“But it’s not me that has it, Deuce. It’s Jack.” He continued to carry on at his own laptop on the other side of the circular table that the three men in black suits and sunglasses sat around. Three men. Three laptops. The steaming cups of tea. One large umbrella over the picnic table casting down a shadow over them all as they sat outside of the café under the noonday sun.
“Jack?” Deuce said, turning his head toward his left shoulder. “May I please have the sugar?”
“Sure,” he said, sliding a white porcelain bowl in his direction. “Two cubes for Deuce. We all know that. For what would tea be without a side of lumps?”
The trio went about their typing as a round of laughter was shared at the table. Laughter that was soon interrupted by a forth voice that began intruding on their apparent merriment. “We know what you’re doing.” The trio gasped in unison as each of their heads raised and turned in the direction of the one who attempting to accost them. It was a burly man clad in suit and tie and surrounded by four similar looking gentlemen, a pair on either side of him, that had so rudely injected himself into the banter going on at the table. “And it stops here. Consider this a warning.”
“Well, excuse me,” Deuce exclaimed, blatantly flabbergasted as the small band closed in around them and began taking up their computers. “You can very well believe that the queen will be informed of this outrage and she I can assure you that she won’t be pleased in the least.”
Trey dabbed the corners of his mouth with a tiny napkin, crumpled it up in his fist and threw it down forcefully on the table top. “Undoubtedly,” he said, watching the tiny mob walk away with their equipment.
The Merovingian raised a glass of wine up to his face and placed his nose over the lip of the spotless container. After lightly inhaling the aroma of the nectar he touched the glass to his lips and let his palate enjoy. The lunchtime crown had began to thin somewhat considerably this late in the afternoon, clearing the restaurant he dined in of a large portion of its clientele. In fact, the table at which he enjoyed his meal and drink was easily the most populated table in the establishment. Persephone’s company aside, the minions that had joined him at the table for this particular outing tipped the scales in their favor with ease. All and all, it had been a lovely feast. With belly’s filled with meat and bread, and all other facilities making use of the alcohol they imbibed, it would seem that there was nothing that could spoil this celebration.
“OUT OF MY WAY! I DEMAND ENTRANCE IMMEDIATELY!”
The Merovingian, who’d previously been waving his glass up in front of the smile he displayed on his face courtesy of the amusement all around the table, now gave his constituents the pleasure of watching his joy slowly shrivel up into a sour grimace. He lowered his glass back down to the table at the sight of the woman who had stormed into the restaurant, accompanied by a small cadre of suits, and was furiously making her way over to his table. “Muriel. How nice of you to join us,” he said once she’d closed in far enough for her to hear him without a shout.
Muriel grabbed two of the men seated on the opposite side of the table from him by the collar of their coats and jerked back hard, sending them careening back into the small crowd that she’d brought with her. The collision of bodies caused an assortment of tables and chairs to be knocked over and dishes to be spilt to the floor in the area of the restaurant behind her. It made up quite a racket, but Muriel seemed unaffected by it. “You mind if I have a seat?” she said, pulling up one of the now vacant chairs and scooting up to the table.
“Help yourself. Would you like a wine list perhaps?”
“That won’t be necessary,” she said, reaching across the table and snatching up the nearly full glass of blood red fluid in front of Persephone, spilling some of the contents with the force she exerted. “You mind?” Persephone simply forced a closed lipped fake smile.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like something to eat?” The Merovingian continued. “It would be no trouble whatsoever. I could…”
Muriel slammed her palm down on the table top hard enough to rattle every dish present. “Hey! Why don’t you just cut the crap, Frenchy, and let’s get down to the brouhaha in question here. Or, more specifically, the mishap that occurred earlier today that involved a swarm of your goombas requisitioning equipment that you and I both know didn’t belong to them. But, in fact, BELONGED TO ME!”
Persephone flinched and shut her eyes at Muriel’s sudden volume increase. “Ya, ya, ya,” The Merovingian replied. “What it is that we both know is that this campaign of yours is nothing more than an exercise in pure lunacy. And if it isn’t put to an end immediately who knows what sort of calamity it could lead to. For goodness sake, Muriel.”
She shut her eyes tight and brought a rigid finger up in front of her face. “Do not proceed to even think about lecturing me!” Her eyes opened again and burned with a fiery glare. “Check the numbers, you sack of wind. The matrix is being reopened under new management. It’s a new day, you French fried has been. Accept it or don’t. But the next time you cross me,” Muriel said, leaning forward over the table, “it’s off with your head.” She leaned back in her chair and raised Persephone’s glass of wine to her lips. She drank down a single swallow of the dark red liquid and sat the glass down on the table. “Umm. Not bad.” She forced the chair back hard as she stood. Hard enough to topple it. When Muriel turned to leave she took her entire faction with her, much to the Merovingian’s relief.
He mumbled obscenities in French as Persephone reached across the table and picked up the glass that contained the remainder of her wine. Holding it up in front of her face, she heard her spouse suddenly fall silent as he too turned to examine the glass’s contents. What was once a blood red wine was now a bright, if not fluorescent, pink fluid that filled the glass. Persephone twisted the glass around with a swivel of her wrist, all the while watching the glowing swirls of purple swim though the pink liquid. “It’s started,” she said, letting her eyes turn to her husband who simply let out a huff and snatched his head away from the sight.
Once they were all dismissed Digital immediately retreated back to her quarters. No sooner than she had stepped through the front door, Digital had began peeling off layers of clothing as she walked through her home, making her way back to the bathroom. Her slender body completely nude now, she pulled back her glass shower door and stepped inside. The warm water that continued to gradually heat over time felt miraculously soothing as the stream of water poured against her skin, washing away a day’s worth of considerable stress. Her mind, not having left her completely, still found it possible to make its way back to the events that now troubled them all as the impulse to softly sing to herself suddenly consumed her.
“’Twas brilling and the slithytoves. Did gyre and gimbel in the wabe,” she hummed softly to herself as she rubbed a lathered up sponge over her body. Queen Muriel. Yeah, right. Queen of crazy town. Who was she to halt all extractions from the matrix and power plant. And worse, how was she able to succeed at doing so? “All mimsy were the borogoves and the momeraths outgrabe.” Digital began to ponder over just how many servants she would need occupying her court to pull off such a scheme and wondered whether or not she already possessed the numbers it would take to enforce her rule.
She reached out in front of her and gave the hot and cold knobs a turn, shutting off the showerhead above her. The steam that had filled the tiny enclosure she was in instantly began to dissipate once the heat source had been eliminated. Digital stood there for a moment letting some of the water drip from her body down to the floor beneath her before finally reaching for the shower door. She pushed it open and stepped one foot out onto the dewy floor and…
“I didn’t know you had such a lovely singing voice.”
Startled beyond belief by Blitz who had been leaning against the wall right next to the shower, Digital quickly hopped back in the shower stall and slammed the glass door shut. “Damnit, Blitz!” Feeling more secure with the glass barrier that allowed for only a hazy view inside the shower shielding her from his eyes, Digital instantly began trying to imaging just how much of her naked form he was able to take in before she retreated. “What the hell are you doing in here?”
“I was just coming to tell you that the Llorrac is pulling out in ten hours. By the way, you left your door unlocked.”
