SEATTLE, UCAS. March 15, 2074 - It was a cold morning in the Sixth World. The nightly rainstorm left the air with a brisk scent of newness to the city. I've always liked the rain...makes you forget your troubles for the moment. From our sprawl atop the Union Station Mall, we could see all the way to Mount Rainier in Sinsearach, east to the Cascades, north into Everett, and west to the Olympics in Salish. I always get up early...I like to see both Seattles...the one that goes to bed as the sun comes up, and the other just waking up. While my wife, Michelle, slept, I took my usual morning run...from Lake Union to the Seattle Center and back. One of these mornings, I keep telling myself, I'm going to take a brisk jog over to Mercer Island. I rounded the corner, and there it was...The Space Needle. Standing tall for over 100 years...I often wonder what the original engineers would have thought if they knew the world would experience The Great Awakening, 74 years ago. I was lucky to have been born full-blood human...30% of the world's population now is what's referred to as "metahuman": Human, Dwarf, Elf, Ork, and Troll. Oh, how rude of me! Here I am, going off on how the world is now, and I haven't even introduced myself. Captain David Dykstra, UCAS Military. Sorry for the dissertation, but you already know how the Earth came to be. You came here to hear my story about the Mannequinizer Chamber, didn't you? Oh, that was a memorable 'run. It all started...
...back on April 3, 2058. I had just been discharged from the military. Mitch and I had been together since we were in high school. Who couldn't help but fall in love with that beautiful lady? We got married as soon as we graduated, then I was off to UCAS Military Boot Camp at Ft. Lewis. I put in my time...and here I was, out of a job. Nobody wanted a former UCAS Military hotshot chopper jock...not even the megacorps. Mitch got work as a model, which helped out while I applied for a test pilot slot up at Boeing. I'm sure her agent didn't mind the fact that she had cyberware implants...well, who doesn't, these days? Remeber the old "Six Million Dollar Man" series? Or "The Bionic Woman"? Kid's stuff, that is! I love those eyes of hers...she can change colors whenever she wants...green one day, purple the next, neon yellow...you get the idea. Chipjacks and vehicle control rigs...any type of cyberware you want, chances are you can get it!
I was just getting ready for my morning run...up to Seattle Center and back. Mitch had mentioned the night before that she had an appointment at the A-1 Modeling Agency across town, and that she'd probably be back later this particular afternoon. But, somehow, this morning didn't quite seem right. Oh, sure, we made love, like many times before...but, afterward, my gut was screaming at me. I thought it was the nutrisoy drek I had eaten (gods, I'd give anything for some REAL food!)...so I got up and went to have a look out the window. Mitch must have sensed something, because a few minutes later she came into the common room.
"What's wrong, honey?" she asked. I loved that tone in her voice...hell, I loved her from the day I met her!
"Oh, I just can't sleep," I said. "Musta been that drek I ate earlier."
"You know you hate nutrisoy anything," she said, teasing me and poking me in the stomach.
"Yeah, you're probably right, but it sounded good at the time." I didn't want to tell her that it was something else...but I just couldn't figure out what.
"Well, I know better than to make you come back to bed," she said, "when you're not feeling right. How 'bout you take your morning run a little earlier today...maybe go out to Mercer Island, like you've always wanted to do."
"Oh, maybe I will," I said. "What time do you have to go to your appointment?"
"Around 7:00...I'll probably be back later this afternoon."
"What color are your eyes going to be today?"
"What do you want them to be?"
I took her in my arms. "Whatever you want them to be," I said as I kissed her. When we broke, I saw neon green cybereyes looking back at me. "How's this?" Mitch asked.
I faked sadness. "Gee, I wish I could do that..."
That got me another kiss. I held her for a few more minutes, then I put on my jacket as she went back to bed. Oh, honey hush! Whatta body!
