Sunday, 24 November 2013


<< < Chapter Four > >>

Anise wandered back and forth beside the centre console, pacing nervously as the Duke leant down over the couch, inspecting the Inspector.
  "It looks to be radiation sickness," says the Duke, placing his hands on the policeman's chest. "Ultraviolet, electromagnetic . . ."
  "Can you help him?" asks Anise, concerned.
  "Of course. Radiation is a simple plaything," says the Duke, gripping into Edison's jacket with each hand, "I just hope it hasn't done too much damage . . ."
Clenching his eyes shut, the Duke starts to groan and tense his muscles.
"Come on, come on!" he barks, gritting his teeth.
  "What's going on?" asks Anise.
  "I've just got . . . to extract . . ." Suddenly the Duke jumps back. "Ah-Ha!"
The Duke holds two clenched fists towards the ceiling then, as he opened his fingers, the skin on his hands began to glow a brilliant yellow, filling the console room with magnificent sunlight. Then, after his skin had faded to black and the room dulls, he begins flicking his hands in the air and blowing on them to cool them down.
  "What the hell just happened?" asks Anise.
  "I absorbed most of the radiation from his body," says the Duke, panting slightly, "then expelled it as visible light and thermal energy."
  "Right . . ." mutters Anise, "Y'know, I keep forgettin' that you're an alien."
  "Honestly?" inquires the Duke, wiping his hands on his jacket, "even while you're standing within the Console Room of my spaceship?"
  "I guess so," says Anise with a shrug. The Duke smiles.
  "Now, he should recover momentarily. Although, due to his exposure to such heat, I must assume he's dehydrated . . ." says the Duke, heading for the elevator. The doors open automatically, so he steps inside and turns to face Anise. "Watch over him, I'll return promptly."
The doors close and Anise watches the man lying on the couch. She's was a little wary of cops, since they often ruined the fun of a night out, but she respected what they did for those in trouble and felt obliged to treat him in kind. She steps over and crouches beside him, taking the peaked cap off his head and placing a hand on his shoulder.
  "It's gonna be alright. We'll take care of you, now," she whispers.
Officer Edison rouses from his state with a slow, deep breath and starts to sit up on the couch, leaning his back against the armrest.
  "Hey, slow down. You're recoverin' from radiation, that's gotta be serious."
  "Who are you?" asks the officer, frowning and peering at her through half-closed eyes.
  "My name's Anise. I'm Duke's . . . guide."
  "Anise," says Edison, grabbing her arm, "This place is incredibly dangerous."
  "It's alright, now. Duke will take care of you."
  "The Duke? How do I know that I can trust him? How do you?"
  "Because I . . ." she stops herself and changes her answer, "because he saved the world."
The elevator door opens again, and the Duke steps out; in one hand he held a small, clear plastic bag filled with water, in the other a shiny metal goblet decorated with blue stones. The Duke wrings out the plastic sachet into the cup as he steps over.
  "You must be parched. Here," he says, passing the goblet down to Chester, who takes it and looks at the contents.
  "It's merely water," says the Duke. "Drink it all, I don't like having water within the console room, these instruments can be sensitive."
Edison glances at him suspiciously, before quickly draining the cup.
  "Thanks," says the officer, handing back the goblet.
  "Right. Now, can you tell me how you got aboard my ship?"
  "I got here after I walked into the elevator, on the Bishopsgate construction site? Don't you remember me? I talked to you."
  "Remember you? That was a very long time ago, Inspector," says the Duke. "How did you find your way here?"
  "Someone lead me here, on the radio. Some recorded voice told me to find the 'hearth', then it told me to find you."
  "The hearth?" mutters the Duke, then he turns and heads over to the console. "I think I've heard just about enough of this."
  "What is it, Duke?" asks Anise, as the Duke adjusts the controls, spinning dials and arranging vectors on a panel.
  "We're taking the Inspector back to Earth, right away."
  "Hey, now, wait a minute!" calls the Inspector from the couch, "I want a few answers myself!"
  "He's still healing, Duke," says Anise, "You want to get rid of him?"
  "I won't have stowaways on my ship . . ." growls the Duke, yanking the ignition lever.
The centre column shifts and turns with a heavy grinding noise. The entire ship quakes and wavers, rumbling and whirring as it travels. Edison held tight to the velvet couch in panic, but Anise just leaned casually against the wall, familiar with the timeship's fluctuations. With a clunk and a thud, the Duke replaced the lever and the ship came to a shuddering halt.
The Duke adjusts the controls and, with a ding, both the console room door and the exterior elevator door open, allowing a chilly gust to whistle through the place. The Duke walks back to the couch and looms over Officer Edison.
  "Now, get off my ship."
  "Who do you think you are? Giving orders to a policeman?"
The Duke grabs Edison by the lapels of his high-visibility jacket and lifts him off the couch.
  "I'm the Duke of Rathea," dictates the Duke. Dropping Edison onto his feet, he shoves him towards the door.
  "Duke, stop it!" yells Anise, "Why are you doing this? He's done nothing wrong!"
  "You don't understand," the Duke grumbles,  not turning to face her as he pushes Edison into the lift lobby, "he has to go."
The two men enter the ship's elevator lobby and Edison was about to step out into the blustering snowstorm outside when he turns back to the Duke.
  "You're sending me out into a snowstorm?"
  "If it weren't for her, I'd do much worse," the Duke mutters so that Anise couldn't hear. Edison turns again, and lifts his foot to step outside when alarm bells start to ring.
  "Oh no, not again . . ." says Edison at the echoes of the alien klaxon.
  "The Cloister alarm?" Duke says to himself, stunned. Ignoring the policeman, Duke heads back towards the console and reads the screen. The alarm wasn't terribly loud, but it was very persistent.
  "What's that sound?" asks Anise, moving to stand beside the Duke.
  "The Cloister Bell. It means 'danger', Anise. Terrible danger." The Duke moves around and looks at one of the other screens. Anise couldn't understand the twisting circles and symbols on the screen, but they made the Duke frown. "there's an extra-terrestrial technology signature, very close to our position."
  "How close?" asks Anise.
  "Seventy-three metres," says the Duke, "but there are also two terrestrial life-signs. Bipedal, probably human, in a complex less than thirty metres away."
  "Do you mean the observatory?" calls Edison, from the doorway. Anise and the Duke turn to see him pointing off into the distance.