“Thanks for the info. Now would you kindly get the hell out of here.” A large towel made its way over the glass door and landed on her face. Digital snatched it off and quickly wrapped it around her body. Pushing open the shower door once more, she was able to step all the way out this time. Blitz’s smirking lips were the first thing to greet her. “You still here?” she said to him. Digital snatched another towel off of a hook on the wall and began drying her hair as she moved in front of a fogged over mirror. Wiping it clear with her hand, Blitz’s image as he stood behind her started to become clear.
“I take it you don’t have any plans between now and lift off,” he said to her.
Sensing yet another come on in the air, Digital decided to cut him off at the pass. “I’m going to get dressed for bed. You’re going back to your place where you can feel free to entertain any intimate notions you have about you and I in any fashion you please.”
“Oh, come on, Digital. Is the thought of you and together that hard to swallow?”
She turned around and tossed him the towel that was damp with the water from her hair. “Harder than you could imagine,” she said to him before exiting the bathroom.
Digital marched up the pathway leading to that dock carrying her equipment with Shamrock and Venus on either side of her. The three women were the last to board the Llorrac, and no sooner than they had done so, Cable, the ship’s pilot, ignited the engines and pulled the ship out of the nearest gate. Hours later the three women found themselves climbing into the chairs in the ship’s core along with Blitz, preparing for another excursion into the matrix.
“So what’s the gaff this go ‘round,” Shamrock asked Capt. Cruze after he drove the spike into the back of her head. “Find this queenie and throw her a kicking until she decides to leave us alone?”
“You know something, Sham,” Digital said. “You’ve got a real knack for diplomacy.”
“The mission is recon only. Should you run into any hostiles you are to engage only as a last resort,” Cruze explained once more.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Shamrock said, her voice think with her Irish accent.
“Detrick,” hit the button,” Cruze commanded.
Muriel stretched her arms out across the floor and rested her back on a cushion, apparently in a relaxed state of mind as she stared up the domed ceiling that contained a mural draped in an all black ball gown with a black crown atop her red and black locks of hair. She was holding a black staff in her right hand that was adorned with a black heart at the top next to her head. Her imaged scowled down menacingly at her. Muriel sighed loudly. “Problem, your majesty?” one of the two subjects present said as he rose from the wooden bench on the wall to her right. The other one seated on the opposite wall said nothing, but still put down the paper he was reading and came to his feet.
“No, Ace. There’s no problem,” she said sadly. The tub practically overflowed with soap suds so there was no fear of either of them getting a peek at any of Muriel’s unmentionables. Her two subjects being the ones who feared her reaction. They each began to slowly drop back into their seats. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IS THERE A PROBLEM?” she bellowed out, causing the two men in the room attempting to sit to stumble back to their feet. “Of course there’s a problem,” Muriel continued.
“Please, your grace. Tell us what we can do to rectify this dilemma.”
“No, Jack. There’s nothing you can do about it,” she said, lifting the palms of her hands up from the marble floor and waving the both of them back. They took their seats again, but remained focus on her. “My kingdom is at hand,” she said, still looking up at her mural, “and I’ve been so busy planning for it that I forgot one of the most important things.”
“And what’s that, your majesty?” Ace asked her.
“What’s that? It’s a king, you moron. I’m finally getting my kingdom and it’s going to be a…queendom. I forgot about the king.” Her eyes widened for a moment and then she twirled her body over. Muriel folded her arms together, one stacked on top of the other, and rested her chin down on top of her forearm, her body still hidden by the fluff of blue and red soap bubbles as she leaned against the edge of the basin. With a smile she said, “Maybe there is something you can do for me.” Her sneaky eyes alternated between Jack and Ace repeatedly until her grin gently melded into outright laughter of the most sinister nature.
“So what’s our next move?” Digital said, posing the question to no one in particular. She let her eyes roam around the grounds of the shade covered park they were in, taking in the image of the scatterings of blue pills that were all about.
“I say we hit up the Oracle for the lowdown,” Venus said as she pushed off the phone booth she leaned back against with her elbow. “She if she knows anything about what’s happening in here.”
“I second it,” Blitz said. “Let’s move out.”
The four of them, Venus, Blitz, Digital, and Shamrock, all headed out across the tree covered grassy field toward the building filled skyline in front of them. When Digital suddenly halted in her tracks it caused the rest of the squad to stop moving as well. They all turned their heads to the left just as she had done. “What in the bloody blue blazes is going on? Why are we stopping?”
“Look,” Digital said oddly, pointing as she tilted her head to the side at the scene in front of her. The entire lot of them gazed over at the nearest tree and looked on as the tabby cat positioned at the base of the bark covered trunk clawed at the grassy earth as it barked continuously at the tree limbs above. Turning their eyes upward, the quartet was able to catch sight of the brown and white Beagle perched on one of the limbs above the barking cat. The dog hissed and hissed down at the creature that accosted it below. “What exactly is happening in here?” Digital said.
“Probably just a glitch in the matrix,” Blitz offered up. “C’mon. Let’s keep moving.”
Digital knocked on the apartment door once the four of them made their way inside the building housing the Oracle’s abode. When her knock was answered the four of them made their way into the apartment moved immediately toward the kitchen where they found their elderly quarry seated behind a table, seemingly awaiting their arrival.
The Oracle pulled a cigarette out of the pack that rested on top of the table next to a glass ashtray. “Well, well, well. It’s been awhile. For all of you.”
“Yes it has,” Digital said to her. “I’m just sorry that this meeting couldn’t have been under more pleasant circumstances. We were wondering if you could…”
“You seek information. Information about Muriel. Muriel the Queen, as I hear she likes to be called.”
“Yes we do,” Digital said desperately. “What’s going on? What is this happening? Can you help us?”
The Oracle brought the bright flame of her lighter up to her cigarette. When she exhaled the smoke it came out of her mouth in the form of a bright red streaming cloud. “I’m sorry to say that I can’t.” The red cloud that she had breathed out floated up towards the ceiling and held all five sets of eyes as it maneuvered itself into the form of a skull and crossbones. Once it dissipated close to the ceiling the four rebels brought their stunned eyes back down and reconnected with those possessed by the Oracle who didn’t seem the least bit shocked by what they had all just witnessed. To boot, she took another drag. The next cloud she breathed out was bright green in color and floated towards the ceiling in the form of a question mark before it too melted away. “But if there is an answer,” the Oracle continued, “perhaps the Frenchman is the one you should seek out. But if you plan to do so, do hurry,” she said. The elderly woman took another drag and this time the smoke she exhaled came out pitch black and melded into the form of a heart. “I’m not sure how much more of this any of us can take.”
Her four guests looked on in utter shock as the heart made of black smoke moved up to the ceiling, hit, and dissipate out into nonexistence.
“It’s not you, Hun,” Venus said to her. She let her eyes curiously roam across the ceiling of the hallway they stood in and down to the floor. “Something is definitely going on in here.”
“Well if we’re not all completely gone in the head then I suggest hurry on over to Frenchie’s current place of being and wet the tea,” Shamrock said. “Anybody know the address?”
“Come on,” Blitz jumped in. “This time of day, I think I know where we can find him.”
The hustle and bustle of traffic inside the restaurant was heavy to say the least. It was something to be expected for this midday hour. The four man crew moved through the sea of business suits and cocktail dresses that cluttered the lobby awaiting to be seated at one of the packed posh tables inside of the restaurants main dining area. With no hankering for a seat in their possession, Blitz, Digital, Venus, and Shamrock simply bypassed the maitre’d and headed straight for the dining hall.
