Sunday, 21 August 2011

Episode 80

Harold risked a glance back over his shoulder as he ran. It looked like Prada was trying to make use of Teatime’s distraction herself: she was struggling manfully (girlfully?) in the grip of two of the silver-suited guards. The other two were pounding along the road after him. Of Teatime, there was no visible sign. He hoped the little monkey was ok. With any luck, the humans in their usual arrogance would overlook him as just a dumb animal and he would make good his escape.

What about Agent Prada, though?

A razor-edged icicle of guilt stabbed into his mind and he almost turned back for her. A second thought, however, hot on the heels of the first pointed out, quite reasonably, that getting himself captured would be no help whatsoever to anybody, so he shifted up a gear to put some distance between himself and his pursuers. His earthly vessel was not super-strong, but it was very fast and it did not get tired or out of breath. His pursuers were soon falling behind.

Inside the Infinity Recycling building, Nugent cursed softly as the red dot on the c-detector winked out.

“Unit four, this is Sec-1, what’s your status?”

Unit four’s leader responded after a few moments. “Sec-1, we have captured one of the intruders, the other one ran off. Roe and Rehman are in pursuit.”

“Copy that, unit four ”

Nugent switched to a different channel. “Mobile team, immediate scramble. We have a contact heading south.”

“Mobile team, acknowledged,” came the crisp reply.

Mercury and Othello were caught as flat-footed as Prada and Harold had been – only they didn’t have a handy monkey-shaped distraction, so ended up being matched ignominiously into the Infinity Recycling building by the unsmiling guards of Unit three.

As soon as he saw that Harold had got clear, Teatime leapt away from the flailing arms of the stupid human guards and set off in the same general direction as the demon. He had no hope of catching him, of course, but one direction was as good as another under the circumstances. Unlike Harold, however, Teatime had no qualms whatsoever about leaving Prada to her fate. So far as he was concerned, she could take care of herself and the guards’ weapons were clearly meant to intimidate rather than injure or kill since they had not tried to use them. Besides which, any humans struggling with her were humans who were not chasing him.

Somewhere far behind him, Harold heard an engine cough into life. This was not good: he could not possibly outrun a motor vehicle, and what if it was equipped like the one at the safe house that had managed to freeze him? He had to get away from the road and hope the vehicle was not set up to travel over rough terrain – not that there was much of that in this over-landscaped and asphalt-covered place.

The sound of the engine was growing louder now. It was a hungry, angry sound to Harold’s ears.

He veered off the main road and headed for a gap between Eaton-Brewer Inc and Knight Securities, a narrow service road of some kind. He hoped that the Infinity Recycling vehicle would carry on along the main route and that his short-cut would get him clear of the business park. If he could get to some roadless ground…

The buildings were two lightless boxes looming up on either side as he ran between them, his footfalls echoing madly off the walls. Behind him, he heard the vehicle shift down and slow – it was turning too! Harold was sure that the driver could not have actually seen him; the road was curved and he would have been far enough around to be out of sight, he was sure. Either the driver had got very lucky in his guesses or he had some means of tracking him. Now that would be really bad news. It made sense though: he and Prada had been very careful to stay a good distance from the cameras and lighting at Infinity Recycling and yet they had still been discovered. So, unless Mercury or Othello had blundered – and he could not believe they would have – it must have been his own presence that had alerted the strange silver-suited guards. It would appear they had some sort of demon-detection technology.

Project Dynamo had been perfected after all.

The service road emerged onto another road, running parallel to the original one. Harold ran straight across it, looking left and right in desperation, hoping for any kind of narrow gap that would prevent the vehicle from following. Nothing obvious presented itself and he could feel panic rising as the sound of the vehicle changed: it was now between the buildings and would emerge at any moment.

He took another service road. This one curved around the back of a building into a loading yard of some sort.

Dead end!

A high fence surrounded the yard. Harold glanced around wildly. He could hear the vehicle’s wheels bump up over a drainage grating that had marked the entrance to the service road. He could not be caught here!

Then he spied it – a dumpster hunkered down in the corner of the yard. He sprinted over to it, leapt up onto it, his feet clanging noisily on the metal of its lid, and bounced-jumped for the top of the fence.

His hands closed around the topmost horizontal bar and he began to heave himself up, ready to swing over the top.

The world was suddenly filled with light as the vehicle roared into the yard and screeched to a stop. Immediately, a strange whining sound filled the air and Harold’s vision swam crazily.

The freezing machine!

More terrified than he had ever been in his long life, he hurled himself over the top of the fence, not bothering to engineer a clever landing – he was a demon after all, and it was not like he would break an ankle.