  "If there's an observatory over there, then yes," says the Duke, curtly, before he turns back to Anise. "We'd best see to that first, to make sure they're not in danger and guarantee that we're not stepping on anyone's toes again."
  "Uh, Duke? Speaking of toes . . ." says Anise. grabbing his arm. The Duke looks down to see Anise's bare, olive-skin feet.
  "Oh . . . we can't have that. I'll get you some footwear, one moment."
Anise follows Duke into the elevator lobby, where he closes the console room door behind them and the elevator 'moves', shifting and rumbling while the outside door remained still, the alarm still blaring in the background. 'Wardrobe', says the computer once the elevator stops and it opens the doors to reveal the grand, multi-storey, walk-in wardrobe, but the Duke's eye was drawn to a sword lying on the floor.
  "You can go in and find some appropriate shoes," says the Duke, leaning down to pick up the sword, "don't take too long . . ."
With a huge grin, Anise gleefully runs inside to find shoes.
  "Sorry, that was me," says Officer Edison, quietly, pointing at the sword. "I pried the doors open with it."
  "I will deal with you once this danger has been abated," says the Duke with a sigh.
  "Hey, I didn't mean to stow away on your  . . . ship thing," says Edison, frowning at the exterior of the ship, which was currently an angular silver box, designed like a windowless, outdoor elevator. "If anything, it kidnapped me!"
The Duke jabs the sword in Edison's direction, not as a threat but to keep the officer at a distance.
  "I don't care if it chewed you up and spat you out," growls the Duke, looking serious, "at the end of the day, you're a man that walked through an infinity and came out the other side. That makes me very uncomfortable . . ."
  "How do I look?" says Anise, making the Duke lower his sword as they both turn to face her. She was wearing a small pair of ankle-high pink, sheepskin ugg boots.
  "The pink and the blue clash a bit . . . " mutters Edison.
  "You look perfect," says the Duke, leaning the sword against the wall just inside the door. "Come here."
Anise walks over to stand by the Duke, then he closes it with the hidden panel.
  "I'll be back for you later . . ." Anise whispers to the closed Wardrobe door as the elevator lobby "moves" again.
  "Right, let's go," says the Duke as they step out of the ship to join Edison. "You, you're coming with me."
  "Why?" asks Edison.
  "I don't want you loitering anywhere near my timeship . . . and, this is obviously a dangerous situation. There's safety in numbers."
It was windy and the snow was making visibility an issue. But through breaks in the curtains of snow, some buildings could be seen in the distance so the three of them start heading across the uneven ground towards the observatory.

  "Geez, it's c-cold . . ." whines Anise, crossing her arms, as they neared the buildings, snow getting caught in her hair, "where are we, the North Pole?"
  "Hawaii," says Edison, pointing to a car a few metres away that was covered in snow, "I can see a rainbow on that license plate and only Hawaii does that, as far as I know. We must be on top of a volcano."
  "And how d-do you know th-that?" asks Anise, shivering.
  "That's the only place that it snows in Hawaii," says Edison. Anise nods, folding her arms tighter, her lip quivering from the cold.
  "You're so cold, Anise. Why didn't you get a jacket from the Wardrobe?" asks the Duke.
  "It t-took me long enough to f-find the sh-sh-shoes . . ." she stutters, sheepishly. The Duke shakes his head with a slight smirk and removes the leather coat from his shoulders, revealing a tight, black, short-sleeve shirt that hugged the contours of his toned arms and chest. He wraps the leather coat around Anise, which hung down to her ankles due to its length.
Without the leather jacket on, Anise got a good look at the Duke's body. He wore grey and black herringbone, straight-leg, wool trousers. On his feet he wore what looked like a pair of dusty, leather desert boots, but they had thick soles; were threaded with metal wire; had tarnished metal caps around the heel and the toe & had a pattern of metal studs around the edge. But she mostly noticed his arms. He wasn't ripped, but there was obvious strength in those arms.
  "I feel warmer already," says Anise, "Thanks, Duke."
They walked amidst the buildings of the observatory, past parked cars and headed towards the largest building of the lot. In the distance were some short, domed buildings that looked like they housed space telescopes. The Duke had intended to head inside the largest building, but there were already two men in winter coats standing outside chatting, so the Duke approaches them,
  "Excuse me, gentlemen," says the Duke, approaching the men, "I'm the Duke and I need your help."
  "What are you doing up here?" asks the shorter, Asian gentleman, genuinely surprised.
  "I need to know what is going on here," says the Duke.
  "Uh . . . climate change monitoring," says the other man, a tall, skinny man with thick glasses and a ginger neckbeard, "why?"
  "There's some form of dangerous, extraterrestrial technology, approximately ninety metres that way," says the Duke, pointing back to where he and his companions had come from. "I need to know what it is."
  "Uh, there's nothing over there," says the neckbearded man.
  "Well, there's a crappy old storage facility," corrects the Asian man, "but it's empty. It's all made of asbestos, no one goes in there."
  "Does anyone know what the building contains?" asks the Duke.
  "I'm pretty sure it's empty. They probably would have it demolished but it would be expensive to dispose of the material."
  "Wait a minute," interrupts Neckbeard, "uh, did you say extraterrestrial. As in alien?"
  "Yes," says the Duke, "How do we get inside the building?"
  "It's locked up," says the Asian man, "we don't have a key."
  "Alright then. I'll need you two to vacate the area, this could get dangerous," says the Duke, turning to his companions. "We need to head back to the ship, then over to the storage facility."
  "Back to the ship?" says Edison, "What for?"
  "Because I think I might need my tools . . ." says the Duke. He walks past the partygirl and the policeman, heading for the Elevator and the two of the quickly turn and follow suit.
  "Uh-hey, Wait!" calls out the neckbearded scientist from as he and his associate hurry after the trio. They manage to catch up quickly.
  "Who are you people?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "We're travellers," says the Duke, "we're here to help."
  "Well it's, uh, kinda obvious you're British, but what are you doing here?" says neckbeard scientist.
  "Not all of us are British . . ." mutters Anise.
  "We're passing through," says the Duke.
  "What's this 'alien' technology?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "I can't be certain until I see it for myself," says the Duke, "it could be almost anything."
  "Uh, then how do you know it's alien?" says Neckbeard scientist.
  "My sensors detected a number of metal alloys that your society won't have the ability to replicate for another three hundred years," says the Duke.