“Now what?” Digital asked, scanning the crowd of diners that appeared to be composed of the social elite. The most pristine of table manners were being displayed everywhere she looked. Salad forks and steak knives were utilized in the most appropriate manner by the esteemed patrons that filled this place. A woman carrying a tray of snacks. Digital snatched down a morsel as she passed and brought it up to her mouth.
“Hey, maybe you shouldn’t…” Blitz started to warn her, but he was too late. Digital was already chewing a mouthful of pate.
“What?” she asked, turning her head in his direction and speaking over the food in her mouth.
Blitz shook his head. “Nothing. Let’s just find this guy already.”
The quartet continued through the crowd, scanning the faces as they moved in search of the most elite crowd in this facility. The crème de la crème. That would definitely be the Merovingian’s bunch. So far no luck. Digital’s soft snickering suddenly distracted them all. “Bon appetite,” she leaned over and said to a group people at a table they passed who’s waiter was just delivering their meal. Her snickering resumed as she stood back up and continued on her way.
“What’s the matter with you?” Blitz asked, nudging her with his elbow.
“What are you talking about? They’re eating French cuisine,” she said, barely able to contain her building laughter. “We’re in a French restaurant. Looking for a Frenchman. Explain to me how that was inappropriate.” She could hold her hysterics no longer, exploding with a slightly uproarious bout of chuckling. Digital started to loose her footing as she walked and jostled a few seated customers as they moved through the dining area. Her joyous attitude never left her. Finally Blitz had to take hold of her by both arms to hold her up and keep her body steady.
Shamrock couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “What the hell? Is she acting the maggot or what?”
“No,” Blitz explained to her over Digital’s loopy giggling. “I pretty sure it was something she ate.” He continued to move forwards between the table remaining just behind Digital’s left shoulder. She slipped from his grip occasionally and he had to struggle to get her back to her feet, but other than that, their stride went on, acquiring only a small portion of unwanted attention.
“There,” Venus said, lifting her chin and pointing a finger toward a hallway leading away from the main dining room and deeper into the restaurant. The crew followed suit and soon the four of them were out of sight, away from the prying eyes of the dining patrons.
The number 101 was emblazoned on the wall at their back. Big and bright for all to see. “Wait a minute,” Shamrock said, halting the group in the corridor. “Anybody got any idea what we’re supposed to do once we find this creep? I mean, what if this guy’s in cahoots this queen weirdo?”
“I seriously doubt that,” Blitz said.
“But how can you know for sure?”
A small argument suddenly insinuated between Venus, Blitz, and Shamrock. Digital immediately decided to take this opportunity to break away from the crowd and explore the vivid surroundings that floated all around her. It wasn’t hard for her to wiggle her way out of Blitz’s grasp and walk off, seeing as he was otherwise occupied. The hypnotizing green and black pattern on the marble all around distracted her eyes from the gentleman manning the podium at the end of the corridor she moved toward, but with a sudden clearing of his throat he instantly made his presence known to her. Digital turned her head in his direction. Blinking her eyes a few times to bring the hazy figure into focus, she stood there and stared at him for a moment before approaching the podium that man stood behind.
He cleared his throat again and, staring at this leather trench coat wearing stranger most disapprovingly said, “Who are you?”
Digital stopped walking. Blinking her eyes and fixing her mouth for speech, she said, “I…I hardly know, sir. I’ve changed so many times since this morning, you see…”
“No,” he said, rudely interrupting her. “I do not see. Explain yourself.”
Digital looked on in a confused state of mind as the snooty gentleman at the podium lowered his eyes from her and moved them down to the ledger that he scribbled in. She was momentarily at a loss for words. Her head was woozy and her body was strangely numb, yet somehow her lips found it able to form words once more. “I’m afraid I can’t explain because I’m not myself, you know.”
“I do not know. Explain.”
“I don’t know how to explain it more clearly…because it isn’t clear to me.”
“Oh?” he said curiously, his eyes rising to meet hers again. “Who…are…you?” he asked once more.
Digital squinted her eyes and leaned forward, managing to stable her wobbly body enough to keep from toppling over. “Perhaps I should be asking who you are.”
Just then she felt a pair of hands place themselves squarely on her shoulders and pulled her body back into a firm set of pectoral muscles. “The Merovingian,” she heard a very masculine voice exclaim above her shoulder to her surprise. Digital looked up into Blitz’s face with a wacky smile as she leaned her body back into him. “Where is he?” Blitz continued in the stern manner that he spoke in.
Digital dropped her head down, retaining her grin, and once again caught sight of the eyes of the stuffy sentry standing guard in front of the VIP section of this eatery. He looked directly at Blitz. “You,” he said coldly. Blitz tilted his body back in reaction to the strange recognition of his person by the suited sentry. “Go on back,” he said, gesturing back over his shoulder with a lift of his chin. “He’s expecting you.”
“That really won’t be necessary,” Blitz answered her. “Look. There’s the table. Just help me keep her quiet so we can get this over with.”
“Well, well, well,” The Merovingian said as he spied the four man group of rebels weaving their way towards his table. “It would appear that our guests have arrived. If you would be so kind,” he said to the men sitting on the other side of the table from him, waving a hand in their direction, “make some room for them.”
Blitz sat Digital down in the chair to the right of his and Venus and Shamrock joined the rabble at the table. “We need to talk to you,” Blitz said to the Merovingian.
He picked up a wine glass with a straw sticking out of it that stretched six inches above the lips of the glass. The straw curved around in several loops and Blitz looked on in stunning disbelief as the seemingly cultured gentleman across the table took the tube between his lips. His eyes trailed the red wine as it left the glass and went about its merry way, twisting and turning through that ridiculous straw until it found its way through the maze and into the Frenchman’s mouth. After having his fill, the Merovingian sat the glass back down. “Well, I gathered that much for myself, child. The question is what exactly is it that you want to talk to me about?”
“Muriel,” Blitz said to him.
“Ah. A frequent topic of so many conversations here lately,” he said speaking in his signature French accent. “Tell me, what is it that you’d possibly like to know?”
“How about who your caterer is?” Digital jumped in, not being able to contain her laughter any longer. “I mean look at this spread,” she said, waving her hand over the table that was littered with nothing but various shapes of colorful cookies and cakes. All the napkins were also brightly colored with cartoon figures emblazoned on them. Most of the utensils were plastic. “Who do you have back in that kitchen, a kindergarten class?” Blitz instantly took control of her and calmed her down.
“Yie, yie, yie,” The Merovingian retorted. “I believe that you have your new Queen to thank for the cuisine on our menu. I swear that woman has the palate of a six year old.” He seemed just as frustrated about the layout on the table as Digital was amused by it. On the bright side, the Frenchman did appear to harbor a dislike for the new self appointed ruler of all she surveyed. That might, just possibly, work out in their favor.
“Tell me how to stop her,” Blitz said to him, “and maybe we can put an end to whatever’s going on around here.”
