Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorisms)
Two hours ago: Under Waterloo Station. Ryan Winters flees in the darkness, the unveiled angel of the god machine behind her in all its transgressive holy glory. The only light is the blue cadence that flickers from it, scattering shadows on the walls. There are screams. The others fleeing in the dark ahead of her. Milosh was on his knees, whispering prayers before he fled into the dark screaming. Ryan can still hear their screams but she is alone, turning to face the machine angel behind her, Chief Inspector Detective Grey. She is all that stands between it and the others.
In binary crackle and hiss Grey demands that the fleeing group stops and faces it, and Ryan does, in defensive posture, asp baton flicked out to full extension. She stands surrounded by peeling World War Two era posters, warning of the Nazis threat or telling of rationing products. Amongst these anachronisms she sees Inspector Grey, grey suit tattered, advancing steadily, flywheel wings extended and energy crackling from its eyes.
“Halt!” Ryan screams
In response its voice slams out like concussive force with the volume of a loud hailer. Like thousands of languages and none, breaking Ryan to her knees. Below the noise a single thread of conscious thought breaks straight into her skull, piercing it like an industrial drill.
“Behold, for I am an angel of the lord and I bring glad tidings. Fall to your knees and embrace the machine”
Doubt creeps into Ryan’s mind, and in one moment she is free, and with that moment she runs out into the darkness. She cannot hear her footfalls as she runs, the air filled with static, rising and mixing with its own echoes, the grinding of gears crunching behind the walls. Further and further she runs until her foot finds nothing but air. Her hand snaps back, grabbing a rung in the dark, holding to it until she can pull the rest of her body up, ascending further, ascending into a room of pitch black.
There are echoes off far flung walls, the open chamber must be vast. A percussive beat repeats, bouncing against the walls, a percussive beat, so very close to a heart beat but so alien. Ryan stands, sweat dripping off her from the heat of her exertions and of this place. A green emergency light sparks to life in the distance, illuminating a small chunk of the colossal chamber.
There is a carriage built into the ceiling, a train carriage, row of mannequins dangling down from it, lit by the exit sign. As Ryan draws closer she sees something clamped around each of their heads, a steel sphere akin to a diving helmet. The nearest mannequin jerks spasmodically in the air, starting the others twitching down the line. Moans come out, groaning with each percussive heartbeat. Ryan swallows down dry throat, they are people hanging in the air. Pipes intruding into every opening their body has, blue liquid pumping into them.
Staggering back Ryan sees herself as if from behind, disassociated, shaking. Moment after moment, broken by the dull beat, she drags herself back to herself. Crouched in a corner, swallowing back vomit. Her breath erratic and shallow, the moaning continuing above to the pained heartbeat.
Grey is here, chief inspector Grey, approaching Ryan, human in form, nondescript, but illuminated by a flicking aura in the dark as if the centre of a plasma ball. He offers his hand, sheeting in grey suit, speaking in human tones
“Ryan, we have so much in common. We both serve higher agencies than ourselves. Why do you resist the experiment so much?”
“If you understood me at all you wouldn’t need to ask that question”
Grey pauses, confused by the response “But, that is precisely the point. We are trying to understand you”
Pointedly ignore the extended hand Ryan pulls herself to her feet, not saying a word.
“All I wanted was to show you the facility” Grey says “Dave is there. Why don’t you come with me? I tried approaching Gwil but he is…protected”
“And what part do you play in this?” Ryan asks
“I am the messenger. I am the trumpet. I am god’s voice. I am trying to make you see reason Ryan”
“Does this mean you played a part in Dave’s disappearance?”
“I did, I was following orders just as you do”
With a thin lipped smile Ryan pulls her police cuffs loose “Inspector Grey, you are under arrest”
The light around Grey flickers “I don’t understand. I was just obeying the law, how can I be under arrest?”
“You assisted in kidnapping. You broke the law. You just confessed to me. You are under arrest Mr Grey”
“I am not Mr Grey. I, I am am Chief Inspector Grey. I am not assigned that role. Why would you indicate I disobeyed. Why..?” Grey staggers backwards as he speaks “This is unpurposefull”
“Stay where you are Mr Grey” Ryan barks, as she would to any common crook
Grey falls to his knees, clockwork angled imagery breaking in the air around him, scrabbling backwards. His face is still, incapable of showing emotion, but his body language is screaming he is terrified. Standing, stumbling back he crashes thorough the dangling bodies, hands trying to grasp for support as they moan.
“Why don’t you follow the purpose?” Grey shouts, his face still showing nothing but his voice breaking with distress “Why won’t you follow it you animals?”
