Geoff stood nervously as the elevator took him to the top floor.
It grated and bumped upwards, as if the elevator itself was part of the City’s decay and had given up hope. The lights blinked on and off and Geoff gave himself a fright when the lift lights flickered and he caught a reflection of his eyes, with ‘She’ visible in them, glaring red for the briefest of moments.
'Sorry Geoff I hope I didn’t startle you?'
'Well you did, can you not beam red reflective lights out of my eyeballs, if possible? People find me odd at the best of times.'
'I was unaware, I do apologise. I’ll try, although when I’m preparing for potentially fatal world deciding action, it is difficult to prioritise. Your appearance tends to be the least of my concerns though I shall bear it in mind, princess.”
'Don’t get bitchy with me.'
'So long as you get your head back in the game.'
'Head back in the game? How could it be anywhere else?'
'It shouldn’t be, yet it is. You can’t hide Geoff. Your mind offers zero sanctuary from me I’m afraid. You are thinking about Marie.'
'Look I’m just worried about her, I can’t explain it, but I just feel like something is going to happen to her still, that we haven’t made her safe. I know Andy is dead but, it’s just a feeling.'
'I understand Geoff. Fear is the primary issue here, not a feeling in the bones of something awry. But there was little more we could do with regards to Marie, she has a fighting chance at least. We must now deal exclusively in facts and with whatever awaits us.'
'Any news on that front?'
'Negative. The teleportation unit they use is active and waiting. They are readying an escape. Outside however, the people are moving quickly. Our message did the job. They are readying to leave.'
'What about the ones who want to stay, are they causing problems?'
'Inevitably and there will be casualties as a result but so far, the impact has been minimal. It helps that I’m projecting their identities across the city and am announcing relevant instructions to all citizens. If you listen closely enough you can hear. Let me just play it in your head.'
Geoff listened to Her synthetic, calm voice, echoing instructions in his mind and across the city itself.
‘CITIZENS PLEASE GATHER ALL LOVED ONES THEN RETURN TO THE MAIN TELEPORTATION HALL READY FOR EVACUATION.
SHOULD YOU ENCOUNTER THOSE SENTENCED TO STAY BEHIND, PLEASE MOVE ON WITH HASTE OR CALL FOR SECURITY, DO NOT ENGAGE UNLESS ARMED AND ABLE.
SHOULD YOU ENCOUNTER THOSE SENTENCED TO STAY BEHIND, PLEASE MOVE ON WITH HASTE OR CALL FOR SECURITY, DO NOT ENGAGE UNLESS ARMED AND ABLE.
TELEPORTATION SEQUENCING WILL START IN FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. TELEPORTATION SEQUENCING WILL START IN FORTY-FIVE MINUTES.
TELPORTATION WILL COMMENCE IN ONE HOUR.
TELEPORTATION WILL COMMENCE IN ONE HOUR.
DO NOT DELAY.'
Geoff could clearly see through ‘She’s cinematic coverage of the City, people racing through the streets, surprised at how unified they looked, working together, and led by security, group leaders and police. There were gun shots and fallen bodies, pictures of those ‘She’ announced as protagonists being rounded on or attacking others, some hid while others killed themselves in full view of the escaping masses.
More importantly though, Geoff saw that they had a chance, they could make it.
'Feels good doesn’t it, Geoff? The notion that you helped do all that you see below in the City and saved so many lives.'
'It does though I’ll be happier when they’re actually out of here, now let’s complete our job and deal with them upstairs.'
The lift shuddered to a halt while the doors creaked only half way open. It seemed the elevator was again reluctant to take any part in proceedings. Geoff pushed the doors open with force and peered out and realised that he was looking down at the floor. The lift had shuddered to a halt slightly too high. Geoff scrambled on to his stomach and slid out of the lift.
He surveyed the scene. The corridor leading to the four heads quarters was in disarray with overturned furniture and the whipping and cracking of electrical sparks echoing around the hallway.