The sun had just crested the Cascades when I was rounding Seattle Center...I
decided to follow the monorail track today. Good thing I remembered my
Colt Manhunter pistol...along the rail is the part of town you really DON'T
want to be in! Go-gangs, Elf-Posers, rogue Trolls, Street samurai...and
the occasional LoneStar Security force. Hah! LoneStar Security...those
bastards couldn't find their asses with both hands standing in front of
a mirror! I was heading down 5th Avenue, past Frederick and Nelson's,
when I decided to take a breather. The monorail passed overhead as I was
looking in the windows. Hm, that's odd. I've never had any desire to look
in any store window...but today seemed to be different. I half-saw the
reflection of the monorail...but I wasn't looking at that. I caught myself
looking at the mannequins in the windows. How intriguing! So incredibly
lifelike...you'd swear they would just walk up and introduce themselves
to you! Their display was titled, "Antique Mannequins Of The 20th Century."
Boy, those sculptors sure could make some passable mannequins, for their
time. Just up the street, at Nordstrom's, were some others that were just
being placed on display. This was fascinating! I wondered where I could
get some...but then I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. Smeggin' drek!
What was coming over me? I've got a flesh-and-blood wife at home! But,
even with that thought in mind, I still found it hard to tear myself away
from the window. The mannequin the window dressers were setting up sure
looked real...I swear her eyes moved. I then noticed all these mannequins
were females. Hm, why didn't I notice that before? I decided I'd better
head back home. As I was passing the alley between Nordstrom's and the
Warwick Hotel, I noticed a GMC Bulldog with a business logo on the side...Ace
Store Fixtures. There was something else written on the side, but even at 6:30 am, it was still pretty dark. I turned on my thermographic implants to read the rest of the writing. A-1 Modeling Agency, it said underneath. I didn't pay much attention to this...many businesses have more than one way to pay the bills.
It was well after 8:00 when I got back...Mitch had left me a message on the recorder.
"Hi, Honey...sorry I missed you. I'm heading over to Willow and Damar's place...I forgot to tell you she was going with me. Anyhow, I'll be back around 3:00...I'll call if we're going to be late. I love you! (beep)".
Well, that left me with nothing to do till she got back, but then, another
message from the comm came on. "Mr. Dykstra, this is the Boeing Personnel
Department. We regret to inform you that all our test pilot positions are
filled, and we hope that..." I shut the damn machine off. Smeg! Maybe Northrup
or Ares could use another pilot. I really wanted that job at Boeing, though.
My great- uncle worked there in the late 20th Century, along with my great-aunt.
Oh, sure, I get a military pension, but 20,000 nuyen a month barely pays
the rent for this one-room sprawl Mitch and I have, let alone buy food
and drink. I slugged down
a cup of Soykaf...gag! I hate soy anything! I guess I was too used to those Military M-rats. At least, that was real food! Just then, the comm chimed. I checked the ID...ah! It was Damar! I answered the chime, as the video came on.
"Yeah, whaddya want, ya smelly dandelion-eater?" Damar was one of the few Elven people I could get away with insulting like that.
"Nothing from you, breeder!" was his standard reply. He was my wingman in the 605th Attack Battalion from Ft. Lewis. We were like brothers...and the best of friends."Is Willow over there?" he asked.
"No, Mitch was going to get her, and go to that A-1 Modeling place," I told him.
"Hm..." he said, scratching his head. "She told me she was going to pick Mitch up, and go to the same place."
"Maybe they met somewhere along the way," I offered.
"I think they met there at the agency," Damar said.
"And you're worried?"
"Well, remember, breeder, she is allergic to sunlight." Metahumans are strange in that way...all of them suffer some allergy to the most common things...to humans, that is.
"And, let me guess, " I said, "she didn't take her sunblock."
"You got it!"
"So, why tell me? I don't know where this A-1 place is."
"Mitch didn't leave the address with you?"
"No. But, you know, there's the city information directory...wait a minute!" I suddenly remembered the logo on the side of the van from this morning. "I saw a van this morning..."
"Oh, good for you! That narrows it down to...what...57,000 vans in town?"
"Yeah, and I got yer dandelion RIGHT here! Seriously, chummer, I saw a van this morning that said A-1 Modeling Agency on the side, downtown. I wish I could remember what the address was."
"Okay, Dave, tell ya what. If you can come over here and get ther medikit, would you take it to her?"
Must be serious...Damar hardly calls me Dave! "Sure, Damar. You okay? You hardly ever call me by my name."
"Yeah, I'm fine...it worries me when she forgets her sunblock. And, I'm watching the kids today."
