We ended back in Gianassa, safe and sound. We Trumped everyone out to Amber castle first, for convenience sake. The staff was delighted. Apparently, with all the family at the festivities, there was nothing for them to do. So we had a leisurely breakfast. The girls enjoyed it; they have rarely come to the castle, aside from Yule. I ought to get more acclimated, I know, but there is just so much I want them to see. We decided to walk back to Gianassa, rather than Trump. We commandeered a carriage for the children and horses for the rest of us.
We camped out in Arden's forest. We were all used to traveling with few conveniences. Poor Tremerule was out of his element entirely, though he tried to hide it. Each of the children took turns telling "ghost stories." If there was a noise, like a sharp crack, or a slow creak, it was attributed to a dragon sharpening its claws, or a skeleton moving near. With much giggling, the stories got even more outrageous, such as, the Living Carriage that drinks the blood of unsuspecting passengers who climb inside. My guess is that Tremerule will be either walking or riding with us tomorrow.
We progressed along Shadow without incident. Tremerule was interested in what was around him. He had heard of cities as large as mountains. I asked him if he wanted to see one, and he lit up. Great! He was as interested in the process as he was in the journey itself. So, this became somewhat of a learning exercise as I tried to explain Shadow-walking.
The Living Carriage story was still heavily on someone's mind, though the story is still being embellished. It was enough to influence the shifting. We came into a Shadow where a carriage like ours was abandoned. All around it were crows and carrion feeders feasting on the remains of the unfortunate inhabitants. Without a word, DeWinter and I turned us all around.
Nothing untoward happened today. The only significant thing is that Xhimena and Kai-Revere came closest to an argument that I have ever seen, directly. I came into the middle of their conversation. Kai might have been talking about the gruesome carriage, because with some heat, he told her, They are your ravens.
She glared and him and rejoined, Excuse me, did you just use air?
He just patted her on the head and walked away.
She stood there, glaring at his back. I wonder if she's going to have DoBlique's temper? I hope not. Kai would be in for a nasty surprise, if so. Well, he's still in for a nasty surprise; he just doesn't know it yet.
I'm sure I don't care for his superior attitude with the girls.
The carriage has become increasingly better made and ornate. Toby had taken to driving it. At one point, it was so easy; he pulled out a pipe and began to smoke. DeWinter just glared at him, till Toby realized he needed to put it out. DeWinter doesn't want the boys to get any ideas. Come to think about it, I'm not sure I care if they take it up or not, as long as they are fully grown first. I've seen no side effects to the family, but most seem to do it infrequently, if at all. Except for Random. Hmm, that might be a case against it.
We got to a village and then a city, not unlike Mycenae. Everyone looked around, pointing like, well tourists, at all the marvels. The size of the city was impressive as well. We decided to stay a day or so. Tremerule was amazed at the skyscrapers, airplanes, and cruise liners in the harbor. The boys wanted to go and see the ships, Xhimena wanted to go in the plane.
Guess who I'm escorting?
That night DeWinter had a little discussion with me. He wanted me to tell the Weir not to talk about 'intimate matters.'
It took a while before I realized he was talking about sex. Why? Is this really a priority?
He said ours were still young impressionable children, not yet adolescents. He wants them to be educated and intelligent before struggling with those issues.
Hmm. This did not make sense. I said they were already intelligent and right now is when it doesn't have much bearing. I doubt learning about such things when in the midst of adolescent angst would be better planning. I'd rather have the information have time to sink in before having to face it.
Well, we could fix that. He proposed that we only go to places where the age of majority is 5 years past the current age.
While the idea appealed to me, but not for these reasons, I pointed out that Eidolon would not be fooled. He said I should get him in on it. And why would he go along?
DeWinter said I should promise him a big secret power.
Oh, this ought to be clever. Such as ?
He elected to show me. He folded his hands over his stomach as he sat back. A few minutes passed. A half hour. I asked if his power was to make people impatient. He laughed and pointed at the window.
It was raining.
Ah, now he can control it. Clever. But, I doubt it would be enough for Eidolon. We let the matter drop.
We went though a few Shadows. The carriage became a charter bus. Toby had a great deal of fun driving down the wrong way on a street. Hastily, DeWinter took over and we managed not to kill or injury anyone or anything, though it was a close call from time to time.
We came past a large building, of pink granite with red and black awnings. Ah, my colors. I wonder if this is where we are staying? DeWinter wasn't thrilled. It had a tall statue of a nude woman on the facing. She held a sword in one hand and a goblet filled with fire in the other. I thought the style was interesting.
A doorman met us outside and called me Mrs. Towers. He led us through a lobby filled with crystal chandeliers, etched glass and very deep carpeting. Very lush. Even DeWinter was impressed.