A scowl took over the Merovingian’s face and he leaned forward over the table toward him. “If I knew the answer to that, my young friend, then I seriously doubt that we would be having this conversation.” Suddenly his attention was diverted to his wife and the waiter that stood over her shoulder pouring the piping hot tea. When he was done Persephone picked up the cup and saucer and brought them up towards her lips. Blitz thought she intended to drink some of the fluid and nearly fell over in his chair when he watched her bite into the porcelain cup and tear off a crunchy piece. Digital exploded with laughter. The Merovingian just shut his eyelids and shook his head from side to side. “Woman, for the last time, would you cut that out.”
Persephone finished chewing her bite and turned to him. “You wouldn’t be saying that if you actually tried it like I told you to.”
The Merovingian cursed under his breath and turned back to a wide-eyed Blitz. “Is there anything,” Blitz said, still in shock and constantly cutting his eyes back to the Frenchman’s wife, “anything you can tell me that might help.”
“Fine,” The Frenchman said, leaning back in his chair, a calmer tone sweeping over him. “Try this. Queen Muriel is sitting at the head of a legion of renegade programs. I cannot tell you if their numbers remain in the thousands or have advance well beyond that by now, but what I can tell you is that her power grows more with each day that passes. Not even the Agents of this system can suppress her swarm of subjects. Inside the matrix she is unopposed and unequaled. So do yourself a favor. If there is anywhere that you know of that will allow you to escape this madness I’d retreat there post haste.”
Blitz pushed his chair back and stood up. He helped Digital up out of her seat and the four of them made their way to the restaurant’s exit. Once they were on the streets outside Venus took out her cellular and called Detrick. The operator quickly lined up and exit for them. It was simple enough. All they had to do was make it back to the park where they had initially entered the matrix and find a payphone.
“Blimey,” Shamrock said as they marched across the grassy tree filled meadow. “Can you believe what’s happening to this place? Who is the Queen lady anyways? And what mental hospital did she escape from?”
“Who knows,” Venus said to her. “All the programs running around this place. Guess it was just a matter of time before one of them went loopy.” There was a ringing somewhere in the distance in front of them. Venus let her eyes scan the area until she located a payphone next to a jogging path and zeroed in on it. “There we go,” she said, pointing her finger.
They had almost made it. There was as few as twenty feet between them and their ticket out of there when…
A man in a dark suit and shades who seemed to appear out of nowhere stepped in front of their path. He didn’t pay any attention them at first. It was the ringing telephone that he stood right next to that interested him. When he lifted the receiver off of the base the quartet froze in their tracks. The stranger turned his head to face them, his lips creepily smiling. “You know, these little phone calls that you people like to make aren’t exactly free. Someone does get a bill every time you go bouncing in and out of here. Perhaps if the costs were levied to you you’d learn to be more responsible with your phone usage. Yes,” he said looking down to the ground and brining his face back up again. “A tax. A tax to be paid by your people for every call you make.”
“How about you take that bill…” Digital morphed her voice into the copycat Irish accent that she always used to tease Shamrock and said, “and shove it straight up your arse, my laddy. If you were programmed with one, that it.” He words were instantly followed up by laughter. Her three comrades turned to look at their hysterical shipmate before turning back to the stranger.
“Really.” Apparently he failed to see the humor in her statement. He gave the phone he held a sharp yank and snatched the cord out of the console. Dropping it to the ground, he began a very menacing approach towards the four of them. He wasn’t alone. Turning to make a quick sweep of their environment, Blitz, Digital, and Shamrock saw an ever growing number of black suits emerge from every row of bushes and out from behind every tree they saw.
“Ah,” Digital said, still speaking like a drunken leprechaun . “So, it’s a fight you be wantin’.” She began to bounce on her toes and take up a ridiculously playful kung fu fighting stance. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
“Digital, will you shut up,” Blitz said, preparing to take his own fighting stance en lieu of the nearing conflict. “We might actually be in a spot of trouble here.”
The man in the night black suit and sunglasses continued his approach, the sneering grin he wore on his face growing ever more snide as he neared Digital. “That’s right,” she said, still maneuvering on her toes, shifting her weight from one foot to the next. “C’mon. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
The other three members of her crew broke away from the four man front that they had all formed in order to engage in their own individual attacks on the numerous aggressors that approached, leaving Digital there to fend for herself, not that she minded at all. Her assailant spun around and threw a spinning heel kick at her head that she ducked. It was followed up by another kick that was a spinning sweep. Digital lifted both of her feet off the ground and that blow missed its mark also. The grin never left her face. There was another spinning kick move that followed after that. This one was once again directed at her head, but aimed directly above it. When the renegade program attempted to drop the heel of his left foot down on her face Digital quickly brought her right forearm up above her to block its descent. Her wrist connected with his ankle, instantly stopping the blow. The program, teeth gritted in frustration, applied more pressure and forced her body down to the ground, Digital’s legs now in a horizontal split as she struggled to keep his heel in place just above her head. Noticing that he now only had one leg on the ground holding his body up, she swiftly brought her right leg around to the center of her body and continued to swing it towards her left as she took his foot out from under him and sent him falling down, back first toward the grass. Her back was now facing his downed body and after leaning back on the grass with her feet poised in the air above her, Digital catapulted up back onto her feet. “You see?” she said, her face still engulfed by the smile she displayed, “That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”
Venus, Shamrock, and Blitz had their respective hands full with the constantly mounting horde of attackers that were attempting to coral them. Digital, growing evermore excited by the adrenaline rush that all of this was providing her with, ran headlong into the melee to assist them. “This is insane,” Venus yelled out after threw a spinning back kick into a guy’s gut and sent him staggering back into a crowd of his comrades. The steadily growing number of assailants that she could see from behind the shades she wore were starting to worry her. “If anybody’s got any suggestions now would be the time.”
Shamrock grabbed one of the men by the lapel of his suit jacket and threw a knee into his gut before tossing his body behind her. She readied herself for the next one. “There’s too many of them! We have to hightail it! Quick!”
“It’s your call!” Venus said to her.
Shamrock took a running start and delivered a flying sidekick into the chest of one of the men at the who was approaching her in a group of five. It slammed him back into the others and, while still in the air, she followed up with a kick from her other foot and then another sidekick from the original. It forced the entire bunch down to the ground. Shamrock made a break for it through the gap she had created with the fallen men and Venus took off after her. The two of them didn’t exactly know where they were headed, they just knew that it needed to be somewhere far away from here.
Digital spun around and did a long wide sweeping move with her right leg that took three individuals off of their feet. Standing again, she found herself staring down yet another grimacing opponent making his way toward her fast. One back flip later and Digital had connected a kick with his chin that sent him careening back in the direction that he had come from before she had even made it back to he feet. The sight of his disorientation filled her with an outburst of laughter that ended the second that Blitz took a hold of the back of her coat collar. He snatched her back hard and spun her around. “C’mon!” he yelled at her, hoping the volume of his voice would penetrate the high she was on. “We’re getting out of here! Now!”
Blitz took off at a heated sprint through the park and Digital followed after him. Despite the pace at which they moved they still had to contend with the men that gave chase. Blitz soon caught sight of a trolley car who’s tracks were going to allow it to intersect with the path Blitz and Digital moved along at a very sharp angle. Assuming they could time it right and make an emergency boarding, the pair would surely be able to loose the brood that pursued them. “C’mon!” Blitz yelled back over his shoulder as he picked up his pace. “We have to make it!” Digital saw the car and knew exactly what he meant. She quickened her run.