Bundling Grey to the ground, tying cuffs around his hands Ryan speaks, practised and smooth “You are under arrest, you do not have to say anything but anything you do not say which you later rely on in court…”
Power bursts upwards, Grey’s head snaps back, mouth wide as he screams, a clockwork angel and pure sphere of energy merged as one burst loose. Lights blow out, bodies scream and the air fills with the smell of burning meat. Gears grind backwards, the groaning of stressed metal like that of pain. Then everything is still. A broken man, weeping on the ground, Grey reaches out his hand before him. The cuffs burnt off, just remaining as silver bands burnt into his skin.
“Mr Grey” Ryan says, pressing one hand to his shoulder.
“God was wrong” Grey weeps “God was wrong”
“I don’t know” Ryan replies as Grey looks up, non threatening now
“I understand you now Ryan. You have a choice to make. You, Gwil., Sanjiv and the others. That choice will decide what happens to you and many other people, maybe the world, or this version of it. You have to leave now. The angels will be coming for you”
“You’re coming with me” Ryan says, gripping at Grey’s shoulder.
“No” Grey says “Before I fell I was given one final insight. One moment of clarity. Gwil will be at the heart now, the principle chamber. He should be able to see us soon. We will soon be returning to the rest of the world, to the Alpha facility. When that happens we will need to leave quickly. Then you and I will have to part ways. I don’t know if I should thank you Ryan or kill you”
“Try the latter and you will regret it”
“I’d be breaking the law”
“That’s why you would regret it”
That was two hours ago. This is now. Grey has gone. The survivors of the incident are left at the train station they emerged blinking out into. Out into a sweltering early summer evening. Out to a changed world. There has been a terrorist attack at Waterloo station. Trisha is near catatonic. Away from the others Gwil has slumped down against a phone booth he was just using, sobbing as the last shreds of his world have been torn apart. Milosh gone, he left the station screaming holy catechisms in a haze of terror. Sanjiv moves between them, trying to be the rock they hold onto, reassuring Nate that he will get his niece back. “I’ll talk to Gwil “Sanjiv says “He is calling for backup, and has a plan, we will get things back under control”
Nate paces, unshaven, ill fed and both skin and clothes stinking, he looks to Gwil with burning hatred. “You get my niece off him or I’m going to break him. I’m going to fuck him up. If she is not on the phone soon he’s going straight onto the train track.”
Hearing this Ryan moves subtly, placing herself on the path between Nate and Gwil, glancing back at Gwil with dark clouds brooding behind her eyes.
Leaving Nate Sanjiv walks over to where Gwil I huddled. Gwil looks up, suspicion and paranoid in his eyes as Sanjiv approaches
“Right” Sanjiv says, holding a business like demeanor “Gwil, what’s the situation? Where do we stand?”
“What were you talking about with Nate? What were you planning?”
“Planning? Very little. He is concerned about his niece”
“Hah, You say that, That man want to beat me down, tear me apart. That’s all he said? I don’t believe you”
“He said that yes. He does want to hurt you. He wants his niece, but its me talking to you, the man with the answers”
“Everything’s connected. You’re planning, go back to Nate and talk, you do that, plan your little plans“
Sanjiv walks away, heading back to Ryan and whispering “Gwil is becoming unhinged. Where does that leave us?”
Ryan is quiet for a moment, rubbing her temples. “Go and see if Nate and Trish need any help, I’ll talk to Gwil”
Sanjiv nods and goes to collect coffee and snacks from the machines at the station, distributing them between the others, trying to bring them back to the mundane world with inconsequential conversation. Nate sips the coffee, muttering curses under him breath, eyes fixed on Gwil.
Approaching Gwil, Ryan drops to one knee just in front of him, their eyes level “How you doing there Gwil?”
“You didn’t tell me you knew Mark” Gwil says
“I didn’t know you did, that’s why” Ryans says , keeping her voice soothing
“He’s with the demiurge now, the god machine, how are you not?”
“You know I’m not, otherwise why would I be doing this?”
“I don’t know. Nothing we do, nothing it does makes sense from a level we can understand”
“Gwil, listen, I need to ask you a pointed question. Is there anything I need to know that you are not telling me?”
Gwils laughter, painful and hoarse rocks out for several moment, descending into chokes of tears
“Gwil, is there anything you are not telling me?” Ryan repeats
“No. Nothing. Help is coming soon”
Ryan holds a stare for several moments, blunt disbelief in her face. “Gwil. Tell me where she is. Tell me where Nate’s niece is”
“I don’t know”
“I know you are lying Gwil”
From the distance Nate’s voice joins the air “Yeah Gwil, why don’t you fucking tell me where my fucking niece is” Nate’s hands clenches and unclenches as he takes one step forwards towards Gwil, then another.
