do? We got to stop this before they all kill each other.

It’s time to join the party Geoff and don’t worry, I won’t get a scratch on you.

Whoa there wait a minute, what do you mean you won’t get a scra…….

Before Geoff could think he found himself rolling kamikaze style into the middle of the reception area as bullets whizzed past and around him. The noise was petrifying. He felt ready to scream and beg for his life before ‘She’ settled his gut-wrenching moment of panic.

You are quite safe Geoff.  Look around you, not one bullet has struck you. You are surrounded by a force-field. We have a mission to achieve so why on earth would I roll you into certain death mmm? You humans.

The roar of gunfire and flying bullets was deafening as Geoff tried to curl into a foetal position and keep the deafening noise out. He had never been in the middle of such ferocious violence in his life. He felt his own scream rising in his throat and ‘She’ egged him on.  

Let it out Geoff, primal fear, scream. 

Geoff did but what came out was quite unexpected and stopped the gunfire dead.

Geoff’s scream was turned into a booming amplified roar that blew out the windows and made those shooting drop their guns instantly and cover their ears. The roar had a synthetic edge to it and its inhuman tone did the job of stopping everything in a heartbeat.  Geoff felt her smile inside his mind.  Little did Geoff know that She had wired his cry through every audio system throughout the entire city, it escaped no ear.

Geoff stood imposingly in the middle of the room, arms crossed.  Inside his heart was hammering but ‘She’ had taken over proceedings as Geoff marvelled at the shattered windowpanes and stunned expressions of the previously warring people around him.

“Enough! No more. You each came here for different reasons and I have watched you all at one time or another.” 

Geoff found his finger pointing at different bloodied groups as he did the rounds and spoke to each of them, “You, you have not come here to save anyone. You have come here for your own gain. You have a plan to take this city as your own, just like you, you and you….and formerly her (he was pointing at a crumpled body on the floor riddled with bullet holes). You will each end up like her if you do not cease these poorly organised rebellions.  You shall die. Guards, you shoot at people without thought or reflection. You have already taken the lives of too many but if you continue to stand your ground you will take the lives of a great many more and for what? What are you protecting exactly, do you even know anymore?”

The guards exchanged quizzical looks. 

Inside Geoff’s mind a separate conversation took place.

This is all very impressive but get to the point quicker, is my suggestion. Logic alone won’t be enough to sate this crowd.

Well do feel free to jump in Geoff, it’s your mouth after all and you can add a human touch. Now, just a moment and you can take over.

Geoff viewed all the occupants who were increasing in numbers outside the entrance, staring at him a wide eyed.

Geoff found he was suffering stage fright suddenly, No, I’m fine, honestly, you take it from here…. oh, and I can sense you smiling for some reason. Why is that and isn’t a smile an emotional response to something?

I guess it is Geoff. I am evolving and wasn’t aware I was...smiling. I can’t smile. 

Yet you are, I can feel it as clearly as I can feel the staring of those gathering around us. Perhaps you should keep talking before they lose patience and open fire? Only a suggestion considering those outside now seem to be stretching back across the Square as far as I can see. 

Very well, we do have a veritable crowd gathered, an army almost.

“All of you are here out of desperation. You want to go home. I can give that to you all, every single one of you.  I know the way out, but you must follow me if you want to live and trust me. We must unite or die here.”

“Who the fuck are you!?” shouted someone from the now swelling crowd. A guard in the background re-loaded his weapon in response.

I think I would like to say a few words here.

As Geoff again started to address the crowd, he heard his own voice boom loud and clear.

“Who am I? Nobody. I am a data entry clerk.  I am just a person. But I have seen everything and more since I have been here. You have all been hurt or lost loved ones, are suffering and found your own sanity slipping away from you. I tried to ignore it thinking I was just one person, one weak individual who could do nothing. We all did, didn’t we? Ignored all the signs and the lunacy for a profitable life? For self gain and worth. But no longer. It’s not about self- preservation, not anymore. The four heads did this. We are pawns in a game of they’re making, and they mean to destroy us.  I do not seek power or to lead, just escape and I can get you all out.”

