23: Short Trips (part 4)

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23.7 No Search Results

Alternate One: 20 May 2128

"He can't be nowhere! It's impossible!"

Mila said nothing, but concentrated on holding her part of the pyramid together.

"Alec," came Charles Moore's quietly spoken voice. "Mila is doing her best. I am getting no positive responses from any of the links."

"None here, either," Krista confirmed.

Garter fumed, "We need to try again."

"No," Mila said, her voice sharp, cutting through all the connections. "He is beyond all of us. Even combined we are no longer capable of challenging what he has tapped into."

"Nonsense, girl."

"No," Mila stated again. She stared directly into Alec Garter's eyes and, though she failed to outwardly acknowledge it, felt a surge of pleasure as he momentarily cowered under her gaze. "You are wrong, Alec Garter. You didn't experience how he tore into my inner essence to take what he needed. Look into me. I will relay to you all that transpired. And yet, although he could have torn my life from me, that's not what he did."

She felt Garter shrink back at first, and then he explored and marvelled at her openness, at how she could admit to her failure and not be ashamed of it. Mila took herself back to the moment Rick had mentally trampled over her. There had been no subtlety in Rick's actions – he was like a child with a new toy. Garter saw how Mila had momentarily resisted, then realised the futility of such an action in the face of such raw power, and then she had let him in willingly, suppressing nothing.

Rick had been a fast learner.


23.8 Headology

Hyde Park: 20 May 2128

"Oh no," Rick said, seeing the state of Hyde Park. Like 'two' the earthquake had been more powerful here. What had been Phil's house was now cracked and partially crumbled into ruin. The window from out of which he had stared hardly more than two weeks previously no longer held glass. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

He probed the area for any resident NewGen. He found them and hopped in.

In a room that was far from how he remembered it, Jade, tears streaming down her face, washed blood from her sister's face. The light entering the room through the dusty, broken windows reminded Rick of another time, years ago. Back then he had also thought he'd seen Jasmine's face smeared with blood. This time it was real and her life signs were fading rapidly.

"Jade. Let me," Rick said.

"Hell! Oh Rick, you startled me. Where did you come from?"

Footsteps from outside the room were followed by Holls rushing in.

"What's going... Dango, Rick, you're back! Where have you been? Where's Ellie and Phil?"

"Quiet," Rick said calmly. His hands, encircling Jasmine's skull, located where something had crushed the bone above her left ear. Underneath the injury, her brain was becoming compressed as the swelling increased. Unless he did something immediately, she would be permanently damaged, if she wasn't already. Inside her head he could detect her consciousness. Part of her was fully awake but the swelling was preventing her from reacting physically in any way. Her body was completely limp.

"She's going to die, isn't she?" Jade cried. "Wait – what are you doing?"

He focussed on the injury and saw how it was, how it had been and how it could be. And, just like the fingers on his hand and the cross wiring in his brain, he put it right.

A few seconds later Jasmine gasped and her eyes flicked open. Jade whimpered in relief.

"That was just impossible," Jasmine said. "I felt you inside my head."

With Jade's assistance she sat up and felt her skull. "I remember the whole place shaking and..."

"Stop," Rick interrupted. "It's on its way again. Right, we all need to get out of here, straight away. Sorry, there's no time to do it the normal way."

There was another popping sound followed by both Jade and Holls screaming. They were no longer surrounded by the twin's wrecked house but several hundred yards away out in the open. Apart from Rick, they stared in amazement finding themselves on one of the few remaining grass-covered areas of Hyde Park.

"How did we get here?" Jasmine said.

"Even if I could explain, you wouldn't understand," Rick said. "Hell, I don't even understand it myself."

"What do you mean?" Jade said.

Rick waved the question away with his hand. "You'll be relatively safe here for a while," he said, but even as the words left his mouth, he knew they were probably lies. "Look, don't go back inside any large buildings for several days – it's probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better."

"You did this? How?" Holls said, incredulously. "What's happened to you?"

Rick grinned, and then regretted it as Holls and Jade backed away, scared.

"Whatever it is," Jasmine said, "I'm not complaining. I was as good as dead, wasn't I?"

Rick nodded.

"Okay," he said, "hold tight. Here it comes..."

The ground shook once more and the three girls huddled together. The quaking diminished after twelve seconds and finally relented after seven more.

"At least it was shorter than the first one," Rick said. "Right, I need to be elsewhere. There's someone, or maybe I should say something, else I need to investigate."

"Don't go," Jasmine pleaded.

Rick shrugged. "Sorry, got to. Things to figure out. But, before I go, one more thing. Holls?"

"Yes?"

"I saw Matty a few days ago. He's in Cambridge."

She gasped, unbelieving.

And then he was gone.


23.9 The Promise of a Fix

The Tree: 20 May 2128

Garter sat down on the floor, holding his head in one hand. Mila, Krista and Charles stood in a circle around him.

"Suggestions?" he said, quietly. The other three looked at each other.

"Sorry," Krista said. "I have none."

"I suspect Mila was right. He's probably left," Moore said. "Maybe he could see how futile it all was and escaped to survive it in his own manner."

"No," Mila spat. "That I can't believe. When he took all I knew he was still hungry for more. It wasn't just my mind he raided, all the adepts in the tree were hit simultaneously. In a space of a couple of seconds, he learned all that we've ever known."

"How is that even possible?" Garter asked. Mila looked down at his almost hair-free cranium. In a way, she pitied him.

She said, "Earlier on I had watched remotely as he fixed the damage to his hand and the cross-wiring in his own head. Maybe it was just as easy to forge new memories in there as well, even if those memories were stolen. I also saw how he could observe the other worlds without effort, even before he had fixed the hand. And that wasn't all."

"Go on," said Krista.

"Before he left he said he was going to try to fix it," she said.

"But how?" Garter said.

Mila shook her head. She had as much idea about that as Garter.


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