God Machine Chronicles: Session 7: The Long Journey

Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)

Ryan Winters has had a lot of time to look over what she has done. What she has sought to achieve. The rabbit hole has got deeper, her own department has more information than she could ever have expected. A dossier put together from loose connections and thought dead trails.  They all tie back to the work program, built on a failed CIA nudge theory. Originally intended to try and unlock human capabilities, it failed in that, but the CIA did find a highly efficient way of breaking people.

It had been discredited, yet here it is with markings of high level government minister involvement and that company Edutech yet again. Soon after she started poking around the word came down from on high. Keep out, and shut up. The thumbscrews and threats from fellow officers. No, they are corrupt officers, they are not her fellows.

It’s there in the details. The police have been involved in systematic cover up  of the disappearances of people on the job seekers programs. Covered up the warehouses they own around the M25, the warehouse in Romford, where Dave was last supposed to be going.

The other officers had noticed that she wasn’t playing ball. A case file landed on her desk, dropped there by a bent copper. One with a history in sexually assaulting victims in cases he was investigating. Ryan knows this as she ran the prints on the file. They are trying to send her a message.

It was a case file framing Ryan Winters. A threat and not the only one. Threats to have her beaten. Tortured or injured in the line of duty if she didn’t play along. One final warning to play nice.

So she took it all and sent it on, sent it to the papers with details of what to do with it.

Publish and be damned.

It is 5AM. Gwil Short is alone. Battered, stunned and staggering. A broken rib is grinding, sending dull waves of agony through a body. In his more coherent moments he realises the pain, body and rib is his.  His body moves down street after street, heading broadly south, to Brixton. The painkillers let him view the pain and his journey as a mere abstract concept, an amusement. The pills will wear off soon

Spots dance across his vision. He has a scalp wound, a deep one. Every breath is laboured. As he clutches at the wall he just knows, he has to get to Brixon, for the faith. Sirens rise in the distance along with the grey pre dawn light. The shard rises in the skyline.  A mix of pain and pills warps the world, meaning and hallucination overlapping everything.  He needs to get to the subway, to somewhere he can sit. Rest.

Cars rush past, coloured blurs barely tracked. One stands out though. A car. Not moving, blue and white, surrounded by officers. Police talking to a man in a hoodie, talking to people leaving Tottenham Court Station.  The shadows of a doorway swallow Gwil as he slips into its cover, trying to hold his breath calm.  There is CCTV everywhere.

Blood is coming from his tongue, he must have bit it earlier. Pain returning, the pills are wearing off. The police are showing the man in hoodie and tracksuit a photofit. An image of Gwil. Swallowing more painkillers Gwil shuffles towards the back of the station, using his janitor keys to gain entrance through the side doors, then slipping through loose metal wire mesh to skip between corridors, keeping the CCTV’s eyes at bay. The wire catches his jacket on the way and a stifled scream of pain rises as the material presses against his ribs. The sound from the platform tells him he is nearly too late. A call to mind the gap. Nigh falling down the stairs he rushes to the Victoria line platform, slipping through the door as it shuts and collapsing to the compartments floor. A shout follows him, the footstep of police down steps, after him. They saw him too late. The train pushes out of the station and Gwil clutches his arms around his legs. He is safe, for now.

Sanjiv sits upon his bed, it has been hours since Gwil left. Hours he has spent cleaning his apartment, trying to bring it back to some semblance of normality.  He is exhausted, collapsing backwards and wrapping the quilt around him. He manages to keep himself awake a few moments longer, just long enough to send a message to the rest of the survivors of the incident “Dave is not himself. He is not to be approached”

Elsewhere Ryan is preparing for another day at work. Another day to see if the repercussions for her actions finally come down. Stab vest strapped tight across her chest. CS Spray in arms reach and quick release. Things have been hectic recently. Something is up with Nathan, he’s been reclusive recently. Obsessed about some sort of information Gwil sent him. All Ryan knows is that Nathan has logged a complaint with the police about Gwil. He’s made clear that he doesn’t want Gwil anywhere near his family, especially his niece but this seems like a step up.  All Ryan’s attempts to reach Nathan for more information have met with failure, he’s not been anywhere near his usual haunts.