The carpet Geoff noted was spotted with blood that led to congealed pools the further he progressed into the main room. Geoff’s eyes looked towards the door and he caught a flicker of movement.
'You see that?'
'Yes, that did not look like one of the four heads. That looked like a child.'
'A child? What the fuck would a child be doing up here. I don’t like creepy little children around when things are getting spooky, they make it far worse. If that child starts giggling or singing some weird fucked up song, then I swear I’ll just…'
'You need to calm down Geoff. We will deal with whatever is in here. Do not falter now, you have come too far.'
Geoff’s lips and mouth were as dry as sand, he ran his tongue over his bottom lip, it made a scraping sound like sandpaper. He was suddenly dripping with sweat and could smell his own fear enveloping him.
He reached the room of the four heads and stepped in. Geoff was immediately greeted by the same rotten smell that had greeted Terry, except it had worsened considerably.
The room was now dark, ‘She’ adjusted their shared vision so he could see clearly. Shadows crept along the walls like grasping fingers threatening Geoff’s own shadow. He kept Her words of advice close to heart and remained as calm as he could. He would not bottle it now.
“No more games now. That time has gone. Face me and let’s do this,” called out Geoff as he soft stepped around the room. He looked down at a prone shape on the floor and realised with dismay that it was Terry Duran.
He knelt down at Terry’s side and knew he was gone but ‘She’ confirmed it in typically logical fashion, “No life signs, Terry Duran is deceased. Bullet through the brain although he was shot in the kneecaps and stomach first and would have endured…”
“I get it ok,” finished Geoff. “He’s dead and because he tried to stop the four heads. That is all I need to know.”
“While we’re on the subject, of the four heads that is, there are three heads without their customary bodies lying around the room. They are children’s heads Geoff.”
When Geoff had entered the room and purveyed it rather hurriedly, ‘She’, as always, caught every single image and analysed them before Geoff could register. She now replayed the frozen images for Geoff, he saw the three decapitated heads of children.
“See, creepy fucking children, what did I say!? Who the fuck are they?”
“I would need a DNA sample to answer that. If you could just grab one of those head’s...”
The thought process was interrupted by a little clip clopping of feet behind Geoff. He spun around instinctively and saw a little girl as she ran lightly then hopped and skipped before jumping onto the humming teleportation pad.
The little girl stood facing Geoff with a look of bitter amusement. Her bunched hair looked dry and dishevelled, matted with blood and her face spattered with the same.
“No shit, Geoff Smith! I thought you were just playing at being a hero but here you are, bold as brass and twice as thick. You look different Mr Smith, heroic almost if it wasn’t for your awful little belly,” giggled the little girl.
Geoff stood transfixed for a moment as he tried to calculate what or who exactly was in front of him. The way the little girl addressed him not only unnerved him but seemed familiar. He was also reeling from the sight of the three decapitated heads that lay about the room, three decapitated heads. The answer to the riddle of the little girl fell into place. He was being addressed by Mr Stealth.
‘Excellent conclusion Geoff and the correct one. I don’t know how or why but she is your Mr Stealth alright. I suggest you steal his or her thunder before she builds up a head of steam.’
“Mr Stealth, it’s been a while since you first recruited me. My how you’ve regressed,” Geoff said to the little girl.
The little girl sounded agitated, “You are a clever little fuck I’ll grant you that but please don’t tell me Terry’s last words were regarding you, the one that will stop me or ‘they’ as he put it. A great man was Terry, but his choice of allies leaves a lot to be desired.”
Geoff stepped forward ever so slightly and continued his dialogue. “I suppose now is the time I question you and ask how you became a little girl and why”, Geoff looked around the room; “you decided to decapitate your famed and esteemed colleagues of destruction. But I care not. You are what you are, and I guess you plan to start all over again and go it solo.”
