Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 23)

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Across the threshold was a study in nightmares. Bodies lay strewn about, broken dolls left to lay where they had fallen.  Sightless eyes welcomed us to the chaos. The Caleb part of me felt horrified, and froze me where I stood. The L 157 part of me calmly stepped over the corpse of someone she knew and took stock of the situation. We crossed the room and checked for any sign of life. There was none.

Seven bodies. Neither the doctor nor Genevieve. A scrap of paper lay on the floor by an outstretched arm. I reached down to pick it up. It was crumpled and torn, possibly during the struggle that had taken place here prior to our arrival.  Basel. No address, no other words. I knew because L 157 knew that was a town in Switzerland on the border with Germany. Were we about to cross the border into Germany?

No sooner had these thoughts crossed my mind than L 157 or Julie, went about the room collecting weapons, silently regarded those slain with either a sigh or a grunt. Not all the bodies were ours. That came as a relief. It was possible either the doctor or Genevieve had survived and run to Basel. Or both. I pocketed the few weapons, and we turned to leave.

Outside, the eerie nothingness of silence gave way to slamming car doors and stampeding feet. I reached out and pushed on a section of wall nearest the mirror that hung on the far wall, causing it to swing outward. We stepped in and closed it with a soft click, just before the stampeding feet made it into the room we just left.

The bio nanites calmed me as I made my way through the darkened passage, unblinking as the shouts were accompanied at times with bullets firing into the plaster walls. Caleb would have snapped then, more than enough horror to experience in one night. But, I, strengthened now by three, took it as a given that the Senator and his men would never give up their quest to get what they came for. A few of the bullets passed close by me in the dark, and on I crept led by instinct not of my own, to the end of the passage, where we turned right and then climbed a ladder up.

There was a hatch above me in the dark. The Caleb part of me hesitated to reach up and grasp the mechanism needed to turn and unlock the door. I shook my head to rid myself of any lingering fear and reached up. The round lock was about the size of a standard steering wheel for a semi truck, and it was stuck tight. Located about two and a half feet above my head, I had to reach up and pull left with both arms while steadying myself on the ladder, perhaps fifteen or twenty feet above the floor in the darkened passage. New sounds made their way down the passageway as the men found the hidden door.

PART 24

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 22)

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 5.43.48 PM.pngThe chill of the night air prickled my skin as Not-Exactly-Lila sauntered us down the street, my brain whirling with the new sensations and neural connections. An hour ago, I had been terrified shitless. And now, my entire body seethed with this rush of power, a knowing that I could make myself anything. Anything!

Caleb was weak, a mess of anxiety and grief. He’d let all of this horror just happen to him, had caressed his dead girlfriend’s hair and given up. The rush of bio-nanites soothed the pain, made me feel as if it had all happened to someone else. In a way, it had. The truth was, I didn’t refuse to change back because of any practical need to disguise myself. I refused to change back because I didn’t ever want to be Caleb again.

The bio-nanites… could they possibly be manipulated further? Could I become something even more? This was intoxicating as it was, alien thoughts and impulses marching through my body, making me better, stronger, than I ever was.

Not-Exactly-Lila shifted and breathed inside of me like I was the world’s best-fitting jacket. It was… an odd feeling. I could smell her perfume—don’t ask me how, my body was still surprising me. The fact that she wore perfume during situations like this was both bizarre and intriguing.

This woman wasn’t Lila, but she was still so like her…

“What’s your name?” I asked, her throat making my voice heard.

“Oh? You wait until someone’s inside you to bother asking their name?” She brushed me off with a chuckle.

“I just think I’d like to know what kind of woman can take all of this in stride and barely blink. I know you’re trained, but still.”

“The kind of woman that can focus on the mission. Stop with the chit-chat.”

And, just like that, I felt like Caleb again, kind of small and awkward. It didn’t last. There was too much of me now for Caleb to stay for long. Besides, I realized I knew her name, anyway. It was LI57, sometimes called Julie, the way the French breathe it. The bio-nanites had seeped into her, connected with her neurons too. “Then we should hurry to that safehouse in Langstrasse, get that case.”

“Agreed,” she muttered, and I knew she didn’t wonder how I knew where the doctor and Genevieve were. I’d asked her mind not to wonder.

Together we hailed a taxi, and as one we rode through the darkness. The driver’s dash said it was midnight. I wasn’t tired at all. I wondered if I ever would be again.