A text from Sanjiv warns something about avoiding Dave.  Unusual, but no time to follow up on that now, Ryan moves through the normal day to day duties, there’s been no move from the corrupt officer yet it seems. A report waits on her desk, looks like Gwill upended an officer through a glass pane. The name on the report seems familiar, it’s the name of the officer whose prints Ryan found on the manilla envelope. The one that threatened her and assaulted those female victims. Ryan lets a grim smile loose, man got what he deserved.  Things seem to get be getting out of hand with Gwil though, she will have to look in, see what they are after him for, if its another frame up job and if so if she can help him. Ryan considers contacting Mark, a lawyer friend who has been helping with some of the investigation so far, and another person who seems to hold Gwil in low esteem.

Her thoughts are interrupted by a police band message, suspect Gwil Short identified at Tottenham Hale Underground station, all units to converge.  By the time Ryan is on site, siren barely ceased blaring on her police car as she runs inside to the station, the officers in charge is already filling in the constables.

“Suspect looks beaten, head wound and suspect is likely exhausted. He’s already assaulted an officer and is on the watch list for child sex offences. Furthermore he is a person of interest to COBRA” The officer pauses after mentioning the Cabinet Officer Briefing Room A, smirking “Nah, just kidding on the last one. He’s pissed off someone upstairs though and they want him brought in. Contain him, black bag him and drag him off”

Just as the officer finishes another figure joins the scene. A man in battered suit jacket, and  every-man, forgettable looks. Detective Chief Inspector Grey.

“Do we have the subject in custody yet?” Grey asks

“No sir, we do however have him contained on the train”

A flicker runs across Grey’s eyes “A train? How fortuitous” The look of contemptuous amusement continues as Grey looks over to Ryan “You have quite the experience with trains as well don’t you Officer Winters?”

Poker faced Ryan nods “Yes sir, I do”

Playing as if a cat with a bird Grey continues “How would you describe the subject given your familiarity with him?”

“You know the subject?” the commanding officer says, bemused and rapidly turning that bemusement to anger.

“Shh” Grey says “I was addressing Officer Winters”

Ryan looks slowly between the two before finally speaking “This behaviour is very out of the ordinary for him. I am dubious of the accusations that have been posed of him.”

Grey watches Ryan intently as she speaks, coldly detached, as if watching with the alien mind of an insect or a machine.

“That is an interesting response. Very atypical. Gwil’s response is not in the parameters we had predicted. The model is inconclusive, there are additional elements at play but we have not managed to narrow them down.  Tell me, are you familiar with the observer effect?”

“No sir” Ryan replies, the poker face still held steady.

“Are you familiar with the German scientist Heisenberg?”

“Vaguely sir”

“Simply put, in any experiment variables can change. By observing something I am putting an influence upon it. This normally applies to quantum theory but is used in social theory as well. If I told you that you were in an experiment, would it alter your activity?”

“I couldn’t know sir”

“Interesting answer. Now, apprehend the fellow. We have questions to discuss. I am curious to see what his answers are”

The sound of the next train approaching the station starts to fill the air. Detective Grey turns and starts to leave when the sound of the train changes. A squealing of brakes  and the cessation of movement. The radios crackle to life “He’s pulled the emergency stop. Everyone, onto the train now!”

Deep in the tunnel Gwil pulls himself out from the stopped train, into the darkness of the tunnels, a maze spreading unseen in front of him.  He doesn’t know the area well, but he is sure he knows it better than the cops following him.

Slumped against the well he pulls himself along inch by inch until the wall gives way. Gwil hold back a cry of pain as he falls, slamming against a doorway in the dark. The voices behind him are getting closer now. With a shove the door gives way and he is falling again. Face down in a corridor he has never seen before.  Taking short painful breaths he pulls himself up again, the door swinging closed behind him.