We were shown to the top floor, the penthouse. Apparently, we have the entire floor. The door was silver steel, with Mycenaean myths carved into it. It was a puzzle mechanism for the lock. DeWinter just looked at me.
It took about 15 minutes to figure out how to open it. Lights came on automatically as we entered. Past the entryway, we came into a large living room with a panoramic view of the city.
Everyone found his or her rooms.
Kai-Revere and Xhimena fought over which ones belonged to them. He just did not see how she would have the larger room. I pointed out that it had her clothes in it. And there were the glass etchings of unicorns around the room. Not something he would put in his room. He actually came close to pouting.
I'm growing uneasy with his attitude.
I led him to his room. It was a central room with no windows. He wasn't pleased. I told him if this was his room, there had to be a good reason. He began looking around, not really convinced.
Our rooms were quite nice, if a bit strange. Recessed lighting came from under the bed and there were photos of us everywhere. Actually, I'm going to take DeWinter's with me when we leave. They were very sophisticated and he looked very elegant. On the whole, it was a luxurious room.
The kitchen was modern and sleek. It took the better part of an hour to figure it all out. In the living room, I found the stereo. That took a half hour to figure out. But I found a jazz station and upped the volume enough for all to hear. It was time for dinner anyway.
Everyone, including most of the Weir, came running at the music. Dinner was delayed a bit while everyone looked over the machine and most Weir danced a bit.
A New Shadow and New Surprises
We were all about halfway dressed for the day when Kai-Revere came asking, actually he almost demanded, us to switch his room with Xhimena. With a sigh, I took him back to his room. In hindsight, I shouldn't have done it. Then, maybe, Kai might have been a bit chagrined at his behavior, once he thought about it.
As it was, I went through his room, trying to discover why it was his. In the closet, I found that the clothes bar turned with a click. A back panel opened up into a secret room. His attitude disappeared in a heartbeat.
Inside, was a mechanical ape, a 5-foot high silverback, weighing something on the order of 2000 pounds.
When DeWinter saw it, he muttered, Bad brain!.
I suppose he was thinking I had done this deliberately in my Shadow-shift.
Kai immediately told Eidolon and the two took to examining it carefully. After taking with me what looked like the control belt, I left them to it. Once the two told the others, everyone would be taking their rooms apart, looking for secrets.
About an hour later, Eidolon showed me his secret room. Inside was a mechanical girl with a silver sword. Once again, I absconded the control belt.
In what I assume is my office, I located a moderate-size safe. Once it got it opened, by another mechanical puzzle, I locked the belts away.
Then I took to finding out everything I could about the lives we had intruded upon. The room was distressingly spare in that. Other than a personal phone folio, there was nothing to give me clues. It was so barren; in fact, I wondered why I would have an office to begin with.
The folio did have a few numbers. One was a staffing agency, under the name Ronny D. and I undertook getting a staff here immediately. They would arrive first thing in the morning.
Everyone else was still looking around and examining things in the afternoon. I wandered around in stockinged feet, which was pleasantly cool on the marble floors. I overheard Kai and Eidolon as they poured over some blueprints of the ape. Apparently its name is Gorgo and he breathes fire. He also had something called hyper-arctinic eye sockets. They had no idea what it meant and I hope they won't ask me, for I don't know either.
During breakfast, Kai was letting loose a few hints that he had a secret. Ah, he wasn't going to tell anyone. He was trying to get Xhimena to ask about his room, to show off. Xhimena, being sensible, did not take the bait, much to Kai's disappointment.
We finished up and were deciding what we were going to see for the day when I realized we didn't have any local currency. Usually, I think of this when entering a Shadow, and I was perturbed that I apparently forgot this time. That, and identification papers were also missing.
I looked at the phone folio and found the address for three banks. Well, I'd have to have an account in one of this, to afford a place such as this. I called the lobby and had them hail us taxis. We went to the first bank.
Inside, it was heavily gilded, with flowers everywhere. I went in line and approached a teller. Apparently, I was known enough that I required no identification. I withdrew about $3,000.
As I was leaving a little girl, Emma, approached me. She asked me for my autograph. Hmm, I wondered if I was an actress or something as such. Her mother approached DeWinter. He prefaced his autograph with Not an official signature.
We toured the city and visited any number of shops. In each one, all the staff personnel knew us on sight. It was quite eerie. They were all exceedingly, and I do mean exceedingly differential and helpful. The girls enjoyed it though.
We returned by late afternoon. We had just gotten out of our coats when there was a heavy knocking on the door. Outside, there was a large man. He didn't greet me; civilly, he just said he brought some files from the office for me to look at.