  "How could you . . . uh . . ." the neckbearded scientist falls silent as they near the sound of the Cloister Bell, then he and his associate stare at the silver box as the Duke heads inside.
  "What the hell is that thing?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "It's trouble, that's what it is," says Edison.
  "It's Duke's ship," explains Anise. "the Lift."
  "What's your name?" Officer Edison asks the neckbearded scientist.
  "Oh, uh, I'm Professor Neville Saunders," replies Neckbeard.
  "Steven Hajikoma," offers the Asian scientist absent-mindedly, still staring at the Elevator. After a while, the Duke locks the ship behind him and steps out of the ship carrying a small metal box in his hand, about the size of a bread bin with a small handle and a retractable lid. He sees the scientists and he stops for a moment.
  "What are you two still doing here?" asks the Duke.
  "You're, some kind of street magician?" says Steve.
  "No, he's, uh . . . an alien," says Neville, "this must be some kind of . . . teleporter."
  "I remember explicitly cautioning you gentlemen to evacuate to a safe distance," says the Duke.
  "'Explicitly' is pushing it . . ." mutters Edison.
  "Silence, Inspector," warns the Duke.
  "I also remember you saying to me that there was safety in numbers. Shouldn't we all stick together?"
The Duke glares at the policeman for a moment before turning back to the awestruck scientists.
  "Gentlemen, if you want to stay safe, stick close to me," says the Duke, stepping forward and snapping the scientists out of their bewilderment. "There's work to be done, and I can't guarantee your survival, but if you're coming with us: do as I say; expect the unexpected and don't touch anything!"
Both of the men nod.
  "Yes sir," says Steve. The Duke steps past him and heads around the ship towards the great whiteness beyond. The other four head after him, following the Duke to the abandoned storage facility.

Seventy-three metres was a long way to walk in a snowstorm, and by the time the five of them reached the storage facility, they were all coated in their own
layer of snow, sprinkled over them like white pepper. Despite the cold and the loss of his jacket, the Duke seemed unaffected by the cold, and when he stood before the green, metal door, he tried the door once before  he kneeled on the ground in front of the squat, one-storey building and placed the metal box he'd been carrying in the snow before him. The wind blew over the facility at an angle, so the four humans stood close to the door to avoid the wind and snow as the Duke fiddled with his equipment.
  "What is that thing?" asks Anise.
  "This is a toolbox, Anise," says the Duke, opening the little roller door and fiddling with the loose equipment inside. "I've got all the necessary equipment for dealing with rogue technology. Chronometer, spare battery cells, electron crank, plasma hammer . . . where's my screwdriver? Ah, yes!"
The Duke jumps to his feet holding what looked like a butter knife with a bulky, metal handle.
  "And a tremor saw," says the Duke, clicking a button on the handle and the little tool starts making a whining noise. The Duke turns to the door and presses the thin, blade-like end to the metal. Instantly, the whining noise turns to a buzzing and sparks start flying as the knife cuts through the metal. The tremor saw cuts like a hot knife through butter, except with more flying, orange sparks; in just moments, with four cuts in the door, the duke creates a large rectangle in the metal. The edges of the metal rectangle were still glowing hot when the Duke gave it a shove, dropping the severed piece inside and creating a new entrance to the facility large enough for the five of them to enter.
For a moment, the five of them said nothing and stared into the blackness beyond the hole in the door, held by curiosity and apprehension as the Duke switched off the blade, picked up the toolbox and replaced the tremor saw inside it.
  "You're really going in there?" asks Steve, sounding scared.
  "Of course," says the Duke, "if you're prepared to help us, then follow. If not, leave. This is the point of no return, so decide now."
Without hesitation, the Duke then steps into the darkness. Anise follows straight after him and enters a dark room that smelled stale and musty. Officer Edison follows right after them.
  "You know, in my line of work this is called 'breaking and entering'," says Edison, as the two scientists step through the hole behind him.
  "In my line of work, this is called 'saving the world'," says the Duke, "if you take issue with that, I'm not interested. But if you want to assist, then find me the light in this place."
Edison steps up to the Duke, takes the flashlight from his belt and turns it on. The Duke looks mildly impressed as Edison shines the flashlight over around the walls, moving the circle of light slowly so they could see everything. The walls were a drab white, the carpet an industrial grey-brown and the whole place was cold and dusty. There was a reception desk to the side, with some kind of dusty logo on the front panel and dead, rotten plants sitting in forgotten pots. Behind a glass door, there were stairs heading down. With Edison and the Duke leading the way, side by side, the group heads down into the dark.
  "This isn't a storage facility," says Steve. "If they wanted to store equipment in here, they wouldn't carry it down the stairs."
  "Then what is it?" asks Anise.
  "I dunno. This place has been around since the sixties, it could be anything."
  "It could be, uh . . . some kind of military base," says Neville
  "Why would the military build a base near an observatory?" scoffs Edison.
  "They could have been observing space for aliens?" suggests Anise.
  "Uh, this isn't that kind of observatory," says Neville, patronisingly, "but the military built the roads that lead here, after Pearl Harbor. They might have used it as, uh, like an outpost or something."
  "These theories are all very fascinating, but they are ultimately pointless," says the Duke, in a low voice, almost a whisper. "I suggest we all be quiet, stop making wild guesses and instead face the task at hand."
  "We're investigating a strange building," says Edison. "Figuring out its purpose is a part of the task at hand!"
  "That's not investigation, that's assumption," whispers the Duke, even quieter as they step onto the lower landing and head down the hall. "You're assuming that you can even understand this facility; you're assuming the function of the building even matters & your assuming that the enemy we face isn't listening to this conversation . . ."
The group falls silent as they continue down the hallway. They come to a stop as they get to a four-way intersection. Before them, there was a short hallway with an empty cork messageboard on the right wall, a door on the left and a corner turning right. Edison slowly peeks the circle of light around the corner to the left. There's nothing but a closed door down a short hall. They check down the right hallway and see a much longer hallway that leads to another intersection. There are two closed doors, one on either side of the hallway, and a row of filing cabinets along the left wall.
  "Which way do we go?" whispers the Inspector. Before the Duke can answer, something peaks out from behind the filing cabinet. It was small, but the light reflected off its shiny exterior.
  "Is that a rat?" asks Anise, sounding frightened.