The little girl pursed her lips as a frown crossed her soft face. “You guess right Mr Smith but what exactly are you doing here hmm? I have a gun and you have nothing. You’ll be joining Terry in no time but tell me, why are you here and what happened to you exactly? Oh, and don’t move another inch or I’ll blow a hole in your jelly belly,” she blew Geoff a mock kiss.
Geoff stood still as she waved the small gun that still looked so gigantic in her little hands. “I came here to stop the four of you, but you already did for the other three. Good job. So that just leaves you, brave little you stood on that teleportation pad ready to flee and escape. So why did you wait here, to see the destruction of the City?”
“Ah Geoff, I know the City will have to remain. It was rigged to self-destruct, but that process seems to have been blocked. I no longer need to find out by whom. What a bright fellow you are but I don’t think you managed this all alone somehow. I waited to see who my enemy was, curiosity drove me to. Who else is with you?”
“That is not important right now. Have you heard what is going on outside? The City is being evacuated and the people will live to tell their stories. You have lost all that wealth and power, you killed your partners for nothing and wherever you go, I will find you.”
The girl let out a nasty little shriek and pointed the barrel of her gun at Geoff before squeezing the trigger.
‘She’ anticipated it perfectly as Geoff leapt to one side to avoid the bullet and sped towards her, eye blazing red, before stopping right in front of her and kneeling down to her level and wrenching the gun from her fragile grip.
The little girl cringed before putting her other hand in her pocket and placing a finger over the teleportation remote. “Try to shoot or attack me then I’m gone. What the hell are you?”
‘She has her finger on the button Geoff, even I can’t stop her in time, and you can’t shoot her.’
‘I think I can actually, this is no little girl after all. We can’t let him escape now.’
‘Better of two evils?’
‘In a word yes and this is a body only, the sick mind is what we need to kill.’
‘The little girl, whoever she was, isn’t alive. At least I hope, a human emotion, hope, but it’s all we have.’
‘Hang on just a second, hope? What do you mean? I do the hoping, you do the cold facts. I can’t blow this bastard away if there is a little girl in there somewhere, can I?’
‘It is a moral question to consider. I can only state that I believe you pulling the trigger would ultimately be the right conclusion. You will save many and kill two, one of which may or may not actually exist.’
Geoff stood up slowly, never taking his eyes off the little girl as she considered him just as closely.
“You can’t do it anyway can you Mr Smith. Hmmm? Whatever you are now, you are worried there actually is a little girl stood in front of you aren’t you, sweetie pie? Somewhere deep inside, deep down, I can hear her weak confused protests if you want to know. It’s like music to me, far away and yet so near. Her spirit still lingers on. Still, for a weak man like you the prospect is enough to stop you doing what should be done, hmmm? What you came here to do,” hissed the girl.
Geoff, with a tired resigned smile, slowly pointed the gun at the little girl’s head. He meant to end it and pull the trigger.
“Oh, Mr Smith I like this game. What’s next, would you like me to put the barrel in my mouth, hmmm? I know Lahm would have loved that,” she cooed.
An odd look crept across her face just as she was going to pull the gun barrel towards her head. “Lahm didn’t just do work for me and my partners did he? He made us young again and hid that work from you all, but what did he do for you? I trusted Duran to keep tabs on you, but Lahm did something else didn’t he? When you found Lahm that day, what did he do? Fucking tell meeeee!” she screeched petulantly.
Geoff nodded, “You are not the only one sharing a body here though you have invaded and possessed this poor little girl. I have, in here (Geoff pointed at his temple), the most powerful evolving artificial intelligence known to man. Lahm made it and ‘She’ is in here with me and ‘She’ has saved the people and taken this operation down. You are going with it.”
‘Now might be a good time to say hello because once this is over, I’m going to blow his fucking brains out before I lose the bottle.’
‘Yes, I can see that you will and thank you, I’d quite like to say hello. Mind if I take over your vocals, darling?’
‘It would be a pleasure, my dear.’