Cogs run in the walls beside him, layered under crude panels of hammered steel. Thin silver wire threads weave in repeating patterns through the roof. As his eyes follow the corridor white tiles peel out, covering the cogs and wire in the façade of the stained tiles of the underground. His feet take him on, down the corridor, nowhere to go but on. The tiles on the wall thickening with every step. A mix of medication and pain dull his mind, allow him to stumble through this seeming vision quest without question, to walk past an old Underground notice from the 1940s, towards the sound of pounding pistons behind the door at the end of the corridor. Two more steps,a push and he is through, back into open air and breeze. Escalators moving past, people wandering, completely nonplussed at the arrival of a new figure in their midst. Brixton. He is in Brixton, the clocks mark quarter to ten. He doesn’t question the missing time or the seemingly impossible journey.  He is here on the faith’s business, his body led him here while his mind failed in vision. He is here and that is all he needs to know and with that he staggers out onto the streets of Brixton.

In the tunnels of the underground station where Gwil was moments ago Ryan runs full tilt, light shining around  onto the walls, searching for signs of Gwil.  A vague luminescence from the halted train emanates out into tunnels, but does not penetrate far.  Ryan’s light settles upon something about a hundred yards away, a male figure slumped against  a door, stumbling through it as it opens.

Ryan hears the clunk of the door slamming shut as she runs towards it, the beam of her light swaying wildly as she does so.  Coming to a halt she shines her light directly at the wall again. Nothing. Just rubble and rock,  blood splattered upon it. Kneeling to examine  the spatter she sees a mark, something etched to the ground, repeating pattens of almost mathematical nature. The torch light flickers again and the markings are faded, marked over by graffiti and tags, the marks below indistinct and then gone.

“Looks like he found a back door” a voice mutters directly behind Ryan.

Dumbfounded Ryan stands, turning to see Detective Grey behind her.  “Sir?”

Grey moves past her, slipping on a pair of forensic gloves before running his fingers down the wall. Rubbing them together and examining the remains.
“It would be you who found the relevance wouldn’t it. What did you see?”

Ryan shrugs “I’m not sure”

“I suspect the intervention of another agency in this affair. You don’t seem to bear any of their fingerprints at least. I will not have any wild-cards intrude into this operation. You are dismissed Officer Winters”

Ryan walks away slowly, back to the platform from which she came, no wiser than when she left it.

The hours have passed and with it Sanjiv has managed a broken and restless sleep. The memories of Dave and Gwil weigh heavy on his mind and his dreams haunt him with admonishments for not acting right now and his exhaustion be damned.

The last dream breaks as the ringing of a bell intrudes, shifting with the dream then shattering it. The clock says half ten, bare hours of sleep stolen from the night.

Outside Ryan pushes down the doorbell again. Despite Detective Grey’s repeated assertions that she was superfluous to needs she has spent the past hour searching for any sign of Gwil. All of which came back to nothing. She has been reassigned now, told to follow up any possible associates. With the feeling of being tested in some way nagging at the back of her mind Ryan has decided to try and use it as an opportunity to touch base with the others who survived “the incident”. They don’t seem to trust her to go alone this time, a young bobby has been assigned to accompany her. Young lad, Caucasian and hair cut short. He’s spoken little since they met, any personality he may have had locked behind a cold professional demeanour that never seems to break, never gives anything away.

On the fourth ring the door finally opens to reveal a young black woman,stripe dyed hair still in straighteners, her lip piercing and loose Ramones top at odds with the fluffy slippers padding her feet.  The frustration on her face at being dragged out soon turns to jaw dropping surprise at the sight of the officers.

“Erm, can I help you?”

Ryan puts on her best calming smile and says “We are here for Sanjiv Mangat. Do you know if he is in?”

“I’ll just check” the woman says, leaving the door open as she sprints up to the next floor, hammering on a door. Despite whispering to the door her voice echoes openly “Sanjiv. Sanjiv. It’s Michelle. Are you there?”

Bleary eyed Sanjiv pulls the door open “Oh, morning Michelle.” His eyes don’t quite focus, still lacking massively the sleep he needs and even the basic greetings seem to require more effort than they should to complete.

“Sanjiv you look like shit. Listen, there are a couple of coppers here to speak to you. Are you all right, are they here for you?”

“Not that I know of, might be something to do with work though. Hold on, I’ll be right down”

Michelle nods as Sanjiv heads back in to dress more fully, then she heads back down to speak to the coppers as they wait

“Sanjiv’s in, he will be right down. He looks very tired though. So what’s happening, is everything ok?”

“I think it would be better if we speak directly with Sanjiv” Ryan says, keeping her voice friendly “Is it ok if we come in while we wait?”