“Nate sit down.” Ryan says, as Nate takes another step, then another “Nate, sit down or I’ll put CS in your fucking eyes”
“It’s my fucking niece Ryan. You were at her fucking birthday. What the fuck are you doing”
“I’m handling it”
“Fuck you, you’re on his side. You are just standing there, she is my fucking niece. If our friendship means anything then”
“If our friendship means anything” Ryan interrupts “Then you will trust me”
“Fucking deal with it then, or I’ll fucking kill the cunt” Nate says, but steps back a single pace.
“We all want her back, I’m handling it”
Sanjiv steps up “Nate man, let her work, we need answers not a bloodbath”
Nate looks from Ryan to Gwil, only the friendship between him and PC Ryan Winters keeps him from attempting to beat Gwil’s face into the concrete
“Nate, I need you to trust me on this on. I need your help” Seeing Nate’s eyes moving back to Gwil Ryan continues “Nate, Nate, look at me, look at me”
“When did it all fucking change.” Nate shakes his head “All this shit. Last I heard my niece was safe and sound. Then this religious Jihad fucking bastard…I’m giving you five minutes with this prick then I’m coming for him”
“If you fucking kill me” Gwil starts but Ryan cuts him off “Gwil, not now”
“No, A policeman tries to do my head in, Nate puts me through a fucking table, threatens to kill me, I’ve been framed with the worst crime, the crime I can’t eat and IM THE ONE IN FUCKING TROUBLE!” Gwil screams by the end, pent up fear and anger released.
Ryan looks to Sanjiv “Listen, Nate’s not to go anywhere near him, There’s only one of me, I need your help”
Nervous, Sanjiv nods “I don’t know what I can do here, but I’ll try
Returning, knelt beside Gwil, Ryan repeats “Gwil, where is she?”
“I can’t say. The Demiurge had a camera on all of us. It is watching us, but it couldn’t see here. If I say….”
“Gwil, whatever your motivations were ,we can deal with this, you can’t try and take all the responsibility yourself”
“It can’t see us, it didn’t know the child” Gwil says, nigh incomprehensible “We can protect her. It can’t see us, we are protected”
“You keep saying that. You know I faced Grey, I took him from the machine. We can protect her”
“I can’t say a single word here or it will know. The camera on her, it was blind, it couldn’t see her. I tried to contact her but it could not”
“You’re lying, you’re not telling me something”
“I’m not” Gwil shouts, then his voice drops down to a whisper “I’m just not telling you some things, can’t tell you some things, I can’t tell you everything about the child but I saw it break one of the demiurges agents down while it was a full strength”
Finally Ryan’s patience snaps “You know what, fuck you. We are all in this shit together. You stand there on your high horse. We need to work together. You, you are nothing”
Gwil’s head droops “I’m nothing. Yeah, I’m nothing. I am shit, I take sin and pain and abuse and this is all I FUCKING HAVE. Everyone looks down on me, this is what I fucking am, this is what I fucking do!”
Aside from the two arguing Sanjiv is first to notice a group of cars pulling up nearby, an attractive woman in hear early twenties dressed in a business suit and sensible shoes steps out, surrounded by a group of Caucasian men in combat trousers hefting pick axes and baseball bats. The woman gestures for them to run quickly to the scene.
“Ryan, incoming, Bridge” Sanjiv shouts
“They’re yours I take it” Ryan says
“You wanted help, you got it” Gwil mutters.
“Well, lets see if they are here to help.” Ryan says, quickly taking in the group. The men are skinheads, rough lot ready for a fight. The woman, hair tied back, impeccable make up, most likely mixed race background. With a slight start she realises that the approaching woman is his friend Mark’s partner Lucy.
“Leave the prophet alone” Lucy says “He comes with us”
“Listen to them” Gwil says “They have an engineer, they can destroy the factory of the demiurge”
“SILENCE” Lucy shouts “They already know too much, we will have to take them with is. Bring them into the faith or..”
“No. They have seen it. They have faced it. They have fought it. They fought it in its home.”
“They are irrelevant. Only your words inspired by the child mean anything now. You will never want for anything, you can never leave, your words cannot fall on the ignorant”
Seeing Nate, restless, hefting a crowbar just behind him, Gwil speaks again “You say my words are important? Then hear me, these people have faced it down. They have a role in this, they are to be left alone”
Nate pushes past Gwil, furious and moments away from violence “Where is my fucking niece?”
Ryan looks to Gwil “Gwil, you have to listen to me, you have a decision to make and it is an important one. We are your friends here”
The skinheads are stepping forwards, Nate is ready to snap. Gwil stands, walking to the bridge over the railway, scaling it. Caught up in the immanent conflict Lucy does not see until it is almost too late and then she shouts “Prophet! Your people are here. They will not do you any harm”
“If I am a prophet then hear my words, THEY ARE TO BE LEFT ALONE”
Lucy glances to her followers “He is under duress, ignore him”
“Stand back!” Gwil shouts, extending one leg into the open air, the railway below him.