"Oh, that explains it! Okay, I'll be there about...mmm, 11:00 okay?"
"So ka, chummer!"
"Later!" I hit the call terminate button. Okay, I thought, find the address for A-1 Modeling Agency, then get over to Damar's and get Willow's medikit. I would've used the bio-tracker that I insisted we get...but the mainframe was installed in Mitch's Westwind. I called up the City Directory, and got about 45,000 A-1's in town...then I cross-referenced Ace Store Fixtures...and got an address...1st Avenue South and Royal Brougham Way. Hell, that was over by the Renraku Arcology! I'll just bet Mitch and Willow went shopping!
As I pulled up to Damar's sprawl, I saw his kids playing stickball on the sidewalk. "Uncle Dave! Uncle Dave!" they yelled as I parked my Rapier. I took off my helmet and gave hugs to the monsters...hey, I love 'em, too! Almost makes me wish Mitch and I had kids earlier. "Where's your daddy, Lilac?" I asked the little girl. "Upstairs!" she said, pointing up to the third floor. "Oh, that's really high...I'm afraid of heights!" I said, mock fear in my voice. Ash, Damar's boy, pushed a toy car over my boot, and said, "You funny, Unca Dave!" I got off the bike, and went up to the door. I pushed the buzzer on the doorcomm.
"Dandelion pizza for Goldbranch," I said to the speaker.
*CLIK*, and the door opened. I went to the third floor sprawl that Damar and Willow bought...how he can afford it, I'll never know. Three times the size of ours!
Damar answered the door. "Hoi, chummer!" I said as I walked in. "So, where's my pizza?" Damar asked.
"Ah, today, sir, you're in luck!" I said, with a grand flair. "We have the special Diet Pizza today...absolutely no fat or calories, zero percent cholesterol, no flavor whatsoever, and no substance, either! 50 nuyen!"
We both laughed...Damar held a sleeping baby over his shoulder. "Oh, sorry, Damar," I whispered. "Didn't know the little one was asleep."
"So ka, chummer. She's out for the morning," Damar said as he put the baby in the crib. He then turned around and handed me a small case. "That's Willow's sunblock," he said. "You got the address?"
"Yeah...it's down by the Renraku."
Damar uttered something in his native tongue...it sounded like "clucking bell". "I'll just bet they went shopping!"
"That was my thought, too."
"Well, I think she deserves it...I was going to take her over there later this week, anyway."
I thought on that for a moment...and my mind drifted back to this morning. Funny. I've been to the Renraku hundreds of times, and now I found myself thinking about the mannequins that might be there. I shook my head...
"You okay, Dave?"
"Yeah," I said, "just thinking about something I saw this morning. I'd better get going...I know noon's a bad time for Elves."
"Yeah, you're right, as always. Got time for a cup of real coffee?"
I almost kissed Damar. "You betcha, chummer!"
He handed me a cup of steaming brown liquid, with real cream and sugar...just the way I liked it.
"See, I remembered...a little coffee in your cream and sugar!"
I smiled...and to think those Policlub drekheads want to erase all metahumans!
It was well after noon when I pulled into the A-1 Modeling Agency's parking lot. Shit! 75 nuyen per hour to park there. Oh, well, slot the credstik...I'm only going to be here about 15 minutes. I know a good decker...she can get my money back! I walked up to the front door, and I could see the Renraku just a few blocks away...took up most of the skyline in this part of town. As I was going toward the door, I noticed Mitch's car in the lot. Okay, so she really is here! Ah, good! She turned on the anti-theft system. I passed a window...and saw a mannequin sitting on a block in there. Hm...if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that was Mitch sitting there. Sure looked like Mitch's sunglasses on her...but then, there's probably 250,000 other people in town who have the same kind. The one standing behind her sure looked like Willow. I stood, transfixed by the sheer intrigue of the situation. I wonder what it's like to...Damn! What's getting into my head? Did that mannequin's hand move? Hm...must be that drek I ate last night coming back on me. Everyone knows that mannequins aren't real people. Mannequins are built, not born...in most cases. The materials used these days are far superior to the old fiberglass and plastic that was used in the 20th Century...but still, I couldn't help but think I saw that sitter's hand move. Oh, well...I went inside. This was a fairly large building...I could smell the scent of light perfume in the air...almost the same kind that Mitch wears. I saw a sign...A-1 Modeling (left arrow), Ace Store Fixtures (right arrow). Okay, given a choice, hm? I guess I'll go to the left! I went in...and saw the most gorgeous redhead I had ever seen. Oftentimes, I wished Mitch would change her blonde hair to red...she said she tried that once...and hated it! I walked up to the desk...Andrea, it said on the nameplate.