  "No . . ." whispers the Duke, slowly taking the laser spanner out of his trouser pocket, not once taking his eyes off the silver critter. Suddenly, the little thing whips out from behind the filing cabinet and moving like a toy car, it turns and heads towards them making a very quiet mechanical chirping sound. The Duke points his spanner towards the thing, but before he could act, Officer Edison pulls his gun.
The silver critter is knocked back about a foot from the force of the shot, and lies on its back emitting white smoking.
  "Ow . . ." mutters Anise, holding her hands over her ears.
  "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" yells the Duke.
  "I stopped it," says Edison, holstering his gun. "Is that what all the fuss was about? A metal mouse?"
  "That's much too small; the ship's sensors picked up something much bigger. I was hoping I could deactivate it with this," says the Duke, holding the prongs of his laser spanner in Edison's face, "to, perhaps, learn something about it."
  "You didn't tell me that! You just said 'expect the unexpected'."
  "I didn't believe that your first reaction to the unexpected would be to fire a weapon at it!"
  "Stop it," says Anise, in a harsh whisper, stepping between them. "Aren't we supposed to be keeping our voices down?"
  "No," says the Duke, "this machine doesn't seem to have any audio equipment, we don't have to be so quiet. Besides, the Inspector here just fired one of the loudest handheld weapons I've ever heard! If anyone or anything was listening, they'd already know: We're RIGHT Here! Come and get us!"
Still cranky, the Duke heads over to the smoking corpse of the little cyber-critter and kneels down. After looking it over for a moment, he picks it up in his hand.
  "What is that thing?" asks Steve, finally speaking up.
  "An insectile, cybernetic automaton with some form of inorganic, motile supercilia for locomotion," says the Duke, standing up to show the others.
  "I dunno what 'super sillier' means, but it looks like a silver prawn," says Anise. The creature was silver and square, with a segmented body, bristles in its underside, small antennae and two crystalline eyes, although one had been shattered by Edison's bullet. The Duke points his laser spanner at it, which emits two little pinpoints of green light as he scans the creature with it.
  "I believe it's . . . dead." says the Duke, raising an eyebrow.
  "Look, I'm sorry I killed the cyber-rat," says Edison.
  "You did what you had to," mutters the Duke, "but don't worry, not all is lost. It's still functional."
  "I thought you said it was dead," says Anise.
  "It is dead. It has an organic component that is now deceased, thanks to the inspector. But the electronics, circuits & most of the mechanisms are fine."
  "Uh, are you saying that little caterpillar is a cyborg?" asks Neville.
  "It was, now it's nothing more than meat in a silver shell," says the Duke. He fiddles with his laser spanner and points it at the little creature's remaining eye, then the spanner gives off a blue spark. Suddenly, the little robot starts wiggling and making a soft, regular beeping sound, that sounded worn out, broken and sad. The Duke places it on the ground, and it begins to slowly wriggle down the hallway.
  "What did you do?" asks Edison.
  "I set it to 'Retreat'," says the Duke. "it's dead, but it can still move, follow commands and use its basic programming. It just has no intelligence."
  "Like a little zombie . . ." says Anise, watching the robot wiggle along.
  "Yes, and this little 'zombie' is going to take us back to where it came from, so be on your guard," says the Duke putting the spanner back in his pocket, then he stops and turns to Edison. "Try not to shoot anything."
Edison shines his light on the little silver bug so they don't lose sight of it as it slowly leads the way down the hall. With the Duke and the inspector in front, Anise in the middle and the professors taking the rear, they followed behind the robot as a group, just a few metres behind it. It turned left through the intersection, crosses an open doorway; then they take a right turn, go down the hall and enter what looks like a break room, with a kitchenette and lockers; then down another hall, with closets along the side. Finally, they stand before a blue door with a cloudy window which was sitting ajar. The robot creature meanders around through the gap and disappears from sight when the group stops.
  "This must be it," whispers the Duke. Taking the laser spanner out of his pocket again, he reads the sign above the door, "Computer Lab Three."
  "Who goes first?" asks Edison.
  "Light the way, Inspector," says the Duke, taking a step back. Putting a hand to his holster, without removing the gun, Edison steps forward and pushes the door open with his foot.
The first thing they see is the dead, little, robot critter resting in the middle of the floor, motionless. Edison shines his torch around the room. There were two rows of tables, one either side, each with three old computers, six in total - with CRT monitors, keyboards and all - set up and all connected with a mess of wires under the desk. There were no chairs at the desk, instead there was a single study chair in the room, a cruddy, brown, flimsy chair, which was facing the door, and wrapped with more wires. It looked a little odd, but the room looked very ordinary, until Edison shone the light on the ceiling.
  "Oh my god . . ." utters Steve. The ceiling was covered with wires. Amongst the mess, motherboards, strange machinery and shards of silver metal were woven into the wiring. There were also strange pieces of equipment hanging from the weave: What looked like a metal boot; broken pieces of plastic, some kind of lantern; segments of a broken, little cyber-critter &, just above the study chair, what looked like some kind of helmet. The helmet looked like a cylinder with a two circles cut out where the eyes should be and a trapezoidal shape cut out from the bottom part of the helmet where the mouth might be. On both sides of the head two metal plates with stepped edges were clamped to the cheeks and on each plate, two black pipes, like handles, were attached and connected to a peak at the top of the helmet, where a small hole was cut into the metal.
  "What is all of this?" asks Edison.
  "I don't know," says the Duke, moving towards the study chair, "whatever this is, it's incomplete."
  "Uh, where's the rest of the chairs?" asks Neville, stepping into the room. Steve and Anise waited just inside the door.
  "It's probably part of the ceiling, now" says Edison, shining his light over the tangled wires, "I wonder what's sticking it to the ceiling . . ."
The Duke inspects the chair, in the darkness, then turns around.
  "This all seems relatively harmless," says the Duke, "It appears to be some kind of network; however, it's using simple Earth technology. It doubt it has the capacity to hurt anyone."
  "What's that?" asks Officer Edison, pointing to the ceiling where he was shining his flashlight. The Duke looks up, but as he does something wriggles out from the wires and drops from the ceiling onto his shoulder. It was another small, cyborg critter. The Duke swats it away with his spanner hand and it lands on its back, wiggling its bristle-like legs impotently. But then, three more critters drop onto the floor. The closest one leaps onto the Duke's leg. Edison pulls his gun.