I took him into the office. He displayed photos, with a brief explanation. With the first one, he said that the man had taken the place of Coco the Egg and had brought his operation up to speed. The second showed The Hammer, a hired gun. It was unknown who his target is. The third was a woman who married Benny Bellinger. She had an Ivy League education (whatever that is) and is an icy lady. I was growing a bit concerned. What did we have to do with these criminals? We were a rival sect? He seemed to act as if I should know all these people.
Xhimena came in, curious.
I allowed her to introduce herself and he returned in kind. Bless her. She said she didn't remember him. He smiled and remarked that she had grown a lot since he last saw her, so he wasn't surprised that she didn't remember him. He was Robert O'Sullivan, Chief of Police.
I relaxed quite a bit.
He asked what I wanted to do about these cases. I prevaricated and said I'd have to think about it. He nodded and commented that I'd probably want to go to the cave to do more research.
When he left, I checked the folio. Sure enough, there was a number marked under Cave. All I got was an answering machine. I was hoping for a staff member.
As I thought about it, I thought that this cave might be located underneath the building. Perhaps I had a secret room leading to this place. Sure enough, I, too, had a secret panel in my closet. But it did not lead anywhere. Instead, I found only a metal chair and a black, red, and silver suit. DeWinter's closet also had a metal chair--and a much bigger mechanical ape. Apparently, Gorgo has a father. Neither of our things had control belts.
Now I was sure Xhimena wouldn't be left out. So, I went to her room. She was looking through some of her books. I went into her closet and opened her room. She was delighted with the silver metal wolf inside. It stood almost as tall as she does. Off to one side was a scrapbook. I borrowed that and took her belt.
The clippings were about all of us. One showed Gorgo stopping a kidnapping. DeWinter's ape robot was referred to as Mighty Towers. He grimaced but only said, Great.
Well, the next step was obvious.
I tried on my suit. Its belt was attached. It was made of some rubber-like material. I couldn't put it on over my clothes, because it was so form fitting. I undressed and got it on. DeWinter thought this was vastly entertaining.
The belt had only three buttons. Nothing happened until I put on the clear sphere helmet, and locked it into place. Really, I felt very silly. I tried combination of the buttons. The first brought a jolt of lightning from my hand. The second was a police radio. With the third, I only felt a vibration in the gloves. Nothing obvious had occurred. I reached for the chair and it snapped into my hand. Ah, magnetics. I have got to find this cave.
That evening, after the children were asleep, DeWinter and I got a taxi and told him to take us to the cave. I mean everyone in the city seemed so knowledgeable. Unfortunately, the driver did not know the location of the cave. Ah well, it was worth a try. Fortunately, he thought we were joking. Instead, we wanted to have fun. He took us to a nightclub called The Cauldron. It must have been popular, because there was a line in front.
We got in line and waited for about a half hour. It gave us time to watch the people and hear mysterious bits of gossip that meant nothing to us. We were almost in the door when I spotted a young man talking to two women. He looked up and saw us. Through the glass of the doors, and at a distance, I could see him grow pale. He staggered back and ran for the back.
I've been around the Weir too long, I think. When something runs, you chase it. Instinct took over and I leapt over the rope barricade and ran after him. Not easy in heels and through a crowded room. I caught him in the kitchen. I grabbed his arm and led him back to his table. He was stammering incoherently, apparently very afraid. I wondered why.
I took him back to one of the women he had been talking to. She looked curious at what was happening, and not a little alarmed herself. She introduced herself as Sally. We got seated when DeWinter arrived and sat down. Now they looked downright terrified. I was trying to put them at ease when another man, expensively dressed, arrived at our table. He introduced himself as Mr. Bartholomew. His business card claimed he was a lawyer. Without an invitation, he sat down, saying he represented Mr. Sweeney, indicating our
Idle talk followed and I tried to get surface thoughts from the Sally, who had ended up sitting next to me. I had given her had a reassuring squeeze and just listened. Every thought was a panicked one, focusing on Ned. Ah, Mr. Sweeney. She wondered what trouble he had gotten into this time and $5 an hour doesn't cover it if it lands in her lap.
Whether because of my mental rummaging or she was so nervous at the situation, Sally then passed out. With a little water, and rubbing her hands and face we managed to revive her without attracting much attention from those around us.
I wasn't keen on talking candidly with Mr. Bartholomew listening. He struck me as the sort who catered to dubious clientele. Instead, we chatted about the music. Ned perked up a bit about that. He was avid about jazz. It wasn't quite like I know the music. Actually, Paris had moved into different techniques than this. Sally excused herself to go to the ladies room.
Gradually, everyone relaxed as we talked about the music. Ned was surprised that I knew anything about it. I wondered if we couldn't get a few musicians up to the Towers to play and informal session. He liked that idea.
Sally still hadn't returned and I was having a feeling something was wrong. I asked Ned to go and see how she was doing. He just shrugged and replied that she was just a hooker.