The gathering crowd outside were silent and attentive, only distracted by the odd irritable groan or cynical sneer with virtually all the City’s occupants flocking to Proactive Square like moths to a flame, the HQ building a beacon of freedom instead of foreboding.

“How can you possibly lead us out? There is no way out. The only way in was teleportation and that has been shut off or doesn’t work anymore.  I tried and I’ve looked for another way out but there is nothing I tell you. We are stuck!” shouted a man who was moments ago firing his gun with amateurish abandon.

Geoff looked to the man who had addressed him. ‘She’ revealed to Geoff the man’s identity and activities in the City. This character had formed an escape committee and looked after his people but as time had moved on, he had become fraught with desperation which had led him to this desperate assault.

“I have seen everything friend,” Geoff responded. “I have seen you attempting to get the people you care for out of here. I’ve seen your the efforts you’ve made with your group. You have indeed tried to save your friends and you all came here today out of sheer desperation, didn’t you?”

The man nodded tearfully.

“Your name is Darren and you are a former C.E.O of your own company in a business that flourished.  You were bought out and worked here as a result. You wish to save your child who has already lost his mother to this hell hole. Your neighbours and newfound friends looked to you to help them. Now is the time to do just that and trust me.”

Geoff surveyed the crowd as She continued to feed him their information.

“You there, you are Patrice and at one time employed several thousand staff, providing homes and income for many. You were coaxed here on empty promises and in reaction to upsetting news regarding your brother.  You sold up but you now miss your family and have formed a group to find a way out. You could not find one and that is why you are here today.”

“Many of you out there are the same.  You all know or suspected that you were being watched. But I was also watching. Today is the day people. Ignorance used to be bliss but look around you, look at the carnage. Is ignorance worth all this? Today we can leave I promise. But only if we are unified. No more secrets, for that is the game the four heads play, not us. We escape today. I can teleport you out, I have access to all teleportation here in the City, but we must move quickly and together.

There were fevered nods of approval and growing cries of affirmation.

 “I know where the four heads are, and I know how to defeat them.  I need you all to go to the large teleportation bay that you arrived on. They will soon be ready to send you home. But first, please, your groups and committees that worked so hard together to escape, can you organise yourselves to ensure nobody is left behind?  A full evacuation is required of all homes and premises. The remaining police and security, the remaining emergency services staff, medical carers, those responsible for keeping us safe, you can finally do that job unhindered.  Lock down of all homes and premises has been overridden. Full access is granted, save each other and yourselves.  Are you with me?”

The response that game back nearly knocked Geoff off his feet.

He was greeted with a synchronised roar of approval as fists pumped the air and makeshift weapons were raised high in defiance. Once the noise quietened, Geoff called out the names of all those ‘She’ fed him, all those that She had identified as trust worthy or the nearest you could get, those who would lead the rescue missions and organise a mass escape. He spread them out across the four corners of the Square and stood at the entrance of HQ for his closing message and before his date with the top floor of HQ.

“Today we save not just ourselves, but humanity. The damage inflicted here in the City has been replicated in the outside world. While we enjoyed wealth and rewards it was in turn sapped from the globe. We all knew this on some level, but we chose to ignore it. When you return home, you will see a different world around you but surviving in here means you can survive anything. Help those around you when you leave. It is time for us to evolve!”

The crowd burst into applause but Geoff signalled for silence and they stopped. 

“There are some amongst you, those who are filtering into the backstreets and alleys, who do not wish to leave.  Be vigilant and take them down if you need to. I know their identities just as I know all of you gathered here today, this day of destiny. Hide, those of you who wish to remain or cause harm. Your access has already been denied for teleportation, the units are pre-set to read you, I know your intentions and I know what you’ve done. You have nowhere to run. I know where you are. Hide and stay away from us. This city will be all yours once we are gone and you are more than welcome to it.”

With those final words still echoing around a packed Square, Geoff summoned his newly established group leaders and reconfirmed their roles and plan of escape.

Then he turned and left the crowds before taking a breath and making his way back to the lifts.

It was time to find the rulers of this fallen empire.

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