The trolley car crossed their path and kept going forcing Blitz to veer off at an angle to keep pace behind it. His muscles burned and his lungs heaved, but he still found the will the push his body harder. He made a jump. With luck he was barely able to plant his feet on the rear bumper and take hold of the railing with his hands. Digital was never going to find such fortune. Not with he distance from the car. Keeping his hold on the brass railing, Blitz spun around and got a look at her. Digital’s arms and legs pumped furiously but the car continued to place distance between itself and her meters at a time. Blitz leaned forward, one hand gripped on the brass rail, the other extended out toward Digital. “C’mon! Jump!”
She used every ounce of focus that she had reserved in her body to maximize her speed. Still, the car was pulling away from her. She could hear the huffing grunts of the multiple bodies that were behind her trying to keep up and used the knowledge of their intentions for her had she faltered to add further fuel to her escape. Digital leaped into the air. Blitz extended both of his arms to further extend his reach as he leaned forward to make a grab for her. The car he stood on continued to pull further away. Digital’s body was moving on a downward arc. Blitz extended his body out further, as far as he could.
She fell into his arms and wrapped both of hers around him. “Gotcha!” he said as he pulled them both back against the railing. Blitz clung hard to the rail as he squeezed her body into his with his freehand. Looking back over her shoulder, he saw the renegade programs trailing after them slowly and steadily begin to loose ground to the trolley car that hurried off in front them.
Blitz didn’t take either the grin she wore or the proposal she had made with any smidgen of amusement. He turned a watchful eye in the direction of the curious passengers of the car and quickly gathered that none of them meant them any immediate harm. After taking a look out behind the train and seeing no sign of the individuals that pursued them, Blitz turned his mind toward other things. He went inside of his coat pocket and took out a cell phone. “Nail it shut, Digital.” He punched in a number on the keypad of the phone. Taking her current condition into consideration, he tried to force a certain level of understanding upon himself. “I have to find out what happened with Venus and Shamrock.”
“Tell Detrick I said hi,” she commented with a giggle.
Blitz ignored her. He had more important thing to attend to. After a few moments on the phone he hung it up and stuffed it back into his pocket. “It’s okay. They survived the attack.” Blitz didn’t know why he was conveying this information to her. In the state she was in, he couldn’t even place a guarantee on whether or not she was even paying him any attention. It must have just been out of a force of habit. “Detrick’s on ‘em and he’s already got an exit lined up and waiting. Now, the only trick is going to be getting us out alive.”
“Hey, what about him,” Digital said, raising her arm and pointing the index finger of her left hand at the area behind his back. Blitz spun around fast and instantly made out a familiar face among the pedestrians littered throughout the park. He was standing beside a hotdog stand, stuffing his face as he flipped through an open newspaper. It was him. The elusive gentleman that had been able to give them the slip whenever they gave pursuit and was mysteriously showing up around every turn. The trolley car continued to move and both of their eyes remained locked on the figure as the car passed by him and continued to move on. “That guy has got to know the ends and outs of this place better than anyone,” Digital said nonchalantly, letting her arm drop.
“C’mon!” Blitz grabbed her by the sleeve of her coat and gave Digital’s body a jerk that both surprised and amused her as they made their way back over the railing. Still clutching hold of her, Blitz jumped from the car taking her with him. He let go and broke out into a furious stride toward the hotdog cart in the distance and Digital gave chase. They quickly closed in on their target and would have apprehended him in mere moments had their rapidly beating footfalls not betrayed them. Turing his head to get a look over his left shoulder, the Mr. Elusive immediately sprang into action at the sight of the oncoming pair of trouble barreling down on him.
Flailing both of his arms in the air, both the newspaper and the hotdog went scattering into the air due to his ensuing panic as he turned to make a run for it. Blitz and Digital kept after him. The trio sidestepped, dodged, and on occasion shoved the pedestrians that remained in their path heading in the opposite direction out of the way as the chase continued through the park. The eventually made it out of the public recreational area and moved the chase into the bustling realm of the outskirts of the city’s business district. That’s when he made his move. Running along the heftily populated sidewalk, the fleeing man took a quick, frightened look behind him before turning his sunglass covered face toward the door of the hardware store on his and pushing his body forcefully through the entrance. Blitz and Digital made it to the store and through the door soon enough and stopped cold after making it inside. They stood side by side, inhaling the sent of freshly cut wood as they glanced around the interior of the facilities in search of any sign of their quarry.
Nothing but isles of tools, shelves of tools, and displays advertising tools as far as the eye could see. Blitz’s eyes were alerted to the area directly in front of him when a door, off in the distance, behind the counter that contained a register (among other things) slid all the way shut. He darted toward the counter at full speed. After leaping it, bring both of his feet up to the right of his body at the same time and placing them down on the tile floor in unison, Blitz made for the door in his sights that wasn’t very far off now. Digital was right behind him and after he pulled open the door and stepped through it, her right at his back, the door closed behind them and left them standing alone…together…in the middle of a bright white hallway lined with green doors that extended to infinity in either direction from where they were standing. “Oookaay,” Blitz said, turning his head from left to right, attempting to assess their current predicament.
Digital turned around and tried the doorknob connected to the entryway they had just passed through. No dice. It was locked. “Well isn’t this just all the best.” She heard Blitz turn around to inspect what she was up to. “Don’t bother,” she said, releasing the knob and turning around. “It’s locked. And we’re officially fu…”
“I need of a quick way out of here,” he said, cutting her off.
The two of them walked. Walked. Walked. And then walked some more. They rounded corners, tried doorknob after doorknob. Nothing. Every door was locked and every intersection that they came to (and there were plenty) extended into an array of hallways that went on forever. Digital finally came to a stop, turning and leaning back against the wall to her right. She closed her eyes and slapped a hand to her forehead. Blitz stopped walking and turned to her. “What’s wrong?” he asked with a genuine concern as he moved toward her.
“Aah!” she exclaimed, an obvious look of pain on her face, her eyes squinting together hard, crinkling her brow. “I don’t know. Whatever the hell it was that ate, I think it’s wearing off.”
His eyebrows arched and Blitz looked at her intriguingly. “You mean…”
Digital rubbed her hand down the front of her face and leaned her head back against the wall. “Yeah. I think I’m sobering up.”
Blitz let loose with a soft bout of laughter as he eyed her up and down. “Well, well, well. Can’t say I’m too upset to be getting that new,” he said.
“Speak for yourself,” Digital said, her eyes still shut tight and her hand once again messaging her brow, hoping to ease to throbbing pain. Even though Blitz couldn’t feel the actual pain of her ensuing recovery, he could instantly detect the change in her demeanor that indicated that such a thing was in deed taking place.
“Welcome back to the real world,” he said to her.
Digital rubbed the front of her forehead furiously. “What are you talking about, dimwit? We’re still inside the matrix. Or trapped inside the matrix, I should say.”
Blitz took a step toward her and the wall she stood against. “At least we’re together,” Blitz said softly.
“Fat lot of good that’ll do when our decayed bones are eventually discovered in this maze of corridors a hundred years from now,” Digital said as she dropped her hand and stared into his face with a clear sense of reason that Blitz hadn’t seen in quite a few hours. Regardless of short time period, he had missed it; missed her, and his current expression showed it. He took another step in Digital’s direction and became unmistakably clear. “Oh, what? What now?” She raised a hand up to halt his movement as the man in front of her closed in on her, disgusted by the lascivious look in his eyes. Digital turned her head to the side, looking away from him.