  "Don't shoot Duke!" Anise screams. The toolbox clatters to the ground as the Duke drops it to grab at the cyber-critters, but two more jump onto him. He puts his spanner in his pocket and swats the creatures away with both hands when he gasps in pain. One of the critters on his chest bites into his skin. The Duke falls back into the study chair from the pain.
As soon as he does, all six computer monitors light up with green code. Then, all of the wires holding the strange helmet aloft suddenly extend and the helmet drops directly onto the Duke's head. The Duke grabs at it with both hands, until he eyes of the helmet glow a pale blue and the Duke falls limp. Edison shines the torch on him.
  "Duke . . . Duke?!" screams Anise. But the Duke doesn't respond, he slouches in the chair, with two cyber-critters biting into his chest and shoulder and the strange helmet on his head, the others could only see his mouth because of the the trapezoid-shaped cut on the bottom edge of the helmet.
More cables siphon down from the ceiling around the Duke, with some strange equipment attached to it. Suddenly the Duke sits upright and grabs one of the items, which looked unmistakeably like a laser pistol.
  "Look out!" screams Edison. He holds his gun at the ready, pointing at the Duke, but he doesn't fire; it was still the Duke, after all. The Duke fires a beam of light from his pistol, and it hits Neville Saunders in the head. Forehead smoking, Neville falls face first onto the ground. Anise screams, but Steve grabs her and pulls her outside as the Duke fires again. It fires down the hallway, hitting no one. Edison was about to run, when he sees the toolbox on the ground. He grabs the toolbox and runs with his head ducked low. The Duke fires at him and hits his left shoulder, which emits smoke as he runs out the door and out of the line of fire. Steve was holding Anise as she knelt on the floor, looking terrified.
  "He shot you!" she screams, "the Duke shot you!"
Edison brushes his shoulder, flinching slightly when he touches the smoking material of his jacket.
  "My stab vest protected me," he says, "calm down. We need to get somewhere safe."
  "He shot Neville right in the face," says Steve, shocked.
  "No, Duke wouldn't kill anyone," says Anise. "Those things did something to him, but I don't know how . . . What the hell is going on?!"
  "I have no idea . . ." says Edison. He helps Steve lift Anise to her feet and they head into one of the computer labs.

Inside his own mind, the Duke slowly opened his eyes, but he could barely see. He was in a dark place. He was kneeling on the floor, and that spot was lit by a circle of light, coming from somewhere above him. He could see the hard floor beneath him, but with the glaring, white light and the pitch-black darkness he couldn't tell what colour it was. He tried to stand, but before he could move more than an inch, the force that held his arms pulled tight. He was chained to the ground via tethers that bound his wrists.
However, when he turned his head to see his hands, the Duke saw it was not a tether of chain or rope, but of light; orange chains of light and smoke bound his hands, and the other end of these bindings reached out and disappeared within the thick darkness. The Duke struggles for a while against his light-chains, every time they grew taught they started to glow brighter and humm. After a while, he gives up.
  "This is impossible," says the Duke, looking at the chains, "akinetic bindings require a generator and computer system the size of a T.T. Capsule, and that would make more noise than a Marinian creeper. So, unless I'm mistaken - which is blatantly ridiculous - this isn't real."
The Duke stares off into the blackness.
"Did you hear me?" mutters the Duke. "I said this is impossible. I'm not talking to myself, here! This obviously isn't real, but I didn't put myself here, so someone else is in control. I want to speak to whosoever is in control!"
As the echoes of his voice fade, a circle of spotlights silently lit up around him. There were sixteen in total, and each was identical to the one that shone upon the Duke, each ten metres away and spaced equidistant from its neighbour. Within each stood some kind of statue. Each was humanoid and hewn in silver, but they were featureless. Smooth, blank faces with no fingers or toes, like simple, metal mannequins. They were all facing Duke, in the centre of the circle.
Suddenly, flickering out of the nothingness, a face appears before the Duke. It was a metal cylinder with a geometric face of two circles for eyes and a rectangle mouth. Either side of its head, pipes like handles connected to its temples and wires rolled down into the neck of its body. As the body also compiled into existence, the Duke could see it was very odd. It didn't suit the head at all, instead it was a brown duster jacket that was covered in ash, scorched around the edges and smoking slightly. Underneath, there was a vest, wool trousers and a neckerchief, all dusty and burnt, and through the scorched holes in the clothing, he could see a skeleton, also charred, wrapped around what looked like pieces of a burnt ham roast.
  "You aaaare the . . . Du-ke." states the creature in a harsh, buzzing, robotic monotone; it seemed to be having trouble with its pronunciation.
  "Yes, I'm the Duke. What are you?"
  "I AM . . . innnn conTROL." barks the thing, leaning its face closer to the restrained man.
  "Control of what? What is this place?"
  "Vir-tual reeee-ality. An arti-fic-ial consTRUCtion with-in yourrrr mind."
  "But why have you brought me here? Is this a prison?"
  "Yourrrr IMprison-ment was . . . necess-ary, Weeee have . . . ta-ken conTROL of thiiiis brain and yourrrr PHYsi-cal form. Yourrrr brain shall serve as ourrrr . . . Pro-cess-sing uNIT."
  "My brain? This is all within my mind?"
  "Yes. Forrrr . . . an inCALcula-ble duration, weeee have been dis-con-nected frommmm . . . necess-ary memory-eee caPAcity. With yourrrr brain, we shall finally have theeee caPAcity to reeee-new ourrrr POPulace."
  "Never!" screams the Duke. "This is my brain, my mindspace! I won't let you take it."
  "This iiiis no lon-ger yourrrr mind-space. We are innnn conTROL."
  "As long as I can still think for myself, you can't stop me," says the Duke, menacingly. "I'm only going to tell you this once: Get out of my head, before I make you."
  "With your memory-eee caPAcity we even conTROL un-reeee-sponsive neural a-natomy. Our capa-bil-ities are un-PAralleled. We haaaave alREADy be-gun consTRUCtion of ourrrr first sol-diers," says the creature. It takes a step back; as it does, the air around the cylindrical head fills with complicated, orange code and indecipherable geometry. The code archs through the air and enters one of the silver mannequins at the edge of the circle, which then steps out of the light and disappears into the darkness.
"Proba-bil-ity of your esCAPE and reeee-tali-A-tion iiiis . . . NEGligi-ble. This is not yourrrr mind-space now, Du-ke. This is ourrrr CY-ber-space . . ."