“Gwil. Gwil. This is foolish, think of your destiny. Think of your faith. We can bring down the demiurge, we can convert them. We need you to lead them”
“Gwil” Ryan says “We’ve been through too much now to turn back. What they offer, it’s just words”
“NO. It’s my entire life” Gwil sways, tottering on the brink.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Lucy indicates to one of the skinheads “Shut her up”
The skinhead steps forwards, hefting a baseball bat which he spins in the air before pulling back for a swing. The swing gets half way to its destination then spasms backwards, elbow shattered by the precision impact of an asp baton. Pulling the baton back, ready for another attack, Ryan watches at the screaming skinhead collapses, finger clutching and unclenching at random around thin air.
Sanjiv moves back, away from the threat of violence, kicking the fallen baseball bat away from anyone who could use it as he does so. “Move back” Ryan shouts, with all the authority her police training can bring to bear.
Lucy looks from Gwil, to the crowd. CCTV cameras are turned on them. Camera phones flash from the station. “Shit”
“You stay where you are” Ryan says
“You all right luv?” An Essex accented voice shouts from beside the tracks. An old gentleman shouting to Ryan “Want us to call the rest of the boys in blue?”
Ryan nods, and turns back to Lucy “You stay there and get to your knees right now”
“Please, Ryan. Don’t” Gwil says, arm extended, his entire world still crumbling long after he had thought it already fallen apart.
“Shit. Shit. Shit” Lucy says, panic on her face now “Prophet! Everyone, fucking run, go back, the new Druid will know what to do” and with that the group breaks and flees back down the route they came.
Ryan looks to Nate “I’m going after her, don’t you go after Gwil while I’m gone.” Hearing this Gwil moves down from the scaffolding, moving himself in-between Ryan and the fleeing figures
“No. You’ve taken too much from me today already. You don’t get to do this”
“Go” Sanjiv says “If she has information we need it. I’ve got this”
“She had an engineer” Gwil shouts “We needed one. I was just trying to stop the demiurge. An engineer. An accident. That was all we needed.”
“I think that is what we are all trying to do” Sanjiv says, trying to calm Gwil
Realising she has stayed still too long already Ryan starts running after the others, but Gwil pushes himself in the way, arms outstretched, blocking her path. As Ryan ties to push past Gwil grabs her arm. Reflexively Ryan grabs it, trying to throw Gwil to the ground. Sandbagging, Gwil locks his arms around Ryan, trying to drag them both to the ground. For several moments they struggle, despite her police training Ryan can’t quite seem to get control of the situation,and for all his trying neither can Gwil. The two struggling against each other in the open.
After keeping Nate from piling in, keeping his temper restrained, Sanjiv finally concedes “Nate. Please help out, but capture, don’t harm him”
The first Gwil and Ryan are aware of this new development is when an iron bar swings past Gwil’s head, barely missing as it pulls back, trying not to catch Ryan as the two struggle.
Nate is standing there, iron bar in hand pulling back for another swing. Caught with Ryan’s arms holding him in place Gwil knows he is a sitting duck. Eyes wide he raises his arms best he can in surrender. “What the fuck you fucking psycho?” He shouts as the bar comes down again.
The next few moments mesh together, everything happening at once. “That’s enough, back off” Snajiv shouts, stepping in. Ryan shoves Gwil to the ground, trying to step in-between Nate and him. He nearly manages to do so, the iron bar scraping across the side of her head as Ryan reaches up for Nate’s arm.
It isn’t enough though, the iron bar slams into the unprotected back of Gwil’s skull as he falls, and Gwil’s collapse goes from a controlled slump to the falling of a rag doll, blood gushing from the open wound as Gwil hits the ground face first and lies there still.
Time freezes for moment, Sanjiv’s eyes wide. Ryan staggered, blood pouring down her face from an open wound, matting her hair to her face in clumps. Then time snaps back. Sanjiv shaking like a leaf at the violence, Nate stomping again and again on Gwil’s limp body.
Pushing through the fear Sanjiv steps in, protecting Gwil’s body “What part of don’t hurt him did you miss?”
Triumphant Nate throws the iron bar to the ground “Yeah, that’s what you fucking get. That’s what you get for fucking with me and my family” Cold anger settles over him “Sanjiv, it was my niece, my fucking niece man”
Nate turns to address Ryan and his words turn to ashes in his mouth. Ryan stands there, eyes cold, anger shielded behind her eyes. Blood running down her face and dripping from her chin, splattering her clothes, the weeping gash from Nate’s iron bar openly visible.
Nate’s mouth works wordlessly, emotions unhidden on his face. Shock first, protected by anger, but soon his face collapses. His face shakes at what he has done, to the friend that stood by him. Nate takes two long steps and launches himself from out onto the track. There is a blur of a freight train and he is gone.
Ryan looks at what was once her friend, and breaks down crying on the platform. Another broken life.