Blitz brought one of his hands up to chest to caress hers. It soon turned to two. Digital still didn’t look at him. He took another step toward her, closing the distance between them so much until the point that there was hardly any left. “I was just thinking,” Blitz said. “If I was going to have to be trapped in this maze for eternity with only one other person and was given a choice as to who that person would be, who do you think I’d choose?”
Digital turned her eyes back up to him. The softness she found, the sweetness, the sultriness. A flame inside of her ignited. It did so using factors beyond the realm of her control. “I’m not sure,” she said gently, “given your knack for misinterpreting scenarios that you would think would result in a scenario that you’d perceived to be beneficial to you.”
Blitz leaned his mouth down towards hers. Moved his lips closer to hers. “Do you think this is one such occasion?” he said quietly, his breath warming her lips.
“I’m pretty positive it is,” Digital said. Her lips fixed themselves to match the form that his would soon take as their fleshed meshed into one another. “But I could be wrong.”
Both of their eyes closed and their embrace endured. Lips closed at first. Then they parted and their faces crushed into one another’s as they each forced the issue and they delved into one another that much deeper.
“Loose something?” someone said. Their faces broke apart instantly and Digital turned her head to the right just as Blitz turned his toward his left shoulder. There was a strange man leaning back against the wall about twenty feet down the hallway from them that turned his head toward his left shoulder and shoved his hands in his pants pockets, a wide smile spread across his face as he looked at the couple. The two of them stared back at him in amazement.
The stranger pushed his body off of the wall and turned his body toward them. The right side of the suit coat he wore was black. The left was white. The combination was just the opposite on the slacks that he had on. “Oh. Very well then.” He turned his back to them and began to walk away.
“Wait a minute,” Digital said, breaking away from Blitz and turning her body in the stranger’s direction. “We have seemed to have lost our way.”
“Where were you trying to get to?” he said, still moving slowly away from them.
“It doesn’t matter really. Just so long as…”
The black and white checkered stranger stopped when he reach a four way intersection and turned back around to face them. “Well, then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.” Digital turned a curious eye towards Blitz who returned the gesture in response to such an awkward bit of advice. “By the way,” he said, attaining their eyes once more. “In case you were wondering, he went that way,” he said, bending his elbow and raising his right forearm up while keeping his upper arm in place. A finger jutted out from his hand and pointed toward the hallway of the intersection leading away from him to his right.
“Who?” Blitz said.
“Who do you think?” Digital answered him, not waiting for a response from the stranger. “That guy we chased in here.”
“Oh,” Blitz said in surprise. He immediately turned back to the man down the hall from them. “You know where he went?”
“Where who went?” the stranger replied.
“That guy?” Digital interjected, wondering what the hell was up with his sudden memory loss.
Blitz rolled his eyes and turned back to his shipmate. This conversation was proving to be as pointless as it was drawn out. “Look, this guy is obviously out of his mind. We’ve gotta get out of here. Let’s just go.”
Digital had no choice but to agree with him. The Llorrac awaited them and wasting more time than they had to in this maze wasn’t going to do either of them any good. Side by side, they started off. Walking down the hallway, past their wildly grinning guest, and continuing on down the hallway covered with two never-ending rows of green doors.
“Even if you do make it out of here,” the black and white checkered gentleman said as he turned to face them, watching them stop and dot he same at the sound of his words. “There’s always going to be the matter of the Queen.” He once again had their full attention. “From what I hear she’s been a whole bellyache of trouble for the lot of you.”
With those words, Digital began taking a few steps in his direction, leaving Blitz at her back. If this guy had any useful info on Ms. Royal Pain In the Ass then she definitely wanted to hear it before taking her leave of him. “What exactly do you know about her?” Digital inquired, continuing her slow approach towards him.
“Well…nothing,” he replied. Digital dropped her head down to her chest, furiously kicking herself for indulging this lunatic for one more second. With a mind littered with disappointment, she turned and headed back towards Blitz. “Except what it is that you need to stop her.”
Despite every instinct she had to keep walking, Digital’s curiosity was sparked once more. She stopped and turned around to face him again. “Tell me what I want to know,” she demanded of him.
“But I can’t,” he replied. “There’s only one person who can.”
“I’m waiting,” she said after he lingered too long in his silence. Though Blitz too remained silence, his curiosity in regards to what this man was going to say next had to be right up there with Digital’s.
The stranger reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small, white, rectangular card. “His name’s Matthew Hadder.” With a flick of his wrist the card that had previously resided between his right index and middle finger came soaring through the air at Digital, quickly at first then, in an incredible feat, very slowly the closer it got to her. By the time she stretched a hand up to make a grab for it, the card was practically hovering motionless in midair right in front of her. “Look him up sometime.”
After giving the card a quick once over, committing the inscribed name on it as well as the address to memory, Digital lowered her hand and stared at the man who had tossed it to her. “How are we supposed to know that you’re on the level? I mean, for all we know, you could be in league with Muriel.”
That wide, toothy smile returned to his face once more. “Well seeing as how I’m the one who initially placed the call to your ship, alerting you to her presence, I’d say my reputation speaks for itself. Wouldn’t you agree?” He offered up yet another smile to the pair of shocked expressions down the hall from him and started off down the corridor to his left. “Toodles,” he said before passing from their line of sight.
Digital hurried down the hall toward the intersection, very eager to have another word with this man. “Wait a minute,” she said as she moved toward the last spot that she had seen him standing in. “Who are you? Why did you contact us?” She reached the intersection and turned toward the direction that he had moved off in.
There was no one there. He was gone. Disappeared through one of the many doors that she could see extending out away from her, Digital figured. Drat. She turned and headed back to where Blitz was standing. “Why?” she heard a disembodied voice say. Digital spun her body and head around in every direction looking for a person to place with the voice. “Why not? It’s good fun, isn’t it? The Queen is sure going to be grievously upset by the whole ordeal. Please give her my regards. By the by. The door you’re looking for…fifteenth on your left from the corner. Which corner, I leave for you to figure out.”
“Where are we?” Blitz said looking around the room filled with aquariums that contained everything from exotic fish to a variety of small mammals.”
Digital gave a light slap to the back of his head as she moved up to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. An infuriated Blitz placed a caressing hand on the back of his head as he brought it back up square on his neck and turned a spiteful eye toward her that was concealed by the shades he wore. “First guess, I’d say a pet store, stupid.” Digital shoved her hand into her coat pocket and pulled out her cell phone. “I’m calling Detrick.”
Letting his hand drop back down to his side while keeping his enraged eyes fixated on her, Blitz said through slightly clenched teeth, “I’ll go secure the perimeter,” and headed off away from him.
Digital exited the front door of the pet store and found her crewmate standing outside on the sidewalk. “Well it seems that Venus and Sham made it out. They’re on the ship right now.”
“What about us?” he said, turning his head toward his right shoulder, looking in her direction. “Where’s our exit?”
“What exit?” Digital said to him.
Blitz reeled in shock. “What exit!?! Our exit. The one that gets us the hell out of here. That exit.”
“Oh, that exit. Well I hate to disappoint you, but it’s nonexistent.”
The rage returned to him just that quick. “What do you mean nonexistent?” His words were being spoken the anger clenched teeth again.