Ah, a backdancer. Still, I reminded him it was a gentlemanly thing to do. He wasn't completely convinced that was true, but he went to look. That gave me time to talk to DeWinter.
We had no idea what was going on. I proposed we got the two of them out of there, so we could talk. I wanted to know why he ran from us. DeWinter had been facing the other way, so he hadn't seen Ned run. He had been wondering why I ran inside.
We went to collect the two, but couldn't find them. I quick question in the kitchen confirmed that Ned had left with two other men, shortly before. We searched the alley, but they were long gone.
I was uncomfortable with the idea that we may have gotten them into more trouble, just by talking to them. We stopped by a police station and I asked that a warrant be made for Ned. He would be placed in protective custody. Amazingly enough, the police cooperated without a single murmur of discontent.
It was all we could do for the moment. We just didn't know enough of the city to hunt him ourselves. And my tracking abilities weren't sufficient for this.
The doorbell rang quite early. I was hoping it was the police, but it was two staff members from the placement service. Their names were Shauna and Katie. Apparently we hired them before, because they immediately went into the kitchen and began making breakfast. They knew where everything was. Nevertheless, DeWinter hovered in the kitchen, making sure.
Later he and I had a talk. I had a theory. We were traveling because the children needed to learn, experience, and develop. Perhaps this was a safe place for them to do this. If we fought crime as a family, it would be a good way for them to learn something, while we were still in a position to help and advise. Not only were they Amberite children, but also these devices made them even more protected. He wasn't convinced. He didn't think their abilities, or these robots were much protection against bullets. He thought we were here because I needed to fix something.
"Because it's what you do."
I thought about it. I've always thought I was trying to select Shadows that would help everyone else. Now, I do like to be useful. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes with all the Weir, I don't always feel like I'm needed. So, does that mean I choose Shadows to fulfill that need? I'm not sure. I didn't see anything wrong with that, but it still felt uncomfortably selfish.
Kai and Eidolon were very excited this morning. They'd found another secret room with another robot. It stood about 4' high, was silver, and had one foot. I stepped in. There were racks on each side of the room with coats and jackets, most in the children's sizes. The device had two buttons. I pressed one and it began to hum. There were recessed wheels on the bottom. I asked Xhimena to get a flashlight from Katie or Shauna. She returned with one, but it didn't help find anything useful.
Kai was convinced it was something we rode. He stood on the foot but it wouldn't move. It wasn't anything I've seen before. After looking it over a while I realized what it was. Kai was very indignant when I started to laugh. It took a bit for me to stop. Really, it was all so silly. It was a vacuum cleaner. DeWinter had to fight not to laugh himself. Kai stalked off in disgust.
Xhimena also found a secret panel. This wasn't silly at all. It was in the kitchen. She saw Shauna fetch the flashlight from here. Shauna and Katie were cleaning in another room. It was an arsenal. It contained flashlights, guns, grenades, and all sorts of things. It was cleverly hidden, so if you didn't know it was there, you'd miss it.
I checked other rooms. There was one in the living room, the dining room and the office. I showed them to DeWinter.
Oh, man, this is not good.
The idea of these around all the children did not make me think highly of our Shadow counterparts. For one thing, all the guns were loaded. DeWinter unloaded them all and put the ammunition in the office safe.
Then, just in case we missed something, DeWinter gave all the children, and the Weir a long, long lecture on gun safety. They listened quietly. It wasn't often he talked this much or this long, so they knew this was important.
That evening, while the girls were reading stories to each other, I wandered around the building. I thought that there might be some access to the cave from somewhere inside.
I found nothing. I ended up on the roof. It was dark and very windy, with more that a little chill in the air. The roof had a safety fence all around the perimeter.
Tentatively, I looked over the side. The lower floors jutted out and hid the street from sight. So, my dislike of heights wasn't really a factor right now. Still, we were thirty floors up, so I moved back to the center.
There, I found a tall pyramid with a huge lightning rod in the center. The spire swirled around, just like the Unicorn's horn. With some investigation, a granite section opened up. Rows and rows or switches and dials were revealed. Across the top, they were labeled sequentially, A1, A2, A3, and so forth to A10. The second row started with the letter B. Each row started with the next letter. They all glowed with a blue light.
Experimenting, I turned on to off. Nothing happened. When I turned it on, I received a large shock. I landed on my back and saw more stars than were in the sky. My head hurt where I had hit the floor. I felt, rather than saw, sparks popping all over me. I could smell burned hair. Actually, I felt burnt all over.
After about a half hour, I managed to get up. A little shaky, I went to go downstairs, only to find I had locked myself out. Damn it! I was still fuzzyheaded and I wondered how long until someone looked up here for me. It was getting much colder.