“Of course, would you like some tea?”

“No thanks” Ryan says, stepping across the threshold, the young copper by her side matching step, looking around in a methodical fashion, taking in every element. Ryan is just about to comment when they are interrupted by Sanjiv stepping down the steps, his face still wet with water splashed against it to wake him somewhat.


“Hello Mr Mangat. We are here in relation to Gwil Short. Is it all right if we talk a while?”

Hearing an unusually formal tone in Ryan’s voice Sanjiv answers slightly guarded “What’s up?”

“Gwil is wanted in connection with a crime and we wondered if you could assist with our enquiries.”

“Sure, what is, I mean what..well…Gwil passed through here in the early hours. He looked like shit. I don’t know what had happened to him , he had pretty severe  injuries. I patched him up best I could but he ignored my advice to go to a hospital. I gave him some painkillers but he insisted on heading into London”

Ryan nods, keeping up the formal front, keeping hidden best she can the signs of friendship with Sanjiv “Did he say where he was going?”

“He was rambling.  He mumbled about, maybe Waterloo? Brixton? Goodge Street. I’m not quite sure, he was not very forthcoming with details”

“I see. When approximately did he leave?”

“Half five maybe?”

“Did he give any indication of what happened, the cause of his injuries?”

“Not really, he said he was in a fight”

“He didn’t say who with?

“No” Sanjiv says “Not specifically, he just said someone jumped him coming out of work”

“Did he say anything else unusual?”

“He was rambling quite a bit, he was really out of it. I didn’t think too much about it”

Quiet until now, the young officer beside Ryan chips in

“Would you say that Mr Short has been keeping company of any unusual people of late? Any agency? Or any other non purposeful individuals?”

“Not that I am aware of, but I did spend the best part of a week in a coma so I am a little out of the loop. I ran into Mr Short last night on the platform of Waterloo”

The officer pauses, watching Sanjiv with a glazed expression “This correlates with what we have established in previous interventions. He has found a back door. Tell me, has he read the lesser key of Solomon? Has he studied Kabbalah or Deamonology? What are his reading habits, has he looked at the black treaties?”

An itching starting beneath his nails, a feeling of unease manifesting, Sanjiv looks to Ryan

“Does this mean anything to you?”

Waving her hand in front of the officer to attract his attention Ryan says “Listen, is this going anywhere?”

The gesture has no effect as the man continues “Is he aware of the pain prophecies of New Deli?”
“I don’t know anything about this. Where are you going with this?” Ryan asks again.  The cops head turns to face Ryan, but the rest of his body stays stock still. The eyes that gaze at Ryan look out from under a thin layer of dust upon their unblinking orbs. The eyes are empty glares, the eyes of a dead man.

Despite everything in her recoiling back, Ryan instead steps forwards, between Sanjiv and the officer, hand extended “STEP BACK!” Her other hand drops to her side, flicking out the asp baton ready.

The creature mirrors the motion, its head rolling loosely from side to side, a sound of grinding emanating  from its mouth, a sound like the jamming of gears. The dead eyes have the faint remnants of an expression beneath the layers of dust, a begging for release and an end.

As the creature shuffles forwards Sanjiv makes a break for the doorway, only to find the thing in his path once more. Frozen before it the screams to flee pause in his throat.  He is saved by Ryan interposing again, slamming the asp baton into the things inner thigh, trying to bring it to the floor. Instead it stumbles forwards grasping out at Ryan, nearly taking the both of them across the counter top. Ready though, Ryan moves back  letting it over extend itself before rugby tackling it to the ground. Her shoulder finds  its kneecap and the two roll upon the ground, Ryan mounting it, trying to twist its arm behind its back. Beneath her fingers something moves like pistons against her fingers and she is thrown back, the two rising to their feet once more.

Seeing Sanjiv still standing stock still Ryan shouts “Run!”

As Sanjiv finally snaps out of his haze, breaking for the door the cop thing stands first, bringing the baton down overhead towards Ryan’s fingers, trying to break them as they push her from the floor. Rolling away Ryan lashes out with her baton wildly, the thing almost skittering back with stutter step speed leaving both blows finding nothing but air. Breathing deeply Ryan watches as it approaches again, its chest still, no sweat dripping into its eyes unlike her own. It steps in again but this time Ryan lashes out higher, the baton pushing back its shoulder in its socket.  The impact doesn’t even slow the creatures swing and lights dance in front of Ryan’s eyes as a baton digs into her biceps.