Inside Computer Lab One, Anise, Edison & Steve were sitting and waiting. Anise and Edison were watching cyber-critters push against the closed door, as Steve fiddled with the file cabinet in the corner. He grabs a file and puts it on the desk beside a much larger pile of files and looks over it using the light from his smartphone.
  "Look, another I.S.C. file," he says, seeing the letterhead. But he sighs when he opens it and sees rows of blacked-out lines. "This is useless too."
  "There's nothin' in there about robots? Or a helmet?" asks Anice, looking up.
  "No. All I know is a meteorite hit, and they investigated it. I'm guessing these must be censoring the part where they brought it back here and found an alien robot inside."
  "Right, that's not going to help us, so we need to make our own plans," says Edison. "So, let's plan. How do we get the Duke out of that helmet?"
  "We could cut the power," says Anise. "It's the computers, right? That will shut them off."
  "It's no use," says Steve, pressing the power button on the nearest computer without the computer turning on. "There's no power down here. That thing must generate its own, somehow."
  "I was thinking about rushing in and disarming him. That lasergun is the only thing stopping us from getting that helmet off his head."
  "He'll shoot yer!" says Anise slapping him in the arm, "are you daft?"
  "It takes him a moment to aim, and I'm wearing the vest."
  "What if he shoots you in the head?" asks Anise "You're not doing that . . . but what about this thing?"
Anise picks up the toolbox and opens it, looking inside in the light of the torch.
  "We don't know what any of this stuff does," says Edison.
  "What about this?" Anise says, picking up the tremor saw.
  "The blade is less than four inches long, what can you do with that?"
  "Duke said this had everything you need to deal with alien technology. It's got to have something that can help."
  "Yeah, that's why I grabbed it; but I've already looked in there. I don't know what this stuff does, let alone how to use it."
  "Why don't we get out of here?" says Steve. "He's stuck to the ceiling, he's not going anywhere. Let's get out and call the police."
  "I'm not leaving him," says Anise.
  "We'll come back for him, with police."
  "What do you think they're going to do?" asks Edison. "I'm the police, and I don't know what to do. It's like some kind of screwed up hostage situation, where the hostage is also the captor. Then there's all those cyber-rats running around. I wouldn't want to get bitten by one of those things . . ."
  "Then how are we supposed to save Duke?!" screams Anise.
  "I don't know," says Edison. "Maybe we can't . . ."

Inside his own mind, the Duke was straining against his shackles of smoke and light when he drops his arms, breathing heavily. He glances up at his captor. The cyberleader was watching him, silently.
  "What are you looking at?"
  "Yourrrr at-tempts to esCAPE are point-less. Why-yyy do you conTINue to fight?"
  "Because I still can," says the Duke. "I will fight for my life."
  "Weeee do not want to END yourrrr life. Ourrrr on-ly goal is to re-move yourrrr bioLOgi-cal weak-ness-es."
  "I don't want you to remove my 'weaknesses'!"
  "That iiiis an ilLOgi-cal reeee-sponse. You re-ly on yourrrr e-mo-tions to make DEci-sions. We can reeee-move that de-sire, we could perrrr-fect you."
  "My emotions are my life, they make me who I am," says the Duke. "Without fear, I would have died with my people. Without anger, I would never have learned to fight back. Without empathy, I would destroy galaxies, I would be a monster! And without love . . . without love, I would still be alone. Forever lost on an empty world . . ."
  "Yourrrr response is ORganic. AniMAL," says the creature, leaning over the Duke. "With perrrr-fec-tion comes greaTERrrr . . . under-stan-ding. Yourrrr e-mo-tions ma-ke you IRRa-tion-al."
  "Fighting back is not irrational."
  "Yourrrr chains are vir-tual. You can-not brea-k themmmm . . . it iiiis IRRa-tion-al."
  "I know the chains are unbreakable," says the Duke. "This isn't real, your inside my mind; but I'm still inside it as well. That means that some part of me is still under my control; it means that I can fight back. And since this is all in my head, then this is a mental battle. A battle of wits. So I've already won."
  "I AM . . . innnn conTROL!" shrieks the cyberleader.
  "In control of my brain, perhaps, but not my mind!" The Duke pounds the ground with both of his fists, and the shackles around his wrists sizzle out of existence. The Duke stands and steps towards the cyberleader. As he does, the blackness fades away and is replaced by bright marble. "You may have trapped me here, but if that's to be the case, then I've got the advantage. This is my mind. My battleground!"
The Duke marches up and gracefully sits on a marble throne with rich, blue cushioning as it and the dais it was built upon came into existence. All around him, a great tall room with bright, stone walls and a smokey grey and white chequered tile accumulated into existence.
As the Duke stared at the cyberleader with a victorious grin, the wall behind the throne filled with weaponry, regalia & a royal blue tapestry with silver hemming and details as well as a golden symbol of what looked like a stylized sea-creature; something between an octopus and a jellyfish.
  "I am in control," says the Duke, "now, get out of my head . . ."
The cyberleader glances around for a moment, before more code emits from its helmet that fills the air. Around the Duke's throne room, the silver mannequins reappear, each standing in its own spotlight.
  "This iiiis your 'ba-ttle-field'?" it asks.
  "This is mine, my home. I am in control here!"
  "This reeee-ality is a REPre-sen-ta-tion of your PLAnet, from with-in yourrrr T.T. CAPsule," says the cyberleader, "This is NOT conTROL."
  "I am the Duke of Rathea, and this is my home," says the Duke, "You have no power here!" The cyberleader walks over to the elevator doors.
  "You hide with-in this TIMEship, Du-ke. This is yourrrr bioLOgi-cal weak-ness. Look uPON yourrrr ba-ttle-field." With a flicker of code, both of the doors to the throne room open to a burning land. Outside the doors, there was a raging fire, whorls of flame blazed the scorched earth, and the sky was filled with smoke and darkness, there was nothing but fire and smoke.
  "No!" screams the Duke. He stands and makes for the door, but he's suddenly stopped as the orange chains appear around his wrists. They grow tight and the Duke is pulled onto his knees before his throne, staring out at the burning wasteland.
  "You haaaa-ve no POwer here. Yourrrr e-mo-tions be-tray you. They are weak-ness. WithOUT them, yourrrr world would not burrrrn! With perFECtion, you could haaaa-ve save-d them . . . "
With tears in his eyes, the Duke looks upon his burning world and whispers,
  "I'm sorry . . ."