I sat down in the lee of a short wall. A few hours later DeWinter opened the door and called out. I yelled for him not to close the door. I got up and ran over. We jimmied the door open and I showed him the panel. He couldn't make sense of it either.
Downstairs he got a good look at me. He carefully checked out the marks. I had little burn marks all over. He was concerned, but didn't think I did any permanent damage.
The Cave/My Mishap
This morning we found Xhimena was gone. Mosi said that Xhimena said, It's got to be the closets. She was trying to find the cave. Then she said, This should work. Then she closed the doors and when Mosi opened it up, she was gone. Damn it! She didn't say what worked.
This would be a lot easier if she didn't take after me.
I used scent to find the last place she was standing. It was in the center of the secret room. Voice recognition. Not that I could tell. I put my suit on, with the helmet. The suit began to hum immediately. DeWinter watched from the door as I tried to get to Xhimena. I remembered Mosi saying that the door to the room was closed. He stepped inside and closed it. I tried the buttons again in various combinations. At one point, an electric arc lashed out and I was somewhere else.
And it had a large hidden power plant. I found Xhimena, who was excited about her discovery. She'd no worries that we would find her. I almost shook her. I had to tell DeWinter I was safe. Good thing my Trump was in my bedroom. I get to do this the hard way. The worst part of it all was that I didn't know our telephone number. I found another office and told Xhimena to touch nothing. Thankfully, she does not take after me in that respect. I knew she would listen.
On the desk was DeWinter's control belt for 'Mighty.'
Behind the desk was a memory wall. Clippings and articles of the people we stopped and/or captured over the years. There was a lab, a bomb shelter, and power generators everywhere. On a credenza behind the desk were a series of journals
I made a Trump sketch of DeWinter but it burst into flames. What? I eventually figured out I had to remove the suit first. Otherwise, everything burned when I touched it. I seemed to be carrying a charge. But even after I got it off I still couldn't make a sketch. Too much residual energy.
I suited up again and took the journals. Xhimena and I went back to the pads and she was the one to figure out how to get back. Not surprising since she knew how she got here. I followed right behind her and ended up in the closet.
I checked and found the Xhimena had arrived safely. Claw found me and told me DeWinter was not well. He'd been hit by the electric arc of my teleport out. Not knowing what that might entail, I went to where he'd been place.
He was asleep on the sofa. There was a burn mark on his temple, but no other arks. It wasn't long before he woke. He looked around, frighteningly confused.
He had no memory of who he was or who we were. Oh, he's going to be so angry when he gets his memory back.
But right now, he took in his surroundings calmly. He looked at me and asked Claw who the lady was. I replied I was his wife. He looked a little surprised and said, Oh. Nice. I suggested we get him something to eat.
He didn't want to remain lying down, so he followed me to the dining room. Then he got a bit of a shock at seeing all the children. And a greater one when they all called him Dad. The children, not knowing anything was wrong, voted that they wanted to go to the zoo. Thinking this was safe enough, I asked DeWinter if he felt up to it. Sure.
The rest of the meal was the usual cacophony of disjointed conversations. He kept tracking them all, careful not to look confused when he didn't know some of the subjects, like Amber, Shadow, magic, Gorgo, or the like. How do I begin to explain? Eventually, he'd regain his memory, I'm sure of it. In the meantime, any explanations would just confuse him even more.
While the girls got ready to go out, he wandered around the suite, looking impressed by his surroundings. All he said was Looks like we're doing all right. Then we went out. The zoo was wonderfully unexciting. The children liked it, especially Brigga. DeWinter was, for him, very
.animated. He's usually rather reserved. But, he laughed and smiled, and joked with the children. He was the same, but not. Very odd.
DeWinter and I wandered along the streets as I tried to tell him a bit about our life without confusing the issue further. It was the hardest conversation I ever had. So much of our life borders on the strange. The rest of it is squarely in the strange, from an outsider's point of view.
He took what I said without much comment, though I think he believed me. One of the biggest worries was his strength. A man, walking past, shouldered past us rudely. DeWinter tensed up and I pulled him along. I told him he should be careful. He was much stronger than the average man, and I knew he wouldn't want to accidentally hurt someone too much. Or even a little. He filed that thought away and I could see the questions forming.
We didn't get too far in our talk. A car pulled along side and the window opened up. Something of the old DeWinter was still there, because he threw himself on top of me as a three-inch muzzle appeared. DeWinter was hit, covered in white ribbons that tightened and dropped him to the sidewalk. The rear door opened and I leapt up and yanked the gun out of the shooter's hand. Then I pulled the man out. I could feel the seams in my shirt ripping.
I heard another man yell, Floor it!'.