The pain shifts a gear in Ryan’s mind, adrenaline flushing through her. Pulling the baton up hard she crunches it into the creatures jaw, dislocating it and following through to cave in the side of its skull. As it recoils, staggering back into the cabinet behind it Ryan pushes forward, her entire weight upon it, slamming it back to the ground.  Ready this time she wraps plastic cuffs around its arms as soon as she has the advantage, twisting it face down onto the ground. Finger digging through resisting flesh and feeling shifting below still, Ryan keeps her mind on the job until it is fully tied up, and only then finally stepping away.  It’s skin is peeling from the impact, cogs twisting below the peeling flesh of the skull.  There is no blood. Groans come out from a ruined jaw, a caved in skull but no blood. Ryan’s hand pauses as it reaches for the police radio. She has no idea what to say.

Leaving it she steps out onto the hallway, to where Sanjiv ran. Michelle peers down from the top of the stairs, her hands intertwined with the balcony. “Sanjiv, Sanjiv? You there? What the fuck is going on?”

“I need you get the fuck out of here now” Ryan replies. Behind her sounds echo from the room, a mewling human sound rattled through the pain of a clogged up dishwasher and fed down a 56k baud modem.  Michelle freezes, eyes locked at the open doorway.

“Come on love” Ryan says, extending her hand “Its ok”

Ignoring the outstretched hand Michelle runs down the stairs, out past the surprised Sanjiv downstairs and out towards the street, sobbing at the inhuman sounds heard. Moments later Ryan arrives as well, calmer and Sanjiv looks to him ”Ryan, have you got this?” Ryan nods “Then we need to get out of here”

Without arguing Ryan just walks to the door, fiddling with the radio “Officer needs assistance”. The radio responds with rising high pitch whining like feedback feeding on itself. As they push through the doorway they see Michelle collapsed beside in, sobbing at the noises still emanating from within. The radio reaches fever pitch and Ryan tosses back the way they came, back towards where the monster lies.

In the distance a car alarm wails, then another, coming closer and closer, approaching sequentially, leaping from one car to the next.

“We need to run” Ryan says, grabbing for Sanjiv’s arm
“Do you have a car?” Sanjiv says between foot impacts as they run.

Ryan nods, leading them towards where her squad car waits.  She pushes in the keys, twisting against car locks that pop up and down in pattern, resisting the attempts to hold them unlocked. The radio inside shifts bands, words from disjointed stations mashed together in electronic hymn. Finally forcing the door open Ryan reaches inside, twisting the keys in the ignition. A light rises in the elevated floor of the building behind them, blasting out in a pulse of blazing white light.

The car engine is dead.

“Ah fuck” Ryan says

“Don’t think”Sanjiv says “Don’t focus. Just run” and they do, headlong to wherever is away from where they are now.

A park bench in Brixton. Gwil slumps down, his eyes half focused on the meeting place ahead of him. He’s made it, he has not let down the faith. Its shaping up to be a warm day, a lovely day. He slips back against the bench, feeling almost as he becomes part of it in rest. The sky is so blue, the church beside him green and verdant. Even the park bench feels organic, like it is growing from the concrete. The pain has dulled to a numb ache. He has made it. So tired, his eyes nearly rolling back into his head, but he made it.

Happy, relaxed he barely notices as someone sits next to him, slowly as his eyes focus he sees the figure, shaped like a man but a face of static. Dressed in rumpled grey suit and loose tie. Hand human, body human but face but flickering static. Slowly the static resolves into  normal human face, a smiling face, condescending but smiling. The eyes stay as they are though, small balls of static looking out.

“You’ve led us a very merry chase Gwil. You are a very interesting specimen to observe. Do you wish to see Dave? We have done interesting work with him We think he is a template for the future. We think you could be too. We think you have a purpose beyond this. I think it is time to take you away from everything holding you down. I think it is time to show you the facility”

Gwil stares at the eyes of static and growls “I see you. I see what you are”

and Detective Grey just smiles an indulgent smile.


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