Geoff’s eyes burned red as her essence once again roared forth as ‘She’ addressed the last of the enemy. Her voice sounded synthetic and alien, abrupt yet clear with a surround sound quality. Geoff seemed to grow almost in height and stature as a heat radiated forth.
Mr Stealth shrank and his veneer of being a little girl, in the moments ‘She’ addressed him, was entirely accurate.
“I am my father’s creation. Franz Lahm. He committed a great many atrocities and mostly in your name. Lahm's last attempt at salvation was to create me and I stand before you now to end your life. To finish this once and for all. Everything will be undone. It ends now.”
The famed Mr Stealth stood aghast and breathless. Shock shook his fragile frame that could not handle such raw feeling. The little girl’s hand let go of the now exposed teleportation control and dropped it to the floor. She started to weep and looked up at Geoff as a child would, powerless and in need of care.
It was his last trick and he hoped Mr Smith would fall for it and let him go.
Geoff was not fooled however, as much as the girl’s tears weighed heavily on him, he had to do this. ‘She’ reminded him of that fact as Geoff cocked the gun and pointed it squarely at her forehead.
His finger started to squeeze as the little girl cringed and shut her eyes tight.
Geoff was interrupted by a scream of protest from the doorway.
It was Marie, dishevelled, caked in blood, and looking worse than when he'd left her.
Geoff looked across in astonishment to Marie as she crossed the floor towards the scene, looking crazed.
“You get away from that little girl you monster. Monster! Look at you. What have you done Geoff?”
Geoff didn’t get a chance to reply or at least he started to but the look on Marie silenced him. She looked broken, destroyed, as if her sanity had been carried away by Andy’s demise.
“Look at what you’ve done. You killed, murdered my husband instead of helping him. He was lost, scared, and broken but I could have brought him back. But you, murderous bastard, you had to kill him right in front of me and now I find you here, ready to kill a little girl. All this, mess, this city this fucked up life is your fault. You are one of the four heads, aren’t you? You are I know you are. I feel it. We joked about it once and you charmed me, but it was always you. You drove Andy mad, you played me and now here you are, murdering children.”
Geoff started to shake his head in violent protest, to try and reason with her, but Mr Stealth leapt on the opportunity. “It was all him lady, all him! He killed my brothers and made me watch. Now he wants to kill me. He killed my mummy and daddy too. Another girl, Jeanie, she came looking for her mummy and tried to save me, but he killed her too and kept me and my brothers up here.”
Mr Stealth wept with incredible enthusiasm as his little frame shuddered and trembled. It was an incredible performance.
Marie looked at Geoff incredulous and with sickening hatred. It sucked the life out of Geoff and left him speechless as he saw how this all looked.
‘There is no explaining this one Geoff. Kill the beast and reason with Marie later or not at all, it’s inconsequential, all that matters is he dies. I’ll do it.’
‘No! I need just a second here. Please you can’t do it, not like this.’
“You killed my Jeanie too? You killed…you…bastard!” roared Marie as she rained in a flurry of weak blows. He merely stood still and took them, what else could he do? He dropped the gun in submission.
‘Geoff please don’t feel this way, I can feel it too in here. It hurts. Please stop and do what needs to be done.’
The little girl grabbed Marie’s hand and pulled her towards her and onto the teleportation pad. Little Ms Stealth picked up the control in her other hand. Marie looked down at the child who embraced her so tightly and cried as Marie turned her back on Geoff.
The child smiled sweetly at Geoff and ‘She’ before winking, “Mummy, I need you my mummy,” sobbed the girl through her wide grinning mouth, never taking her eyes from Geoff’s. “Let me be your Jeanie, Mummy.”
Marie groaned in agony to the girls pleading and sobbed, “Yes, my Jeanie, my sweet little Jeanie. You are safe with me.”
Geoff managed to muster a response, “Don’t Marie, it’s a trick, all a trick,” before Marie and little Ms Stealth teleported and were gone out of sight and out of the City for good, leaving Geoff alone and crestfallen.