It wasn’t a long drive, though the moment I stepped out on the waterfront, Julie’s instincts told me something was wrong. I didn’t know Zurich, but her mind did. Cities don’t sleep the way humans do. It was late, but there was always someone out here, a late-night jogger or a homeless vagrant.

I could hear a rustle of paper blowing across the street. There was no one.

The safehouse apartment was unassuming for this area of town, and that was part of what made it safe. The other part was a steel door disguised under a façade of wood, bulletproof windows and reinforced walls. A hatch in the floor provided an escape route. I knew all of this because Julie knew it.

I felt her warrior’s heart quicken when she saw the steel door hanging open on its hinge. That would have scared Caleb most of all… but not the man I was becoming.

As one being, we stepped inside.

PART 23

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 20)

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.12.30 AM.png“Caleb … Caleb …” Her soft voice reached into my thoughts, and I clawed my way back towards awareness, a cold sweat breaking on my face. It was Not-Exactly-Lila; she was over me and whispering urgently in my ear. (I say my ear – my head now resembled something akin to a dropped dessert, but thankfully she could locate my ear opening. The bio-nanites had certainly been to work on my anatomy whilst I had slept.)

Had I really been asleep? It could only have been seconds, because Genevieve had barely had time to slam the bio-nanite control box shut and heft it from the ground. I was glad that Not-Exactly-Lila was unharmed, save for a growing bump where the pistol butt had struck her on the head.

But I … I wasn’t me anymore. I was something else, and in my loathsome, altered state, it was as though I could see myself from afar, from across the dirt across which raced two men, bringing their Kalashnikovs to bear on us as we scrambled to our feet. (I say my feet … you get the picture.) The two men stopped dead as I rose up to full height, a shapeless fist of knuckled meat, hair in places, eyes in others, limbs and bits of unassigned anatomy hanging off me in a random mess. The bio-nanites had rearranged me into random form.

I shook myself and it all contracted back into me, and I was Caleb again, then I was turning to the girls and I hollered at them: “Run!”

We took off around the side of the nearest building. Bullets strafed the ground where we had stood, and followed us in livid lines across the walls. The final bullet found its way into the centre of my back, and I staggered at the two girls’ heels, then anger pushed the bullet straight back out again. I stopped in shock and they turned to watch as the little bullet simply plopped out to the ground, the small wound in the centre of my back snapping closed in its wake.

Genevieve and Not-Exactly-Lila stared at me in horror.

“Caleb … are you okay?” asked Genevieve in shock.

“Never better,” I said. “Now split.”

“We leave together,” Not-Exactly-Lila told me unerringly. “You’re too important to leave behind.”

“I’m more than that now,” I told her boldly, and focused my attention on the bio-nanites in my brain. I was conscious of sensations I had never felt before; not just physical sensations, but mental too, and it was suddenly as though I could communicate directly with them. They had spent so long in my cerebral cortex, navigating the millions of neural pathways I had strengthened throughout my life, that somehow they knew how to navigate the new ones – the new thoughts I was having – as they were generated in my brain.

The bio-nanites understood me.

All I had to do was tell them what to do … and my body would be adapted in accordance to my will. So I took on the form of Not-Exactly-Lila. “I’m you,” I said and the two girls gasped in shock. “And I have the mother of all plans. So while you ladies get the hell away from here, I’m going to double back and have some fun.”

“Caleb!” they yelled together as I turned and ran back out into the street. I broke out into the open to see the two men with Kalashnikovs had almost reached the alley – had I been any slower they would have had a clear shot at the three of us. They eyed me warily as I stood my ground before them, a pale girl rooted bravely in their path, then the first man calmly raised his gun.

“Where is he, deary?” he demanded in an accent, whilst the other man aimed his rifle at my face.

“Don’t do that,” I told him in Lila’s silky voice.

Gun-Man uttered something guttural in an Eastern European tongue. Chances were these newcomers did not work for the Senator. Together they jammed their gun barrels at my chest and fired. Although I was expecting it, and had already made internal plans to reject the onslaught, the slam of the bullets threw me against the wall. I saw blood spray and felt the coarse brick scrape against my skin, and the pain was incredible, but then it was like the bio-nanites were telling my body what to do, and I tensed as though ready to push out the loudest fart. But it wasn’t gas that escaped me …

It was bullets. They flew out in all directions, zinging! off the walls and blacked out street lamps. One shattered and the two men ducked for cover. Instantly I was on my feet and pelting across the street, drawing them away from the alley and the girls, towards the river that cut through the town close by.

PART 21