Edison held a strange device in his hand. It looks like half of a bicycle pedal-crank, but it was smaller and the "pedal" part was replaced by a rubber handle. After fiddlign with it for a while, he places it against the monitor and, holding the base, he turns the handle making a steady clicking noise. He does that for a few seconds before giving up and putting it back in the Duke's toolbox.
  "That doesn't seem to work at all . . ." he says, reaching inside the box. He takes out another tool. "this must be the plasma hammer."
  "How do you know that?" asks Anise.
  "Well, it looks a bit like a hammer . . ." says Edison, holding it in the light. Indeed, it looks reminiscent of a claw hammer. The tool had a metal handle about fifteen centimetres long and slightly curved, with the bottom half covered in black, ergonomically molded plastic and a small studded spike on the end. Instead of the 'claw' for removing nails, the hammer had one curved blade with a serrated underside and the face of the hammerhead was replaced with a small, metal cube, five centimetres on each side and bevelled on the edges. "I wonder how it works . . . I would love to try this on one of those little cyber-rats."
  "Wait . . . where did they go?" mutters Anise, looking at the door.
  "What?" asks Edison, looking at her.
  "Those thingies. The cyber-rats. They're gone . . ." says Anise, pointing to the space under the door. "They've been trying to get in ever since we came in here. Where did they go?"
The three of them are silent, where there's a soft sound like a hollow thump above them. Edison puts the plasma hammer back in the toolbox and shines his torch on the ceiling, but can't see anything.
  "Is that them?" he asks, but Anise shushes him. They can hear a soft pitter-patter sound, like soft rain on a tin roof.
  "The air conditioner!" Anise shrieks, pointing, at a grate in the wall "they're in the vents!"
  "Out!" yells Edison. He opens the door, gun in hand and once he sees that the hallway is clear, he ushers the other two out. Anise grabs the toolbox and runs out the door. There's a dull pop as the vent pops off the wall and three critters tumble onto the floor. Edison runs out, slamming the door behind them in time to hear each critter slam into it with a bang.
  "That was close," says Edison.
  "Oh no . . ." says Anise, tearfully. Edison turns to face her, but someone else in the hall catches his eye. It was Neville. At least, it was Neville's body. The hole in his forehead was blackened around the edges. There was a cyber-critter latched to his neck, and along his arms and legs there were pieces of metal. Some pieces were thin and piercing his skin down to the bone, other parts were rigged or bolted on like some kind of armour or metal skin. But his whole body was peppered with metal, and there were even some stray wires sticking out from his skin in places. It was walking towards them, slowly and mechanically, from the end of the hall.
Edison doesn't hesitate, he raises his gun and fires a round in Neville's chest. Anise flinches, but Neville doesn't. The bullet goes straight through his heart, but he continues heading towards them.
  "Oh crap . . ." says Edison, "fall back."
  "But, it's Neville . . ." says Steve.
  "Neville is dead," says Edison, grabbing Anise by the shoulder to get her attention, then the two of them start moving back. "Now, fall back."
  "Neville? Is that really you?" asks Steve. As he does, Neville stops just two feet away. "It's Steve."
'Neville' raises its arms and electricity shoots from its fingertips. Steve convulses on the spot, then collapses backwards his head hitting the ground with a sick, hollow thump.
  "God damn it . . . Fall Back!"

Standing before the Duke, the cyberleader leans down, staring at its prisoner with hollow eyes.
  "Reeee-LIN-quish yourrr mind, Du-ke . . . surrrrr-en-der com-plete conTROL . . . you will beeee perFECtion . . ." speaks the cyberleader.
  "Perfection?" asks the Duke.
  "Yes. We will reeee-move all of yourrrr weak-ness-es. We will perrrr-fect you and . . . con-vert this PLAnet."
  "You don't understand, do you?" asks the Duke, with tear stains on his face. "I will never surrender my mind to you. This is not perfection."
  "No painnnn. No fear. No DEath. It iiiis perFECtion," says the cyberleader.
  "And what will you do with this 'perfection'. What will you do next?"
  "Con-vert this GAla-xy!"
  "And then what?!" screams the Duke. "What if you converted every single, living thing in this galaxy? No pain, fear or death; just cyber-people."
  "We would perFECT the u-ni-VERSE."
  "Then what? What if there were no one else in the entire universe to convert? Let's say you achieve this cyber-utopia . . . what would you do once you achieved it? What happens after perfection?"
  "We . . . weeee would . . . we-" the cyberleader's head judders for a moment, and the voice makes a scrambled, inhuman buzzing and crackling sound. Then it pauses for a moment. "This will . . . reeee-QUIre more . . . me-mo-ryeee . . ."

Edison and Anise were heading down the hall, with cyber-zombie Neville limping after them, when suddenly he stops. The pair run a bit further, until Edison glances back with the torch and sees that it's stopped moving, he slows down to a stop.
  "Hold up . . ." he says, grabbing Anise by the arm, "Look, it's stopped."
  "What does that mean?" asks Anise, holding the toolbox to her chest. Edison takes a few steps back towards the creature, flashlight shining on its face.
  "It's eyes are closed . . ." he mutters. The thing was standing there with both arms limp by its side. Edison steps towards it, flashlight held over his shoulder, ready to use it as a weapon at short notice. He closes the gap between him and the cyber-zombie, Anise following close behind. Then, less then a foot away, he reaches out a hand and pokes it in the chest. The cyber-zombie rocks back and forth on its heels, but otherwise doesn't react.
  "It stopped," says Anise, "maybe Duke's stopped as well!"
  "That's jumping to conclusions."
  "Well, then let's find out," says Anise. She starts walking back down the hall towards the computer labs. Edison follows her.
  "Anise, are you crazy? What if the Duke's just like Neville? What if he's some kind of zombie?"
  "Duke's alive," says Anise, as they walk past Steve, collapsed on the ground. "I'm not giving up on him."
As they walk towards Computer Lab Three, they see something through the darkness. The doorway is lit up by a soft, dark blue glow around the door frame, where some kind of light-strips had been stuck all around the frame and floor creating a rectangle of light. Edison goes ahead and peeks through the doorway. When he doesn't get shot at, he tries to tap the doorframe with the butt of his torch. As soon as it hits the threshold, the entire doorway flickers with power across an invisible membrane.
  "It's literally a forcefield . . ." says Anise, looking at it. Edison shines his torch through the doorway to see the Duke sitting in the chair, arms limp by his sides and laser pistol in hand. "He's not movin' either, we've gotta get in there before he wakes up again."