“Clean the wax out, babe. We’re not going anywhere just yet.” Digital turned her head and looked up into his face. “You and me…we’re going after this Matt fellow. If he has any info on how to stop her royal majesty then we need to get to him as quickly as possible. Preferably before anybody else does, seeing as how we aren‘t the only ones that are aware of his existence.”
“Great,” Blitz exclaimed, raising both of his hand up in the air beside him and dropping then again. He turned his body toward her and raised his left arm toward her, holding it still about chest high. “Lead the way,” he said in a tone that severely lacked any enthusiasm and just as quickly they were off down the sidewalk.
Digital stomp on the brakes of the car that the two had managed to requisition (steal from a grocery store parking lot) for their own personal needs. She looked out of the window and up at the twelve story structure of glass, stone, and steel that beckoned her entrance. “You have got to be kidding me,” Digital said.
“You sure you got the address right?’ Blitz asked her.
“This is what it says on the card.” Her face continued to frown in disbelief as she stared up at the building with the moniker Tolgey Psychiatric Ward emblazoned in deep solid green letters near the top of the structure. Blitz promptly exited the vehicle and she did the same. Turning and looking across the top of the car at him, Digital said, “What are the chances that this guy is part of the staff?”
“After the day we’ve had?” Blitz said in response, looking at her with a discerning smirk.
Sadly, very sadly, she nodded and turned back around to face the building before starting toward the concrete staircase that lead up to the double glass doors.
“We’re here to see Mr. Hadder. Mr. Matthew Hadder,” Digital said the receptionist on the opposite side of the large counter that she stood behind that formed and arc shaped barrier between her and the rest of the opaque tile and brick layered room filled with guest seated in plastic chairs that lined the wall directly across the room from her post.
The receptionist, a portly and grimacing woman looking elderly woman looked upon the pair with an immediate lack of respect and utter disgust as if they should have known better than to disturb her. Turning her glance down toward the ledger in front of her, she violently flipped from one page to the other until finally coming to a stop, using her right index finger to scroll down the list of names in front of her. Her eyes quickly turned back up to theirs. “I’m sorry, but he’s only allowed visitors by members of his immediate family.”
“But we are family,” Digital said with the brightest smile she could muster.
The receptionist turned her eyes back down to her ledger and scrolled through it again. “That’s funny. I don’t see your names on my list.” Her eyes came back up to their brimming with a snide sense of accomplishment. “Guess that means you’ll have to come back later…when you actually have registered for a visitors pass here. Until then…why don’t you just get lost. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Digital turned to look at Blitz who was standing over her behind her right shoulder. He hunched his shoulders up and she turned back to the receptionist. “Well, you see,” she said, lowering her shade covered eyes down towards the counter she was now leaning on, “that’s quite the coincidence. Because…so do we.” She reached out her right hand and gripped a portion of the woman’s white nurse’s garment up in her fist and pulled her body forward hard enough to slam her forehead down on the counter in front of her and leave her unconscious. Digital let go of her garment and didn’t even bother watching as the lady fell backwards the tile floor on the other side of the desk. With the sound of an array of panicked screams resonating through the room courtesy of the other guests that occupied the seats behind her, she reached down and took up the fallen woman’s ledger, rotating it so that she could read it. Digital struck the page hard with her right index finger and turned around to Blitz. “Room 303,” she said to him.
With a slew of panicked hospital guests making a screaming dash for the nearby exits, Digital and Blitz headed for the elevator. Once inside, Digital pressed the button for the third floor and when the twin doors closed and shut out the sound of the mayhem ensuing on the ground floor, they started their ascent toward the target that awaited them, whether he knew it or not.
Finally, after she had gotten so frustrated with their fruitless search, she snatched one of the wandering automatons up by the front of his hospital gown and sharply jerked his body closer to hers, bringing her and this magnificently disturbed individual face to unbalanced face. “Room 303,” she said to him firmly. His body quivered in fear against the fistful of fabric that held clutched against his chest. “Which way?” With his arm and hand shaking nervously, he found the strength to raise a thumb up and point it back over his shoulder towards the hallway opening that extended away from of his back. Turing her eyes away from the wide-eyed, deer caught in the headlights stare that the man she held captive wore and placing her gaze on the area that he had indicated, Digital released him and started out at a quick pace walk toward her destination with Blitz one step away at her back.
She alternated her eyes from one wall of the hallway to the next, taking a quick look at the small green rectangular plaques screwed into the steel doors that were engraved with the designated number of the room. Her head made another razor sharp turn to the right and her feet instantly froze in place. There was no need to proceed any further. Room 303. She’d found it. Blitz, not yet having realized her discovery, continued to move forward and only came to a stop after knocking into Digital’s shoulder, much to her dismay he gather after suffering the look she shot back at him for his ineptness. When he got a look at the door they were standing in front of he quickly forgot all about the insulting look he found on her face and began to focus on the bigger picture. The reason why they were there. “Here we are,” he said.
Digital, having been hip to that little bit of info for quite sometime, had since moved on to the large glass window next to the door. It’s lowest point was waist high to her and it extended up as high as the ceiling above. The length of the fixture ran all the way to the corner of the wall it was embedded in which extended nearly twenty feet beyond where she stood. Digital continued her walk, crossing in front of the glass, and stopped when she was able to get a view of the gentleman inside of the large room imprisoned in a straight jacket. When she heard the sound of Blitz giving the doorknob a giggle, Digital immediately brought a hand up in front of her shoulder and shushed him. His actions ceased. She’d never even turned an eye toward him, her peepers fixated only the individual curled up in a ball in the right corner of the padded room, his face pressed against the soft white wall opposite the glass she stood behind. Blitz moved up behind her and got a look at the figure that currently took up so much of her attention. “That him?” he asked her.
“Matt?” Digital yelled out, the warmth of her breath creating a small fog on the glass directly in front of her lips. “Matt Hadder?” he remained unresponsive. “We were sent here to speak with you! Someone said you’d have some information for us.” Blitz looked on in silence as she carried on a conversation with the limp and indifferent body on the other side of the room, marveling in the futility of his companions badgering. It all seemed so pointless to him. Whoever this guy was, he had obviously been vegetated for a considerable length of time and no amount of pleading from Digital was likely going to bring him out of his current state of catatonia. Their priority should have been getting back to their ship. “Some information about how to stop Muriel!” Digital continued.
“Who sent you here!!!” the still body exploded vocally. The remains on the man remained still on the floor, not having stirred in the slightest despite the booming voice that had unmistakable escaped from it. “Who was it? Was it the cat? Did the cat send you?”
Digital was momentarily at a loss for words. “I…I…He didn’t give us a name,” she finally got out. “The man (she strangely felt a need to specify their informants species for her audience) simply told us that you would be in possession of what we needed to stop her.”
A bout of laughter escaped the still motionless body. It was quiet at first, but progressively became louder as corpse’s newfound levity continued to increase. The once still body lying down on the floor soon stirred to life, it’s lower limbs twitching to life followed by the motion being made by the torso. “The Queen,” the body said, shifting it’s weight onto the legs and feet beneath it, bringing itself to a standing position. He continued to faced the padded wall, refusing to give Digital and Blitz a clear look at the face on the other side of the stringy locks of dirty blond hair on the other side of the cranium facing their curios eyes. “Bloody cook. Still up to her old tricks, eh?”