He hit the dirt on the other side of the fence hard, rolled and staggered to his feet. His limbs felt unaccountably sluggish and heavy. He felt – what was the words the humans used, tired! His head was full of cotton wool. He lurched forward a step or two, the world tilting and listing crazily, then he took another few. A few yards behind him and a million miles away, the engine of the vehicle was idling now and he could hear shouts. They sounded angry. That was a good thing. He stumbled forward a few more drunken steps and suddenly started to feel more normal. Maybe the machine wasn’t fully switched on yet, maybe it had to warm up or something.

A balloon of hope and excitement suddenly inflated inside him and he pushed himself onward into the darkness, feeling better with every step.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Episode 79

Moon put down the phone and jumped out of bed. A mixture of excitement and puzzlement was building inside him. The c-detectors at Infinity had never so much as twitched before now, except when rigged for staff training exercises. Nugent had said the reading was low - a mere 3.5, but it was stable and seemed to be moving purposefully and systematically around the outside of the site.

Moon tugged on his trousers and hurriedly fished his shirt and jacket off the floor. One shoe was playing hard-to-get under the bed and he had practically to lie down full-length to retrieve it.

There could really only be one explanation for the blip. Somehow, Mercury and his team, plus their pet demon by the looks of things, had figured out where the facility was! Keys, phone, phone, phone! Where the hell was his phone? Oh, there it was on the bedside table. How on earth had they managed to find out where the facility was? Flowers's interrogation of Box had revealed that they knew nothing worth knowing. The facility wasn't even officially listed as belonging to Infinity Recycling - only some serious digging would have revealed the connection. Someone obviously had been digging, though, probably Othello, he would have been the only one smart enough. Flinging on his jacket, Moon headed for the door.

The quiet of the night was broken by the sound of an approaching vehicle.

"Quick, get down behind here," Prada whispered, tugging Harold's arm. They both crouched down behind Adept Engineering's conveniently placed and neatly clipped box hedge. Teatime hopped off Harold's shoulder and moved toward the hedge with a view to climbing up it.

"How exciting is this?" whispered Harold excitedly.

"Don't get too enthusiastic," she whispered back, "we're just keeping a low profile is all, just a precaution. After all, it's unlikely anybody would look twice at us anyway, but still..."

Teatime peered over the top of the hedge as the vehicle passed by. After a moment, he clambered down to ground level.

"False alarm, chaps," he said, "It was just a delivery van or some such."

Nugent repositioned the CCTV cameras to point to the area corresponding to the dot on the c-detector. Annoyingly, the area lay just beyond the reach of the perimeter lighting, so he brought the thermal camera to bear on the same spot. Aha! Two crouching figures could be made out, along with a third much smaller one on the ground next to them. Nugent spoke into his headset microphone.

"Units one, two and three, search your sectors, we have a positive in sector 4 and there may be others."

"Unit four. You have two targets and possibly a small animal of some kind on your front porch."

"Unit four, copy." came the crisp reply.

It was as if the guards appeared out of nowhere. Prada and Harold scrambled to their feet as the six men appeared suddenly to shimmer into existence around them. They were all dressed from head-to-toe in a snug-fitting uniform of some strange-looking material. It resembled more than anything the sort of shiny nylon silver suits actors wore in old sci-fi B movies that were meant to show that in the far, far future mankind may have had jet-packs and food pills, but absolutely no sense of style. The guards' heads were covered in a ski-mask like affair of the same stuff and round their waists they had broad pouched belts, a-la Batman, and some kind of oblong backpacks on their backs. Science Fiction props their costumes might have been, but the weapons they were now drawing looked perfectly realistic.

One of the men, a leader of some sort presumably, whipped off his ski mask. Underneath, he was revealed to be a pleasant-looking, blond man in his late twenties.

"Sir? Ma-am?" he began, "I have to inform you you're trespassing on private property and I'm gonna have to ask you to come with us please"

Harold and Prada glanced at each other, neither sure exactly what to do. Of course, the guards might just want to ask them a few questions and then let them go on their way, in which case, there would be no harm in going with them. On the other hand, if the guards were part of the shadowy organisation responsible for the disappearance of the angels and demons and possibly the murder of Agent Emerald as well, it would be very foolish to go with them right now.

Suddenly, one of the guards grabbed at his head as a quick, agile shape landed upon it and began tearing at the ski mask covering the man's face.

"Run!" screeched Teatime in Infernal and leapt off the man's head just as one of his colleagues took a swipe at him.

Harold vaulted the low hedge and ran.