  "Uh, hello," says Edison, tapping the forcefield again, making it spark with electricity, "forcefield. How do we get in there?" Anise drops the toolbox on the ground, opens it up and retrieves the plasma hammer.
  "What about this?" she asks. Edison takes the hammer in his free hand and rolls it around in his hand as he turns to the forcefield.
  "It can't hurt to try . . ." he says. He pulls back his hand and slams the face of the hammer into the forcefield. Fzz-BOOM! Purple electricity crackles across the surface of the forcefield as the entire membrane shines a brilliant, bright white. Blue sparks spurt around the corners of the rectangle as the light begins to fade. Edison swings the hammer again. Crk-bzz-BANG! The forcefield begins to fade in places and the rectangle of light starts to dim.
  "It's working!" cries Anise. Edison slams the hammer into the forcefield again. Crack-KOOM! The forcefield "pops" with an echo like thunder as the forcefield breaks. Wasting no time, Edison runs up to the Duke and rips the laser pistol from his hand. He places it on the desk and smashes it with the hammer. Ka-BOOM! A ball of purple lightning erupts from the face of the hammer. For a split second, the space around the gun implodes, with a force like a black hole, the size of a tennis ball, the gun diminishes into the tiny space before the force ceases and drops the gun, now crumpled into a sphere of crushed metal.
  "I love this thing!" yells Edison.
  "Duke? Are you in there?" asks Anise, running up to the Duke, and grabbing the 'handles' either side of the helmet, "can you hear me?"
  "Wait! Be careful," says Edison, "that could be latched into his brain or something . . ."
  "Well, it'll be better than leaving him inside of it," says Anise, lifting the helmet slowly. The helmet resists slightly, until it gives a slight plucking sound and comes loose. Once she lifts it from his head, Anise looks over the Duke, who had some small holes cut into his forehead and a piece of metal along his cheekbone, with little blue lights and snapped wires coming out of it. Anise peels the metal off his face and cups the Duke's head in her hands.
"Duke? Can you hear me?"
The Duke starts to rouse, opening his eyes slowly.
  "Where am I?" he asks.
  "The computer lab, come on" says Anise, she grabs the cyber-critter that's attached to his chest and rips it off, making the Duke clench his teeth and groan in pain. "I'm sorry Duke, there's just one more."
Anise grabs the other critter on his shoulder and rips it off. The Duke doesn't flinch this time. Anise looks at the things in her hands. Their bristly legs had dark blood on them, but they weren't moving at all. They'd shut down along with the rest of the machines.
  "I'll destroy them," says Edison, holding up the plasma hammer. He grabs the the 'helmet', severing the wires with the claw-blade of the hammer, and places it in the table. "You get the Duke out of here."
Anise nods, drops the machines on the desk and helps the Duke get to his feet. He was unsteady on his feet and very heavy, but she manages to get under his arm and help him out of the door. As they step out into the hallway, they can hear Edison hammering away at the equipment in the computer lab. Anise glances back and sees purple electricity sparking as Edison smashes computer monitors, cyber critters and the helmet. He smashes the helmet again and again, and the purple electricity accumulates until the metal starts to glow and - BOOM!The helmet vaporizes and knocks Edison off his feet with the concussive force of the gas expansion. Edison falls onto the carpet outside the room, landing on his back. The sound makes the Duke look up and take notice.
  "What's going on?" he asks. "Is it the cyborgs?"
  "No, it was Edison. He's destroyed it all," says Anise, she was already holding up the Duke, so she just watches as Edison gets to his feet and picks up his torch.
  "Wow! I didn't realize it would do that," he says, brushing himself off, then he realizes he wasn't holding the hammer. "Huh . . . I must have dropped it when the helmet exploded."
Suddenly, there's a loud cracking sound and the ceiling inside of the computer lab caves in, spilling loads of rocks and ice onto all of the computers. The trio move out of the way as quickly as they can while dust and debris flies out of the doorway. After a few seconds, the rumbling and crumbling ceases, and they look back upon the damage.
  "Oh damn it," says Edison, walking over to the doorway; picking up the Duke's toolbox, which had been left beside the door. "Now I'll never get it back."
  “Is he alright?” asks the Duke, pointing to Professor Hajikoma, lying on the floor.
  “Oh my god, Steve!” says Anise. “Edison, come here!"
She helps the Duke to lean on the wall as she bends down to help the poor scientist, cradling his head. “Steve, are you alright? I’m so sorry . . .”
The Asian scientist opens his eyes and peers up at Anise, frowning.
  “Ow, my head . . .” he groans.
  “Thank god, we thought you were dead!” says Anise, helping him up. She gets him to his feet, then gasps when she looks at her hands, there was blood on them. “He’s bleeding! Edison, help me get him out of here!”

The four of them escape from the underground facility into the bright light outside, and Anise uses Steve Hajikoma’s phone to call for help, heading into the open air to get a signal. After she's done, she joins the others at the doorway to the Lift, where the Cloister Bell had ceased ringing. Anise hands the phone back to Steve, who was sitting down in the snow.
  "The ambulance will be here in about half an hour," says Anise.
  "Then we need to make ourselves scarce,” says the Duke, rubbing the wounds in his own head. “The threat has been neutralized and if we hang around people might start asking questions.”
  “What about the alien robots? And Neville Saunders? Won’t that make people start askin' questions?” asks Anise.
  “Someone kept it secret before; someone will keep it a secret again . . .”
The Duke turns towards the Lift and steps inside. He unlocks the door, turns towards his companions and asks, “Are the two of you coming?”
  “What, me as well?” says the Inspector, “I thought you didn't want me on board your ship.”
  “You did well today, Inspector,” says the Duke, nodding to himself. After a moment, he looks up and meets the Inspector’s eyes, “I apologize for that. I was too harsh on you before. You helped to keep myself, and Miss Trevino, in one piece.” Anise runs past the Duke into the ship, and the Inspector follows. As Edison steps into the elevator lobby, the Duke places a hand on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, "but if you try anything untoward, I will throw you out of these doors into empty space . . ."
The two men head into the ship and the door closes behind them. After a few seconds, the ship makes a heavy whirring, scraping sound, vworping away into nothingness. Steve looks at the empty square left in the snow and rubs his head.
  “Where the hell did they go . . .?”

No comments: