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Tuesday, 6th January, 2009, 11:24 AM #391
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 6 – Calling for Backup
In the sheriff's station, Okaley tried the phone. He slammed the receiver back down. "Damn!"
"They have control of everything," said Guppy. "It won't work."
"You boys got them satellite phones, right?" asked Oakley. "Can't you call for the National Guard or something?"
Jim-Bean tested his cistron. There was some interference, but he could hear a faint dial tone.
He punched in Sprague's number. The reception was bad enough that his features did not flicker on screen, but he could hear him.
"Sprague?" said Jim-Bean. "We're in Groversville. There's some kind of plague, everyone's dead. We're requesting a quarantine."
"Quarantine?" More static. "Are you asking for a full quarantine—TSSSZZZHHHK—Copperfield?"
"Yes sir, we think that—"
A high pitched squeal cut him off. The other agents checked their cistrons. Nothing.
"Well that's that," said Jim-Bean.
"Now what?" asked Guppy.
"Now we wait," said Hammer. "We stay here until we can be sure that—"
The phone started ringing again.
This time the speakerphone went on by itself. All they could hear was buzzing.
"Ahhh, $#!+," said Oakley.
The lights went out.
"Okay," began Hammer, "we need to board up the—"
"Shh!" said Jim-Bean.
There was flapping noise outside. Something was buzzing quickly back and forth in front of the windows. In the darkness, it thumped softly. Thump ... thump-thump.
It was the sound of a padded blow. Like a dropped pillow striking the floor. Thump-thump ... thump ... thump-thump.
Louder. But not closer. Thump!
Something struck a window, rattled a loose pane, and rebounded into the night. There was the impression of wings.
Using his keys, Oakley unlocked the gun locker and started handing out shotguns. "I'm tired of this. It's time we started fighting back."
"We don't know what we're dealing with," said Hammer.
“We know exactly what we’re dealing with,” said Guppy. “Those are aliens. We have to wait until Majestic-12…”
“Majestic who?” asked Oakley.
Hammer shot Guppy a glare. “Nothing. Don’t mind him, he’s had a rough day.”
“Well I’m not going to sit here and wait to get eaten."
The flapping thing returned, battering itself against the glass with greater determination than before: Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump!
With the streetlamps extinguished, Skyline Road was dark except for the luminous moon fall; however, the thing at the window was vaguely illuminated. Even vague illumination of the fluttering monstrosity was too much.
What they saw on the other side of the glass was something out of a fever dream. It had a six-foot wingspan. A head covered with quivering cilia. A segmented body. The body was suspended between the pale pink wings; it, too, was pink, the same shade as the wings—a moldy, sickly pink—and fuzzy and moist-looking.
"The alien dog," whispered Hammer. He remembered it. It was the "dog" that the Greys had asked for help with at the North Platte Air Force Base.
It bashed itself against the windows with new fury, in a frenzy, its pale wings beating so fast that it became a blur.
Guppy flipped over a table and hid behind it, his Beretta at the ready. Jim-Bean exchanged his SIG for the HG36.
It moved along the dark panes, repeatedly rebounding into the night, then returning, trying feverishly to crash through the window. Thumpthumpthumpthump. But it didn't have the strength to smash its way inside. Thumpthumpthump.
"Eat hot lead!" shouted Oakley.
"No, wait!" shouted Hammer.
Oakley raised the shotgun and pumped bullets through the glass until he ran out of shells.
The thumping stopped. The glass was shattered.
Oakley stood near the opening. “Well, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that thing anymore.” He cocked his shotgun with one hand. “I figure I just unleashed an armory’s worth of ammunition—“
He didn’t get to finish his sentence as claws grabbed Oakley by the head and yanked him out the window.
Sheriff Oakley screamed. The thing was fixed firmly to Oakley's face, holding on by some means not visible. His entire head was hidden by the thing. The thing was squealing, too, making a high-pitched, keening sound.
In the moon's silvery beams, the bat-winged lobster's huge pale velvety wings flapped and folded and spread with horrible grace and beauty, buffeting Oakley's head and shoulders.
Hammer unleashed both Glocks into it. Little pirouettes of dust spiraled off of the thing's back, as if he were beating an old coat.
Oakley staggered away, moving blindly, clawing at the outrageous thing that clung to his face. His screams quickly grew muffled; within a couple of seconds, they were silenced altogether.
Hammer kept firing. Guppy and Jim-Bean stayed in the sheriff's office. Guppy held up his cistron and snapped picture after picture.
Oakley began to run, but he only went a few yards before coming to an abrupt halt. His hands dropped away from the thing on his face. His knees were buckling.
Hammer reloaded and resumed peppering the thing with bullets. It wasn't having any effect.
Oakley didn't crumple to the ground. Instead, his shaky knees locked, and he snapped erect. His shoulders jerked back. His body twitched and shuddered as if an electric current flashed through him.
Hammer put down his pistols. It was hopeless. He watched helplessly as Oakley began to weave and thrash in a St. Virus dance of pain and suffocation. Oakley moved erratically across the cement, jerked this way and that, heaved and writhed and spun, as if he were attached to strings that were being manipulated by a drunken puppeteer. His hands hung slackly at his sides, which makes his frantic and spasmodic capering seem especially eerie. His hands flopped and flounder weakly, but they did not rise to tear at his assailant.
It was almost as if, now, he was in the grip of ecstasy rather than the clutch of pain.
Then Oakley collapsed.
In that same instant, the thing rose and turned, suspended in the air, hovering on rapidly beating wings, night-black and hateful. It swooped at Hammer.
He ducked, and the thing flew into the night.
Hammer crawled over to Oakley's body. It was sprawled on the pavement, flat on his back. Unmoving. The sheriff lay in the middle of the street, where there was just enough light to see that his face was gone.
Gone. As if it had been torn off. His hair and ragged ribbons of his scalp bristled over the white bone of his forehead. A skull peered up at him.
Hammer stared into the skull. Whatever it was ate through Oakley’s face. It took his eyes, most of the soft tissue, and his entire brain. Which was impossible.
"What happened?" asked Guppy meekly from the station.
"Stay there. Oakley's…" he had difficulty forming the word. "He's dead. Let's just leave it at that."
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Wednesday, 7th January, 2009, 11:31 AM #392
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 7 – Copperfield Arrives
The agents had boarded up every opening and slept in shifts. But Groversville's horrors had not coming calling since Oakley's death. Morning finally broke.
Guppy perked up. "I think I hear vehicles!"
They moved one of the desks out of the way of the office window. Sunlight streamed through.
At the bottom of Skyline Road, a large vehicle drove into view, and the sound of its laboring engine grew louder.
There were three large vehicles. They crawl slowly up the long, sloped street towards Merle's Shut Eye Motel.
Leading the procession was a gleaming, white motor home, a lumbering thirty-six foot behemoth that was somewhat modified. It had no doors or windows along its flank. The only entrance was at the back. The curved, wraparound windshield of the cab was tinted very dark and was made of much thicker glass than that used in ordinary motor homes. There was no identification on the vehicle, no project name, no indication that it Majestic property.
Behind the first motor home came a second. Bringing up the rear was an unmarked truck pulling a thirty-foot, plain gray trailer. Even the truck's windows were tinted, armor-thick glass.
The payload in the motor homes and in the truck was obviously quite heavy. Their engines strained hard, and they ground their way up the street, moving slower than ten miles an hour, then slower than five, inching, groaning, grinding.
When at last they reach Merle’s, they kept on going, made a right-hand turn at the corner, and swung into the cross street that flanked the motel.
The agents ran out to greet them.
The motorcade pulled up to the curb and parked. The three overheated engines were switched off, one after the other, and silence fell in with a weight of its own.
The back door of the truck opened first, and men jumped down. They were dressed for operations in a biologically contaminated atmosphere. They wore the white, airtight vinyl suits of the type developed for NASA, with large helmets that had oversized Plexiglas faceplates. Each man carried his own air supply tank on his back, as well as a briefcase-sized waste purification and reclamation system.
Half a dozen agile men scrambled out of the truck. More were still coming, all heavily armed. They spread out around both sides of their caravan and took up positions between their transport and the agents, facing away from the vehicles.
"These men aren’t scientists," said Guppy. "They're support troops."
Their names were stenciled on their helmets, just above their faceplates: Sgt. Harker, Pvt. Podor, Pvt. Pascam, and Lt. Undli. They brought up their guns and aimed outward, securing a perimeter in a determined fashion that brooked no interference.
Hammer found himself staring into the muzzle of a submachine gun.
Jim-Bean stepped forward. "You must be Sprague's—"
Sergeant Harker, nearest to them, swung his gun toward the sky and fired a short burst of warning shots.
One of the soldiers spoke. Lieutenant Underhill. His voice issued tinnily from a small radio amplifier in a six-inch-square box on his chest.
"Please stay back from the vehicles. Our first duty is to guard the integrity of the labs, and we will do so at all costs."
Jim-Bean stepped back.
The rear door of the first motor home finally opened. The five individuals who came out were also dressed in airtight suits, but they were not soldiers. They move unhurriedly.
They were unarmed. One of them was a woman. The names on their helmets weren't preceded by designation of rank: Bettenby, Valdez, Niven, Yamaguchi, Adams. They were the Majestic-friendlies, physicians and scientists who, in an extreme chemical biological warfare emergency, walked away from their private lives, putting themselves at Majestic's disposal.
"Adams," said Guppy softly, recognizing the name.
Six men came out of the second motor home. Goldstein, Roberts, Copperfield, and Houk. The last two were in unmarked suits, no names above their faceplates. They moved up the line, staying behind the armed soldiers, and joined up with Bettenby, Valdez, Niven, Yamaguchi, and Adams.
The ten of them conducted a brief conversation amongst themselves, by way of inter-suit radio. Their lips moved behind their Plexiglas visors, but the squawk boxes on their chests did not transmit a word, which meant they had the capability to conduct both public and strictly private discussions. For the time being, they were opting for privacy.
General Galen Copperfield, the tallest of the twenty, turned away from the group at the rear of the first motor home, stepped onto the sidewalk, and approached Jim-Bean.
"Sorry about the guns," Copperfield said. He turned to the stone-faced troopers and said, "Okay, men. It's a no-sweat situation. Parade rest."
Because of the air tanks they were carrying, the soldiers couldn't comfortably assume a classic parade rest position. But, moving with the fluid harmony of a precision drill team, they immediately slung their submachine guns from their shoulders, spread their feet precisely twelve inches apart, put their arms straight down at their sides, and stood motionless, facing forward.
"Just SOP," Copperfield said. "You Agent Jim-Bean?"
Jim-Bean stepped forward again. "Err, yes?"
"Major Sprague sent word. We're the cavalry."
Guppy started to speak but Copperfield cut him off.
"I don't mean to be rude, but we don't have time for introductions. Later. Right now, I want to move. The first thing we need to know what we’re dealing with here. What kind of threat is it: biological, chemical, or other?”
"We think it's a combination of biological and chemical," said Hammer. "We found four dead bodies and witnessed the murder of two more. Whatever it is, it’s quiet enough to move undetected amongst three trained agents, strong enough to tear the engine out of a vehicle without making a sound, fast enough to move between rooms over one-hundred feet apart in a matter of seconds, and smart enough to turn stereos on and off."
"Damn," said Copperfield.
"We've got pictures," said Guppy. "Of an airborne assailant." He transmitted the pictures to Copperfield's heads up display in his suit. Although they were still having interference with their cistrons, the convoy carried its own remote hub.
The pictures were blurry, out of focus, as if the thing wasn't entirely in their dimension.
"And you think this is the same thing that killed everyone here?"
Hammer frowned. "Possibly, sir. It's also possible there are two different entities, or that it can change forms as needed."
“In the forty-eight hours prior to these events, was there any evidence of power failures, telephone interruptions, or strange lights in the sky?”
"Yes," said Jim-Bean. "The phone lines went out. You may want to check the cables."
“We recorded this over the phones,” said Guppy. He tapped a key and uploaded the odd message they heard over the phone. It played in all of the helmets of the men around them, eerily echoing from everywhere at once.
Copperfield considered for a moment. "I want you boys tested and decontaminated. We have chemical showers on the bus."
Houk led them over to the largest bus. "After Agent Tucker's explosion, we were able to quantify the existence of an unknown compound in his skin. His muscles were entirely replaced with tissue that, while mimicking human muscle tissue, also possesses a number of non-human characteristics. We call it protomatter."
They were stripped naked and marched into the showers.
"Like in the mirror," said Guppy. He looked at himself in the large mirror on the opposite side, which concealed technicians monitoring and recording.
Jim-Bean swallowed hard. "What kind of characteristics?"
"Resistance to temperature extremes. The ability to regenerate at rapid speeds. The good news is Doctor Emerson has found a way to help identify who has been infected with protomatter. Leucopararosaniline is a compound that turns purple under blacklight. If you've come into contact with any biological agents, we'll know." Houk flipped a switch and a blast of sanitizing powder struck them all. Then the spray of liquid came down.
He flipped another switch. The lab went dark and blacklights turned on.
Guppy and Hammer looked at themselves. They were flecked with the stuff, in bits and pieces. It wasn't a total infestation, but they were definitely exposed to protomatter.
"It must be in the food and water of this place," said Hammer. "We were very careful…"
But the scientists ignored them. They were all staring at Jim-Bean.
"What…?" asked Jim-Bean. He looked down at himself. His arm was glowing purple.
Then he looked up in the mirror.
Jim-Bean’s entire body pulsed with a purple glow.
Thursday, 8th January, 2009, 11:43 AM #393
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 8 – Adams' Theory
The agents were dressed in their old clothes.
"I don't know why we can't have containment suits," said Guppy. "They should let us put on suits."
"They're not giving us suits," said Hammer, "because we're contaminated."
"Not just contaminated," said Jim-Bean morosely. "Infected. We're screwed. That's why he still wants us to investigate everything. Let the walking dead go first."
"Stop talking like that," snapped Hammer. "Guppy's having a tough enough time as it is."
One of the men in NBC suits cleared his throat.
Hammer brightened. Anything to get his mind off of their plight. "Adams? Scott Adams?"
"In the flesh, so to speak," said Adams with a chuckle. "I'm afraid I'm not the author of the Dilbert comics, however."
"Who are you then?" asked Jim-Bean.
"I didn't want to bring it up at the start," said Adams." I thought I might get straighter answers from you if you weren't immediately aware of what I was here for. I’m a member of Saucerwatch."
"Saucerwatch!" said Guppy. "THAT Scott Adams! I went to one of your seminars!"
From beneath his bubble face mask, Adams smiled benevolently at Guppy. "Saucerwatch doesn’t go around checking out every crackpot report of little green men from Mars. For one thing, we don't have the funds to do that. Our job is planning for the scientific, social, and military aspects of mankind's encounter with an alien intelligence. We're really more of a think tank than anything else."
"That's right," said Guppy, talking quickly. "Your theory was that an alien encounter might start out in such a bizarre way that we wouldn't even recognize it as a first encounter. The popular concept of spaceships descending from the sky ... " Guppy's smile faded. His own personal experience was very different.
"If we find ourselves dealing with truly alien intelligences, their ships might be so different from our concept of a ship that we wouldn't even be aware they'd landed," continued Adams. "This is why we check into strange phenomena that don’t seem to be UFO related at first glance."
"And you think this is aliens," said Hammer.
"It’s much too soon to make any judgment about Groversville. We do believe there's a small chance the first contact between man and alien might involve the danger of biological contamination. Perhaps that’s why this thing, whatever it is, wrote my name on the bathroom wall. It chose me, based on my theories, as someone who might understand it. An inexplicable outbreak of an unknown disease might indicate an unrecognized contact with an extraterrestrial presence."
"But it killed the entire population of Groversville," said Jim-Bean.
"There's no guarantee that a creature with greater intelligence would be pacifistic and benevolent. That's a common conceit: the notion that aliens would've learned how to live in complete harmony among themselves and with other species. As that old song says ... it ain't necessarily so. After all, mankind is considerably further along the road of evolution than gorillas are, but as a species we're definitely more warlike than gorillas at their most aggressive."
A call came over the cistrons about a finding in the barn. Adams listened to different orders inside his helmet.
“Well gentlemen, looks like I’m with you.”
Friday, 9th January, 2009, 12:01 PM #394
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 9 – The Installation
“So this is the barn where mysterious lights were sighted?” asked Adams.
Lieutenant Underhill and his men were posted outside of the normal-looking barn. “According to newspaper reports from the last week. We tried to open the doors, but they’re sealed.”
“Sealed?” asked Jim-Bean. “How do you seal a barn?”
“We could probably open it, but we have orders not to move on this without your say so.”
Hammer and Jim-Bean grabbed hold of the edges and yanked hard. The doors creaked open.
Beyond was a sheet of dry, resin-like matter. It was too opaque to see through. “We tried cutting it with no luck.”
Hammer nodded to Underhill. “Blow it.”
“Okay, everybody back!” shouted Underhill. The soldiers set up plastique all along the perimeter. After several warnings to stand back, the explosions went off simultaneously in tight, controlled bursts. The barn doors collapsed forward and the sheet shattered.
Hammer, Jim-Bean, Guppy, and Adams entered. It was clear that Underhill had orders to let the agents go first.
All walls on the ground level have been reinforced with a sort of spray epoxy. The interior walls on the ground floor were removed, leaving a large, open area about sixty feet long by thirty feet wide. Within, a large number of strange instruments were spread about in disarray. The majority of the devices was too alien to be understood; lights, glows, pulsing bellows, and all sorts of bizarre apparatuses that had a weirdly fungal, biological look to them.
There was a large, enclosed vat with a hole on rent in its side, as if it were struck by a powerful force. Also scattered about the vat were …
Guppy backed away, hyperventilating.
“They’re dead, Guppy,” said Hammer. “Relax.”
The limbs of Grey bodies were twisted in odd ways.
“The one at GNN was supposed to be dead too,” said Jim-Bean.
Hammer shushed him. He wasn’t helping.
“Looks like an explosion,” said Adams. “This is fascinating. So there WAS alien life here…”
“Of course!” shouted Guppy. “They abducted me! They’ll abduct all of us if they get the chance—“
“Guppy!” shouted Hammer. “I need you to cool it! Calm down!”
Guppy blinked, looking around. “I need to…I need to get out of here.”
“Fine. Step outside and take a breather.” Hammer called into his cistron. “Underhill, we need a STREETSWEEP.”
“Coming right up, sir,” replied Underhill.
Jim-Bean inspected the canister. “See this?”
Hammer joined him. “Yeah?”
“The hole exploded outwards. Whatever was in there got out.”
“Dunbar here,” said another member of Copperfield’s crew. “You’d better take a look at this.”
Saturday, 10th January, 2009, 12:28 PM #395
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 10 – Jesus Loves Me
When the agents got to the house, they found the three men assigned to it—Brogan, Wong, and Dunbar—with their machine guns out, but unsure what to aim at. They glanced up as the agents entered, looking disconcerted and baffled.
"Here we go 'round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush." The air was filled with a child's singing. A little boy. His voice was clear and fragile and sweet. "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush, so early in the moooorrrninnnggg!"
The song changed. The voice was the same: "This old man, he plays one; he plays knickknack on my drum. With a knickknack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone—"
Adams leaned forward. “Is that…is that coming from the sink?”
The child's voice sounded like it was coming out of the drain, as if he were trapped far down in the pipes.
"—this old man goes rolling home."
"It just started all of a sudden," said Wong, raising his voice above the singing.
"It started a couple of minutes ago," said Brogan.
"I was standing at the sink," said Dunbar. He was a burly, hairy, rough-looking man with warm, shy brown eyes. "When the singing started up ... Jesus, I must've jumped two feet!"
The song changed again. The sweetness was replaced by a cloying, almost mocking piety: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him are drawn. They are weak, but He is strong.”
Nothing about the singing was overtly threatening. The agents listened, mystified as to what to do next.
“Is there a basement?” asked Hammer.
“No, sir,” said Wong. “We’ve been getting ready to dig into the foundation, but there’s no way there’s a kid down those pipes.”
"Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus—"
The singing abruptly ceased.
Jim-Bean peered into the sink drain.
A long, high-pressure stream of exceptionally filthy, greasy water shot almost to the ceiling and rained down over everything. It was a short burst, only a second or two, spraying in every direction.
Everyone screamed. The men in the suits backed away. Guppy fell to the ground. Even Hammer, normally collected under the circumstances, took a few steps back.
Jim-Bean wiped some of it off of his face. “Relax,” he said. “It’s just sewer water.”
Guppy slowly got to his feet. “What do you care? You’re already contaminated.”
Underhill’s urgent call interrupted them. They were needed at the church.
“The Flaming Cross Church?” asked Jim-Bean as he wiped his face off with a towel. “Are they serious?”
Monday, 12th January, 2009, 12:54 AM #396
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 11a – The Flaming Cross Church
In the Flaming Cross Baptist Church, sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, which were composed predominantly of blues and greens. Hundreds of irregularly shaped patches of royal blue, sky blue, turquoise, aquamarine, emerald green, and many other shades dripped across the polished wooden pews, puddled in the aisles, and shimmered on the walls.
Just beyond the narthex, a stream of crimson light splashed across the white marble font that contained the holy water. It was the crimson of Christ's blood. The sun pierced a stained glass image of Christ's bleeding heart and sprayed sanguine rays upon the water that glistened in the pale marble bowl.
The church was solemn, silent, still. The air was softened by a pleasant trace of incense. In the pews, there were no worshipers. At first it appeared as if the church was deserted.
Then Hammer saw it. “Oh man.”
The chancel was cloaked in more shadows than the rest of the church, which is why he didn’t immediately notice the hideous—and sacrilegious—thing above the altar.
The altar candles had burned down all the way and had gone out. However, as the agents and their three-soldier escort progressed down the center aisle, they got a clearer and clearer view of the life-size crucifix that rose up from the center of the altar, along the rear wall of the chancel.
It was a wooden cross, with an exquisitely detailed, hand-painted, glazed plaster figure of Christ fixed to it. At the moment, much of the godly image was obscured by another body that hung in front of it. A real body, not another plaster corpus. It was the priest in his robes; he was nailed to the cross.
Two altar boys kneeled on the floor in front of the altar. They were dead, bruised, bloated.
Hammer walked over to inspect the corpse.
The flesh of the priest had begun to darken and to show other signs of imminent decomposition.
“Hmm, this one actually has signs of decomposition. It’s a day-old corpse.”
“There’s another pile of metal over here,” said Jim-Bean, pointing at the statue of Mary.
At the base of the statue of Mary, there was a large accumulation of metal buttons, wrist watches, and jewelry. Everything metal.
“It’s almost like an offering,” said Guppy.
“Not an offering,” said Adams. “Undigested remains. And a little something preserved and put aside for later, like a spider might do.”
“We’ve got something,” Underhill reported over the comm. “Looks like damage to the lines down in the sewers. That explains the phone and power outages.”
“What the …” Guppy was looking at the entryway to the church.
A wet golden retriever stood at the doorway. Whining, it padded towards them.
“Whatever you do, don’t touch it,” said Jim-Bean.
The soldiers trained their weapons on it. The dog whined and lay its head down …
And spiked tendrils, stiff as tree trunks, shot out of its back, piercing pews. One perforated Brogan’s helmet. His body twitched but stood upright, speared through the skull.
The other tendrils smashed through the pews. Wong and Dunbar dove to one side, Guppy, Jim-Bean, Hammer, and Adams to the other.
“Fire!” shouted Hammer. “Fire!”
They unleashed a hellish wrath of hot metal at the flailing tentacles. Bullets tore through flesh and the thing squealed. The automatic fire of machine guns tore it to pieces.
Brogan, finally released from the thing’s grip, collapsed to the ground.
Dunbar moved closer to the dogs smoking corpse. “Is it dead?”
“Stay away from it…” said Hammer.
That’s when they noticed that Brogan was standing up.
Brogan, who seconds before was writhing as a tentacle penetrated his suit, stood whole before them. The only evidence that anything was wrong was the hole in the faceplate of his suit.
Brogan opened his mouth and a strange voice issued from it. “You were brought here, Scott Adams. Do your research. Write the gospel. Spread the word of my glory.”
Then Brogan collapsed.
Jim-Bean, his pistol trained on Brogan, kicked the suit. “He…deflated. There’s no body inside the suit.”
He kicked it over. There was a crack in the floor.
“I was right,” said Adams. “It thinks of itself as a god. That’s why my name was on the mirror. It wanted you to bring me here. This thing, whatever it is, wants me to spread the word about its gospel. And it’s not going to stop until—“
The crack of a pistol rang out. Adams slumped to the ground, a bullet hole in the back of his helmet.
Hammer lowered his Glock. “You’re right. It’s not going to stop.”
Monday, 12th January, 2009, 05:57 AM #397
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Wow! I didn't see that coming. What made Hammer do that?
Monday, 12th January, 2009, 11:21 AM #398
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 11b – The Flaming Cross Church
I'll let Hammer explain in his own words. Let me know if you have any questions.
“You killed him?!” shouted Guppy. “You shot Adams in cold blood!” His pistol was out, pointed at Hammer.
Hammer had both Glocks out. “You heard him. This protomatter spawn wants him to spread the word. We can’t let—“
“Agents have been compromised!” shouted Wong. “Repeat, agents have been compromised! Requesting backup at the Flaming Cross Church.”
Dunbar opened fire, raking the pews with hot lead.
Hammer ducked down behind the pews. “I don’t want to fight you!”
Jim-Bean jumped out in front of Hammer. “Stop! This is a misunderstanding!”
In perfect synchronization, Wong and Dunbar drew grenades from their belts, activated them, and tossed them towards Hammer.
Jim-Bean held one hand up and one of the grenades abruptly changed its directory, sailing back towards Wong and Dunbar.
Hammer and Guppy dove in different directions as the grenades were triggered. Wooden pews flew everywhere in a shower of splinters.
The gunfire stopped. Guppy struggled to his feet.
“Dunbar? Wong?” He looked over at the smoking corpses of the two men. “You … you killed them too?”
Hammer had his Glocks out. “Guppy, you need to calm down and think straight …”
“You just killed three innocent people!” Guppy swiveled his Beretta towards Hammer.
“Put the gun down,” said Hammer. “You broke the number one rule, Guppy: never reveal the conspiracy. Don’t you see? That’s what this thing wanted. It wanted Adams to blow the conspiracy wide open. And that’s just as good as killing every one of those men that came with Copperfield.”
“Uh guys …” said Jim-Bean, staring out the doorway of the church.
“So you killed him,” said Guppy.
“I did what I had to do. What I signed up to do. What YOU signed up to do.”
“So now you’re going to kill me.” Guppy lowered his pistol.
Hammer lowered his Glocks. “No. But I am writing you up. You need help, Guppy. You’re getting increasingly erratic. I’m going to recommend you for a full psychiatric evaluation.” He brought his cistron to his lips. “This is Agent Hammer. Situation is resolved. Requesting an escort.”
Nothing but static. Guppy looked away.
“Repeat, this is Agent Hammer.” Hammer looked at his cistron.
“Guys!” shouted Jim-Bean. “Wong called for backup. Shouldn’t somebody, anybody, be here by now?”
Hammer slowly made his way over to the church doors. A few seconds later, Guppy peered out from behind them.
There was nothing. All of Copperfield’s men were missing.
Tuesday, 13th January, 2009, 11:31 AM #399
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 12 – A Misunderstanding
Three decontamination suits lay tangled and untenanted in the middle of the street. Another empty suit laid half in the gutter and half on the sidewalk. Two of the helmets were cracked.
“Gone,” said Hammer. “All of them. Gone.”
Submachine guns were scattered around, and unused Molotov cocktails were lined up along the curb.
“This isn’t right,” said Jim-Bean. “How the hell do you lose an entire team?”
“The same way you lose an entire town,” said Guppy morosely.
They made their way to the convoy, walking in silence.
The convoy was abandoned. The back of the truck was open. More empty decontamination suits and submachine guns were piled in front of it. No people. The rear doors on both labs were ajar.
Hammer opened up the first lab. It was deserted. Two rumpled decon suits lay on the floor, and another was draped over a swivel chair in front of a computer terminal.
The second lab was also deserted. Two decontamination suits. Nothing else.
Down the street, near Ameley’s Goods, something monstrous appeared in the sky, skimming over the tops of the buildings, hovering for a few seconds above Skyline Road.
“It’s back!” wailed Guppy, drawing his pistol.
“Jim-Bean, you got that sniper rifle we took from the sheriff’s office?”
Jim-Bean reached into his duffle bag and tossed it to Hammer. It was already loaded.
Hammer took aim at the thing through the scope. Part-crustacean, part insect, its six-foot wings beat furiously upon the air. Its head glimmered with rainbow color. There were six twitching legs with pincered feet. The curled, segmented, purplish body terminated in an insect-like abdomen. It was holding a strange cylinder in its fore claws.
Hammer fired. The bullet ricocheted off the cylinder to no effect.
The bat-winged lobster thing filled his scope. “Down!” he shouted.
They all ducked as it glided overhead and into one of the trailers. A few seconds later the thing crawled out and launched itself into the night sky.
“Is it a bomb?” asked Jim-Bean.
“Would have gone off by now,” said Hammer.
“Only one way to find out.” Guppy slowly crawled into the lab.
All the ceiling lights winked out. In a second, however, light sprung up once more, although not from the ceiling bulbs; it was an unusual light, a green flash. It was only the three video display terminals, which all came on at once. Then they went off.
And came on. Off, on, off, on, off ... At first they flashed simultaneously, then in sequence, around and around. Finally they all came on and stayed on, filling the otherwise unlighted work area with an eerie glow.
Lit by the green radiance was a large, cylinder of greenish alien metal, featureless except for three network ports conforming to no human standard. The ports were connected to the computer terminals.
Six words were burned in pale green letters across a dark green background:The other two screens bore the same words.WHERE AM I?
Blink. There were new words:Blink.WHAT IS GOING ON?Guppy tapped a few keys. The words “audio enabled” appeared on the screen.WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BODY?
came a monotone, digitized voice from the computer’s speakers.“What is going on?”
Guppy typed back. “Who are you?”
“Oakley? Oakley, it’s me, Guppy.”“I am ... Oakley.”
“That’s not important right now. Right now what’s important is why you’re here.”“Guppy? What happened to my body? Why can’t I see? Why can’t I hear? Where are you? Where am I?”
Confident that the device wasn’t a bomb, Hammer and Jim-Bean joined Guppy and listened to the exchange.
“Who? The aliens—““I ... they took me. They brought me here. There’s something very important they want me to tell you.”
Hammer grabbed Guppy’s wrist. “Don’t type that.”
Guppy deleted the phrase and retyped, “What do they want you to tell us?”
One of the other screens changed to a download bar.
“And this is important because…” said Jim-Bean.“I am downloading the chemical composition. The microbe was first created in 1972 by cell fusion. General Electric Corporation set Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty on the task of patenting a man made bacterium. They wanted a bug that could effectively digest the carbon compounds of crude oil. This would enable a fast and effective oil spill cleanup. Chakrabarty did find the microbe to do this, but it was very weak. After acquiring the patent for this microbe, the GE scientists worked on the successful creation of BIOSAN-4. BIOSAN-4 can withstand deterioration for 12-18 hours.”
Oakley anticipated his question.Guppy became much more animated, his differences with Hammer temporarily forgotten. “BIOSAN-4 will eat the spawn the same way that it eats oil!”“The protomatter spawn is an organic, metabolically active cousin of petrolatum.”
Jim-Bean looked at the entrance to the lab. “So the alien dogs drop off Oakley’s brain to tell us this?”
“I think,” said Guppy, “they’re trying to help, somehow. I think they’ve been trying to communicate with us all this time.”
“Like the messages on the phone,” said Hammer.
The screen switched from downloading to processing.
“This is a chemical lab, so it can process BIOSAN-4 right here,” said Guppy.
“And what do we do with it once we have it?” asked Jim-Bean. “Hold its nose and force it to swallow?”
Hammer opened one closet on the wall and pulled out three tranquilizer rifles. “Or we could use these.”
“How?” typed Guppy.“Now that I have helped you, you have to help me.”
“I don’t think…” Guppy started typing.“Kill me. Kill me now.”
Guppy stopped typing and stared dumbly at the computer, helpless. Hammer unplugged the cables running from the cylinder to the computer and the monitor went blank, the voice silenced.“Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now.”
A centrifuge in another part of the lab finished spinning. A glowing blue liquid was visible in several cylinders.
“How can we be sure this is going to actually work?” asked Guppy.
“There’s no way to tell,” said Hammer.
“I think there is,” said Jim-Bean. He tied a rubber hose around forearm and pulled it tight with his teeth.
“What are you doing?” asked Guppy.
“Finding out if this crap actually works. I’m not going to trust my life to a brain in a jar.” Jim-Bean took a knife out of his boot and stuck it into the soft plastic table near him. Then he popped the cap off of one of the small glowing blue cylinders.
“I don’t think that’s such a good—“
Jim-Bean poured a dot of the blue liquid onto his arm.
Almost instantaneously, his arm broke out in pustule-like sores, leaking a thin blue fluid. Jim-Bean spasmed violently.
“Jesus!” he said through gritted teeth. He reached for the knife, but the pain was so searing he had difficulty.
Additional sores opened in hideous profusion, lesions of all shapes and sizes that split and cracked and popped across Jim-Bean’s arm.
Jim-Bean yanked hard on the tourniquet and stabbed the knife deep into his arm, slicing flesh off in one smooth motion. He screamed as a spray of blood shot all over the lab, tearing through skin and muscle. A six-inch length of flesh flopped off his arm onto the table.
The tissue twitched and convulsed into a lifeless pool of stinking, watery mush.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Hammer.
Tears were in Jim-bean’s eyes and his nose was running. The pain was immense. Blood was everywhere and continued to pump out of his arm.
“Are you trying to kill yourself?” asked Guppy in disbelief.
The blood flow slowed. Tendrils of flesh and muscle spiraled across the raw meat and the white of Jim-Bean’s forearm. The wound stopped bleeding.
Jim-Bean let the tourniquet drop from his teeth. “Just … trying to see,” he gasped, “… if I can be.”
Wednesday, 14th January, 2009, 12:02 PM #400
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Convergence: Part 13a – Showdown
All three of the agents were armed with dart rifles. They strode into the church.
“What makes you think it will be in here?” asked Guppy.
“Because this is where a god goes to be worshipped.” Hammer pointed at a figure sitting in the pew in the front row.
The agents converged on the figure from three different directions. It was Adams.
He turned and opened his mouth and spoke without moving it. “You killed my disciple. You shouldn’t have done that. As punishment, I will make you serve—“
Hammer drew his Glock and emptied it into Adams’ suit. “I hate monologues.”
The body collapsed. Something slithered underneath it into a crack in the ground.
“I think we made it angry,” said Jim-Bean.
“Look out!” shouted Hammer.
Flesh-colored tentacles waved silently behind Jim-Bean, twelve feet in the air.
Jim-Bean dove as the tentacles smashed down, tearing pews in half. Guppy fired a dart into the thing. The blue fluid pumped into it.
One tentacle shot out and wrapped around the life-sized crucifix. Wielding it like a club, it swept the crucifix along the pews, blasting wood everywhere. The priest’s body went flying.
The agents scattered in all directions.
The tentacles writhed and twisted and foamed, breaking open in sores as the bacteria destroyed the binding structure of the amorphous tissue.
Hammer fired at the wounds with his Glocks. The pustules exploded and the thing flinched, tentacles whipping spastically in pain. They tore loose from the rest of the creature, flopping and wriggling in the church.
The amorphous tissue withdrew, out of sight, creeping deeper into the subterranean passageways, no doubt shedding more pieces of itself.
“Ha!” shouted Guppy. “Take that!”
“That thing is huge,” said Jim-Bean.
“It would have to be, to take out a car engine,” said Guppy.
“That’s not what I mean. I think it’s a lot bigger than what we just saw.”
Hammer reloaded his pistols. “How do you figure?”
“I think this protomatter … I think it absorbs flesh,” said Jim-Bean. “That’s why there’s piles of non-organic matter. And by absorbing flesh it only gets bigger.”
“But this thing absorbed the entire town,” began Guppy.
“And all of Copperfield’s team…”
Suddenly the ground rumbled and heaved under their feet.
“Out,” shouted Hammer, “Everybody out!”
They ran towards the exit as the church began to collapse.