"Excuse me, miss?" I said as I approached. I swear I heard a hiss, and a buzzwhirrclik sound.
"May I help you sir," she said. Her voice sure sounded strange...almost like a digital recording...
I activated my thermographics...almost on instinct. Yep, I was right...an android secretary. Then, the legs against the wall must be her's (it's?)? MMMmmm...nice legs! Then, I shook my head again. This was really starting to annoy me...I'm getting attracted to artificial people!
"Um...yeah. I'm looking for two women who were supposed to be here at 7:00 this morning?"
"Oh, yes...that was...Michelle Dykstra," Andrea said in Mitch's voice, "and...Willow Goldbranch," in Willow' voice. "They Are in...Chamber 1. You may enter. Thank You for choosing...A-1 Modeling Agency."
I almost forgot I was talking to an android when I said, "And Chamber 1 is where?", noticing that Andrea was staring off into hyperspace. Damn...too bad she's a robot! I guess I'll have to find Chamber 1 myself, I thought as I opened the door.
Good thing I kept my thermographs on...the lighting in the hall was dismal, at best. You'd think a modeling agency could at least pay the electricity bill! I had to switch to low-light enhancement to see where I was going. I heard some voices down the hall, and a strange "fwoop" sound. "Well, there's another one!" I heard, and saw a door coming open. Instinctively, I drew my gun and ducked into a darkened room. Some guy passed the room I was in, turned a corner, and shut the door behind him. I closed the door I was hiding behind as quietly as I could. Looking around, I could see I wasn't alone. There were mannequins from wall to wall in here! Some kind of photo session? I thought. I switched to no-light so I wouldn't give away my position. Strange...these mannequins gave off a slight heat signature. I had no idea how they were manufactured, so I guessed they were cooling off from the manufacturing process. As I was moving around, being careful not to bump anything (anyone?), one mannequin caught my attention. I looked closer...Mitch? Neon green eyes...our special color. No one in the world can duplicate that particular color we like so much. This was getting strange...my wife turned into a mannequin? No...be logical, I thought! Even though there's real Magic in the Sixth World, people don't go around turning people into mannequins! I touched this representation of Mitch, or so I thought. Okay, so that's what a mannequin feels like. Then, I felt her hand...and what came next sent a cold wave of fear through my body. THAT WAS HER WEDDING RING!!!!!!!!!! Yes, she was sitting in a chair...someone must have brought her in while I was talking (?) to Andrea. Then, I looked around for Willow. There she was...against the wall.
Oh, shit, Damar is going to go ballistic!
I reached into my wallet for a recorder chip...and jammed it into my
chipjack. I'd better record this scene for Damar...he'll never believe
me! I counted 15 mannequins in this room alone...who knows how many more
in the building.
Suddenly, I saw the door opening. Record off! I dove behind something solid, and activated my smartlink aiming on my gun. I switched the recorder back on, and saw two men coming in with a mannequin. This was a tall brunette lady, dressed really nice. I hit audio record to capture what they were saying. "Okay, put 'er over dere."
"Dere ain't no more room in here!"
"Well, break dat one in half, and put 'er in dat box over dere!"
"How many more 'a dese girls is da boss gonna make wid dat camera?"
"As many as he wants...he said nobody's gonna miss dese girls...besides, we're gonna get a cut of da profits!"
Both men laughed as they left...Orks. Had to be...Smartlink off. Now, I had to figure out how to get out...and then I realized why the lighting was so dismal...Orks hate bright lights. I checked the bullet count on my Manhunter...full magazine. Damn, I'd hate to have to shoot my way out. Smartlink on.
I opened the door carefully, switching to full thermograph to see through the walls for any heat signatures. Good, none so far...just three about 15 meters down the hall. Stealth exit...my military training came back to me. Too bad the Seattle Police Department turned me down...I'd have been a valuable asset on their SWAT team. I looked back at Mitch and Willow...I'll be back, I thought...hoping somehow that Mitch could hear me.