I knocked the man I was holding out and reached for the car. Without caring what I looked like, and without thinking about it at all, I grasped the side runner and lifted. The car heaved up and fell over onto its side. Two cars, coming toward us spun around, trying to avoid a crash. The same man yelled, Forget what The Claw said! Shoot her! Another man yelled back, Forget that!
I pulled one out and knocked him out. A second one had scrambled out through the windshield and began running down the street. I yelled, Stop him! A woman driving toward us on the other side of the street swerved and hit the man. I hit the last one with the car door, not realizing I had pulled it off its hinges.
With all of them out, I realized only seconds had passed. I ran back to DeWinter. He was almost mummified. I tore at the ribbons. They were amazingly strong, but eventually we pulled them off him by the time the police arrived. I consoled the woman who had hit the man. She had just followed my orders. She was in some shock at what she had done. I sat with her for a while, till the police had taken the assailants into custody. By then she had composed herself and found herself the target of a number of admiring reporters.
One of the policemen assured me he would stay with the woman and keep her from being harassed. DeWinter and I managed to duck most of the reporters and went back to the apartment to change before giving our statements.
O'Sullivan met us. He said the assailants would be sent to prison. Apparently they had passed a law saying it was a mandatory life sentence for anyone attacking my family or me.
I said someone hired them. Could the arrestees be hired to turn sides? He looked dubious. We did convince one to help. One who went by the name Sing-Sing. We staged as realistic an escape as possible. He's now earning $40/week, hired by me personally. It was four times what he was currently making. We'll see if it panned out. We wanted The Claw, whoever he was.
In the meantime, we had some practicing to do.
DeWinter had a lot of questions. He'd already figured out that we were police, of some stripe. I said we were a bit more independent. I gave him the scrapbook, to help fill in the gaps. I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do, though. None of it was really us. I wondered what sort of impression it would make. He was impressed with the robots.
We got Kai, Eidolon and Xhimena to the cave with their respective robots to the cave. There was plenty of room for them to practice using them with little danger to innocent bystanders. Or adjacent apartments.
Each of the robots had different qualities. Gorgo was stronger and faster than Bite, the wolf, or Starchild, Eidolon's robot. Kai was ecstatic about it. He was a scrapper. DeWinter's was much slower, but really, really strong; more than the other three put together. Bite was very speedy and a tremendous runner. Starchild was as tiny as Xhimena, but her sword was sharp and did electrical damage. And she could fly with rockets on her back.
For myself, I practiced using the magnetic fields around my hand and feet to affect my surroundings. The range varied, depending on what strength I used. The strength of the field was directly inversely proportional to the range. I used my left hand to work the controls.
It would take a while before we were fully conversant with our respective machines. We took the entire day working various tactics with them. By suppertime, we were tired, but exhilarated with what we had accomplished. Working together, we kept everyone's spirits up and motivated. It was very
That night, DeWinter expended a great deal of energy when we were alone. He was unabashedly enthusiastic. In a way, it was like our very first time and it was wonderful. And no one came to ask why the apartment lights flared on and off.
It was electric, of course.
We woke slowly, not really wanting to get out of bed. I took a chance and asked him if I could examine his memory. He barely questioned my question; he just said, Sure, go ahead.
Inside wasn't so much as damaged, as some pathways were just erased. New ones might build up spontaneously, I think. Some areas were blank, though. It was as if a file cabinet had been upended and everything scattered. It would take time to reorganize everything. But I didn't see any gross damage.
I got him to be aware of me, inside his mind. I coaxed him to looked at his own memories. They didn't make sense, but he began sorting through them. I eased out and let him work.
He joined me for breakfast within the hour. He was starving. Yes, that sort of work does make you hungry. A newscast reported that a criminal known as Sing-Sing had escaped custody while in transit to a permanent holding cell. He'd jumped from the moving police car and managed to run off, evading a second capture. The police had put out an APB, whatever that was. Now, we have to wait.
Little progress has been made in our crime-stopping careers, but we've managed to get a lot of practicing in. All I've gotten is a phone call from O'Sullivan, saying that Sing-Sing had called him to tell him he was all right. He was trying to get us the information, but it will take time to convince the right people to trust him. He's working through The Claw's territory, and has to go through two or three levels of people.
So, we've spent time with the children, touring the city, and learning what we can.
In the evenings, DeWinter and I frequently attended the nightclubs where I sometimes chatted with the musicians. The other night we were even invited to one of the after-hours clubs. They go there at around 6 in the morning, after the other clubs close down. This wasn't for an audience. This was for the musicians themselves. They introduce new material, work out any problems or get suggestions. Or they just play for the enjoyment of it. It's very dark and smoky. Everyone talks, respectfully, in whispers, so as to not disturb anyone playing.