“Yes,” Digital said, instinctively answering the question posed without inquiring about it’s meaning. She place her left hand on the glass in front of her, still staring at this man’s straight jacket covered back. “Yes she is.” Digital ignored this man’s current state of mind, dismissing his noticeable insanity and taking his word at face value for a moment without even having known it, her desperation taking hold her. “If there’s anything that you can do to help us. Help us stop her. We’ll…”
“You’ll what?” Matt spun around fast and turned a wild-eyed steely glare at the two figures on the other side of the glass. “Oh, tsk, tsk, tsk.” He made the disapproving sound with his tongue as he shook his head from side to side. “You offer me favors when who you truly should be concerned about is yourselves.” Digital and blitz turned to look at each other. “Exactly!” Their eyes shot back to Matt. “Now you’ve got it.” His arms began to shift within the buckled straightjacket that confined his upper extremities, crossing them in front of his body and pinning his hands to his sides. Arms that soon sprang outward, ripping away the constraints and tearing the jacket to pieces as his stretched out shoulder length on either side of him. The tattered straightjacket fell to the floor and he stepped over it as he neared the glass covered wall. “Now you’ve identified the enemy you face with thoughts to finish said opposition, and turned a blind eye toward those you wish to protect.” He continued moving toward the glass. “Where do your priories lie? Which one, which agenda ranks highest with you? Who knows. What I do know is that if you want to put a stop to the Queen’s reign then there’s only one thing that you’re going to need.”
Digital huffed a few more fogs of haze on the glass in front of her as she anxiously awaited this crazy man’s answer. “What? What is it?” she said to him, doing her best not to scream her words.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“No!” she protested sternly. “Not until he tells me what I want to know.”
“I’ll do you one better than that,” Matt said to them. “How about I just show you.” He approached the glass until he was nearly face to face with Digital and Blitz. He touched his right index finger to the glass. Moving his digit from his towards his left, the two rebels watched this man, if that indeed was what he was, somehow write out a florescent green math equation on the glass in front of him. Odd that he could write the numbers and symbols backwards with such ease so that the equation looked normal to the two individuals on the other side of the glass. “There,” he said when he’d finished. “Now you have your answer.” He started to turn his back to the but suddenly changed his mind. “Oh and, if you will, when you ultimately…do her in…would you mind delivering her a message from me?”
“What’s the message?” Blitz asked.
“Tell her that whenever one tastes of the tea one must never forget that the tea also tastes of them.”
Digital’s jaw dropped in disbelief. “Are you even somewhat aware of what a complete frickin’ whack job you are?” Blitz gave a tug at her arm hoping to distract her eyes away from the figure on the other side of the glass that had her so mesmerized. “No. I’m serious. You’ve got so many screws loose that you need a carpenter not a psychiatrist.”
“Digital, C’mon,” Blitz said to her, pulling her arm harder. He finally got her moving and they headed back towards the elevator.
She pressed the button for the elevator. “My God. Can you believe that guy?” Her finger impatiently pressed the down button three more times.
“Hard to believe anything about this entire day.”
The bell signaling the arrival of the elevator finally sound and when the doors slowly parted Digital and Blitz were greeted by the smiling sunglass adorned faces of six black suits. “Well hello there,” one of them said cheerily. “We were just looking for you. So good of you to make our task so simple.”
“If it’s a fight you’re looking for,” Digital said, her body at the ready, “you’ve certainly come to the right place.”
The six men stepped off the elevator. Two remained at the rear of the pack and held the doors open. “Oh, you silly thing. I don’t believe anyone was speaking to you.” Digital, like the men in front of her, turned her eyes toward Blitz. She turned back to them just in time to get a glimpse of the fist barreling down on her face.
Her world went pitch black. By the time her eyes blinked open again she found herself lying flat on the hallway floor. Worse still, she was all alone. The suits were gone. Her shipmate was gone. There was no one. “Blitz!” she called out as she climbed to her feet. She turned in every direction. “Blitz!” There was no answer. Deep down inside she’d known that they were all long gone by now yet she called out for him again before rushing over to the elevator and pressing the down button as hard as she could and as many times as she could until the elevator arrived. She had to get back to the Llorrac. She had to find Blitz. And she had to do it now.
Venus pulled the plug out the back of her head. She had to do it quickly because Digital leaped out of the chair no sooner that Detrick had jacked her out of the matrix. “Where is he!?!” she said hurrying over to the array of monitors next to the operator’s station. “Where’s Blitz!?!”
“Take it easy. Take it easy,” Cruze commanded her. “He’s still alive.” Finally having collected herself somewhat, Digital found the thought to turn and look over her shoulder at the body still seated in one of the chairs. All the systems monitoring his vitals read normal. “They’ve taken him to some sort of facility. We can’t really make out exactly what it is.”
Digital was becoming furiously frustrated. She wanted Blitz back and she wanted it done yesterday. Why was everybody just standing around doing nothing? “Well, what are we doing about getting him back?” she demanded to know.
“We’re still working on a strategy,” Cruze snapped at her. “The place is a strong hold. They’ve got thousands of programs hovering around that place. Now is you can come up with a plan for getting in there that doesn’t get him, us, or everybody killed feel free to share it with the group. In the mean time I suggest you let me run my ship.”
Digital took one more look at Blitz’s body, turned her eyes to her captain, and stormed out of the ship’s core. She remained in her quarters for the majority of the evening. The crew of the Llorrac was obviously capable of handling things in her absence. The hours that passed by took their toll on Digital. Thoughts of Blitz and what he might be going through left her restless, agitated, and upset. There was no way that she would be able to sleep after lights out. When she heard a knock on her door Digital seriously had second thoughts about getting up to answer it. When she did Shamrock came through the door carrying a plate of food. “Here you go, mum,” she said, handing her the plate. “Figured you could use something to keep your strength up.”
“Yeah. I’m a real people person like that.” She walked over and took a seat on the bed. “So, how’ve you been holding up?”
“Not to good,” Digital said to her. She walked over an took a seat on a nearby stool. “Any word yet on what we’re gonna do?”
“Not yet. As we speak the guys are still up there trying to figure it all out. In the mean time the ship’s gonna stay at broadcast depth.” This news didn’t do anything for Digital’s mood. She’d so hoped for some word of any progress. “Too bad we don’t have that One guy around to help us out with this.”
Digital was rocked with surprise. Shaking her head she looked up and said, “Who?”
“You know. That guy. Helped end that big war between Zion and the machines. You know. What’s his name.”
Digital’s mind rattle with confusion as she tried to wrap her head around what Shamrock was trying to say. “War? But that was…How many years ago was that?”
“I don’t know. It was before I was born. But they said this guy…Neo. That’s his name. From what I remember this guy could have been strong enough to get in there and get Blitz back.”
Digital sat her plate down on the floor. “Well, whatever happened to this Neo.”
Shamrock hunched her shoulders. “Don’t know. Story is, the guy went into the machine city, never came back.”
“C’mon,” Digital said, bolting up from her seat.
Shamrock got up and followed her out into the corridor just beyond her quarters. “Are you daft? Where in the bloody blue blazes do you think you’re going?”
“It’s not where I’m going,” she said over her shoulder. “It’s where we’re all going. To the one place where somebody might be able to give us a straight answer.”