"I know you will, sweetie."
Smeg! I could swear I heard Mitch talking to me!
"Hurry, Dave, get out! Tell Damar!"
Double smeg! That was Willow!
I looked back again...that was a smile on Mitch's face!
Pistol first, I exited the storeroom. Sweep right, sweep left...that strange "fwoop" sound down the hall. I came to the reception area, ducking low, just in case Andrea was a recording android. Nope, her power was off. I opened the door, and proceeded in a rather hurried fashion out the door. I noticed two different mannequins in the window this time.
I got to Mitch's car, and deactivated the anti-theft system. I hit the bio-tracker...and it confirmed my worst fear. That was Mitch and Willow in there..."mannequinized", I guess the term would be. I removed the recording chip from my chipjack, and put it in the player in the Westwind. Damar is never going to believe this. Our wives have been kidnapped, "mannequinized", and about to be shipped to who knows where. I wnet over to the Rapier, and pressed the "compress" button. Instantly, it reduced itself to the size of the toy car Ash was playing with earlier. I put the Rapier in the glove compartment of the Westwind, started up, and drove out of the parking lot.
"You scratch my car, you're gonna be in trouble!"
"Don't worry...I'll buy you a..." I stopped myself. Was Mitch really talking to me?
"You'll buy me a what?"
Okay, I thought, I'll give this a try. "A new paint job?"
"If you get us out of this mess...it won't matter! I still love you."
You got it, honey, I thought. I activated the vidcomm, and called Damar.
"I don't believe it! Isn't that illegal?" Damar said after he'd watched the recording I made. I sipped a cup of coffee.
"Well, kidnapping is...but as for this 'mannequinizing' process...I think that one's a few years away from the lawbooks."
"We've got to do something!"
"I'm open to suggestions," I said. "You know any magic users?"
"Ed Silverleaf...he'd know what that sound you heard is, and how to reverse it."
"Well, get on the comm...time's a-wastin' !"
Damar went to the vidcomm. "You said they were talking to you?"
"Not so much 'talking', Damar. I heard them in my mind."
We both laughed...I knew he was extremely worried...hell, so was I! At this very moment, we were married to store fixtures! A few moments later, I heard an odd voice on Damar's vidcomm. Of course I couldn't understand what they were saying...they were speaking in Sperethiel. Damn, I wish I had taken the time to learn that language!
"Ed wants to talk to you, Dave," Damar said.
I went to the vidcomm. "Hello, Mr. Silverleaf. I am honored by your presence," I said. It was the only phrase I knew in Sperethiel.
"You honor me with the proper usage of our greeting, Mr Dykstra. Do you speak our language, as well?" he asked.
"No, sir, I do not...I wish to learn the proper tongue."
"Please touch the screen." I did as he asked. I felt a tingle run through my body. "You may now use the proper tongue."
"I thank you for the gift of the proper tongue, sir." I felt, more than spoke, the words of the Elven tongue as I used them.
"You have a problem that needs to be solved?"
"Yes, sir...Aulentis and my mate Michelle have been removed from our house by a means we cannot explain." I guess that how Willow's name was pronounced in the Elven language. Strange that I could speak it so fluently!
"And how was the sound expressed you witnessed?"
"It expressed as a "fwoop"...a sound that has a reverse."
Ed pressed a button...and I heard the same sound. "Yes, sir, that is the sound expressed."
"It is as I feared. This spell must be broken before the full moon crests or your mates will be lost forever."
"It is a magic spell?" I asked
"Yes, Mr. Dykstra. This spell is called the Salgrebif...it's heart is the Q crystal."
"Where will I find this Q crystal?"
Ed pressed another button, and flashed a camera on the screen. A red crystal was superimposed in the lens assembly. "You must proceed with all haste and destroy the Q crystal...only then will all evil deeds commited be reversed."
"Mr. Silverleaf...how do you suggest I proceed to destroy the Q crystal?" I asked.
"If your heart is true, and your love for you mate is just...you will know."