I even have gotten to try my hand. I played a bit of what I learned in Paris. Another type of jazz. No one said much, but a few sat down near to hear the new sound. After a few nights, as I improvised, a few joined in with contrasting and complementing tempos. It was tremendous fun.
I was afraid DeWinter would get bored or upset, thinking I was abandoning him for too long. The old DeWinter wouldn't, but I wasn't sure of this one. But, he was okay with it all. He was truly interested in what was going on around him. In fact, he joined in conversations, or started his own, as he tried to understand what was being experimented with, or what they were trying to say with their music.
In between sets, or conversations, he would just give me looks that reminded me of our honeymoon. Really, I'm glad it was dark, because I know I blushed. From time to time, we joined others on a makeshift dance floor, or just stole time alone in the dark.
This whole experience is novel. It was like I was seeing a very young DeWinter, who he might have been when he was younger, without some of the terrible things that had happened to him.
On one hand, I liked seeing it, hoping he would value the time when his memory returned. On the other hand, the other DeWinter was the one I know and love. Because or, not in spite of his talents and imperfections.
With nothing else presently happening, we decided to go to the Amusement Park. Now this was an experience. I found out that the Weir decidedly do not like roller coasters. They creaked and groaned too much. The rides, that is.
Kai-Revere takes after me. He was more than a little green after the ride. Xhimena, however, loved it. For myself, I was both ill and excited. Ah, I see that 'danger circumstance' popping up already. I was caught in two opposing forces. I didn't like the heights, but I enjoyed the perceived dangers.
We saw the History of the World Museum. It had a garish sign, a huge tent, but rather tame displays.
It took little to coax DeWinter into the Tunnel of Love. It wasn't what I was expecting. We went through on a little boat. There were strange sounds coming from everywhere. Mannequins adorned the sides in outrageous costumes, often lit with pink lights. Actually, it was more eerie than romantic. Not at all what I was expecting. One of the displays was of warrior women standing at ready. I really don't see battle as being particularly romantic. I didn't see the point until I saw it affect DeWinter. All the shadowy movement behind the lights and the noises made his subconscious paranoia stand up and take notice. He kept edging me closed until I was pretty much in his lap. Then we got very distracted and didn't notice any more of the displays. I could hear the people chuckling at us as we emerged from the little boat.
We then went to the hall of mirrors. Everyone liked that one, though it was easy for the Weir to track everyone. They want one in the house to practice their tracking skills. All in all it was fun. Everyone saw something new: funny clowns, men on stilts
I toyed with the idea of us joining the circus again. There were enough of us; we could create our own troupe.
We got a little separated when the girls wanted to go on one of the rides and the boys wanted to try the shooting gallery. Truth to tell, I wanted to try too, but I escorted them to the Ferris wheel. I chose to wait by the entrance.
When we were done, we went back to meet with the others. Apparently we just missed them. The barker said they went off with three polar bears. Hmm. We searched for a long while until I went to the information booth and had them paged. Nothing.
Now I was getting a little worried. I got the Weir to guard the girls and took Bison and Tear with me to find them. The problem was with all the food and people, tracking was impossible. A woman in a trapeze outfit and mask approached me. She said I would find them in the Hall of Mirrors. I was to go alone.
Well, anyone who is going to kidnap child was not to be trusted. I found two wandering entertainers and bought their costumes for about a $100. We went behind the tent to change. I was a bit surprised when Bison knocked them both out. Why? They thought that was my plan. No, they were just going to change here. They looked a little embarrassed.
They changed and went ahead to scout. He didn't get far because entertainers weren't allowed inside. But he it was a trap. Neither DeWinter, nor the boys were inside.
Feeling a bit like an idiot, I remembered the Aes tattoo on Kai. I got their signature. We started to move through the crowds. To my surprise, we ended up in the Tunnel of Love again.
We got past the booth and made our way down the tunnel, using the side ledges along the way. As we moved, I tried to triangulate where they were. We found a 5-foot access panel about a third in. It was dimly lit with red bulbs, to not be obvious by any of the customers.
We went down the narrow corridor. I suppose this is where I show my Weir side. I was proud that I made no sound, even though my tracking skills aren't nearly as developed.
As we were approaching an intersection, we heard someone coming toward us. There was nowhere to hide, so we planned to ambush him as he came around. He came closer, slowed, then halted. I could clearly hear the sound of a gun being cocked.
I was nearest the corner. It's frustrating, to say the least, when you're in a shadow, forced to wear heels and skirts while leaving practical swords in one's room. Not to mention we had no firearm ourselves. I straight-armed him as he came around. My purse was small, but heavy enough to be useful in knocking him out. It was boned with sturdy steel, and made a satisfying thump as it hit him.