Ed then snapped his fingers. I blinked a few times...Ed was now speaking in Sperethiel...and I couldn't understand him. Damar was smiling. He knew I had just been influenced by an "understand language" spell. "I promise, I will set aside a couple of lifetimes to learn your language!" I said to Damar and Ed.
Ed smiled, too. That damn elf...he speaks Cityspeak, also!
We decided to wait until late that night...after hours. Well, that's the best time for a clandestine rescue mission. I had a feeling I needed to bring my MP-5 TX, as well as Mitch's Colt Manhunter. Damar had his Ares Crusader and a Scorpion machine pistol. We put on full camoflage...just like old times. I switched on my thermographics and plugged a radio chip into my chipjack. Damar had his radio implanted behind his ear...he said he preferred not to lose his two-way link!
"Test, test, test...one, two, three," I said. Damar gave me a thumbs up.
"Radio is Lima Charlie...loud and clear."
We checked the map I had drawn earlier...and we reviewed the plan. Damar would go in from the alley, and I would come in the front door. He'd make his way to the storeroom, get the girls if they were still there, and get out. I would go to the photo room and destroy the Q crystal, then get out. Sure seemed simple enough. I just wish it had turned out like that. As we approached, we had to dodge LoneStar all the way...Damar ducked down an alley and took off full sprint to A-1. I climbed up onto the rooftops, and made my way over to A-1. Wasp and Yellojacket Patrol choppers were crisscrossing the skies tonight...and I could see the full moon rising. I hoped Ed meant before the moon gets overhead...which would be around midnight.
"Orowheat to Super Dave...copy?" Damar called
"In position...ready to enter." He doesn't waste time.
I got to a place just above where I planned to enter the building. I climbed down the fire escape, testing the windows all the way. I found one that was open. "Orowheat, Super Dave."
"Go, Super Dave."
"Open portal, level 2. Making entry there."
"Roger, Super Dave. Making entry at 23:05"
Oh, joy! 55 minutes to save the girls, reverse all the bad effects of
the Q crystal, and save the world! I'm going to Disneyland!
I switched to zero-light...this room was empty. All the others in my thermographic scan on this floor were empty, as well. Oh, goodie! Gonna blow it up real good! Put these polluted drekheads out of business! Ah, the stairway. Down to level 1, where Andrea was still...umm...sitting? Poor thing, she needs to be put together...Stop that! Focus! Perhaps I'll get bonus (boner?) and take her with us.
"Super Dave, Orowheat."
"Approaching storeroom...door is locked."
"Applying Emergency Entry Procedure Number One."
SMASH! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! BREEEEEEEEAh! BREEEEEEAh! Aroooooo! (sirens)
"SMEGGIN' DREKKIN' HELL! COMPROMISED!" I shouted, but to no avail. Lights came on, Damar had Mitch and Willow under each arm and flew past me on his way out. I heard gunfire erupting behind us. I couldn't leave yet...I had one more mission to accomplish. That damn Q crystal had to be destroyed...and if I die in the process, it's because my heart is true, and my love for my wife is just...I know what I have to do.
"Orowheat, Super Dave. Go Home. This One's Mine. OUT."
I removed the radio chip and dropped it in my pocket. Time to pay the piper, face the music, and go for broke...isn't that how they used to say it in the 20th Century?
With all the sirens blaring and gunfire blazing all around me, I moved like a man possessed. Never did I have such agility...it was almost as if my body were being controlled by something else. Four evil ones fell from the death that spurted from my MP-5. Funny, I don't recall having to change magazines...I had the thing on full "hosemonster" and should have burned a full mag in less that 2 seconds. It seemed I had an endless supply of ammo. I strolled leisurely through the warehouse, hosing evil ones as they stood...they had the nerve to scream when they were shot! Drek, they were acting like they were being killed! I was more or less observing myself doing all this...sort of disconnected from my consciousness. I found my way to the photo room and saw the camera the evil ones were using to "mannequinize" these innocent girls. Who knows how many people they transmuted?
I stood for a few seconds looking at the camera...I could see the crystal inside the lens. I brought my MP-5 to my shoulder, intending to hosemonster this device..."00", on the ammo counter. Drek, did I really burn the whole mag in the warehouse?
That's when I heard the voice...
"And is it your intention to put us out of business, Captain Dykstra?"
"Who are you? How do you know who I am?"
"Let's just say that this is bigger than you are...We are in control. You cannot possibly save the mannequins we have created...they are the scum of society. We are the righteous...we will succeed!"
Nobody calls my wife scum...and lives! I decided to play on that...
"What gives you the right to steal people off the streets, to use a legitimate business to pursue your perverted ways?"
"We are the righteous...we can do whatever we please. Nobody can touch us...not even the megacorps."
"We are the righteous...we can do whatever we please. No one can touch us...not even the megacorps."
Okay, so they weren't associated with a megacorp...but I had to play the game a bit more. Time check - 23:57...oh, this was gonna be close.
"Who are the righteous, and what gives them the right to commit crimes against humanity?"
"We do not commit crimes, Captain...we liberate the world from the filth that has consumed it!"
"By 'mannequinizing' innocent people?"
"By liberating the chosen ones!"
"Who are the chosen ones?"
"Those we have decided to liberate!"
Time check - 23:58...
"Did you ask their permission first?"
"We do not need permission to liberate the chosen ones...we do as we please!"
"If it pleases you to liberate the chosen ones, what about their loved ones? Their families?"
"They do not need loved ones, nor families. We are their family...we will succeed!"
This guy's really getting on my nerves...yep, he's gone chugging 'round the bend. Time check - 23:59...just a few more seconds...time to get offensive.
"You are in error, sir. You failed to take into account one thing."
"What is that, Captain?"
"When two people love each other, as Michelle and I do, we know our hearts are true, and our love for each other is just. You are not family...you are not loved ones. You are disease...and I'm the cure! Burn In Hell, Drekhead!" I shouted as I drew Michelle's Manhunter from my holster.
23:59:59...I never heard the shot...didn't even activate the smartlink. I saw the bullet leave the muzzle. The glass shattered, the crystal exploded with a force I've never before seen. The voice said something like, "I won't allow this to happen...", just before his world ended. The whole building revolved around me, as if it were caught in a tornado. I saw Andrea's parts mixed in with the debris and dead bodies as they swirled around me. While everything else was in chaos, it was strangely calm around me. Why did I notice Andrea?
Hm...that was strange. I don't remember how I left the area...I recall just walking past the LoneStar and the firefighters...it's as if they never saw me.
Time Check - 00:00. I looked up at the moon...it had crested, all right. I just hoped I had done it in time. I was still a bit dazed when I heard a voice...the voice of Ed Silverleaf.
"You have done well, Mr. Dykstra." He was speaking Sperethiel...and I understood him. "You have honored us by removing the evil device. I give you, for your lifetime, the gift of the proper tongue. You may use it whenever you wish. Your wife will also share in this wonderful gift. May you have many strong sons and daughters!
"By the way...you won!"
I blinked a couple of times...I had the gift of the Elven tongue. Mitch and Willow were restored...I think! Where's my radio chip?
"Orowheat, Super Dave...copy?"
"Go, Super Dave." That wasn't Damar...
"Who's on my frequency?"
"You'll find out...when you get home...sweetie!"
I had to ask this question..."Honey, are you all right?"
"Sure am...Damar and Willow are getting ready to go home."
"Any side effects? From your experience?"
"So ka, baby! I'm a few blocks away...be there in 2 mikes!"
"See you then, sweetie...Nighthawk, out."
"Super Dave...frequency clear."
I met up with the gang...Damar and Willow were ready to go home. "Hey, breeder...wanna ride home?" Clouds were beginning to gather...I could smell the rain coming.
"You wanna ride home with them, hon?" I asked Mitch.
"Not really...I feel like walking."
"Funny...so do I."
Damar handed me something. "Ed says this is for you...use it wisely."
I looked at the stick he handed me...it was a candy-cane striped credstik..."How many nuyen is on this?" I asked.
"You'll find out...breeder!" Damar shouted as he and Willow drove away.
"Yeah, smeg you too, dandelion eater!" I shouted after him. Damar...what a friend. I really count myself fortunate to have friends like him.
Mitch and I walked home in the drizzle that passes for rain in Seattle...arm in arm.
Ya know, I think I will take that jog over to Mercer Island tomorrow morning.....to our new house!
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