We pinned him down and took his weapon. Nasty gun. No honor to the nasty things. He wouldn't tell us anything and I was getting seriously annoyed. I growled at him. It was eerie as it echoed in the corridor. It was eerier when Bison and Tear did the same. He became much more conversant. I suppose from his expression he was expecting me to be more civilized about the whole thing.
He said there were five people and The Claw in a room further on. As for DeWinter, Kai-Revere and Eidolon, they were ordered killed.
I knocked him out.
I refused to believe they were killed that easily. I did not bear thinking about.
We went further and found the door. On the other side, we could hear machines and voices underneath venting steam. I slipped the door open a bit. I could see The Claw. She was wearing a dress and heels. No pistols were visible. Nor were DeWinter or the children.
We counted to three, yanked the door open, and charged. The arrangements left little other option. There was no way to slip inside unnoticed, nor any other way into the room, aside from the door on the opposite side of the chamber. The Claw yelled for her people to shoot. One actually got a shot off before we were among them. I grappled The Claw. Bison and Tear took two others a piece. The Claw looked remarkably like my own Claw. More eeriness.
The Claw hissed and spit at me. Really, she was quite unpleasant. She took delight in telling me that DeWinter and the boys were dead. I realized she was perfectly willing, no eager, to kill them. I set Bison and Tear to guard these, after I knocked her out. I went out the only other door in the room.
A short corridor later, and one more door, I found myself standing behind on of the displays in the Tunnel. There were warrior women standing over some captives. Now that I was closer, the waxiness of there skin was odd. I stepped closer and realized with a bit of horror that these were real women; they'd been covered in some sort of coating. People drifted by every day, all day, to capture some romantic mood, not realizing the dead around them.
Looking down I saw the boys lying in front of the women, also coated. Completely, including their entire faces. Whatever the sealant is, it was tough. I couldn't break it nor pry it off with my fingers. They were suffocating in front of my eyes and I couldn't get this sealant off. Time was running out. Frantically, I Trumped Claw and had her pass me a knife. I could see the boys looking at me in panic. All I could do was puncture through the stuff. They'll live through a cut or two.
In the end, I made a shallow stab in the fleshiest part. They just will have some difficulty sitting down for a while. Still, the jagged edges gave me something to hold on to and pry off. I did so quickly, moving as quickly as I could to their mouths. The reassuring gasps for air told me they would recover.
Looking around, I couldn't see DeWinter. I told the boys to stay put. They just nodded, working more of the coating off.
I ran down past displays. People in boats scarcely saw me. Toward the end I found him. I was just as panicked, and he was just as sealed up as the boys. With an apology, I gave him the same treatment, and got the stuff off. It was easier this time. Once I broke the seal and weakened it enough, he was able to break it off. This coating was amazing if it could hold him in check. Then again, he can't remember how strong he is.
I wanted the old DeWinter back.
We all got back to the small chamber. Bison had broken The Claw's legs. She'd tried to escape once too often. Can't say I felt even the barest bit of remorse. Unfortunately, she heals. Not as well as a Weir, but too quickly for my taste. She was certain I was too good to kill her. She sneered, saying that I can call the police, but she'd get her revenge.
Ah, but I have another plan.
We gathered everyone together. The children and DeWinter went home to tend wounds and call the police.
I took the Claw and began Shifting. I found a nice little island. The only one in the world, I was sure. The sea was salt, but there was a nice little pond she could drink out of. Fruit grew here and there. If she was lucky, the volcano on the island would go soon enough.
I left her there.
Looking back, I could see it was a really cold thing I did to her. I didn't feel any remorse. She was a cold-blooded murderer. All those displays, and no one the wiser. She had no plan except to kill them and put them up for her amusement. How long did those people wait for someone who would never return? I came distressingly close to being one of them.
Like my Uncle Corwin, I wanted her to pay for what she did. I supposed I just felt killing her was too easy. And I'm not sure I like this about myself, right now.
DeWinter had a nightmare almost every night. While they were unpleasant, the trauma of what happened did help to trigger a slow memory cascade. I have my DeWinter back. I think he thought the experience was interesting, if a bit Weird. I don't think he remembers ever being that trusting. He'd seen who he thought was Claw waving to him to come over. So, with an escort of people in costume, he went over.
The police did search the Tunnel, as well as the entire amusement park. Apparently, it was her base of operation. Nearly every mannequin was an entombed person. Many, many people. Of course, they did not find The Claw. We even found Ned there. No one thought to ask me if I knew where The Claw was. I can only guess that my reputation didn't encompass anything outside the rules. Still, all the top people were arrested and her operation was shut down.
| Cassandra Diary 36 | Cassandra Diary 37 | Cassandra Diary 38 | Cassandra Diary 39 |
| Cassandra Diary 40 | Cassandra Diary 41 | Cassandra Diary 42 | Cassandra Diary 43 |